Home CFB Borden 16 Wing CFB Borden Makes History in RCAF Centennial Celebrations

CFB Borden Makes History in RCAF Centennial Celebrations

The Ad astra monument on display for the first time on 2 April 2024 to celebrate 100 years of the RCAF (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

Borden celebrates 100 years of the RCAF with a day of special events and guests

Known across the CAF as the “birthplace of the RCAF”, CFB Borden bore-witness to a trifecta of national events on 2 April 2024 to commemorate the Royal Canadian Air Force’s centennial, including the reopening of the Hangar 11 museum, the unveiling of a new Ad Astra monument and the release of a RCAF commemorative envelope.

Honorary Lieutenant General Rohmer sitting at the CFB Borden Hangar 11 museum opening (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

The days itinerary was packed with opportunities to explore each of these additions to the RCAF’s now 100-year history with many important guests present including chief of the defense staff, General Wayne Eyre, Honorary Lieutenant-General (retired) Richard Rohmer and commander of the RCAF, Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny.

Known as “a living legend” to members and civilians alike, Honorary LGen Rohmer served in D-Day, the Battles of Normandy, Belgium and Holland and has had an extensive career across a plethora of fields being an author, lawyer, politician, veteran and advisor. His presence reinforced the significance of the RCAF’s centennial as he recently turned 100 years-old on 24 January 2024.

Director of the Base Borden Museum, Dr. Andrew Gregory shared his hopes that the Hangar 11 museum would restore a connection between the CAF and the public and provide a strong tie to the legacy that members and veterans are a part of today.

“I hope that members appreciate the great moments of the Royal Canadian Air Force that happened right here at Borden and that sense of proximity makes them more aware that they are part of a great legacy,” he said. “And for civilians, when they see the faces in the photos and they read about their accomplishments, there’s a realization that military achievements and sacrifice and loss occurred here too, not just at some overseas location.”

The reopening of Hangar 11 had been a long process and required vigorous planning, construction and curation in order to embody the RCAF and incorporate Borden’s historical ties to the Air Force.

A ‘pathway to the stars’

About an hour after the museum was officially reopened, shuttle busses took members and veterans towards the closed off North gate of the Base.

Honorary Colonels reveal the Ad Astra Monument alongside Cambrai Rd. (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

At the top of the eastward hill alongside Cambrai Rd. stood a cloaked monument which was revealed by a team of Honorary Colonels to be the new Ad Astra monument, designed by artist and sculptor Marlene Hilton-Moore.

“The motto was ‘sic itur ad astra’ or ‘thus one journey to the stars’; sometimes interpreted as ‘pathway to the stars’,” Hilton-Moore explained. “I immediately found that it had tremendous resonance for me and I thought: How can I create a pathway to the stars?”

Hilton-Moore took inspiration from aircraft runways, thrust, verticality and the shape of an aeroplane’s fuselage. The monument tips back slightly to indicate movement to the sky and made of aluminium with a curved edge at back.

“It was an incredible honour for me to be asked to create this monument and the Borden Legacy monument,” she said.

The near seven-metre-high monument is illuminated by LEDs in blue at the top and with each star shining bright white from dawn until dusk.

Tents set up to house both military and civilian guests on Cambrai Rd. to witness the unveiling of the Ad Astra monument (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)
Celebrating 100 years Canada-wide

After members and VIPs were given the opportunity to see the monument up close they were driven to the newly opened restaurant on CFB Borden known as Poppi’s which served up a delicious Italian lunch.

Just across the street from Poppi’s Italian Eatery stands the CFB Borden Postal Unit which invited Honoray LGen Rohmer and LGen Kenny to observe the unveiling of a commemorative envelope created in collaboration with Canada Post.

The Canada Post envelope includes a variety of historical and modern aircraft, RCAF members and pilots, with emphasis on one member in particular.

William George Barker was an incredibly distinguished war hero who served between 1914 and 1917 in the trenches of France and skies of Italy during World War I. Barker holds the record as having the “most fighting decorations” and upon his return to Canada in May 1919 held the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Military Cross and two Bars, two Italian Silver Medals for Military Valour and the French Croix de guerre.

In 1922, Barker returned to Borden as a commandant of the training depot station where he brought forth innovation in revamping instruction manuals and retrofitting parachutes as mandatory practice in the RCAF.

LGen Kenny was presented the first edition of the envelope and signed it alongside 2 I/C Postmaster, Sergeant Eric Geneau. LGen Kenny shared his appreciation for the entire day’s events and specifically the envelope.

“Looking at the envelope, it’s really a stunning visual representation of not only our aircraft but of our people. That’s what allows us to deliver aerospace power now and it is what will allow us to deliver in the future as well,” he said.

“That’s what will make us successful for the next 100 years. I’d love to be here in 2124,” LGen Kenny said, chuckling, “but the odds are not good.”

HLGen Rohmer and LGen Kenny posing with the RCAF commemorative envelope (Caleb Hooper/Borden Citizen)

“Today has been a stunning reminder,” LGen Kenny concluded.

To order your very own RCAF Centennial envelope visit Canada Post’s website to purchase.

Interested in visiting the Hangar 11 museum and viewing the new Ad Astra monument? Learn more about visiting CFB Borden and its rich history here.

By: Caleb Hooper