400 Squadron Historical Society
We are indeed fortunate to have had, and currently have, groups of talented, dedicated people with a wide range of expertise working on Squadron History projects. In the past when we were faced with a significant expenditure, thanks to the foresight of our founding members, we were able to draw on the 110 Society fund. The fund has paid for, or made significant contribution to, the Standards Case, the Squadron history book, the Monument at The National Air Force Museum in Trenton, and Band uniforms etc. Unfortunately this has come to an end.
Following a meeting on August 14, 2011 initiated by Carl Mills and Bill Bishop, it was agreed that the formation of a Society (with the mission described below) was desirable. In attendance were Carl Mills, Bill Bishop, Ron Wylie, Garry Alexander, John Tapper (411 Squadron), and Gerry Gilroy. Gerry Gilroy agreed to take on the responsibility of garnering support for this, and, if such support was forthcoming, to pursue the formation of the Society.
Well, support was there and the 400 Squadron Historical Society was formed in late 2011 with following executive:
President: Gerry Gilroy (former Commanding Officer)
Treasurer: Len Neath (former Pilot and owner of Aviation World)
400 Squadron Historical Society - Mission
"To evaluate and prioritize projects related to the preservation of 400 Squadron's history submitted by past and current members. Further to guide and balance the flow of projects and endeavour to raise the funds necessary to bring these projects to fruition."
The 400 Squadron Historical Society is run by past squadron members, all of whom are unpaid volunteers.
Projects - As of March, 2011
The following is a summary of work that has been done, work in progress and possible future work.
The Squadron Memorial Monument at the National Air Force Museum
One of the many things that George Georgas did was to initiate the 400 Squadron Memorial Monument project at The National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The work is now completed and the installation is ready for viewing. This entire project was financed by the 110 Society Fund.
Proposed Dedication Ceremony for the Squadron Monument
Most Squadrons have a dedication ceremony when they have a monument installed. Barry Stewart has been asked to recruit and head a team of volunteers to accomplish this. As of this writing (March, 2011) a ceremony is being developed and planned for late May or early June of 2011. Expenses will be incurred but at this time no estimate of the amount will be possible until further development is complete.
400 Squadron Web Site
In June, 2011, Bill Bishop and Carl Mills discussed the idea of a 400 Squadron web site as the vast amount of information Carl had could no longer be accommodated on PropWash News Centre, which Bill started in early 2009. Since then information and ideas have been flowing back and forth so that the web site is now a first-class project and is getting better by the day. Bill has been able to inter mingle videos, music, photos and voice dialogues in the various segments to enhance the overall presentations. You really have to see Bill’s work to appreciate his talents – our web site is really quite flexible and there is space for everyone to participate.
Bill has spent a considerable amount of time, effort and cash to build this web site. He drew some original material from a web site initiated by past member Fred Kuzyk in early 2000 (Freddy K's Unofficial 400 Squadron Site ... which closed in late 2008 when the hosting site 'Geo Cities' was shut down). Carl Mills has provided, and continues to supply, a vast amount of the historical information and articles.
In early 2012, the Society reimbursed Bill for his out of pocket expenses in bringing the History Hangar to its current state. Ongoing annual expenses to keep the History Hangar running are estimated at $500.00 annually.
The Honour Roll
Once the decision was made to have the Honour Roll engraved on the reverse of the Memorial, Carl Mills initiated some additional research to ensure accuracy. There were some adjustments and enhancements to previously published material and this updated material has also been published on the History Hangar web site. We were able to find all (except one) cemeteries, some tombstones, and crash details for proof of data. We have also been able to find some of the families and finding other families is an on-going part of this project. Bill Bishop has created an Honour Roll section with space to include additional information/photos as they become available.
Squadron Model Aircraft Dioramas
In 2009, Carl Mills decided to design and complete 16 dioramas depicting squadron aircraft. Each diorama is on a one-foot square plate and depicts a specific historic event or some aspect of squadron heritage. The scale is 1/72 or one inch = six feet. Therefore, human figures, which there are many, are one inch high. In 2010, five were entered into competition at various hobby shows and they won a first, three seconds, and a third in the diorama category. At this point, ten are completed and the project is on schedule to be totally completed in early 2012. Totally competed items can be viewed on the web site and Bill has provided an introductory header video of all completed dioramas. Eight of these dioramas were on display at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum at Downsview but have been removed as of 20 October, 2011, when the Museum went into receivership. Expenses for this project have been partly funded by the 110 Society Fund.
Poster of Squadron Aircraft
In 1965, a line drawing by John Griffin was published showing 16 of our aircraft. It was updated once in 1992 to show the Kiowa, however, John passed in 2008. Earlier this year, Carl Mills contacted Mike Belcher to collaborate, by coloured computer graphics, a newly designed poster to include all 18 aircraft. All aircraft images on the poster are the same scale. The design fee and the copyright release were funded by the 110 Society Fund and is free for downloading, at size 8 ½ x11, from the History Hangar web site.
Historical 110 Squadron Pennant
110 Squadron was the first RCAF squadron to deploy to war, but first went to Ottawa to convert to the Lysander in late 1939. When they departed from Ottawa in February 1940 it was a significant event and the Prime Minister and Min. of Nat. Def. presented the CO with a pennant. Through some clever sleuthing Carl discovered and eventually located the original pennant in Albany, New York. Carl drove to Albany, had a meeting with the Van Vliet family (CO in 1940) and returned to Toronto with the pennant - all in one day. See the story on the web site.
