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A Short History of Abandoned and Downsized Canadian Military Bases

Prior to the passage of Bill C-243, The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act in Canada, the Navy, Army and Air Force operated as separate entities: the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army. For those who don’t know the story, between 1964 and 1968, the three service branches were merged into a single entity, “The Canadian Armed Forces”, unified under a single Chief of Defence Staff and a single Defence Staff.  The Army, Navy and Air Force would now be elements of the Canadian Armed Forces and were no longer individual entities. Navy and Army pilots became a thing of the past in Canada, as did the RCAF Marine (patrol boat) Squadrons.

On 16 August 2011, National Defence Minister Peter McKay announced that the former names of the service branches had been restored and once again the service branches would be known as the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army, although this was “in name only”, as they remained a part of the tri-service Canadian Forces and not separate entities.

On 8 July 2013, National Defence Minister Peter McKay announced the restoration of traditional titles to a number of Canadian Army corps, shoulder titles for members of these corps will be restored. The intent is also to restore historical rank names for non-commissioned members, the traditional and internationally recognized convention of army insignia of stars and crowns for officers, and gorget patches for colonels and general officers.

The army has also renamed its area commands, now calling them divisions and noting the links to units that fought in the First or Second World Wars. Land Force Quebec Area will be referred to as 2nd Canadian Division, Land Force Western Area as 3rd Canadian Division, Land Force Central Area as 4th Canadian Division, and Land Force Atlantic Area as 5th Canadian Division.

All army bases across the country will soon adopt new names reflecting the new Canadian Divisions. It was revealed in September 2013 that CFB Petawawa has been re-named 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa. CFB Gagetown was re-named 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown. Others will soon follow.

When some bases close, the military pulls up stumps and moves out completely, as with RCAF Station Aylmer. Other times, the base simply downsizes, as with 12 Wing Shearwater or even if the base has officially closed, a small presence remains, as with CFB Gimli’s Royal Canadian Air Cadet Gliding School, or a small portion of the former base is sectioned off and still operates as a military establishment, as with Wolseley Barracks. Therefore, I have arranged this web page to correspond with the following:

Abandoned Bases

Closed Bases That Still Have A Military Presence

Bases That Have Downsized or Changed Their Function

Permanent link to this article: http://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/

The Unification of the Forces

The Past On 1 February 1968, Bill C-243, The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act, was granted Royal Assent and the with that, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army officially ceased to exist. The Air Force permanently lost their own rank structure, and to this day, it remains identical to the …

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Pre-Unification to Post-Unification

  Prior to the Unification, military establishments across the country were identified as either Royal Canadian Air Force Station for the Air Force, His/Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship or Naval Radio Station for Naval shore stations or Camp or Barracks for the Army. Eg: RCAF Station Rockcliffe, HMCS Stadacona, Naval Radio Station Aldergrove, Camp Borden, Work …

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Abandoned Bases

Please note: Major cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver and Victoria had numerous small establishments that contained anywhere from single buildings, some leased, to multi-building establishments outside of the main bases for a variety of functions such as administrative, residential, supply, communications or coastal defence.  I would like to profile all of them here eventually, …

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Closed Bases That Still Have A Military Presence

For this category I have been somewhat selective. As you have read in the “Abandoned Bases” section, some still have cadet units that train at the former bases. For my purposes, I consider a former base to still have a military presence if there is a permanent full-time contingent still on site, such as the …

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Downsized Bases or Bases That Have Changed Their Function

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The Pinetree Line

In the early 1950s the Pinetree Line network of radar stations was established. This line, which stretched along the 50th parallel, down the eastern coast and into southern Ontario and Quebec, acted as an early warning detection system against a Soviet air attack. The Pinetree Line was shut down in the mid 1980s as part …

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The Mid Canada Line

  Between the DEW Line and the Pinetree Line was the Mid Canada Line, consisting of 8 Sector Control Stations and approximately 90 unmanned Doppler radar sites. The line operated for a very brief time from 1958 until 1965, when improvements in technology made the line unnecessary. All the stations are now closed there is …

