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The Gathering of Lions Report

4-6 November 2011

After a brief stop at the Ottawa Gloucester Street Officers Mess, we headed north, Petawawa bound for the annual Gathering of Lions. At the guardhouse, a Commissionaire dispensed keys and a map showing our accommodation, the barrack block conveniently located between the kitchen and the Reichwald Mess. Swiftly stowing our bags, we drove to the Squadron hangar where the party was already in full swing.

Lieutenant Colonel John Alexander welcomed the Sabre contingent, comprised of, Walt Pirie, Dale Horley, Sask Wilford, Ted Hessel, John & Susi Shute, Wayne & Beth MacLellan, and Dick Dunn, your faithful scribe. Once again in fine form, Honorary Colonel Bob Middlemiss comprised the sole Starfighter representative, whilst the stalwart WWII veteran, Weldon Moffatt had once again journeyed from Regina.

As we sipped our first beverage, we perused the table arrayed with diverse Squadron mementos ranging from hats, shirts, RCAF cufflinks & studs, etc. Nearby a screen displayed photographs encompassing the entire span of the Squadron’s history, from World War II, through the Sabre era, the CF-104 and the current Helicopter role, including the recently completed deployment to Afghanistan. L/Col Alexander shared some insights into the activities of the Squadron during its deployment over the past two years, but cautioned that his remarks were not for publication. If you want to learn more, you will have to attend next years gathering! Afterwards we proceeded to the town of Petawawa where we dined at a local restaurant, delighted that L/Col Alexander could join us.

Next morning after a hearty breakfast at the nearby “all-ranks” kitchen, we drove south to the Whitetail Golf Course for a round in the brisk sunshine. Initially frosty, the temperature climbed to about 10°C. It was a rather slow game with our foursome spending much of the time searching for lost balls in the scrub. Driving back to Petawawa, we barely had time to shower and dress for the cocktail hour prior to the “Dining-in.”

Included in the attendees were several of the 427 Helicopter alumni, among them Colonel Christian Drouin, now #1 Wing Commander and L/Col(R) Alex Home, a former DCO and pilot on the Squadron. At the designated hour the doors opened, the piper (who was L/Col Alexander's son) piped, leading the head table as we followed into the spacious dining hall to our appointed places. After a short but witty grace we took our seats as the PMC introduced the head table. L/Col. Alexander’s opening remarks alluded to the activities of the Squadron in Afghanistan. In a divergence from custom, he announced that all speeches and awards would occur before dinner. Thereupon, the guest speaker, Brigadier-General Mike Dabros, a former “Lion” Commanding Officer and most recently, Deputy Commander of the NATO Air Power Transition Force, gave a comprehensive summation of ground and aviation operations in Afghanistan.

A fine dinner was served to the accompaniment of a local string quartet. Just prior to desert, the PMC’s heavy gavel mysteriously arrived in front of me. Standing up, I gave the table 3 solid pounds and asked the traditional question, “Who owns this club?” A rather muted reply issued from the Sabre contingent, “4–2–7–Roar!” “That was rather pitiful,” I proclaimed, and repeated the question; this time receiving a resounding reply from the entire Squadron.

After a short intermission, we rose for the Loyal Toast, followed by Squadron and Unit marches. The official dinner at end, the youthful danced to the recorded tunes of DJ Jack & Cynthia.

Preparations are well underway for the Squadron’s 70th anniversary next year. It will be a very special occasion with a re-dedication of the Colours, hopefully with new battle honors from Afghanistan. Please mark your calendar for the first weekend of November. See you there!

Dick Dunn - November 2011

Photos available for viewing or downloading at: