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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 taksed to maintain 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.

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 is now a driving track for RCMP.The Canex, both base chapels, Dental Clinic, Medical Clinic, Guardhouse, Power plant, and all the old quarters for Junior Ranks have all been torn down and removed.  The old base HQ is now the Canadian campus for the University of Peking.

The rest of the military side of the base (except for the museum / old theatre, Base Transport and Base Supply) was sold to the province as a “Education Park’ and developed into Fraser Valley University and the Justice Institute of British Columbia.  The base recreation centre has been sold to the city, who will tear down the old swimming pool and build a new one. The recreation centre will become a part of the new Garrison Crossing Community Centre.

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.

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.

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.”

The Royal Westminster Regiment’s Aldergrove Detachment and 3 Canadian Division Support Group are no longer at Chilliwack.

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.


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/

13 comments

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  1. DAVID PEARSON

    iS THE vERNON BASE SURPLUS?

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi David,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. Camp Vernon has been an Army Cadet Camp since 1949 and still going as far as I know.

      Bruce

  2. Carol Law

    For information: A group in Chilliwack has started a campaign (2015) to build a military museum complex on the grounds of the former CFB Chilliwack. It’s purpose is to keep the memory of the military presence alive in Vedder Crossing for the community, for its own history and for Canadian heritage. The base was created as a WW2 presence on the west coast and faithfully served Canada and Chilliwack for over 50 years. It was closed in 1997. The group is hoping that they can acquire (CLC) land near the cenotaph to house 3 military museums, a legion and a cadet corp. as well as be the focal point for other Veteran’s Affairs activities. See facebook page “Preserving the Former CF Base Chilliwack”.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Carol,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. Please keep me updated on the status of the museum. I’ll also check out the Facebook page.

      Bruce

  3. David Vernon

    Nice summary. Here are a few details concerning the latest moves in Chilliwack:
    – the “platoon-sized element” of the Royal Westminster Regiment from Aldergrove peaked at a size of approximately 70. When ordered to move to Chilliwack, the plan was to make it the basis for the historical D Company that had once been located in the area decades earlier. As of 2016 there are approximately 40 Westies based out of Chwk along with elements of Administration Coy and a large portion of Field stores. The Westies have been used to support numerous courses run out of Chwk (currently the Bde Recce Crse). Growth has been artificially restricted due to the official establishment of the unit not being increased in concert with the expansion. This is currently being corrected and, once proper support for expansion is in place, D Coy will hit coy strength in the next few years.

    – when the call went out to re-name the complex, I was the first to suggest the late Col St John (a long time family friend) although I’ll never be credited with the idea as I deployed to Afghanistan again shortly thereafter and before most people had figured out who he was. Col St John was a significant figure to both of the main resident units (Westies and 39 CER) as well as an important figure to the area. He originally joined the Westies then became a Reg F engineer. He was the last Base Commander of CFB Chilliwack before it was closed and was the Colonel Commandant of the Engineer Branch.

    D.J. Vernon, LCol, CO The Royal Westminster Regiment

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Sir,

      Thank you for stopping by my web site and for the update. If you or anyone else in the regiment have any photos of Chilliwack or Aldergrove that you wish to share, I would love to see them. Please forward them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Bruce

  4. Carol Law

    It has now been one (1) year since we started to advocate for the creation of a military museum complex in the town of Chilliwack. We wanted a museum where we could save and display the military history of the former Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack. It had been the home base for 50 years for many in the military. It began with WW2 in 1942. We haven’t stopped talking but we aren’t seeing any promising results yet. We don’t want to lose our heritage or to leave it in boxes forever. It is slowly slipping away. One of our suggestions was to partner our museum with the University of the Fraser Valley. Set up a curriculum of museum studies courses and actually create the building as a project of that curriculum. We would be putting the students and the veterans together in an educational setting on the university grounds while at the same time saving our heritage and creating a tourist attraction for the city. So many possibilities… So far, we are still waiting . Our website for info is:
    http://www.veddercrossingmmp.ca

  5. Carol Law

    Our latest attempt in saving the military heritage of CFB Chilliwack.

    http://www.chilliwacktimes.com/news/400729261.html

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Thanks for the information. I hope this plan succeeds. Please keep me updated.

      Bruce

  6. Duncan

    Your photo showing the old Headquarters building in 2013 that the city uses or used as a Hostel after obtaining the land is annotated as including the Officers Mess. It may have at one time, but the old Officers Mess was located in a Mansion near the entrance to that part of the Base. Story has it that the house was bequeathed to be an Officers Mess, and was to be returned if it was to stop being an Officers Mess. I’ve never seen any verification of this story. The building and land became part of the deal when the city took over. The Officers Mess was moved to building 104 at 4050 W 4th Ave. Later to become an all ranks Mess after the Jr Ranks Club MountainView and the Sgt and WO’s Mess were demolished.
    More of the story of the House and photos of it would be interesting if you can obtain them.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Duncan,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site and for the information.

      Bruce

  7. David

    Hi

    There are obviously a lot of fond memories of the Canadian Military in British Columbia. British Columbia has a strong and celebrated tradition of contribution in the two world wars and the Korean War.

    Your historical accounts are well-written and researched. I must admit to being a little puzzled, though, at the somewhat sad fact that with the majority of your readers, fond memories are somehow enough. I was wondering if you have a theory that would explain why this province, with its strategic and economic importance to the country, has not a single battle-ready soldier deployed within its borders, and why the closest fighting aircraft are stationed near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. That’s almost two provinces way!

    I understand that it would be a Herculean task to undo the damage done by Paul Martin and his Liberals, but perhaps some kind of wheels could be put in motion?

    If you have an opinion on this issue, I would surely love to hear it.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi David,

      I think it comes down to money and a lack of enthusiasm of the politicians in this country (of all political parties) to have a strong military. The military personnel are among the best trained in the world, but cuts after cuts have made us a shadow of our former selves. I wouldn’t be surprised if more bases close in the future.

      Bruce

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