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MANITOBA

Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie:

Established as No. 14 Elementary Flying Training School on 28 October 1940 – 3 July 1942, a part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. On 28 April 1941 No. 7 Air Observers School also opened at the aerodrome.

In July 1942, No. 14 EFTS disbanded and No. 7 AOS expanded to take over the entire station.

No. 7 AOS closed on 31 March 1945, corresponding with the termination of the BCATP. Immediately afterwards, No 3 Air Navigation School was established at Portage La Prairie, but this was short lived as it was disbanded 31 August 1945.

The station remained open after the war, and in March 1946, No. 1 Manning Depot re-located the Toronto Exhibition Grounds to recruit new pilots. However, this too would be short-lived as the Manning Depot closed one year later. The station continued to be occupied by No. 2 Construction Maintenance Unit as a storage depot and No. 2 Radio wave Propagation Unit, originally from RCAF Station Torbay. In 1949 the station closed and only a small caretaker staff remained. The Federal Department of Transportation assumed control of the airfield.

The post-war expansion of the RCAF resulted in many former aerodromes being re-opened and RCAF Station Portage La Prairie did so on 15 September 1952. No. 2 Advanced Flying School (No. 2 AFS) was established to train RCAF and NATO pilots, first setting up operations at RCAF Station MacDonald on a temporary basis, then re-locating to Portage La Prairie in October 1952. Jet flying training began in 1953 with the arrival of the Lockheed designed T-33 Silver Stars but by 1964, propeller driven aircraft training replaced the jet trainers.

No. 2 AFS relocated to RCAF Station Moose Jaw in August 1964 but the station gained two schools that same month. No. 1 Advanced Flying School re-located from RCAF Station Rivers as did No. 1 Flying Instructors School (basic) from RCAF Station Moose Jaw, making Portage La Prairie a centre for pilot selection, basic helicopter training and flight instructor training for both RCAF and Royal Canadian Navy pilots. No. 1 AFS was later re-named No. 3 Flying Training School.

RCAF Station Portage La Prairie was also the home of two of the RCAF’s precision flying teams, The Red Knights from 1959-1969 and the Golden Centenaries from 1966-1968.

In 1959 RCAF Station Portage La Prairie assumed responsibility for the storage depot detachment established at the former RCAF Station MacDonald.

No. 3 Advance Flying School, originally from RCAF Station Gimli, re-opened at Portage La Prairie in 1965.

As a result of the Unification, the station was re-named CFB Portage La Prairie in 1966. The base gained a school when the newly designated No. 3 Canadian Forces Primary Flying Training School moved to the base from CFB Borden in July 1970, but lost another one year later when No. 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School moved to CFB Moose Jaw.

In the late 1980s, DND budget reductions lead to the contracting out of flight training to civilian agencies. As a result, CFB Portage La Prairie closed on 1 September 1992.

The site is now the Southport Aerospace Centre, a commercial-industrial centre. Most of the former base’s buildings remain. A new air control tower was constructed on the opposite side of the airfield and a new barracks, the Lt. Alan McLeod Building, houses the Air Force student pilots.

Although no longer an Air Force base, No. 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, a Detachment of 17 Wing Winnipeg, remains at the former base to oversee Primary Flight Training and Helicopter Training, with training conducted by Allied Wings, a division of  KF Aerospace. A permanent contingent of 41 military personnel remains at the former base.

Southport was used as a staging area during Operation LENTUS 14-5, a domestic operation to assist the Province of Manitoba with the flooding around Portage La Praire during early July 2014. The majority of the military contingent came from CFB Shilo, but a detachment of 4 Griffin helicopters from 408 Squadron, based at Edmonton Garrison, was also dispatched to assist.

It could be said that RCAF Station Portage La Prairie has finally come full circle, as many of the instructors who trained the student pilots under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan were in-fact civilians working under contract to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Source material: DND press release from July 1989, “Sentinel” Magazine from May 1970, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan site -http://www.ualberta.ca/EDMONTON/CONTRIB/airmuseum/aambcatp.html, the RCAF Station Moose Jaw site – http://www.rcaf.com/stations/moosejaw.shtml, & “Portage La Prairie” Fifty Years of Flying Training: 1940-1990″ by Major Gordon Greavette, CD, information provided by No. 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2003), the personal recollections of the author (2003) & the Southport Aerospace Centre web site – http://www.southport.mb.ca, Canadian Forces Air Navigation School history – www.cfans.com & http://www.southport.mb.ca/commercl/canforces.htm.


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

12 comments

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  1. Mr B.J.Searle

    My Father Robert Anthony (TONY) Searle arrived at Monckton (from the UK via New York on the Queen Elizabeth ship). Posted to Bombing and Gunnery School at Moss Bank then 3months later to Navigation school at Portage La Priairie. After being awarded his BREVET(which he no longer has) returning to the UK on the Mauritania. He will be celebrating his 90th Birthday on 13th September. A relative has provided general information of the area. however is there areas I can get official details of his service record whilst in Canada

    His service and History is only very recently in his failing health coming to light so I would be extremely interested in his service records.

    many Thanks
    Bernard searle

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Bernard,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. Unfortunately, i don’t have access to service records. You may want to contact his squadron, if it still exists, or more likely the Canadian or UK National Archives.

      Bruce

  2. Geoff Smith

    Interesting site. If you want to add a paragraph for Portage La Prairie, Southport was used during Operation LENTUS 14-5, which was the domestic operation to assist the Province of Manitoba with the flooding around Portage La Praire during early July 2014. Most of the force which was from CFB Shilo moved into Southport and used it to stage from. 408 Sqn from Edmonton had a detachment of 4 Griffon helos staging out of there also.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. I’ll work it in to the entry on Portage.

