Alberta Aviation Museum display on the BCATP

The Alberta Aviation Museum presents a range of memorabilia from the era of the BCATP. Photo: Edward Allen.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) saw more than 130,000 air crew trained in Canada including pilots, navigators, bombers, wireless operators, gunners, and flight engineers.

Recruits came from Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Free France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and beyond.

Canada offered the WWII Allied war effort plenty of wide open space a safe distance from the fighting, an aviation infrastructure, and access to fuel. Furthermore, Prime Minister Mackenzie King had promised to avoid military conscription, and this would keep more Canadians at home. There was also the prospect of building the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

At the beginning of WWII, the RCAF had only 4,000 personnel and a few hundred aircraft. By the end of the war the RCAF had more than 200,000 personnel, half of them BCATP trainees or air training support in over 45 overseas RCAF squadrons as well as RAF squadrons. Training went from April 1940 to March 1945. By then 131,000 air crew had graduated, 72,000 of them Canadians. There were also 231 training sites across Canada and more than 8,000 buildings had been constructed with over 3,500 planes used. By the close of the BCATP Canada’s share was $1.6 billion of the total $2.2 billion spent.

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