While the war in Europe was being fought, the American President Franklin Roosevelt was well aware of the training taking place in Canada and it led him to remark that Canada "was the aerodrome of democracy".

During the war years of 1939-45 Canada for the most part was many thousands of miles from the European battlegrounds. 

One of this country's greatest contributions was The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Under the Riverdale Agreement of December 17, 1939, Canada agreed to provide training facilities and train airmen from the whole of the British Commonwealth. In 1940 when the situation was very dire in the United Kingdom the RAF moved its training facilities to Canada. From the Ottawa Conference of 1942, the decision was made to expand the facilities of the BCATP. Then the decision was made in November 1943 to begin winding down and for the BCATP to close by March 29, 1945.

In September of 1939, the RCAF numbered 4,000 personnel, had less than 12 airports and HAD training facilities for 400. 

Active:                  1939-1945                                                                                                                          Country:               Canada                                                                                                                            Branches:            Royal Canadian Air Force /  Royal Air Force                                                                            Role:                     Aircrew and Groundcrew training                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Single engine                                

Boeing Stearman, De Havilland Tiger Moth, Fairchild Argus, Fairchild Cornell, Fairey Battle, Fairey Swordfish,    Fleet Finch, Fleet Fort, Hawker Hurricane, Noorduyn Norseman, North American Harvard, North American Yale, Northrop Nomad, Stinson 105, Supermarine Walrus and Westland Lysander.

Twin engine       

Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson, Bristol Bolingbroke, PBY Canso, Consolidated PBY Catalina, Cessena Crane,    Douglas Digby, Handley Page Hampden, Lockheed Hudson and North American B25 Mitchell.

Multi engine     

Consolidated B24 Liberator and Handley Page Halifax

                                                                                                                                                                                This program was administered by the Government of Canada and commanded by the Royal Canadian Air Force. Schools and facilities were set up in 231 locations across Canada with many of these sites being airfields. In 1939 24 existing were suitable and 80 new airfields were constructed. Classroom facilities with residences were taken for use from universities, colleges and other provincial institutions. Basic Training facilities came from private schools, municipal governments and all these were augmented with new construction as required. At its peak there were 107 Training Schools and 184 ancillary units at 231 sites. Total buildings erected numbered 8,300 of which 700 were hangars. The staff numbered 104,131 men and women. Fuel storage of more than 21,700,000 Imperial gallons was installed along with 300 miles of water mains and a similar length of sewer lines were laid. Land that was excavated was 2,000,000 cubic yards.  A total of 100 sewage treatment and disposal plants and 120 water pumping stations were completed. In addition, 2,000+ miles of  power lines  and 535 miles of underground electrical cable was placed which serviced a total connected electrical power load of over 80,700 horsepower. Most training schools had 3 runways, each 100' wide and 2,500 ' long. Aircraft in the Plan numbered 10,906. With the concrete that was poured a 20' wide road of concrete from Ottawa to Vancouver was possible.

The cost of the Plan to Canada was $1.6 billion of the $2.2 billion cost. In the Canadian money of today the cost would be $32 billion.

All activities of the Plan were managed from four Training Commands with each responsible for an area in Canada.

  • No. 1     Toronto - Ontario                       Southern Ontario
  • No.2      Winnipeg - Ontario                    Northwest Ontario, Manitoba, part of Saskatchewan
  • No. 3     Montreal - Quebec                    Quebec & Maritimes
  • No. 4     Regina - Saskatchewan            remainder of Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia                          moved to Calgary - Alberta in October 1941

Manning Depots 

The career of a military trainee began here where they learned to bathe, shave, shine boots, polish buttons, maintain their uniforms and behave in  the necessary manner. A daily routine was two hours of physical education daily, instruction in marching, rifle drill, foot drill, saluting and other routines.                                          Remedial high school education was offered to bring 17-18 year old trainees up to RCAF academic levels. There was also a standard aptitude test: the RCAF Classification Test.

After 4-5 weeks, a selection committee decided whether the trainee would be in the "aircrew" stream or the "groundcrew" stream. Aircrew "Wireless Air Gunner" candidates went to Wireless School. "Air Observer" and "Pilot" candidates went to Initial Training School.

Trainees were often assigned "tarmac" duty which could last for several months, some were sent to factories to count nuts and bolts, others  went to flying schools and other RCAF facilities to perform guard duty, clean things, paint things and polish things.

