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Divisions that trained in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) during World War II consisted of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (RCAFWD), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). Recruits from American or from occupied Europe also trained as part of the Plan.

The training program was intense. Trainees learned a range of skills including photography, navigation, bombing, reconnaissance and meteorology. Recruits to the RCAF Women’s Division learned nursing, parachute packing, communications operation, and airframe and aero engine maintenance. Flight training itself included maneuvers like taking off, turning and landing, but quickly moved on to aerobatics, including dives, rollovers and spins. Many would-be pilots found this to be not only a nauseating ordeal but also a dangerous experience—injury and death from crashes were a regular occurrence.

Although most recruits dreamed of becoming pilots, most would be trained in other capacities becoming observers, wireless operators, air gunners, navigators, bomb aimers and flight engineers.

While training was difficult, life wasn’t all about work. In their free time, the airmen and women discovered much that Alberta had to offer, including local hospitality and many recruits found themselves surrogate families in the surrounding community. Fond memories of dances, fishing and romance accompanied many air force trainees during this historic period of Alberta’s past.

Pearce Station

Pearce Station