Divisions that trained in the British Commonwealth Air
Training Plan (BCATP) consisted of the Royal Canadian Air
Force (RCAF), Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division
(RCAFWD), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Air Force
(RAF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). Recruits
from America or from occupied Europe also trained as part
of the Plan.
The training program was intense. Trainees learned a range
of skills including photography, navigation, bombing, reconnaissance
and meteorology. Recruits to the RCAF Women’s Division learned
nursing, parachute packing, communications operation, and
air-frame and aero-engine maintenance. Flight training itself
included maneuvers like taking off, turning and landing,
but quickly moved on to aerobatics, including dives, rollovers
and spins. Many would-be pilots found this to be not only
a nauseating ordeal but also a dangerous experience—injury
and death from crashes were a regular occurrence.
Although most recruits dreamed of becoming pilots, most
would be trained in other capacities becoming observers,
wireless operators, air gunners, navigators, bomb aimers
and flight engineers.
While training was difficult, life wasn’t all about work.
In their free time, the airmen and
women discovered much
that Alberta had to offer, including local hospitality and
many recruits found themselves surrogate families in the
surrounding community. Fond memories of dances, fishing
and romance accompanied many air force trainees during this
historic period of Alberta’s past.