… of a disturbed night last night. And I’ll tell you why in due course.
And it took the alarm to rouse me from my slumbers – and I was still there when Billy Cotton wailed out his reminder 15 minutes later.
Furthermore, I wasn’t in much of a state to do much when I awoke. Something of a difficult morning in fact.
Eventually I made it in for the inclusive breakfast. It wasn’t much of a breakfast either. It might have helped had I taken my soya milk in but I wasn’t thinking too much about that.
A little later I did manage to attack the blog and bring it up to date, as well as tidying up the room and making it look presentable. By 10:30 I was on my way.
Last night I’d made a little miscalculation. Grand Falls where I ended up was about 50 kms beyond where I wanted to me so I had to go all the way back.
The area was first officially visited in 1810 by an exploration party led by David Buchan
An early claim to fame is that it is the place of death of that last two known Beothuk natives.
There were quays here and the railway brought wagon-loads of paper from the pulp mills at Grand Falls-Windsor and ore from the mines at Buchans.
But all of that has long-gone – the ore in 1984 and the paper in 2009. Nowadays they don’t have one ship per month in here.
For this was the raison d’etre of the town during this period.
It’s another one of these places that played a leading role in the development of Transatlantic flight, because the first commercial transatlantic passenger flights came into land right there.
It developed a lumber business at the turn of the 20th Century and then, once the railway arrived, became a throving port.
But just after the First World War, the legendary airman Sidney Cotton – pioneer of modern aerial photography – chose Botwood as a base for his seaplane that he used for surveying and seal-spotting around the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts.
He and his wife flew into Botwood in 1933 having heard of Cotton’s base here. They surveyed the bay and approved its use as a base for flying boats.
As a result, Pan Am issued a contract with Boeing to develop a huge flying boat capable of flying the Atlantic, and the Boeing 314 “Clipper” was born.
In the meantime, BOAC had been doing research of its own into long-distance flight to link up the major cities of the Commonwealth. This led to the development of the “Short Empire” flying boat.
The two airlines co-operated in research for transatlantic flight, and in July 1937 the first several Transatlantic survey flights were made with the co-operation of both companies.
And in June 1939, the first regular commercial transatlantic passenger flights began. The route was Southampton – Foynes – Botwood and then either Montreal or New York.
During the Second World War, the “Empires” were requisitioned by the British military authorities and it was left to the “Clippers” and a few older Sikorsky S42 flying boats to continue the service.
In fact, somewhere out there in the area shown in one of the earlier photos, there’s a Sikorsky flying boat – a more modern VS44 named “Excalibur”.
On 3rd October 1942 she “bounced” on take-off and went under. 11 of the people on board were killed and, strange as it might be to mention it, the US military authorities are still even today searching for the bodies of the four people who are missing.
This was when the concrete slipway was built (the big flying boats were loaded and unloaded by boat).
The British – and later the Canadian – government based a squadron of flying boats here that were used for anti-submarine defence around the north of the island.
German submarines were quite active in the area as you know from our previous discussions.
The port itself was protected by a couple of batteries of heavy artillery, of which the gunners passed what could only be a very boring war.
This machine was taken out of service in the late 1980s and was donated by the Canadian Government to the town.
It’s official recognition as some kind of reminder or memorial to the role that the town played during the war in the fight against the submarines.
One of the military flying boats, a PBY Canso, crashed on landing in the bay on November 8, 1943 and seven people were killed.
A Hurricane, flying to Gander, ran out of fuel and attempted a landing on the ice. Unfortunately it broke throuh and sank, but the pilot was saved.
The island itself is hollowed out and was used as a bunker or store for munitions and the like and there’s a whole series of entrances over there in the rock.
You might think that that’s enough wartime excitement for a small town like Botwood, but that’s far from the case
Probably the very first Act of War in North America took place here.
A German ore carrier, the Christoph V. Doornum was in dock here on the very day that War was declared, loading ore from Buchans to take back to Germany.
She was immediately seized by the local police, her crew arrested, and she was impressed into the British merchant fleet.
She didn’t last long though, being damaged beyond repair by a mine off Margate on 9th June 1940.
And so having “done” Botwood I drove back to Grand Falls for a look around. And there’s nothing that’s really any reminder of the importance of the town.
I did the final load of shopping (having to go into three shops before I could find a lettuce), fuelled up, and then hit the highway to drive non-stop to Deer Lake.
Just down the road from my cabin, Strider passed over the 200,000 kilometres. So happy 200,000 kilometres, Strider.
