Military forces utilized dogs in various ways during the Second World War, such as sentry or guard duty, and as sled dogs for search and rescue or to transport equipment and wounded soldiers. So how did Gander utilize our canine friends during wartime? Read on…
GANDER’S DOGS OF WAR
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians served with the RAF Ferry Command in vital ground support roles at Gander and Goose Bay, but how many served as actual aircrew members, delivering aircraft or providing other aerial support services for the organization? The ever-evolving list of names is presented here:
RAF FERRY COMMAND: NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR’S AIRCREW CONTRIBUTION
Beginning in June 1942, No. 125 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, provided local air defence out of RCAF Station Torbay. However, the squadron’s Hurricane fighters could do little in the way of effective damage should a marauding German U-boat venture close to shore. That is, until the squadron’s creative armament officer set to work.
An airman at Gander traveled to the nearby town of Grand Falls by train for some R and R. His observations of his visit were published in the RCAF base magazine “The Gander” in September 1942.
IMPRESSIONS OF GRAND FALLS DURING WARTIME
The RCAF Women’s Division provided vital operational support to the RCAF as telephone operators, drivers, hospital assistants, parachute riggers, intelligence officers, wireless operators, and the list goes on. The first draft of airwomen arrived in Newfoundland in July 1942 to take up duties in St. John’s.
THE RCAF WOMEN’S DIVISION COME TO NEWFOUNDLAND
The winter of 1941-42 was especially rough on American personnel at Gander. Shovels were in constant motion. Gambling was the only distraction. Morale plummeted, but through it all, First Lieutenant James B. Van Dyck kept his sense of humour, as evidenced in his guard duty report upon surviving a stormy day in January 1942.
‘A WINTER’S TALE’ – GANDER STYLE
In the 1930s, British air officials selected Gleneagles on Gander Lake as a poor weather alternate for the flying boats operating out of Botwood. Then again, perhaps Botwood was the better alternate for these transatlantic flights? The debate was on. Likewise did Gleneagles became mired in controversy over property ownership and tenancy, which came to a head in the immediate postwar years.
THE GLENEAGLES STORY, PARTS 1 AND 2
The clearing of land at the future Gander airfield began in 1936. The following year, the electrical generators were switched on for the first time. The electrification of Gander had begun.
LET THERE BE LIGHT: THE OPENING OF GANDER’S POWER HOUSE
Immediately following the end of the Second World War, commercial airlines began transatlantic operations through Gander. The RCAF had taken control of the airfield from Newfoundland in 1941, but returned that control in 1946. With the airport once again a civil operation, the Newfoundland government needed a suitable airport manager. The search was on.
WHO WAS GANDER’S FIRST POSTWAR AIRPORT MANAGER?
A brief look at Gander’s first fire engine and how it met its sad demise.
In May 1940, Raymond Manning, Newfoundland’s public works secretary, spent five days at Gander airport, visiting with staff and motoring around the airfield. In his detailed report to government, Manning gave his observations on building construction, road and runway conditions, airport defence, which was nonexistent at the time, and other pressing concerns and needs.
ON THE PRECIPICE OF CHANGE: GANDER IN MAY 1940
American forces arrived at Gander several months before the attack on Pearl Harbour that officially drew the United States into the conflict. The US presence at the airfield continued until war’s end. During that time, American forces were led by eight different commanding officers, whose brief bios are presented here:
GANDER’S WWII U.S. COMMANDING OFFICERS
In April 1941, Newfoundland relinquished control of Gander airport to Canada for the duration of the war. The return of control to Newfoundland did not happen immediately at war’s end in 1945. Certain complications had arisen that required negotiations between both parties before matters were settled in 1946.
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During November-December 1940, four experimental transatlantic formation flights of Hudson bombers set out from Gander for delivery to the United Kingdom. The success of these crossings eventually led to the creation of the Royal Air Force Ferry Command. The only serious mishap during the flight experiment of 1940 occurred during the fourth flight, and it almost cost the crew their lives.
GANDER’S FIRST CRASH: HUDSON T9446
Sabotage was an ever-present concern during wartime. The RAF Ferry Command unit at Gander was presented with this possibility in November 1944 when evidence suggested that someone had tampered with a B-25 Mitchell destined for delivery overseas. The matter made its way to the RCMP, who sent officers to Gander to investigate.
A CASE OF SUSPECTED SABOTAGE AT GANDER
In December 1940, Hudson T-9465, a gift aircraft christened the “Spirit of Lockheed-Vega Employees,” arrived at Gander airport for delivery overseas. One researcher posited a theory that this aircraft crashed and burned on takeoff, but in the interests of public relations and morale, authorities went through extremes to keep this hidden from the public. I humbly disagree.
THE ‘SPIRIT OF LOCKHEED-VEGA EMPLOYEES’: A COUNTERARGUMENT
The RAF Ferry Command unit at Gander established a number of non-public funds, including the Welfare Fund, to which many civilian workers contributed throughout the war. With the closure of the unit in 1946, the question arose as to how best to dispose of the remaining funds. The decision on the matter would benefit Gander residents for years to come.
A HELPING HAND FROM THE RAF WELFARE FUND
There are better places to spend Christmas than stranded in the Newfoundland wilderness in wintertime after a forced landing. But that’s just where the RAF’s commanding officer at Gander found himself in December 1944, along with his crew and passengers. In an unusual twist, among the latter was a woman and a teenage boy.
A FERRY COMMAND CHRISTMAS RESCUE
Squadron Leader Norville E. “Molly” Small joined the RCAF in 1928, resigned ten years later to fly commercially, but reenlisted in 1939. Four years later, this decorated airman, leader, and tactician was in Gander, assigned to fly endurance demonstration flights out over the North Atlantic. Regrettably, this would be his last assignment.
SQUADRON LEADER N.E. ‘MOLLY’ SMALL
Nearly 200 airmen and airwomen from Newfoundland and Labrador gave their lives during the Second World War. One of those airmen was Adrian Ralph Taylor of Bell Island. His first posting was to Gander, where he flew Hurricane fighters and was forced to bail out one night during maneuvers. Sent overseas in 1943, he would soon take part in the war’s most climatic battle, the Normandy invasion.
FROM GANDER TO NORMANDY: F/O ADRIAN RALPH TAYLOR
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