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Distant Early Warning Line

Construction began in November 1954. Operational July 1957. In all, 58 DEW Line stations were built, including 30 in Canada from Cape Dyer, NWT to Komakuk Beach, Yukon. Between 1988 and 1993, most stations were deactivated. Those that remained were upgraded as part of the new North Warning System. Distant Early Warning Line Stations: Komakuk …

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Northwest Territory and Yukon Radio System

Stations of the Royal Canadian Signal Corps’ Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System, which operated from 1923 to 1959.   Camp Takhini: On 1 April 1946, the Canadian Army assumed control of the Alaska Highway.  A total of thirteen camps dotted the highway as well as numerous small airfields.  Camp Takhini was established on land …

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The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

In 1939, the Canadian Government, in an effort to play an important role in the imminent war with Germany, conceived a plan to train pilots, navigators, air gunners, air bombers and flight engineers for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and other Commonwealth air forces. Although the original intent of this plan …

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Canadian Army Training Centres of World War II

ALBERTA No. 131 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre – Camrose No. 132 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre – Grande Prairie No. 133 Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre – Wetaskiwin No. 2 Canadian Women’s Army Corps – Vermilion A20 Royal Canadian Army Service Corps Training Centre – Red Deer A16 Canadian Infantry Training Centre – Calgary …

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The Northwest Staging Route

Established in 1942, the Northwest Staging Route was a chain of aerodromes at 100 mile intervals from Edmonton to Fairbanks for the purpose of transporting aircraft and supplies from the continental US to Alaska and radio ranging stations at 200 mile intervals.  Edmonton became the headquarters for the Alaskan Wing of Air Transport Command Unless …

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Abandoned Armouries

Not all communities have a full size base in the area, but years ago, even the smallest communities had an armoury or drill shed at which the local Militia trained. Some were large ornate buildings, and some were smaller that barn, but all served their purpose. In some cases, the buildings outlived their usefulness as …

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Current Canadian Military Bases

This web page has primarily focused on the military of the past and what we have lost in regards to military establishments. However, times are changing yet again, and the Canadian government is indeed spending money on revitalizing the military. New equipment is being bought, certain bases are being expanded and some new facilities are …

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12 comments

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  1. Stephen Ransier

    Bruce – some great and important work – well done! Don’t think we ever crossed paths but have a question. Some background first – my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister) Mae Belle Sampson died when the Germans sunk the LLandovery Castle 27th June 1918. She was a graduate of the nursing program (1913) at the Hamilton General. She served at the front prior to being injured and returning to England for health reasons.
    Anyway, when I was briefly at the HMCS Star I was in touch with local nursing group and the hospital where I saw a plaque dedicated to her located in the entrance. Sad to say, it is my understanding when they were doing some alterations to the front of the buiding, her original plaque was either destroyed or lost. Anyway, I understand a local doctor learnt of this and had a new one made and is now in the new entrance. I still have a small certificate from King George that the family reeived and would like to donate it to possibly the CF Medical school at Borden. That said given the response I received from the hospital in Hamilton, they will never get this as a donation. GIven the wide range of individuals and places you have been in touch with regarding historical matters, is there anyone at the CF school in Borden either connected with archives of related matters that you know of? Thanks SR

    1. Aj Stewart

      Very neat story!!!
      I used to work at CFMSS back in the mid/late 2000’s as a civilian fresh out of college before moving onto Health Canada in Ottawa here (loved it too!). I can’t speak for them, but I did want to encourage you to contact the Commandant over at CFMSS and the orderly room at the school as they would be the best to help you with this (I wish I was still working there or had contacts or I would personally find out for you). The main number is still 705-424-1200 and I would have an operator direct you to the Orderly Room at CFMSS who should be able to set something up. To answer your question directly, no, there would be no one connected with the archives ( speaking from experience, I might say possibly the Central Registry Clerk but that is more operational documents as opposed to historical like this) and this would be the first situation of this nature that has happened over there in a long time. Speaking for myself, I know it would be exactly the type of thing what I would put in the main display case at the front atrium. Same goes for the adjacent 31 CFHSC.

