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Phone: +1 902-897-3170

our history

Debert’s rich history is almost as old as the land itself. From an ancient occupation, to an important shipping corridor stop, a strategic military base and, finally, a centre for international business, Debert has always played an important role in not only the region but also the world.
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Paleo-Indian Legacy

The Debert Palaeo-Indian National Historic Site is, today, the oldest known and best-recorded Palaeo-Indian site in Atlantic Canada and the most northerly within North America. It gives evidence of the earliest human occupation in eastern North America dating to 10,500-11,000 years ago. The Debert Palaeo-Indian archaeological site was discovered in 1948 by an agriculturalist working at the Department of Agriculture research station in Debert. The ancient inhabitants of Debert were the first people to live on the far north-eastern seaboard of North America. Excavations continue to be funded by the Municipality of Colchester at the site in Debert to protect and expand our knowledge about the people referred to as Saqiwe’k L’nuk in the Mi’kmaw language, meaning ancient people. These people occupied the land now called Nova Scotia between 11,000 and 9,000 before present (BP) during an interval referred to by archaeologists as the Palaeo period. The Saqiwe’k L’nuk are the ancestors of the present-day Mi’kmaq, and they play an important role in the history of Mi’kma’ki, the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw People.

In 2003, a 4.4 kilometre forest trail was developed to share the story of Mi’kmawey Debert. The Mi’kmawey Debert Interpretive Trail can be accessed from Plains Road in the Debert Business Park. The route is marked by illustrated panels about the ancestral sites. Guided tours for students and researchers take place from spring to fall each year and the trail is also open for self-guided use. Plans are well underway for the establishment of the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre connected to the Trail. The Centre’s Elders Advisory Council describes their vision for the facility as “a living place where ancestors roam and where the past and present are connected in our daily lives.” Click here to learn more about Mi’kmawey Debert.

From Defense to Business

Some say the military presence in Debert extends as far back as 1866, when men assembled in the area to train in order to defend the border against Fenian Raiders from the United States. However, Debert’s most significant role in the nation’s military history began in 1938, when the Department of National Defense (DND) acquired land in the community with the intention of constructing a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Flying Station, or aerodrome, which would eventually play a key role in the RCAF’s military programmes during World War II.

But Debert’s military significance didn’t end in 1945 along with World War II. Being a strategic location, a military presence was maintained, and in 1960 construction began in Camp Debert on an underground building that would serve as the Regional Emergency Government Headquarters (REGHQ), later known as the Staff-Receiver building. This construction was in response to Soviet nuclear threats to North America. The HQ contained 340 bed spaces (often called Diefenbunkers) for government personnel in the event of a nuclear attack. The Staff-Receiver building became operational in 1964 and housed the Provincial Warning Centre and 720 Communication Squadron.

  • 1938

    The Department of National Defence acquired land in Debert, Nova Scotia, to build a Royal Canadian Air Force aerodrome.

  • 1940

    DND purchased an adjacent property to build an army camp. Construction began on both the aerodrome and army camp in November.

  • 1941

    The RCAF aerodrome and Camp Debert were finished construction in April.

  • 1941-1945

    During World War II, the RCAF aerodrome was used as a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan facility for training air crew.

    Camp Debert served an important role as a staging area for armed troops and hosted about 168 military units prior to their departure for overseas duties. The camp also served as a training centre for formed units. The camp had the capacity to accommodate 20,000 fully equipped troops.

    RCAF Reconnaissance and Navigation Schools were also located in Debert during the War and made use of the aerodrome.

  • 1945

    Camp Debert and the RCAF aerodrome remained relatively inactive after the War.

  • 1950

    Much of Camp Debert was torn down by salvage contractors.

  • 1949-1954

    The aerodrome served as a centre for flying training and aircraft refuelling and maintenance.

  • 1960

    The aerodrome was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy for use as a Flight Carrier Landing Practice Centre until 1969.

  • 1960

    Construction began on an underground building that would serve as the Regional Emergency Government Headquarters in case of Soviet nuclear attack against North America. The facility had 340 bed spaces for government personnel, often called “Diefenbunkers”.

  • 1963

    The Regional Medical Equipment Supply Depot moved from the Halifax H.M.C. dockyard to the aerodrome.

  • 1964

    The Regional Emergency Government Headquarters became operational and housed the Provincial Warning Centre and the 720 Communication Squadron.

  • 1969

    The Royal Canadian Air Force aerodrome was closed by the Department of National Defence.

  • 1971

    DND placed 4,800 acres of land, including most of Camp Debert and the entire airfield, with the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation. The land was subsequently purchased by the Province to develop the Debert Air Industrial Park.

  • 1972

    The Truro Flying Club began using the former military airfield.

  • 1985

    Former Camp Debert became the Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Debert, and served as a communication facility for DND.

  • 1992

    The Debert Military Museum opened “to preserve the memory of past sacrifices and to recognize the on-going achievements of those who have passed through CFS Debert”.

  • 1996

    CFS Debert closed in July.

  • 2008

    The Province of Nova Scotia transferred ownership of the Debert Air Industrial Park to the Municipality of Colchester.

  • Present Day

    Today the Debert airport is home to the Debert Flight Centre, the Truro Flying Club and the DND Air Cadet Gliding and Flying Scholarship programs.