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Springbrook entrance sign

Red Deer Regional Airport

mounted Harvard trainer

Springbrook homes

former Mynarski Park

Springbrook fire hall

summer cadet training

hockey academy

Oak St. turnaround playground

mounting the Harvard








































































 


Penhold base crest with Q-F brandPenhold Base 1939-1995

In 1939, farmland was purchased and land cleared for the future Penhold base. In 1940, the base opened as a RCAF Manning Depot with one building while 5 hangars and 31 other buildings were being constructed well into 1941 including barracks, service buildings and administrative buildings. Six hard surfaced runways 900 to 1075 metres long made up the airfield. Two additional hangars were built for a total of seven.

 

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan logoIn August 1941, the base was handed over to the RAF and No. 36 Service Flying Training School was transferred from Britain, one of several schools established as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), an agreement with Britain to train Commonwealth pilots, a key component in Canada's contribution to the Second World War. Relief fields were set up at Innisfail and Blackfalds.
 
The first two trains arrived in Penhold in August bringing in 600 officers and personnel.
 
Airspeed Oxford trainerThe facility started with 20 training aircraft with others in reserve. The trainers were primarily twin-engined Airspeed Oxfords. Eventually there were close to 200 Oxford trainers being used.

 
Trainees had already learned basic flying on light aircraft at an Elementary Flying Training School (one of which was established at Bowden). Once at Penhold, trainees took more advanced flying and navigation. At times, four courses of 60 pilots each trained at once, each course lasting 12 weeks in the beginning but extended to 20 weeks as time went on, in part due to inconsistent weather conditions.
 
During the next three years, 42 classes of 35 to 60 pilots were trained and well over 1,200 pilots graduated, the majority being British. Aircraft crashes accounted for 20 fatalities during the period. The average station strength was 1,400 personnel but reached almost 1,500 early in 1944.
 
Hangar 6 today circa 1941The station was officially handed back to the RCAF in October 1944 and was promptly closed down. The only personnel to remain were a small RCAF Signals Unit. Most of the surplus electronic equipment was destroyed in 1945 when the base was taken over by the Department of Transport. Many of the buildings were demolished or disposed of through Crown Assets. However, a few of the buildings remained, including all of the hangars. Surplus Lancaster bombers were stored on site for a time until disposal. In 1951, the airport hosted an airshow that attracted 5,000 people.
 
RCAF North American Harvard trainerIn the early 1950s, the federal government decided to rehabilitate the station under an agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Additional land was expropriated and work commenced in 1951 to construct new buildings and services for RCAF No. 4 Flying Training School. The base officially opened with limited facilities in May 1952 using mostly existing buildings.
 
Harvards over Central AlbertaRehabilitation work, including the repair of runways and aprons, and new construction continued until the summer of 1954.

 

The first NATO trainees arrived from Calgary in May 1953 even though many of the buildings were still under construction and accommodations were limited. The first group consisted of 22 RCAF trainees, 10 RAF, 6 French Air Force, 7 Italians and 5 Royal Netherlands Air Force.
 
Training began with the 20 North American Harvards (Mark 4) on site although the first trainer to arrive was a Beechcraft Expeditor. A mass formation of 44 Harvards flew in from Calgary in July. Between July 1954 and February 1955, 18 Beechcraft T-34A Mentors were used as trainers as an experiment but were found to be unsatisfactory. Innisfail Relief Field, used for some training, was maintained by the Penhold base.
 
Mynarski Park housing todayWork on the 243-unit married quarters that comprised of houses, duplexes and townhouses, began in September of 1953. A year later, the PMQs were officially dedicated as Mynarski Park, in memory of Andrew Mynarski, VC, the Second World War air gunner who had lost his life trying to rescue his crewmate in a burning Lancaster.
 
Andersons of Craigmyle School prior to demolitionAt the same time, the base school was dedicated as Andersons of Craigmyle School in memory of three Red Deer brothers who died in active service with the RCAF, also during the Second World War. In the early 1960s, additional married quarters were built in Red Deer in a complex known as Vista Village.
 
The complete loss of Hangar 5 by fire, occurred in April 1954 when 9 Harvards and an Expeditor were destroyed. It was not rebuilt.
 
During the next several years, additional new buildings and facilities were constructed. Extensive landscaping and tree planting was carried out. A curling rink was built in 1958. A new and larger control tower went into operation in 1961. A new outdoor swimming pool opened in 1964.
 
Harvard 370 mounted at Red Deer Regional AirportThe NATO agreement came to an end with the final class in the spring of 1959. However, training on Harvards continued until 1965 primarily for the RCAF but also for the Royal Canadian Navy and pilots from around the world. The role as a flying training school ended in 1965 when the last RCAF Harvard to be flown in an operational mission flew at the Penhold base. It was trainer 20370, built at Fort William Ontario in 1952. Purchased by the City of Red Deer, it was presented to the base in 1968 where it was displayed for several years at the main gate. It was later given to the Red Deer Flying Club for restoration and maintenance and is currently mounted at the entrance to the Red Deer Regional Airport.
 
The City of Red Deer took over operation of the airport in 1966 as the Red Deer Industrial Airport and the province extended the runway in 1980.
 
Penhold radar siteAlthough the airfield ceased functioning as a military air training facility, the base continued with a variety of other responsibilities. The base was named CFB Penhold in 1966 as a result of armed forces unification.
 
In 1961, a long-range radar station had started construction about 24 kilometres east of the base as part of the Pinetree Line of NORAD. No. 43 Radar Squadron formed in 1962 and operated out of a hangar until the new site opened in 1964. Most radar personnel lived at Vista Village in Red Deer until the mid 1970s. The radar site closed in 1986.
  
The first ground was secretly broken in the summer of 1961 for a 77,000 sq.ft. semi-underground earth-covered concrete Regional Emergency Government Headquarters and Provincial Warning Centre bunker east of the base.
 
Sometimes referred to as the 'Diefenbunker' it became operational in 1964. Until the bunker was ready to move into, equipment and a skeleton staff operated out of one of the barracks on the base. A secondary bunker was built several miles away.
 
bunker prior to demolitionThe 743 Communications Squadron was formed in 1966 and was also housed in the bunker. The facility officially became non-operational in 1993 and the 743 was relocated to CFB Calgary in 1994. The bunker was sold to private interests in 1995, bought back and demolished in 2001.
 
Several other activities occurred on the base including the Air Defense Command School, the Refrigeration Maintenance School, the Hail Research Project, RCMP Training School, the Canadian Forces Junior Leader School and the Air Reserve National Training School.
 
summer cadet flag ceremonyIn addition, the base continues to host the annual regional Air Cadet summer camps that had been held since the Second World War. In the 1960s, they were joined by the national scholarship flying programme on gliders and light aircraft that lasted for several years. In 1966, the cadet summer camp was expanded to include all of western Canada and has served approximately 1,700 cadets since.

Springbrook entranceThe base was downgraded to a detachment of CFB Edmonton in 1990 and decommissioned and closed in 1994. Mynarski Park, the residential portion of the base, was renamed Springbrook in 1995 when private developers purchased the lands from the Department of National Defense. The former military base area was sold to a different developer who referred to the area as Harvard Park.
 
In 1999, the airport operations were taken over by the newly-created Red Deer Regional Airport Authority, a partnership of the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.

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