“Moosemen” return home

News Article / July 26, 2016

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Lieutenant Jennifer Halliwell

In 2016, the RCAF is commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, one of the largest air training programs the world has ever seen. A number of the RCAF’s 400-series squadrons, which came into being  as a result of Article XV of the BCATP agreement, are celebrating their 75th anniversaries this year.
419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadrons is one of those units.

The legend of the “Moose” began 75 years ago in Kamloops, British Columbia. And earlier this month, that’s where the “Moosemen” of 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron returned to commemorate their 75th anniversary.

More than 200 Moosemen and their families converged on Kamloops to take part in events around the city and celebrate their incredible relationship with the community.

419 “City of Kamloops” Squadron was named in honour of their beloved first commanding officer, John “Moose” Fulton, who grew up in Kamloops and from whom the squadron personnel received their designation as the “Moosemen”. 419 Squadron, whose unit badge portrays a charging moose, is reputedly the only Canadian squadron named after a person. And to this day, all 419 Squadron commanding officers retire their own call signs for the duration of their command and take the call sign “Moose” in honour of “Moose” Fulton. 

After welcoming the Moosemen and their families back to the “herd” for the weekend, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike “Moose” Grover reflected on what the event meant to the Squadron.

“This weekend was a source of pride for the Moosemen. Looking back at the 75 years of history of 419 Squadron, it is clear the impact the squadron has had on the Royal Canadian Air Force since its creation in 1941,” he said. “From one of the most decorated units of the Second World War to its role in training future fighter pilots, the Moosemen have served their country well. Having the opportunity to meet and speak to Moosemen from all different times in the squadron’s history was incredible, and proved how strong the Moose bond is.”

The squadron’s role has changed many times over the past 75 years. It was first stood up as a part of Bomber Command in Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, and then became an all-weather fighter squadron in North Bay, Ontario, and Baden-Soellingen, Germany. Over the years, the squadron has been disbanded and reactivated three times – most recently in 2000 as a part of the NATO Flying Training in Canada program, providing fighter lead-in training to student pilots before they proceed to their respective countries’ front-line fighters. The squadron is located at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, but reports administratively to 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Throughout the weekend, the squadron held events for Moosemen and the local community, including the revival of the “Moose Fulton Club” and the release of a 75th anniversary book on Friday night. To the best of the squadron’s knowledge, it was the first time the “Moose Fulton Club” had been revived since the Second World War, when it was established as a way for squadron members to remember “Moose” Fulton following his death.   

A Freedom of the City parade was held on Saturday morning to honour the relationship between the squadron and the city of Kamloops. Current and former members of the squadron took part in the parade that saw them march down the city streets and halt in front of City Hall to receive permission from Mayor Peter Milobar to exercise their Freedom of the City, which was first granted in 1993.

“We are pleased to host the Freedom of the City Parade with 419 Squadron today to symbolize our continued partnership with the squadron and the Royal Canadian Air Force,” said Mayor Milobar. “We are very proud to be part of the 419 Squadron's 75th anniversary celebration, and look forward to a strong friendship long into the future.”

A gala dinner was held that night, attended by more than 230 Moosemen, family members and local dignitaries. During the dinner, 419 Squadron presented its gift of hockey jerseys to their Kamloops “team”, including Mayor Milobar, who, as the team’s captain, also received a custom Moose helmet complete with antlers. 

The many special guests included nine former “Moose” commanding officers – an extraordinary sight – who were seated at the head table, including Lieutenant-General (retired) Lloyd “Moose” Campbell, who retired as the commander of Air Command (since re-named the Royal Canadian Air Force).

Other special guests included Brigadier-General Dave Cochrane, the commander of 2 Canadian Air Division, headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Colonel Alex Day, commander of 15 Wing; Mr. Bob O'Callaghan, son of one of “Moose” Fulton’s air gunners; Member of Parliament Cathy McLeod; British Columbia Minister of Health and Member of the Legislative Assembly Terry Lake; and Mayor Peter Milobar.   

Two very special Moosemen were reminders of the squadron’s history: Tom Moffat and John Higham are veterans of the Second World War. It was Pilot Officer Higham’s first visit to Kamloops since he had travelled there in 1942 to pay respects to his former commanding cfficer’s mother following “Moose” Fulton’s death. He is the only Moosemen alive today who served under “Moose” Fulton and during the gala he spoke about the respect and love the squadron had for Moose, and about the Kamloops reunion’s special meaning.

The weekend concluded on Sunday with an open house at Kamloops Airport. Static displays from 419 Squadron included their 75th anniversary commemorative CT-155 Hawk designed by Jim Belliveau and painted in Bomber Command’s classic camouflage colour scheme.

“I must sincerely thank the city of Kamloops for hosting us this weekend and for their continued friendship throughout the past 75 years,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Grover. “The city is responsible for keeping our squadron history alive during the disbanded years and we can never thank them enough for their support.

“Although we can’t know for sure that 419 Squadron will always be around, I do know that the Moosemen will always have a home in Kamloops.”

Moose Aswayita! “Beware of the Moose!”

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