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When Second World War threatened Canada’s west coast, militia answered call

Pacific Coast Militia Rangers formed in early 1940s to keep Canada’s coastal waters safe

Growing fear of an attack from Japan on Canada’s west coast in 1940 fueled the formation of a militia group on Vancouver Island.

As the Second World War raged overseas, and families said goodbye to the men and women joining the effort, those who remembered the First World War spoke of guarding the homefront.

Volunteers from the Albernis, Great Central Lake, Franklin River, Sproat Lake and Camp One stepped up and in early August 1940, more than 80 men showed up for a voluntary drill at Recreation Park. “Alberni district wants its own militia unit,” reads an article from Aug. 15, 1940 in the West Coast Advocate.

While the first gatherings were unofficial, persistence led to the formation of the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers in December 1941. It was made official by a General Order on Aug. 12, 1942 including the PCMR as part of the Canadian Army, according to documents at the Alberni Valley Museum.

There were 25 men in the initial Alberni troop under Commander Ed Cox, historian Jan Peterson wrote in Twin Cities: Alberni-Port Alberni.

Known as “a guerrilla outfit for strengthening coastal defense,” the PCMR or Coast Rangers grew to a force of just under 15,000 at their peak. There were 115 companies formed, including No. 5 Company Port Alberni.

Despite regular training and a heightened level of preparedness,the Coast Rangers were never called into service.

In October 1945, final march pasts were held in Vancouver and in Courtenay as the Coast Rangers were officially disbanded.

“They were invaluable to Canada,” D.C. Abbot, Minister of National Defense, was quoted as saying in the West Coast Advocate.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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