HISTORY OF WORK POINT BARRACKS
by Jack Bates
PART 3 — 1894 to 1906
Through delay in unloading the five large guns for the Esquimalt fortifications the Charmer did not sail for Vancouver until6 o’clock yesterday morning, being four hours behind time. The guns as they lay on the wharf yesterday excited considerable curiousity among the frequenters of the water front. They are breech loaders of 6 inch bore, with barrel 14.6 feet long. Three of the grim looking monsters are intended for the works at Macaulay Point, while the other two will probably be mounted somewhere near the Esquimalt Lighthouse. The guns, though seemingly large, are not to be compared with two still to arrive, and which are now at Vancouver. These two latter are 9 inch bore. It is understood that the works at Macaulay point are now sufficiently advanced for the almost immediate placing of the guns. But little of the forts can be seen, as considerable sized mound with a gradual slope to the sea, with sufficient elevation for a commanding range of the straits, being the only appearance it presents to the observer afloat. From the top of this guns can be discharged with terrible effect, and underneath they can be hidden with the greatest possible protection, the disappearing carriage being operated by hydraulic power.
St. John’s N.F.
Esquimalt is Building Safety for Defensive Purposes
Nature threw up a battlement of solid rock around Esquimalt Harbor and now British money and British engineering are adding the artificial to the natural and making it well nigh impregnable. For nearly three years now, with all the mystery that is traditional in Her Majesty’s engineering corps, the work has gone silently and steadily on. Outside labor has been called to the aid of the redcoats, but beyond a general superficial knowledge none outside the service know the secrets of the fortifications. High fences and warning notices keep the curious off the ground that has been dedicated to war. Where that guard is impossible, sentries pace day and night.
Three Points are Being Fortified
They are Knob Hill, which rises abruptly from the water on the western shore of the entrance to Esquimalt harbor; Signal Hill, a rock 137 feet high, which stands back of the old village of Esquimalt, and Macaulay Point, which juts into Royal Roads half way between Victoria and Esquimalt. At Knob Hill is located the double fore. Thirty feet was cut from the cone of the rock in leveling it off, and then a great well 40 feet deep was cut down into the bowels of the rock and chambers were cut off from this big subterranean hall. The blasting of the rock occupied months and consumed tons of the strongest powder. The heavy disappearing guns which are to form the defense will rise on carriages.
Through The Main Well
to be discharged, the sinking back to be reloaded, being protected all the while by a huge wall of rock between the wall and the sea. The rough work at Knob Hill is about over and the Royal Engineers are practically engaged there alone. If the example of Halifax is followed any laymen taken down below to work will be blindfolded, and everything of a particular nature covered with canvas. Hundreds of empty cement barrels discarded on the beach tell of the work being done beneath the surface in laying foundations for the engines of war and walling up the mines where Britain’s gunners may someday be besieged. Back of Signal Hill and north of it the construction of a big torpedo station is being carried forward. The side of Signal Hill
Is Being Quarried Out
and a jetty extended to a rock in the harbor to form a basin. Signal Hill rises directly above this basin and shields it from a sea attack. Am immense amount of work is being done on the harbor side of the hill, and those who have watched the operations speculate as to just what more the plans of the engineer embrace. Around at Macaulay Point, where the third and most easterly of the forts is located, work was commenced early. To the casual observer the bluff back of the point looks most innocent. In fact, there is nothing to arrest the eye except a little octagon shaped building on the crest of the hill, very much like an observation tower. The engineers have in fact improved the landscape, for they have filled a deep gully which cut in from the beach and did some leveling. But that innocent looking hill is undermined and its crest will resemble an intermittent volcano.
Should an Enemy Approach.
It is almost impossible to estimate the time that will elapse before the defences will be completed. Few are of the opinion that less than a year will be required. Some gun carriages have already been received at Victoria, but no heavy shipments have been made. The size and number have not been made public yet, but the assumption that they will be the most powerful known to modern warfare is reasonable. Esquimalt may be made impregnable, but it is distinctly a defensive and not an offensive fort as many people imagine. It does not control the Straits of Juan de Fuca and lock that entrance to that great inland sea of commerce, Puget Sound, that from Macaulay Point due south to the American shore is a fraction under 20 miles. It is all channel of Port Angeles, and no gun can sweep that open stretch of water. The Englishman has never claimed that for it, but he has said that it was built for Russia. It has been called a safe base for all pacific operations, but the matter of fuel seems to destroy that claim. Vessels might take coal enough to steam to Vladivostock, Potroanlofsky or Australia, but not enough to remain for a fight or steam home again. Men who opposed the fortifications in the high council at London urged that very reason. They will, however, form an admirable defence for the station itself. There is the graving dock, an immense dockyard, with naval storehouses and other branches of a
Squadron’s Headquarters to Guard
They are very accessible from the rear, the railway facilities are good, and the coal supply the best in the west. The $3,000,000 which England promises to spend will make it a great stronghold, one difficult naturally to capture, and rendered more so with a fleet to further defend it. But its strategic importance should not be magnified. Even Victoria is not guarded from the north and east. It would not be an element in any trouble between Canada or Great Britain and the United States. Still the fortification of the place has had warm advocates, in the naval and military service, and they finally won the wavering ones. Admiral Tyron, who was lost in the Victoria disaster, favored strengthening it to give a safe base for supplies in the pacific. The honor of first suggesting it belongs to Lord Palmerston. With activity all around it, Esquimalt still sleeps between the hills and waters. The village is a reproduction of an English coast town down to the “Ship’s Inn” and “Coach and Horses.” The sailors liven the place up now and then, but it is generally too slow for them, for they can see more life in the city four miles away. With the exception of that of San Francisco, the harbor is the best on the coast. It is landlocked, giving protection from wind and sea. There is ample room and a satisfactory and uniform depth.
