RCAF Station Cape Scott
5 February 1943- 19 September 1945
(slideshow at bottom of page)
On a drizzly Saturday afternoon, 13 May 2017, a 442 Squadron Cormorant helicopter ferried members of the North Island’s 101 Squadron, 19 Wing Comox, and 888 Wing RCAF Association, to Cape Scott lighthouse. They joined the lighthouse keepers there to dedicate a memorial to the role RCAF Station Cape Scott played in the defense of Canada during WWII. Earlier, a commemorative plaque had been attached to the radar tower foundation that now supports the lighthouse. The plaque tells the station’s history and the post-war transition to a Canadian Coast Guard Lighthouse.
101 Squadron Vice President, Russ Hellberg, briefly explained the why, when, and where of service life at RCAF Station Cape Scott. 19 Wing Commander, Colonel Mike Atkins, noted how the station has been modified since it became a Canadian Coast Guard light station. He pointed out that it remains a vitally important asset to Search And Rescue and maritime security.
Harvey Humchitt Jr has served as the principal light keeper, along with assistant Todd, for seventeen years. He welcomed the delegation and expressed his appreciation for learning about the station’s history during WWII. He also remarked that the dedication was an honour.
101’s bugler, Kristine Bratosh, played Last Post. Piper, Dale Drysdale played the Lament. Two minutes silence were observed, and then Kristine finished the tribute with Reveille. Each person then pinned a poppy, the symbol of remembrance and hope, onto a Canadian flag covering the plaque. Wreaths, symbolizing strength and the circle of life, were laid to show respect for the Canadian service members who have died or served this country. The plaque was then unveiled, and the flag, with its poppies, was presented to Harvey to show appreciation for his work. It is also meant to be a lasting symbol of the dedication.
Harvey showed the delegation around the station, pointing out the WWII buildings. The delegation then boarded the Cormorant and flew back through the rain and cloud to drop off 101 Squadron members at Port Hardy, then on back to Comox.
10 Radio Unit (RU) Cape Scott was one of fourteen RCAF Stations on Northern Vancouver Island, the Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii which served Canada from WW11 to the present. It formed part of the chain of secret radar sites that ran from Alaska to California. These units could detect aircraft up to 150 miles out to sea. With nearly 100% coverage it assured that no enemy was going to get through. While an extremely vital part of the defense strategy it was not glamorous work. There were no action-packed stories like one heard from England or on the fighting front. Instead, it was a story of lonely vigils in remote outposts and the utter boredom that comes from complete isolation. Staff were not allowed to tell their friends and loved ones what they were doing.
RCAF Station Cape Scott had some challenging physical features that had to be overcome as well before 10 Radio Unit (RU) could become operational. Formed on 13 December 1942, Marwell Construction Company of Vancouver and #9 Construction Maintenance Unit (CMU) were tasked to build the station’s infrastructure. It became operational 5 February 1943 and was staffed by roughly seventy men. There were two sites, the Ops site located on the hill, and the camp site located one and a half miles across the sandy neck of land. Travel between the two sites was by truck on a plank road.
There were some amenities but conditions were rough, as was the six month tour length – a long time for a young man far from civilization. It was closed on the 19 September 1945. The radar and some other valuable equipment were removed. The rest was left to disintegrate. The operation site was turned over to the Coast Guard in 1959 and a light house was erected on the old radar foundation, with the power building also being reused.