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BRITISH COLUMBIA

Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack:

Established on 15 February 1941 at Vedder Crossing as Camp Chilliwack for the purpose of defending the West Coast against attacks by the Japanese forces. Camp Chilliwack was also designated as a recruit-training centre, No. 112 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre, and as the new home for A6 Canadian Engineering Training Centre, originally from Camp Dundurn. The camp’s rugged terrain and pleasant climate provided an excellent location for continuous training throughout the year.

After the war, Camp Chilliwack became a permanent Army training establishment, with the additional duties of providing administrative and logistical support to the Regular and Reserve Force Army units on the British Columbia mainland. The engineer school was re-designated as the Canadian Forces School Of Military Engineering. The RCSME at Camp Chilliwack also included a fire-fighting school for the training of Army fire-fighters.

Camp Chilliwack was also the home of the 58th Field Engineer Squadron (re-named 1 Combat Engineer Regiment in 1977), who moved to the site from Victoria in 1957.

As a result of the Unification, Camp Chilliwack was re-named CFB Chilliwack and its support role was expanded to include all the Regular and Reserve Force units on the British Columbia mainland, included taking over administrative control of the Jericho Beach Garrison in Vancouver.

The Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering was re-named the Canadian Forces School of Mechanical Engineering (CFSME) and in 1970, the Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School (CFOCS), the successor of the officer training schools of the three former services, moved to the site from Work Point Barracks in Esquimalt.

In 1994, the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI), an amalgamated Reserve-Regular Force Battalion who are responsible for Reserve infantry training in B.C., moved to CFB Chilliwack from Work Point Barracks in Esquimalt.

In the mid 1990s, a reorganization and consolidation occurred within the Canadian Military. Several bases were either downsized, merged or closed and as a result, CFB Chilliwack closed in 1997.

CFOCS moved to CFB St-Jean to merge with the basic recruit school. CFSME re-located to the Combat Training Centre at CFB Gagetown and 3 PPCLI moved to Edmonton Garrison prior to the Base closure. The Chilcotin training area and the firing ranges continue to be used by the local reserve units.

Area Support Unit Chilliwack was established 2 September 1997 on a small section of the former base to provide the administrative and logistical support to Reserve and the remaining Regular Force in British Columbia. The centre of the three-building complex was the former 1 CER building, re-named the “Wadi Al-Batin” in honour of 1 CER’s participation in the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission in Kuwait in the post-Gulf War years.

ASU Chilliwack was also tasked with maintaining the following ranges and training areas for use by it dependencies:  Vokes Range, Slesse Creek Demolition Training Areas, Columbia Valley Training Area, Trail Rifle Range, Stone Creek Training Area, Vernon Military Camp, OPSEE Training Area, Chilcotin Training Area, Vedder Mountain Training Area, Richmond – Armoury and transmitter site.

Much of the base property, except for the Chilliwack Military Museum (formerly the base Quartermaster Stores), Base Transport and Base Supply, was turned over to the Canada Lands Corporation for disposal, and sold to the province as the Canada Education Park, with the Chilliwack campuses of the University of the Fraser Valley and the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

The base recreation centre was sold to the city, who replaced the old swimming pool and with a new one. The recreation centre will became a part of the new Garrison Crossing Community Centre.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police purchased former CFOCS building and the drill hall, which now serve as the RCMP Training Academy for E Division.  Approximately $10M dollars in upgrades were spent modifying the facilities to create the RCMP Pacific Region Support Services Centre, which opened in February 2002.  The old ammo dump was turned into a driving track for RCMP.

On 31 March 2013, ASU Chilliwack was disbanded as part of Department of National Defence cost-cutting measures, ending almost 16 years of service.  ASU Chilliwack’s responsibilities were taken over by 1 Area Support Group in Edmonton, and locally by 39 Service Battalion, supplemented by 13 CF members from the former ASU.  The complex was officially named the Col Roger Kenwook St. John, OMM, CD Armoury in 2014.

The Royal Westminster Regiment’s Aldergrove Detachment re-located to Chilliwack in April 2013, bringing a “platoon-sized element”  to the former base.  Also remaining at the Chilliwack site are 3 Canadian Division Support Group, 39 Combat Engineer Regiment, 39 Service Battalion, Signals Detachment Chilliwack, 1 Military Police Detachment Chilliwack and Defence Construction Canada.

The Ottawa Citizen reported on 18 August 2013 that despite the closure, some Canadian Forces personnel would continue to be stationed at Chilliwack, but 18 civilian positions would be eliminated as part of nationwide cuts to the Department of National Defence.

