Canada 150 Vignette Series
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Vignettes
PART XIV: Nos. 66-70
By Greg Sigurdson/Bill Hillman
66. Archie Londry Oral History
67. The Prairie Flyer Station Magazine -- No. 32 SFTS (RAF) Moose Jaw, SK
68. A World War II Memory - Les Jones
69. A World War II Memory - Tina Howell WD
70. Map Reading by Moonlight - Some RCAF Fiction
Continued in PART XV: Nos. 71-75
066 of 150: Archie Londry Oral History
Archie Londry grew up in the Minnedosa Manitoba area. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 and took eduction updates in order to go on to training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan as a air crew member. He graduated as a Flying Instructor and returned to the No. 12 Service Flying Training School in Brandon where he trained many pilots in advanced flying on Cessna Crane aircraft.
View Archie Londry’s Oral History Video at: https://youtu.be/Svf6FfUnEbw
At the end of World War II, Archie returned to the farm north of Brandon Manitoba where he lived with beloved wife Winona and raised a family. He became a prize-winning purebread cattle rancher and grower of foundation, registered and certified seed grain. He served as president of the Hereford Association, Simmental Association and Manitoba Cattle Breeder’s Association. Archive retired from farming in the early 2000s.
Archie has been an active volunteer at the museum acting as president and past-president for many years. He was a founding member involved with many museum projects including acting as chair for the CATPM Foundation and the CATPM Memorial Project.
The Memorial Wall Project was completed in 2014. It is a large structure across from Hangar No. 1 at the museum which lists the names of 18,000 plus men and women who died while in service to the Royal Canadian Air Force, as Canadians in service to the Royal Air Force, Britain’s Fleet Air Arm and in service to other Commonwealth air forces. Also included on the memorial are the names of the many from other country’s air forces killed while training in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
In his Oral History Video presentation, Archie brings a wealth of information about procedures and life as a student, and an instructor, in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. He provides many important footnotes to the bigger picture that we know as the RCAF in World War II.
The museum’s Kathy Sheppard skillfully guides the interview through a number of interesting topics.
Dedication of the BCATP Memorial Wall
Photo Collage by Bill Hillman ~ Click for full-size collage
067 of 150: The Prairie Flyer Station Magazine -- No. 32 SFTS (RAF) Moose Jaw Saskatchewan
In this vignette, we present a couple of pages from the Prairie Flyer – Christmas 1942, station magazine of No. 32 Service Flying Training School in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. No. 32 SFTS was a Royal Air Force school which is reflected somewhat in the articles which contain a few English eccentricities. As the graphics don’t show well, they have been transcribed.
How to Live in the Air Force – In One Easy Lesson
On learning recently that a friend of mine was about to join the Air Force, I decided to send him (together with the usual expression of sympathy) some general advice on conduct in the hope it might help to smooth the rocky path ahead of him. It was the most one could in the sad circumstances.
If those of you who have friends or brothers coming into the Service would care to pass on the same advice to them, here it is in tabloid form:
(1) Never wear a trilby hat with your uniform. It is considered bad taste.
(2) Never wear a red tie on parade. It may be thought to have a political significance.
(3) Never walk out of camp without calling at the guardroom first. The guardroom may have an important message for you.
(4) Never forget, if you want your breakfast in bed, to order it the evening before. This saves the cookhouse a lot of trouble.
(5) Never slap an officer on the back with "What-ho, twerp!" "Hallo" is considered much better etiquette.
(6) Never sing on early morning parade. Singing may wake up the others.
(7) Never offer the Accounts Officer a tip when you are paid. An Accounts Officer can get all the money he needs without a tip.
(8) Never take a week off without first telling Headquarters that you are going. Unreported absences only cause bother in handling the mail.
(9) Never exhibit your girl-friend's photograph too prominently. She may be a girl-friend of one of the officers as well.
(10) Never bring your girl-friend into the billet. It is always possible that someone taking a shower will find he has forgotten the soap.
(11) Never address the C.O. as "Groupie". He may be a Wing-Commander.
(12) Never bring beer or spirits into the billet. You will have none left for yourself.
(13) Never tell the Sergeant Discipline in public what you think of him. Lead him aside and tell him privately.
(14) Never use swear words when talking to the padre. He may not know they are swear words and come to use them himself.
If your friend, or brother, abides by these simple rules, he will have an intersting career in the Air Force and a wealth of memories when war is over.
Bits and Pieces
Erk: I went out with a girl from the schools last night.
Erk: No, it wasn't necessary.
