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Douglas Warren 
on the BCATP

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Bruce and Douglas Warren

Born at Nanton, Alberta in 1923, Bruce (Duke) Warren and Doug (Duke) Warren grew up in the town of Wetaskiwin. In March 1941, against the wishes of their parents, the twin brothers enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). At the recruiting office in Edmonton, Doug was given the service number R93529, and Bruce R93530. They were sent to the Manning Pool at Brandon, Manitoba, and then to Mossbank, Saskatchewan for guard duty. 

The following excerpt, from Doug Warren’s memoirs entitled "Gemini Flight," details his and his brother’s elementary and service flying training, both of which they undertook at schools in Alberta.

Identical twins Bruce and Douglas Warren were born in Nanton, Alberta in 1922.On the night of the 14th of July, we left Regina at 6:35 p.m. by train to travel to High River, Alberta. The aerodrome there had been in use since WWI, and first the Canadian Air Force, then the Royal Canadian Air Force, had operated a station there. In peacetime, forest fire patrols in the nearby mountains were the main activities. But shortly after the start of WW II, High River became No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School. On the way to High River, we travelled through Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, MacLeod, Claresholm and Nanton, arriving at High River about 11 a.m. It was interesting to us to go through Nanton, for that is where we were born in 1922. It was easy to see our former home, which was located not far from the railway station.

At this time, a major change took place in our lives. We were granted permission to wear the coveted "white flash" in our service caps, sometimes called "wedgies". The white flash indicated we were under training for aircrew duties in the RCAF. In addition, we took a step up the promotion ladder, not a giant step to be sure, only a small step up, but a step up, nevertheless. We were promoted to the rank of Leading Aircraftman, normally called LAC. In addition, our daily rate of pay was $1.50, and on top of that was the sum of 75 cents, called flying pay. Two dollars and twenty-five cents a day—we were rich!!!!

It was programmed by the training staff that students at EFTS would get 50 hours flying time in 49 days. I first flew at High River on the 18th of July with the instructor we had been assigned to. His name was Dusenbury, a small, dark-complexioned American from Los Angeles. Like many Americans, he came to Canada with previous flying experience, was enlisted as a Sgt. (Sergeant), put on leave without pay and directed to become an instructor. Since we were both allocated to Dusenbury, he was surprised to find us as twins, rather than two unrelated men whose last names happened to be the same.

Spitfire Mark V aircraft flown by Douglas Warren in Scotland and photographed by his twin brother Bruce who was flying in a Martinet.The air force had roll calls when the flights would be shifted from one duty to another. For example, since it was done alphabetically, you would have Adams, Anderson, Andrews, Brown A, Brown H., etc. till the last names such as Wade, Wagner, Warren B., Warren D., Watson, etc. The system was such that generally three or four students with somewhat similar names would be given to each instructor. So it was a new experience for Dusenbury to suddenly find himself with two students that he could not tell apart.

Coupled with the white flash in our caps and the princely sum of $2.25 a day, there was also a decided change in our attitude to life in the RCAF. We had found life interesting, and enjoyed the time we had spent at Manning Pool, Mossbank and Regina. Although many of our peers had complained about the time spent before reaching High River, we had accepted the way things were and were relatively happy. At the time, we noticed it was mostly young men from cities or towns who had complained. Looking back, I wonder if this was because farm boys, at an early age, learn that some things happen in nature and cannot be changed. Cattle and horses must be fed in a routine, seeds have to be planted and take time to grow. Rain comes, sometimes hail, early frost, late frost and drought. These are all forces in life that cannot be changed and must be borne and adapted to.

But the change that I refer to was the thrill of flying. Actually learning to handle the controls, and becoming confident that we would qualify as pilots. This had been our ambition from the time we were six or eight years old. Why this was so, we did not know. Could it be because Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in 1927 when we were five years old? Was it because a local car dealer, Ted Reynolds at Wetaskiwin, would frequently fly locally? Who knows what drives these strong ambitions and desires in a young person's mind. But whatever it was, for most of our young lives we had had this over powering wish to fly. Now we were on the way and we were terribly enthusiastic about our life from the moment we arrived at High River.

The routine at High River was half the day at ground school, and the other half flying. Sometimes we flew in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon. The Tiger Moth aircraft was one of the basic training aircraft of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). The other being the Fleet 16 Finch, which, although slightly smaller than the Tiger Moth, weighed slightly more. The technical description of the Tiger Moth was D.H. 82C, standing for de Havilland aircraft company model number 82C. The Moth had a wingspan of 29 ft, length 24 ft, a top speed of 110 mph and weighed 1825 lbs gross. The RCAF had an inventory of over 1,500 of these aircraft, mostly built in Toronto.

