Perth Inside Out: Army Signals Corps base was known to few Perthites

This artist’s sketch of CFS Carp Richardson Detachment accompanied a story in the Ottawa Citizen of May 31, 2015, by Andrew King: “The hunt for our other Diefenbunker.” Photo credit: Andrew King, the Ottawa freelance writer and artist.
Posted on: March 13, 2019

A Canadian Army facility in one of Perth’s neighbouring townships from 1962 until 1994 was known to few local residents, and even fewer have ever set eyes on it. There was little to see anyway, as most of it was underground.

The Richardson bunker, and installations at Dunrobin and Almonte, were satellites of the well-known “Diefenbunker” at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Carp. Richardson was officially known as “CFS Carp Richardson Detachment.”

While the detachments at Dunrobin and Almonte were remote antenna receiver stations, each with a small radio building and antennas, Richardson was very much like its Carp mother, except it was half the size. It was still connected to Mother Carp by the world’s longest umbilical cord – a 50 kilometer landline.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer Bill McKenzie was Detachment Commander of the base from 1970 to 1974, as part of his 30 year career with Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. Like most military personnel who were posted to Richardson Detachment, McKenzie gave substantial time contributing to the community. He started the Perth Legion Fastball team when he came to Perth, and still lives in his adopted community.

McKenzie recalled the underground bunker had four 60kw diesel generators, and approximately 20 civil servants and a number of military personnel worked there. The military information is still protected under the Official Secrets Act, and anyone who was cleared for “Top Secret” is bound by those laws for life. Those laws are contained in what is now known as The Official Secrets Act (Canada) 1981.

The natural curiosity of local civilians led to many questions of McKenzie over the years about what went on at the base, and the pat answer was: “Sorry, I am not allowed to discuss that.”

The Ottawa Citizen of May 31, 2015, carried a story by freelance writer Andrew King: “The hunt for our other Diefenbunker”, in which King has outlined much of the Richardson detachment history. He was able to locate the site on his own using some clever detective work, including satellite mapping.

King’s excellent article reads something like the script for the movie “2012”, a scary tale about a post-apocalyptic world: “Heading along the nearest road to the site, a stretch of rusted barbed-wire fencing became visible, followed by a rusted metal gate and an illegible weathered plywood sign marking an entrance to something down an overgrown asphalt road.

“After a two-kilometre hike down this crumbling, overgrown road, I came across an old parking lot. Passing a variety of odd ruins that included transmitter cables, anchor pads and other electronic equipment strewn about, I saw what I needed to conclude this was the site of the second bunker: A mound of earth approximately 100 feet square and 15 feet high with sealed hatch ports, concrete entrance walls and old ventilation shafts.”

King concludes his story: “Sealed up and silent, this remote second bunker ground continues to be shrouded in secrecy. Its adversary is no longer the blast of a nuclear bomb, but the encroaching elements of nature that will one day consume this
relic from our Cold War past.”

Much of the history is also documented on the website: ​ by Bruce Forsyth: “Following the end of the Cold War, most of the Diefenbunkers were decommissioned, including CFS Carp and the Richardson Detachment in 1994. Communications functions were taken over by CFS Leitrim outside of Ottawa. The detachments at Richardson, Dunrobin and Almonte were all abandoned.”

Forsyth points out that Richardson was: “One of several government bunkers built across Canada as a part of a continuation of government program. These facilities were designed to withstand a near-hit from a nuclear explosion. Each underground facility had entrances through massive blast doors at the surface, as well as extensive air filters and positive air pressure to prevent radiation infiltration. Underground storage was built for food, fuel, fresh water, and other supplies for the facilities which were capable of supporting several dozen people for a period of several weeks.”

Another source of public information about those communications facilities is the website ​​, which has declassified descriptions of Signal Transmit Receive And Distribution (STRAD) System, and Telegraph Automatic Relay Equipment (TARE). These were cutting edge technologies at the time, and STRAD had message handling capabilities on a par with the Internet we know today.

The legendary secret base outside of Perth is no more. Land which was once farmed by the early settlers now abandoned like an old movie set. Another piece of precious earth tainted by the debris of an obsolete military installation.

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Article by Terry O’Hearn

One thought on “Perth Inside Out: Army Signals Corps base was known to few Perthites

  1. Diana Bayer

    What about the one in SMiths Falls, under the post office. that is one cool maze of tunnels and rooms. Blast doors, 4 feet of concrete. Way cool space.

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