War on the homefront - Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Brian McFadden with the new display at the Vancouver Island Military Museum

The Vancouver Island Military Museum has added a now display about the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Brian McFadden of the military museum has provided the background for the exhibit.

The exhibit includes many photos from that period as well as aircraft models which were built by museaum volunteer Pat Murphy. 

By Brian McFadden
Vancouver Island Military Museum  

Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand created the Commonwealth Air training Plan in 1939 to train Allied aircrews in Canada for the Second World War. There is little doubt that this training contributed greatly to Allied air superiority during the war. Many of the trainees were from countries that had been overrun by the Nazis. In addition, hundreds of Americans crossed the border from the United States (which was neutral in the early years of the war) to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

More than 140,000 air crew were trained between 1939 and 1945 making this one of Canada's greatest contributions to the Allied victory in the air war. It led U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt to call Canada the “Aerodrome of Democracy.” 

Canada had an abundance of air training space as well as excellent climatic conditions for flying, with easy access to industries for replacement aircraft and spare parts.

The construction of training schools and airfields across the country was a massive undertaking which involved transforming farmers' fields on the prairies, in a matter of months, into operational training schools. Suddenly, runways, aircraft hangars, and dozens of buildings for accommodation sprang up all cross the land.

The BCATP brought thousands of trainees from all over the world to small communities coast to coast. These communities organized recreational activities, welcomed trainees into their homes, and helped furnish small luxuries such as games' rooms and libraries on the training bases. Locals also hosted sports days, carnivals, concerts, and dances in local church halls and community centres 

Training began in April 1940 but was hampered at first by a shortage of aircraft, instructors, and completed airfields. Air crew training was carried out mostly by RCAF personnel, however, in 1941 RAF training staff were being transferred from Britain to assist as the number of recruits increased and training aircraft became more plentiful. The risks associated with flight training were high with injuries and fatal accidents resulting in the deaths of more than 1,240 trainee air crew and instructors.

The first step for those who qualified for pilot training was a posting to a Flight Training School for an eight-week course involving all aspects of basic flying, navigation, and at least fifty hours at the controls of a single-engined Tiger Moth training aircraft. Successful graduates had to also master instrumentation, night and formation flying before graduating to an Operational Training Unit in Britain.

Specialized training units graduated aircrews as navigators-observers, wireless operators, bomb-aimers, flight engineers, and air gunners, although many had dual roles during operational flying. 

At the plan's peak there were 107 flying schools, 184 ancillary units, and more than 10,000 aircraft at 231 sites across Canada. The schools and airfields were staffed by 104,000 men and woman including just over 17,000 from the RCAF/Women's Division which provided support services for the program.  By war's end in 1945 the BCATP had graduated 131,553 airmen from Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. Graduates also came from Nazi-occupied European countries including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France.                                                                                                                     

Almost half the total aircrew personnel who served in British and Commonwealth flying operations during the Second World War were trained at the BCATP in Canada. The majority of graduates, almost 73,000, were Canadians who went on to provide air crews for 45 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) overseas squadrons and 40 Home Defence squadrons. The enormous commitment to the air war overseas and particularly to air crews for Bomber Command exacted a heavy toll. Canadian airmen made up more than 25 per cent of the overall strength of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during WW II.

In 2014 a memorial was unveiled at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) museum in Brandon, Manitoba to the 19,256 airmen and women from Canada and the Commonwealth who died in the Second World War.


Chamber as export forum to Business Expo Oct. 3

The Vancouver Island Export Forum is an added attraction to the 2019 Business Expo on October 3 in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. The Nanaimo Chamber recognizes that manufacturing and export traffic to destinations regionally, and around the world, are rapidly growing. New business supports are available to those in the export chain for both suppliers and vendors. The Forum will highlight some of these.

The Island’s Foreign Trade Zone designation, the Port Authority’s Short Sea Shipping advantages, the opening of Export Navigator offices here, and recent rapid growth of advanced manufacturing on the Island are all great reasons to launch the Forum now.

