by Peter C. Conrad
Before the Second World War began, Jim Kirk had completed his Business Administration certificate in Winnipeg, worked in the Hudson’s Bay Company in retail before transferring to the Fur Trade Department. Jim was serving in trading post along the west coast of British Columbia and in the north, supplying the Americans who were surveying a route from Edmonton to Fairbanks, Alaska. He spent a lot of time flying and enjoyed it when the war was declared. He began his training in 1942 in the WET-P, Wartime Emergence Training Program, or better known as the WET-Pea. With his classroom training complete he was transferred to Edmonton for Initial Training School. Like those he had trained with, uniforms had to be found as there was a shortage at the time, and none of them had winter clothes. Jim transferred to Virden, Manitoba to continue with his elementary flying training, where his instructor, an American crop duster shepherd him through to his Solo Certificate, which was designed on base by an artist from Disney studios. Jim Kirk transferred to Souris, Manitoba to complete his training at the Service Flying Training School.
Jim Kirk was granted his wings with a grade over 85%, which meant he would be retained as a test pilot and then an instructor at a Bombing and Gunnery school. Jim recounts stories of hilarious flights, and rumours that sent a large contingent of personnel to Montreal for transfer overseas, to return a week later reporting that it was just a rumour.
I was born in East Keldona, which was a suburb of Winnipeg. I grew up in that area and went to school there. I took Business Administration in college. I went into the Hudson’s Bay Company Retail Department at Winnipeg. From there I transferred to the Fur Trade Department. I was interested in the North and the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Trade. I had taken that in history classes in school. They transferred me to the Yukon and I worked there for three years up there, principally in the fur buying are. After war was declared in September of 1939 the Americans were interested in getting a supply route to Alaska in the event that the Pacific coast through from Seattle north. The north maybe in danger from submarine so they did survey work from Edmonton to Fairbanks, Alaska. Our trading posts were along parts of the route so we did a lot of supplying of fuel for the air survey craft and other supplies. I was interested in flying. I did quite a bit of it when I was in the north. The first time I was out, in Edmonton I applied to the Air Force there to enlist. They had quite a backlist of personal. Because of the bad weather flying had been held up. I was placed on a waiting list that lasted about a year. I continued working with the company. But they knew I would be called up for the Air Force. So they put me on relief work. I was the assistant manager at Hazelton BC, then relief manager near Prince Rupert. Then I got my call from the Air Force. I went to Prince Rupert to join up. I was then transferred to Vancouver and I took a refresher course—a catch-up course on high school because I had been out of school for more than five years so the Air Force required aircrew to have this refresher course. I took that at Vancouver. There was a flight of about thirty of us in the same category. The Air Force still didn’t have uniforms for us for the three and half months we were at that ‘school, although we were attached to the Air Force; attached to Jericho Beach we were still in civilian clothes. Then we were transferred to Edmonton where we continued out training at the University of Alberta. At that time we were issued with uniforms.
It was the winter of 1942. I have photographs of a lot of these things that I can show you after. This is the way we were in our civilian clothes. Later on we were put into our uniforms. We were called the “awkward squad”. We were all in winter clothes then. Later when we graduated from the University of Alberta. This is out side of Pemina University building. We were still in winter uniforms although it was spring. That was our graduating day. From there we went on to fly at Elementary school.
That was at Verden, Manitoba. It was a civilian operated school, because the Air Force still didn’t have enough personnel to operate a lot of airfields yet, and they did have a lot of airfields built. So they contracted to flying clubs throughout the country that were already in existence. Many of the personnel, the instructors were from the United States. There were a few instructors that were civilian instructors from the States. One of our instructors that designed our solo card was from Disney Studios in Hollywood. My instructor was called Dusty Macdonald. He was a crop duster in California. I learned quite a lot of crop dusting methods of flying low and right over haystacks in Manitoba. From there we went to an Air Force Service School at Souris, Manitoba. Number seventeen, SFTS Souris, Manitoba where we took our flying on Ansons. They were twin-engine Anson aircraft. From there we graduated and some of us were kept back at flying instructors, and went on to instructor school.
That Instructor School was at Vulcan for a short while. Ten the school was moved to Pearce just near Macloud. From there we went on staff connected with the Commonwealth Training Plan. I had been on test flying for a short while out of Calgary. I got a call to go to Paulson, Manitoba. Number seven Bombing and Gunnery School. There they had apparently lost a pilot or two in a mid-air collision. So they had to replace some of their flying crew. So I was given locker number thirteen, which had been the locker of the pilot that had been killed. I Was assigned to fly Lysanders. They were a large single engine army co-op planes, but they were there on the gunnery range for towing target drogues. These drogues were about fifteen feet long, and were made of parachute silk. This is a sample of the silk on my logbook that was off and used drogue. It was a heavy material. The drogues were pulled behind the aircraft at the end of a thousand foot long cable. The Gunnery ships would fly along the side of the drogue as if they were attacking it. They had the gunner turret on the aircraft, which was a Bolingbrook aircraft. The students would take turns firing machine guns from the turret at the drogue. They would use coloured bullets. Each student was assigned a certain colour and when he was finished firing his three hundred rounds, then the other student would take over and fire his three hundred rounds, which would be a different colour. When they had completed firing their quota of rounds at the drogue, they would wave off and return to base and I had a drogue operator and he operated the electric winch. He had devices for knocking the drogue off the end of the end of the line and flying a new drogue. We had a drop area out on the far side of the field. The drogue fell to the ground. The drogue hut on the ground would collect the drogues and take them in and would count the numbers of wholes of the different coloured bullets that went through. That was how they worked out the scores for each student. So by the time the students got into their area for debriefing, they would have already have their score.
I stayed on drogue towing for a few months. Then I was transferred over to bombing flight. There we were flying day bombing crews in Anson aircrafts, Mark ones. Some of the aircraft, including one that I flew were brought back from England. They had been used in the battle of Dunkirk. They normally carried a crew of seven. We were told that they had as many as fourteen men in the aircraft carrying them out from Dunkirk during the evacuation. They were British built aircraft. They were about three hundred horsepower engines; two-engine. They had to be cranked by the mechanic to get started. The wheels had to be wound up by hand. We usually had one of the student bomb aimers sit in the co-pilot seat and give him the job of winding up the wheels, which took something like two-hundred and fifty seven turns on the crank to get them up and again for going down.
We had three bombing targets in the out-laying areas beyond Dauphin Lake. Each student was assigned six practice bombs to drop. Some were assigned to do low flying — low level bombing. Others were on high level bombing. We received our instructions from the bomb school instructors, which students were on low-level bombing and which were on high-level bombing so we would know where to fly. Then we would report into the ground when we were coming into the target area. We reported if we were coming in high or low, because there were two bombing simultaneously, pretty well. So we had to be in torch with each other to know when we wanted to be over the target. Especially for the low-level fellow was going in we would have to make a dummy run if he was a little late coming in.
There were two observers for every target area: up in the tower. They were approximately a mile apart and they sighting devices. They could read off the reading from the different devices to phone into the station of where each bomb fell in relation to each target. In daytime they used smoke bombs. They gave off a smoke. At nighttime they had a flash bomb that gave off a bright flash when they hit the ground. The two readings were reported to the station they were drawn out on a map. There were two lies and where the bomb actually hit. This was in relation to where the target was. Again, by the time we got back to the station and the pilots were back to their debriefing room they already knew what their scores were on each of their six bombs.
