Weymouth's little warships remembered

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By Karla Kelly FOR THE DIGBY COURIER NovaNewsNow.com

Although Weymouth was an ocean away from the conflict in Europe during the Second World War, Nova Scotia was on the front lines of the Battle of the Atlantic and the village played its part building Fairmiles to patrol the coastline.

A dedication ceremony was held at Sissiboo Landing on Monday to honor the role of these ‘little ships’ or submarine chasers that were built in Weymouth during the war.

Rod LeFort, chairman of the Weymouth Waterfront Development Committee, welcomed the nearly 30 guests on hand for the ceremony. Among those attending the ceremony were Clare Digby MLA Gordon Wilson, municipal warden Linda Gregory, and municipal councillor George Manzer.

LeFort said one of the roles of the Waterfront Development Committee was to develop and maintain the cultural and heritage aspects of the village of Weymouth and surrounding area and recognizing this historical aspect is part of the mandate.

“The Fairmiles interpretive panel recognizes the importance this wartime project had on the village,” LeFort said. “Over 100 men worked to build the wooden Fairmiles at John H. LeBlanc Shipbuilding during this time and it was a boom to the local economy.”

Guest speaker for the evening was Gary Gaudet, an historian and secretary of the Wartime Heritage Association.

Gaudet said Weymouth was the only Atlantic Canadian community to be chosen for this project with seven boats being constructed here for the Royal Canadian Navy and eight for the Royal Navy. The latter eight were transferred to Boston for use by the U.S. Navy.

“These boats played an important role on the Atlantic side during the war,” said Gaudet. “Among their duties these boats served as convoy escorts, minesweepers and patrol boats up and down the Atlantic coastal waters of Canada and the United States as well as the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

These boats played an important role on the Atlantic side during the war. Gary Gaudet of the Wartime Heritage Association.

Gaudet said German submarines were a real threat along the Atlantic coast, penetrating the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay.

“A flotilla consisting of six Fairmiles was based in Shelburne and these boats were on daily patrol and convoy duty,” he said. “These boats did come in contact with U-boats, two Weymouth built boats being involved in the surrender of German U-Boats and completed minesweeping activities.”

Although constructing the Fairmiles and having them in service during the war was vital to the cause, Gaudet emphasized the men who built the ships and those who sailed them.

“It’s about the men who went out in these small warships everyday not knowing what would happen by the end of the day,” he said. “These sailors and the 100 men who were hired to build the ships in Weymouth made a huge contribution and definitely served their country in this manner.”

The 15 Weymouth-built Fairmiles along with the other Canadian submarine chasers were sold after the war ended, with a few remaining in use today.

Reference was made to the Fairmile model on display at the Sissiboo Landing built by and donated to the Cultural Center by Second World War air force veteran and model boat builder Ronald Gaudet of Westport.

Due to inclement weather the ceremony was held inside at the Landing but the interpretive panel is in place facing the area across the Sissiboo River where LeBlanc’s Shipbuilding once stood.

 

Organizations: Weymouth Waterfront Development Committee, Royal Canadian Navy, Wartime Heritage Association U.S. Navy Canadian Submarine Chasers Cultural Center

Geographic location: Weymouth, Europe, Boston Atlantic Canada United States Bay of Fundy Shelburne Westport Sissiboo River

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Recent comments

  • Vic Barr Jr.
    June 18, 2014 - 00:07

    I had no knowledge of these boats or that they were so many built in Weymouth. I'm happy the village remembers. Great model, I hope to see it someday

  • Fraser McKee
    May 22, 2014 - 22:47

    As an historian working on the post-war histories of all the 80 Fairmiles built for the RCN, it was great to see Weymouth recognizing their value and the work put into the war effort by Le Blanc and those local people. One of the very few such recognitions across Canada for such building efforts.

  • desi belliveau
    May 20, 2014 - 14:12

    I think my grand father was forman at the yard his name was desire belliveau

  • desi belliveau
    May 20, 2014 - 14:11

    I think my grand father was forman at the yard his name was desire belliveau