Plaque at the Bruce Warren Memorial GardenHigh River is located in an area of strong winds, and often these winds, at ground level or a few hundred feet up, would exceed the stalling speed of the Tiger Moth. Occasionally an aircraft would appear in the circuit and, when flying directly into the wind, would stay in one spot relative to the ground, if the pilot adjusted the power to give an airspeed equal to the wind speed. During a transfer of aircraft from Lethbridge to High River, the flight encountered unexpected headwinds. As they approached High River, several "fluttered down", out of fuel within sight of the aerodrome. A strong wind was blowing at ground level and we students were called upon to help the ground crew hold the aircraft at the wing tips so they could be taxied to the hangar.

Another problem in the summer flying at High River was the severe turbulence encountered due to surface heating at mid-day. Consequently, flying was scheduled early in the morning and would sometimes be shut down for a few hours over the most turbulent time of the day. Sudden thunderstorms, or hail, were also a menace. The latter particularly so, for the Tiger Moth wings and part of the fuselage were fabric covered and hail stones could do a great deal of damage. If a hailstorm was thought to be likely, all aircraft on the ground were pushed into the hangar. Those in the air would stay away till the storm passed, or be diverted to another base.

The decision to divert would have to be made by the pilot, as there were no radios fitted to Tiger Moths. Indeed, there was no electrical communication between student and instructor in the Moth. Gosport tubes had been fitted, which was a simple system developed at Gosport aerodrome in World War I. It consisted of tubes, rather like a garden hose, between the cockpits, and stethoscope like fittings plugged into it. There were earpieces on one's head so the student could hear the instructors shouts. Most of the conversation was instructor-to-student and only infrequently, student-to-instructor.

Parachutes were carried on all flights, and we students were told they cost $450 each, and that if we carelessly damaged one we would be charged. There was a requirement for early take offs in summer, and if one was on flying duty in the morning, we arose at 3.30 a.m., had breakfast, went to the flight line, and if not on the first detail, found a quiet corner to curl up in.

In a few days, all our course members had flown at least once, and most more often. My log book shows that in the week ending the 27th of July, I flew six hours and 25 minutes. Total time being 7seven hours and 25 minutes, and my instructor was satisfied with my progress. Dusenbury tried to keep all his students at about the same level, and at the end of the week of July 27th, my twin had flown an equal amount of time. We knew that if the weather remained good, we would most likely be sent solo the following week. Being sent solo for the very first time is a high point in any pilot's life, and the occasion is never forgotten.

The food was catered by civilians at High River, and except for a very few RCAF officers, there were no airmen of any rank present, except those training to be pilots. The food was nicely served at the table with tablecloths and napkins. No waiting in cafeteria line ups.

Each flying lesson was called a "sequence." For example, sequence one was air experience, three was taxiing, seven was taking off into wind, nine was gliding approach and landing. Sequence 10 was "the big one"—spinning! And, this sequence had to be entered into the log book in red ink because of its importance. This sequence was shown on my seventh flight, and twice more before going solo.

On the 30th of July, Dusenbury had me airborne as his student for one hour and 40 minutes, my longest trip to date. After landing, he handed me over to an instructor called Blakely who gave me my "solo check". This relatively short (30 minutes) trip was to get a second opinion if I was ready to solo. And I was! Authorized for my first solo, I basically took off and landed. I flew only 10 minutes, but it was a wonderful experience...

Total flying time until going solo was exactly 11 hours, and my twin had a total of 12 hours and five minutes before being sent solo on the 4th of August. I don't recall why there were several days in between our time of soloing, but for some reason, at the time I went solo, my twin only had slightly over nine hours dual. That meant our flying times were not the same. We were very pleased and happy when we both had soloed, for it meant we were on the first rung of the ladder towards becoming qualified pilots.

At the time of going solo there was an entry in our log books which had to be signed. The entry read:

Certified that I fully understand the petrol system, endurance data, engine limitations, and functioning
of the auxiliary controls of the Tiger Moth.

Dusenbury said that he was interested in bringing us both up to solo standard and to see if our flying ability was the same (he had said it was), but it was too much trouble for him to tell us apart and keep our training records separate. So, shortly after my twin went solo, he was transferred to another instructor, R.M. Pilchard. We both still saw Dusenbury at off-duty times....


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