A little more than a year after he first had the idea to develop a memorial honouring Dauphin’s participation in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the thousands of airmen who trained at two bases in the community, Al Gray is preparing to unveil the fruits of his efforts.
Set for Aug. 27, the Airport Memorial 80 unveiling will take place in two parts, Gray said.
“We’ll be meeting at the cemetery at about 10:30 in the morning and we will be unveiling a commemorative plaque listing the names of the 15 airmen that lie at rest at Riverside Cemetery. They are 15 of the 49 that were killed here while training,” Gray said “As well, at the cemetery we will be dedicating two granite benches, one in the old veterans section where the airmen are buried and one in the new veterans section.”
Later in the day people will gather at the airport for a ceremony which will begin at 1 p.m., last for approximately 30 minutes and will culminate with the unveiling of the monuments.
“We are flanking the Barker Monument with two five-foot-by-three-foot pieces of granite. They will give the history of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, they will give the history of the two air schools. And on the rear of both is going to be a list of the 29 airmen that were killed in service at the south airport at the service flight training school, and the 20 airmen that were killed at the bombing and gunnery school,” Gray said, adding the two schools trained 9,000 of the 131,000 airmen trained as part of the plan.
“That’s what we are doing to commemorate and memorialize Dauphin’s and Paulson’s role in the air training plan.”
Following the dedication, Gray has a special treat planned as three vintage military aircraft will be on hand courtesy of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon.
The Harvard, Tiger Moth and Cornell aircraft will sit on the apron for the public to inspect and will offer rides to those wanting the complete historic experience.
The cost of the flight for the Harvard is $400 while the Tiger Moth and Cornell are each $280, Gray said, adding those flying must also purchase a $30 museum membership which covers the flight insurance.
The fees are simply cost recovery and a tax deductible receipt will be issued, Gray said.
“These flights have to be pre-booked. They want at least four flights per aircraft booked and I’ve currently got four of the 12 flights a booked,” he said, adding he hopes to further include the aircraft in the days events by way of a low level flyover during the morning dedication at the cemetery. “These pilots are seasoned, well-practiced pilots. What they do is they fly these as the dedicated pilots and they fly these aircraft around to all sorts of air shows throughout the summer.”
The flights will begin at 10 a.m., however, the planes will remain on the ground during the airport ceremony.
“We’re going to encourage people to bring their lawn chairs because there’s only going to be a finite amount of seating available. If they want to bring their lawn chairs and set them up on the grass that’s fine,” Gray said, adding he is hoping for good weather. “It’s a mist or shine event. If there’s a torrential rainfall we do not have an alternate day. It’s going to be that day or not at all. The monuments are going to be there they may end up going without an official unveiling.
“This is definitely something that we’re really hoping is going to fly.”