The Empire Air Training Scheme

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Title

The Empire Air Training Scheme

Description

A handwritten account by Keith Thompson of his time training in Canada from the time he left England in February 1942 until he returned to Scotland as a navigator in January 1943.

Creator

Date

1998-03-24

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Format

Six photocopied sheets

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010001, MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010002, MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010003, MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010004, MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010005, MThompsonKG1238603-150907-010006

Transcription

Lincoln
LN4 4LE
Tel. 01526-342092
[underlined] 24 MARCH ’98 [/underlined]
[underlined] EMPIRE AIR TRAINING SCHEME [/underlined]
[underlined] 24 FEB ‘1942 [/underlined] We left HEATON PARK, MANCHESTER with it’s snow turning to slush at 3 AM. Our kit bags marked with the code FAUNA C SPRAT loaded with us, the train pulled out at 5 AM After [deleted] seral [/deleted] several stops, including CARLISLE we arrived at 330 PM at GOUROCK, SCOTLAND where we climbed aboard the S.S. ORBITA a 15,000 TON – CANADIAN PACIFIC LINE ship (she’d carried troops in 1914 – 18 and was scrapped sometime in the 60’s)
[underlined] 25 FEB ’42 [/underlined] moved out into the river about 6 PM and sailed at 10 PM.
We had drawn hammocks but there were not enough hooks for all – we slept on the mess deck – so unless you slung your hammock early you ended up on the floor or table!
Being FEBRUARY and the N. ATLANTIC the sea was a bit rough, most of the time The fire buckets [underlined] we [/underlined] had to empty frequently and refill with fresh WATER!!! Despite this I do remember sitting on an empty Biffo box on the stern to look at the moon and it’s [sic] reflection on the sea and to watch the phosphorescent glow of the wake as we pitched & rolled.
Being bored with nothing to do I volunteered to BAT for some RCAF aircrew returning home
On our last day the wind and sea “got up” and we slowed to about 2 KNOTS with the [indecipherable word] being lifted right out of
[page break]
4 PM. landed 630 PM. Train overnight to MONCTON. N.B. arriving 2 AM.
We were warned to beware the COLD – children were ice skating on the pavements, most houses had a small rink, a banking of snow filled with water, in their back garden. A parade ground on camp had been made into a large rink.
[underlined] 11 MARCH 1942, [/underlined] two days later, we left, by train at 1030 PM. with two blankets & our kit bags to sleep with & on, a bare wooden drop-four bunks on HARD unpadded slats.
A half hour stop at WINNIPEG brightened up 14 MARCH at 4 PM – coffee, “cookies”, “cigs and candy bars were given [inserted] to us [/inserted] by the town. A RCAF band played dance music while we danced with local “talent” on the station platform
Another night we ground to a jolting halt – an axle box was overheating – a hose cooled it down & a new shell bearing was slotted in & off we went.
After 4 days & nights we arrived on 15TH MARCH at CALGARY – at 3 PM. A 30 mins bus ride took us to 31 EFTS, DE WINTON, RAF STATION, where TIGER MOTHS fitted with cockpit canopies awaited us. You needed the canopy in winter – it was COLD!!
(All that was left in [underlined] 1983 [/underlined] was the rifle range butt, concrete bases of the buildings and the GUARD ROOM!!)
[page break]
of the air – the wind was so strong
My powers of control when sitting in the cockpit I found & my instructor agreed were not good enough to continue pilot training so I was “WASHED OUT.” I continued with ground school and was put forward to remuster to U/T. Nav. While awaiting my posting I also worked as “runner” in the station orderly room I also had two weeks leave on a farm at HARMATTON, OLDS.
[underlined] 27 MAY ’42 [/underlined] left DE WINTON, - 830 PM train pulled out at 9 PM – No not B.R. but CNR or CPR – to go the [sic] TRENTON, ONTARIO.
One loco driver was [indecipherable word] – LIVERPOOL and let me have a 50 mile, or so, ride on the foot plate. The engineer (fire man) didn’t have a shovel but a lever to control the automatic feed.
