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95th RCAF Anniversary Mess Dinner

Updated: Jan 11

Report by Guest Speaker Roddy MacKenzie

Saturday, 30 March 2019

“Bomber Command”

Last night's celebration of the 95th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of those rare moments in one's life where everything flows perfectly. It was unforgettable. First, the setting at Vancouver's gorgeous Point Grey Golf and Country Club was particularly appealing on such a beautiful spring evening. And cherry blossoms are coming out everywhere, bathing Vancouver in their breathtaking beauty. I've been to both Washington DC and Kyoto at the height of their world famous cherry blossom festivals. While both are renowned for their magnificence, Vancouver surpasses them. Second, being born and raised in Calgary, the beef capital of the universe, I've had magnificent beef dinners in my life. But, last night in Vancouver was quite possibly my finest prime rib of roast beef dinner ever. It was perfect. Third, for this black tie formal Royal Canadian Air Force Celebration Dinner, over fifty of us were seated at a horseshoe shaped continuous table with the marvelous feeling of oneness everyone sharing the same table creates. Fourth, I was seated at the head table portion of the horseshoe table between my special guests, Dwight Merriam of Connecticut, and Dr. Don Stark who had flown back from Ottawa just in time for this dinner. Dwight said he'd been receiving so much from me about Bomber Command that he decided to board a plane for the flight from Hartford to Vancouver to hear in person my Bomber Command presentation. We first became friends in Montreal 35 years ago. Dwight is America's top lawyer in my area of expertise, land use law. He's also a Captain in the United States Navy. Don was the very first parent to volunteer to be a leader with me the day I founded our Scouting Group. He was still with me the day ten years later we wound it up. Don and I are both Queen's Scouts, and our Dads both served in the RCAF. Fifth, our tireless PMC last night, Dick Dunn, kept our 18-item agenda proceedings to the minute. Our Head Table was piped into the dining room by a piper of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada resplendent in his Hunting MacKenzie tartan identical to mine. The Earl of Seaforth who raised the Regiment was Chief of Clan MacKenzie. And finally, somehow my speech caught fire. It was possibly my best ever. I started speaking as I was walking towards the podium. En route, I paused to explain the enlarged Lancaster and related photos Don Stark and I had posted on the walls. Somehow, I never did make it to the podium. Instead, while speaking with growing passion I walked into the centre of the horseshoe, having left behind at the podium both my notes and the microphone. Even the hardest of hearing afterwards told me they heard with perfect clarity my every word. I'll never forget the intensity of the interest on the faces of these veteran RCAF officers as I spoke about the birth of the RCAF 01 April 1924, and the indispensable role of the RCAF in winning World War Two at horrific cost in Canadians killed and aircraft destroyed. One quarter of all Canadians killed in WWII died in Bomber Command, and 9,000 of our heavy bombers such as Lancaster's and other aircraft were destroyed. Of Bomber Command's 125,000 aircrew, 80,000 were casualties. The RCAF was vital to Bomber Command, and Bomber Command was vital to winning the Second World War. Afterwards, a fair number of RCAF veterans spoke personally with me about the power of the evening, and how much it meant to them. The whole experience was overwhelming. HAPPY 95th BIRTHDAY RCAF! Yours faithfully,



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