May 23, 1896
The Fifth Regiment had battalion drill last evening, when they practiced the feu de joie and other ceremonial to form part of the Queen’s birthday exercises. Lieut. Col. Prior was again in command, after his prolonged absence at Ottawa. He asked the members of all ranks to join in mounting a large parade for Tuesday next, so that the Victoria companies may not look too outnumbered by their comrades from the mainland, and that the regiment may make a good showing in the presence of the throng of visitors to the celebrations. Col. Prior also announced that the regiment will be taken from centre town to Macaulay Point and back by steamer, leaving from the foot of Johnson street, thus avoiding the long march.
The companies of the 5th Regiment, coming to take part in the inauguration of the new forts at Macaulay Point are to arrive on the Charmer this evening. During their two days stay in Victoria their quarters will be the drill hall where with a liberal supply of blankets the visitors will be as comfortable as soldiers could wish for. The men of the Victoria Companies have planned various forms of hospitality for their comrades, including hot coffee, and biscuits and other light refreshments to be ready for them on their arrival at the drill hall from the steamer.
May 26, 1896
THE BIRTHDAY FETES
Inauguration of the New Forts the Great Event of The Closing Day
Military Visitors From Vancouver — Yacht Races Fixed for This Morning — The Entries
This morning’s programme opens at 8 o’clock with the yacht race. Two hours later the Seattle baseball team again meets Victoria on the diamond, the baseball match filling the remainder of the morning. In the afternoon the review and sham battle at Fort Macaulay will bring the celebration to a fitting and imposing conclusion – the military evolutions being the only events on the card for the afternoon with the exception of the trap shooting at Finlayson Point. For the former, the men of Her majesty’s Imperial and Canadian forces will both be employed, the headquarter companies of the 5th Regiment being reinforced by companies 5 and 6 from Vancouver, who arrived over on Sunday evening in full strength under Captain Lacey Johnson, Lt. F.W. Boultbee, Lt. C. Gardiner Johnson and Lt. J.R. Tite (No. 5), Capt. C.A. Worsnop and Lt. Bennett (No. 6). In connection with the review and sham battle it would be wise for everyone to remember that nothing of the pageant can be seen from the water – the best and in fact the only way to see the review and the subsequent engagement is to take the cars, walk or drive to Head or Lampson street, and thence walk straight on towards the sea. The review will, contrary to local precedent, come first, the battle being reserved for the climax of the day’s manoeuvres. The bluejackets, with the ship’s and land Marines, are to be drawn up in line an at open order, facing from the sea, at Point Macaulay, and to be in position sharp at 2 o’clock, the parade ground being that strip of open country in use lately as the United Service Golf Links. Admiral Stephenson and his staff are expected to arrive on the scene at about 2:30, and will be received with the General Salute, the Brigade afterwards firing a feu de joie, which will be punctuated with the roar of the seven guns of the Royal Marine Artillery between each of the rounds.
“Order Arms!”, “Shoulder Arms!” and the Royal Salute will be the next orders, and then the caps will come off and the cheers for Her Majesty will close the first chapter of the military programme.
Each battalion – the bluejackets, Marines and Canadian Artillery – will after-wards form in quarter column by the right on their number ones, and march past the saluting base, in column, the attacking party leading the march – first the ship’s nine-pounders, then the bluejackets, then the Marines and then the defending force, with six 13 pounder field guns in command of Capt. Barnes, R.M.A, and last, the 5th Regiment, C.A. After the march past the battalions are to be formed up in line facing the saluting base – the bluejackets in front, the Marines next and the 5th Regiment last.
