VICKERS VEDETTE MONUMENT
Best News Update
As of this week the Vickers Vedette is no longer an illusion of a monument to commemorate Lac du Bonnet’s aviation history. The promise made to the many supporters of the project will be fulfilled this summer. The wings and the fuselage have been assembled and the rest of the complete aircraft will be ready for delivery by the end of May. Final polishing and erection of the pylon and the placing of the aircraft will be done during the months of June and July. We anticipate the unveiling and dedication of the monument to be scheduled for sometime in August. We will be sending invitations to all who have so faithfully supported the project and I am sure there were some who must have wondered if the project would ever come to fruition. I am delighted to including some photos of the work in progress of this unique piece of Canadian sculpture that will soon grace the shore of the Winnipeg River at Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba.
May 6, 2013
Gord Emberley CM
Town of Lac du Bonnet Heritage Walking Tour
When you are in Lac du Bonnet next time, why not take advantage of our Town's Heritage Walking Tour.
A pocket sized guide can be picked up at the Town office on 2nd Street. It will guide you around the Town and show you some of our heritage sites and where some homes and businesses from the past were once located.
The guide has pictures and a brief description of the eleven sites. Each site is identified by a number painted on the sidewalk, by the curb or at the site itself. As the mud and plank sidewalks have long since been replaced, this stroll can be enjoyed by all.
EARLY AVIATION HISTORY OF LAC DU BONNET 1922 – PRESENT
Gord Emberley CM (April 13, 2013)
The first recorded use of Lac du Bonnet as a base of operations for an aircraft is July of 1922 when the Canadian Air Force (pre RCAF 1924) was doing survey work in the area. Western Canada Airways followed in 1926 and the RCAF in 1927. In 1924 Canadian Vickers of Montreal designed and built the Vedette flying boat for the RCAF and they operated a number of these aircraft out of Lac du Bonnet until 1933.Amoung many of its achievements it was the first designed and built aircraft in Canada. Due to the "depression of 1929", cutbacks in RCAF personnel resulted in layoffs and a reductions in Civil Operations In 1932 negotiations between the Dominion Government and the Province of Manitoba resulted in the RCAF turning over six Mk.ll Vedette flying boats for the sum of $ 1.00 each with the provision that the Manitoba Government would also employ five ex RCAF pilots who had been released from active service. Later two newer Mk.V Vedettes were added to the fleet. This was the start of the Manitoba Government Air Service and the construction of its main base of Operation and Maintenance in Lac du Bonnet. The last Vedette aircraft, CF-MAG, was withdrawn from service in 1937. (The salvaged remains are on view at the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, MB.) The service history of the Vedette and the pilots and engineers who flew in them is well recorded in the annals of Canadian accomplishments. Residents of Lac du Bonnet worked for and with the air and ground crews and remember this part of their history. Throughout the 1920's, 30's and 40's many other companies, such as Western Canada Airways (Canadian Airways), Starratt Airways, Wings Limited, Canadian Pacific Airlines, Central Northern Airways, Trans Air Limited, Wendigo Wings, Air Park and Whiteshell Air Service, operated out of Lac du Bonnet. Today Provincial Helicopters and Adventure Air are the only two companies currently serving the community. As well many private operators made Lac du Bonnet their base of operations. From our past history one can see that Aviation played a significant roll in the cultural, economic and social life of our community. The Vickers Vedette is a significantly unique aircraft to remind us of our past and will further enhance the cairn already in place that commemorates the existence of RCAF Station Lac du Bonnet.
Remembering the Vedette
Airplane replica to be placed at La Verendrye boat launch
Posted By Marc Zienkiewicz (Spring 2009 - Experience Lac du Bonnet)
A University of Manitoba professor and sculptor is set to begin building what could become a major tourist attraction in Lac du Bonnet. Gordon Reeve has been chosen by the Lac du Bonnet Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (MHAC) to build a monument that will commemorate an historic aircraft that operated in the community in the early 20th century — the Vickers Vedette. Reeve is well-known in Manitoba for his sculpture Justice, which stands outside the Law Courts building in downtown Winnipeg. He also designed the public art project Agassiz Ice on the Portage Avenue side of the Assiniboine Park footbridge. He's also dabbled in film, creating the 1992 documentary Moment of Light about ballerina Evelyn Hart. Reeve noted the site chosen for the monument — the La Verendrye boat launch along Hwy. 502 — will be turned into a green space that may include composting washroom facilities, and even a device that would use the river to generate power that would be used to power things located on the green space. The Vedette monument will contain a water pump that creates a mist to create the illusion of the plane taking off. "I want people to go there and get the feeling that they're visiting a site that's completely unspoiled," Reeve said. "The Vedette was a flying canoe, and the canoe connects us to the entire history of man. Since it was created, the canoe's basic design hasn't really changed at all." It was also the first aircraft built in Canada. "We want people to be able to picnic there and really enjoy the site," MHAC chairman Gord Emberley said. Best of all, the green space will be as environmentally friendly as possible. "We want to emphasize the 'green' aspect of it," he added. The project has been in the works for five years, and the MHAC recently began a campaign to solicit donations to help fund the project's $37,000 first phase. There's no shortage of people in the community who either have been or are currently involved in aviation. Emberley said project organizers found 80 people in the Eastern Manitoba phone directory who fit that description. "We'll be approaching all of them to ask for help in funding this," he said. If enough funding comes through, construction of the Vickers Vedette replica could begin as early as July or August. Seeing as 2010 is the 100th anniversary of the first flight in Manitoba, it seems all the more appropriate, Emberley noted.
