The History of the VP International Association
The P-2000 Club
In a memorandum to his Squadron, the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Herb Smale, announced that "effective 1 May 1966 the 407 Squadron Neptune Club would be brought into being", at RCAF Station Comox, British Columbia, Canada. The purposes of this club were:
a. to provide 407 Squadron personnel who had attained 2000 hours flying experience in P2V aircraft with some form of recognition for this achievement;
b. to provide other squadron aircrew members with the incentive to attain this goal; and
c. to stimulate publicity for the Squadron both locally and nation-wide.
On that date LCdr J. R. (Bob) Wyly USN, F/L R.(Bob) Stewart RAAF, and 19 RCAF airmen were designated founding members with lifetime membership in this 407 Sqn Club. W/C Smale appointed F/Ls Dick Headley and Ed Shack as first President and Vice-President respectively with the mandate to draw up a charter and such regulations as they deemed necessary to govern the Club. And so it began.
Within weeks a charter was developed for "The P-2000 Club". It broadened the scope by extending an invitation "to all airmen who had flown the Neptune P-2 aircraft". Two principal objectives emerged:
a. To form an association of airmen who have logged over 2000 flight hours in the Neptune P-2 aircraft for the purpose of promoting harmony and good fellowship; and
b. To foster and encourage the formation of additional Branches of "The P-2000 Club" throughout the world and elsewhere.
While the newly designated membership wrestled with some tough constitutional problems, the CO was arranging an invitation for "the Club" to see the new P3 Orion line at Lockheed, Burbank, California. In a fever of activity letters of invitation were distributed to USN, French, Netherlands, and Portuguese VP Squadrons. Here the aircrew exchange program proved invaluable, opening avenues to 10 and 11 Squadrons in Australia and numerous USN Patrol Squadrons. Patrol Squadron 17 in Whidby Island was the first to extend "warmest greetings and a sincere hope for success" - applications for membership followed. On 2 Nov 1966 Mr Jack Coley from Lockheed in Burbank was guest speaker to the first P-2000 Club Initiation Dinner at the Sunnydale Golf Course where 22 new members were enrolled.
P-2000 Branches Formed
In December 1966 the Base Commander of RCAF Station Summerside, PEI indicated that there were some 12 prospective members on the 2 (M)OTU with a willingness to form a club. On 15 December 1966 the P-2000 Club held its first meeting in Comox. A pin and membership card were approved and annual dues were set at $1.00. On 7 February 1967, RCAF Station Summerside was given permission to form Number One Branch P-2000 Club with responsibility for the East Coast Maritime area. At an April l meeting F/L Dave Nunnikhoven was elected collector of rumbles with the official title of "Holy Mackerel". September 27, 1967 was the date of the inaugural meeting of #1 Branch in Summerside. President Ivan Hawley enrolled seven members of a crew from VP30 who were guests in attendance bringing their total membership to 26. By November 1967 there were 112 members enrolled from four countries.
While Summerside conspired to find a way to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, the Comox Club received an invitation to visit the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington. The news spread quickly. A Navy Times article written by exchange officer LCdr Bill Delaney USN dated 10 April 1968, spurred applications from VP2 in NAS Alameda, VP9 in NAS Moffatt, 11 Sqn RAAF Edinburgh, Australia and a long distance winner from LCdr Paul Cutchin, Asst. Naval Attache, US Embassy, New Delhi, India. Sqn Ldr Tom Trinder RAAF and his 11 Sqn mates taking P3 conversion training in Moffatt, made several attempts to break bread with 407 Sqn in Comox. The spirit was willing, but HQ was not. However, not to be deterred, President Headley sorted out the situation by approving #3 Branch for 10 Sqn, RAAF Base Townsville. In March, the Summerside Branch was given permission to start #2 Branch in Jacksonville, Florida. A crew from the 2(M)OTU visited VP30 in Jacksonville on 22 March 1968 and at an Inaugural Meeting Cdr RJ Campbell was elected president with 34 sub-searching sea flyers to cheer him on.
l968-End of an Era
After 18 years of P2V7 operations, the last OTU course trained on Neptunes graduated 5 April 1968 in Summerside, thus ending an era in Canadian military aviation history. This event caused the first ripple of concern among the P-2000 members for the future of this growing fraternity. At 407 Sqn the arrival of the Argus with its 20 hour endurance, opened up new horizons for the Club to expand to the west and south where P2Vs were still flying. On one of their first Argus trips to Hawaii, 407 Sqn hosted a P-2000 Club meeting with VP6 and Fleet Air Wing Two. The crews were soon peddling pins and patches in places like Adak, Hawaii, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. News arrived in September with the Jax minutes, indicating they had 43 members - heading on deployment. During the P2V7-Argus transition period, the "Canucks" continued to keep the P-2000 Club alive by reforming #1 Branch at CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia.
