For the Australians on their way to Canada, their journey often began with a grueling train ride across their own vast country. Coming from all over the continent, the Australian heat and lack of sleeper cars made for some uncomfortable trips.
Next came a boat trip across the Pacific. Sailing to an unknown destination somewhere on west coast North America, the ships took a roundabout route in order to skirt areas known to be active with Japanese submarines. To hide at night, the ships were blacked out and smoking was prohobited after a certain hour.
The Australians usually disembarked in California. If they were lucky, they would get to spend a few hours or a day in San Francisco before hopping on a train for the 30-hour trip to Alberta. In its entirety, the journey from Australia to Alberta took several weeks.
Australians, like their counterparts from New Zealand, came to Canada to attend Service Flying Training School (SFTS). Australians completed their initial and elementary flying in Australia. 9,666 Australians came to train in Canada overall, including over 4,000 who became pilots (the total number of Australians pilots in World War II numbered approximately 15,000). Australians also trained as navigators, navigator/bombers, air bombers, air gunners and wireless operator/air gunners. Australia spent $65 million on the Plan.
At some rather tender ages some recruits were just past their 18th birthdays these men found themselves over 20,000 kilometres from their home and families. There was no airmail to Australia at that time and surface mail took weeks to go back and forth between Alberta and Australia. Many did find surrogate families in Alberta, aided by notice boards, which were full of invitations. They also found community in their fellow Aussies. Trainees from other countries observed that they were fiercely loyal to one another.
In wintertime, Australian trainees could be set apart by their uniforms, which were a unique shade of deep blue, as opposed to the dull grey of the other divisions. Unfortunately, their summer gear was the same khaki as everyone else, although one group did manage to escape this fate. And while nicknames abounded among all the divisions, the Australians seemed to come up with the most creative monikers. One group, for instance, included a Bob "Shagger" Clarke, a Ken "100% Good" Wright, a Keith "Horizontal" Quirk and an "Ozzie" Osbourne.