You don’t know Jack!

Windsock page

With kind permission by the author Will Chabun

You don’t know Jack!

What we learned about wartime RCAF veteran Jack Boan

Listening to the Living Skies Chorus on Dec. 15 were RCAF veteran Jack Boan (centre) and fans. Sitting next to Jack is Reginan Margaret McGill, who was a wartime RCAF wireless operator; her late husband trained at 2 Bombing & Gunnery School, Mossbank. (Photo: Jack Elkington)

The centre of attention at the CAMS-RCAF Association Christmas dinner Dec. 15 was Jack Boan — who the next day turned 100.

He was born on the family farm near Briercrest in 1917. He was working on highway construction when the war broke out in the summer of 1939. By the next summer, he’d been accepted in the RCMP when he heard of a program teaching wireless signalling. The RCAF was keen, naturally, to take its graduates. He spent only two weeks at manning depot in Brandon, and then was posted to 2 Wireless School in Calgary to as a wireless instructor.
An overseas posting was interrupted by a hernia and he returned to 2 WS. “With Training Command, it was almost impossible to get out, especially if you were doing a good job. The authorities must have liked my work because 1 got two rapid promotions — then I hit a dead end as a sergeant. I didn’t get any further,” wrote Jack in his memoir Spaces To Fill And a Century To Do It, released in November.

2 WS used the Norseman, the Tiger Moth (with one set of controls replaced by a wireless set for the student), the Fleet Fort (which turned out to have oil lines with a frustrating tendency to break in flight) and the Harvard. As the European war was winding down in the spring of 1945, Jack was posted to Western Air Command and a radio post at Coal Harbor, BC, from which Canso flying boats operated. Later, he spent a short period at Bella Bella, helping to close this station.

He was discharged in November 1945 and began university classes at Carson College, which he remembers as being on an abandoned air force facility several miles north of Saskatoon — presumably Osier, one of the relief landing fields for the wartime 4 SFTS at Saskatoon.

Jack ends his book with a section called “My Nine Lives”, which covers his brushes with death. Two are from his air force days. The first was early in the Second World War, when he was a wireless instructor at Calgary. Normally, aero-engine mechanics would he called to start the school’s Tiger Moths, but for 30-minute flights this was deemed too time-consuming. So the commanding officer authorized wireless instructors like Jack to train to do this themselves.

Jack got “a little careless” one day and forgot to shout “Switches off, throttle wide open!” He then swung the propeller — at which time the engine immediately started and he found himself mere inches from a whirling propeller, the plane held back only by the chocks at its wheels. “I inched my way backward until I got two or three feet away, then walked to the side, shaking like a leaf”

In the summer of 1942, he was sent to RCAF Station Patricia Bay near Victoria, to get a feeling for what wireless school graduates would face when they went through operational training. Thus did he find himself in a Beech 18 with a staff pilot, a student navigator and a student wireless operator, all heading out over the Pacific one evening.

The weather began closing in, so they were told to return to Pat Bay. The pilot asked the student for a navigational fix. The student replied he had stopped navigating when they’d turned around. The pilot then asked the trainee wireless operator to use his direction-finding equipment get a fix on Pat Bay. The student replied the equipment was unserviceable. “I began thinking about how cold the Pacific is, how one could survive for only 20 minutes,” Jack wrote. “If we had to ditch, we may have 25 or 30 minutes to live. But how would anyone find us? Flying aimlessly in the direction of base, we stood a good chance of colliding with a mountain.”

The pilot asked Jack, who had experience at the controls, to take over while he went to the tiny bathroom at the rear of the aircraft. When the pilot came back, he lowered the undercarriage and flaps in order to slow the aircraft. “This reduced the static so he could hear the navigational beam which commercial pilots used.”

In time, he picked up the beam and followed it home “The only problem left was the mountains. We flew along for quite some time in silence before he began descending. When we got down to about 500 feet, there was Pat Bay right below us. Talk about relief.”

by Will Chabun


 

Epilogue by Will Chabun

Jack Boan was quite a guy, who I came to know over the last 25 years. After his wartime service, he used his veteran’s benefits to study economics at the U of S and the U of A and eventually went to work for the federal Defence Research Board in some hush-hush capacity. After a few years back in academia, he joined Justice Emmett Hall’s royal commission studying whether Canada should adopt a universal single-payer health-care system. Jack was a senior researcher.

After that, he joined the academic staff of what’s now the University of Regina. I never took a class from him, sadly, but was able to come to know him after I’d graduated.

Jack did some fine writing on public policy and did some particularly good articles on learning from past errors in addressing the challenges of housing, such as the case for and against rent control. Balancing the need for reasonable rents against the effect of rent controls in squelching new construction and even maintenance, he proposed that new rental buildings be subjected to rent controls, with those over a certain age — say 20 years — exempt. The idea was that new buildings would find their level in a competitive market while older buildings owners’ would be able to get enough for renovations and repairs. Because extremists of the right and left disliked this plan, he probably got it right!

After his wife passed away, Jack opened his home to students from around the world, giving them a place to live near the U of R in return for a tiny rent payment and work around the house. He also wrote a remarkable article after he was hit and injured by a car sliding on ice — the kindness of people, his reflections on enforced idleness, etc. A remarkable man!

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No. 2 Wireless School

Research done by Clarence Simonsen

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Calgary, Alberta, 16 Sept. 1940 – 14 March 1945

The Training of RCAF Wireless Air Gunners During WWII

Just before midnight on the 16 December 1939, a small group of V.I.P.’s joined Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King in the signing of an “Agreement Relating to the Training of Pilots and Aircraft Crews in Canada.” Mackenzie King had dragged out the negotiations for days and in fact the delegates from United Kingdom and New Zealand had already departed for home, their signatures would be added later. Our Canadian Liberal Prime Minister wanted the document signed on 17 December, which was his birthday, as certain numbers, the things he saw in clouds, calendar dates, and even the straight line on the hands of the clock held special messages to Mackenzie King. On paper the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan official began on 29 April 1940, but in fact it would take ten to twelve months to construct new airfields, train flying instructions and ground personnel, plus find all the necessary equipment including the required RCAF aircraft. The overall administration and control of the plan remained with the Canadian government, with special advisory boards from Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, who met monthly and had a voice in the total operation. The large scale of the B.C.A.T.P. provided hundreds of new challenges to both the RCAF, civilians aviation agencies, and many branches of the Canadian government. The Department of Transport picked 231 sites across Canada for the construction of 107 major training school airfields, while other municipal airports were leased, then modified to meet the demand for new training standards. While the BCATP training programme was constantly being adjusted, the overall general pattern remained the same. From the RCAF recruiting center the new trainee was sent to a manning depot where his skills for aircrew training were determined, then he was off to the initial training school or posted to an air force station ground school for trades training. The new RCAF would contain a large number of miscellaneous schools, Air Armament, School of Cookery, Repair Depots, Equipment Depots, Radio Direction Finding, etc. The RCAF conditions of aircrew training in the BCATP were patterned after RAF training in United Kingdom, where all trainees were enlisted with lowest rank of aircraftsmen class II. At the initial training school, the prospective pilot was given pre-flight instructions and a series of tests to determine his suitability as a pilot or observer [navigator]. The British placed the pilot and observer as the elite among the aircrew and they were the only two positions which advanced to rank of leading aircraftsmen during training and upon graduation promoted to sergeants. The RCAF amended this British training and by July 1940, all wireless/air gunners attained the rank of leading aircraftsmen during training and were promoted to sergeant on graduation. Elementary flying training began in June 1940, and the first class of 34 Canadian pilots graduated 5 November 1940. Four special aircrew Wireless Schools were selected in Canada, No. 1 at Montreal, Quebec, 16 February 1940, No. 2 at Calgary, Alberta, 16 September 1940, No. 3 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, 17 February 1941, and No. 4 at Guelph, Ontario, 7 July 1941. Following is the history of No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta, formed officially on 16 September 1940.

 

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Secret Organization Order No. 43, dated 14 August 1940, with the first RCAF officers arriving in Calgary on 22 August. The Staff and students of the Institute of Technology had moved to the Stampede Grounds and training continued under the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Bleachers.

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This is the Wireless Student Airmen’s [wet] 1st Canteen constructed on the west side of the main campus admin. building. This building would be moved and extended to double size, with a second building constructed [Dry] canteen operated by the YMCA of Calgary. SAIT Archives.

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The first 177 RCAF Wireless Operator trainees arrived at Calgary on 16 September 1940, and this formation training was conduced totally in the classroom, as no flying squadron or trainer aircraft had been assigned. All personnel trained under the BCATP in 1940 were Canadians, except for thirty-seven Australian student pilots, who graduated Course No. 6 at No. 2 SFTS, Ottawa on 22 November 1940.

Many historians credit this group as the first Australians to arrive in Canada when their ship docked in Vancouver on 27 September 1940. They were in fact the first Australian student pilots to arrive in Canada and their official greeting made all the headlines in 1940.

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RCAF promotional image of the first 40 Australian student pilots to arrived in Canada, 2 October 1940, PL1831. Making snow balls for the first time was possibly their last bit of fun before training and then fighting the air wars over Europe. Thirty-seven of these Australian students graduated and received their wings in Canada on 22 November, then departed Halifax for United Kingdom on 14 December 1940.

The BCATP would train 9,607 Australians and 7,002 New Zealand students in Canada during World War Two, with a large majority of Wireless Air Gunnery training taking place at No. 2 W.S. in Calgary, Alberta. Australian Wireless Air gunners trained in Canada reached 2,875, followed closely by 2,122 from New Zealand. Today hundreds of photo albums in New Zealand and Australia contain our Canadian RCAF Calgary, Alberta, forgotten past preserved in thousands of photos. On 26 September 1940, 71 Royal Australia Air Force and 70 Royal New Zealand Air Force Wireless Air Gunners stepped off a CPR train from Vancouver and marched three miles north to their new home at the Institute of Technology located on a ridge north of the city. This mixed group became the vanguard of hundreds of R.A.A.F. and R.N.Z.A.F. Wireless Air Gunner students to be trained at Calgary, Alberta. On 22 November 1940, 173 New Zealand and Australian W.A.G. students arrived by train, followed by 143 more students on 24 December 1940.

This SAIT image records a group of Wireless Air Gunners at the old CNR train station [St. Mary’s Parish Hall, 141-18th Avenue, S.W. which survives today] in downtown Calgary. They arrived in groups of 70 to 140 students and after forming up, marched uphill three miles to their new training school.

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After the long up-hill march from the Calgary train station, the new entry course was greeted by the main gate [south entrance] to No. 2 Wireless School. [Images Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Archives – Karly Sawatzky, BA, Archivist]

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The new constructed RCAF buildings, wet [left] and dry [right] YMCA canteens front, Drill/Sports Hall behind, and Link Trainer/firing range far left. This image was taken looking directly north some date after March 1942. Home Sweet Home for the next twenty-eight weeks. SAIT Archives.

The first official [Red Cross] parade occurred on 29 October 1940, marching on the downtown streets of Calgary, comprising five squadron flights from No. 2 Wireless School containing 3,000 men, in which two flights [over 100] were from Australian and New Zealand.

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The first course was laid out for RCAF Wireless Operators Gunners [Ground] which lasted eight weeks and these students never left the classroom or flew in any aircraft. Most of these Canadians completed training in U.K. and were absorbed into RAF Bomber squadrons overseas, where a high percentage were killed flying early active operations.

This first class of 185 RCAF Wireless Operators [Ground] graduated on 22 November 1940, the very same date the first Norseman #2464 arrived at No. 3 Service Flying Training School, which had just opened 28 October 1940. This BCATP No. 3 SFTS, RCAF, was called Currie Barracks Airport, which is today the campus of the University of Mount Royal, Calgary, Alberta. On 25 November 1940, an entry class of 185 Wireless [Ground] students boarded a train for Halifax on their overseas draft. They had never trained in any aircraft or received any gunnery training until they arrived in United Kingdom. On 4 December 1940, F/O G.V. Richardson RCAF, escorted 48 New Zealand and Australian trainees to No. 1 Wireless School in Montreal, Quebec, where they could finish their aircraft training. Calgary had no training aircraft or flying squadron. The first training aircraft began arriving from No. 1 Wireless School, Montreal in late November, with more Norseman and Fairchild training aircraft arriving at No. 2 SFTS Calgary on 6 January 1941, allowing the Wireless School Flying Squadron to be officially formed. The first W.A.G. student aircraft training began on 17 March 1941, using old and new Norseman trainers, class #8Q containing 43 trainees.

Norseman #2464 was taken on charge by the RCAF on 15 November 40, and became the first to arrive at No. 2 W.S. Calgary on 22 November 1940, followed by #2461, #2462, #2463, and #2465 on 24 December 1941. Norseman #2466 and #693 arrived 6 January 1941, followed by #2467 on 7 January and #698 on 17 January 41. Norseman #680 arrived on 24 March 1941, and the school now had ten trainers on strength. These aircraft were all ferried from No. 1 Wireless School located at Montreal, Quebec.

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In February 1943, reporter Lawrence Earl interviewed Robert Noorduyn at his plant in Montreal, Quebec, and sections of this interview are now contained in the following history.