After a few months of doing the day bombing I was transferred over to the night-bombing crew. On the station we had a training flight and all the staff pilots had to reach in a training flight to up-grade their flying abilities. To make sure they were not getting sloppy in their flying. I had to spend about a week changes over to the night-flying routine. The accession of targets at night the procedure for bombing were very much the same as daytime. A little more caution was required. Most of the time we couldn’t see the other aircraft. All the targets were dim lights on the ground. That is all we had to zero in on. We would have fourteen seconds for what they called a bombing run. At that time the students wee given the attitude they were flying at, the direction we were flying, the wind direction and the speed at the closest we were able to tell. For this purpose we fired what were called fairy pistols out the window in the daytime. It fired a smoke off. The observer on the ground would use his bomb-locating transit to take a reading on the smoke as it was drifting and he could pretty well tell wind direction and speed. There he would radio that back to us. At nighttime we had to just go by the latest reports that were general for the area, but not specific for any target area. So the night time things were usually not as consistent as the day-time, but most of the time night winds were much more calm than the day-time. We had the same procedure for the bomb aimers; when we got near the target or area, he had to crawl in through the forward hatch, which was between the pilot and co-pilot seat. The peddles for the co-pilot were retracted with all the gear on. Even with the bomb aimer in his flying suit. Especially in the wintertime; these aircraft were not heated so with these flying suits on, they had to crawl through into the nose. They had a long nose built forward. That was the bomb-aimer compartment.
They lay on a mattress that was rolled forward. The bombsight was a very simple device on the March Seven. The British bombsight had just two sticks at right angles: one forward, parallels to the aircraft floor and one the centre line of the aircraft and a vertical. There were adjustment knobs on them. One for adjusting the speed they were travelling at. The other was for adjusting for the height up-and-down. Then the wind direction and speed would be set on it to off-set as though we were crabbing into the wind to fly a straight line to the target.
Like I said we had fourteen seconds to be ready. As soon as we thought the aircraft was lined up on the target we would tell the bomb aimer he had control. From then on he gave instruction for corrections he wanted for the target area. He would keep the target in sight falling along his bombsight. If it veered off his bombsight at all he would give a correction to the left or to the right. Then the pilot would give him the correction he required. When he was ready he pressed the pair switch, which would release the bomb. They were one and a half pound practice bombs. He would then callout “bomb-gone”. Once he said that the pilot would say, “I have control.” Then take the aircraft away from the target area. He was to follow the bomb: watch it if it was daytime. At night time you just have to wait. He would report when he saw the smoke puff in daytime or the flash at night so that we knew that the board had been dropped. Sometime they couldn’t see it or loose sight of it. So we were not sure if the bomb had gone or not. We gad to be sure that it’s the case. We just might have a hand up: the bomb never dropped out of the bomb rack. So we sometimes on our way back fly over the lake so we could do a couple of manoeuvres to try and shake off what might still be hanging there.
We had one aircraft that did land and on the landing he bounced a little bit and knocked off one bomb that was hung-up. It blew the bottom out of the aircraft. Didn’t kill anybody, but blew shrapnel all through the aircraft and peppered one of the students that were sitting in the back, but not perilously.
We had testing command that would go from general headquarters in Ottawa and go through all the staff pilots throughout Canada. They did this on a year-round basis: testing all the staff personnel for flying. They were quite a crew. There were about two or three aircraft of them when they would move in on an aircraft. They would stay about a week testing all the staff pilots on each station. So they had a crew that tried to get through as many of them as possible at a time. At the time I was in charge of flying operations. So the Wing Commander who was in charge of testing for the RCAF told me that he would test me and other personnel would teat the rest of my crew. It just happens that we were flying Anson I’s like I told you before, from out of Dunkirk. The Wing Commander said he hadn’t flown in a Mark I from co-pilot seat. He asked me if I would allow him to try a take off. I told him, “be my guest.” He did a real good take off. We didn’t bother to crank up the wheels or anything. He flew around a couple of circuits, and then he gave me control and had me flyaway from the airport and fly back again. He said that will be enough. We went back in and sat down. The rest of the crew were out for hours. Going through everything possible, from night emergency forced landings, single engines procedures and the whole bit by all the rest of the staff whole were all real keen types. While the senior flying instructor and I just set in the office chatting. So that was the easiest test I ever had.
Anyway, he wrote in my logbook, “High average staff; first class in all respects. E. T. McLain, Wing Commander.” I was quite tickled about that. I wasn’t normally allowed to sign my .own logbook, but that last or before I finished, I signed my own log. Most of my flying was called flying a disk. It was mostly night weather checks. I would check the weather before deciding whether it was suitable for flying at all target areas. I would go up for an hour or better with one or two maybe a head officer or a mechanic or anybody who wanted to go for the ride. We checked out the target. If the weather was all okay, I radioed back to the station dispatcher and tell him to get the crew ready for flight for target area number one. Then I would check out number two and three. If they were all okay I would have them all in. Sometime there would only be maybe one or two targets areas we had okay for night flying. Back at the office I had to look after not only my own bombing crew, but also the whole station operation. I was in charge of the control tower, the motor transit pool, transport pool, and mess, hospital, the gate, and I would have to sign passes or if anybody was trying to get out the gate without a pass that I hadn’t signed. They would phone to check. I had my own office. Diving the day time, the station of about two thousand was run by the administrative staff and the head officers. But at night time all operations moved over to the night bombing hanger. I operated the station from my office that was no longer than this room, with just the help of the one other person in the office, the dispatcher and the firemen.
As a matter of fact, when they started closing down stations, around, they closed one or two Bombing and Gunnery Schools in Saskatchewan some of their personnel were moved onto our station. They started going through early discharges with our personnel, but in the meantime when we got the order to suspend our actual instructions, there wasn’t any more students coming through. What they were doing then was bringing flight crews back from overseas and putting them somewhere to a wait until they could get their discharges because discharge centre was becoming over crowded. So they would put some of these crews onto our stations for re-training. It wasn’t the simplest job when they had flown probably thousands more hours than we had. But, you know their flying would get a little sloppy. Especially were some of those who hadn’t been on night flying overseas. We had to try and put them through all the proper procedures called … needle-ball and wind-speed.” They were not interested. They just wanted to get out and get back on Civvies Street. It was a thankless job. Our mess was getting more crowded every week pretty well. I was living off the station, so it didn’t matter to me that much, but my wife lived in Dauphin. Anyways, I went to the Commanding Officer one day in the mess and said I don’t feel I a contributing anything move to the war effort and the Hudson’s Bay Company has been after me to see if I would be going back north with the. I said I think that if I could get out of the service I would be glad to go. Although I was flying until March the flying for students had ended in January. I got my discharge in March. I was out of the service. Here is the certificate.
When we were re-training these crews that were coming back from overseas, the pilots from the night bombing group that had been flying over Europe were sent to our stations for refresher work. They weren’t bothering with anything like dress parades, wearing their uniforms properly or cleaning buttons or wearing their hats properly. The discipline officers on our stations had to try to get smartened up again and get their buttons polished and hats proper. We had to get them flying by the book again. A lot of them had just gotten out of the rut. I was just a thankless job all around. Nobody was interested in learning. They just wanted to get out on Civvies street.
When I would be up, sometimes flying as co-pilot and getting them do the exercises they would say, “to hell with this, let’s go and see if we can knock up a hay stack or something or rather.” Evan if it was night time. We had quite a job trying to keep a lot of them in the routine.
We had done a lot of work in our night flying. We had done some test flying for what was then Trans Canada Airlines, because those days they didn’t fly passengers at night on Trans Canada Airlines. We brought in what they called the ILS: Instrument Landing System. It was where by we could take off from one airfield with special aircraft that had proper instruments and radio equipment. They were Mark IV Ansons with American engines that were Canadian built. They were able to fly with the equipment on board, were able to take off blind from our field and fly up to a beam and follow the beam to another airport and come in and land blind. We would never see the ground from the time we got into the aircraft until the time we got out.