“Whether your business is actively involved in export trade, or you count manufacturers and exporters among your clients and colleagues, this is an opportunity to gain information and advantages early in the game. Advanced-manufacturing is a rapidly growing sector of the mid-Island economy feeding the export trade activity of the Island” according to Kim Smythe of the Nanaimo Chamber. 

George Hanson of VIEA, Export Navigator Fabrizio Alberico, John Juricic with the Island Manufacturing Council, and Jason Mitchell of the Nanaimo Port Authority will form a panel moderated by Nathan Seaward of the YPN. The discussion starts at 1:00 pm in the Lantzville Room at VICC and is co-presented by the Nanaimo Chamber and Young Professionals of Nanaimo.

Topics include the simplicity of profitability through mid-Island export markets, the diversity of products and services that are considered as ‘exports’, offshore destinations include… (anywhere off of Vancouver Island!), and who your friends are – a look at trade partners around the world!

At 2 pm, the Forum features the Belgian Trade Commission who will encourage exports to Europe by taking advantage of the new Canada Europe Trade Agreement using their country as the portal. Expanding trading partners is always health and CETA makes Europe even more attractive.

Help kick off Small Business Month in BC. Find out what’s happening with business in Nanaimo today at nearly 100 trade show booths. Trade Show and Forum attendance and registration is free! Register now: www.nanaimochamber.bc.ca

North end seeing increase in crimes of opportunity

Cst Gary O'Brien

0925 In recent weeks, north end Nanaimo neighbourhoods have been experiencing a rash of suspicious occurrences, petty thefts and other property related crimes.

Neighbours have been vigilant in reporting the incidents which have been occurring sporadically throughout many neighbourhoods, usually under the cover of darkness and often in the early hours of the morning. These types of crimes have resulted in various items being taken from unlocked vehicles, sheds, and sometimes homes, which are being entered through unlocked windows and doors.

 "Crime prevention is a community issue that starts with reporting suspicious activity immediately, and this is exactly how residents have been responding to this rash of unlawful activity, "said Constable Gary O'Brien of the Nanaimo RCMP. 

If you see someone lurking in your neighbourhood, maybe spending to much time peering into your vehicle or walking in an out of driveways, this constitutes suspicious behaviour and requires a call to the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345. 

The following helpful tips are provided for your home security:

  • When your vehicle is unattended, ensure to lock all doors and remove anything of value. Also, remember to remove your garage door opener. Try and get into the habit of making sure your vehicle is secure by s9 pm each night. (i.e. #9pmroutine) 
  • Ensure doors and windows to your home are secure, especially lower level windows. Also close your blinds to prevent anyone from looking in. The side door to garages are often overlooked so remember to lock those too
  • Ensure all sheds are locked, ladders secured and nothing of value is left lying about in your backyard.
  • Get to know your neighbours and share any suspicious activity in your neighbourhood with them and others

If you have not started a Block Watch, think about starting one up. Go to https://www.nanaimocpvolunteers.ca to find out more about this valuable program which will reduce crime in your neighbourhood and you may be eligible for a reduction in your home insurance

If you know something, do something. If you have information on any crimes, call the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com or call 1-800-222-8477.

Skilled labour solutions may be closer than we think

Register for the Economic Summit October 23 & 24

0902 - If you think it’s difficult now, imagine what it will be like in the coming years as the population of 20 to 65 year old Islanders declines at the same time that the number of people choosing retirement increases.

Smart organizations are thinking about options, and even smarter ones are working with post-secondary institutions to source student talent much earlier in the labour pipeline.

This panel at the 2019 State of the Island Economic Summit will provide an overview of options to engage students while they are still expanding their skills through work-integrated learning such as co-op and internships.

Panelists will share benefits of work-integrated learning, tips on how to recruit and work with students, insights into funding options, highlight a special initiative underway right here on the Island and even tell a few success stories that we hope will inspire you! 

Panelists include:
Roberta Mason, Royal Roads University, Moderator
Anita Budisa-Bonneau, North Island College
David Woodward, Vancouver Island University
Vanessa Raber, University of Victoria

Thanks to CPABC for sponsoring this timely session.