GRAND PRE ALMOST A WARTIME RANGE (May 5/00)

In 1940 the Federal Government decided that the area comprising Long Island, Grand Pre and Boot Island would make an excellent artillery range. The Federal plan to expropriate this land was announced in the October 24 edition of the Wolfville Acadian; at first, the plan aroused the ire of landowners but there was soon a change of heart.

Several weeks after the announcement the Acadian reported that dykeland owners were willing to sell if “justly remunerated.” The plan to convert the Long Island, Grand Pre dykelands into a military range was discussed in the Acadian over a four-week period in October and November. Sherman Bleakney came across the story while doing dykeland research and it is his compilation of the event that is used here.

Grand Pre farmers opposed using dykelands for military purposes announced an Acadian headline on October 24. In the accompanying article, the Acadian said British technical experts had selected Grand Pre as an ideal site for an artillery range as it had no trees to clear, was flat, had an adjacent railway line and was backed by the open ocean. The Federal Government had already formulated detailed procedural plans; gun emplacements would be built on the Wickwire Dyke east of Wolfville and the dykeland, Long Island and Boot island would become target areas. To set up the practice range (which would be one mile wide at Wolfville, three miles wide at the west end and extend outwards for 10 miles) some 15 families would have to be uprooted.

At a meeting of farmers on October 21 it was agreed that if there was no alternative, landowners would not thwart wartime plans; however, adequate compensation was expected. The secretary of the Grand Pre Dyke called for an emergency meeting on October 31 – at the request of certain proprietors – to consider what action should be taken on the government’s proposal.

Before this meeting was held, the Wolfville Acadian ran an editorial (October 24) stressing that “anything that is absolutely necessary in order to win a victory must be gladly sacrificed.” The editorial mentioned a strong protest against taking the land for the proposed range and outlined the areas of compensation that should be considered.

Despite an announcement in the Acadian that Federal engineers had ruled out the Grand Pre site as a potential artillery range, there is a strange development. The Acadian reported on November 7 that a meeting had been called by those proprietors who wish to have the government take over their land. At the meeting, dykeland holders voted almost overwhelmingly in favour of selling their land to the government. However, the government had to agree that “as soon as circumstances permit,” (i.e. the war ends) the land would be returned to the original owners.

The final chapter in this wartime saga appeared in the Acadian on November 14. “Will Not Use Dykes for Artillery Range” was the heading the Acadian ran over a report that the Grand Pre site had definitely been eliminated from consideration.

In his compilation of this event, Sherman Bleakney points out that the use of the Grand Pre terrain as an artillery range would have saturated the area with unexploded munitions, rendering future ploughing extremely hazardous. There was also the possibility that shelling would have destroyed the ancient seawalls and inundated the dykelands. These potential hazards were ignored by landowners who saw an opportunity to rake in Federal gold and still have the land when the war was over.

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