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PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Canadian Forces Base Summerside:

Opened 23 April 1941 as RCAF Station Summerside, the home of No. 9 Service Flying Training School, a flight school founded under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Two relief landing sites were also established at the same time as No. 9 SFTS, and one in Wellington, PEI and the other one at Mount Pleasant, PEI, although it was later became the site of No 10 B&G School. No. 9 SFTS stay at Summerside would be short lived as it moved to RCAF Station Centralia in July 1942 and No. 1 General Reconnaissance School opened in its place. The school was re-designated No. 1 Reconnaissance and Navigation School in 1945.

RCAF Station Summerside was effectively closed in 1946. Only the Air Cadet Summer Training Camp and a small caretaker staff, whose job it was to maintain the buildings, remained at the Station. The Relief landing field at Wellington was also closed at the end of the war and today, nothing remains of it.

In 1948, RCAF Station Summerside was re-activated as part of the post-war RCAF. No. 1 Air Navigation School (No. 1 ANS) was established at the station a NATO training facility. When the school left Summerside for RCAF Station Winnipeg in 1953, the Central Navigation School, which had been disbanded at RCAF Station Rivers in 1945, was re-activated at Summerside. This new school remained at Summerside for a year, before following No. 1 ANS to Winnipeg. No. 2 Maritime Operational Training Unit was then established to train aircrews in anti-submarine warfare.

In 1949, Permanent Married Quarters were built, named Slemon Park in honor of Air Marshall Roy Slemon.

Over the years Summerside would also be the home of 880 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron, 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 31 Support Air Group (Royal Canadian Navy), 429 Maritime Patrol Squadron (2 (M) OTU designation when performing non-training operational duties) and 420 Air Reserve Squadron.

In 1959, the Maritime Proving and Evaluation Unit (MP & EU) opened at RCAF Station Summerside. The unit’s function was to develop and test equipment and procedures used by Maritime Air Command.

On 1 May 1961, the Royal Canadian Air Force re-activated 415 Maritime Patrol Squadron at Summerside, an anti-submarine aircraft squadron and equipped it with the CP-107 Argus Aircraft.

The unification brought change to RCAF Station Summerside. The station was re-named CFB Summerside in 1966 and control was transferred to the newly created Maritime Command. By 1968, 2 (M) OTU had departed for CFB Greenwood switching places with Greenwood’s No. 103 Rescue Unit. MP & EU also moved to CFB Greenwood in 1978, as did 415 Squadron in 1981, changing their fleet of Argus aircraft for the Aurora.

By the 1980s, the Summerside’s primary role was surveillance support for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The remaining squadrons, the Tracker Squadrons 880 SAR Squadron and 420 Air Reserve Squadron, were tasked to conduct routine fisheries patrols. However, the Tracker Aircraft had long since exceeded their life spans and the Federal Government elected not to replace them.

As a result of planned reductions in Canada’s Air Force, Summerside’s importance declined, especially given that its role as a Maritime support base could effectively be covered by CFB Shearwater and CFB Greenwood. As a result, CFB Summerside closed on 1 April 1991.

880 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron was disbanded, 420 Air Reserve Squadron re-located to CFB Shearwater and 413 Search & Rescue Squadron to CFB Greenwood.

The site is now an aviation and commercial-industrial centre named Slemon Park, with tenants including the Summerside Aerospace Centre, the Summerside Airport, the Holland College School of Justice, the Canada Games Sports Centre and Atlantic Police Academy.  Several of the buildings remain in use and in good condition, including the PMQs, whch are used as rental accommodation.  The former Officers’ Mess is used as the reception area for the Slemon Park Hotel and Conference Centre.

The only remnants of the property’s military past are the Prince Edward Island Regiment, 42 Troop (downgraded from, “B” Squadron), who currently lease a building at Sleman Park, 85 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, co-located in the PEIR building and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets Atlantic Region Gliding School, who operate a summer Regional Gliding Centre at the airport.

Additionally, 1231 Kensington Army cadets as well as 53 Air cadets use the former PERI Building.

Additionally, 14 Wing Greenwood maintains a small office in the main control tower building for their flights that land there periodically.

Administrative & logistical support for the remaining Regular Force, Reserve and Cadet Units on Prince Edward Island comes from the Charlottetown Detachment of CFB Gagetown, established on 1 April 1991 and located at the West Royalty Industrial Park in Charlottetown.

Although the airfield has the longest runways in the province, it only supports general aviation as scheduled passenger flights are offered at the Charlottetown Airport.

Three aircraft on static display at the main gate serve as a reminder of Summerside’s past:  an Argus maritime patrol aircraft, a CF 101 Voodo jet fighter and a Tracker anti-submarine aircraft.  The aircraft are maintained by the Aviation Heritage Society (PEI), a group formed in 2009, and were repainted in their original markings.  The Argus had served at both CFB Summerside and CFB Greenwood before being retired in 1980.

The Aviation Heritage Society established the Air Force Heritage Park on the surrounding land in 2014, which was formally donated to the society by the Sleman Park Corporation.  A Walk of Honour was built around the aircraft, leading up to a memorial wall that features the names of personnel who died while serving st CFB Summerside.

In March 2015, three of the remaining WWII-era buildings along Elmwood Drive were torn down.  The buildings, H-huts #10 & #11, also known as”Celtic” and “Carter”, had last been used as accommodations in 2009 for Canada Games athletes and the third, Building 22, had been used for a stay-in-school program for years, but in the last few years was used for storage.

Source material: DND press release from July 1990, the Slemon Park web site – www.peisland.com/slemon/park.htm, information supplied by Mike Thususka, City of Summerside, Economic Development (1999), 14 Wing Heritage web site – http://www2.14wing.dnd.ca/14wgheritage/index.html, the personal recollections of Major Harley Lang (Ret’d) (1999), Canadian Forces Air Navigation School history – www.cfans.com, information provided by Larry Gaudet, Director of Marketing, Training and Commercial Leasing for Sleeman Park (2013), “Abandoned Military Installations Of Canada Volume III: Atlantic” by Paul Ozorak, “Armed Forces Day 1990 – CFB Summerside” Program Guide and “Preserving PEI’s Aviation History”, The Legion Magazine, September/October 2015.

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

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