Presented to the VIPS 23 Apr 2015Click here to start or Close the Exhibit
How did this all come about, the Canadian Military presence in NFLD during WW2. NFLD and Labrador were not part of Canada in 1939. They were a colony of Great Britain governed by a Commission of Government. The Great Depression of the 1930's had caused economic catastrophe in NFLD. On 16 February, 1934, Britain agreed to balance the Colony's books and appointed a six man commission and a governor to oversee the running of the colony. The NFLD Legislature was closed.
When Britain declared war on 03 Sep 1939, NFLD was also at war. Britain had already asked Canada to take on the defence of British North America. Canada agreed, after all, NFLD was the first line of Defence for Canada.
On 03 September, 1939, the German Freighter "Christoph V. Doornum", docked at Botwood to load lead pellets from the mine at Buchans, was seized by the NFLD Constabulary. The 25 man crew was sent to a POW Camp in St. John's and the ship was removed to Halifax. It was considered to be the 1 St military action in WW2 in North America.
In late September, NFLD proposed to Britain that the Canadian RCAF take over the Operation of Gander Airport and the Botwood seaplane base, both built and operational since 1938. Britain would not hear of it, even though she didn't have the manpower or equipment to do it herself. The RCAF continued to carry out reconnaissance flights over the Colony throughout the fall and winter of 1939 and the spring of 1940.
The German invasion of Denmark and Norway on 09 April, 1940 changed everything. Germany proved that it had the capacity to go anywhere it liked. On 10 May, Great Britain seized Iceland to forestall a German occupation. That same day Germany invaded the low countries and France. Canada then received an invitation from both Britain and NFLD, to occupy the Airport at Gander and the seaplane base at Botwood.
On 17 June, 1940 a detachment of 5 RCAF Maritime Patrol Bombers landed at Gander Airfield and on 22 June, 852 members of Canada's Black Watch Regiment came ashore at Botwood from HMCS Ottawa. Half of these went to Gander. Canada's Force W had landed.