U.S. in­fra­struc­ture in North Syd­ney not com­pleted in time for First World War

Cape Breton Post - - NORHTSIDE/VICTORIA -

here are at present eight Cana­dian naval rat­ings (sailors) at naval air sta­tion North Syd­ney. They are en­gaged in sen­try duty, and keep­ing up the fires in the men’s two bar­rack build­ings and store­room. There are no United States rat­ings aboard.”

When this re­port was filed, dated Feb. 20, 1919, the First World War had been over for a lit­tle more than three months. Af­ter Armistice Day, Nov. 11, pro­ce­dures were im­me­di­ately put in place to wind up op­er­a­tions in North Syd­ney, and most of the ap­prox­i­mately 200 Amer­i­can ser­vice­men were sent back to the United States. By midDe­cem­ber only a few were left to of­fi­cially su­per­vise turn­ing over the fa­cil­i­ties to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

Of­fi­cials in Ottawa had agreed to pur­chase all air-re­lated ground equip­ment at the two naval air sta­tions in Dart­mouth and Syd­ney. In re­turn, the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment gave Canada, at no charge, 12 Cur­tiss fly­ing boats, and 26 air­craft en­gines. Eight of th­ese sea­planes were left in North Syd­ney.

By this time the two bar­rack build­ings at Kelly’s Beach (Munro Park) had fi­nally been com­pleted, but they were too late to be used. They had been built to ac­com­mo­date about 400 men, with recre­ation and din­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and now they were sim­ply boarded up. They were im­pres­sive struc­tures, two sto­ries on a con­crete foun­da­tion, and were still stand­ing in the 1950s when I was in school. They were, how­ever, put to good use dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Also left in place, at Kelly’s Beach, were a sin­gle storey build­ing that was de­signed as a store­room, and a par­tially com­pleted air­craft hangar that mea­sured 110 by 140 feet. Both of th­ese were on the wa­ter side of Queen Street, not too far from the new wing un­der construction at our se­nior cit­i­zens’ home. Both bar­rack build­ings were on the high side of Queen Street, and their lo­ca­tion is now oc­cu­pied by pri­vate homes.

Had the First World War con­tin­ued into 1919, or even 1920, all the tem­po­rary fa­cil­i­ties at In­dian Beach would have been moved to Kelly’s Beach, which would have be­come the of­fi­cial site of naval air sta­tion North Syd­ney.

When Hal­i­fax au­thor Peter Law­son was re­search­ing his book on naval air sta­tion North Syd­ney, he came upon an item that added a sad post­script to the story of the Kelly’s Beach site. It seems that when this air­craft hangar was be­ing dis­man­tled in 1920, three men work­ing there were in­volved in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent. Ge­orge Galpin and Ge­orge Cousins were se­verely in­jured and Thomas Shaw was killed when the hangar sud­denly col­lapsed on them.

At the end of the war some con­sid­er­a­tion was given to the pos­si­ble fu­ture use of the air sta­tions in Dart­mouth and North Syd­ney. It was sug­gested that the anti-sub­ma­rine sea­planes could be used for fisheries pa­trol, or for coastal de­fence. They might also be used for car­ry­ing the royal mail be­tween Hal­i­fax, Syd­ney, and St. John’s, N.L. Noth­ing, how­ever, would come of th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions.

The of­fi­cial Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence in North Syd­ney, which has been so well doc­u­mented by au­thor Peter Law­son, only lasted for a lit­tle more than four months. Ac­cord­ing to United States mil­i­tary records, naval air sta­tion North Syd­ney opened on Aug. 31, 1918, and closed on Jan 7, 1919.

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