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Red Cliff - Past & Present

 

 



Photo: 642nd AC&W Squadron Crest
Source: 
Courtesy Lannis Huckabee
Ref #
 RC1

 

1961 - Red Cliff - What, Where, When, Why?

Initial construction of the Red Cliff radar station started in 1951 on a hill located approximately five miles northeast of Pepperrell AFB (St. Johns, Newfoundland). The location selected for the radar station had once served as a coastal artillery site during World War II. The only remaining part of the World War II coast artillery site at Red Cliff was a single gun placement where the CPS-5 antenna tower was located for the original 108th AC&W Squadron lash-up site. Robert Wilder (cross reference to the St. John's (Red Cliff) photo section) was there for the original construction and operation of both the original CPS-5 and for the CPS-6B "new" site which was further up the hill. When the CPS-5 site was in operation the communications site was behind what was to become the Tech Supply building all the way on top of the hill. Personnel made use of an all fabric "Jameway shelter" with plywood floors for the radio and microwave site.

Since the Red Cliff radar station was to be a part of the North East Air Command (NEAC) this unit was financed by the Americans and the station was originally manned by the 108th AC&W Squadron which arrived in Pepperrell AFB in August 1952. Red Cliff was intended to serve as an Air Defence Direction Centre (ADDC). The 108th installed the initial radar equipment the AN/CPS-5 Search radar and the AN/TPS-1D search radar. The 108th was re-designated as the 642nd AC&W Squadron on August 1st 1953 and the 642nd became operational in June, 1954 making use of the CPS-6B search radar at that time.

As was the case with other Pinetree Line radar stations in Newfoundland and Labrador, the station was supposed to be a self-contained, self-supporting unit that would operate on a continuous basis. The station was somewhat limited to its acreage since it was located on top of a hill. Because of its open location and the proximity to water, the station was subject to severe winds, snow accumulations and extremely low temperatures. The structures included barracks, shops, warehouses, dining halls, recreational areas as well as the operations centre.

Radar operators in the AC&W Squadron tracked the movements of aircraft sighted and passed speed, height and direction information to a Direction Centre (DC) and fighter interceptor squadrons. Fighter aircraft could be airborne in minutes after an alarm was given, and they closed in on unidentified planes by means of direction provided by the radar operators. Another of the Red Cliff functions was furnishing navigational aid to friendly aircraft operating in the area. Their detection of May-Day calls contributed to quick search and rescue efforts.

It was subsequently determined that there was inadequate radar coverage between Red Cliff and St. Anthony. To increase low altitude coverage, and to provide some degree of back-up to the main Pinetree Line radar stations, approval was obtained in 1955 for the construction of some small light-weight radar stations making use of the AN/FPS-14 radar equipment. These smaller AC&W units were to be known as gap fillers. A gap filler, reporting to Red Cliff, was constructed at Elliston Ridge (Bonavista Bay). This unit was known as Det. #1 642 AC&W Squadron and was identified as site number N-22B. This unit became operational at the end of April 1957 and it was closed in 1960. The gap filler at Elliston Ridge was somewhat larger than other gap fillers since its mission included additional functions.

The Red Cliff AC&W operation was similar to other sites except that more functional responsibility was given to the station because of its close proximity to the NEAC (and, in 1960, the 64th Air Division) headquarters at Pepperrell AFB. At the time that Red Cliff was phased out in October 1961 there were 140 military and 106 civilians at this location.

When the Red Cliff AC&W station closed, the US Navy at Argentia reconstructed and equipped one large building as an unmanned Radio Communications Centre. While this was an elaborate operation, its usefulness was short lived when more sophisticated radio equipment came into use with long-range capabilities.

Apart from the specialized radar and radio equipment, all the assets, including the buildings and their contents, were turned over to Crown Assets for disposal. Only shells of buildings remain at Red Cliff.

Source: Pinetree Line Website
Written by: Ren L'Ecuyer and Robert Wilder
Courtesy of:
Margaret L'Ecuyer and Robert Wilder:


 

Photo: Base diagram of 108th/642nd AC&W Squadron - 1953.
Source: 
Courtesy Robert Wilder
Ref #
 RC2

-1952-

Photo: Power Plant (foreground) Mess Hall (left) and Steam Plant - November 1952
Source: 
Courtesy Robert Wilder
Ref #
 RC3

Photo: Butler Building (Dispensary, Mail Room, Rec Hall and MARS Station) - November 1952.
Source: Courtesy Robert Wilder
Ref #
 RC4

Photo: Crane (K2CPT) in Radio Room (BC-639 VHF receiver) at Comm site - October 1952.
Source: Courtesy Robert Wilder
Ref #
 RC5

 

-1955 -

Photo: Brooks Hill with Operations site in distance - September 1955.
Source: Courtesy Brooks Hill
Ref #
 RC6


Photo: Red Cliff Air Force Station - September 1955.
Source: Courtesy Brooks Hill
Ref #
 RC7
 


-1960 -

Photo: A/1C Lannis Huckabee standing in front of the Radar tower - November 1960. View as seen from the barracks.
Source: Courtesy Lannis Huckabee.
Ref #
 RC8

Photo: Orderly Room at Red Cliff Air Station - 1960.
Source: Courtesy Wayne Setzer. 
Ref #
 RC9

-1966 -

Photo: Motor Pool and "Chow Hall" - 1966.
Source: Courtesy Lannis Huckabee.
Ref #
 RC10
 


- Off Time -

Photo: The 1959 The softball team
Source: Courtesy  Roger Peacock
Ref #  RC20

Photo: Trout Fishing
Source: Courtesy  Roger Peacock   
Ref #
 RC21

 

There wasn't much to do on the site after work for the men who stayed there but there was a military bus that ran regularly between the site and Pepperell.
During their off time they rode the military bus to Pepperell Air Force Base in St John's. They went to the movies on the base or the Airmen's Club to play cards, listen to music, dance, etc. Also they went to the local ice hockey games in St John's, trout fishing in the area,  deep sea tuna fishing out of St John's,  and hiked around the hills at Red Cliff.
 

