1946 Terminal Opening

by Frank Tibbo

If the Beacon had been around in 1946, the front page in mid-September would have featured one of the biggest stories in the airport’s young history. Newfoundland was governed by Commission of Government and the Commissioner for Public Utilities and Supply, James Scott Neill, was in Gander for the opening of a new airport terminal.

aerial view

J.S. Neill, C.M.G, (Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) had just spent seven years as an administrator in Dominica and was tasked with the duty of making an appropriate speech on this momentous occasion. It was September 14 - here is what he said:

"My first duty today is to extend a hearty welcome to the representatives of the airlines, the Press and the public who have come to Gander on the occasion of the opening of this great terminal building. We are deeply sensible of the honour they have done us.

"I find it hard to realize that ten years ago the ground on which we stand was typical Newfoundland forest country covered with spruce, fir and birch. Experts from the British Air Ministry, assisted by Newfoundland staff, had explored the country for a suitable airfield and the choice fell on Gander. Construction work commenced in May, 1936, and the airport, as originally conceived, was completed in 1939, the year of the outbreak of war. Gander, a true Newfoundlander, gave up her civil avocation when called upon to discharge her military duties Control was transferred to the Dominion of Canada for the duration of the war. The airport was extended by the Dominion into a great Military field, an integral part of the Battle of the Atlantic, a staging post in the flight of the bombers as they proceeded to the battlefields of Europe. The people of Newfoundland can never forget the debt of gratitude they owe to the men of the R.C.A.F., the U.S.A.A.F. and the R.A.F. who were based here or passed through this port. Gander has won its place, not only in the history of Newfoundland, but in the history of the effort of the Dominion, the Republic and the Commonwealth.

"With the end of hostilities the Government of Canada transferred Gander back to the civil government and our task of building up a great civil airport began less than six months ago. Only those of us who are intimately concerned with the work involved and have a full knowledge of the supply position can appreciate the magnitude of the task which is yet not complete. We had to be certain that our runways were suitable for civil use; we had to arrange for the many and varied ancillaries of a great airport - radio, meteorology, fuelling, housing of staff, government and private, administrative offices, catering, accommodation for transients and so forth. The fighting service helped us, the Dominion supplied us with meteorological staff, and the Air Lines came to our assistance by placing at our disposal their knowledge of the varied aspects of general administration. We are thankful for the help received and I am indeed sorry that the Director of Civil Aviation is not here today to express his own thanks. Squadron leader Pattison, as you know, may well be termed a foundation member of Gander and it is a great disappointment to him and to all of us that duty called him to a conference in the United Kingdom at this time. Throughout the years he has served Gander with loyalty, skill and devotion. We have on our staff another member - I refer to engineer Bradley. His runways, silent though they are, speak more eloquently for him that I could hope to do.

"I have mentioned our own staff first following the chronological sequence. I now wish to refer again to the civil airlines and particularly to the man they chose to lead in negotiations with Government since Gander reverted to civil control. I mean, of course, Jim Eaton. We have had conferences in Gander and New York on the subject of this building, the hangers, furnishings, facilities and kindred subjects, and have reached agreement not disadvantageous, be it known, to Government and full credit for the work done must be given to Jim Eaton. In saying this I know that I am expressing the feelings of all. Skilled in negotiation, his broad vision has never blunted. He was generous in his appreciation of our viewpoint and it has been a pleasure to work with him.


"I wish to record my own faith in the future of Gander. It is destined, in the days to come, to be the mother ship of airships which will fly internally in Newfoundland. It is destined to become one of the historic airport trans-Atlantic travel; it is destined to have a history in peace which will match its glorious record in war.

"I have the privilege to be allowed to address you and to have the honour, which I shall always cherish, of declaring this Terminal Building open and may God grant safe passage to those who pass through its portals."



Ed Note; In 1959 a new terminal was opened in the area originally known as 'the American side' where it remains to this day. To view a slide show of this newer terminal http://www.ganderairporthistoricalsociety.org/_html_trans/Terminal3.htm

As published in the Gander Beacon and written by Frank Tibbo




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