Sixth Field Engineer Squadron rebuild history
NEWS photo Mike Wakefield
HONORARY Lt. Col. Bill Dow stands in front of the Royal
Engineers' Cabin, built in 1860 to house members of the British
unit as they cut the Canada-U.S. border.
By Marcie Good
IT'S only a small rustic log cabin, scarcely larger
than a garden shed.
But it represents an important piece of the history of this
In 1859 members of the Royal Engineers were posted to British
One of their jobs was to carve a strip through the wilderness along
the 49th parallel to mark the Canada-U.S. border.
This cabin, now standing beside the Lt. Col. J.P. Fell Armory on
Forbes Ave., was once a humble home to about a dozen of the engineers.
When they were marking the border between 1859 and 1864, similar
log cabins were built about every 50 kilometres, starting at Point
Roberts and going east. This is the last one standing.
"In those days you chop the old tree down, square it up, put the
notches in, and away you go," said Honorary Col. Bill Dow of the Sixth
Field Engineer Squadron, who worked on getting the funds together to
bring the cabin to North Vancouver.
"In the middle of winter with the fireplace going it would have
been a cosy place," he says, looking around the 180-sq.-ft. cabin.
But the story of the Royal Engineers went beyond the little cabins
in the woods.
After their posting ended in 1864, about half of them stayed in
British Columbia to take advantage of land they were offered.
Members of the unit opened up large areas of the province, building
highways, planning towns, surveying land, and producing maps.
Some of the roads they built include Vancouver's South Marine
Drive, Burnaby's Kingsway and Canada Way.
Several engineers formed New Westminster's first police force.
"They were the ones that really opened up this place," said Dow.
It was also the impact of the British engineers that helped Lt.
Col. Fell convince the Ministry of National Defence to form the Sixth
Field Engineer Squadron in North Vancouver in 1914.
That connection makes the armoury a perfect home for the cabin,
which stood on a farmstead in the Upper Fraser Valley until 1986 when
the landowner wanted to tear it down.
For a time it was at the military museum in CFB Chilliwack.
Dow secured a B.C. Community Spirit Grant of $4,500 to help save
Members of Dow's unit recently went to Chilliwack and took it
apart, log by log.
Led by Capt. Grant Acheson and Capt. Jim Stewart, they reassembled
it on a concrete foundation in North Vancouver and have restored the
This Saturday, Col. Anthony F. George of the Royal Engineers in
Monmouthshire, England, will join the unit for the official opening of
the cabin at 3 p.m.
The ceremony will be followed by a reception in the Vimy Ridge
Those who wish to attend can call 986-1722.
By next year, members of the unit hope to have the cabin open to
"It's going to be great," said Dow.
"Over a period of time it's going to be part of the ambience of the