Veteran Flying Instructor
Service Flying Training School, Brandon
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
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.
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
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!