The Plan in Alberta
July 22, 1940, No. 5
Elementary Flying Training School
(EFTS) opened in Lethbridge and Alberta’s contribution
to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) began.
Training schools continued to open across the province for
the next two years, and thousands of aircrew graduated from
them until the last school, No. 3
Service Flying Training School
(SFTS) in Calgary, closed its doors September
28, 1945. It must have been difficult to end the program,
but everyone left knowing that the
Allied war effort
had been a success due in part to the training that occurred
right here in Alberta.
At the inception of the BCATP, sites were chosen based on
terrain, accessibility and existing facilities. In some cases,
local flight clubs provided both their facilities and staff
for Elementary Flying Training Schools. While the program’s
mandate and its supervisors were Royal Canadian Air Force
civilians became an
integral part of the Plan and were hired to fill a variety
of positions. Facilities and staff that were not already available
in Alberta were built or brought in, respectively, and most
of the schools quickly became efficient training grounds for
men from all over the world.
"The most grandiose single enterprise upon which Canada has ever
embarked – The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan"
—Charles Gavan Power, Minister of National Defence for Air during
The BCATP trained all air personnel. Men began with
Initial Training School (ITS).
There, it was decided in which trade they would specialize. Some men graduated and moved on to Elementary Flying
Training School (EFTS),
Service Flying Training School (SFTS)
Instructor School (FIS). Others were moved to
and Gunnery School (B&GS),
an Air Observer
School (AOS) or a
(WS). There were a number of other positions
that were essential to running the program, but the training
institutions for these were located outside of Alberta.
Most recruits became accustomed to the base fairly quickly,
and after work was done, there was time to enjoy life
a little bit. Sports leagues were formed, dances were held,
and most of the classes had a few members willing to put
together some sort of entertainment for the rest. These
people were often far from home and family, and they turned
to each other and the community they were based in to fulfill
their basic human needs. A number of Albertan families opened
their homes to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
(BCATP) airmen, and many relationships blossomed,
some of them lasting decades.
While the BCATP ceased operation over 60 years ago, its
legacy remains apparent in Alberta. Some of the province’s
airports, such as in Edmonton, Claresholm and Lethbridge,
are former BCATP locations. Other bases have since been
closed and returned to pasture, but monuments have been
erected as reminders of what once was.