There were no lights; couldn’t see them if there were. We were supposed to be able to land. In actual practice we were not supposed to land blind within fifty feet. We were supposed to bring it within fifty feet of the ground. Then have visual contact. If you didn’t have it then you were not supposed to land. To prove the system out we actually would take off and land totally blind. Never see the runway lights. Never see the runway, even. Just do it all by instruments, radio sound. We had the pilot’s compartment all shielded in with blinds over the windshield so you couldn’t see out. You were closed on both sides as well. On the co-pilots side was the safety pilot he sat there watching all his instruments, which were duplicates of the pilots instruments. If anything didn’t look right he would just callout that he had control and he would take over. Sometime you would wonder when you were coming in the land weather he had gone to sleep or something. You would visualize seeing power lines, bob- wire fences and everything in front of you, but as long as the singles were coming in on the radio; different types of signals would indicate how far away from the running you were, how high up you were and different beeps and tones in the radio would tell you that and you jut brought it down until you were running along the ground.
Of course today they have all the different types of instruments that do it all automatically. You could follow the instruments. In fact, now they got it so the planes land themselves. These aircrafts, these Ansons, were so good that we could land them actually without touching the control column at all. We had on the side of the seat, a small wheel for making fine adjustments to the trim tabs on the ailerons and the rudder. We could actually land the plane and we did it quite often, without touching the control column at all. We just would land, sitting back in the seat there. But that was usually done in the daytime when we could see, the runway. But they were real good aircraft. They were very stable. They were easy aircraft to fly. They were called younger brother of the Lancaster, the bomber that was the four-engine plane. It was the same company that built them both. I really liked them. Of course, I learned to fly in them.
So that was the Mark I, Mark II, and Mark IV. The Mark V was quite a different thing from the old flying green house that the Mark I was called. It had round portholes instead of the square windows inside the other had.
Well we were transferred over to the Service Flying School from Elementary Flying School we were flying Tiger Moths to these giant aircraft with fifty-foot wingspan they just looked and asked how we were supposed to get that thing off the ground? They just about take them selves off the ground. I found them much easier flying than the old Tiger Moth. With the Tiger Moth you had to fl them the whole time. But the Ansons you could fly the hands off all the time. That was the Mark V. They had the round windows in the side. This was the Mark IV in the photograph. It was the one we used on the instrument system. This whole group here, except myself in the middle was all RAF. There was the RAF student. You see this was the Commonwealth Training Programme and the students did not only come from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, but also from England. We had numbers of RAF chaps. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to want to get along too well with the Canadian.
They were all aircrew, LACs. But they just seem to feel that they were coming out to the colonies. Canada was out in the colonies. They didn’t see why they had to leave England to come out to Canada to be trained. Of course there was another thing to it families were all back there getting as well, their poundings in the bombing raids of England in the war. And they were out
Here in Canada, safe and well fed and all that. They were all anxious to get back in there. They were quite impatient to get on with it. There wasn’t too much in the way of social activities for them. They didn’t know anybody, like, if we got a forty-eight hour pass and you could maybe head to one of the towns or cities and you usually knew somebody or that. Most of them had no friends or relations in Canada.
We did a lot of other trainees with Harvards. They were good aircraft for instrument flying. They were very responsive. Some like the Tiger Moth you had to fly them. They were what they called a hot ship. When we were working toward our graduation in the Service Flying School, word got around that if you had over eighty-five per cent in your total marks, flying and ground work, that you would get your commission and be kept back as a flying instructor. A lot of the fellas, especially the RAF chaps said, well, they would try and fail out and get low marks so that they could get overseas right away. We never did know what mark were our results. Our whole report was only four lines and it just would say, average this and above average. My highest mark was in bombing in Service school. So maybe that was why I was picked out to go to a bombing school as an instructor. These chaps were all RAF. This fellow here in this photograph was a policeman in England and his home got bombed while he was out on duty as a policeman. He quite the police force and the next day he joined up in the RAF. He said, “What do they do? Send me out here to Canada. My wife and kids are back there.”
So they were kind of impatient. This is a picture from two thousand feet in the air looking down on Souris, Manitoba. That was a typical training station with double runways. You get the general direction. Usually there were five or six hangers, and all the barrack blocks behind. Our old flying gear was what they called a teddy bear suit. They changed over later to a type of suit, which was a two-piece suit.
That’s the Bolingbrook—the Canadian name for the Bolingbrook was the Bristol Blenheim IV. That is what used in gunnery, with the turret on top with the twin-barrel gun. They used to fire on the drogue. This is the Lysander that we flew. That is a picture taken of me, number seven. It was taken from the bow; through his front window when he was coming in to take a run on the drogue.
I had him take a picture. They were a funny aircraft; they used them in army cooperation. They could land in short distances. They were the original short landing and take off aircraft. A Stall is what we used to call them.
The Commonwealth Training Plan was a well-organized programme. Canada was ideal for most of the training facilities. The winter sometimes caught up. It slowed things up. We did have aircraft on skies in the wintertime. The Cessna Crane was another of the training aircraft. Some of the stations had the Ansons and others had the Cranes. They were much more delicate aircraft to land. They were what they called a hot ship. You had to fly them all the time. I flew all of those at different times.
I guess they were the Australians and New Zealanders were more fun more like the Canadians. Of course they were considered to be from the colonies as well. So between the Canadians and the Aussies and the New Zealanders the RAF chaps got left out a little bit. The only trouble was that the Aussies were such enthusiastic bunch that when there wasn’t anything to do, or flying was shut down for any period they always seemed to get into trouble. End up in fights in the barrack blocks. They would turn on the fire hoses or run up, maybe WDs step-in up the Commanding Officers flag post. They were always a thorn in the side of the administration crew.
The New Zealanders were more like the Canadians. For some reason, I don’t know why, the Aussies were really harum-scarum bunch. They were always getting out on weekends. They are some awful stories of them getting a later from the fire department and putting down on the back fence and climbing up the wall and getting over the fence. There was a ten-foot fence around the barracks area. They would scale that and jump down. The last fellow would pull the ladder over for when they got back at two 0’ clock in the morning. Then they would go through the barrack blocks and waking up everybody up and ask them if they were sleeping. They were a real bunch. As a matter of fact the Commanding Officer had to wire Ottawa and ask if he could disperse the Aussies to other stations. Thin them out a little bit because the concentration was a little too thick on one station. In the wintertime they were excused from duties. They felt the cold so much that they were allowed to stay in their barracks well the rest of them were out marching in the snow. So they would be tying knots in the sheets in everybody’s bunks and harum-scarum tricks.
Of course we didn’t have much to do with the Americans being in the Commonwealth Training Plan. But, some of them did join us. They came into their force after they went into the war. Then they were allowed to put on RCAF uniforms. We had quite a few American chaps that were flying. There were a few that went through raining with us. They came in as civilians. There are two are three in this photograph that came from California. Some of these chaps still live up in Courtney, B.C., and this chap lives down at Nanamo. There were a few around here. This chap down here on the end, he was our math and algebra instructor.
This is a picture I cut out of the paper here in 1978. It is the same chap. He was ninety-eight in 1978. He is now one hundred and five years old in 1987. We always called him the old man then. Being in our twenties he was retired then. How much older he is now. He is Jt Kitsalano schoolteacher. This is the Kitsalano newspaper sent. That was our high school up- grading; which was a terrific course. It was just the bones of each grade. We went through four grades in just a little over three and a half months. We took the exam on each grade and then moved on to the next. They weeded some out along the way of course. This was when we finished up. This is all our instructors here, Physics, math, and so on. It was good training. I guess it was one of the training programs that were ever devised: the Commonwealth Training Programme. Put through thousands of not only pilots but all the other aircrew trades, bombers, gunners, wireless operators. There was a picture I had here of my aircraft with a prairie chicken painted on the wing of the thing while it was parked on the runway. I did make a landing one time and hit a sea gull and feathers went all over the aircraft. What a ness. There was no damage or anything. It startled me a little and I bounced a little but landed. This chap here was my brother-in- law and he was graduating the same school.
He did wireless work, bombing, gunnery and wireless. He was in a Halifax aircraft over Germany and they got shot down. He parachuted. I don’t know how many thousands feet. He did a free fall before he opened his chute and the chute just about cut him in two. He had a severe hernia. He was captured and put in an internment camp for the duration of the war. The first Americans that got into Germany released him. He is back home. He is now living up near Kamloops, B.C. He has lost his hearing and still has hernia problems from the parachute.