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Robert Bernard Cornelius Noorduyn was born at Nijmegen, Holland, in 1893, and after receiving his formal education in his homeland, he learned of the Wright brothers’ experiments and the history of flight coming from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He began experimenting with model airplanes and attended an engineering college in Germany in 1912, where he soon saw the coming world war, and got out of the country before he could complete his course. Noorduyn’s mother was born in England, a distant relative of Winston Churchill, who first schooled her son in English, and now this nineteen-year-old decided to emigrate to United Kingdom. He fully understood that the answer to many aviation problems could be ironed out by building, flying, and studying tiny model aircraft in flight. At the Olympia Airplane Show of 1912, he ran into another Fellow-Dutchman Anthony Fokker, whose aviation career would parallel that of Noorduyn’s in many ways. In 1913, he entered and won first prize in a British model airplane contest, topping a lad named Dick Fairey, who later became Sir Richard Fairey a most famous aircraft manufacturer of British aircraft. One year later he was employed by Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and the British Aerial Transport Company Ltd, where he became associated with the design of commercial aircraft. His first airplane flight took place at Hendon, in a Caudron which was powered by a 35 horsepower engine, just enough to keep the flimsy craft from falling from the sky. In 1920, he learned to fly and soon had earned two-hundred hours of flight in ten different aircraft. In the fall of 1920, he was approached by friend “Tony” Fokker and ask if he would like to come to the United States to form a branch of the Fokker aircraft organization.
“As a matter of fact, Noorduyn admits, these are the reasons he bothered to ask me in the first place. I’d been working for the Allies in WWI and he’s been working for the [German] enemy. I was acceptable and he wasn’t. Not only that, but I had learned English before I learned Dutch, because of my mother, and Fokker hardly spoke a word of English.” For eight years, he ran the American Fokker company known as “Atlantic Aircraft Corporation” since the name Fokker [associated with German aircraft] was not well liked in the United States. This is where Noorduyn obtained his first aircraft design experience with the development of the trimotor transport aircraft, which was his brain-child. This gave American commercial aviation its first push in commercial aviation and Henry Ford, quick to see the new trend, developed a similar aircraft of his own. Historians today forget about Dutch/Canadian Bob Noorduyn.

In 1929, a rift cropped up between the two flying Dutchmen and Noorduyn left the Fokker Company, which folded just eight months later. In a few weeks, Noorduyn was offered the job of assistant manager of Bellanca Aircraft Corp. and three years later moved to Pitcairn Aircraft Inc.

“In 1933, he had a shot at designing auto-gyros for Pitcairn, but all the while he off-and-on kept thinking of air transportation in Canada. It was almost a virgin field and one filled with possibilities, he was sure. Noorduyn liked to tackle new adventures, so in 1934, he rented an office on the top floor of the Canada Cement Building in Montreal, Quebec. He then sat down at his desk and tried to figure out what kind of plane Canada needed most of all. He soon realized it would be no simple job to work out a type to fit the huge exacting Canadian conditions. There were the troubles of geography, the wild, often mountainous, almost always forest and lake country. Then came the problem of the intensely cold winter climate. He decided – his aircraft would have to be as tough as a rhino, plus adaptable as a duck.”

The actual work on the aircraft began in the spring of 1935, at Carterville, Quebec, with forty men working on the new design. The first flight took place on 14 November 1935. The first Norseman Mk. I CF-AYO was delivered to Dominion Skyways Limited, Rouyn, Quebec, on 18 January 1936. The next three aircraft were constructed as Mk. IIs [CF-AZA, CFR-AZE, and CFAZS] all powered by a 420 h.p. Wright Whirlwind R-975-E3 engine. It now became uncomfortably clear that the new bush plane was under powered and a new engine must be found or the company would collapse. Fortunately, the new American powerful 550 h.p. Pratt and Whitney engine [Wasp SC1] was found and purchased from the U.S. company and the Noorduyn company survived. In 1937, Noorduyn offered the new plane to the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the answer was – “Sorry” said the brass hats, “The Norseman just isn’t a military type aircraft.” [Noorduyn words in 1943] Noorduyn snapped back – “Not in the same way bombers and fighters are military types. But, every air force, if there’s a war, will need plenty of transport planes for behind-the-lines duty.” At the very same 1937 meeting, Noorduyn explained to the Canadian government officials that the RAF in England and the RCAF in Canada, were minus advanced training aircraft. He suggested that his company in Montreal could build advanced RCAF trainers and the answer was “No”, “we don’t need any today, thank you.” Noorduyn in 1943 – [I was resigned at their lack of political and aviation foresight and went ahead obtaining a license from United States North American to construct the Harvard trainer in Montreal. In January 1940, a contract to build the North American Harvard was awarded, and Noorduyn Aviation had 142 employees, with a monthly payroll of $17,000. By December 1942, Noorduyn Aviation had 8,710 employees and a monthly payroll of $1,258,198].

On 18 August 1938, the 16th constructed Norseman CF-MPE was delivered to the RCMP and this was followed by the first order of eight RCAF aircraft, the first four as bomber trainers. The full detailed history of the Norseman can be found on a number of websites and a few very good publications.

I now wish to give a brief overall history of the eighteen Norseman which were taken on strength No. 2 Wireless School Calgary, and flew at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, during WWII.

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The 19th constructed Norseman RCAF #693 – delivered to Hudson Bay Air Transport, Flin Flon, Manitoba, flew until February 1939. Taken over by RCAF 1 April 1940, operated at No. 1 Wireless School, Montreal, until January 1941. Taken On Strength No. 2 W.S. Calgary – 7 January 1941, Wireless Trainer, off strength 22 May 1941. Taken on strength at No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, Lethbridge, Alberta, flew until December 1944. Taken Off Strength by RCAF on 14 February 1946. It was still registered and flying in 2004 as CF-BFT.

The 21st constructed #679 – taken on strength RCAF 27 June 1938, RCAF MIKAN #3545910 photo.

No.2 WS 13Norseman #679 taken at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, 27 June 1938, where she flew on floats until January 1941. Delivered from No. 1 Wireless School Montreal, assigned to Calgary on 6 January 1941. Off strength Calgary on 29 November 1943, delivered to No. 3 Wireless School Winnipeg, flew until April 1945. Sold 31 October 1945, postwar CF-SAH.

The 22nd constructed RCAF #680 – taken on strength RCAF 30 June 1938, assigned to No. 2 W.S. Calgary – 24 March 1941. Re-assigned to RCAF [Experimental Station] Suffield, Alberta, in early November 1943, based at R.A.F. No. 34 SFTS at Medicine Hat, Alberta. The RCAF were conducting secret spraying of “Mustard Gas” from 500 to 900 feet off the ground and Norseman #680 carried the five-man decontamination party. They flew to every experimental test which involved Canadian Army troops wearing gas masks. You can still find evidence that toxic accidents did occur at Suffield, recorded in Daily Diary. She flew three years at Suffield, and earned the nose art name “Memphis Belle” for all her dangerous toxic test flying. Flown to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, 27 October 1944, placed into storage. Taken Off Charge RCAF on 8 February 1947, sold and flew as CF-FJB.

Today RCAF Suffield is still being used as a British Army [leased] training ground, and live-firing is taking place day and night.

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The 26th constructed RCAF #698 – Taken On Strength RCAF – 22 May 1940, taken on strength Calgary – 17 January 1941. Cat. “B” accident 8 March 1941, engine caught fire. This was the longest serving Norseman aircraft taken on strength at No. 2 W.S. Calgary, where she served for 51 months.

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Norseman #698 landed at [No. 35 SFTS] TCA hangar, North Calgary, on 8 March 1941. Twenty minutes after landing the aircraft engine burst into flames, burning the complete port wing and fuselage skin. Disassembled and returned by truck to No. 10 Repair Deport on 17 March 1941.

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Repaired, reskinned, and repainted #698 returned to No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron on 16 June 1942, looking like a new Norseman. This photo with W.A.G. trainee LAC Clegg was possibly taken in early February 1945, and 698 was still at Shepard on 30 March 1945. [51 months] These wireless school wing red stripe markings were possibly used on all Shepard Norseman aircraft. Taken Off Strength RCAF 1 March 1946.

In total fourteen new Mk. IVW [Wireless] Norseman were taken on strength [recorded Daily Diary] at No. 2 W.S. Calgary, Alberta, production number #30, #34 to #41, [eight] followed by #50, #64, #65, #69, and #71.

Norseman RCAF #2457, Taken On Strength RCAF – 25 September 1940, assigned No. 3 Training Command, had Category “C” accident St. Hubert, Quebec, 6 June 1941. Repaired and assigned No. 4 Training Command 20 February 1943. Major overhaul at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, 28 September 1943. Assigned and taken on strength No. 2 W.S. on 31 December 1943, flown at RCAF Shepard until she overshot landing 11 April 1944. Six wireless students were injured in this accident, and the propeller began to throw oil, forced landing at Lethbridge, Alberta. Repaired and assigned to North West Air Command 7 July 1944. In Reserve Storage on 9 December 1946, shipped to Norway on 5 August 1953, became R-AS. Fate unknown.

Norseman RCAF #2461, T.O.S. RCAF 26 October 1940, transferred to No. 4 Training Command 18 December 1940. Taken On Strength Calgary 6 January 1941 – to Winnipeg, No. 3 W.S. on 7 May 1941. Category “C” accident at No. 34 E.F.T.S. Assiniboia, Saskatchewan, 18 April 1942. Category “A” accident 24 May 1943, at No. 2 W.S. Calgary. 23 July 1943, Taken Off Strength. reduced to spare parts.

Norseman RCAF #2462, Taken On Strength RCAF – 26 October 1940, Taken On Strength at Calgary, 6 January 1941. Category “C” accident at Calgary on 28 July 1941. Overhauled at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, 12 July 1943 and 16 November 1944. Storage 1 August 1945, sold and damaged in take-off Beaver Lake, Saskatchewan, 17 March 1947. While awaiting repairs, was lost in hangar fire 2 August 1947.

Norseman RCAF #2463, Taken On Strength RCAF – 7 November 1940, Taken On Strength at Calgary, 6 January 1941. Category C-1 accident on 11 November 1941, engine and nose section burnt, F/O J.M. Limpp. Category “B” accident Calgary, 29 April 1942. Overhauled at Edmonton 23 March to 17 June 1943. Returned to No. 2 W.S. Calgary on 26 January 1944. Assigned to No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan. Off Strength RCAF 16 April 1945.

Norseman RCAF #2464, Taken On Strength RCAF – 15 November 1940, first Norseman aircraft delivered to No. 2 W.S. Calgary, Alberta, on 22 November 1940. Category “B” accident on 23 July 1941, repaired on 24 January 1942 and placed into storage 7 May 1942. Never flew at Calgary again, mostly in repair or storage until 1 March 1946. Registered at Sioux Lookout 29 August 1962, crashed and burned 4 January 1963.

Norseman RCAF #2465, Taken On Strength – RCAF 13 December 1940, assigned to No. 4 Training Command, Taken On Strength – Calgary 6 January 1941. Category “B” accident at Calgary on 9 June 1942, when pilot F/O C.H.H. Moss ground looped, port leg collapsed and major damage to port wing. Engine back fired, causing fire at Calgary 16 February 1943, aircraft destroyed [Cat. “A”] by ground fire. Taken off strength by RCAF – 9 April 1943, spare parts to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary.

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Norseman RCAF #2466, T.O.S. RCAF 12 December 1940, Taken On Strength Calgary 6 January 1941. Norseman appears in Wireless graduation photo taken at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, in 1944, class number unknown. [SAIT Archives photo] Taken Off Strength at No. 2 W.S. Calgary on 30 May 1941, assigned to No. 2 Training Command – 11 June 1941. Returned to No. 2 W.S. Calgary on 5 November 1942, until December 1944. Flown to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, and modified with a D.D.T. tank for test spraying grasshoppers and gophers at her new posting in southern Alberta.

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Norseman 2466 was next assigned to RCAF Experimental Station Suffield, Alberta, Taken On Strength – 18 January 1946, replacing old Norseman #680. Norseman 2466 received the nickname “Chuff Box.” On the 23 May 1946, she was test spraying gophers at Suffield when her engine gave out, and the gophers got their revenge.

Daily Diary for RCAF Station [Experimental] Suffield, Alberta, 23 May 1946.

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Image in RCAF Experimental Station Suffield, Alberta, Daily Diary, 23 May 1946. Taken Off Strength by RCAF on 17 June 1946, used for spare parts.

Norseman RCAF #2467, Taken On Strength RCAF – 20 December 1940, Taken On Strength Calgary – 7 January 1941. Major overhaul at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, 14 January to 19 April 1943. Category “B” accident 15 October 1943, sent to Edmonton for repairs, returned to Calgary 8 January 1944. Placed into storage 12 April 1945, sold Waite Fisheries, Big River, Saskatchewan 28 March 1946, registered as CF-DFF. Registered to Northern Air Lines, Big River, Saskatchewan 15 June 1949, crashed on take-off Cowan lake, Saskatchewan, 7 April 1951.

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Photo taken at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, 1943-44, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Archives, archivist Karly Sawatzky BA.

Norseman RCAF #2491, Taken On Strength RCAF – 21 June 1941, flew at No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mossbank, Saskatchewan, until Category “B” accident on 15 October 1941. Repaired at Edmonton, Alberta, and assigned to No. 4 Training Command on 21 January 1943. Assigned to No. 2 Wireless School, Taken On Strength Calgary – 17 February 1944. Flown at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, until late March 1945, then storage at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, Alberta. Placed into Reserve Storage 1 May 1947, then sent to North West Air Command July 1947. Struck Off Strength 23 April 1953, transferred to Royal Norwegian Air Force as R-AV. Today this Norseman survives in Norway painted in Royal Norwegian Air Force colors. Flying photo SAIT Archives – Karly Sawatzky, BA

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Norseman RCAF #2492, Taken On Strength RCAF – 1 July 1941, assigned No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School. Mossbank, Saskatchewan. On 23 July 1943, went for a major overhaul and returned to No. 4 Training Command, assigned to No. 2 W.S. Calgary, Alberta, 13 December 1943. Flew at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, for almost one full year, transferred to No. 2 Air Command on 1 December 1944. Reserve Storage 12 April 1945, reassigned North West Air Command, RCAF Station Edmonton, Alberta, 5 April 1950, off strength 31 July 1952.
Norseman RCAF #3524, Taken On Strength RCAF – 25 October 1941, assigned RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Category “B” accident on 9 January 1943, shipped to Edmonton, Alberta, for repairs. Assigned to No. 2 W.S. Calgary, on 17 February 1944, along with Norseman #2491. Flew at RCAF Shepard until late March 1945, to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary. Off strength RCAF – 5 June 1953, transferred to Royal Norwegian Air Force as R-AW.