A cricket-team arrived at the ground where they were to play, and found themselves a man short. There was nobody around on the field, except a horse. So the captain approached him, explained their position, and said : "Would you mind playing for us?’’
"No," said the horse. "I'll be delighted."
They felt that it would be best to put the horse in first, not knowing how he would shape. To their amazement, he scored a century; at the close of play, the horse was still in, and the score was so good that the captain decided to declare the innings.
Afterward he approached the horse, and explained that the man he was replacing was also a marvelous bowler. He said: "I wonder would you mind going in first tomorrow to bowl?"
"No," said the .horse. "I wouldn't dream of it."
"Why not?" asked the captain.
"Well," the horse replied, "who ever heard of a horse bowling?"
My brother was a deep-sea diver, and he met a terrible death. One day he was a long way down; a mermaid went by, and he raised his hat.
When the cat's away; she's usually having a hell of a good time.
A diver was working on a wreck. After he had been down some time, he found the air supply was becoming insufficient, so he tugged on a rope which rang a bell on the deck, to tell the crew of it. Meanwhile, the boat started to sink. One of the crew ran to the diving apparatus when the bell rang.
"Whars the matter?" he yelled into the diver's speaking tube.
"Pull me up, pull me up! My air supply is giving out."
"Don't worry, old boy. We're coming down."
"Who are you shoving?"
"I don't know. What's your name?"
They gave my mother-in-law a swell funeral. It took flve men to carry the beer.
Two drunks were having a conversation. "When I was very small," said one, "I was terribly, terribly ill.''
"Poor O'l chap," said the other. "Did you live?"
"Live!" was the reply. "You should see me now!"
One of the white-feather distributing ladies was in the country. She went to a farm, and saw a man there milking a cow.,.
"My man," she said, "you shouldn't be there. You should be at the front."
“Bain't no milk that end."
In countries of the British Empire, since the 1700s and through to World War II, men who were not enlisted in the army during war, were considered to be cowards and were presented with a white feather by radicals who felt this way.
We knew a man whose studies were pursued, but never effectively overtaken.
068 of 150: A World War II Memory - Les Jones
I joined up for the RCAF in October of 1941 and started on a training course of 4 months in an old warehouse on Henry Avenue in Winnipeg. We were taught machine shop, woodworking, fabric work, metal alloys, theory of flight, etc. Aircrew required grade XII and I had a grade IX, so this was why I was taking a mechanic's course.
Halifax Bomber at Linton with Ground Crew
We graduated the end of February in '42 (80 of us) and were posted to Manning Depot at Brandon. This was the old winter fair buildings which covered the whole block at 10th and Victoria across from the Armories. We slept in the horse barn, on double bunks (400 rookies). We received our needles, were taught marching and rifle drill and P.T. I had pneumonia there (a follow up to measles in Winnipeg) so was two weeks late leaving Manning. The hospital was the old fire hall with the big doors and plank flooring (south-west across the street). The hockey rink had a wooden floor installed and was used for P. T. and parades.
St Thomas, Ontario, was the next posting for further training. The train travel was great, first class in a sleeping car, and meal tickets for the diner. We did have leaves from St.Thomas (our first) and I was able to visit an aunt's family at Wallaceburg and an uncle’s at Kingston. I did not care for St Thomas and was glad to get out of there. We were given a preference for posting in late October. I asked for #12 Brandon and was pleased to go there.
I arrived at #12 Brandon around November 1, 1942 and was told early the next morning we were all to be on parade. It was still summer weather at St Thomas so my great coat had been stuffed in the bottom of my kit bag for six months. There was no time to polish buttons, so I was nabbed for a week's garbage run. I still remember the rats on the city dump running all over the place. That "hill" is still there, east of First Street by Hoffman's soccer fields.
I was introduced right away to what my duties would be in the hangar, which was inspection of Cessna Cranes. The first week the Sergeant asked if I would like to go for a flight, I said sure. I went up with a student and shortly after takeoff the motor coughed and quit, and he didn't know how to turn on the other gas tank and neither did I! There was no snow and he picked a good firm stubble field to land, no problem. We like to fly at every chance as it paid .75 flying time each trip.
#12 was a good station, well run, reasonably good food and regular hours. We had a 48 every two weeks (12 days work then 2 days off). I always went out to the farm. I had New Year's leave either '42 or '43, and happened to have my Dad's car at #12. Going home after dark, I started down the Riverside hill too fast and gaining speed (couldn't keep brakes on a '35 Ford). Around the bend I came across a blaze of lights, and airmen with flashlights directing traffic around an Anson on a flatbed coming up the hill. I went under the wing at 60 mph and flashlights diving into he ditch. No snow that New Years.
