Veteran Stories:
Leonard Tyrrell

Air Force

  • Unidentified airmen and airwomen at a station dance in the Drill Hall, R.C.A.F. Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, Canada, 29 January 1944.
    Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-064736

    Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / C-064024
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"And they used to say there were 20 women to every man in Ottawa because they were doing all the clerical work and they were working where all the men were now off during the war itself."

Transcript

My father was a fighter pilot in the First World War and I always wanted to be a fighter pilot like my father. And so when I became 18, I enlisted in the RCA [Royal Canadian Army] in the air force. I spent my time there for 12 months in the air force training to be a pilot. All my training was done on Link trainers doing tests and so on, so I never actually flew in a plane off the ground. The Link trainer was a machine that they put in a small room. It looked like an airplane, but it was just truncated wings. The cockpit was the main part of it and the controls. And the instructor would sit at a desk in the same room and he would speak to you through a microphone. He was simulating you flying; in other words, he would tell you to accelerate the machine and to lift off. You would use the joystick, the stick in between your legs, and you would cause it to rise up and to turn, to bank and do all the manoeuvres that an airplane would do. Everyone was trained on those, or they tried to train them. And those men who did well on them were the ones that were being selected for future pilot training. They weren’t anxious to train any more pilots at that time. It was the latter part of the war and they felt they were going to win so they were offering other things that you could do. One of the things they did to us was to send us to [Royal Canadian] Air Force Headquarters in Ottawa because Ottawa has a lot of people up there and they need things to do. And so I was sent up to Jackson Building in central subsidiary, which is in the Records Department. I spent my time sorting records and delivering records and assembling records and that sort of thing. And also go to parades – parades in the sense of training parades. In as much as I wasn’t doing any fighting, I spent my time looking for girls and having dates and parties and dances. These were the sorts of things I liked. It seemed to be the proper thing to do for a young man who was unmarried and all of that! Ottawa was a wonderful place for a young man because it was full of older men who were, you know, doing the administration work. The new guys coming in were interested in young girls and there were a lot of young women there. And they used to say there were 20 women to every man in Ottawa because they were doing all the clerical work and they were working where all the men were now off during the war itself. Yeah, I had a great war! A good time in the war – I didn’t have any war at all, actually. In June 1945 it did end and then I was discharged. And that September I was able to go right into the University of Toronto, at University College, and start my training for life. I took Economics as my major. Anyone that had served in the volunteer services like the navy or the air force, not the army, because that was a draft arrangement, for every month of service you would get a month of education at the university. And if you kept up your marks they would continue to support you all through university and they would also pay you. In those days it was 60 dollars a month, which at that time was quite a bit of money because I lived at home in north Toronto. I was very lucky.
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