Lets Not Forget Our Cold War Heros
Guy Fortier - The Ottawa Citizen
On Remembrance Day, our thoughts should also turn to the thousands of Canadians who served overseas with the RCAF's No. 1 Air Division as part of NATO. The tough years were endured mostly from the 1950s to the early 1960s.
Canada was at the forefront in the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, and agreed to contribute to air defence.
The No. 1 Air Division was quickly formed and its headquarters was established in Metz, France (at that time a full member of NATO). Canada's considerable engineering and industrial capacity was pressed into action to provide the aircraft. The RCAF began to train the aircrews, maintenance crews and other personnel.
In November 1951, the 1st Squadron (410 Squadron) was carried by the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent to North Luffenham, England where it was soon joined in 1952 by 439 and 442 Squadrons.
By September 1953, four wings of interceptor day fighters, each composed of three squadrons of fighters, were established in Europe: two in France (at Marville and Grostenquin), and two in Germany (at Zweibrucken and Baden-Soellingen).
With an authorized strength of 300 first-rate fighters plus spares, the No. 1 Air Division was a force to be contended with.
The Cold War was always in danger of turning hot, and pilot training was very realistic and demanding. Some 107 RCAF Sabre pilots gave their lives in the Cold War era. They did so in Canada, Britain, France, Germany and other European countries, as well as Sardinia and Morocco. Some 51 of them died flying their Sabre Jets with the Air Division.
Most of them were buried in the Choloy Military Cemetery near Nancy in France, as were the ground crews who also died or were killed while serving in the division. The Choloy cemetery, administered by the Canadian War Graves Commission, contains the remains of some 260 Canadians who died while serving with the No. 1 Air Division.
It also contains the remains of crews who crashed while flying CF-100s and CF-104s, and the crew and civilians flying aboard a Bristol Freighter that crashed in Marville in the early '60s. Choloy is the resting place for the remains of 122 officers and 146 other ranks, all of whom were casualties in the Cold War, serving with the No. 1 Air Division. Most of the officers were killed in flying accidents, while most of the other ranks died in motorcycle or automobile accidents, or from natural causes.
Canada owes its thanks to them for helping to stop the Cold War from turning hot.