Local air cadet squadron seeking to rebuild its lost heritage

Those working to rebuild the 44 Sarnia Imperial Squadron archive include, from left, building and property chair Cameron Gibson; sponsoring committee chair Sid Thompson; squadron director Elizabeth Bainbridge; fundraising chair Melody Gibson and and band officer Lori Basset. Bonnie Stevenson Photo

Bonnie Stevenson

A pair of devastating floods has left members of the local Royal Canadian Air Cadets with the daunting job of replacing its lost heritage.

The 44 Sarnia Imperial Squadron will celebrate its 80th anniversary in four years, and it could take that long to replace all the precious historical material damaged by flooding at a previous training facility, said squadron spokesperson Sid Thomson.

“For us to recover that information, we need to find people interested in helping us over the long haul. We need to find alumni, restore our archives, and put together a cohesive story of the 44 Squadron.”

The squadron has a new commanding officer in charge, a new band training program instituted, and a refurbishment of the entire training centre is underway. But with so much of the group’s documentation destroyed and the rest scattered across Sarnia-Lambton and beyond, its sponsoring committee is eager to reclaim that history.

“We’re not sure how much information is left,” Thompson said. “The organization we’re doing now will give us space to bring together the existing information so the gaps can be identified. We’re reaching out to people who know how to archive this information to help with the process.”

Historical groups have been contacted and other avenues of inquiry are being explored. “We’ve had positive responses from the Sarnia Heritage group and Sarnia-Lambton Genealogical group,” he said. “We hope to gather interested parties together to develop a strategy to carry this forward.”

Former alumni, leaders and members of the public with artifacts, memorabilia or personal stories and anecdotes about the squadron’s past are ask to come forward, Thompson said.

Some of the squadron’s former cadets have gone on to do great things, he noted.

Former cadet John Bernier became the Surgeon General of Canada, and Chief Warrant Officer Sherman Neil is currently the project leader of a new strategic employment model that will modernize capabilities for senior non-commissioned officers in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“We need to find our alumni for historical and nostalgic material, and to network with former cadets who might be in a position to help us with this task,” Thompson said.

The squadron currently has 32 cadets and there is room for both more cadets and more leaders drawn from retired Canadian Forces personnel.

Anyone with materials or memories is asked to contact the 44 Sarnia Imperial Air Cadets at 519-344-7131.

Bonnie Stevenson is a freelance journalist, communication consultant, and author of two books in the Bootjack Mary series.