Norseman RCAF #3527, Taken On Strength RCAF – 17 December 1941. Assigned to RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, where it had a Category “B” accident on 29 May 1942. Shipped to Edmonton, Alberta, for repairs. Appears on No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron RCAF Shepard Daily Diary for month of November 1944 until 30 March 1945.

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SAIT Archives – Karly Sawatzky, BA

Norseman #3527 appears in this Wireless Air Gunners graduation photo at RCAF Shepard hangar, November 1944. Off strength RCAF Shepard 30 March 1945, flown to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, Alberta. Taken Off Strength RCAF – 13 April 1947. On 31 March 1945, all ten Norseman trainers were gone from RCAF Shepard, returned to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary.

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In total eighteen Noorduyn trainers were taken on strength and flew at No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron RCAF Shepard, Alberta. #2477 and #2468 were transferred from Winnipeg, 22 December 1944, used for air experience training three months.

The Daily Diary records in August 1944, the Norseman radio installations were T1082/R1083, which were outdated and not used for wireless training. The Norseman was mainly used for navigation training and giving six students their first ‘air experience’ which lasted one-hour and was to determine if any became air-sick. This twist and turn flight test weeded out the weak stomachs [failure] before any classroom training began. This saved RCAF training time and money.

An RCAF Wireless Air Gunner flying instructor and his Marconi radio receiver and transmitter. These two radios were mounted side by side in the front of the rear cockpit in the DH 82C-4 Menasco Mk. II Tiger Moth aircraft.

On 6 January 1941, three additional obsolete Canadian built Fairchild RCAF FC-71 aircraft arrived at Calgary from Montreal. In 1929, American Fairchild [logo above] formed Canadian Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. at Longueuil, Quebec, where a more rugged style bush plane was constructed. In 1930, the RCAF ordered thirty-four of these FC-71 aircraft, and a few were operated by the air force until 1946. The No. 2 W.S. Daily Diary makes no mention of these aircraft ever being fitted with wireless equipment, however it is possible the FC-71 was part of the early training at Calgary, Alberta. Fairchild FC-71 serial 637, 643, and 646 were taken on charge 6 January 1941, and shown above is RCAF image of #643. The last and fourth Fairchild #640 was taken on charge at Calgary on 8 January 1941. The career of these four obsolete aircraft was very short [longest five months] at Calgary. Fairchild #637 was taken on charge by RCAF 5 April 1930, and off charge at Calgary, 28 April 1941. #643 on charge RCAF 12 April 1930, off charge Calgary, 5 May 1941. #646 on charge RCAF 25 June 1931, off charge Calgary 28 April 1941. #640 on charge RCAF 14 March 1930, off charge at Calgary, early February 1941. All four were sold to civilian airlines by October 1941, and remained flying in Canada for a number of years.

One of the FC-71 Fairchild aircraft at No. 2 W.S. Calgary, airmen unknown. This was possibly #643, the last to be taken off charge at Calgary on 5 May 1941.

On 18 and 20 March 1941, sixteen de Havilland Tiger Moth DH 82C-4 Menasco trainers arrived at Calgary, assigned to No. 2 Wireless School for student radio trainers. These had been selected in production and serial number order beginning with RCAF serial #4833 and ending with #4848. Eight were constructed 11 March 1941, one on 13 March 41, and remaining seven constructed on 17 March 1941. From the outside these aircraft looked the same as the RCAF primary pilot trainer D.H. 82C Mk. II, but they were under-powered and loaded down with the Marconi T-1154 transmitter, R-1155 receiver, 5J27 battery, radio loop antenna, and other radio training equipment. The Marconi radios were mounted side by side in the front of the rear open cockpit of the D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth Mk. II. This caused many problems for the wireless students in both learning and operating in very close cramped conditions.

WAG Larry Dubois at No. 4 W.S. Guelph (collection Eddy Dubois via Pierre Lagacé)

Three of these aircraft would be lost in Cat. A crashes, #4833, [two killed] #4837, [two killed] and #4848. The following production list records the first sixteen D.H. Menasco Moth II trainers [yellow] to arrive with No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta, 18 and 20 March 1941.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd. was formed at Stag Lane, Edgware, Middlesex, England, in 1920, and their history until 3 September 1939, [war declared] was mostly the production of commercial type aircraft. In 1935, they designed a most notable aircraft, the D.H. 82A Tiger Moth which was powered by one British 130 h.p. D.H. Gipsy-Major Series I, four-cylinder in-line, inverted, air cooled engine. Maximum loaded weight was 1,825 lbs., with top speed of 107 m.p.h. at sea level. The full detailed history can be found in hundreds of magazines, books, and websites. This famous WWII trainer was also produced by six associated companies, including de Havilland Aircraft Canada Ltd, and today over 300 survive in museums around the world, with 43 located in Canada. The Canadian production of the Tiger Moth DH 82A begin in 1937, with an order of 25 for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The first RCAF Tiger Moth #238 was a British D.H. 82, taken on strength 28 February 1928 and flew until 9 February 1944. The next 25 production aircraft were all designated D.H. 82A and ran from serial #239 to 258, and then serial #275 to #279. A few of these early Canadian built Tiger Moth trainer aircraft served in the RCAF until postwar 1947. These British open cockpit aircraft were not designed for Canadian weather conditions and new modifications were drafted in Toronto. The de Havilland Aircraft of Canada, Station “L” at Downsview, Ontario, [Toronto] redesigned this British primary trainer for Canadian winter conditions with heated cockpits and a large sliding canopy. They also moved the under carriage forward, [9 ¾ inches] to prevent nose over accidents, and installed a heavy duty main landing gear, plus a strong rear tail wheel. These Canadian manufactured aircraft were now officially called the D.H. 82C Tiger-Moth Mk. II Primary Trainer, used to train student pilots who would graduate to the much more powerful AT-6 North American Harvard [pilot maker] aircraft.

The new Canadian redesigned D.H. 82C, [Tiger Moth Mk. II] in fact evolved from the first 25 RCAF de Havilland D.H. 82A aircraft flown in all parts [and weather conditions] of Canada during the early months of WWII. The Toronto de Havilland Plant would manufacture 1,548 Tiger Moth aircraft in various designations, including 136 known as the D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Pirate Moth Mk. II Wireless Trainer. These are the rare forgotten Canadian constructed Moth II trainers which were equipped with an American manufactured engine and only flew at four RCAF Wireless Schools in Canada, No. 1 Montreal, Quebec, No. 2 Calgary, Alberta, No. 3 Winnipeg, Manitoba, and No. 4 Guelph, Ontario. Today their history is mostly forgotten, and many historians and websites just include them as a Tiger Moth. I feel some of this forgotten history is partly due to the embarrassment that Canada could not manufacture aircraft engines, and had to depend on the delivery of British Gipsy Moth engines from Great Britain. This flow of aircraft engines and spare parts from across the Atlantic was not as regular as the Ottawa Supply Branch planners had wished, and new [less horse-power] engines had to be purchased from the United States. The American name “Menasco Pirate” now took its place in Canadian World War Two Wireless School aviation history.

On 1 August 1940, Maclean’s Magazine featured a two-page article on the de Havilland plant in Toronto [censored] and the production of the RCAF elementary trainer DH 82C Tiger-Moth.

This Canadian production photo of fifteen D.H. 82C Tiger Moth Mk. II’s were taken on strength by RCAF, serial 4065 to 4080 between 23-26 July 1940.

This image was possibly taken in mid-July 1940, showing the Canadian de Havilland workers installing a British 130 h.p. D.H. Gipsy-Major Series I engine into a Canadian manufactured Tiger-Moth Mk. II trainer aircraft. What this article did not explain, and what the wartime Canadian public would never learn, was the fact Canadian factories were equipped to construct training aircraft, but no aero-engines could be manufactured or produced in Canada. This would cause chronic shortages of aircraft, aero-engines, and spare parts, which had to be shipped across the Atlantic from United Kingdom, causing serious interruptions in the Toronto production lines. D.H. 82C Tiger Moth Mk. II production began at de Havilland [Toronto] in mid-March 1940, and the first Tiger Moth II, serial 4001 [manufactured #331] was taken on strength by the RCAF on 10 April 1940.

The Maclean’s article contained 17 photos and the last image displayed the only Tiger Moth serial number 4086, taken on strength by RCAF 30 July 1940. These aircraft were all powered by the British manufactured 130 h.p. Gipsy-Major engine which was shipped from U.K. to Toronto. On 14 January 1941, DH 82C serial 4325 was fitted with the very last British built Gipsy-Moth engine and production ceased, they had no more British aircraft engines. This was the most widely used RCAF BCATP elementary trainer for pilots in WWII, and production must continue as soon as possible, so the RCAF [Canadian government] looked south to USA and purchased the American manufactured Menasco D-4 “Pirate” engine.

The original 1930 Menasco A-4 Pirate 90 h.p. engine, which was modified and later became the D-4 Pirate with 125 h.p. which was purchased by the Canadian government in January 1941.
The government purchased 136 American manufactured Menasco D-4 Super Pirate 125 h.p. engines and these were placed in the production line aircraft which became D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth II trainer aircraft. The first Menasco Moth II serial 4810 was taken on charge by the RCAF 21 January 1941. Testing revealed a reduction in engine power, opposite rotation of propeller, reversal of cowling openings and a reduced fuel capacity. Student pilots had enough to worry about and introducing a new RCAF Tiger Moth [American engine] trainer could possibly confuse and cause the loss of pilot lives. The 136 Menasco trainers, Moth I [10 built serial #4935 to 4944] Moth II [125 built serial #4810 to #4945] and Moth III [1 built, serial 4934] were now assigned to Wireless schools as radio trainers. That’s why No. 2 Wireless school Calgary received sixteen new aircraft beginning 18 March, which had their American engines installed at de Havilland, Toronto, between 11 – 17 March 1941.

On 24 January 1941, No. 2 Wireless Flying School [Calgary] and their first early training aircraft were moved from RCAF No. 3 SFTS [Currie Barracks] to the TCA operations hangar located at No. 35 SFTS which was under construction for the Royal Air Force coming to North Calgary.

No. 35 Royal Air Force Service Flying Training School was still under construction located at the original north Calgary municipal airport, and the Wireless Menasco aircraft would now commence wireless student training sharing the hangar used by Trans-Canada Airlines. On 4 September 1941, No. 35 was transferred [number only] to the RAF training school at North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and North Calgary became No. 37 SFTS until closure on 10 March 1944.

No.2 WS 41

This image of R.A.F. No. 35 SFTS Calgary was taken at 5,500 feet on 4 April 1941. No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron are now based in the white hangar with black roof located in the center of this photo, the home base for Trans-Canada Airlines. Below is a 1940 close-up of TCA hangar.

No.2 WS 42No.2 WS 43

The first Menasco D.H. 82C-4 Tiger-Moth Mk. II aircraft arrived by rail at No. 10 Repair Depot, south Calgary. [today Mount Royal University] They were assembled, test flown, and ferried to No. 35 SFTS where the Flying Squadron Daily Diary recorded the date of each first flight. [above] The Menasco Tiger Moth aircraft continue to arrive at TCA hangar in north Calgary, and the first flight dates are recorded in the Daily Diary.

4 April 1941 – #4840 assembled and first flight.
6 April 41 – #4841 assembled and first flight.
6 April 41 – #4842 assembled and first flight.
8 April 41 – #4843 assembled and first flight.
10 April 41 – #4844 assembled and first flight.

This image was taken at No. 35 SFTS [RAF] Calgary and marked on the back – “T-Moth Class # 1, Course #8, 1941.” [SAIT Archives, Calgary]

Eight Menasco Tiger Moth aircraft appear in this image and Course #8 became the first class of Wireless Operators to graduate in this new wireless trainer. Course Entry #8 completed training on 4 April 1941, and graduated on 25 April 41. This photo was taken after 5 April 1941, when the Flying Squadron had on charge eight Menasco Moth Mk. II trainers – serial #4833, #4834, #4835, #4836, #4837, #4838, #4840, #4841, and #4842.

 

30 April 1941 – The Moth 82C [Mk. I] at Calgary were serial #4938 and #4939.
On 12 May 1941, No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron are ordered to return to No 3 SFTS at Currie Field, [Mount Royal University today]. The Royal Air Force officially open ‘re-numbered’ No. 37 SFTS Calgary on 22 October 1941. This RAF flying image was taken a few days later showing the snow covered airfield, and the view as seen from a Tiger-Moth D.H. 82C Mk. II pilot trainer aircraft.

The top photo of No. 37 SFTS Calgary was taken by R.A.F. student pilot LAC Gafney [right] from a Canadian built D.H. 82C Tiger Moth Mk. II trainer being flown by his RAF Flight Instructor F/L Reg Eastwood [left]. They had flown from RAF Station De Winton, Alberta, and were making their first landing at the newly opened RAF school at North Calgary. For a short period of time No. 2 W.S. were loaned two of these D.H. 82C Tiger Moth aircraft, both returned to RAF #4304 on 6 June 41 and #4305 on 15 May 1941. That’s D.H. 82C, Tiger Moth #4304 behind LAC Gafney.

Around the middle of May 1941, Mr. Dave Smith, the former Y.M.C.A. director in Calgary, began to publish a twice weekly news sheet, which he posted on the main bulletin board at the Institute of Technology, where the wireless classrooms were located. This sheet contained local RCAF wireless news, advertised special events at the base or in the City of Calgary, and also contained some air force humor. The news sheet was titled WAG Signal and this became the official unit newspaper on 9 September 1941, when 900 copies were published and distributed, Vol. 1, #1.

