This year, the Quinte International Air Show celebrates the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) with an incredible, two-day spectacle in the skies above CFB Trenton. The BCATP was the answer to the Allies’ dire need of pilots and aircrew during WWII. With most of Europe occupied and Britain under constant air attack, training recruits was impossible. Canada offered training programmes and facilities across the county, including pilots, air observers, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers.
Over 131,000 aircrew, from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, received their training at 231 locations across Canada from Boundary Bay, BC to Summerside, PEI.
The largest of the Airbases and home to several of the schools was RCAF Station Trenton, now 8 Wing CFB Trenton. This included the No.1 Flying Instructors School, No.1 Central Flying School and No.1 Air Navigation School.
Trenton was not the only location in the Quinte Region to be used to train the aircrew. Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf on Dundas St. W. in Belleville was the location of the No. 5 Initial Training School. No. 1 Instrument Navigation School was located at the Tyendinaga Airport in Deseronto, providing advanced instrument navigation training. The airfield there can trace its history back to the First World War when it originally opened as a training school for pilots of the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. The Tyendinaga airfield is in use today and provides civilian pilot training to First Nations, Metis and Inuit through the First Nations Technical Institute.
No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School was located at Mountain View Aerodrome off Hwy 62 in Prince Edward County. Aircraft used to train the Air Gunners and Bomb Aimers included the Avro Anson, Fairey Battle, Westland Lysander, Bristol Bolingbroke, and Northrop Nomad. Today Mountain View is a sub-section of 8 Wing CFB Trenton and continues with its training history as the drop zone for the Canadian Parachute Centre, Advanced Warfare Centre for the Canadian Army. Also the Royal Canadian Air Cadets operate a Glider Training Facility, providing flights throughout the year and pilot training during the summer months.
No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School was located at the airfield in Picton, south of the community. Aircraft used at the school included the Fairey Battle, Canadian-made Bristol Bolingbroke and Avro Anson. Camp Picton continued in service with the RCAF until it was closed in 1969. The property was sold and has been remarkably preserved by the current owners as an industrial park. Because of this foresight and dedication to preserving our history, Camp Picton still looks very much as it did during WWII.
The BCATP was very successful and was the single largest joint effort by the Allies to win WWII. Training in Canada provided the aircrew’s relative safety from enemy attack during their training period. But the program was not without mishaps. St. George’s Cemetery on Whites Rd. in Quinte West has several graves of Canadian and Allied Air Force members killed during training.
The National Air Force Museum of Canada is located on RCAF Rd. at 8 Wing CFB Trenton and is open year round, providing more details on the BCATP and the legacy of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Be sure to visit the museum while you’re in town for the Quinte International Air Show in June.
About The Quinte International Air Show
Don’t miss the Quinte International Airshow commemoration of the British Commonwealth Air Training plan on 25-26 June. While in the Quinte Region visit the other sites that tell the legacy of the incredible feat to win the air war during WWII, spearheaded by Canada!
Check out these links to additional information on the Quinte International Airshow and BCATP and training locations in the Quinte Region.
Roger Litwiller is an author/historian/lecturer of local history and Canada’s proud Naval heritage. He enjoys exploration through travel & photography. Roger has worked as a Paramedic for 33 yrs in Hastings County. “I am a storyteller, who can save your life!” You can find more of Roger’s writing on his website, rogerlitwiller.com, or send him a tweet at @RLitwiller
Unless otherwise stated, photos in this blog post are courtesy of Roger Litwiller.