Jessie Stewart, née Jackson
In the following excerpt, Jessie Stewart (née
Jackson), Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division (RCAF
WD), operating within the the British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan (BCATP). In this recollection, Jessie
Stewart remembers her experiences within the first group of
Airwomen Second Class (AW2) to serve in Western Canada and
the following numerous BCATP schools where she served.
I applied as an equipment assistant in
September of 1941. I knew this would place me in the hangars
near the planes, and I hoped I could be a passenger once in a
while! I was accepted Christmas Day, 1941. I left Vancouver
January 6th, 1942 with the first group of women from the
I was 25 and a half years of age.
I trained at Havergal College on Jarvis Street, Toronto
for one month. Later, we were sent to No. 7 Service Flying
Training School (SFTS), Fort Macleod,
Alberta, the first group of women to go west as Airwomen
Second Class (AW2). This was the lowest rank and we were paid
90 cents per day. Room, board and clothing were provided.
We were received, with great caution, by the men at No.
7 SFTS. It was a new experience for all of us. Our mandate was to
take on the positions the men held in order to release as
many as possible to enter aircrew training....In April 1942, I was sent back
to Toronto for further training in administration, becoming
a corporal on graduation. From there, I was posted to Rockcliffe
Headquarters in Ottawa, where I assisted in training.
In September 1942, I reported to Arnprior, Ontario as a
sergeant on staff. In May of 1943, I was sent to Toronto for further
education receiving the rank of Assistant Section Officer
(A/S/O), equal to a Pilot Officer (P/O). Then, in June of 1943,
I returned to No. 7 SFTS as Commanding Officer (CO) of the
Women's Division (WDs).
I believe it was the autumn of 1943 when I was posted to No.
8 Bombing and Gunnery School (BG&S) in Lethbridge. I was CO of
WDs and Adjutant to the Commanding Officer. I was then
promoted to Section Officer (S/O), which is equal to Flying
Officer (F/O). In September
of 1944, I was posted to No. 15 SFTS Claresholm as Assistant
Station Adjutant. When Claresholm closed, I was posted to
No. 19 SFTS Vulcan. Soon after, word was
received that illness had overtaken the CO of the WDs in
Coal Harbour, Vancouver Island. I was posted there V.E.
Day as CO of the WDs and Adjutant to the Commanding Officer.
I received my discharge on February 1946.
I had served for just over four years and it was a mighty learning
experience. It was all done with the hope that the
WD of the
RCAF would be recognized as having done a very good job
of replacing men who could then be sent overseas to serve
as aircrew and in the ground trades. Further, WDs worked
at HQ in England and it is hoped that they, too, would be
remembered as being an integral part of the British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan.