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BCATP SITES Then and Now

It is interesting to look at how Alberta affected the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), but how did the Plan have an impact in Alberta?

Previous to World War II and the immense aerodrome

Between 1939 and 1942, each of the locations below was chosen by the Department of National Defence to be used in training Commonwealth Air Forces. Select a location and discover the history of each site.

 


Bowden

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Bowden, Alberta
Home of No. 32 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

In late 1940, farm area just north of the Bowden town site was expropriated to become one of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan bases. No. 32 Elementary Flying Training School was operational from July 1941 to September Oct 19, 1998. Old site of RAF No.32 EFTS Bowden. 1944. The preliminary work was done and the school was taking students in the fall of 1941. As a Royal Air Force base, the school was operated under the command of personnel from Great Britain, however, later on the Royal Canadian Air Force took over operations.

After the war, the Bowden base was used as a reform school and then became its present day facility, a prison.

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Calgary

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Calgary, Alberta
Home of No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)
No. 3 Service Flight Training School

In 1939, there were two Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Permanent Force Squadrons stationed at Currie Barracks, Calgary. They were RCAF No. 3 (B) Squadron and RCAF No. 1 (F) squadron. During World War II, No. 1 (F) squadron was renumbered as No. 401 after being posted overseas, eventually flying with distinction during the Battle of Britain. 

A 1941 International Bickle Crash Tender restored. On the homefront, No. 3 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was opened on Currie Field, Calgary on October 28, 1940. While the site was a pre-war flying field, it was not until the RCAF had chosen it and brought it up to their standard that the landing strip was paved. The school was open until September 28, 1945 and trained many pilots. After the BCATP, this base was used to train NATO pilots until 1958. Following that, until 1964, portions of the site were kept open as an emergency landing strip for pilots who might have been using old wartime maps. In 1972, Mount Royal College opened its Lincoln Park Campus and was using portions of runways as student parking lots. Today, north of the campus, on the former Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Currie, No. 3 SFTS hangars still remain and are used for all sorts of purposes, including housing businesses and film sets. A monument commemorating the BCATP hangs in the new plaza at Mount Royal College.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Calgary, Alberta
Home of No. 37 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) Memorial Gardens at Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Calgary, home of No. 37 Service Flying Training School. The hangar in the background is now the Calgary Aero Space Museum.No. 37 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was a Royal Air Force base opened in 1942. After the war, the aerodrome remained active and became the City Municipal Airport. Today, this site is the home of the Calgary International Airport. Most of the buildings that were constructed for the BCATP have long since been dismantled, however the Calgary Aerospace Museum is located in one of the few remaining hangars.

“In time of war, sacrifices must be made, and ours are minor in comparison with those bearing the brunt of the battle over there”
-Dr. W.G. Carpenter, Principal of the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now SAIT), about giving up their location to the Department of National Defence

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Calgary, Alberta 
Home of No. 2 Wireless School (WS)

Prior to World War II, this site was home to the Provincial Institute of Art and Technology. It was relinquished, both the buildings and grounds, to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 for the duration of World War II. After the war, the property was returned to the Institute and is now the home of Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). The building that No. 2 Wireless School (WS) was located in still remains, although nothing else does. There is a BCATP commemorative plaque located on the SAIT campus.

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Calgary, Alberta
Home of No. 10 Repair Depot

No. 10 Repair Depot repaired aircraft damaged while being used in training. It was located across the field from No. 3 Service Flying Training School. Today the ATCO company resides at this site.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Calgary, Alberta, formerly the home of No. 11 Equipment Depot.Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Calgary, Alberta
Home of No. 11 Equipment Depot

All that remains of No. 11 Equipment Depot today are two large sandstone buildings located close to the railroad tracks. The buildings now house civilian trades. 

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Claresholm

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Claresholm, Alberta
Home of No. 15 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)

No. 15 Service Flying Training School (SFTS).No. 15 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was opened in Claresholm June 9, 1941 and remained open as a BCATP base until March 1945. In 1951, it was renamed No. 3 Flight Training School and used to train pilots for the Korean War. RCAF Station Claresholm was closed in 1958. Although closing the flight school was quite a loss to the Claresholm community, the air force hangars were subsequently converted to industrial uses and a small industrial airport still remains active. The shell of a Harvard aeroplane stands as a monument to the Plan in Claresholm Centennial Park.