  • No. 1          Toronto - Ontario
  • No. 2          Brandon - Manitoba and then Swift Current - Saskatchewan
  • No. 3          Edmonton - Alberta
  • No. 4          Quebec City - Quebec
  • No. 5          Lachine - Quebec
  • No. 6          Toronto - Ontario        Woman's Division   October 1941 - May 1942
  • No. 7          Rockcliffe - Ontario     Woman's Division in the fall of 1942 


Initial Training Schools

Pilot and Air Observer candidates began a 26-28 week program with 4 weeks at Initial Training School. They would study theoretical subjects such as navigation, theory of flight, meteorology, duties of an officer, air force administration, algebra and trigonometry  They were subjected to a variety of tests which included time with a psychiatrist, the 4 hour long M2 physical examination a session in a decompression chamber and a "test flight" in a Link Trainer as well as academics. Postings were announced  at end of course. Some were re-routed to the "wireless Air Gunner" stream at end of Initial Training School.

  • No. 1     Eglinton Hunt Club in Toronto - Ontario
  • No. 2     Regina College and Regina Normal School in Regina -Saskatchewan 
  • No. 3     Sacred Heart College in Victoriaville - Quebec
  • No. 4     Edmonton Normal School in Edmonton - Alberta
  • No. 5     Ontario Provincial School for the Deaf in Belleville - Ontario
  • No. 6     Toronto Board of Education in Toronto - Ontario 
  • No. 7     Saskatoon Normal School & Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon - Saskatchewan

Elementary Flying Training Schools

Here the trainee would receive 50 hours of basic flying instruction over a period of 8 weeks in the De Havilland Tiger Moth, the Fleet Finch or Fairchild Cornell. These  were operated by civilian flying clubs under contract to the RCAF. The majority of the instructors were civilians.                    

  • No. 1      Malton - Ontario                                                         Moth
  • No. 2      Fort William - Ontario                                                 Moth
  • No. 3      London - Ontario                                                        Finch
  • No. 4      Windsor Mills - Quebec                                              Finch / Moth
  • No. 5      Lethbridge - Alberta later moved to High River          Moth / Cornell
  • No. 6      Prince Albert - Saskatchewan                                    Moth / Cornell
  • No. 7      Windsor - Ontario                                                       Finch / Cornell
  • No. 8      Vancouver to Boundary Bay - British Columbia         Moth 
  • No. 9      St. Catharines - Ontario                                             Moth
  • No. 10    Hamilton then to Pendleton - Ontario                        Moth in Hamilton and then Finch /                                                                                                                                                    Cornell 
  • No. 11    Cap-de-la-Madeleine - Quebec                                 Finch / Cornell
  • No. 12    Goderich - Ontario                                                     Finch
  • No. 13    St. Eugene- Ontario                                                   Finch / Cornell
  • No. 14    Portage la Prairie - Ontario                                        Moth / Finch
  • No. 15    Regina - Saskatchewan                                             Moth / Finch
  • No. 16    Edmonton - Alberta                                                    Moth / Finch
  • No. 17    Stanley - Nova Scotia                                                Finch / Moth
  • No. 18    Boundary Bay - British Columbia                               Moth
  • No. 19    Virden - Manitoba                                                       Moth / Cornell
  • No. 20    Oshawa - Ontario                                                       Moth / Cornell
  • No. 21    Chatham - New Brunswick                                         Finch
  • No. 22    L'Ancienne-Lorette                                                     Finch
  • No. 23    Davidson to Yorkton -Saskatchewan    RCAF           Cornell
  • No. 24    Abbotsford - British Columbia                                    Cornell
  • No. 25    Assiniboia - Saskatchewan                   RAF              Cornell
  • No. 26    Neepawa - Manitoba                            RAF               Moth
  • No. 31    DeWinton - Alberta                                                     Moth / Stearman / Cornell
  • No. 32    Bowden - Alberta                                                        Moth / Stearman / Cornell
  • No. 33    Caron - Saskatchewan                                              Cornell
  • No. 34    Assiniboia - Saskatchewan                                        Moth - Cornell
  • No. 35    Neepawa - Manitoba                                                  Moth / Cornell
  • No. 36    Pearce - Alberta                                                         Moth / Stearman

Service Flying Training Schools

These schools received trainees from the Elementary Flying Training Schools for 16 weeks. There were two schools with one being in the "fighter" stream and training in the North American Harvard or North American Yale. The second school was in the "bomber" "coastal" or "transport" stream and they would train in the Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson and Cessena Crane. The first 8 weeks were spent at a intermediate training squadron; the next 6 weeks were with an advanced training Squadron and the final two weeks were at Bombing and Gunnery School. These schools were RCAF and RAF operated.

