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YUKON


Canadian Forces Station Whitehorse:

Originally opened by the Department of Transport, the airfield was taken over to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 as part of the Northwest Staging Route.

Designated as RCAF Station Whitehorse, the station had detachments at Teslin, Aishihik, and Snag and in 1946, at Watson Lake.

After World War II, RCAF Station Whitehorse remained open primarily as a refueling station for on the Alaska route.

The Federal Department of Transport took over the operation of the airport, but the RCAF remained in Whitehorse.

With the closure of RCAF Station Prince Rupert in 1948, the radio section was transferred to Whitehorse, where it stood-up as No. 5 Radio Unit on a property south-west of the airport, near the intersection of Hamilton Boulevard and South Access Road. The station became part of the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System in 1966.

Also in 1966, the station was renamed Canadian Forces Station Whitehorse.  This would be short lived however, as CFS Whitehorse closed on 1 July 1968.

The airport reverted to being solely a civilian airport, now known as the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

In January 1999, Hangar C at the Whitehorse Airport, the last of the World War II hangars built by the U.S. Army Air Force was destroyed by fire.

The former radio site is now a residential community.  The former PMQs are the Lobird Trailer Court and the former Operations Building is now Radar Apartments.  The Guardroom / Administration buildings also remains.  Lobird Road runs through the middle of the community.

An old Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 sits on a pedestal in the parking lot outside the Yukon Transportation museum building as a weather vane.

Source Material:  The Secret History of the Radar Building by Vivian Belik, information provided by Chief Perry Officer 2nd Class (Ret’d) Chris Carnall (2015), http://www.alaskahighwayarchives.ca/en/chap1/index.php.



Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Snag:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Snag.

Closed May 1968.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Teslin:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Teslin.

Closed May 1968.

The aerodrome now operates at the Teslin Airport.  It has a 5000 foot gravel runway.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Aishihik:

Opened in 1942 as a Detachment of RCAF Station Whitehorse near Aishihik.

The Detachment closed in 1968 and the airfield was abandoned, leading to the depopulation of Aishihik itself.

Aishikik is mostly uninhabited now, except for a small number of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people, who continue to use it for traditional purposes such as meetings. Many of their people moved to Haines Junction, Yukon, where they have more services.

The outline of the crumbling runway is still visible.


Royal Canadian Air Force Station Watson Lake:

Originally opened in the the 30s as a civilian airport, the Watson Lake Airport was taken over by the RCAF in 1941 as part of the Northwest Staging Route. An operations building was built and the runways were paved.

After Pearl Harbour the Watson Lake strip became critically important the U.S. Army Air Force established a large base there, considerably bigger than the Canadians, but they shut down and left after VJ day.

Watson Lake remained an RCAF aerodrome after WWII, serving as an Winter Experimental Establishment, with Canadian Pacific Airlines prividing civilian aviation services. Seven PMQs were constructed for families living at the aerodrome, along with the wartime facilities already present: a curling rink, a theatre, a hobbyshop, messes, barracks and a large sports field.

The Town of Watson Lake sprung up in the post-war years, one of the few towns in Canada built because of the airport, instead of the other way round.

RCAF Station Watson Lake had a brief post-war life, closing in April 1957.  By 1961, the barracks, the PMQs and storage buildings had been removed. The sports fields were re-developed for housing.

Three airmen died while serving at Watson Lake:  Lieutenant (N) Gerald Quarton, RCN, died when his Hawker Sea Fury crashed in 1948; Leading Aircraftman Ernest McWilliams, RCAF, died when an Avro Lincoln Bomber crashed into Watson Lake in 1948; and Flying Officer Walter Mollon, RCAF, died in a Hawker Sea Fury crash in 1951.

Scheduled passenger service was offered by Canadian Pacific Air Lines with Boeing 737 jetliners in the mid 1970s.

Passenger service was also provided in the mid 1990s by several regional and commuter airlines such as Central Mountain Air flying Beechcraft twin turboprop aircraft and Alkan Air operating Piper Navajo aircraft. Currently, the airport does not have any scheduled passenger airline service.

Several of the old buildings remain, but not all in their original locations.  The former RCAF hangar and the WWII-era terminal building both remain in their original locations at the airport.  Two of the old log barracks were moved to the east side of the town, along the Alaska Highway, with one of them now operating as a motel, the Air Force Lodge.  The former base chapel is now the Getaway Motor Inn, also along the Alaska Highway, in the middle of town.

Other reminders of the military past of the airport includes a memorial cairn, dedicated to the service personnel who were a part of the Northwest Staging Route and the Winter Experimental Establishment between 1941 and 1957.  The propeller affixed to the cairn is from the Avro Lincoln that killed LAC McWilliams in 1948.

Sources: http://www.tc.gov.yk.ca/pdf/L2_WatsonLake_WalkingTours_36419_FinalWeb.pdf, http://www.watsonlake.ca/about-watson-lake/historical-photo-gallery, https://ouralaskahighway.com/?portfolio_item=watson-lake-air-terminal-building.


Royal Canadian Air Force Detachment Grande Prairie:

Originally opened by the US Army Air Force in 1942. The aerodrome was taken over by the RCAF in 1945, but remained a joint U.S – Canadian station until 1949.  The aerodrome was taken over by the Department of Transport in 1951.  Nothing remains from the RCAF days.

Source material:  Information supplied by Alvin Maieer, Manager of marketing and Business Development (2011).



Camp Takhini:

Established in 1946 just north of the airport in Whitehorse as a base of operations for the Canadian Army, who took over operation and maintenance of the Alaska Highway System.The Army took over several temporary houses, known as “Cemestos” that were built by Standard Oil in 1944 for their Canol Project refinery, for the use of camp personnel.

From the late 40s until the early 50s, several new buildings were constructed, including a headquarters building, barracks, a power plant, mess hall, a Canex store, a school and PMQs.

Following military tradition, the streets in Camp Takhini were named after famous battles, in this case WWII battles such as Antwerp, Cassino, Ortona, Nijmegan, Falaise, Normandy, Dieppe, and Vimy.

In 1955, the barracks located at  what is now 200 Range Road was converted into administrative offices, including the operational headquarters for the Northwest Highway System services.

The camp closed in 1964, when the federal Department of Public Works and Government Services assumed responsibility for the Alaska Highway.

Some of the camp buildings and PMQs remain today. One of the former barracks is now a rental residence named “The Barracks”.  The former NWH headquarters building is occupied by various federal and territorial government offices, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Source Material:  Alaska Highway Heritage web site – www.ouralaskahighway.com, assistance given by Tascha Morrison, Alaska Highway Community Society (2015) & Hougen Group web site – www.hougengroup.com.

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

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