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