Published as an occasional paper by the Southern Alberta Historical Society
RCAF Aerodrome Pearce, Alberta
A Unit of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Elementary Flying Training School (Royal Air Force) March 30, 1942 - August 14, 1942
Number 3 Air Observer School September 12, 1942 - June 6, 1943
Number 2 Flying Instructor School “The Western University of the Air” May 3, 1943 - January 20, 1945
Based on the Daily Diaries of the Pearce Schoolsprovided through the courtesy of The National Archives of Canada.
Background to the Plan
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) came about as the result of an agreement initiated by Great Britain with Canada, Australia and New Zealand to provide trained aircrew for the Allied offensive against the Axis powers during World War II. The Plan allowed Canada to make a major contribution to the Commonwealth effort without the need to apply conscription to raise a large land based army. In May, 1940, the first of the schools of the Plan came into operation. Over the span of approximately five years, 131,553 Commonwealth aircrew members would be trained and posted to Allied aviation units throughout the world.
The BCATP was the largest project ever undertaken by the government of Canada up to that time. The Plan was to have become fully operational in April, 1942 but in fact all construction for what was originally envisaged for the Plan was completed six months earlier, in October, 1941. By this date also, 26 Royal Air Force schools had been transferred to Canada resulting in a total of 95 schools being in operation from the east coast to the west coast.
The schools were designated according to aircrew specialty. After Initial Training School experience, potential pilots were posted to elementary flying training schools. These were the smallest of the Plan flying schools and were operated primarily by Canadian flying clubs, under the supervision of RCAF supervisory officers and additional RCAF staff. Most of the flying instructors were civilians and many were American. As the output of the schools increased, many RCAF graduates were posted as instructors to elementary schools, on leave from the RCAF. Aircraft employed at the elementary schools included the de Havilland Tiger Moth, Fleet Finch and Fleet Fawn, Boeing Stearman, and later in the life of the Plan, the Fairchild or Fleet Cornell.
Graduates of elementary flying training schools (EFTS) proceeded to service flying training schools (SFTS) for experience on more advance aircraft such as single engine North American Aviation Yales and Harvards and twin engine Avro Ansons, and Airspeed Oxfords. Graduation from the service flying training schools brought assignments to operational training units in Canada or abroad. In Canada, operational training units operated North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers and Consolidated B-24 heavy bombers, DC-3 and Beech Expediter transports, Supermarine Stranraer and Consolidated Canso and Catalina amphibians and Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. Graduation from operational training units saw postings either to conversion units, overseas or operational squadrons or units of the Home War Establishment.
Other potential aircrew were posted to schools specializing in wireless operation, air gunnery, bomb aiming, observation, navigation and flight engineer. Flying time at all schools in the Plan soon rocketed and in 1943 more than 7 million hours were flown, 677,000 hours in July alone.
In addition to aircrew, thousands of personnel had to be trained to a high level in ground support trades and duties and schools were operated for cooks, armorers, drivers, airframe and engine mechanics and administrative trades.
Construction of the schools was a Herculean task. More than 7,000 buildings were erected under the plan including hangars, barrack blocks, hospitals, motor pools, drill halls and administrative buildings. The peak of construction occurred in 1942 when approximately 1,000 contracts worth over $80 million were issued. At the beginning of the Plan or at the beginning of any of the schools, getting operational was an immense challenge. The key was to get a place that aircraft could fly from and where staff and students could receive the basics of life. Paved roads, sidewalks and other amenities of camp life came later. During the war, the RCAF ended up operating more plants than any other industrial enterprise in Canada.
RCAF Station Pearce
Number 36 Elementary Flying Training School
RCAF Station Pearce, Alberta was officially commissioned on March 17, 1942. On that date, twelve Canadian Pacific Railway coaches filled with 32 officers, 304 airmen staff plus pupils, all Royal Air Force personnel, arrived at the siding at Pearce. The men had begun their journey in West Kirby, England. They were welcomed to the camp by Mr Davies, Mayor of Fort Macleod, and Mr J W Coleman, president of the Macleod Board of Trade. The school was designated Number 36 Elementary Flying Training School. As a unit of the BCATP, this school was destined to have a short career of only five months. It was disbanded on August 14, 1942 for the official reason of providing room for the expansion of air observer schools. Unofficially, an additional reason was probably found in the famous southern Alberta winds that were simply too difficult for novice pilots to deal with. The school began operations with Stearman biplanes, the same airplane used by the British for elementary flying training carried out in the United States, and later a few de Havilland Tiger Moth biplanes were added.
The following entries from the Daily Diary of Number 36 EFTS reflect its organization and operation. Passing reference is made to the wind.
