Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The National Air Force Museum of Canada

    Summer is usually financially pretty tight for us.  We went and had three kids in June and July, and in July two kids on the same day!  Birthdays pretty much tap us out.  Having said that,  I am not about to sacrifice amazing summer adventures and experiences because money's tight.  My motto is go big or go home, and that applies to pretty much every aspect of my life (just ask anyone who knows me).  My plan is to have a once a week adventure, that has a low or better yet, no cost.  That is the goal that I have set for myself this summer, lofty I know, but completely do-able.

    Last week my nephew came to visit us and enjoy our Canada Day craziness.  As I mentioned yesterday, Jacob LOVES planes.  We are most fortunate to live 45 minutes away from one of the largest air force base in Canada, Trenton, Ontario.  In Trenton, on the air base they have Canada's National Air Force Museum.  The best part, admission is .... FREE!  That's right admission is free because they believe that everyone has the right to learn about Canada's air force history, amazing.
    As we entered the museum, we were greeted by this friendly volunteer named Reg Cofield.  Mr. Cofield told us about some areas that we may find interesting, and told us that if we had any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.  It was a really nice way to be greeted.  Not only was this experience free, we had this really nice, friendly, helpful gentleman greet us.

    One of the first displays that drew my nephew's attention was the Nazi Flag featured in a glass case.  "Why would they have a German flag on display?"  Jacob asked.  So here is one of my teachable moments, my own children rolled their eyes knowing what was about to come.  "Oh no, Mom's on one of her history rants" their rolled eyes told me.  "This is not a 'German' flag"  I told him, "This is a Nazi Flag.  I would guess it's on display because although it's a terrible part of history, it's important that we know about it, and remember it.  Hitler took a symbol that was once a good thing (it means good luck) and turned it into the symbol of evil.  Now you can go to school in September and tell your friends that you saw a real Nazi flag, and you can tell them how it made you feel".  He was taking in every word that I was saying, and it was lovely to see the look on his face when it truly registered.

    It was beautiful to see the kids really enthralled in what they were looking at.  They were devouring it all.  It was neat to see the way they were able to connect yesterday and today.  We looked at the ways that they communicated at war.  Again, everything to me is a teachable moment.  "Imagine, during a war, having bombs going off around you, but it its your job to talk on this and let the rest of the army know to beware, or what else is going on.  Can you imagine how that would feel?"  Again, my guys rolled their eyes, but not Jacob.  Jacob was drinking in my every word, it was really nice for a change.

    Our friendly greeter, Mr. Cofield had hold us about the restored Halifax Bomber when we had first come in.  As we made our way into that section of the museum, Jacob's face lit up.  This was the real deal.  The Halifax bomber had crashed in Norway in 1946.  In 1991 it was raised from it's watery slumber place and flown back to it's home in Canada.  Over a 10 year period retired aircraft technicians and many dedicated civilian volunteers donated 350, 000 man hours to bring this relic back to it's former glory.  Many of the repairs were done at the museum.  When they had finished this labour of love The Halifax looked just like it had before it left for war.

    Mr. Cofield was right, it was a massive undertaking and something that we were all glad to have seen and known about.  As we approached the plane, it's size was most striking.  We walked around it, looking at all of the angles.  This was not a model, a plaything for grown ups, this was a death machine.  This was something that men, many as young as Jacob's big brother gave their lives for.  There was a great gravity to this plane.

    We circled around the plane, and looked at the back where the tail gunner sat.  There was this tiny place, a suicide seat.  This was the first place that the German's would have picked on the plane to hit.  That was a very brave young man fitted into a claustrophobic space, fighting oppression, not knowing if he would see another sunset.  To me it was very important to stress to the kids what they were seeing.  I wanted them to be in awe of this beautifully restored plane, but I also wanted them to remember what it really was.  This is what gave us the freedom that we enjoy.  This is what stood in the way of Hitler's evil plans for the world.  This represented sacrifice and it is something that we should remember.

    Hands down the most favourite part of the museum for all of the kids were the flight simulators.  They all raced to get into them.  Each calling out a preferred seat.  Jacob, our airplane enthusiest was in his absolute glory.  He was calling out the different parts of the plane, by the dreamy look on his face I could see that he was imagining how it would feel to fly in one of these.

    The second favourite part of the museum for the kids was the dress up area.  They loved trying on the different uniforms and the hats (I took a deep breath and tried to forget about head lice as they took great joy in the hats).

    The kids had so much fun, but yet the gravity of it hit me.  My Grace is 13, in four more years she would have been of an age to enter world war two.  Rowan is days away from 10, he would have been drafted into the army in 7 more years, that's if he didn't lie and say he was older, which many patriotic young men did.

    After we had had an exhaustive search through the inner parts of the beautifully cool, air conditioned museum, we set off for the boiling hot outside.  There was every little boy's dream ... real airplanes.

    My girls liked the planes and helicopters, but in the end they favoured the daisies that they had found.  The two youngest proudly sported daisies in their hair.

    One of the best things about the National Air Museum is that it is actually on the Trenton Air Force base.  What that means is that you are sometimes treated to an air show.  There are "real" planes taking off, and better yet, there are soldiers practicing maneuvers.  As we walked around looking at the retired planes, one of the kids noticed parachuters.  That was a real highlight for all of them (and maybe this big kid too).

We enjoyed a really nice, educational afternoon, not far from home.  The National Air Force Museum is a true Canadian treasure.
It is a treasure that should be celebrated and everyone should visit.

    Although the museum has no admission charge, they do accept donations.  Donations help them make ends meet.  After we had selected our souvenirs from the gift shop, I gave the kids some money to put into the donation box.  This is a national treasure, that deserves our support.


  1. You would make a great travel writer Tristan, you truly captured the most important parts of the museum and made it very appealing. It is one of my favourite spots too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words. Hey if you want to pass that along to the right people ok. LOL