East Hawkesbury looking into commemorative park at site of WWII flight school

Par Antoine Messier
East Hawkesbury looking into commemorative park at site of WWII flight school
La municipalité Hawkesbury-Est étudie la possibilité de transformer un terrain municipal en un monument commémoratif pour les soldats qui se sont entraînés à l'École de pilotage no 13 de l'Aviation royale Canadienne pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. (Photo : Antoine Messier, EAP)

The Township of East Hawkesbury is exploring the possibility of transforming a former Royal Canadian Airforce flight school into a park and memorial for the soldiers who trained at the St-Eugène No. 13 Flight School during World War II.

“It’s important to me and it’s important to council” said East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby. “Personally, I’m very excited.”

East Hawkesbury resident Steven Farnworth pitched the idea to the municipal council during the meeting on March 11. While no official decision has been made, Farnworth, a flight engineer, pilot and self-proclaimed passionate supporter of aviation and history, would lead the project if it is approved.

Flight School No. 13

The old flight school, situated nearly one kilometer south of East Hawkesbury Town Hall, opened October 28, 1940, and was disbanded five years later in June 1945, when the school moved to in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Two original buildings remain standing, as well as a cement backstop used for the base’s gun range. However, the buildings would need major repairs to ensure public safety, and may need to be blocked off or completely torn down should the public be given access.

“There’s a fair bit of work to be done,” said Farnworth.

There is still lots of research left to be should such a project take place. Notably, the purpose of the buildings remaining on the property and the number of soldiers who trained in St-Eugène are still unknown.

Farnworth is part of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Airforce Association. According to Farnworth, these groups have some resources that can help in the realization of the project.

Farnworth said he would also seek help from local historical societies, museums and federal organisations for information, as well as speak to town residents who possess archival material related to the flight school.

As East Hawkesbury is not ready to dedicate a big investment for the project, Farnworth needs to look at grant opportunities from Heritage Canada and other provincial and federal bodies.

Repossessed Land

Much work also remains to be done on the property. The property was seized in 2019 by East Hawkesbury after the previous owner failed to pay their taxes. They had also used the land as an illegal dumping site for trash and large mounds of waste still remain on the property.

According to Kirby, the municipality is still debating with provincial and federal ministries on who’s duty it is to clean up the land.

“It’s about time this gets done,” said Kirby.

Another of Kirby’s hopes is that financing is available to help with the necessary work on the land, and the creation of a monument and park in honour of the fallen soldiers who trained at the base.

East-Hawkesbury council has not yet decided when the matter will be further discussed.

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