This 71 year old Pennant will be turned over to the Directorate History and Heritage at the Canadian Air Division at CFB Winnipeg and will be available to Air Force Museums for short term loan. Full-sized replica pennants for the Van Vliet family and the Squadron Heritage Museum in the Squadron Hangar will cost an estimated $600.(see below)
Squadron Heritage Museum
The past CO Dennis Levesque, created a heritage museum, in the Squadron Hangar to display existing squadron memorabilia. This is an excellent opportunity to show our past achievements to serving members, visitors and to ex-members when we happen to visit. We hope to have photos of the museum on line soon and more information about how we can participate. 418 Squadron (Edmonton) has a similar museum with the goal of “to Preserve, Protect and Display memorabilia” which seems to fit Dennis’ intention.
The Squadron Commander has indicated to Carl that he would like the ex-members to contribute artifacts and ideas to this project. Soon, he will be assigning a Curator.
Air Force Magazine Article
The Editor of the Air Force Magazine has asked Carl Mills for an article for the 80th anniversary of 400 Squadron.
Carl wrote the book Banshees in the Royal Canadian Navy and authored the recent article in Air Force Magazine Canadian airmen and airwomen in the Korean War. In collecting the information he interviewed a great number of people and traveled at his own expense. He knows many people involved with Canadian military aviation and has developed a great deal of expertise as a Canadian military aviation historian.
The problem with this project is that there is no adequate historical documentation upon which to create the Griffon era (1996 – present). All of this data must be derived from personal interviews of serving squadron members. This was recently discovered and it is estimated that it will require at least twelve knowledgeable individuals – draft to be completed by mid-December 2011.
Carl was running behind on this, and called the editor to postpone the article to a later issue. The editor asked that it be split in two, and, after a discussion, it was decided that there would also be an article on a pilot shot down during WWII and Capt William Fielding, shot down in 2011. The former, Mel Pepper, had been located through an email address he left on Freddy K's original Unofficial 400 Squadron site in 2005. In addition to the articles, Carl was going to produce a Powerpoint Presentation on this story.
Squadron Art Work
Over the years, including the war years, several pieces of artwork have been commissioned. There is no list of squadron artwork and only on-going and persistent research will reveal the majority of the squadron artwork. Each piece, once found, must be borrowed, taken for digitizing, loaded to disc, and then the back covering repaired. Although, this is a cataloging project, copyright permission must be obtained from each artist or facility (i.e. Canadian War Museum) before going to the web site. To date, Carl has a list of 25 pieces with twenty on the web site. Bill Bishop has created an excellent presentation of these on History Hangar.
Squadron Photo Initiative
Carl has located many known collections of Squadron photographs The Library and Archives of Canada collection is a major one and includes those of Joseph Scott (WW2).
The families of F/L Norm Smith (1940’s era), WO Doug Baker (1950-60 era) and WO Bill Avery (1969-70 era) may have large collections. Carl has not yet located these families. Both Ron Wylie and Ron Gowing have large collections. The Squadron albums consist of three large volumes, each about two feet square and 3 inches thick. Cheryl and Doug Fisher (ex-members) are providing them to Carl, after selecting some for his upcoming article, will return them to the Squadron. Carl has located several other smaller collections. There are many serving and ex-members who have a few photographs each and need to be canvassed.
Power Point Presentation
Carl is working on a one-hour, 6000-word power point presentation with 150 to 180 images covering the squadron history. The documentation is do-able, however, the photo images are going to be a problem. This project, if successful, could be turned into a DVD as a Squadron memento. Bill Bishop has the expertise and computer software to do this and has volunteered to make the DVD when Carl's work is completed.
New Squadron History Book Considerations
Ron Wylie did a superlative job on the present history book, to which the 110 Society Fund contributed $9000, but it is now 15 years old and does not include the Griffon era. The book is long out of print but still in demand. New material is always surfacing and, with our photo collection initiative, there may be more images available. In addition, perhaps a new book could also include some of the artwork that we are discovering.
The Squadron War Diaries
George Georgas typed all 700 pages of the War Diaries. This is a valuable resource and publication should be considered.
Carl submitted a 2300-word document to Canada Post including a design proposal for a stamp for the 80th anniversary. However, they prefer 25, 50, 75 and 100 year anniversaries and the attempt was rejected.
Search and Rescue Research
During the Otter era (and Expeditor too), search and rescue was a familiar and important part of our Air Reserve routine – yet there is no documentation. I’m not sure if we even know how many SARs in which we participated. The project would be to canvas all crews to send logbook data so that a listing and stories could be compiled. It would be a data base document to be placed on our History Hangar web site.
Search for ‘Missing’ Airmen and Airwomen
Through the Black Velvet list we have a reasonable connection with serving and ex-officers of the squadron. However, our connection with the airmen and airwomen of years gone past is negligible. We do have lists of names but would have to, under the new organization, form non-executive staff to canvas, on a priority basis, for these ‘missing’ people.
Squadron Aircraft for the National Air Force Museum
The new Squadron Memorial has a space on one side and during the on-site meeting, discussions included the possibility of having a 400-type aircraft in that space. Griffon helicopters are not available until 2021 and we are, in coordination with the museum, ‘looking’ at a Vampire III.
Squadron 80th Anniversary
A historical souvenir handout document is being considered. Twice in post-war years, the squadron has issued mini-histories as souvenirs – both nicely done – in black and white with lots of photos. If we would like to do this, we need to coordinate with the squadron and decide very quickly.
Squadron 100th Anniversary Considerations
With the Griffon helicopter scheduled to be in service until 2021, who knows. But the notion should be considered – a fund set up if someone leaves us some money in their will– possibility of yet another book.
We will provide updates to these projects as necessary.