I was on "flights" for a short while and drove the fuel truck while there. The RCAF had introduced an upgrading course to enable those with less than Grade XII to remuster to aircrew. I applied, was accepted and was doing fine on the course until I had chicken pox, only two of us on the station, but we were kept in isolation for ten days and when I came back, my papers had been lost; so ended my aircrew aspirations.
In the spring of '44, I had 30 days leave to help with seeding, the tractor ran from sunup to sundown. I had just returned to #12 and was asked if I would like to go overseas, I jumped at it. Three of us air frame were to go, stopping at Lachine, Quebec for a week, then on to Halifax and the New Amsterdam boat. This new ship had escaped the Germans and was used for troop transport all during the war with no escort as she was fast and could outrun u-boats. The ship docked in the River Clyde and we boarded a train to go to Gloucester.
Bournemouth, the usual RCAF reception depot, had been bombed so Gloucester was being used at that time. The British jet test station was there and we saw and heard our first jet fly over. After a short stay, we were posted to Linton. Linton-on-Ouse was a heavy bomber station with two squadrons, 408 and 426 flying Mark VII Halifax. Each aircraft, on a concrete pad away out around the perimeter had its own groundcrew.
A bike was a necessity. Every day we did a thorough inspection and repairs and with 105 foot wingspan a Halifax had a lot of area to cover! At the same time, the engine boys would be reving up and testing the four motors. By evening, they were ready for another sortie, each squadron sending 12 to 15 aircraft.
We had a lot of freedom at Linton, and the only parade I was on was when the King and Queen and Princesses came to visit; and when we buried one of our guys that drowned in the river Ouse. The river was just back of our tin hut. Those huts were cold, and we had 3 straw biscuits and one grey blanket for sleeping. We couldn' t eat the rolled mutton at airmen's mess, so made up our own evening meal.
We had a 48 every two weeks, and I met my brother frequently, in or near London Once we had a week's leave in Cornwall, where he had been stationed. V.E. day was a great celebration. Ground crew had been asked to sign up for the Far East war but I did not wish to. The squadron was equipped with brand new Canadian Lancs and flew back to Dartmouth and the Japanese war was over before they finished training in Canada.
I was posted to Themsford to install seats in Liberators to bring back British army from the Far East. V-J day was another great celebration, such a relief to have the war over. Shortly after I was on my way home, leaving from Bournemouth which had been reopened. The old ship was the Ile-de-France which creaked and groaned safely to Halifax, and we boarded right onto the train from the dock.
Mary met the train in Winnipeg on October 25 and we were married after I was discharged .
Les Jones passed away on January 2, 2015 in Brandon Manitoba at the age of 95 years. After discharge from the RCAF, Leslie and wife Mary farmed south of Brandon for 30 years and then lived in Calgary and Brandon. His wife Mary predeceased Les after 65 years of marriage.
069 of 150: A World War II Memory - Tina Howell WD
In this Oral History, Tina Howell talks about her experiences as a young girl in England who was 15 when World War II broke out. She and her younger brothers were sent to safety in Canada and settled in Calgary. When she was old enough. Tina joined the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division. After training at Rockcliffe Ontario she was posted to Dafoe Saskatchewan and Vancouver British Columbia spending two yeas in the RCAF. At war’s end, she returned to England with her brothers.
Tina Howell’s Oral History Video can be seen on YouTube at:
Not included in the video is Tina’s life after returning to England. She settled back into life as before but yearned to return to Canada which she had fallen in love with while in the RCAF. She initially settled in Halifax Nova Scotia and Toronto Ontario. On a visit to Souris Manitoba to see her sister Marjorie and brother-in-law Alf Howell she met and married Albert Howell. They began life together on the farm south of Souris where three children were born and raised.
In the late 60s, Tina and Albert moved back to Souris as they were unable to keep up with the physical demands of farming. Tina loved cooking and always kept a large garden. She kept busy with sewing, knitting, crafting and painting bringing many red ribbons home from the local fairs. She was a member of the Canadian Air Force Association, Royal Canadian Legion, Souris Art Club and Souris Women’s Institute. Tina passed away on December 1 2010 at the age of 86 years. She was predeceased by her husband Albert.