Looking to the Future
On 19 March 1969 #1 Branch held its first meeting in Greenwood under the capable leadership of President Capt Ivan Hawley. The two other executive, WO Ron Eldridge, Secretary; and Capt Gord Whitson, Holy Mackerel, plus seven members attended. From 18-20 April 1969 Greenwood held the first P-2000 International Fly-In, with 30 members attending from Comox, Ottawa, Halifax and Summerside. The meeting was a milestone as the members attending expressed concern about the fate of the Club and the 300 members due to the imminent demise of all Neptunes from the ASW role. A vote by the membership favoured expansion. Major Carrol Potter of 404 Sqn suggested forming a committee and was subsequently elected chairman of a small study group to write a military white paper on the future of the P-2000 Club, the formation of a VP3000 Club and make recommendations to the Branches. A Military Paper on the P-2000 Club was completed by the Study Group on 2 June 1969 and distributed to area representatives for comment. The paper’s main conclusions were that the principles and standards of P-2000 should be maintained, that P-2000 should carry on as long as possible with the HQ remaining in Comox, that P-2000 should lend all assistance possible to organize VP3000, and that #1 Branch P-2000 Club should be charged with recruiting volunteers to organize a VP3000 Club.
Responses to the Study Group from the "International Advisor Group" were all positive regarding the formation of a VP International Club. In August LCol Smale recommended the committee consider expansion by raising the hours to 3000 on any type of VP aircraft, expanding objectives to promote principles of VP operations, redesigning the pin but retaining the Neptune and Maple leaf to denote the origin of the Club, changing the Club name and forming an International Executive to publish a yearly magazine or newspaper. In a letter to all Branches in November 1969 Pres. Capt Ivan Hawley recommended that "the P-2000 Club aid in the formation of a larger organization for all ASW long-range aircrew with a respectable number of flying hours". Capt John Carson in Victoria, B.C. wrote, "I believe we have a real obligation to the members in support of P-2000. Let’s not refer to the ruins of the ‘old’ club - instead, let’s use the club as a stepping stone to something even better". Major Pete Giles, President of the Comox Branch, agreed with the sentiment and recommended by letter the "formation of the VP International Association open to any serving or retired airman who has flown more than 3000 hours on VP operations".
Formation of the VP International Association
At a 10 June 70 meeting of #1 Branch P-2000 Club it was recommended that the Charter Club from Comox be transferred to Greenwood to allow #1 Branch to organize VP International. On 28 July 1970, LCol Herb Smale sent a letter to Col G. A. MacKenzie, BComd, Greenwood, outlining a plan to expand the P-2000 Club to a VP3000 or an International Association. He was convinced a new club would still meet the objectives set by P-2000 while promoting the future of VP operations. However, to be successful he felt it was necessary to have guidance, direction and support by a senior officer and requested that Col MacKenzie be the Official Sponsor of a VP International Association. On 30 July 1970 Col MacKenzie assured his support by agreeing to become the Official Sponsor of a VP Association and appointed Major Carrol Potter as the first President. On 9 October 1970, six P-2000 members met for the first meeting of the VP International Club to develop a charter and a fellowship association comprised of Wings, with a HQ permanently established at CFB Greenwood. Capts Ruohoniemi and Mascotto volunteered to draft a new constitution and charter for the Association. After considerable deliberation the executive decided membership would require 3000 hrs. During a signing ceremony on 1 November 1970, Col MacKenzie approved the Charter and Constitution, becoming the first member and Official Sponsor of the VP International Association. The Charter declared that;
1. All members of the founding P-2000 Club shall have charter membership;
2. The main objectives shall be to maintain an organization of airmen to foster goodwill and fellowship among long-range sub-searching patrol and reconnaissance flyers through the promotion of understanding and recognition of VP operations and their impact on military aviation;
3. Membership shall be extended to all airmen who have logged over 3000 flight hours in VP operations, including Coastal or Maritime land-based flights;
4. Wings shall be formed under conditions of this Charter subject to the approval of the International Headquarters; and
5. Honourary membership may be extended to VP Commanders who have demonstrated a keen appreciation of the VP role.
The rules and symbols of VPI started to take shape under the guidance of President Potter and the first "volunteer" executive of Capts Ivan Hawley, Gord Whitson, Lloyd Graham, Geoff Bennett, Sqn Ldr Harry Devery RAAF and Sgt John Wood. As the first Holy Mackerel, John established Couth Rules for meetings. A loan was negotiated to purchase the first pins, patches and scrolls. Taking the advice of the Study Group Lloyd & Geoff redesigned the P2000 badge by combining the red maple leaf and silhouette of a P2V7 Neptune with the world globe within a gyro ring. The red maple leaf & P2V7 are the symbolic links denoting Canadian origin and the P2000 Club. The designator VP identifies with heavier than air, land-based operations and the globe balanced within a gyro ring represents the world-wide international scope, stability and precision essential in ASW teamwork.
On 10 December 1970 the first official meeting of VPI got airborne with 55 members on board. Priorities were set on recruiting members in countries most frequently visited by Argus crews. Recruiting kits were made available with Wing eligibility set at six members. On 14-16 Dec 1970, an Argus, manned by a VPI crew carried out a visit to Air Defence Command HQ in Colorado Springs. On a visit to the "Hole" the USAF were obviously impressed when briefer Col Baker stated " I’m not quite sure what your job entails, but you seem to spend a helluva lot of time at it". The 18 crew members had a cumulative flight time of 75,461 hours.
