Jack Stevens

Last of the Fort Rodd Hill soldiers

At 94 years of age Jack Steven’s visits to Fort Rod Hill are becoming less frequent, but they are always an event.

Visitors from all over the world visit Fort Rodd Hill every year, but for one man, that walk through the gates is a trip back in time.

The sound of the guns, the smell of coffee brewing in the fort’s canteen and the view over the mouth of Esquimalt Harbour through young eyes come flooding back to Jack Stevens whenever he visits the fort.

At 94 years of age his visits are becoming less frequent, but with more than 85 years of history with the historic site, they are always an event. The Sidney resident came to the fort with his daughters on Monday to visit his favourite spots and share a few stories.

Stevens was about seven years old the first time he came to Fort Rodd Hill in 1925 with his father, Henry, who as a bombardier with the Royal Canadian Artillery, was dispatched to the fort during summers for training camps.

As a boy Stevens would spend part of his summers in camp with his family at the fort. His father helped operate the original six-inch artillery guns that were the centrepiece of the fort when it was constructed by the British in the late 19th century.

Stevens himself ended up serving at the fort during the Second World War, when he served as a battery sergeant major of the Royal Canadian Artillery’s 27th Light Antiaircraft Battery.

He joined in 1939 at the outbreak of the war and spent three years at Fort Rodd Hill helping protect the strategically important entrance of Esquimalt Harbour.

“There’s nothing like the army, there really isn’t. I can’t say enough about it,” Stevens said. “I love the army, it was great.”

Dave King, manager of the Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, said Stevens is one of the last living people to have heard those original guns fire, as they were decommissioned and ultimately melted down for the metal during the Second World War.

Although never fired in aggression, the British would once a year raise the red flag on the fort to warn boaters and then fire a shot without a round.

“There’s always that dwindling band of guys who were here from the prewar years and it just gets smaller and smaller every year,” King said.

“We’re losing the personal connection for sure. You can read in history books which battles were fought and what happened but you’re losing that personal touch, those stories that Jack tells.”

Visually the fort looks much the same as when Stevens first visited some 80 years ago.

A row of buildings that once lined the field at the centre of the fort are gone but otherwise the basic look of the site remains relatively unchanged.

Some 25 years ago staff recorded Steven’s recollections of his history with the fort. Those recordings are now used as a part of audio exhibits inside the battery for visitors.

For this visit he brought with him a photograph of his father and friend Frederick “Punch” Grimes on the beach in front of the fort in 1924, a memento that Stevens holds dear.

“It’s memories, you know?” Stevens said. “I spent a lot of time in the artillery and we moved around all over the place, over in Europe and all around, and there’s no place like a fort. It’s something about it, especially a place like this where I spent a lot of time. It’s very nice.”

The federal government has done the fort justice, Stevens says, through its preservation efforts and its honouring of the fort as a national historical site.

“Somebody had to take it over and look after the place and you can see what a fine job they’ve done,” Stevens said.

“I’m not exaggerating one little bit, they’ve kept the place up nicely.”





Just Posted

Major expansion coming to Royal Bay Secondary

Province will build space for 600 more students on same site

Colwood wins Victoria Flower Count for a five-peat

The 43rd annual Flower Count had over three billion blossoms counted in total

Langford fundraiser for kidney disease is a success

Maureen Hobbs thinks B.C. Transplant says it best: “Live life. Pass it on.”

Preschool group helps release fish into Glen Lake

The number of fish released correlates to the number of fish caught per year

Songhees Wellness Centre event immersed in indigenous cuisine and culture

Camosun and Songhees cook together for reconciliation while fundraising for student scholarship fund at March 23 event

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

VIDEO: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

B.C. man to plead guilty in connection with hit-and-run that killed teen

Jason Gourlay charged with failure to stop at the scene of accident, attempting to obstruct justice

Most Read