Picture of Duncan taken from a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft on Oct. 22. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

I felt privileged to participate in the ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 to honour members of the Canadian military who died in non-combat roles, though this year, my perspective was entirely different.

It’s the seventh year in a row that members and veterans of the Canadian military, as well as civilians, gathered at the cenotaph on Oct. 22 to honour the deceased service members.

The annual tradition began in 2014 after Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot in the back and killed as he stood as a ceremonial guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

More than 2,600 Canadian soldiers have lost their lives while on duty in Canada in non-combat roles since 1911.

This year, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 134 Shawnigan Lake held the ceremony, and a Silver Star Mother laid a wreath at the cenotaph.

RELATED STORY: VIGIL HELD TO HONOUR SOLDIERS WHO DIE IN CANADA IN NON-COMBAT ROLES

I have attended the ceremony for the past several years at the invitation of Bob Collins, a former member of the Queen’s Own in Winnipeg, who helped develop the idea for the ceremony at the Cobble Hill Cenotaph.

This year, however, Kevin Maher, a pilot with Air Canada with a passion for vintage aircraft, was asked to participate in a flypast of the cenotaph during the ceremony and he invited me to come along in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard, which was a training aircraft for fighter pilots in the Second World War.

Maher, a resident of Cowichan Bay and a member of the Duncan Flying Club, told me that he and other club members regularly participate in flypasts over cenotaphs on southern Vancouver Island on Remembrance Day each year in vintage war planes.

He said he was more than pleased to participate at the Cobble Hill ceremony because one of the eight military personnel who were being remembered at the service this year was Capt. Jennifer Casey, who died in Kamloops in May in a plane crash when flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds’s squadron.

Casey was a long-time friend of Maher.

I met Maher at the Nanaimo airport almost two hours before our scheduled flypast at the cenotaph at 11:03 a.m., just after the ceremony began, to allow time for a quick check of the old rebuilt plane and to warm it up, as well as to give me some basic instructions on how to board and exit the plane, which is not an easy task.

He instructed me on how to slip into a parachute that was part of the rear seat of the plane, and to put on various straps to hold me in place in the tight quarters.

Maher said if there was catastrophic event, like a fire or a wing falling off the plane (yikes!), I should release the numerous seat straps, pull open the canopy, climb out of the cockpit, throw myself away from the crashing plane and pull the rip cord on my parachute.

RELATED STORY: UNIQUE SERVICE AT COBBLE HILL CENOTAPH HONOURS MILITARY WHO FELL ‘AT HOME’

It struck me that at less than 2,000 feet, the altitude we were to fly at, by the time I successfully got through all of this, I would be at best about 10 feet above the ground when I finally pulled the parachute’s ripcord, and that’s if I got out of the plane at all.

I began having a new appreciation of the what the fighter pilots of the Second World War had to go through.

We took off from Nanaimo and headed south over the Cowichan Valley towards Cobble Hill and were joined by Martin House, another member of the Duncan Flying Club, who was flying a Russian Yak 18, a Cold War-era fighter plane, and was also to participate in the flypast.

As we approached Cobble Hill, Maher shook the plane’s tail to indicate to House to turn immediately to the west as part of the missing man formation.

The missing man formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flypast when aircraft approach from the south and one of the aircraft will suddenly split off to the west, flying into the sunset.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t see the ceremony at the cenotaph from the plane, but I waved anyway because I told Collins to wave at the planes when they were overhead.

On the way back to Nanaimo airport, Maher gave me the opportunity to fly the plane from my training position in the rear seat.

RELATED STORY: MALAHAT LEGION REMEMBERS CANADIAN SOIL CASUALTIES

I immediately declined, but Maher said there was nothing to worry about as he had overall command from his front seat and could immediately correct any errors I made.

I gently nudged the plane to the right and then to the left before I asked Maher to take over again as my heart was beating out of my chest.

I certainly hope the flypast was a success at the Cobble Hill ceremony, which, as well as Casey, remembered eight other military members who died in non-combat roles this year.

They include the six members of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter who died in an accident that occurred off the coast of Greece on April 29 (Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Captain Kevin Hagen, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke and Captain Maxime Miron-Morin) as well as Bombardier Patrick Labrie who was lost in a training accident, and Colin Stephen Roy Bell who died due to PTSD.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Remembrance Day

 

Picture of Ladysmith harbour taken from a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft on Oct. 22. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Picture of the Crofton mill taken from a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft on Oct. 22. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Picture of Quamichan Lake taken from a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft on Oct. 22. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Picture of Westcan Terminal in Cowichan Bay taken from a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft on Oct. 22. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read