Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CFB Toronto - Avenue Road Detachment: A History

Post Supplied by: Bill Bishop
The following was written by Bruce Forsyth and is used, with his permission, from his web site: Canadian Military History.  With thanks Bruce

Canadian Forces Base Toronto - Avenue Road Detachment:

Originally opened in 1939 as the RCAF Institute of Aviation Medicine, a military laboratory, on the grounds of the Eglington Hunt Club. The Institute's purpose was to conduct secret research on the psychological effects of combat flying. It was here that Dr. Wilbur Franks, under the direction of Sir Frederick Banting, developed the first anti-gravity flying suit and the first human centrifuge for the allied armies. The facility also doubled as the home of No. 1 Initial Training School, who moved here shortly afterwards to train recruits for the war. Administrative offices and barracks were constructed to house the school.
After WWII, the Institute became a Detachment of the newly established RCAF Station Toronto (Downsview).
In 1946, the Headquarters unit of 400 RCAF (Auxiliary) Squadron was formed at the Avenue Road Detachment. The unit remained until 1964 when it moved to RCAF Station Downsview to join the flying section of the squadron. Also at the Avenue Road Detachment were the RCAF Personnel Applied Research Unit, part of the Aircrew Selection Unit at RCAF Station Downsview, the Flying Personnel Medical Establishment and the Institute of Aviation Medicine.

The RCAF Staff School, re-named the Canadian Forces Staff School after 1968, occupied space at the Detachment from 1959 - 1994. The Army's Toronto District Headquarters, formed at Moss Park Armoury in 1970, moved to the Avenue Road Detachment in the mid-1980s and remained until it again moved to Downsview in 1994.

The Avenue Road Detachment closed on 30 June 1994. The Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School currently occupies the former administrative building, extensively renovated and expanded, one of only two buildings that remain. The other, a pre-WWII building, has been converted into condominiums.

The only indicators to the property's past is an old section of fence on the eastern edge of the property that still has a "DND - Do Not Trespass" sign; a sign that is almost completely hidden behind a new wooden fence separating the former detachment and a private residence.

As an interesting historical note, the nosecone section of Avro Arrow RL-206, currently on display at the National Aviation Museum, was smuggled out of the Avro Aircraft plant in Malton and hidden at the Avenue Road Detachment for many years. The Commanding Officer of the Flying Personnel Medical Establishment, Wing Commander Roy Stubbs, provides this prologue to the former aircraft:  "One day after a change of government, the new RCAF Chief of the Air Staff came to inspect our facilities and programs and after lunch, I asked if he would like to see something special. I showed him a piece of the Arrow; cockpit section and engine nacelles and a few other bits. I asked him what we should do with it and he said to keep it hidden until the climate in Ottawa was right, and then he would arrange to have it placed in the National Aeronautical Museum in Ottawa. Eventually this was done and at least a bit of history was saved."
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