"I had met a local girl in Medicine Hat [Alberta] but the life expectancy wasn’t that great for pilots so we more or less kept it low key."
I was sixteen and a half when war broke out, September 1939. And at first of course, we were all expecting the war to be over in four months; some ridiculous ideas we had. As soon as the Battle of Britain itself started and the threat of invasion, I immediately joined the Home Guard although because of the possibility of joining the RAF, I also joined the Air Cadets.
Anyway, so I joined the Home Guard and then when I was seventeen and a half, which is the minimum age for joining the Royal Air Force, I applied and after a certain number of interviews, and this, that and the other thing, I was finally accepted into the Royal Air Force.
It wasn’t until I guess March 1943 when we finally went by ship, the Empress of Japan - actually, it was the Empress of Scotland, it used to be known as the Empress of Japan but they changed its name for obvious reasons. And my first posting in Canada [under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan] was to Assiniboia [Saskatchewan], which was No. 34 Elementary Flying Training School. Well, it was a little prairie town, I mean, we were quite a few miles away, so we managed to get the bus into what was the town. I mean, there was a beer parlour but it was pretty crude and simple. I remember the sidewalks were actually wooden sidewalks then. And I mean, everything was a bit of an eye opener. But we were flying so regularly and I mean we were so immersed that there wasn’t much time for socializing. We just lived to fly I guess is all I can say. It was two months of very, very dedicated flying. I mean, we did… gosh, it must have been close to 75 hours flying time in that period.
I was sick for a while. I had to jump a course but anyway, I finally got back on and then on graduation, I had met a local girl in Medicine Hat [Alberta] but the life expectancy wasn’t that great for pilots so we more or less kept it low key. So after wings parade in April 1944 I think it was, we dashed over to the orderly office to see where we were going and what we were going to be flying. And there we were, I was posted to No. 1 Flying Instructor School in Trenton [Ontario] and I remember dashing back to tell my girlfriend that, well, as I was going to be a flying instructor, maybe we might think about getting married once I got back from flying instructor school. So that was one of the things I particularly remember of the occasion.
I was instructing almost entirely on the [Fairchild] Cornell, which were the elementaries. I was an elementary instructor. We always had a Harvard more or less to keep up our instrument flying. We had to have at least a minimum of one hour flying a service aircraft once a month. So but that was, again, we usually flew with another instructor, took turns being the first pilot.
Cross-country flying was part of it but it was always limited to the airplane. Usually kept it an hour and a half to - was the limit of the flight, that’s usually three towns or two towns and then return. Yeah, then I was at De Winton and High River, which was of course very familiar, just south of Calgary. And then I had almost a year at a place called St. Eugene which was in Ontario, it’s halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. And I was there for about a year and finally when actually, the war ended, I was at St. Jean, Quebec and we were teaching Fleet Air Arm students and that was when the war ended and well, we pretty well quit flying very shortly after that.
And then I was returned to England where I started flying again, Tiger Moths, and we were teaching glider pilots for a little while. I don’t know, this I was in peacetime basically until I was demobilized in 1946. In the end, after looking back on my whole flying experience, I realized that - because after the war, I joined a flying club, we did quite a bit of flying, with my sons and frankly, the real joy I was getting from it was teaching - I realized that I liked to teach. And it makes a difference I’m sure. Probably made me what might be hopefully a good instructor. But because I did enjoy, I mean, it was fun. We had kids coming in who, well, they had ground school but when it came to flying, they had no skills at all, so whatever you could teach them, when they left, they could fly sometimes as well, maybe better than I could. And that was great experience, a wonderful feeling.