Fort Peninsula

This site is a moving remnant of the Gaspé naval base, one of Canada’s leading military stations during the Second World War.

Inaugurated in 1942, the Gaspé military complex consisted of a naval base (H.M.C.S Fort Ramsay), three coastal batteries (Fort Haldimand, Fort Prével, and Fort Peninsula), an enormous anti-submarine net that closed off Gaspé Bay to German U-boats, and a fleet of 19 warships.

Why was there a naval base in Gaspé?
What makes this heritage site so remarkable?
To find out, watch our video on Fort Peninsula.

Fort Peninsula and the Second World War

Transcript

Parks Canada logo (beaver).

Scrolling text, with background sound of exploding bombs and shooting:

1942…

World War II is raging.

German submarines have penetrated the St. Lawrence Gulf and estuary.

They were to sink 23 allied ships in this zone.

It is the Battle of the St. Lawrence…

View of Fort Peninsula (from offshore), at Forillon National Park. Low-level background music (guitar and piano), setting a contemporary tone that is moving yet dynamic.

Forillon National Park (logo) - Fort Peninsula

Interview with Émilie Devoe, Parks Canada spokeswoman.The image of the spokeswoman alternates with a series of archival photos of ships in Gaspé Bay, the Gaspé naval base, an air defence battery, a soldier in front of a projector at Fort Péninsule, the installation of the submarine net, and the construction of the shore battery at Fort Prével.

(Émilie Devoe, Parks Canada) The naval base of Gaspé played a vital role in the Battle of the St. Lawrence.

Actually, it played a dual role.

To begin with, it was responsible for protecting allied ships navigating in the St. Lawrence Gulf and estuary.

Then, it was charged with protecting Gaspé Bay, which had been selected to accommodate a portion of the British fleet in the event of a German invasion of Great Britain.

Thus, throughout this time, the greater Gaspé area was home to a major military complex that embraced the naval base proper, a huge submarine net as well as three shore batteries, which included Fort Peninsula.

The interview continues. The image of the spokeswoman alternates with current images of the site – e.g., cannon, stairs, tunnels, interior and exterior views of the site, etc.

Today, the main vestige of this military complex is Fort Peninsula, an exceptional heritage site.

It is the only World War II shore battery that has been completely preserved and that is open to the public in Quebec.

It is an impressive site especially as you look over the big guns and walk along the underground tunnels and through the storage rooms.

Sounds reverberate down the damp dark corridors.

It’s quite a moving experience!

The interview continues. The image of the spokeswoman alternates with images of people on the site – e.g., a group of picnickers, visitors of all ages, costumed guide-interpreters in action, children who learn while playing, etc.

But what is really interesting is how this site has become an amazingly lively place of memory.

People come here to chat, play music, or enjoy a picnic.

It is a place where, spontaneously, people get together, share memories, tell their stories.

It’s also a place people like to come back to get a better understanding of events and, to remember.

And perhaps it’s also a place for passing on to our children such cherished values as respect, freedom and peace.

Fort Peninsula - Live it!

Archival images (Musée naval de Québec and Musée de la Gaspésie logos)

Parks Canada logo (flag).

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2014.

Canada wordmark

Torpedo attacks off the coast of Cap-des-Rosiers

Did you know that ships were torpedoed by German U-boats near the coast of Forillon in 1942 during the Battle of the St. Lawrence?

In fall 2015, over 70 years later, five shipwrecks were located off the coast of Cap-Gaspé and Cap-des-Rosiers through the joint efforts of several partners, including Samuel Côté, researchers from the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Development of Ocean Mapping (CIDCO), archaeologist Érik Phaneuf, REFORMAR, and Canadian Heritage. This discovery generated a great deal of interest and brought back memories for many Gaspésiens.

What really happened on September 15, 1942?
Two witnesses, Gérald Giasson and Guy Ste-Croix, share their memories of this little-known episode of the Second World War.

The Battle of the St. Lawrence at the doorstep of Forillon

Transcript

Parks Canada logo (beaver).

Scrolling text, with background sound of exploding bombs and shooting:

September, 1942

World War II is raging.

German submarines penetrate the St. Lawrence and torpedo Allied ships.

Off the coast of Forillon, fishermen find themselves

on the battlefield…

Interview with Émilie Devoe, Parks Canada spokeswoman. The image of the spokeswoman alternates with a series of images (commemorative plaque of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for the Battle of the St. Lawrence, Cap-Bon-Ami) and archival photos (submarines in the Gulf of St-Lawrence, ships in Gaspé Bay).

The Battle of the St. Lawrence took place right here, in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf, from 1942 to 1944.

German submarines – the famous U-Boats – would successfully enter coastal waters

and sink upwards of 20 warships and merchant ships.

It’s worth recalling that, during the war, ships departed from Montreal for Great Britain

Thus, when the Nazis deployed submarines in St. Lawrence, their objective was to sink merchant ships and thereby obstruct efforts to supply the Allies. Among the more than 20 ships torpedoed during the battle, 5 were sunk off Forillon’s shores, including three off Cape Gaspé,

and two, right here, off Cap-des-Rosiers

Account of Mr Gérald Chiasson, fisherman's son and witness of the torpedoing

We saw convoys going by rather often. It had become commonplace. We knew that people in our family were off fishing. We didn’t know that they were exactly in the area where boats got sunk, but we knew they had gone fishing in those places.

The interview goes on with Parks Canada spokeswoman.

The submarines came in very close to the shoreline. Paul Hartwig, commander of the U-Boat U-517, said that he was able to see smoke coming out of chimneys and hear the music of dances in the village! This battle disrupted the daily lives of the inhabitants of the peninsula. A curfew was imposed and blackout orders were issued on a regular basis. On several occasions, fishermen found themselves caught between merchant ships and submarines.

Accounts of Mr Guy Ste-Croix, fisherman, and Mr Gérald Chiasson, fisherman's son, both witnesses of the torpedoing. The images of the two men alternates with archive photos.

Mr Ste-Croix: It was a bright sunny day. There was no fish for the taking. And then, we saw the convoy coming. Mr Giasson: As I remember it, I was standing in front of the family home. We were waiting to go back to school after lunchtime. We could see the convoy sailing by. Mr Ste-Croix: As the ships were arriving, there was a fisherman – a Packwood –

who shouted out: “So now we’ll know whether there are any submarines in the Gulf!”

No sooner did he say it than the first ship exploded! Mr Giasson: Bang! It made quite an impact, for sure. And you could hear the boom echo afterwards. It was like a huge shotgun blast.

I can remember very clearly seeing the ship sink.

When it sank, it stood upright in the water. Mr Ste-Croix: That’s when the corvettes launched the depth charges. The water burst created by the explosion rose about thirty feet into the air. It wasn’t far from where we were.

We were scared!

We started up the engine.

The first ships in the convoy were supposed to go around our fishing barges.

But once those ships had been sunk, they changed direction

and headed for shore.

And so we were stuck between them.

It was the first year I fished.

Back to Parks Canada spokeswoman.

All in all, the Battle of the St. Lawrence constituted a closely felt experience for the inhabitants of the Gaspé,

particularly so right here, off Forillon in the Cap-des-Rosiers area.

Archive images: (Logos) Musée naval de Québec, Musée de la Gaspésie and Mr Gérald Chiasson

Parks Canada logo (flag).

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2016.

Canada wordmark

Photo : © Musée de la Gaspésie. P246 Fonds Edgar Dorais.