During the period March to June 1971 three new Canadian Wings were approved for Comox, Greenwood and Summerside and the first Honourary Membership approved by VPI was to Air Marshall Sir Robert T. Craven AOC 18 Group RAF. The Halifax Wing was formed by Pres. Lt Rolly Clements CF on 1 June 1971, followed closely by a Brunswick Wing, sponsored by VP23 with LCdr EV Haag as President. At a meeting of the Greenwood Wing the executive elected to look at several new projects including hosting all visiting aircrew performing on Armed Forces Day; sponsoring a VPI Trophy for the annual Fincastle Commonwealth ASW Competition; and, unanimously approving a motion that the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff be appointed as Honourary Members of the Association. Activities through to December included Col Herb Smale assuming command of CFB Greenwood and Wings being established at RAF St. Mawgan, RAF Kinloss and VP-94 in New Orleans. The new VPI HQ President LCol JR MacDonald and an Argus crew of 20 VPI members visited RAF Strike Command HQ, St. Mawgan and Kinloss during 18-25 November. On their 30th birthday, 14 Jan 72, 333 Sqn Andoya, Norway adopted a new VPI constitution and formed #1 Norwegian Wing with 50 members, under President Capt Knut Moe.
The rapid expansion took its toll on the small VPI HQ executive and in January 1973 a decision was made to amalgamate the Greenwood and HQs executive duties to handle details and increasing paperwork. This newly expanded executive with LCol I. Creelman as President set some impressive goals: to visit bases and industry; to improve Wing activities, giving permission to Capt Scott in Winnipeg to form a Wing; to initiate a VPI newsletter; to host all visiting aircrew on AFD; and to arrange a formal dinner with R Adm HG Rich, COMPATWINGS-LANT, as guest speaker.
On 24 July 1974 Major Lloyd Graham was appointed President of VPI. Fall planning included an International VPI Fly-in to re-establish communications with the Wings, and to assess future needs, and to honour Col Herb Smale who was retiring from the Canadian Forces. On a regular patrol the President held a meeting with the Norwegian Wing in Andoya during a visit 9-14 Sep 74. This visit ultimately resulted in VPI setting an objective to support the Norwegian effort to improve the SAR capability of VP air. From 4-6 Oct VPI members from Comox, Summerside and Greenwood met and reaffirmed confidence that the objectives as stated in the Charter were acceptable to all. A motion to develop a new VPI symbol was referred to all Wings for comments. Due to a strong appeal from President Kare Alvheim of the Norwegian Wing and Canadian support, the decision of the 8 Jan 75 meeting was that no changes would be made to the Charter or the VPI Symbols. In order to provide better service to the active and expanding membership a motion was approved to re-establish separate identities for VPI HQ and the Greenwood Wing.
On 14 Feb 75 Major Vern McTaggart volunteered as President of the Greenwood Wing. At their first meeting in March, WO George Easton was inducted as the first Canadian Observer in VPI.
Fellowship and More Change
Between December 1975 and October l977 VPI HQ President Major Don Jones approved a Wing application from 10 Sqn, Townsville; reviewed the Greenwood Wing Constitution and presented Charters to the St. Mawgan and Kinloss Wings while on an Ocean Safari Exercise. New President Major Lloyd Bolton started the process to obtain a Neptune and an Argus for public display at Greenwood. By December 1977 membership had grown to 750. This included nine countries with New Zealand, France and Germany now on the list. A Squadron Change of Command 31 Jan - 2 Feb 1978 was cause for a special VPI meeting in Brunswick, where Cdr Earle Riffle assumed command of VP8. Adm Rich USN, Cmdr Wilkinson USN, BGen Carswell CF, BComds from Lajes, Greenwood and Brunswick, COs from VP8, 10, 11, 26, 44, MP 404 and 405, plus 40 members of VPI attended. There was no lack of fun or fellowship at the excellent VPI dinner meeting which was highlighted by the VP8 hand-over ceremony the next day.
Symbols of Achievement
During this period Major Bolton started a regular newsletter from VPI HQ. In early 1978 approval was given for the Greenwood members to wear the VPI flight patch on the right breast pocket of flying clothing. Membership had reached 820 world-wide. In an attempt to get the old NAS Jacksonville Club going again, Capt Pat Murphy CF, on direction from Capt RE Normi USN then COMPATWING ELEVEN, arranged a VPI meeting with members responding from seven different VP Squadrons. At a VPI HQs meeting in Greenwood several RAF and USN exchange officers expressed concern about lower flying rates affecting the ability of the younger aviators to reach the 3000 hour criteria in a reasonable tour length. The HQ decided to canvas the Wings for their opinions. The Wings in Edinburgh, St. Mawgan, Jacksonville, Greenwood and Andoya responded unanimously that a minimum requirement of 2000 hours would be more favourable. In February 1980 New VPI HQ President Major Tony Davis requested, and received, approval from the membership and sponsor BComd Al MacLellan to amend the VPI Charter to read "2000 flight hours". In April Heinz Katzmarczyk from the Atlantic Sqn in Nordholtz, Germany, was enrolled free-of-charge as the 1000th member. In October VPI HQ and the St. Mawgan Wing arranged to hold a 10th Anniversary Reunion of VPI during the Fincastle Competition. BGen Pickering, Comd MAG, and 18 VPI stalwarts in a brand new CP-140 Aurora headed for the UK to show off the aircraft and attend the function. The occasion was hosted by Wing President Sqn Ldr Vish Deepan from 42 Sqn. An International Meeting was held and well attended by members from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA. President of the Greenwood Wing, Capt Mike Gibbs CF put forth a motion to have 5000 and 10000 hour pins for those who qualified. An obscure amendment changed the motion to the award of a Silver pin for 5000 hours and a Gold pin for a "year in the air" or 8760 hours. The motion was carried.
