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Signal Hill: Military Importance

Even before confederation, Newfoundland's geographic location along North America's eastern border enabled it to play an important role in the military defense of both Canada and the United States. During WW2, both countries positioned troops at vital locations along Newfoundland's coastline, including Signal Hill and Cape Spear, to defend against naval attack. Both locations operated cooperatively to strengthen the continent's eastern border.

Looking down the side of a canon atop Signal Hill, Newfoundland, one can appreciate its usefulness in protecting the land from invading naval forces during wartime.
Mounted guns were positioned strategically atop Signal Hill's cliffs to protect against naval invasion during wartime,

Cape Spear, being further up the coast than Signal Hill, would be the first to see advancing enemy ships. The flagman at Cape Spear would communicate (perhaps by flag messages and radio transmissions) with the flagman at Signal Hill to give advance notice of the approaching ships.

A flagman stands next to a flatpole atop Cabot Tower overlooking the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
Flagman standing next to the flagpole atop Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, Newfoundland.

Mounted guns positioned along the clifftops of Signal Hill were used by experienced gunners to help protect the island from naval attack and access to land.

Downhill from Cabot Tower, mounted canons are positioned along the clifftops of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.
Mounted canons are positioned near Cabot Tower on the clifftops of Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland.

All ships that enter St. John's must do so by passing through "The Narrows", an extremely challenging area to navigate because of the narrow perimeter and shallow water. Its lowest depth is only 11 meters and narrowest point 61 meters. To further guard against offensive German U-boat attack during WW2, steel netting was draped underwater across the narrows. The arrow in the photo below shows the boundaries through which ships would have navigate to prevent from grounding.

Houses are built within oceanside cliffs overlooking "the narrows" in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Depth markers at "the narrows" are used as a navigational aids for ships entering St. John's harbour.

Row of six mounted guns positioned at the edges of the cliffs of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.
Row of guns atop the cliffs of Signal Hill, NL. Each gun bore the royal insignia of the ruling monarch at the time..

This gun bears the insignia of Queen Anne. The other five guns in the row of guns atop the cliffs of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, bears the insignia of King George.
This gun bears the insignia of Queen Anne. The other five guns in the row of guns bears the insignia of King George.

This muzzleloading land mortar overlooking St. John's harbour is mounted behind a brick wall at Cabot Tower, Newfoundland.
This muzzleloading land mortar overlooking St. John's harbour is mounted behind a brick wall at Cabot Tower, NL.

Under a veil of summer blue skies at Ladies Lookout, Signal Hill's highest peak, there is an information sign about the Battle of Signal Hill.
At Ladies Lookout, Signal Hill's highest peak, there is an information sign about the Battle of Signal Hill.


The Queen's Battery, with mounted guns and soldier's barrack, sits atop the coastal cliffs of Signal Hill overlooking St. John's harbour and  downtown St. John's, NL.
The Queen's Battery sits atop the coastal cliffs of Signal Hill overlooking St. John's harbour, NL.


The Queen's Battery soldier's barrack sits atop a grassy cliff at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.
Queen's Battery guardhouse / soldier's barrack is found directly behind the battery defense guns.

In front of the soldier’s barrack at Signal Hill, NL, a mounted gun atop a grass covered cliff comprises one of the guns of the Queen’s Battery.
Queen's battery had guns mounted on tracks that could be moved to fire at track enemy ships entering the harbour

The interior of the Queen's Battery soldier's barrack, restored to the late 1800's era, shows the living quarters of elite soldiers who operated the Queen's Battery guns.
The interior of the Queen's Battery soldier's barrack is restored to the late 1800's era.

The guns of war have laid silenced for over 75 years but memories of their role in defending North America's coast remains ever-present. Signal Hill has been designated a national historic site and is a popular tourist attraction for visitors who wish to get a glimpse of the military history and to appreciate the amazing coastal views. For those who wish to learn more, please visit the Signal Hill information centre.

Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog standing on a bridge overlooking a forest clearing and waterfall.
Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog

Please continue to follow my blog as I showcase more amazing tourist attractions in eastern Newfoundland.

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