May 18, 2019 - "Aerodrome of Democracy" Exhibit opens at the Elgin County Heritage
Centre, 460 Sunset Drive, St. Thomas.
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan lands at Heritage Centre.
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which President Roosevelt called the
"Aerodrome of Democracy" was established 80 years ago this year. Formed to trained
airmen and ground crews in the free skies over Canada, the plan saw over 100 airfields
built throughout Canada including three located in Elgin County. This exhibition
looks at those three bases including #4 Bombing and Gunnery School in Fingal now
a wildlife preserve; #14 Service Training Flying School near Aylmer, now the Police
College, and its relief field built on the site of the present St. Thomas Airport.
The exhibition also features several individual fliers including a navigator, three
pilots, a ground crewman and an air gunner, Tom Campbell, a 20-year-old air gunner
from St. Thomas lost over Germany in February of 1945.
The exhibit includes a total of 12 scale models of the various training aircraft
used in the Plan many of which would have been a daily sight for many residents
of the county during the war. Uniforms, posters, equipment and even a practice bomb
from Fingal Bombing and Gunnery School can be found in the show.
The practice bombs weighted 11 and half pounds (5 Kg). Dropped from 10,000 feet,
they would send up a plume of white smoke when they hit the ground which was observed
from a shelter 1000 feet away to determine the accuracy of the drop. Direct hits
were rewarded with a "pickle barrel" pin and a party in the wet canteen.
Call 519-631-1460, ext. 193, for further information.