Canadian Forces Base Petawawa takes its name from the Petawawa River . The origin of the name PETAWAWA is lost in antiquity, but legend has it that it is an Algonquin Indian word pronounced 'PETWEWE". The translation means, "Where one hears noise like this", referring to the sound of the fast water over the rocks in the river. In another legend it is said that the area was named after an indigenous woman who inhabited the banks of the Petawawa River and lived to the age of 115 years old. Early French explorers used a trail or route through this area. The Mattawa Trail, now called Mattawa Road still exists on parts of the base today. The site of Canadian Forces Base Petawawa was originally a German Immigrant settlement. German pioneers toiled to build a community out of the harsh and rugged terrain. Some of the topographical features in the training area still bear the names of these early settlers.
By 1904 the Department of Militia and Defence purchased 150 properties from these settlers totalling 22,430 acres. The Royal Canadian Horse and Garrison Artillery were the first to train at Petawawa Military Camp during the summer of 1905. In 1906 the Royal Canadian Engineers constructed huts, stables and installed water and gas systems. In that same year "A" and "B" Batteries of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, commenced the first of many marches to Camp Petawawa for summer training from their permanent station in Kingston , Ontario . By 1907 combined training of tactical exercises were conducted by various other units such as A and B Squadron, Royal Canadian Dragoons; A and B Batteries, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery; No. 2 Company, Royal Canadian Engineers; a Battalion from the Royal Canadian Regiment; and detachments from the Medical and Ordnance Corps.
The first military aircraft flight in Canada took place at Petawawa. On 31July 1909 under perfect weather conditions, J.A.D. McCurdy and F.W. Baldwin flew the "Silver Dart" at Camp Petawawa in the presence of Military Observers. From December 1914 to May 1916, Petawawa was used as an internment camp for 750 German and Austrian prisoners of ?The Great War?. At the same time Canada Car and Foundry Company had developed threeinch shells and were being tested at the camp by Russian artillery. The prisoners were instrumental in helping clear roads and timber to make these tests possible. From May 1916 to 1918, 10,767 Canadian troops were trained at Petawawa before being sent overseas.
During the 2nd World War, Two Artillery and One Engineer training centres were established in the Camp. In September 1942, 12,515 troops were stationed on the Base. The peak load was reached during 1943 when approximately 20,000 troops were undergoing training at one time. As in the previous war, Petawawa was the site of an Internment Camp. The camp's official designation was Internment Camp No.33; located at Centre Lake it held 645 civilian internees. There were 28 different nationalities the majority being German and Italian. During 1946 the first Regular Army Units arrived in Camp Petawawa and it was established as a permanent camp.
In 1947, the training of Militia and regular units was resumed. The Royal Canadian Dragoons and 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment were moved to Petawawa in 1948. Upon being given the status of a permanent camp, it was officially designated "Camp Petawawa" in May 1951. During the next few years construction continued in order to accommodate more regular units, married quarters and schools for the soldier's dependants. Units of the Special Force, such as 2 RCHA, 8th Hussars, PPCLI, and 1 RCR earmarked for service in Korea were concentrated at Petawawa before going to the United States for departure for the Far East . The 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was stationed to Petawawa upon return from Germany in 1959. This formation was re-designated 2 Combat Group in 1966. The camp was renamed Canadian Forces Base Petawawa and allocated to Mobile Command.
On April 1, 1977 , 2 Combat Group was disbanded. 2 Combat Group combined with the Canadian Airborne Regiment at CFB Petawawa to form the Special Service Force. The Special Service Force constituted a unique chapter in Canada 's military history. It derived its name from the first Special Service Force, an historic formation of Americans and Canadians which pioneered special forces operations in a short lived but immensely successful history during the second world war. The latter-day Special Service Force represented a compromise between the general purpose combat capabilities of a normal brigade and the strategic and tactical flexibility which derived from the lighter and more mobile capabilities of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Units and Soldiers of the Special Service Force served in operations both home and around the world.
Information courtesy of DND