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De Winton

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station De Winton, Alberta
Home of No. 31 Elementary Flying Training School  (EFTS)

De Winton Aerodrome In 1940 the federal government expropriated land from two men reluctant to sell as they had homesteaded in the De Winton area in the 1880s. However, the Canadian government had chosen their land as a site for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and construction of No. 31 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) began in early 1941. Being a Royal Air Force base, RAF staff were in charge, but in the summer of 1942, the school RAF No.31 EFTS De Winton. Old RCAF Snowplow. became civilian operated and instructors arrived predominantly from a flying club in Malton, Ontario. Men from many countries had trained here by the time the school was closed in September 1944.

The base has not been used for many years and has fallen into disrepair. A lonely gun butt remains on the property, which is now privately owned.

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Edmonton

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Edmonton, Alberta
Home of No. 16 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)


Raising of the Union Jack & RCAF Ensign by Hon.J C Bowen, Lt. Governor.No. 16 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was opened November 11, 1940 at the Edmonton Municipal Airport. The facility had opened January 8, 1927 and was then called Blatchford Field. It was operated by the Northern Alberta Aero Club until 1930 when the City of Edmonton took it over. During the war, the airport was appropriated by the federal government to use as an RCAF training base. It was operated by the Northern Alberta Flying Training School Ltd. and under the supervision of RCAF officers. The school was only open a short while and was disbanded to make room for No. 2 Air Observer School (AOS) in July of 1942.No. 2 Air Observer School

Today, the municipal airport, now called the Edmonton City Centre Airport, remains fully functional and is operated by the Edmonton Regional Airport Authority. The Alberta Aviation Museum is located in Hangar M, a remnant from the BCATP, and works to preserve Alberta aviation history.


Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Edmonton, Alberta
Home of Edmonton AirportNo. 2 Air Observer School (AOS)

No. 2 Air Observer School (AOS) was open from August 1940 to July 1944. It was located at what is now known as the Edmonton City Centre Airport. W.R. “Wop” May, a talented and renowned local aviator was quickly appointed the general manager of the school. Canadian Airways were responsible for operations until 1942 when Canadian Pacific Airways took over. It was one of two AOS in Alberta during the BCATP.

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Edmonton, Alberta
Home of No. 4 Initial Training School (ITS)
No. 4 Initial Training School

No. 4 Initial Training School was open from June 1941 to November 1944. It was located at the University of Alberta. Hanging inside of Pembina Hall is the propeller from what is said to have been the first plane to cross over "the Hump" (the portion of the Himalaya mountain range that separates Burma and China) during World War II. 

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Fort Macleod

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Fort Macleod, Alberta
Home of No. 7 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)
No. 7 Service Flying Training School
No. 7 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was open in Fort Macleod from December 9, 1940 to November 17, 1944. The land it was built on was farmland appropriated from local residents. After the war, the base turned into No. 1 Repair Equipment and Maintenance Unit (REMU) and was used to repair Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft. 

Today, many of the same buildings are standing and the airport remains active and able to handle light aircraft. In Memorial Park, in Fort MacLeod, two monuments have been erected to pay tribute to those who participated in the BCATP.

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High River

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station High River, Alberta
Home of No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

RCAF No.5 EFTS High River (Flight Line - Tiger Moths).No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was moved to the High River Aerodrome in June, 1941. The aerodrome was built in 1921 and was used to support the Dominion Forestry Branch by reporting locations of fires and conducting pesticide No. 5 Elementary FlyingTraining Schoolsprayings and aerial photography for the Dominion Lands Office. In 1923, the civilian staff was replaced by 28 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) members and remained under RCAF control for parachute and new aircraft testing until 1931. At this time, the air station was closed and used to store aircraft and for some civilian activity. During the war, the air station was re-opened to accommodate an Elementary Flying Training School.

In late 1940, instructors from the Calgary Aero Club began training classes as local tradesmen and labourers built facilities for the base. It officially opened September 23, 1941. The school graduated 117 courses before it closed in December, 1944.RCAF No.5 EFTS High River site as it is today. Photo taken April 20, 2000.

No. 5 Elementary Flight Training SchoolAfter the war, the base turned to civilian ownership and eventually fell into disuse. Today, one hangar remains and is now the site of Willow Creek Homes Ltd.

A local resident has been successful in lobbying the town council into supporting a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan monument. In August 2002, ceremonies were held to unveil and dedicate a BCATP monument located in downtown High River as well as another located at the former air base.

