Find out about little-known Vancouver Island fort

A fort was situated at Yorke Island, north of Courtenay, from 1937 to 1945

A naval gun, with its sights set on the seas. (submitted)

Guest speaker Catherine Gilbert of the University of Victoria will provide insight into the little-known fort at Yorke Island during the Cowichan Historical Society’s general meeting.

The meeting takes place Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church Hall, 5800 Church Rd., off Maple Bay Road, in Duncan. Everyone is welcome.

A fort was situated at Yorke Island, north of Courtenay, from 1937 to 1945, with the intent of blocking Japanese entry to the east coast of Vancouver Island.

Gilbert’s presentation features both humorous and tragic stories, laced with romance. It provides a glimpse into what life was like on the B.C. coast during the Second World War.

Gilbert uses archival photos and artwork from private and museum collections to illustrate Yorke Island’s position and the strategic role it played in Canada’s war efforts.

She reveals why such a seemingly tiny, insignificant island became such an important site for a fort. Much of Gilbert’s research comes from personal interviews conducted with veterans who served at the fort during the war years, and interviews with local residents from Kelsey Bay and Hardwicke Island who recalled what it was like when hundreds of men descended on the communities for the building and manning of the fort.

The construction of the fort began in 1937, two years before Canada joined the war in Europe, and continued until August of 1945 when the war with Japan ended.

The defence of the West Coast was a combined effort of the army, navy and air force. Many maritime vessels belonging to all three forces ventured to and from Yorke Island during the war years to deliver goods and troops while patrolling the waters on the lookout for Japanese submarines.

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