The Chairman's Message
Contributed by our Chairman of the Board of Directors - Don Matthews
Greetings and here's hoping that Spring may finally be here. It's been a longer than normal winter but that has not slowed the high pace of activity at your Air Force Museum. Our Society remains active and very forward looking as we continue to build on the success we have enjoyed in our first four years. So please come out to the Museum on May 9th for our fourth birthday and see the new exhibits, most notably on the Korean War and the Lancaster Bomb Bay display. As well enjoy complimentary beverages, hors d'oeuvres and sweets as a small token of gratitude for your efforts.
Another upgrade that everyone will see later this year will be the painting of the CF5, proudly mounted on the side of Crowchild pointed upwards in a very effective but weather worn grey blue camouflage. The "camo" is so effective that many people don't really notice it, unless they are stuck in traffic. The refurbishment is required to maintain the integrity of the aircraft and a return to the mottled green camouflage of the Cold War era will make it stand out and highlight our presence.
Planning is well underway for our golf tournament. The whole day is a lot of fun and registrations have started coming in, so please sign up or let your golfer friends know about it - August 21st - details on our web site. www.rcaf.museum. Another important fund raiser for us is the raffle for a return trip for 2 to any West Jet destination. There are only 1000 tickets printed so your odds are pretty good and the price is right - $10 per ticket. You can purchase a ticket from any board member or if you want to sell a book of 10 tickets just let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the digital world we are doing well and aspiring to do more. One of our directors has taken on the task of updating the web site and we wish him well as he works with the content management system. More good things to come there. Another director continues to keep our Facebook page updated regularly and we are reaching out to people around the world on this very effective social medium. Our plans for a museum guide book are moving forward as well and we plan on it also having a digital element. Facebook, Twitter and interactive multi-media educational applications are here to stay and so are we!!
We are making steady progress with the Cold War exhibit. 4 Wing Cold Lake in general and 1 AMS in particular are great allies in this work and we are thankful for their insight and guidance in a number of areas. The preparation of CF 18 number 719 and the CF 18 simulator is ongoing and the number of volunteer hours and personal "sweat equity" is amazing. Thank you 4 Wing. The excellent support from Sprung Shelters has enabled us to move the engineering side of the project forward. We continue to work with CE at 1 ASU as the project goes forward in the engineering and contracting elements of DND in Edmonton. Like all large projects it is a complex process, but that only makes it sweeter as we take each step. We are 1/3 of the way to raising the funds for the Cold War Exhibit. We are working with two very strong leads and we should have word on the outcome of our efforts this Spring.
In closing let me say to all of our volunteers that your efforts are seen, acknowledged and appreciated. It is one thing to be appreciated at our level; however, I believe that your contributions to the RCAF and to the province of Alberta are important at a another level as well. We are citizens of this wonderful country Canada. In our own small way we are paying back to the country that has given us so much by ensuring that the history and significant contributions of one of its important institutions - the RCAF - are told in a modern, balanced and confident manner. Because quite frankly my friends if we do not do it, it will not get done.
Contributed by our Curator Alison Mercer
Despite the delinquent weather, our spring at the Air Force Museum is shaping up well! 2013 has seen some great donations so far including a collection of Royal Naval Air Service materials belonging to 2nd Lieutenant W.A. Shaw, who flew with the RNAS and later the RAF.
Here is an excerpt from his RAF flying log the week the First World War ended:
It is interesting to note that he continued to fly with his gun camera and work on his aerial firing in his post-Armistice flights. Lt Shaw was born and raused in Newfoundland. Many thanks to Dr. W.A. Sam Shaw for this donation.
The early summer will see some exciting developments in the collection. We are getting new artefact cabinets that are airtight and waterproof – high-class storage that is preferred by museums worldwide. During this period, we will be looking for volunteers to help us transfer the artefacts into these cabinets and assist in general collections work. Knowledge of Air Force artefacts isn’t necessary but is certainly an asset. If you are interested in lending a hand, please contact the curator: email@example.com.
