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Memories of Red Cliff - Gerard Maher - 1958

I started working at Red Cliff Air Station, 642nd Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron in 1958. At the time, I was the only civilian working in the Orderly Room. I started out as Publications Clerk and thence I went to the position of Military Finance Clerk. This was at the request of the 1st Sgt. M/Sgt. Ernest Wilson and I remember it quite clearly. There was a S/Sgt. who was doing the work, made a mess of it, literally, so the 1st Sgt. asked me to do the job. Actually I learned my new position by my mistakes in a very short time, and before I knew it, I had everything in order. Of course, I am not forgetting that Pepperrell Air Force Base was still open, consequently I had some guidance from Base Finance officials. I loved every minute of it and I loved the working conditions. The military personnel with whom I worked were super.

The standard lineup in any of the Pinetree radar site Orderly Rooms would undoubtedly be the same Commander (Major) Adjutant (1st Lt.) 1st Sgt. (MSgt./Tech or Staff). Then there was a Special Orders Clerk, Morning Report Clerk, Publications & Records Clerk, and the Finance Clerk (which I filled). So I guess you could say that was the Orderly Room family.

As you are probably aware, the E8 and E9 (Senior and Chief Master Sgt.) ranks came into being in the early 1960s. It is safe to say thats where the Canadian Forces got their CWO and MWO ranks.

The 642nd AC&W Squadron (Red Cliff Air Station) was just about totally self sufficient, mainly because of its location and also the fact that there was a very large USAF support base about a half hours drive away. We are aware, of course, that the majority of the AC&W Squadrons were remote but this was not always the case. As would be the norm at any AC&W Squadron, Red Cliff had an Orderly Room, Motor Pool, Theatre, Library and Special Services, NCO Club, Jr. Ranks club, Officers Mess, Unit and Tech Supply, Radar Maintenance and Operations Sections. A small support 1876 Radio Relay Squadron was also a part of Red Cliff. The base water supply came from the small community of Outer Cove, approximately three to four miles away. I guess you could say that Red Cliff was nestled in the high hills of Logy Bay overlooking the high seas. It was situated approximately four miles north east of the city of St. John's which had an approximate population of 125,000 when Red Cliff was in operation.

Guard duty was also done at the main gate entrance. It was an excellent area, especially in the summer where you were up so high and you got the winds blowing with lots of sunshine. Everything was just super. It was an excellent tour of duty for the military as everything was at your fingertips and you had access (totally) to the city of St. John's by vehicle.

As already indicated, Red Cliff Air Station was situated approximately 5 miles from the city of St. John's and about the same distance from Pepperrell Air Force Base. To get to Red Cliff, you had to drive through Logy Bay. A military bus was provided for those who did not have their own mode of transportation. When I started to work at Red Cliff I used to get the bus down on the base at Pepperrell and I was transported to Red Cliff. At the end of the day, you took the same bus and were dropped off near your home.

There were about 500 to 600 troops in the vicinity of Red Cliff. Married personnel lived in the nearby community of Logy and in the city of St. John's. There was some base housing for those who qualified. There were sports programs available for the military personnel. Basketball and softball were popular sports and many of the airmen even participated in some of the local leagues within the city of St. John's. Basketball was actually played at Pepperrell AFB and at the RCAF gymnasium in Torbay, which was about five to six miles away. Softball was mostly played on the diamonds at Pepperrell. There were times when some of the U.S. military participated with either the softball or baseball teams in the city. Eventually, Red Cliff entered their own softball team in the St. John's league.

The day when the radar domes or balloons were deflated was indeed a very sad happening. A terribly good thing had come to an end. Today, Red Cliff is just a memory. There are no buildings remaining with the exception of a partial part of the building that housed Radar Maintenance and Operations.--This article is an extract from a letter written by Gerard Maher and was submitted to the Pinetree Line Web site in June 1998.


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