Veteran Stories:
Celia May Brown (née McEwen)

Air Force

  • Celia Brown was one of the timekeepers at No. 10 Service Flying Training School, where each instructor had about 60 students per course. The timekeepers kept logs of instructors, students and flight information that was then transferred to the board pictured here. The board was used to keep track of each student's progress throughout the course.

    Celia Brown
  • Pictured here are the WD barracks at the No. 10 Service Flying Training School in Dauphin, Manitoba, 1942.

    Celia Brown
  • Example of a Daily Flying Log and Flight Authorization sheet (F-17) used by instructors and students to log what procedures they were doing that day, October, 1943.

    Celia Brown
  • Last day of leave in Sussex, New Brunswick, Celia Brown's hometown, on October 27, 1942.

    Celia Brown
  • Precision Physical Training Group at No. 10 Service Flying Training School in Dauphin, Manitoba, 1944.

    Celia Brown
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"He come along, oh, what have you got there, girls? Cockroaches, sir. Cockroaches? Yes, sir. Where did you get the cockroaches? In our barracks, sir."

Transcript

So the day I was 21, I sent my application in; and I had to go to [RCAF Station] Moncton to join up. And I almost didn’t get in because I did not weigh enough. I had my trade, I was joined [the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division] as a clerk admin and the officer interviewing me made so cross because he said, what would a little thing like you do if we gave you a big stack of books to carry around? I was so insulted, but nevertheless, they did accept me and I was supposed to leave to go to Toronto for my basic training the next week. Well, I went home and got acute sore throat, lost another 10 pounds, and they wouldn’t take me back until I gained up my weight. So it was the first of March, around then, that actually I went to [RCAF Station Downsview] Toronto, at the old Havergal College, to take my basic training.

I was posted from there out to [RCAF Station] Dauphin, Manitoba, No. 10 SFTS [Service Flying Training School], which was service flying training school. And I worked in the admin building for a short time, but I didn’t really care for it. I didn’t like typing and just doing office work, I wasn’t the happiest with it, but from there, they were going to have timekeepers in the flights and, because it was the service flying training school, which we had eight flights and we were in No. H flight. And there’d be about eight, ten instructors and it started off [with] about 60 students in the course and by the time the course was finished, maybe there’d be 40, 45. The rest would be washed out [removed from training] as we called it.

And we had to keep the charts and they had an F-17 log sheet to sign and the instructor signed and what instructions they were carrying out, what procedure they were doing that day. And this had to be charted on the board. The board was progressive though, so you knew what to date [the students had completed] to look at it. You could see what duties a particular student had done and when they were finished, about four months finishing the course. They had night flying, three weeks of that too.

And it was really my favourite job I had. And then when the students graduated, of course, us WDs [Women’s Divison members], as timekeepers, we were sewing wings on for them all. But it was so nice to see them starting off learning to fly. It was fun watching the planes taking off and landing each day.

I was sent to [RCAF Station] Winnipeg, No. 8 RD [Repair Depot], which was a repair depot. Well then, it was beginning, the war was beginning to work its way downward and it wasn’t too bad. There, I got introduced to cockroaches. So one day I left my hat on top of my pillow, because you had to make your bed up first, and when I come back and picked up my hat, out popped a cockroach. So that did it. And at night when you went in the washrooms and turned the lights on, it seemed to us there was millions, probably not that many. But a lot of cockroaches went running.

So I got a jar and I caught eight or ten cockroaches in a jar, took them into work the next day. Our CO [commanding officer] was quite friendly; and we cooked this up that if we heard his footsteps coming down the hall, I’d get up with my bottle of cockroaches, one of the other WDs, we had planned, would come over, because we knew he would stop and ask us what we had. So he did. He come along, oh, what have you got there, girls? Cockroaches, sir. Cockroaches? Yes, sir. Where did you get the cockroaches? In our barracks, sir. Have you reported it? Yes, sir. Who have you reported it to? Well, we thought, you know, we’re in big trouble because you weren’t supposed to go over anyone’s head. So we said, to the WD officer in the station, sergeant major, sir. By the next day, they had the exterminators in our barracks, getting rid of the cockroaches.

Interview date: 8 November 2010

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