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RCAF Service Celebrated in New Park

Story & photos by John Chalmers, CAHS Membership Secretary

1 Starburst

On September 20 in Edmonton a new RCAF Commemorative Park was dedicated to the men and women who serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Starting with an inspection of an RCAF Guard of Honour from 408 (Tactical Helicopter) Squadron and Air Cadets by Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell, the dedication ceremonies concluded RCAF Week in Edmonton.

2 Inspection

The installation is located in the Village at Griesbach development named for William Griesbach. He was a decorated soldier who participated in the Boer War and rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the First World War.

3 Plaques

Bronze plaques honouring eight RCAF airmen with outstanding careers were unveiled as part of the program for the dedication. Named on the plaques are W/C Russell Bannock, DSO, DFC; F/L Johnnie Caine, DFC; LGen William Carr, CMM, DFC, CD; BGen Keith Greenaway, C.M., CMM, CD; LGen Donald Laubman, DFC, CD; F/L Robert Morgan, GM, CD; BGen William Newson, DSO, DFC, CD; and G/C Raine “Joe” Schultz, OMM, DFC, CD. In addition to commemorative plaques, streets in the air force area of the Griesbach district will be named for them.

Below is Edmonton-born wartime Mosquito pilot of City of Edmonton 418 RCAF Squadron, W/C Russ Bannock, honoured at the dedication ceremonies with a bronze plaque in his name and a street to be named for him. The restored Mosquito at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton, located in a 1941 BCATP hangar, is painted as the aircraft flown by him.  Post-war, Russ served many years with de Havilland Canada in many capacities, including president.

03 Russell Bannock

4 Plaza

A ten-metre high stainless steel monument representing a starburst aerobatic manoeuvre is the focal point of the plaza commemorating RCAF service. The purpose of the RCAF Commemorative Park was to focus on individuals with an Edmonton or Alberta connection. “We did not want the features, particularly the Ad Astra monument, to be a memorial,” says retired BGen Bill Buckham who served for over five years on the committee that developed the park. “The importance of the site is that it is the only public area in Edmonton that highlights the history and heritage of the air force and its connection to the city.”

5 Early Years panel

Four granite panels engraved with photographs and text surround the Ad Astra monument and depict Canadian air force service from the First World War to the present.

6 VIPs

Left to right at dedication ceremonies are three distinguished veterans: Robert Morgan, Russell Bannock and Donald Laubman; Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell; Bill Buckham, chairman of the Griesbach RCAF Commemorative Society; and Deputy Commander of the RCAF, MGen Al Meinzinger, representing the RCAF at the dedication.

7 Ad Astra

The Ad Astra monument soars above informative panels, commemorative plaques and walkways shaped like the Spitfire, the Avro Arrow and the C-130 Hercules and overlooks Roundel Lake, a man-made feature at the centre of the housing development where the RCAF Commemorative Park is located. The organizing Society raised $250,000 to build the park and its dedication coincided with the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.