Former Almonte High School students play leading roles in the Royal Canadian Air Force

by Don Dodds,
former student and teacher at Almonte and District High School

Almonte High School (AHS), as it was called in the period I am including in this paper, had many students who went on to leadership roles in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Many became very capable pilots to the Korean Conflict and the post-war era.

Almonte and surrounding townships played a major role in the development of these students to be leaders in the Canadian Air Force and NATO. There are definitely more AHS students whose Canadian Air Force contribution should be recorded. I would appreciate any information that people could forward to me (i.e. Alix Ironside from Pakenham, first female graduate of Royal Canadian Military College, Kingston). Students are listed in chronological order.

Austin John Samuel Timmins

Austin Timmins’ parents owned a farm in the former Pakenham Township of Mississippi Mills. Austin had two sisters both deceased and two brothers Bert and Kenneth, who both live in Mississippi Mills currently.

While attending AHS Austin played football for Coach Fleming, playing both offence and defense he was seldom off the football field. Austin graduated from AHS in 1948 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force where he was trained as a pilot.  He was assigned to the 426 Squadron and flew many flights in the Korean War; flying young American soldiers into the conflict zone and flying out many wounded American soldiers and nurses. Austin went on to lead Squadron 426 in the later years of his tenure with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Austin retired as a Colonel in 1985 and currently lives in Ottawa.

Borden Ross Campbell

R. Campbell as he was called, lived with his family in Carleton County and like many Carp area students travelled to AHS to complete his high school education. B. R. Campbell played football for Coach Fleming and was the quarterback of the football team. He graduated from Almonte High School in 1949 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1951.

R. Campbell, who set international standards in aerobatics, was considered as one of the best leaders in the RCAF. B. R. Campbell’s peers referred to him as the best ever to wear the light blue, which I believe meant more to him than any other award he received. Mr. Campbell had many postings in Europe before being posted to an office job in Ottawa.

Mr. Campbell confirmed the shocking decline in government support for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1970’s was a major disappointment for him. Imagine how disappointed he would be with how veterans are treated today by the government. During his tenure, he was assigned on four different occasions to active duty in Europe. With 5,000 hours in the air to his credit, Mr. Campbell retired in 1987 as Major General and Chief of Canadian Forces Personnel. Sadly B. R. Campbell passed away in 2009.

Robert W. Morton

Robert Morton was born in Almonte and was a distinguished academic during his tenure at Almonte High School.  Bobby, as he was referred to, upon graduation from AHS went to Canadian Services College in British Columbia for two years. He then transferred to Royal Canadian Military College in Kingston where he graduated with a BSc.

His leadership skills, highly recognized by Canada and NATO, highlighted his distinguished career with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Robert received many honours and was awarded an honourary doctorate from the Royal Military College for his help in establishing an aerospace program at the college. Robert became Deputy Commander of NORAD.

Robert retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force as Lieutenant General.

Sadly Robert W. Morton passed away in 2012.

LGEN (Canadian Forces) Robert W. Morton, deputy commander-in-chief, headquarters, North American Air Defense Command, and Mrs. Morton pose for a photograph with GEN Donald J. Kutyna, commander-in-chief, North American Air Defense Command/U.S. commander-in-chief, Space Command, during the Canada Day Garden Party, which the Mortons are hosting. The dignitaries are joined by two Royal Canadian mounties. (Library of Congress)
Robert Murray Ramsbottom

Murray Ramsbottom’s parents bought the Clayton store from John Erskine in 1950, operating it until 1955. Murray attended Almonte High School, boarding Bill Sutherland’s school bus which picked up all the Ramsay High School students west of hwy. 29.  While at AHS, Murray played on the school’s football, basketball, and volleyball teams as well as participated in track and field for rookie teacher/coach called D. A. Maynard, whose legacy speaks for itself.

Upon graduating from AHS, Murray attended the Royal Canadian Military College in Kingston, graduating in 1960 with a BSc. His work took him to all parts of Canada, England, Germany and other European countries. Murray retired as a Brigadier General in 1990 and resides in Victoria, British Columbia where he is very active on several boards advising on aerospace technology.

Summary

The students at AHS were a mix of rural and urban students that blended together perfectly in athletics and their academic studies to achieve outstanding results. The rural and small-town work ethic passed on to these students from their parents and Almonte High School allowed many of these students to become distinguished natives of Almonte and area by stressing that teamwork was a very important life skill.

I had the good fortune to know all of these distinguished men personally, Austin Timmins is a first cousin of my wife, Bordon Campbell lived in Almonte, and Bobby Morton and Murray Ramsbottom were my classmates at AHS.

During this time frame, Almonte High School had a student population of approximately 325 students as I recall.  Not too bad for a small-town high school.