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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/

14 comments

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  1. Aj Corson

    We have not been to beautiful PEI in over 20 years. We are planning a trip there in June and wonder if any military bases have temporary lodging for retired US military personnel? Any help appreciated. Regards, Aj Corson

  2. Bruce Forsyth

    Hi AJ,

    Thanks for stopping by my web site. Unfortunately, there are no active military bases in PEI (the only province in Canada with no active bases). The last one was the former RCAF Station Summerside, but it closed in 1991. The former station is now known as Sleman Park and there is a hotel on site, but it charges standard hotel rates. If you are looking for economical accommodations, most universities and colleges rent out student residences at a cheaper rate that a regular hotel. When I travel, this is my fall-back option if there is no convenient military base. The University of PEI is located in Charlottetown. Holland College has several campuses across the island, including Charlottetown and Summerside.

    Bruce

    1. Aj Corson

      Hello Bruce:

      Thanks for updating me on some Canadian history. I have flown in both a Sikorsky Sea King, SH-3 and a KC-135 air refueling 707 to several bases in the Maritimes and always enjoyed it. Can’t remember what base it was, several times we had a great party with Canadian and our crews, a really fun time. The time I got “screeched in” was particularly memorable. Had to kiss the codfish and when I stuck my tongue in the codfish’s mouth, all the natives loved it.

      Looking forward to our week in PEI.

      Best regards,

      Aj Corson

  3. Chris

    Hi Bruce. My name is Chris Mills and I am currently trying to help a lady find out some information. Her father had moved to PEI in the early 80s and had been with a lady named Wendy Mills. Wendy and her family were suppose to have been an army family and lived on base over there. I was wondering if you may know of or heard of a Mills family living on base. Wendy had a sister named Beatrice as well. Thank you for your time

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. Unfortunately, I don’t have that information.

      Bruce

  4. Former Islander

    85 RCSCC Sea Cadets also parade in the same building as the PEIR. The PEIR presence there however was downgraded from B Squadron to 42 Troop due to manning shortages. As well CFB Greenwood maintains a small office in the main control tower building for their flights that land there periodically. Great website!

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Kassidy,

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

      Bruce

  5. Alice Bennett

    Hi Bruce,

    I see by other posts that you do not information on military personnel that served at CFB Summerside, but I am hoping someone reading this might. I am looking for Clifford Collins. Some may remember the incident where Clifford and Daniel Shears were court martialed in 1975 for disabling a plane.

    If you have any info I this I would love to read it.

    Thanks
    Alice

  6. Lori Pearce

    1231 Kensington Army cadets as well as 53 Air cadets use the PEIR Building at Slemon Oark.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Thank you for the information.

      Bruce

      1. Capt. Lori Pearce

        Thank you for your Service.

        Lori

        1. Bruce Forsyth

          Hi Lori,

          Thank you for yours. Being a part of cadets is very commendable. Although not all cadets go onto military careers, most will benefit from the leadership and teamwork skills they learn in cadets.

          Bruce

  7. Sarahs

    My family was the last to leave CFB Summerside. We were transferred to CFB Shearwater.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Thanks for stopping by my web site and I hope it brought back some memories. If you have any photos of Summerside that your would like to send, please send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Bruce

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