Hailing from central Canada, maritime military aviation is something I am less familiar with. Having now made my home in Atlantic Canada, I have more opportunities to learn about this subject beyond reading. I recently visited Greenwood Military Aviation Museum. The museum is located at CFB Greenwood, an air base with a storied history. Constructed in the early years of the Second World War, the base began operations in 1942 as No. 36 Operational Training Unit (OTU). The friendly skies of Canada were a great place to train pilots and aircrew. This Royal Air Force (RAF) unit primarily flew Hudson Mk IIIs, training in the maritime reconnaissance role. U-boat successes in 1942 prompted the unit to begin focusing on anti-submarine work. In 1943, the OTU converted to training on Mosquitos. In 1944, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) took command of the station.
The Greenwood Military Aviation Museum has done a splendid job of capturing the history of the station, its various squadrons, and the role of maritime air power, especially in the years since the end of the Second World War. The museum proudly displays a Lancaster Mk X, now converted to a Mk III version in the colours of 405 Squadron, the RCAF’s only pathfinder squadron in Bomber Command. This aircraft served in the Combined Bomber Offensive before the RCAF employed it in the maritime reconnaissance role after the war.
The Lancaster needed a replacement in the mid-1950s. As an interim replacement, the RCAF selected the US Navy’s Neptune P2V, designated the CP-127. It was the first aircraft developed specifically for anti-submarine warfare, a role Canada had played during the Battle of the Atlantic and would continue to play throughout the Cold War. The museum displays the only Neptune in Canada, an aircraft on loan from the US Navy.
The museum also owns a CP-107 Argus. These aircraft arrived to replace the Neptune in the late 1950s. Canadair built the aircraft under licence as the airframe was actually that of the Bristol Britannia, a 1950s turboprop airliner. The Argus was the backbone of the RCAF’s maritime air capability throughout the hot years of the Cold War. It could stay aloft for as long as 31 hours. The Argus was designed to fly 1,000 miles, remain on-station for 8 hours, return home, and have enough fuel to divert 500 miles to an alternate airfield. These aircraft played a critical role during the Cuban Missile Crisis. When President John F. Kennedy declared a quarantine of Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet nuclear-armed missiles there, Argus aircraft flew patrols over the Atlantic, searching for Soviet submarines and vessels attempting to challenge the blockade. The CP-140 Aurora replaced the Argus in the early 1980s and remains the RCAF’s maritime patrol aircraft to the present.
Inside the museum building, there are a number of great exhibits honouring Greenwood squadrons and aircrew. The standout is the tribute to 404 Squadron RCAF’s “Black Friday”. On 9 February 1945, the squadron participated in an attack on Z33, a German Narvik-class destroyer, and her escorts, sheltered in Førde Fjord, Norway. Of 11 aircraft, 404 Squadron lost six Beaufighters, with all but one of their 12 aircrew dying in crashes around the fjord. The museum has a lovely diorama of the fjord on display, indicating the positions of the 404 Squadron crashes. Z33 escaped destruction, although the destroyer was hardly operational for the remainder of the war.
Outside the museum, there is a Commemorative Garden honouring the war and peacetime dead of the various units stationed at Greenwood. It also honours the accomplishments of these various units and their airmen and women. The museum and its gardens are a keen reminder of the importance of maritime air power to the history of Canada and our allies. You can learn more about the museum’s aircraft displays and projects here. A team is presently working to restore a Bristol Bolingbroke, a support aircraft for the Mosquito OTU.