HISTORY OF WORK POINT BARRACKS
by Jack Bates
PART 8 — 1964 to 1970
Enter the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to Work Point Barracks. Of the vast amount of Canadian military history in Esquimalt, the six years the Queen’s Own Rifles spent here played a large part. Many thanks to M Gen (Rtd) Herb Pitts for his contribution to this history.
The Powder Horn
1ST BATTALION RETURNS HOME
At the time of writing, the 1st Battalion is busily involved with the countless problems which arise from moving over 1500 persons from one continent to another. For almost all of them, it has been three years of duty in Germany with Canada’s NATO contribution – 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group. By Christmas 1963, the Battalion will be settled in its new home at Work Point Barracks, Victoria, having been replaced in Fort MacLeod by the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
In the field, the battalion is noted for its surprising marching ability and highly effective tactics. The Riflemen earned high praise from the German troops against whom they were pitted in the two autumn exercises. The Battalion will be returning to Canada with many pleasant memories and a number of permanent reminders of their stay here. Seventy nine men are returning with German brides, and Rifle families have added an additional 225 children to the dependents list under the heading “born in Germany.”
NO. 2483 ESQUIMALT (QOR OF C) CADET CORPS By Lt WD McKay
No. 2483 Esquimalt Cadet Corps is a corps new to the Queen’s Own Rifles affiliation. The corps was originally formed in September 1953 as the No. 2483 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. Since that time, it has been variously designated and re-designated as:
No. 2483 Independent Order of Forrester’s Cadet Corps – 8 Dec. ’53.
No. 2483 The 5th West Coast RCA Cadet Corps – 1 Sept. ’55.
No. 2483 The Esquimalt (PPCLI) Cadet Corps – 1 Aug. ’58.
Although the affiliation with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada dates from the 8th of November 1963, the affiliation in fact began on the 20th of December with an inspection of the corps by Major KN Weber, DSO, CD, Second in Command of the First Battalion. Since that time the battalion has supplied instructors, transport, equipment and facilities for training. In the previous months the corps experienced difficulty in carrying out its training programme. Many courses were impossible because of the lack of training space and poor weather. The drill hall on Macaulay street, which houses the 1st Battalion transport section, was for many months filled with baggage going to and from Germany. As well, the extra work accompanying rotation left the corps without regular assistance of any kind.
However, the corps is now speedily gaining ground, particularly in drill. The NCO’s of the 1st Battalion, on a voluntary basis, have been training the cadets in “Rifles” drill, and results have demonstrated the excellent job done on short notice. Although much yet has to be learned in matters of drill, both the NCO’s and cadets are confident that the annual inspection and parade scheduled for the 31st of May will be a good one.
Of assistance in achieving a high standard of drill will be a drill course of four days duration during the school Easter holidays. In May also, the corps confidently hopes to compete in a Tri Service cadet drill competition held annually in Duncan, B.C.
M Gen Herb Pitts
“Introduction to the City of Victoria took the form of participation in the Victoria Day parade and the firing of a Feu de Joie at the barracks. 3000 persons attended the ceremony. In March, assistance was given to Port Alberni to deal with the aftermath of the Tsunami.”
ON THE DOUBLE
About 7,000 Victorians were thrilled by the First Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles “Feu de Joie” Friday and Saturday on the double-time march down the parade square intrigued most in the ceremony. Precision at such a speed was quite a sight to behold. The Battalion Bugle Band, officers and men certainly showed they are a well-drilled unit of Canada’s armed forces.
INSPECTION TODAY FOR CADETS
Annual inspection of the 2483 Esquimalt Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada cadet corps will take place at Work Point Barracks parade square, at 2 p.m. today.
Lt. Col. H.C.F. Elliot, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles will make the inspection.
The cadets will hold a drill and band display, map reading, signals, first aid and national survival demonstrations.
The public is invited and there will be refreshments afterwards in the men’s dining room.
QUEEN’S OWN RIFLES
WORK POINT. After the recent successful Feu de Joie it was the turn of the junior and part time members of thr Queen’s Own Rifles to display their parade square drill. No. 2483 (The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada) Cadet Corps held its annual inspection Sunday at Work Point Barracks. Forty cadets paraded before ssembled parents and friends.
The cadet corps marched smartly on to the parade square lead by their own 16 piece bugle band and there awaited the arrival of the inspecting officer, Lieut. Col. H.C.F. Elliot CD. Lt. Col. Elliot inspected the corps accompanied by Capt. F.N. Fotheringham and Capt. W.A.B. Gabriel, the corps chief instructor and BC Area Cadet Officer respectively.
The award for the “most proficient cadet” in the corps was presented to Cadet Sergeant J.F. Clark. Sergeant Clark, in the past year, has been proficient in such varied corps activities as shooting, sports, first aid, drill and band. Cadet Corporal Phillip Watt was presented with the “most improved cadet” award. This was awarded to Cpl watt because of his keen interest and hard working within the cadet corps despite his being only a 1st year cadet. The Robert Walker trophy, a shooting award, was presented to Cadet WO 2 Brian Watt. WO 2 Watt’s shooting ability has made him eligible to compete in Bisley England this summer.
