Guelph Museums Military Lecture

The Royal Canadian Air Force at 100
A Material History Retrospective
with Mike Bechthold

The Royal Canadian Air Force at 100: A Material History Retrospective with Mike Bechthold

In 1968, the RCAF Flyers, winners of the 1948 Olympic Gold Medal for ice hockey, reunited for a charity game. Here, the vice chief of the defence staff, Lieutenant-General F.R. Sharpe speaks with four members of the team: Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert Brooks, Chief Warrant Officer Andy Gilpin, Sergeant Red Gravelle, and Captain Frank Boucher. The jersey worn by Gravelle in this photo is now in the collection of the National Air Force Museum.


The Royal Canadian Air Forces marks a centenary of service in 2024. We will examine the rich history of the air force through the lens of objects selected from the collections of some of the exceptional RCAF museums located across the country. Many of these items appear innocuous at first glance – a wooden spoon, baby booties, a plexiglass ring, and a battered old suitcase – but we will use these objects as a window into the remarkable history of the RCAF. That wooden spoon was carved by the “Savior of Ceylon” while he was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp; the baby booties belonged to one of Canada’s outstanding Battle of Britain pilots; the ring was a gift to a young woman who was on the “front lines” of Canada’s essential role training aircrew in the Second World War; and the suitcase tells the story of a Canadian fighter pilot who disappeared over North Africa, never to be found. Learn about these untold stories and much more.

The lecture premieres in-person at the Civic Museum, and online via the Guelph Museum’s Facebook livestream. The recorded conversation will be available on Facebook, YouTube, and the Museum Everywhere Portal after the event.

Full event details available on the Guelph Museums site HERE.


Mike Bechthold holds a PhD in History from the University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia and an MA & Honours BA from Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Mike is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles. His most recent monograph is Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017) and he is the co-author of a series of guidebooks about the Canadian battlefields of the Second World War. He specializes in the fields of military air power (especially tactical air operations in the First and Second World Wars), the Canadian army in Normandy and Northwest Europe, and the Canadian Corps in the Great War.

Mike was recently employed as a historian with the Royal Canadian Air Force History and Heritage section. He has taught history at Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, Conestoga College, and the Schulich School of Business at York University. For 22 years Mike worked as the Communications Director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and the Managing Editor of Canadian Military History, an academic quarterly journal. Mike is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the UK, a Fellow of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick, a Research Fellow at Nipissing University Centre for the Study of War, Atrocity, and Genocide, and he recently served as the Executive Director of the Juno Beach Centre Association.

April 18, 2024 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Guelph Civic Museum + Google Map View Venue Website

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The Guelph Museums Military Lecture series is presented in partnership with Guelph Museums.