Since 2013 has been designated ‘the year of the Korean veteran,’ a new display is slated to open in our hallway case on 9 May 2013 and so exhibit development for Korea: The RCAF in Canada’s Forgotten War is well underway. Next time you are in the museum, we also encourage you to check out our new Lancaster bomb bay exhibit in the No. 6 Group area as well as a representation of a Second World War Flight Sergeant’s uniform, complete with armourer’s trade badges.
Tales of an Old Fighter Pilot - My Worst Day
Contributed by: K.C. (Ken) Lett, MGen (Ret’d)
As the invasion of Continental Europe was being planned, the RAF decided to change the structure of Fighter Command by placing the majority of the squadrons into a Tactical Air Force (TAF). The balance of the squadrons being allocated to the Air Defence of Great Britain.
At the time, I was a Spitfire pilot with 402 (City of Winnipeg) Squadron, and we were selected as part of the Air Defence of Great Britain. We were equipped with the Spitfire Mk V(B), and our home base was a farmer’s field south of London, with a reinforced steel mesh runway. The runway was lined with oil powered "goose neck" flares down one side. These flares were lit by the Flying Control staff for night operations, and we got a lot of them. There we were joined by an RAF squadron, commanded by a Canadian, and a Polish squadron commanded by a New Zealander.
Ken Lett receiving his wings from Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1942
We were the "poor cousins" of our TAF buddies as our aircraft were modified for better low level performance with clipped wings and cropped blowers (modified superchargers). We called them "Clipped, Clapped and Cropped". The TAF on the other hand were equipped with the latest version Spitfire, the Mk IX series.
We continued normal operations of bomber escort and armed reconnaissance until "D Day" drew closer, when our operations changed to patrols of the French coast. We flew in squadron strength, departing in sections of three and four aircraft flying in line-astern formation then spreading out into fingers-four formation when entering enemy territory.
Around midnight of 5/6 June 1944, we were patrolling the Normandy coast, unaware that the invasion was underway. After landing we were briefed on the current situation, including the invasion plans, and scheduled for take-off an hour before dawn. Thus we had a ring-side seat for "act one", and what a magnificent sight it was! The English Channel had so many sea going craft that it looked like one could virtually walk from the UK to France without getting ones feet wet.
Our Wing continued patrolling the Normandy beaches at 6000 feet, and parallel to the coast line, with only minor disruptions. The Canadian commander of the RAF squadron was shot down by the Royal Navy. He was rescued from the channel with a "sorry about that old boy". We were charging up and down the coast on a very dark night, keeping station by using the glow from the exhaust of the aircraft nearest you, when all hell broke loose. A unit on our side of the battle line cut loose with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. All 12 of our aircraft broke away from the tracers and continued to patrol individually until relieved. Fortunately none of our aircraft were hit. We all flew the same altitude and heading and were able to form up as we approached our forward operating base in the early morning light of dawn.
On one sortie, I was leading a flight of four on our Kiwi Wing Commander after we had become disenchanted with what we considered a useless activity, and he decided to do something about it. He led us in behind the battle area where we fired at anything that moved. We were "down on the deck" when he decided to exit at low level, and flew right into an intense "flack" barrage. The Winco turned right in an attempt to avoid it, and I being on his left side could not cross over. I was losing position when I saw his number four go in. I have a distinct recollection of crossing a field below the tree line, and that may be why I am writing this story today.
My aircraft escaped untouched, but as we regrouped over the channel I noticed we were missing the leaders number four and my two, three, and four. We never learned the fate of those missing until a half century later when I was attending a WW2 reunion. There I met my number two, who survived the crash landing and became a prisoner of war.
And that was my worst day as a fighter pilot.
Editor's Note: Ken Lett has been a staunch supporter of the Air Force Museum since it's inception.