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