Remembering the fallen  By Lynn Moar

Wreaths signifying the 13 member countries of VP International were laid in remembrance of the 1860 aircrew who died while flying Maritime Patrol operations since 1947. (Lynn Moar photos)

The Book of Remembrance Ceremony. Col. Iain Huddleston (from left), Padre Mathieu, Major Derek Hotte facing retired Maj and former Honorary Colonel Lloyd Graham, VPI historian. (Lynn Moar photos)

As Canadians sit poised to hear whether we will once again play an active role in war, our Maritime Patrol airmen and women prepare to be called upon to fly missions in deadly airspace. As they wait, members of VP International gathered at CFB Greenwood to hold their annual memorial service for their fallen brethren. They honoured over 1860 aircrew from 13 member countries who died while flying Maritime Patrol operations.

Wing Commander Col. Iain Huddleston told those assembled that the VPI Annual Memorial Service is especially personal for him because of his close personal links with the members of Crew 3, 120 Squadron who crashed in Afghanistan in 2006.

“It becomes even more personal as I contemplate deploying my crews in support of the fight against ISIL in Iraq,” said Huddleston. “As in the past the RCAS long range patrol community is ready and able to respond to the call of the government and Canadians, when it comes, to take up arms in the face of incredible barbarism,” he said.

“The spirit of cooperation that has developed since World War II among the aircrews who fly maritime patrol aircraft led to the establishment of a worldwide association, VP International” said Major Doug Publicover in his address to those gathered. The term VP is the designation for military fixed wing maritime patrol aircraft employed in intelligence reconnaissance, surveillance, anti-surface and anti-subsurface operations.

VPI was formed by Wing Commander Herb Smale in 1966 at RCAF Station Comox. Smale wished to increase aircrew pride in his unit, 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron, by recognizing the experience and seniority of many of the aircrew and to stimulate interest in long range maritime flying operations among junior aircrew joining the squadron. What began as a social club has become an institution in the world of maritime patrol operations. World headquarters for VP International is located at 14 Wing Greenwood.

Maj Derek Hotte, president VP International also addressed those assembled.

“From humble beginnings 48 years ago VP International was born and evolved on the goals of fostering good will and fellowship among maritime patrol air crew designated as VP. And to the promotion and understanding and recognition of those VP operations and their impact on military aviation and security. Since that time, VP International has grown into a worldwide organization of over 5,500 members in 23 countries and we remain as staunchly committed to our founding goals as we always have been. It is in keeping with those goals that we gather today to honour those that have given the ultimate sacrifice while in the conduct of short based fixed wing maritime patrol and long range patrol since 1947.”

“Since the end of World War II and throughout the cold war, VP crews were central to the efforts of maintaining a vigil and defense against the unthinkable prospect of another world war,” said Hotte. “Those efforts were undertaken in secrecy and with exceptional professionalism, and due to their nature have gone largely unrecognized.”

In 1997 the Greenwood Wing of VPI Headquarters took on the initiative to pay honour to those who paid the ultimate price with the establishment of the VPI Memorial monument which stands just inside the gates of 14 Wing and a Book of Remembrance. During the memorial service Hotte reconfirmed the pledge of VPI to maintain and honour the Book of Remembrance.