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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.


Jessie StewartI 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 West. 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.

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