Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 30th 2014 Contents 10
ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROJECTS
In 1935 the Government undertook one of the
biggest projects it had ever handled; some may say the
biggest since the inauguration of the City Council in
1914. It was a project long called for but the govern-
ment was not in a position to do it. They needed so big
a loan that officials felt they could not face London.
However one of the members of the Legislative Council
wrote to England secretly and the Secretary of State
for the Colonies approved the loan.
What was the project? Up to the first half of the
1930s one could not board an ocean liner from the
wharf, and if one was coming to Trinidad from abroad
no large vessel could bring you to the wharf so you
could step off. Why? Because the water at the edge of
the wharf was not deep enough. Ships had to anchor
about three miles away, near waters of the Bocas.
On April 15, 1935 the government set out to con-
struct a deep water harbour for Port-of-Spain. It was a
project that called for dredging, but that was only a
small part of it. As a first step a Quay Wall about 3 1/2
miles in length had to be constructed from the Mucu-
rapo area to the area of Queen's Wharf.
While this project was going on, going on also was a
great deal of social change as well as industrial occur-
rences and other development work. For example,
there was so much traffic in Port-of-Spain that the
traffic authorities realized that the only thing to ease
the problem was to devise a system of one way traffic.
As an experiment, Frederick Street was made one way
for part of its length.
Port-of-Spain, which had about 70,000 people in the
mid-1930s needed not only more water but an ade-
quate supply of clean water.
People had to stop drinking well water, for disease
was rife. Something had to be done and in 1935 Gover-
nor Claud Hollis initiated the big project of the Central
Water Scheme. The "Hollis" Dam was built at a point
between Valencia and Matura, water was captured
from rivers close by --- especially from the Quaré River
--- and such fantastic engineering work was done as
would surprise modern-day experts. Just as Hollis was
leaving in 1936 the Central Water Scheme began to
function, bringing water to places as far apart as San-
gre Grande, Arima, and Port-of-Spain.
Developments in the Port-of-Spain cinema world ---
for example, the building of Globe Theatre in 1933 and
Roxy in 1934 --- added to greatly improved oil explo-
ration and production, and indeed eventful times like
the serious oilfield riots in Fyabad in 1937, all this took
place while the deep water harbour was being con-
structed. And at last in 1939 this project came to a
It was inaugurated on Sunday, February 12, 1939, and
the first vessel to come alongside the wharf, officially,
was the Harrison Line vessel, Governor, which had
come for a cargo of sugar.
Something else came along in 1939. It came on Sep-
tember 3, 1939 and everyone, not only in Port-of-Spain
but in the world, had to take note. Oh yes, it was a
world at war.
YEARS OF WAR
And what was going to happen next was not going
to take too long. The Americans had wanted to keep
out of the war but in 1940 when Hitler appeared domi-
nant in Europe the Americans began to fear for their
own security. Then there was the war in Japan to make
the Americans even more uneasy. The British them-
selves were desperate for help. Thus in September
1940 American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at
sea to discuss the war. On the occasion they made de-
mands of each other. The Americans needed bases
areas in the Caribbean and they asked the British to
lease certain base areas for a term of 99 years and of-
fering the British a number of old Destroyers for the
bases. But they agreed to a British request for a huge
"lease-lend" deal involving much-needed military equip-
ment and the lending of a lot of money.
Trinidad was one of the base areas chosen. As the
war against Japan was worsening the anxiety of the
Americans to set up bases of easy contact with re-
gions like the Philippines, etc, was reaching a peak.
When 1941 dawned the way was clear for the Ameri-
cans to start their operations. United States personnel
had arranged for their activities on the ground, at sea,
and in the air. Trinidad was thoroughly mapped, aerially,
since November of 1940, port and harbour facilities
were established by special installations on the north-
ern side of the new port, and this was called "Docksite."
The first of what must have been the United States
Army Construction Brigade, (CB's) arrived on March 1,
1941, and they consisted of about 500 American sol-
diers, and together with a team of about 5,000 local
workmen they began preparing the site at Chaguara-
mas.Although the focus of military activities was Ch-
aguaramas, Fort Read at Waller Field, and a small part
of Chase Village, Port-of-Spain was transformed, espe-
cially from a social point of view. By mid 1941 the
tempo of its life had risen. It certainly did not seem the
same place. Especially so as some people did not
speak the same way!
The base construction really began before proper
authority was given --- that is, before British and Ameri-
can officials had signed the Lease-Lend agreement. As
was said, work on the bases commenced on March 1
and the signing of the agreement did not take place
until March 27 (in London).
The ceremony to mark sovereignty over the U.S.
bases in Trinidad took place on March 31, 1941, and
present to take possession of the leased sites was
Major David Ogden, the District Engineer in charge of
That was the first occasion the U.S. flag was offi-
cially hoisted in Trinidad. Shortly afterwards it was
hoisted again. On May 5, 1941 the first contingent of
United States troops arrived here, and at a ceremony
on Tuesday, May 13, 1941, American servicemen hauled
up the Stars and Stripes over Whitehall, which was
now the headquarters of the United States Base Com-
Continued from page 9
Photo courtesy Jerry Besson
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