RCAF commemorating Second World War air training program in 2016

News Article / April 1, 2016

From RCAF Public Affairs

“The historian of the Second World War may, with some justification,
record that the air battle of Europe was won on the fields of the BCATP.”

- Wing Commander Fred H. Hitchens,
RCAF historian, in 1949

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s 2016 commemorative efforts will focus on one of the world’s greatest air training programs and the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the squadrons that make up the fabric of the modern RCAF.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), which ran from December 17, 1939, to March 31, 1945, was a massive Canadian program that trained aircrew from the air forces of Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, as well as personnel from other nations. By the time the program came to an end on March 31, 1945, RCAF and civilian instructors had graduated more than 131,000 pilots, navigators, wireless operators, air bombers, air gunners and flight engineers.

“This year, we mark a key period in our Royal Canadian Air Force history‎, and share our celebrations with the more than 140 Canadian communities that contributed to the massive five-year air training program that helped lead the Allies to victory in Europe,” said Lieutenant-General Michael Hood, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the formation of the first 400 series squadrons, we note that they were the product of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement and their names, legacy and professionalism live on in our squadrons today.”  

The RCAF has selected 2016 as the year to celebrate the BCATP because the RCAF’s 400-series squadrons, which came into being as a direct result of Article XV of the BCATP agreement, were first established overseas in 1941 – 75 years ago. However, as important as these squadrons are to the RCAF and its sense of identity as a national institution, the anniversary celebrations are also commemorating the entirety of the five and a half year-long training program.

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