416 TAC (F) SQUADRON HOLDS A SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE

By WO William Ford, 416 Sqn Historian, Cold Lake.

Images by Sgt Michel Gilbert i/c 10 FTTS Imaging


A Canadian F-86 Sabre pilot was honoured with a CF18 Hornet "Missing Man Formation" on  June  22nd 2003 in Copenhagen Denmark.

F/O John Volfing of 416 (F) Squadron was killed in 1954 as a result of a flying accident when his F-86 Sabre aircraft 23157 stalled on take-off during his participation in Operation "Weapons Fire" at Rabat Morocco. He was 23 years of age at the time.

Taking off independently as Number 3 of a three-plane formation a take-off roll was initiated but shortly after lifting clear of the runway, his right wing dipped. The wing tip of his Sabre contacted the ground to the right of the runway and the aircraft cartwheeled and disintegrated throwing him out and killing him. It was determined that F/O Volfing had lifted the aircraft off at too low an airspeed and too high an angle of attack. This condition induced a stall as he fought to remain airborne.

Flying Officer Volfing was born in Canada but his parents returned to Denmark when he was a young boy. Since his surviving family resided in Copenhagen Denmark at the time of his death, special permission was granted by 1 Canadian Air Division, Metz, France to have the body taken to Copenhagen for final internment. A Bristol freighter aircraft from 2 (F) Wing, Grostenquin, France,  returned F/O Volfing on the 16th September for the  funeral service at 2 (F) Wing.

The original Chapel service was officiated by S/L JN Bracher at the Protestant Chapel in Grostenquin. The floral tributes in particular from 416 (F) Squadron, the French Commanding General of the region and American Squadrons in Rabat and other units were particularly impressive. The Canadian Embassy at Copenhagen coordinated with the next of kin and made all the final arrangements for the final internment. Fourteen officers under the command of W/C AWC Tustin, CadO of 2 (F) Wing, accompanied the casket that was interned on 17th September at 1400hrs.

The deteriorating gravestone in a Copenhagen suburb cemetery was drawn to the attention of the British Defence attaché in 2003. The faded lettering just showed the family name and the designation Royal Canadian Air Force. Shortly afterward, by a remarkable coincidence, 416 Squadron which was scheduled to be in Denmark to participate in the NATO exercise "Clean Hunter" asked if the Embassy knew where F/O Volfing’s grave was located. Then, in collaboration with the Canadian Embassy, the squadron decided to take this opportunity to honour their fallen comrade and renew ties with the Volfing family and the people of Denmark.

A new gravestone was made ready and shipped from Canada. DND agreed to renew the lease on the cemetery plot, as such leases in Europe are not permanent. In fact, the lease on this gravesite expired some years ago but the plot was ordered to be retained by the Copenhagen Municipality District, which placed F/O Volfing, given the circumstances of his death, in the category of "Deserving Person".

The Embassy initially contacted the surviving family members by simply going through the Copenhagen telephone book. The Embassy was ultimately successful in locating F/O John Volfing’s two brothers, a half-brother, and a cousin, who were overwhelmed by the Squadron's offer to hold a Service of Remembrance.

The Pastor at the Simon Peter’s Church in the Copenhagen suburb of  Sundby, where the 1954 services were originally conducted, readily agreed to hold another memorial service. 416 Squadron and its Chaplain, Padre Bernie Thompson, took the  responsibility for a Service of Remembrance in the cemetery.

On the 22 July 2003 at the Sundby cemetery  hundreds of Danish citizens, the Canadian Ambassador to Denmark His Excellence Alphonso Gagliano, and invited members of the Danish Government and Armed Forces as well as members of the diplomatic community and local veterans groups accompanied F/O Volfing’s family members, 50 Officers, and Men of 416 TAC (F) Squadron to the Service of Remembrance.

The program included readings from the bible, laying of wreaths by the Canadian Ambassador, 416 TAC (F) Squadron Commanding Officer  LCol Byrne,  Squadron Chief Warrant Officer CWO Bouzane, MCpl Mike Brown on behalf of 784 Wing, Air Force Association, Sgt Bruce Chartrand  on behalf of Branch 211 RC Legion Cold Lake, Sgt John St-Thomas on behalf of Legion Branch 184 Bonneville, Sabre Pilots Association of The Air Division Squadrons (SPAADS), and a number of Foreign Diplomats and Danish Government Officials.

Included in the service, were a bugler and a Scottish piper, and an address by the Commanding Officer of 416 TAC (F) squadron LCol Byrne. Also, after nearly 50 years F/O Volfing received his long awaited "Missing Man Formation" by 416 TAC (F) Squadrons four CF-18 Hornet aircraft over the capital city of Copenhagen Denmark at an altitude of 2,000 feet.

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