the only World War II shore battery that has been completely preserved and that is open to the public in Quebec. This deeply moving site is also the main vestige of the Gaspé naval base, one of Canada’s primary military stations during the Second World War.
From 1942 to 1944, German “U-boote” (submarines) entered the St. Lawrence Gulf and River. There they sank 23 Allied ships during what has become known as the Battle of the St. Lawrence. The war, which until then had been a somewhat remote concern, suddenly became an immediate, threatening and palpable reality for people in the Gaspé.
In response to this danger, Canadian Navy strategists chose to site a naval base at Gaspé Bay. This sprawling natural port is considered as one of North America’s finest havens. In particular, Gaspé Bay’s deep waters were easy to defend, being sheltered by the surrounding coastal relief and the sand spits of Penouille and Sandy Beach. Furthermore, the bay was strategically well positioned, enabling the navy to defend both the St. Lawrence Gulf and River.
Inaugurated on May 1, 1942, the Gaspé naval base would play a dual role, protecting Gaspé Bay (seen as offering haven to a portion of the Allied fleet in the event of an invasion of Great Britain by Nazi Germany) and helping to protect Allied commercial and military vessels sailing in the St. Lawrence.
A Strategic Harbour!
The Bay of Gaspe, a vast natural port, offers one of the best havens in North America. Because it is well sheltered both by the coastal relief and the sandy points of Penouille and Sandy Beach, the Gaspe Basin is easy to defend. In addition, large ships are able to drop anchor here.
The defence of the Gaspe military complex was commanded from Fort Ramsay, built on the opposite shore. Each army corp had clearly defined responsibilities.
The Navy manoeuvred the anti-submrine net installed at the entrance of the base, patrolled and dragged the entrance to the port and monitored all ships that entered and left.
The Army was in charge of the three coastal batteries and anti-air defence. Its job was to repel the enemy if it landed.
The Air Force ran reconnaissance missions above the "Gaspe Passage", the Cabot Strait and the Saguenay River. Its job was to engage the enemy in combat in case of any naval, land or air incursion.
It was a very impressive display...well done! We're certainly getting all sorts of history lessons!
On our way back to the truck, we passed this RV from Begium...
The Birthplace of Canada depicting Gaspe's history. We started with the Naval Base...
This is "House Horatio Le Boutillier"...we didn't go in, however, here is the history....
This residence, which was built in the 1850s, was bought in 2011 by the Town of Gaspé. It was then moved to the history site of the O’Hara Point in September 2012 to ensure its preservation.
This residence acts as a place of interpretation on the history of its residents. Moreover, it also describes the history of the free port period in Gaspé with the presence of consulates.
This residence, which was the home of a consular office, was first and foremost a family house where grew up the members of the LeBoutillier family for over a century.
In 1880, Dr. William Wakeham bought a house in Gaspé. Few months later, he becomes an inspector for the fishing done in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in Labrador for the Government of Canada. This statue, done by Roger Langevin in 2014, recalls the important role of Dr. Wakeham in the claim of the North by Canada on August 17, 1897. The crew left Baffin Island on board of the SS Diana with the mandate to reinforce the ownership of Canada on this arctic territory almost unhabited. William Wakeham spent his last years in the residence that now bears his name.
This work of Jean-Robert Drouillard was installed on the O’Hara Point history site in September of 2014. The artist wanted to relate the history of his great-grand-father whose ship ran aground in the area of Cap-des-Rosiers in the last century. The work commemorates the French and the English fact and the Aboriginal spirit which are reflected in the history of the town.
(Don't get the antlers on his head)
JACQUES DE LESSEPS SEAPLANE BASE
This building represents the old sawmill of Joseph Shaw. In 1926, it was bought by the Compagnie aérienne franco-canadienne (CAFC) and then transformed into a seaplane base to house Jacques de Lesseps’s seaplanes. This interpretation building presents the aviation and transportation history in Gaspé. Moreover, a great time line shows the evolution of transportation in Gaspé since the arrival of Jacques Cartier. It is also a place to enjoy the photographs taken from above by Jacques de Lesseps and the CAFC in 1926 and 1927 and a scale model of the seaplane used to perform these flights.
This building represents the store built by the Collas brothers with John Slous in 1865. Over the years, the original building was expanded to offer a greater diversity of merchandise to its clients. The Collas and Slous interpretation building proposes an installation recalling the displays of the general stores from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The history of the general stores in Gaspé is recalled and an exhibition of collector’s items sold at the time in general stores is displayed.
This long house is a symbol of the presence of First Nations and the occupation of the territory several centuries before the Europeans’ arrival. Mi’kmaqs, as many Algonquian families, were building long houses to hold meetings, greet strangers and celebrate ceremonies. The low door forces the visitor to bend over to enter, thus showing respect to the people that are already inside. The Mi’kmaq Nation of Gespeg, located in Gaspé, has over 800 members, established throughout the municipality.
This granite monolith was sculpted in a quarry in Rivière-à-Pierre, in the Portneuf region. This monument is a gift from the Canadian government to Gaspé for the 400th anniversary celebrations of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in 1934. Delivered by boat, the monument is first installed in a park on de la Reine Street. In 1979, it is moved near the Christ-Roi cathedral. In 2012, the monument is installed on the O’Hara Point site. This monument recalls the action taken by the French explorer Jacques Cartier at the time of the claim of the territory that will then become the New France.
The building on the right is the BAKER TAVERN...This building is the representation of the first tavern built by John Baker in 1903. This building burned down in 1927. In 1934, the tavern moved in the Baker Hotel located on Main street. Not only it recalls the atmosphere of vintage taverns, the interpretation building of the Baker Tavern also covers the history of taverns in Gaspé. It also recalls the history of whaling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Refreshment Break: The Baker Tavern is the place to take a little break and enjoy refreshments on its terrace or seated at a table inside.
This building is inspired of the warehouse managed by the Davis family between 1925 and 1966. This warehouse was located on the O’Hara Point, installed on the Davis Wharf. It was used as a warehouse for merchandise that was passing through Davis Wharf. The interpretation building of the Davis Warehouse presents the history of occupations of the O’Hara Point. Moreover, a space is dedicated to the reconstitution of a forge and its tools. There is also some interpretation about shipping trade and navigation over the past centuries.
We stopped for a beer at Microbrasserie Au Frontibus...
...and sat outside on the patio where we met John and Laura, also full-time RV'ers from Ohio. We chatted with them as we had our beer and learned that they, too, will be moving to Camping Griffon tomorrow. We made plans to meet up again...great meeting them!