Signal Hill 8" Battery
Signal Hill 8" Battery (1941-1943, 1943-1945) - The Signal Hill 8" Battery was a U.S. Army World War II, 8 inch coastal gun battery supported by nearby Fort Pepperrell in St. John's, Newfoundland. First located on Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland in 1941. Moved circa 1943 to Red Cliff Head, then became known as Red Cliff 8" Battery manned by Battery D, 24th Coast Artillery. Deactivated in 1945 at the end of the war. Also known by its construction number as Battery T-2212 and may have been known as Battery San Juan.
Part of the Harbor Defense of St. John's.
World War II (1939-1945)
The passage of the U.S. Lend Lease Act in March 1941, officially began U.S. material support for Great Britain and commonwealth members. Lend Lease equipment and supplies were ferried across the North Atlantic by merchant ship convoys that gathered and formed at the Newfoundland ports of St. John's and Argentia. As a part of the Lend Lease agreement, Great Britain provided the U.S. with 99 year leases for military bases at these two Labrador ports and some outlying areas. Two U.S. Army bases were built, Fort McAndrew at Argentia and Fort Pepperrell at St. John's, Harmond Army Airfield was built near Stephenville. The U.S. Navy built Naval Air Station Argentia (NAS Argentia) at Argentia. Fort Pepperrell became the site of the Newfoundland Base Command that oversaw U.S. operations in Labrador.
At St. John's, the American troopship Edmund B. Alexander arrived on 29 Jan 1941 with some 1,000 U.S. Servicemen who lived on the ship until May 1941. In May the troops moved into a temporary Camp Alexander where they lived in a tent city while permanent quarters were constructed at Fort Pepperrell.
Signal Hill 8" Battery
The 52nd Coast Artillery received orders to dispatch one battery to the newly established Newfoundland Base Command. Battery D was selected for this mission and in April 1941, it departed for Newfoundland, with two 8" M1888MI/II guns and two railway M1918 barbette carriages, all from Fort Story, Virginia. Fort Story had an extensive network of railway gun emplacements and equipment and these particular guns and carriages were mounted on railway cars or in fixed positions with little preparation. The gun cards indicate that the guns were transferred on 19 April 1941. The battery was based at Fort Pepperill, in St. John's, while its guns were on Signal Hill at the harbor entrance.
Pictures of the guns emplaced on Signal Hill show them out in the open with no protective cover or casemates. A nearby sandbagged structure may have been a field magazine. Also on Signal Hill was a four gun 155mm mobile gun battery, four 3" anti-aircraft guns and sixteen 50-calibre machine guns. The American facilities on Signal Hill came to include some 86 buildings with barracks and support facilites for 478 men.
The two American 8" M1888MI/II guns and two railway M1918 barbette carriages at Signal Hill were relocated to Red Cliff circa 1943, This battery was manned by Battery D, 24th Coast Artillery, under the direct command of Fort Pepperrell. A fire-control observation post (B3/S3), battery command post (DP) and a SRC-296A fire control radar were co-located with the two gun emplacements. One remote base end station (B1/S1) was located at site #11 at East End and a second base end station (B2/S2) was located at site #16 at Flat Rock Point.
Listed in the 31 Dec 1944 Harbor Defense Project, Harbor Defenses Newfoundland Base Command, Tabulation of Seacoast Armament, as mounted on a railway mount "emplaced in concrete".
In the 1950's this site became a USAF radar installation, Red Cliff Air Station, later turned over to Canada.
Current Status Signal Hill Site
No period guns or mounts in place at the Signal Hill site. The Signal Hill 8" Battery was located at the present-day parking lot for Cabot Tower.
Current Status Red Cliff Site
There are some remains of the Red Cliff battery including the underground magazine along with two large rooms and what appears to be the battery command post/base end station (BC/BES). Reports of an underground gun room may have confused the BC/BES as a gun room. These guns could not have been casemated or placed underground and still provide the 360 degree field of fire shown in Exhibit 5A of the 31 Dec 1944 Harbor Defense Project, Harbor Defenses Newfoundland Base Command (see sources below) reproduced here.