Monday, December 12, 2011
Tragedy in North America's Oldest Capital
On the night of December 12, 1942, the poison of war permeating the entire world, a fire in the Knights of Columbus Hostel killed 99 and wounded an additional 109 persons who were attending a “barn dance," an activity welcomed by the hundreds of service men stationed in St. John’s.
St. John’s harbor was a staging area for transport of materiel and personnel to the European Theater.
The Canadians had set up military bases at Gander and Torbay. The Americans had leased Fort Pepperrell, and the Newfoundlanders, who at this time were not a part of the Canadian confederation, had an operational base at Shamrock Field. In addition to these varied military forces utilizing St. John’s facilities, the city was a hotbed of intrigue and was apparently overrun with foreign agents with allegiances to many interests.
And so it was that people, conditions, and ideals converged on a fateful night. A saboteur took advantage of a volatile situation and in an act of arson created the worst disaster by fire in Canadian history.
Honor and Recognition is due those who died here, for they also served in Freedom's cause.
A rather detailed but very interesting account is given here, Newfoundland’s Grand Banks Site.