Posted by Timothy FitzGerald on Nov 05, 2019
Our Rotarian Craig Hunter is passionate about the history and sacrifice of the brave men, women and relatives who landed and fought overseas in world wars and continue to this day in present conflicts. Craig has written books of his research and donated them to our national archives.  In prior years, he has detailed these heartfelt sacrifices. This year, Craig detailed for us how, from 1939, for every airmen in the skies, soldier on the beaches, and sailors on the waves; Canada, the nation was with them training, provisioning and supplying armaments.
And, so much of this war effort was right here in our backyards across Norfolk, Oxford, Haldimand and Brant Counties. In 1939, the British Commonwealth picked Canada as the training ground for air forces. Canada was remote from prying eyes of Europe and a natural deployment to Europe. The stipulation was that air force training had to be on the Great Lakes to simulate flying over the English Channel and North Sea. Canada trained 80,000 air crew and 131,000 ground crew.
Craig and Rotarians are assembling at the Baldock Funeral Home November 11th to march in the parade to the Cenotaph. Please join them (and dress warm).
Air bases in St. Thomas, Tillsonburg and Brantford are still in operation today. Other airbases were located on Lake Superior, Huron and Ontario. Some pilots and instructors lost their lives in training. Goderich, much like England, can be swept instantly by dense fog - not all the crews returned. If you look closely at buildings on any of these sites and even grass airport strips in Norfolk and Jarvis many of these buildings from WW II are still being used today. Once declared surplus, they were sold to the local community for a dollar. Example - Simcoe had army barracks and large huts for drill/assembly of soldiers and equipment on Second Avenue. The army barracks are still being used within the Second Avenue industrial park. The larger huts were moved to the Norfolk County Fairgrounds. Boaters beware!  - cribs of bombing targets are still submerged off Normandale, which Craig advises that unwary mariners have discovered in past low water years and lost their propellers.
But how was all of this possible? The war was consuming all the materials and workers (men and women having enlisted in the armed services). Nevertheless, the craftsmanship of the buildings was there and survives today.
Craig said  that his mother is a "war bride". When I hear the term war bride my mind quickly travels overseas. However, with recruits from across Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the British Isles and other nations being trained in Ontario enormous economies sprung up supplying food, uniforms, provisions. Of course, off duty personnel frequented local entertainment and bars. Regular fights broke out between enlisted personnel and locals who did not want the competition for the affections of the women.