Map of the Churchill–Roosevelt Highway
When the World War II commenced, Trinidad became an important strategic point in the war effort. Through the Bases Agreement signed by British PM in September 1940, Sir Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Britain received 50 old American destroyers, and the US, the right to establish bases in the British Territories. Though the US Army had several bases in the island by 1941, the most important were Chaguaramas, and the Air Base at Wallerfield, called Fort Read. The communicating roads between Fort Read and POS (Port of Spain) near Cumuto were deemed problematic as it consisted solely of the crowded Eastern Main Road which slowed down the large convoys moving between the two bases. Due to this congestion a decision was taken on 1941 to build a military two lane paved road between Fort Read and Morvant Junction of the Eastern Mani road just outside POS. Work then began immediately where the highway bisected rural communities like St. Agustine, El Socorro and Tacarigua. In spite of this many crop farmers had to be moved as bulldozers ploughed for this roadway.
The road opened in 1942 where it was the finest road on the island, being smooth and pothole free from end to end and most importantly reserved exclusively for military traffic, with exceptions being made for top-ranking civil service personnel. The new Roosevelt-Churchill Highway swept across the country from Cumuto to a point near Laventille with the force of a flood rushing into a quiet valley. Cleared and graded but not yet surfaced, its naked earth weaves and interweaves protesting patterns under the wheels of army trucks and construction tractors that cannot wait until the road is finished. The highway was then opened for civilian traffic on October 4th 1949.
To date, the stretch runs for 24 km (15 mi) from Barataria in the west where it joins the Beetham Highway to Wallerfield in the east where it ends in the former US Army base on Fort Read. It also crosses the north-south Uriah Butler Highway (UBH) at Valsayn.
Sir Winston Lenard Spencer Churchill (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1940-1945)
Personal & Career Life:
Sir Winston Lenard Spencer Churchill was born into a wealthy family on November 30th, 1874. He was one of the most significant persons who lived in the 20th century. He was the grandson of the Duke of Marlborough and the son of one of the leading British parliamentarians of his time, Lord Randolf Churchill. Winston was a consummate empire builder in the spirit of say Sir Cecil Rhodes; a soldier, adventurer, cast in the mold of Lawrence of Arabia or Gordon of Khartoum. He was also an author and journalist in the tradition of Rudyard Kipling or Rider Haggard. He was prolific and for many years lived off his writing. As an ambitious politician, he eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, surpassing him and indeed completely overshadowing all his contemporaries. In 1900, Churchill became a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party for Oldham, a town in Manchester. Following his father in politics, he also followed his father’s sense of independence, becoming a supporter of social reform. Unconvinced that the Conservative Party was committed to social justice, Churchill switched to the Liberal Party in 1904. He was elected a Member of Parliament in 1908, and was appointed to the prime minister’s cabinet as president of the Board of Trade. That same year, he married Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, after a short courtship. On January 15, 1965, Churchill suffered a severe stroke that left him gravely ill. He died at his London home nine days later, at age 90, on January 24, 1965.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd United States President 1933-1945)
Personal & Career Life:
Born on January 30, 1882, on a large estate near the village of Hyde Park, New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only child of his wealthy parents, James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. He was educated by private tutors and elite schools (Groton and Harvard), and early on began to admire and emulate his fifth cousin, Theordore Roosevelt, elected president in 1900. While in college, Franklin fell in love with Theodore’s niece (and his own distant cousin), Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, and they married in 1905. The couple had a daughter, Anna, followed by five sons, one of whom died in infancy. Roosevelt attended law school at Columbia University and worked for several years as a clerk in a Wall Street law firm. In 1910, he entered politics, winning a state senate seat as a Democrat in the heavily Republican Dutchess County. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson named Roosevelt assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy. He would hold that post for the next seven years, travelling to Europe in 1918 to tour naval bases and battlefields after the U.S. entrance into World War II.
Military police in jeeps patrolled the 15 mile road endlessly looking for violators, who often were Indian peasants in mule and bull carts crossing the blacktop in their own good time while speeding traffic bore down on them. Several accidents happened this way. It was a running joke at the time when the zealous Military Police chased after a speeding Chevrolet convertible with a white lady at the wheel, only having to drive down in a ditch and to let the lady proceed because she was none other than the wife of Sir Hugh Bede Clifford, Governor of the colony.