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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.

Army bases across the country adopted new names reflecting the new Canadian Divisions such as: CFB Petawawa has been re-named Garrison Petawawa; CFB Gagetown was re-named 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown; CFB Edmonton was re-named Edmonton Garrison.

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 the abandoned bases as follows:

Abandoned Bases

Closed Bases That Still Have A Military Presence

I have also put the three former radar defence lines, the Pinetree, Mid-Canada and Distant Early Warning Lines in their own separate categories.

Permanent link to this article: https://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 …

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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 Point …

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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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Hamilton Militia District / Hamilton District

A Brief History: Courtesy of Colonel (Ret’d) James C. Forsyth, CStJ, CD, CA On 01 September 1970, Militia-lead “Areas” and “Districts” came into being. Hamilton Militia District (HMD), headquartered at Canadian Forces Reserve Barracks (CFRB) Hamilton, reported to Central Militia Area (CMA) Headquarters, located at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Downsview. The original HMD units were: …

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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

Source Material (unless noted): Larry Wilson Web site – http://www.lswilson.ca. 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 …

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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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