NEWSLETTER November 2010
I just thought I would share with you some thoughts on Remembrance Day:
Remembrance Day has particular interest this year because it is in a sense the first new day of ‘living memory’. Living memory in the culture of the Ancient Greeks was seventy years, the limit of past knowledge. Similarly the West African had a language that distinguished between sasa, the realm of the here and now and zamani, the realm of the ancestors and spirits, going back the biblical three score and ten years. Remembrance Day reminds us that we are celebrating the sacrifice of our ancestors during World Wars 1 and 2. During World War 2 seventeen men left the Bahamas to work in the munitions factories in Great Britain. Between two and three hundred Bahamians, men and women, served in the armed forces of Britain, Canada and USA. Fourteen men lost their lives in active service. And of course since then many veterans have died of war wounds or natural causes. I found this poem in the Bahamas Historical Society Museum that is a dedication to Bahamian Airmen and their part in the Second World War.
One such pilot was Lester Brown:
Tribune 2nd October 1944 – Men of the Future: Squadron Leader Lester Brown arrived in Nassau this week to be an instructor at the RAF Base.
Brown was one of the first to volunteer in 1940. His active service has mainly been in the Middle East and he has more than a 100 raids on his score card. Congratulates his family on his safe return and with such an incredible record of service and rapid promotion behind him.
But the Bahamas also played a role in training men for the war theatre as this paragraph from Islanders in the Stream by Michael Craton and Gail Saunders: To the small garrison of Cameron Highlanders (later superseded by Pictou Highlanders from Canada) and army engineers and other servicemen manning the US bases, three thousand personnel were added by the end of 1942 to man the Operational Training Unit (OTU) stationed at Oakes Field and the 113th Wing Transport Command unit based at the Satellite (Windsor) Field. Somewhat later, once the Florida Strait and other Bahamian channels were regularly prowled by German U-boats, Windsor Field became the base for two squadrons of antisubmarine patrol planes. At the Oakes Field OTU, some five thousand pilots already qualified for single-engined planes were trained to fly twin-engined Mitchells and four-engined Liberators, along with about six hundred bomber crews-another five thousand men - while untold further thousands of airmen passed through New Providence in ferrying aircraft from American factories to North African and European war theaters, by way of South America.
All these sacrifices were in the service to humanity. The poppy is the symbol of our appreciation of the courage and suffering of those ancestors, who sacrificed their life in both world wars. There are many more stories that can be told about the Bahamas during World War 2 - a period just on the edge of living memory.
Dame Marguerite Pindling gave a gracious and interesting talk last Thursday 28th October. Here are the youtube links for Dame Marguerite's presentation:
We have a new artefact on show in the museum. John Ansell kindly retrieved the finial ball crown of the roof of the Isolation Hospital on Athol Island and gave it to us to show.
The following information about the Quarantine Station is an excerpt form Colin Brooker’s artice "The Quarantine Station at Athol Island, New Providence" in the 2005 Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society.
The Quarantine Station
Despite legislation passed in 1845 requiring quarantine for ships coming from places "where any contagion or malignancy exists" Nassau was still without an official quarantine station ten years later when the brigantine Marietta from New York was brought into port "on account of having three of her crew sick with small pox." To head off similar threats posed by vessels carrying smallpox, yellow fever or other infectious diseases, Thomas Chapman Harvey, C.E. (Out-Island Civil Engineer, later Chief Civil Engineer of the Colony)" acting upon instructions from Sir Alexander Bannerman (Governor, 1854-57) visited Athol Island during the following year to assess its suitability as a permanent Quarantine Station. On October 5, 1855 he reported:
Athol Island appears to be peculiarly desirable locality
for such a purpose as Your Excellency has in contemplation, the island
being dry, free from swamps and rising in one part to a height of 30 feet
above the level of the sea, would naturally lead to the conclusion, that
it must be a healthy situation ...
Fallen and disassocrated elements ot the roof frame found in 2004 follow specifications for re-roofing the Main Hospital drafted by the Board of Works in 1883 (Department of Archives, Nassau) which read: "Roof building with a sound yellow pine roof Hip or angle rafters to be 6 by 3 inches, with heels well bolted to plates and upper ends framed by mortise and tenoned into ten inch diameter turned hardwood ball of such shape and size as may be directed- and further secured by a 192 by 3/8 flat iron by passing around such ball. Regarding the roof covering, the contractor was instructed to: "Close board roof with inch of pine ... one side with beveled edges and well nailed to rafters with [no) 10 nails, and then shingle with the best 22 inch Cypress shingles, laid to a five inch gauge, two nails to each shingle." Nothing remains in situ but we did discover the ball finial crowning the roof to survive intact beneath masses off alien debris.