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Life on the Base

There were many different reasons people joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the most obvious being that they wanted to help with the war effort. Others were young, looking for a career to pursue, and felt that the RCAF would be a decent employer. Whatever their reasoning, young men, and later on young women, found themselves living together on bases across the country. Most recruits were youthful and excited to be part of the air force. They were often posted to locales they had never experienced and the bases had a spirit of adventure.

A fine Christmas meal at No. 2 AOS Edmonton.In Alberta, many of the bases were located in isolated areas and while the local communities interacted with the people on the air force bases, there was not always a lot to do once the day’s work was done. After arriving and settling into the routine of their training regimen, recruits found they had time to pursue other activities.

Many of the same interests one had in civilian life came into play on the base. Those who were socially active by nature would join with others who were similarly disposed and create entertainment. Sports teams were organized and men played in leagues with teams from other bases. To mark special occasions, if the base had room to accommodate, celebratory dinners and dances were held, often including people from the local community.

Parade at No. 15 SFTS Claresholm.In 1941, the RCAF opened a women’s division and shortly thereafter, women began arriving on bases. Many of the men serving were not used to working side by side with women and some were skeptical. However, women were a talented addition to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) and most men recognized this and treated them as such, learning to cooperate with their co-workers regardless of sex.

No. 7 SFTS Fort Macleod sign.Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was completed in one’s home country and thus, until Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Canadians were attending training with other Canadians. Under the BCATP, recruits from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand were present at SFTS. Later on in the war, when countries such as France, Poland and Norway were defeated by the Germans, recruits from these countries also came to Canada to be trained. While this arrangement of men from a variety of countries was generally positive, some students recall having to overcome difficulties based on cultural differences. In most cases, however, men from different cultures found common ground and enjoyed their experiences together.

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