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Camp Picton

exspy

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As there was some interesting discussion taking place about the former site of Camp Picton and it's connections to the wartime RCAF and the post-war Army, I thought it would be of benefit to centralize the postings away from the 'Rivers' thread for those wishing to add further.

Below are two good postings from karl28 and PBI along with a Google Earth view of the Camp area as it looks today:
karl28 said:
There is an old Army/ Air Force base that has gone this way too, out in Picton Heights near Trenton. You used to be able to go and explorer the old buildings but I don't think you can any more.  It's been years since I have been out that way .
pbi said:
The Picton site still exists: I was up there a couple of weeks ago. IIRC, during WWII it was opened as a CATP bombing and gunnery school, with ranges in the south part of Prince Edward County, off Point Petre and in Weller's Bay (by Consecon village). I believe the Army took it over for a while as a RCA anti-aircraft school, and then when the Canadian Guards were created as a Reg Force regiment, a battalion was garrisoned there. The latter was the source of the 1950's era buildings (messes, barracks, heating plant, etc) that are still standing just to the SE of the CATP site.

I can recall as a boy in the early 1960's going with my parents to the beach at Outlet Provincial Park (now part of Sandbanks Park, about 20 minutes from the camp) and seeing the Guards arrive in deuce and a halfs for swim parade. That stopped when the base was finally closed (1970-71??) For many years after the closure, the nearby Hallowell Township Fire Dept (now Prince Edward County Fire and Rescue) still operated the original 1940's Marion-Ford 4x4 military range fire truck that had been assigned to the base when it still had range operations. They may still have it.

The original Picton CATP camp and airfield are still largely intact, but in increasingly decrepit shape. Most of the old green and red wood and shingle buildings still stand (why the whole place hasn't gone up in smoke escapes me-these must be absolute fire traps by now...). Over the years there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to put the site to different uses. A small "industrial park" was set up in some old buildings (including the hangar line) but as far as I can see these have never amounted to much. There are still a few small business located here and there, but most of the buildings appear totally abandoned. The Prince Edward County Fire and Rescue still operates a fire station out of the old camp fire hall, but that seems to be the only "government" presence. The PMQs were at one point turned into a set of residences for mentally handicapped adults: I think that operation is still there (the PMQs are in use, anyway...)

At the west end of the camp are a few wooden "guard towers": these were not always there: IIRC they were built for a movie that was filmed using the old site (it could easily pass for a WWII PW camp).

You can still drive in and around the CATP site or the old PMQs unhindered, but the 1950's site to the SE has been closed off.
CampPicton-700.jpg

CampPictonBarracks.jpg

Looking at the first satellite photo the site of the airfield is obvious with the BCATP camp buildings to the left.  The hangars are visible as are the H-huts.

I believe the post-war barracks etc that PBI described as 'South-East of the original site' are on the right hand side of the first shot.  In the second shot (a close-up of the post-war buildings) one can see what once were two barrack blocks with a mess hall building in the middle.

The PMQs are out of sight to the top of the first photo.  The streets they are on still have names like Ortona, Scheldt, and Caen etc.

After the Second World War the Camp at Picton became home to the Royal Canadian School of Artillery (Anti-Aircraft).  Practice firing of the 3.7 inch AA guns was conducted at the Point Petre range the sounds of which could be heard on the American side of Lake Ontario.  During the Canadian Army's brief sojourn into a peacetime divisional organization in the mid-1950's Picton was also the home to the 1st LAA Regiment, RCA. 

In late 1961 the active RCA anti-aircraft battery's were disbanded and the those functions of the RCSA (AA) still ongoing at Picton were combined with the RCSA at Shilo.  In their place two new Surface-to-Surface Missile battery's were formed at the Camp.  By late 1962 the missile batteries had departed (1SSM to Germany and 2SSM to Shilo) and 1 Cdn Gds moved into the Camp from their previous home at Fort York in Germany.  The Guards remained at Picton for 4 years until the fall of 1968 when the 1st Battalion was reduced to nil strength and the Camp closed.

My only personal memory of the Camp is being near it one year (1967 or 68) when a jeep load of Guardsmen stopped near my family.  They were wearing Battledress and had a patch on their sleeves which I had never seen before.  It was my introduction to the Mobile Command badge which I would wear myself about 10 years later.

That's a snapshot history of the Army functions at the Camp.  Unfortunately the wartime RCAF is not my strong suit so I will defer to others on the Camp's wartime activities.

Cheers,
Dan.

PS:  For a look at the Canadian Guards time in Camp Picton visit the Canadian Guards Regimental Association site at http://www.canadianguards.ca/.  Go to the history page for a article entitled 'Life in Picton.'
 

karl28

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    Great Photo shots of Camp Picton . At one point and time you used to be able to through and explore the old H hots by the hangers but they where starting to get into rough shape and that was quite a few years ago .  I think the former PMQ are being used as low incom housing at least that's what I was told .  I also always thought that it was called Picton Heights but that my be just the area that the former base is located in .
 

pbi

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ex-spy:
I believe the post-war barracks etc that PBI described as 'South-East of the original site' are on the right hand side of the first shot.  In the second shot (a close-up of the post-war buildings) one can see what once were two barrack blocks with a mess hall building in the middle.

That's right (although my compass bearings may have been a bit off-looks more E than SE). 

On the main base photo you provided, the old camp hospital is still standing, by itself on the W side of the public road, in the upper left corner of the picture. The former camp crash fire rescue station (now a Prince Edward County volunteer fire hall) is the red-roofed structure just to the upper left of the top hangar in the line. The movie-prop guard towers are located in the SW area of the camp, to the left of the two black-roofed hangars (actually the one away from the flight line was probably a drill hall)

If you look midway on the N side of the lateral access road that runs W to E across the top of the airstrip "A", (leading to the post-war buildings) you will clearly see the outlines of a running track, a baseball diamond and a sports field. From the road, you can still see the old ball diamond backstop cage standing in the field.

