The commanding officer
of a Canadian air force squadron flew 4,000 miles at the weekend to
attend a special event in a tiny North Yorkshire village.
Maryse Carmichael yesterday (Sunday) unveiled a new memorial stone in
the village of Burn, near Selby, to commemorate the founding of her 431
Squadron at the village's World War Two airfield exactly 70 years ago.
The Royal Canadian Air
Force 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, served at Burn between 1942 and 1943. In
that time the squadron flew around 320 sorties from Burn, losing 17 of
their Wellington bombers and 85 crew.
Now known as the
'Snowbirds', the squadron is the Canadian equivalent of Britain's Red
Parish Council decided to recognise the sacrifice and contribution
made by those Canadian war heroes with a commemoration stone and
memorial service on the small village green.
Lt Col Carmichael and
her Chief Warrant Officer Alan Blakney travelled from their air base in
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to attend a memorial service in the village's
Methodist chapel, followed by the commemoration ceremony on the green.
Warrant Officer Blakney
gave a reading at the chapel service while Lt Col Carmichael removed the
Canadian flag to unveil the stone. Young bugler David Critchley played
the Last Post and 40 Air Training Corps cadets performed a march past.
At the ceremony were
almost 40 VIP guests including Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire,
Brigadier Nigel Wood, representatives of the Royal Air Force, Royal Air
Forces Association, Air Training Corps, 578 Squadron (which also flew
out of Burn during World War Two), the Yorkshire Air Museum and the
Fraternity of Old Selebians.
In the village pub, The
Wheatsheaf, there was a small exhibition of photographs and other
memorabilia from 431 Squadron. And the pub was selling 'Snowbirds' beer,
specially brewed by the Brown
Cow Brewery at nearby Barlow.
Lt Col Carmichael - the
first woman pilot to fly with the Snowbirds - said afterwards:
"It's a great honour to be here in Burn to see our squadron
commemorated like this. We really appreciate what the village has done
to recognise the contribution made by our wartime colleagues and the
great sacrifices they made in the eight months they served at Burn.
members of the squadron are not forgotten, but what Burn has done today
has helped us remember how significant it was. We feel a real bond with
the village where 431 Squadron was born all those years ago.
" As a thankyou
gesture she presented a plaque to the village, giving Burn the rare
honour of membership of the Society of Honorary Snowbirds.
She also presented the
village with a framed montage depicting 431 Squadron. Parish Council
chairman Chris Phillipson said: "In all these years, 431 Squadron
has never been adequately recognised and we thought it appropriate on
the 70th anniversary to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by those
Canadian airmen and the contribution they made towards winning the war.
"We are honoured
that the commanding officer of the Snowbirds and Warrant Officer Blakney
travelled all this way to our small village to take part in this event
and that so many VIPs turned out for our commemoration ceremony."
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