This front cover was designed in March 1941 by LAC Frank Raymond Scott, R80514, from Toronto, Ontario. Scott had arrived with the RCAF student WAG trainees of Entry Class 16, which would graduate in October 1941. His art combined the Wireless earphones with the Bren Gun they would later train with at a gunnery school. Two ‘sparks’ lightning flashes and four DH.82C-4 Menasco Tiger Moth II trainers complete his insignia artwork. Flight Sergeant Wireless Operator Air Gunner Frank Scott, 21 years old, was assigned to RAF Squadron No. 102 [Ceylon] and his Halifax bomber was shot down in action 5 October 1942. The crew of seven were all killed, RCAF pilot F/O Lynds McRae was from Westlock, Alberta, the remainder of the crew were RAF. Out of respect, his drawing symbol remained part of the spirit of No. 2 Wireless School until the end of the war. F/Sgt. Scott is buried with his crew in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium.

This first issue of WAG also contained three cartoons by F/Sgt. Frank Scott, one with a little horse named Midget, [or Midge] who became the official mascot of No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, in early January 1941.

In November 1940, the Calgary Herald newspaper sponsored the Sunshine Club, helping down and out families during Christmas. The President of a Turner Valley oil field company donated his family pet, a Shetland pony named Midget, as an extra prize. LAC Lloyd Willigar was an RCAF trainee from Parrsboro, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, who walked downtown to enjoy a movie at the Palace Theatre. He purchased a single ticket from a pretty young Calgary lady in the lobby of the theatre, with the last 25 cents he had, then sat down to enjoy the movie. At the end of the movie, Midget appeared on stage and the ticket draw was made. LAC Willigar won and became the new owner of a female Shetland pony. Unable to ship his prize home to Nova Scotia, he asks his C.O. for help and “Midge” becomes the new official mascot of No. 2 Wireless School. I’m sorry but the Stampeder Football horse “Quick-six” was not the first famous mascot in [Cowtown] Calgary.

SAIT Archives

Midge is treated like one of the RCAF staff and must perform her official Wireless School duties, leading every Wireless Air Gunner graduation parade.

Midge lead her first major V.I.P. parade on 1 February 1941, when the Inspector-General came to Calgary and there was no snow on the ground. That’s 16th Avenue behind the troops, which today is six lanes at this location. Then spring arrives in Calgary and the 14 and 16 March 1941 graduation parades have plenty of wet white stuff.

Midge and her RCAF handler Corporal George Bury [above] lead both of the wintery March graduation parades, where 106 W.A.G. students graduated on 14 March, followed by another 70 on 16 March 1941.

LAC L.E. Willigar began training in Entry Class 14, December 1940, graduating on 15 August 1941. Midge proudly leads the parade where her owner F/Sgt. Willigar graduated.

After the graduation parade, F/Sgt. Willigar had his photo taken with Midge and the second station mascot a dog. After four weeks’ air-gunnery training, F/S Wireless Operator Air Gunner Lloyd Willigar, 20 years of age, is posted overseas to RAF No. 101 Squadron. On 18 April 1942, his Wellington bomber serial X3655 is shot down and all five aircrew members were killed in action. On 19 May 1942, just four weeks after her master’s death over Germany, Midget gave birth to a stillborn colt, a double blow to the wireless school members. Images from SAIT Archives, Karly Sawatzky, BA.

In the spring of 1942, No. 2 Wireless School are given the honor of leading the world famous Calgary Stampede Parade, and right behind her commanding officer, Midget and her handler Corporal George Bury, will lead the marching troops. The aero technicians at No. 2 Wireless School construct a special Stampede “Aircraft” float which will follow the matching wireless student troops in downtown Calgary on 10 July 1941. The special guests of the Calgary Stampede featured acts will be American trick riders Monty Montana. On the eve of the Calgary Stampede famous parade, [9 July 1941] “Monty Montana” and his troupers attend the grounds of No. 2 Wireless School and give a special presentation of his act for the wireless students. A good time is had by all and many photos are taken with Monty and the wireless Stampede float. The young boy in the photo is one of the American trick riders, the wireless officer is unknown.

Above is the free domain image of No. 2 Wireless Air Gunners Calgary Stampede float and the forty Australian WAG trainees [Entry class 46B] who marched in the wild west parade.

This class wrote their final exams on 24 December, graduated on 30 December 1942, and were posted for gunnery training in the New Year. On 31 December 1942, 1,165 wireless students were in training at No. 2 W.S. Early in 1942, the standard of wireless air gunners had been increased to twenty-eight weeks and they had become specialists in radio work. Next came six weeks of gunnery training which had been extended from the original four weeks. Next the class sailed to U.K. from Halifax, and over half of these lads would never return to Australia. I believe that most of these WAGs served with RAF bomber command, where the heaviest aircrew losses took place in 1943 and 1944.

On the evening of 10 July 1942, thirty members from the Blackfoot Nation entertained the wireless air gunners.

SAIT Archives – names unknown.

Evening of the 10 July 1942, the Blackfoot Nation entertains the wireless operator students. SAIT Archives.

On 29 March 1944, Midget was reported “Missing” and a vast search was conducted to find the most loved mascot. She was located ten miles south of the institute buildings and returned home to continue her RCAF duties. For the complete well research history of Midget please read the online story – “A Pony Name Midget” by Timothy Allan Johnston.

On 12 May 1941, No. 2 Wireless Flying Squadron was reorganized and moved back to RCAF No. 3 SFTS, [Mount Royal University today] where slowly the 24 new D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth II aircraft became the main wireless trainer. They also had one D.H. 82C-2 Menasco Moth Mk. I on strength, #4938. Total training personnel in No. 2 Wireless Flying Squadron was 19 Officers, 104 other ranks and 45 students [entry class 10A]. Training was delayed as the apron to the new hangar at Currie Barracks was not yet cemented.

D.H. 82C-2 Menasco Moth I, serial 4938, [under wing serial] taken on strength RCAF – 11 June 1941, LAC Eddie Dewitt. Only ten Menasco Moth Mk. I aircraft were constructed, RCAF serial numbers 4935 to 4944, which had a lower C-4 Pirate engine compression ratio. This rare trainer arrived at Calgary 14 June 1941, made a forced landing on 5 September 1941, pilot F/O H.T. Cain. The trainer was damaged Category “C” and had to be dismantled by No. 10 Repair Depot and transport by truck back to Calgary for repairs. Damaged in a Category “B” accident at No. 3 SFTS [Currie Barracks Airfield] on 6 January 1942, during test flight.

S/L F.R. Sharpe, the C.O. of No. 2 RCAF Squadron at No. 3 SFTS had borrowed this D.H. 82C-2 Menasco Tiger Moth Mk. I for test flying. [Possibly just wanted to get a D.H. 82C-2 Menasco Moth Mk. I aircraft in his log book.] On landing he nosed over causing damage to the port wing, engine cowling, and propeller. Another Category “C” accident occurred on 16 June 1942, repaired and returned to squadron. This old DH 82C-2 was still on strength at Shepard on 29 February 1944. All Menasco Moth aircraft were off strength by mid-March 1944.

The American Menasco Pirate C-4 [military designation L-365 engine] 125 h.p. weight 300 lbs.
One rare Menasco aircraft [D.H. 82C-4 Tiger-Moth Mk. II #4861] survives today in the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. [Most visitors just think it is a British Tiger Moth]

On 10 November 1941, [D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Moth II serial 4833] crashed while on a route wireless training flight from No. 3 SFTS Calgary with pilot and wireless student being killed. This crash has appeared in many publications and can be found on at least four websites. This is the Daily Diary for that date, with the original records for No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta.

The following story of this Cat. “A” crash appeared in WAG Signal for November 1941.

 

Many Alberta school teachers joined the forces and served their country during WWII. For Mrs. Walsh the war came to her school door step, and she acted with great courage in attempting to save the life of the burning RCAF wireless operator student LAC Gravell.

Menasco Tiger Moth II serial 4833, crash site is not forgotten; and the original school house still survives as a private rural residence near Airdrie, Alberta. Memorial donated by Royal Canadian Air Cadets from No. 878 Squadron Banff/Canmore, Alberta. Dedication made on 12 November 1995 by Sgt. Daniel James Fitzgerald, preserving our RCAF Wireless School Calgary past. Author photo 28 September 2018.

The Canadian built Tiger Moth Mk. II, D.H. 82C was designed as a pilot trainer aircraft and this allowed for crew weight of two, pilot 160 lbs. and student 160 lbs. Engine was 300 lbs. combined with fuel and oil 166 lbs., two parachutes and harness of 46 lbs. The stall speed of the D.H. 82C Tiger-Moth was 43 m.p.h. [69 k/m]. The Wireless School D.H. 82C-4 “Menasco” aircraft were under powered and carried two Marconi [receiver/transmitter] radios, battery, plus radio equipment which added over 150 lbs. to the aircraft weight. It is believed this heavily loaded, under powered trainer, stalled and the pilot was attempting to regain control when they crashed and the trainer fuel tank burst into flames.

The year 1942 saw a number of profound changes in the training schools of the BCATP, including Calgary wireless classroom time instruction. [above] The first fifteen months [16 September 1940 to 1 January 1942] had stressed quantity and now this switched to quality in training, as the wireless operator air gunner had suffered from inadequately training instructors and lack of proper radio equipment. In June, the second part of the BCATP new agreement was signed and the termination date was now extended two years from March 1943 until March 1945. The twenty-six RAF schools operating in Canada [totally financed by United Kingdom] were now officially incorporated into the BCATP and many existing RCAF schools were enlarged for greater and better training. This included a second new hangar and H-hut construction for 40 personnel at RCAF Station Shepard, Alberta, where No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron would be officially moved to on 1 December 1943. [The move began by ground and air on 25 November 1942] By October 1942, the BCATP demand for a higher standard of trained wireless air gunners increased their programme to twenty-eight weeks, and the student failure rate suddenly increased to over seventeen per cent from five per cent average in June 1942. The following cartoon appeared in November 1942 issue of WAG Signal, artist LAC D.J. Smith, showing a wireless operator student throwing his Marconi radio from a D. H. 82C Menasco Tiger Moth Mk. II trainer, flying near Calgary, Alberta.

The wireless operator air gunners were increasingly becoming the aircraft specialist in radio work as well as a gunner in defending the aircraft from enemy attack. The total training in radio and gunnery now extended to thirty-four weeks and many students could not develop the adequate skills to pass the wireless course. This is again featured in a WAG Signal cartoon by LAC D.J. Smith one of the very students taking the course, and he fully understood the huge challenges facing all trainees. From 16 September 1940 until 23 July 1942, Calgary No. 2 Wireless School graduated 2,382 students with 503 failing the course. All student wireless air operators beginning with entry class #8, 4 April 1941 until March 1942, completed their air training in the D.H. 82C-4 Menasco Tiger Moth Mk. II trainer. The first Fleet fort arrived 8 January 42, and by April 1942, nine new Fleet Fort 60K trainers were on strength at Calgary and slowly the under-powered Menasco Tiger Moth Mk. I and Mk. IIs would be replaced.

In March 1942, the RCAF decided all Flying Squadron Wireless [Air] Training flying operations would move twelve miles south from No 3 SFTS [Currie Barracks] to RCAF Relief Field, Shepard, Alberta. Construction of a second hangar began, providing the wireless school aircraft a free training airspace which was not the case at north Calgary RAF No. 37 SFTS or RCAF No. 3 SFTS at Currie airport. The British were flying Airspeed Oxfords and Harvards at No. 37 SFTS, while RCAF No. 3 SFTS flew Cessna Cranes, Harvards, and Avro Ansons. To add to this air traffic training, the RAF operated an active bombing range at the Relief Field at Airdrie, Alberta, where hundreds of smoke bombs were being dropped every day by the Harvards which flew north from Calgary. RAF No. 37 SFTS Calgary was also a main emergency stop for over 8,000 American aircraft being ferried north on the Northwest Staging Route [Amber Highway No. 2] to Alaska which opened in fall of 1942. [7,926 U.S. aircraft were delivered [lend-lease] over Calgary to Russia by August 1945]

This August 1942 air image of No. 2 Wireless School, [Institute of Technology] was possibly taken from a Norseman aircraft as the Menasco Tiger Moth did not have the space to carry a large camera. The students were bused from this location to No. 3 SFTS [Currie Barracks Airfield] and then later [1 December 1942] to RCAF Shepard, Alberta, where they completed ten days to two weeks of wireless air operations training in Norseman, Menasco Tiger Moth, Yale, and finally in late 1944, the Harvard aircraft.

1. Main RCAF Guard House and Jail.
2. Flower bed entrance to school.
3. Officers Mess, location well removed from NCO’s and student quarters.
4. Hospital annex building added in July 1942.
5. Main Hospital.
6. 16th Avenue, two lanes, Trans-Canada today.
7. No. “A” Workshops.
8. RCAF Parade Square.
9. Main Administration and Wireless training classrooms. [Called Castle]
10. Power house.
11. Two main storage buildings.
12. Two RCAF canteens, [top] wet, beer and liquor, [bottom] dry, serving soft drinks, cigarettes, candy, and reading material, operated by Salvation Army, March 1942.
13. Drill Hall, Sports events, graduation, and special events like dancing.
14. Link trainer on west side, skeet range located on east side.
15. RCAF Motor [Pool] Compound.
16. NCO’s Mess.
17. NCO Quarters.
18. Visiting Officers Quarters.
19. Dental building.
20. Seven H-Huts for student Airmen’s Quarters.

The wireless YMCA lounge in building #12, dry canteen, bottom in photo – east side

Number “A” workshops lunch and dinning area, building #7.

