Milne's Landing High School

The first high school west of Victoria

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

ward Milne community school celebrated its 50th year.  The first high school to graduate students west of Victoria, the school had opened as Milne’s Landing High in September of 1946. As the photo here shows, the school began its life in army huts, though on the same plot of land that accommodates the school today.

Hundreds of former students arrived to join in the 1996 celebrations, from across North America and even Australia. They came together to celebrate old friendships and to admire the spanking new school that had taken shape in the form of a whale’s tail – a far cry from the barracks buildings we’d known in the beginning.

Once part of the Milne farm, when World War II was underway, this land had been expropriated by the federal government as an army training camp and housed soldiers from eastern Canada. In 1945, the Province of BC began to enact provisions of the Cameron Report, which set up the structure of the school districts much as we know them today.

So as it turned out, when the war was over, and the barracks buildings, cookhouse, etc., situated among the trees, were no longer in use, the Board of Trustees of School District No 62 acquired the site (we believe they paid $1.00) and were able to set up a fledgling school very quickly. The Cameron Report’s local recommendations had included setting up a central high school and busing in students from within the area of East Sooke to Port Renfrew.  At the time, elementary grades ran from one to six, and the high school took in grades seven to twelve.

Five local students made history in June of 1947 when they became the first high school graduating class west of Victoria. These students were Audrey Sullivan (later Wilson), Joan Rumsby (later Zipp), Merle Forrest (later Proteau), Gwen Jenner (later Farmer) and a lone boy, Laurie Wilson.

Things quickly changed, however, and the post-war fast-growing population of the inner Langford and Colwood areas meant that Belmont High School opened soon after, and gradually there was a much larger school enrolment in the western communities.

The photo here was taken in 1948, and while we all enjoyed our school days, this campus would be considered pretty primitive by current standards. Today, the faculty and alumni at Edward Milne are looking forward to another major celebration taking place for the 75th anniversary in 2021. To this end they are inviting those interested to visit their exhibit at the school’s Open House on Wednesday, January 21, 6 pm to 8:30 p.m.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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