"No. 3 SFTS they called it. Service flying training, we were training pilots there. And we had to go up on test flights after maintenance was done on the aircraft."
My name is Bert Sharp. I grew up northeast of Calgary [Alberta] on a farm. My folks had a farm there, it’s a little hamlet of Kathyrn. That’s where I grew up and I went to school there. And then I joined the air force as the war came on and I joined the air force, RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force]. And I was about 19 at that time. And so then I was transferred to Edmonton for basic training. And then to St. Thomas, Ontario for technical training as an airframe mechanic.
We had the odd plane crash of course. These students would have to fly the planes, solo flight, and we had that happen a number of times. And then I can remember one evening, we were getting prepared for night flying, they called it night flying. And a young lad, he was from New Zealand, and he come up to the hangar and he had to have an hour flying time to get his wings. So we got the plane route for they’ll be in a plane that, all the planes on the line they call it. And so we started a plane up for him and he took off. And he had an hour’s flying time to do and so he took off. And all of a sudden we had a report from the control tower that that plane was down. And he had crashed, in the Bowness area, they called that area, in Calgary, it crashed. That was a sad thing.
Then another instance we had is we had two planes, we had circuits to do. When we took off for a circuit to fly, we would make a left hand circuit and the planes from McCall Field [present-day Calgary International Airport], what we called McCall Field back then, northeast Calgary, they would make a left hand circuit. Well, these two planes met, they got out of their circuits and they met and they crashed. And they crashed on 8th Street West in Calgary, the one plane came down there. And the other one made it to the rodeo or the, where the stampedes grounds are held in Calgary, it crashed there. I can remember that. So that was the incident that wasn’t very nice to think about. But that’s what happened.
And then my name kept coming up on the postings for overseas, but being I’d been in the hospital a few times, they wrote me off the list, they said, “No, you’re not eligible to go overseas, you’ll stay here.” And that’s what happened. And so I was there until the end of the war, at number service, the service flying, No. 3 SFTS [Service Flying Training School] they called it. Service flying training, we were training pilots there. And we had to go up on test flights after maintenance was done on the aircraft. They had a logbook for each aircraft and the instructors would come, they were officers, they’d come up to the hangar and take out the logbook and see what had been done and if they decided then at that time that they, that we should test fly the aircraft, well, we had to go. We, that was what, I think we got 75 cents a day extra pay to go on a test flight. So that’s the way it went. So I was there until the end of the war in 1945.
I was transferred to the, we were out at an airfield, at Airdrie, Alberta. There was an airfield there and we were out there. And they forgot all about us, I think, because we were there until the end of the war. When we come back, they loaded us up, they wanted, they had a group captain, he come out, flew out there and he said, “Well, you guys,” he said, “we’ve got to get you out of here.” So he transferred us, the mechanics and that, we had one hangar there, the maintenance hangar, he transferred us out of there to Calgary. And we got back to Calgary and we went through the guardhouse gate and one of the fellows there, the guard, he said, “Well, where have you guys been?” And we told him, “We’ve been out in Aidrie.” He didn’t know where Airdrie was, but then we told him.
We went down to the hut that there originally was and there was nobody there, just the mattresses. Everybody had been discharged and gone home. So we went back up to the guardhouse and told him, “What happened?” He said, “Well, we’ll send you now to No. 10 Repair Depot.” That was at the south end of the field. “We’ll transfer and take you down there.” So that’s what they did. We went down there and they booked us in and got us a bunk and everything and so we got to getting ready for discharge there. So the last plane that I worked on was a Canso flying boat. They had them there; some company had bought them for flying fish. And they had to cut the gun turrets out, so that was my job. And that was the last plane that I worked on. So that was, that was the end of the war for me. Then they transferred me to McCall Field, what is now McCall Field, for discharge. And that’s where I ended up and I was discharged.