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Atlantic Charter 75th Anniversary

Celebration in Newfoundland, Canada from 11–14 August Marks Historic Meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt

75th-anniversary-atlantic-charterMemorial to 1941 Meeting Between Churchill and Roosevelt in Newfoundland
Delegates from Great Britain, the United States, and Canada arrived on the island of Newfoundland to commemorate the first wartime meeting between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt, which took place in August 1941. The meeting at sea in Placentia Bay resulted in the Atlantic Charter, which became a foundation stone for the creation of the United Nations.

An opening reception was held the first day in Government House, with the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Frank Fagan, and the Premier of the Province, Dwight Ball. They both spoke of the pride they felt at their island being the location of this historic event.

Events on the second day took place in Placentia Bay (where the Churchill and Roosevelt met aboard ship) and the nearby former United States military base, which was part of the “Leases for Battleships,” negotiated between Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt in early 1941. A highlight of the day was the inaugural performance of Mysterious Strangers, a specially commissioned stage play based on the observations of residents of Ship Harbour to the flotilla of ships that arrived in Placentia Bay for the Atlantic Charter meeting.

The third day included a visit to the Crow’s Nest Naval Officers Club before the delegates went on to Memorial University for a symposium on the Charter and its significance. The first session illustrated the importance of the Charter and its impact with an interesting point brought out that there was no actual Charter signed by the two great men at the time, although this was done later. The second session was devoted to the Charter being adopted by the “United Nations.”

That evening a formal dinner, in the Canadian Forces Station in St. John’s, replicated the meal served to Churchill and Roosevelt on HMS Prince of Wales at the 1941 meeting. International Churchill Society Canada Chairman, Randy Barber, introduced the Keynote Speaker historian Lord Black of Crossharbour. Lord Black recounted in chronological fashion the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt, from a rocky start soon after the First World War to the formation of a firm friendship starting at the Newfoundland meeting.

The final day’ events were held at the Atlantic Charter Memorial Site in Ship Harbour, where there was a re-enactment of the service of thanks held on HMS Prince of Wales. Then followed addresses, including one by local Member of Parliament, Ken MacDonald, who read out a letter of welcome from Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Sir Winston’s Great Grandson, Duncan Sandys, provided personal reflections of the family.

Terry Reardon is the author of Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King: So Similar, So Different.

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