The Tribute

Number 13

Spring 2015

The Chairman's Message

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

Greetings One and All and a big welcome to all from your Board of Directors.  As you  can read in Gerry's report our major project, the Ken and Roma Lett Cold War Exhibit is on schedule.  By the end of May the Sabre will be installed and the HAS buttoned up with the permanent end wall installed.  That's important because there is a fantastic graphic of a CF-104 on the end wall to match the CF-18 on the other side.

We are still shooting for a general opening on Saturday 26 September, preceded the day before by an official opening ceremony.  If you want a sneak peek then please come out to the AGM on 2 June. We have made a tour part of the AGM.

I am very pleased to report that DHH at NDHQ has once again been very supportive with extra funding.  This will ensure we have the funding for both the building of the many exhibits as well as funding for ongoing operations and maintenance.  We are confident that we are building a gallery that will both excite and educate our guests; and we want to ensure that we can continue to upgrade it in the future -as well as refreshing our galleries in the main building.

We believe that our guests will experience the awe of the aircraft, be excited by the aircraft technical exhibit and walk away more informed about the 40 year battle called the Cold War.  The final words on the way out the door should make sense after touring the exhibit: "Peace is not just the absence of war, but the defence of hard won freedoms."

See you at the AGM.



Curator's Corner

Contributed by our curator Alison Mercer

This spring, the Air Force Museum was privileged to acquire the comprehensive library of Mr. John McLeod.

John Williams McLeod was born in 1926 in Calgary to Bill and Margaret McLeod. In 1943 McLeod volunteered and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, attending the 9 Bombing and Gunnery School where he trained to become an air gunner. Upon his graduation he visited Montreal (where he obtained his first tattoo), before shipping off to England. His time overseas was "enjoyable", particularly when it was pub night. Despite being only seventeen at the time the bartender at the No. 1 Legion in England would serve him a cider referred to as "Scrumpy". Although he had joined in 1943, McLeod was not cleared to fly until VE Day, having had a double hernia while in England.

 Shortly after his recovery McLeod joined up with the Tiger Force that was set to join the fight in the Pacific Theater. However, Japan signed the peace treaty before the RCAF left for the area. McLeod was quoted as saying that Harry S. Truman saved his life by ending the war.

 Upon his return to Calgary McLeod married his high school sweetheart Evelyn Dunsmore. After briefly attempting to run a private business, McLeod joined the Calgary Fire Department until his retirement in 1983. He spent his retirement years collecting militaria and attending local militaria shows. 

Mr. McLeod's library comprises some 2000+ volumes. Those not taken on strength by the Air Force Museum have been distributed to the Library and Archives and to the other museums at The Military Museums.


Mr McLeod's Library




Air Force Museum Exhibit Update  

Contributed by Gerry Morrison

The first quarter of 2015 has been very active once again. Leading the way has been the move of the Canadair Mark 5, F-86 Sabre from Reno to Calgary and the beginning of the restoration. The aircraft is currently located at the Calgary International Airport where we have rented space in a hanger from Aero Aviation. This has proven to be an ideal location to carry out the work to restore the aircraft to museum display standard. The Sabre, a former RCAF aircraft, had  flown in 2 Wing Grostenquin France and Chatham NB at the Sabre Operational Training Unit (OTU) and the Sabre Transition Unit (STU) where RCAF pilots were introduced to low level flying before moving on to the CF-104 at Cold Lake. It ended its flying life as a target Drone in the United States. While there it picked up the name “Black Cat” because it was successfully recovered after nine missile launches failed to shoot it down.

The restoration team is headed up by Jim Kulak who also led the team that restored the F-86 on display at the Aero Space Museum of Calgary. Some of the work has required professional assistance which is supplied by Aero Aviation technicians. The restoration is scheduled to be completed in early June and the aircraft moved to TMM on May 25th. After it is assembled, which will take another day or so it will be moved inside the shelter that currently houses the CF-104 Starfighter. A Sprung Shelter team will replace the north end of the shelter once the Sabre is inside. Editors Note: The F-86 was assembled in the TMM parking lot on 25 May and moved into the Simulated Hardened Aircraft Shelter on 26 May.

We have also began the detailed planning for the artefacts, graphic panels and the audio visual displays that will tell the story of the Cold War and the role that Canada’s Air Force played. Exhibitio Planning and Design, a High River company, has been hired to produce the display panels and other support items to complete the exhibit. As is our practice, this part of the plan is based on the finances we have in hand, and without incurring any red ink.

Finally, the CF-5 Freedom fighter will soon have the decals added that identify it as a Canadian fighter which flew in the early years of its operational life assigned to NATO. Its role was to provide close air support to the land forces which would engage a Russian military force attacking northern Norway.

Stay tuned for future reports on our web site and face book page.

The Directors & Staff

Matthews, Don - Chairman of the Board of Directors

Gerwing, Michelle - Secretary

Morrison, Gerry - Past Chairman & Exhibit Chairman

Nixon, Kenn - Casino and website

Powell, Jim - Treasurer

McGillivray, Ed - Vice Chairman & Fund Raising 

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

Watson, Gary - Video Displays & Project 846

Todd, Gordon - Membership & Newsletter Editor  

Ricketts, Michael - Director at large

Norrie, Gordon - Director at large

Norrie, Don - Researcher

The Flying Porcupine

Contributed by Don Norrie

In the early days of World War 2 the Nazi submarines were wreaking havoc on the convoys of ships carrying supplies and personnel from North America to the United Kingdom. They roamed the Atlantic with impunity as no allied aircraft had the range to seek out and destroy the submarine Wolf Packs that were sending thousands of tons of ships and war materials to the bottom of the ocean. One of the answers to this dilemma was found in the Short Sunderland flying-boat, a truly remarkable aircraft and mechanical wonder in many respects. It had great endurance, and carried the latest anti-submarine detection equipment and specialized sea-war weaponry. 