March 2, 1942
Organization Order Number 45
Transfer of Number 36 Elementary Flying Training School RAF to Canada
It has been ascertained that Number 36 Elementary Flying Training School will arrive at port of disembarkation in Canada about 3/3/42. The school will move in one echelon consisting of approximately 32 officers and 304 airmen plus pupils. It is intended to locate Number 36 Elementary Flying Training School at Pearce, Alberta. The Air Officer commanding Number 4 Training Command is to be responsible for the control and administration of Number 36 EFTS.
Advances of pay and exchange of Stirling: RAF personnel on strength of this school may receive advances of pay as follows to be recovered by the RAF account officer from issued of pay in Canada—officers $50; warrant officers $25; flight sergeants and sergeants $15; corporals and below $10. Facilities are available at the port of disembarkation for RAF personnel to exchange Stirling in their possession up to a maximum of 10 pounds. Aircraft: The United Kingdom Air Ministry have arranged for the supply of the necessary number of Stearman aircraft.
February 14, 1942
Unit assembled at West Kirby under the command of Wing Commander J B Stockbridge.
February 24, 1942
Arrived Gourock (Scotland) at 1200 hours and immediately embarked on SS Demand-Spratt.
March 8, 1942
Land sighted at 1430 hours, put into Halifax at 1630 hours. Disembarkation commenced immediately ship docked at approximately 1700 hours. Unit entrained at Halifax at 1930 and 2000 hours.
March 17, 1942
Arrived Pearce, Alberta 0600 hours being met by the mayor of Macleod Mr Davies, president of the Board of Trade Mr J W Coleman and other prominent citizens with private transport. Train comprised twelve cars.
April 1, 1942
Ninety trainees arrived at Pearce station from Moncton 0930 hours.
April 7, 1942
LAC (Leading Aircraftman) Goldspink first RAF untrained pilot to go solo Stearman aircraft in Canada. Number 48 course commenced flying.
April 10, 1942
The Air Officer commanding Number 4 Training Command Air Commodore G C Howsam accompanied by Wing Commander Davidson arrived at 1355 hours by air. On order of Air Commodore Howsam, runways were used for takeoff owing to excessive dust being created and harming aerodrome surface. Landings being made on triangle and centre of aerodrome.
April 14, 1942
No flying due to high winds.
May 5, 1942
Accidents: Stearman PT27 FD998 Pearce aerodrome at 1150 hours, pilot LAC Chute V H, solo practice. Aircraft ground looped on landing damaging starboard wing. Stearman PT27 FJ752 Pearce aerodrome at 1425 hours, pilot Sgt Davies E, pupil 1390709 LAC Howard R dual instruction. Aircraft ground looped on landing damaging starboard wing. Stearman PT27 FJ748 Pearce aerodrome at 1430 hours, pilot 995685 LAC Barbarrow J N solo practice. Aircraft ground looped following a bad landing damaging starboard wing.
May 8, 1942
A dance was held in the sergeants mess on May 8, this being the first entertainment of this kind on this Station. Approximately 150 guests were present. Music was supplied by the Station dance orchestra under the direction of Pilot Officer Morton.
May 31, 1942
Number and type of aircraft on charge as of May 31, 1942: Stearman PT27—68, Tiger Moth DH82C—14.
June 1, 1942
First issue of the Station magazine “The Elevator.”
On the Camera Club
“Even before that never-to-be-forgotten March morning to be known hereafter in the history books as St Patrick’s Day, 1942 Invasion of Pearce, it was evident that a keen interest in photography was shared by a large proportion of the unit. Almost the moment we stepped ashore and were released from the irksome but necessary restrictions of military secrecy, the cameras appeared in scores and our passage across Canada was marked for me by the rush at every stopping place of a crowd of amateur jarche’s to all the likely viewpoints in sight and the trail of yellow film cartons which we scattered from Moncton to Macleod. At first glance the photographic possibilities of Pearce and its environs appeared even less encouraging than the social and personal but as with the latter, closer acquaintance brought many surprises and if the absence of vertical planes makes good composition difficult, no one is going to complain when the alternatives offered for our celluloid are dust storms, floods and the ever-changing but always beautiful mountains.
Nearly 100 copies of The Elevator, No 1, went outside Canada. They went to every corner of the British Isles from Golden Green to Galway and Land’s End to John O’Groat’s. Not a few went even further afield to brothers and friends in far less salubrious surroundings than ours here at Pearce—Egypt, the Western Desert and India.”
June 17, 1942
Mr F T Cook of the Department of Public Health, Alberta visited the Station and gave lectures at 1900 hours on VD. The Station was represented in a boxing tournament held between boxers of Pearce, Macleod and Lethbridge. The Arena at Lethbridge was made available to the Kinsmen Club for the event. Corporal Jacobson of this unit won the major bout.
