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Bruce ForsythBruce 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.

 

Author's note:

Thank you to all the people who visit my site and write to me.  I really appreciate your stories of relatives who served, along with the additions and corrections that you provide me with to correct and update my base histories.  

However, please keep in mind that my knowledge is primalarily confined to the bases to which our service membes served, along with a few specialty articles on certain notable people in Canadian military history.  I do not have information on individuals, their service records or units that they served with during the war years or post-war years.  You might want to contact the Naitonal Archives or if their unit, squadron or regiment still exists, you might want to contact them too.

Regarding bases/stations that are not featured, it is due to either I haven't had time to add them to the web site or, if it was a small military establishment, perhaps I have never heard of it.  Please feel free to provide me with information.

Thank you very much to all my readers.

Additionally, I was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for various volunteer activities, including this web site.  I wish to thank those who nominated me for the medal, as well as everyone who visits my web site, especially those who make corrections to my material and otherwise provide valuable information to help maintain the accuracy of this web site.  The ultimate goal of this web site has always been to provide a comprehensive resource for future researchers and historians.  The histories of the former Canadian military bases featured on my web site are, for the most part, pretty basic and are meant only to provide a starting point for anyone who wishes to write a more detailed history of specific Canadian military bases.

 

Bruce Forsyth, CD, Leading Seaman (Ret'd)

Royal Canadian Naval Reserve

 

 

 
A Short History of Abandoned and Downsized Canadian Military Bases
Prior to the passage of The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act in Canada, the Navy, Army and Air Force operated as separate entities: the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army. For those who don't know the story, between 1964 and 1968, the three service branches were merged into a single entity, "The Canadian Armed Forces", unified under a single Chief of Defence Staff and a single Defence Staff. Although there would still Army, Navy and Air Force elements, they were no longer individual entities. Navy and Army pilots became a thing of the past in Canada, as did the RCAF Marine (patrol boat) Squadrons.

 
On 16 August 2011, National Defence Minister Peter McKay announced that the former names of the service branches had been restored and once again the service branches would be known as the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army, although this was "in name only", as they remained a part of the tri-service Canadian Forces and not separate entities.
 
On 8 July 2013,  National Defence Minister Peter McKay announced the restoration of traditional titles to a number of Canadian Army corps, shoulder titles for members of these corps will be restored. The intent is also to restore historical rank names for non-commissioned members, the traditional and internationally recognized convention of army insignia of stars and crowns for officers, and gorget patches for colonels and general officers.
 
The army has also renamed its area commands, now calling them divisions and noting the links to units that fought in the First or Second World Wars. Land Force Quebec Area will be referred to as 2nd Canadian Division, Land Force Western Area as 3rd Canadian Division, Land Force Central Area as 4th Canadian Division, and Land Force Atlantic Area as 5th Canadian Division.
 
All army bases across the country will soon adopt new names reflecting the new Canadian Divisions.  It was revealed in September 2013 that CFB Petawawa has been re-named 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa.  CFB Gagetown was re-named 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.  Others will soon follow.
 
Page last updated on:  22 November 2013
 
 
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Centralia Sam

Air Force Magazine

Spring 2011

 

Royal Canadian Air Force web site

November 8, 2011

 

Near the town of Centralia, Ontario, north of London, one will find the Centralia Airport, a small general aviation airport.  However, many long time residents will remember that the airport once played an important role in the history of Canadian aviation and the defence of North America.  From 1942 until 1966, thousands of Flight Cadets who undertook their training at Royal Canadian Air Force Station Centralia, originally under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during World War II, then under the NATO Air Training Plan during the Cold War.  For those men, there are a multitude of memories, good and bad, that spring up.  The bad included marching, drill sergeants, conduct cards, inspections and polishing aircraft and boots.  Some of the good memories include going to the beach at Grand Bend and drinking a "Sam Special" in the Flight Cadets’ Mess, served by a man affectionately known as “Centralia Sam”.

A "Sam Special" was a concoction of pop and fruit, created and served by the Chief Bartender at the Flight Cadets’ Mess, Sam Aquilina, to help "his boys" have an alternative to the harder cousins during exam time.  So just who was “Centralia Sam” Aquilina?

