Nanaimo Airport salutes Collishaw and other veterans

1 November 2023

Nanaimo Airport Commission will again mark Remembrance Day with a traditional moment of silence at 11 a.m. on November 11.

The tribute honours the many Canadians who have served the country during times of conflict and peace. This includes all veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, our peacekeepers, the wartime Merchant Navy and Ferry Command, and the RCMP.

Among them is a Nanaimo-born hero whose name is synonymous with aviation in the region.

World War 1 pilot Air Vice Marshall Raymond Collishaw was born here on November 22, 1893. He became the second-highest scoring ace of the war while commanding three squadrons. He also served in World War II as commander of the Royal Air Force’s African squadron. A CBC documentary on Collishaw chronicles his impressive career.

Nanaimo Airport Commission posthumously honoured Collishaw’s heroism in 1999 when it renamed the airport Terminal Building after him. Permanent exhibits in the building recount his bravery. The local Royal Canadian Air Cadets also honoured him in the naming of its 205 Collishaw Squadron.

He passed away in 1976.

Collishaw commanded the all-Canadian Black Flight squadron in WWI. He and his Sopwith triplane, Black Maria, earned renown in courageous air duels. At war’s end he was flying bombing raids from France to Germany.

Collishaw stayed in the Royal Air Force after the war. He served in Russia and became an air vice marshall after his Second World War duties in Africa. He retired in 1943.

Collishaw’s bravery and leadership earned him numerous medals and commendations. They included the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Order with a bar. He also earned the Distinguished Flying cross.

Nanaimo Airport history shows a long record of support for the country’s air force and aviation sector. The airport started as a Royal Canadian Air Force glider pilot training facility and war-time emergency airfield in the early 1940s. Today it’s the site of the air cadet annual review, which puts a spotlight on the aviators of the future.