July 29, 1942
Accident: 1387747 LAC Gross D M, Stearman FD990 was killed in flying accident, plane total wreck. Pilot Officer A G Clark and 1337274 LAC Brand, Stearman FD980, both killed in flying accident, plane total wreck. Both aircraft collided in air on the circuit.
August 13, 1942
Official date of disbandment of Number 36 EFTS. One week extension of flying granted to complete required number of flying hours.
Number 3 Air Observer School, Regina and Pearce
Number 3 Air Observer School was established in Regina on September 16, 1940. A private company, Prairie Flying School Ltd, provided staff pilots for the Anson aircraft used by the air observers and also provided ground crew to maintain the aircraft. An RCAF officer was in overall charge of the operation and the RCAF provided the instructional staff.
On December 12, 1942, the first draft of trainees, staff and officers left Regina to reestablish the school at the recently vacated Pearce aerodrome. One class of bombers (bomb aimers) and two classes of navigators were included in the draft.
September 12, 1942
Pilot Officer J A Houston reported for duty as WAG instructor from Number 36 Operational Training Unit, Greenwood (Nova Scotia). Forty three trainees, 12 staff and six officers departed today for Pearce, Alberta, this being the first RCAF personnel to proceed to the new location of No 3 AOS. Flight Lieutenant Ross (medical officer) also left for Pearce to open the hospital. Class 59 (bombers) are also reporting to Pearce as well as class 54 and 55 navigators.
Unfortunately, the building program that had been undertaken at Pearce to provide adequate facilities for the much larger air observer school was delayed with the result that Number 3 Air Observer School never fully relocated to the Pearce airfield. Some elements of the school remained in Regina as Number 3 Air Observer School Detachment. Headquarters for the school transferred to Pearce and then back to Regina shortly before the school was closed. Life on both airfields is reflected in these entries from the Daily Diary.
September 24, 1942 Pearce
Squadron Leader Morkill and Squadron Leader Davies on temporary duty returned by plane from Calgary. The officers, airmen and civilian personnel of this Station were pleasingly entertained this evening by the Alice Murdoch Review from Calgary. After the show, Wing Commander Davis very fittingly expressed the appreciation of all personnel for the performance given by these young but talented artists.
October 10, 1942 Pearce
Number 3 Air Observer School held its first Station dance this evening. We had several charming guests from Lethbridge and an enjoyable evening was had by all participants.
October 26, 1942 Regina
Number 15 EFTS will shortly take over the guard duties of this Station. Movement to Pearce is slow and under a great handicap as buildings are not finished. Every effort is being made by the entire staff so that training will not be interrupted.
November 12, 1942 Pearce
Flight Lieutenant Dodgson, chaplain other denominations, arrived by rail on temporary duty from Number 2 Initial Training School, Regina. Flight Lieutenant Jenkins (fire marshal) Number 4 Training Command, Calgary visited the Station. Carpenters are now making fairly rapid progress with the construction of new buildings. A Station dance arranged by Mr R Kelly, YMCA Auxiliary Services, was thoroughly enjoyed by all personnel.
December 21 Regina
It is the intention to move the school headquarters and courses 65 and 66 navigators and air bombers to Pearce on January 6, 1943. The Regina unit will then become Number 3 Air Observer School Detachment. Course 60 and 64 navigators will remain at Regina. Course 67 navigators and 67 air bombers will be posted to Regina reporting January 11, 1943. Course detachment will be maintained pending completion of construction at Pearce.
December 31, 1942 Pearce
The skating rink is proving to be a popular recreational sport. The ice which had deteriorated with warm weather has been built up fairly well. The Station dance “ushering the old year out and the new year in” proved to be very successful and was patronized appreciatively by both civilian and service personnel. A goodly number of visitors were in attendance. Aircraft on charge: Ansons 19, Cessna Cranes 2, Stinson 1. Strength: RCAF officers (staff) 14; RCAF WD officers 2 (nursing sisters); RCAF airmen (staff) 69; RCAF trainees 83. Personnel other than RCAF: airmen (staff) 1 RAF and 1 RAAF; trainees 15 (11 RAF, 2 RNZAF, 2 RAAF).
January 7, 1943 Pearce
Approximately 150 personnel including 12 officers arrived by special train from Number 3 Air Observer School Detachment Regina at 2130 hours and will continue to train here. Buildings are progressing slowly and although headquarters staff are now located at Pearce, four classes of trainees are still at Regina. Number 3 Air Observer School Detachment Regina is now a detachment with Flight Lieutenant D R Campbell as officer in charge. Wing Commander R C Davis and Flight Lieutenant C W Thompson arrive by plane from Regina at 1600 hours to assume command as chief supervisory officer and senior administrative officer respectively. Squadron Leader Riddell arrived by rail and took over duties as chief instructor of the Station.
