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Survivor of WWII boat explosion helps to unveil new monument in Orillia

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A new WWII monument marking a tragic event in Orillia's past was revealed on Sunday with the help of its sole remaining survivor.

Hundreds of guests and dignitaries were in attendance along the city's waterfront, where a monument marking the Fairmile Q116 tragedy was unveiled.

On October 13, 1943, 16-year-old Orillia native and air cadet Stanley Peakcock was killed in an explosion while working as an electrician's helper apprentice at the site working to build the Fairmile ships.

"Six men were seriously injured in the fire," said Rob McCron, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 34 Museum Curator. "Two firemen received King George medals for gallantry and bravery, who saved some of the men on the ship and actually saved the whole waterfront."

97-year-old Norman Johnstone still remembers the explosion as it happened recently.

Norman Johnstone speaks at the unveiling of the new Fairmile monument on June 23, 2024 (David Sullivan/CTV News). Johnstone was working aboard the ship when it caught fire.

"The engine room exploded and burst the sides of the ship, all the planking was gone," he said. "There was an awful gust of pressure and it blew him (Stanley Peacock) about 80 feet or so off the back of the boat. It blew me about 12 feet looking over one of the gun holes down in the water."

The Fairmile Q116 was repaired and launched and was the last Fairmile built in Simcoe County. After it served during the Second World War, it was renamed the H.M.C.S. Reindeer and served on the Great Lakes.

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