Taken on board the SS Hilary - Aug. 1940 - The ship that brought us to Canada ~ Brother Dave at lower right)
Taken at Calgary Train Station ~ August 23, 1940
When we arrived in Canada on the "Chinook" CPR
Brothers Don at far left ~ Fred (Dave) next ~ Tina at top
070 of 150: Map Reading by Moonlight - Some RCAF Fiction
From the August 1972 issue of Legion Magazine we give the following RCAF fiction:
Mapreading by Moonlight
By J.C. Kesson
The Blitz Bar, this side of Guy Street in Montreal, is now a tourist attraction but, during the late forties, the place was full of young veterans adrift in a world of peace. Perched on a stool at the corner of the bar, a solemn-faced individual sat night after night, a glass of ginger ale in one hand, a manual of air navigation in the other. His name was Duncan Campbell, but his buddies called him Moonlight.
One night he opened the pages of the manual, pointed to a short paragraph bearing the title "Map reading at Night," and began as follows:
I was responsible for this milestone in navigation history. I not only know the man who wrote that. I made him write it! His name was Samson and he and I were in war-time Britain. We both were experienced navigators, but I had just been promoted and put in charge of all navigation at Mindow, an Air Force operational training base that wasn't six weeks old.
Our pupils were recent graduates from elementary navigation schools located on those vast Canadian prairies where a significant landmark is a wooden grain silo alongside a single-track railroad. As Samson pointed out, a navigator trained there has seen all the farmland he ever needs to look at, but he has seen little, if any, of thriving industrial regions. So I planned familiarization flights that went as near as we dared to the heavy defended midlands of Britain.
Anybody who has ever been in command, well knows that day-to-day routine can be a full-time job in itself. Yet, as soon as I had the Mindow training program operating better than the C.O. expected, the Air Force decided that the middle of a war was the best time to rewrite the manual of air navigation.
As officer in charge of navigation at Mindow, I took a critical look at the manual we were using, and I immediately noticed one glaring omission. There we were trying to teach guys how to find their way at night over a blacked-out continent, yet the book we were supposed to use for instruction was silent about the vital skill of map reading at night.
To be in command is to issue orders, so I picked Samson to write a comprehensive chapter on the subject of map reading at night, and I told him to be quick about it. He and I had been together at Montreal High, so I expected him to try and take advantage of our friendship. He tried.
When he argued that discipline would have to be relaxed before he could get himself into the mood for operative and constructive thinking, I was fair. I took him off normal duties, leaving him free to concentrate on the assignment I had delegated to him.
Once each week for five whole weeks I asked him about the progress of our project, and each time I received the same reply, a promise that next week without fail, I would
have in my possession the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about map reading at night during a blackout.
A few days before I was due to submit my report and recommendations for changes to the existing manual of air navigation, I did what I should have done first. I asked every student navigator at Mindow to write an account of the difficulties he encountered when map reading at night.
When every pupil had obeyed my order, I sent for Samson. I started to tell him what I thought of his promises, but while I was reprimanding him he fished in his tunic pocket and brought out a piece of note paper. Without my permission he took an envelope !rom a drawer in my desk, placed his piece of note paper in the envelope and sealed the flap.
"On the piece of paper in that envelope," he said as he handed me the sealed envelope. "I have summed up the whole truth and nothing but the truth about map reading at night, Now I am going to take and read the pupils' accounts of their difficulties and if there is an instance which is different from the one described on that piece of paper, you can put me on night flying until the end of this war."
The following day Samson swaggered into my office. Without my permission, he tore open the envelope he had left with me. After pausing long enough to show who was in command, I read what was written on his piece of paper.
"When map reading at night, always look toward some source of light such as the moon or a flare. As a surface of water can act as a mirror, the location of a river or lake will be revealed when the light from the moon or flare strikes the water and is reflected into the eyes of the map reader."
The piece of note paper was a bit dog-eared, as it would be if it had been weeks in Samson's tunic pocket.
"I believe what you have written," I told him when I read his paragraph. "But just in case I am wrong and you have missed something important, I am assigning you to constant night flying. For the next four months you will be up in the night sky just as often as regulations permit."
I copied his paragraph, word for word, and it appeared with only minor changes when the new navigation manual was published.
After I put Samson on constant night flying, I felt sorry for the girl he had been dating every evening. I contacted her to explain why I had ruined her social life. She was an understanding girl, sympathetic to me and my duties. We grew very fond of each other while Samson was up in the night sky, so fond of each other that we were married, and we now have three children.
She and I both wish that we could find some way to repay Samson for bringing us together. He is one friend I will never forget.
BCATP Vignettes are Continued in PART XV: Nos. 71-75
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