Family connection plays a part in 401 Squadron centennial painting


Mark Stevens, left, and Capt Scott Stevens unveil the 100th anniversary commemorative painting created for 401 Squadron.
Photo: Cpl Manuela Berger, Wing Imaging

Jeff Gaye

401 Squadron’s past and present are linked by family connections, some of them almost uncanny. So it was fitting that a special painting to commemorate the squadron’s centennial was painted by Mark Stevens, father of Capt Scott “Flanders” Stevens, a United States Marine Corps exchange officer currently serving with 401.

According to 401 Squadron Commanding Officer LCol Forrest Rock, it was difficult to find a Canadian aviation artist who could deliver a painting in time for this year’s centennial celebrations. Capt Stevens suggested asking his dad, a former F-15 pilot, to accept the commission.

The result is a beautiful depiction of three historic 401 Squadron aircraft: a Sopwith Dolphin from 1918, a World War II Spitfire, and of course a CF-18 Hornet.

The Dolphin is shown on the ground, with ground crew strapping the pilot in and starting the engine. The artist said this is a tribute to the squadron’s technicians through history.

The Spitfire and the Hornet are depicted in flight, and the clouds form the shape of a ram, the squadron emblem.

Mark had offered to do the painting shortly after Capt Stevens was posted to 401 Squadron. LCol Rock was impressed with the offer and with Mark’s ability.

“Flanders showed me some of the sketches and the ideas that they had come up with, and I loved them,” he said.

“A lot of people in the squadron have some kind of family connection,” he said. “Capt [Patrick] Shaver’s great grand-uncle was our first-ever CO. Mike Reyno, editor of Skies magazine who was here a couple weeks ago had a second cousin fly with 401 in the Battle of Britain. And now we’ve got an exchange officer with the squadron whose father created the 100th-anniversary painting for the squadron.”

Mark Stevens was on hand for the unveiling on Wednesday. He said it felt great to be in the hangar among fighter jets and squadron personnel. “It’s a wonderful environment to be in. I really enjoy this,” he said.

He acknowledged his experience flying the F-15 in the United States is not identical to RCAF culture, but he said there are similarities.
“Truthfully it the same thing,” he said. “It’s the mission, it’s the inspiration. We all speak the same language regardless of what uniform we wear.”