      The other option would be the Base Borden Museum as I am sure they would appreciate the certificate.
      The War Museum here in Ottawa would also be a good idea, however I have to warn you that since they have such a large collection, there is no guarantee that it would be on display at any given time.

      Best of luck and I hope you can connect with them as they are a fantastic group!

      1. Bruce Forsyth

        Hi AJ,

        Thank you for the information and for stopping by my web site.

        Bruce

    2. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Stephen,

      Check my web site as a fellow named AJ Stewart replied to your request. He provided some useful information regarding your question.

  2. Colin Affleck

    Well done Bruce. Huge job you took on. Much appreciated by a great many people. Thank you.
    Regards sir.
    Colin Affleck

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Colin,

      Thank you for stopping by my web site and for the comments. Stop by occasionally as I am adding photos to the web site as often as I can.

      Bruce

  3. John Stanley

    Hi Bruce,
    I am doing a family tree for an old friend of mine. Her Gt Gt Grandfather was born on PEI in 1838 and we assume he came from a military family. The family moved to Ireland in the early 1840s and he enlisted in a regiment at the age of seventeen. He then served in Gibraltar as footman to the Governor and later went to China being in charge of catering on the voyage, BUT we can’t find his birth on PEI. Do you know which military units were on the island at the time ?
    It is a shame that we know so much and yet so little. Another problem is his name – he was called William Taylor and a web search for the name and approx. birth date produced over 400000 responses in North America.as a whole. It would be great to be able to narrow it down to someone on PEI.
    Please can you offer any intelligence ?
    Regards
    John Stanley

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi John,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. The only suggestions I could give you would be to try contacting the The Prince Edward Island Regiment (RCAC) Museum to see if they hold any records. Otherwise, the National Archives in Ottawa should have some records.

      Bruce

  4. Everett Koeller

    I am writing a book about my Uncle and I want to describe his training first at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan during the fall of 1944, on Jan. 1, 1945 he transferred to Shilo where he continued Paratrooper training until April 30, 1945. Can you direct me to some material that I could follow to complete this task.

    Everett Koeller

  5. George Abbott White

    28 April 2017

    RE: F O Matthiessen
    [Francis Otto] Matthiessen, 1902-1950, Professor of History and Literature, Harvard University

    Dear Bruce Forsyth,

    Came across your (impressive) web site the other day while researching a critical biography of the distinguished American cultural historian and critic F O Matthiessen of Harvard University.

    Alongside teaching Canadian students at Yale and Harvard and professional exchanges with colleagues at Canadian colleges and universities, Matthiessen had two direct contacts with Canada.

    The University of Toronto invited Matthiessen to give the Alexander Lectures in the autumn of 1944. These later were published as “Henry James: The Major Phase.” And

    Before entering Yale University in 1919, Matthiessen had enlisted in the Canadian Air Force, WWI ending while he was still in training near Toronto.

    You seem to have located every training facility north of the U.S.A. border; I’m hoping – somewhere in your fine research – you might direct me to where Matthiessen was and, what, if any records of both his training and the kind of training provided, exist.

    Many thanks, George White

    George Abbott White, PhD
    143 Winchester Street
    Brookline, Massachusetts
    USA
    02446

    617.513.6627
    whizzer65@gmail.com

    PS
    This coming week I’m to give some talks at the University of Toronto and York, any suggestions welcome.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi George,

      Thanks for the complement on the web site. It’s been a labour of love for almost 20 years. As for your question, your best bet would be to contact Libraries and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

      Good luck with your search.

      Bruce

      1. George Abbott White

        Dear Bruce,

        Thanks for the tip, and I will continue to brouse your site.

        Tried the reply route, do you know that it comes up “machine language”? I also had this response visiting other pages connected to your site.

        We’re off to Toronto in the am, not back until Friday but will review things over that weekend and see if the problem continues. I can take a screen shot and send it to whatever address is most helpful.

        All the best,

        George White

        George Abbott White
        Brookline, MA

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