Military Ops





Synopsis of Gander's 1941 History

The Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO) better known as Ferry Command had been formed. 1941 Gander Airport became a military base incorporating the RCAF, RAF, & USAAF becoming one of the largest allied combined air force bases in the world. The history of Gander 1941, presented with the help of Frank Tibbo's research, shows the speed in which this base was developed.

Gander 1941

Mars building (a.k.a. ‘B’ Building), an apartment building operated by the RAF situated across the street from the main terminal, was the first apartment block constructed for Ferry Command.

Boardwalks were constructed in some areas.

The few women who lived here worked in the home and knitted for the troops overseas at the American Red Cross.

RAF operated a skating rink, and they also had a recreation area and log cabins at Deadman's pond where everyone went swimming.

Nondenominational church services were usually conducted by the RCAF padre. There was no church building.

Mr. Frank Goulding was instrumental in setting up the first Salvation Army meeting.

A branch of the Royal Bank opened in 1941; Gerald Smith was the first manager.

Aviation fuel was transported to Gander via train from Lewisporte. Shell Oil commenced building oil storage tanks at Lewisporte.

US Signal Corps, AACS, 8th Weather Squadron arrived.

US Army Corps began construction on the south side of the airport which became known as the American Side.

Chestnut Road school was opened.

Feb. 20 - Sir Frederick Banting was killed in a Hudson bomber that had departed Gander for overseas. It crashed in the vicinity of Musgrave Harbour 40 miles, 54 degrees true from Gander.

Mar. 5 - A Consolidated B24 Liberator, owned by Ministry of Aircraft Production, arrived from Montreal. This was the first of the giant four-engine bombers.

April 1 - The airport was handed over to Canada (RCAF) for the duration of the war.

April - RCAF operations were extended to Newfoundland and the entire 10 (BR) squadron was ordered to move to Gander. The move was completed April 11.

April 1 - The RCAF operated the Control tower from April 1, 1941 - 1946.

April 10 - A Boeing Flying Fortress (B-17) landed at Gander en route to the U.K. piloted by F/L Bullock.

April 20 - The U.S. Army Air Base was established. The first U.S. soldiers to arrive at Gander for duty were Lt. Julian M. Bleyer and Lt. Lawrence of the 21st Reconnaissance Squadron and crew. Their plane, a B-18, left Bolling field, Washington, D.C., the morning of April 20, 1941, and landed at Gander that evening.

April - The USAAF 41st Reconnaissance Squadron with B-17Cs started patrols from Gander.

April - Wing Commander (W/C) Carscallen took over as Commanding Officer 10(BR) from W/C H.C. Gordon.

May 4 - Captain James Youell piloted the first westbound flight for the Return Ferry Service. This aircraft, Liberator AM260, was the first to land at Gander from England.

May 5 - RCAF Station Gander was established on May 5, 1941, under Group Captain Lewis.

May 9 - The Newfoundland-United States Army Air Base was officially established with Major J.V. Crabb as commanding officer.

May 10 - The British Ministry of Aircraft Production took over the ferry operation which was then referred to as ATFERO (Atlantic Ferry Operation).

June 2 - The first Catalina en route to Greenock made the first departure from Gander Lake to the war zone.

July 18 - The first Boeing "Clipper" landed on Gander Lake and departed on July 19 for the war zone.

July 20 - RAF Ferry Command took over ferry operations from ATFERO (In April 1943, it would be taken over again – this time by RAF Transport Command).

July 30 - "Lt. Robert Montgomery of movie fame and now in the U.S. Naval Reserves had dinner in the Mess prior to taking off in an American B-24 for England." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Aug. 6 - "A number of persons who arrived had to sleep in tents." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Aug. 8 - Although the US military were already established here they had a flag-raising ceremony to officially open their base.

Aug. 11 -" Lord Beaverbrook, Mr. J.A. Bickell and party arrived by Liberator aircraft during the morning from England and remained here for part of the day, later leaving by freight train for other parts of the Island. The visit is extremely secret. (He was back on the 13th to fly to Montreal in a Digby (#748)." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Aug. 19 - " Prime Minister W.L. MacKenzie King arrived by Liberator 1600 hours and departed for the United Kingdom at 2000 hours." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Aug. 21 - "His Excellency Lord Halifax stopped here from 1830-2130 on the way to England." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Aug. 29 - The ammunition and pyrotechnic hut caught fire and was totally destroyed. The Fire Dept. was on the scene promptly but due to the very low water pressure the building was almost completely burned before the pumping engine came into full force; when this happened the fire was quickly put out. Court of Inquiry was convened to investigate the circumstances and extent of loss. The telephone service was put out of action through the fire. All ranks were ordered to carry gas respirators today for practice purposes and they were worn for a certain period during the day on the gas alarm being sounded. (RCAF diary)

Sept. 12 - The Duke of Kent officially opened the Banting Memorial Hospital.

Sept. 28 - "Of the 21 Hudsons that left on Sept. 26, 19 arrived safely. One captained by F/L L. Dubec, landed near Dublin, but crashed on take-off killing everyone on board. The other sent a S.O.S. when it was approximately 600 miles east of Newfoundland. F/O Oldham and his crew were lost forever. A search proved fruitless." (Royal Canadian Air force, 1941)

Oct. 7 - RAF took over Radio Station with Squadron Leader Frank Ratcliffe in charge.

Oct. - In October more than 150 U.S. troops arrived at Gander by special military train from St. John's. They had arrived at St. John's by the UST Siboney.

Dec. 7 - The Americans in Gander were told they were now at war as a result of the infamous Pearl Harbour raid by Japan.

Dec. 19 - First issue of the RCAF magazine "GANDER.”

Dec. 20 - "Black-out ordered due to fear of air raid. It turned out to be a meteorological lighted balloon at 10,000 feet. A four-hour black-out ensued." (RCAF diary)



Contributed by F. Tibbo


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