Lysander liaison aircraft flying over the South Island during a World War Two training mission.

SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke a significant regional training site during Second World War

During the Second World War, two army training camps were located in our region, along with a number of lookout posts

Reconnaissance and clandestine missions were among the feats carried out by Lysander liaison aircraft during the Second World War, but the pair shown here flying over southern Vancouver Island were more likely target towing.

Based at Patricia Bay Airport, they were returning home from a mission in cooperation with the Army Training Camp at Otter Point.

During the Second World War, two army training camps were located in our region, along with a number of lookout posts. The Milne’s Landing Camp was near where Edward Milne Community School is today.

The Otter Point Camp was at the foot of Kemp Lake Road, where today you see dozens of closely packed vacation-type homes between Highway 14 and the beach, alongside a café.

This area, part of the Joe Poirier holdings, was open flat land that was used for horse racing and picnicking.

During the struggles of the Great Depression, the site had been set up as a relief camp for unemployed men before it was turned into a military camp in the late 1930s, when it housed the Canadian Scottish Regiment.

While the Canadian Scottish was the first, it was shortly followed by regiments from eastern Canada, such as the Sioux St Marie and Sudbury and the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles.

We’re told by individuals like Velma Jessiman and Fred Shambrook who lived in Otter Point in those years, that many training operations took place at the waterfront and back in the hills, including at Robinson and Tugwell roads.

The two-seater Lysanders were designed by the British Army in the 1930s and by the late 1930s the Royal Canadian Air Force was having them built in Canada. While they are long gone now, a few have been pieced together and rebuilt in Canadian museums.

Fred Shambrook recalls as a youngster sitting on a stump watching not only the Lysanders but bombers such as the Bristol Bolingbroke, which would practice target bombing with sacks of flour.

An interesting facet of the Sooke Region Museum’s operations in the 1970s and 1980s was that veterans would come in from Eastern Canada and ask for help in locating the bases they had trained at during the Second World War.

Another interesting point is that several years ago when Liz Johnson and I were in Ottawa trying to do army research, we were told that there hadn’t been any training camps in Sooke, only in Gordon Head. Thank goodness for local, regional museums which record the actual history, and for people like Brian Butler, who gave us a map of the Milnes Landing Army Camp.

•••

 

Elida Peers is the historian for Sooke Region Museum.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peninsula farm stands open for business with COVID-19 restrictions

Growers hopeful shoppers will support local farms

Income tax deadline looming

2019 individual tax returns are due June 1, June 15 for self-employed individuals

Sooke council approves new funding for chamber of commerce

A $16,000 service agreement to be created

Sooke council delays vote on Whiffin Spit memorial wall

Sooke district council has again delayed a decision to erect a memorial… Continue reading

VIDEO: Langford man battling cancer honored with hot rod, motorcycle procession

Friends and family support Patrick O’Hara on his 73rd birthday

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

Most Read