This free domain image was taken in 1968, [City of Calgary Planning] looking North-East to the old Calgary International Airport, ex-No. 37 S.F.T.S. used by the Royal Air Force from 1940-1944. The large area of the SAIT campus is shown [foreground] with the original castle style building used by No. 2 Wireless School from 16 September 1940 until March 1945. Each day hundreds of aircraft passed over Calgary from all directions, which presented an airspace problem for wireless aircraft training.

This is an original 1943 RCAF issued map showing the seven training bases surrounding Calgary, Alberta. While all bases were RCAF property, four were constructed and used mostly by the Royal Air Force from 1940 until fall 1944, including the RAF Headquarters located at No. 37 S.F.T.S. Calgary. This was also home base to Trans Canada Airlines, plus the major flying route of all lend-lease American aircraft headed for Alaska and Russia. The U.S.A.A.F. 7th Ferrying Group, 383th Air Base Squadron [sub-detachment from Edmonton] began operations on the west side of Calgary airport 20 July 1942, the British R.A.F. had been located on the east side since 22 October 1941.

This Ferry Route Information card was issued to all American and Russian ferry pilots beginning October 1942, and continued under the new formed Alaska Wing Air Transport Command created 1 November 1942. The RAF and RCAF training areas are marked in yellow, the area south to Lethbridge was used by No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron to train wireless students. The American ferry pilots were cautioned in regards to the large numbers of training aircraft flying around Calgary. Major deliveries of American lend-lease aircraft to Russia began on 12 October 1942, and by the end of the month the following aircraft had flown over Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta. Fifteen B-25s, fifty A-20s, sixty P-39s and twenty P-40s. Calgary was not a refueling stop and only used in case of emergency landing for repairs. The accidents of American aircraft in Alberta was censored and few Canadians had any idea what was occurring overhead. Two Bell P-63 King-cobra fighters crashed at Bow City, south of Calgary and one pilot was killed, while Lt. A. J. Neal force landed his A-20 on a farm south of Calgary airport. Forced landings were many in 1942-43, including American aircraft.

RCAF Station Shepard, Alberta, 1941 until 14 April 1945.

RCAF Station Shepard was originally constructed as a Relief Aircraft Training Field, to be used by No. 3 S.F.T.S. [Currie Barracks] Calgary. The original buildings were constructed for a Skelton staff of RCAF ground crew and mechanics. Two buildings at the entrance #1 were for motor vehicle storage, #2 was a single H-Hut living quarters, #3 power house, #4 was the combined Mess kitchen, Mess dining, and wet canteen with small lounge. #5 a single regular size hangar with control tower on south-east corner. No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron returned to No. 3 SFTS [Currie] on 12 May 1941, and air operations training at RCAF Shepard began in July 1941.
On 8 January 1942, a new trainer aircraft arrived at Calgary, Fleet Fort 60K, [Mk. II] serial 3575. In the next thirteen months, 56 Fleet Model 60K Fort training aircraft would arrive on charge at No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta. Fleet Fort trainers on charge March 42 – nine, April 42 – twelve, May 42 – thirteen, June 42 – eighteen, July 42, – nineteen, August 42 – twenty-one, September 42 – twenty-three, October 42 – twenty-eight, November 42 – thirty-six, and May to June 1943 – forty-seven, the peak number on charge by any RCAF squadron.

The original prototype Fleet Fort 60K serial 3540, Al Mickeloff, Canadian Warplane Heritage.

Constructed by Fleet Aircraft of Canada at Fort Erie, Ontario, this became the only aircraft totally designed and constructed by Canadians during World War Two. The Fleet Fort became the first all-metal monoplane constructed by Fleet and unfortunately it had a very short career with the RCAF. This prototype first flew on 21 March 1940, by test pilot R.E. Young, at the plant in Fort Erie and then was flown by the RCAF to Trenton, Ontario, 20 May 1940, where more flying was conducted by air force pilots from Test and Development Establishment Rockcliffe, Ontario. Registered as civilian CF-BQP [18 May 1940] this never shows up on the RCAF Daily Diary records in Ottawa, and it appears the Fort remained at Trenton, [Central Flying School] where it was taken on charge by the RCAF on 7 June 1941, assigned serial number 3540. It was tested by the National Research Council beginning in July 41, then returned to No. 6 Repair Depot, Trenton, Ontario, on 27 May 1942. In July 42 it was disassembled, placed on a flatcar and shipped to No. 10 Repair Depot at Calgary, Alberta. On 20 August 1942, Fleet Fort #3540 was reassembled and equipped with radios by No. 10 Repair Depot, then used as a ground instructional airframe [A-182] at the flying school hangar located at No. 3 SFTS at Calgary. This was the first contact the new wireless air operator students had with the new Fleet Fort, before their flying air operations training began.

These SAIT Archive images were taken at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, Alberta, around 20 August 1942. The man in the bottom image is George Ryning. [SAIT Archives]

Fleet Fort 3540 has been assembled and test flown, next delivered across the airfield to No. 3 S.F.T.S, where the Flying Squadron had their training hangar. Fleet Fort #3540 served as a ground wireless trainer, with radio equipment installed in the rear cockpit, however it is unknown if it was ever flown at No. 3 SFTS or at RCAF Shepard, Alberta. On 25 November 1942, No 4 Training Command issued movement orders to No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron, to effect they would move to a new training field at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, and air operations would officially begin on 1 December 1942. The advance party of 40 airmen began the move to Shepard on 26 November and the complete movement of aircraft, and equipment was completed on 29 November 1942. The ground airframe #3540 was no longer required and it was returned to No. 6 Repair Depot, Trenton, by rail flatcar. On 19 December 1942, Fort #3540 was Struck Off Strength by the RCAF and reduced to spare and produce.

In November 1979, Warplane Heritage acquired the airframe of #3540, one Jacob’s engine, and three Fleet Fort wings from a private collector in Western Canada. A group of retired Fleet employees led by Bruce MacRitchie volunteered to restore this rare RCAF aircraft to flying.

On 16 June 1993, Fleet Fort #3540 was registered as C-FORT, and on 8 August 1993, with Bruce MacRithie at the controls, she took to the skies again. For the complete personal history of this Fleet Fort please visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Website and better yet, stop in and view this rare gem of forgotten RCAF Western Canada [Winnipeg-Calgary] wireless training. The image is used with permission of Al Mickeloff, Warplane Heritage, Hamilton, Ontario. Records checked from C.W.H. researcher Larry J. Doyle and card data files from Chris Charland. This very small part of No. 2 W.S. Calgary, Alberta, ground trainer, flies in Ontario today, thanks to the efforts of many kind caring Canadians from Warplane Heritage.

Initially, the RCAF did not want the Fleet model 60K but for some reason 200 were ordered into production. Production of the RCAF Fleet Fort was delayed at Fort Erie, when the first constructed aircraft serial 3561 crashed on 5 June 1941. It would not be repaired and taken on strength by the RCAF until 28 March 1942.

The second production Fort # 3562 was completed on 3 June 1941, taken on charge by the RCAF, then flown to Rockcliffe Test and Development by S/L F.E.R. Briggs on 30 June 1941. Test pilot S/L Briggs and F/L W. Richards would later be killed in an aircraft test dive [Cessna Crane #7919] accident at Rockcliffe on 13 September 1941.

This RCAF official photo was taken at Rockcliffe, possibly 30 June 1941, where aircraft testing took place until 25 July 1941. Pilot testing at both Rockcliffe and RCAF Uplands, [August to October 1941] found the aircraft unsuitable for RCAF combat pilot training and the original contract was now cut back to 100 production aircraft.

Fort 3571 was used for redesign and intense flying testing to correct all “bugs” [Prototype Wireless Trainer] for wireless operator training. Testing completed 9 February 1942, departed for Calgary. Fort 3573 was used to redesign radio and battery fittings and air testing. Testing completed May 1942, lost in Rockcliffe hangar fire 21 August 1944.

For three months, [August to October 1941] pilot trainer testing was conducted at No. 2 S.F.T.S Uplands, [Ottawa] where the RCAF decided the 100 Fort aircraft would be modified for training of wireless operators and assigned to No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta, and No. 3 at Winnipeg, Manitoba. Fleet Fort Mk. I, #3562 remained on charge at the Test and Development Est. at Rockcliffe until 15 November 1942. [Daily Diary] In early December 42, she was dismantled, loaded onto a flatcar and shipped by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arriving on 30 March 42. [Daily Diary] Assembled and taken on strength at No. 3 W. S. Winnipeg, [Tuxedo Park] 9 September 1942, where she flew 439:25 hrs training until 2 March 1945.

No. 2 SFTS Uplands Harvard training was interrupted from 13 July to 1 August 1941, while shooting of the film “Captains of the Clouds” took place. Only limited early morning pilot training took place, as the RCAF authorities felt the American movie publicity was well worth the wartime disruptions.

On 1 July 1941, No. 2 S.F.T.S. at RCAF Uplands [Ottawa] had on strength eighty-two North American Harvard trainers. Many of these aircraft would star in the making of the Warner Brothers film “Captains of the Clouds” starring James Cagney.

The final thirty-six aircraft flying formation scene for Captains of the Clouds was shot on 1 August 1941. In the same month, five Fleet Fort 60K aircraft were taken on charge at RCAF Uplands, serial 3563, 3564, 3565, 3566, and 3567, however the date of aircraft arrival is not recorded in the Daily Diary. They were possibly flown by trainees of Course #33, 3 July to 25 September 1941.

These five Fleet Fort trainers remained on charge at RCAF Uplands until at least 9 October 1941, where #3565 had a Cat. B accident while training. Off charge RCAF 11 March 1942, #3565 was never assigned as a wireless trainer. While these Canadian designed aircraft flying characteristics were very good, the Uplands Flying Instructors thought a student pilot could not make the required transition from this intermediate trainer to a Hawker Hurricane fighter. The North American AT-6 Harvard, J-Bird, Texan, or what ever name you wish to describe it, proved to be the safest, most reliable, powerful, challenging, and best machine for transition from elementary trainer to front line fighters during and after WWII. This North American incredible trainer, soon earned the title, the greatest of all global “pilot makers” and it is still around today training pilots and thrilling crowds with the thunder drone of its engine. The poor old Canadian Fleet Fort did not stand a chance to replace the AT-6 Harvard, which Fleet originally designed it to do. The RCAF wisely decided to convert all of the Forts to wireless operator trainers, and the prototype became Fort #3571, which arrived at Test and Development Est. Rockcliffe, Ontario, on 26 November 1941. Fort #3572 and #3573 followed to Rockcliffe where they were used for major design and installation of the radio equipment. The history of the first thirteen Fleet Fort 60K production aircraft records on where and how they were converted into a wireless operator training machine follows. Six of these Forts later served at Winnipeg, and one at Calgary Wireless training schools.

1. Fort #3561 – completed 2 June 1941, crashed during test flight at Fort Erie on 5 June 1941. Repaired and delivered to RCAF, taken on charge 28 March 1942. Placed on flatcar and arrived at No. 8 Repair Depot, Winnipeg, 6 April 1942. [Assigned No. 3 W.S.] Assigned to No. 17 SFTS [Souris, Manitoba] on 23 November 1942. Off charge 3 March 1945.

2. Fort #3562 – completed 3 June 1941, first aircraft allotted to Test and Development Est. at Rockcliffe, Ontario, 30 June 1941, test pilot S/L F.E. R. Briggs. Used for testing until mid-November 1942, then assigned to No. 3 Wireless School, Tuxedo Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, arrived No. 8 Repair Depot, 30 March 1942. Assigned No. 3 Wireless School training on 9 September 1942. Off Strength 3 March 1945.

3. Fort #3563 – completed 15 July 1941, assigned to RCAF Uplands in August 1941, used for testing and to prepare pilot’s notes for all Fleet Fort flying operations. Left Uplands 9 October 41, after only flying 57:45 hrs. Believed to have flown training at No. 3 W.S. Off Strength 5 February 1945.

4. Fort #3564 – completed 22 July 1941. Arrived RCAF Uplands in August 1941, flew until 9 October 41, shipped by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arrived 26 March 1942. Assigned No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg, 17 September 1942, flew training 1566:20 hrs. Off Strength 2 March 1945.

5. Fort #3565 – completed 2 August 1941, delivered RCAF Uplands August 1941, flew until 9 October 41, Cat. B accident 9 October 1941, No. 2 SFTS Uplands [Ottawa]. Off Strength 11 March 1942. Never flew wireless training.

6. Fort #3566 – completed 2 August 1941, delivered to RCAF Uplands August 41, until 9 October 41. Shipped by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arrived 26 February 1942. Assigned to No. 3 W.S. on 11 December 1942. Damaged 16 January 1943, during training. Off Strength 2 March 1945.

7. Fort #3567 – completed 13 August 1941, delivered to RCAF Uplands August 1941, until 9 October 41. Shipped by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arrived 26 February 1942. Assigned to No. 3 W.S. on 4 March 1942. Forced landing 9 May 1943. Off Strength 2 March 1945.

8. Fort #3568 – completed 20 August 1941, delivered by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arrived 26 February 1942. Assigned No. 3 W.S. on 9 March 1942. Transferred to No. 17 SFTS [Souris, Manitoba] on 9 November 1942. Off Strength RCAF 2 March 45.

9. Fort #3569 – completed 27 August 1941, delivered to No. 3 W.S. To No. 17 SFTS on 23 November 1942. Forced landing 2 April 1943. Off Strength 2 March 45.

10. Fort #3570 – completed 12 February 1942. Delivered by rail to No. 8 Repair Depot, arrived 4 March 1942. Assigned to No. 3 W.S. on 18 March 1942, flew 1117:40 hrs. Transferred to No. 17 SFTS [Souris, Manitoba] 9 November 1942. Off Strength RCAF 2 March 1945.

