Arrival at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada
Problems with weather over Gander delayed W/C Craig’s ‘A’ Flight’s who were recalled 3 hrs after departure from Lagens on an ‘Astro’ flight on the night of the 10th July. Gander and the alternate aerodrome had suddenly been blanked out by Fog. So in spite of trying to avoid such a situation, all 16 aircraft were being based at Lagens. The following night they tried to get away again but the Newfoundland conditions delayed their takke off untill about 4.00am The full Squadron took off at 2 minute intervals. They found that the H2S proved a very valuable navigation aid and they were able to get back bearings on the Azores when as distant from them as 75 Miles. This also proved very useful when they were approaching the newfounland coast at the other end. The Flame Floats which they were going to use with the drift sight at night worked just as well by day; in fact under some conditions such as haze they functioned better than a smoke float under similar conditions. The independent navigation of the 16 lancs acroiss the last stretch of the Atlantic was of such a uniformly high standard that all 16 airctaft landed at Gander within 18 Minutes on the 12th July 1946.
Gander’s airport runways originally consisting of 3 strips, 4,800 ft. long by 600 ft. wide, had been extended during the last year of the war to take care of heavier wear transport air ships then being brought into service. This expansion had proved invaluable to the transatlantic airlines of that day. The main runway, known as the No.3 strip, was now 1200 ft wide and 6,000 ft long. Light sport planes could land very comfortably across its width.
The general operation of Gander and the maintenance of radio control facilities entailed the employment of approximately 500 civil personnel. One hundred were engaged in radio and other technical activities and the balance are absorbed in general staff activities and catering. Large huts which formerly housed USAAF personnel were used to accommodate Air Travellers who are forced to stopover due to weather conditions or aircraft trouble. These accommodations, were reconverted by the Newfoundland government into pleasant private quarters, they proved a boon to commercial airlines in July 1946, when over 300 passengers were stranded after Washington had grounded all Constellation airliners.
The airlines “Mess” could accommodate 250 persons at each sitting and was operated on a 24 hour round-the-clock schedule, qualified French chefs, 46 Newfoundland-born waitresses, 50 waiters and kitchen assistants (10% of them being ex-servicemen) form the personnel of the catering staff who served meals to the passengers of about 16 transatlantic airlines daily. If future air traffic through Gander warranted it, the airlines operating the transatlantic flights were contemplating the erection of a modern hotel with every convenience. BOAC, which had recently abandoned flying-boat service from Botwood, is acquiring huge American airliners, probably Constellations, to operate between Newfoundland and England; and that at time, negotiations were proceeding to put this route into effect. Up until the present time, Newfoundlanders going to England could only do so by going to New York or Montreal and backtracking to Gander for the ocean “hop.”
On 35 Squadrons arrival catering and accommodation had to be shared with 250 passengers from 5 Lockheed Constellation Airliners as their aircraft had been grounded for technical reasons. Squadron personnel were entertained at the Airlines Hotel and at Deadman’s Pond. Craig contemplated setting up a private airline to ferry these passengers to other destinations – they could have made a deal of cash cash for the squadron if they could obtain a Charter. This cash need became apparent when they found that Gander dispensed Beer was 2/- a half pint.
Deadman’s Pond Hotel – The squadron stayed at Gander for 4 days while the aircraft were serviced. Town water came from Gander Lake in the summer and when the lake froze over in the winter, Deadman’s Pond was then used for the water supply.
Newfoundland then offered the shortest and most feasible air-route “stopover” between the continents of North America and Europe. Newfoundland’s Gander Airport, shrouded for 5 years in wartime secrecy and hidden from the eyes of all but service personnel and civilian officialdom is today becoming a familiar meeting place for air travellers. Gander had the 1st air to ground and ground to air radio station in Atlantic Canada. It also had the 1st Aviation and Public Forecasting office, the 1st radio Range Station and Control Tower in Newfoundland. Increasing transatlantic air travel focused the aviation spotlight on this important air base, taken over by the Newfoundland government as a civil operation on March 31, 1946. Defence installations, including 100’s of acres of buildings, hangars, and works and including the most modern apparatus for the control of transatlantic flying, were transferred under special agreement between Ottawa and London, to the Newfoundland Government for a sum of $1,000,000; a far cry from the millions expended upon this property during the war years. There were 100’s of buildings with self contained units including, 10 large hangars, a large base administration building and accommodations for airmen, officers, non commissioned officers, civilian male and civilian female employees. Some of the support buildings included heating and electrical plants, garages, various shops, a parachute drying facility and a large 1,000 seat theatre where the latest movies were shown. Bob Hope and Lena Horne were just some of the stars who brought their live shows to Gander. Also situated on the base were dining halls, game rooms, hobby shops, various clubs, chapels and bowling alleys. Transatlantic flights on regular schedule were now being run through Gander Airport by Pan American Airlines; American Overseas Airlines; Trans World Airlines; British Overseas Airways Corp; Trans Canada Transatlantic Air Lines; Air France and latterly, the Belgian Airlines. Other Atlantic crossings between Europe and America were being conducted on less frequent schedules by SILA (Swedish Airlines); Danish Dutch Airlines (KLM); and Norwegian Airlines.
On July 17th the Squadron took off from Gander and flew via Boston to Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York.