On 26 April 2014, the former ASU complex was officially re-named the “Colonel Roger Kenwood St. John, OMM, CD Armoury,” in honour of a long-serving and distinguished CME officer.  The main building, however, will continue to bear the name “Wadi Al-Batin.”

Many of the former military buildings were torn down in the years after the closure, including the Canex, both base chapels, Dental Clinic, Medical Clinic, Guardhouse, Power plant, the museum/theatre building, and all the old quarters for Junior Ranks and Sergeants/Warrant Officers have all been torn down and removed.

The former PMQ area has been redeveloped into the Garrison Crossing residential community.  About 70% of the PMQs have been torn down or remodeled. Most have been moved with new roads built to re-configure the area for the Garrison Crossing community plan. They are being sold as they come on the market in the $300, 000 range.  A new and large shopping plaza was built in 2007 behind where the Medical/Dental Clinics were located.

The 1000 yd rifle range and small arms ranges in Vedder have been cleared and sold.  There are two sub-divisions and a brand new High school where the ranges were.

The old base HQ was used as the Canadian campus for the University of Peking for many years after the base closure, but they recently moved out and the building is being gutted.

The University of the Fraser Valley is taking over the old 1 CER building and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) took over the old Quartermaster Stores in 2015, forcing the museum to re-locate to the Masonic Hall on Hocking Avenue in Chilliwack.

The RCMP built a new indoor shooting range for their facilities.

3 Canadian Division Support Group are no longer at Chilliwack.

Vedder Crossing which surrounds the former CFB has grown 10 fold since the base was closed. Many old soldiers will not recognize the area.  There are two new shopping plazas and a large number of businesses in the area. Housing has also exploded in the area.

Source Material: information supplied by Captain Audette, Public Affairs Officer, Land Force Western Area Headquarters (1999), information supplied by Sergeant Sylvain Tardif, Military Police Section, Area Support Unit Chilliwack (1999), “Sentinel” Magazine from January – February 1966, Pg. 6-8, information supplied by Barry Miller, Regional Director, Assets & Procurement, RCMP Pacific Region (2001), DND Web Archives – http://www.dnd.ca/admfincs/organiz/cfsuo/csss/ro/ro1997/20ful_e.asp,  “The Garrison” newspaper from March 1995, Chilliwack Times 5 April 2012 – www.chilliwacktimes.com/business/close+says+union/6414195/story.html,  “ASU Chilliwack Ceases Operations”, The Western Sentinel 28 March 2013, The Chilliwack Progress, 4 February 2013 – http://www.theprogress.com/news/189222671.html, The Ottawa Citizen, 18 August 2013 – http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2013/08/18/civilian-job-cuts-hit-area-support-unit-at-chilliwack-bc, https://cmea-agmc.ca/chilliwack-armoury-complex-be-named-colonel-roger-kenwood-st-john-omm-cd-armoury,

https://www.theprogress.com/news/chilliwack-military-museum-has-two-months-to-find-a-new-home, https://www.theprogress.com/community/slide-show-cfb-chilliwack-memorial-dedication, https://www.theprogress.com/news/chilliwack-volunteers-help-connect-military-past, http://fraservalleynewsnetwork.com/2015/09/11/say-goodbye-to-the-canadian-military-education-museum, http://www.veddercrossingmmp.ca/home.htm, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Education_Park, http://www.cfbchs.com.


Royal Canadian Air Force Station Patricia Bay:

Established on 26 October 1939 when the aerodrome at Patricia Bay was taken over by the RAF and RCAF for use as a combined seaplane-landplane station.

During World War II, Patricia Bay was an extremely busy base. The station was divided into three sections: the West Camp, the East Camp and the Seaplane base.

The West Camp housed No. 3 Operational Training Unit from 9 November 1942 until 3 August 1945.

The East Camp housed No. 32 Operational Training Unit (Royal Air Force) from 1 June 1944 until it re-located to RCAF Station Comox. No. 6 Operational Training Unit was established in its place.

The Seaplane base housed a detachment from No. 111 Coastal Artillery Co-operation (No. 111 CAC) who relocated from RCAF Station Sea Island on 19 May 1940, becoming the first squadron to be stationed at Patricia Bay. In August 1940, No. 111 CAC was re-designated No. 111 (Fighter) Squadron. No 120 Bomber Squadron arrived at the station on 1 August 1940.

Some of the other units during and after WWII were: No. 13 Operational Training Unit (RCAF), No. 115 (Fighter) Squadron, with their C-22 Fairchild Bolingbrokes until re-deployed to Annette Island in May 1942, No. 133 Squadron who re-located form Boundary Bay in 1943, No. 135 (Fighter) Squadron, No. 149 (Bomber Torpedo) Squadron, No. 7 Radio Detachment, the 1st Battalion, Edmonton Fusiliers, the 9th & 10th Anti-aircraft Batteries of the Royal Canadian Artillery, No. 122 (Composite) Squadron, with their C-126 Noorduyn Norsemans, and a detachment of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force, who arrived in March 1941 for seaplane training.

