Colonel Ralph Hamilton Annis, January 11, 1931 – May 14, 2018

News Article / May 28, 2018

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From RCAF Public Affairs

Ralph Hamilton Annis was born on January 11, 1931, and grew up in McAdam, New Brunswick. He enrolled in the RCAF at 17, and served as a radar technician until 1950, when he decided to remuster to aircrew. He received his pilot wings in 1951, and never looked back.

Colonel Annis flew the F-86 Sabre with 441 Squadron in North Luffenham, U.K., until mid-1953, when he moved to Zweibrücken, West Germany, and served as an instrument instructor until late 1954.

On his return to Canada, he joined the Overseas Ferry Unit, flying F-86 Sabre and T-33 Silver Star jet aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. While with the unit, he set a cross-Canada speed record, flying a Sabre from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in five hours and 30 seconds, annihilating the previous record by an hour and 20 minutes. Over the course of his career in the RCAF, he also flew Vampires and Harvards.

In 1959 and 1960, Colonel Annis again flew the F-86, this time as the lead solo pilot with Canada’s aerobatic team, the Golden Hawks, for the first two of their five years of cross-Canada air shows. He transferred to the CF-104 Starfighter, flying with squadrons at Cold Lake, Alberta, and in Zweibrüchen, until 1965.

He came home to attend Staff College in 1966. After graduation, he was appointed commanding officer of two CF-104 squadrons, first 444 Squadron and then 421 Squadron, in Baden-Sollingen, West Germany.

In 1969, he returned to Canada as a staff officer at National Defence Headquarters. He graduated from the National Defence College in 1972, and returned to Europe with Allied Forces Central Europe Brunssum, Netherlands, until his appointment as base commander of Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on August 17, 1973.

He took over as base commander from Canadian Forces Snowbirds’ founder Colonel Owen Bartley “O.B.” Philp. Like his predecessor, Colonel Annis was an outspoken supporter of the relatively new Snowbirds team, having witnessed firsthand the importance of a national aerobatic team. During his tenure as base commander, he played a pivotal role in keeping the Snowbirds alive, culminating in 1974, when he personally lobbied Minister of National Defence James Richardson (and others) to overturn a recommendation by the Chief of the Defence Staff to disband the team. His backdoor diplomacy worked and, ultimately, the Snowbirds were awarded permanent squadron status on April 1, 1978, the 54th anniversary of the founding of the RCAF.

“Those Snowbirds who flew with the team during Colonel Annis’ tenure as base commander will know full well the tremendous support he afforded the organization during those vital early years,” says Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Dan Dempsey, a former commanding officer and team leader of the Snowbirds. “From a personal perspective, for those of us who were taking our flying training on the Tutor at that time, Colonel Annis was a larger-than-life leader for whom we had the utmost respect and admiration.”

Colonel Annis’ RCAF career also took him to Colorado, as Deputy Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Cheyenne Mountain facility, and farther afield, to Egypt, where he served as Deputy Commander of United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) II, established to supervise the ceasefire between Egyptian and Israeli forces and, following the conclusion of the agreements of January 18, 1974, and September 4, 1975. He supervised the redeployment of Egyptian and Israeli forces, and oversaw and controlled the buffer zones established under those agreements.

Colonel Annis retired from the Air Force at 48, in 1979, and settled back into his hometown, McAdam, where he was close to his beloved camp on Palfrey Lake. Many years of fishing, hunting, maple sugaring, swimming, four-wheeling and sledding followed. Seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren have learned to love the outdoors in the woods around the lake.

He continued flying, of course -- in retirement, the TBM Avenger, spraying forests (“bombing budworms”, he called it). He served as mayor of McAdam, started a motel, and ran for the New Brunswick Legislature (as a Liberal, in the year every single seat was taken by the Tories), and served as Dominion Vice President of the Royal Canadian Legion. He was appointed to the Veterans’ Pensions Appeal Board and moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, for a few years as he again travelled across Canada, this time to hold assessment hearings.

He was supported throughout his life by his devoted wife, Margaret, who died in 2014, and their five children. In 2017, he moved into Wauklehegan Manor in his hometown of McAdam.

Colonel Annis’ funeral service will be held at St. Paul’s United Church, 155 Saunders Road, McAdam, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 2, 2018. Interment will take place at Rockland Cemetery, with a gathering to follow at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 7, 9 Lake Avenue, in McAdam.

Condolences may be sent to the family online at http://www.mehanfuneralhome.ca.

With files from Dan Dempsey.

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