415 Squadron Association
Before his passing, Geoff Bennett confirmed that this painting was actually given to Lorne Christensen, the First Officer of the Electra, which was hit by Argus 737. The Electra was operating out of CFB Summerside at the time. Of note, the painting had been completed in 1976, the year prior to the crash.
It is not know why but Lorne Christensen gave the painting to Kim Rempel, the son of Dean Rempel who served at CFB Summerside at the time of the crash. In the summer of 2016, Kim Rempel gave the painting to Chuck O’Neill. Kim knew that Chuck had served on 415 Squadron and thought that it was appropriate for the painting to rest with a Swordfish. In turn Chuck thought that the painting would serve well in memory of the lost souls Major Ross Hawkes, Sgt Ralph Arsenault and MCpl Al Senez, who perished in the crash. To this end, he asked if the Association would be willing to have the painting refurbished, framed and presented to the Squadron.
Over the years the painting had been damaged. Chuck O’Neill advised that that there was a small hole on left side of the painting about half way down. Also the upper right corner and across the top of the painting was somewhat shaky. There was also a little wear on the fuselage aft of the engines, which seemed to be a rub of some type. It was determined that the entire outer edge of the painting could be cut back about 1 inch or a mating could be used to correct most of the problems. In either case, Geoff’s signature could be saved. It was agreed that Chuck would forward the painting from his home on Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia and that the 415 Squadron Association would take care of any required restoration and framing costs.
Despite the passage of time, the Village and the area remain very close to the members of the RCAF who serve today. Likewise there is a special bond with the people of Sutton-on-the-Forest. The annual ceremony and the local interactions around it serve to keep these feelings vibrant. Unfortunately, due to the fight against COVID-19 the 2020 Ceremony has been cancelled. We can only hope that in 2021 there will be a return of Swordfish and Bison representatives to Sutton-on-the-Forest.
It should be noted that Flight Lieutenant Alan Dolding, an RAF regular force member who lives in the Village, has been coordinating this annual event for the past five years. His volunteer efforts as Coordinator and his special attention to the needs of visiting RCAF members are truly appreciated. It is certain that those who placed the Memorial Cairn in 1990 would be proud that this ceremony of remembrance is still conducted 30 years later. A big thank you is extended to Alan for all his efforts.
If you wish to learn more about the history of the Memorial Cairn and the Village of Sutton-on-the-Forest take a look at the following website:
The content for this article was provided by Lieutenant-Colonel Bernie Thorne
A NEW 415 ARTEFACT
In June of 2016 Chuck O’Neill, MWO AESOP retired, contacted me and advised that he had acquired a Geoff Bennett painting that might be of interest to the Association. Always eager to view a Bennett painting, I was surprised to learn the history and the manner in which the painting was acquired. The subject of the artwork was Argus 10737.
Swordfish from the Argus era know well that Argus 737 was destroyed with the loss of three lives on 31 March 1977. The events surrounding this terrible loss are recounted in a previously posted story on this website. One particular aspect of the crash was that it split apart an Electra aircraft, which was parked on the ramp at CFB Summerside. This is mentioned because there is a connection between the crash and how Chuck O’Neill came to possess the Bennett painting.
On Wednesday 19 June 2019, the Argus 10737 Bennett painting was presented to 415 Squadron at its weekly morning brief. I provided a short historical summary of how the painting made its way to the Squadron and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Bernie Thorne graciously received the painting on behalf of all Swordfish. The painting is now mounted in the Squadron’s Briefing Room joining the existing collection of Bennett artwork held by the Squadron.
The 415 Squadron Association would like to acknowledge Chuck O’Neill’s thoughtful donation.
Chris Henneberry, President 415 Squadron Association..
THE 2019 EAST MOOR FAMILY MEMORIAL SERVICE
The 30th Memorial Service was held on Saturday the 18th of May 2019, in the Village of Sutton-on-the-Forest. Over 100 members of the local community, including the local Air Training Corps Squadron and Cub Scout Troop, attended the Service. Given its rural location, Lieutenant-Colonel Bernie Thorne reported that “it felt like the whole Village had come to remember.”
Three representatives each from 415 “Swordfish” Squadron and 429 “Bison” Squadron made the journey to Yorkshire. On Friday before the Service, all six members visited the local primary school. This year the children briefed those in uniform about the research they had completed on the RCAF. Apparently they provided many interesting facts both from the past and current operations. Saturday started with a reception at the Rose and Crown – the local pub. From there it was a short march to the Memorial Cairn located in the Village “Pound”. The CO of 415 Squadron spoke on behalf of the RCAF and noted the warmth and depth of the relations between Sutton-on-the-Forest and the Squadrons, who had served at RAF East Moor. After the ceremony, tea was hosted by the Countrywomen’s Association, in the Village Hall located across the street from the Memorial Cairn. There were a few local veterans and many of their family members that came to talk about their wartime experiences. On Sunday a church service was held not far from a graveyard that holds some of the RCAF dead.