427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron Commander Lieutenant Colonel Clay Rook (right) accompanies Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Jim Smith as they visit the cenotaph for the first time. LGen (Ret’d) Smith is one of the oldest members of the Squadron, having been a tail gunner in World War II. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Honourary Colonel Del Lippert was instrumental in bringing the cenotaph project in Cobden to fruition. He helped raise $200,000. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
A new cenotaph unveiled Oct. 15 in Cobden bears names of the fallen members of 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Corporal Kyle Kifferling and Corporal Amber Kasper watch the unveiling on Oct. 15 from atop their horses. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Members of the unit stand at attention on Highway 17. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron Commander Lieutenant Colonel Clay Rook, Squadron's Honorary Colonel Del Lippert, Lieutenant General (Retired) Jim Smith and Squadron Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Grant Kelly help unveil the lion statue atop the cenotaph. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Cobden cenotaph honours fallen members of 427 Squadron
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2017
427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS) has further strengthened its deep ties with Cobden by unveiling a cenotaph in one of the town’s parks during the unit’s 75th anniversary.
The ‘Lion’ Squadron and Cobden have always had a close relationship, so it was deemed the ideal place to put such an important monument. Former and current members of the unit, dignitaries, friends, families, as well as community members attended the grand unveiling on Oct. 15.
“This cenotaph is a dedication to the honour of those that have died in the line of duty, a tribute to the future generations of all the families and of our community in remembering those that protected our freedoms and beliefs,” said 427 SOAS Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Clay Rook. “It also symbolizes the future accomplishments that have yet to be written for the men and women who continue to serve today.”
He was pleased to see such a large turnout, crediting the great friendship between the town and the unit, which spans several decades.
“We are lucky to have that,” said LCol Rook. “It includes us in their family.”
The cenotaph, topped with a massive bronze lion, was installed at Veterans Memorial Park. It features the names of all Squadron members who sacrificed their lives as well as etchings of each of the aircraft flown by the unit since its inception.
“I know no other in the world that would surpass this one in workmanship, appropriate design and intricate detail,” said Colonel (Retired) Walt Pirie of the 427 Squadron Association.
Though bringing the cenotaph project to fruition was a group effort, the Squadron’s Honourary Colonel Del Lippert took on the bulk of the work. He “took those reins and galloped forth at a prodigious pace,” said Col (Ret’d) Pirie.
He was the primary fundraiser, raising $200,000 with the help of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association. A list of the donors is also affixed to the cenotaph.
“To have such a noble lion and such a noble honour as this memorial on Highway 17 in our memorial park just about brings tears to my eyes,” said Township of Whitewater Region Mayor Hal Johnson.
The thousands of people who pass through Cobden will see the memorial and better understand the importance the unit has played in the nation’s history.
As one of the unit’s oldest alumni, Lieutenant General (Ret’d) Jim Smith held a place of honour in the proceedings, and helped unveil the cenotaph. He was a former tail gunner in World War II when the Squadron was first established.
“It is a great opportunity for us to reflect on the past, look at what we’ve done, remember those fallen for all the freedoms we do have and for what success we are going to have in the future supporting the Canadian Armed Forces, the Government of Canada and Canadians,” said LCol Rook. “It is fantastic.”
The history of the unit is long and storied. The Squadron was formed overseas in 1942 as the eighth of fifteen Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Bomber Squadrons, flying on bombing operations under “Bomber Command” in Great Britain in the Second World War.
Battle Honours include the English Channel and North Sea, 1943-45; Fortress Europe, 1943-44; France and Germany, 1944-45; and Normandy, 1944.
On Feb. 1, 2006, the unit was renamed 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS) and became a part of CANSOFCOM.