Strangely, I had not come across this book on my own. I am sure it would have caught my eye with a cover full of fairly iconic Gander photos. Instead, it was introduced to me by a German documentary group who were recently in Gander filming about the town. I did get to be involved, and was interviewed in the pilot’s lounge, which meant I got to walk through the international terminal for the first time! Quite exciting.

The inside of the Gander International Airport Terminal. Visible is the statue "Birds of Welcome". On the back wall is the word Canada and the Newfoundland flag, the Canadian flag, and the Union Jack.
“Birds of Welcome” inside the International Terminal. Photo by Daly 2019.

Voices in the Wind: A History of Gander, Newfoundland is a lovely read about the history of Gander told very much through the story of aviation. The forward, written by Reg Wright, president and CEO of the Gander International Airport Authority Inc. at the time of publication (2014) is the most poetic look at Gander I have ever read. The love for the town and for aviation is so clear in the forward, and offers a wonderful romanticism about the town. This was the part that was recommended for me to read, and I was in awe of the author’s handle on prose. I wish I could write so well.

The cover of the book, Voices in the Wind by Jean Edwards Stacey

The rest of the book gives a thorough history of Gander, with research, newspaper articles, and personal stories, the author lets the people of Gander tell their own story. There is a lot of information in the book, and sometimes the timeline jumps around a little and there is a little repetition, but overall, it is a detailed history of Gander.

A propellar mounded on a conceret support pillar in the Gander Airport
One of the aviation displays in the Gander Airport. Photo by Daly 2019.

While I have spent a fair bit of time researching the Second World War history of Gander, and have quite a few locally published books on the topic. This is one of the few that spends a good deal of time discussing Gander after the war era. This offered quite a lot of new information, from my perspective; obviously it would be common knowledge for anyone from the area. The look at Gander at the end of the war, as well as with the advent of Confederation was refreshing and gave me a few into Gander that, honestly, would have been helpful when researching the end of the Canadian Side and the building and moving to the newer part of the town.

Gander Airport International Terminal looking at the blue chairs used by passengers and the Art Deco mural, Flight and Its Allegories by Ken Lochhead
Inside the International Lounge looking at Flight and Its Allegories by Ken Lochhead. Photo by Daly 2019.

One of the things I found the most interesting were the stories regarding the Lancaster that killed some residents of Gander in 1946. Frank Tibbo’s account of the incident can be found on the Gander Airport Historical Society page (almost word for word as is in the book) or I discuss it in the context of the Gander Cemetery in Canadians and War Vol. 3. The author allows Tibbo’s story to speak for itself, and tell about the accident that killed four residents who were crossing the runway when the aircraft returned unexpectedly. Tibbo states that the civilians did not know the aircraft was returning because it was landing facing the wind, so they would not hear the airplane behind them, and because it was not using landing lights. Carol Peyton Fitzpatrick also talks about the Lancaster tragedy, but from the perspective of a child who was warned away from playing on the runways. She remembers an abandoned aircraft that was kept in a hanger to itself because it was the one that returned and struck a group of people watching the other aircraft leaving. It is interesting, even though the stories are about 100 pages apart, to see how the Lancaster became a bit of a legend to keep kids safe in Gander.

A piece of the World Trade Centre Towers that were destroyed on 9/11, now on display in the Gander International Airport
A piece of the World Trade Centre given to the people of Gander for their efforts around 9/11

Overall, this is an enjoyable read with a lot of history around Gander and aviation. Sometimes it wanders a little off topic, but always comes back to focus on the community and its history. As is often the case with these books full of memories, I would love more citations so that I could look up some of the great pictures or read a little more into the people and history of the area.

Sources:

Stacey, J.E. 2015. Voices in the Wind: A History of Gander, Newfoundland. DRC Publishing: St. John’s.
A brown escalator along a bugundy wall featuring four clocks showing the time in London, Montreal and New York, Moscow, and Gander.
Inside the Gander Airport International Terminal. Photo by Daly 2014.
Share

See Part One here

While Harry Richman and Dick Merrill waited comfortably at the home of T.W. Abbot for the necessary supplied and equipment to fix their aircraft, The Lady Peace, a modified Vultee V1-A, that had nosed down in a Musgrave Harbour bog on their return flight from Europe, a flurry of activity was happening at the Harbour Grace Airfield.

Once a popular airfield for those attempting to fly the Atlantic, the Harbour Grace Airfield had not been used as much since 1933. With construction starting on the airfield at Mile Post 314, what would become known as Gander, and a lack of funds, the future of the airfield was uncertain.

A picture of the Harbour Grace Airfield. Daly 2017.

When The Lady Peace, with its two famous aviators, crashed in Musgrave Harbour, the Harbour Grace Airfield was suddenly very active. According to the airport log, four aircraft landed in Harbour Grace on 15 September 1936. The first was NC 16515, a Beechcraft scatterwing piloted by Duke Kranto, and owned by the Daily News in New York City. He landed in Harbour Grace at 12:35 local time, then left for Musgrave Harbour at 3:30, stayed in Musgrave Habour for three hours before flying back to Harbour Grace. Kranto stayed the night, and left for New York City at 8am on 16 September. Two other Beechcraft are listed as landing on 15 September: NC 15812 piloted by Carl O. Chader, and owned by O.J. Whitney Inc. Flying Service, and NC 15849, piloted by John H. Shobe and owned by Shobe Airlines Inc. These aircraft landed at 2pm and 2:30 respectively, and left at 8am the following morning. All three are listed as leaving at the same time, so it is assumed they left one after the other. The later two aircraft brought newspapermen to Harbour Grace, who then went to Musgrave Harbour.

