800 Black Forest (Air Cadet) Squadron - Air Cadet Summer Camp

 


Top row (left to right)
David Wentzell(B), S. Cherlet(L), Joe Thibault(B), D.A. McLennan (L)
W. Richer (L), Marc Smith(B), D. Goebel(L), D.L. Paus(L), D. Tromblay(B)

Middle row (left to right)
?(L), Robert Wetlaufer(B), Dave Smith(B), Tom Chester(B), Dwight Davies(B)
M. Bouffard(L), C. Soucy(L), Joe Wright(B), C.P. Fink(L), Bob Beardsley(B)

Bottom Row (left to right)

?(L), ?(L), Richard Skehen(B), B.D. Bouchard(L), Danny Drew(B), M.A. Young(B)
M. Hamilton(L), Kirk Drew(B), ?(L), McWilliams(L), G. Garner(L), Mcwilliams(L)
W.C. Dirkson(B)

 

Pictured here are members of the 800 Black Forest Squadron (Baden and Lahr detachments) who participated in the infamous "Great Escape" of 1972 at CFB Trenton Air Cadet Summer Camp.  Meticulous planning and timing on the part of its members, resulted in one of the most daring and largest mass escapes in air cadet history from CFB Trenton's "Stalag Tent City".  It was the first and only time that a complete Air Cadet squadron would successfully escape from the tight security facility.
The air cadets of 800 Black Forest Squadron endured day long "forced marches" in the stifling summer heat and suffered from "junk food deprivation".  Many of the air cadets had not tasted an A&W Teen Burger or a KFC drumstick for two or more years after being posted to Germany.  These Air Cadets were determined that they would get a taste of freedom and greasy food before their return home to CFB Baden and Lahr West Germany.

The day before their scheduled return to Germany, these air cadets devised an ingenious plan to breakout en masse.  It would be everyone or no one.  They organized themselves into smaller escape teams made up of three or four cadets each.  Each escape team was given its designated time and place when they would escape.  Prior to noon August 20th, 1972, an eerie silence fell over the camp.   The air cadets replaced their summer khaki uniforms for civilian clothes.   They remained in their tents nervously awaiting their appointed time of escape.   Cautiously one by one each escape team approached the outer fenced perimeter of the camp.  The eight foot high chain link fencing had an ominous and gleaming three strands of sharpened barbed wire atop it.  A few cadets would have their hands cut, but would not turn back.  Using t-shirts and applying pressure, the injured were treated and were on their way again.

The last escape team jumped the fence without being detected by the dreaded summer camp corporals.  All 800 Black Forest Squadron escape teams were now free and proceeding to their designated objectives: A&W, KFC and Dairy Queen.  The camp went on full alert when the air cadets did not show up for the lunch mess parade.  The whole squadron had escaped right under the corporals noses and were now loose on a  junk food frenzy in the helpless town of Trenton.  Many air cadets would gorge themselves to the point of sickness.  After the last group had been captured, they were paraded in front of the camp establishment and received a severe reprimand and punishment - they would have to sweep clean every tent in the camp and "police" the grounds for trash.

I don't think that those air cadets minded their punishment one bit.  They had achieved what they set out to accomplish.  They had been bonded by a common purpose, and would become one of the finest Canadian Air Cadet Squadrons.  From that day onward members of 800 Black Forest Squadron attending summer camp at CFB Trenton would be given the privilege of having a Dairy Queen ice cream treat before their return to Germany.

Written by:  Joe E. Thibault (800 Black Forest Squadron member 1971-74)

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