1:30 p.m., Friday July 23, 2004

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Hangar #1

On December 17, 1939 an agreement was signed by Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, making Canada the focus of a British Commonwealth-wide plan to instruct aircrew.

It was a major contribution to the Allied war effort and to Allied air superiority in World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized this impressive achievement when he called Canada the "Aerodrome of Democracy." A the Plan's peak, there were 107 schools and 184 ancillary units at 231 sites in nine provinces. The Plan lasted until March 31, 1945.

Hangar #1, built in 1941, is a reminder of Canada's important contribution to the Allied war effort during World War II. Hangar #1 is especially important, not only because it is virtually intact, but because it now functions as a museum devoted to preserving the history and artifacts of the Plan, including several vintage training aircraft. 

Guest Speaker
Archie Londry
WWII Veteran Flying Instructor
#12 Service Flying Training School, Brandon

As the song goes "I've looked at clouds from both sides now" is perhaps why I have been asked to say a few words about the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum.

I trained under the plan and was a flying instructor in the Plan and for some period of time was here at #12 S.F.T.S. Service Flying Training School. Just a bit about the Plan. When you enlisted, your first posting was to Manning Depot, which was basic training, very strict discipline and tough conditioning. 

I don't know what kind of animals they thought we were but all Manning Depots were in old barns. #1 in C.N.E. buildings in Toronto in the bullpen, #2 in the old Wheat City Arena, which housed livestock for the Manitoba Winter Fair, and #3 where I started was in the horse barns at the Edmonton Exhibition grounds. 

Next came a posting to either guard or tarmac duty. l I was sent to #12 S.F.T.S. as an AC deuce. Aircraftman Second Class, you couldn't get any lower. Time was spent sweeping hangar floors, pushing and washing aircraft and any other joe-job imaginable.

Next came I.T.S., Initial Training School, ground school where we were taught theory of flight, navigation (including astro), meteorology, aircraft recognition, etc.

We were also introduced to the link trainer, a primitive flight simulator where many washed out without even having been in an aircraft.

It was here also that your M.C. Alex Matheson, when he was there, learned to cheat if he didn't know how beforehand. Any doubtful candidates were measured for leg length to assure they could reach the rudder pedals of a Tiger Mother. This consisted of sitting with back to wall and legs extended. Alex managed to wiggle his little bum (it was then) forward a couple of inches thus extending his leg length. I think they knew but they let him go anyway so he carried his wee cushion from then on when he was flying. 

On graduation from I.T.S. you were promoted to L.A.C., Leading Aircraftsman, and presented with a white flash to wear in the front of your wedge cape signifying aircrew. Ground crew and army boys told the girls that it was a warning that you were infected with V.D.

From here you went to E.F.T.S., Elementary Flying Training School, flying Tiger Moths where most of our instructors were old bush pilots. 

Last weekend it was quite a thrill to go to the de Havilland Aerospace Museum in Toronto and fly the last flight of Tiger Moth 3874 which I had flown 62 years before at #19 E.F.T.S. at Virden, Manitoba. She is now in retirement. 

Next came S.F.T.S., Service Flying Training School, where those who made it received their wings. From here I was joed into the job of flying instructor. 

After a short stint at F.I.S. Flying Instructor School, I was again posted to #12 S.F.T.S. as a green kid with a little over 250 flying hours charged with the task of training other kids to fly multi-engine aircraft then go on as skippers on four engine bombers carrying a crew of 6 or 7 and dropping bombs on target and returning home again in spite of weather, flak and enemy fighters.

#12 was a busy place. At peak times we might have 18 or 20 aircraft in the circuit with 3 on final approach and no radios. 

Traffic was controlled by aldis lamp and very pistols. Few accidents occurred on the aerodrome. 

However, there were casualties. Besides Canadians, 790 Royal Air Force, 59 Royal Australian Air Force and 41 Royal New Zealand Air Force airmen were killed in and around Canada. Imagine the grief of those parents who thought that by being sent away from a war zone their sons would live at least a few more months.

Of the over 18,000 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force who lost their lives in all areas, most ranged in age from 19-22. Those included my roommate here at #12. Their life spans were short. 

Some interesting points that happened here:

  • The day water leaked into an underground storage tank and we had aircraft down all over the area. 
  • The day the elevator cable of a Crane was found cut most of the way through. All aircraft were grounded until inspected. Was it sabotage?
  • Fire in #1 Hangar. I mentioned use of very pistols. Some careless pilot had left a loaded one in an aircraft, which happened to be in the back corner of #1 hangar. A ground crew member doing daily inspections at night experimented by pulling the trigger and setting the aircraft on fire. The hangar was full of aircraft and all fuel tanks full of gasoline. We managed to remove all aircraft and lost only 2, including the original that burned up on the apron. If you look in the southeast corner of #1 hangar, you can still see signs of charred beams. I had more respect for the King's dollars than I would have for the Queen's 25 cent ones today.
  • Then there was the mutiny, as far as I know the only one to occur in the R.C.A.F. in wartime, perhaps because the maximum penalty for wartime mutiny was death. At the time we had a sadistic S.O.B. of a Station Sgt. Major whom the boys hated. ONe night they caught him and game him a severe beating. When he returned from hospital several days later, they went on strike and refused to obey any orders. As a result he was posted to another station. There he had a fatal accident a few weeks later. 

I would like to acknowledge our ground crew. Those boys, fitters, riggers, instrument men, etc. with only a few months training were servicing the aircraft on which our lives depended. There were many others including W.D.s, Womens Division, who did many jobs. Their motto was "We serve that men might fly."

Everyone involved had an important job to do but the aircrew and especially pilots got all the recognition. 

I would like to pay tribute to and salute these others. 

These are a few of the stories of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan and #12 Service Flying Training School

We are on historic ground!

Vintage Aircraft - A Cornell ~ Performs A Flypast to Open the Ceremonies

Alex Matheson ~ Master of Ceremonies

Platform Guests


Drew Caldwell
M.L.A. Brandon East

Dave Burgess
Mayor, City of Brandon

Vince Barletta ~ Councillar
Chair: Brandon Municipal
Heritage Advisory Committee

Merv Tweed
MP Brandon-Souris

Maurice Perrault
French Translator

Dr. John Everitt
Manitoba Heritage Council

John McNarry
President: CATP Museum

Archie Londry
WWII Flying Instructor

Unveiling and Reading of the Plaque

Part of the Crowd in Attendance



Museum Director Stephen Haytor and Archie Londry Welcome Guests to the Museum

The Cutting of the Cake

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eMail: Bill Hillman
Bill and Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio
Photos Copyright 2004/2010