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Military brass celebrate RCAF centenary and museum reopening

April 2, 2024  By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BarrieToday.com

Honourary Major-General (retired) Richard Rohmer, who turned 100 earlier this year, attended the reopening of the Hangar 11 Museum and centenary celebration of the Royal Canadian Air Force at CFB Borden Tuesday morning. Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It only made sense that one of Canada’s most decorated military veterans was front row centre at the reopening ceremonies of The Hangar 11 Museum at Canadian Forces Base Borden Tuesday morning.

General Wayne Eyre, chief of the defence staff, called him “a living legend” and “an inspiration to us all” during his opening address at the local military base, which is located about 30 minutes south-west of Barrie.

Honorary Lieutenant-General (retired) Richard Rohmer was on hand not only to take in the museum reopening but to also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), which was granted royal sanction by King George V on April 1, 1924.

Rohmer, a longtime Collingwood resident, served with the RCAF as a fighter-reconnaissance pilot from 1942 to 1945, a veteran of battles in Normandy, Belgium and Holland.


“This is a great compliment to the history of aviation in Canada,” said Rohmer, 100, following the official opening ceremonies. “A fantastic stroke.”

Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, commander of the RCAF, agreed wholeheartedly with Rohmer.

“I can’t think of a better day,” Kenny said. “Yesterday was the 100th birthday but today, the second of April 2024, at the birthplace of the RCAF. It had to be done at Borden, it’s a national event.”

Kenny may be a bit more passionate about the RCAF and CFB Borden than most.

His grandfather and father both served as pilots in the RCAF. His father did his pilot training in Borden in the late 1960s.

He said the museum lays out the history of the RCAF and its connection to Borden.

“I hope people see the importance of Borden and the significant role it’s played in the air force,” Kenny said. “We trained over 130,000 air crew to participate in the Second World War, where Canada had the fourth largest allied air force.”

Dr. Andrew Gregory, the museum’s director, had two messages to share — one with members of the military and one for civilians.

“I hope that members appreciate the great moments of the Royal Canadian Air Force that happened right here at Borden and that sense of proximity makes them more aware that they are part of a great legacy,” Gregory said.

“And for civilians, when they see the faces in the photos and they read about their accomplishments, there’s a realization that military achievements and sacrifice and loss occurred here too, not just at some overseas location.

“I want this closeness to history to instill in them a renewed sense of connection with the Canadian armed forces.

“We would all benefit from that renewed connection,” Gregory added.

According to Parks Canada Directory of Federal Heritage Designations, Hangar 11 is an excellent example of a building associated with the development of organized military aviation in Canada.

Constructed in 1917 as one of several aircraft hangars on the base, it was used to train Canadian recruits for service in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and subsequently the Royal Air Force.

During the Second World War, Hangar 11 provided facilities for the nation-wide British Commonwealth Air Training Program. It also illustrates an important stage in the development of CFB Borden as a principal training establishment.

When the museum reopening finished, dignitaries and officials moved the morning’s festivities to Cambria Rd. Hwy, just south of the Hwy 10 intersection, where they unveiled ‘Ad astra’, a monument created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RCAF by Barrie-area sculptor Marlene Hilton-Moore.

“I was approached about a year ago,” Hilton-Moore said. “Ad astra means pathway to the stars, so I started with the idea of a runway, a road, the path.

“Then the interpretation, a pathway into the sky.”

Constructed of aluminum and towering almost seven metres, Ad astra will be illuminated at night -— the top band will glow a light blue and each of its stars will shine white.

Officials are still working on finalizing The Hangar 11 Museum hours of operation.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023


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