A part of our training programme was this here little auxiliary field out at Heartily, Manitoba. It was a satellite station of Souris. The graduating pilots in their last couple of weeks before graduating were to take over this field as part of our officer training to run the station. We had to run the whole station. We had to run the whole station with two or three of us would take a morning and two or three of us would take an afternoon. You had to do the whole business of organizing the flying programmes, the crew, etc.
All aircrew were given officer training. At Souris we were given training. We all graduated as sergeants. But had to work up to that. But all of us graduated as sergeants. This same week I received a letter saying I had been commissioned as a pilot officer. There were a number others. Some graduated as sergeants and a month later they were made flight sergeants. Then worked up to warrant officers. Some stayed there. Others eventually got their commissions too. But we all did the basic officer training. Then we were at the Instructor School we were already junior officers.
I was made assistant to our sports officer. We had an officer whose job it was to organize sport for the whole station. As I say, we had two thousand odd personnel on the station. So there were numerous activities in the sports field. On top of that as assistant officer for sport I was put in charge of the swimming team. I organized what we called Work and Bricks: the group that did all the construction work around, top build a raft down at Dauphin Lake which was I think about five miles from the station. With a diving board and all that.
I conducted swimming lessons out at Dauphin Lake. They asked through the station for volunteers to come out and form a swimming team. This chap here was my co-pilot; he was a New Zealander.
He was a sergeant; a flight sergeant. That’s me there in the photograph. The women’s team: she was a nursing officer and a couple of the girls were from administration. This girl here, the one in the back, she’s in white, she was from Powell River across the water from Comox, BC She won the Command Championship for diving. They were the awards for the whole Command. What we did was enter our team in swimming races held at Lake Winnipeg. You probably know Gimili, Manitoba. They used Gimili as the centre for running off the Command swimming races. We got a lot of the top awards. They had one or two other RAF stations by that time. The RAF took over a few stations. You probably knew some of them north of Calgary. They had two or three along. They entered some of them as well. I swam in the mile race at Gimili. I came in second. I was beaten by an RAF chap in that race. We had a men’s swim team and a women’s swim team and also the diving. My main part was in swimming, on the station. We didn’t have an indoor pool on the station in the wintertime. Hockey was the …
The Bombing and Gunnery schools didn’t have a swimming pool. We had a lake and we went to the lake all the time. You would bicycle to the lake…
Vulcan was bad for water. They had to truck it in nine miles. The sergeant’s quarters caught fire one night and one of the trucks took the corner too fast coming off the highway into the gate and upset right in the gate. We were fighting a fire with a twenty-minute water reserve.
A few of us went into hospital with smoke inhalation. Some mattresses were burning. They got it out. It was a hazardous thing. But we did have a pool at Verden. It was the old tradition that after you went solo, you got thrown into the pool. I can’t think of any of the other stations that had pools.
That was all. It was all service personnel. Our place was quite a way out of Dauphin. Number Ten Service Flying Training School at Dauphin was the other side of Dauphin. We used to do inter-changes as far as flying was concerned, but I cannot recall inter-change in sports, other than the hockey team. We used to have hockey matches.
There was Inter station hockey. They would go around Command. The team was allowed to go and stay over night. I don’t know if you ever heard of Garth Bush. After the war he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was my roommate for a while. After games he would drop his pack down and got a few hours sleep and be ready for flying the next morning. He would be excused early for flying to go.
The only Air Training Stations hockey team that I seem to recall on a big scale like that was at Pearce, Alberta. That station seemed to have a team in the circuit that was quite up in the championship. It was for the Command. The Alberta western Command, but in the training for the trainees, they didn’t get into it was for when were more on staff. Then they had the time for that. When they were trainees, your time was so limited. Your course might be duration of only three months or so. You have to work at it all the time. I think the most sports we had was the obstacle course. We always had indoor drill exercises. They were painful things; cold cement floors and just a pair of shorts on, lying on the floor doing back push-ups and chin push-ups and that on the floor. Few cared for it.
Usually so dusty too, when you would get fifty to a hundred people all running on the spot you are getting a cloud of dust after a while. Physical conditioning of course was quite a high priority. That was about all I recall the trainees getting in the way of recreation.
When they were on staff, they would be able to go down and play a lot of volleyball. I guess that was about the only other sport we did. We could do that on our own time, in the evening. That was always a job; the instructors were always there and have the hall for their use.
The only baseball game I ever recall was a real comical one. We had a touring group around called the Chicago Chicks. They were reported to be a women’s baseball team. They were challenging the baseball teams of all the different stations. They got a staff team together and had a few practice games. The Chicago Chicks arrived in their twin-engine beach craft aircraft and they were brought out the baseball grounds; to the edge of the field. They were all dressed up like crazy. It was hilarious. They were actually men all dressed up in disguise. They had false bosoms. Some of them had bare feet. I remember the picture of one. She had a long dress on. She had a string attached to her toe and bare feet. Every time she would wind up, she would wiggle her big toe and it was attached to a false breast and the breast would go up and down every time she wiggled her big toe.
Every once in a while they would substitute an orange for a ball. They would throw the ball and one of our guys would get it right across the plate and you couldn’t miss a swing at it and smash there was orange juice or egg all over the place. Somebody on first base was called Gert called for time out and fell on the ground. They called out, “Is there a doctor in the house!” The Medical Officer came running out to see. They had them all crowding around like a big bunch. They called for an ambulance. It came and backed up to first plate. Then they had a doll there.
They acted a delivery room scene on first base. The Doc holds up the doll by its felt and gave it a pat on the back. Placed the first base player on the stretcher. They entered the ambulance. I don’t remember what the score was. That was the only baseball game I ever saw.
I lived off Base, so I didn’t take part in a lot of the activities after hours. Being on night flying, the later pat of my time, I came the station at six o’clock in the evening. I would start work right away. Twelve 0’ clock midnight and six in the morning the air force bus that too all to town. So I didn’t spend much time on the station except for flying.
We had bands at just about every station. We would hear them practicing at the time. Every Friday, because thee where students in training weather we were staff or not we had to have Commanding Officer dress parade. The band was always out for that parade. The students were marched to their classrooms with some parts of the band. They would not have the whole band. Parts of the band would march them from the mess hall to the marching practice.
I can’t recall any dances on the bases. There were in the community. They would be invited to come down for a dance at whatever town or city was nearby. The air force would have it on the bulletin board and bases would be at the gate ready to go into town. We had a bad session over one of the dances. One of our officers was court martial. He got drinking at one of the dances and refused to go home. He was picked up staggering around on the street with one of the women from the station: a WD The police arrested him and brought him back home. He was placed under house arrest. We had to take turns guarding in his room. Sit with him for about a week until he was court martial. He and the girl were both dishonourable discharged. They did the whole ceremony around him: took him out on the parade square. The Commanding Officer cut the buttons off his uniform. She waited at the gate until he came out. They both took off. That was the only experience I had like that. That was kind of rough. I had to sit with the guy you know. We had to take turns. I had to sit a morning or an afternoon. Another guy took the lead. Somebody had to sit with him twenty-four hours a day. If you weren’t an officer, you would be put in the brig. Officers were placed under house arrest. But, that would apply regardless if it happened in the Training Plan or any other station.
The community relations were very good. We were always invited out to various different things their like their church services. My wife was staying in town. In town a lady would take her down shopping in Dauphin and out to a lady tea or something like that. Some time when I was off duty they would take us both to social functions that were going on. We had good relations just about everywhere that I was based.
They had Hostess Clubs, I not sure if they were on every night or just weekends. The chaps in the huts would attend those things instead of the officers. The officers had more private functions on. They would be invited to homes with their four officers and their wives.
