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NUNAVUT TERRITORY

Canadian Forces Station Alert:

Located on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island approximately 817 km from the North Pole, this is Canada’s most northerly station. The Alert Wireless Station was originally established on 9 April 1950 as a part of the Joint Arctic Weather Station System, a co-operative effort of the Canadian Department of Transport and the United States Weather Bureau.

The station was named after the Royal Navy ship HMS Alert, which spent the winter of 1875-76 at Cape Sheridan, 6 miles east of the station’s location.

Not long after the station opened, on 31 July 1950, seven RCAF airmen and two civilians were killed when their Lancaster supply aircraft crashed in Alert. A USAF plane coming to evacuate medical casualties also crashed, killing two airmen.

The nine bodies were buried nearby, with nine white crosses over their graves and a cairn nearby commemorating their sacrifice.

In 1958 the station took on the function of a High Frequency Direction Finding and Signal Intelligence station operated by the RCAF.

In 1959, the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals assumed control of the station. By 1961, members of the Royal Canadian Navy were also posted to the station.

Alert is named after the British ship HMS, which spent the winter 1875-1876 at Ellesmere Island near the site of the present station.

As a result of the Unification, the station was re-named CFS Alert and became a part of the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System.

In the mid 1990s, a reorganization and consolidation occurred within the Canadian Military. Several bases were either downsized, merged or closed. As a result, CFS Alert was downsized and converted to remote operation in 1998, along with CFS Masset and CFB Gander’s Radio Station. Staffing levels at Alert were reduced from 215 to 74 personnel. In 2006, further reductions in the military staffing occurred.

On 1 April 2009, the RCAF assumed control of CFS Alert, returning the station to its RCAF roots, and designated it a unit of 8 Wing Trenton. Today, Alert’s mission remains signals intelligence collection and radar station in support of search and rescue. Currently, Alert has 55 personnel: 25 military, 30 commercial contractors and 4 Environment Canada employees.

One of the barracks, built in 1975 to replace an original building, is named Chimo Hall after the former Naval Radio Station Fort Chimo in Quebec.

Source material: DND press release from February 1994 and September 1998, Communications & Electronics Museum site – www.c-and-e-museum.org, https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/a-memory-of-sacrifice & CFS Alert site – http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/en/8-wing/alert.page.

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