Canada’s wartime contribution recalled

Thousands of airmen trained on the Prairies during the Second World War

Every trip we drove to our nearest city, North Battleford, when I was a kid took us along Highway 4 past an abandoned wartime  airport.  All that remained was a  boxy one-storey building, with five gigantic bay doors, sprawled  beside a sparsely grassed runway that disappeared in the distance.

Not a rock or a gopher would have impeded the small yellow planes as they practised landings and takeoffs. Gone was the spot-lighted anti-aircraft blimp that had been visible in the night sky  from our farm near Vawn 30 miles to the northwest.

During the years 1941 to 1945 this Hamlin airport and a second relief airport at  Brada just east of North Battleford were two  of hundreds in  the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Until I  began reading Elinor Florence’s blog – Wartime Wednesdays – published weekly in the North Battleford News-Optimist, I was unaware of the bustling activity that had gone as some 130,000 servicemen from Commonwealth countries trained in Canada to become pilots and aircrew, many of them in Saskatchewan’s open skies.

In 1946 when Florence’s father, Douglas,  returned from serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, he took advantage of  loans available to returning veterans, to finance a farm. Under the Veterans Land Act he would have been eligible for $4500 to buy land, $1200 for equipment, scarcely enough to fuel a modern  monster tractor.

He chose to buy the decommissioned airport three miles east of  Brada. The land came with several government buildings including a T-shaped barracks  constructed from quality lumber sided with shingles. Florence divided the building in half to turn the T-shaped end into a comfortable farm home.

Florence attended Brada’s one-room school to the end of grade eight when  the school closed. She transferred to Battleford Collegiate Institute for high school. She  went on to earn an English degree from the University of Saskatchewan and a journalism degree from Carleton University.

She began her journalism career at Battleford’s Advertiser-Post, forerunner of   the News Optimist. Positions of increasing responsibility took her to  The Western Producer, Red Deer Advocate, Winnipeg Sun, Vancouver  Province and  Reader’s Digest where she contributed feature articles.

Recently the News-Optimist began publishing her senior friendly World War II blog each Wednesday. Large font size and  big photographs can  both be easily read without a magnifying glass. Readers can  receive each weekly post as an email simply by subscribing with their email address. “I’m not selling anything,” Florence says. “Readers are my only reward. I love it when readers write and identify themselves.” Her website enjoys a lively exchange of readers’ comments.

I’ve read three of her installments: Growing Up with Air Force Ghosts, describing her life on a former airport;  My Dad’s Best Christmas: 1945, when he was in England; and Brotherly Love, an account of a harrowing experience while her grandfather served in World War I.

As an offshoot of her blog research, Florence has written a novel, “Bird’s Eye View”, to be published October 2014.

The novel deals with a prairie girl who joins the RCAF and serves as an interpreter of aerial photographs, a wartime assignment new to me.

The responsibilities sound far more demanding and useful than being a paparazzi hounding entertainment celebrities like Miley Cyrus or Princess Diana.

The blog is available at www.elinorflorence.com or by googling Wartime Wednesdays. Her email address is florenceelinor@gmail.com.

 

Just Posted

Police encourage reporting of suspicious events following reports involving children

Terrace RCMP are asking the public to report any suspicious adult interactions… Continue reading

Soup kitchen sees “groundswell of community support”

Donations toward looming tax bill push non-profit back in the black

College buys a yurt to boost student success

Round tent-like structure part of college instructional shift

Terrace husband and wife honoured for saving each other’s lives

BC Ambulance presented each a Vital Link Award for separate incidents of CPR

Council supports lobby for fair share of cannabis tax revenue

The City of Terrace is throwing its support behind a West Kelowna… Continue reading

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Brother of B.C. teen killed by stray bullet says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down in Vancouver while on his way home from dinner with his family

Movie filmed in Castlegar B.C. opens Friday

Hollow in the Land starring Dianna Agron will be playing in select cinemas.

Cougar window shops at Banff grocery store

An RCMP officer spots a cougar outside an Alberta grocery store

Police fear fewer fentanyl imports don’t signal the end of the overdose crisis

RCMP say it’s just as likely that criminal are getting more clever

Coal dust escaping rail cars spurs B.C. petition

Local governments are on board with Shuswap resident’s request for better control of escaping particulate

Lawyers slam ‘de facto expulsion’ of student guilty of sexual interference

Calgary student guilty of sexual assault of a minor allowed to finish semester

B.C. NDP set to restructure union bargaining

School trustees to regain control over employer group

Most Read