Sea Island
Heritage Society

Army Camps

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111 Squadron (1935 – 1944)

Sergeant Major Robert Cecil Adams reports that he joined the 111 (Coast Artillery Co-operation) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF reserve) on Sea Island in 1936, an indication that at least one pre-war Army camp existed on Sea Island in Richmond, British Columbia by 1935.

Sergeant Major Adams goes on to say he was born on May 22, 1918 in Vancouver, British Columbia and educated at private schools in Victoria, British Columbia and Port Hope, Ontario. He joined the 111 Squadron while employed by the British Columbia Electric Railway Company in Vancouver.(1)

soldiers and tents
soldiers and tents

The history of 440 Squadron can be traced back to October 1932 when it began as Number 11 Army Cooperation Squadron flying the DeHavilland DH-60 Moth aircraft out of Vancouver, British Columbia. It was later redesignated 111 Coastal Artillery Co-operation Squadron in 1937 and in 1939, was ordered to establish a Detachment at Patricia Bay on Vancouver Island, to provide a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) presence on the island.

The 111 (Coastal Artillery Cooperation) Squadron was stationed at Sea Island between May 31, 1935 and May 14, 1940, and again, between March 1, 1943 and January 6, 1944. The 111 Squadron was a cooperative Squadron run by the RCAF.

They had a hangar located on the south side of the Vancouver Airport until 1940 when they were reformed as the 111 Fighter Squadron and relocated to Patricia Bay, near Victoria, British Columbia.

133 Squadron (1944)

The 133 (F) Squadron was stationed at Sea Island from March 10, 1944 to August 20, 1944. Hawker Hurricane MkIIB aircrafts were part of the Army Co-operation 133 (F) Squadron during WWII, and the aircraft of 1942 which was produced in Canada, by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company Ltd was also flown by the 163 (Fighter) Squadron (previously 163 (Army Co-operation) Squadron) at the RCAF Station on Seal Island.

163 Squadron

The 1942 Hawker Hurricane MkIIB aircraft produced in Canada in 1942, was flown by the 163 (Fighter) Squadron stationed at the RCAF Station on Sea Island.

RCAF

In June 1942, aerodrome defense platoons were established on Canada’s West Coast, as part of the West Coast Air Defense Command. By early 1943, the Sea Island and Smithers RCAF stations in British Columbia had similar protection.

The Permanent Married Quarters (PMQs) for families of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) were located on Sea Island’s East and West Boulevard, off Doherty and Airport Road.

A few hutments (encampments of huts) for army service personnel were also located off McDonald and Grauer Road on Sea Island. The hutments usually consisted of 60’ x 24’ wood, tar-paper sheathed huts, some with cedar shingle siding.


aerial photo of RCAF Sea Island
Army Hutments

GT said that the Army camp off Doherty Road was still there well into the 1950s because Jim NEILSON, a former Sea Island resident, lived there until they were able to move into the new RCAF PMQs which were built during the Korean War.

After World War II ended the hutments on East and West Boulevards were used for a short period of time to house families, and caused great difficulty for Richmond Mayor Rudolf Martin (Rudy) Grauer who wanted to be compensated by the federal government for subjecting his municipality and its taxpayers to the extra burden and cost involved. The Sea Island Army Camp #2 “hutments” became the centre of controversy.

On September 4, 1946, an article in the local newspaper titled, “Nobody’s Babies at Sea Island Hutments” mentioned that approximately 30 school-aged children were living in temporary Sea Island hutments occupied by evicted Vancouver families, and were still “nobody’s babies” as far as the Richmond and Vancouver School Boards were concerned.


Each board accused the other of having the responsibility to educate the children. Richmond schools were already overcrowded and were refusing to pay for bussing the children to nearby Vancouver schools.

The problem started when the Wartime Emergency Shelter Board begged Richmond to allow families who had been evicted from their Vancouver homes to move into the hutments, which had recently been vacated by soldiers. Mayor GRAUER agreed, but only after getting written agreement that Richmond would not be responsible for the education of the students. Finally, the provincial government stepped in and agreed to pay half the costs of bussing the children to Vancouver schools if Richmond paid the other half.


References

(1)  ADAMS, Robert Cecil, Bty. Sgt.-Maj., W.O. II, 1918. University of Victoria. (Adams, Robert Cecil: my Army recollections). Retrieved from the Canadian Military Oral History Collection on November 15, 2017.



Sea Island Heritage Society
4191 Ferguson Road, Richmond, British Columbia
Canada V7B 1P3