British Columbia

Stanley Park's forgotten military history

Stanley Park may seem like a quiet place among the trees to many Vancouverites, but the large park also has a storied military history.

Four things you might not know about Stanley Park's military history

The Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve at the gun emplacement near Ferguson Point during World War I. (City of Vancouver Archives)

Stanley Park may seem like a quiet place among the trees to many Vancouverites, but the large park also has a storied military history.

UBC Professor Emeritus of History Peter Moogk says understanding Stanley Park's military history helps Vancouverites gain insight into what happened on the home front during World War I and World War II.

"It's hard to believe that British Columbia was ever seriously endangered, and it tends to broaden our understanding of what happened," Moogk told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Here are 4 things you may not know about Stanley Park's military roots:

1. Military reserve first, park later

In the mid-1800s, the Royal Navy was looking for a deep sea sheltered port to serve the Lower Mainland.

Moogk says Burrard Inlet was the choice, and the Stanley Park peninsula was in an obvious position to protect it.

The peninsula was designated as a military reserve, with survey work beginning in 1859. It didn't become Stanley Park until 1886.

2. 'Improvised' defence in WW I

Lieutenant H.O. Mock, R.N.V.R. with a large gun battery at Ferguson Point in August or 1914 (City of Vancouver Archives)

When World War I started, Moogk says British Columbians were worried about an attack from across the Pacific because Germany had a fleet of cruisers stationed at Tsingtao, China.

"People were in a high state of alarm, and that's when they improvised defences for the Port of Vancouver," he says.

In Stanley Park, the Royal Navy put in two four-inch calibre guns, which were manned by naval reservists.

3. Park part of defence plans for WW II

When World War II broke out, Moogk says the Pacific Coast was more prepared than it was during the First World War.

Construction started in 1938 to build permanent defences. In Stanley Park, two guns were installed at Ferguson Point.

There was a battery command post, and adjacent barracks where the Third Beach parking lot is now. There were also at least 10 searchlight positions around the harbour.

4. Remnants just below the surface

According to Moogk, there are still reminders of the rich military history of Stanley Park.

The bases of the guns that were installed during the Second World War have been barely covered by grass.

"Late in summer you can still see two perfect circles of burnt out grass, which means the soil's quite shallow there," says Moogk.

One of the searchlight towers is now the lookout near Siwash Rock.


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