The Royal Air Force prior to the outbreak of hostilities was using Sunderlands in a maritime patrol capacity and when it entered war service, was the largest allied aircraft flown during World War 2. The Sunderland was sometimes nicknamed “The Pig” by its crews because the early models were underpowered. The Luftwaffe pilots that tried to attack it had more respect for this huge aircraft and referred to it as the; “Fliegende Stachelschwein” or in English, “The Flying Porcupine” because of the 14 machine guns it mounted for all-round protection. As if that wasn’t enough armament, the RAAF thought it prudent to add two fixed .303 machine guns to the Mk.V on the port and starboard side of the nose and a gun-sight for the pilot so he would be able to strafe a surfaced enemy submarine. The flying boat now sprouted 18 guns, the greatest number carried by any regular British military aircraft during the war. The Sunderland had one vulnerable area and that was the belly. Because of the boat design it could not mount a belly turret. So in order to prevent the enemy aircraft from coming up and underneath, they flew their patrols at a maximum height of 1000 feet above the water, but usually much lower then that.

The fuselage design also prohibited the installation of a bomb bay, so the designer came up with a unique method to store, mount and dispense light ordnance. These stores were hung inside the fuselage and under the centre-section of the wing on carriers that ran on lateral tracks. In combat, large fuselage side panels were opened under the wing root and a drive motor ran out the weapon rack under each wing. After the explosives were dropped, the racks were brought back in and reloaded. The Sunderland’s maximum ordnance load was approximately 2250 kilograms of bombs, depth charges, mines or other stores which were kept in the “stores and loading room” beneath the wing racks and in the lower part of the fuselage. 

Two Canadian squadrons flew Sunderlands from bases in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. No. 422 (Flying Yachtsmen) Squadron was formed on 2 April 1942 at Lough Erne, Northern Ireland and was initially equipped with the Consolidated Catalina, then Sunderland Mk IIIs. At the end of February 1943 it began the work for which it had been formed, anti-submarine duties over the Atlantic, and commenced operations from Oban, Scotland. For the most part the squadron's duties were dull and monotonous, flying for 2 hours over the empty ocean with little action. Occasional attacks were made on U-boats, some with success. In early 1945 the squadron had its most successful actions, with four U- boat attacks in four days. 

No. 423 Squadron was formed on 18 May 1942 at Oban, Argyll, Scotland. Its first aircraft, Sunderland Mk IIs and Mk IIIs, arrived in July and the squadron’s first mission was flown on 23 August 1942. Within the next two months it had attacked four submarines and destroyed two of them. By autumn 1942 it was flying patrols from Castle Archdale, Ireland to Gibraltar and back, covering the Biscay area en route. It increased its operational intensity during 1944, being especially busy during the invasion of Normandy. The anti-submarine work continued through to the war's end in Europe, by which time the squadron had sunk three U- boats, and shared in the sinking of three more. The most notable Sunderland sortie was over the Bay of Biscay. The skipper would patrol during daylight and set down on the sea at night, shut down the engines and drift with the swells. This routine continued for seven days when low provisions and fuel forced them back to base. Unfortunately this long and arduous patrol did not result in any contact with enemy ships or aircraft. 

By wars end, 422 and 423 Squadrons would fly 2508 operational sorties, log over 40,000 hours, lose 15 aircraft on operations and suffer 101 men killed. There were also accidents, often on take-off or landing or crashing into terrain in bad weather. Another culprit was engine failure. When heavily laden a Sunderland could not maintain height on three engines which would oblige the skipper to set down, often with disastrous results to both crew and aircraft. If an engine failed over land, the results were predictable. In August 1945, all contracts were cancelled. Dozens of new “boats” were packed with new military equipment and deliberately sunk shortly after the end of the war. The last of these well loved flying-boats was retired from the RAF on 20 May 1959. It had set a record of 21 years continuous service in the same oceanic duty, and had also performed many other remarkable feats.

In conclusion, the Sunderland was the gentle giant of its day. While the battles it fought were not glorious ones, its presence above the waves forced the enemy U-boats to keep their distance from allied convoys thus allowing more war supplies to reach their destinations. They were also instrumental in saving the lives of many downed airmen and torpedoed sailors who were then able to return to their units and fight another day. 

23 January 2015 



It is that time again that the Air Force Museum Society is soliciting your assistance for one of our largest fundraising events, the Casino. This gives our members the opportunity to provide a significant contribution the continued success of our wonderful museum. The board would appreciate your contribution of 8-10 hours of work to make this year's casino a success.  The Casino will be held on August 23 and 24, 2015  at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino. For those wishing  to help, please contact Kenn Nixon at

Golf Tournament

The sixth annual Air Force Museum Society of Alberta golf tournament will be held on 19 August at the SilverWing Golf Course. Registration will commence at 1000 hours followed by a shotgun start at 1300 hours. Cash prizes will be awarded for low gross and 1st, 2nd and 3rd low net scores. A beef dinner will be served at 1800 hours during which a live auction will be held and door prizes given out.  Come out and enjoy the fun! Registration can be completed online at .Please email with any questions you may have.