Bomber Command Museum, Legion upgrade signage of High River Air Station

News Article / May 18, 2016

By Julia Newton

The Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, Alberta, is working with the High River, Alberta, Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to draw attention to the place where the High River Air Station was established in 1921.

Dave Birrell, director of the museum, says No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School played an important part in the Second World War, and the air base was also instrumental in helping to form the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“We think about 4,000 pilots were trained there during WWII,” he says, “but the history goes much farther back than that. For 25 years, High River was a very important aviation location. You know it started in 1921, and for a period of time was the most active Royal Canadian Air Force base in the whole country.”

Birrell says the air base started with forestry patrols. “They weren’t flying military operations; they were flying forestry operations because in 1919 there had been huge fires out here. They were flying forestry patrols to look for fires, but still, they were flying more airplanes more hours than any other place in Canada. And that was a big part of the beginning of what became the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

The museum marked the air station with a plaque in 2002, but it can't be seen from the highway. Birrell says Bob Collins, sergeant of arms with the High River Legion, plans to draw more attention to the area with informative signage and an RCAF flagpole.

“In 2002, our museum was involved in placing a plaque out there, which is still there,” he says. “But it’s just kind of lost because it’s not beside the main highway and you can hardly even see it. And that’s where Bob and the Legion are stepping forward to put up some signage to explain a little more about what it’s all about beyond what’s on the plaque.”

The Bomber Command Museum also has a display for those who want to learn more about the High River Air Base.

Julia Newton is a writer with OKOTOKS Online. The article and photograph are republished here with permission.

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