By Terry Hughes
As we enter November, our thoughts reflect on that time of year when we honour the veterans who have served in a variety of conflicts to bring peace to the world.
The two World Wars come to mind but we have been engaged in Korea where our Princess Pats (Canadian Light Infantry) earned a presidential citation for bravery from President Eisenhower. HMCS Haida, a Canadian destroyer, became known for its train busting against Communist forces along the Korean coast. And how can we not recognize the Lancaster bomber that roars across the skies on special occasions!
Our military also has been engaged in a variety of peacekeeping missions. For example, in the former Yugoslavia when NATO became engaged to stop the violence in the 1990’s, our troops as peacekeepers stood fast against ethnic cleansing. We created a new term called peacemakers by returning fire, the first time since the Korean War, against those elements who engaged our troops to stop this slaughter in an area called the Medak Pocket (a Serb-controlled area of high ground near Medak, Croatia). Just look how our people served along with our allies in Afghanistan. And although many people do not know this fact, it was Canada in 1947 who recommended that an alliance of North American countries be created to stand up against the threat of the Soviet Union and NATO was formed in 1949.
When involved in war, the people at home are heavily involved as the provider of food, clothing and a variety of military equipment. The industrial base here in Welland and Crowland flourished as a provider for our armed forces. During World War Two, anti-aircraft guns from the Atlas and shell casings from Mead-Morrison are some examples. During World War One, we supported a short period of shipbuilding at an industrial site on King Street across from the Half Moon and the Rex. The owners, Beatty & Sons, had leased the site to a British firm to construct five ocean-going vessels to replace war losses by the enemy. A special ramp was built along the canal bank to launch vessels sideways into the water. Other structures were built to construct the hull and to fit them out.
In our first picture (top left), we see the hull of one of these ships about to be launched. It must be remembered that the third canal was in operation then limiting the maximum size of vessels to a length of 251 ft. long and 43 ft. wide to fit the locks. The canal was one hundred feet wide at the bottom which made ships of this size difficult to pass each other. Here, in the second picture (top right), we see one of these ocean-going ships passing a canal-size vessel. That means that they have 14 ft. to use for passing and it looks like the canaller is rubbing her bottom on the sloping banks of the canal.
Many people may question the paint scheme used on the hull of this vessel as it passes Merritt Park heading north to the Alexandra Swing Bridge. It was determined by the allies that a “dazzle” style of painting would confuse the submariners as to the size and distance of these ships while underway on the oceans. Anyway, hundreds of these ships would sail for many years and become known as “tramp steamers” because like some female companionships, these ships were found in every port!
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)