January 12, 1943 Pearce
Warm weather has made the rink look like a swimming pool. PT and sports for entire school in full swing.
January 18, 1943 Pearce
Coldest weather of winter in this district reports 50 below but unofficial.
January 22, 1943 Pearce
Wings parade for course 65 air bombers was held at 1400 hours today in the drill hall. Wing Commander R C Davis, chief supervisory officer, presented the wings. LAC Yule R B, New Zealand graduate, was honor student and was presented with identification bracelet by Prairie Flying School Ltd. The class consisted of 10 RCAF, 11 RAF, 2 RNZAF and 2 RAAF graduates. There was no wastage in this class.
February 16, 1943 Pearce
Latest rumor states that Number 2 Flying Instructor School at Vulcan will take over this Station in a couple of months and a service flying training school will occupy Vulcan. Wing Commander Falkenburg of Number 4 Training Command and Wing Commander Harvey of Number 2 flying Instructor School visited the Station today.
March 28, 1943 Pearce
Chief Mountain Horse, a full blooded Cree Indian lectured on Indian life to the entire Station Sunday night in the recreation hall. A full movie show was also given for the entertainment of the personnel. Church parade for entire Station was held today at 1400 hours. Flight Lieutenant Gordon Brown (padre) from Number 2 Flying Instructor School conducted the service. The Macleod RCAF band was in attendance.
April 3, 1943 Regina
A movement of courses from No 3 Air Observer headquarters Pearce, Alberta to No 3 Air Observer Detachment Regina took place today when courses 69 and 70 navigators arrived at this unit at 2140 hours by rail. This leaves course 66 navigators only at the Pearce unit. This course will graduate from Pearce 16 April 1943 after which the balance of the Number 3 Air Observer School headquarters personnel not yet posted away will move back to the Regina unit. The Pearce station will be taken over by Number 2 Flying Instructor School formerly at Vulcan, Alberta and No 3 Air Observer School Regina will function until the three courses now under training graduate after which Number 3 Air Observer School will be disbanded and the headquarters personnel will be posted away to various other RCAF stations.
April 15, 1943 Pearce
Wings parade for course 66 navigators was held at Number 7 Service Flying Training School Macleod at 2000 hours this evening. The class consisted of 25 RAAF and 1 RCAF trainee. Only one wastage was due to ill health. All graduates were posted to Number 1 Y Depot Halifax. The parade attracted some 300 visitors from Macleod and neighboring towns and was unusual in that a class of pilots also graduated on the same occasion. Wings were presented by Wing Commander Brown, commanding officer Number 7 Service Flying Training School who addressed the graduates. LAC Nicholson passed first in class. Eight received commissions.
Number 2 Flying Instructors’ School, Claresholm and Vulcan
Number 2 Flying Instructor School was established on April 22, 1942 as Number One Squadron, comprised of A and B Flights, at Number 15 Service Flying Training School Claresholm. The Flying Instructor School moved to Vulcan on September 13, 1942. On April 26, 1943 Number 2 Flying Instructor School, moved to Pearce airfield. Number 2 Flying Instructor School was the second of three such schools established under the Plan. The first was Central Flying School located at Trenton, Ontario and the third was Number 3 Flying Instructor School located at Arnprior, Ontario. Aircraft flown at the School included Cessna Cranes, Avro Ansons, North American Harvards, Airspeed Oxfords, de Havilland Tiger Moths and three aircraft from Fleet—Cornells, Fawns and Finches.
Ceremonies for graduates of the service flying school and the flying instructor squadron were usually combined affairs as the following entry from the Daily Diary of Number 15 Service Flying Training School shows.
May 20, 1942 Claresholm
Wings Parade: a very colorful ceremony was held in the drill square, wings parade for course 48. The graduates were presented with their wings by the commanding officer Wing Commander Kennedy. A large gathering was on hand to witness the presentation. The squadrons (Number 15 SFTS and Number 2 FIS) marched onto the parade square at 1600 hours, formed a hollow square with the graduating class lined up in front. The weather was quite sultry and two persons were overcome by the heat.
Number 2 Flying Instructor School remained at Vulcan until May 1943 at which time the Vulcan field was assigned to Number 19 Service Flying Training School. The opening entry in the Vulcan Daily Diary, Number 2 Flying Instructor School, set the stage for the school’s involvement with the community of Vulcan.
