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Dennis Wagner

Dennis Wagner with Adriana Davies. 2002
"Dennis Wagner in researching this material has produced a work of continuing interest to historians anxious to discover the part played by this picturesque province and its ever friendly and generous people at a time when much of the rest of the world was fighting for its freedom from one form of oppression or another." 
Don Attlee, former British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) student and instructor, and  retired Air Vice Marshal with the Royal Air Force (RAF)

The work of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) World War II veteran Dennis Wagner has been essential to the creation of this site. The majority of the resources on this site—photographs, first hand accounts, documents—come from those that he has compiled over a span of approximately 10 years. Without Wagner’s diligent efforts, this site would not have been possible.

Dennis Wagner would like to warmly acknowledge the support of his family: Barry, Denise, Patricia (deceased), Marilyn and in particular his late wife of 50 years, Meryl. She supported Mr. Wagner and kept the family together throughout his entire time in uniform. 

Mr. Wagner would like to extend his sincere thanks to his great-nephew Michael C. Travers for bringing him into the information age. Prior to 2001, at which time Mr. Travers set Dennis Wagner up with a computer, all correspondence between Mr. Wagner and veterans from all over the world was done by "snail mail". Mr. Travers accompanied Mr. Wagner from time to time on visits to local BCATP sites, and took some of the aerial photographs included in this site.

It was April, 1939 that 22 year-old Dennis Wagner found an ad in the Calgary Albertan newspaper. He and two pals were looking for work, and at that time, employment was scarce. One ad, however, caught their eye: the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was looking for skilled tradesmen. Beyond flying, Dennis Wagner didn’t know what the RCAF did, didn’t even know the colour of their uniform. Didn’t matter. His reply was soon in the mail. To his surprise, he was shortly asked to go to Currie Barracks for a trade test, receiving a letter which said:

Dear Sir:

Please report to the undersigned at Currie Barracks, Calgary, Alta., at the earliest possible moment for X-Ray examination. If you are fit you will be attested in the RCAF immediately and posted to this Unit for training.

He was fit, and on May 4th 1939, he became 4109 Aircraftsman Second Class, Motor Mechanic Motor Transport division. Over the next couple of years, Mr. Wagner helped build and maintain many of the bases needed for the Plan. In 1943 he remustered and trained as a navigator. After the war he stayed with the RCAF, retiring in 1967, a Flight Lieutenant.

Dennis Wagner started the Wings Over Alberta project in 1997. He decided to compile an album about training bases in Alberta after spending some time in his retirement lecturing students visiting the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, realizing that many people didn’t know a lot about this part of Alberta’s history. As he explained to many of those that he contacted to contribute to the project, it would be a resource for "students, teachers, researchers and historians of today and tomorrow". As of February 2003, his project has filled at least 13 binders.

Since starting the project, Mr. Wagner has contacted dozens of veterans of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, hailing from all the principal countries participating in the Plan: Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He has contacted governments, air force organizations at home and abroad, and taken out ads in a variety of publications in order to gather as much information about the Plan as possible. People were generally eager to respond, sending old documents, photos and recollections from their time in the Plan, and lauding his efforts to compile its history. Mr. Wagner has also made a point of visiting what’s left of all the air force bases in the province, taking photos of the remains.

Mr. Wagner has also had the opportunity to meet with several of the veteran trainees coming back to Alberta to relive the memories. These include former RAF instructor Owen Fauvel, now a resident of Penticton, B.C. who returned to the High River, Alberta air base at Wagner’s invitation (on learning that No. 5 EFTS was soon to be closed, Mr. Fauvel decided to film a class as it progressed through the training procedure. This film later became the property of the National Film Board of Canada. Please contact us for information on obtaining the film); former RAF squadron leader Joe Patient; and Royal Australian Air Force veteran Ken Wright.

Dennis Wagner’s efforts have been featured in several publications, including the Calgary Herald, the National Post, the High River Times, the Claresholm Local Press and the Lethbridge Herald

 

 

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