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RCAF AUXILIARY FIELD SANDHURST ONTARIO

pbi

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I posted this on the RAF page, but I thought I'd try here as well. I'm looking for any photos, info or history on this field. Built under the BCATP, it was a satellite for RCAF Kingston (now Norman Rogers Airport).

It's "twin" was RCAF Auxiliary Gananoque, at Springfield hamlet, which still operates as a flying club, with the trademark "A"-frame runway layout and a single WWII-era hangar still standing.

As far as I can tell, the Sandhurst field was located on the site of the current Ontario Power Generation Sandhurst power station, about 30 min W of Kingston on Hwy 33. There don't seem to be any remaining traces of it.

Appreciate any leads.
 

dapaterson

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Wikipedia has co-ordinates taken from a 1943 map - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_Commonwealth_Air_Training_Plan_facilities_in_Canada

And there's a throwaway line about the field in the discussion of 31 SFTS here: http://www.militarybruce.com/history/base-history_13.html

 

ModlrMike

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The satellite shot indicates that the power plant occupies the entire site. I can't see anything remotely resembling a landing field there now.
 

pbi

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Thanks for those. Unfortunately I've already come across them: should have mentioned that.  :facepalm: All I got out of Google maps was a possible outline of a corner of  the A-pattern runway to the north of the existing power plant.
 

old medic

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Perhaps you can find this author:

http://www.thewhig.com/2009/06/05/city-slow-to-warm-to-its-airport

DOUG WAGNER

Friday, June 5, 2009

Norman Rogers airport was constructed as a service flying training school, part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and was designated No. 31 S. F. T. S. The whole complex included Gananoque Airport, known as No. 1 relief landing ground, a grass field at Sandhurst; two practice bombing ranges at Kingston Mills and Millhaven; a live firing range along the south shore of Amherst Island; two cine camera ranges along the canal at Wolfe Island, and another along Loughborough Lake; and, to complete the complex, a marine section located at the southwest corner of Collins Bay.

The buildings included five hangars, a control tower, a hospital, barracks, messes and all the other buildings necessary to house over a thousand staff and 160 Fleet Air Arm students, 40 of whom graduated every four months with their wings.

The airfield had a triangle of six runways, and the field drainage alone cost $3 million. The first Royal Air Force staff arrived in the fall of 1941 during the final stages of construction. The first commanding officer was Group Captain Shackleton, who is believed to be a relative of the famous explorer.

The first aircraft delivered to the school were the Fairy Battles. They were to be a first-line fighter bomber, but their performance did not live up to their name and they were soon relegated to the role of trainer.

The Fairy Battles were replaced be the ever-noisy Harvard, and eventually there were 110 on the line. During the early stages of the Second World War, when the United States was a neutral country, the first

deliveries were made by pushing them across the U. S.-Canadian border at an airfield out west. Other aircraft at No. 31 S. F. T. S. were the Avro Anson, used for navigation, the Lysander, used for drogue towing, and a Walrus amphibian used for air-sea rescue.

The Fleet Air Arm graduates went into a deck landing school on the east cost and then overseas to an operational training unit.

The author joined the staff at No. 31 in January 1944, having graduated from No. 1 Flying Instructor School at Trenton. In the spring of 1944, the Royal Canadian Air Force took over the administration and No. 31 S. F. T. S. became No. 14. After the end of hostilities in 1945, the RCAF closed the station.

In January 1946, the Department of National Defence declared Norman Rogers Airport surplus and turned it over to the Department of Transport, and in February of that year, No. 5 Hangar and two other buildings were turned over to the Kingston Flying Club. The club received a new charter, took the two club aircraft out of storage and was back in operation.

A federal corporation was set up to dispose of the vast quantity of air force equipment, and some of it was donated to the flying club, which included three aircraft, a station wagon, a truck and a great quantity of spares, clothing, parachutes, furniture, etc.

In March 1946, an airport licence was issued to the City of Kingston. The first commercial licence for a charter service was issued to H. Bruton. Although the airport licence had been issued to the city, the operation of the airport was left to the flying club.

Meanwhile, the surplus buildings were being torn down, and many postwar houses around Kingston were built with lumber and straightened nails from the airport.