The Greenwood Wing VPI Fellowship Trophy
At the 1980 Fincastle Competition, VPI unveiled "The Greenwood VPI Fellowship Trophy" which had originally been conceived by the late Captain Chris Patrick, CD, of the Canadian Forces, who was President of' the Greenwood Wing in 1979. Chris had fostered fellowship throughout his career and furthered the many interests of VP operations. The Greenwood Wing completed his task by sponsoring the Greenwood VPI Fellowship Trophy in his memory. Since 1980 it has been presented annually at the Commonwealth Fincastle Competition to the national air and groundcrew team who are voted by their peers as best fostering the spirit of VP fellowship. ( Note: 5 Sqn RNZAF, has won the trophy 11 times in 16 years).
The Eighty’s and the Demise of the Argus
The arrival of a new decade found international interest and activity at a new high with over 1000 members enrolled. The hub of activity generally centered around the increasing coordination required by VPI HQ. The HQ and Greenwood Wing membership were becoming more involved with hosting visiting aircrew, seeking better office and lounge facilities, and handling the general administration of a growing Association. During this period VPI member, Capt (R) Gerry Keil, arranged for a USN P2V7 to be flown in and retained as a permanent static display. VPI helped to defray costs and donated a plaque for the Neptune display. On 14 Nov 1980 the Greenwood Wing met for the first time in the VPI Lounge.
With the "Dawn of Aurora" the death nell sounded for the "one hundred-eyed-monster". On 24 July 1981 Argus 10736 lifted off from Greenwood for the last time enroute to her destiny at the boneyard in Summerside, thus ending a long love affair with the ancient, loyal, long-legged bird. In September Cdr Richard Hohlstein on the US Embassy staff in Japan submitted the names of Capts Sumihiko Kawamura and Yasumasa Suwabe as the first VPI members from Japan. Fresh back from a destroyer and a tour with the HS world, Major Don Jones again volunteered for duty as President VPI HQ. Generosity overflowed from the HQ when it was pronounced that they would award gold pins free to those who qualified. Throughout 1982/83 the Association continued to expand.
WO Dave Carter became the Greenwood Wing President; the BComd, Col McLellan officially opened the VPI Lounge in 6 Hanger; hosting of visiting crews, meetings, AFDs and VP Sqn activities started in earnest; Felipe Ozanta applied as the first Spanish member; Norway provided a display flag for the lounge and proposed national names be added to Wing patches; and 5 Sqn RNZAF was presented with their Charter while at Fincastle 83. On 13 February 1984 Capt Earle Riffle USN, Commander Reserve Patrol Wing Atlantic, was presented with the Norfolk Wing Charter. To kick off the 1984 season the Greenwood membership elected to expand the VPI lounge under the supervision of Wing President Major Ed Raiche. Serious planning was also started for the 20th Anniversary Reunion in 1986. This was a growth year with 30 RAAF "desk-flyers" from Canberra, Australia applying for Wing status. Not to be outdone the "mahogany bomber group" from RAF Northwood requested Wing sanction for their bunker somewhere near London. Throughout 1985/86 all Wing energy was focused on a self-help program, organized by WO Al Belliveau, to renovate the VPI Lounge while HQ under Major Don Jones planned the 20th Reunion. A Norwegian Wing proposal to add National Wing names to their VPI logos was approved by HQ for all VPI Wings.
On 31 January 1986 BComd, Col "Paddy" O'Donnell opened the refurbished VPI Lounge with its VP artifacts and capacity to host 140 aircrew.
20th Anniversary Reunion ‘ 86
To get the Reunion off the ground personal letters were sent to over 600 members; 1000 booklets were produced; 30 companies were polled for financial support; prices skyrocketed to $1.25 for a beer; raffle tickets were sold for a P2V painting by Geoff Bennett; CP Air gave a 20% discount on VPI fares; and food, quarters, transport, prizes, bands, decorations, golf, publicity, and a "dumb proof " camera were arranged. Ten VP aircraft (four USN P3 Orions, a French and a German Atlantic, a Netherlands P3, an RAF Nimrod, a Norwegian P3 and a Canadian Aurora) representing seven countries, ramped for display at CFB Greenwood. VPI hosted over 500 members and guests including such VPI/VIPs as BGen Patrick, Comd MAG; RAdm Osborne, COMPATWINGSPAC; RAdm Gallo, COMPATWINGSLANT; Capt Battcema, COMNLMPAGRU; Col (R) Herb Smale, Founder of P-2000/VPI; Major (R) Dick Headley, first President of P-2000; and Major (R) Carrol Potter, first President of VPI. At a seven country General Meeting 14 Jun 86 the following decisions were made: hours requirement to remain at 2000; HQ to produce a semi-annual newsletter; Warsaw Pact LRP flyers would not be persued (without an aircraft); and HQ would retain standardization and control of membership kits. The whole Base did an outstanding job of supporting this extraordinary "fellowship forum", and VPI HQ President, Major Don Jones and his committee received many BZs for the excellent Anniversary effort.
Recognition Through Achievement
Major Lew Ferris replaced Major Don Jones as President VPI HQ in September 1986. That year was a busy one for the HQ and Greenwood Wing. In support of the local community the Wing loaned a good portion of their VP artifacts to a museum for display; Capt (R) Gerry Keil retired from Holy Mackerel duties after five years in pursuit of filling the coffers with fines; and BGen Curleigh, Comd MAG, was inducted as an Honorary member of VPI. Work again started in earnest to update the VPI Lounge and the Wing agreed to support the national O’Brien ASW Competition, host all aircrew on Armed Forces Day, and host a 404 Sqn Change-of-Command reception. In January 1987 the watering hole in the Greenwood VPI Lounge was named "Belliveau’s Bar" in recognition of the great work Al had done as Renovator, Wing Treasurer and Bar Coordinator for over six years. In February the Wing was able to host meet-and-greet duties for the 404 Sqn Multi-National Symposium which included crews from VP30 in Jax, VP31 in Moffatt, 236 OCU in St. Mawgan, and 2 Sqn in Valkenburg .
Through the course of 1987 the Association continued to grow. In September 1987 Greenwood VPI played host to eight crew members of the Indiana Museum of Military History who were flying a P2V7 at air shows in the area. All were awarded Honourary memberships in VPI. VPI flight patches and pins were highly visible in any group of ASW flyers, but particularly so on combined exercises. The fellowship objectives were well entrenched in Wing philosophy and the hosting and camaraderie was second to none. In Greenwood, hosting, in cooperation with the Base for such events as Fincastle, O'Brien, transiting crews, AFDs, aircrew graduations, squadron mug-outs, and symposiums was a common volunteer experience.
The Maritime Patrol Aviation Magazine
In December 1987 Col ( R) Herb Smale again took the lead by suggesting that VPI HQ broaden the scope of activities to take on two major initiatives: the long-range planning for a 25th Anniversary in 1991 and producing a VP Aviation Magazine. Through the magazine, VPI would be able to reach out to its 3000 members and in so doing would fulfill the Charter objective of "promoting an understanding and recognition of VP operations and their impact on military aviation".
In a letter to the senior VP commanders on the Base, President, Capt Lew Ferris asked for their personal support to help promote new membership, recognize the volunteer efforts of those actively involved in VPI, and encourage their exchange officers to participate through their membership on the VPI HQ executive. At a Greenwood Wing meeting in January 1988, Col (R) Herb Smale proposed an extensive plan for starting a world-wide VPI Newsletter which would quickly transition into a yearly or bi-yearly Maritime Patrol (MP) magazine. A committee comprised of Flt Lt's Don Brown and Joe Gillan RAF, Col (R) Smale, Major (R) Shirl Peck and Major (R) Hal MacLeod was formed to investigate. In February, BComd, Col "Wally" Kirkwood and Wing President Major Bill Reynhart, braved winter gales to unveil the VPI sign on 6 Hanger designating it the "Home of VPI". At a VPI HQ meeting in March 1988 the following guidelines were established for the magazine:
1. A magazine was to be published. It would be named "Maritime Patrol Aviation: The Voice of VP International";
2. The aim of the magazine would be to:
a. provide a medium of communication between VPI members,
b. keep the membership informed of world-wide VP activities and inform them of Silver Anniversary preparations,
c. serve as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas of importance to the free world on the broader aspects of MP Aviation air doctrine, and
d. produce revenue for the forth-coming 25th Anniversary;
In June 1988 the first VPI newsletter rolled of the press and was sent world-wide to the membership.
On the 26 Aug 88 a Greenwood Aurora manned completely by a VPI Crew coordinated a stop-over in Winnipeg with a Charter presentation to Winnipeg Wing President Burt Page. A river-boat dinner cruise on the Red River highlighted the event.
VPI HQ also initiated a Gold Pin Awards plaque for the VPI Lounge to honour the 44 gold pin recipients and formally bid farewell to retiring West German VPI Wing President, S.B. Horst Landvogt who was in Greenwood on his last away trip. "Hatte" is a Gold Pin member with over 10000 hours to his credit.
A VPI milestone occurred in October when the Editorial Board of F/L’s Don Brown RAF and Joe Gillan RAF; Major’s (R) Hal MacLeod, & Shirl Peck CF; and Col (R) Herb Smale published the first 44 page edition of Maritime Patrol Aviation Magazine, Vol 1/Oct 1988. In the Commanders’ Column, BGen Colin M. Curleigh, Commander of Canadian Maritime Air Group urged fellow MP Operational Commanders and the membership to actively participate in this journal's continuing development.
VPI Reunion 91
In Nov 88 Major George Kriisk was asked to make initial plans for a 1991 Reunion. This plan ultimately turned into a joint venture to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of VPI and the 50th Anniversary of 404, 405, and 415 MP Sqn’s at CFB Greenwood. In June 1989, a Base Reunion ‘91 Planning Committee was authorized by the Base Comd and Major Bert Campbell was assigned duties as Reunion Coordinator. Sub-committees worked feverishly to finalize the hundreds of details while registration forms continued to pour in. Attendance estimates at the time indicated some 2500 ex-squadron, VPI members and guests would attend this "once-in-a-lifetime" military aviation event. In preparation for the event MWO George Giles took the wheel as President of Greenwood Wing.
On 13 October l989 a gala "Ottawa Wing Charter Night" was held in Canada’s Capital city. Again the Auroras from the east and west coasts took to the skies to descend on Ottawa and help formalize the event. A capacity crowd of 171 members and guests welcomed President, MWO(R) John Belleville and his executive into the VPI realm. Superb hosting and a splendid dinner and dance at the Gloucester Street, RCAF Officers’ Mess completed the occasion in typical VPI style.
While on a sabbatical to the Fincastle Competition in St. Mawgan in October, Major Lew Ferris held an Extraordinary General Meeting of VPI. Here he received marching orders from the membership to keep "all four nations participation in the VPI Fellowship Trophy hunt" and that a VPI HQ representative should adjudicate the event.
VPI Moves Into the 90's
As VPI moved into 1990 it was evident that because of its positive goals and achievements the Association was earning recognition and acceptance as a partner in many CFB Greenwood Base activities.
That year the Greenwood Wing was called on to support four major Base events, the last being Fincastle 90 where the volunteer effort was extraordinary. The Greenwood Wing elected to arrange a "meet and greet" for all visiting crews and provided round-the-clock, post-flight, wet debriefing facilities for the 10 missions flown. G/C Gerrard, RAF, Chairman of the Fincastle Committee, had high praise for this effort with one suggestion for improvement, "Declare the VPI lounge an active danger area".
During NATO Exercise Teamwork 90 (MOD) an ASW Mission carried out by a Canadian CP140 Aurora out of NAS Kevlavik on 15 Sep 90 had a VPI crew on board representing four allied countries. They were Flt Lt Alex Aiken, RAF, Editor MPA Magazine; Major Lew Ferris, CF, Det Cdr and President VPI; Capt Mike Foshay, USN, Chief of Staff COMFAIRKEF; Flt Lt Reg Carruthers, RAAF, Crew Commander and Capt Peter MacDonald, CF, Vice President Greenwood Wing VPI.
Two interesting International developments occurred in the spring of 1991. First a request for information was received from a large number of retired VP flyers from Hong Kong who were eager to start a VPI Wing. The second event occurred on 26 April when the VPI Kinloss Wing held a 25th Anniversary Dinner at the Ramnee Hotel with over 53 VPI members in attendance. Guest of honour was Air Marshal Sir Michael Stear, KCB, CBE, MA, RAF, Air Officer Commanding 18 Group.
A Gold & Silver Celebration
Reunion ‘91 covered the period 30 May to 2 June 1991 and hosted over 2000 members and veterans of MP Sqns 404, 405, 415, and the VP International Association. By Friday, 31 May, 22 aircraft from ten countries, on three continents, representing 24 different allied Squadrons had found CFB Greenwood. Crews from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States provided an inspiring international flavour for this unique Anniversary event. Major Lew Ferris, President of VPI had the honour of presiding over the "biggest" International meeting on record with some 20 Wings represented. Although suffering from "jet lag and northern Coriolis syndrome", the President of the Canberra Wing started the meeting off with a spirited monologue on fellowship. Fortunately in the time allotted he was able to cover most details.
The official business started with a minute of silence in remembrance of the USN, RAAF and RAF airmen who died in tragic air accidents in the past year. Capt Tom Spink ,USNR, Moffatt Wing graciously accepted a cheque for the VP50 Memorial Fund from CWO George Giles, President of the Greenwood Wing. The meeting agenda included overviews of the MPA Magazine, National Associate Membership, International ASW Competitions, Wing Reports and presentations. On hand to cut the 25th Anniversary Cake was Major (R) Dick Headley, 1st President P2000 Club, Major(R) Carrol Potter, 1st President VPI and President VPI Major Lew Ferris. Highlighting the event was a prime rib and lobster dinner for over 2000 guests.
The closing ceremony on 2 June was a Wing Parade and drumhead ceremony for the three Canadian MP Squadrons. Twelve MP aircraft from the visiting nations provided a fitting backdrop for the occasion.
On the 1 July 1991 the RAF retired the last of its Shackleton aircraft after forty years of service. Many VPI members would miss the "Old Growler".
Development & Growth in the 90's
On 29 July 1991, Major Lew Ferris handed over the job of President VPI to Major Jim Loring in a brief ceremony in the presence of Colonel Ken Allen, BComd CFB Greenwood and official sponsor of VPI. Lew had spent five years as President and had served with distinction supporting the aims and objectives of VPI while engineering its steady professional growth.
Prior to taking office as VPI President, Major Loring had been an active member of the HQ executive as Vice President. During a JMC Exercise in RAF Kinloss May/June 1991 he was instrumental in signing up the first group of Italian VPI members. As President, Jim wasted no time in setting an energetic agenda for himself as our "VPI Ambassador". His backup membership support fell to Capt Peter MacDonald who became President of the Greenwood Wing on 3 Oct 1991. On behalf of all members of VPI, Major Loring presented a plaque to Major Bert Campbell for his great effort as Reunion ‘91 Coordinator. He also presented a trophy to Greenwood Wing President CWO George Giles thanking him for the outstanding support provided by the Wing membership during Reunion ‘91.
The VPI Lounge was fully utilized in November hosting MARCOT 1/91 participants; inducting four members of a French Naval Air Altantique crew; and enrolling four Japanese Defence Force officers headed by RAdm Motoo Unimo.
During 1992 the President was able to coordinate VPI activities with local squadron visits. During Fincastle ‘92, 2-16 Oct in Kinloss, Major Loring led a group of VPI members down to RAF Finningley to present their Wing Charter and while in Kinloss presided over the voting and presentation of the Greenwood VPI Fellowship Trophy. During the October period he also arranged for the CO 415 Sqn, LCol Pierre Allard, to present a VPI plaque, listing their Gold Pin members’ names, to 333 Sqn RNOAF in Andoya Norway. Meanwhile, the CO 404 Sqn, LCol Bob Desrochers, was presenting a new VPI Wing Charter to NAS Jacksonville.
At a presentation ceremony at CFB Greenwood BGEN B.D. Bowen, Commander of Maritime Air Group, presented a Commander’s Commendation to Past-President of VPI, Major Lew Ferris, for "his outstanding leadership, and professionalism and tireless efforts in promoting the interests of Maritime Patrol Aviation through the VP International Association".
To round off 1992, Major Loring and a busload of Greenwood Wing members travelled to Halifax on 13 November to make a surprise plaque presentation to Halifax Wing President Maj Bob Ruohomimi on his retirement from the Canadian Forces. On 12 Dec 92 VPI HQ approved a new, updated Greenwood Wing Constitution.
On 28 Jan 93, the Greenwood Wing became the second Wing to introduce "Associate" members into their activities. Associate membership are encouraged by VPI HQ. Associate memberships are sponsored by individual Wings and is tailored to meet local needs. Associates are encouraged to partake in meetings and social events, however, until they reach 2000 flight hours are not allowed to wear the pins or patches of the Association. While on a visit to 405 Pathfinder Sqn and CFB Greenwood, 16-21 April 93, Group Captain (R) Hamish Mahaddie RAF, was hosted by VPI as a special guest at a Red Tie luncheon. Group Captain Mahaddie was a major player in the selection and training of Allied "Pathfinder" Squadrons during WWII.
The Search For "Lost Souls" Knows No Bounds.
On an Aurora flight from Comox to Australia a Canadian crew overflew a sailboat manned by VPI member Capt (R) John Stevens (newly retired from the CF) - accomplished totally to his surprise. A care package was dropped to John and his wife complete with newspapers, magazines and a "cheerful" greeting. Subsequently, the crew of "sea-dog" made regular contact with VPI HQ during their South East Asia Tour. True to the MP code of "think submarine", the president of the Halifax Wing, MWO Ed Olscamp was particularly pleased to welcome ex-submarine skipper, Vice Admiral Peter Cairns, Commander Canada’s Maritime Forces into VPI as an Honorary Member on 12 May 1993. Six months later Ed presented Brigadier General Brock Horseman, Commander Maritime Air Group with his VPI membership credentials.
During 24 May to 8 June 1993, Major Jim Loring attended the Battle of the Atlantic 1993 celebrations at RAF Kinloss in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the allied victory over the U-Boats in the Atlantic. At the major Mess Dinner to highlight the event there were five special guests called "The Old Boys" who had served in Costal Command during the Battle of the Atlantic and were involved in the sinking of U-Boats. Jim made them all Honourary members of VPI. They included F/L (R) RAF John Cruickshank, pilot, and F/O (R) RAAF John Appleton, members of a crew of a Sunderland flying boat that attacked and sunk a U-Boat in the GIUK gap. F/L Cruickshank received the Victoria Cross as a result of that action. F/O Appleton was his Sgt tail gunner during the action.
During the June 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Netherlands Naval Air Service in Valkenburg, VPI HQ Historian Major Lloyd Graham inducted Lt Mary Riemens RNLN as the first female member of VP International.
On 24 June, the President presented a VPI plaque to outgoing 14 Wing Commander, Colonel Ken Allen, in appreciation for his support as sponsor of VPI at CFB Greenwood.
VPI HQ played host to F/L (R) John Cruickshank and the Patrick family during Fincastle ‘93 held at Greenwood from 3-17 Sep 1993. Capt Chris Patrick, CF, was the founder of the concept of the VPI Fellowship Trophy. He died before he could finish the project, so it was continued by the Greenwood Wing and completed in his memory. His widow Sandra, and children (twins) Kylie Kathleen and Benjamin were all an hand for the trophy presentation to the winning RAF crew from 42 Sqn. To complete the year, 27 Greenwood and Halifax Wing members carried out a visit to the new Canadian Frigate HMCS Toronto docked in Halifax 2 Dec, then "broke bread", with lunch at the Royal Canadian Legion.
Centres of Excellence Established
On 5 May 94 the Greenwood and Halifax Wings again arranged "A Night on the Town", when over 20 VPI couples attended a dinner theatre in Halifax. A few days later 77 of the membership were back at it again, attending a Red Tie luncheon with 14 Wing Commander, Col Tom Johnson as guest of honour. At a VPI HQ meeting 5 May 94, the Kinloss Wing Constitution was approved and the MPA Magazine staff reported that 17 countries had been in contact and all were "alive and well".
During the O’Brien ASW Crew Competition in Comox ,BC 2-10 May, the Comox VPI Wing volunteered to host all visiting crews using their new lounge facilities.
In June, Honourary Memberships were awarded to RAdm LH Chung In Kwi and Capt Jung Soon of South Korea. The Kinloss Wing and Northwood Wing of VPI held a dinner at the Ramnse Hotel in Forres, on 16 Jun 1994. Seventy-two members of the two Wings were on hand for this auspicious occasion and were honoured to have Air Marshal Sir John Harris, AOC 18 Group as their guest speaker.
That fall Major Loring received initial approval from Col Johnson to start planning for the 30th Anniversary of VPI in 1996 at CFB Greenwood. During Fincastle ‘94 in RAAF Edinburgh, Australia the President VPI presided over the grand opening of the Edinburgh Wing VPI "Centre of Excellence". Honourary member F/O (R) John Appleton was a special guest. The President also found time to visit the local Wing of the RAF Association and swap tales with some WWII Vets, including some who had served on RCAF Sqns. On 20 Oct 94 Capt Mary Cameron-Kelly was welcomed to the Greenwood Wing as the first female Canadian Associate member of VPI.