August 3, 1942 Vulcan
Number 2 Flying Instructor School opened under the temporary command of Squadron Leader J B Harvey with a strength of: RCAF officers (staff) 28; RCAF officers (staff) attached 1; RCAF airmen (staff) 301; RCAF airmen (staff) attached 32; trainees 50; personnel other than RCAF 8; civilians 11. Flight Lieutenant F L Connon, together with Captain Evans, Canadian Legion War Services representative on this Station, attended a meeting in Vulcan at 2000 hours at which were present representatives of the various local associations who expressed a desire to cooperate with Captain Evans in providing recreational and other facilities for the airmen at the Legion Hut on the Station.
The school prospered and grew at Vulcan and despite its remote and barren setting several miles from the town, the Daily Diary reflects the growth of a spirit of achievement at the school as well as the growing and sometimes humorous harmony between servicemen and servicewomen posted to the school and the folk of “Vulture Gulch.”
August 19, 1942
Further progress was made in establishing friendly relationships with the citizens of the town of Vulcan when the Station was visited by 14 ladies and gentlemen headed by Mayor W D Allan, representing the Vulcan Coordinating Council, who are interested in assisting in the furnishing of the Legion hut and nursing sisters’ Quarters on the Station. The party was entertained to afternoon tea in the officers mess by Wing Commander F R West.
August 31, 1942
Number and type of aircraft on charge: Tiger Moth 18; Cornell 15; Crane I 10; Crane IA 20.
The total number of hours flown from August 3, date Station officially opened, to
August 31— 2,927.10 hours. During the month of August a serious situation has developed with respect to personnel being late for duty owing to their inability to reach the Station fro the towns of Vulcan and Nanton after rains which render the dirt roads practically impassible.
September 2, 1942
Rain, fog washed out flying. Slithering roads gave m/t a problem in transport. A chesterfield and two chairs to match were installed in the Legion hut and emphasized the emptiness. Consolidated Coordinated Council of Services Committee of the Vulture’s Gulch is working on the furnishings problem.
September 3, 1942
Taken on strength in Legion hut one grizzly bear (dead, stuffed) and one moose head to provide a habitation for retired Moths. Another chesterfield and three chairs (leather, covered) arrived in the Legion hut to crowd the vacancy.
September 24, 1942
Graduation parade for class number one of 50 assorted gentlemen to receive their flying instructors diplomas. They came from all over the British Empire, Canada and USA and fraternization was complete.
October 6, 1942
Aircraft 664 got tangled in barb wire fence and came to earth eight miles west of Station. Plane dismantled and towed in but not before aged lady at nearby farm house had forced repairs to fence using a shotgun for emphasis.
October 30, 1942
At about 1300 hours the vast open spaces began to close in on Station for opening day
ceremonies. Tillers of the soil from up and down the Gulch rubbed shoulders with citizens of nearby metropolis lining tarmac adjacent to hangars many layers deep. Band from Number 2 Wireless School (Shepard) struck up “Air Force March” and parade moved out from wings to runway in front of control tower. A Douglas aircraft shining silver in the sun swooped gracefully to field - taxied to starboard end of parade and therefrom emerged Air Officer Commanding, Air Commodore G R Howsam MC and aides. Another interval and a Crane circled, landed and safely deposited His Honour J C Bowen, Lieutenant Governor, representing the Crown in right of the province of Alberta. Appropriate speeches were delivered, punctuated by His Honour’s gesture of touching a Cornell’s prop at which instant Number 2 Flying Instructor School became officially open for business. Thereafter, spectators got twisted necks following the synchronized aerobatics of our crack fliers.
December 17, 1942
Our second concert party (strictly Station talent) present delightful entertainment to capacity house. The Women’s Division chorus girls potential post-war Broadway talent.
December 22, 1942
The first edition of the Station paper “Vulture Kulture” is hot off the press today, thanks to the untiring efforts of Honorary Flight Lieutenant Brown, our popular padre, and Flying Officer J D Bruce, one of our medical officers.
From the “Vulture Kulture”
The Vulture’s Song
Oh, if I had the wings of a vulture
Way from this Vulcatraz I would hop
And not til I got to my darling
Would I be willing to stop.
Oh, if you lived as I do so stranded
Miles from any nice girl I can date
You wouldn’t think this place was so funny
For I don’t want to be celebate.
Oh, a bachelor’s life ain’t what it should be
Though it’s free from marital storm
But I’d gladly swop my independence
For someone to keep the bed warm.
The Bard of Vulture Gulch
February 18, 1943
Calgary radio announces Number 2 Flying Instructor School is getting change of atmosphere at Pearce in the near future causing some flurry of excitement but vision of Old Man River at back door and an occasional tree eases situation.
April 7, 1943
Boxing ring is dismantled and shipped to Pearce and may be considered the advance agent of Number 2 Flying Instructor School.
