18 August 2017

Second World War Flight Training Schools

More fascination with Canada's participation in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). In my previous lengthy post (see post below this one), I show how to access the daily reports for the Elementary Flight Training Schools (EFTS). I also mention that names are scattered throughout the reports for EFTS No. 2 at Thunder Bay. We are reminded that the city was formerly the friendly rival twins of Fort William (location of the school) and Port Arthur ... usually, but not always, friendly. For the record and besides the flight training school, the war effort in this locale included Port Arthur Shipbuilding and Canadian Car & Foundry in Fort William.

Back in Second World War days, they were smallish towns. Interaction between the school and civilians was immediate and often intense. After their flying hours, ground lectures, and homework, the flight trainees had a variety of sports programs as well as a fair amount of leisure time, so they became familiar with the towns. Outside labour was constantly necessary for the buildings and mechanical maintenance, for provisions and care of the resident air force officers and changing groups of trainees. Tours of the facility were arranged for a stream of visitors.

Random entries from the commanding officer's daily reports in the summer of 1941 recall places and businesses from the past:
The Royal Edward Hotel saw its share of beverage consumption by enthusiastic airmen on passes. The Italian Hall was one of the few other venues for social mixing. Boulevard Lake was used in a program of Tuesday night swimming – in the warmer months! Otherwise it was the YMCA. The local IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) was quick to organize regular events such as on-site dances, and as previously mentioned, the Public Library donated books and bookshelves to the school.

Fryer Studio came regularly to take photographs; they donated the Fryer Memorial Cup for flying competition among the course students. McKellar Hospital tended to an assortment of minor or major casualties from the flyers, plus the occasional unmentionable virus. Actually, an outbreak of mumps caused real fear and concern. Mahon Electric serviced the school buildings; Gibson-Elm did interior painting. Crawley & McCracken were early food caterers who did not work out for unspecified reasons. Burney's Taxi (special rates for dance nights) delivered many a pie-eyed trainee desperate to reach the school before night curfew.

It was up to civilian manager Hector Dougall to handle the construction contracts, general supplies, office services, and maintenance of aircraft and equipment. Claydon Construction was frequently mentioned with regard to construction of new runways and ongoing building needs. EA Bell was another contractor, for example, securing the "gasoline hose pits." Ditto Mr Kerr of Warren Paving Co. Both city mayors (Charles Cox, Port Arthur; Chisholm Ross, Fort William) were castigated at one time or another for arbitrarily supplementing the itineraries of important visitors, thus spoiling a strict military schedule. 

Senator Norman Paterson donated rifles for the school's rifle range, and came by several times over the duration for a chat; Judge McComber along with Mr. Elliott "of the Court House" and Mr. Boyd were given a tour. Orville Wieben of the Lakehead Flying Club lent the use of his facilities when flooding caused delays in the assembling of Oxford aircraft. Alex Sinclair was the principal of Port Arthur Collegiate Institute; he came to discuss his school's air cadet program with RCAF personnel.

 HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent, was not the only royal dignitary to visit. In late August 1941, Canada's Governor General, the Earl of Athlone and his wife Princess Alice arrived by train for one of those highly organized tours coordinated by various interested parties. The daily report relates the unhappiness of the school's commanding officer with the organizing elements:
This meeting was at times quite stormy as the mayor and his committee had, without consulting the Services, indicated that a guard of honor would be supplied at the railway depot. Furthermore, although this visit of the Governor General was to inspect war industries at the Lakehead, the civil authorities had endeavored to increase his itinerary by omitting to mention war industries such as the 102nd Training Centre, but instead had included the mountain view from the first ledge of Mt. McKay and such like. This is recorded in this Diary because it is the normal idea adopted by the local authorities here, that the local view for an item of inspection is far more important than Units of this nature and other centres of equal importance.
(The 102nd Training Centre comprised the EFTS complex.)
Mount McKay, Fort William

I must say the daily reports are also contain names of basic training students, flying conditions, and RCAF personnel. Who went on to advanced flight school, who "washed out," who had accidents with the airplanes ... it's all there in No. 2 EFTS. Might be worth another go at extracting. I see there are also daily reports on the same microfilm reel C-12336 for:
Malton, Ontario (No. 1 EFTS)
London, Ontario (No. 3 EFTS)
Boundary Bay/Sea Island, Vancouver (No. 8 EFTS)
Stevenson Field, Winnipeg (No. 14 EFTS)
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (No. 14 EFTS)
Edmonton, Alberta (No. 16 EFTS)
Caron, Saskatchewan (No. 18 EFTS)
Chatham, New Brunswick (No. 21 EFTS)
L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec (No. 22 EFTS)
Pearce, Alberta (No. 36 EFTS)
Windsor Mills, Quebec (No. 4 EFTS)
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (No. 6 EFTS)

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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