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Lethbridge


Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station, Lethbridge, Alberta
Home of No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) opened in Lethbridge July 22, 1940. It was located at Kenyon Field, a newly constructed civilian airfield. The local flying club provided the instructors and No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School maintenance personnel while the government fielded the aircraft, supplies and all other necessary equipment for the school. Prior to students arriving, local company Bennett and White Construction set to work building new hangars and barracks.

In July of 1940, the first group of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) students arrived from No. 2 Initial Training School (ITS) in Regina; there were 24 of them. Severe wind in the area restricted pilot training and less than a year after the base opened, it was moved to High River. Although No. 5 EFTS was only open a short while, it trained a number of pilots.

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station, Lethbridge, Alberta
Home of No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School (B&GS)

Lethbridge was also home to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School from October 13, 1941 to December 15, 1944. Located at Kenyon Field, this was the only school in Alberta that trained bomb aimers and air guLethbridge County Airportnners. In addition to the space at Kenyon Field, the school leased 100 square miles from the Blood Indian Reserve to use for bombing and gunnery practice. Almost 1,600 aircrew graduated from this school.

When the RCAF left the base in 1944, it continued to be used and is currently the site of the Lethbridge County Airport.

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Medicine Hat

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Home of No. 34 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)

No. 34 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was open from April 8, 1941 to November 17, 1944. In 1939, the Department of National Defence appropriated the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede Grounds and built the necessary facilities for pilot training. Today, the Medicine Hat Municipal Airport stands where the BCATP base was. On the site is a large two piece monument commemorating the Plan.

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Pearce

Airport Dairy Six kilometres north of Highway 3 stands the Airport Dairy on what used to be Pearce airport. After the World War II, the airfield was left to decay. For a number of years it was used as a holding area Old site of RAF No.36 EFTS , RCAF No.2 FIS, and RCAF No.3 AOS Pearce Alberta.where wartime bombers were left and eventually dismantled for scrap metal. The airport buildings were either moved elsewhere or dismantled. Pearce used to be, essentially, three grain elevators and a post office, but now even that is gone. Today, there is a commemorative plaque located at the former aerodrome.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Pearce, Alberta
Home of No. 36 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

No. 36 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) was open for only five months between March and August 1942. After that, the school was closed to make room for No. 3 Air Observer School (AOS), which was moved from Regina in September of the same year.


Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Pearce, Alberta
Home of No. 3 Air Observer School (AOS)

No. 3 Air Observer School (AOS) opened in Regina September 16, 1940 and moved to Pearce September 12, 1942. This school was operated by a civilian company, but aircraft, supervisors and instructional staff were Royal Canadian Air Force. The school was never fully moved from Regina due to lack of accommodation and facilities at Pearce. However, classes were run between the two locations with impeccable cooperation and the training was not interrupted. The school closed in June 1943.


Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Pearce, Alberta
Home of No. 2 Flying Instructor School (FIS)

The remains of the Pearce, Alberta Aerodrome.As the output of flying instructors from the Central Flying School in Trenton, Ontario was not able to meet the needs of the BCATP, it was decided that another school of its kind should be opened in Alberta. Dubbed the “Western University for the Air”, August 3 1942, No. 2 Flying Instructor School (FIS) opened in Vulcan. In May of 1943, the school was moved to Pearce and remained a part of the BCATP until it was closed in 
January 1945.

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PenholdNo. 36 Service Flight Training School

Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Penhold, Alberta
Home of No. 36 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)

In 1941, the Royal Air Force moved one of their training schools out of Europe and to the safety of Penhold, Alberta. After the war, this site was owned and used by the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1965 when the City of Red Deer took it over and turned it into the Red Deer Municipal Airport. In September of 1999 the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority appropriated the ownership. Now the Red Deer Regional Airport, this site is yet another example of the BCATP legacy in Alberta.

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VulcanNo. 19 Service Flying Training School

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Vulcan, Alberta
Home of No. 19 Service Flying Training School (SFTS)

No. 19 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was open in Vulcan from May 1943 to April 1945. The BCATP opened up a Vulcan Aerodromefew “double” schools, which were essentially much larger than a regular school, and this base was one of them. After the war, the base was closed and fell into civilian hands. 
Six of the of former RCAF hangars are privately owned and some are occupied by light industrial businesses. Windows and doors from Vulcan hangars are now being used at the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon, Manitoba. A monument commemorating the Vulcan Aerodrome was erected and dedicated on the site July 15, 2000.

 

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