Description: The British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan (BCATP)
From the beginning of hostilities it was recognized that one of Canada's major roles in the war would be as a training ground where instruction could be carried on away from the actual battle area. Government representatives from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada met in Ottawa and signed an agreement in December 1939 to set up the BCATP, converting Canada into what President Roosevelt later termed "the aerodrome of democracy."
The initial plan provided for Elementary Flying Training Schools, Service Flying Training Schools, and Air Observer Schools. Supplementing these were numerous other units for recruiting, training, maintenance, and administration, making a total of 74 schools, depots and other formations. When fully developed, the BCATP was required to produce 520 pilots a month with elementary training, 544 pilots with service training, 340 air observers, and 580 wireless operator-airgunners. The first schools opened in April 1940, and all were in operation by 1942. The initial responsibility for establishing, administering and operating this complex plan was placed upon the shoulders of the RCAF which had scarcely more than 4,000 officers and airmen.
It was a challenging task. Sites for dozens of aerodromes had to be selected, roads and runways built, hangars, barracks, and other buildings erected. Incredible quantities of equipment, ranging from thumbtacks to airplanes had to be procured. Experts had to be recruited - doctors, dentists, chaplains, technicians, executives, mechanics, bookkeepers, cooks, teachers, flying instructors - to receive, examine, equip, instruct and train the thousands of young men who were clamouring to enlist. Around the nucleus of RCAF personnel and the specialist RAF officers who had been sent to assist them, a force of skilled men from all walks of life rapidly gathered. Among them were some of Canada's leading citizens: doctors, engineers, bush pilots,