HISTORY OF WORK POINT BARRACKS
by Jack Bates
PART 5 — 1919 to 1939
Work Point in the 30's was a separate culture from Victoria. Senior NCO’s generally lived outside the barracks by this time, previously they were in the brick married quarters. Officers had their option.
When there was a domestic issue, and there were lots of them, they were handled by a quorum of the wives. Sgt.“P” comes to mind, drinking, losing at cards, and a black eye was proof. The officers stayed out of it.
One incident reportedly was Mrs.“P” in discussion with the Major’s wife in the canteen one day about a smaller than usual pay check, said her husband had mentioned it was because it had been raining. Well, that may have resulted in the black eye! Not at Christmas time though, he was Santa Claus at the “B Coy party.
There was an army children’s school in the basement of building 1020, after that the children walked the hill to Lampson Street school. Children also used to pry loose the well known picket in Col. Peter’s house fence on Peters Street to get to the apple tree orchard. The Japanese servants didn’t mind, they thought it was funny, as long as the fence picket was replaced. They did enjoy the rabbits trapped at Macaulay Plains in exchange.
A quick read of Daily Orders for “B” Company, 1921 to 1937 reveals it was all routine training, attending camps, instructing, qualifying and promotions, in a particular sense, “just keeping it going.” This soldiering proved of value and as tensions escalated in Europe time spent instructing at summer camps in western Canada increased to 3 and then 4 months.
Major Colquhoun was the most remembered CO of B Coy by the children of the day, tall imposing man with a big moustache, as he was one of two Commanding Officers of B Coy to live within the barracks, 1932-1935; the other one was Major Codville in 1924 only. The other two B Coy Majors, Niven and Edgar, lived outside in civilian houses. Major (Pinky) JH Carvosso, eventually D Coy, also lived outside the barracks.
Sergeant Hughes (RCA), who carried a cane, was in charge of the Detention Barracks, “the digger” or “the corner.” When a new recruit enlisted, such as George Wilkinson in 1935, CSM Mitchell would take him in there and show him the whipping post, or rack with the cat ‘o nine tails; the cannon balls stacked up in the “Brass Monkey” and the uninviting cells. This tactic was obviously to instill a sense of respect and discipline in the recruit!
ONE GRAND FAMILY
Five fighting sons in one family. That’s the record established locally by Mr. and Mrs. P.H.B. Buxton, 966 Bewdley Avenue, Esquimalt. First there’s Sonny, twenty-four, and holder of the Canadian heavyweight championship. Then there’s Billy, nineteen, featherweight who really stops his opponents in quick time. Next comes Freddy, sixteen, who made a good showing in the British Columbia amateur championship. And there’s Jim, twelve, and Dick, ten, who made their professional debut last Thursday evening at the Esquimalt Athletic Club. So much for the fighters in the family of fourteen children, eight boys and three girls. In rugby, Ken Buxton, who by the way is following his father’s footsteps as a soldier at Work Point Barracks plays wing three quarters, for the league leading Bays. He has played on Victoria’s McKechnie Cup, fifteen, and is named as a candidate for this year’s squad. The girls, we understand, do not take to athletics. They are much younger than the boys, with one exception, and may at a later date gain some prominence in sport. However, regardless of what the fair sex members of the Buxton family do in the line of sport, we feel that the record already set up is one to be proud of, and we say “Congratulations and Good Luck to Mr. and Mrs. P.H.B. Buxton and their fourteen children. May they live long and prosper always.” S.T.
17th FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL CANADIAN ENGINEERS (N.P.)
Part I Orders for week ending February 16, 1937, by Capt. J.H. McIntosh, Officer Commanding.
Parades – The 17th Fortress Coy., R.C.E. (N.P.) will parade at Coy. H.Q. at 20:00 hours, Tuesday, February 16. 20:00 hours ceremonial drill, 20:30 hours lecture, 21:00 hours Diesel engines, practical.
Duties – To be orderly sergeant for ensuing week, L. Sgt. A. Wilson.
Strength Increase – Taken on Strength, effective 9-2-37, Spr. T.R. Willey, No. 74.
Strength Decrease - Struck off strength effective 9-3-37, Spr. W. Davidson, No. 4; L. Cpl. H. Carlson, No. 12; Spr. L.L. McQuarrie, No. 64; Spr. K. Thomson, No. 66; Spr. W.Wilson, No. 67; Spr. T. McConnell, No. 69.
J.H. McIntosh Capt.