The trophy for athletic ability displayed in the corps, the Brigadier Colquhoun trophy, was won this year by Cadet WO 1 Robert Myers.Three master cadet awards were won this year This is an award for outstanding cadets. This award is decided by both practical and written tests on cadet subjects. Cadet WO 1 Robert Myers, Wo 2 Brian Watt and taff Sergeant B. Reading were resentedwith the awards. The “Cadet 100 Roll Award,” a shooting award for arge bore rifle is completed for by cadet corps across Canada. Only the best 100 shots are selected for the “100 Roll.” This year Cadet WO 1 J. Cayto, now with the Canadian Scottish Regiment and Cadet WO 2 B. Watt were successful competitors.
The Strathcona Trust Rifle competition trophy for 1964 was presented by Capt. W.A.B. Gabriel to the corpsrifle team consisting of Cadet Staff Sergeant Akins, WO 2 Watt, Staff Sergeant Reading, Staff Sergeant Walker, Corporal Watt and Sergeant Hunt, for obtaining first place in shooting competition with the other corps. Lt. Col. Elliot remarked on the obvious pride displayed by the corps for their excellent dress, deportment and drill displayed here and during corps participation in the Victoria Day Parade. For the instructors and cadet services officers, Colonel Elliot congratulated them on a job well done in the past year.
Afer the displays, refreshments were served to all spectators in the men’s mess hall at Work Point Barracks. Tis parade was a result of hard work on the part of the cadets and harder work on the part of their instructors. Here it should be particularly noted the time and energy put in by Sergeant W. Housatchenko, aided by L. Sgt. R.H. Halpin, Cpl S. Major and Cpl L. Drover in training the cadets in drill. Cpl W.A. Hein and L Cpl F. Mercer as well, gave freely of their time to instruct the cadets in first aid and band training respectively.
The military history of Work Point dates back to 1858 when the area was first occupied by Royal Engineesr. A number of the buildings still in use were constructed by these Imperial troops. The present Officer’s Mess was built in 1896 as quarters for “C” Battery, Canadian Garrison Artillery, and while certain interior changes have taken place, the exterior remains much the same. Major permanent construction was done around 1895 and again during the period of the First World War. Construction during the Second World War was mainly temporary nature, particularly in the case of troop accommodation.
Some of the above paragraph I would dispute.
Prior to and during the initial months of the Second World War the area housed a District Headquarters, later a Fortress, Divisional and command Headquarters. At the end of the last war, a coast artillery headquarters was established and remained until the Royal Canadian School of Artillery (Coast and Anti-Aircraft*) was organized. Since that date work Point has been under constant development and expansion to meet the requirement of peacetime operations.
The units presently located at Work Point Barracks are listed hereunder:
* The Royal Canadian School of Artillery (Coast and Anti – Aircraft) was disbanded effective 30 March, 1955.
Red Ensign Retired
The last red ensign to fly over work Point Barracks was laid away for safe keeping Sunday morning at St. Paul’s Naval and Garrison Church, Esquimalt. Lt. Col. F.D.H. Nelson, representing laity, received ensign from Major Kenneth Webber, 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. In background is Rev. J.A. Roberts, Rector of St. Paul’s.
In April the battalion deployed to Cyprus in a now familiar peacekeeping role and returned in October.
Imperial Fortress in Canada Halifax and Esquimalt
Available on microfilm at U Vic McPherson Library, Chapter Five is titled “The Esquimalt Problem” para’s A. The Pacific Squadron; B. Ottawa’s Concern; C. Who’s Responsibility; D. British Opinion; E. The Defences. Pages 262 – 338.
Exercises were conducted on Vancouver Island, the Chilcotin and Wainwright.
M Gen Herb Pitts
“Integration of the Canadian Armed Forces was gathering steam during this period. The senior forces officer in the area was R Adm John Charles, Commander, Maritme Forces Pacific. He turned out to be a very easy man for an army L Col to deal with and had been a guest in our mess. After meeting with him, he gave the assurance that things would remain much as they were under his watch and this was very reassuring when there was a strong possibility of losing out three messes in Work Point in favour of joining messes in CFB Esquimalt. I am grateful to him yet for his kindness and forbearance.”
“The 1st Battalion provided support for the opening of the Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria in May 1967 by HRH Princess Alexandra. She was our Regimental Colonel in Chief and we provided the Guard of honour for the ceremonies in the Stadium at that time. Subsequent to that event, she spent time with her Regimental family at Work Point. This event was again brought to the fore by the Regiment and the University in celebration of the Regiment’s 150th Anniversary in 2010.”
In June the battalion participated in exercises in Norway, utilizing carriers, men, vehicles, equipment and helicopters.
One local fellow who had joined the Queen’s Own found the army life not to his liking and decided to part their company. They found him under his bed in his parent’s home a short distance away from the barracks. I don’t believe he returned!
