Shearwater celebrates 100 years of maritime aviation

Three people in military uniforms; the centre person cuts a large horizontal ribbon with a pair of scissors.
Flanked by Colonel Sid Connor (left), commander of 12 Wing, and Chief Warrant Officer David Hepditch, wing chief warrant officer, Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon cuts the ribbon opening Shearwater’s new aviation park. PHOTO: Corporal Jennifer Robinson-McGuire, SW08-2018-0238-020

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By Ryan Melanson

As 12 Wing Shearwater, Nova Scotia, officially celebrated its 100-year anniversary from August 1-3, 2018, members of the defence community gathered for a special 100th Anniversary Dedication Parade. Additionally, the anniversary weekend also included the grand opening of the new Shearwater Aviation Park, dedicated to the thousands who have contributed at the air base through the years, and made sacrifices in service to Canada.

“The park is a culmination of the hard work and dedication of the members of the maritime aviation community, who have defended and protected Canadian airspace, and who have contributed their skills toward international peace and security,” said Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon, director general operations at the strategic joint staff in Ottawa, who travelled to Shearwater for the centennial festivities and to preside over the dedication parade.

The Shearwater Aviation Park includes three historical aircraft that will remain on display outdoors: a CT-133 Silver Star, a Grumman Avenger and a CH-124 Sea King, along with a number of plaques and historical monuments with information on Shearwater squadrons and operations. It sits directly across the road from the Shearwater Aviation Museum, which will also be receiving two more Sea Kings to be included in indoor static displays.

Brigadier-General Bourgon, a former Sea King pilot and a former commander of 12 Wing, said she was honoured to be invited back for the occasion. She spoke about Shearwater’s long history with the Sea King, which saw the maritime helicopter deploy with Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Preserver, Ville de Québec, Toronto and Montréal, as well as the excitement that’s arrived with the transition to the CH-148 Cyclone.

“With state-of-the-art technology, this aircraft is at the forefront of modern warfare, and will be the most capable maritime helicopter in the world,” she said. “It will allow 12 Wing Shearwater to continue to serve the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy with flying colours.”

Other speakers at the parade included Commodore Darren Garnier, representing Maritime Forces Atlantic and the Royal Canadian Navy, Honorary Colonel Donald Julien of 5th Canadian Division Training Centre in Gagetown, New Brunswick, who brought well wishes on behalf of Mi’kmaq veterans and the wider Mi’kmaq community; and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

Celebrations through the week also saw a day of historical workshops at the wing, featuring speakers such as Lieutenant-General (retired) Larry Ashley, who commanded Shearwater in the 1970s and went on to command the Air Force from 1986 to 1989; former commanding officers of local squadrons; and others who delivered presentations on historical aircraft such the Curtiss HS-2L flying boats, the Grumman Avenger and Tracker, and the Sea King itself.

On August 2, current and former members of the maritime aviation community gathered at the new Halifax Convention Centre for a gala dinner to mark the 100-year milestone in style. Special guests at the event included Lee Byrd, the granddaughter of US Navy Admiral Richard Byrd, the first officer to command the air station at Shearwater in 1918, along with Lieutenant-General Ashley; and Colonel (retired) John Cody, who served as wing commander in Shearwater during the mid-1990s, overseeing the downsizing and transition to a helicopter-only air station.

Commodore Garnier referenced those changes, along with other challenges faced at the wing over the years, in his remarks at the anniversary parade. The ability of personnel to persevere through those tough moments, and the ongoing strength of the Shearwater aviation community, is one of the reasons the base has had longevity, he said. It is Canada’s second oldest military airfield, surpassed only by Canadian Forces Base Borden.

“There have been challenges and changing relationships along the way, but here we stand,” he said. “Maritime aviation has never been stronger. We’re moving proudly into a new decade and a new century of excellence. The airmen and airwomen we see before us are the ones who are going to bring us that capability.”

Ryan Melanson is a journalist with Trident newspaper, the base newspaper for Canadian Forces Base Halifax and 12 Wing Shearwater, where this article was originally published.

111 Wing of RCAF Association unveils memorial at air park

By Bud Berntson, RCAFA

One of the primary roles of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association (RCAFA) is the preservation and perpetuation of the glorious traditions of the Royal Canadian Air Force. In this regard, members of 111 Wing RCAFA, located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, were proud to introduce our centennial of flight memorial to the 12 Wing Memorial Park.

During these past 100 years, Shearwater has been home to many air organizations, most notably those associated with the RCAF and Naval Air. It is an honour to have the opportunity to recognize all those who served.

The inscription on the monument includes these words: “On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of aviation from this site, this memorial is dedicated by 111 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Association to all those who gallantly served their nation. Their sacrifices inspire all those who follow.”

The members of 111 Wing wish to acknowledge Veterans Affairs Canada for their support in bringing our project to a successful completion, and to 12 Wing Shearwater for this opportunity to fulfill our commitment.

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA

RELATED LINKS

Royal Canadian Air Force

RCAF

12 Wing Shearwater

Shearwater Aviation Museum (in English)

Early United States Navy operations at Shearwater

Royal Canadian Air Force Association (in English)

Image gallery

  • Three people in military uniforms; the centre person cuts a large horizontal ribbon with a pair of scissors.
  • Three people in military uniforms; the centre person cuts a large horizontal ribbon with a pair of scissors
  • Three aircraft in a line, outdoors.
  • A pipe and drum band, wearing military uniforms that include tartan kilts and followed by other military personnel, marches down a road.
  • A group of military personnel.
  • A group of people stand behind a large engraved stone plaque mounted on stone supports
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