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Canada's Air Force Poland Humanitarian Plaque

Municipality/Province: Ottawa, ON

Memorial Number: 35060-002

Type: Plaque; bronze

Address: 337 Breadner Boulevard

Location: Our Lady of the Airways Chapel

GPS Coordinates: Lat: 45.3329991   Long: -75.6652085

Contributor: Richard Turcotte

The following is an article from: Air Force News - Poles Commemorate Canadian Air Force Help - Nov. 8, 2007 - by Jenn Gearney.

The quaint chapel at the entrance of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Uplands, South of Ottawa, was chock full of proud Canadian Air Force members and Polish diplomats last Sunday. The occasion was a ceremony initiated by the Polish Embassy to rededicate a plaque to Canada's Air Force for providing humanitarian aid to Poland at the end of World War II. At the end of the War, Poland was in economic ruins but it was not yet ruled by the Soviets, so Canada took the opportunity to deliver humanitarian help to the country in the form of penicillin-gretaly helping the thousands of sick Poles in the country.

In October and November of 1945, the Royal Canadian Air Force's (RCAF) No. 168 Heavy Transport Squadron at Rockcliff (sic) base in Ottawa, was given the task of delivering the medicine. On its first mission, the RCAF's Flying Fortress No. 9202 flew nearly 2,500 kgs (5,500 lbs) of penicillin provided by the Canadian Red Cross to Scotland, where it waited for the green light to fly into Poland. When permission was obtained the RCAF flew the medicine into Warsaw, Poland's capital.

Regrettably, the second time No. 9202 flew the Poland-bound penicillin, the aircraft struck trees near Halle, Germany, crashing and killing all five RCAF members on board. But that didn't stop the RCAF's humanitarian mission to Poland. Flying Fortress 9205 took over the task and delivered more of the much-needed medication. Ultimately, the RCAF managed to deliver five tons of penicillin to Poland, received by the Polish Red Cross and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Organization. These were the only humanitarian flights the RCAF would be able to make into the Soviet Bloc until after the Cold War.

Fast-forwarding ahead to 2007, this year, Air Force Major-General Joseph Hincke, Polish Ambassador to Canada Piotr Ogrodziski, and Polish Navy Captain Kazimierz Starobrat, Defence Attaché, laid the wreath below a plaque at CFB Uplands, marking what the Canadian Air Force did for the Polish back in 1945 and remembering the Canadians that lost their lives doing it.

The plaque had originally been placed at CFB Rockcliffe in 1947 but became homeless in 1994 when the base was shut down. A similar plaque is placed at the military hospital in Warsaw. "Poland appealed for support from its allies but the allies were very hesitant because it was a very risky flight into a Soviet zone of occupation. But Canadians, only the Canadians, conducted three flights," said Rafal Domisiewicz, Seond Secretary of Culture at the Polish Embassy in Ottawa.

Ambassador Ogrodziski continued in heartfelt sentiment. "After the loss of six million citizens and a terrible destruction of infrastructure, the public was in very bad shape and we needed to help to take care of the sick people," said the Ambassador. "That help was answered by the Royal Canadian Air Force with a very important life saving drug. Unfortunately getting that drug to us ended in tragedy for a Canadian crew. We will remember those airmen today who sacrificed their life for Poles that needed help. We remember and we will never forget."

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Inscription found on memorial

[front/devant]

Dedicated to the memory
of the five Canadian airmen
who lost their lives near Halle, Germany
on November 4th 1945
when their aeroplane crashed
while carrying lifesaving penicillin to Poland
These are their names
Sq/L Alfred Forest Webster, DFC of Vancouver, BC
F/L Donald Forest Caldwell of Asplund, Alta
F/L Edward Pattern Harling of Calgary, Alta
F/L Norbert David Roche of Dorval, Que
and
Sgt Edwin Erwin Phillips of Montreal, Que

This tablet is erected by
The United Polish Relief Fund of Canada 

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