In Verden, Manitoba, in front of Town Hall, my wife and me rented a car to tour the town. I’m not sure if this picture is of right down town in Verden. This is another cat. This is one of the chaps I was training with. None of us had cars or could afford cars. A lot of us didn’t even know how to drive.
On Christmas leaves everybody given enough time to get home, except those who were too far away. Like Aussies They were quite often taken into homes nearby. Or maybe some of the fellows they were with would take them home to their home or ended up on the station where they weren’t given as much of a feeling of it being a Christmas. Like the officers waited on the tables for all the airmen. They were split in two. One group of officers would be off at Christmas and one off at New Years. Those who were off would serve Christmas dinner. The other group would serve New Years dinner. There was always a great spread put on; the whole fare of Christmas Turkey with all the trimmings. It was as much as could do to try and make the fellows feel as bit of the Christmas spirit.
I guess most of the Canadian chaps were mostly able to get home. I was just about always able to get home whether I was in Alberta I was able to get home for Christmas. My wife’s home was out on the coast here. So when I was in Edmonton I could come out to his place. It was just about eight hundred miles, whichever way you went from Edmonton.
The RAF, New Zealanders and Aussies that would go to the YMCA, because they wouldn’t have anywhere to go on their leaves particularly; so they would be invited to go somewhere on their leaves: to a farm home. Of course the majority of the bases were in farming areas on the prairies.
I understand that some of the fellows in Works and Bricks used to go back in the evenings and make carpentry things making toys and stuff like that; either to give away or for their own families. There was one chap that was into photography. He used to belong to the photographic section. He would do a lot of experimental work on his own. He had a thing on his own. Before Christmas he would go around to the various barrack blocks and see if anyone wanted studio pictures taken. He would arrange schedules for them to go over to the place to have their photographs taken. Usually it was done just the way the photography shops would do it. You would get one large shot, seven by nine and four or five wallet sized pictures. I know I did that one-year. I had a picture taken, one for my wife and one to send home. I forgot what the charge was. Five dollars? He would do the pictures like real studios. I still have it. One is upstairs. It was black and white, but they were good quality pictures. He made himself a bit on the side I guess. He had to buy the paper and all that. But, he had to use of the facility. They allowed him to use the equipment, but he had to buy the developing chemicals.
There were station newspapers. I was editor of this one, The Sea View Observer. This was another edition of it. I think this issue was noting the first arrival of t first women at our school. They were going to take a stenographic course, learning typing and all that. That is the Sea View. This was done on a volunteer basis after hours and on weekends.
The Sea View was in Vancouver, at Gerrico Beach. It was a civilian group that ran that station. It was called the Sea View Kitsalano, Gerrico. It wasn’t an air force school. They were just contracted to do the instructing for the air force. They were all civilian instructors. Another one of what they called the WET-P program: the War Emergency Training Programme; a part of the War Emergency Plan. It was the emergency training to bring a lot of these up to a standard. A few of the guys were from the States. There were some of the chaps. They all had their grade twelve before they could come into the class to start with. They all had been out of school for more than three or four years. So it was necessary to go back and have a refresher, just to bring them up to scratch before they went on to the University of Alberta for the Initial Training School. There was one of the bands.
This is the one and only issue of the magazine. It was completed at the end when they closed down training. As much as possible it was sent to all the students that had gone through. I don’t know what you would call it, but it was a … It was there for only two years, 1942 and 1943.
We ran them off. There was no change or anything. We just made a copy for each student and each member of the staff and a few more for the Officers in charge of Gerrico. We had one discipline marshal that gave us marching drills and did physical training. He was the only are in a uniform. He was a corporal. He came from Gerrico; he came up three days a week, I think. He would give us marks for training. We were called the awkward squad. It didn’t matter how well you did the marching drill and all that, it looked terrible in civvies. You had to be in uniform to make it look smart. At the University was where all the weeding went on. The aircrew was grouped down into all the various categories.
At the Initial Training School, those who were going to be pilots they concentrated on instrument orientation. All the aircrew had stiff medicals. We had air-pressure chambers in there.
We had many hours of medical work, with lots of doctors there doing specific test: eye tests, heavy tests, heat tests, all that. Those who were washing out, maybe because their vision is what needed for a pilot would go to become a wireless operator or navigator, or something. So they would then concentrate more on their area. Navigators would concentrate more on trigonometry, geometry and map reading. Gunnery or aimers would concentrate on their group. They would then be sent to Bomber schools, Gunner schools or navigator schools. Two or three little notes I made here made me think about it when I said navigator schools, was that the air force contracted out to the Canadian Pacific Airlines to operate navigator schools. I don’t know if you were aware of that. Brandon, Manitoba was one of them. So then they derived staff pilots, I guess mostly staff pilots who were volunteers that left the RCAF and go and fly for Canadian Pacific. Then they were paid as civilians. They weren’t in air force uniforms any longer. They had no more claim on the RCAF. A friend of mine did that. Of course the wages they were paying were big wages compared to the air force. But, of course you have to find you own living accommodations and you had to pay for your meals.
This one friend of mine he was down in Nanaimo now, he was flying for Canadian Pacific out of Toronto. He came in one night from night navigation and did a crash landing. He broke his back. He was let go by Canadian Pacific. He tried to get a pension from the air force. They said you volunteered to leave the air force and fly for Canadian Pacific and it’s between you and Canadian Pacific. He was still fighting it when I met up with him years after the war. I have some papers; notes about Canadian Pacific working on contract and the volunteering of RCAF personnel were transferred to Canadian Pacific. They had these civilian flying schools I already talked about. They had civilian instructors. Some of them were Americans. They were at the flying school like Verden, Manitoba. That’s where I took my flying in Tiger Moths. The Verden School Company or something operated that school; they were privately run. This is my solo card that was issued to us at Verden. One of our instructors made it, a chap I was telling you about, he worked at Disney studios. He drew. When we had civilian refresher course teachers and school such as this one at Kitsilano. Outside of Canadian Pacific, I covered others.
We all kept putting in applications to go overseas, but we were always being told they had enough going overseas; until they could get more instructors to take our places they couldn’t let us go. A few stations were trying to get more instructors for the Air Training Plan as they took over the various civilian-run schools. They needed more air force personnel.
The Christmas before this war ended the Commanding Officer in charge of the Training Division had a tour of all the staff on stations for Christmas. It was a quick flying tour of the stations. Some would do more in a day. He arrived at our station late in the day, so he stayed the night at our station. We were talking with him in the mess in the evening. He let it slip that some of us were going to volunteering to go into the Pacific Command, on Transport Command. We asked him what that would entail. He said you might have heard of the famous Berma Run or the Berma Hump. We would be flying Dakotas.
Things came to an end kind of fast. At the end of January, only a month after we had been there it started winding down the Air Training Program. Then after that the Hudson’s Bay Company was after me to go north. When we started doing this retraining program these fellows were training from overseas. Things got kind of uninteresting. There was little enthusiasm on both sides. I told the Commanding Officer that I ready to go back north to the fur trade where I could do something more useful. A week later, he said if you’re ready you could go. I was twenty-four hours in Discharge Centre. There were some that were down there in Discharge Centre for over a month and were waiting to get processed. I was in one night. They told me to pack my bag and take a period of a week or so. I stayed one night.
There were movies regularly. They had a movie theatre. I think that is where most of LACs and WDs spent most of their evenings, in the theatre. There was one just about night. But, there were also a lot of other programs that went on. There were various training programs. When they had chances for up grading, there was an education officer and the staff. They would conduct classes for any that were interested. Some of the women that hadn’t completed this education wanted to take shorthand, typing and that. They had it so they could do that for the fellas, the same. If they wanted to up-grade their education, those on general duties; one thing I would say to those who were considering going into the air force that weren’t qualified for aircrew, you may as well go into the army.
