June 15, 1942
Well here we are at Claresholm service flying school. Haven’t had time to see very much yet as we only arrived last night but I think it will be alright if we don’t have to stay too long. We are three miles from the town and as it is about the size of Armstrong I don’t suppose we will go in very often.
The country is very flat here and practically devoid of trees but we can see the Rockies in the distance and the foothills not too far away so it is better than Edmonton that way.
Our quarters here are quite similar to the depot but perhaps a little more spacious.
The meals are better I think (I’ve only had two so far) and we don’t have to contend with the crowd.
We don’t know what we are to do yet. Some will be guards, others on various fatigue jobs such as caring for the grounds, hut cleaning etc. These jobs are only in the afternoon for we are to have an hours P. T. and two hours lecture each morning. I hope I get a good job preferably near the planes for it will make all the difference.
There seems to be countless planes here—mostly twin engined [sic] Cessnas and some Puss Moths. I think we will be able to engineer a few rides from time to time.
There are so many of us in this draft, all P or O’s. All the potential WAG’s went to a service flying school in Calgary the same day which gripes us somewhat.
The last week in the depot was very easy for me due to a great deal of luck and some skill. Some of the boys were assigned jobs for the week but the rest were detailed to something after each roll call. I found it advisable to always fall in at the top of the flight for they started at the other end and sometimes ran out of jobs before getting to the top. For instance one morning there were twenty left over. We were told to play softball until it was time for wireless class. Another day three of us went round the fence to fix holes. As it had rained hard the night before there were very few holes to be fixed.
I was out with some old Yellowknife friends on Saturday night and didn’t get home until four. There were two of us and we searched for a hole but finally had to go over the top. I don’t think we were seen but the guard yelled “Halt”. We scurried into the nearest hut and climbed into a vacant bed but there were no further developments so we soon got home. On Sunday morning our draft had to turn in our “Exit & Entry” cards. There was an anxious moment when we two had to report ours were still at the guardhouse but the corporal asked for no explanation but merely marked down “No card.”
You have asked me some time ago if there is anything particular I want. I don’t think there is. It is not cold enough for a sweater yet and that is about the only thing I might need. I rather like to keep my equipment as light as possible while I am moving round but I hope I won’t have to be moving from one hut to another as often now as in the past.
This afternoon there was a wing parade for some 50 men who had just won their wings. It will be a great day when I get there and a day long in the future. Did I tell you ITS is lengthened to 14 weeks and I think SFTS is now 6 months. I don’t like it.
With love form
June 20, 1942
I am fed up with this place already. Every afternoon we do some sort of fatigue work—mostly spade work to improve this barren landscape—and it all seems such a waste of time. The hour of wireless a day is good and sometimes the one hour lecture that follows is constructive, otherwise we are marking time.
Last week Doug and I (Doug is my chum here) waited three fruitless hours (all of us had the afternoon off because of a rodeo in town) to get a ride in a plane. Several of the P/O’s got rides but we missed out and were plenty mad. So we beetled off to the town pubs and when they closed I went to the dance with Joyce Ford. I hadn’t realised Leicester Collett [?] was still here so the two of us went over to where he was staying. He had left that morning for Vancouver.
This morning Doug. and I got hooked for fatigue work in the morning so we asked and got the afternoon off. One of my jobs had been to see what bunks were empty insix or so of the huts as we were going to move out of our present quarters to make room for some sergeant pilots coming in. So Doug and I [k]new exactly where to go to get the hut location and this we did first thing in the afternoon. Then I got a ride in a Cessna lasting about an hour. It was a very tense trip but at least a change. Doug. missed out again so we head for town again.
Before I left Edmonton I got a copy of the Toronto Star. Did you get the photograph of our flight which I mailed in Edmonton?
It would be funny if Bunny was posted here for his service flying. Let me know when you here [sic] of his whereabouts.
I retract what I said of the meals here. They are certainly no better and much less care is taken in keeping the dishes clean.
Next weekend we get a 48 and Doug. and I are going to Calgary. The enclosed cheque is to provide the necessary funds as it will be just before payday. Can you send the money on as soon as possible?
So far we have herd [sic] nothing else but rain or wind here—nothing like the warm weather in Edmonton.
