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Don’t be too Sharp

Heroes Remember

Don’t be too Sharp

When I reported off leave without pay to the office they sent me down to manning depot, down at the horse palace at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and myself with another three or four, five thousand people and we started getting punctured in the arm and taught how to, where left foot, straw foot, hay foot, as Napoleon's boys knew it. Left from right and early up and early to bed, the usual routine. The early boot school I guess they still do the same thing. They sent us down to Saint John, New Brunswick on what they call guard duty. It was really useful employment until initial training school was ready to accept you and those were the glory days. I learned, well I always knew fire arms, but you learned to handle machine guns, light machine gun and do a lot more rifle work. The marching was old stuff by that time and you had the night shift in the lonely sentry duty all by yourself which was something else in the dark, but those are things that, they were happy days the three weeks that we had on guard duty. A lot of people had three months on guard duty, in the winter months waiting for vacancies to open up in the initial training schools. But we were, it was early spring that year I guess, things were marching right along and by June we'd, I remember we left the manning depot on the 24th of May 1941 for Saint John, New Brunswick and I guess we were just there three weeks and we were on our way, three happy weeks. I had my first taste of lobster there. They tried to assess you as suitability for pilot, observer, wireless air gunner and of course all the brilliant guys, smart guys, you didn't want to be too smart because if you were real brilliant, which I wasn't, if you're real brilliant you ended up as an observer or a navigator they called them, but they were air observers at the present time. Those were the people that were supposed to have all the brains up top, the smart guys. So you had to walk the narrow line if you were real brilliant and wanted to be a pilot, don't tell them that, navigators, they know. Then they gave you the final, definite measurements on whether you were long enough in the legs to be a pilot and which they'd never done before. They just checked your height and fine, you're tall enough. For some aircrew duty, there you had to be specifically measured with your back against the wall and how long were your legs, were they long enough to reach the pedals of the modern aircraft. Those were some of the things. There was more marching, more parades, more drill. There was also a link trainer, introduction to the link trainer, again this was another one of the things, did you have the mechanical or know how to operate things and have them respond to you, easy for a farm boy that had been working with tractors, horses and things all his life. We knew that from there you were sent out to be a pilot, an observer or air gunner or wireless air gunner for training. Now how you did after that was up to you but there was where the dye, initial dye was being cast, right at initial training school, and we were all very much aware of that.

Mr. Ireland describes his basic training at St. John, New Brunswick, as well as the selection process for Air Crew at Victoriaville #3 Initial Training School.

Elgin Gerald Ireland

Elgin Gerald Ireland was born in Shelbourne, Ontario, on January 12, 1921. He was the eldest in a family of seven. Because his father was a farmer, his family survived the depression in relative comfort. Mr. Ireland lived close to an airfield, and was fascinated by the thought of flying. When the family farm was sold, Mr. Ireland felt no obligation to stay home, and in April, 1941, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was groomed as a pilot, and did his elementary training at St. Eugene, flying the Fleet Finch. He moved on to St. Hubert, learned to fly the Harvard aircraft, and then moved on to Trenton where he was a flight instructor for one and a half years. Mr. Ireland reached England as a member of a Hurricane squadron, but soon transferred to 411 Spitfire Squadron. He flew air to ground combat at Falaise Gap and Nijmegen, while at the same time engaging the Luftwaffe in air to air warfare. For his efforts, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Netherlands Flying Cross. After the liberation of Europe, Mr. Ireland volunteered for the Tiger Force, an air group which was to aid in the war against Japan. Mr. Ireland remained in the air force, returning to the Trenton Flying School. He was one Canada’s first pilots to fly the Vampire, F-86 Sabre, and CF-100 jet fighters. After spending four years as Canada’s CF-100 Squadron Commander in France, he returned to 409 Squadron at Comox, British Columbia, where he was promoted to Camp Commander. It was at that point that British Columbia became his family home.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Elgin Gerald Ireland
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Flight Lieutenant

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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