Source: Roger Peacock

-Today -

Photo: Red Cliff
Source: 
Courtesy Bitstop.ca
Ref #
 RC11



Photo: Red Cliff by Air May 2005
Source: Mr. Tony Roberts

Ref #
 RC12


Photo: Red Cliff by Air May 2005
Source: Mr. Tony Roberts

Ref #
 RC13


Photo: Red Cliff by Air May 2005
Source: Mr. Tony Roberts

Ref #
 RC14


Photo: Red Cliff  (Taken 2003)
Source: 
Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society
Ref #
 RC15

 

Red Cliff Radar Station

There is the main section of the station at the top of Red Cliff that consists of the base of the radar tower, Operations Building, power and steam plant as well as a bunch of building foundations. The first thing you'll see when you come up the hill is the back wall of the former motor pool building where they used to store the trucks and other vehicles. Down the hill there is the original site which consists of a radar building and the WWII underground battery where there used to be a coastal artillery gun. The main building has many rooms that are quite dark and filled with junk. There is a huge underground water tank between the road and the former steam plant. The water was put through the steam plant to provide heat to all of buildings on the site. The water tank is now empty except for some garbage that people have thrown down there over the years. There are iron ladder rungs leading down into the tank. It's actually quite cold down there because it's underground. Inside there are four cement pillars holding up the roof of the tank. The whole station has basically been abandoned since '61. When the radar station was closed basically EVERYTHING was removed and taken to Harmon AFB except for the heating and electrical equipment. After the USAF left in 1961 the Canadian military and American military reused one of the buildings as an unmanned radar station for a few years. Most of the buildings are now gone and half of the ones left are falling down.

Source: Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society
 

Photo: Gun Battery at Red Cliff  (Taken 2003)
Source: 
Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society
Ref #
 RC16

 

Red Cliff Coastal Artillery Site
This site was chosen by the US Military in 1941 as well as 10 other locations in Newfoundland. The area wasn't occupied until 1943. The original site consisted of a large ammo bunker, underground gun battery and 2 large underground rooms. The site was deactivated after WWII but was reused during the cold war as the CPS-5 Radar site in the 1950's. Right now there is a fairly big building from the Radar site there which has a caved in roof. The gun battery has the metal hatch removed so you can climb down in there and see where the gun was located and check out the hundreds of shotgun shells that litter the floor. The battery is on the edge of a huge cliff. The big bunker has had the door blasted off so you can do inside and check it out. It's empty of course but most of these bunkers in other areas are always locked up.

Source: Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society

 

Photo: Red Cliff Dam, off Lower Rd. (Taken in 2003)
Source: 
Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society
Ref #
 RC17

 

Red Cliff Dam
This damn was built in 1951 to serve the USAF Radar station on Red Cliff. The water was pumped up hill to Red Cliff via pump houses along the way to the station's steam plant which heated the facility. As far as we know the only pump house left standing is the one next to the dam. There is only the foundation left to another one on the road to the lower section of Red Cliff.  It looks like the only way into the pump house is through a hatch in the roof similar to the one that was on the top of the coastal defense gun bunker on the lower section of Red Cliff. To find the dam just drive down Lower Rd. from Outer Cove Rd and there is a path into the woods on the right, before you get to Macdonald's Place which is also on the right. It's easy to tell the dam was built by the same people as the radar site because the cement has the exact same look as the buildings up on the radar station. It's not the most exciting place to visit but it's interesting since it's part of the Red Cliff radar complex.

Source: Courtesy Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society

 

I would like to Thank the following People/Groups for helping me with this section on Red Cliff:
  • Mr. Robert Wilder, Radio Operator was at USAF Red Cliff from 1952-1953 and 1956-1957
  • Mr. Wayne Setzer, Radar Maint was at USAF Red Cliff from November 1959 through April 1961.
  • Mr. Lannis Huckabee, Radar Operator was at USAF Red Cliff from 1960-1961
  • Mr. Brooks Hill, Radar Maint was at USAF Red Cliff from late August to early November 1955
  • Mrs. Margaret L'Ecuyer and her late husband Ren L'Ecuyer, Mrs. L'Ecuyer who has now taken over the operation of the website Pine Line that was created by her late husband.
  • Mr. Tony Roberts, For the Aerial photos of 642th ACW radar site at Red Cliff He was recently involved in the construction of a new communications tower at the Red Cliff.
  • Mr. Roger Peacock,  A/2c in the orderly room. was at USAF Red Cliff from September 1958 to March 1960
     
  • Pinetree Line Website
  • Forgotten Newfoundland - Newfoundland Urban Exploration Society Website
  • Bitstop.ca Website
  • Mr. Wayne L. Setzer Website, of 642 AC&W Squadron

 

This section is Dedicated to the memory of
Mr. Ren L'Ecuyer
who through his work with the Website "Pinetree Line" has help keep the history of sites like Red Cliff alive for future generations.



Original content is Copyrightę2004-14 by Kevin Elliott.
This site has no affiliation with The Town of LB-MC-OC, it is strictly a personal website.