On March 26th 1937, “B” Company provided a Guard of Honor for the Officer Commanding the America and West Indies Squadron of the Royal Navy, Commodore N.H. Harwood, OBE, who flew his flag on H.M.S. Exeter, along with the Ajax and Achilles. An inspection of the Guard of Honor was held at Work Point Barracks. Three years later officer and ship alike were in the world’s eye because of the roles they played in hunting the German pocket battleship Graf Spee to its doom.
Photo courtesy Esquimalt Archives.
B Company PPCLI in ceremonial dress at Work Point, May 12th, 1937. Most of the original WW1 veterans were not in the picture, some had retired and others were part of the instructional cadre. You will notice the absence of WW1 medals being worn by most. Exception was Sgt. Robert McVie, front rank, 17 from the right. His daughter Dorothy married an artillery man Jack Cockrell. The “Cockrell House” in Colwood is named in his memory. Pte. George Wilkinson is in the rear rank, 5th from the left, and thank you George for identifying some of the soldiers. Jimmy Edgar, MC was the Commanding Officer. The space in the rear rank to the right of Pte G Wilkinson was where a man fainted (Tony Agar) and was removed, the remainder of the troops were to “Stand Fast”! The uniforms were of scarlet melton cloth, inherited from the Royal Engineers.
A number of B Company PPCLI from Work Point attended the Canadian Small Arms School at Sarcee as instructors training the militia from Western Canada.
On September 30th 1937 “B” Company provided the Guard of Honor for the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during his visit to Victoria.
The Dallas road waterfront was crowded with people and with automobiles before noon. Many interested themselves watching the placing of the police, and the coming and going of various officials.
The distant rumble of gun-fire as the Phelps saluted and was answered by the batteries at Work Point Barracks, brought a thrill of anticipation to the crowd, on the docks and in the city.
The scarlet-coated band of the 5th B.C. Coast Brigade, R.C.A., played the “Star Spangled Banner” as the presidential car halted opposite a colorful composite guard of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Navy. Bayonets flashed as 100 rifles rose and fell in salute.
Photo. May 8, 1938. B Company PPCLI at Work Point
In June 1938, two replacement 6 inch guns, Mk VII, were mounted at Macaulay Point and the remaining (right one) 6 inch disappearing gun, was removed.
On October 21st 1938, “B” Company provided a Guard of Honor for Rear Admiral P.W. Nelles, Royal Canadian Navy – the first military guard for a Canadian naval officer of flag rank.
GUNNERS HIT AIR TARGETS
Fifth Brigade Anti-Aircraft Batteries Down Floating Parachutes
Tricky air currents from the Olympic Mountains that caused target parachutes to gyrate wildly over the waterfront off Fort Macaulay yesterday proved no match for eagleeyed members of the 5th Brigade, R.C.A. anti-aircraft battery, completing their final rounds of firing practice before camp closing. While gun crews made a final check of their equipment, the visiting military twin-engined Vickers bombing airplane from Vancouver roared off the Esquimalt Harbor shortly after noon, carrying three officers of the brigade in addition to its crew of three. Climbing to 5,000 feet, the plane crew radioed word to a ground operator that it had released the first of the weighted red targets three miles off shore.
CREWS IN ACTION
At orders from the officers of the brigade who picked up the drifting parachute through field binoculars, range finders and two gun crews snapped into action and swung their instruments smartly to the estimated elevation. Watching through one of the wind instruments a Colonist reporter was able to see the results of the shell explosions. With the exactness of automatons the crews quickly bracketed the elusive target with bursts of high explosive, and on the seventeenth deafening round the parachute disappeared in a welter of flame and white smoke. Ripped open by shell fragments the target dropped plummet like into the bay.
The only hitch in the afternoon’s firing came when radioed word from the bombing plane notified ground crews to hold fire because of a civilian fishing boat that inadvertently cruised across the bay directly through the shrapnel area under the target. Despite the interruption gun crews made short work of later targets.
VANCOUVER UNITS ARRIVING
Today before the members of the brigade abandone camp for another year, a series of competitive inter-battery shoots to decide the unit championship will be fired. In the evening, officers and men will evacuate the thirty some odd bell tents to make room for members of the 15th B.C. Coast Defence Brigade from Vancouver. The Vancouver unit, lately organized, will be under the command of Lieut. Col. Beeston, and will be comprised of approximately 250 men, divided into five batteries. The men will land late today and board trucks for the camp.
October 31, 1938
Snd. (J.N. EDGAR)
Esquimalt, B.C. Commanding, Esquimalt Station, P.P.C.L.I.
