Royal Air Force (RAF)
order to train in Canada, Royal Air Force (RAF) trainees
had first to travel the harrowing Atlantic Ocean,
with its deadly U-boats.
Early in the war the ships they
boarded were accompanied by air support to a certain distance
from each coast; they had to make it, however, through a
gap in the middle where the ships were left to their own
devices (this gap was closed later in the war). The trainees
were not informed where they would arrive, but
landed at ports in maritime Canada, or ports on the American
From the east coast they boarded a train to Moncton, New Brunswick.
There they were posted to various training schools across
Canada and were issued with over-boots and headgear to deal
with the Canadian winter. If posted to Alberta,
they embarked on a train trip that could take as long
as five days.
Royal Air Force trainees attended an Service Flying Training
School (SFTS) and a Elementary
Flying Training Schools (EFTS). The RAF itself
ran several of the schools in Alberta.
trainees formed the largest group (aside from the RCAF)
in Canada. Overall 42,110 RAF airmen trained in Canada (this
number includes British trainees and those who came from
other, non-Commonwealth countries, such as occupied France,
Norway and Poland, among many others). Almost 18,000 of the
RAF recruits trained as pilots. Others trained as navigators,
navigator/wireless operators, navigator/bombers, air gunners,
naval air gunners and wireless operator/air gunners.
The best trainees became instructors, some staying
in Canada for two or three years. Britain contributed a
total of $216 million dollars to the Plan.
Those training on Tiger Moths at EFTS noticed several
differences between the Canadian version and the one they
flew at home. The most significant was a sliding hood over
the cockpit, which made flying in the cold possible. They
also experienced vastly different flying conditions, with
predictable weather and easy navigation, given the railway
lines that stood out well and farmers' fields divided into
squares, with lines going north-south and east-west. While
the actual flying was easier, RAF trainees did find landing
and taking off on hard-packed snow to be a little tricky
Click here to read some
first hand impressions.