By KAREN WELLS
LEWISPORTE — It’s been 70 years since the ground literally shook in Lewisporte, but the somber feeling in the air at the time of the memorial ceremony on June 25 made it feel like just yesterday.
It was June 25, 1942 when 1,800 pounds of dynamite exploded at the Hann’s Point military base. It’s taken up to now for a community to finally be able to honour and pay tribute to the five Canadian soldiers who lost their lives that day.
The Hann’s Point explosion as it has come to be known, was not something people in the community wanted to be reminded of. World War II had taken a toll on them and the end of the war meant they could finally move on with their lives. As they did the years passed by, and Hann’s Point didn’t even come up in casual conversation.
Barry Porter of By the Bay Museum has been on a search for the past six years to learn as much as he can about what happened at Hann’s Point and the military presence in Lewisporte in general. He was always of the mind that there should be some form of paying tribute to the men who died. The newly formed Lewisporte and Area Heritage Society shared in that thought and made it one of their first initiatives to see a fitting memorial take place on the 70th anniversary of the explosion.
“This is why we are here today, to revive the memory and pay tribute to those specific five soldiers who lost their lives for the freedom we enjoy today,” said Heritage Society member and memorial emcee Frank Hoddinott.
Some 80 people turned out to take part in and remember the soldiers, three of whom are buried in Lewisporte and two more who are at rest in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Botwood. Their names are Gunner George Gordon Bennett of Fairville, New Brunswick; Gunner Bernard Harvey Meisner of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia; Lance-Bombadier John Fairweather Walker of Meduetie, New Brunswick; Private Philip Charles Flamain of Ansonville, Ontario and Gunner Douglas McIntosh of Passchendaele, Nova Scotia.
With an honour guard of military personnel standing at the headstones in Lewisporte, the ceremony was held to mark the time around when the explosion had happened at approximately 11:50 a.m. Two minutes of silence were followed by the siren at the old fire hall ringing out, cutting through the silence.
Salvation Army Captain Joshua Randell said in a prayer at the memorial, “What a privilege it is to be here today Lord and we thank you Lord for the freedom which is ours.
Also adding, “As we remember those who gave for their lives for the freedom that we have today, we want to say thank you.”