      Bruce

  3. Alan B. Lock

    My name is Alan B. Lock. I enlisted in the RCAF for Flight Crew and was sworn in on April 5. 1951. I am 84 – my birthdate is March 5, 1932. I was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England but in 1947 my family emigrated to Winnipeg. I had actually tried to join in November 1950 but I was considered underweight at 118 lbs. and had to weigh a minimum of 125 lbs. for Aircrew.

    Our Basic Training was held at Crumlin Airport, London, Ontario. We must have been the first ones at Crumlin because upon our arrival there we were instructed to pick up bed frames and mattresses from one building, take them to the barracks and assemble them. I believe there were about 60 of us recruits all designated as Flight Cadets. Part way through the 6 week stay at Crumlin we were taken to Toronto where we were given a series of aptitude tests, given two rides in the centrifuge at 4gs (I think) taken to 35,000 feet in the chamber where one at a time we had to take off our oxygen masks and write the alphabet. At the end of the 6 weeks we were assigned for training as Radio Operators, Navigators, or Pilots. I do not know the training base at that time for Radio Operators. Pilots were asked for their preference either FTS #1 Centralia, Ont., or FTS #2 Gimli, Manitoba. I was granted my wish and to Gimli I went along with about 25 other cadets on our private railroad car which was placed at the rear of the train and we were instructed to stay in that coach except for meals.

    At Gimli it was NOT a jet training base in 1951-52 time frame. It was solely Harvards. There were 97 of them and Gimli had three runways in a triangular pattern. The Tiger Moth for basic flying was long gone and the Chipmunk was still far in the distance. At Gimli we were joined by a number of RAF fellows and a few Norwegians.

    I have often wondered whatever happened to the aircraft Graveyard. When we arrived at Gimli there was the fuselage of a Mosquito sitting on its undercarriage but no engines or wings, in a corner was the fuselage of a B-24 Mitchell sitting on its belly. During my stay 2 or 3 Harvards joined them as the result of fatal Gimli crashes.

    Incidentally Navigators were trained in Winnipeg at that time – don’t know if that was the only Navigator training location. But Winnipeg had a number of the small twin engine aircraft – Boeing??

    I was transferred to Los Angeles in 1970 by Air Canada (from which I’m retired) and since my two eldest sons are both retired from the USAF I stayed in the States.

    Do you know who I could contact in order to find out what happened to those Gimli graveyard aircraft???

    Regards – Alan

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Allan,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site and for the correction with Gimli. Also thanks for sharing your story. If you have any photos that you would like to share, you can send them to bruce@militarybruce.com. As for the junkyard, you could try contacting the Municipality of Gimli Archives and see if they have any information. The local Legion branch may also be able to help you.

      Good luck,

      Bruce

    2. Coral Forslund

      Hello Mr. Lock. I enjoyed reading your entry of your time in Gimli. I am researching the time frame of 1950 – 1952, and particularly the RAF fellows you referred to. Do you have any recollection of Michael Marshall? I ask as Sir Michael is travelling back to Canada this month for a visit and I would love to have any stories or information from the time when he trained in Gimli. The only information I have is that he trained in Canada (Gimli) for 11 months, sometime between 1950 – 1952.

      Mr. Forsyth, I extend this note to you as well, welcoming any contribution you may have.

      Best regards

      Coral

      1. Alan B. Lock

        Hello Coral;

        Sorry I do not recall the name Michael Marshall. I believe all of the RAF chaps were “bunked” together as were the Norwegians so we’d only see them in passing or if we happened to be in the Mess at the same time’

        Kindest Regards

        Alan

  4. James Sesak

    Hello Bruce.

    I was quite impressed with the your information on former Military BASES. i SERVED IN THE r.c.a.f FROM 1961 TO 1971. My first station by choice coming off Coursr at Camp Borden was C JATC Rivers Manitoba.
    I was a P.E.R.I. by trade and I also met and married my Wife there. Those nostalgic photos are a Gem.

    The one thing I duly noticed in many of your Base Photos is the absence of the Recreation Facilities that played a large part in the base life of Military Personal. Although some may be overgrown, many of the Recreation centres are still standing. Rivers being one which I have visited on occasion. If you could be so Kind to add those in, it would be most welcome. Keep up the good work and many Thanks. Jim Sesak

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi James,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. I do have some photos that I found on various web sites that I assume are the recreation centre. The pool is beside it, so I take it that is the Rec Centre. Unfortunately when I visited Rivers in 2003, I had an old film camera (and have a map of the base to know what to look for), so I had to be careful how many pictures I took. If I had a digital camera, I probably would have photographed every building or former location of a building (ha, ha). I hope the three pictures are good enough. If you have any photos that you would like to share, please send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Bruce

  5. air cadets brampton

    nice article

  6. Bruce Forsyth

    From Jim Cave,

    My father was part of the pilot training class at No. 14 EFTS. He was at Portage la Prarie, July 27, 1941 to September 13, 1941. I have a photo of his class of cadet pilots and I can only identify my father in the photo. In his photograph album, he comments “only 13 left”.

    I have been searching for the ORB of this EFTS, without success. I am interesting in learning the names of the others in the photo, even though I won’t be able to put names to the photos, I could at least determine the names of the individuals on the book of remembrance.

    Dad went on to instruct in England (EFTS at Fairoaks) and also instruct instructors how to instruct. He also completed a tour of operations with 419 Squadron.

    Sincerely, Jim Cave

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