The ground crew as they were called, or general Joes were low jobs. At an air force station, if you weren’t in the flying end of it. There was little promotion and little insensitive. Their jobs were really the lowest. I always felt sorry for a lot of our men on the line even those that were more qualified and came out to start our aircraft for us. He would be out there in thirty, forty below weather. He would have to swing that crank standing behind the engine, winding that crank and the motor fired up. Then the blast from the propeller comes. You have to walk with your back to it and crawl under the aircraft to the other engine, crank that one, then get out by the tail.
We did have one bad accident. One fellow slipped and got his head cut off by the propeller. He was behind the propeller between the aircraft and the engine; right by the leading edge of the wing. The crank is in there. He is about three feet behind the propeller. He is cranking a large crank. It builds up compression to get the motor turning faster and faster. As he is winding it builds up more speed. When it gets to a certain speed that you can tell by the sound of it. Then you fire the switch, the pilot fires the switch. Fourteen-cylinder radial engines with three hundred horse power. British built. Later on we got the American Jacob engines and they had the electric starter.
All the cheetah engines were cranked. Hand wind in under carriage; that was the Mark I. The Mark II came out they had some cheetah engines and some Jacob engines. Then we got up to the Mark IV. They were all built in Canada by that time Avro Canada were building Avros Lancasters. They were bringing American Jacob engines. Then they had metal propellers. Before that they al had wooden propellers. If anybody cracked up, one of the jobs he was given to carry one of those propellers all the way around the aerodrome. You could see him pack this huge nine-foot propeller around on his shoulders. There he would be.
We had a touring band come through one time from Ottawa. They put on a concert for two stations, Dauphin and Paulson jointly. It was great. They played popular music, did rather comical stuff. I can remember them up on a stage built in the big Rec. hall. This particular piece will have the chimes in it. Just as he said that the fellow somehow a rather kicked them off the back of the stage and they were all out a bunch of pipes and they clanged downed onto the cement floor. Of course everyone was laughing. But, they did play a lot of beautiful pieces. A lot of solos that travelled with the Central band from Ottawa and they travelled across the country and played to all the station putting on concerts. We had quite a few visiting heroes from the battle of Britain. Most of them were fighter pilots. They would come on stage and give a pep talk; something like that. There were other touring dignitaries corning along, doing little tours of the stations.
I was the assistant sports officer. But the NCOs and Discipline Officers and the fellas who ran the physical training actually organized all the various things. We just worked with them. We would have meetings with them. Mostly to see what they required. If they needed or wanted an area set aside to do different types of activities. I am trying to think if they had a rink. I don’t recall any station actually having a hockey rink. I can’t recall that I think they had a rink available for skating in the nearest town. Most of them were out door rinks. We maybe had some just the same just the same way: they shovelled some snow off and flooded it with water. I just don’t recall off hand that.
Most of the Red Cross huts had some library facilities. They had mostly recreation. The Red Cross hut or the YMCA huts had room so you could go there and write letters. Usually they had some background music. You could have discussions or you could go there and meet one of the WDs. Sit and talk with them. You weren’t allowed into the WDs area of the station or around their guard blocks, but you could meet them at the YMCA or Red Cross Hut. The Chaplain officers also conducted other things. He organized things for fellas on weekend leaves, which helped fellas from overseas. He would arrange for private families from cities or towns around to take one, two, there fellas in for the weekend. Or they would arrange for them to go to a church bazaar or church concert or something like that. When I was in early train or course I was not living off station then, I can remember going to quite a few of these concerts in down town in Edmonton or out in the suburbs of Edmonton. They would be some cars to pick us up, maybe a half dozen or something. They would take us to some concert they were putting on.
Personally in our part of it learning aircrew, we spent every hour we could boning up on subject that we had. In the barrack blocks, a couple dozen or so of us would get together around one-book and answer questions. We did a lot of what they call air rec. cards. They were silhouettes of aircrafts with punting on them. They were like a playing card. We would show them to each other and we had to identify them. The name was on the back. So we would hold it up and the guy called it. We would tell him if he was right. We did a lot of exercises called camera something. It flashed numbers on a screen, called boxcar numbers. The would flash maybe seven numbers on a screen in a twenty-fifth of a second you would have to right than down. You add to get a high score on the numbers. They would gradually change the numbers with aircraft or a ships or in just something. They were all flashed on the screen a blink of the eye; like a twenty-fifth of a second. After you’ve worked on them for a week or ten days, you got increased to a fiftieth of a second. They would see how many of the numbers you would get. So we would practice this with the cards in the evening. Flash then like this and see how many you could identify. We would take turns back and forth. These would be four five of us. We were serious in learning because in a very short time we had a lot to learn.
So there wasn’t much recreation out side of the absolute requirements of the marching and the physical exercises. We did do for a lot of it. Even if we had a weekend pass, we might go downtown during the day, but a night in the barracks blocks, slugging over the books. We would be looking at what would be doing in the following week.
The church parade was voluntary except when it was commanded by the station church parade called periodically, not regularly. They were on a regular basis, but there would be one every three weeks that was the Commanding Officer’s church parade. Everyone had to go. Or if you were not on duty, you some pass from your NCO, on some one in charge saying why you were off, or out of the parade. But, other times the chaplain had other services. I here would be different denominations and services at different hours so that everyone could go to their own church services. They had a chapel as well. Some wanted to go to church before they went to work there was a small chapel for them to go to. I have a photograph there of the chapel and the staff. I worked on the chaplain staff for a while at Edmonton. It was the chaplain staff that put out other newspaper for the station there. I did typing and that, so I volunteered to go on that and work on the newspaper staff. It was quite handy.
We were given time off to go down town in Edmonton and get advertising for only newspaper. We would go into the various offices down town Edmonton to collect advertising to pay for the thing. That went along for a while very good. Until one day when we received word from Ottawa that we were not to solicit advertising anymore. Thought that they should support it. So we had to stop advertising. That was all under the chaplain’s office. I enjoyed that. We could get various little passes. The chaplain could get us little passes. The chaplain could get one or two of us pass to drive to some function. To write up to put in the newspaper, but it worked quite well. It was in addition to all our regular training.
I had a batman at our station that I was living on, when my wife was away teaching for a while for. I stayed on the station in the officer’s quarter’s I had a batman assigned. It was the most embarrassing to have him polish my buttons and polish my shoes. I never had somebody do that for me before. I told him that.
He asked me, “Why didn’t you leave your uniform out last night and you shoes?”
I asked “Why?”
“He said I am supposed to polish the buttons and polish the shoes.”
I said, “I could do that.”
He said, “Oh, you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to leave that for me.”
So I had to leave them or he would come and ask why they weren’t there. That was a bit of an embarrassment. He was an elderly chap. He had the job and that was that. It was something I wasn’t used to.
We would have a graduating service at the chapel. In an picture, the chaplain was in the centre with two of his staff. The rest of us are graduates. We had a morning chapel at the station on our graduation day. It was kind of nice having the staff photographer take a picture of us.
Housing in the community was always tight. Usually you got housing through the station, by word and mouth. If somebody was leaving or that they knew of some room being vacant in the boarding house where they were or a suite that was coming up, they would pass word on to their friends. Finding housing was always quite a job. We were fortunate, my wife had been teaching and I had been staying on the station. I heard of a cottage down at Dauphin Lake that would be available for the summer for room. It was just a summer cottage. I put my name down for renting it for the summer. I wrote to my wife that I was going to get this cottage. We were lucky that it became available to us. When my wife arrived we were able to move into this cottage. I was able to commute back and forth from the lake that was only about five miles. I remember we used to bike it each time. As fall came on, of course, my wife decided that if we could get a place in town, she would not go back teaching and would stay around Dauphin.
