In Conversation. Vern Harnden.

Vern Harnden - reflections in time

Superior Media is introducing a new video segment called ‘In Conversation’. Our inaugural episode features Mr. Vern Harnden. Vern grew up in McPhees Valley on a farm in rural Algoma, and became an air cadet in the early years of the 155 Borden Gray (CG) Air Cadet Squadron.

The following words are shared by Vern Harnden.

‘The History of the Sault’s Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron.

On the weekend of May 6, 2017, a 75th anniversary of Sault Ste. Marie’s Royal Canadian Air Cadet’s Squadron was celebrated. This event was very well attended and was a complete success thanks to the officers, staff and cadets in the squadron.

The air cadets were first formed in 1942 – three years into the Second World War- the war between our Allied countries and Japan, Italy and Germany. At this point in time, we were losing the war on all fronts – in the Pacific, Northern Africa and Russia. Great Britain had not been invaded and from Scotland and England, the Allied Forces attacked the Axis powers by air at great cost. The casualty rate in Bomber Command was 50% killed and 25% wounded or captured. This Command had the highest casualty rate of all Allied Forces. Since there were thousands of bombers attacking the Axis powers on a regular basis their horrific casualty rate had to be replaced by new recruits.

The Axis powers were so powerful and well organized; the Allies knew our death toll would be very high if we were to win. Where do you get more replacements for all three services? –  As in all previous wars – the younger generation.

In the cities in Canada, it was mandatory for all boys that were physically able to join a cadet corps as soon as they entered a technical or high school. If they did not join sea cadets or air cadets, they were placed in army cadets. Each one of the cadet corps learned drill, discipline and range and the specialties of each armed force. Air cadets for instance learned theory of flight, which helped to understand how the plane functioned – navigation so the aircraft could find the targeted area and then hopefully find its way back to base – Morse code, so you could communicate with all those involved and also aircraft identification so you wouldn’t shoot down your buddies.

I was in air cadets during the war and it was our mindset that as soon as we graduated, we would join the air force. Joining with a high school education would almost always result in being assigned to aircrew whether pilot, navigator, and radio operator, and flight engineer, bombardier or air gunner.

All of these cadet programs were very effective. It made the transition of civilian life to the armed forces relatively easy. Due to their leadership and corps training, they often assumed a leadership role soon after joining. It was a win-win situation. The armed forces would gain partially trained men and the cadets would usually join the service of their choice.

Over the past 75 years, the cadet corps – now with both boys and girls – has contributed greatly to the training of our youth in so many wonderful ways and our appreciation goes out to the officers and staff that make this all possible.’

Thank you to Vern Harnden for sharing your story with Superior Media.