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Course 48, No. 3 Service FlyingTraining SchoolBy the time the war broke out in September, 1939, it had become apparent that the United Kingdom would be incapable of accommodating an air force training program of the size required; there simply wasn’t enough room, and the British Isles were too vulnerable to enemy attacks. The British needed to look elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Radio Personnel, No. 2 Air Observer School, Edmonton, Alberta.The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was just one part of the larger Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), which conducted training in countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and the UK itself. While more training schools operated in Britain proper than in Canada, the BCATP produced more aircrew than any other component of the EATS.

Squadron intake at Scarborough, Ontario.Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was hesitant at first about the Plan. Once the war started, however, he realized that it was the best solution to at least one political conundrum. Conscription and the high number of Canadian casualties had divided the country during World War I. By presenting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan as Canada’s signature contribution to World War II, Mackenzie King hoped to avoid this problem.

Mackenzie King was also reinforcing Canada’s political and legal sovereignty that it had just gained with the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The original British proposal was for the BCATP to be run by the Royal Air Force (RAF). Mackenzie King refused, insisting that Canadians run the Plan. King, in this case, prevailed.1943-44.

The original agreement was negotiated to expire on March 31, 1943. By 1942 it was apparent that the war would not be over by then. At the same time, the logistics of the war had been drastically changed with the Japanese and American entry. Consequently, the agreement needed to be changed.Course 105, No. 34 Service FlyingTraining School, Medicine Hat, 1944.

With the new agreement, Canada strengthened its control over the Plan. British RAF schools that previously had operated within Canada but independent from the Plan were now integrated into it. The new agreement extended the BCATP until March 31, 1945.

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