The pieces of a major new memorial in honour of Second World War pilots are coming together.
But a project official said he feels let down by the lack of any funding offered by the federal and provincial governments so far.
"Very, very disappointed. Extremely disappointed," memorial project chairperson Archie Londry said, adding those to be honoured by the memorial are worthy of support. "They sacrificed their lives for our freedom."
The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum’s Memorial Project Committee is building the monument.
It’s a tribute to all members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Canadians who served in any Commonwealth air force, who died during the Second World War.
It will also honour members of the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force who lost their lives in or near Canada during the war.
The 300-foot-long black granite wall to be put in place at the museum grounds in Brandon will be inscribed with 19,286 names.
An eight-and-a-half-foot bronze statue of an airman in a flight suit, a parachute slung over his shoulder, will overlook the wall.
The memorial is designed so that the names can be easily read from a wheelchair.
Londry delivered an update for the project on Tuesday and said that, despite flooding at the site, it’s still on track for its Sept. 10 unveiling. That date marks the anniversary of when Canada declared war on Germany during the Second World War.
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston and Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee are among the dignitaries invited to that ceremony.
Plans include a fly-by of Second World War training aircraft, including some that are based at the museum.
Meanwhile, the memorial’s various parts are being prepared for assembly.
The concrete foundation has been poured and already gives an idea of the memorial’s length.
"It’s unbelievable when you see it, how impressive it is," Londry said.
The 56 granite panels that make up the wall are already engraved with the names and ready to be put in place.
The bronze statue is about to be cast, pending approval from a committee member.
Londry said the memorial will be the only one of its kind in Canada. Those who see it will likely compare it to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The project is estimated to cost $1.25 million, although Londry said it may come in slightly under budget.
The committee has collected more than $440,000 so far, mostly from local sources such as businesses and individuals.
The City of Brandon has supplied gifts in-kind towards the project. That includes free surveying and help with securing the required building permits.
Among the local contributors is the Brandon Area Community Foundation, which supplied $10,000.
The committee is now working to secure larger contributions from corporations.
It was hoped that the provincial and federal governments would each chip in a third of the cost, Londry said. But so far, neither government has cut a cheque.
Information packages were sent to each member of Parliament a number of months ago.
Londry said that on Friday, the committee was advised that $25,000 is available through Veterans Affairs Canada — just in time to make the application deadline.
Similar information packages were sent to Manitoba, although Londry says the effort to secure provincial funding has just begun and an application hasn’t been made to any particular department.
Londry said that an unidentified source is willing to offer a million-dollar, no-interest, forgivable loan if needed to ensure the memorial will be completed and the cost covered.
But that’s only a safeguard measure and it’s hoped that the memorial can be paid for through donors and government funding instead.
Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire said he has met with memorial organizers and would back their application to federal programs.
While it may not be as much money as they’d like, besides Veterans Affairs funds, some money may also be available through Canadian Heritage.
"It’s a great commemoration for the 19,000 airmen that died in the Second World War, and a lot of them were trained in this region," Maguire said, adding the memorial would help draw tourists to Brandon. "It is a really great project."
Brandon East MLA Drew Caldwell said there has never been a provincial fund or program for war memorials. However, he said he’s working to create one that might be used to help this project as fundraising is expected to continue for some time.
"I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to provide something, but there is no fund right now. I’m working to try and establish a fund," Caldwell said.
Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday.
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