We had a funny thing happen. About fifteen personnel were posted off the station to Montreal where they were due for a posting overseas. Word went around that a lot of these chaps were giving up their rooms in town. I happened to get a room from one of these chaps that had gone on this posting. I went to talk to the landlady, a very, nice woman. I looked over the room they had up stairs. I said they would be fine. We moved in and about ten days later the guy came walking up to me on the station and asked if there was any chance of getting his room back. I said maybe the bicycle. I had also bought his bicycle. He said he didn’t care about the bicycle I want my room back. I asked him, what are you doing back here; I thought you were on posting. He said we got to Montreal and they didn’t know anything about it. The whole thing came up over a rumour of some sort. We thought it was impossible for a posting to go through with all the paper work and everything for fifteen people to be transferred. Travel logs would have to be made up. Travel from one Command to another. But, they were all back. I said by-golly, we’re in and my wife likes it, I could say was that I would keep my eyes open. I’ll try to get a room as soon as I can, I said, if you want your bike back you can have it.
Later on we founded a committee on the station. I was among the members of the committee that was in charge of trying to track down rumours. We had daily bulletins that were posted in every barrack block, they were DRA: Daily Orders. Then there was this unofficial DRR, Daily Routine Rumours. Some of them got so bad that the Commanding Officer made it a serious offence if they could get whoever it was. Some of these, especially these ground crew chaps that had nothing to do in the evening they sit down and think up some kinds of rumours to spread. It didn’t take much. Sitting in the mess, just a whisper, and it would go on like fire around the station. We had this committee to track down these rumours. It was the most impossible thing to do. We never really found any way to track it down.
Every little town and hamlet was involved in providing services especially if there was an air force station around, because shops and farmers were supplying fresh eggs, milk and all that kind of thing. Places like bowling allies in towns, stores, even civilians selling clothes, what would have been in those days, expensive clothes men would buy them just to go on leave. Prosperity was really evident everywhere. I don’t know of any dire on the community because of the various stations. I guess there would be local construction work that was being done at different times. Some of the fellows on some of the stations had their own cars. They would go to town and get a tank of gas.
I think they all talked about the Depression. Not the young people, but all the farmers and the older people around town. Because in 1938, when I first started an actual paying job with the Hudson’s Bay Company, we were just coming out of the Depression. So there was only a matter of just a couple of years.
But during the war years, money was no obstacle. If you needed something, you got it. It all filtered down right to the lowest level. I supposed even the communities that were not affected by a station being local would still have a lot of wealth. Local farmers couldn’t keep up with the demand. Of course there would be all the wheat shipments from all over the prairies. I guess it would be the some in Ontario. Some of the manufacturer; it was the army and navy that were buying.
It was surprising the number of navy station that there were. We had one navy station. A long side, we shared the same fuel barrel because it was like one unit. We share it with the navy. We used to laugh; they had to be up at six in the morning for exercises. The air force wouldn’t be up until eight. The air force was a soft bunch. The navy were the hard ones. We would sit up in our bed and watch the navy going through their exercises.
There were higher numbers of prairie boys entering the RCAF than other regions in Canada. It was during the 1930s, and flying was just in its infancy. Out on the Prairies there was a lot of interest for an aircraft and a lot of pilots would want an aircraft for themselves. I would imagine that they would look up and see these aircraft flying over and figure that Service for them.
My father says to me if you go into any of the services don’t go into the army. He had been in the army during the First World War. I was never attracted to the navy. My brother was; he went into the navy from Winnipeg. I would have never traded one day for what he went through in the navy. He was on corvettes in the North Sea, escorting flagships across the North Atlantic out of Newfoundland. The stories he tells of chopping ice off the rigging and days when you couldn’t even get on deck. It was so rocky you had to be tied to a line to go out on deck. They could have it boy, not for me.
As I said before, I don’t think I would want to be ground crew if I was going into the air force. I certainly would only want to be in the flying end of it. Of course the air force was the youngest of the three services. It was probably a lot more fascinating to the younger fellas.
As far as the girls were concerned I imagine some of them wanted to go into the air force. I don’t suppose it made a lot of difference what they went into, they would be doing the same work. Maybe they liked the idea of the boys in blue. I was surprised at the large number of lady personnel that came from the prairies.
I don’t think any thought about the money they would make after the war if they served in the air force. They didn’t think that far ahead. As a matter of fact I was offered work both by Trans Canada Air and Canadian Pacific. Showing a photograph Kirk said, I did do a little bit of work in this aircraft. This is Canadian Pacific Beach Craft. I flew that from Manitoba to Ontario and around Northern Ontario. That was on skies, equipped for the winter. Fly for an air line, to us who were in the service and had control of the aircraft, we did our own navigation and we did what we more or less wanted to fly in the air line was a glorified taxi driver as far as we were concerned. There was not too many of us who were interested in doing that kind of flying. Flying in the north and bush flying was a bigger challenge than the airlines. I would of thought twice about doing that, it was because I was offered a manger’s job in the fur trade when I go out of the flying end and went back to the company, but the pay was less than I would have got flying. I don’t think too many thought about after the war. They just wanted to get up in the air. A lot of them were disappointed. They didn’t have the qualifications, the physical or education qualification. So they were offered a chance to train as a mechanic or an air force mechanic or maybe an airman or something like that around the aircraft. They would take that.
Most of the Women’s Division were office workers in administration. We had a large section of Women that worked in the transportation end of it. Drove light trucks, drove station wagons, or drove ambulance. We also had a few women who worked in the radio section. Of course there were women officers in the hospital end of it. Some of the others were hospital staff. Quite a few worked in the messes. Most of them were in what you’d call service jobs. They were lowly jobs. None of them, I can’t think of any of them, doing work around the aircraft. There weren’t a lot of stations with women on them. Some stations had civilian women working in administration. Our station had one barrack block of women. Twice a year we had to do a complete inventory of the station. One time I drew Women’s Division barrack section. I had to go with the sergeant and one of the WD officers. Three of us had to take one wing of this barrack section. We had to break it down and count every piece they wore. On their beds and hung up in their lockers and mark it all down. Some of those women, you know, are really rough. They would say, “I got one in the laundry and one on. Do you want to see it?” Woman that did most of the speaking would say, “That will be enough.” It was a real job counting all this stuff.
I lost a chum, Greenwood in an Operational Training Units, OTU. In Nova Scotia he was transferring to Mosquito bombers. That was the Canadian plywood bombers – they were a real hot ship. He cracked up on a night landing and was killed. That was the first I knew there OTUs there.
There didn’t have room in England to carryon all this. They couldn’t afford to have too much training going on because there was a chance that it would interfere with the operations. So they were trying to move all the training out of England as much as possible. The only training they had in England at the end was the crewing part. That was getting the crews all together. Trying to make up a crew that would work together. Everything else, most of it was done in Canada. For some reasons, I don’t know why they didn’t seem to recognize that all this training was going on.
All these fellas had to be trained. They all went over first class trained. One story came back when we were sending a lot of qualified night flyers. A lot of the chaps that had gone over earlier on got back to Canada and had gone into night flying. By that time the United States were getting into the War. The States arrived with these big Liberator bombers. They were going out with the arrangement that the Americans would take care of all the day bombing and all the rest RAF allied group would look after the night bombing.
The Americans had this funny bombsight., I can’t think of the name of it now. The usually had a guard to escort the bomb aimer out to the aircraft carrying this special bombsight in a canvas bag. He had to mount it in the aircraft. He had guard march along side of him because it was such a special bombsight. Of course our two little sticks sat up at the front of the aircraft, it was never taken out of the aircraft. They came back from many of their bombing raids and they hadn’t scored a hit. So the RAF guys who were going out at night would say, we’ll give it a go. The Americans said we couldn’t get it in the day time, how in the hell do you think you’re going to get it at night time?
Nine times out of ten they would get it. They would say, oh yea, we got him. The Americans would say we don’t believe you. They would go over the next day and look and the damage would have been gone. They wouldn’t believe it. They would say, how could you do it? We have this big sight and you don’t? But, it was the training you know. The guy were trained and really worked well.
The OTU would finish them off. The majority of them were NCO staff. Most of them were on twin engines and placed on coastal patrol. As they were ably to formulate the Training Programme more and more they kept the discipline on them more and capabilities were improved. So I think they were turning out a lot of good personnel from overseas, Australian, New Zealanders and RAF.
