The brother from another Buckingham, Part 1

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Brother Hormisdas-Marie Gamelin with a pilot of the Buckingham Gliding Club near a Schweizer SGU 2-22 glider. Arthur Prévost, “À Buckingham, sous la direction d’un frère – Une école de pilotes de planeurs.” Le Petit Journal, 27 July 1958, 75.

Top of the morning to you, my reading friend. Yours truly hopes to have found a subject that you will find interesting, original and innovative in a July 1958 issue of the weekly Le Petit Journal of Montréal, Québec. Let us begin this story without further ado. Once upon a time ... Uh, yes, I admit that the formula is not original but the content below should be. May I continue now? Thank you. Once upon a time, say I, there lived a young Franco-American, an example among many others of the descendants of the multitude of Quebeckers who settled in the United States in the late 19th century to find work.

Born in April 1899, in Vermont, Hormisdas-Marie Gamelin made his novitiate in an establishment of the Frères de l’instruction chrétienne in Laprairie, Québec, around 1915. He made his perpetual profession in this congregation in 1921. Over the years, Gamelin continued his studies and obtained several diplomas: Life State Certificate from New York University (1923), Licence ès sciences in general chemistry from the Université de Montréal (1933), Licence ès sciences in applied chemistry from the Université de Montréal (1934), et Doctorat ès science from the Université de Montréal (1937). He then undertook research which was subsidized by the Office provincial des recherches scientifiques until around 1949. In parallel with this work, Gamelin published some articles, alone or with co-authors, and this in scientific magazines from Québec and elsewhere (United States and France). He also took part in some scientific congresses.

It should be noted that the work done by Gamelin in the late 1930s included the analysis of wood from trees in the Buckingham area of Québec and / or elsewhere in the province. He noted the amount of iron and manganese present and transmitted his data to an associate professor at the École des hautes études commerciales, in Montréal. Gérard Delorme published a book on this subject, based on his doctoral thesis, in 1939. You will remember, or not, my reading friend, that the use of vegetable matter to discover mineral deposits was mentioned in a July 2017 issue of our blog / newsletter / thingee. Delorme did not seriously consider such use of his work.

You seem perplexed, my reading friend. You probably hoped to read a text on aviation or space. Fear not, I’m getting there. Interested in aviation as soon as he arrived in Québec, around 1932-33, Gamelin founded the Club de vol à voile de Buckingham, or Buckingham Gliding Club, not far from Ottawa, Ontario, in 1948. This group may have been initially known under the name of Club Saint-Michel, or Saint Michael High School Gliding Club, after the name of the establishment where Gamelin taught. Anyway, the good brother remained president and instructor of the club at least until the mid 1960s. Over the decades, Gamelin made more than 3 400 flights in glider, in a cassock.

If the “flying brother,” or “flying cassock,” as Gamelin was often called, in French, during the 1950s and 1960s, wanted to give some students of the École supérieure Saint-Michel the chance to learn to fly a glider, he also hoped so make them understand the principles of physics surrounding the flight of an aircraft. Still lacking money or hands-on flight experience in 1948, Gamelin could only count on his determination and the support of various organizations in the region, including the Chevaliers de Colomb and the Gatineau Gliding Club. He encouraged many of his students to take an interest in the project and organized several activities to raise funds.

It should be noted that the president of the Gatineau Gliding Club seemed to be a certain Arthur Norman “Chem” Le Cheminant. This pillar of the Canadian Gliding Association bought a very much incomplete glider in late 1956, early 1957, with a friend, Richard “Dick” Noonan, a gliding pioneer in Canada who was then president of the association. The glider in question was the Czerwinski Shenstone Harbinger, a high-performance two-seat trainer designed in response to a competition launched in 1947 by the British Gliding Association. Le Cheminant completed the Harbinger in Ottawa and tested it for the first time in July 1975. Since the glider was not particularly pleasant to fly, Le Cheminant and Noonan handed it in 1978 to the National Aeronautical Collection, today’s Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa. The story of the Harbinger is fascinating to say the least and deserves to be told, but let us now return to our current story.

Having raised a certain amount of money, Gamelin bought a second hand American single-seat glider in the spring of 1948. Le Cheminant made a test flight in Québec in June. This Schweizer SGU 1-19 is today at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, New York, which is a shame for the presentation of the history of gliding in Canada / Québec. May I be permitted a wacky suggestion? A museum in Canada / Québec could consider the possibility of putting on display this glider, which, I believe, has been in storage for many years.

