Unending Seige

Pilot Training on Canadian Soil

On the Somme, imperial air casualties had been significant. To meet increasing demand for trained aviators, Britain proposed that a structured training programme for the Royal Flying Corps be established in Canada. The timing was right: The exploits of Canadian pilots like Billy Bishop were already being celebrated. Enthusiasm was running so high that the government rethought its air policy and considered building a Canadian air corps, though this would not occur until the 1920s. At the end of 1916 the Royal Flying Corps proposal was accepted. One of the advantages of the project, from the standpoint of the government, was that it allowed Canada to serve the Empire without over-committing itself to air issues that it viewed with some suspicion. In 1917 the British pilot training in Canada began. Thousands of Canadian specialists, pilots and technicians would be trained under this programme. In those days the pilot also had to be a mechanic, in order to repair his plane. Between the wars these men trained in Canada would help to arouse public interest in aviation and aeronautics. Although the new pilots answered to British leaders and British standards, they would soon evoke true Canadian pride and the public would begin to call, albeit rather timidly, for a Canadian air force.