Veterans in above Photo by Pierre Lapprand: Hugh Pawson (Corsairs), Johnny Colton (Typhoons) and Allan Griffin (Hurricanes)
Battle of Britain Team,
With the Spitfire scratched on that gorgeous Sunday morning due to a pneumatic system failure, I was the guy who had to (reluctantly) do a quick change from my flight suit to blazer and tie — feeling like Clark Kent getting it backwards — and rush over the Rockcliffe ceremony. But after 6 years in the BoB formation, I had the opportunity to see the event from the spectator’s perspective. The impact — visually, historically, emotionally — was extraordinary and I am not a good enough writer to describe it. The mass of airplanes filled the sky. Three hundred foot altitude and a 500 foot setback seemed like nothing — those airplanes were right there. The sound of 102 cylinders (count them!) capable of generating over 12,000 horsepower resonates inside one’s chest. The spontaneous applause, the admiring chatter, the tears, and the silence of many deep in thought, speak of the impact of the flypast.
The speeches were pretty good. Especially moving was the British High Commissioner, quoting liberally from Geoffrey Wellum’s memoirs. “High Flight” was beautifully introduced and recited. The wreath laying was moving. The Last Post and Piper’s Lament certainly stir the heart. The march past of the veteran’s -- eyes straight ahead, every one of them twenty something in his mind — was just lump-in-the-throat stuff.
But, guys, your five-plane formation is the very centre of that ceremony. I know that when the Lanc calls “showtime” all you think about is a TOT right to the second (it was) and lining up some some aileron bellcrank with a pilot’s left ear, but you should take a moment to reflect later how well that flypast expresses the respect and admiration Canadians feel for those heroic young men, and how important it is that those airplanes fly in their memory.
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Lancaster (Honouring Andrew Mynarski) leads the Vintage Wings Kittyhawk (honouring Stocky Edwards), the 6 Squadron Hurricane IV, the Corsair (honouring Robert Hampton Gray) and the 442 Squadron Mustang. The five-ship thunders east over forested Quebec countryside. Photo: Peter Handley, Photoship pilot Ulrich Bollinger
Now over open farmland and heading west, the group continues in the hold. Flying the Kittyhawk was Dave Hadfiled, the Hurricane was piloted by Rob Erdos, the Corsair was flown by Paul Kissmann while the Mustang was flown by John Aitken Photo: Peter Handley, Photoship pilot Ulrich Bollinger
With the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in sight at lower right, the group continues in a holding pattern while, on the ground, speeches are made and veterans stand for inspection. It was the perfect day for the flight and to look around, but the four fighter pilots had eyes for their reference points only. Photo: Peter Handley, Photoship pilot Ulrich Bollinger