Salvator Victor Aquilina was born in November 1904 in the tiny village of Siggiewi on the Island of Malta, in the heart of the Mediterranean.  As a young man, Aquilina trained as a Malta Police Officer, graduating at the top of his class, but the sea and the sparkling white naval uniform gradually overtook his policing desires, and in March 1925, he joined the Royal Navy as a "boy sailor".   Aquilina served as a Steward in the Officers' Mess aboard various ships, including HMS Revenge, Egmont, Benbow, Pelican, Shropshire, Revenge, Endeavour and others, and as he advanced, as the Captain's Steward.   He was well known and well respected by the officers he served, including Captains and Admirals such as Admiral Sir William Edmund Goodenough and Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  Author Noel Coward even gave Aquilina a signed copy of his book when Coward visited his ship.

When WWII broke out, Aquilina was forced to leave his wife Carmen and four small boys and a baby daughter behind in Malta, except for rare short visits when his ship visited the Island.  Malta was under siege during much of the war, forcing its residents to endure harsh conditions and near starvation.  Carmen and Sam had another daughter and two sons after the war.  They lost their youngest at birth.

Aquilina retired from the Royal Navy in 1947 as a Chief Petty Officer.  During his service, he receiving the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, along with other good conduct medals with four battle stars, the Malta George Cross Commemorative Medal, and a special medal presented by the Prince of Monaco for planning a Royal banquet in Monte Carlo for Louis II.
        
He emigrated to Canada not long afterwards, bringing with him his son Tony, and settled in Exeter, Ontario.  From here, Aquilina began his "second career" serving military personnel when he was hired to run the Flight Cadets' Mess at the nearby Royal Canadian Air Force Station Centralia.  Thousands of pilot and navigator trainees from Canada, America and other NATO nations came to Centralia for their training, and Sam was there to greet them with a friendly smile, a drink and good conversation.  He looked after and guided "his boys", even telling them when they should stop drinking and go back to their barracks to study.
        
Aquilina was so well liked by all who knew him that the Officers' Mess tried to capture him as their bartender, but Aquilina wanted to stay with "HIS" cadets.  All were impressed by the Cadets' Mess and lounge, featuring good food and a bar, where they were met and taken good care of by Sam.  Games of pool, ping-pong and TV (James Garner as Maverick as a favourite), were often accompanied by one of Aquilina's "Gin-Collins" plus a bag of cashew nuts.  His son Tony worked along side his father for a few years until he joined the RCAF.  Occasionally, Aquilina's youngest son Alfred also assisted his father by washing glasses, filling the beer fridge, and other chores.
        
One of Aquilina's prized possessions is a large framed picture of the Canada's own "The Snowbirds", autographed by the pilots, all of whom had served time in "Sam's Mess".
        
In 1967, the RCAF closed down Station Centralia and Aquilina was asked to transfer to CFB Esquimalt, in Victoria B.C., which he did, but his stay there was short-lived, and he returned to Exeter soon afterwards where he retired for the second and final time.  Here he spent the rest of his days taking his daily walks to his favourite restaurants and tipping his hat to his many friends.   By this time, Aquilina's family had grown to include almost 30 grandchildren.
        
Sam's beloved Carmen died in 1987 after 57 years of marriage.  Aquilina continued to live in the family home until his health made it impossible.  He spent his last years residing in a nursing home.

“Centralia Sam” Aquilina died peacefully at the South Huron Hospital on 16 August 1999 with his daughter Pauline by his side.
        
In a fitting epitaph, Alfred Aquilina describes his father's legacy: " 'Centralia Sam' left behind a legacy of love of family, life and service to country, that spanned nearly the entire 20th century."
        
The air force are long gone from the former RCAF Station Centralia, now known as Huron Industrial Park.  However, the memory of “Centralia Sam” and a "Sam Special" will live on in the memories of RCAF personnel lucky enough to have served at Centralia.
 
Special thanks to Alfred Aquilina for his assistance with this article and the photos that he provided.    

I would also like to thank my father, Colonel James Forsyth, CStJ, CD, for his assistance with the article.  My Dad saved pretty much every edition of the old "Sentinel Magazine" (much to my Mom's chagrin, I'm sure), and it was in one edition that I found an article profiling the retirement of "Centralia Sam" from RCAF Station Centralia.  It was after I posted an excerpt of this article (fully credited to Sentinel Magazine) on my web site, that Alfred Aquilina contacted me to thank me for honouring his father.  From there, I corresponded with Alfred and with information that he provided, composed the article that you now have before you.
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Now that would be a hoot

 

Toronto Sun

July 15, 2010

 

Congratulations to CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson on his retirement. It is well deserved. Any chance “Count Floyd” (aka SCTV’s Joe Flaherty) will be available to host the retirement dinner?

Bruce Forsyth

Barrie

(Now that would be a hoot)

 
Between a rock and a hard place

Toronto Sun  

July 1, 2010

 

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