The striking resemblance to a British pub is no accident. In World War II the south of England was crowded with airstrips for Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancasters, Liberators … and the local village pubs were crowded with airmen. Virtually all of our wall hangings were donated by members, veterans, often in memoriam for lost comrades, and our decor developed from fond recollections of off-duty hangouts. We have more than 100 images on the walls. Many are framed prints of aviation art by official war artists. Some were autographed by the fliers.
You will also notice our ship, regiment and squadron badges -500 badge-plaques, the largest private collection of military and associated plaques in Canada.
At the entrance ramp is the Polish Alcove which features an oil painting of a Polish PZL fighter diving on a Messerschmitt. In 1939 Germany and Russia overran Poland, but the outnumbered Polish Air Force performed well against the Luftwaffe and gained valuable experience. Many airmen found their way to Britain where they formed the RAF Polish Squadrons, numbers 300 t0 303, whose badge-plaques are above the painting. Behind the TV is a late 1950s picture of Queen Elizabeth. To one side is the badge grant of the Vancouver Military District, signed Elizabeth R.; on the other of that of 409 Squadron RCAF, signed by her father, King George VI.
Above the bar is a propeller from an Avro Anson twin engine trainer. Directly below the propeller hub is the badge of the submarine HMS Thrasher. It was presented to us by “Tommy” Gould, who won a Victoria Cross while serving in her in the Mediterranean.
On the wall to the right of the bar is the Past-President’s board. Our second President, Alf Watts (1946) later became the first WWII veteran to serve as Dominion President of the Canadian Legion. Bessie O’Brien (1981-83), was one of the first women to be a Legion Branch President in Vancouver. Above the piano bar is a propeller from an American designed Fairchild Cornell trainer. The leading edge is strengthened with metal so it will rotate clockwise (as seen by the pilot.) The English, driving as they do on the other side of the road, prefer to have the pilot see a counter-clockwise rotation, as with the Anson above the bar.
The north-east corner of the lounge, the Gun Park, boasts a large plaque of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. A paining of the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, is unfinished. A long-time member, a gunner, died before completing it.
A print depicts a mule reluctant to be loaded on a 436 Squadron RCAF Dakota (Commonwealth name for the DC-3.) It was given in recognition of the soldiers of the 14th Army – which defeated the Japanese in Burma – and their RAF and RCAF transport squadrons.
On the centre pillar of this wall is a Ghurka plaque, showing crossed kurki. During WWII the equivalent of 55 battalions of Ghurkas fought in North Africa, Italy, Greece, the Middle East, and Burma; volunteers from a population of about eight million. Canada put more than a million people into uniform, from a population of 11 to 12 million, but only a fraction of them saw action.
Over the fireplace is a 1937 portrait of Air Marshall William Avery Bishop. With 72 victories in air combat, Billy Bishop was the premier British Empire air ace during WWI. (In the foyer there is a display with more pictures.) To the right of Bishop’s portrait are badge-plaques of the six units in which he served, including 60 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, where he won the Victoria Cross in 1917. Above it is 85 Squadron RAF, which as a Major he commanded prior to his appointment as head of the newly formed RCAF. In the fireplace the grate itself is unusual. It was made by aircraft artificers from the main connecting rods of a seven-cylinder engine – probably from a 1940’s era Avro Anson trainer. Notice also the handle of the poker. To the left is the badge of 617 Squadron RAF, the famous Dambusters. In 1943 Lancasters of this squadron successfully attacked the Sorpe and Mohne dams in the Rhur valley with spinning, barrel shaped bombs which bounced over the water before sinking to explode, ideally against the foot of a dam. The resulting floods are referred to in the motto, Apres Moi Le Deluge. Note the group of plaques that are “in memory”. To the right is a picture of the Sopwith Triplane “Black Prince” flown by Flight Sub-Lieutenant W.M. Alexander, of the renowned all-Canadian ” Black Flight”. Above hang models of WWI aircraft: a Nieuport 17c in the 1917 livery of Bishop’s plane, andEnglish Scout Experimental S.E.5a, which Bishop flew in 1918. Just below the TV is a photograph of Bishop’s 16 medals, donated by the original cast of the play Billy Bishop Goes to War. There is also a copy of the 1964 letter from his widow, lending us his name; and a photograph of his boyhood home in Owen Sound, Ontario, which is now a museum. Authors: A Short History and Tour, 1998, John A. Macdonald, Leanne Frid. Updates: Ron Crawley, Derek Irons, Arthur Hughes. Revised 2015: Derek Allen, Archivist (2014-2015). Online publication 2016: Jennelyn Boyadjian.