Espanola history shared on MCTV Sudbury
Thanks to the keen interest of a young MCTV Sudbury news reporter, and Espanola historian Tim Gallagher, some unique Espanola history was featured on the CTV News for Northern Ontario on Feb. 6.
Claude Sharma, a news reporter for the local Sudbury television, first heard about Espanola’s Prisoner of War Camp last summer when he was doing a story in Sudbury on North Shore Search and Rescue.
He said that Bill Noon, president of NSSAR just happened to mention the POW camp and the famous world map that was drawn to scale on the wall of the prison by a German prisoner in the early 1940s. Noon thought that it might make a good story for Sharma to investigate.
“I contacted Domtar first just to set up the idea,” said Sharma. “I reached out to the company last summer and was put in touch with their media relations department.”
He was soon contacted by someone from that department.
Sharma said that he was telling a friend in Sudbury about the story he was planning about the camp and the map on the wall, and that friend told him there was a fellow in Espanola, an avid historian and he would be the man to speak to. That man was Tim Gallagher. Sharma soon found out that Gallagher no longer lived in Espanola, but had moved to London, Ontario to be closer to family.
“I later reached out to the Espanola Library, and was told by them that Gallagher was definitely the go-to-person to interview,” said Sharma.
Recently, he was able to get Gallagher’s email address from the library. Sharma and Gallagher exchanged emails and spoke on the phone. Sharma decided to ask CTV London if they could do an interview with Gallagher and then send it on to him. The reporter told Sharma that Gallagher’s knowledge of the history of Espanola was fascinating.
Gallagher, born and raised in Espanola was always interested in the local history, especially war history, partly because his father and uncles served during the Second World War. He began collecting artifacts and documents, photographs, and compiling Espanola history about 40 years ago. He founded the Espanola Historical Society and was responsible for the creation of the Heritage Park, with historical plaques, that is located at the north entrance to town.
In a book written by Gallagher, about the German POW camp in Espanola, he gives the history of the mill and the camp through written records and anecdotal accounts that he has collected over the years.
In 1899, the Spanish River Pulp & Paper Company signed an agreement with Ontario to cut timber on allotted lands and to build a mill on the site of Webbwood Falls. Construction of a mill began in
1901 and was in full operation by 1905. In 1911, the mill was expanded and in
1927 the Abitibi Power & Paper Company (AP&P) purchased the mill.
By the late 1920s, the world-wide financial depression had affected the paper industry and the mill closed in 1932. Even though the mill was closed, the company kept a skeleton crew on to maintain the mill premises and did so until
Early in 1940, along with other sites in Ontario, the Espanola mill was selected to house captured enemy personnel. Espanola POW Camp #21 or Camp ‘E’ as it was originally called, began operations on July
7, 1940. Canadian military personnel and about
70 civilians began work on the existing facilities at the Espanola mill property, erected new buildings, and put up barbed wire fences and guard posts.
The first train load of 490 prisoners of war arrived on July 14, 1940 and were escorted into Espanola by the Ontario Tank Regiment (OTR). Within a few days the number of prisoners had grown to 1,400. There were about 500 camp staff and guards who occupied the fenced off buildings nearest the mill.
On Aug. 10, 1940, the OTR relinquished their duties to the Veterans Guard who were made up of First World War veterans, some of whom were from Espanola and the surrounding area. The German soldiers were treated very well in Camp #21. In the hot summer months, they played sports and even were paraded through town to go up to Clear Lake for a swim from time to time, according to Gallagher’s records. About 100 prisoners worked outside the POW camp, working on road construction, being paid 25 cents a day. There were some attempts at escape, but they were always caught, said Gallagher.
The large, coloured map of the world was painted on the interior wall of the ground floor of the mill. According to Gallagher there are two stories about the origins of the map. The first was that a group of German Luftwaffe (air force) navigators painted it in hours with hand mixed enamels. The second and most likely story, says Gallagher, is the map was done by one man over a period of months. The information that has been recorded was that another prisoner at Camp ‘E’, Alfred Petermann, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot who spent two years in the camp, said that the map was painted by Sergeant Major Einhaus, a Luftwaffe navigator, and a geography teacher in civilian life.
It is suspected that the prisoners knew the progression of the war because painted on the map, were Japanese flags marking Japan’s advances. Gallagher says that the guards probably brought in newspapers for the prisoners, which would have war information and the prisoners had an illegal short-wave radio.
When Patrick Parker was mill manager, he had a room built around the painted map in order to preserve this unique historical document.
For more information, visit the Espanola and Area History Facebook group.