101 Squadron commemorates three WWII RCAF Stations on Haida Gwaii
On May 28, 2016 101 Squadron flew to Haida Gwaii aboard a Buffalo aircraft provided by 442 Squadron, 19 Wing (Comox) to commemorate three WWII RCAF bases. This is 101’s second year into it’s program of remembering RCAF Stations on the North Island, Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii. Last year we dedicated plaques at Telegraph Cove and at the Port Hardy Airport.
Joining 101 members aboard the Buffalo were senior staff from 19 Wing; A/WComd LCol Jim Rossell Wing Logistics, CWO Terrance Chetwynd A/WCWO, Maj Brian Zimmerman W Pers AdminO, as well as Mrs. Linda Chetwynd, and Mrs. Linda Zimmerman. Flight crew on the Buffalo included Major Geoff Miedema 442 Ops, 442 pilot Captain Bob Evan, and flight engineer WO Marriot. From 888 Wing we were joined by; Bud Wilds – Pac Gp RVP, Ron Western, incoming President of 888 and1st VPresident 888, Ted Gibbon, and Jack Shapka to help conduct the ceremonies. After landing at Sandspit airport we boarded a bus for a tour of Alliford Bay where little evidence of the flying boat station remains. A ceremony then took place at a quiet spot overlooking Alliford Bay where a 30”X30” stainless steel plaque now tells the story of Western Air Command’s most remote coastal station. Nearby is an obelisk 101 Sqn dedicated in past years to aircrew who perished in crashes during WWII. Joining us from Sandpit were; Bob Ells – Airport Manager CYZP, Peter Grundmann – Canadian Rangers, and Brian Charman, a long time Sandspit resident.
LCol Rossell spoke about the role of Alliford Bay during WWII and acknowledged the importance of keeping the memories alive of those who served in what here on the west coast was largely a forgotten war. He thanked 101 Squadron for their longstanding efforts to ensure those memories aren’t forgotten. Brian Charman provided further background on the impact the RCAF station had on local history.
A colour party, bugler, and piper helped honour Alliford Bay’s men and women while those in attendance took part in a poppy ceremony and laying of wreathes. Immediately afterwards the group returned to Sandspit Airport where a plaque outlining the wartime history of RCAF Station Sandspit was unveiled. A similar dedication ceremony took place with LCol Rossell and Brian Charman talking about the history of Sandspit and its importance today. Brian is married to the granddaughter of the family that sold the land to Canada. After the dedication a short lunch was provided at the Sandspit Inn next to the airport and then everyone was back aboard the Buffalo for the short hop to Masset and our third and final dedication.
At Masset Airport we were joined by Kal Manna – Airport Manager, Councillor Jason Thompson, Brad McMullen, and members of the CFS Leitrim Det and Sgt Aaron Cunningham and members of the Port Clements Ranger patrol. Once again 101 conducted the ceremony to remember those who served in WWII. A snack was provided by the airport cafe but as the Buffalo was needed back at 19 Wing we quickly scrambled aboard cutting our visit short. It was a good feeling on the flight home knowing that for coming generations three shiny new plaques will bear testimony to the foresight and fortitude of the RCAF and its personnel during WWII on Haida Gwaii.