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National Air Force Museum, CFB Trenton - Part I
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada
The National Air Force Museum of Canada, formerly the RCAF Museum, has a wonderful display of former RCAF aircraft, memorabilia and artifacts on display, including the fantastic Avro CF-100 Canuck.
At one of Canada's largest military bases you'll find the National Aviation Museum, north side at CFB Trenton, home of 8 Wing, RCAF. The museum originally began as the RCAF Memorial Library & Museum in 1984 and was housed in a former curling rink. Since then, it has undergone two expansions with the latest, in 2005, giving the museum another 7000m2 floor space. This 'new' space was designed around the museum's foremost historic aircraft, a restored Handley Page Halifax World War II bomber.
This set of three tyres, left, are from the crashed Spitfire flown by pilot F/L Charles Ernest Fairfield who was shot down while attacking German armored columns attempting to escape through the Faliase Gap. He was captured by German SS troops in Cerqueux, Normandy, south of Caen and killed. He was 21. The museum restoration crews restored this stunning example of a Handley Page Halifax Mk II, right, after it was resurrected from the depths of a lake in Norway in the mid 1990s.
Within the museum you'll find a number of historic Canadian aircraft, honouring special achievements in Canadian aviation history, as well as many assorted artifacts and historic pieces of aviation memorabilia including medals, aircraft parts, paintings and more. It's still a work in progress with the museum staff and volunteers continuously creating and updating displays and working in preparation for what's still to come. Take the time to read through many of the information cards displayed with the artifacts and take in the stunning, sometimes stark, stories that come with them!
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the heavy bombers used by the RAF, RCAF and other Commonwealth Air Forces during World War II.
When you first walk in past reception and the gift shop, you are greeted with an excellent example of the ability of the restoration team the museum has on hand in the restored Handley Page Halifax Mk II bomber. The Halifax originally crashed in the early morning hours of April 24, 1945. It was heard by a young boy, Tore Marsoe, who many years later decided to search for the aircraft with a friend, eventually finding the Halifax 750'/250 metres below the surface of Lake Mjosa in 1991. Through various negotiations, a Canadian team was given permission to raise the aircraft from the bottom in 1995 and returning it to Canada, which began a 16 year recovery and restoration process.
The museum's superb restoration team created a stunning aircraft, spending more than 10 years recovering and restoring Handley Page Halifax NA337 from deep under the surface of a lake in Norway.
The Halifax was a 4-engine heavy bomber operated by the RAF and other Commonwealth countries and was used throughout World War II in a variety of roles. In 1937, the RAF ordered two prototypes of both the Avro Lancaster and the Halifax. The Hali first took flight in October of 1939. Several different versions were produced using a variety of different engines including both piston and radial power plants. Though not as successful as the Avro Lancaster, the Halifax performed well in various roles and more than 6100 were built with the last aircraft being delivered in April of 1945. At total peak production, there was a Halifax completed every hour.
The first flight of a powered aircraft in Canada was made by the Silver Dart,
of which the museum has a beautiful fully flying replica.
Moving through the inside of the main museum building, you come to the Silver Dart, a replica of the first powered aircraft to fly in Canada. The original Silver Dart was flown from the ice of Baddeck Bay on Bras d'Or Lake, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on February 23, 1909. The Silver Dart was designed by Alexander Graham Bell and a small team of engineers, including J.A.D McCurdy, who also piloted the aeroplane. It was built by the company Bell formed, Aerial Experimental Association, in Hammondsport, NY before being dismantled and shipped to Baddeck, to be flown from the frozen surface of the lake. The museum's replica was built by Ed Lubitz & Mark Taylor in 2008 to help mark the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada. It was built from original drawings and was given the official name of "Silver Dart 5" with the serial number "Mach 0.046" which equates to 35mph, the original flying speed of the first Silver Dart.
The Burgess-Dunne seaplane was the first aircraft
purchased by the Canadian government.
The Burgess-Dunne was the first aircraft purchased by the Canadian government. It was destined for the Canadian Aviation Corps in Europe and was shipped overseas to be utilised during World War I but was severely damaged in transit and was never used. The museum's aircraft is a Burgess-Dunne (replica) and was built by Barry MacKerarcher of Ottawa, Ontario, who began researching the aircraft in the early 1990s. MacKerarcher felt that the aircraft deserved an honoured place in Canadian aviation history so, using photographic material he'd researched, he began work on the airframe in 1992 with the help of Denny Denison. In 2000, once the aeroplane was completed, an agreement with the National Air Force Museum was signed and the Burgess-Dunne became a permanent exhibit at the museum.
The Dragonfly was the first Helicopter to see service with the RCAF.
The H-5 Dragonfly was the first Helicopter operated by the RCAF beginning in 1947. It was acquired to allow the RCAF to gain experience in helicopter operations. Seven of the type were ordered and, though they were used for some search and rescue duties, most were utilised for testing their performance in Canadian winter conditions. The museum's example, #9601, first saw duty at CFB Trenton before being reassigned to duties in Edmonton for a period, then returning to Trenton for repair and overhaul. From there it was transferred to Rivers, Manitoba where it saw duty with the Canadian Joint Air Training School before then being transferred once again, this time to the Experimental & Proving Establishment in Cold Lake, Alberta for 5 years. Its final placement was 5 years in Chatham, NB before finally being retired in January of 1965.
The big boy version of an RC model, the unmanned aerial vehicle utilised
by the RCAF in Afghanistan known as the Sperwer.
The Sperwer is an unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by the French company, SAGEM. The aircraft is piloted remotely from distances as far as 150 kilometres away at altitudes of up to 16,000' for up to five hours. The Canadian Forces operated the Sperwer in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2009, eventually replacing it with the Israeli built IAI Heron. The Sperwer was designated the CU-161 while in service with the Canadian military.
