Joined: Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:16 pm
Base visit August 2010 and the CF104 in Soellingen
Greetings 4 (F) Wingers!
I'm Terry Sowden, a base brat from 1966-70. Forty years to the month, I returned to visit what for many of us was a remarkable and unique time in our lives. It was a wonderful experience! I feared I had it left it too long and there'd be nothing left.
PMQs is still there, all looking substantially as remembered. Teen Town (er, called BYC in later years I gather) is gone, as are all the school buildings (except one late addition to the elementary complex). The area that once held BSS is looking decidedly non-Qsy, being almost completely built over now with custom built single-family homes (or the german version thereof). But the old blown-up bunker across the road from BSS is still there. Its a sand hill, mostly grassed over, but I was able to kick some sand away and expose the old concrete. By the way, this was the ONLY sign of WW2 I could find in the Rastatt/ Baden area...back in my day there were bunkers here and there, and still the occasional war damaged buildings.
For those of us who lived on 'the economy', Hugie and Rastatt etc all look satisfyingly familiar. The old hangouts (Grunnen Baum, Der Schwann etc) are all still there (less Der Sonne) and still serve up good beer..though this experience is now lacking somewhat in the thrill of underage drinking back then!
A lot of the old base is gone, particularly the buildings in the 'main' area we all had access to. But some remain. Enough so, that in places, at least to the eye of the faithful, you can almost believe you’ve gone back in time. It was really pleasing to look down Edmonton Avenue towards the main base road (Victoria Street). On the left, CFNS, the Liquor Store, the Laundromat and the other buildings are still there. The arena is just out of view off to the left at the foot of the street, and barracks blocks are still there all down the right side. The fact that after the base closed, the new Baden Flugpark folks repainted these buildings back to proper RCAF station white (from that ghastly green) really made it easy to time trip. Edmonton Ave formed a reference area from where I wandered off, and after the passing the Gym (still there, just where I left it), could remember where the pool was, the tennis courts, the cinema etc. Quite satisfying. A bonus on the base is that the Restricted Area now isn't, and I got to wander around in there, unlike the old days. In fact substantial sections of all three dispersal areas remain to walk around, even drive the car around (and pretend!). And again you can face in some directions and see nothing but the old base stuff. There are aircraft bunkers and hardstands, and in fact in South Dispersal there is a Museum devoted to the base. Which brings me to end of my memory-laning, and to the actual point of this posting to the board. But before I do, a last word to say what a thrill it was to be so fortunate to be there and watch a CAF Airbus transport, red maple leaf on the tail, land at the old base for refuelling! It was enroute to/from Afghanistan and a gent at the museum told me this a sort of regular occurrence.
When the base closed a CF104 was donated to the town of Soellingen. There it sits on a pedestal. It’s been up there 17 years and is looking in sad shape. Paint is really faded. It had a big hornets nest aft of the wing (too bad it wasn't a CF18 eh?) that made it a bit buzzy the day I was there. And the trees behind it are starting to grow up the plane's tailpipe. This is all regrettable of course, as is the likely lack of funds to maintain it. But what struck me was the aircraft is not where it should be.
Few visitors will see it in Soellingen. The future wasn't known when the base closed, so its placement can hardly be faulted. But now the future is here. There is the base museum, and surrounding it still exists the original setting for the plane’s operations. As mentioned, bunkers and hardstands remain in south dispersal where the museum is. For now. So the moment should be seized, and a dialogue opened with the museum people, airport authorities, and the town of Soellingen, to have the plane moved to OUTSIDE the museum on a hardstand just as it used to be.
You’d have to imagine care for it would have to be better. More people would see it. Folks from the town of Soellingen should be given free admission any time, by way of compensation for doing the right thing and relocating it to more appropriately honour the memory of the base. There is a 104 inside the museum, but its ex-Luftwaffe and not painted in military livery.
Hope some folks out there know who might be contacted and take the initiative to explore this idea.
And I hope all of you get the chance to let the base pull you back for a visit.
Per ardua ad astra.......Terry Sowden