11. Fort #3571 – completed 17 November 1941. Allotted to Test and Development Est. at Rockcliffe, Ontario, transfer order 12277 – dated 26 November 1941. Prototype tested to discover and eliminate any ‘bugs’ in the design as an RCAF wireless trainer aircraft. Later used at both Calgary and Winnipeg for wireless training. On 9 February 1942, testing was completed at Rockcliffe, [Test & Devel.] and #3571 was dismantled and shipped by rail to No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, Alberta, where it arrived on 3 March 1942. Transferred to No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg, arriving at No. 8 Repair Depot, on 1 June 1942. Taken on strength No. 3 W.S. on 8 December 1942. Off strength RCAF 2 March 1945.

12. Fort #3572 – completed 17 November 1941, assigned to Test and Development Est. Rockcliffe in early January 1942. Used to design and construct the fitting of Marconi radio equipment T1154/R1155 wireless and fitting of battery 5J27. This was in report No. 574 dated 10 February 1942 and the aircraft left Ottawa in May 42. Testing time 32:35 hrs. Off Strength 13 February 1945.

13. Fort #3573 – completed 22 November 1941. Allotted Test and Development Est., transfer 12514 – dated 5 December 1941. Used for further design and fact gathering for wireless operator training. Prototype for medical kit storage on Fleet Fort trainer. Lost in hangar fire at RCAF Rockcliffe on 21 August 1944. Off Strength 21 September 1945.

The next 37 Fleet Fort 60K trainers were delivered to No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta, beginning [8 January 1942] with serial number 3574 and ending with 3610. They were not delivered in order of serial number, but arrived at No. 10 Repair Depot at different dates, which were all recorded in the wireless flying squadron Daily Dairy. [This complete list follows]
The next block of 33 Fleet Fort 60K trainers were delivered to No. 3 Wireless School at Winnipeg, beginning on 3 March 1942, with serial number 3611 and ending with 3644. They were delivered by rail in a close order of serial number and arrived on different dates. The Daily Diary at No. 3 W.S. did not record all of the serial numbers or arrival date, causing some loss of important data. On 20 February 1942, Mr. Mackie [Fleet Aircraft, Fort Erie] and Mr. Lillick [American Jacobs Engines] arrived at No. 8 Repair Depot, awaiting the first delivery of Fort aircraft. First four trainers to arrived on 23 February 1942, Fleet Fort serial #3611, #3612, #3613, #3614. The first two assembled were #3611 and #3612, both taken on strength by No. 3 W.S. on 3 March 1942.
26 February 1942, – #3568, #3615, #3616, #3566, #3567, and #3619.
4 March 42, – #3570, #3617, #3618, and #3620.
9 March 42, – #3621 and #3622.
10 March 42, – #3623 and #3624.
11 March 42, – #3625 and #3626.
16 March 42, – #3627 and #3628.
23 March 42, – #3631 and #3632.
26 March 42, – #3564 and #3633.
27 March 42, #3634 and #3636.
30 March 42, #3562, #3635, #3637, and #3638.
31 March 42, #3637, #3639, and #3640.
1 April 42, #3641 and #3642.
6 April 42, #3561 and #3643.
16 April 42, #3644.

My records indicate in total 42 Fleet Fort 60K aircraft were taken on strength at No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, Manitoba, from early April 1942 until 14 July 1944, when all were ferried for storage. The peak month of operations was March 1944, when 34 Fleet Fort were on strength.

The last group of 16 Fleet Fort 60K [serial #3645 to #3660] were all delivered to No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, and again arrived at different dates. All were recorded in the Daily Dairy with serial number and arrival date. [complete list follows]

This full page advertisement appeared in the 15 November 1943 issue of Maclean’s Magazine, and the aircraft somewhat resembles a Fleet Fort. I’m sure the American artist had no idea what a Fort looked like, if that was in fact what he wished to illustrate.

The Jacobs Aircraft Engine company had been concentrating on the production of two basic aircraft engines, the R-755 and R-915 series. The 245 h.p. R-755A1 was fitted in the twin engine Cessna Crane aircraft produced for the R.C.A.F. and used in the BCATP. The second more powerful 330 h.p. R-915A1 seven-cylinder air-cooled radials were installed in the Canadian constructed twin-engine Avro Anson Mk. II trainers, which trained thousands of students in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

The Fleet Fort 60K aircraft were fitted with both series engines, the R-755A1 engine was named the Fort Mk. I and the more powerful 330 h.p. R-915A1 became the Fort Mk. II aircraft. Most of the 100 production Fleet Fort aircraft flew with the 330 h.p. engine which gave them a top speed of 193 m.p.h. [311 km/h].

The Fleet Fort aircraft were disassembled, placed on railway flat cars and the No. 2 W.S. assigned aircraft arrived at No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary, Alberta. The first two aircraft #3574 and 3575, arrived at No. 10 R.D. on 3 January 1942, were reassembled and test flown. The first to arrive at No. 2 W.S. was #3575, taken on strength 6 January 1942.

This 1948 reunion group photo includes many of the men who worked at No. 10 Repair Depot during the war, and possibly a good number of the ground crew who assembled the Fleet Fort 60K aircraft for test flying. No. 10 R.D. newsletter cover for March 1942, was possibly a Fleet Fort.

This photo [PMR 78-317 Ottawa] has been published many times but never with good research details. These two Fleet Fort 60K Mk. II are possibly proceeding from No. 3 SFTS at Calgary to the training area at RCAF Station Shepard, Alberta. The Fleet Fort aircraft from No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron were not based at RCAF Station Shepard, Alberta, until 25 November 1942, officially 1 December 1942. Fort 3609 was taken on strength by RCAF 3 February 1942, delivered to No. 2 W.S. Calgary on 9 October 1942. Fort 3610 was T.O.S. 6 February 1942, arrived Calgary 6 May 1942. Fort 3609 crashed 17 October 42, lost r.p.m. on take-off ground looped. Repaired turned over on nose 27 February 1943. Repaired, collided with control tender [truck] on 18 March 1943, repaired. Flew 1016:55 hrs at Calgary until 20 March 1944. Fort 3610 crashed 11 February 1943, repaired, force landed Beiseker 18 January 1944, then completed 1162:00 hrs. at Calgary until 18 March 1944.

Production of the Fleet Fort was initially slow, with delivery in quarterly periods beginning [1] April and [1] May 1941. After pilot testing at No. 2 SFTS Uplands, [August to October 1941] the RCAF original order of 200 aircraft was reduced to 100, and 56 [plus prototype #3540] of these would be taken on strength at No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta. Following is my list of the dates the Fleet Fort 60K trainers were taken on charge at Calgary and RCAF Shepard, [6 January 1942 to 18 March 1944] containing 52 serial numbers which have been confirmed from the Wireless Flying Squadron Daily Diary record book.

The No. 10 Repair Depot Vol. 1, #1, Newsmagazine was published March 1942, and the cover was created by L.A.C. Sheldon-Williams, the art editor. February and March 1942, were very busy months for assembling and test-flying the new Fleet Fort 60K aircraft, and this was possibly reflected in his cover art. This original pen and ink drawing has been coloured by the author.

Fleet Fort 60K on strength at Calgary and Shepard.
The letters D.D. confirm this Fort aircraft serial was recorded in the squadron Daily Diary for the date it arrived at Calgary from RCAF No. 10 Repair Depot, Calgary.
3575 16th built, 1st to No. 2 W.S. 8 January 1942. Daily Diary
3574 1st Dual controls 20 Jan. 42. D.D.
3581 23 Feb. 42. D.D.
3583 23 Feb. 42. D.D.
3584 Dual control 11 Aug, 42. 23 Feb. 42. D.D.
3586 23 Feb. 42. D.D. Cat. A 10 May 42.
3595 945:45 hrs. 23 Feb. 42. Caught fire No. 10 Repair depot. Delivered 26 Feb. 1942. D.D.
3594 24 Feb. 42. D.D.
3597 24 Feb. 42. D.D.
3598 949:25 hrs. 25 Feb. 42. D.D.
3576 951:35 hrs. 27 Feb. 42. 1st delivered with radio installed. D.D.
3571 1031:25 hrs 3 March 42. D.D.
This aircraft was taken on strength RCAF 17 November 1941, allotted to Rockcliffe Test and Development transfer order 12277, dated 26 Nov. 41. This was the Prototype Wireless Trainer and after testing was completed [9 Feb. 42] was dismantled and loaded onto a railway car for shipment to No. 10 Repair Depot Calgary, 23 February 1942. Arrived Calgary on 3 March 1942, transferred to No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg, 8 December 1942. Total training hours 1031:25, off strength RCAF – 2 March 1945.
2 April 42, – radios installed in 3584, 3594, 3595, 3597, and 3598. D.D.
3585 13 April 42 D.D.
3589 13 April 42 D.D.
3592 1105:00 hrs. 13 April 42 D.D.
3579 14 April 42.

All delivered with radios from this date onward. D.D.
This is the only Fleet Fort trainer from Calgary to survive and today it is in storage at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
3591 14 April 42. D.D.
3577 16 April 42. D.D.
3578 D.D. 8 Jan 44 forced landing.
3587 29 April 42. D.D.
3602 29 April 42. D.D.
Cat. A 6 May 43. Burnt.
3593 27 May 42. D.D. Cat. B 5 Jun 42, Cat. A 1 Apr. 42.
3540 The original prototype Fleet Fort, ex-CF-BQP, is given RCAF serial #3540 on 18 May 1940. After testing it arrives at No. 6 Repair Depot, Trenton, Ontario, 27 May 1942. Disassembled and shipped by rail to No. 10 Repair Depot at Calgary, Alberta. Becomes ground instructional airframe RCAF #A182 on 20 August 1942. Returned by rail to No. 6 R.D., Trenton, Ontario, and Struck Off Strength by RCAF 12 December 1942.
3588 16 June 42. D.D.
3590 18 June 42. D.D.
3596 18 June 42. D.D. Cat. A 24 Sept. 42.
3582 From Winnipeg. 8 July 42. D.D. Cat. C – 1 Feb. 1943.
3583 13 July 42 D.D.
3584 11 August 42. D.D. Dual controls.
3575 951:35 hrs. 28 Aug. 42. D.D.
3580 28 Aug. 42. D.D.
3600 4 September 42. D.D.
3594 11 Sept. 42. D.D.

14 September 1942, all aircraft were grounded for special inspections and fifteen were found to be unserviceable for flying. 25 Sept. 1942 – Fort 3595, and 3598 taken off charge.
3601 Mk.I 29 Sept. 42. D.D.
3609 9 October 42. D.D.
3599 10 Oct. 42. D.D.
3658 29 Oct. 42. D.D.
3660 29 Oct. 42. D.D. crashed 6 Dec. 42.
3610 6 May 42. D.D.
3607 14 October 42. D.D.
3608 D.D. Cat. A 7 July 43.
3659 3 November 42. D.D.
3657 18 Nov. 42. D.D.
3649 18 Nov. 42. D.D.
3648 23 Nov. 42. D.D.
3653 23 Nov. 42. D.D.
3654 23 Nov. 42. D.D.
3655 D.D. Burnt Cat. A 16 Dec. 43.
3568 1 February 43. D.D.
3645 D.D. Cat. B. 19 Sept. 43.
3646 2 Feb. 43. D.D.
3651 2 Feb. 43. D.D.
3647 6 Feb. 43. D.D.
3605 9 Feb. 43. D.D.
3552 22 Feb. 43. D.D.
3652 3 March 1944. D.D.
3656 22 Feb. 42. D.D.

The Flying Squadron move to RCAF Station Shepard began on 25 November 1942 and they officially took charge of their new base on 1 December 1942. They had thirty-six Fleet Fort 60K trainers on strength, which were beginning to set a bad wireless training example, with many catching fire and even exploding in flight.

 

Six months [6 June 42] earlier a special report had been sent to RCAF high command in regards to so many serious problems in flying the Fleet Fort trainer at No. 3 SFTS [Currie] Calgary, but no action was taken.

Now the same Fort II aircraft were catching fire, and blowing up in mid-air, while the same number of Forts [33] flying with No. 3 Wireless school in Winnipeg had no aircraft fire problems. Calgary Wireless Flying School had more force landings in one week than Winnipeg had in two months. What was the problem with No. 2 W.S. Flying Squadron Fleet Fort aircraft? On 1 January 1943, the flying squadron had on charge 36 Fleet Fort 60K aircraft [one Mk. I and 35 Mk. II] The accidents continued at their new base RCAF Shepard, Alberta. In May 1943, forty-seven Fleet Forts trainers were on strength at Shepard, Alberta, the most flown by any RCAF squadron to that date, and the most flown at Calgary.

3 Feb. 43 – Fort 3604 crashed on landing.
11 Feb. 43 – Fort 3606 nosed over prop. Damaged.
11 Feb. 43 – Fort 3610 crashed on landing.

1 March 43 – Fort 3582 caught fire mid-air when fuel cap came off, forced landing, no injuries.
2 March 43 – Fort 3591 forced landing engine trouble.
7 March 43 – Fort 3659 forced landing engine over heated.
25 March 43 – Fort 3588 clogged fuel lines, forced landing.
26 March 43 – Fort 3602 icing, forced landing, nosed over.
31 March 43 – Fort 3645 crashed and burnt, pilot and student killed.
30 April 43 – Fort 3587 forced landing engine.

The RCAF did not want the Fleet Fort Model 60K in the first place and now their concerns were being proven valid by all the forced landings and in-flight fires at No. 3 SFTS, which continued at RCAF Station Shepard, Alberta. When one aircraft crashed or burnt, it was just replaced by another Fleet Fort and training continued. Fleet Fort strength on 30 April 1943 was 45 aircraft, until another caught fire in the air on 6 May 1943.