April 26, 1943
The advance party with E147 equipment, blankets, one pillow, one pillow slip and two sheets tucked neatly under one arm leave barrack block at 0800 hours and after a slight delay due to snow and slush about four inches deep proceed by bus to Pearce. After a slight delay on route, one bus breaking down, 73 personnel arrive at Pearce, Alberta.
April 27, 1943
Number 2 Flying Instructor School concert party put on a farewell performance at Vulcan for the citizens of Vultur’s Gulch. A picture show and dance also provided gratis satisfied some 1,500 attendants.
Number 2 Flying Instructor School, Pearce
April 30, 1943
As this month draws to a close, a new era for the Western University of the Air appears on the horizon— Pearce, Alberta as its destination. This unit in its experimental stages had many difficulties to overcome and it was just reaching the point where a review could be made and errors corrected. Now a new difficulty to face, that of changing its location, with the promise of an average 30 mile wind velocity and turbulent air currents to compete against and all the difficulties of arranging itself to suit conditions of a new country. One squadron of the flying personnel are being left at Vulcan until May 28 so that flying training will not suffer to any great extent and it is promised that Number 2 Flying Instructor School Pearce will still turn out Number One products.
May 5, 1943
Contrary to international law, gas was used today in order to oust the little unwelcome brown enemy in barrack blocks. Airmen were obliged to take part in nude parades between barrack blocks as fumigation proceeded so that a medical sanitary field could be maintained. Billiard tables erected in the officers and sergeants lounges.
May 13, 1943
The commanding officer inspected the layout of our nine-hole golf course which it is hoped will be well patronized this summer. Work was also started on the construction of our softball field.
June 24, 1943
Course 78 graduated today. Group Captain Kennedy, CO of Number 15 Service Flying Training School (Claresholm), presented certificates to graduates. The occasion commemorated inception of Number 2 Flying Instructor School one year ago at Claresholm.
June 30, 1943
The Station’s representation in the float competition at Macleod won first money. One flight of airwomen and two flights of airmen and trainees (officers and airmen) took part in the parade which was a great success even if the weatherman picked this day to dampen things. A great many of our personnel from the east saw our original landlords complete with regalia and without a postcard for a background.
July 12, 1943
The first hole-in-one scored on local golf course today by LAC English who is nominated to our hall of fame. Our Victory Garden gave forth spinach and radishes today.
July 27, 1943
The long-awaited wiener roast held for all personnel tonight on the river bank. The natural open air amphitheater chosen was adequate for the huge bonfire and the weather and hotdogs behaved perfectly. A piano was transported to the site and an enjoyable evening with the usual singsong under the direction of our auxiliary supervisor Mr R R Simmons was appreciated by all who could attend. The new Station orchestra under the direction of Flying Officer R V Morton also took part.
August 2, 1943
Today is the day to roll out the riding habits with the arrival of six horses (apologies to Whirlaway) to inaugurate the Circle FIS Ranch and Riding Academy. This sport should prove very popular with all the prairie to ride around in. Tentative plans going forward for standup lunches to ease the pain of our would-be equestrians.
October 6, 1943
All hands are ready for the barn dance in the drill hall tonight. The dance started quite early in the evening and the desired “barny” atmosphere had certainly been acquired, not so much in the decoration of the drill hall as in the inspiration of dress that some of the personnel turned out in. Several squadron leaders and at least one or two wing commanders looked as though they had been born and reared on the range, and one flight sergeant resembled an under-nourished English boy scout. The Station orchestra, suitably attired, supplied the music.
October 26, 1943
Something new has been added to the WD (Women’s Division) trades on this Station with two former General Duties girls working in number four hangar and studying to remuster to the trade of Airframe and Engine Mechanic. These two have a flair for mechanics and NCO’s report that by the time they must appear before the board there will be little doubt that they will be successful. They show a decided keenness and aptitude for arm work and it is hoped that other WD’s will be interested as well.
November 10, 1943
A violent 70 mile an hour dust storm kept all planes grounded and personnel sweeping up the dust that blew continually in open barrack room windows.
November 21, 1943
This morning marked the official dedication of the Station chapel in the new community centre. The ceremony was conducted by Flight Lieutenant F R Marback, Station padre, and Squadron Leader J G Sparling, command chaplain, and the commanding officer Wing Commander J B Harvey. The chapel was beautiful with everything so newly painted and varnished. The pews were donated by First United Church, Lethbridge, Alberta and certainly add the finishing touch to the chapel. The alter was decorated with large vases of flowers and the whole service and surrounding were enjoyed by a capacity crowd. Australian student officer Pilot Officer B Sproule played the organ and AC1 B Webb led the Women’s Division choir.