With love from
Well we had our 48 in Calgary but it turned out to be more a rest cure than anything else. The telegraphic transfer arrived a day late (I should have written much sooner, except that Doug. Lee was also expecting funds) but even so I was far the richest when we started out with 7.50. Doug. had 40¢. $4.70 had to go for transportation and the two WAG’s we met in Calgary hadn’t got much so it won’t be hard for you to believe that after paying for the first nights lodging in advance we awoke on Saturday morning with 11¢ between us. Luckily I was able to cash a cheque for 15.00 without any further identification than to tell the bank where I used to work but it took very careful budgeting to spread this over meals and hotel till Sunday night without allowing for any luxuries.
We are awfully jealous of the WAG’s who, besides being stationed at such a favorable location in Calgary, have no fatigue work but instead real tarmac duty and considerably more flying as lookouts (for which they draw extra pay). They also get a one o’clock leave every night (we have a 12 twice a week) ice cream sometimes and to top everything they have already been posted to a wireless school in Winnipeg and should leave this week.
There is a pleasant rumour here that we are to return to Edmonton for I. T. S. on July 4. I don’t bank on it very much but it is founded on the fact that apparently some ground crew here have remustered to air-crew and have been advised that they were to be attached to our flight. They were given two weeks furlough and told to report in Edmonton July 4.
Another rumour says we are slated for Vulcan to help open up a new station. I don’t like the sound of that. Quite by chance I ran into Ronnie McClymmont at the YMCA in Calgary. He gets his wings this week and had come up from McLeod to meet his mother.
Here is an example of the sort of work that makes [me] fed up with this place. (Incidentally I hope this is not an example of what takes place in more important spheres of military affairs.) It was decided to beautify this place by planting trees so we were set to work to dig many holes. No one knew the size or variety of the tree which were being brought over from Vulcan. The next day we had to fill in every other hole and enlarge the others as the trees were 10’ to 12’ feet [sic] high and apparently much bigger than expected. The boys had a tough time getting them and had had to leave ;most of the roots behind so it was obvious none would live. Of the original ones planted one still lives. Undaunted they have today gone to Vulcan to get some more.
The day we left for Calgary there was a terrific rain all day coupled with a wind that reached 70 mph according to the control tower. It was the hardest wind I have ever seen and it flattened some of the more recently planted trees which still had a spark of life.
The last two days the weather has been very nice. I was beginning to wonder whether the sun ever did shine in these parts.
With love from
July 4. 1942
Perhaps I mentioned rumours that we might be leaving. There is apparently no truth in them for the rumoured date was today. I guess we are here indefinitely and must reconcile ourselves to that. The course is so long now that much of the enthusiasm I had before enlistment and at manning depot has vanished.
I passed Bowden where Bunny is to be stationed on my way from Edmonton. It looked to be a particularly desolate spot although it make [sic] lack some of our winds and resultant dust.
Our hockey rink has been hard-surfaced and will soon be equipped with four tennis courts. I think the station has already laid in a supply of racquets and balls.
This past week has been the easiest week I’ve had yet. I had a mild form of ‘flu, the kind that might keep me home for a day in civilian life, and consequently stayed in the hospital from Monday night until Friday morning. I might not have gone up to the hospital at all had I not been slated for canteen orderly for two nights which meant extra work from 6 to 11 each night.
Yesterday and today I was excused all roll-call and duties and had a slack time sunbathing and sleeping. I should report on duty tomorrow but intend to continue the present state of affairs long enough to miss church parade.
I hope the flood conditions have now passed their peak. I don’t know how it could have been so severe with such little snow.
Many happy returns of the day for your birthday.
With love from
June 10, 1942 [sic—The 1942 Calgary Stampede took place July 6 to 11, so this letter was actually written on July 10, 1942.]
You certainly are having a terrific hot spell. I hope the worst is over by now. We have been having very warm weather, too, but as I never see a thermometer I don’t know how it would compare with your weather.
I saw a bit about Nigel Pooley in the province [sic] when he was interviewed. I thought he had been taking an O. T. course in the east but he seems to be still a sergeant.
