Wings Magazine

Gerald Haddon appointed Honourary Colonel

CB2010Nov. 2, 2010 – Gerald Haddon, grandson of J.A.D. McCurdy, was appointed Honourary Colonel at a Investiture Ceremony at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. The ceremony took place on Oct. 29, at Canadian Forces Base Borden.

November 2, 2010  By Wings Magazine



Nov. 2, 2010 – Gerald Haddon, grandson of J.A.D. McCurdy, was appointed
Honourary Colonel at a Investiture Ceremony at the Canadian Forces
School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. The ceremony took place
on Oct. 29, at Canadian Forces Base Borden.

The appointment of honoraries has been a long-standing tradition within the Canadian military for over a century. In addition to fostering esprit de corps within the school, the Honorary Colonel plays a key role in developing, promoting and sustaining strong community support.

Below is Honourary Colonel Haddon’s speech.

Your Worship Mayor Aspen, Brigadier General Millar, Colonel Meloche, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, Lieutenant Colonel Breton, Honourary Colonels, distinguished guests, aspiring students of 16 Wing.


To Honourary Colonel Coyle, I very much appreciate your magnanimous words and I thank you for all the selfless help and advice you have proffered me during these past few months. May I also thank Lieutenant Colonel Breton for orchestrating this rich and unique ceremony today. I would also like to mention how grateful I am to Mrs. Allen and Chief Warrant Officer Stone, for their invaluable guidance and assistance.

Gerald Haddon with his two daughters, Edwina and Emma, and his wife Amanda.


From far and wide and from several continents, many of our closest friends have journeyed here to share this special day with my family and me and I know a number of you have made drastic changes to your itinerary.

One of our guests, eighty eight year old Mr. Boulanger from Quebec – an active pilot, holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and whom this year had a school in France named after him for his role in liberating a town during the Battle of Normandy in 1944 – provides for me, a direct link to the past, having met my grandfather, J. A. D. McCurdy in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1942. It is an honour Sir, to have you with us. To all of you, thank you so very much indeed for making the trip to CFB Borden … your presence means a great deal to me.



As the grandson of Honorary Air Commodore, The Honourable John Alexander Douglas McCurdy — a man whom I knew for the first nineteen years of my life — I am deeply grateful that his many aviation accomplishments have resulted in my standing before you today at CFB Borden, the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the creation of which my grandfather was chiefly responsible for on April 1, 1924. J. A. D. McCurdy carved his place in history by not only making the first flight in Canada but also the first flight in the British Empire on February 23, 1909 on Bras d’Or Lake in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, when he was only twenty-two years old, in an aeroplane he designed and built called … the Silver Dart. My grandfather was part of a group of brilliant young men who formed the Aerial Experiment Association on October 1st,1907. Members called themselves “Associates” and were five in number: Alexander Graham Bell, J.A.D. McCurdy, Casey Baldwin, Thomas Selfridge and Glenn Curtis. The AEA was formed with one purpose in mind…“To get a man into the air.”

During the 2009 Centennial of Flight year and since then, I have met and been approached by many people: from aerospace engineers to World War Two veterans; from snowbird pilots to air cadets; from six year old school girls and boys, to ordinary everyday Canadians, many of whom have conveyed their conviction, that J.A.D. McCurdy is one of Canada’s true heroes. I have felt their passion and pride, their love and admiration for this man of destiny. I have been touched and moved in ways I simply cannot describe.

Several of you may already be familiar with some of J. A. D. McCurdy’s aviation accomplishments. The chronicle of my grandfather’s ‘Aviation Firsts’ is stunning: he truly was a visionary of his time. In 1959, the Chairman of the National Geographic Society, Gilbert Governor, wrote that he had known Lindbergh, Amundsen, Byrd, Peary, and Shackleton and stated …“I regard J.A.D. McCurdy as a man who ranks with the very greatest of these.”

McCurdy was the first to utilize a water-cooled engine in an aeroplane… this being on the Silver Dart. Whilst demonstrating the potential of aeroplanes in front of the military in Petawawa in 1909, he took Casey Baldwin up on August 2nd, as Canada’s first passenger. Along with Baldwin, he formed the first aircraft production company in Canada in April 1909, The Canadian Aerodrome Company, from which emerged Canada’s first powered aircraft built in Canada, called Baddeck No. 1.

McCurdy is attributed with sending the first wireless message in August 1910 whilst airborne, and with sending and receiving the first wireless transmission while aloft in 1911. He held the world biplane speed record at Belmont Park in 1910. He was the first to demonstrate the possibility of bombing from the air. He made the first inter-city flight in Canada in 1911 when he flew in a race from Hamilton to Toronto, which he won … despite giving his competitor a 10-minute start. He contributed enormously to the development of the aileron which he considered to be Canada’s outstanding contribution to aircraft development, the tricycle landing gear, and pontoons – the latter helping to transform Canada’s vast hinterland of lakes … into thousands of landing places, thereby opening up Canada’s immense wilderness.



He flew the world’s first flying boat on Baddeck Bay on June 1st 1910 and made the first oceanic flight from Florida to Cuba on January 30th, 1911. He opened Canada’s first aviation school in 1915 and in 1917, his aeroplane factory producing the first twin-engine aeroplane in the world, a bomber for the Royal Navy. He was chiefly responsible for the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force which came about in 1920, when the Canadian government established the Canadian Air Force, which subsequently become the Royal Canadian Air Force on April 1st, 1924. McCurdy’s dream that Canada have its own air force – originally proposed by him in 1909 – finally became a reality. Lastly, in 1910, he became the first Canadian to be issued a pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America. J. A. D. McCurdy’s flight was not only the first one in Canada, but it was also the first flight by a British subject in the Commonwealth and he was honored with the first pilot’s license issued by Britain, Pilot’s License Number One.

During the Second World War, as Deputy-Director of Aircraft Production, McCurdy utilized his experience gleaned from World War One to help the Commonwealth Governments formulate The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This plan, of which some of you here today were members, remains the single largest aviation training programme in history … and was responsible for graduating 131,553 pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers for the Commonwealth Air Forces during the Second World War.

In 1959, the Queen appointed my grandfather an Honorary Air Commodore in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of his historic flight. The only other person, at that time, sharing the same distinction was … Sir Winston Churchill.

With this breathtaking list of aviation firsts, it is little wonder that Canada’s first pilot, J. A. D. McCurdy is considered one of the foremost pioneers in the development of Canadian Aviation.

Our Air Force is one of the finest in the world: And I am happy to report that today’s graduates are an extremely impressive group of young men and women, ready and able to maintain Canada’s Air Force at the forefront of worldwide aeronautical excellence. I can safely say that my grandfather would be immensely proud of the reputation of today’s Canadian Air Force.

To the students of the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering, upon your young and strong shoulders will fall the mantle of maintaining Canada’s Air Force at the summit of worldwide aeronautical excellence. We’ve come a long way in the last 101 years, but Canada’s Aviation and Air Force History began on April 1st, 1924. Since then, members of the Canadian Air Force have answered the call to serve in peace and in war. I am deeply heartened to have the opportunity today to salute you… our brave young men and women who are currently serving in the Canadian Forces. We are tremendously indebted to those of you who are prepared to pay a dear price in service to your country as our honoured veterans have done before you.

Canadians owe their freedom and security to your unwavering commitment and valour. We must repay that debt to all of you by recognizing the sacrifices you are making. Your sense of duty and dedication is truly unparalleled and serves as a model for all to follow. I recall the words of Sir Winston Churchill … “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.

Today however, … the torch is being passed from a gentleman who has been holding it aloft for fourteen years, to a gentleman who is just starting out. Col. Coyle has played his role with winning success, all these bountiful years and we know what sort of magnificent Ambassador for the Canadian Air Force… he has proven to be. He is a gentleman of honor, integrity and dignity, a man who puts family and duty first. As Einstein said “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Not only does Colonel Coyle embody this attribute but also he stands at the vanguard of excellence, a man of value who has accomplished so much … during his numerous terms in office. Such a gentleman can never be replaced but I have the unique privilege of following in his footsteps. May I offer my heartfelt congratulations to my predecessor, Honorary Colonel Coyle, for his remarkable work and the lasting legacy he is leaving behind.

Here is a very brief summary of some of my background. My father was a senior naval officer with the Royal Canadian Navy and, like many of you here today, I have been brought up on military bases from coast to coast – from HMCS Esquimalt in Victoria, B.C. to HMCS Stadacona in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Consequently, my family experienced numerous moves all over Canada … combined with overseas appointments to the United States and Great Britain. I am, therefore, well acquainted with the military life and its rich traditions. I witnessed my father serve his country for thirty-five years and my grandfather, J. A. D. McCurdy, discharge his duties as a Minister of the Crown during the Second World War and, as the Queen’s Representative, when Prime Minister King appointed him Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia from 1947 to1952.

I have attempted to set a good example to my two cherished daughters, Edwina and Emma. Edwina’s surprise arrival from London, England two days ago is a God-given gift and I thank her for making such an effort to be here. My daughters truly are my pride and joy and I am humbled to be standing before them today as their father in this new capacity. During my thirty–nine year career at the CTV Television Network, I tried never to let my work stand in the way of being an engaged parent. I try to listen. I try to laugh. I give unwavering support and love to my adored wife Amanda … As my best friend, she has always been my inspiration, the wind beneath my wings.

As fortunate as I am … to have been mentored by and been born the grandson of J. A. D. McCurdy, it is a singular and humble honor to have been appointed your Honorary Colonel, a role which I will carry out … to the utmost of my abilities. I am truly humbled by this call to service and I look forward to carrying out my responsibilities here at CFB Borden and in the wider community. Good luck and God speed … and in the coming months, I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

I end with a quotation from the closing lines of Governor General, The Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier’s inaugural address: “In our march forward in material happiness, let us not neglect the spiritual threads in the weaving of our lives. If Canada is to attain the greatness worthy of it, each of us must say, ‘I ask only to serve.”


Stories continue below