Gander

All posts tagged Gander

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.
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It is 11 November 2018, and I am taking a moment to reflect.

Commemoration ceremony held in 2009 in Gander to remember those who perished in a crash on 14 February 1945. Second from the left is Bill Dolan, the son of the pilot on that flight. Find more information on this crash from Hillier’s thesis.

Much of my work is remembrance. While not every story involves tragedy, one of my goals is to get the names of those who were involved in Newfoundland and Labrador aviation out of the archives and on the internet so they can be more easily found. I have had many family members contact me to tell me how they found their loved one and links to other documents, through this work. It may not always be war stories, but many who were involved in aviation between and after the wars were typically aviators during the war, such as many of those involved in the Great Atlantic Air Race that pioneered trans-Atlantic Aviation, making way for Ferry Command in the Second World War.

While my work has kept me away from my blog posts, I have been working to continue my work. In the past few months, I have had an article come out about the American Overseas Airlines crash in Stephenville in 1946. This aircraft was looking to bring the families of those helping to rebuild Germany after the war together, but, tragically, there were no survivors. The article is online through the AP Online Journal in Public Archaeology called An Empty Graveyard: The Victims of the 1946 AOA DC-4 Crash, Their Final Resting Place, and Dark Tourism. The other articles all look at archaeology, death, ethics, and our perceptions of death in the contemporary world. I want to thank Howard Williams and Lorna-Jane Richardson for accepting my article into this journal, and for the help they and the other reviewers provided. This is my first sole author peer-reviewed article.

Images of the memorial cemetery from heritage.nf.ca. Note, since this image was taken, many of the wooden crosses have fallen.

Last week, the chapter in a book I have been working on came out. The book is Canadians and War, Volume 3 and my essay is called Sacrifice in Second World War Gander. The essay looks at the first tragedies associated with Gander during the war. First is the events around the crash and death of Sir Frederick Banting. Those who died in that crash were sent back to the mainland for burial. Months later, the next aviation tragedy happened in Gander with the crash of RCAF Digby 742. Due to these events, it was recognized that there would be more tragedies at the airbase, and this lead to the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves at Gander. For this work, I want to thank Jeremy Lammi, his editors, and Darrell Hillier for helping me and catching some of my errors in earlier drafts.

Canadians and War, Volume 3, published by Lammi Publishing, 2018.

Finally, later this month, the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives are having a symposium, and I was asked to be a part of the event. I will be giving a talk alongside other archaeologists, historians, and heritage professionals. I look forward to coming home for the event. It will take place at the rooms, and tickets can be purchased at anla@aibn.nf.ca. This talk looks more at the mechanics of research, the various sources and archives that I use, with a focus on Second World War Gander.

Finally, I did not write in this text, but I did contribute a photo. I do not have a copy yet, but I look forward to reading A Shadow of War: Archaeological Approaches to Uncovering the Darker Sides of Conflict from the 20th Century by Claudia Theune.

While I have not been posting here lately, I have been working on other projects while working CRM archaeology in New Brunswick. My heart certainly belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador heritage, and I will continue to work to tell the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador aviation.

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