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The Gathering of Lions Report

6-7 February 2015

GOL_2015_logo The 2014 Gathering of Lions was delayed to February this year to allow more personnel to take part at that time in the Gathering. In future years it appears the GOL will continue to take place in the February time frame. Weather was a concern; light snow and -10 temperatures, but it was a non-issue for the weekend activities. There are no photos attached for the reason that the camera was forgotten on Friday night and went u/s on Saturday evening. Maybe next time.

The Meet and Greet on Friday night with L/Col. Jeff Orr presiding was held from 1400 to 1800 and was very well attended. Several retirees attended including the Sabre contingent Sask Wilford, John and Susie Shute and Wayne MacLellan. A long term supporter of the Association, Weldon Moffatt, a WW II veteran was unable to attend this year due to concerns for his wife's health. Weldon, living in Regina, seldon misses a Gathering.

During the CO's address, a former squadron member Shawn Coyle presented the CO with a detailed model of a wartime 427 Squadron Halifax for the Squadron's Museum. In a private conversation later with Shawn he detailed his varied and highly interesting aviation career in England, Canada and the USA.

After 1800 on Friday, Sask and Wayne diverted to the Officers' Mess where three single army officers hosted the two who were then briefed on military life as it is today.

The next day was slow and Sask delivered some mementos he had to a friend of his and his wife Cathy, Sharon Sonoski, the widow of former 427 Squadron member, Captain Colin Sonoski, who was killed in a 444 Squadron Griffon while performing a rescue operation in Labrador in 2002.

The mixed Mess Dinner began at 1800 for drinks and mingling. The head table was piped in at 1900. Seated at the head table were Shona and Major Gary Fleming who was PMC for the dinner that evening, Cathy and Colonel(ret) Dean Black(the new Publisher & Editor of ROAR), Major General Chris Coates and Karen, Lieutenant General(ret) Charles Bouchard, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Orr, Commanding Officer of 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron and his spouse Dianne, Squadron Chief Warrant Officer David Fredette and Sherry and at the other end of the table Padre Michel Gagne.

At our table, the middle of three long tables, which butted to the head table at a ninety degree angle, Sask and Wayne were seated beside a retired 427 pilot Captain (ret) Catherine Wilson and her partner John Williams on one side and Captain Rooker and her spouse Flight Sergeant Mike Rooker on the other. They were excellent dinner companions and the conversation was wide ranging and interesting. The evening proceeded along Mess Dinner protocol but with entertainment provided by squadron personnel at the request of the PMC. The first performance was a thrilling version in song and mime of " I'm a little teapot" from two squadron officers performed while standing on chairs. A little later, the adjutant, Captain Andy Lee was called on for his version of the alphabet song, en francais; later in the dinner Flight Sergeant Rooker who recently remustered from the Army to Air Force was asked to cite reasons why the Air Force was much better than the Army. He received a great deal of applause and high fives when he stated that the Air Force had much better looking haircuts than the Army.

Following the toast to the Queen there was a brief period to remember fallen comrades. It started with a stirring pipes' rendition followed by a moment's silence and then a solemn explanation of the significance of a white tablecloth covered empty table, empty chair and items on the table.

Lieutenant Colonel Orr then delivered an informative and inspirational speech while pacing up and down the three arms of the Mess Dinner tables. Then the guest speaker was introduced. Lieutenant General(ret) Charles Bouchard gave an overview of his experiences while leading the task force, consisting of representatives from 39 nations, who were involved in the Libyan action. It was a highly entertaining as well as informative talk by an accomplished and polished speaker, very much appreciated by everyone there.

After thanking Lieutenant General Bouchard, Lieutenant Colonel Orr and the head table departed for the dance floor. The Sabre contingent after saying our goodbyes and thanks departed the Mess.

It was another memorable Gathering and once again the older retired Lions came away feeling that our Canadian military and especially 427 SOAS remain a very impressive team.