After 14 years as the Greenwood Wing Retired Members Representative, Capt (R) Gerry Keil, "pulled the plug" on 31 Jan 1995, and stepped down to allow a more youthful retiree to fill the role. CWO (R) Al Belliveau answered the call for a replacement. To top off the season the Greenwood membership held a highly successful overnight car rally to the Oak Island Inn on the south shore of N.S.
In March BGen Brock Horseman, Comd Maritime Air Group, and his wife Lorraine, were guests of Honour at a mixed VPI dinner held in Greenwood. Car rally fever again hit the Greenwood Wing in June, along with a new President, Capt Doug Baird. This time the membership organized a rally, dinner, dance and RON at the Mountain Gap Inn near Digby N.S. (Some navigation errors, no accidents and a great time was had by all). In March the first letter announcing VPI Rendezvous ‘96 was sent out to the world-wide membership via MPA magazine. On 6 Jun ‘95 the Greenwood Wing held its annual Red Tie luncheon with former WWII veteran Mr Joseph Casey, Member of the Nova Scotia legislature, as guest speaker. In a brief ceremony three USN exchange officers, Lt Bill McCrillis, 405 Sqn; Lt Ed Skelly, MPEU; and Lt Carl Crabtree, 404 Sqn, presented the Wing with the official crest of disestablished USN patrol Squadron Twenty-three.
Major Loring attended his fourth Fincastle in a row at RAF Kinloss, 2-17 Oct 1995, and presided over the opening of the Station’s own VPI Centre of Excellence. It is named "Eddies’ Bar" in honour of MAEOP Eddie Pratt who did the lion’s share of the work on the renovations & decorating.
VPI Attack Trophy Surfaces
In July 1995 Major Loring handed over the reins of President to Major Bert Campbell. However, in his capacity as Past-President Jim still had some unfinished business to wrap-up. During the year he had resurrected the "Middleton O’Brien Trophy" and had it renamed the "VPI Attack Trophy". It goes to the Canadian O’Brien Competition Crew with the most timely and accurate attack during the CASEX portion of the exercise. The original Middleton Trophy was designed by VPI member, LCol John Middleton, while Base Operation Officer at Greenwood in the late 70's. Crew 7 of 405 Sqn led by Flt Lt Ben Gower RAAF won the O’Brien Competition and the Attack Trophy in Nov 1995. Both Majors Campbell and Loring were able to represent VPI while attending the Nimrod Memorial ceremony at RAF Kinloss on 27 November 1995.
During his four-year tour as President of VPI Major Louring was always conscious of the work and support provided to VPI HQ. He left a trail of goodwill across several continents and always made a point of recognizing the valuable contributions made by the USN, RAF, RAAF, and RNLN exchange officers. On 13 September 1995 Major Loring was presented with a Commander’s Commendation by Deputy Commander of Canada’s Air Command, Major General Brock Horseman, for his exceptional service on the executive of VPI HQ from 1990 to 1995.
VPI Rendezvous ‘96
No stranger to VPI or reunion organization, Major Bert Campbell quickly settled into the role of VPI President and Reunion Coordinator for Rendezvous ‘96, to be held at Greenwood from 30 May to 2 Jun 1996. In August Major Campbell carried the colours of VPI to Germany where he presented a plaque on behalf of VPI to Commodore W. Muther, Commander Naval Air Wing 3 in recognition of the wing’s 30th Anniversary at Nordholz.
The planning for this 30th Anniversary Reunion of VPI has been on-going for some time and Major Campbell has established a volunteer Reunion Committee of some 26 current and retired VPI members to handle the coordination and the multitude of details. All of the membership support for Rendezvous ‘96 will be drawn from the Greenwood Wing currently under the leadership of Wing President, CWO "Red" Pigeon. Activities to keep the hundreds of expected guests interested will include:
- Opportunities for MP crews to fly Littoral ASW missions;
- International discussions on Littoral ASW;
- International discussions on MPA Search and Rescue;
- An International VPI Meeting;
- An opportunity to visit various industrial exhibits; and
- Celebrate 30 years of international MPA fellowship.
On 1 May 1966 it would have been hard to visualize how a select group of 21 Neptune aircrew could have possibly developed from the P-2000 Club into a world-wide Maritime Patrol fraternity of same 4200 aviators called The VP International Association. It would be true to say that our Association is very unique in terms of aviation history and on closer scrutiny it is not difficult to see that it represents much more than just a pin and patch club. There is a lot of professional glue holding this organization together.
Time and space do not allow proper recognition of the hundreds of aircrew who have contributed to the steady professional growth of the Association. The support of volunteers as executive members, and their ideas, time and personal efforts have kept the Wings alive and in motion. Many of the major milestones achieved over the years can be easily identified with imagination, initiative, professionalism and the personal leadership of those willing to get involved. The mold has been cast for VPI and it represents an Association we all enjoy. It is quite remarkable that after 30 years this unique organization has managed to constantly focus on the right stuff - professionalism and fellowship in VP operations.
The founding members of the P-2000 Club and VP International, can be justly proud of the unprecedented success achieved internationally by our VPI membership over the past 30 years.
Lloyd E. Graham, Maj (Rtd)