The mightiest and most powerful air forces would soon find themselves short of serviceable aircraft if it were not for members
of the ground crew who maintained, repaired and in their eyes "owned" the aircraft that the aircrews "borrowed".
At Recruitment Centers across Canada the recruits for these trades were judged on their work backgrounds and aptitude tests.
Although some knew what trades they wanted to be trained in from the very start others were steered into what was thought to
suit them. And being the military what you wanted and what you were best suited for was not always where you ended up.
Once accepted and upon receiving orders by mail they headed to their Recruiting Office. From there they would be sent to one
of the many Manning Depots around Canada.
The two primary ones at he begining being Brandon Manitoba and Toronto, with more added as the war went on.
For those lucky enough to be sent to Toronto it would provide them
many great places to see and visit. If you could get a pass for the night, which were not all that freely given out from what my father
wrote. And of course there were the lavish accommodations provided at No. 1 Manning Depot in the Canadian National Exhibition fair
grounds namely the Equine Building or what most called the Horse building. Four to a stall and as my father wrote
the horses had a better deal, they at least each got their own stall. My father had been a stable boy in his youth and many of the
recruits were from rural towns and farms to them it was familiar if not fully comfortable. To the city born recruits, even without there being
many horses in the building, they found the accommodations more colourful and aromatic then they were used to.
Manning Depots took the civilian and, as my father wrote, ever so gently awakened them to the pleasures of military life. It was
the place where you were given uniforms that didnít fit and needles you didnít want in places that were already aching from the last needle.
The new recruits were taught marching, saluting, personal grooming , hygiene and basically learning the ways of military life as the bottom peg
in a system. For my father it was not completely new. His whole family had been Seaforth Highlanders for many generations.
Training for some of the new comers was transferred abruptly from Toronto to Brandon. So my dad and a whole train load of recruits left sunny oh so a warm
Toronto late in the fall and arrived in the middle of a blizzard in Brandon with only their Summer dress uniforms to wear. Brandon didn't have all the amenities of Toronto,
but it didn't matter. Passes were still just as stingingly handed out here as they had been in Toronto.
On completing basics at the Manning Depot the next step for the future trades was to be sent to TTS #1 St.Thomas Ontario.
In 1939 the RCAF had begun establishing a school for the training in Aero-Engines, Aircraft Electricians, Air Frame Fitters and Instrument mechanics.
Their choice of location was the Ontario Psychiatac Hospital grounds at St. Thomas.
There were less then 1500 qualified ground crew members in the whole
air force in 1939. That number would grow quickly. St. Thomas with accommodations for up to 2000 students spending
an average of six months learning their trades. In some cases an overlap of old and new skills were part of the courses.
Over the years the courses would be changed to meet the requirements of new aircraft and equipment. Training in fabric
repairs related to aircraft such as the bi-plane trainers and the Wellington bomber would be found on the Air Frame Riggers
course in addition to the skills of sheet metal to be used in the more newer aircraft that were being introduced.
On successful completion of their training and testing they would receive their LAC Props. The Props on their arms was
not really a sign of rank, only that they were Leading Aircraftman. With no "s" in the name. A true NCO rank would start at Corporal.
The next step was on hands training, at one of the many flight training schools across the country.
Hands On Training
The different trades that graduated from
St. Thomas, Aero Engine Mechanics, Air Frame Mechanics, Instrument and Wireless Mechanics and Electricians would be spread out
to the Elementary Flying Schools, and Service Flying Training Schools across Canada. Aircraft at these training schools experienced a
lot of hard use. The amount of time spent at these facilities varied, some would spend the war at them others would apply for duty
overseas after a period of time honeing their skills. For those who went overseas, training also continued, the squadrons would have classes led by the
Squadron Leader responsible such as Squadron Signals Leader or Squadron Engineering Officer. At times members of the Air Ministry would be the
lecturers of the courses. Each member of Trades would have to periodically pass exams set by the Trade Test Board. Each trade had there own Test Board.