December 20, 1943
The Station chapel was the scene of the first wedding to be held on this Station. LAW Somers P I W306553 was married to Able Seaman Guphill. The commanding officer, Wing Commander J B Harvey gave the bride in marriage and Flight Lieutenant F R Harback, Protestant padre, tied the knot. A reception followed in the WD canteen.
December 24, 1943
Christmas Eve dawned cooler and very windy. The airmen’s mess was a hive of activity and genius was born again as Flying Officer G N Borchers initiated his willing assistants into the mysterious art of decorating. However, the results were more than gratifying and clumps of corrugated “Paddy Green”palm trees with gigantic brown corrugated trunks bent gracefully down on all sides of the mess. Lights were camouflaged and the “indirect” system was encouraged by means of colored cardboard and quite a bit of wire. A fair stage sprung up in one corner of the mess and all in all a very beautiful setting for the Christmas festivities was the result of the hard labour on the part of Flying Officer Borchers and his staff. Course 91 graduated today officially.
January 29, 1944
The usual working day continued with nothing out of the ordinary until 1630 hours when a great flurry of excitement traveled quickly around the Station. It was reported from training wing that an American basketball team consisting of 16 players had just arrived from the American Army post at Edmonton in a DC-3. Lieutenant Knapka was in charge of the party. The team was entertained by senior NCO’s during the early part of the evening and then a dance was held for them in the recreation hall.
January 30, 1944
The “Yanks” seemed to do alright for themselves for on Sunday afternoon they could be seen out walking or in the drill hall with some of our fair WD’s, much to the chagrin of some of our airmen. However, the basketball game which was held in the drill hall at 1600 hours was enjoyed by all in spite of the fact that the American team beat Pearce 38 to 15. The film “The Gang’s All Here” was shown in the recreation hall in the evening.
March 9, 1944
“Pearce Professors” advanced to the finals of Number 4 Training Command hockey championship when they defeated Regina (Number 2 Initial Training School) at the Lethbridge Arena by a score of 7 to 2. A near capacity crowd, the largest of the season, attended.
March 15, 1944
Five more Harvards arrived today to the joy of all flying personnel and the increased din of their engines can already be noticed by ground personnel in offices all over the Station.
April 26, 1944
Three members of the South African Air Force, Major A R James P172V, P6163 Warrant Officer Two Schnither P J and P4744 Warrant Officer Two Schraader S J W paid a visit to this unit to study our maintenance and equipment setup and were very much impressed with the organization of these sections.
May 30, 1944
The first inter-station golf tournament took place on the Station course with the following stations participating: Claresholm, Macleod, Lethbridge, Vulcan and Pearce. Eight players competed from each station, Macleod winning first place and Pearce running third. The discussion group held a very enjoyable wiener roast on the river bank.
June 6, 1944
Beautiful sunny day. The coming of the long-awaited D-Day caused an atmosphere of tense excitement throughout the whole camp. A minute’s silence was observed by all personnel at 1135 hours. J15361 Flight Lieutenant S W Minall posted to this unit as a staff instructor has just returned from operations where he flew Spitfires, Hurricane dive bombers and Typhoon bombers.
July 6, 1944
Warm cloudy day. At 12 noon a storm broke over Pearce bringing with it a shower of hail stones approximately one inch in diameter. Nearly all Station aircraft were damaged, most of them being in the air or on the tarmac at the time. Only nine aircraft were left serviceable, those being the ones in the hangars. At 1430 hours flying recommenced with these nine aircraft. Fabric workers were kept busy day and night patching as many as 100 holes in one aircraft.
July 31, 1944
Month end review: sports—the Station’s sports field was completed in July. It includes a 440 yard cinder track, two fastball diamonds, one baseball diamond, two jumping pits, two horseshoe pitches, a lacrosse box, two volleyball courts, a soccer field and bleachers. Besides the above, two tennis courts were completed, one horseshoe pitch erected at the officers quarters, one at the sergeants quarters, one at the airmen’s quarters and one at the swimming hole. The swimming hole in the river was completed and equipped with a diving board and a mens and women’s bath house. A volleyball court was also erected there.
August 13, 1944
Bell tents have been erected at Waterton Lakes to accommodate airmen on 48 hour passes. Waterton Lakes, approximately 80 miles from the unit, is a very popular summer resort and is frequented by many personnel of Number 2.
November 2, 1944
The equipment section held a very successful banquet in the Java Shop in Macleod and despite the miserable weather everyone appeared to enjoy themselves. The commanding officer and several staff officers were guests. The Station made a clean sweep of the inter-services boxing show at Number 13 Service Flying Training School North Battleford. It was probably the best record ever scored by any station in Number 4 Training Command in boxing. Four boxers, Flying Officer W S Curry J25223, AUS441525 LAC Florence V R, AUS440212 LAC Pearce N J and AUS132367 LAC Thompson J C represented Number 2 Flying Instructor School, Flying Officer Curry winning the main bout of the card, LAC Florence the semi-windup and Pearce and Thompson each scoring convincing victories in their bouts.
