Salute to Ganavan squadron

Master Warrant Officer Dan Hadfield and No. 423 Squadron's Commanding Officer Lt Col Bill Thomey with former commanding officer Colonel, now retired, John Orr on the slipway at Ganavan

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Tributes have been paid to a Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron that  took off from Ganavan 80 years ago.

No. 423 Squadron was remembered on May 18 by some of its serving and former members visiting Oban on a special anniversary tour.

The squadron’s current Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Bill Thomey laid a wreath at the Ganavan memorial close to the World War Two slipway where Sunderland flying boats took off for operations over the Atlantic.

Remembering the squadron’s past and fallen comrades at Ganavan war memorial
Ganavan war memorial flying the Royal Canadian Air Force flag
Oban welcomes serving and former members of the No. 423 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force founded at Ganavan on May 18 80 years ago
Lt Col Bill Thomey lays a wreath at the war memorial on Oban’s Esplanade
Colonel, now retired, John Orr inspecting the names of the fallen at Oban’s war memorial on the Esplanade
Canadian Air Force visitors attracting attention from passing tourists along the esplanade in Oban
Lt Col Bill Thomey presents a framed print of Eagle Over Oban to Fergus Gillanders who is chairman of directors at Oban’s War and Peace Museum
Colonel, now retired, John Orr discussing the No. 423 Squadron’s history at Oban’s War and Peace Museum with Fergus Gillanders

Lt Col Thomey was joined by Master Warrant Officer Dan Hadfield and the squadron’s former commanding officer Colonel, now retired, John Orr.

While at Ganavan, the visitors also saw the start of a Sunderland mural masterminded by Ganavan and Oban Heritage Group and being painted by Oban High School pupils.

Lt Col Thomey said: ‘To come back to our squadron’s original starting point here is very special. They set the stage here. It was difficult times but they rose to the occasion.

‘We are standing on the shoulders of giants literally from our past and for us to come over and visit and make this direct link continues that connection.

‘What they did here was amazing. When we get home, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from this trip and make sure we keep the connection up.’

‘Gathering up here and doing our training was a big part of the squadron’s time here at Ganavan. We weren’t here long before they moved all the Sunderlands over to Castle Archdale in Northern Ireland but being here was a key component to getting them ready and being so  successful when they had their first U-boat attacks in 1934 – it’s a big part of our history.’

Now based at Shearwater in Nova Scotia, No. 423 operates advanced CH-148 Cyclone helicopters from Royal Canadian Navy ships.

Another wreath was laid at the war memorial on the Esplanade before the group, accompanied by Oban wartime historian Neil Owen, retired councillor Elaine Robertson and town ambassadors Kay MacDonald and Jo Reich visited the War and Peace Museum.

The group was welcomed by the museum’s chairman of directors Fergus Gillanders, who presented the Canadians with a framed photograph of a Royal Canadian Air Force Sunderland at a mooring in Oban Bay.

The aircraft undertook the first operational flight of the No. 423 squadron on August 23 1942 – the photograph was one of many from that era that once graced the walls of Dungallon Country House hotel, a former RAF station HQ, before being donated to the museum.

In return, Lt Col Thomey presented the museum with a copy of a painting the squadron had commissioned to mark its 80th anniversary. Called  Eagle over Oban, the original painting will be kept at the squadron’s own HQ.

The museum was also given a copy of a book telling the history so far of the No. 423 squadron.