  • No, 1     Camp Borden                                                              Harvard / Yale
  • No. 2     Upland - Ontario                                                          Harvard / Yale
  • No. 3     Calgary - Alberta                                                          Anson / Crane
  • No. 4     Saskatoon - Saskatchewan                                         Anson / Crane
  • No. 5     Brantford - Ontario                                                       Anson
  • No. 6     Dunnville - Ontario                                                       Harvard / Yale
  • No. 7     Fort McLeod - Alberta                                                  Anson
  • No. 8     Moncton - New Brunswick                                           Anson / Harvard
  • No. 9     Summerside - Prince Edward Island to                                                                                                    Centralia - Ontario                                                       Anson / Harvard
  • No. 10   Dauphin - Manitoba                                                     Harvard / Crane
  • No. 11    Yorkton - Saskatchewan                                             Harvard / Crane / Anson
  • No. 12    Brandon - Manitoba                                                    Crane / Anson
  • No. 13    St Hubert - Quebec to                                                                                                                               North Battleford - Saskatchewan                                Harvard / Anson
  • No. 14    Aylmer - Ontario                                                          Anson / Harvard / Yale /                                                                                                                           Supermarine Walrus 
  • No. 15    Claresholm - Alberta                                                    Anson 
  • No. 16    Hagersville - Ontario                                                    Anson / Harvard
  • No. 17    Souris - Manitoba                                                        Anson / Harvard
  • No. 18    Gimli - Manitoba                                                          Anson / Harvard
  • No. 19    Vulcan - Alberta                                                           Anson
  • No. 31    Kingston - Ontario                                                       Battle / Harvard
  • No. 32    Moose Jaw - Saskatchewan                                       Harvard / Oxford
  • No. 33    Carberry - Manitoba                                                     Anson
  • No. 34    Medicine Hat - Alberta                                                 Harvard / Oxford 
  • No. 35    North Battleford - Saskatchewan                                Oxford
  • No. 36    Penhold - Alberta                                                        Oxford
  • No. 37    Calgary - Alberta                                                         Oxford / Harvard / Anson
  • No. 38    Estevan - Saskatchewan                                             Anson
  • No. 39    Swift Current - Saskatchewan                                     Oxford 
  • No. 41    Weyburn - Saskatchewan                                            Anson / Harvard                               

Air Observer Schools 

"Air Observer / Navigator" stream trainees arrived here following Initial Training School and would spend 8 weeks here with 4 weeks at a Bombing and Gunnery School and 4 weeks at Navigation School. The Air Observer School were operated by civilians under contract to the RCAF. The basic navigation techniques were dead reckoning and visual piloting. The top tools were the aeronautical chart, magnetic compass, watch, trip log, pencil, Douglas protractor and the Dalton Navigational Computer. Training was done in the Avro Anson.

  • No. 1     Malton -  Ontario
  • No. 2     Edmonton - Alberta
  • No. 3     Regina - Saskatchewan to Pearce - Alberta
  • No. 4     London - Ontario
  • No. 5     Winnipeg - Manitoba
  • No. 6     Price Albert - Saskatchewan
  • No. 7     Portage la Prairie - Manitoba
  • No. 8     L'Ancienne-Lorette - Quebec
  • No. 9     Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu - Quebec
  • No. 10   Chatham - New Brunswick 

Bombing and Gunnery Schools

These schools offered trainees instruction in the techniques of bomb aiming and aerial machine gunnery to       Air Observers/Navigators, Bomb Aimers and Wireless Air Gunners. These schools required large areas of land or water. The Avro Anson, Fairey Battle, Bristol Bolingbroke and Westland Lysander were used. 

  • No. 1     Jarvis - Ontario
  • No. 2     Mossbank - Saskatchewan
  • No. 3     Macdonald - Manitoba
  • No. 4     Fingal - Ontario
  • No. 5     Dafoe - Saskatchewan
  • No. 6     Mountain View - Ontario
  • No. 7     Paulson - Manitoba
  • No. 8     Lethbridge - Alberta
  • No. 9     Mont-Joli - Quebec
  • No. 10   Mount Pleasant - Prince Edward Island
  • No. 31   Picton - Ontario                                                                                                                       

 Air Navigation Schools

Here trainees took a 4 week course in astronavigation and it wasthe last posting for Air Observers.