February 1, 1968
The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act was introduced in November 1966, and was passed in April 1967, and came into effect on February 1, 1968. Paul Hellyer was the Minister of National Defence responsible. The Liberal government must have been reading the history of Napoleon Bonaparte who said “The discipline of my armies rests on the strength of my corporals.” Mon Dieu!
The Powder Horn
Our participation in this year’s parade was somewhat different. In past the past years we have paraded a 100 man guard, led by the Battalion Bugles, and they often had to stop on the parade route to allow time for slower marching contingents to move ahead.
To display our new equipment, and to publicize our AMF role, the Commanding Officer decided to enter a small mobile force. Jeeps from Recce and Armoured Defence Platoons, mounting machine guns and recoilless rifles, and ¾ ton trucks, mounted with 81 mortars, to be followed by ten armoured personnel carriers were gathered under the coordination of Major Ron Barker. He assigned their training and command to Lt Dave Stevenson, who was assisted by Sgt’s Len Quinlan and Harry Lloy.
The Pioneers and Battalion Bugles led this small task force along Douglas street in bright sunshine. Our vehicles painted with their new pattern camouflage, rumbling and clanking along the parade route, provided a sobering contrast to the flower decked, beauty queen draped, gaily coloured floats from local organizations and business firms.
Our “New Look” provoked comments from the local press such as “it reminded us of Red Square on May Day” and “stoney faced soldiers cradling automatic weapons.” These, however, were outweighed by the applause and favourable comments made by both our capable Riflemen and their equipment.
OTTAWA DELAYS MOVE OF ARMY
QORs to Remain at Work Point
The Queen’s Own Rifles have been told they will be based at Work Point in Esquimalt for the “foreseeable future” in an apparent policy modification by the federal government.
Defence Minister Leo Cadieux said in January the historic Work Point Barracks were due to be “phased out” beginning possibly in a year but he left the timing vague.
Esquimalt Reeve Ray Bryant said today he will seek clarification of government policy in view of the apparent change in plans.
After the Cadieux phase out statement – made in reply to a question at a Victoria press conference – Mr. Bryant went to Ottawa to press Esquimalt’s case for the 130 acres of valuable property when it became available.
“There did appear to be a specific clearing out date at that time,” he said.
But he said that information was received prior to the June election and a policy change may have been made since.
Esquimalt is currently negotiating with the defence department for the Macaulay Point portion of the Work Point base. The area involved is said to be about five acres but Mr. Bryant could not confirm the exact size.
The area is not regarded as vital to the Work Point base and there is wide interest in making it into a park.
Mr. Bryant said negotiations for the overall site are in a preliminary stage and a change or postponement of plans would not hurt Esquimalt.
News that the land was to become surplus touched off a wave of interest among private land developers in January and one realtor placed a $6,000,000 value on the site if it were zoned for high rise apartments.
Major Derek Bamford, second in command at the army base, said the Queen’s Own Rifles are going ahead doing minor rebuilding and other repairs on the assumption they will be stationed at Work Point for some time.
“We’ve been told we’ll be here for the foreseeable future,” he said, adding that he didn’t have any more precise idea of what that meant than anyone else.
“It’s possible that in five years’ time we won’t be here,” he said. “We’re hopeful we’ll be here for quite a while.”
Loss of the Queen’s Own regiment – recently boosted to a strength of 700 men by the addition of 100 from Calgary – would be a serious blow to the Victoria area.
Won’t Replace Jobs
Proper development of the surplus land could be a shot in the arm for the area, but it would hardly produce enough jobs to cancel out the payroll losses and related losses in employment in the trade and service sectors of the economy here.
Mr. Bryant paid tribute to the contribution made by the Queen’s Own Rifles and their families to the community life and said their continued residence here was a welcome prospect.
There is speculation a change of timetable for phasing out the Work Point centre may be related to the continuing need for Canada’s role as an international peacekeeper.
Mr. Bryant said defence officials had been co-operative in preliminary talks giving rise to hope that the municipality would be given serious consideration when the property became available.
Work Point was established as headquarters for army detachments in B.C. in 1887 when C Battery from Kingston arrived to take up residence. It had earlier housed an artillery battery.
The Queen’s Own moved into Work Point in 1963, taking over from the Princess Pats.
The Powder Horn
The annual fishing derby was held on 6 and 7 September. Even though there was a shortage of fish, there certainly was no shortage of participants. The fishing derby committee once again did a marvellous job in advertising and organizing this annual event. The committee this year consisted of MWO Pete Mitchell, Mr. Ken Buxton, Mr. Bill Stark, Mr. Charlie Clare, WO Stan Chernish, Sgt Fred Breurkens, Sgt Bill Marshall, Sgt Al Stever and Sgt Charlie McGraw.
Training for the year took the battalion to Norway, was involved in local exercises and chosen as the Operational Unit for Chemical Warfare Trials (Exercise Vacuum) in Ralston Alberta at Suffield Experimental station.