The Tribute

Number 16

Fall 2016

The Chairman's Message

Contributed by our Chairman of the Board of Directors - Don Matthews

Greetings All.  I would like to start with an introduction.  The new Commanding Officer of the Air Force Museum of Alberta is Lieutenant Colonel Justin Armstrong, who is the Commanding Officer of 1 Air Maintenance Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake.  As the Society supporting the Museum we have already benefitted from his insight and knowledge of the RCAF today and we look forward to working with him in the years to come.

We have been busy since the last Tribute so here we go with a look at what we have done and what we are planning.

1.            The RCAF marker at the Front Entrance to TMM, composed of a three bladed propeller and the RCAF roundel, is in place and looks very smart.  The main entrance now is truly a joint venture with RCN and RCAF on either side of the main entrance and the Army's sword towering above all.

2.            On Tuesday October 25th we co hosted an event at TMM with the Chinook Country Historical Society.  There were 108 in attendance and according to feedback from the Historical Society it was a great success.  We provided tours of the Cold War Exhibit for an hour followed by an hour long presentation  covering RCAF history from early days  to today.  A big topic but we kept it interesting by homing in on areas not frequently discussed. (Editor's note - Our Chairman provided a superb presentation which was well tailored to suit the event)

3.            On Saturday October 29th we were pleased to support the Air Cadet League by firstly attending their marvellous gala dinner and secondly by preparing displays for the foyer covering air cadet history and uniforms.  Well done to our curator Alison for her outstanding work putting that all together. The after dinner speech by "Scratch" Mitchell was one of the year's best;   being poignant, focussed and entertaining all at the same time.

4.            On Saturday November 5th over forty of our volunteers and their guests enjoyed an evening of bowling games, pizza and camaraderie.  Since we are all shift workers in our volunteer duties we don't get together all that often so it was fun to put the names on the schedule  to faces at the event.  A big shout out to Jim Powell for making it all happen.

5.            We attended Valour Canada's Flame of Remembrance ceremony on November 10th.  Being able to see the flame atop the Calgary Tower from our vantage point on the 54th floor of the Bow made the ceremony all that more special.  We treasure our relationship with VC and always enjoy opportunities to work with them.

6.            The largest Remembrance Day ceremony in Calgary took place at The Military Museums.  We had a total of thirteen volunteers to keep the Air Force Museum and the Ken Lett Cold War Exhibit open all day and well into the evening.  There were approximately 11,000 in attendance at the ceremony and the Air Force Museum was busy all day.

7.            So what's in the hopper for the next few months around the Museum?  First of all, refreshing the main museum with the first major changes in seven years.   Between we volunteers, our curator and a specialist consultant we are in the process of doing the following:

  • Air Cadet Display - the history and evolution of the cadet movement in Alberta
  • Test and Evaluation - the history, evolution and examples of major projects in this important work done for the RCAF, most notably today at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment in Cold Lake.
  • Search and Rescue - This former hallway exhibit will be repurposed for use in the main building.
  • Sperwer and NITE Hawk pod will be shown in the main building along with panels explaining the missions they enabled, and finally
  • We will start work in December on a new and improved web site.

As well, as Gerry noted we will be fine tuning some of the displays in the Cold War Exhibit to optimize the guest experience.

8.            Let's look longer down range. 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.  To mark that event we will be providing some Air Force background to two events. There will be a display in the Founder's Gallery commemorating Canadian victories of 1917 - Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.  We will be providing information and displays on Canadians who were aloft over the battle fields as members of the Royal Flying Corp and the Royal Naval Air Service.  As well, a Gala  -Canadian Victories Event Autumn 1917 - is being planned and we look forward to working with the team that will plan and organize what promises to be the major social event of the year commemorating the valour and sacrifice that earned Canada its wings as a sovereign nation.  Finally please mark your agenda for our Golf Tournament planned for August 9th 2017,  once again at Silverwing Links

9.            Let me close with a familiar refrain.  We would not be able to do what we do without our volunteers.  Whether they are on the board, take on individual projects or serve as gallery guides they are the life blood of the Society and the Museum.  All of us take pride in the fact that our volunteer service makes Calgary, Alberta and Canada a better place to live.

