Jim Kirk (right), climbs into an early flight simulator during flight school in Edmonton, Alberta, 1943.Jim Kirk
Jim Kirk during flight training in Edmonton, Alberta, 1943.Jim Kirk
Jim Kirk (right) poses with fellow flight instructors in Canada during the war.Jim Kirk
Jim Kirk's thoughts on the two minute silence given each Remembrance Day.Jim Kirk
A flight of Ansons, similar to that which Jim Kirk trained new pilots in during the war.The Midnight Run
"My one regret was never to have had a reunion of Frank, Pat and me. We will remember them."
We grew up in the outskirts of Winnipeg during the ‘Dirty Thirties’. As young lads, we were interested in trains and often biked two miles to a railroad crossing to watch the mighty steam engines roar by. We waved to the engineer and he waved back. We were going to be train engineers when we grew up.
Then one summer, we heard the roar of an airplane. We grabbed our bikes and raced down to the river to watch it land on the water. It was a flying boat; our first sight of an aircraft. The [Royal Canadian] Air Force had established a small base on the riverbank. They had brought in two aircraft to use during the summer for aerial mapping and to watch for forest fires.
We watched them every day for a week, practicing takeoff and landing before leaving farther north. We decided we were going to become pilots. The following summer, we boldly rode our bikes to the air base to join the Air Force. The officer smiled and asked about our education. He told us to go back to school and after we graduated, we could return. We helped each other with our homework and graduated.
When we returned to the air base, we were told we could enlist after completing some tests in two weeks’ time. If we qualified, we would take elementary flying training and if successful, we would be transferred to the RAF [Royal Air Force] in Britain. A day or two later, I had a sudden change of plans. I had heard the Hudson’s Bay Company was hiring apprentice fur traders. I went for an interview and was accepted to attend their training school in two weeks’ time. I had come to a fork in the road. I had learned of the early explorers and the canoe brigade but I also wanted to learn to fly. I slept on it.
When I told Frank [Anderson] and Pat [Close] I might have a chance of going north as a fur trader, they looked at me as if I had gone off my rocker. “Hey, three musketeers,” Pat said, "we’re going to be pilots, remember?" I wished them good luck with their tests and suddenly realized I had made my decision. However, I walked home, still arguing with myself. Frank and Pat took their tests and ended up as pilots with the RAF in Britain. I was given a three-year contract in the Yukon and enjoyed every minute of it.
World War II had begun and at the end of my contract, I joined the RCAF as a staff pilot. Through our families, we managed to keep in touch with one another. Frank and Pat were delighted to learn I had become one with them and asked, when are you coming over? As it happened, I remained in Canada, training night bombing students. One day I received word that Frank had been reported missing in action in the Mediterranean area. Hardly a month later, the same happened to Pat in the same area. I continued with my flying duties while in the back of my mind, the thought kept reoccurring: if I had stayed with them, would I also have been reported missing?
After the war, I had a brief visit with both Pat’s mother and Frank’s mother. While teenagers, they both lost their dads. No further details were ever received except “we regret to inform you…” My one regret was never to have had a reunion of Frank, Pat and me. We will remember them.