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No. 31 EFTS De Winton 75th Anniversary Commemoration

By Anne Gafiuk
anne@whatsinastory.ca

Photos were taken by Don Molyneaux, Calgary.
www.donmolyneaux.ca

Parade

Close to 200 people gathered to commemorate the 75th anniversary of No. 31 Elementary Flying Training School (RAF) De Winton at the site of the former Second World War airbase, some 25 kilometers southeast of Calgary.

Flags and Stage

Bell Ringing

No. 31 EFTS won the Efficiency Pennant in April 1943; in May 1943, the school won the ‘Cock o’ the Walk’ trophy. In July of that year, No. 31 EFTS featured a float in the Calgary Stampede, with its theme: “We Teach the World to Fly.”

At the June 15, 2016 event, special guests included: F/Lt James Andrews, RAF; Dr. Stéphane Guevremont, Hon. Col. 419 RCAF; Susan Cowan, daughter of one of the Commanding Officers; S/L Ron Watts, 96 year old, former WWII instructor (RAF Bowden); S/L Rae Churchill (Ret’d); and Susan Wilkinson-Matticks, United Church Minister.

Those who attended the event included Canadian veterans, people who worked at No. 31 EFTS as civilians and their families, persons interested in local history, representatives of consulates, and the media.

Unveiled

Emcee Tim Johnston, YYC CAHS member, read excerpts from the Daily Dairy of No. 31 EFTS De Winton, giving the attendees an idea of what life was like on the station. Many stories shared elicited smiles and laughter from the attentive crowd.

Dr. Guevremont spoke of the importance of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in a lively manner, receiving rave reviews from those present.

Dave Birrell, a director at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Nanton, explained the three aircraft as two flew overhead: the Boeing Stearman, piloted by Alex Bahlsen, and a Fairchild Cornell, piloted by Don McLean, represented two of the three airplanes used at No. 31 EFTS. People cheered as the planes flew past, with the Stearman demonstrating some aerobatics.

(Due to the windy conditions, the de Havilland Tiger Moth, owned by pilot Doug Robertson, was unable to partake in the festivities.)

De Winton Plaque

Rae Churchill, F/Lt Andrews and Susan Cowan unveiled the bronze plaque. Susan Wilkinson-Matticks presided over the dedication of the plaque, finishing with a beautiful recitation of “High Flight”. The plaque now awaits permanent installation in the Davisburg District, just outside No. 31 EFTS De Winton.

Afterwards, everyone was invited to the Davisburg Community Hall for the reception. A slideshow by YYC CAHS member Anne Gafiuk played in the background while those present enjoyed a light lunch and warm conversation. An exhibit from the Okotoks Museum & Archives connected to No. 31 EFTS De Winton was on display, featuring photographs and the scrapbook from WWII upon which Gafiuk’s book She Made Them Family, a Wartime Scrapbook from the Prairies is based.

It was a phenomenal occasion.

Airplanes Together II

Cornell

Stearman

 

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For more information about No. 31 EFTS De Winton, please click here.

Calgary Herlad article