Recently, the 6th Field Engineer Squadron Museum has been cooperating with the Headley Down Nature Reserve Trust (HDNRT) to create a nature park and a memorial to the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) who, in 1941 built a 400-man detention facility called Camp Erie at Headley Down in England.
At the end of the Second World War, housing in the UK was in great demand and for many years the de-commissioned camp buildings were used as temporary housing. Also in later years, some of the land occupied by the former Erie Camp became overgrown with invasive vegetation and some land was used as a refuse landfill.
HDNRT took on the task of reclaiming the land as a nature preserve while at the same time recognizing the wartime presence of the Canadian Army and in particular the RCE. Readers can get more detail on the HDNRT at headleydownnaturereserve.org.uk.
Our museum's historian, LCol Vince Larocque, (Ret'd), has researched the history of Camp Erie and found the following four RCE companies were heavily involved in the construction of Camp Erie:
- 6th Field Company RCE;
- C Company, 2nd Battalion, RCE
- Number 1 Road Construction Company, RCE; and
- 1 Canadian Base Units Construction Company RCE
Over time, other RCE units were involved as well:
- 1st Corps Field Park Company, RCE;
- 2nd Field Company, RCE; and
- 18th Field Company, RCE.
For several months, a dialogue continued between museum representatives Vince Laroque and Col Bill White, (Ret'd), and the chair of HDNRT, Angela Jackson. Gradually the scope, the content and the execution of the project evolved.
June 9th was the official opening of the site. Bill White and Vince Larocque were able to attend the opening and they were joined by many locals who were children during the war and remembered the Canadians of Camp Erie. Also attending were many who, as children, grew up in the camp buildings after the war when the camp was used as temporary housing.
The CMEA joined the museum in sponsoring the costs of a memorial stone at the entrance to the site.