Esquimalt guardhouse new home to army cadets

Move marks a return of army presence at CFB Esquimalt’s Work Point

Army cadet Sgt. Curtis Whittla

Army cadet Sgt. Curtis Whittla

Laughter fills the room where five friends sit. Their dark green uniforms stand out against the milky white walls of the new home of the largest army cadet corps on the Island.

The teenage boys quickly set to work studying the lessons before them.

The 59-year-old corps relocated to the 121-year-old guardhouse at the entrance to CFB Esquimalt’s Work Point property in November.

The move will be officially celebrated Tuesday (Jan. 31), marking the cadets’ happy return to their former home at Work Point, after four years spent sharing space at High Point Church in Vic West.

“We like this building a lot more,” said 15-year-old cadet Sgt. Curtis Whittla. “It’s just ours.”

The youth with 2483 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps say they feel more connected to their corps’ history.

Until 1994, Work Point was home to the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry before it moved to Calgary, then Edmonton.

The guardhouse passed from the Department of National Defence to Transport Canada, before it was sold in 2005 to Esquimalt First Nation and the Songhees Nation. It has largely sat empty for years.

When the cadets moved in, they were thrilled to find two jail cells that were used when Work Point was home to one of the first units of the Royal Canadian Artillery. The building dates back to 1891.

“I think it’s nice to be back in a building with military history,” said 15-year-old cadet Sgt. Alastair Dillistone.

The move caps off much effort spent building the corps from 12 members in 2008 to 50 today. The male and female youth, ages 12 to 18, come from across Greater Victoria to learn from seven instructors.

“I’m happy, excited, thrilled,” Capt. Madeleine Dahl, the corps’ commanding officer, said of the move. “It’s definitely going to build on our success.”

The guardhouse serves as the home base to the cadets’ adventure-training program, but cadets also hone their skills at the Work Point gym and parade square on weeknights and weekends.

“It’s definitely where we belong as a cadet corps,” said 16-year-old cadet Sgt. Tyler Calhoon-Cardinal.