Ad Astra monument unveiling ceremony
Sunday, September 20, 2015, 1 pm
McCrae Avenue, Village of Griesbach
By Steve Finkelman
Edmonton’s century-long association with Canada’s Air Force will be commemorated with a striking monument to be erected in the Village at Griesbach this September.
“For most of the past 100 years, Edmonton’s name has been synonymous with the Air Force,” says RCAF Commemorative Society President, Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Bill Buckham. “But people who have moved to the area in the past two decades may not know that.”
Buckham says of the transformation of the air base at CFB Namao into an army base (the Edmonton Garrison) has left many unaware of the long and storied history of the city’s Air Forces.
The Commemorative Society hopes to change that. The group will unveil its Ad Astra monument on Sunday, September 20th at 1 pm in the Village of Griesbach. Ad Astra Plaza is located in the NW corner of the community, just off Castle Downs Road N.W.
There is a rumour that we may be in-store for a rare and special treat: a low level fly-past that could include some of the RCAF’s most awe-inspiring aircraft. (Plans are still to be confirmed. We’ll post details as soon as we hear.)
This free event is open to the public, and will include a Guard of Honour from 408 (Tactical Helicopter) Squadron, Air Cadets from the Edmonton Region and the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. Veterans from the nearby Kipnes Centre are being invited to take part.
The Ad Astra monument is a 10-metre-high stainless steel sculpture representing a “star burst” – an aerobatic manoeuvre familiar to many from military air shows. “Ad Astra” is part of the RCAF motto and means “to the stars.”
It will be surrounded by granite storyboards that will tell the story of Edmonton’s significant contributions to military aviation. This connection began in World War I with pilots like Wop May. It continued in World War II with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and into more recent times with Edmonton squadrons flying everything from hand me down B-25 Mitchells to modern C-130 Hercules.
The monument will be the centre point of Ad Astra Plaza, a symbolic runway with representations of the legendary Spitfire, the Avro Arrow and the C-130 Hercules. The Hercules was used by Edmonton’s 435 Transport Squadron from the early 1960’s to 1992.
Two other plazas represent units of the Air Force with ties to the city. Mosquito Plaza is formed in the shape of the famous fighter-bomber used by 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron during World War II. Griffon Plaza showcases the Griffon helicopter used by 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, the only RCAF unit still based in the Edmonton area.
The plazas overlook Roundel Lake, one of four man-made bodies of water connected by paths and parkland at the heart of the housing development. Canada Lands Company, the federal crown corporation responsible for developing the area, has named three of the lakes in honour of the country’s military services. Last year Patricia Lake was dedicated as a memorial to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Not far away is Bedford Basin Lake, which commemorates those who served in the Canadian Navy.
Streets throughout Griesbach are named in honour of decorated soldiers, key campaigns and other ties to the military. The RCAF Commemorative Society has received city approval to name streets near the Air Force monument after eight Albertans who have made outstanding contributions to Canada’s military aviation heritage.
The RCAF Commemorative Society is raising $215,000 for the monument and the storyboards. The plazas, street name plaques and walkways are all the work of Canada Lands, which has committed to reflecting the military history of the area in its development. Castle Downs Recreation Society is contributing funds towards the storyboards. Griesbach Community League has worked with the Society to facilitate approvals with the city of Edmonton.
The September 20th dedication of the monument and the site will coincide with an important date in military aviation history, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Commemorative Society is also holding a formal dinner on Saturday, September 19th at the Chateau Louis Hotel. Tickets are limited and available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help commemorate the connection between the city and military aviation, the City of Edmonton will declare the week of September 14-20th “Royal Canadian Air Force Week in Edmonton.” Plans are in the works for Mayor Don Iveson to make the declaration at the Alberta Aviation Museum. Other events at the museum include a wine and cheese on Tuesday September 15. For tickets go to http://www.eventbrite.com/e/alberta-aviation-museum-wine-and-cheese-tickets-16170889566.
The week is sure to be a fitting tribute to those served, are serving now and those who will serve Canada’s Air Force in the future. Griesbach will ensure the legacy lives on for many years to come.