Naden Drill Shed coming to an end

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LCdr Mike Erwin, Contributor ~

After 78 event-filled years, the Naden Drill Shed (Building N75) is going out of service in May as the first of many steps in a far-reaching infrastructure renewal program.

The Drill Shed, being centrally located and of a distinctive design, has long been an iconic landmark at the base. It was built in 1941 as a wooden frame on a concrete foundation along the east side of what was then the parade square, and is now the parking lot between N50 and N75, at a cost of $130,000.

The Drill Shed was intended to augment the Drill Hall (building N33, now home to Naval Fleet School (Pacific) Small Arms and the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy) and to provide space for training the burgeoning recruits entering the wartime Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Naval Reserve, and Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve.

The initial structure consisted of just the mansard-style roof, with its steep sides and flat top, and supporting pillars, without the glassed-in bulkheads that have made it so recognizable since their installation prior to 1943.

Although Naden saw a spate of rapid expansion during the period 1940 through 1943, most naval training activities were transferred to HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia partway through the war. This shift left Naden in the unusual situation, particularly during wartime, of having a surplus of facilities. In 1944, the Drill Shed was repurposed and taken over by the Mechanical Training Establishment for use as a vehicle maintenance and training facility. It fulfilled this role until the Mechanical Training Establishment relocated in 1959 when the Drill Shed reverted to its original function.

Over the years, the Drill Shed has been the site of innumerable ceremonial divisions, graduation parades, change of command parades, Guard of Honour practices, sea cadet training weekends, fund raising efforts, trade shows, expos, athletic and sporting meets, Family Fun Days, Canadian Armed Forces Days, and all manner of other activities, all of which have been fundamental to the naval and military community.

It is inspiring to consider the number of promotions, qualifications, and awards that have been celebrated within those windowed walls, or to ponder on the number of times its rafters have resonated to the stirring strains of Heart of Oak, O Canada, God Save the King, and God Save the Queen.

Options for the future of the drill shed site are currently being explored to determine the best use of the area to support the Defence Team at CFB Esquimalt.

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  1. Rod says:

    Although fond memories were had, its time has come. I can remember following dad in on ceremonial occasions, my own spot on the deck as a Malahat member in the 60’s but more importantly what or where will its replacement be. It may have been old and run down but it did have a purpose

  2. Shawn says:

    It should be kept as a historic building.

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