The RCAF investigation found nothing and Fleet Fort flying resumed on 20 May 43, with forced landings continuing around Alberta. I’m sure the local farmers became accustomed to a yellow Fort aircraft dropping out of the blue prairie sky, some engulfed in flames.

The peak number of Fleet Fort 60K trainers on strength at No. 2 W.S. Shepard, Alberta, had reached 47 for the month of March 1943.

No. 2 Wireless School Commanding Officer Group Captain Owen, next received secret orders, early June 43, a new “Examining Officer” would be posted to RCAF Shepard, a watch-dog flying instructor to keep his ears and eyes open for the problems existing with the Fleet Fort trainer’s accidents. On 9 June 43, a new officer, S/L O.P. Gosling, took over all four squadrons of the training wing at RCAF Shepard, including the forty plus trainers.

F/O Jack Merryfield was a senior flying instructor who graduated from No. 2 F.I.S. at Claresholm and Vulcan in September 1942. His flying instructor course began at No. 15 SFTS Claresholm, and in mid-course his class was transferred to newly formed No. 2 F.I.S. Vulcan, Alberta. In June 1943, at age 27 years of age, he was still instructing at No. 3 SFTS Calgary, and… “properly pissed-off, to put it mildly, as I wanted to get overseas. When this special RCAF ‘examining officer’ position was offered, I volunteered, and arrived at RCAF Shepard 14 June 1943. The next morning, I met the Station Commander, Wing Commander Sam Irwin, and after a good morning greeting he stated: ‘You were foolish to take this dangerous assignment, but you probably won’t survive the next three months.’”

A most shocking introduction to RCAF Shepard by his new C.O., who made it clear Merryfield was not very welcome. The Wing Commander fully understood that F/O Merryfield was performing duties as a flying instructor but at the same time he was observing [spying] on the actions around ‘his’ training station. It is very understandable senior RCAF officers did not take kindly to this official form of “Examining Officer” snooping around their training airfield, but maybe there was more to this then the official RCAF historians have ever recorded? That’s what F/O Merryfield believed, and it was called RCAF ground crew sabotage, as they just hated the Fleet Fort 60K trainer. No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg, operated a peak number of 33 Fleet Fort aircraft, with only one fuel cap coming loose, and no major fire problems. Why did such a large number of starboard fuel caps continue to come loose and a few good aircrew lives were lost at Shepard, Alberta? I leave that question for readers to decide.

This is the No. 2 W.S. Flying Instructors at RCAF Shepard from 15 June to 30 September 1943. From the collection of F/O Merryfield, located in top row number eight from the left.

SAIT Archives, Calgary, Alberta, Karly Sawatzke, BA

On 24 August 1943, while flying Fleet Fort #3601, Merryfield noticed the starboard fuel tank, which was located in the strut supported wing, was slowly losing the tank cap, as it turned counter clockwise due to the vibration of the aircraft. If the cap came off the escaping fuel vapor would hit the wing support and be ignited by the flame from the Jacobs engine. Jack Merryfield made an emergency landing on the field at Shepard and nosed over. When a ground crew NCO checked the fuel cap, it had less than two degrees to move before it was free. Jack filed his report and recommended a cotter key locking device be placed on all the fuel caps of the Fleet Fort aircraft. Jack also believed that RCAF ground crew sabotage was taking place at Shepard to get rid of the hated Fort trainers, but as far as he knows no official conclusion was ever reached by No. 4 Training Command. [Nothing officially on paper] On 24 September 1943, Jack Merryfield gladly returned to his instruction duties at No. 3 SFTS [Currie] Alberta, and never piloted a Fleet Fort 60K again. It also appears strange his recommended locking device was never applied to the Fleet Fort starboard fuel caps and the fires continued.

 

This image was sent by Norman Malayney from the collection of Dave Mawryk of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Fleet Fort #3622, was assigned to RCAF on 26 February 1942. Arrived by rail flatcar at No. 8 Repair Depot, Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 9 March 1942. After reassembly, it was assigned to No. 3 Wireless School Flying Squadron on 9 July 1942, and made this ‘nose-over’ landing in the snow in November 1943. Repaired it continued flying wireless training until it ground looped on 4 April 1944. Completed 1512:45 hrs training time and was taken off strength on 2 March 1945.

This close-up image of Fort #3622 captures the two fuel caps located in front of the two wing braces. The [left] starboard cap is the one that was in direct line of the aircraft engine exhaust, and what caused all the fires in Calgary. Possibly a major fuel cap design defect made by Fleet Aircraft but only two accidents occurred at No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg where they flew 33 aircraft. On 27 January 1942, Fort #3638 caught fire [mid-air] five miles west of Winnipeg, the student bailed out and the pilot luckily made it back to base. The second accident occurred on 10 January 1944, Fort #3644 had the fuel cap fly off and gasoline streamed out, but the quick thinking pilot quickly made a forced landing before the fuel was ignited. The fires and other problems just continue at No. 2 W.S. flying squadron at Shepard, Alberta.

1 October 43 – Fort 3604 forced landing engine.
2 October 43 – Fort 3590 forced landing.
4 October 43 – All Fleet Fort aircraft grounded [second time] for one day.

6 October 43 – Fort 3581 forced landing.
6 October 43 – Fort 3647 mid-air fire, pilot and his student bail out, no injuries.
7 October 43 – All Fleet Fort aircraft grounded again [third time] until 15 November 43.

It appears that RCAF high command [4 Training Command] at this point decided to replace all the Fleet Fort trainers and that would put an end to future accidents and loss of life. Twenty days later the first replacement Yale trainers begin to arrive at Calgary.
On 27 and 28 October 43, eight old obsolete Yale trainers arrive at Shepard, serial 3353, 3364, 3375, and 3360 followed on 28th by 3367, 3378, 3398, and 3428.
On 18 and 24 November 43, much needed Fleet Fort 60K spare parts arrived and operational flying training resumes, followed by more accidents.
18 November 43 – Fort 3577 brakes seized, nosed over.
26 November 43 – Fort 3681 and 3603 collided while taxing.

16 December 43, another mid-air fire with pilot and student forced to bail out, no injuries.
The Fleet Fort forced landings continue in the New Year with a monthly total of fourteen.

The Fleet Fort trainers are slowly being replaced by Norseman, Harvard, and Yale trainer aircraft by early January 1944. The number of Fleet Fort forced landings drops to two, out of fourteen flying in February 1944.

On 18 March 1944, all Fleet Fort 60K flying training came to an end and only six remained on strength by the end of March. In April 1944, all Fleet Fort had been flown to No. 10 Repair Depot at Calgary, Alberta, for storage and or disposal. On 30 April 44, No. 2 W.S.F.S. had 37 Harvard, 23 Yale, and 9 Norseman aircraft on strength at RCAF Shepard. The dark period at the base has come to an end, and so have the repeated accidents and forced landings. Eleven Fleet Fort trainers were lost in Cat. “A” accidents – #3586 – 10 May 42, #3596 – 24 September 42, #3593 – 14 April 43, #3602 – 6 May 43, #3608 – 6 July 43 – #3652, 20 August 43 – #3650 – 29 September 43, #3653 – 3 October 43, #3647 – 6 October 43, #3695 – 15 December 43, and #3655 16 December 1943.

The records speak for themselves, 31 August 1944, the principal trainer has become the Harvard [58 on strength] and only two normal training accidents have occurred.
Entry Course #76 began training 23 August 1943, completed 10 March 1944, [28 weeks] becoming the last class to train in the fire-trap Fleet Fort 60K at Shepard, Alberta.

The last production model serial 3660, taken on strength by RCAF 9 June 1942, assigned to No. 2 Wireless School Calgary, [Shepard, Alberta] 29 October 1942. Cat. B crash landing on 6 December 1942, repaired, forced landing Gleichan, Alberta, [smoke from engine], 7 January 1944. Completed 357:20 hrs training at RCAF Shepard.

On graduation day the W.A.G. students received their “Sparks” badge [above stripes] and promotion to Sergeant. Next came the graduation party at the Hotel Palliser [Paralyzer] in Calgary.

Entry Course # 76 began with 201 students and graduated 189, RCAF 112, Newfoundland 1, [British self-governing Colony, not part of Canada], RAF 2, Australia 12, and New Zealand 62.

The graduating class were now posted [12 March 1944] to one of eight Bombing and Gunnery Schools for six weeks more training, then off to United Kingdom. On 23 March 44, two Calgary Albertan newspaper reporters visited the wireless school.

This original wireless school tour story appeared in the 27 March 1944 issue of “the Calgary Albertan” newspaper, today the Calgary Sun.

The Primary classrooms

The Signal Trainer

SAIT Archives original document

These new trained Wireless Air Gunners would soon join a team of comrades of the skies and begin bomber operations around the world. Royal Air Force aircrew suffered a casualty rate of 46% during WWII. Out of 125,000 aircrew members, 55,500 would be killed on active operations, and ¾ of these young men have “No Known Grave.” Air Gunners and Wireless Air Gunners were three in a crew of seven, and over 20,000 of these young men were killed on operations. When I look at a WWII class photo from No. 2 Wireless School at Calgary, Alberta, I know that half of these entry class young men will never return home.

The November 1944 issue of American Saturday Evening Post magazine contained a full page advertisement featuring a Walt Disney insignia of a “Sea Wolf.” This image would appear as nose art on a number of RCAF aircraft, two Halifax bombers in United Kingdom and No. 149 Squadron at Patricia Bay, B.C., plus it was also selected by No. 2 Wireless School at RCAF Shepard, Alberta. This “unofficial” art appeared without bomb in mouth, with words No. 2 W.S. “Shepard Wolves.” It is possible this art appeared on the nose of some Harvard trainers but that has never been confirmed. The RCAF insignia was created as a cloth insignia by Crest Craft in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but no image has been found. I’m positive at least one hundred were ordered, and I hope at least one has survived for preserving RCAF history of this forgotten base in Alberta. No. 2 W.S. and No. 2 W.S.F.S. closed on 14 April 1945.

Author painting of possible unofficial insignia [I saw an original badge in 1995, but the owner wanted $350] used by No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron at Shepard, Alberta, after December 1944. It is possible this same insignia appeared as nose art on a few of the North American Harvard aircraft. Some of the known serial numbers as listed in the Squadron Daily Diary – AF827, AJ753, AJ802, AJ848, AJ914, AJ970, FE816, FE997, FF855, BF147, FH162, FH203, FS865, FT265, 2733, 2744, 2750, 2745, 2578, 2797, 2802, 3648, and 3833. The total serial numbers are not listed in the Daily Diary, only the aircraft involved in accidents. In January 1945, a total of 65 Harvard trainers were on charge at RCAF Shepard, and on 8 February 45, entry #99 and #100 graduated 258 wireless air gunners, the largest course to ever graduate in all of Canada’s four Wireless Schools. The reason for this was due to the closing of No. 3 Wireless School at Winnipeg, Manitoba.

No. 3 W.S. at Winnipeg, Manitoba, graduated their last class [Entry #97] on 29 December 1944. This class began training on 19 June 1944, with 134 students and graduated 106 Wireless Air Gunners. The school had on charge 38 Yale, two Harvard’s, and six Norseman trainer aircraft. The wireless school at Winnipeg officially closed on 20 January 1945. The majority of Entry class #99, #101, #103, and #105 was now posted to No. 2 W.S. at Calgary, Alberta, to finish their wireless training. Two-hundred and nine students arrived by train at 23:00 hrs. on 10 December 1944, increasing Calgary student wireless training by 50%. A large number of No. 3 wireless instructors and flying squadron members were also transferred to Calgary, along with two Norseman aircraft. P/O S.W. Duncan flew Norseman #2477 and F/O W.O.C. Slatter flew Norseman #2468 to RCAF Shepard, Alberta, on 22 December 1944, where both pilots and aircraft were taken on strength. On the 31 December 1944, the flying squadron had on strength ten Norseman and sixty-six Harvard aircraft for wireless training.

 

Entry course #105A and B, became the last wireless class to train at Calgary and the last to fly air operations at RCAF Shepard, Alberta. They began training at No. 3 Winnipeg on 9 October 1944, with 110 students, graduated 83 students at Calgary on 29 March 1945. A few images from this class survive today in SAIT Archives, and now the best are being published.
[SAIT – Karly Sawatzky, BA]

This image was taken at No. 2 W.S. Calgary parade square in possibly mid-March 1945. On 10 December 1944, 209 airmen arrived by train from No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg, and training began at Calgary, officially on 28 December 1944. This class image came from the photo album of [W.A.G.] LAC William A. Campbell, from Toronto, Ontario, front row far right. [SAIT Archives]

Before training begins, the new arrivals from No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg had time to visit attractions in Calgary, including the local Zoo at St. George’s Island. Images taken from 1944, RCAF No. 3 SFTS newsletter story on LAC Jack Kanerva.

John Kanerva, [Finnish-born] local sculptor and interior decorator, designed and constructed 42 life-sized cement models of the dinosaurs which roamed Calgary millions of years ago. With the help of the Calgary Zoological Society and Canada’s ex-prime minister, Viscount Bennett, John began his creations in 1935 and completed his work as Canada went to war. During this time period, his two sons Jack and brother Bill assisted in mixing cement, and applying layers to the huge steel and stucco mesh frameworks. Jack Kanerva spent several days inside the stomach of the huge 100-foot long brontosaurus, applying cement to the model, which Alley Oop rode in his comic strip, given the name “Dinny.” In 1943, LAC Jack Kanerva was a 22-year-old airframe mechanic working at No. 3 SFTS, Calgary. Each year, Jack completed necessary repairs to his father’s prehistoric collection and repainted damaged sections. In 1983, the City of Calgary decided to destroy the original collection, they were “too cheesy” looking. Somehow, Dinny the Calgary dinosaur survived, preserving the city past, and can still be seen today at the Calgary Zoo.

