Newfoundland, one of the “sally ports” of freedom


November 10, 1940


Memorial Plaque in Gander marking the first aircraft to be ferried to the United Kingdom from Gander.

On 10 November 1940, one of the most dramatic of all Newfoundland wartime moments came when the first aircraft to be ferried to the United Kingdom from Gander, Newfoundland lifted off and headed out into the night across the Atlantic.

An Australian pilot, D.C.T. Bennett, commanded the formation  of seven Hudson bombers manufactured in Burbank, California. The flight encountered a severe winter storm over the North Atlantic, and the crews experienced serious problems with the wings icing over.

The aircraft landed the next morning, ten hours and seventeen minutes after leaving Gander, (Remembrance Day) at Aldergrove, near Belfast, Northern Ireland, and their crew members disembarked wearing poppies.  This flight gave Newfoundland the title “one of the sally-ports of freedom.”

Soon swarms of aircraft were making the crossing with Gander’s Canadian-administered facilities as the launching point.

The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) Air Services would be reorganized as the Atlantic Ferry Organization (AFTERO) in the summer of 1941 and integrated with the Royal Air Force Ferry Command and the British Civilian Air Transport Auxiliary the following year.

By the end of the war,Gander and Goose Bay had helped deliver some 10,000 aircraft from North America toEurope.

New Term: sally (surge)  port (door), these words describe the security route designed for swift passage of soldiers through fortresses. Attempting to slow offensive attacks, troops would “sally forth” through these easily secured doors and attack the enemy.

Recommended Reading:  Neary, Peter. “A Garrison Country: Newfoundland and Labrador during the Second World War.” Canadian War Museum Dispatches 4 (1999): 1 – 4.

Recommended On Line Reading: Gander: