Skaarup, Aage C. Warrant Officer - RCAF & Canadian Forces

Warrant Officer (Retired) Aage Christensen Skaarup, RCAF, Canadian Forces

For my father, Warrant Officer (Retired) Aage Christensen Skaarup

An RCAF story

My father was a Leading Aircraft Man (LAC)serving at RCAF Station 3 (Fighter) Wing, Zweibrücken, Germany (1959-1963). He had been born in Denmark and came to Canada with his family in 1927, wherehe grew up speaking Danish and English. One day he was out on the airfield runway driving a mule towing an ordnance trailer for the RCAF Canadair CF-104 Starfighters getting ready for an exercise. He was on the radio with the control tower, when he heard the words "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday". A pilot with the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) flying a Republic F-84 Thunderjet was having an in flight emergency and was coming down hard and fast.  In fact, "right now!" would have been a better description.  Dad turned to look, and the fighter was definitely headed his way at a high rate of knots.  He put the pedal to the metal and got off the runway as the Thunderjet slid past him and skidded to a halt.  Dad hopped off the tractor, noted the Danish flag on the aircraft and when the pilot popped the hood, he looked up and asked him, "har du det godt? (Are you OK?).  The Danish pilot looked at Dad and said "Ja, hvor fanden er jeg?" (Yes, where the hell am I?)  They spoke in Danish while they waited for the crash trucks to arrive...It can be a very small world.

(Tojo Photo)

A Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) Republic F-84 Thunderjet.

Warrant Officer (Retired) Aage Christensen Skaarup, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1954 after a visit to the recruiting center in Saint John, New Brunswick. He had served with the Carleton and York Regiment as a band member and already had some “previous military service.” He went on to basic training at RCAF Station St Jean, Quebec.  This base is still in use by the Canadian Forces (CF), and I have taken courses there myself – not the first time that I followed in his footsteps in the military.  Dad was already a qualified machinist when he enlisted.  On completion of his basic training in 1955 he was awarded the rank of Leading Aircraftsman (LAC).  

After Dad completed his basic training he was posted to RCAF Station Borden, Ontario.  My Mother. Beatrice and my brother Dale and I then moved there from our farm home in Carleton County, New Brunswick.  We lived in the nearby town of Alliston before moving into Permanent Married Quarters (PMQs) at what is now Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, the first of many trips to the base.

In the summer of 1957 Dad was posted from Borden to RCAF Station Trenton (now CFB Trenton), Ontario.  We lived in a small home about 2 km East ofthe airfield on the Bay of Quinte side of the highway.  I well remember the many rows of yellow Canadian Car & Foundry-built Harvard trainers and a dozen or more Fairchild C-119Flying Boxcar transports on the ramp at the airfield.

North American Harvard Mk. II being refueled.  (RCAF Photo courtesy of the Canadian Aviation Preservation Association)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 32241050

North American Mustang Mk. IV, RCAF  Station Uplands, Ontario, 5 Aug 1952. Dad spoke of a number of incidents with Mustang landings at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584721)

Fairchild C-119F Flying Boxcar, (Serial No. 22102), 22 Sep 1952. I remember seeing a dozen of these aircraft lined up on the runway at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario from 1957 to 1959.

Dad was also a skilled musician with the violin and trumpet and played in the RCAF band for many parades and Remembrance Day ceremonies.  Both he and my mother who played accordion and piano, continued to perform their duets for various audiences long after his retirement.

Carleton & York band, Woodstock, NB, 1953.  Aage is one of the trumpeters.

In 1959, during a period that is even now referred to as the “RCAF Golden Years,” we were again posted, this time to 3 Fighter (F) Wing, Zweibrücken, Germany.  I can remember to this day our family taking a taxi from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montréal, Quebec on 10 June 1959, to Pier 42 on the St Lawrence River.  There, we boarded the Greek Lines passenger ship “Arkadia,” along with many other RCAF families making the same journey overseas. We shared fully in my father’s adventure and in the travels which came with his new job.

Arkadia postcard, 1959.

The ship’s passage across the North Atlantic to Europetook a week.  During the voyage, we tookpart in lifeboat drills, did some whale-watching, and on a foggy morning had our first sight of the coast of Ireland.

Lifeboat drill on the Arkadia, June 1959. You can see my brother Dale and I, and our mother Beatrice with striped blouse and lifejacket.

These experiences would be very familiar to many servicemen and women who had headed off to the wars in Europe, and for the war brides and survivors who made the return journey in the years that followed.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3616886)

This is a photo of relatives awaiting the arrival of Canadian service members from overseas aboard the troopship S.S. Ilede France, Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 1945.  I imagine many who are reading this remember coming home after being away somewhere over there. I know  I sure do.

Military families I have spoken with confirm they sailed “across the pond” on the passenger ships Arkadia, Atlantic, Carinthia, Empress of Canada, Empressof England, Empress of France, Empress of Scotland, Homeric, Italia, Ivernia, Oceanos, Samaria, Saxonia, Scythia, and Sylvania.

Many years later during my service in the CF, when it came time for my family and I to do the same rotation, only this time, we boarded a Boeing 707 jet. I’ve had several thousand flights since then, but I still remember that first trip across the Atlantic on the Arcadia.

The Canadian Forces operated the Boeing 707 with the designation CC-137 Husky (707-347C) from 1971 to 1997.

My wife Faye and son Jonathan boarding the Boeing707 at CFB Lahr, Germany, June 1983.

 As part of his job on base, Dad operated the mobile radar station which was set up in the middle of the runways at 3 (F) Wing, which meant he saw a lot of take-offs and landings for Canadair CL-13 Sabres, Avro CF-100 Canucks and Canadair CF-104 Starfighters as well as various aircraft operated by our NATO allies.  For four years we lived on the economy in Germany, with lots of camping and castle hunting and exploring much of Europe from Denmark to Spain.  We also lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, 16-29 Oct 1962 (it was the first time I saw Dad come home armed with a pistol), and the raising of the Berlin Wall when construction began on 13 August 1961 when I was a ten-year-old boy.  The wall stood until 9 November 1989, when I was serving in Germany with my own children a generation later.

Dad played the trumpet in the RCAF band, 3 (F) Wing, Zweibrücken, Germany, c1960. He travelled extensively with the band.

Dad in Paris.

I remember my father calling us to come over to the radio to listen to John Glenn’s flight into space on 20 Feb 1962.  We learned about the world through his RCAF service in a way that very few CF families will experience in our present time.  We also visited the RCAF Headquarters in Metz, and the RCAF Bases at 1 (F) Wing, Marville, and 2 (F) Wing, Grostenquin in France, and 4 (F) Wing, Baden-Soellingen in Germany.

My father’s younger brother Carl served with the Canadian Army in Soest, Northern Germany, and we visited his family who took uson a tour of the Mohne Dam, one of the targets during the war of the famous Lancaster “Dam Busters” bombers.  There were still many German towns undergoing reconstruction from bomb damage from the war.  The old bombed out palace in downtown Zweibrücken was a complete wreck.  It is now fully restored and used as a municipal government building.

RAF Photograph of the breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX, six Barrage balloons are above the dam

Operation Chastise, commonly known as the Dambusters Raid, was an attack on German dams carried out on the night of 16/17 May 1943 by 617 Squadron RAF Bomber Command, later called the Dam Busters ,using special "bouncing bombs" developed by Barnes Wallis. The Möhne and Edersee dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and of villages in the Eder valley; the Sorpe Dam sustained only minor damage. Two hydroelectric power stations were destroyed and several more damaged. Factories and mines were also damaged and destroyed. An estimated 1,600 civilians – about 600 Germans and 1,000 enslaved labourers, mainly Soviet – were killed by the flooding. Despite rapid repairs by the Germans, production did not return to normal until September. The RAF lost 53 aircrew killed and 3 captured, with 8 aircraft destroyed. (Hastings, Max. Operation Chastise: The RAF's Most Brilliant Attack of World War II. HarperCollins, New York, 2020)


(Aage Skaarup Photo)

This is my Mother Beatrice, my brother Dale and I, and our first view of the badly damaged Schloss (Palace) Zweibrücken in July1959.  The palace has since been restored.

(Thomas W. Jefferson Photo)

Schloss Zweibrücken, Germany, restored. I have visited this site quite a few times, the interior has a display of the restoration work.

            On the 19th of June 1963, we said goodbye to 3(F) Wing Zweibrücken, and took a military bus to 1 (F) Wing, Marville, France.  The next day we boarded an RCAF Canadair Yukon transport and flew back to Canada, landing in Trenton and staying in the Yukon Lodge, as have thousands of other Canadian service families.  From here, Dad was posted to Canada’s NORAD HQ in North Bay, Ontario, adding my brother Chris to the family while we were living there. North Bay is the counterpart to the NORAD HQ I worked in at Colorado Springs for four years from 1999 to 2003.  Again, I seemed to be following in his footsteps.

Canadair CC-106 Yukon, which we boarded on 20 June 1963 for the flight home.

From there, Dad was posted to Canada’s NORAD HQ in North Bay, Ontario where we went to live in the PMQs at Trout Lake.  North Bay is the counterpart to the HQ I worked in at Colorado Springs – again; I seemed to be following in his footsteps.  The summer of 1964 Dad took us to a swimming place on Lake Nippissing, often stopping to get us a hamburger at the Brazier Burger place he said was run by a famous hockey player.  Years later, I learned it was run by Tim Horton, long before he was famous for his donuts.  My brother Christopher joined us in September 1965.

Dad served three years with NORAD at RCAF Station North Bay, Ontario, and he was then posted in the summer of 1966 to RCAF Station Gypsumville, Manitoba.

CFS Gypsumville, Manitoba, sign 1968.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5033301)

Aerial view Pinetree Radar site, CFS Gypsumville, Manitoba. 25 Sept. 1963.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5039594)

CFS Gypsumville, Manitoba. Interior of the Radar Operations room, 21 May 1970.  My RCAF father was based at CFS Gypsumville from 1966 to 1968 - I attended school 32 km south at Moosehorn Collegiate, Manitoba.

On 1 Feb 1968, the RCAF along with the RCN and Canadian Army were renamed and Dad became a member of the Canadian Forces.  He worked at this radar site on the Pinetree Line until posted to CFS Gander, Newfoundland in the summer of 1968, where he served another three years.

 In the summer of 1971, he was posted to CFB Chatham, New Brunswick, where he completed his 20 years of service, retiring as a CF Warrant Officer. He was the bandmaster for the Base band while still in service.

Chatham town band, 1973.  Aage is in the middle row, third from the left.

Harold, Aage and Dale, CFB Chatham, New Brunswick, May 1973.

In the summer of 1971 he was posted to CFB Chatham, New Brunswick, where he completed his 20 years of service in 1974, retiring as a Warrant Officer in the Canadian Forces. At that time, my brother Dale was serving in the Canadian Navy and I was in the Militia in Halifax - this photo taken in the spring of 1973 is the only one I have of all three of us in uniform.

           Working for himself on his farm, he restored old bulldozers and tractors and for his 70th birthday, he built and learned to fly his own airplane, a two-seat, single-engine Challenger Ultra-light.  He sold his aircraft when he reached the age of 85 because the time he was spending in it was beginning to interfere with his time skiing at Crabbe Mountain.  Before his passing in 2011 he was still thinking of his proud service with the RCAF.

Chris, Hal, Beatrice, Dale and Aage Skaarup, 11 Nov 2007

Aage with his Bombardier.

Aerial photo of the farm, long before the new Trans Canada Highway was built through the middle of it.

Aage with the Challenger II ultra-light aircraft he built and flew himself.

The barn, once the tallest in New Brunswick, before Dad painted the mural on it.

Barn with the mural and the Challenger II.  The train is for Dale, the Skyhawk is for Hal, the world map is for Chris, the bicycle is for Beatrice, the skier, Viking ship symbol and aircraft is for Aage.

When an ice storm collapsed the roof on the barn Aage rebuilt and relaid the roof by himself using cables attached to his bulldozer on one side and to the tractor on the other side.  He then reconstructed what was left of the mural single-handed.

View of the farm from the air, taken by Dad from his aircraft.

Dad returned to the family farm near Lakeville, Carleton County, New Brunswick, where he raised cattle and farmed for many years, while keeping up his music skills playing the fiddle and trumpet.  He skied regularly at Crabbe Mountain, often joined by many of his family members.  He restored old bulldozers and a Bombardier snowmobile for pulo harvesting.  He built and learned to fly his own aircraft, and many people will recall seeing the mural he painted on the barn, now long gone due to an ice storm.  He was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion in Centreville, and played a very large number of last posts during his retirement years.

On Sunday, 17 June 2011, Aage Christensen Skaarup (1923- 2011), passed away peacefully in the Carleton Manor in Woodstock, New Brunswick.  His obituary noted he was born in Broager, Denmark on 11 November 1923.  Aage came to Canada as a boy with his family in 1926, and settled in New Denmark before he and his father Frederik, Mother Anne, brothers Fred, Harold and Carl moved to Charleston in 1938.  He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and later served with the Canadian Forces as a Warrant Officer, retiring after 23 years service in Canada and overseas. He retired to his farm in Charleston in 1974 where he continued to work until his recent bout of bone cancer. At the age of 70, he built his own airplane and learned to fly it, but let it go at the age of 85 because it was interfering with his skiing time at Crabbe Mountain.  He was a life-long musician, playing the violin and trumpet in dance bands and military bands all over Canada and Europe.  He was a member of the Centreville Legion, where he played many “Last Posts” for fallen comrades.  He was on the Board of Directors of the Florenceville Co-op and a member the Waterville Baptist Church.  The third of four brothers, Aage is survived by his wife of 60 years, Beatrice, their sons Harold, Dale and Chris and their families which include seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.  The funeral service was held in the Waterville Church at 2 PM on Tuesday 22 June 2011.  

Per Ardua ad Astra.