A Canadian training

A first-hand account of training in the depths of a Canadian winter, extracted from the Bomber Command website:

‘There was a great response in Western Canada to the British Empire Air Training scheme. All the flying schools in Canada became training centres under the supervision of the airforce. There was a big manning pool opened in Edmonton where I lived. We stayed there a few weeks, but they didn’t have any stores or uniforms. We finally got kitted out and we had to go to different stations on what they called Tarmac Duty, or guard duty. I went to a service flying school in southern Alberta, where I was driving a tractor. Then they opened an Initial Training School at Saskatoon and we went over there on one of the coldest days of the winter. I had not been issued with a great coat, and we had to march 2 or 3 miles up the road to the training station.

Most of the navigation instructors were ex-schoolteachers, recruited from schools. Some of us who didn’t have as great an education as others had to learn logarithms and so forth. We were billeted in this old school and there were blackboards up all over the place. At night those who understood navigation and logarithms, and I didn’t know a logarithm from a hole, taught us our classes. One was a mathematical genius, and he used to stand up and pound the blackboard because we were all so dumb. “Don’t you guys get it?” he would say and he would bang the board until chalk came out of the cracks. That is where we were selected as pilot or navigator or wireless operator.’

Wilkie Wanless,
Bomber Command rear gunner

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