Celebration of a Life: Group Captain Arnold John (‘AJ’) Bauer, CD, BA

Recollections of the Bauer family with files and photos by Gord McNulty

It was a testimonial to the outstanding character and leadership of Group Captain ‘AJ’ Bauer CD, BA, that a dozen speakers paid tribute to his life and service at RCAFA 447 (City of Hamilton) Wing at Mount Hope, Ontario, on April 23.

‘AJ’, as he preferred to be known, died at the age of 93 on February 1 in Hamilton. The Flag Room of the Wing was packed to honour a proud military man who served 35 years in the RCAF and left a remarkable legacy. Various speakers, including air force colleagues and friends, representatives of the Billy Bishop Home & Museum, and family members underlined how AJ led by example and was respected by all who knew him.

AJ’s kindness, gentle nature, dedication and concern for others were strong attributes. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Elizabeth (‘Bette’) of Hamilton; by his three daughters: Susan (Michael) Newman of British Columbia, Nancy Blair of Ontario and Shirley (Bill) Hearn of Nova Scotia; extended family and countless friends.

AJ was born in Morse, Saskatchewan, on Dec. 13, 1924, but spent most of his young life in Desboro and in Fisherville, ON. His RCAF career later took him and his family to many places in Canada and in Europe.

Arnie was fascinated by flying from the time he was nine years old, when he witnessed the Italian formation flight of 24 Savoia-Marchetti 5M.55X flying boats over Desboro, enroute to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. “That’s the life for me!” he thought to himself. AJ enlisted at Hamilton in 1942 and became a member of the RCAF in January 1943. He received his wings in Brandon, MB, in April 1943. Assigned as a BCATP flight instructor, he served at Yorkton, ON, Souris, MB, and Centralia, ON, before he was transferred to Summerside, PEI, on a General Reconnaissance Course.

While in Summerside in 1945, AJ met RCAF Women's Division Leading Air Woman Bette Harris, his ‘Elizabeth, my Queen.’ They were married in London, ON, where their three daughters were born, and where AJ studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. Offered an opportunity to re-enlist in the RCAF, he didn’t hesitate. AJ returned to flight instruction on Harvards at Centralia, 1948-1951, and Trenton, 1951-1952.

In 1953, AJ participated in ‘Operation Leapfrog 4,’ flying Canadair Sabres across the Atlantic to RCAF stations in Europe. AJ was posted to No. 4 (Fighter) Wing in Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, as a Flight Lieutenant on 444 "Cobra" Squadron.

Rod Sword, executive assistant to AJ in Baden-Soellingen, described AJ as an “amazing RCAF warrior” with a great sense of humour. He noted AJ had an incredible recall of the names of his staff and aircrew. His office contained 500 photographs with the names and birth dates of all of the service members’ families. “AJ’s concern for people was universal,” Rod told the gathering. “Rank or station in life was not important to him. Everybody mattered.”

In 1956, AJ was transferred to Air Division Headquarters in Metz, France, as a Flight Safety Officer. In 1957, he returned to Canada, spending three years in Air Materiel Command at Rockcliffe. In 1960, now Squadron Leader, he served for six months at Resolute Bay, NWT, as the Deputy Officer Commanding.

After a stint at Military Staff College in Toronto, AJ and his family returned to Europe in 1961. He was stationed at No. 2 (Fighter) Wing at Grostenquin, France, as commanding officer of 421 Squadron. When No. 2 Wing was stood down in 1964, he was posted to No. 3 (Fighter) Wing in Zweibrucken, West Germany, as commanding officer of 430 Squadron, flying the CF-104 Starfighter that replaced the Sabre.

