“Lost Airmen of the Empire” memorial dedicated at Patricia Bay

News Article / June 19, 2017

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By Captain Peter Ryan

A memorial to those who died during the Second World War while at the Royal Canadian Air Force Station Patricia Bay, British Columbia, was dedicated on the north side of the Victoria International Airport on June 1, 2017.

The memorial, named “The Lost Airmen of the Empire”, consists of 25, 12-foot [3.66 metre] high, Corten steel, Cooper’s hawk flight feathers, with the names and ages of each fallen member cut into the feathers. According to the Victoria Airport Association website, “The Cooper’s Hawk is a predator known for its extraordinary agility in flight and ferocity in hunting.” The site also features a seating area built from approximately 1,000 bricks salvaged from a previously demolished military administration building.

More than 5,000 personnel trained as aircrew as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan at Patricia Bay. A total of 179 people perished, both aircrew and groundcrew, while posted to, or working at, RCAF Station Patricia Bay, or while aboard aircraft from that base.

The memorial is located on Hospital Hill, named for the military hospital that was located there at the time. It overlooks the site of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, which participated in the ceremony.

The occasion was marked by a “Trooping of the Colour” by 443 Squadron, remarks from dignitaries, and a flypast featuring a variety of RCAF aircraft.“It was an honour for 443 Squadron to be part of this event and to participate in the planning sessions leading up to the memorial dedication of the ‘Lost Airmen of the Empire’,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Shawn Williamson, the squadron’s commanding officer.

About 443 Squadron
443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron is the West Coast’s operational maritime helicopter squadron. While 443 Squadron is part of 12 Wing Shearwater, Nova Scotia, its home base is in Patricia Bay, British Columbia. It provides three helicopter air detachments known as "HELAIRDETS" in support of the Royal Canadian Navy Pacific Fleet based at Esquimalt in Victoria, British Columbia.

“This memorial overlooks 443 Squadron at Victoria International Airport and serves as a reminder of past sacrifices, and the important role our RCAF members in the maritime helicopter community carried out in the defence of Canada aboard Royal Canadian ships deployed on missions around the world. We are proud members of this community and it is our duty to serve.”

The monument was selected by Victoria Airport Authority and a group of citizens, including personnel from 443 Squadron, who formed a working group that had the common goal of increasing awareness of military history at the airport. The memorial sculpture was designed by Illarion Gallant of Rusnak Gallant Ltd., and is accessible to the general public.

According to the Rusnak Gallant website, the “feathers create an allegorical narrative about the spirit of these fighting men who were training to be our nation’s airborne warriors. This is about lofty ideals and the romantic desire to fly . . . . The feathers are arranged in a military matrix with some removed, representing the randomness and divergent accident locations over South Vancouver Island.”

Mr. Gallant says the intent of the sculpture and memorial site is to remember air force personnel from around the world who began working and training at the air base in 1939.

“These people came from all walks of life, surviving the Depression with an optimistic outlook as to the challenges before them,” he said. “Upon completion of their training, these service personnel went on to serve in various theatres of war where they were confronted with the harsh realities of survival.”

With additional files from Peter Mallett, staff writer for the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt newspaper, Lookout. Captain Ryan is wing public affairs officer at 12 Wing Shearwater.

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