The remaining small businesses still operating  are scattered throughout the H-Hut lines and in the hangars. There are a few empty lots that suggest some structures have been pulled (or burned..) down over time.

It's a fascinating place, and if you ask me, a bit sad. You can drive into the camp area easily from Picton town. As long  you stay in or near your car, and don't poke about in buildings or do anything stupid, likely nobody will bother you. Just remember that technically it's private property.

Cheers
 

exspy

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There is a statement about Camp Picton on the Canadian Guards site that goes "Early in 1964, the Battalion (ie 1 Cdn Gds) was designated the Standby Battalion for United Nations duty, due in part to its proximity to the Trenton air force base."

Now if the Camp was closed circa 1968 due to the reduction to nil strength of 1 Cdn Gds, and the now-defunct Canadian Airborne Regiment took over the UN Standby role after its formation in 1968, wouldn't having the entire CAR stationed at Picton been a strategically and tactically sound decision?  The camp was close to Trenton, the largest air transport base in the military.  There were artillery ranges within a short driving distance from the camp (something that Edmonton did not have) for the Airborne Battery.  These same ranges could have been used by the Engineers to blow up stuff.  1er Commando would have been just a hop, skip and a jump from Quebec and the CAR would have been centrally located within the country, something that was found to be wanting and corrected in 1977.

I'm not saying that it should have been done that way or that the Edmonton decision was wrong, it's just an interesting speculation on my part.

Cheers,
Dan.
 

Armynewsguy

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Here is a link to a great website with some information and lots of pictures of the old air base.

http://ontarioabandonedplaces.com/upload/wiki.asp?entry=687
 

exspy

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ANG,

Thanks for the site and photographs.  It's too bad that the camp has fallen into such a bad state of repair.  It might as well be plowed under now.  It does look like a fire problem waiting to happen.

Does anyone have any shots of the 1950's building site when it was in use?  There must have been more buildings for the Camp than what are there now.

Cheers,
Dan.
 

Old Sweat

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Dan

The Airborne Regiment was created for defence of Canada tasks (as was 1 Can Para originally two decades and a bit before.) The estimate showed that Edmonton was the best site for a quick reaction force with these sort of tasks. In the meantime we continued to have a battalion for UN Stand By tasks. This was in the days of the 12 infantry battalion and one anti-tank battalion (3 R22R) army, while budget soon cuts shrank the establishment considerably. For example, the army gave up two battalions - 1 Cdn Gds and one from the QOR - for the manpower for the regiment, and that was further reduced during the stand up. Then came more cuts and the AB took on the UN Standby role, but was never employed as such.*

*I suspect giving the AB the UN role was a sop to morale as the unit missed out on Cyprus tours until about 1974.

Back to your original question, sure, if the only role was UN standby, which it was not.

Now 1st Gds did do an exercise in Jamaica, which turned into a goat screw in the deployment. Jadex, who was a senior member of the FMCHQ staff, showed up and found all sorts of CFB Trenton dependents  and service members on leave (none from Picton) in the AMU along with the Guards. On querying, he found they were flying to Jamaica on a space available basis for the duration of the exercise. He went nuts and ranted and raved, and the dependents/leave personnel were taken off the roster. All very well, but it appears extra "cargo" flights were laid on (and charged to FMC) so that the hangers on would not appear on the troop lift manifests.
 

pbi

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Dan M said:
ANG,

Thanks for the site and photographs.  It's too bad that the camp has fallen into such a bad state of repair.  It might as well be plowed under now.  It does look like a fire problem waiting to happen...

I was by there on 04 August. Somebody (no idea who...) has spent quite a bit of money on a number of the old H-Huts. Several (I didn't count) have been refinished with new red metal roofing, and have been repainted in a much darker colour. Not sure what this is all about. (Of course, I forgot to take pictures).

The PMQ site built in the 1950s is now a thriving neighbourhood: it had been converted into a mental health facility years ago, but I didn't see any signs of that when I passed by.
 

Grunt_031

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Interesting pictures/info on these pages.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Camp-Picton-A-Storied-70-Years/199780863451084


http://carlykb.com/blog/?tag=camp-picton

http://www.ghosttownpix.com/ontario/intros/cfbpicto.html

http://www.philnorton.net/camp_picton/

Tour available http://pehistsoc.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/upcoming-event-camp-picton-tour-and-tea/

The Prince Edward Historical Society has arranged for two tours of the former World War Two training base at Camp Picton on Sunday, September 15, 2013 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. and from 2.00 to 4.00 p
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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The Point Petre range was also used in the mid 50's to fire the Nike rockets that were used to test in-flight stability of the model of the A.V.Roe Arrow interceptor.

 

RHLIDRUMMER

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I would very much lie to contact any members of the RCA School Drum and Trumpet Band that was at Picton.
I am working on a book on Canadian Forces Trumpet and Bugle Bands. I recall seeing pictures of the band my wifes uncle John Wamsley.

Any assistance is most appreciated.
 

Colin Parkinson

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I am assuming the circle with the centre post in it at Point Petre is where the gunnery range was?

43° 50' 32.30" N 77° 09' 22.30" W
 

pbi

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Colin P said:
I am assuming the circle with the centre post in it at Point Petre is where the gunnery range was?

43° 50' 32.30" N 77° 09' 22.30" W

Good question: I was just looking at Point Petre on GoogleEarth the other day and I noticed that circle, which I assumed had something to do with the RCA AA School. There are also some faintly visible tracks and roads (running generally SE from Army Reserve Road) that look as though they might have delineated either the firing points or set distances.
 
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