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Our Community: Aviation museum monument honours B.C. pilot

A memorial dedicated to a Second World War pilot who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross — the only pilot from B.C. to receive the award — has been installed at the entrance to the B.C. Aviation Museum.
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Veteran Peter Chance, 100, left, and B.C. Aviation Museum liaison Russ Hudson show off the museum’s recently unveiled monument to Lt. Robert Hampton Gray, a B.C. pilot who posthumously received the Victoria Cross. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A memorial dedicated to a Second World War pilot who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross — the only pilot from B.C. to receive the award — has been installed at the entrance to the B.C. Aviation Museum.

Installation of the memorial honouring Lieut. Robert Hampton Gray, who was from the West Kootenay area, was to have been last August, but had been delayed due to pandemic restrictions.

“I think the memorial, which shows off cutting-edge photoengraving using laser etching, is beautiful,” said Terry Milne, the project’s manager. “It sets the tone and class for the museum.”

Gray, who was 27 when he died, was awarded the Victoria Cross for “great valour” in leading a successful attack on a Japanese destroyer in the closing days of the war.

According to a Department of National Defence website, on Aug. 9, 1945, Gray led eight Corsair fighters from HMS Formidable on a mission to bomb enemy shipping in Japan’s Onagawa Wan (Bay), with each aircraft carrying two 500-pound bombs.

As Gray began his attack, his fighter was hit by anti-aircraft fire, dislodging one of his bombs and igniting a fire. His aircraft in flames and under heavy fire from shore batteries and warships, Gray flew low to score a direct hit with his remaining bomb on the Japanese escort vessel Amakusa, which subsequently sank. “Instead of taking evasive action to avoid enemy fire, his aircraft then turned slowly to starboard, rolled onto its back and dived into the bay, leading to speculation that Gray may have been wounded during his run into the target,” the DND website says.

He was the last Canadian to receive the award.

A formal dedication ceremony is planned for later in the year when health restrictions preventing public gatherings are rescinded.

The original dedication date was to have been Aug. 9, 2020, to recognize the 75th anniversary of Gray’s last battle, and the subsequent end of the Second World War.

The B.C. Aviation Museum, located on the grounds of the Victoria International Airport, is run by the B.C. Aviation Museum Society. The society aims to collect and preserve aircraft and artifacts related to the history of aviation, with an emphasis on British Columbia. For more information, go to bcam.net.

Warmup campaign requires everything from hats to mittens

Clean out your closet and help make people warmer, healthier and happier during Cool Aid Casual Labour Pool’s Winter Coat Drive.

This is the 13th year of the annual event, which collects coats, jackets, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and sweaters for the needy.

The Casual Labour Pool provides businesses and homeowners with workers with a variety of skills for jobs ranging from moving to cleanup, painting and office help.

The Winter Coat Drive is meant to give some of Cool Aid’s clients much-needed warm clothing during the cold, windy and wet season.

Drop off donations at Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing shelter, 535 Ellice St. Call 250-383-1951, ext. 1, to book a time. For more information, call Wendy at 250-388-9296 or go to coolaid.org.

VIU launches crowdfunding platform

Vancouver Island University is hoping to reduce the impact of the pandemic on students with the launch of AIM Together, an initiative that assists supporters in creating fundraising campaigns for the university.

The AIM Together platform gives those interested in fundraising the tools to create a crowdfunding campaign, with guidelines on how to create a marketing and social-media plan to ensure a successful campaign.

One campaign is already running, with a goal of raising $400,000 for emergency bursaries to help students who are having difficulty getting set up for online classes. Approximately 80 per cent of VIU’s classes now take place online.

Since last March, the university has supported more than 1,300 students with emergency funds to ensure they can continue their studies without interruption.

The university is also launching a new fund that addresses the increased mental-health challenges students face amid the pandemic.

All donations of more than $20 made through the AIM platform are eligible for a charitable receipt.

Vancouver Island University, which started as Malaspina College in 1969, is a public university serving Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia.

For more information, go to giving.viu.ca.

City of Victoria offers tips on applying for neighbourhood funding

The City of Victoria is inviting people to connect online to help build strong, resilient neighbourhoods through Community Virtuals, a series of free lunch-and-learn sessions.

The next session planned is Engaging Your Neighbours, which gives residents tips on how to apply for funding for projects that improve neighbourhoods.

Hosted by the city’s My Great Neighbourhood division, the series is meant not only to inform, but to encourage people to make personal connections at a time when many are feeling isolated.

“We’re excited about hosting community online dialogues to connect people with their neighbours and to provide them with ideas and funding to bring creative, often playful projects to life at a time when they are very much needed,” said Kerri Moore, head of business and community relations for the city.

Other topics of online panels, which are held monthly, include the power of community art (Feb. 17), placemaking, and food in the city. No dates have been set for the latter two sessions.

Participation is free but registration is required. Engaging Your Neighbours runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 20. Register at eventbrite.ca and you will be emailed a link to the event. For more information, go to victoria.ca.