A Worldwide Pathfinder Reunion was held in Vancouver, B.C.
Story and photos from François Carignan, former Commanding Officer
25 years ago, a Worldwide Pathfinder Force (WWPFF) Reunion was held in Vancouver, B.C. from August 24th to 27th, 1995.
The event was in effect a reunion of the members of 8 (PFF) Group and units thereof, for all ranks, relations and friends, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World war.
The Reunion location had a special significance for 405 Squadron as the squadron was designated the "City of Vancouver Squadron" during WW II. The Reunion was organized by Mrs Irene Bradley (Reunion Committee Chairperson), LGen (Ret) Reginald Lane (Master of Ceremonies) who was one of 405 Squadron wartime COs, and many others. 405 Squadron was represented by a full crew plus our Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Fultz who flew across the country with the crew on a CP-140 Aurora aircraft.
While most Canadian air Squadrons were part of Bomber Command's 6 (RCAF) Group during WW II, 405 squadron was transferred to No. 8 Group Pathfinder Force in April 1943. The role of Pathfinder units within the raid structure was to mark the targets and control the attack. Based on the position of various markers, illuminators and target indicators released by Pathfinders, the bomber force stream would drop their bombs on the aiming point target indicators. As bombing missions were carried out at night time, the pathfinders aircraft were the enemy's prime targets: If it was possible to prevent the pathfinders marking the targets, the subsequent bomber waves would be "in the blind" and miss the aim. Consequently, all pathfinder units suffered very high casualty rates during the war.
The 1995 Vancouver Worldwide Pathfinder Reunion was not only a 405 Squadron affair, but all who were ever part of a unit of 8 Group Pathfinder Force were invited to take part. As a result, hundreds of retired members and their spouses from many parts of the world convened in Vancouver at the end of August 1995. The 405 crew flew a transit from Greenwood to Vancouver on Thursday, August 24th. The Reunion events had geared up on August 23rd with Registration and a Meet and Greet Reception. On August 24th, guests were conveyed to a steam train trip to British Columbia's countryside. A Vancouver harbour cruise took place on Friday August 25th, followed by the Memories Night Dinner and "in-house" entertainment. During that evening, Gerry Fultz our Honorary LCol was particularly happy to be able to meet some of his wartime buddies and share all kinds of stories.
On Saturday, August 26th, the 405 crew held a CP-140 static for interested attendees during the day. The Saturday evening was the highlight of the Reunion with the Formal Banquet Dinner and Dance. The "Marching in of the Colours" took place at the sound of the Air Force March, with 405 Squadron officers carrying the flags. The guest of honor for the dinner was BGen Ray Henault, COS Ops at Air Command. BGen Henault delivered the Banquet's key address following short talks from selected head table guests including: Mr. Philip Owen, Mayor of Vancouver; Mrs. Ly Bennett, Pathfinders honorary patron and wife of the late Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett (Air Officer Commanding - No. 8 Group Pathfinder Force); Mrs. Irene Bradley, WWPFF Reunion Committee Chairperson; and LCol Francois Carignan, 405 Squadron CO.
Sunday, August 27th was the last day of the Reunion, events included 8 Group (PFF) Memorial Ceremony and the Farewell Brunch, followed by the 405 Squadron Memorial Ceremony, where the 405 Squadron plaque was unveiled in Vancouver's Stanley Park Garden of Remembrance.
Following the Squadron plaque unveiling, the 405 crew flew to Comox for aircraft maintenance and overnight rest before proceeding to the Arctic for northern patrols.
Following the service on Sunday morning August 27 1995, the 405 Sqn members, retirees and WWPPF Reunion attendees were invited to attend the unveiling of the 405 Squadron plaque presented by the City of Vancouver. I will write up a separate summary of the ceremony and submit it with pictures in a few weeks.