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NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

9 Wing Gander:

The current 9 Wing Gander is the sole survivor of numerous military and civilian government sites in the Gander area. In 1938, the British Air Ministry established a radar station for monitoring Trans-Atlantic air traffic. As well, the RCAF established an Air Station on a site that is now the Gander International Airport. The Station was used throughout the war by British, American and Canadian pilots, and at the time of construction, was the largest airfield in the world.

By 1940, the station had became the responsibility of the federal Department of Transport and remained so for the remainder of the war. Personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy were assigned to monitor the station’s radar. Naval Radio Station Gander was re-opened in 1949 as a HF-DF station.

In 1950, Goose Bay became the home NATO Tactical Flying Training School, specializing in low-level flight training for aircrews from Canada, Germany, Britain and The Netherlands. Goose Bay proved to be an excellent location for the training facility for the school due to it’s remote location with training ranges that were larger than some of the European countries that sent pilots.

In February 1954, a Pinetree Radar station was established at Gander, operated by 226 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron (226 AC&W) of the RCAF. The establishment of the RCAF station resulted in the construction of several new buildings, along with 123 PMQs, and the renovation of several existing buildings such as the old USAAF hospital, which was converted in HQ, Corporals Club, Airmen’s Mess and CE storage. This building was again renovated in 1958 and accommodations were added for Senior NCOs and Officers.

As a result of the Unification, the Station ‘s name was changed to CFS Gander in 1966.

In 1970, Canadian Forces Communications Command assumed control of CFS Gander, with 226 AC&W Squadron becoming a lodger unit at the station it created. The new HF-DF unit finally became operational in July 1971 and operations at the old naval site were shut down after 31 years of service.

Throughout the 1970s, CFS Gander provided support for detachments of squadron personnel from CFB Chatham and their CF-101 Voodoo interceptors. The aircraft and support personnel would be sent to Gander for weeks at a time to counter several large scale Warsaw pact exercises in the North Atlantic.

In May 1977, Air Command assumed control of the Station. The Supplementary Radio Station at the base was re-named 770 Communications Research Squadron became simply a lodger unit at the station.

By 1988 the Station, now the home of 103 Rescue Unit and 770 Communications Research Squadron had been upgraded to a full base and was again re-named CFB Gander.

In 1985, the North American Air Defence Modernization Plan resulted in the radar equipment at many Canadian Forces Stations was replaced with a new automated system. As a result, the Pinetree station was slated for closure.

The long-range radar equipment was replaced with an automated Minimally Attended Radar system in 1990 and today operates as a Canadian Coastal Radar station.

The introduction of the Wing concept at Air Force establishments resulted in the base being re-named 9 Wing Gander in 1993. 444 Combat Support Squadron, originally a tactical helicopter squadron from CFB Lahr Germany, re-formed at Gander in 1993.

On 23 June 1997, Prince Phillip presented 103 RU with their colours and the unit was renamed 103 Search and Rescue Squadron. On 3 July 1997, the last American Exchange position departed 770 CRS, ending fifty-six years of American military presence on Newfoundland soil.

Another milestone in Gander’s history was the August 1997 renaming of 770 Communication Research Squadron to Canadian Forces Station Leitrim Detachment Gander.  The detachment carries on with the duties once held by Royal Canadian Navy communicators in radar and search & rescue duties.

Today, 9 Wing Gander is the Search and Rescue centre for Newfoundland and Labrador.  The NATO Tactical Flying Training School closed in 2006, ending 46 years of allied pilot training.

In January 2014, the spectre of closure surrounded the base due to civilian job losses. Twenty-five employees worked for Serco, the company that provides non-military services for 5 Wing, were laid off, including firefighters, building maintenance workers, two air traffic positions, a weather forecaster, as well as cleaning and administrative staff.

By 2018, the tide seemed to be turning around when $2.3 million in new infrastructure investments were announced by Scott Simms, Member of Parliament for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame, on behalf of Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan.

Source material: DND press releases from May 1989 & February 1994, the Communications & Electronics Museum site – www.c-and-e-museum.org, History of the 400 Series Squadrons – http://www.airforce.dnd.ca/airforce/eng/history_400s/rcafsqns.htm, the 9 Wing Gander web sites – http://www.airforce.dnd.ca/eng/wingf.htm#to_top, CBC News -http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/layoffs-at-5-wing-goose-bay-creating-unease-uncertainty-1.2500712, the Pinetree Line web site – http://67.69.104.76:84/Pinetreeline/other/other18/other18am.html,  http://www.cancom.net/~sarsqn, Sentinel magazine, April 1984, http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/en/article-template-standard.page?doc=investments-at-9-wing-gander-will-help-support-search-and-rescue-squadron/isvdj8bp.

 


 

Canadian Forces Station St. John’s:

Originally established as a Naval Shore Station, His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Avalon at Buchmaster’s Field on 1 May 1951. The station served as the shore establishment for the Flag officer of St. John’s from 31 May 1951 until 31 July 1955.

The establishment moved to the former United States Navy base at Pepperrell on 10 December 1962, remaining at this location until closing completely in April 1964. The site lay dormant until 1968, when it re-opened as CFS St John’s.

CFS St. John’s is an operational support base, housing 15 lodger units including 728 Communications Squadron, HMCS AVALON Sea Cadet Summer Training Centre, a detachment of the Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School, 35 Medical Company Detachment and CF Health Services Centre (Atlantic) Detachment St. John’s.

In its primary role, CFS St. John’s supports naval vessels deployed from CFB Halifax which patrol waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. The station also supports as many as 30 visiting NATO naval vessels each year.

In June 2014, CFS St. John’s moved into a new facility, named after Lieutenant-Commander William Anthony Padden, who served as a Surgeon with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve in WWII and later as the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland.  The building replaces 17 older buildings.

Source Material: “Badges of the Canadian Navy” by LT (N) Graeme Arbuckle & DND press releases from May 1989, July 2003 – http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/Feature_Story/2003/jul03/03_f_e.asp and the Ottawa Citizen – http://ottawacitizen.com/news/national/defence-watch/new-consolidated-facility-at-canadian-forces-station-st-johns-officially-opened and “CFS St. John’s officially opened,” The Telegram, 21 June 2014.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/the-future/newfoundland-labrador/

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