Borden-Back in the day…

News Article / April 28, 2014 / Project number: PA2014-14

Liesha Millward    Citoyen Borden Citizen



Adventures in the sky

Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Glen Rawson (Ret) enlisted with the Canadian Armed Froces in January of 1940, beginning a long and distinguished career that unfolded alongside his beloved RCAF.

Rawson trained at “Camp Borden” during 1940, following the very first course under the British Commonwealth Training Plan, at 1 Service Flying Training School.

“Borden is much, much bigger now. The population is greater, lots of new buildings. A couple of the old hangars are still there. They were still building some of them when I came,” commented Rawson. “When I first started here at Camp Borden, we had to use so much more care, because they were still building the airport. Some of our aircrafts ran off the end of the airport because some of our guys misjudged a bit, they would get stuck in the sand. We didn’t even have lights on the runway. They had little kerosene pots that they set out on the runway. When you took off, if you got to the side of the runway a little bit, the wind from the prop would blow the pots out and you didn’t have a light to land with. You had to wait until they got out and lit the pots again, so we tried to keep it right down the centre.”

“First of all you would go up with a flying instructor,” Rawson explained. “In the Harvard (the plane in which Rawson learned to fly), the flying instructor is in the back seat and you are in the front seat. We had no radios. He tells you what to do over the gosport tube (hose with speaking funnel on the end), you put your mouth over it and yell. It was hard to hear. We had a helmet with earphones or little cups over the ears, the noise comes up the tube and into your ears. It came down on both sides and joined into one. You take that and attached it into this tube in the airplane. That tube ran to the backseat, the guy in the backseat did the same thing. When the instructor thought you had enough experience and could fly ok, he would send you solo. You did so much solo, practiced and so on until it was time to graduate.”

When Rawson first started flying, most of the navigation was done either by charts, compass or simply by looking over the side of the aircraft. “I remember, one day, right here at Borden, there was a layer of cloud on a reasonable day. My instructor sent me up to practice aerobatics solo,” recalled Rawson. “I was afraid to practice below the clouds, there wasn’t much space. So I climbed through the clouds and stayed on top. I was having a ball up there playing around then realized I should get back. So I went down through the clouds, looked around and I had no idea where I was. My instructor said if that ever happened, to turn the compass on east, fly east until you come to a big lake, fly up and down until you see the big white cottage, when you get there, turn onto another heading and fly back to Borden. Sure enough there is Borden.”

In September, 1940, Rawson graduated the course and got his Wings at a ceremony held on the Borden tarmac; despite the dangers of flying in the early craft. 3 members of the course had perished during the training, and later that year, his Instructor, Peter Campbell crashed into Lake Muskoka and died. Flying was not for everyone, as some course members washed out and were sent to other trades.

The next course Rawson took at Borden was an Advanced Flying Training, done in a Northrup A-17 aircraft. This included learning to dive bomb, and hitting targets with smoke bombs that blew up on impact. “The Northrup A17 had that big perforated flap so you could get up to 20,000 ft and stick it on its nose. They had targets set out - a small building,” Rawson recalls. “So I looked out over the side, and oh, there’s my building. I dived down, and had a good score, blew the building up. A couple of days later I was called into the commanding officers office. They had cameras in the plane, to take a picture and prove that you had hit the building. It was a farmer’s chicken house. I blew it all to hell and killed all his chickens,” explained Rawson with a laugh. “They just compensated him, anybody could make a mistake like that, particularly if it was hazy up at 20,000 ft.”

Rawson went on to become an Instructor, and later worked with SAR in the North. With his 22 years of service, and his continuous service to the Air Cadets, Rawson has seen it all. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for Meritorious Flying during the Second World War, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, a Korean War decoration and an Air Force Fellowship award, of which only 9 were issued for contributions to Camp Borden.

“The people are the same family people, but the jobs are, in some cases, more demanding. The aircrafts have changed, and the maintenance has changed. The people doing the repairs and servicing the airplanes are more technical, they know more then in the old days; it was a gasoline engine and that was it. Now with the jet engines it’s a different ballgame altogether.

When asked what impacted him the most in his career, Rawson responded, “I think the type of people stand out the most. The type of guys, particularly the flying ones, you do something stupid and they would call you every dirty name in the book, but then they would put their life on the line the next day for you. It’s kind of a family situation; you stick up for each other. It’s a very difficult thing to explain.”




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