Here the second section of the three part military programme is taken up, with physical drill by the jolly “shell-backs”, on completion of this the bluejackets forming into fours march back to the rear through the other battalions. The Marines follow with sword-bayonet exercise; the 5th Regiment take their turn with the review exercise; and the detachments from the ships big gun drill – mounting and dismounting the nine-pounders. This ends the drill features and the sham fight begins.
The scene of the encounter will be the new fortifications, and the bluejackets marching off from the saluting base in three columns forming the attacking force under Commander Nicholson, their lines extending along the sea road. A single gun from the invader’s ranks will be the signal for the opening of the attack, which will, no doubt, be sharply repulsed. The duty of holding the forts falls to their natural defenders, the Royal marine Artillery, and the 5th Regiment Canadian Artillery, the latter also throwing out their outposts along the rocks. These latter will be finally driven in through the fort’s gates, and the halt will be sounded only when the attacking party reach the palisades. The engagement will be particularly interesting in bringing into service the new forts, and every indulgence possible will be accorded the curious public. The latter are, however, particularly requested to keep off the parade ground – for their own safety and convenience as well as not to interfere with the evolutions and manoeuvres of the afternoon.
May 27, 1896
THE MILITARY PARADE
A Sad Message to the Admiral That Caused Proceedings to be Cut Short
Fortunate Escape of the Fifth Regiment From Crossing the Collapsing Bridge
The military operations in celebration of the Queen’s birthday ended with the ceremonial review and exhibition of military exercises, for just as the troops had taken position for the attack and defence which were to inaugurate the new forts at Point Macaulay, the news of the bridge catastrophe put an end to the intended proceedings. The five companies of the Fifth Regiment Canadian Artillery left the drill hall shortly after one o’clock, and with the band gaily playing marched through Government and Johnson streets to the wharf at the foot of the latter thoroughfare. There they were taken on board the steamers Staila and Fingal, for transportation to the wharf at Point Macaulay, adjoining the barracks and within a few hundred yards of the scene of the afternoon’s parade.
In ordinary course the soldiers would have marched to the parade ground – about two miles distant by the circuitous land route. But to save them this fatigue Col. Prior had as thoughtfully and generously arranged for the transportation of all hands by steamer. It is quite possible that the Regiment thus escaped a horrible fate at the Point Ellice bridge, over which they would have had to march, for even after “breaking step,” as troops always do upon a bridge, the soldiers might easily have placed upon the weakened span a strain greater than that to which it succumbed just as they landed from their ferry steamer at the barracks. They had just landed when the catastrophe occurred, for they plainly heard the prolonged blowing of whistles and striking of bells, which told of assistance required – as the soldiers supposed for the suppression of fire. All unconscious of what had happened to their friends on the way to witness the day’s festivities, the Regiment marched to the parade ground, where there were already assembled the Imperial forces. These consisted of a battalion of blue jackets, and a Royal Marine battalion made up of the Artillery from the barracks and the Light Infantry from the ships. The brigade when drawn up to receive the Admiral formed three sides of a great square. Admiral Stephenson soon drove up, the brigade receiving him with a general salute. Then the feu de joie was fired – seven rounds of artillery, and one of infantry, thrice repeated; and with hats off the soldiers and sailors gave three hearty British cheers for Queen Victoria.
Formed into quarter column, the battalions “marched past,” saluting the Admiral who had with him a beautiful staff officers. His Honour Lieutenant Governor Dewdney being also present at the saluting base. Then the exhibitions were given – by the sailors, of the “physical drill with arms,” to catchy music; by the Red Marines, of the bayonet exercise; by detachments of the sailors, of dismounting, mounting and firing their field guns; and by the Fifth Regiment, of the manual exercise.
Then the attacking and defending forces according to the programme already published, were marched away to their respective posts, the defenders inside the new forts, now for the first time entered by the Canadian Militia, and the interior view of which proved of great interest, especially to the companies from Vancouver. Just as all was in readiness for meeting the momentarily expected attack, the “cease firing” was sounded again and again from the part of the fort where the Admiral and party were stationed. Out of reach of the sound, over the heights in the distance came the attacking party, and they had fired several rounds of musketry before a galloper dispatched from the fort conveyed the Admiral’s orders for the troops quietly to disperse.
By this time rumor had spread through the ranks and amongst the throng of spectators a whisper of the disaster, whose extent was even magnified. The effect upon th sightseers was electrical. With one accord they made for the ferries or the road into town, and long before the last of the troops left the field it was quite deserted by all others.