2016 Air Force Museum Golf Tournament

Our 2016 Golf Tournament was held on 10 August with 72 golfers in attendance. Although the weather gods did not smile upon us we, did manage to complete nine holes between thunder storms. After completion of golf an excellent beef dinner was enjoyed by all.
The winners of the low gross score prize were: Jeff Todd, Jean Nugent, Marg McGillivray and Ed McGillivray. Ed was heard to remark that he didn't play well but the rest of his team really hung in there! First low net prize went to Matthew Potts, Hugo Potts,Tom Zuorro and Brian Moir. Second low net was won by Dick Kiser, Scott Kiser, Kyle McGill and Stephanie McGill. Wayne Bill, Len Bellingham, Arron Bellingham and Mike Lewis took home the third low net prize.
Mike Powell's name was drawn for this year's raffle and will certainly enjoy his fishing excursion to Campbell River BC.
Please annotate your calendars for next year's golf tournament which will be held on Wednesday 09 August.


A SIGHT SELDOM SEEN                         


Air Force Museum Exhibit Update  

Contributed by Gerry Morrison

I signed off the spring issue of the Tribute with “Until next time” and the editor is after me to bring you up to date on Exhibit happenings so I guess “the next time” has arrived.

A number of major exhibit upgrades have been completed. The bomb-bay sound and light show is up and running. Now when you enter the Bomber Command exhibit area you will hear the increasing sound of Merlin engines approaching , followed by air raid sirens, antiaircraft firing, bombs exploding as search lights scan the skies above. Look up and you will see a Lancaster aircraft bomb-bay releasing its bomb load. The sounds gradually fade away as the raid ends and you have survived ready to move into the Nissen Theatre to view a movie about #6 RCAF Bomber Group.

A collection of model aircraft containing examples of every aircraft type the RCAF flew in WW2 has been completed. It has received excellent reviews from visitors, amazed by the size and detail of the collection donated by Bill Cameron. In addition, the Search and Rescue display has been replaced by the story of the RCAF in the Far East in WW2. Our curator, Alison Mercer planned, developed and installed the display. I know our visitors will be surprised to discover that the RCAF was involved to this extent in the war against Japan.

Next on the agenda is a display of the Sperwer, an unmanned reconnaissance vehicle that was flown by the RCAF in support of Army operations in Afghanistan. We will have on display the engine and propeller along with a text panel describing its mission.

 In addition, we will be displaying a Night Imaging Targeting Equipment (NITE) Hawk Pod.  The NITE Hawk pod combined a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and an integrated Laser Target Designator/Ranger with the associated systems on the CF18 Hornet. It was the first version of a laser targeting pod to be used by the RCAF. A text panel will describe its function and capability. These two exhibits will be located in the inner museum since they both came into use after the Cold War ended.

I will leave it to the Chairman to speak to new major exhibits being developed for the inner museum as part of our mandate to continue to cover history of the RCAF in new and interesting ways.

On a final note, we will be doing a fairly big reorganization in the Cold War Exhibit in 2017 to balance the NATO/NORAD contributions made by the RCAF to maintain peace between 1949 and 1989. Museums live by being relevant and interesting and we are striving to continually breathe new life into the Air Force Museum.

 The Directors & Staff

Matthews, Don - Chairman of the Board of Directors

Gerwing, Michelle - Secretary

Morrison, Gerry - Past Chairman & Exhibit Chairman

Powell, Jim - Treasurer

McGillivray, Ed - Vice Chairman & Fund Raising 

Mercer, Alison - Curator
Tel: 403-410-2340 Ext 2661

Todd, Gordon - Membership & Newsletter Editor

Watson,Gary - Video Displays

Ricketts, Michael - Director at large

Norrie, Gordon - Director at large

Norrie, Don - Researcher


The Lighter Side


A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says,“I hate to ruin your day but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.” 'Dad, what are you talking about?' the son screams. “We can't stand the sight of each other any longer” the father says. “We're sick of each other and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her.” Franticly, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like hell they're getting divorced!” she shouts, “I'll take care of this!” She calls Scotland immediately, and screams at her father “You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow.Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. 'Sorted! They're coming for Christmas - and they're paying their own way.'

Speech to mark 76th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

 This speech was presented at the recent Battle of Britain Ceremony by Caroline Saunders, British Consul-General

Thank you to the Royal Canadian Air Force Association and Air Force Museum Society of Alberta for their kind invitation to speak to you today.  It is a great honour to be able to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with you all.

