The memory of Newfoundland’s gunners is kept alive in the newly completed Royal Artillery Park in St. John’s on land adjacent to Pleasantville Branch of The Royal Canadian Legion.
The park is distinguished by the large pieces of weaponry. There is a 7.2-inch field gun similar to those used by the 59th (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery, in Normandy and many other battles of the Second World War.
From the First World War, there are two German trench mortars and a 100-milimetre Krupp Field gun. There is also a 25-pound gun similar to those used by the 166th (Nfld.) Field Regt., RA, which was formed in Great Britain in July 1941 to defend England from the threat of invasion. The unit also served in North Africa and Italy.
Along with the weapons is a Universal Carrier used by the Lincoln and Welland Regt. to defend the City of St. John’s and Royal Canadian Air Force Station Torbay in the Second World War.
“The project took about 10 years,” said Nelson Sherren, a member of Pleasantville Branch. “We had trouble getting financing. The City of St. John’s helped us and then the rest came from the federal government.”
In 2012, Veterans Affairs Canada donated $48,000 through the Community War Memorial Program for the project to reconstruct existing pathways to make them more accessible and improve the appearance of the park. Plaques and a map were added.
The land came from the Winter family of St. John’s merchants and politicians who gave it to the Legion as long as the Legion could use it. The land was used by the U.S. Army during the Second World War and then returned to the Legion. Pleasantville Branch operates from a former military building which is also home to Newfoundland and Labrador Command.
“I served as a cadet officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery reserve back in the 1950s,” said Sherren. “It left me with a real appreciation for those who served manning the big guns, and over the years I developed relationships with returning veterans who served with the 57th, 59th, and 166th regiments, Royal Artillery.”
In conversation with his cousin Eric Baggs, a sergeant-major, Sherren took on the project to have a park dedicated to the artifacts. Many volunteers gave their time and local businesses offered services in support of the project.
The first piece, the 7.2-inch gun, came from the Royal Artillery and was one of only three available.
“The park is provided to remember not just those who fell but all who served, many, unfortunately, no longer with us,” said Sherren.