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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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.
High 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
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....