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Neepawa Airport’s WWII past

April 2009

Long-time residents of the Neepawa area will probably remember a time when the air buzzed with the sound of RCAF aircraft from an aerodrome south-west of Rivers. Early in the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force entered into an ambitious project: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, an astounding program that saw 130,000 personnel from Great Britain and the Commonwealth graduate from 107 training schools across Canada.

The aerodrome at Neepawa was originally opened by the Royal Air Force when No. 35 EFTS, originally founded in Moncton, re-located to Neepawa on 30 May 1942. A Relief Landing Field was built near the Village of Eden.  The relief field, usually consisting of either grass or asphalt runways, one hangar, maintenance facilities and barracks for overnight stays, allowed pilot trainees to conduct circuit training on landing and taking-off in their airplanes. Some also served as sub-unit training schools.

No. 35 EFTS closed on 30 January 1944 and No. 26 EFTS stood up in its place, run by the RCAF. No. 26 would have a short life as it too closed on 25 August 1944. The aerodrome was then used as a storage depot until 1945, when the RCAF abandoned the site.

The former station is now the Neepawa Airport.  The original triangle shaped airfield was abandoned when a new 3510-foot runway was constructed across the lower portion of the triangle in 1994. The Neepawa Flying Club uses this airfield.

Today very little remains of the former school.  Other than the abandoned runways, only the rifle range building remains.  The control tower was destroyed in a fire several years ago and the sole remaining hangar, occupied by Prairie Forest Products as a storage facility, burned to the ground in a fire in November 2008.  The former school’s other buildings were torn down for material or relocated following the closure of the school.

Prairie Forest Products still occupies the property and have plans to rebuild their facilities.  The remainder of the property is occupied by Provost Signs and Knight Upholstery.

At RCAF Detachment Eden, the abandoned airfield and the hangar, now covered in metal sheeting, are all that remain. The property is now used for farming.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/neepawa-airport-once-an-air-force-base/

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