Featured Squadron of the Month

103 Thunderbird Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron

103 Thunderbird Squadron

Formed:  March 1942
Chartered:  May 10, 1948
Status:  Active
Community:  North Vancouver BC


103 Thunderbird Squadron has its roots in World War II, when the Air Cadets of Canada was created with the object of providing a pool of partially trained young men for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Formed in March 1942, No. 103 North Vancouver High School Squadron, as it was known, was managed by teaching staff at the local high school who were officers in the RCAF reserves. They were appointed by the school principal to instruct the air cadets at a time when cadet training was compulsory for male students in grades 7 to 13. Many cadets went on to serve with the RCAF.

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During the war, there were some 30,000 air cadets in 380 squadrons across the country. As the war ended and the public breathed their first sigh of relief in many years, cadet training switched from mandatory to optional at which point all but one of the school air cadet squadrons in BC were disbanded. No. 103 North Vancouver High School Squadron was among them and suspended training in 1946.

After the war, the object of air cadet training was changed to emphasize the value in producing better citizens and to promote public interest in the RCAF. Many air cadet squadrons that had closed down at war’s end began to be re-formed late in the 1940s. The RCAF helped with recruiting former air and ground crew personnel to help with instruction and administration work at the reactivated squadrons.

In 1947, two former 103 cadets, John Rawlins and Ian Morrison, helped begin the movement to re-organize the squadron in North Vancouver.

As soon as some veteran RCAF personnel became available and sponsorship was obtained through the Kiwanis Club, the squadron began training once again using the local Scout Hall as a temporary headquarters until City Council granted use of the basement of Lonsdale Hall (now the location of the Lonsdale Rec Centre).

On May 10, 1948, the air cadet program in North Vancouver was officially re-established as 103 North Vancouver Squadron with Flying Officer Bill Holley as first Commanding Officer. The squadron has been in continuous operation ever since.

By the mid-1950s, the squadron peaked at 250 cadets and was the largest air cadet squadron in BC. The facilities at Lonsdale Hall were simply no longer able accommodate the huge numbers.

In 1956, through the hard work of squadron patron and Member of Parliament, The Honourable James Sinclair, and then Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Derek Inman, the squadron was given the use of an old single-story army hut located north of the LCol J.P. Fell Armoury in North Vancouver. For about a year, squadron staff, sponsoring committee members, parents and cadets worked almost every evening and weekend to renovate the building into an upgraded and functional two-story facility. The building was officially opened in a ceremony by His Honour Lieutenant Governor Frank Ross in 1957 declaring it the “finest cadet accommodations in all Canada.” The building has remained the home of the squadron ever since.

The squadron was renamed 103 Thunderbird Squadron in 1971 in honour of North Vancouver’s Pacific Northwest Coast first nations’ history. The Thunderbird is considered a supernatural bird of power and strength. The squadron’s official motto is the Latin phrase Per Doctrina Vis. It translates to Strength Though Knowledge and was adopted during the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1998.

Over the years, 103 Squadron has been very successful and has won many awards including Top Squadron in British Columbia, Top Squadron in Canada, and many individual awards. In 1981, the squadron’s longest serving Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Derek Inman, was made Member of the Order of Canada, in part for his work with air cadets.

In 1998, the squadron was honoured by North Vancouver City Council with Freedom of the City in recognition of its service to the youth of the community over the previous fifty years.

Another event that took place in 1998 was the 103 Thunderbird Air Cadet Squadron SSC and the 655 Richmond Squadron SSC combining to sponsor an international Air Cadet trip to New Zealand and Hong Kong.

With a total of 20 cadets from 103 and 655 sqn’s and 10 adults and officers escorting them, they initially landed in HK for several days and explored HK. They were provided with an airborne tour of the area by the Royal Hong Kong Police! Flying in helos and fixed wing aircraft.

One highlight was spelunking in a limestone cave that had them all squeeze through an aprox two-foot diameter passageway partially submerged with aprox 6 inches of water.

After returning to Canada the two squadrons jointly sponsored the NZ cadet sqn on a reciprocal exchange to BC.

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In 1992, soon after becoming the Training Officer at 103 Thunderbird Air Cadet Squadron, Steven Deschamps was responsible for getting the Flight Simulator training program started for Air Cadets right across Canada.

In the years to follow, eight computerized aircraft simulation centres were set up within proximity to a large number of Air Cadet squadrons. In 2002, all Air Cadet squadrons in British Columbia received copies of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 Professional Edition to kickstart simulator programs. So did Squadrons in Quebec and some in Ontario. In British Columbia, this was the precursor of a strategy to create centres of excellence around the province to encourage flight simulation.

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On March 26, 2003 under the leadership of Mr. Richard Taylor, to comply with a directive from the British Columbia Provincial Committee of the Air Cadet League of Canada (BCPC) that all Air Cadet Squadron Sponsoring Committees (SSC) in BC must be incorporated, the 103 Thunderbird Squadron Sponsoring Committee received its incorporation papers.

The founding members listed on the Incorporation papers were: Richard Taylor, (SSC Chair) Lisa Welch, Denise Hitchborn, Lois Kusec, Judy Lura, and Adaire Leander.

Over the next twenty years 103 Thunderbird squadron has had its highs and lows always rebounding to ensure that Canada’s premier youth development program remains accessible to the youth of Vancouver’s North Shore.

More details about 103 Thunderbird Air Cadet Squadron can be found on their website: https:www.103air.com

Squadron Sponsors

Mr. Norman MacSween6 Engineers Squadron
Mr. Trevor SamKiwanis Club
Branch 118 Royal Canadian LegionNorth Shore Veterans Council
Branch 116 Royal Canadian LegionBC Lottery Corporation
Branch 60 Royal Canadian LegionNorth Shore Optimist Club
Lynn Valley Lyons Club

Squadron Supporters

Northshore NewsBC Liquor Store
Canadian TireSave on Foods
The Home DepotLondon Drugs
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Following below are tables of the SSC members since the society was incorporated in 2003 and the Commanding Officers of 103 Thunderbird Air Cadet Squadron since 1942:

YearSSC Member List
2003 – 2007Richard Taylor, Lisa Welch, Denise Hitchborn, Lois Kusee, Judy Lura, Adaire Leander
2007 – 2008James Turner, Helen Turner, Helen Lam, Luz Piedrahita, Monika James, Mark Ho
2008 – 2009James Turner, Helen Turner, Lee Roffel, Heidi Roffel, Helen Lam, Monika James,
Mark Ho, Sandra McLeod
2009 – 2010Lee Roffel, Heidi Roffel, Helen Lam, Edward Hunt, Sandra McLeod, Alastair Ross
Linda Adams, Reid Whiting, Bruce Steel, Monika James
2010 – 2011Sandra McLeod, Alastair Ross, Reid Whiting, Wendy Timm, Edward Hunt, Bruce Steel
Mark Ho, Linda Adams
2011 – 2012Reid Whiting, Bruce Steel, Leo Crossland, Beverely Smith, Edward Hunt, Lee Roffel
Heidi Roffel, Monika James
2012 – 2013Reid Whiting, Brent Argo, Khalid Ansari, Mark Ho, Edward Hunt, Linda Adams,
Raju Salim, Mark Fairburn, Dale Lahaise Cliff Mar, Shawn Wilson, Leslie Oneill
2013 – 2014Reid Whiting Brent Argo, Khalid Ansari, Mark Ho, Edward Hunt, Linda Adams,
Mark Fairburn, Christine Fairburn, Michele Wruck, Raju Salim, Ninfa Ancuna,
Leo Crossland, Monika James, Heidi Roffell
2014 – 2015Reid Whiting Brent Argo, Khalid Ansari, Mark Ho, Edward Hunt, Linda Adams,
Mark Fairburn, Christine Fairburn, Michele Wruck, , Ninfa Ancuna, Leo Crossland,
Monika James, Heidi Roffell, Rahu Salhim.
2015 – 2016Reid Whiting Brent Argo, Khalid Ansari, Mark Ho, Edward Hunt, Linda Adams,
Mark Fairburn, Christine Fairburn, Michele Wruck, , Ninfa Ancuna, Leo Crossland,
Monika James, Heidi Roffell,
2016 – 2017Reid Whiting, Michael Batten, Catherine Hargreaves, Sandra Izzard, Alison Hill,
Barry Ferg, Edward Hunt, Linda Adams, Nadine Frankowski, Michael Frankowski
2017 – 2018Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Nadine Frankowski, Michael Frankowski, Anthony Lyons
Catherine Lawson, Catherine Hargreaves, Barry Ferg, Alison Hill, Marcie Williams
2018 – 2019Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Catherine Lawson, Anthony Lyons, Lynn Kinna,
Ralph Stringer, Jayson Louie, Alison Hill
2019 – 2020Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Catherine Lawson, Anthony Lyons, Lynn Kinna,
Ralph Stringer, Jayson Louie, Alison Hill
2020 – 2021Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Catherine Hargreaves, Candace Storm, Joel Gagnon
Kathy Han, Robert Diao, Loretta Obrien, Nadine Frankowski, Michael Frankowski
2021 – 2022Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Catherine Hargreaves, Candace Storm, Joel Gagnon
Kathy Han, Robert Diao, Loretta Obrien,
2022 – 2023Michael Batten, Reid Whiting, Candace Storm, Joel Gagnon, Dean Wagner,
Susan Wagner, Kathy Han, Robert Diao, Loretta Obrien, Gunjan Borha, Nalin Maharaj
Dorina Jeske, Natasha Brosseau

Commanding Officers:

Flight Lieutenant Harry Freedman1942
Flight Lieutenant Ivan Miller1942 – 1945
Training suspended1945 – 1948
Flying Officer William (Bill) Holley1948 – 1950
Flying Officer Alan Robinson1950 – 1952
Squadron Leader Derek Inman, CM CD1952 – 1956
Flight Lieutenant Merlin Bunt1956 – 1957
Squadron Leader Derek Inman, CM, D1957 – 1960
Flight Lieutenant Oswald (Oz) lsen1960 – 1965
Flight Lieutenant Al Russell1965 – (Jan -Nov)
Flight Lieutenant Jim Doyle1965 – 1967
Flight Lieutenant John (Jack) Murphy1967 – 1969
Captain Michael Potter, CD1969 – 1971
Captain Paul Hallum, CD1971 – 1978
Captain Richard Paul, CD1978 – 1984
Captain Tom Powell, CD1984 – 1988
Captain Marv Ferg, CD1988 – 1991
Captain Pat Mulhall, CD1991 – 1996
Major Steven Deschamps, CD1996 – 1999
Major Tim Alguire, CD1999 – 2003
Captain Tom Powell, CD2003 – 2007
Captain Ahdrion Peters2007 – 2010
Captain Abigail Holder2010 – 2013
Captain Trevor Welsh2013 – 2017
Captain Lisa Davies, CD2017 – 2019
Captain Angela Sargent2019 – 2022
Captain Barry Ferg2022 – Present

Our special thanks to Mr. Reid Whiting and Maj. Steven Deschamps  CD of 103 Thunderbird Squadron  for their contributions to this month’s feature presentation.

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