KAMLOOPS — In 1941, the 419 Bomber Squadron was formed. A collection of Canadian airmen, led by John “Moose” Fulton of Kamloops, they flew missions over the hostile skies of World War II Europe. “Moose” Fulton was killed in action in 1942, but his contributions to the squadron are still remembered, which is why the 419 is in Kamloops this weekend to celebrate their 75th Anniversary. Now a training squadron for Canadian and International fighter pilots, the first of the 419 flew into town this morning to kick off a busy weekend at Fulton Field.
The unmistakable sound of jet engines could be heard over Kamloops this morning, as four CT-155 Hawk trainer jets flew in from 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron. The “Moosemen” as they’re known, train in Cold Lake, Alberta; they have a strong connection to the City of Kamloops, dating back three quarters of a century.
“When our squadron initially activated, John Fulton, from Kamloops, was the first commanding officer,” explained the current commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mike “Moose” Grover. “He was given the call-sign ‘Moose’.”
The call-sign would stick with Fulton, and with the rest of the squadron, after it was given to him by some RAF fliers who thought all Canadians were rugged outdoorsmen.
“[The RAF Airmen said] ‘You must have bagged a lot of moose.’ [Fulton] apparently just went along with the story… but he never actually had,” Grover told CFJC Today. “He got the nickname ‘Moose’.” The name has been with the 419 Squadron since 1941; every commanding officer inherits the call-sign upon taking command of the unit. “As fighter pilots, we get call-signs,” Grover explained. ”So my call-sign goes into storage for awhile, and I become ‘the Moose’.”
That’s just one story you’ll be sure to hear this weekend, as the Moosemen gather in Kamloops to celebrate 75 years of service to Canada. The role of the 419 Squadron has changed since it’s inception during World War 2. Originally a Bomber squadron, it’s now a training ground for fighter pilots, and not just Canadians.The Moosemen welcome pilots from a number of different NATO countries, to come learn and share ideas with their Canadian counterparts. Major Marc Skolik, a German pilot, counts himself lucky to be a able to share in the celebration this weekend.
“It’s a great honour for us,” said Major Skolik. “419 has a big tradition, and so does Germany, right? So we just like to be around for this big event.”
While the Moosemen have changed over the years, their connection with the community of Kamloops is important. Events like this keep the squadron connected to this community, as well as their history.
“We have a home, you know? Squadrons de-activate and re-activate, but Kamloops will always be connected with 419 Squadron, forever.”
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