Also in 1948, or in 1949 at the latest, Gamelin obtained a glider pilot’s license and an instructor rating on this type of aircraft. A Buckingham phosphate producer, Electric Reduction Company of Canada Industries Limited, lent him land about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the small community and built 2 airstrips. Gamelin and some students erected a wooden shed on this airfield. All of the club’s aircraft eventually found their way there, including the war surplus de Havilland Tiger Moth elementary training airplane purchased to tow the gliders. And yes, my reading friend, the magnificent collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes a Tiger Moth or, more accurately, a Menasco Moth.

The training of the young pilots started in 1949 with the help of a second hand Schweizer SGU 2-22 2-seat glider. It took place at the military airfield in Pendleton, Ontario, closed after the end of the Second World War, courtesy of the Department of National Defence. Anxious not to turn away young people with little money, Gamelin initially asked only $ 10 for membership fees. Being the only instructor of the club, he could only train 4 or 5 people at a time. It should be noted that the SGU 2-22 mentioned above was the very first example of this highly successful and widely produced glider. Sold to the Montreal Soaring Council around 1963, this aircraft was later used by the Air Cadet League of Canada. It disappeared from the Canadian civil aircraft register in 1991, which is again a shame for the presentation of the history of gliding in Canada / Québec.

The Buckingham Gliding Club, apparently renamed in French Club Vol à voile Buckingham around 1952, had about 25 members at that time. One of them was only 14 years old. This teenager may well have been the youngest glider pilot in Canada at the time. Fascinated by flight, 7 members of the club were completing flying lessons on powered aircraft at Bradley Air Services Limited of Ottawa. Three of them subsequently undertook commercial pilot training. Gamelin was very proud of the success of the young men he trained.

Around 1953-54, a Montréal gliding club, the McGill Gliding Club, formed a partnership with the Buckingham Gliding Club and Joseph Eugène Marcel Jacques Codère of North Hatley, or Sherbrooke, Québec, to build 3 Fauvel AV-36s. Each member of the partnership built parts of the 3 gliders, as well as the spars of their own aircraft. The gliders manufactured in Buckingham and North Hatley / Sherbrooke flew for a while. Expelled from a workshop of aircraft maker Canadair Limited, in Cartierville, Québec, before it was completed, the AV-36 of the McGill Gliding Club was sold to 2 gliding enthusiasts. Stored in a barn during the winter of 1963-64, the glider was destroyed by children who had fun jumping on its structure.

Codère was a most interesting individual. He trained as a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the Second World War but arrived in Europe as the conflict ended. This businessman learned how to fly around 1947. He made his first parachute jump the following tear, seemingly without any instruction since the end of the Second World War. Codère eventually obtained an instructor rating for both powered airplanes and gliders. He was also a parachute instructor. Codère became the first private balloonist in Québec in 1976, when he began to fly the “Ballon vert” owned by Sherbrooke Trust Incorporé of Sherbrooke. This single seat hot air balloon was the second Cloud 69 made by Peter Owens. This Canadian ballooning pioneer built several hot air balloons during the 1970s.

If I may pontificate for a few moments, the AV-36 was among the gliders developed by Frenchman Charles Fauvel from the 1930s onward. It flew for the first time in 1950. Technically very successful, this tailless single-seater, or flying wing, was made in more than 100 examples, in factories or in homes of American, British, Canadian, French and West German homebuilders. One only needed to think of the Tenardee Gliding Club, a group of RCAF people stationed in Calgary, Alberta. It made 4 AV-36s in the 1950s, with the help of Norman “Norm” Bruce, the father of gliding in Western Canada.

The Buckingham Gliding Club may have completed a second AV-36 in the second half of the 1950s. This small group also built a few other gliders, including an SGU 2-22 and a Hall Cherokee, in the 1950s and 1960s. Of American design, the Cherokee was among the most manufactured single-seat gliders of its time. In that regard, the 2 Cherokees completed in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1958 are worth mentioning. They were apparently the first gliders completed in western Canada to receive Department of Transport flight permits.

It should be noted that a world-renowned federal agency, the National Film Board, produced a short documentary in 1950 that illustrated the activities of the Buckingham Gliding Club and the Gatineau Gliding Club. This film was the 23rd in the series Eye Witness.

Renamed Centre de formation aéronautique Gamelin in 1985, the club founded by Gamelin moved away from gliders and toward ultralights, a type of aircraft that was becoming increasingly popular. This flying school was dissolved in May 2015. Its airfield, located within the boundaries of the municipality of Ange-Gardien, gave way to a housing complex, the Domaine Vol-à-voile, around 2005. This name seems to have disappeared between this date and the middle of 2018. This being said (typed?), the Chemins Vol-à-voile, des Planeurs and Hormidas-Gamelin (Yes, Hormidas without an S apparently) still existed in 2018.

Would you be annoyed if I delayed until next week the presentation of the rest of this article, my oh so patient reading friend? No? Very good. See you later.

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Rénald Fortier