RCAF Station Charlottetown
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
RCAF Station Charlottetown was a Royal Canadian Air Force station located in Sherwood, Prince Edward Island. Today's Charlottetown Airport maintains a remnant of the airfield's runways near its general aviation terminal, however all buildings and most infrastructure has been removed.
The site of RCAF Station Charlottetown is located in the northeast part of Queens Royalty. It was selected by the City of Charlottetown for a civilian aerodrome to serve central Prince Edward Island in 1938 after the city's original aerodrome, Upton Field, was considered too small and obsolete. A 300-acre (1.2 km2) property between the Brackley Point and Norwood/Union roads was purchased for $30,000 by the municipal government. The municipal and provincial governments divided the cost of developing the new airport in exchange for an equivalent division of revenue sharing. The municipal government maintained title to the facility and agreed to operate it.
Following the outbreak of World War II and the creation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the city of Charlottetown offered its airfield to the federal government in December 1939 for military use until the conclusion of the Second World War. The offer was accepted and on 1 May 1940 the Department of National Defence announced the establishment of No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School (B&GS) under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), with the provision for a bombing range to be built in the Prince Edward Island National Park near the fishing port of Covehead. Local fishermen on the north shore protested against the school and plans were cancelled in 1941 when No. 5 B&GS was ultimately moved to RCAF Station Dafoe in Saskatchewan.
In preparation for military use, the airfield underwent significant expansion with the main access point being changed to Norwood/Union Road. Three paved runways were constructed in the classic BCATP "triangle" configuration, along with various buildings and support facilities.
RAF Station Charlottetown
Whereas the Royal Canadian Air Force was operating its airfield at RCAF Station Summerside and another further to the west at RCAF Station Mount Pleasant, the Charlottetown airfield was to be operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF). Construction was completed and the RAF took over the facility on 15 June 1941, naming it RAF Station Charlottetown.
The BCATP school located at RAF Station Charlottetown was No. 31 General Reconnaissance School (GRS), which flew the Avro Anson. The RAF's No. 32 Air Navigation School was also located at the airfield until it merged with the RCAF's No. 2 Air Navigation School in 1944. Like all RAF training facilities in Canada at the time, RAF Station Charlottetown was subject to Royal Canadian Air Force operational and administrative control. RAF stations in Canada during the war were extensions of the British Commonwealth Training Plan until they were officially incorporated into the BCATP in 1942.
RCAF Station Charlottetown
The RAF presence in Prince Edward Island disappeared when the No. 31 GRS ceased operation in February 1944 and the RCAF's No. 2 Air Navigation School (ANS) began operation. At this time the airfield changed its name to RCAF Station Charlottetown.
The No. 2 ANS ceased operation in July 1945 and the No. 1 Aircraft Holding Unit (AHU) used the aerodrome for a short period until it closed later in 1945. All military activities were subsequently transferred to RCAF Station Summerside.
Over 1,200 students from Commonwealth nations had graduated from the facility. Approximately 200-300 RCAF and RAF personnel had been stationed at the training station and it employed 100 civilian workers during peak training operations.
Along with RCAF Station Summerside, the Charlottetown airfield also supported various patrol operations by the RCAF's Eastern Command, including coastal patrol aircraft dedicated to hunting German U-boats which were operating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River during the 1942 - 1944 period. U-boats sank dozens of cargo and warships during the Battle of the St. Lawrence.
Following the airfields' decommissioning, the Department of Transport took over the Charlottetown Airport from the RCAF on February 1, 1946 and the airfield returned to civilian use.