Of men and machines

“Sentimental Journey” B-17 Flying Fortress on tarmac in Hamilton.

I was battling rush-hour traffic. Ironically, I was listening to a Toronto radio station’s traffic reporter tell me I was in gridlock. Then, my cell phone rang. I read the call identification. It was one of my teaching colleagues at Centennial College. And he was excited.

“She’s here!” he said, with more energy in his voice than usual.

“Who’s here?” I asked.

“Sentimental Journey. She’s going to be in Hamilton all this week,” he continued.

It was Malcolm Kelly on the phone. He’s the co-ordinator of Centennial’s sports journalism program. And second only to his love of sports is Malcolm’s love of airplanes.

Love in War

Winston Churchill had to be encouraged by his relatives to propose to Clementine Hozier.
Winston had to be encouraged to propose to Clementine …

The two almost did not meet. The couple nearly didn’t marry and become one of the most famous couples in 20th century Britain. But thanks to the intervention of Winston Churchill’s cousin, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, a visitor to Churchill’s family home – Blenheim Palace in England – Clementine Hozier did meet Winston in August 1908. They took a walk in the garden, dashed for cover during a rain shower and he finally proposed.

“I took two important decisions (at Blenheim),” the great wartime leader of Britain wrote later, “to be born and to marry.”

History preservers

Hugh Halliday, centre, poses for photo with fellow recipients of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.

I sat elbow-to-elbow with history last Sunday. Many seated around me had piloted military aircraft in hostile skies. Others had gone aloft as Royal Canadian Air Force navigators, radio operators, gunners and flight engineers. But just as many had made history in the ranks of the volunteer association that gathers, preserves and celebrates the romance of flight in peacetime – the Air Force Association of Canada. Closest to me (and equally close to that history) sat Hugh Halliday, eminent Canadian air historian. We talked about current writing projects. It turned out he had research I needed and he offered it to me without question, without thought of compensation.

“The best way to preserve history,” Halliday said, “is to share it.”

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Ted Barris, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient
Ted Barris, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient

During an awards ceremony at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum on Oct. 14, 2012, Sen. Joseph Day presented Ted Barris with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. The announcement issued with the award said, in part, “the medal is a visible and tangible way to recognize outstanding Canadians … who have built and continue to build this caring society and country through their service and achievements.”

Barris was nominated for the award by the Air Force Association of Canada. In a letter, Dean Black, the AFAC executive director, explained that the association “convened a committee that screened and ranked hundreds of applications from across Canada, using the selection criteria of recent and significant service to the association’s objectives of heritage, youth and advocacy.” Barris was among about 45 individuals chosen by the AFAC to receive the medal.