Welcome to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Round Table Discussion 
with Senator Sharon Carstairs
"Arts Culture and Heritage in 
South Western Manitoba"
Sept 5 2001

General Public Knowledge of Canadian 20th Century History

I would like to start by asking a Question. What was the most significant event in Canada's past 100 years? We would rightly respond that there are many answers to this question. We might reflect upon the role Canada played in WWI "The war to end all wars". Vimy Ridge comes readily to mind. The Great Canadian Railways come to mind as well. We have accomplished much in our nation's maturing. One great accomplishment is not however well remembered. It is still the largest infrastructure program ever undertaken in Canada. It contributed so greatly to the outcome of WWII.  Winston Churchill called it "Canada's greatest contribution to the Allied Victory"

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan's place in our History

In the early stages of WWII the need for trained aircrew was very evident. The British wanted to develop what they called the "Empire Air Training Plan". Mackenzie King's government suggested that it would be better to call it the Commonwealth Air Training Plan and have all Commonwealth countries involved. What better place than Canada to train aircrew?

Facts and Figures relating to the BCATP

Mackenzie King's government with The Honourable C.D. Howe Minister of Munitions and Supplies (often referred to as the minister of everything)  managed to construct 360 schools on 231 sites all across this great country. The BCATP trained 131,553 Aircrew from all of the Commonwealth Nations. 104,000 people staffed the schools. The infrastructure required to fulfil the needs of the plan constituted the largest infrastructure development in Canada's history! Canada's 75% share in 1942 dollars was $1,589,954,609.94  I try to imagine the effect this immense project must have had on the workforce of Canada just coming out of the Great Depression.

Many of the airports in use across Canada today were once BCATP schools. President Roosevelt referred to Canada as the "Aerodrome of Democracy" even if he did need to be prompted by our own Lester B. Pearson.

National importance of the BCATP

I see the BCATP as a significant benchmark in our maturing as a nation and find it sad that so few of my generation even know of its existence. Ask most Canadians and they will know of some family member who was directly involved in the events of WWII.

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

The CATPM was started 20 years ago to collect and preserve artifacts of the BCATP. We have an excellent relationship with the City of Brandon and are housed in Hanger 1 at the Brandon Airport. We have been granted Municipal Heritage status and are one of the Special Theme Museums who receive funding from the Province of Manitoba. Provincial Heritage Site recognition is pending.

We are recognized around the globe as a source of information and artifacts pertaining to the BCATP. The CATPM's extensive collection of several thousands of  BCATP artifacts including 13 aircraft and other ground-based vehicles has provided the information for several significant documentaries, one a feature length movie "For the Moment" starring Russell Crowe.

We have in the Museum the only Chapel in a museum dedicated to the 18,039 Canadian Air force Personnel who gave their lives between 1939 and 1945.

The Museum has published a book "They Shall Grow Not Old". The Book contains a short biography of each of these persons. It is used world wide as a reference. I would like to present you with a copy of the book later today.

We have the Honour of being one of only two non military institutions to receive the Governor of Canada's  BCATP Pennant. The Pennant was presented to us by our Honorary Patron The right Honourable Peter Liba.

The CATPM has received several other noteworthy awards including one from Attractions Canada.
We are actively involved with many other Museums and Associations in Canada and World wide. I invite you to visit our website www.airmuseum.ca

We receive a Provincial Special theme Museum grant that allows us one paid employee, our Executive Director. The rest of the staffing is by very dedicated volunteers. We do manage to hire summer students and with their help we have just completed an Oral History of the experiences of many Veterans. It is not often history is recorded in first person. The rest of our funding is by local and worldwide memberships donations and raffles. A few special events and tours help too.

We have just embarked on a Capital Campaign to raise $4,500,000. This will allow the CATPM to develop into a facility that will become  the nucleus of a tourist attraction to the Westman Region. We hope to attain a National Historic Site status so that this story of one of Canada's great accomplishments will not be forgotten. We are planning to include more structures from the BCATP to present a real view of part of the great infrastructure project that was the BCATP .

We also want to build a new interpretive centre to give Museum visitors a vantage point from which to gain an understanding of the BCATP. The New structure would also include workshops and a classroom. Education is a very important role of a museum. We know there are many varied lessons and subjects that can be well addressed by the CATPM. The past gives us a great vantage point from which to ponder our future. In Honour of the past we would like to name this new structure after Gil Molgat and C.D. Howe.

We thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about the CATPM and our plans. Please come and visit with us.

Thank you,
John McNarry
Vice President CATPM




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