The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), often referred to as simply “The Plan”, was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, during the Second World War. The Plan remains as one of the single largest aviation training programs in history and was responsible for training nearly half the pilots, air observers, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force during the war.
The BCATP agreement, signed by the four governments in Ottawa in December, 1939, concerned in Ottawa during the first few months of the war, called for the training of nearly 50,000 aircrew each year, for as long as necessary: 22,000 aircrew from Great Britain, 13,000 from Canada, 11,000 from Australia and 3,300 from New Zealand. Under the agreement, air crew trainees received elementary training in various Commonwealth countries before travelling to Canada for advanced courses.
Through the BCATP, the history of the 400 Series RCAF Squadrons began. During the Second World War, the first Canadian squadron to go overseas was No. 110 ‘City of Toronto’ Squadron. However, at that time, both the British and Canadian had squadrons that were numbered in the 100s.
As a result of the large number of Dominion squadrons that had formed overseas and to avoid any confusion and duplication with low-numbered RAF units, the British Air Ministry assigned the RCAF a block of squadrons numbering from 400 to 445. No. 110 ‘City of Toronto’ Squadron, renumbered to No. 400 ‘City of Toronto’ Squadron in Odiham, Hampshire on March 1, 1941 became the first of the 400 series squadrons. March 1, 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the 400 series.
After the war ended, most squadrons were disbanded. As the RCAF evolved and rebuilt post war, many squadrons were reinstated and kept the 400 series numbers that are still in use today.
An anomaly to the current RCAF squadrons is Gander, Newfoundland-based 103 (SAR) Squadron. 103 (Search and Rescue) Squadron was formed on 2 May 1977 when 424 ‘Tiger’ (T&R) Squadron Detachment Newfoundland was renamed 103 Rescue Unit. On 1 March 1997 it was re-designated upon authority by Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh to 103 (Search and Rescue) Squadron or simply 103 (SAR) Sqn.
The BCATP left a lasting mark on our local communities, some have passed into historical archive; some remain in use even today.
The Central Flying School at RCAF Station Trenton was split into two separate units on 3 August, 1942 – No. 1 Central Flying School and No. 1 Flying Instructor School. The role of No. 1 Flying Instructor School was to meet the ever increasing demands for trained flying instructors for the BCATP. It was disbanded on 31 January, 1945. The following day on 1 February, 1945, it was absorbed back into the Central Flying School at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario. In the post-war years, as more flying training schools and advanced flying units were opened, it again became necessary due in part to the Korean War and NATO flying training agreements to form No. 1 Flying Instructor School at Trenton, on 24 February 1951.
The Air Navigation and Reconnaissance School (ANRS) relocated from RCAF Station Camp Borden, Ontario moved to RCAF Station Trenton on 2 February 1940. It was then transferred from the Home War Establishment to the BCATP. The ANRS was renamed as No. 1 Air Navigation School on 8 February 1940 and became part of the BCATP’s No. 1 Training Command. It was a very brief stay though; the school was transferred to Rivers, Manitoba as of 11 November 1940 and re-designated as the No. 1 Central Air Navigation School. The climatic conditions on the Canadian prairies were more suitable for the four-week celestial navigation course than those in Trenton. On 3 April 1944, No. 1 Air Navigation School was transferred back to RCAF Station Trenton as the Central Navigation School, although it was still referred to as No. 1 Air Navigation School. On 3 February 1945, the school was re-designated as No.1 Reconnaissance and Navigation School (1 RNS). 1 RNS was re-designated as the RCAF Air Navigation School on 16 September 1945. The school was moved to RCAF Station Greenwood, Nova Scotia on 15 December 1945. 1 ANS was reformed at RCAF Station Summerside, P.E.I. during the autumn of 1948.
During the Second World War, the Ontario School for the Deaf building was used by the RCAF for No. 5 Initial Training School, as part of the BCATP. A commemorative plaque is dedicated to the 6,664 graduates of No. 5 Initial Training School; especially those who gave their lives in air force service to their country in the Second World War.
Originally known as Camp Mohawk the airfield opened in 1917 as a Royal Flying Corps training school for pilots during the First World War. During the Second World War, it was home to the BCATP’s No. 1 Instrument Flying School. The school provided advanced instrument-navigation training for air crew. No. 1 Instrument Flying School Was transferred to RCAF Station Trenton on 25 August 1945.
Deseronto Airport is currently the site of the First Nations Technical Institute Aviation which offers civilian pilot training to First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
The Mountain View aerodrome opened June 23, 1941 to host No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, one of 11 bombing and gunnery schools that opened across Canada under the BCATP during the Second World War. Aircraft used included the Avro Anson, Fairey Battle, Westland Lysander, Bristol Bolingbroke, and Northrop Nomad. On 30 September, 1945, the station was later designated RCAF Station Mountain View when No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School was renamed the Ground Instruction School and merged with the Air Armament School at RCAF Station Trenton.
Today, this airfield is maintained by 8 Wing / Canadian Forces Base Trenton through its Aerospace and Telecommunications Engineering Support Squadron. In September 2000, 8 Wing opened the Canadian Parachute Centre’s (now the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre) drop zone at Mountain View. The Mountain View facility is also used by Central Region Gliding School for Royal Canadian Air Cadets glider training.
The RAF’s No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School was opened on 28 April 1941 at Picton, Ontario. It was disbanded on 17 November 1944. The following day, it became No. 5 Reserve Equipment Maintenance Unit. During the school’s operation, the primary training aircraft were the Fairy Battle, Canadian-made Bristol Bolingbroke and Avro Anson. Support aircraft included the Westland Lysander.
8 Wing Trenton would like to thank all those who made the Quinte International Air Show (QIAS) 2016 an unequivocal success. The overall goal of the QIAS Team was to deliver an exciting show, which highlighted our history and heritage by commemorating the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
The QIAS 2016 could not have been a success without the commitment of our 8 Wing personnel and volunteers, who put so much effort forward to ensure we were able to hold an international event. Hosting an airshow at 8 Wing Trenton was our opportunity to welcome people from the surrounding communities, as our guests, into the home of Air Mobility.
The other key to the success of QIAS 2016 was the incredible support of our many sponsors, partners and our local communities. Without their commitment to helping us achieve our goals, the QIAS would not have been able to host such a world class event.
QIAS 2016 was truly a combined effort from all those involved and we are excited to start planning for the QIAS 2018.
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