Amazing as it seems, there is no permanent memorial in this country to the Canadian Airmen and Women that fought with the allies during the Second World War. Their contribution was very special and they formed some of the elite units of the war in the air. All of this is close to my heart; my Grandfather Francis Edward O'Hare, my Mum's Dad, died aged just 24, shot down near Duisberg in Germany in April 1943. He was serving as a pilot officer with the Royal Canadian Airforce and based out of Gransden Lodge in Cambridgeshire.
Now RAF Stations Leeming and Linton on Ouse, once home to most of the Canadians, have set up a fundraising project to create a lasting national memorial and a lovely, lovely man called Michael Oliver, a businessman from Knutsford, has generously agreed to personally underwrite the project.
The memorial will be a monolith with granite information panels in English and French, topped by a stone maple leaf, and will be located at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance.
Flight Lieutenant Alfie Hall of RAF Leeming – a Royal Air Force station in North Yorkshire which opened during the Second World War, said: “The Royal Canadian Air Force contributed more than 130,000 aircrew to the war effort– the fourth largest allied air force and over 10,000 lost their lives.
“The Arboretum already contains memorials to the Royal Australian Air Force and the Norwegian Navy, but a monument to the Canadian airmen is conspicuous by its absence.
“Fundraising for projects like these can be a long-drawn-out process, but the generous offer we have received from Michael Oliver will allow us to quickly rectify the absence of a fitting memorial.”
Michael Oliver said: “It is very important that we remember the people who fought alongside Great Britain during the Second World War and a memorial to the Royal CanadianAir Force at the Arboretum is long overdue.”
All of this is a massive coincidence. I've met Michael Oliver a few times and always been very taken with him. He's a funny and generous man with a fantastic business. I interviewed him last year, the link to that is here.