Veteran Stories:
James “Jim” Harrison

Air Force

  • James Harrison in Vancouver, British Columbia, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I certified as an aircraft inspector and went back to the station, working as an inspector of the overhaul, repair and maintenance of aircraft."


Actually, I’m more or less you might say a child of the Depression and things were extremely difficult in those years, and trying to find a job. I thought, well, this would be 1937, I tried to join the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force]. And I was told that they didn’t need anyone. So I found other employment, but in the fall of 1939, they started up a government school called Aircraft Industries, and it was training tradesmen, mechanics and so on, for the air force. You weren’t committed at that time, but at the same time, you were expected to go into the air force. So we completed our three or four months training there and then we were accepted into the air force. And we were accepted into the air force, I don’t remember the exact date, but I know we left from Vancouver by rail, some of us, for Toronto [RCAF No. 1] Manning Pool, 19 March, 1940. So we went to Manning Pool, we weren’t there very long and then we were sent to the technical training school at [RCAF Station] St. Thomas, which was St. Thomas, Ontario. And there we went through very much the same training that we had taken at the technical training school in Vancouver. When we finished the training there, which would be about June, then we were sent off to actually Camp Borden [the location of RCAF Station Borden]. We were sent to Camp Borden; and so we were amalgamated with the permanent force fellows on Camp Borden. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any tools to work with. We didn’t have any overalls or that sort of thing, but anyway, we were assigned to various flights at Camp Borden; and we did the maintenance and the servicing and so on all of the training aircraft at Camp Borden, which were being used for the students in flight training. Now, I was there until December of 1940 and then I was sent to [RCAF Station] Trenton, Ontario, to No. 6 Repair Depot. And this was a group of buildings across the field from the flying centre of Trenton Airport and our particular position was, again, it was repair and maintenance of aircraft. And they brought in boxcars loaded, enormous boxcars coming in that had aircraft which, I believe, some of them had mud on them and so on, and had been pulled out from France and so on at some point or on the British side. I remember some of them Fairey Battles [training aircraft], they were the main ones. Our job was to clean these aircraft up. You had to recondition the engines, put them into service and they went out to flying training schools. Those ones are for flying training, but also for bombing and gunnery. Then I was assigned to go for the aircraft inspection work. So I was sent to Toronto to take up the aircraft inspection. I certified as an aircraft inspector and went back to the station, working as an inspector of the overhaul, repair and maintenance of aircraft.
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