(Eakins: he went overseas with the Regiment in 1939 but was sent home because he took the “Ric a dam Doo” out of St. James church and took it overseas, he later became a Brigadier General in the British Army)
The Royal School of Infantry relocated to Fort Macaulay late in 1938 from building 1004 and the hospital was being rebuilt after the fire. (Patrician 1938)
The miniature range referred to was a 30 yard (.22 calibre) rifle range located behind the original hospital and overlooked Rose Bay; Sgt. Pink, the PT instructor, was a professional boxer in earlier days; and the cooks for B Company were Queenie Ross, Bill Tetsky and then Doug Hatch. “Doc” Watson, when on fatigues cleaning up the Magazine on Cole Island, threw a 6” 100 pound shell into the water on a bet. When the inevitable ammunition count was revealed, oh oh, there was one short. He rescued it from the water but still received two weeks “C. B.” as punishment. (Thanks George)
ISLAND TROOPS EMBARK FOR SEATTLE
In the early morning sunlight yesterday, 650 officers and men of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the First and Second Battalions of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, and the 5th (BC) Coast Brigade, Royal Canadian Artillery, embarked on the United States Coast Guard cutters, Ingram and Atlanta, at Ogden Point Docks, en route to Seattle to lead a parade of 7,000 troops yesterday afternoon as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the State of Washington. With 400 troops from Vancouver, who travelled by a special eleven car train, the Victoria contingent was billeted in the old Seattle Armoury last night, and will return to the city on board the cutters at noon today.
CHEERING CROWDS LINE STREETS TO JOIN IN WELCOME
Route of Procesion From Wharf to Government House Thronged With Citizens
BRIGHT UNIFORMS ADD COLOR
Through the long wait, the spectators had been beguiled by the arrival of the various units in “the guard of honor.” The bright scarlet of the Princess Pats’ mechanized (motor cycle) corps had punctuated the somber blue of the navy. Even when the note of command was drowned out by the singing of the crowd, the harsh roar of dock sirens and the antistrophe of the military bands, the long line of uniformed men had fallen into place with such machine like precision that they might have been fashioned in one piece.
It pleased the crowd to see that His Majesty’s first concern upon his arrival on Vancouver Island was this well- disciplined corps of his sailors. A tense silence, which was more disturbing than a shout, accompanied the King’s inspection of his guard of honor.
Meantime, Her Majesty stood in the same soft fall of English rain, a smiling vision in pale blue, chatting with the women who had come to bid her welcome to Vancouver Island. Momentarily the blinding flash of a camera bomb lightened her face as she turned to three points of the compass, with the sea behind her, to survey the friendly crowd. Far as her eye could reach in every direction her murmuring audience was perched on curb and bastion and sea wall.
TROOPS MARCH ON
Marching with precision as though inspired by the applause of the crowd, the khaki units of the Garrison Artillery and the Princess Pats deployed into position on Belleville Street between Blanshard and Government Streets. The white capped ratings of the Royal Canadian Navy manned the block on the harbor front.
Just before dusk, girl dancers of the Victoria Scottish Societies kept the crowd entertained with reels and jigs and Highland Flings, on a platform erected near the cenotaph. Nearby, the band of the Canadian Legion played patriotic airs, and near the Crystal Garden the band of the Princess Pats could be heard in stirring tunes.
A NAVAL GUARD
A ripple of interest ran through the crowds as the guard of honor from the Royal Canadian Navy marched into position on Belleville street opposite the CP.R. piers. The guns from Work Point Barracks could be heard sounding the Royal Salute, a sign that the King and Queen were near, and the crowd stirred itself, ready to break into a roar of welcome.
The Regimental motor cycle escort under Capt. R.L. Mitchell made a brave show; the officers were to have been presented but events overlapped and Their Majesties conveyed their thanks at second hand.
Photo courtesy Esquimalt Archives.
August 26th, Work Point Barracks became the headquarters of the 5th BC Coast Brigade R.C.A., controlling six artillery sites in the Esquimalt – Victoria Fortress area, strength was 226 all ranks. The headquarters was in the hospital building.
2nd Anti Aircraft Battery manned 2 - 6 inch guns at Work Point and detachments of 5 Heavy Battery manned 2 - 12 pounder guns at Macaulay Point.
September 10, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. At the time, “B” Company was commanded by Major J.N. Edgar, MC, and the additional “D” Company by Major J.H. Carvosso, MC. Unfortunately Major “Pinky” Carvosso, didn’t proceed overseas with the regiment, he suffered a broken leg when a 4X Bakery truck ran into the marching 1st Platoon rounding a corner in the barracks.
