Second World War airfields in Alberta ‘bring back memories’ for 100-year-old veteran

Hangar 4 has seen higher days.

Solely scraps of its unique white paint stay. The remainder has been sandblasted away by 80 years of winds that sweep down from the Rocky Mountains west of the city of Claresholm, Alta.

Many of the home windows are damaged. The hangar’s lone occupants look like three pigeons perched on high of a closed door.

The constructing is surrounded by a twisted metallic fence with barbed wire and ‘No Trespassing’ indicators.

There have been initially seven hangars in Claresholm, 135 kilometres south of Calgary, that have been constructed as a part of one in all Canada’s contributions to the Second World Conflict.

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In 1943, there have been 107 air-training fields throughout Canada as a part of the British Commonwealth Air Coaching Plan. It was a serious program for Allied aircrews throughout the Second World Conflict.

The Claresholm coaching base turned out pilots and one other airfield 60 kilometres away, close to Vulcan, skilled pilots and flying instructors.

The Vulcan base was finally bought privately. A number of the hangars have been repurposed, however in others the roofs have caved in, permitting daylight to stream into the buildings.

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Hank Jackson, 100, was a tail gunner on a Halifax bomber. He acquired his coaching close to Portage la Prairie, Man., on the No. 3 Bombing and Gunnery Faculty. He just lately paid a go to to the Claresholm airfield.

“I wish to see these. There’s one thing about it. There’s just a few locations with among the outdated buildings left. It brings again quite a lot of recollections,” stated Jackson, who flew 32 fight missions. All members of his crew acquired Distinguished Flying Crosses from the US armed forces.

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“It was a good time in my life. I loved it. Possibly on the time I didn’t.”

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Jackson, who additionally was awarded the French Legion of Honour 4 years in the past, joined the Calgary Police Service after he left the navy and retired after 35 years.

He stated he at all times knew that dying was a chance when he launched into missions.

“There’s no method I used to be going to get out of that turret … and I at all times thought if it’s going to occur make it bloody fast. I didn’t need to go down in flames like most of them appeared to go,” Jackson stated.

“Somebody was taking care of us, the Good Lord I suppose, and we managed to outlive.”

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Karl Kjarsgaard, curator of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alta., stated solely a handful of the air-training fields are left. Many have been bulldozed and changed with a easy monument.

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He’s glad Claresholm’s hangars are being saved.

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“The historical past right here is nice and what the individuals have to know in Canada is that this base is rather like the bases throughout Canada. No main bombing raid in World Conflict 2 might have been a serious bombing raid with out this type of facility,” Kjarsgaard stated.

“For me, as a historian, the British Commonwealth Air Coaching Plan is one in all Canada’s biggest achievements in over 150 years of Confederation.”

Nearly half the whole aircrew personnel who served in British and Commonwealth flying operations throughout the Second World Conflict have been graduates of this system. The vast majority of graduates, virtually 73,000, have been Canadian.

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Murray Body, supervisor of the Claresholm web site, is proud that six of the seven hangars are nonetheless intact.

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4 of Body’s uncles served within the Second World Conflict, together with a pilot, two mechanics and a tail gunner.

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“We’ve misplaced one hangar that bought so badly dilapidated that it was condemned and bulldozed. However there’s nonetheless six left and all however a few them have firms in them which might be restoring or rebuilding them into viable industrial buildings,” stated Body.

“You possibly can’t even get beams like these which might be inside. They’re over 100 toes lengthy and so they’re nonetheless there.”

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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