Preserving The Canadian Civil Defence / Emergency Preparedness History

Penhold Archives

 

43 Radar Squadron Penhold, AB

43 Radar Squadron was located at Penhold Alberta. Unlike other Pinetree Line radar stations, this unit was quite unique. Our records indicate that construction of what was to become the Operations site commenced on 14 August 1961 and that the site became operational in February 1964 in a SAGE environment. The site ultimately ceased operation on 1 August 1986.

The typical Pinetree line site consisted of two distinct areas. The operations site and the domestic site. As a rule, the operations and domestic site were relatively close together, and combined, they formed the station. Penhold was an exception to this rule of thumb.

In 1971, the Air Base was known as CFB Penhold – although there was no flying taking place at that time. The radar station was known as 43 Radar Squadron and was a lodger unit to CFB Penhold.

The radar squadron was located some 11 miles east of CFB Penhold. There were two routes which were used to travel between CFB Penhold and 43 Radar Squadron. The primary route was the direct route and covered a distance of 11 miles. The secondary route via Highway 42 was 16 miles distance, give or take a yard or two. The reason for the two routes was that in the winter the direct route was hard to keep clear and after a heavy rain in the summer, it became a mud skating rink.

There were regular runs from CFB Penhold to C-54 for all shifts. Transportation was provided by MSE personnel from CFB Penhold and the trip took approximately 20 minutes. Those who lived in PMQs would have a short walk to catch the bus run. Personnel who lived in Red Deer and the surrounding local area could drive onto the base and catch the run directly to C-54. In addition to the shift runs, there were several mail and supply runs from the base on a daily basis.

The CFB Penhold Communication Center and the Provincial bunker were located on the east side of Highway 2A. You would pass these sites on the direct route to C-54.

The Operations site had the usual mesh wire fence around it and there was a guard house at the main gate. The guard house was manned with Commissionaires. All of the buildings which formed the Operations site were connected with the exception of the guardhouse. There were three radar towers – FPS-27, FPS-26 and the FPS-6B. There was a power plant as well as a heating plant at the Operations site. The site had Natural gas-fired Orenda turbines for power and these could be changed to JP4 if the gas failed – as once happened during a severe storm which dropped the line pressure so badly that those at CFB Penhold couldn’t even boil a kettle. There was a kitchen/eating area which was normally manned during alert periods. It was used Monday to Friday at lunch times with meals being sent up from CFB Penhold. The administration office at the Operations site was used just for local administration matters.

All of the administrative aspects which would normally be found in the domestic site of a radar station were found at CFB Penhold. This resulted in a sort of a “mixed-bag” as CFB Penhold catered to personnel who were stationed at CFB Penhold as well as the personnel who were stationed at 43 Radar Squadron.

Single status personnel from 43 radar squadron were housed in the barracks at CFB Penhold. Married status personnel from 43 radar squadron were housed in PMQs or trailers which were at CFB Penhold. CFB Penhold also had a recreation center that housed a cinema, a snack bar, a bowling alley and a swimming pool. The Exchange was located in the recreation center with the gas pumps at the old MSE buildings. These buildings were equipped with vehicle hoists so you could work on your vehicle. The MSE was, at this time, making use of one of the hangers.

CFB Penhold also had the standard Officers Mess, WO/Sgts. Mess, as well as a Junior Ranks Mess. The Officers Mess had its own kitchen and the WO/Sgts. Mess and the Junior Ranks kitchen was combined.

There was an MIR on the base with the hospital and doctors in Red Deer being used for consultations.

Normal administration, supply buildings and MSE maintenance and operations were all located in a hanger.

The local school on the base handled classes up to grade 8 with the higher grades going to Red Deer. Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Girl Guides were all available to military dependents at CFB Penhold.

Other units at CFB Penhold were the Communications Center, the Junior Leadership School, and the Air Cadets during the summer with their usual courses and pilot training for gliders. In addition to the FPS-27 school, in February 1974 the CD/AIMS school from CFS Foymount was re-located to CFB Penhold as a lodger unit attached to 43 Radar Squadron. The school taught FYQ-47 and GPA-124 equipment courses as well as the CD/AIMS Supervisors Course and a FYQ-47 Troubleshooting Course. This school was later relocated to CFB Kingston in 1976.

The RCMP had a Police Dog training school south of Innisfail and they would bring their dogs to CFB Penhold for training – using the empty buildings on the base.

The runway and some of the hangers at CFB Penhold were being used by commercial concerns in the early 1970s – and the remaining buildings and hangers were being used by the military. Aircraft were flown by a private company out of CFB Penhold. They were seeding thunderstorms in the area to try and keep the hail hazard down. The pilots did not sleep on the base, but they used motels in Red Deer.

 

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