Veteran Stories:
Albert Barris

Air Force

  • RCAF Physical Training Guideline, July 1942

    Albert Barris
  • RCAF Physical Training Guideline (inset), July 1942

    Albert Barris
  • Basketball team, No. 2 Manning Depot, RCAF, Brandon, Manitoba, 1942. Mr. Barris is kneeling on the far left in the back row.

    Albert Barris
  • Physical training Instructors course, RCAF Trenton, 1942. Mr. Barris is sixth from the right in the fourth row.

    Albert Barris
  • A baseball team Mr. Barris played with while working in road construction, 1931. Mr. Barris is on the bottom row, third from the right.

    Albert Barris
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"So it was a fight of who’s going to win, the instructor or the trainees. Well, of course, the instructor always wins."


When I got to the [physical training instructors] course in [RCAF Station] Trenton [Ontario], everybody was a top athlete: boxers, hockey players, gymnasts, football players. We had all types of people, professional athletes, all taking the course, about 60 people in my course; divided in two flights. Flight A and B in Trenton. It was a ten week course.

On the course, we had, our three main instructors were three sergeants; and they were very strict because, when I think of it now, I know that they were training us to be instructors. So they were very, very strict from the time we got out of bed, and cleaning ourselves and cleaning our barracks, and being on time and our beds had to be made, and the barracks had to be spotless. Everything was spotless because in the future, we were checking other people.

Oh, during my time when I was stationed at [No. 1] ITS [Initial Training School] in [RCAF Station Downsview] Toronto, we had a track and field meet for the trainees; and it was a very hot summer day. And during the, I was on staff, was doing whatever was necessary, recording the winners and the losers, etc., lining up the starting positions. The headquarters hadn’t taken a point. The trainees were taking it all; trainee flight A, trainee flight B, trainee flight C, they were capturing all the points. And, of course, the trainees were all future aircrew, young, anywhere from 17, 18, 19, 20 and some older people who were remustering from the army to the air force, or from air force jobs to aircrew. So they were all right on the bit, all these trainees, because they all wanted to be pilots.

And it was getting close to the end of the meet and the headquarters hadn’t taken any points yet. So I decided I was going to run in the mile. All afternoon, I was sucking on Coca-Colas. I even had an ice cream cone; and when I ran the mile, I really ran, I ran my guts out, let’s put it that way. I finished about sixth, never got a point, but my friend, Annis Stukus, who was writing for the [Toronto Daily] Star at the time and whom I had played football with earlier, he looked after me and I was on a stretcher; and my guts were turning inside out. I don’t know if I brought up [threw up] or not, I think I did bring up a little bit. So I said to him, boy, I think I’m going to die; and then I said, worse than that, maybe I won’t die, I’ll still suffer (laughs). But, anyway, it took 15, 20 minutes to half hour and I got back to myself.

During my time, I ran the baseball team and played on the team at the same time. I ran the basketball team for the station; and I played on the basketball team at the same time. I helped run the hockey team, but I wasn’t that great a hockey player, but I did skate a little bit with the team, our station team. We belonged to a league where it was the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force], the Dental Corps, the Army Corps and the Navy. We had 44 teams were in the league, and every team had pretty good athletes, very good athletes.

In Trenton, I was taking the physical training instructors course. And I think I told you before that everything we did had to be perfect. They drilled us and trained us to be perfect in everything we did. Now, it was our turn to lower the ensign, the flag, every night the flag was lowered with a little parade, let’s put it that way. So at Trenton was the KTS, Composite Training School, so they were training physical training instructors, disciplinarians, firefighters. They had maybe five or six different types of courses going at the same time. So it was our turn, [the] physical training instructors, to lower the ensign and the orders were followed at 8:00 pm, when we were going to lower the flag, to follow the form parade in front of the barracks and it started raining. It was pouring; and the sergeant yelled for the marker, that’s the first man who came out, then everybody fell in alongside of him. And it was pouring rain.

So everybody was sort of juggling around. You weren’t comfortable; you didn’t stand still and he started yelling at us. The sergeant really gave us hell and had us really sharpen up a little bit. So while we were marching, there was a puddle in front of you, you sidestepped it. So the sergeant got angry; and he said, "there’s no sidestepping and there’s no stepping over or stepping under, you take the regular paces and you put your foot down wherever it falls!" So he had us marching back and forth, and halting. Every time he halted, we halted. Now, we got stubborn against the sergeant. So when he halted us, we slapped our feet harder and harder into the mud, and into the puddles; and now things, where every time he yelled halt, there was a big splash. He didn’t like it, so he halted us more often. So it was a fight of who’s going to win, the instructor or the trainees. Well, of course, the instructor always wins.

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