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From Air Training to the Defence of Britain: One Pilot's View From Tiger Moths to Mosquitoes

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Stanley G. Reynolds

Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher of For King and Country: Alberta in the Second World War

For King and Country

The Reynolds family of Wetaskiwin has always been interested in aviation. My father, Edward A. [Ted] Reynolds, was a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. My older brother, Byron E. [Bud] Reynolds, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, and completed a Tour of Operations as a flight engineer on Catalina flying boats. My younger brother, Allan B. [Bert] Reynolds, joined the RCAP in 1943, and served overseas as an air-frame mechanic on Dakotas [C-47s] with 437 Squadron.

When I was sixteen years old I joined the Edmonton Fusiliers and trained with E Company at Wetaskiwin during periods that did not conflict with school hours. The two weeks' training at Sarcee Camp in Calgary during the summer months was a great experience, with sleeping in tents and target practice with Ross rifles.

In 1941 I was hired as a truck driver for MacGregor Telephone & Power Construction Co. of Edmonton during the time they were installing power lines at the RCAF stations at High River, Claresholm, De Winton, and other locations. The crews slept in tents and my job was driving and looking after MacGregor's 1928 Ford one-ton truck.

At this time a local fellow, Dallas Schmidt, home on leave from the RCAF, stopped at my father's garage. I was impressed to see him in his officer's uniform. That dapper uniform and his enviable war record probably increased my desire to join up. Dallas Schmidt received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant while flying Beaufighters during the Defence of Malta.

I was in the process of finishing my grade 12 education when, early in 1942, an RCAF recruiting group came to Wetaskiwin and set up a desk in the Driard Hotel. Curiosity and my desire to learn how to fly prompted me to visit the recruiting officer. I was told that I could enlist in the "Pilots and Observers" category, and if I passed the required tests I would be selected for training as a Pilot or Observer. The recruiting officer was quite persuasive and before I left the hotel I had enlisted.

On 15 April 1942, I was called to Edmonton to start training at RCAF NO.3 Manning Depot. I was assigned living quarters in a barracks which housed about fifty airmen, and we slept in two-tier bunks. Except for a few technicians we all started with the rank. of AC2 [Aircraftsman second class]. We were issued uniforms, mess kits, sewing kits called "housewives," brass button polishers, shoe shiners, and other gear. We received medical and dental checkups, inoculations, physical training, marching drill, and lessons in airmanship. Each airman made his own bed, polished, his buttons, badges and shoes and the entire group received periodic inspections. Everything had to be kept neat and clean, strict discipline was enforced and every man did his stint on guard duty.

When a group of about forty Australian airmen arrived at the Manning Depot they decided to take in some Edmonton city nightlife, even though they did not have permission to leave the base. They elected to leave the base when I was on guard duty, and when I was near the farthest end of my beat they made a hole in the fence big enough for a man to crawl through. When I turned around at the end of my beat I saw a long lineup of men in their dark blue Australian uniforms, in single file, crawling hurriedly through the hole in the fence. I was carrying a .303 Enfield rifle with fixed bayonet, but no ammunition was allowed for anyone on guard duty. Being quite confident that I would not be able to stop these Australians, I began running towards them, mostly running on the spot, waving my rifle and shouting "Halt in the name of the King." They did not pay any attention to me and when I arrived at the hole in the fence the last Australian was a few feet too far away for me to reach him with the bayonet. Someone else was on guard duty when the Australians returned [probably during the early hours the next morning]. I heard no more about it so I presumed they got back without incident.

During passes I would hop on my 1928 Harley Davidson motorcycle and head for Wetaskiwin, where I spent most of the time building a Model T Ford race car from parts at my father's auto wreckage. The category "Pilots and Observers" was discontinued and all airmen in that category were remustered to "Aircrew." This meant that any airman could be selected for training as a pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless air gunner or air gunner.

On 19 July 1942, I was posted to No.7 Initial Training School at Saskatoon. There were 42 airmen in Course #58 and we received classes and tests in mathematics, wireless, navigation, meteorology, armament, anti-gas measures, airmanship, drill, administration, and aircraft recognition. White cloth flashes were placed in the front of our wedge caps to signify that we were aircrew trainees. My Link trainer instructor was a Flying Officer Elder. I passed the Link trainer portion of the course with the grade of 89 per cent which, I was told, was the highest mark in the class. After the final exams each graduate was interviewed individually by the selection committee which, after considering the airman's abilities, decided which members of air crew should receive training. I wanted to be a pilot and was pleased to be selected for pilot training. All graduates of the course were promoted to LAC [Leading Aircraftsman] and were given cloth propellers which were sewn on the sleeves of their clothing to indicate their rank. Squadron Leader Fred McCall of Calgary, the famous First World War ace, was one of the officials in the picture when the class photograph was taken. Thirteen of the aircrew in this class were killed on active service.

The graduates were authorized to have a pass the following weekend in early October. The Model T Ford races were being held in Edmonton on Thanksgiving Day, 12 October. I had my car entered in the races, and consequently I made an arrangement with the Station Warrant Officer by which I would stay on the station the weekend of 3 October and would receive my pass the following weekend. I was put to work in the station hospital and spent the entire weekend doing undesirable jobs, mostly cleaning washrooms and toilets. I did what I was told to do, I did a good job and I did not complain about anything. When the following weekend arrived I was told all passes were cancelled. Considering that it had taken nearly all of my leave periods during the past five months to complete the assembly of the race car, that it was painted with RCAP lettering and roundels on both sides, that the Edmonton and other newspapers had published writeups and photographs promoting me and my car in the races, that I had been promised leave to attend the races, and that I had already paid the consideration by working the previous weekend in the hospital, I believed I was entitled to leave to attend the races. When I left the station that weekend without a pass I was considered to be AWL [away without leave]. I proudly raced my car and won second prize in the second race. When I returned to Saskatoon, Squadron Leader Bawlf, the Chief Ground Instructor, announced to other classes that I had gone AWL and was therefore washed out of aircrew. I believe this announcement was to emphasize to other students the consequences before they considered going AWL.

As I was now ground crew I was put to work in the camp kitchen where I washed dishes, pots and pans, dished out meals in the mess hall, and scrubbed tables and floors. Once again I did what I was told to do, I did a good job and I did not complain about anything. After two weeks of kitchen duty I was called into the office of Wing Commander Russell, the Commanding Officer. He told me that I was being put back into aircrew and was being sent to No.6 Elementary Flying Training School at Prince Albert for pilot training. It appeared he had received good reports of my work and discipline while I was on kitchen duty; however, he never asked me why I had gone AWL and I believe he never was fully aware of the reasons.

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