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Albany RAF Committee presents photo compilation

Albany Royal Air Force Committee member Bob Drake, right, presented a memento to Bobby McKinney, interim president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Thursday in remembrance of the RAF's presence in Albany during World War II. From 1941-1943, more than 5,000 British cadets trained at two airfields in Albany as part of an effort dubbed "The Arnold Scheme."

Albany Royal Air Force Committee member Bob Drake, right, presented a memento to Bobby McKinney, interim president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Thursday in remembrance of the RAF's presence in Albany during World War II. From 1941-1943, more than 5,000 British cadets trained at two airfields in Albany as part of an effort dubbed "The Arnold Scheme."

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Arnold Scheme, a joint effort that brought morethan 5,000 cadets from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa to Albany during World War II for pilot training, now has more opportunities to be sure its role in history is not forgotten.

On Thursday, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau became recipients of a photo compilation from the Albany Royal Air Force Committee.

The memento includes photos of a memorabilia case at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport maintained by the committee, an oil painting entitled "High Flight Over Darr," an RAF memorial stone outside downtown Albany's Government Center and a picture from Crown Hill Cemetery, where seven RAF cadets who died during training in Albany are buried.

It also contains some background information on the Arnold Scheme, named for U.S. Army Air Force Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold.

Many RAF pilots had been lost in the Battle of Britain as well as in the strategic bombing of British cities by the German Luftwaffe, also known as "the blitz." The Arnold Scheme was devised to replace the pilots that had been lost during those engagements.

Training was conducted for cadets ages 18-25 from 1941-1943 at Darr Aero Tech, now the site of the airport, and Turner Field, the present location of MillerCoors Brewery and Turner Job Corps.

Bob Drake, a member of the RAF Committee, called this time period a unique one in Albany's history.

"We are here to publicize it and preserve it so it does not go away," he said. "This is a framed photo collection of many monuments in Albany that most don't know about."

Drake, a teenager at the time, was able to recall what it was like having the cadets in town.

"They were popular with the girls, and not so popular with the guys that were 18-25," he recalled. "Before the Pearl Harbor attack, the British cadets were not allowed to wear their uniforms in Albany (for fear of offending neutral sensibilities).

"On the day of the attack, the British presence was evident."

He went on to say that there were citizens in Albany who "fathered" the cadets and maintained contact with them even after the war. There have also been some descendants of the cadets who have come to Albany to see the monuments that have been erected in their honor.

The compilation is entitled "Reflection of Albany's Special Bond with Great Britain and the British Commonwealth." There is also a copy of it at Thronateeska Heritage Center, Drake said.

There were "Arnoldian" reunions conducted in 1991, 1996 and 2000.