Gathering of the Lions Report - 2010
Report by Dick Dunn
22- 23 October 2010
Arriving Friday at the Best Western Pembroke shortly after 1600 hrs, we were informed that the shuttle bus had just departed for the base. Told it would return in an hour, at 1800 hrs with no bus in sight, we telephoned the base for transport, eventually entering the Reichwald Sgt.'s Mess about 1830 hrs. We joined the "Meet and Greet" which was well under way, with the bar obstructed by a gaggle of aircrew in flying suits. "Make way for a fighter pilot," say I as I approached the bar, whereupon Lt. Col John Anderson, the newly appointed C.O. introduced himself and bought me a beer. Honorary Colonel Bob Middlemiss, also attired in regulation flying suit greeted our group of tardy Lions.
Saturday it was déjà vu, for as with last year, the blue sky and unseasonably warm temperature compelled a round at the Whitetail Golf Course for Walt, Dale and myself. Meanwhile, Suzi and John Shute embarked on the scheduled museum tour. Returning late afternoon, we speedily donned formal attire to greet Wayne and Beth MacLellan prior to the gala dinner. Whilst lined up for the bar, we perused the diverse historical artifacts and photographs and adorning the anteroom.
At 1830 hrs the Piper led the C.O. and company to the head table. The PMC, Major Christine Sweetapple introduced the head table, comprising the aforementioned Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander and his wife Tamra, the Squadron Chief Warrant Officer Joe Burns and his wife Marlene, Honorary Colonel Bob Middlemiss, Executive Assistant to the HCol, Captain Leslie Harris, "Lion of the Year" - Corporal Steve Arcand and his wife Corporal Diane Arcand.
Following Grace, HCol Middlemiss invested the new "Keeper of the Lion," Captain Eric Michalski, giving him stern instructions to protect the priceless artifact that had been presented to the squadron by MGM in 1943.
Hotel staff very efficiently served a choice of meals to the 120 guests, as we dined to the accompaniment of delightful classical music by the local Tiffany Trio. Periodically throughout the dinner the PMC would bang her gavel, and a Lion would arise to recite excerpts from the Squadron Operational Diary.
Circulating in the anteroom during the brief intermission afforded an opportunity to speak with members of the squadron, gaining an insight into the new role of "Special Operations." I had the pleasure to speak at the dinner with one of the two WWII veterans attending, 87 year-old Flight Sergeant Weldon Moffatt of Regina. Our Honourary Colonel Bob Middlemiss being the other WW II veteren who later chaired the meeting in Walt Pirie'a room after the dance. After a year of training, Weldon received his wing as a "WAG," or Wireless Air Gunner. Highly skilled, with 25 words-per-minute of Morse, and with radio operators in high demand, his training omitted the gunnery practice and he joined 427 Squadron at Leeming in 1944. During his 24 ops on the Halifax, and 3 on the Lancaster, his aircraft often returned with battle damage, although he was hit but once, sustaining a hole in his leg. Nearing the completion of his tour he received the DFM-Distinguished Flying Medal.
Following the Loyal Toast, and Unit Marches, some without the music, Bob Middlemiss gave a brief overview of the Squadron history. When he announced that Headquarters had approved his extension as Honorary Colonel, a rousing standing ovation ensued.
After dinner the youthful (and your faithful scribe) danced to the energetic music provided by Tanner Logan of Jack & Cynthia DJ.
Reputedly, 427 is the only active Canadian squadron with a tradition of an annual meeting that includes both serving and former members. What an honour to belong to such a unique unit.