The Ground Warfare School and No. 1 School of Flying Control ran short courses at the station.

In July 1942, No. 132 (Fighter) Squadron arrived at the station.

In July 1944, an Air Cadet Camp was established at Patricia Bay and a month later, the station became a temporary movie studio when MGM arrived to film scenes for the film “Son of Lassie.”

RCAF Station Patricia Bay closed on 31 March 1945. The Victoria Flying Club took over the hangars once occupied by 32 OUT at the East Camp on 14 November 1946.

The Federal Department of Transportation assumed control of the aerodrome in May 1948, naming it the Sydney Airport. The airport was re-named the Victoria International Airport in 1950.

In 1954 the Royal Canadian Navy assumed control of the West Camp as a naval air station. RCN VU-33 Squadron, a lodger unit of Canada’s West Coast Navy Station HMCS Naden, was formed here on 1 November 1954, equipped with a fleet of CP121 Trackers and CT133 Silver-Star jet trainers. VU-33 Squadron was given the responsibility of conducting ship gunnery practice and radar calibration, coastal surveillance, search and rescue and Sonobouy Proving and Testing Service (SPATS).

VC-922 Squadron, Royal Canadian Naval Air Reserve was formed at Patricia Bay on 1 December 1953 and manned by reservists from HMCS Malahat Naval Reserve Division in Esquimalt.

VU-33 Squadron re-located to CFB Comox in August 1974, ending over 30 years of military presence at the Victoria Airport. However, this absence of military personnel would prove to be short lived.

In 1985, 443 Anti-submarine Warfare Helicopter Squadron, originally from CFB Shearwater, re-located to the Victoria Airport to provide Sea King helicopter support aboard 2 Navy Frigates and one Helicopter Destroyer stationed at CFB Esquimalt – Naden. The Squadron took over the quarters once occupied by VU-33 Squadron. On 31 January 1995, 443 Squadron changed their name to 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron. The facility is now know as The Patricia Bay Heliport..

The former RCAF Station Patricia Bay has seen quite a lot of change since the first plane took off from its runways, but some links to the past remain: several of the World War II era hangars remain in use today.

In February 2011, Minister of National Defence Peter McKay announced that a new, larger facility for 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron would be constructed, replacing the WWII-era hangar that housed 443 (MH) Sqn’s H-124 Sea King helicopters, as well as the 6 other administrative and training buildings.

This new hangar, officially opened in a ceremony on 16 April 2015, was not only built to accommodate the new CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, but it also allowed all unit operations to be housed under a single roof instead of the current 7 buildings.  The hangar was named after Arundel Castle as a nod to a prominent landmark in West Sussex, England, where the squadron was stationed while participating in the D-Day invasion  in June 1944.

The former WWII-era hangar, with the fading “Royal Canadian Navy” lettering still visible across the top of the hangar doors, is to be retained and used by other airport tenants, but the Squadron’s historic administration building (a former RCAF barrack block) will be torn down due to age and the fact it contains asbestos materials.

Source Material: the personal recollections of Petty Officer 2nd Class John Slor (Ret’d) (1999), the personal recollections of Master Warrant Officer R.G. Mastin , 443 Squadron, Patricia Bay (1999), pamphlet printed by Studio High Techniques of Toronto (1998), “Sentinel” Magazine from April 1968 & September 1974, pg. 28, information supplied by Sherry Eastholm, Manager, Sidney (B.C.) Museum (1999), “The Impact of Public Policy on a Naval Reserve Division” by Michael Hadley (1982), information supplied by Ian Waterlow, Archivist & Historian, Sydney, BC, “Badges of the Canadian Navy” by LT (N) Graeme Arbuckle, the RCAF Station Commox web site – http://www.rcaf.com/stations/comox.shtml, Boundary Bay Airport web site – http://www.czbb.com, History of the 400 Series Squadrons – http://www.airforce.dnd.ca/airforce/eng/history_400s/rcafsqns.htm, “New facility for new helicopters”, The Maple Leaf, March 2, 2011, the 12 Wing Shearwater web page – www.achq.dnd.ca/12wing/Wing/Shear.htm, “443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron: New hangar opened and new Colur consecrated” by 12 Wing Public Affairs (20 April 2015) & Victoria News 17 April 2015 – www.vicnews.com/neighbourhoods/sidney/264794671.html.


Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/closed-bases-with-military-presence/british-columbia/

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