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Moosemen remember 'a born leader'

Freedom of the City a 21st-century version of Roman custom
July 9, 2016 1:32 P.M.
Lt.-Col. Mike Grover requests Freedom of the City from Mayor Peter Milobar.

Moose Squadron history came knocking again at City Hall Saturday in a military honour with ancient Roman origins that has a lot to do with the leadership of an officer who grew up in the neighbourhood.

A Freedom of the City ceremony, parade and fly past midday Saturday were part of 419 “Moose” Squadron 75th anniversary events running through the weekend.

History, including memories of Second World War Wing Commander John “Moose” Fulton — the squadron's first leader — was inscribed in traditions replayed though the generations since the city adopted the squadron in 1942.

Many of the spectators assembled in front of City Hall for the ceremony had family and military ties to the squadron, some more direct than others.

John Higham, who journeyed from Guelph, Ont., for the anniversary, served under Fulton for six months after joining 409 Squadron. He’s “probably the only surviving member of 419 who new Mr. Fulton.

“He was a born leader, really,” Higham said. “We all had a great deal of respect for John Fulton.”

Bob O'Callaghan drove on short notice from south of Calgary to attend the ceremony. His father was a tailgunner on Fulton's bomber crew in August 1942 when they were shot down over Germany. It was Fulton's last mission, having survived a remarkable 50 sorties. Since then, squadron members proudly refer to themselves as Moosemen.

"For some reason or other, Dad didn't fly that night," O'Callaghan said. "Sometimes they'd just sit one out to gather their thoughts."

The ceremony ran a little late in order to co-ordinate the parade — assembled military veterans, Rocky Mountain Rangers, 409 Squadron, RCMP and cadets  — and the CT-155 Hawk fly past. 

After they assembled at attention in front of City Hall, Lt.-Col. Mike “Moose” Grover, 409 commanding officer, marched up the steps to City Hall and RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller answered the door. Grover asked Mueller if he could see the mayor and, lo and behold, the mayor soon appeared, granting Freedom of the City to the regiment.

In Roman times, military groups were granted the honour, allowing to march with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed. This, of course, was designed to reassure the populace.  

After the ceremony, the parade marched up Victoria Street to the Kamloops Legion.

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