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O Canada (Part 2)

– Continued from O Canada (Part 1) –

Driving from Toronto to Trenton, I got a few tantalizing glimpses of Lake Ontario.  Arriving in Trenton, I drove around the area, spotting several WWII vintage buildings.  However, it seems entirely too busy and modern here to do much in the way of filming.

John Magee attended his ITS (Initial Training School) at Trenton.  Much like boot camp in the U.S., Magee had to learn how to be a part of the military.  So much to learn: how to dress, walk, salute, etc.  There is some air training here, but just ground school… no flying, not yet.

The Canadian Forces 8 Wing is located here, and were certainly very busy while I was visiting.  Lots of flying activity going on.  The National Air Force Museum of Canada (http://airforcemuseum.ca/en/) is here, and that was my next stop.

When I entered the Museum, I was warmly greeted (they did not know who I was).  I was asked if I would like to be shown around.  Certainly I would, thank you!  The very first thing that I was shown was a memorial area.  A granite slab was there, with familiar words on it.  Within two minutes, the guide was pointing to a picture of John Magee getting his Wings, and telling me all about this American who had joined the RCAF!  I let the guide go on for awhile… he was very good, with no factual errors that I could ascertain.  I gave him my High Flight Productions business card, and told him what I was doing there.  I complimented him and the Museum for doing such a great job of keeping the memory of John Magee alive.

National Air Force Museum of Canada, Trenton, Ontario

As you enter the main museum area, a huge Handley Page Halifax bomber dominates the room.  This particular Halifax had been pulled out of a lake in Norway, shipped to Trenton, and has been lovingly restored.  It is absolutely fantastic!

Outside, there are several aircraft on display.  Bordering the walkways are hundreds of blocks with the names of RCAF pilots on them; some of the blocks had Canadian and RCAF flags planted next to them.  I managed to locate John Magee’s, noting that he was right next to the marker for George “Buzz” Beurling, Canada’s most successful fighter pilot.  I thought that John’s marker was missing something, so I corrected it:

I was reluctant to leave such a place, but I had to.  Lots of places left to visit. On the way to Ottawa, I visited BCATP airfields at Mountain View, Picton, Kingston, and Gananoque.  The BCATP hangers at Mountain View have been torn down, Kingston has quite a few modifications, and Gananoque has just one hanger (although the hanger there does have a control tower, the only one that I saw on my trip). Picton, though…. my goodness, talk about an embarrassment of riches!  Picton has 43 intact BCATP buildings.  The great people there gave me a tour which included the Officer’s Mess (complete with original dishwashing machine and coffee urn!), gym, movie theater, and a hanger.  The runways are also there, in the original triangle pattern.  Picton is at the top of my list for location filming! I got a whirlwind tour of Picton, so I just took video, no still photos.  I will do screen captures of them one of these days.  So… on to Ottawa, capital of Canada, and the final Canadian stop on this trip. First things first: I visited the Library and Archives Canada.  All told, I must’ve spent close on to eight hours there over three days.  So much information!  It appears that the RCAF keeps everything related to a pilot.  It’s quite amazing.  The results of that research will appear in the book and movie, so stay tuned. Second Ottawa stop: Rockcliffe.  I took a flight in a Cessna 172 to the BCATP airfield at Pendleton… now THIS is the way to do reconnaisance!  By air!  Again, all I took was video, no stills.  It was very nice to have an aerial perspective, and was quite exciting to fly into a genuine WWII BCATP airfield!  Last stop before heading home: Canadian Aviation & Space Museum (http://www.aviation.technomuses.ca/) in Ottawa.  Last but not least!  I loved the way that the aircraft were displayed… not just sitting there, but often displayed in dioramas.   There’s a de Havilland Beaver and a Stinson floatplane sitting at a dock, being loaded for trips to the wilderness, and several other very nice displays.

Of course, this museum (like all the rest) had Yales, Harvards, Spitfires and assorted other WWII aircraft.  Plus several other aircraft I had not seen anywhere else, such as a Fairey Swordfish with retractable wings (for carrier operations… who knew that Canada had an aircraft carrier?).

After bidding goodbye to this museum, I pointed the car south and headed home.  A mere 14 hours later, I arrived.

What an amazing trip.  I met many wonderful people, and all seemed interested in the story of John Gillespie Magee, Jr.  Maybe one of these I’ll be back with a film crew, and we’ll make a movie!  Stay tuned…

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1 reply

  1. Several years ago I found a copy of the poem “High Flight” in a resale shop and bought it for $1.00. It is on a 1″ wooden plaque 10 1/2″ by 14″ and the poem is written by imprinting the letters on gold colored metal with “Air Force Wings” affixed to the top. I bought it because I married a Magee and thought it was such a beautiful poem. I am so glad to know about John Gillespie Magee, Jr. as I have often wondered about the poem and about him. I enjoyed so much reading about him. I don’t know if you or anyone else would be interested in the plaque, The plaque has had some hard knocks, but someone went to a great deal of effort to make it and undoubtedly felt very moved by the poem.
    I would be more than happy to donate it for inclusion into any memorial for him. It is an extraordinary story and life, ended only too soon. Thank you for all of your research and information.
    Nancy Magee

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