December 24, 1944
“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring.” Something like the training wing today. An early divine service was held this morning which was excellently attended. Christmas eve saw the personnel wending their way toward the recreation hall where the Legion show “Swing Out the Blues” was being featured. After the show, the personnel blended their voices harmoniously in the age old custom of singing Christmas carols with Padre E Crimpen in charge. Following the singing of carols, about 45 of the personnel attended a Christmas eve candle light service which was held in the chapel. This was a splendid showing and a sign that the true issues of Christmas are still being appreciated. Following the late candle light service, the entire congregation assembled and marched in good order from one place to another singing Christmas carols and bringing Christmas cheer wherever the assembly went.
December 28, 1944
A graduation parade was held this afternoon for course 117 which graduated today. The commanding officer stated that this was to be the last official parade when all members of this unit would appear on the parade square. Further, he wished the graduating class as well as all personnel of this unit a Happy New Year and the determination of each to do their duty to the best of their ability wherever they might be called upon to do their duty in the future. The commanding officer expressed his conviction that in this regard he was assured that the personnel of Number 2 flying Instructor School would continue to show the splendid spirit and morale that they had shown in the past.
December 31, 1944
Month end review: hospital—infectious diseases—one case of mumps was admitted toward the end of the month. Sanitation generally good. Cockroaches carry on unabated.
January 15, 1945
Great excitement was caused today by the arrival of postings of all personnel on the Station. Headquarters orderly room proceeds to work nights in an endeavor to get things “copesetic” re postings. Effective today, the hospital is closed to patients and all those remaining in hospital were discharged. The commanding officer and his party were guests at a very successful dance held in the sergeants mess this evening. The dance was the official closing party for the NCO’s mess.
January 19, 1945
Cold clear day, definitely winter and quite chilly for the some 400 personnel who are endeavoring to get clearances signed today in preparation to leave the Station tonight on the special train scheduled for 1900 hours. A definite lull has descended on the Station after the bustle and excitement of saying goodbye to dear friends of almost two years standing.
January 31, 1945
Month end summary: Disbandment—It is with mixed feelings of regret and pride that we see the disbandment of Number 2 Flying Instructor School, regret at the loss of pleasant associations, marvelous fellowships and the life and spirit that was characteristic of our unit, pride in the esprit de corps and the splendid accomplishments of Number 2 Flying Instructor School, frequently in the face of adverse circumstances, and a knowledge that as a result of devotion to duty and maximum effort on the part of all personnel a unit has been created second to none in Canada. The splendid achievements of our three services and the daily victories on all fronts have made our phase of the service no longer necessary. As a result, many personnel and units have now become surplus to requirements. Many, however, are still needed and it is hoped that the same steadfastness of purpose and devotion to duty which has always been characteristic of the personnel of this unit will lead to more decisive victories and a victorious year in 1945.
This was the final entry in the Daily Diary of Number 2 Flying Instructor School, RCAF Station Pearce, Alberta. However, we shall let the commanding officer of the day, Wing Commander D L G Jones, have the last say through his column in the final issue of the Station newspaper, “The Pearce Patter.”
It is with a strange mixture of feelings and memories that we see Number 2 Flying Instructor School disbanded. We are filled with sadness at the thought of the aerodrome innocent of Cranes and Harvards, at the thought of empty buildings, canteens, lounges, coffee bars and messes that for so long have been our home. Yet we must have a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that the work of the RCAF in which we played a considerable part has been so well and successfully conducted that this unit is able at long last to discontinue its training duties. We are left with memories of southeast winds, Chinooks, championship hockey and ball teams, unforgettable parties, familiar and friendly faces and above al the struggle of creating in a short time despite countless and adverse conditions and innumerable difficulties the finest Station in Canada. As you know, we have been informed by the highest authority that we earned a reputation throughout Canada of having the best standard of training and the highest morale in the training commands. This reputation was not earned as the result of the efforts and abilities of any one section or group of persons but gained as the result of hard work and devotion to duty on the part of each man and woman in each section of Number 2 Flying Instructor School. There was a reason why everyone contributed so much—perhaps it was the difficulties we had to overcome which developed a common bond, perhaps because we were friends we could not let one another down. Whatever the reason, each individual felt he must contribute his utmost to Canada’s war effort. That is the “Spirit of Pearce.” It is a great memory and we will always carry it with us.
Number 2 Flying Instructor School, RCAF Station Pearce, Alberta