Reeve was drawn to the project because it involves more than just a steel replica of an airplane, he said. "When it comes to my art, my goal is to not only give people something to look at, but to give them an actual experience," he said. "My work is always site-specific. This will be a place where people will come to learn how they can better care for the environment." With thousands of cottagers flocking to the region each summer, Reeve envisions the site becoming an educational one for those who choose to make the region their summertime playground. "No matter what we do as human beings, we have an impact on our environment," he said. "I want to show people that as a society we have to start seriously thinking about that." Emberley feels the Vedette itself is a good metaphor for environmental stewardship. "The Vedette was a green aircraft — it discharged its cargo from the water and left no footprint," he said. For information on the project or to donate, Emberley can be reached at 345-8916 or e-mail email@example.com. (top)
Making Aviation History
First Arctic Coast flight made by Lac du Bonnet man
Posted By Marc Zienkiewicz (Spring 2009 - Experience Lac du Bonnet)
Lac du Bonnet certainly has a colourful history when it comes to aviation, being the site of the first airmail delivery flight in Canada, not to mention many other things. But not many know that one of Lac du Bonnet's very own residents helmed the first Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) flight to the Arctic coast. According to air force documents provided by area historian Gord Emberley, the late Jim Uhlman of Lac du Bonnet made the flight in 1930 at the request of Canada's Civil Government Air Operations (CGAO), a civil service division of the RCAF. "This has never before been printed," Emberley said. "It really is a fascinating piece of Lac du Bonnet history, in light of 2009 being the 100th anniversary of aviation." Indeed, this year does represent a century of Canadian aviation. On Feb. 23, 1909, J.A.D. McCurdy made history when he flew the now-famous Silver Dart airplane at Nova Scotia's Bras d'Or Lake. He flew only a half mile, but it was the first heavier-than-air machine to fly in Canada. A replica of the Silver Dart is now on display at the National Aviation Museum in Ottawa. Two decades later, aviation had made its mark on the Lac du Bonnet community. The first mention of Lac du Bonnet as a base of operations is found in the July 1922 issue of the old Lac du Bonnet Times. In those days, aviation was considered a novelty, but by the time Manitoba's first airmail flight took off from the Lac du Bonnet town dock in 1927, aviation was quickly becoming an indispensable part of the country's economy. Uhlman became an original member of the Manitoba Government Air Service in 1932, but had started his aviation career several years earlier and became a part of Civil Government Air Operations. "They performed all kinds of important tasks for the country. They did aerial surveys, photography, flew government personnel, you name it," Emberley said. "They played a major role." In 1930, Uhlman was asked to command the air service's first flight to the Mackenzie River, which originates in Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, and flows north into the Arctic Ocean. It is the longest river in Canada. The mission enabled the director of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, and two officials from the Indian Affairs and Agriculture Departments, to carry out inspection visits along the Mackenzie. "The party set out from McMurray on July 2 and flew down the river, making stops at Fitzgerald, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Fort Wrigley, Fort Norman, Arctic Red River and Aklavik," the documents state. The flight represents a crucial moment in RCAF history. Uhlman's daughter Shan Hornby, who lives in Headingley and is now 72, said her father was quiet about his history in aviation, and the family didn't uncover most of his history with the Air Force until after his death in the 1980s. "He never talked a lot about himself," Hornby said. "He never got a lot of recognition for his achievements, but then again he never asked for any." Uhlman had quite a detailed history with the Canadian Forces. He was wounded in Vimy Ridge and would go on to serve in the RCAF in Halifax, after learning to fly in England. "He was a real inventive kind of guy," Hornby said. Uhlman moved to Victoria after his retirement, but lived in Lac du Bonnet for many years. "He always enjoyed his life there," Hornby added. "He never got a lot of recognition for his achievements, but then again he never asked for any." —Shan Hornby (top)