Air Force, Second World War, The Home Front, Remembrance
Gerry Sutton was seventeen when he saw a report that the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting team would be in his hometown of Chatham. It was 1943; the Second World War had been raging for four years and Gerry was eager to get involved. He hurried to sign up, passing the initial tests and receiving consent from his father, allowing him to join. In an excerpt taken from his memoirs, Gerry Sutton describes his Air Force ambitions:
“I wanted to be a pilot, nothing else. I was interviewed by a warrant officer pilot who had returned from combat and was a bundle of nerves. His hands shook as he lit one cigarette after another. Why did I want to be a pilot? Did I know that the life of a fighter pilot was 3.5 minutes of combat? Did I know the Germans aimed first at the pilot of a bomber in order to shoot it down, and the odds were 50/50 a pilot would be killed within the first ten operational flights? No, I didn't know. Nevertheless, I wanted to be a pilot. We had been warned not to give the simplistic but accurate answer, ‘Because I want to fly,’ so I told him about watching the Battle of Britain overhead and of being bombed and I wanted to get my own back. He shook his head at the naivete of youth but passed me anyway.”
After a month in the Manning Depot in Lachine, Gerry was sent to a base known as Little Norway in Toronto. He continued his training at the Eglinton Hunt Club in Toronto, and at the #7 Elementary Flying School in Windsor where he finally learned to fly. He was later sent to Centralia, north west of London, Ontario for advanced training. Gerry graduated as a pilot in September 1944. He received two weeks leave and spent time at home in Chatham, enjoying being able to show off his hard-earned uniform. After leave, Gerry was sent to a commando course in Calgary.
He was itching to get overseas—to get involved in combat—however, this desire would never come to fruition. Gerry explains this disappointment in his memoirs:
“Sometime in November, we were informed that we weren't really wanted. The Commando course was simply putting in time as the pipeline of aircrew backed up even more. We would be given leave and told to report for discharge at Manning Depot in Toronto in February. We were devastated, and that is not too strong a word.”
To his great disappointment, Gerry was discharged in February 1945. Though his involvement was not what he had hoped for, Gerry never regretted his time in the Air Force. In his memoirs, he describes what he took away from the experience:
“It was self-confidence. I knew I could accomplish whatever goal I set myself and I had developed the discipline required to do so.”