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Air Force Annex of the Base Borden Museum named after V.C. winner

Barrie Advance
7 March 2008
The Maple Leaf
19 March 2008
16 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force web site
27 March 2012
Esprit de Corps
June 2016

Alan Arnett MacLeod was a tenacious 14 year old with a dream. Today, he and his dream are remembered at Canadian Forces Base Borden, which celebrates its 100th anniversary on 11 July 2016.

Visitors to the Base Borden Military Museum will note the building housing the Air Force Annex, beside the old Borden airfield, is dedicated to the memory of World War I Victoria Cross winner Lieutenant Alan McLeod; dedicated in April 2004 in a ceremony corresponding with the 80th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The building, one of only eight hangars built in 1917 for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) that are still standing today, became part of the Base Borden Military Museum organization in 1995.

Alan Arnett McLeod was born on 20 April 1899, in Stonewall, Manitoba, the son of a doctor. He joined the 34th Fort Garry Horse in 1913 when he was only 14. Although he was four years under age, his unit commander allowed him to serve anyway.

McLeod’s duties back then consisted mostly of grooming horses and shoveling manure, but the young lad was happy just to be serving in the army. However, when war broke out the next year, McLeod’s military career came to an abrupt end. It was one thing for someone underage to serve during peacetime, but there was no way someone so young was going to serve during wartime.

Undeterred, he went to Winnipeg and tried re-enlisting several times, but was turned down as being too young. When McLeod was 17, he made his way to Toronto where the Royal Flying Corps had established a cadet training wing, but he was once again rejected as being too young. It wasn’t until he turned 18 that he was finally able to resume his military career as a cadet in the RFC.

He was sent to the Cadet Ground Training School at Long Branch just outside of Toronto for pilot training, where he proved to be quite capable of handling the AVRO 504 airplane. After only five days instruction and three hours of flight time, McLeod completed his first solo flight.

He was next sent to No. 42 Wing at Camp Borden for intermediate training, where he graduated with less than 50 hours of flying time.

On 27 March 1918, not yet 19 years of age, 2nd Lieutenant Alan McLeod become the youngest Canadian Airman to earn the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the face of an enemy that can be awarded to members of British and Commonwealth militaries, during a battle with members of Baron Manfred (the Red Baron) von Richthofen’s squadron of the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte).

The description of his valour from his citation reads as follows: “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned officer of the Royal Air Force, for services displaying outstanding bravery: 2nd Lieutenant Alan Arnett McLeod, Royal Air Force.

“While flying with his observer, Lieutenant A. W. Hammond, M.C., attacking hostile formations by bombs and machine-gun fire, he was assailed at a height of 5,000 feet by eight enemy tri-planes which dived at him from all directions, firing from their front guns. By skillful maneuvering he enabled his observer to fire bursts at each machine in turn, shooting three of them down out of control.

“By this time, Lieutenant McLeod had received five wounds, and while continuing the engagement a bullet penetrated his petrol tank and set the machine on fire. He then climbed out on to the left bottom plane, controlling his machine from the side of the fuselage, and by side slipping, steeply kept the flames to one side, thus enabling the observer to continue firing until the ground was reached.

“The observer had been wounded six times when the machine crashed in ‘No Man’s Land’ and 2nd Lieutenant McLeod, notwithstanding his own wounds, dragged him away from the burning wreckage at great personal risk from heavy machine-gun fire from the enemy’s lines. This very gallant pilot was again wounded by a bomb whilst engaged in this act of rescue, but he persevered until he had placed Lieutenant Hammond in comparative safety, before falling himself from exhaustion and loss of blood.”

McLeod received his VC on 4 September 1918, but sadly, would not live to see the end of the war. While back home recovering from his wounds, Alan contracted influenza and died on 6 November 1918.

Hammond also survived the crash and the war, but lost a leg.  He received a bar to his Military Cross and later served with the RCAF in WWII.

Base Borden has changed considerably since McLeod’s days, and he would hardly recognize the place today, save for the building that now bears his name.

Ninety-nine years after Alan McLeod trained as a pilot at Camp Borden, the McLeod Building not only serves as a monument to his bravery, but as a link to Borden’s proud past.

To see the full Barrie Advance article, go to – http://www.simcoe.com/article/65762.  To See the 16 Wing, RCAF web site article, go to – http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/16w-16e/nr-sp/index-eng.asp?cat=64.To see the full Maple Leaf article, go to – http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/community/MapleLeaf/index_e.asp?issID=86

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/air-force-annex-of-the-base-borden-museum-named-after-v-c-winner/

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