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Commemorating the Olga Disaster
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Bernice Lilliard and Betty Hannent

Seventy years and three days after it happened, people gathered on Port Stanley's Main Beach to commemorate the Olga Disaster that resulted in the drowning deaths of 17 people - many of them children - when the charter boat sank off the west pier of Port Stanley on June 4, 1944.

On this day, June 7th, 2014, some of the people in attendance at this commemoration had either been in Port Stanley at the time or had lost one or more loved ones in the disaster.

The Olga Disaster: On the afternoon of Sunday, June 4, 1944, the 27 foot charter boat, Olga, left the west pier at Port Stanley with 32 people aboard for a half hour excursion.

Just children at the time, Frank Prothero and his brother could not get the twenty-five cent fare from his Scottish mother to go on an excursion on the Olga.

As the boat rounded the west breakwater heading towards the other side of the pier, it was hit broadside by a wave and capsized. Of the 100 people on board at the time, seventeen men, women and children drowned.

Betty Hannent came to Port Stanley on June 4th, 1944 with her Uncle Russell, brother Gordon, mother and other family members. She lost her uncle and brother in this tragedy.

In 1944 Bernice Lilliard was the younger sister of 17 year old Earl Book. His was the last body to be found.

This memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives that tragic afternoon.

Name Age   Name Age
Earl Book 17   Gordon Hannent 8
Donald Ellis 11   Russell Hannent 36
Robert Ellis 12   Shirley Handyside 8
Stella Meays 17   Barbara Martin 19
Lillian Babcock 26   Bernice Wood 30
LAC Robert Smith     Sid Smith 44
LAC Clifford Skeates 25   Joe Adili 9
Lac Solemn Lavine     Jack Gardiner 13
Ed Googe     (His body was never recovered)  

Frank and Nancy Prothero had this memorial stone created, Candy McManniman did the art work for it, and the Municipality of Central Elgin donated the spot on the beach to be the memorial's home. Today, Deputy Mayor David Marr accepted the memorial on behalf of the municipality and it will now be the municipality's responsibility to look after it.

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