"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)
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
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
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:
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
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
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.