The largest plane to ever land in Harbour Grace also arrived on 15 September 1936. The Great Silver Fleet, NC 17731, owned by Eastern Air Lines, landed amongst the smaller Beechcraft. This aircraft was piloted by George W. Branson, co-piloted by Joe Kelly, and brought the famous Captain Eddie Rickenbacker to Newfoundland. 

Harbour Grace Airport, The Great Silver Fleet, Lady Peace, and an unidentified aircraft. Maritime History Archives Rorke Family Fond PF-314 01 232

There was actually a fourth scatterwing that landed in Harbour Grace but wasn’t recorded in the log. The other newspaper aircraft left on 16 September, but a picture of The Lady Peace and The Great Silver Fleet available on the Digital Archives Initiative at MUN shows another Beechcraft. Further readings have not allowed me to identify the aircraft. The log indicates all of the newspaper aircraft had left on 16 September, and The Lady Peace did not arrive until the 18th. The only other possibility is that it was flown by one of the mechanics brought by Rickenbaker as suggested by Pushie (1959), even though the three mechanics, the pilot, co-pilot, and Rickenbacker could all comfortably fit on The Great Eastern Fleet, a DC-2. Perhaps Rickenbacker brought a small aircraft to possibly fly to Musgrave Harbour if needed? I am open to suggestions or further reading suggestions.

From Pushie 1959

On the evening of 16 September, Rickenbaker chartered a boat, Lincoln II, to take him, his crew, and supplies, to Musgrave Harbour. Meanwhile, the residents of Musgrave Harbour were preparing a runway for The Lady Peace. It was determined that the hard-packed sand revealed by low tide would make a suitable runway, and a series of wooden ramps were constructed to move the aircraft to the makeshift runway.

Four days after their surprise landing in Musgrave Harbour, Merrill and Richman took off from the beach with just enough fuel for the shot hop to Harbour Grace. Given the condition of the runway, they wanted the aircraft to weigh as little as possible, looking to fuel-up in Harbour Grace. The Lady Peace, landed in Harbour Grace at 7pm on 18 September 1936.

Entry in the Harbour Grace Airport Log for The Lady Peace

Rickenbacker looked on as, at 8am on 19 September, The Lady Peace took off from Harbour Grace. The aircraft landed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, where the wheels edged off the runway and sank into the mud. The aircraft had to be towed off the runway.

Ironically, The Lady Peace later went to war as a light bomber operating out of Spain. The aircraft was renamed Capitan Haya and survived the war. It was scrapped in 1953.

In the aftermath of The Lady Peace event, Harbour Grace attempted to renew the airfield. The Harbour Grace Airport Trust Company did not charge for the use of the airfield, but rather relied on donations. With all of the media attention, letters were sent to the Universal New Reel, Paramount News, Fox News, Hearst Metrotone News, and The Daily News, asking for donations toward the upkeep of the runway, suggesting a $25 donation. This suggests that aircraft from each of these news sources landed in Harbour Grace, and perhaps the mystery Beechcraft was among them, although the aircraft was still present when the letter was sent. At least one $25 donation was received from the O.J. Whitney Flying Service, whose aircraft was flown by Carl Chader.

With work starting on the Newfoundland Airport in what would become Gander, Thomas M. McGrath wrote to the Airport Committee suggesting that the airfield continues to be useful even with the completion of the larger airfield. In the interim, McGrath suggests it could be of use to visiting aircraft, and after completion could be an alternative landing place. Keep in mind, this was before the construction of the Second World War airbases, making these the two major airfield on the island. McGrath suggested that Mr. E. L. Oke of the Airport Committee write to Mr. Manning, the Secretary for the Department of Public Unitilies and discuss repairs and maintenance to the airport. A visit to the Provincial Archives may uncover more related correspondences.

Letter from T.M. McGrath to E.L. Oke, 1936. On File at the Conception Bay Museum.

Merrill returned to Newfoundland about 40 years later and at a reception in his honour in Harbour Grace, and actually inquired after the man, Israel, who we first me at Man Point Marsh as the plane landed.

Musgrave Harbour (top circle) and Harbour Grace (lower circle). Map from the MUN Digital Archives and annotated by author.

Sources

Anonymous
1976      We Treated Them As If They Were Residents of Our Community. Decks Awash, 5(6): 59.

Clarke, D.J.
2018      Stories From Our Shores: Musgrave Harbour and the Ping Pong Flight. The Western Star, 04 December 2018.

Guy, R.W.
1987 Ten Miles Apart in Space: Five Years Apart in Time. One a Vultee; the Other a Hudson. The Newfoundland Quarterly, 83(1): 5.

Jessamine, B.
n.d.       The Ping Pong Flight Project. The Ping Pong Flight, website, accessed 20 December 2018

Mann, R.S.
1936      Letter to Paramount News, 18 September 1936. On File: Conception Bay Museum.
1936 Letter to O.J. Whitney Inc., 02 October 1936. On File: Conception Bay Museum.

McGrath, T.M.
1936 Letter to E.L. Oke, 02 November 1936. On File: Conception Bay Museum.

Pushie, G.F.
1959 Atlantic Flights From Newfoundland. The Atlantic Advocate, 49(12): 77-86.

Radecki, A.
2015      From Glendale to London with Peace, Pingong Balls, and the Ritz. Vintage Air, website, accessed 04 May 2018.

Whiteway, L.
1971      The Story of Musgrave Harbour. The Newfoundland Quarterly, 68(2): 6-11.

Share