[underlined] 30 MAY [/underlined] Trenton, ONT, RCAF – remustered to U/T. Nav. 8TH JULY we were issued [deleted] whith [/deleted] with RCAF K D – the climate was quite warm.
[underlined] 16 JULY [/underlined] – moved to TORONTO, RCAF MANNING DEPOT TRENTON was full to the slams so 3 large parties were shipped out – about 40 went to TORONTO
The unit was for RCAF new recruits to be kitted out & given a bit of drill like ACR.
We were housed in CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHITION [sic] buildings – huge halls had rows & rows of 2 tier bunks – mine is 4 down and 12 across, I think!
[page break]
[underlined] 4 [/underlined]
DRUMMING OUT ceremony.
The man concerned had been caught & found guilty of stealing from his comrades. He was DRUMMED onto the parade – his tunic buttons and eagles were stripped from his uniform then he was DRUMMED OFF parade – a sight and sound never to be forgotten.
On some of our route-marches, the rest of the band, RCAF, joined the drummer to try to keep us in time. I took a ferry across LAKE ONTARIO to NIAGARA one Sunday PM where I bumped into a fellow YORKSHIRE man from SHEFFIELD I was from ROTHERHAM – 7 miles centre to centre.
[underlined] 16 AUGUST 42 [/underlined] – MALTON, TORONTO, NO 1 AOC. RCAF – we were the first RAF they had had and were “pre-warned” about some/most of our antics. The SWO took us off camp on the odd route-march & he was most upset when we started up with the old marching songs when outside the camp but wondered what had happened to us when we went silent & marched to attention on re-entering the camp gates.
[underlined] 31 AUGUST [/underlined] – visited and saw our first LANCASTER – I think it was the first one built in the factory on the airfield
[underlined] 4 DECEMBER ’42 [/underlined] – WINGS PARADE – with a layer of snow on the ground.
[underlined] 8 DECEMBER [/underlined] – Back to MONCTON.
[page break]
-
at TORONTO. Snow did hold them up – the winds were high & with the snow & cold temperature the LOCOS were freezing up.
After Christmas several of us helped sort mail in the Post Office.
[underlined] JANUARY 2ND 1943 [/underlined] – paid – UK £1 NOTES – going HOME.
[underlined] 4 JAN [/underlined] – MONCTON – left by rail – 1 PM
[underlined] 5 JAN [/underlined] – NEW YORK – arrived – 5 PM
Boarded [underlined] QUEEN ELIZABETH (MARK I !!!) [/underlined] 7 PM.
[underlined] 6 JAN [/underlined] – Sailed 6 AM –
2 MEALS PER DAY – breakfast and late tea – in shifts.
US ARMY “SNOW DROPS” (MP’s) were “IN CHARGE”!!! We were 6/8 to a [deleted] cold [/deleted] cabin, U.S. troops in multi-storey bunks – packed like sardines
There was no smoking below decks and the promenade deck was, shuttered, blacked-out & out of bounds after dusk so I volunteered for GUN (.5 BROWNING) CREW. These were up on the top lifeboat deck – a bit wet & windy at times The ship rolled & pitched too – the dining tables were [indecipherable word] so it was as well to hang onto your plate or it [deleted] th [/deleted] would end up in a pile at one end or the other – grab it on its way back!!!
[underlined] 11 JANUARY [/underlined] – dropped anchor at 6 PM. – saw the harbour lights from my privileged place by the guns – 5 days at sea.
[page break]
train. Smooth track, stops and starts – after CNR/CPR! We left GOUROCK at 6 PM and arrived in HARROGATE at 3 AM.
Mail too & from CANADA was a bit erratic as we might expect and was of course all by sea.
We were able to order “food parcels” from stores to send direct to UK – I think we were rationed to one per month.
Cable and Wireless Co. had a system called EFM’s. (Expeditionary Forces Messages) They had a list of about 30 phrases and you could choose 3, writing the number for each on the form. You could add a birthdate or address but nothing else. They cost about 2/0d.
At times we did sit around, doing nothing, for long periods but in view of the numbers of us it was well organised.
The Canadian people were great and still are!!
I hope the above will help the story along. Sorry to be so late in compiling it – tempus fugit (as the scholars say)
Keith G. Thompson

Collection

Citation

Keith Thompson, “The Empire Air Training Scheme,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 17, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18708.

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