The de Havilland Chipmunk was produced by de Havilland of Canada
but was flown by many air forces, including the RAF.
The de Havilland Chipmunk, DHC-1, Mark T10 in RAF markings was donated to the museum by the Royal Air Force. The Chipmunk was built by de Havilland Canada and many were used around the world, including the RAF and RCAF. The museum's example was purchased by the RAF in 1949 and was retired in 1996 which gives it the status of having been the longest serving "Chippie" in the history of British aviation. de Havilland of Canada produced the Chipmunk from 1947 until 1956, building some 1283 aircraft for the RCAF, RAF, Irish Air Corps, Royal Danish Air Force and multiple other forces. They were also built in Great Britain and Portugual. Today, more than 500 DHC-1 Chipmunks remain airworthy with more being restored to flight every year.
The Auster was used by several air forces
and the RCAF utilised them for spotting and liaison.
The Auster was utilised by the RCAF and Royal Canadian Artillery for artillery and spotting as well as liaison aircraft. They flew with several squadrons, operating over Europe during World War II, with an RCAF Auster having been credited with firing the last Canadian shot of the war while at Dunkirk in May of 1945. The museum's Auster was purchased by the RCAF in 1948 but saw little service having spent most of its military life in storage. It was struck off strength and sold in 1957 having accumulated only 22 hours flying time. It is painted in an RCAF silver paint scheme though also wears civilian registration. It was donated to the museum in 1991 by Dr. P. Kelley.
The Great Escape was truly a team effort and, though not overly successful, it certainly caused havoc for the prison camp and German troops who had to hunt down escapees. Of the 76 who managed to escape, 50 of the 73 recaptured were interrogated and then unceremoniously shot and killed in order to deter others from attempting escape.
Inside the museum are many assorted displays of medals, uniforms, engines, aircraft parts and more. One of the more interesting is the Great Escape display. Many are familiar with the famous movie staring Richard Atenborough, Donald Pleasence, Steve McQueen, James Garner and many other well known actors but the movie wasn't exactly historically accurate. The plan to escape was hatched by RAF Spitfire pilot Roger Bushell with the idea to simultaneously dig four separate tunnels allowing as many POW's to escape or, at the very least, attempt to escape and create chaos for German forces in having to search for the escapees. Preparations for escape included the need for authentic looking passes, maps, compasses, uniforms and more. Eventually, the tunnel named "Harry" was determined to have been made long enough to allow men to escape into the forest and things were set into motion. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, only 76 men were able to exit the tunnel before the German guards learned of the escape. Nine of those men were Canadians. Of those nine, six were recaptured by the Germans and interrogated before being murdered. Though the movie celebrated the ingenuity, tenacity and fortitude of Allied POW's and their determination to escape and return to duty, many liberties were taken in the producing of various scenes. Regardless, the movie still honoured the plan and all those who took part in the "Great Escape."
The museum houses a number of interesting and historic artifacts
including former RCAF uniforms and medals earned by members of the RCAF.
As mentioned, there are also displays of uniforms from the RCAF and Canadian Armed Forces including the early khakis colour to the much disliked "army green" and the return to the blues. There are also many displays with medals including those presented to the late F/L Ernest A. Glover, a former RCAF fighter pilot who flew both Hurrcanes and Typhoons during World War II. During a mission over France in May of 1943, Glover was shot down and captured, spending more than 2 years in a German prison camp, Stalag Luft III. Three years after the end of hostilities in the European Theatre of war, Glover re-enlisted with the RCAF and then, in 1951, he joined the USAF 334 Fighter Squadron in Kimpo, Korea flying the F-86 Sabre. He destroyed several MiG aircraft during aerial combat, earning him the RCAF Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross. Other medals include the 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal with bar, 1939-1945 War Medal, Korea Medal, Korean Volunteer Service Medal, UN Korea Medal, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal and Canadian Forces Decoration with Bar. His earned medals put him in a unique group of eminent recipients who were awarded such distinguished awards, post-war.
The damaged windscreen from a Hawker Hurricane, left,
and 3 of many aviation paintings hanging in the museum.
Another interesting display includes a windscreen from a Hawker Hurricane, flown by F/L Rioux, who was shot down by a German Luftwaffe Me 109. Despite the damage, the windscreen remained relatively intact. Canadian artist Don Connolly has several of his aviation works hung around the museum. His paintings are displayed in museums, airports and private homes across Canada.
Some of the engines displayed around the museum, left,
and one of three cockpits you can enter, this one the C-130 Hercules, right.
There are also a number of engines used by former Canadian military aircraft including a Rolls-Royce Merlin, various radial and jet engines. There are also several cockpit displays you can sit in including a CT-114 Canadair Tutor, a CF-101 Voodoo and a Lockheed CC-130 Hurcules, all popular with young and old alike.
The new museum store, left, has lots to offer with more and different items being considered in future to add to the mix. The museum's Halifax brought to life in a smaller version, right, by the model company Revell. You have the option of building the kit in one of two versions, including the museum's Halifax, NA337, or the RAF's "Oscar."
While at the museum make sure you take a look inside the recently relocated and renovated gift shop. There are many fabulous items available for purchase such as aviation prints, model aeroplanes, small diecast models, t-shirts and more with all funds going to the museum.
In 1959 the RCAF formed a display team called the Golden Hawks in order to celebrate 50 years of powered flight in Canada. The museum has a few small display models and photos honouring the team.
This week we had a look inside the National Air Force Museum of Canada at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario. Next week we'll return to the base and the museum to have a look at the aircraft and memorials on display in the museum's Airpark.
Two of the advanced training aircraft flown by the RCAF,
the Harvard, left, and the Yale, right.
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
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