Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

December 11, 2008 18:45 ET

Government of Canada Honours Eight Heroes of Deadly 1942 Fire

ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR--(Marketwire - Dec. 11, 2008) - His Honour the Honourable John Crosbie, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, on behalf of the Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, honoured eight members of the Newfoundland Militia (now the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) tonight for acts of bravery during a deadly fire at the Knights of Columbus Hostel in 1942. His Honour presented a certificate of recognition to the two surviving members of the group, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Alexander and Fred Johnson, during a ceremony at Canadian Forces Station, St. John's.

The certificate commemorates heroic acts performed by the Newfoundland Militia's Richard Alexander, Fred Johnson, Vincent Constantine, Bernard Viquers, Raymond French, Dermot Renouf, Benedict Walsh, and Daniel Cummings as they fought to save men and women trapped in the burning building.

"Bravery. Selflessness. Valour. These are words to describe the eight members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and those who joined them on that fateful night," said His Honour, the Honourable John Crosbie, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. "These eight ordinary men did extraordinary things to serve and protect their community. I am pleased to honour their service and sacrifice with the presentation of this certificate."

On Saturday, December 12, 1942, 99 men and women were killed and 109 injured in one of the deadliest fires in Newfoundland history. A popular gathering place for service men and women stationed in wartime St. John's, the Knights of Columbus Hostel was filled to capacity with people attending a live broadcast of a popular radio show, dancing in the canteen or preparing to sleep in the building's dormitory. The fire, which began in an upstairs supply cabinet, quickly destroyed the building. Thanks to the quick action of heroes like these members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, hundreds were saved.

Contact Information

  • Veterans Affairs Canada
    Janice Summerby
    Media Relations Advisor
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
    Richard Roik
    Director of Communications
    Veterans Affairs Canada
    Carly Currie
    Regional Communications Officer