On October 29th, 2019 the National Air Force Museum of Canada (NAFMC) received a donation an extremely unique donation, a membership card from the famous Caterpillar Club
Jeremy Braithwaite, a Belleville resident, purchased a garbage truck from Loyalist college that had been used by the school during the 1980s, two years ago, and during a refurbishment found the membership card underneath a floor mat. The card itself bares the name S/Ldr J.E. Mahoney. After some lengthy research, Jeremy was able to determine the identity of airmen, and decided the best home for it would be the NAFMC. By chance the museum, already had over 200 items in the collection that belonged to Squadron L
eader John E. Mahoney (S/Ldr J.E. Mahoney). Born in Ontario, Mahoney enlisted in the RAF in 1937, and was then stationed in England, Egypt and Africa, he was shot down over Berlin in 1943, it was this incident that resulted in his membership to the Caterpillar Club. John spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war at Stalg Left III, before returning to Canada at the end of the war where he then enlisted in the RCAF.
The Caterpillar Club was first conceptualized 1922 by parachutist Leslie Irvin - founder of the Irving Air Parachute Company. The purpose of the club was to provide an exclusive organization for anyone who had had their lives saved by a parachute as a result of having to evacuate from a crashing aircraft. Anyone who jumped out of an aircraft willingly, parachutists for example, were not eligible for membership, only those who were forced to jump could become members. Once you were accepted into the club (which would need to be confirmed through official documents, such as accident reports), you would be sent a gold caterpillar pin with your name engraved on it. You would also receive a membership card and a certificate, both with your name on it. The Caterpillar Club has members from nearly 50 different countries.
The Caterpillar Club card will join the other items of S/Ldr (ret’d) Mahoney that already live in the collection at the NAFMC, including his diary from his time as a prisoner of war, his medal set, photo albums and flight logs. As well as the official certificate sent to S/Ldr (ret’d) Mahoney while he was a prisoner, addressed to Stalag Luft III, complete with the staple that attached the card to the certificate