AJ and his family returned to Canada in 1966, where he was posted to Canadian Forces Headquarters in Ottawa. In 1967 he became base commander of CFB Chatham, NB. In 1971, he returned to Baden–Soellingen as Deputy Commander of 1 Canadian Air Group. In 1974, he went to Egypt as a Deputy Commander of the United Nations Emergency Peacekeeping Force. In 1975, AJ returned to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa as Director of Air Operations and Training and in 1977 was named as Air Force Advisor to the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff. In 1978 he was posted to London, England, as Canada’s Air Defence Attache. He retired from the RCAF in 1979.

If asked about the greatest joys of his RCAF experience, AJ would surely recall his love of being in flight and particularly his good fortune in piloting the Sabre for many years. In 1968, he was chosen to be a member of the ‘Sabre Swan’ quartet, the airmen who participated in the Sabre’s cross-country flight before the much loved, beautiful jet fighter was stood down.

AJ spent his retirement between Hamilton and his beloved cottage, ‘Roundel,’ near Owen Sound. His love for the military never let up. He devoted considerable time and energy chairing a committee dedicated to restoring First World War flying ace Billy Bishop’s family home, now the Billy Bishop Home & Museum in Owen Sound. Barry Lewin, Fred MacKay and Steven Dieter represented the Museum at the gathering and credited AJ with many contributions to the Museum’s success.
AJ served as Vice President, then President, of the RCAF Association and was a member of the Sabre Pilots Association of the Air Division Squadrons and 447 Wing.

Greg Chapman, of 447 Wing, a longtime friend, told many stories, including a relatively little-known occasion when then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made an unauthorized flight in the back seat of a CF-101 Voodoo at CFB Chatham. It did happen. In fact, Greg has a photo. As Greg recalled, AJ later received a call from NDHQ. The caller demanded to know how AJ had authorized a flight which put Trudeau’s life at risk. AJ simply replied that he didn’t do it. “Well, who did?,” the caller asked. AJ calmly replied, “The prime minister, sir!”

AJ had six grandchildren, one of whom --- Sarah (Hearn) Carmichael --- closed the Celebration with a poignant song in memory of AJ.


1 Celebration of Life for Group Captain AJ Bauer CD BA

Celebration of A Life for Group Captain AJ Bauer CD, BA.


2 Arnie Bauer as a young airman

Arnie Bauer as a young airman.

3 AJ Bauer with his favourite the Canadair Sabre

AJ Bauer with his favourite, the Canadair Sabre.

4 Photo of AJ Bauer at St Hubert 1953

 Photo of AJ Bauer at St. Hubert, 1953, among those shown at the Celebration on Apr. 23, 2018.

5 AJ and his wife Elizabeth in a photo shown at the celebration

AJ and his wife Elizabeth in a photo shown at the celebration.

6 Bauer Family 70th Wedding Anniversary

Bauer Family 70th Wedding Anniversary.


7 An RCAF Sabre plaque presented to AJ Bauer in 2012 is displayed at 447 City of Hamilton Wing in Hamilton

An RCAF Sabre plaque, presented to AJ Bauer in 2012, is displayed at 447 (City of Hamilton) Wing in Hamilton.

8 Charlie King played the bagpipes to open the Celebration of Life for AJ Bauer

Charlie King played the bagpipes to open the Celebration of Life for AJ Bauer at 447 (City of Hamilton) Wing RCAFA.

9 Jim Hooten President of 447 Wing and host Bill Hearn

Jim Hooten, President of 447 Wing, and host Bill Hearn, welcomed friends to the Celebration of Life for AJ Bauer on Apr. 23, 2018.

10 Rod Sword Executive Assistant to AJ Bauer

Rod Sword, Executive Assistant to AJ Bauer in Europe, spoke at the Celebration of Life at 447 Wing.

11 Barry Lewin representing the Billy Bishop Museum

Barry Lewin, representing the Billy Bishop Museum, paid tribute to AJ Bauer at the Celebration of Life.

12 Greg Chapman good friend of AJ Bauer

Greg Chapman, a good friend of AJ Bauer, shared fond recollections during the program at 447 Wing.