3 November 2008

The Forgotten Air War: The O’Neil Story - Thursday, November 6th, 7 pm at the NBM

 

Pilot Officer Art O'NeilA fascinating story of a forgotten air war will be presented this Thursday, November 6th, 7 pm at the New Brunswick Museum. Gary Hughes, NBM Curator of New Brunswick History, will share the story of Art O'Neil, a native of Saint John, who flew Beaufighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force from bases in North Africa and Italy during World War II. Free with regular museum admission.

Art O’Neil (1918-1998) enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and did his flight training in Oshawa, Ontario, receiving his pilot’s wings in late February, 1942. He shipped overseas in March, joining the Royal Air Force and began flying Beaufighters that spring, occasionally seeing action in France and Belgium. Posted to North Africa in early 1943, he flew missions from Mersa Metruth, Egypt to occupied Sicily and Italy, bombing oil tanks and ships. In July, 1944 O’Neil was transferred to Foggia, Italy where most of his operations were directed against German installations and rail targets in Yugoslavia, Albania and northern Greece.

“The better known air campaign in north-west Europe tends to obscure the Mediterranean and Balkan theatres,” states Gary Hughes, “but Art O’Neil and the thousands of Allied airmen who survived these missions would claim that their efforts were just as vital to the overall war effort.”

Material recently donated by Art O’Neil’s family documenting his wartime experience will be featured in a small accompanying exhibition Pilot Officer Art O'Neil: Flying Beaufighters in Forgotten Campaigns. Highlights include stunning action photographs from the cockpit during operations over Yugoslavia in 1944-45; a silk escape map for downed pilots; O’Neil’s helmet, identification bracelet and medals.

Of special significance is the combat photograph from the cockpit of a rocket strike on King Zog’s palace, Tirana, Albania, November 15, 1944. The King was in exile and the palace occupied by German forces.

Come discover this little known part of the European Theatre of Action during World War II.

Pilot Officer Art O'Neil: Flying Beaufighters in Forgotten Campaigns will be on exhibition at the NBM’s Exhibition Centre, Market Square, Saint John until January 4, 2009.

For more information: 1 888 268 9595

For further information:
Vita Kipping
NBM Community Relations
506 643 2358  
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