Suffield Experimental Station

Coordinates: 50°16′16.83″N 111°10′23.39″W / 50.2713417°N 111.1731639°W / 50.2713417; -111.1731639 The military research facility located 5 km (3.1 mi) north of Suffield, Alberta, operated under the name of the Suffield Experimental Station (SES) from 1950 to its renaming to the Defence Research Establishment Suffield in 1967.


Experimental Station SuffieldEdit

The military research facility located 5 km (3.1 mi) north of Suffield, Alberta, operated under the name of Experimental Station Suffield (or the Field Experimental Station) from its inception into 1941 to its renaming to the Suffield Experimental Station in 1950.

When France fell to the Axis Powers in 1940, the British lost access to the joint British/French experimental station located in the Sahara at Beni Ounif, two hundred miles south of Oran. Following the loss of the Algerian experimental station, the Canadian Government indicated that it was willing to provide an alternative location. In October 1940, the Superintendent of Experiments at Porton Down, England, Mr. E. Ll. Davies, arrived in Canada to discuss the issue with Lt. Colonel Morrison and Dr. Otto Maass. Of the sites considered; Tracadie NB, Northern Quebec, Northern Ontario, Brandon, Manitoba, and Maple Creek, Saskatchewan; Suffield, Alberta was selected.[1] The area, which was given the name the Suffield Block, contained one hundred and twenty-five farms plus additional lands that were mostly owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Hudson's Bay Company. A small nucleus of British scientists arrived at the experimental station in the spring of 1941.[2]

Experimental Station Suffield, under the administration of the Canadian Army, commenced operations on June 11, 1941 as a joint British/Canadian biological and chemical defence facility. The name appears on several reports from the period and was most likely following a British naming convention. By the end of the Second World War, the station employed 584 personnel[3] trained in chemistry, physics, meteorology, mathematics, pharmacology, pathology, bacteriology, physiology, entomology, veterinary science, mechanical and chemical engineering. In 1946, the station was placed completely in the hands of the Canadian Army when the British withdrew their support. The responsibility for administrating the station, including the Suffield Block, was transferred to the Defence Research Board[4][5] on April 30, 1947 by Order in Council PC 101/1727. In August 1950, the station was renamed to the Suffield Experimental Station (SES).

Chief Superintendent Tenure
E.Ll. Davies 1941 to 1947

A note on the Defence Research Board:[2] Based on the recommendations of Dr. Solandt, Director General of Defence Research, an Order in Council was signed on October 17, 1946, that created the Interim Defence Research Board. The four interim board members were Dr. C.H. Best, Dr. Otto Maass, Dr. P.E. Gagnon, and Colonel R.D. Harkness with Dr. Solandt as the chairman. The first meeting was held on December 16, 1946. On March 28, 1947, Bill 19, which amended the National Defence Act of 1927, became law and legally established the Defence Research Board.

A note on the joint British/Australian "Australian Field Experimental Station (AFES)":[6][7] AFES was constructed at Gunyarra, a railway siding about 12 miles south of Proserpine, Queensland in 1944. AFES was established to continue the research and experimental work carried out by the Australian Chemical Warfare Research and Experimental Section (A.C.W.R. & E.S.) at Innisfail, Queensland in 1943/44. Activities at this Station continued until the end of the war. For some time it was placed in a care and maintenance situation but was finally dismantled.


Control of Experimental Station Suffield was transferred from the Canadian Army to the Defence Research Board (DRB) on April 30, 1947 by Order in Council PC 101/1727.[2] In August 1947, approval was given for the construction of 60 prefabricated housing units at a site named after the Honourable J.L. Ralston. Due to delays, major construction did not complete until 1953.

Suffield Experimental Station came into official existence when Experimental Station Suffield was renamed in August 1950. The station was responsible for the administration and operation of the 2690 square kilometre Suffield Block. The DRB's annual report for 1951[8] listed various major construction projects in progress at station: Shopping and Recreation Centre, Transport Garage, CMHC Housing (76 homes), the Ralston School (a Recognized Federal Heritage Building), and a Fire Hall. The designs for the Central Laboratory were to be completed by December, 1951. On September 29, 1955, the Central Laboratory (Building 1) was opened by Major General William M. Creasy, Commanding General, U.S. Army Chemical Corps[3] and is now a Recognized Federal Heritage Building. In July 1967, the Suffield Experimental Station was renamed to the Defence Research Establishment Suffield (DRES).

Chief Superintendent Tenure
Dr. H.M. Barrett 1947 to fall 1949
Dr. E.A. Perren fall 1949 to 1951
Dr. H.M. Barrett 1951 to 1952
Dr. G.O. Langstroth 1952 to Sept 1957
Mr. A.M. Pennie Sept 1957 to ?
Mr. E.H. Bobyn September 1964[9] To 1968

Large explosive eventsEdit

  • A 100-ton detonation occurred on 3 August 1961[10]
  • The Snowball 500-ton detonation (hemisphere form) on 17 July 1964[11] formed an 87-meter diameter crater[12]
  • The Distant Plain series of explosive and detonable gas tests up to 100 tons from July 1966 to August 1967[13]
  • The Prairie Flat 500-ton detonation (spherical form)[14]

These experiments were meant to simulate and study nuclear weapon detonation effects including airblast, ground shock, cratering and effects on military targets.


  1. ^ D.H. Avery, The Science of War - Canadian Scientists and Allied Military Technology During the Second World War, University of Toronto Press, 1998
  2. ^ a b c D.J. Goodspeed, A History of the Defence Research Board of Canada, 1 Jan 1958
  3. ^ a b Dinosaurs to Defence - A Story of the Suffield Block
  4. ^ Dr. O.M. Solandt, The Defence Research Board, The First Four Years: An Address to the Staff of the Defence Research Board in Ottawa Marking the Occasion of the Board's Fourth Birthday, 30 March 1951
  5. ^ Dr. O.M. Solandt, Defence Research in Canada, 11 May 1951
  6. ^ G. Plunkett, Chemical Warfare in Australia - Australia's Involvement in Chemical Warfare 1914 - 1945, Australian Military History Publications
  7. ^ B. Goodwin, Keen as mustard, Univ. of Queensland Press, 1998
  8. ^ Annual Report of the Chairman, Defence Research Board, September, 1951
  9. ^ "Edward Bobyn is director of research establishment", The Ukrainian Weekly, 7 October 1972
  10. ^ Dobbie, Clyde B.; Hamilton, Stuart R. (April 1963), Electromagnetic Measurements on Canadian 100 Ton TNT Explosion, Edgerton Germeshausen and Grier Inc
  11. ^ G.H.S. Jones, Complex Craters in Alluvium, Defence Research Board, 1977
  12. ^ Neville J. Price, Major impacts and plate tectonics, University College London, 2000
  13. ^ Ingram, James K. (1 May 1971). "Operation Distant Plain, Events 1, 2A, 3, 4, and 5: Project 3.02A, Earth Motion and Stress Measurements". Defence Technical Information Center. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  14. ^ Hancock, Paul L.; Skinner, Brian J.; Dineley, David L. (2000), The Oxford Companion to The Earth p677, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-854039-6