Photo Drill 1939 in preparation for departing Work Point Barracks in November 1939.
Photo Inspection beside married quarters in Work Point Barracks prior to departure in November 1939. (P50-182) In the background is the McVie family home, 622 Lyall Street.
November 15, 1939
City’s Overseas Contingent Sails For the Mainland
Companies of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
BATTLE-GARBED in their new “romper” uniforms, in full marching order with steel helmets and gas masks, Victoria’s contingent of the overseas division of the Canadian Active Service Force, the famous Princess Pats, embarked yesterday afternoon on the Princes Kathleen on the first leg of a journey that will eventuall take thwm on overseas service. Fully four thousand persons crowded the causeway, Belleille Street and the C.P.R. wharf to see the troops of the P.P.C.L.I.go to war. It was the first farewell of the present war, and recalled to many similar scenes of 1914-1918.
Relatives predominated in the crowd, mothers and fathers, sweet hearts, brothers and sistes clustering round the men in the ranks as they stood at ease on the wharf before going on to the ship. Tears were in many eyes as lasr good byes were said to the young clean cut soldiers, who exuded confidence and looked superbly fit for whatever lies before them.
Under the command of Major J. N. Edgar, M.C., rge regiment marched from Work Point Barracks behind the band of the 1st Battalion The Canadian Scottish Regiment, by way of Esquimalt Road, Johnson Street Bridge, Wharf - Yates - Government Streets, followed by an increasing number of cars and people on foot, as the column drew near to the docks.
At Work Point, Premier T.D. Patullo stood beside Brigadier J.C. Stewart as the District Officer Commanding took the salute when the men marched out of the barracks. The Premier had gone out to the barracks to say good bye to the officers and men. “The people of British Columbia have not the slightest doubt of your determination to see this thing through,” Premier Patullo said to the men. “I hope the Almighty will preserve you, give you courage and send you home safely.”
Before the troops left the barracks two radios were presented to the P.P.C.L.I. contingen, one from Leonard Woodhouse on behalf of the Brittania Branch of the Canadian Legion, and one from Brigadier J. Sutherland-Brown on behalf of the Army and Navy Veteran’s Association. Commending the men on their departure, Brgidier Brown said, “I know you will do your stuff.”
As the troops passed through Esquimalt, people waved and cheered and bid them good bye. At Wharf Street the men of the 2nd Battalion (M.G.) The Canadian Scottish Regiment, lined the roadway to give them a cheering farewell. Many veterans of the last war turned out to watch their successors leave for active service, and khakl clad figures were scattered among the crowd around the docks as members of other military units in Victoria also added their good wishes to the embarking troops.
The familiar songs of 1914-18, “Tipperary” and “Pack Up Your Troubles” alternated with the modern “Ber Barrelled Polka” as the Pats gathered at the bow of the ship and laughed and called farewells to their relativesand friends ashore. For the most part though, it was a rather serious crowd that watched them go, women quietly crying, and fathers, many of whom veterans of the last war, stilled by thoughts of what might be in store.
Brigadier Stewart last night expressed pride in the troops thathad departed from his command. “They are a very fine body of men” he told the Colonist, “and something that British Columbia can well be proud of.”
Photos: Princess Pats Leave on War Service, Crowds Bid the Princess Pats Farewell - 2
The Times later published two photos of the departure ceremonies at Work Point Barracks after the film pack, lost by the cameraman of the day, was recovered following an advertisement being placed in the paper.
Building # 1058 was constructed and became the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals centre at Work Point Barracks. At the time of construction it was outside the bounds of Work Point Barracks on Victoria View Drive. It continues today as headquarters for the Regional Cadet Support Unit (Pacific).
It was the headquarters and training building for # 2289 – 5th Area Signals Squadron Cadet Corps, into which a number of us joined in 1954, and was also the home the West Coast Signal Regiment Reserves in Victoria, into which some of us moved onto in 1956. The regular force Sergeant was George Wolfe, a wonderful man. He and his wife Nada, their daughter Sandra and son Derrick lived at 387 Anson Street during this period. I keep in touch with Nada who lives in Ottawa and turned 94 in 2012.
LIST of PERSONNEL of PPCLI who had been members of “B” Company stationed at Work Point Barracks, Esquimalt, BC, between the years 1919 – 1939, or were Instructors with the Royal Canadian School of Infantry. Most of these were still serving during the time prior to 1939. The regimental #’s are from 20004 – 22204.
This list is available from me for research purposes.
(Thanks to George Wilkinson for editing 1929 to 1939)