The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

One of Canada's most distinctive contributions to the war effort was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Under an agreement signed in December 1939, Canada provided training facilities for airmen from all parts of the Commonwealth. Far away from actual fighting, and with excellent flying conditions, Canada was ideally suited to such a program. She also possessed a great deal of the necessary expertise and facilities. A large number of Canadians trained during the First World War were still active airmen and the opening up of the vast northland had created others.

This was a gigantic undertaking. An army of experts had to be assembled, airfields developed, and equipment, including airplanes, procured. Training began in the spring of 1940. By the end of 1943 more than 3,000 students were graduating each month. By the end of the war the BCATP had produced 131,553 aircrew including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners and navigators. Of these more than 55 per cent were Canadians.

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