About the only thing different this week was a funeral for a chap who drowned while swimming in a stream not far from here. I volunteered to be one of the 20 making up the armed guard and we spent about 1½ days rifle drill before the occasion. I don’t suppose I would have done this had I realised before hand the distance between church and graveyard which we had to march. Part of this was at the dead march but fortunately there was quite a stretch where we were permitted to sling our rifles.
I am now commencing another 48 but I am going to keep away from Calgary and its Stampede. The place would be too crowded for me. Instead I will laze around here and try and get in some flying. It would have been better to have the following weekend for a 48 as I imagine Bunny would be about due for one by then.
I had a game of tennis one evening. This was rather disappointing for at no stage in my career have I played with such decrepit balls.
I got the telegraphic transfer O. K. This puts me in a rather sound financial position for I didn’t get my last two weeks pay (being in the hospital) and we have another payday next week and I’ve got $13.00in my pocket.
We were completely unaffected by army week. Nary a visitor.
Any rumours I ever mentioned about our moving are out. There is no talk of it now.
A group ahead of us, in Edmonton I think, were give [sic] nine days leave because there was no room in I. T. S. for them. I don’t imagine we would get a similar break but its [a] good reason to imagine a prolonged sentence here.
With love from
July 20, 1942
I spent my last 48 in camp which was just as well as the Calgary Stampede was washed out by rain on the Saturday. A number of us gave up the Sturday morning in exchange for Monday afternoon to take part in the ceremony of loading the remains of four airmen in the train. There was an absolute deluge of rain just before the train pulled out and we, all in our summer uniforms, were soaked to the skin.
The accident causing their deaths was a bad one but the only fatal or even serious accident since I’ve been here. It happened when two Cessna’s flying in formation bumped into each other.
I. T. S. at Edmonton may close down eventually but it is not likely to within the next four months. A new class of 160 odd just started there. Incidentally a large proportion of that class is made up of chaps who went through Manning Depot after us. That is why our morale is very low and we haven’t a good word for the R. C. A. F.
On Monday afternoon I went flying for an hour. We flew over a new station near Vulcan but once again did nothing but straight flying all the time.
After supper I tried another mode of transportation—riding. I think the horses had been brought in from the Waterton Lakes resort and had long since lost most of their pep like the majority of the Flying W nags.
The next evening we had a sort of a track meet. They had the latest thing in aluminum poles for the pole vault so I tried it. [In his high school days, Tony had been the pole vault champion of the Okanagan Valley.] Tied for third place, my mark being a foot below my one time starting height. No spikes or measured pace were the chief contributors to this disgrace.
I don’t know much about the mail service but I think it should go out every day. In some occasions I may not mail it the day its written as it is some distance from our hut but this is not the rule. Mail is supposed to go over town about 9 pm. but I know nothing about the northbound train hours.
With love from
I enclose a record of the names of the chaps in the flight photo.
July 27, 1942
At long last we have definite news of our posting. On Saturday we leave for No. 7 I. T. S. at Saskatoon Sask. I was hoping for Edmonton where I know one of the instructors but on the other hand it might have been Regina.
Last week Bunny wrote me to say he would be in Calgary over the weekend. It was my 48 so I went up by myself on Saturday morning. Bunny had better have a damn good excuse to explain his not being there. All the chaps I pal around with here went down to Lethbridge.
Friday night was more successful. I stayed the night in Stavely with the principal of the high school. He and his wife are old friends of mine and it was great to see them again. The home cooked meals were a treat too.
I have been rather lucky with my afternoon fatigues lately. Wednesday I disappeared on the way to pick up the shovels, Thursday was a sports afternoon for HQ to whom we are attached although we weren’t really supposed to go in the sports parade. Friday was a C. O. inspection which didn’t last long due to rain. Today two of us had a ten minute job and have so far failed to report back for more. It is now 4:00p. m. and much too late to go back.
I went riding again last week. This time I had a much better horse and got a little speed out of the beast.
I wonder if Archie can make five prints of the enclosed negatives. We don’t like to have the pictures developed in town for the photos are of course taken against regulations. You might as well keep one set at home but please send the rest with the negatives up to me at I. T. S. The planes are Cessnas usually called Cranes here.
With love from