Normal School (home to No. 2 Wireless School during World War II)
Postcards from the Past, PC 187
The new Duchess of Cambridge has ties to Calgary – tenuous though they may be. It seems her grandfather Peter was a flight instructor for the RAF during the Second World War. He was with the No. 37 Service Flying Training School, which was situated at McCall Field, which is now part of the Calgary International Airport. This school was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which saw pilots from the RAF and RCAF train pilots at 107 schools across Canada.
Calgary was actually home to a number of training schools for the BCATP. No. 3 was an RCAF training school which operated at Currie Field. After the end of the war the airstrip was used to train NATO pilots until 1958. At that time it was decommissioned but kept open as an emergency landing strip. When I was young, we used to go to the old strip, which was by then on the grounds of Mount Royal College, and learn how to drive (actually, we learned how to drive fast as we used the area as a drag strip). Some of the hangars, which are on the Currie Barracks site, are still standing and until recently the Calgary Farmer’s Market occupied one of them.
The No. 4 Training Command was moved to Calgary from Regina to Calgary in 1941. They set up shop in the newly renovated sixth floor of the Hudson’s Bay Building downtown. They stayed there until 1944 at which time they were amalgamated with the No. 2 in Winnipeg.
Another part of the BCATP was the No. 2 Wireless School. It occupied what is now Heritage Hall on the SAIT campus and an airfield near Shepard. Two BCATP students flying out of the Shepard substation were killed in an accident in a Tiger Moth and received the George Cross, the highest non-combat award for courage. In the years after the war, the air strips became drag strips, known as Shepard Raceway. The hutment, originally built to house the troops as they were training became emergency accommodation for returning veterans after the war but conditions became so unhealthy, they were demolished, amidst much controversy, in the 1950s.
There is a lot of information available about the training schools. We have newspaper clippings and books about the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan at the library. Maybe you would like to brush up before the visit of the Duchess to her grandfather’s old stomping grounds.
No. 2 Wireless School Float in the Stampede Parade, ca. 1941
Postcard from the Past, PC 87