This RCAF image taken by Pollard Studios shows two members of 105A entry class enjoying the Calgary Dinosaur collection in February 1945. LAC L.M. Chrypko and LAC Len Barrbit will be two of the last wireless air gunners to fly at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, 23 March 1945. [SAIT]

Entry course No. 105A and 105B became the last wireless course to be trained and they had just completed 24 weeks of their 28-week wireless course, when the school was notified of final closure. They wrote their final wireless exams on 26 March 1945, when a few of these photos were taken by Pollard Studios of Calgary. The Daily Diary records that Pollard Studios attended the wireless school and the flying school [22 March 45] taking photos of various locations. These students knew the war was coming to an end, and they would never see action over the deadly skies of Germany. This very same class received their air operations training at RCAF Shepard on 22 and 23 March 1945, the last class to take to the air at Shepard, Alberta. The following images were taken at RCAF Shepard on 23 March 1945.

SAIT Archives.

This image was taken from the administration roof of hangar #1, [control tower on left] looking east, date would be 23 March 1945, and five Norseman aircraft can be seen in the photo. The known serial numbers are most likely – #698, #2457, #2467, #2468, #2477, #2491, #2492, #3524 or #3527. The wireless flying squadron have 65 North American Harvard trainers on strength in March 45, with ten Norseman aircraft, which are only being used for air sickness testing and air navigation [air experience] flights.

Air photo taken from Harvard aircraft flying due south over RCAF Shepard, 22-23 March 1945.

Author scale drawing of the original [forgotten] location of RCAF Shepard 1940-45.

The twenty smaller buildings [the Sgt’s quarters burned down 6 October 1944] were possibly sold to local farmers and a few may still survive. The three RCAF hangars were later destroyed, but remained until around 1948, as surplus aircraft storage. If you look further east, you will see a low wet marshy area where all the surrounding water drained. RCAF Shepard training base runways were located at what is today Barlow Trail and Deerfoot Trail. Each month thousands of cars and trucks pass over the southern edge of the ghost base, and few have any knowledge of this WWII Calgary history. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s the City of Calgary dumped tons of sludge in the lower wet lands, east of what was the original airfield, then covered part of it with clean dirt fill. All physical evidence of the RCAF field was erased and the complete area was turned into an industrial park by 2003, possibly to hide some of the unknown toxic sludge which remains in the soil today. The eastern sludge ponds are still in use today, and properly regulated by the city. The old Shepard Race City Speedway was located further east from the sludge lagoons, just south of the C.P.R. railway yards, again all has been erased from the race car era, covered by industrial buildings. The C.P.R. Shepard Station [Model #5] was the second constructed in 1910, and was donated to the City of Calgary in 1970, for $15. It was located 24 kilometres [15 miles] from downtown Calgary main CPR station and used by many RCAF during the war. If you visit and ride the steam train at Heritage Park in Calgary, you will stop at the original Shepard Station, but only the pioneer history is given.

I estimate over 5,000 Wireless Air Gunners received their two weeks’ air operations training at RCAF Shepard, officially from 1 December 1942 until closing 30 March 1945. The wireless air gunners formed a most important part of RAF WWII bomber crew fighting comrades of the skies. For some reason their history at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, has slipped through the cracks of time and is totally forgotten by historians. They took their training in obsolete hand-me-down aircraft which was not good enough for training pilots, and that cost a few young lives. The role played by the Canadian-designed and constructed Fleet Fort 60K, flown at Shepard, Alberta, for 25 months has also been totally forgotten. The best North American Harvard trainer did not arrive at Shepard until the war was almost over. LAC Bill Campbell, 23 March 1945, #105A Entry Class which moved from Winnipeg, graduated Calgary, 29 March 1945.

 

Four students of the last Wireless #105A Air Operations class flown at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, 23 March 1945. The Second World War in Europe will end in just over five weeks. Their young lives will be spared, unlike so many other Wireless Air Gunners who trained at Shepard.

This was RCAF Headquarters Staff, No. 2 W.S. [Calgary] Flying Squadron, 22 March 1945. They will disband in 23 days, and many will be discharged or posted to other parts of Canada. [SAIT]

No. 2 Wireless School Flying Squadron was created on 6 January 1941, operating from No. 3 S.F.T.S until 24 January 41, when they moved into the T.C.A. hangar at Calgary Airport. Moved back to No. 3 S.F.T.S. on 12 May 1942, took over operations in new constructed double-wide hangar #6. In March 1942, Flying training began at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, with aircraft then based in Calgary. Wireless operator students were transported by bus and CPR train from the training school Calgary to the base located some twenty-four miles south-east. Major base expansion construction began at Shepard in early 1942, a second double-wide hangar was built with two H-huts, wet canteen, and other buildings for permanent staff [240 personnel] living quarters. After the construction was completed, the move to RCAF Shepard began on 25 November 1942, and the new school was officially in full operation 1 December 1942. Runway lights were installed and the first night-flying took place 1 June 1943, and a third hangar was constructed for the Fleet Fort aircraft which grown to 47 on charge end of March to June 1943. No. 2 W. S. Flying Squadron took on charge a total of 56 Fleet Fort trainers, the most by any RCAF unit, and they were all flown at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, for 25 months.

The total Daily Diary reported intake of W.A.G. students at No. 2 W.S. Calgary was 2,781 from 16 September 1940 until 23 July 1942, [twenty-one months] with graduation of 2,382, 503 failed and the remainder were reassigned. The student input total continues to climb and the monthly totals give some idea of the activity at RCAF Shepard. For two weeks, each W.A.G. student received ten training flights on average, lasting 1:30 hrs to 2:30 hrs per flight.
31 October 43 – 1,624 students in training.
31 December 43 – 1,851 students training.
31 January 44 – 1,872 training.

February 44 – 1,876 training, March 44 – 1,794 training, May 44 – 1,624 training, June 44 – 1,576 training, July 44 – 1,627 training, October 44, 1,993, December 1944, the all time high 2,153 students in training. February 1945, 1,677 students and the last month March 1945, 619 students in training.

The four Wireless Schools in Canada graduated 18,496 Wireless Air Gunners, 12,744 – RCAF, 2,875 – RAAF, 2,122 – RNZA, and 755 R.A.F. While I cannot find the final figures for No. 2 W.S. Calgary, it would be fair to guess over 5,000 W.A.G. students flight trained at RCAF Shepard, Alberta, from 12 May 1942 until 30 March 1945. [33 months]

The last five entry classes at RCAF Shepard graduated 609 students, which included 209 that begun their training at No. 3 W.S. in Winnipeg, entry class #99, #100, #101, #103 and #105.

Original large size photograph in SAIT collection.

The largest class to graduated from any Wireless School in Canada, 381 wireless students at Shepard, Alberta, 29 March 1945. Two-hundred and nine of these students began entry wireless training at No. 3 W.S. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Today the right side of this image is known as East Shepard Industrial and the left side is a huge City of Calgary Sludge dumping lagoon. The RCAF Wireless Training historical part of this airfield during WWII, is totally unknown to 99% of the population of the City of Calgary.

Today Midge rests [wearing her blanket] in an unmarked grave at Parrsboro, Nova Scotia.

By 1948, all of RCAF buildings at Shepard had been sold or demolished, however the runways would once again feel the landing and take-off of aircraft. No. 403 [Auxiliary] “City of Calgary” Squadron was formed on 15 October 1948, flying North American Harvard Mk. II, North American Mustang Mk. IV, Canadair Silver Star Mk. 3 and after March 1958, the de Havilland Otter, reassigned for RCAF emergency rescue duties. No. 403 was based at RCAF ex-No. 3 S.F.T.S. [Currie Field] which was later renamed Lincoln Park on 1 September 1961. RCAF Shepard was used as a storage base for Mustang airframes, wings, propellers, and other parts which were placed on the ground unprotected from the weather. I have been told many of these parts remain buried in the ground today, forgotten by the passage of time, just as the Canadian Government intended. Young RCAF pilot Lynn Garrison, flew Otter aircraft in and out of Shepard on a weekly touch and go flight, or to pick up spare parts. This was also where Calgary lawyer Milt Harradence stored his own private P-51 Mustang, but that is another story from the 1965 era. In 1970, the City of Calgary obtained the property from the Federal Government and the old runways became the A.M.A. Driver Testing Venue, where thousands of teenagers took to the wheel. The same runways where thousands of WWII wireless teenagers once trained, flew, and died.

No.2 WS 145

Original 1943, Fleet Fort 60K cartoon by unknown WWII artist, coloured by author.

Just a Kid – An Alouette from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Remembering Charles Andrew Reist

RCAF 425 Les Alouettes II

Taken from my database

Reist Charles Andrew

R/163707

Sergeant Rear Gunner

crew D.A. Wood

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

20 years-old

KIA 06-08-1943

Kairouan crashed in the water at Cap Bon

All killed

Son of Norman Jacob and Annie Viola Reist

I will be using Clarence Simonsen’s research to pay homage to a young man who lost his life in North Africa in 1943. Clarence had sent me his research in 2014 about a flying turtle with this message.

Hello Pierre, 

This is in fact three stories in one. Group Captain Dunlap was an outstanding RCAF Officer, who served [exchange duty] with the RAF in 1935, and for this reason understood the British and thinking of the pre-war RAF. He was one officer who was not afraid to express his true point of view and give a blunt reply to everything. He was in fact – “a man’s man” and did…

View original post 2,117 more words

Known Unto God

FullSizeRender.jpg

This photo was taken at Plouescat, France. I did not take it, but I wish I had. I wish I could visit that French little town which pays homage to so many sailors who gave their lives on April 29, 1944.

People in Plouescat still remember the Fallen on Remembrance Day.

I started my Remembrance Day in the summer of 2009. I had never thought of Remembrance Day that much until a family reunion in 2009. It was about a 81 year-old man who told his nieces he was a stoker aboard HMCS Athabaskan. His nieces were just talking about Pierre’s brother’s. Their uncle Jean who had been injured on D-Day died of complication of his wounds in 1964.

I was just listening quietly to their conversation…

I guess his nieces talking about D-Day led Pierre to open up about his ordeal. He did not open up that much since the pain was too great I guess. I could never ascertain if he was really aboard HMCS Athabaskan since his name is not listed in the book Unlucky Lady.

Later, some readers of my blog would tell me the book was not 100% accurate on who were on the Tribal destroyer on that fateful night.

I believe I see my wife’s uncle on this group picture shared by Paul Sulkers whose father was Herman Sulkers.

My wife doesn’t agree with me that her uncle is on that picture. This is another group picture of the rest of the crew.

This time I am sure about one sailor.

His granddaughter found him for us last week when she wrote a comment. Leading stoker Ralph Cummins was in the engine room with my wife’s uncle if he was really aboard that is. Both survived. Ralph Cummins was taken prisoner by the Germans, and Pierre Bachant was rescued by HMCS Haida.

Being rescued by another ship, that’s what he told his nieces in 2009. I figured it was the Haida, but I did not know anything about the Athabaskan in 2009 so I could not ask the name of the ship. Some veterans might make up stories about what they did in the war. They are easy to spot when you start asking questions. Pierre Bachant never wanted to talk that much about his service in the Royal Canadian Navy. That should tell a lot about what he went through on April 29,1944.

Today is Remembrance Day, and I want to pay homage to the Fallen and to those who survived. People still remember like David and his wife Lorraine who visited Plouescat Cemetery and shared these photos. David is not looking for his uncle’s headstone.

IMG_2865.JPG

William Donald McCrindle, David’s uncle, is still MPK…

Missing presumed killed.

Remembrance Day will continue for a few more days because David has more to share with us.

For more information about the Royal Canadian Navy please visit this Website:

http://www.forposterityssake.ca/Navy/HMCS_ATHABASKAN_G07.htm

About Ripples in the Water – Fifth From the Left

Update

Why it will never stop…

Connolly, William E., Sig, V-40271 – (POW)

My Great Uncle, and Godfather, was William E. Connolly. He is number 11 in the image above. Signalman on the Athabaskan, and one of the POWs. He is also in the picture from “Ripples in the Water” of the boys returning home (he is in the center of the picture – fifth from the left).


Original post

My wife does not read my blogs, but she’s the one who said Ripples in the water about this…

photo 5

That’s about the only comment she ever made since 2008 when I started writing blogs. The first blog was about genealogy and it was written in French which is my mother tongue. Nos ancêtres (our ancestors) was created in January 2008. I wanted to share with others what I had found about my ancestors.

Meeting my wife’s uncle led me to create Souvenirs de guerre and its English version Lest We Forget. Souvenirs de guerre was about HMCS Athabaskan, a destroyer I knew nothing about. Writing about HMCS Athabaskan led me to this young French-Canadian sailor who died on April 29,1944.

équipage Louis Ledoux

Louis Ledoux

And to his nephew who led me to his father Jean Ledoux.

Jean Ledoux Louis Ledoux's brother

Jean Ledoux, Louis’ brother

This blog has more than 700 posts. Each one is like a stone thrown in the water. This is one ripple.

Ernie

It’s part of this original picture sent by Paul Sulkers, Herm Sulker’s son.

old photo WW 110002

Herm Sulkers was aboard HMCS Athabaskan like Ernie Mills. Herm Sulkers was taken prisoner on April 29, 1944.

cropped-athab-2.jpg

Fourth sailor on the right

Writing about the Athabaskan led Garry Weir to find my blog Lest We Forget.

Garry led me to his Website.

Two days ago, Garry added this note to Ernie Mills… using an information provided by Doug Edwards.

MILLS, Ernest G, Chief Engine Room Artificer, 21508 (RCN), MPK – 29 April 1944 (note: Ernie Mills had been relieved/replaced as CERA by Vic Brighten. Ernie had stayed on board ship an couple of extra days to completed the turn-over as it was taking longer than anticipated.)

Ernest Mills