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Training Plan

Months of hard work were in store for the many men who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to serve in the Allied cause. In order to ensure each member was placed in the position best suited to their capabilities and then, properly trained as such, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) required that recruits pass through multiple levels of testing and schooling before they were posted. A drawing of a wireless operator at work.

The first step in joining the RCAF was contacting the local recruitment office. After signing up, a recruit was asked to report to a Manning Depot. At a Manning Depot, trainees were given a series of medical tests and issued uniforms. They practiced marching drills and performed guard duty until there was room for them at Initial Training School (ITS).

The only Initial Training School (ITS) to open in Alberta was located in Edmonton. Designed to be difficult, ITS was used as an introduction to air training, and recruits that were not capable of serving to RCAF standards were quickly eliminated. Trainees were immersed in a five week basic training class that covered air force law, navigation, meteorology, aircraft recognition, the theory of flight, mechanics and, of course, discipline. Nine out of 10 men wanted to be trained as pilots and often a "flight" in the Link Trainer was a definitive moment in that decision.

Aircrew trainees graduated from ITS to a specialized school that matched their capabilities. Future pilots were sent to Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS). Those training to be air bombers, air gunners, navigators or wireless operators were sent to the appropriate school.

Tiger Moth Plane, at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Lethbridge, Alberta. Home of No. 8, Bombing and Gunnery School (B&GS).  At Elementary Flying Training School, men attempting to gain a pilot commission began to fly single engine aircraft such as Tiger Moths or Fleet Finches. A recruit was allowed approximately 10 hours of flying time with an instructor. If, at this time, a trainee had not received permission to fly "solo", he was "washed out", which meant he could be trained in another capacity, but he could not become a pilot. Similarly, if a trainee could not complete the solo flight with proficiency, he was barred from continuing with pilot training.

Men who met all of the requirements graduated from EFTS and moved on to Service Flying Training School (SFTS). There, more advanced training was completed and trainees were taught to fly more complicated and faster aircraft. Men chosen to train as fighter pilots were trained on single engine North American Harvards, while pilots training for bomber or transport operations trained on dual engine aircraft such as Cessna Cranes, Airspeed Oxfords or Avro Ansons. This training took approximately 10-20 weeks and pilots were taught aerial gunnery, instrument as well as night flying and bombing runs. Once graduated, they were posted to an Operational Training Unit (OTU) and then to a fighter, bomber or reconnaissance squadron, or to Flying Instructors School (FIS) to learn to teach other pilots.

At the beginning of World War II, those destined to be air observers graduated from ITS to Air Observer School (AOS) for a 12 week course on aerial photography, navigation and reconnaissance. After AOS, trainees would move onto Bombing and Gunnery School (B&GS) for 10 weeks and then to Air Navigation School (ANS) for another four weeks. In June 1942, it was decided that these duties were too much for one person and the position of air observer was broken up into two positions: navigator and air bomber.

Graduation Ceremony at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton, 1943.Navigators could specialize in bombing or as wireless operators. Those training for the former were at Bombing and Gunnery School for eight weeks and then Air Observer School for 12 weeks. These men were qualified as both bomb aimers and navigators. Navigators who trained to specialize in wireless operations spent a great deal of time receiving training—28 weeks at Wireless School followed by 22 weeks at Air Observer School.

Men designated to be wireless operators attended Wireless School for a total of 28 weeks, becoming adept at radio work. They were also trained in air gunnery at B&GS for six weeks.

Recruits going into air bombing were trained not only to drop bombs accurately, but to assist navigators as well. They spent eight to 12 weeks at B&GS and six weeks at an AOS. Air gunners underwent a 12 week program at B&GS that included ground training and air firing practice.

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