The Admiral acted, it appears, upon a message officially conveyed to him, stating the bare fact of the accident and requesting the services of divers from the Royal Navy. Of course the request was immediately granted, and after the receipt of the news the Royal Marine artillery hastily dispatched a crew in their life saving boat in the hope that they might be of service. The message to the Admiral, it may be stated, was borne by the Hon. J.H. Turner, who being at the scene of the disaster and hearing of the desire to communicate with the Admiral volunteered to hear the message. The Premier was well mounted and made swiftly on his errand, but it was fully three quarters of an hour after the bridge had broken before he received the commission he so kindly executed. Mayor Beaven was with the Admiral’s party on the parade ground and upon receipt of the sad news at once returned to the city, whither the Fifth Regiment silently marched soon afterwards.
It is lucky that my grandmother Kate Thomas and her sister Fanny missed the street car connection from James Bay that fateful day or!
June 7, 1896
The Imperial authorities having agreed to allow the powder now in the Beacon Hill magazine to be stowed in the barracks magazine, provided the Dominion built the necessary approaches, Mr. gamble, resident engineer of the department, has a number of men employed putting in these approaches, and as soon as they are completed, which is expected to be in two weeks time, the powder will all be removed from the old magazine at Beacon Hill.
An E. & N. car loaded with nitre for the Hamilton Powder Co’s works caught fire as the freight train neared Shawnigan on Friday night last, and in spite of every effort to save them, car and contents were destroyed. The burning chemical ran out like a red hot liquid and a small ditch had to be dug to prevent its spreading over the ground. The car and contents were worth about $1,500.
June 9, 1896
On Ald. Williams’ motion coming up to take further action for the purpose of removing the powder magazine at Beacon Hill, the Mayor stated that the Dominion Government and the naval authorities were both perfectly willing to move the powder, and Mr. Gamble, the Dominion government engineer, had been engaged in making approaches to the magazine at Macaulay Point for the purpose of moving the powder there. A day or two ago everything seemed settled, but it appeared now that a third party had to be consulted; but His Worship expected this would be satisfactorily settled immediately. The Mayor desired to state that the new hitch was no fault of either the naval authorities or the Dominion government.
A resolution was passed urging that authorities take steps to have the powder removed immediately, and the council adjourned.
June 21, 1896
Then there is the powder magazine, and with respect to this he quite agreed with those who say that it is not in the proper place in the park. The matter, however, has been receiving the attention of himself and Mr. Earle ever since the time when several years ago they secured the construction of another magazine near Macaulay Point. Just at its completion, however, the Canadian regulars were removed from here, and the property was handed over to their successors, the Imperial troops. After long negotiations it was agreed that the powder should be removed to the Macaulay Point magazine if the Dominion government would build an approach at a cost of $ 300. When the consent of the government to spend to spend this amount had been secured, lately, it was found that Major Muirhead, who controls the building, refuses to allow the powder be placed there, so the government has been disappointed again. He would now advise that the powder be either sold for what it will bring, or be taken out to sea and dropped overboard, so that an end may be put to the nuisance.
July 23, 1896
Poor old George Hughes was yesterday sentenced to six months imprisonment – chiefly to keep him out of trouble. He has during recent years spent the greater part of his time in jail, and appears to look upon the city lockup as his home. Hughes in his early manhood was one of the best drummers in the British army, and saw active service with the Royal Marines in China, from which country he came to British Columbia with his regiment in the early sixties. He was with the military party that occupied San Juan at the time that island was in dispute, and deserted from Capt. Basilget’s command under the British flag to enlist with a captain of the same uncommon name under the Stars and Stripes. Latterly he has been generally a public charge.
August 11, 1896
An offer was made by Robert Ward & Co. to store the powder now in the park magazine in their magazine at Esquimalt for $1 a ton per month.
On the motion that the matter be referred to the park committee to act, Ald. Williams said he would also like to have the letter acknowledged and the writer informed that the council would be very glad if they would take the powder and keep it. He had been endeavoring for a year and a half to get the powder taken away.
The motion carried.
September 27, 1896
Two squads from the Garrison Artillery paraded at the Macaulay Point forts yesterday afternoon for instructions on the new guns. The course will occupy several weeks, Saturday sfternoon being at present the only time convenient for the men.
October 6, 1896
The powder magazine is at last to be removed from Beacon Hill park, and in a very few days the thirteen tons of black powder belonging to the Dominion government stored in the magazine will be removed to Nanaimo, where arrangements have been made to have it placed in a proper storehouse. As soon as this is done the old brick building that now disfigures one of the most charming portions of the park will be torn down.
October 8, 1896
Bright and early yesterday morning, under direction of Col. Peters, D.O.C., the powder belonging to the Dominion government was removed from the magazine in Beacon Hill Park and shipped to Nanaimo, where arrangements have been made to store it. A squad of the City Police was on hand as a guard of honor to the explosive, to prevent anyone from going too close to it to prevent all possible chance of accidents.
Two pieces of heavy Ordnance arrive on the Charmer for the Macaulay Point fortifications (they came in on Thursday).