HMCS Protector (1939 - 1964) - Royal Canadian Navy base HMCS Protector, also known as the Point Edward Naval Base, was located next to Sydney Harbour, on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island. It was founded in 1940 and used by the navy during World War II. It was mainly used to provision, protect and repair the various merchant marine convoys to Quebec, Halifax, and the United Kingdom. It was a main combat zone during the Battle of the St. Lawrence and the more general Battle of the Atlantic. It continued to be utilized during the Cold War's early stages. It was decommissioned in 1964 and became the initial facility to house the Canadian Coast Guard College that same year. Currently, the Sydport Industrial Park utilizes the base's former piers and land.
HMCS Protector History
Part of the Harbor Defense of Sydney.
World War II (1939-1945)
During the months prior to the Second World War being declared in 1939, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Patrol Vessel Protector was stationed at Sydney for various policing duties. On 28 August 1939 the Royal Canadian Navy established a small shore facility on the Sydney waterfront. On 22 July 1940, this facility was commissioned as HMCS Protector, taking its name from Patrol Vessel Protector. At the time, navy regulations stated that a naval shore base's designation must use a seaborne ship's name.
HMCS Protector saw intensive use during the war, as Sydney Harbour became the assembly port for the SC (Slow Convoy) series Atlantic convoys, as well as convoys to other major ports in Canada, namely Halifax (SH) and Quebec (SQ). Other convoys that were marshaled by Protector were Sydney-Corner Brook (SB), Sydney-Port aux Basque (SPAB) and Sydney-Greenland (SG). It was the base for the warships that escorted the SC convoys in the western Atlantic. Protector was the focal point for the extensive Sydney Harbour defences that were established to protect against German U-boat attack.
HMCS Protector was initially stationed on the Sydney waterfront and used commercial wharves and buildings along Esplanade Street, where the present armouries and marine terminal are located. On 15 March 1943, a new custom-built shore facility and extensive piers was opened at Point Edward in Edwardsville, Nova Scotia on the opposite western shore of the harbour, and was named HMCS Protector II, while the original was then renamed HMCS Protector I. A Canadian National Railways line linked this new base to the mainline to Point Tupper, Nova Scotia. Numerous convoy supply ships and warships were loaded and serviced at Protector by ship chandlers such as Sydney Ship Supply; at the same time, the navy maintained use of the commercial facilities on the eastern shore in Sydney proper. The base specialised in repair and fitting.
Post World War II (1946-1964)
After the war's end, the navy stopped using the commercial facilities on the Sydney waterfront (eastern side of the harbour). It continued to use HMCS Protector at Point Edward, on the western side of the harbour. During the 1950s, the base was renovated and it became Sydney's second largest employer, after the Dominion Steel and Coal Company's steel plant, with about 650 personnel stationed there. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada government, led by John Diefenbaker, tried to close it in 1958, but it was deemed useful by NATO allies during the early stages of the Cold War. It was finally decommissioned in 1964
In 1965, following the base's closure, the Canadian Coast Guard College was located in some of the unused navy facilities, and used the base's jetties. The college continued to use these facilities throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, until a custom-built campus opened on an adjacent property in Edwardsville in 1981.
The former navy base is now used as an industrial park called Sydport. While the wharves and the streets of the former base remain in much the same configuration, most of the buildings have been either replaced with newer structures or so extensively modified as to be unrecognizable as to their former uses.