The cabin that I’m in sleeps four and although it’s tired around the edges, it’s not too bad. Four people would have a really good time here I suppose.
All of the cooking gear is here and there’s a microwave too, so it’s potatoes, beans and bangers for tea tonight.
And then an early night because I’m whacked. In fact, I fell asleep speaking to someone on the internet.
At the start of tonight’s rubbish, I mentioned that I had had a disturbed night and that I would tell you why.
I went on a ramble last night – a ramble that lasted most of the night and I was out and about all over the place.
I started out in some kind of town – an old run-down type of place falling to pieces and I was looking for some documents for a driving test. Id been told where to go but I couldn’t remember so I accosted a local. He pointed out a few places but one was closed a few days ago and the other one had closed a few months ago. Everything was in such a derelict mess – just in fact rather like Calveley Airfield.
And then I came across a boy whom I knew who was trying to burn a load of papers – it was very important that all of these papers would be burnt. He’d put them in some kind of incinerator and closed the door but the conveyor belt wasn’t working. He was kicking a football against the door and all of a sudden there was a bang from inside the door – something like a paper bag bursting. We opened the door to see and saw the big box disappearing – the conveyor belt was now working – but there was still a load of paper, some bubble wrap and a few bits and pieces lying around. I told him that all of these needed to be removed as they had people’s addresses on them and they were visible, so he took some of the stuff and left the rest behind. The first thing that I noticed was a big file of mine about an insurance claim with my name and address clearly marked on it. I made him move it but he just took it out and dumped it on the side, which resulted in me having a huge “go” at him about this.
Round the corner was a public bar and I went in, and on the TV was England playing Norway at football. England conceded a goal after just 30 seconds. The goalkeeper for England was Viv Anderson – a full-back from the 1980s. Apparently the England goalkeeper had been injured in a previous match. This made me wonder why they didn’t have a reserve or anyone better than him because he was dreadful – running away from his goal after balls that he would never ever win. At the start of the second half Norway scored again straight away but for some reason it was disallowed. The Norway players were extremely unhappy about this. And by this time Anderson was playing like the full-back he was, rushing around over the pitch and leaving the goal empty and on a couple of occasions the other defenders had to dash back and kick balls off the line. Roy Hodgson was the England manager and he was giving vent to his feelings, but actually doing nothing about it.
By this time I was looking for somewhere to go for the toilet, but there was no toilet in this house where I was staying – just a bath and a sink. So I went out and about looking for one and couldn’t find one anywhere in the vicinity. I thought about nipping down a suitable dark alleyway but there people down there. There was a small park down the hill at the end of this football ground that might have done, but there were a couple of cars and people all around – so I just couldn’t get to go.
At this point, I awoke. and no surprises for guessing what I needed to do.
Back to bed – and who should appear in last night’s voyage but a girl whom I haven’t thought about in a long time and who is making her debut in my nocturnal rambles. Even when she was a young kid we all knew that she was going to be “something” and I can tell you a couple of stories about how we met up quite a few years later.
But going on from here, something came up that meant that I had to go to visit this house, and it was the home of her parents. I was rather embarrassed because it had been a good few years since I’d seen this girl and I was expecting her mother to make a few comments to me. But it seemed that she was suffering from dementia and was making quite a few comments to everyone. There were loads of people there, including her brother who was giving me the cold shoulder, and several people had bought their guitars with them. I was saying that it was a shame that I hadn’t come in my van because I would have had my bass with me. Then the girl appeared – blonde hair and thick-rimmed black glasses, nothing at all like she used to be and I had a hard time convincing myself that it was she (which it wasn’t of course).
From there I was back doing something with a guy I knew from Wandsworth who was now running a taxi company. He’d left a piece of paper on his desk about an old taxi run that he had done, giving the address of the street and which road to take to enter it – and “take a trailer”. A little later I was outside discussing this thing on the phone with someone else when he came on the tannoy that I was wasting my time as the job had been done last week (which I knew anyway and which wasn’t the point) and they had charged £54. I went off there to find out why the specific street to use had been mentioned, and found that the rest of the street was blocked off by a street party. I was in a bus and hordes of people climbed aboard just to chill out. When it was time o go I had to usher them all off – and do it two or three times too. And then we gathered up the waste into two large oil drums and started to burn it. They took off really well but one flared up and was in danger of setting alight some overhanging branches (we’d not been to careful) so we had to move it, flames and all. Another person tried to light a fire but was completely unsuccessful so we sent people off to look for more rubbish to add to his pile.