I was a little disappointed that The Air Training Pan came to an end so quickly. Because I was acting officer in charge of night bombing for the station, for the position the requirement was Flight Lieutenant and was still a Flying Officer. I was due to become Flight Lieutenant in about three months time. Things folded up in January. By the time I got my discharge I could of got it in one month. But they had stopped all promotions as the Plan was being shut down. Instead of coming up for review every three months or six months, they were leaving it indefinite.
A lot of the others that were not staff or that were glad to get out on Civvies Street as fast as they could. I was offered a Commission in the RAF fleet in the Mediterranean. I thought about that for a little while. But then, being married and this offer from the Hudson’s Bay Company to go back to a post. Doris and I wanted to go back north too.
I just turned my back on all flying offered. It was kind of interesting. I often wander what it would have been like in the air fleet in the Mediterranean I would have to be in the RAF. I would have been reduced in rank to a junior officer. That wasn’t a concern, but it was interesting.
Also Trans Canada had an offer too, because we were doing experimental flying for them doing instrument flying and bad weather flying and night flying. I had a rationing, which was highest rating you could have. So it would have been a job there if I wanted to go with some of those airlines, but I guess I was trying to figure out what rout I was going to go.
I think Dauphin carried on for quite a while. Paulson was torn down later, I was told it was torn down and you could drive by and never know there was a flying school there. I understand that happened all over the prairies and other parts of Canada too. I suppose a lot of people were glad the war was over. The second thought was, what do we do now? They had been riding on the back of the economy for some time. Now they had to pitch in and do something different.
I lost touch with the communities, because when I went north my first posting was to Red Lake mining district in northern Ontario. I had to serve a few months as an assistant manager to get back in harness after being out of the company a few years. They had been making some changes. They changed their bookkeeping and changed their method of merchandising. I had to do a little bit of retraining for a period. That was the only community of any consequence that I lived in. After that I went right into the north.
The company had to close down quite a few of the stores in the north and move some of the village to other areas. They simply did not have enough personnel during the war to keep all their stores operating. The company had over three hundred and fifty stores. My first assignment was to go around and reopen some of stores in northern Ontario. Doris went back teaching for a little while. Then she joined me after she finished that year. She came up to the north in the summer. By that time I had opened three stores; got them going and brought in other managers to take over. Then I got assigned to Saskatchewan. Doris came with me to northern Saskatchewan up on Big Buffalo Lake. That’s close to Buffalo Narrows. Our first son was born when we were at Patuanak. He was born at Prince Albert. We were living at Patuanak on the headwaters of the Churchill River. So I lost touch, pretty well in that period after the war for about five years.
The Air Training Plan evolved into nothing very much. Most of the fellas that were aircrew and that were quite easily got into jobs. Because they had had received quite an educational training. Different ones that I corresponded with relayed news to me that and so got a job in his dad’s office or somebody else was managing a plant. Quite a few of this group had been out of school for same years, so we had to go back for a refresher course, we were a little older group. A lot of he ones who came off the street and went right into the services; some of the fellas already had work and lot were like me, we were on a leave of absence from their jobs. The government had decreed before the war that anybody who was working at a job before the war, the employer were bound to give them their job back. As far as the Hudson’s Bay Company was concerned, they counted all their time as being company time for seniority purposes. So a lot of these chaps went back into Civvies Street. One chap up here who is selling insurance is a representative of Mack and Boil Company; he started working there when he came back. In my case they would say, what kind of money were you making in the air force?
Although we can’t give you that kind of money, we’ll try and give you as much promotion as we can. This happened to a lot of the personnel. I don’t know about the ground crew chaps. Put in a lot of guys from the farm. They would go back to the farm. Ended up taking over the family farm.
I think most of them just were interested in being absorbed back in Civvies Street. They weren’t concerned about much. Well there is another thing. You see my roommate that was sitting beside me here, showing a photograph, he took up University. You could qualify to take a grant, a lump sum of money or an educational deal. He and his wife took an option to go to University in Vancouver at University of British Columbia. They both got their degrees. Then he went back into the air force for another five years stint. He was posted to Ottawa as an administrative officer. He never got into flying again. There was no flying. It just went down to nothing for a number of years after the War. The air force flying was cut back. There was mostly civilian flying. A lot of them took up University grants bettered themselves with education to apply for better jobs.
As far as getting loans, I applied to get a loan when we moved here. I bought the general store because it was down my ally. I had been in the north behind the counter for a number of years. I had twelve years experience. So I took over the general store here. I applied for a loan. They said we can back your loan, but you have to do your own negotiating. I found I could do better with my own life insurance policy as collateral than having the government as a guarantee. As it turned out I was able to borrow the money I needed through my family. I thought I would get it through the government, but they said to go to the bank. I never any call of any kind to call on the government.
I understand that through the Legion there is chaps that had ailments develop and they are still having a battle to have the doctors to say it had been brought on by something that happened in whatever branch in what every branch of the services you’re in. A lot of them never get anywhere with their applications. Just recently, this year, in the Legion magazine that said recognition of the Canadian Service Only, CSO veterans will now be recognized. That will open up a whole new area for applications for pension benefits, war veterans’ assistance and all that.
Anyone that stayed in Canada, weather they were ground crew or the women that worked in the offices or if they served a number of months. The Legion put it to the government, that when they enlisted they didn’t stipulate to where they would be sent. They just enlisted to serve King and Country. If their service branch kept them here in Canada to do some work why should they be discriminated against compared to those who went overseas. They had no choice in the matter. They had to leave the service because they were injured. We had numerous air crashes in training. Before they had a chance to go overseas. We had many accidents on every station of some form or another. Where a fella might get injured or loose a limb. I still don’t think those people who volunteered and discharged themselves from the air force to go into Canadian Pacific training plan would have a case against the pension board or what ever because they would be just the same as working for any other civilian plan. We were all in the war effort, but even a person working in a lumber mill could say he was working for the war effort. But, he would not be eligible for a pension. I think my friend that had his back broken and had back problems ever since he was flying with Canadian Pacific. I don’t think he’s got a case.
Things came to an end quite abruptly. We just did a little bit of flying in the north. He we are again in a Tiger Moth on a fish patrol. We were with Saskatchewan Fisheries. Some different pilots got into bush flying into the north. They arranged to stay over night where I was at a post. They let me have some time flying. I flew one load of fish from Red Lake to Kenora, Ontario. The pilot just let me have the controls to fly. My wife was in the back with boxes of fish. Whenever I could, I tried to keep my hand in it. There is the headline in the Winnipeg Tribune. That said it all. It was all wrapped up. Everyone went on about their business. I was out of the picture for five years when I went back up north. So I really didn’t know much about what was going on for as getting things back into it.
“Three bombing schools closing.”
“The schools including number seventeen…” Well, that was us. It is dated February seventeenth. I was still flying up to the beginning of March. There is the explanation of the end of the Training Plan. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. “Aircrew situation different with regard to aircrew however a different situation prevails by the Plan runs out by the end of March there will be thousands of young men in surplus to the operational requirements of the immediate future, but were well trained and do form a formable back log, a sound insurance against any eventually. They may never be required to face the enemy, are bitterly disappointed of being denied the chance of seeing action. We owe a great deal of gratitude to their Comrades who went before them, and by their gallantry made it probable that these final classes may never be called upon to fight. Our entire Plan provided for certain objectives. If the enemy succeeds in holding us short of the objectives, we must be ready and it is for that reason that this surplus aircrew are not being released or discharged. They are being transferred to RCAF reserve subject to recall I can not emphasis that these me together with the instructors are no longer needed in the Training Plan constitute a very real reserve, a reserve which ensures that never, until this war is won still we be caught short handed. The Air Training will continue on a modified scale.”
The Deputy Minister of National Defence. H.F. Gordon.