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Trethewey Airfield Plaque Dedication

LCol Jillian Bishop Squadron Honorary Colonel Patrick Curtis

LCol Jillian Bishop, Commanding Officer of 400 Squadron, admires the Trethewey Plaque. On the left is Squadron Honorary Colonel Patrick Curtis.

Aviation enthusiasts and dignitaries celebrated the much-anticipated unveiling of a commemorative plaque recognizing the Trethewey Airfield, the historic location of Toronto’s first airfield, on July 15.
The Heritage Toronto dedication ceremony, on a sunny day, took place at what is now Harding Park in Toronto’s northwest end, culminating several years of work. Toronto Chapter member Dr. Robert Galway, author of The Early Airfields of Toronto, spearheaded a successful fundraising initiative and was instrumental in organizing the event.

Dr Robert Galway

Author, historian and CAHS Toronto member Dr. Robert Galway introduces members of the audience during the Trethewey Airfield Plaque Dedication.

The importance of the Trethewey Airfield is well described in the words of the plaque:

“In 1910, from July 8 to 16, the Ontario Motor League sponsored the first aviation show in the Toronto area, held in a grass field here on mining entrepreneur W.G. Trethewey’s model farm. On July 13, thousands watched French pilot Jacques de Lesseps in his Bleriot XI Le Scarabee become the first to fly an airplane over the city of Toronto. Afterward, this site remained popular with aviators and became a licensed airfield, often called the de Lesseps Aerodrome. Landing lights were installed for night flying, and mail service to Montreal and Detroit was established.

In 1928 the de Havilland Aircraft Company of England opened its first Canadian assembly plant here. In the 1930s, the airfield was the base for the Royal Canadian Air Force No. 10 Squadron, later the No. 110 (City of Toronto) Squadron, now the 400 Squadron. The airfield was closed in the mid-1940s and homes were built for Second World War veterans and their families.”

Members of the Pipe Band and officers of 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron

Members of the Pipe Band and officers of 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron enter the Trethewey Airfield Plaque Dedication Ceremony, July 15, 2017.

The participation of the 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron Pipe Band added to the special occasion. Brig-Gen (Ret’d) Paul Hayes, Toronto Chapter Treasurer and a former Honorary Colonel of 400 Squadron, was master of ceremonies. He called numerous speakers from Heritage Toronto; Toronto City Council; Toronto Chapter President Sheldon Benner; and Col (Ret’d) Gerry Gilroy, on behalf of the 400 Squadron Historical Society.

Madeleine McDowell, a historian and founding member of the Heritage Toronto Board, read a letter from Sherry Trethewey Stewart of Maple Ridge, BC. She would have liked to attend but was in Peru. The letter expressed best wishes and thanks from the Trethewey family for the ceremony and plaque and their appreciation of Robert Galway’s recent visit to Maple Ridge. Robert introduced Mr. and Mrs. David Trethewey of Muskoka who were in attendance.

Russ Bannock DSO DFC recall de Havilland Canada memories while Brigadier General Paul Hayes OMM CD Retired looks on

Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC, recalls de Havilland Canada memories while Brigadier-General Paul Hayes OMM, CD (Ret'd) looks on.

The next speaker was Russ Bannock, DSO, DFC, outstanding Second World War pilot who went on to become president of de Havilland Canada. Russ, who spent 25 years at DHC, noted it was the first time he had seen the original location of the company before it moved to Downsview.

LCol Jillian Bishop, Commanding Officer of 400 Squadron, was the final speaker. She noted that F/L Frank Trethewey, one of the first squadron officers to come on strength, negotiated a lease of the property that became the original airfield of this distinguished squadron. Celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, 400 Squadron is the oldest and longest-serving squadron in the RCAF.

The ceremony continued with the squadron Padre reading High Flight, a Prayer for the Fallen, and the Piper’s Lament. The plaque was then officially unveiled as the dignitaries went to work with three ceremonial shovels on the base of the monument. Everyone enjoyed a casual reception in the atrium of nearby 12 Division Police Station to conclude a remarkable day.

For extensive photo coverage, click here to check out John Bertram’s images.

By Gord McNulty