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Royal Air Force (RAF)

In order to train in Canada, Royal Air Force (RAF) trainees had first to travel the harrowing Atlantic Ocean, with its deadly U-boats. Early in the war the ships they boarded were accompanied by air support to a certain distance from each coast; they had to make it, however, through a gap in the middle where the ships were left to their own devices (this gap was closed later in the war). The trainees were not informed where they would arrive, but eventually landed at ports in maritime Canada, or ports on the American east coast.

From the east coast they boarded a train to Moncton, New Brunswick. There they were posted to various training schools across Canada and were issued with over-boots and headgear to deal with the Canadian winter. If posted to Alberta, they embarked on a train trip that could take as long as five days.

Royal Air Force trainees attended an Service Flying Training School (SFTS) and a Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS). The RAF itself ran several of the schools in Alberta.

RAF trainees formed the largest group (aside from the RCAF) in Canada. Overall 42,110 RAF airmen trained in Canada (this number includes British trainees and those who came from other, non-Commonwealth countries, such as occupied France, Norway and Poland, among many others). Almost 18,000 of the RAF recruits trained as pilots. Others trained as navigators, navigator/wireless operators, navigator/bombers, air gunners, naval air gunners and wireless operator/air gunners. The best trainees became instructors, some staying in Canada for two or three years. Britain contributed a total of $216 million dollars to the Plan.

Those training on Tiger Moths at EFTS noticed several differences between the Canadian version and the one they flew at home. The most significant was a sliding hood over the cockpit, which made flying in the cold possible. They also experienced vastly different flying conditions, with predictable weather and easy navigation, given the railway lines that stood out well and farmers' fields divided into squares, with lines going north-south and east-west. While the actual flying was easier, RAF trainees did find landing and taking off on hard-packed snow to be a little tricky at first.

Royal Air Force Insignia

Royal Air Force Insignia

RAF Station Penhold

RAF Station Penhold