CFB Gagetown

CFB Gagetown

During the onset of the Cold War, Canadian defense strategists recognized the necessity for a suitable training facility for the Canadian Army. This facility would enable brigade and division-sized armored, infantry, and artillery units to train for their role in defending Western Europe as part of Canada’s commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty. The facility required a location relatively near an all-year Atlantic port with appropriate railway connections.

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CFB Gagetown

Existing training facilities from the First and Second World Wars in Eastern Canada (such as Camp Debert, Camp Aldershot, Sussex Military Camp, Camp Valcartier, Camp Petawawa, and Camp Utopia) were relatively small. Hence, a new, larger facility was proposed. Regional economic development planners also saw the potential benefits a military base could bring to the economy of southwestern New Brunswick.

CFB Gagetown

 

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The area proposed for the facility was a large plateau situated west of the St. John River, between the cities of Saint John and Fredericton. The area spanned approximately 60 km in length and 40 km in width, extending from Oromocto in the north to Welsford in the south, and between the St. John River in the east and the South Branch of the Oromocto River in the west.

CFB Gagetown

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This region was primarily home to over 900 families engaged in agriculture and forestry. The variable terrain, consisting of mixed Acadian forest, swamp and marshland, and open farming areas, resembled the North European Plain. The area also features hilly terrains and valleys influenced by the St. Croix Highlands, a part of the Appalachian Mountain range, particularly close to the Nerepis and Oromocto Rivers.

CFB Gagetown

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The land expropriation process commenced in the early 1950s, surprising the local residents who had not been informed about this action until the last moment. The surveying was done strategically to avoid impacting historical communities along the St. John River’s western bank, like Gagetown, Hampstead, and Browns Flat. Nevertheless, it led to the elimination of several communities west of the river, such as Petersville, Hibernia, and New Jerusalem. This event marks the most significant single land expropriation in New Brunswick’s history.

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The base headquarters were established in the northern part of the base, adjacent to the then-small village of Oromocto. Anticipating an influx of service personnel, Oromocto was redesigned into a “planned” town, with hidden electrical utilities and typical residential and commercial clusters similar to larger planned towns like Richmond Hill, Ontario.

The construction of base facilities in Oromocto was made easier with the convenient railway connections provided by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways. A new alignment of the Trans-Canada Highway was constructed on the eastern bank of the St. John River, opposite Oromocto, in the early 1960s. A new highway bridge across the St. John River connected the Trans-Canada Highway to the village of Burton, just south of Oromocto and near the base’s east gate.

CFB Gagetown

The Gagetown Military Camp (or Camp Gagetown) was inaugurated in 1958. It was named after the village of Gagetown, although the base itself was situated west of this historical village and had its headquarters 25 km to the north in Oromocto. The base covers an area of 1,100 square km, with 1,500 km of roads, 900 km of tracks, and 740 buildings. It is the second largest military base in Canada and the largest military facility in Eastern Canada.

CFB Gagetown

In New Brunswick, 5 CDSB Gagetown is the second-largest public sector employer, behind only the province itself, and the third-largest employer overall, behind Irving. The Base and its lodger units provide full-time employment to approximately 6,500 military members, including the Reserve Force, and 1,000 civilians. The Base contributes over 200 million dollars to the local economy and more than 700 million to the provincial economy annually.

The main garrison, located in the town of Oromocto, has a significant impact on the local community. Base employees and their families account for about 75% of Oromocto’s 10,000 residents. 5 CDSB Gagetown provides services, including water and sewer treatment, to the residents of Oromocto.

The total number of personnel at 5 CDSB Gagetown varies significantly throughout the year. The training area and facilities are regularly used by units from other Canadian Armed Forces Bases, Reserve units, Cadets, civilian police forces, and even American military units. On average, an additional 10,000 personnel train annually on the Base.

At its opening in 1958, until the inauguration of CFB Suffield in 1971, Camp Gagetown was the largest military training facility in Canada and the British Commonwealth of Nations.

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