A man hard-wired into the history of the Canadian military and Canadian Forces Base/8 Wing Trenton, Ont., died April 9, just days before his 93rd birthday. Lieutenant-General (retired) Allan Chester Hull’s career spanned more than 40 years and led to the second highest command position in the Forces.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the giants of Canada’s Air Force,” said Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “Joining the RCAF at the very outbreak of the Second World War, Lieutenant-General Chester Hull was part of both of this country’s largest contributions to the Allied effort in the air - first as an instructor pilot in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and later, flying as part of Bomber Command, learning the Distinguished Flying Cross and taking command of a squadron before the age of 25.
“His leadership skills took him to the pinnacle of command in the post-war era as the commander of the base at Clinton, Ont., at overseas bases and finally as commander of Air Transport Command in Trenton, and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.”
On April 13, about 150 people gathered at the base chapel at 8 Wing to remember LGen Hull, who was a resident of the nearby city of Belleville. In the eulogy for his father, Brian Hull noted his father had lived by the values he learned at Royal Military College – truth, duty and valour. The younger Hull felt his father began to learn in the obstacle course at the college that “…accomplishments weren’t ‘me’ events, but ‘we’ events.”
While commanding officer at Zweibrucken, Germany, Mr. Hull recalled how a very young airman was having trouble fitting in on the base. One day his father was driving along in his staff car when he saw the young man walking along the road. LGen Hull stopped the car and asked the young man to get it. He then asked the young airman how things were going, knowing fully there had been talk of sending him back to Canada.
“But it was a measure of my dad’s interest in each and every person on the base that he would pay that kind of attention to this young man,” said Mr. Hull.
“We extend our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lieutenant-General Hull,” said Colonel Sean Friday, 8 Wing Trenton’s commander. “He was a great Canadian, respected airman and beloved member of the 8 Wing family. He will be sorely missed and always remembered at the wing, especially by those who had the honour and privilege of knowing him during his time as an honorary colonel.”
An illustrious career
LGen Hull’s military career began in Kingston, Ont., at the Royal Military College, where he rose to become “top” cadet as Battalion Sergeant Major. He and his classmates graduated early in October 1939 to serve in the Second World War. He elected to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
He saw distinguished service overseas as a bomber pilot in 420 and 428 Squadrons and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill and valour. He became senior operations controller of 6 Group (RCAF) RAF Bomber Command in the rank of group captain (the equivalent of today’s colonel) while only 25 years old.
When the war ended, he chose to stay in the RCAF with appointments in Ottawa, Staff College in Toronto, and, in 1947, at RCAF Clinton, Ont., as commanding officer. Following further staff assignments in Ottawa, he became base commander and founding commander of No. 3 (Fighter) Wing in Zweibrucken, Germany.
Returning to Canada in 1956, he had assignments in St. Hubert, Que., and Ottawa. In 1962, he was appointed Chief of Staff of Air Defence Command in St. Hubert, in the rank of Air Commodore (brigadier-general). For a short time, he commanded Air Defence Command before being promoted Air Vice-Marshal (major-general) in 1967 and taking command of Air Transport Command, headquartered in Trenton.
In 1972, following unification of the Forces, he was promoted lieutenant-general and appointed Vice Chief of the Defence Staff. He retired in 1974 after 41 years of illustrious service and shortly thereafter was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star for his wartime assistance to the Free French Forces.
In retirement, he served as honorary colonel at 8 Wing from 1998 to 2003.
In civilian life, he served as national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of Canada, president of the Quinte Arts Council and was a founding influence in the launching of what was initially the RCAF Memorial Museum. He served as chair of the Bomber Harris Trust, established to defend the outstanding heroism and service to country of Canadian members of RAF Bomber Command.
LGen Hull is survived by his wife of more 71 years, Jane, his children Brian, Diana and Sally, and two grandchildren.