Royal Canadian Air Force

Royal Canadian Air Force
Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

June 15, 2012 16:00 ET

Extraordinary Royal Canadian Air Force Wartime Commander Reinterred in Beechwood Military Cemetery

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 15, 2012) - Sixty years after his death in 1952, Air Marshal (A/M) Harold 'Gus' Edwards, a veteran of both World Wars and a builder of Canada's national air force, was reinterred today in the National Military Cemetery (NMC) section of Beechwood Cemetery in a solemn military ceremony in Ottawa.

"This ceremony represents an opportunity to recognize one of Canada's military heroes, a Canadian aviation pioneer who laid the foundation for the Royal Canadian Air Force to become the first-class fighting force it is today," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "Today, Air Marshal Edwards was laid today to rest with his comrades-in-arms. This is a fitting resting place for this extraordinary man who dedicated so much of his life and energy to Canada and its armed forces."

In attendance were Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), A/M Edwards' daughter, Suzanne Edwards, and other distinguished guests.

A/M Edwards volunteered to serve in the First World War as a fighter pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service where he saw service on the front lines, shooting down one enemy aircraft before being shot down himself and captured. Upon his release from captivity at the war's end, he volunteered to fight in Russia as a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Between the wars he participated in aerial mapping of Manitoba and held command of RCAF Station Dartmouth. Courageous and compassionate, his rise from Group Captain (1939) to Air Marshal (1942) was meteoric. As the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief RCAF Overseas, he pushed hard to keep Canadian air crews together - in accordance with the Canadian Government's policy on "Canadianization" of units - instead of being scattered throughout RAF units.

"Air Marshal Edwards is one of the fathers of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and it is appropriate that we honour his memory by reinterring him in the National Military Cemetery," said Lt.-Gen. Deschamps. "A visionary and a proud Canadian, Air Marshal Edwards was instrumental in the creation of the 400 series 'Canadianized' squadrons that kept Canadian air crews and later ground crews as well, together in their own Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons."

The fight to allow Canadian airmen and airwomen to serve together in RCAF squadrons under a Canadian command structure led to greater recognition of Canada's contribution to the air war during the Second World War. It also paved the way for the building of a distinct and proud Canadian air force.

Members of A/M Edwards' family and close friends were in attendance at the ceremony. His wife and daughter had not been allowed to attend her father's internment in the civilian section of Beechwood Cemetery as the military custom of the day decreed that women not be present at gravesite services. A/M Edwards, who died of natural causes on February 23, 1952, at the age of 59, was ineligible at the time for burial in the military section of the cemetery. The regulations at the time stated that only those on active service at the time of death could be buried there. Today, all serving and honourably discharged members of the Canadian Forces, both Regular and Reserve Force, are eligible for interment in the NMC.

"This remarkable leader is not, and will not, be forgotten," said Colonel Sam Michaud, the former Commander of 12 Wing Shearwater (known in A/M Edwards' time as RCAF Station Dartmouth) who liaised with the Edwards family to realize the reinterment. "A/M Edwards worked tirelessly to build what we now proudly know as the Royal Canadian Air Force, all the while living by his motto 'first, look after the troops.' We have a lot to pay back and this ceremony is our way of recognizing A/M Edwards' amazing contributions, and saying 'thank you.' "

A/M Edwards was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame during a gala dinner in Montréal on June 14, 2012. He was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the building of Canada's national air force, nurturing it from its very modest and uncertain beginnings, to its zenith as the fourth largest Allied air force at the end of the Second World War.

Note to editor / News director: For more information about the ceremony please contact Major Sonia Dumouchel Connock, Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs, at 613-995-6318, or via email at Sonia.Connock@forces.gc.ca

For imagery of A/M Edwards' 1952 funeral and imagery of the June 15th ceremony, please visit the RCAF Image Gallery: http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/v2/index-eng.asp

For more information about NMC, please visit: http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/cen/ps/nmc-cmn-eng.asp

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