It has also been inspiring to meet veterans and air cadets who have taken part in the parade today.  They represent both the proud history of the Canadian Armed Services and its bright future.  The commemoration 76 years later of this battle by old and young alike serves as a powerful reminder of how pivotal the summer of 1940 was to world history. 

At a time when most of Europe was shrouded in darkness, the bravery of young men and women from the UK and across the Empire kept alive the flame of hope.   In the words of Winston Churchill, “never was so much owed, by so many, to so few.”

It is hard to comprehend now how close the world came to disaster.  With the fall of France and most of mainland Europe under occupation, invasion of the UK was imminent.  If this had succeeded, there would have been no victory in North Africa to turn the tide of the war, the German navy would have controlled the seas and been able to strengthen its defensive positions, and there would have been no staging post for D-Day four years later.  With the German air force outnumbering the UK and its allies by three to one, the defeat of the RAF was considered a foregone conclusion by those planning the invasion. 

It is often said that the UK ‘stood alone’ during this summer of 1940.  But this isn’t true.  The UK stood with its friends and allies across the world who believed in the cause of freedom.  During this time, we had no greater friend then Canada.  A friendship born out of family and shared values.       

During this darkest hour Canada provided young men and women to the air force, the labour of its people to build the instruments of war and the resources of its vast land to sustain the UK in its fight. 

Of the 2,962 allied fighter pilots engaged in the Battle of Britain, 174 were Canadian, of whom 23 were killed during the Battle and 30 later in the war. Another 200 Canadian pilots fought with RAF Bomber Command and RAF Coastal Command during the period and approximately 2,000 Canadians served as ground crew.

All those involved played their parts in maintaining the freedoms and democratic way of life that we still benefit from today. That is their ultimate legacy. Their heroism and sacrifice will not be forgotten. 

But winning a battle takes more than bravery and heroism.  With dozens of fighters shot down in desperate aerial combat above Southern England each day, the Battle of Britain would not have been won without the capacity to replace destroyed aircraft.

Alongside providing fresh pilots, Canadian resources and the production of its factories slowly turned the tide.  Throughout the war, Canada produced 16,000 aircraft.  Canadian aviation industries manufactured parts for bombers and fighter aircraft like the Wasp, Mosquito, and Hawker Hurricane - planes with laminated fuselages made of wood harvested from the forests of British Columbia.

Led by the Canadian newspaper magnate, Lord Beaverbrook as Minister for Air, production was so successful that despite loses of well over 100 per cent of strength; the RAF still ended the battle stronger than it went into it.

This contribution by people far from the front line was as vital as those who took to the skies.

This tradition of the UK and Canada working together is still as strong today as it was in the past.  Men and women of both our armed services have worked alongside each other from Afghanistan to Iraq.  The current fight to defeat ISIL would not be successful without the UK and Canada working together on everything from training and equipping the Iraqi forces to providing desperately needed humanitarian relief and stabilisation support.

Only by working together will we be able to overcome the most serious of challenges that face our world today.

This is a lesson that we have learnt from the Battle of Britain.  Fifteen other nations contributed men and women to the battle.  Without this multinational effort, victory would have been impossible. 

The vital importance of working together to make a better world is a principle ‘hard wired’ into Canadian DNA.  As one of the originators of peacekeeping by the UN, it was great to see the present government renewing its commitment to support peacebuilding efforts globally and to strengthen NATO.  This is in the greatest tradition of Canadian foreign policy and makes a valuable contribution to world peace.

As we mark this anniversary, our thoughts are with those who are putting themselves at risk on behalf of a greater cause across the world as we speak.  The average age of pilots in the Battle of Britain was 20 years old.  Many of those currently protecting our freedoms aren’t much older. 

It is to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and to those who are still prepared to defend our values that we honour today.


                                                            "A Sight Seldom Seen"

On Saturday October 29th a number of Air Force Museum Volunteers spent the morning dusting and polishing the aircraft and artefacts in the Cold War Exhibit. Ray McKay a retired RCAF Engineering Officer remarked that during his 20 plus year career he had never seem pilots polishing or cleaning aircraft hence " A sight seldom seen". Even more remarkable the group was guided by a former RCN aviation technician, Marty Doyle. From left to right the polishing crew are " Jack Graham, Gord Todd, Gerry Morrison, Ed McGillivray, Don Matthews, Marty Doyle, Moe Hanberg and Bob Perry".


Below - Our Chairman Don Matthews cleans the F-86 Canopy and wishes he had flown the Sabre