Cape Spear Battery
Part of the Harbor Defense of St. John's.
World War II (1939-1945)
Because of its proximity to convoy routes during the Second World War, a 10" gun battery was installed at Cape Spear to defend the entrance to St. John’s harbor.
The Battery was a reinforced concrete 10‑inch coastal gun battery at Fort Cape Spear. It was supplied with obsolete American 10‑inch breech loading M1888 guns mounted on M1894M1 disappearing carriages supplied under the World War II Lend Lease program. The guns and carriages were removed from Battery Harker at Fort Mott and transferred on paper to Cape Spear on 2 May 1941, well before the U.S. entered the war.
Coincidentally the German Battleship Bismark was sunk that same month, on 27 May 1941, all but ending the threat from German capital ships in the north atlantic. The threat from that point on was from submarines and fast surface raiders, very difficult targets for the slow firing 10" guns. St. John's Harbor experienced isolated submarine attacks between 1942 and 1944, some with torpedoes and some by submarine laid mines.
In November 1941 the 10" guns were physically transported and installed at Cape Spear. Although the guns were American, they were initially manned by the 103rd Coast Battery "A" troop, Royal Canadian Artillery. The guns were of little use until February 1942 when the ammunition finally arrived. The Newfoundland Regiment (Home Guard) manned the Camp Spear battery from June 1943 until it was decommissioned on 30 Jun 1945.
The Newfoundland Harbor Defense Project of 31 Dec 1944, which identifies all the seacoast defenses of Newfoundland and prescribes tactical numbers for the active gun batteries, makes no mention of the Cape Spear gun batteries. It is probable that the battery had been placed in a standby status at this point. The on-site interpretive panel indicates that many troops were transferred to the European front by mid-1943. The Newfoundland Regiment personnel manned the site until May 1945 and the last troops departed a month later.
Fort Cape Spear (1941-1945)
Because of the large number of men required to service these guns, barracks and underground passages leading to the bunkers were built to support the troops stationed there. Built off the tunnels were large rooms used for ammunition storage and living areas. Administration buildings, barracks, mess halls, a canteen, and shelters were built nearby as well, some 22 buildings for the Canadian forces. American soldiers manned search lights and a radar station located south of the old Cape Spear Lighthouse.
Cape Spear Radar Station (1942-1944)
One of five U.S. Army World War II radar stations in Newfoundland. The 685th Air Warning Company completed the installation of the SCR-271 radar station at Cape Spear in the early winter of 1943. The station's call sign was "Prime".
Three officers and 49 enlisted men of the 685th AWC were assigned to this unit. All radar information was sent to a plotting center at Fort Pepperrell to track aircraft. The plotting center also sent messages to the radar units concerning lost aircraft or those needing navigational assistance. Both American and Canadian personnel manned the plotting center.
42 RU - Cape Spear Radar Site (1944-1945)
The American 685th AWC operated the site at Cape Spear until 1 Nov 1944 when the site was transferred to the RCAF. The RCAF continued the operation of the radar site, redesigned as the 42 RU - Cape Spear Radar Site, until 20 Jun 1945.
The site was decommissioned on 30 Jun 1945 at the end of the war. Everything possible was removed, including the gun carriages, radar, searchlights, etc. The gun carriages and supports were dismantled and scrapped but the two guns tubes were dismounted and left in place.
Part of the Cape Spear National Historic Site. The guns tubes left behind have now been restored and painted to their original color and interpreted by Parks Canada. Gun tube SN 41 is mounted on a concrete stand. The second tube, SN 3, is not mounted.