  • No. 1     Trenton Ontario to Rivers - Manitoba as Central Navigation School.
  • No. 2     Pennfield Ridge - New Brunswick to Charlottetown - Prince Edward Island
  • No. 31   Port Albert - Ontario
  • No. 32   Charlottetown - Prince Edward Island
  • No. 33   Hamilton - Ontario   

Wireless Schools

Trainees spent 24 weeks here and learned the theory and application of wireless communications. This included signalling with lights, flags and radio. The training was complete following 4 weeks at Bombing and Gunnery School. 

  • No. 1     Montreal - Quebec to Mount Hope -Ontario               Norseman, Moth, Stinson 105
  • No. 2     Calgary - Alberta                                                        Harvard / Fort                       
  • No. 3     Winnipeg - Manitoba                                                  Moth / Stinson 105 
  • No. 4     Guelph - Ontario                                                         Moth   

 Naval Air Gunner School

  • No. 1     Yarmouth - Nova Scotia                                             Swordfish

Flight Engineer School 

The Flight Engineer was the member of a heavy bomber air crew and was responsible for monitoring the fuel, engines and electrical systems. He also controlled the throttle settings and was the "assistant" to the pilot. They were no co-pilots and had some flying experience and if need be to take over the controls.

  • No. 1    Aylmer - Ontario                                                           Halifax 

General Reconnaissance Schools      

These schools trained pilots and air observers for 9 weeks in the techniques required for ocean patrol. It was equivalent to an Operational Training Unit and the last stop prior to aircrews being assigned for operations. The topics were DR Navigation, Astro Navigation, Compasses and Instruments, Meteorology, Signals, Reconnaissance, Coding, Ship Recognition, Aerial Photography and Visual Signals.

  • No. 1     RCAF General Reconnaissance School - Summerside - Prince Edward Island
  • No. 31   Charlottetown - Prince Edward Island

Operational Training Units 

This was the last stop for the aircrew trainees. They would spend 8-14 weeks learning to fly operational aircraft as the Hawker Hurricane or Fairey Swordfish. The instructors here had actual experience in actual operations and were often posted to OTUs following their  operational tours.

  • No. 1     Bagotville - Quebec                                                Hawker Hurricane
  • No. 3     Patricia Bay - British Columbia                               PBY Canso / Consolidated PBY Catalina
  • No. 5     Boundary Bay / Abbotsford - British- Columbia      Consolidated B24 Liberator /                                                                                                                 North  American B25 Mitchell
  • No. 31   De bert - Nova Scotia                                             Lockheed Hudson / Anson /                                                                                                                   De Havilland Mosquito
  • No.32    Patricia Bay to Comox - British Columbia to                                                                                         Greenwood - Nova Scotia                                       Bristol Beaufort / Swordfish / Anson /                                                                                                   Handley Paige Hampden 
  • No. 34   Pennfield Ridge - New Brunswick                           Lockheed Ventura 
  • No. 36   Greenwood - Nova Scotia                                       Lockheed Hudson /                                                                                                                                De Havilland Mosquito 

Central Flying School  

This was located at Trenton - Ontario

Central Navigation School                   The school was located at Rivers - Manitoba

Instrument Navigation School             This facility was located at Deseronto - Ontario 

Flying Instructor Schools

  • No. 1     Trenton - Ontario
  • No. 2     Vulcan - Alberta
  • No. 3     Arnprior - Ontario

Relief Landing Fields                            Throughout Canada there were 70 relief airfields.

Air Armament School                            The location was Mountain View - Ontario 

Radar School

  • No. 1      Radio Direction Finding        Leaside -Ontario
  • No.31     Radio Direction Finding        Clinton - Ontario

School of Cookery                                 Guelph - Ontario

Code and Cypher School                      Guelph -Ontario

No. 1 Technical Training School           St. Thomas- Ontario 

The number of aircraft involved numbered 10,906 




Of the approximately 73,000 Canadian me that trained for aircrew 25,747            Pilots                                                                                                                                                   12,855            Navigators                                                                                                                                             6,659             Air Bombers                                                                                                                                         12,744            Wireless Operators                                                                                                                              12,917             Air Gunners                                                                                                                                           1,913             Flight Engineers 

These Canadians would provide crews for 40 home defence squadrons and45 overseas squadrons and the Canadians provided25% of the RAF total strength.

