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1923

The Canadian Air Force gains permanent status from the government.

1924

The Canadian Air Force gets permission to be called the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The official mandate is to carry on air force training, to maintain a centre around which the military air force can grow if required, and to conduct flying operations for other government departments. At this point it is still controlled by the Canadian Army.

1931

The RCAF graduates 25 pilots and due to budgetary restrictions, can offer only one of them an active placement.

1933

The Visiting Forces Acts of Canada and the United Kingdom are created. These are identical statutes to allow the posting of forces between Canada and Britain without any problems.

1934

The British and Canadian governments begin to meet to negotiate the future of military air training between their countries.

1936

Robert Leckie, a Canadian member of the Royal Air Force, writes to Arthur Tedder, the commander of the RAF reserves, about the possible training of large numbers of Commonwealth airmen in Canada.

1938

The RCAF gains full independence from the army.

1939

Canada and Britain begin seriously discussing the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) they hope to implement. Prime Minister King states that men from Britain are welcome to come train at the schools, but the RCAF will be determining the procedures by which the schools will be run. Progress is made, but nothing is finalized.

 

Even though an agreement supporting the BCATP had not been signed, sites for the fields are chosen and surveyed.

 

September 3
Britain declares war on Germany.

 

September 10
Canada declares war on Germany.

 

The RCAF’s Home War Establishment has two operational commands, the East and West Air Command, to fulfil its role of defending Canada’s two seaboards. As the greatest threat to Allied shipping is German U-boats in the North Atlantic, the Eastern Command is presently considered top priority.

 

December 17
The Final agreement for the British Commonwealth Air Training Program is signed by Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Men from all of these countries will come to Canada to train for the war.

1940

The Armament School, Wireless and Air Navigation Schools are officially transferred from the Home War Establishment to the BCATP division of the RCAF.

 

The Training Plan accepts its first recruits at No.1 Initial Training School at Manning Depot in Toronto.

Edmonton Mayor John Fry writes to Ottawa questioning Edmonton’s relatively limited involvement in the Plan. Their participation is increased shortly thereafter.

 

The cabinet position of Minister of National Defence for Air is created.

 

Former postmaster C.G. Power is appointed minister of National Defence for Air.

 

Italy declares war on Britain and France.

 

France signs armistace. British High Commissioner to Canada, Sir Gerald Campbell, informs the Canadian government that Britain is anxious to move four RAF service flying training schools out of the war zone to Canada. Canada complies, and the schools act in combination with the RCAF schools already established.
RCAF HQ asks London to nominate a suitable officer as Director of Training in Ottawa.

 

48 British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools are now in operation across Canada.

 

Alberta’s first Elementary Flying Training School, No.5 EFTS, opens in Lethbridge. It is moved to High River in June of 1941.

 

Alberta’s first Air Observer School, No. 2 AOS, opens in Edmonton.

 

September No.3 Air Observer School opens in Regina, SK but is moved to Pearce, AB in September 1942.

 

No.2 Wireless School opens in Calgary.

 

Alberta’s first Service Flying Training School opens in Calgary.

 

Even though many new stations are still in the process being built, the training begins.

 

Canadian members of the RAF are already present in North Africa fighting Italian and German forces.

 

No. 16 Elementary Flying Training School opens in Edmonton.

 

No.7 Service Flying Training School opens at Fort MacLeod.

1941

Members of the RCAF arrive in North Africa to contribute to the Allied cause.

Robert Leckie is appointed Director of Training. Leckie, who is a Canadian member of the RAF, accepts his appointment and transfers to the RCAF.

 

The demand for air crew recruits begins to supercede the supply; age and medical requirements are relaxed.

 

British airmen posted in Canada are allowed to bring their families over provided that accommodation is previously arranged.

 

April
No.34 Service Flying Training School opens in Medicine Hat.

 

June
No. 15 Service Flying Training School opens in Claresholm.


 

No.31 Elementary Flying Training School opens in DeWinton.

 

July
A women’s division of the RCAF is formed. The women are trained as instrument mechanics, engine fitters, motor mechanics, drivers, air controllers, cooks and clerks.


 

No.32 Elementary Flying Training School opens in Bowden.

 

September
No.36 Service Flying Training School opens in Penhold.

 

October
No. 8 B&GS, the only Bombing and Gunnery School to open in Alberta, opens in Lethbridge.

 

No.4 Training Command, first opened in Regina, moves to Calgary.

No.37 Service Flying Training School opens in Calgary.

 

December
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

 

As Japan has entered the war and occupied islands in the Aleutian chain, the threat to Canada’s Western coast is increased. The Western Air Command is reinforced and provided with more modern aircraft.

1942

The first entirely Canadian Air Force squadron arrives in North Africa to add to the Allied forces.

 

Construction of the air training bases is at its peak. Some 1,000 contracts worth $80,000,000 are in effect.

 

March
No.36 Elementary Flying Training School opens in Pearce.

 

2000 men have graduated from the BCATP. During the last half of this year, an average of over 3,100 aircrew graduate per month.

 

The Home War Establishment experiences its peak growth. The Eastern Air Command moves squadrons into Newfoundland to increase its coverage over the North Atlantic. The Western Air Command provides air reinforcements to American forces in Alaska.

 

May
No.19 Service Flying Training School opens in Vulcan.

 

May 19-June 3
The Ottawa Air Training Conference begins. The process of “Canadianizing” the RCAF is discussed.

 

June
The duties of the air observer are now divided between navigators and bomb aimers.

 

A new BCATP agreement is signed. The termination date is extended from March 1943 to March 1945.

 

August
No.2 Flying Instructors School, opens in Vulcan. It is moved to Pearce in May 1943.

 

Due to the increased pace of training, Canadian newspapers are full of air crew trainee accident reports.

1943

October
A record is set. 5, 127 aircrew graduate from the BCATP this month.

 

The Home War Establishment reaches its peak strength with a total of 37 squadrons. Nineteen in Eastern Air Command and 18 in Western Air command, as well as a network of air stations on both coasts.

 

A growing number of Air Force trainees begin to come to Canada from Norway, Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and France.

The fatality rate of pilots being trained in the BCATP become comparable to WWI statistics as the push to train more men in a shorter period of time continues.

 

W.R.“Wop” May, who ran Edmonton’s No.2 AOS, advocates creating an elite group of airmen to be trained to provide medical service. The idea is implemented. These are today’s search and rescue technicians.

1944

The Eastern Air Command of the Home War Establishment is able to escort Allied ships right across the Atlantic.

 

February
Harold Balfour, the British undersecretary of state for air and Sir Peter Drummond, the RAF member for personnel, arrive in Ottawa. Due to the large number of aircrew already trained or in training, the BCATP begins to draw to a close.

 

October
The air schools start closing.

1945

March 31
The British Commonwealth Training Program comes to an end.

 

May 7
Germany surrenders and World War II is over in Europe.

 

September 2
Japan surrenders. World War II is officially over.

 

The Royal Canadian Air Force suffered approximately 20,000 casualties during the war.

1948

The Royal Canadian Air Force Association is founded. (Now the Air Force Association of Canada).

1984

The Commonwealth Air Training Museum opens in Brandon, Manitoba. It is the only Canadian museum exclusively dedicated to preserving the history of the BCATP.

2000

Hangar M, built in Edmonton during the BCATP, is still in use by 13 air and youth organizations, and is designated a provincial heritage resource.

2002

Some of the hangars that were built for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan are dismantled.