In 1950, the author, who was at the time operating the air service at Gananoque, became the manager of the Kingston Flying Club. In that year, the Department of Transport offered to lease the airport to the city, but the offer was rejected. It seems that neither the city nor the township could appreciate that the legacy of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was a multi-million-dollar airport available for the asking.

Due to the lack of interest on the part of the city, the flying club took over the airport licence. The mayor was opposed to the city becoming involved.

In August 1951, the flying club offered to operate the airport for the city for a sum of $3,000, but the city was not interested at any price.

At a flying club annual meeting in 1952, Gordon McGregor, president of Trans Canada Airlines, who originally learned to fly at the prewar flying club and became a Second World War ace, promised to put Kingston on a regional Trans Canada Airline route if the surveys were positive. There were some negotiations, but the funding to bring the airport up to airline standards was never acquired. Our city was still reluctant to enter the air age.

In 1952, No. 6 Repair Depot moved in, all the hangars were re-roofed, the heating system was put back into operation and the space was used to store service vehicles and equipment.

In June 1953, the flying club negotiated a contract with the Royal Canadian Navy to house and maintain the aircraft of V. C. 921, a naval reserve squadron. The aircraft included two Harvards and an Expeditor. This arrangement lasted until 1958.

The activity generated by the squadron caused some local residents to petition against airport expansion, and in March 1955, the township enacted a bylaw restricting any expansion of the airport.

Alternate sites for an airport were suggested, and the township council went so far as to designate an area northeast of Odessa without the approval of the Ontario Municipal Board. The township's reeve was very negative about the airport. His argument was that "Norman Rogers Airport was in the wrong place because it was dangerous for aircraft to take off and land over water."

The author was present at that particular council meeting and pointed out that the site of Kennedy Airport in New York was chosen because of the unobstructed approaches over Long Island and Flushing Meadows. The reeve's argument was shot down to the point that he and a councillor visited the author's office the next morning and the author was told to refrain from interfering in township business.

In 1958, No. 6 R. D. vacated the airport and Vicom, a local machine tool company, took over its operations in return for free access to the buildings vacated. The hangars were leased to some industries, but there was criticism that the funds were going into private hands................................

continues at link
 

old medic

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http://www.stpaulandstalban.org/Locations.htm

.................The present church was erected in 1877 and built facing the main road. Dedication took place on June 9, 1879. it features a number of Gothic revival style elements including the steeply pitched roof and the lancet shaped Windows.

1921 a vestry was added and the Chancellor extended by 6 feet. an incident during the 150th anniversary celebrations in 1941 nearly saw the destruction of the church. lightning struck the steeple and started a fire parishioner Frank Morton climbed the towers inside ladder and managed to put out the fire with an extinguisher before firemen stationed nearby at the Sandhurst airfield arrived on the scene.    ......................
 

jpjohnsn

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pbi said:
Thanks for those. Unfortunately I've already come across them: should have mentioned that.  :facepalm: All I got out of Google maps was a possible outline of a corner of  the A-pattern runway to the north of the existing power plant.
I thought I saw that too but, when I zoomed in, it was the shape of the corridors cleared for the power lines.  It's possible that they used path of the old runway for that but I think it's just a coincidence. 
 

old medic

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Hard to find references to this place.  It appears to have just been a secondary relief strip, and according to the "the whig"
article I posted last night, it looks to have just been a grass field. 

Here is a link to another forum with some discussion from 2009:
http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?5612-No-31-SFTS-Kingston-Ontario

The School was originally RAF 7 SFTS at Peterbourough, UK. They moved to Kingston, Ontario in several stages in the fall of 1940, and were re-designated as 31 SFTS on 7 October 1940. Their first Battles arrived at Kingston on 2 October 1940, and their first Harvards arrived on 20 October 1940. They primarily conducted single engine pilot training for the FAA, with almost all the staff being RAF or RN, and most of the students being RAF or RN, with a scattering of RNZN and RAN.

The Battles were used initally for pilot training, but found to be unsuitable. As more Harvards and Yales became available the Battles wound up as target tugs. Eventually the target tug flight also operated Lysanders, and the Battles were all gone to gunnery schools by the end of 1942. By 1942 they also operated a flight of Ansons for radar calibration and Army cooperation. They also recieved one Walrus in 1942, after several drownings after aircrew bailed out over nearby Lake Ontario. By 1943 they had one Gypsy Moth on strength, probably as a training aid.

In addition to the main facilities at Kingston, the School maintained several "relief fields", including Gananoque to the east and Sandhurst to the north. They ran 2 bombing ranges, one at Millhaven Bay (now the site of a federal prison) and another over Lake Ontario near Bath, where depth charge dropping was regularly practiced with the Harvards.

In mid 1944 the BCATP began to scale back and combine Schools. 14 SFTS moved from Aylmer to Kingston in August 1944, and the two Schools merged with the name of 14 SFTS on 14 August 1944. The new school seems to have continued with the 31 SFTS mix of staff and students, until disbanded on 7 September 1945. By then the units main function was storing aircraft pending disposal.

Kingston airport still exists today, and a few of the old BCATP buildings are still there, most with modifications and new paint. One of the 31 SFTS Harvards that had ditched in Lake Ontario was recovered from the lake bottom in the 1960s and restored, and now sits on a concrete pylon at the entrance to the airport.

The School Diary is available from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm, Group RG24 Reel C12,353. These are loaned out in Canada on the Interlibrary Loan system, you might be able to get them in the UK as well.

 

pbi

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oldmedic: thanks for your detective work. I have read elsewhere that there were some structures (apparently at least a fire station...) So far I'm not having much luck: I will look for period air photos.
 

old medic

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Anytime,

I love these types of hunts.

Here are some photos, the first a corner of an air nav map from 1943 with the field marked. 
Looks to be inland from the lake, between Highway 33 and what I'm guessing is still number 8.

I will hazard a guess, (I've never been there) and say that the road marked as 21 cuts right
through the old air strip.


 

pbi

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In reading the history of former Ernestown Township (now part of Greater Napanee), I came across a story from the family who owned the farm that was expropriated for the airfield. It mentions that Road 21 was closed by the establishment of the field, and didn't reopen until long after the war. It also mentions that their house was used as part of the airfield buildings.

I have been poking around with this for a couple of years now: I also find it interesting that it could just vanish.
 

dapaterson

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pbi said:
I have been poking around with this for a couple of years now: I also find it interesting that it could just vanish.


Cue the black helicopters...

 

old medic

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Has a few photos in his photostream.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/36702396@N00/3606888370/in/photostream/
 

pbi

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Thanks. Fascinating stuff. Quite a few shots of Picton and Mountainview, two spots I have known well for years.
 

211RadOp

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pbi said:
In reading the history of former Ernestown Township (now part of Greater Napanee), I came across a story from the family who owned the farm that was expropriated for the airfield. It mentions that Road 21 was closed by the establishment of the field, and didn't reopen until long after the war. It also mentions that their house was used as part of the airfield buildings.

I have been poking around with this for a couple of years now: I also find it interesting that it could just vanish.

I've been in this area many times as my mother's family is from Adolphustown and that is where our family's cottage is.  I was never aware of an airfield there and there is no signs of it.

BTW, Ernestown is part of Loyalist Township, along with Bath and Amherstview.

 

pbi

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211RadOp said:
I've been in this area many times as my mother's family is from Adolphustown and that is where our family's cottage is.  I was never aware of an airfield there and there is no signs of it.

BTW, Ernestown is part of Loyalist Township, along with Bath and Amherstview.

Sorry: you are right about the Township: I had them mixed up. The RCAF field was definitely there, but the construction of the Sandhurst plant in the 1960's seems to have destroyed whatever traces remained.
 

211RadOp

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I don't doubt it was there, I have just never heard of it.  In Old Medic's post, he talks about Frank Morton helping put out a fire at the church in the area and the fire brigade showing up from the airfield.  Frank is a distant relative I have never met, as he was long dead before I was born.  All my relatives that would remember the airfield are now dead and it was never mentioned to me.  My Grandfather served at the airfield in Deseronto during the war, so I was aware of that one.
 
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