At the end of the war 131,533 men in training graduated as pilots and aircrew and were from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In addition, 2,000 French, 900 from Czechoslovakia, 680 Norwegians, 450 Poles, 450 Dutch and 450 Belgians also graduated.

During the war friendships had been created between the people in the training sites and the civilians of nearby towns and villages. Some young Canadian women were leaving home and starting a new life with with an airman they had met while other couples stayed as they had established themselves.

The economic picture for many locations was about to change because now that the BCATP had ended the payroll from the training sites was also ending. Many communities were hoping that any infrastructure left behind might benefit their communities. But this was not to be. Buildings were dismantled or were been hauled away with the contents being sold while aircraft were being scrapped or taken elsewhere. Some facilities did survive with their runways and facilities becoming airports that were once part of the BCATP.


Prior to the war Australia trained approximately 50 pilots per year. Under the Air Training Agreement, Australia agreed to provide 28,000 aircrew over three years which represented 36% of the total number trained by the BCATP. By 1945 Australia had trained more than 37,500 aircrew with 27,300 graduating from Australian schools.

For a period, most RAAF received their advanced training in Canada. In mid 1940 some Australian trainees began receiving advanced training in Southern Rhodesia

On November 14, 1940 Australians who had received their advanced training in Canada embarked for the United Kingdom. Following December 1941 Australian trainees began serving in the Pacific theatre of war. Some RAAF Squadrons left Europe and the Mediterranean for units in south-east Asia. A large number of Australian units still remained in Europe. 

By 1944 the flow of Australians to Europe began to outstrip demand and Australian involvement was terminated in October 1944.


During WWI a small number of the population served with the Royal Flying Corps / RAF during the war. Despite the presence and importance of the Royal Navy Dockyard plus the use of Bermuda in both wars as a forming up point for trans Atlantic convoys. It was decided to build a flying school on Darrell's Island. The purpose behind the school was to train local pilots and then assign them to the RAF or Fleet Air Arm. Graduates then protected the Royal Navy Dockyard and other sites prior to being assigned overseas, usually as crew members of the crews delivering flying boats from Bermuda to Greenock in Scotland. This training school was quickly incorporated into the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By 1942 80 pilots had been sent to the RAF and Fleet Air Arm and the school was closed. 


The Royal New Zealand Air Force graduates numbered 2,743 in Canada and they were posted to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Another 1,521 did their training and graduated in New Zealand and were retained in New Zealand as instructors, staff pilots, or manning operational squadrons formed later in the war. Before the BCATP in 1940 183 Observers and 395 Air Gunners for the RAF were trained. The training of Navigators and Wireless Operator / Air Gunners continued in New Zealand for Pacific operations. Also 2,910 pilots were trained to elementary standards and completed their training in Canada. In New Zealand more than 2,700 wireless operator/air gunners, 1,800 navigators and 500 bombardiers passed through the Initial Training Wing before finishing their training and graduating In Canada. The New Zealanders graduated in Canada numbered 5.3% of the total graduates.


The start of World War II surprised South Africa and new flying schools in Pretoria, Germiston, Bloemfontein and Baragwanath were formed. The Joint Air Training Scheme with 38 air schools being employed to train RAF, SAAF and other air and ground crews. By September of 1941 aircraft numbered 1,709 with personnel numbering 31,204, including 956 pilots. During the five years it operated JATS trained 33,347 


When war was declared the government offered to run a flying school and train personnel for three squadrons -No. 44 Rhodesia, No.237 Rhodesia and No. 266 Rhodesia. The British Air Ministry accepted immediately. The Rhodesian Air Training Group was set up as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and it became the largest after Canada with training units at Salisbury, Bulawayo and Gwelo with each having a preliminary and advanced training school. By the middle of 1940 1,800 pilots, 240 Observers and 340 gunners a year could be trained. They then increased from 1 wing and 6 schools to 10 flying training schools and bombing, gunnery and navigation. As well a flying instructor school was established and additional schools for bomb aimers, navigators and air gunners and to relief the stress at the three original bases 6 relief fields and 2 bombing and gunnery ranges were established. And finally two aircraft, engine repair and overhaul depots were built and there was a Central Maintenance Unit that dealt with bulk stores for the whole of the Rhodesia Air Training Group. 

Trainees from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Yugoslavia, Greece, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Fiji and Malta took their training here. During the course of the war 7,600 pilots and 2,300 Navigators graduated.