Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Brandon, Manitoba

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Training For Freedom



Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is Canada's only museum dedicated solely to preserving the history and artifacts of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (B.C.A.T.P.) or ("The Plan") of 1939-1945.

The following excerpts will enable the reader to better understand the reason for establishing the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum and it's provincial, national, and international importance.

In the 1930's the Nazi regime of Germany was under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler. The German armed forces were obliged to carry out the plan of Hitler as outlined in his writings in Mein Kampf, under which he pledged to dominate Europe and the world. His military used force to take over a great deal of Europe while Britain, France, and other nations attempted to appease him. However his relentless invasion of nation after nation continued. He blamed Jewish, and other non Aryans for all the ills of mankind and embarked on a campaign of internment, torture, and extermination of those who did not meet his criteria as true to his race and creed.

This action inflamed the rest of the western world. He had to be stopped. Finally an ultimatum was delivered to Hitler that should he carry out his threat to gain free use of the Polish port of Danzig by invading Poland then Britain and France would declare war on Germany.

The threat did nothing to deter Hitler so when he invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 war was declared by Britain and France on September 3, and by Canada on September 10.

It had long been recognized that the next war would, to a great extent, be fought by air forces. Germany was well ahead of anyone else in air power so the British Commonwealth was aware of the necessity to rapidly develop its air combat resources.

History of the Creation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The first World War set a precedent for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan ( B.C.A.T.P. ) in Canada. Fully two thirds of the 21,000 Canadians who served in Britain's air forces in the First World War entered through the RFC/RAF Canada, a recruiting and training organization established in Canada but controlled from London and commanded by a British officer.

The B.C.A.T.P. had its origins in the pre-war determination of the strategic requirements of the RAF. The RAF proceeded to rebuild itself in the same manner that it had during the first World War when a large portion of the aircrew was drawn from outside Britain. Candidates were selected and trained in their home countries and arrived in Britain as fully qualified pilots under the command of the RAF. Canada insisted that for WW II Canadian trainee graduates would eventually be under the command of the RCAF.

On 17 December 1939, agreement was reached between the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada on the training of pilots and other aircraft crews in Canada for subsequent service overseas. The Canadian government initially agreed to construct some 60 entirely new air training schools and to expand 20 existing smaller units. The R.C.A.F. would provide the training facilities to support the B.C.A.T.P..

The purposes of the B.C.A.T.P. were:

- to train air and ground crew for use in a combined Commonwealth effort to defeat the Axis Powers (Germany and Italy);

- to use facilities in Canada for this training plan. Canada had almost unlimited space, good flying conditions, and was at a safe distance from the scene of war;

- to be a meeting and training place for Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand and other Commonwealth personnel, as well as those who escaped from occupied Europe.

Scope of the B.C.A.T.P.

Initially "The Plan" was to consist of; 3 Initial Training Schools, 13 Elementary Flying Training Schools, 16 Service Flying Training Schools, 10 Air Observer Schools, 10 Bombing and Gunnery Schools, 2 Air Navigation Schools and 4 Wireless Schools. Additional supporting facilities for recruitment, training, maintenance, and administration brought the total to 74 schools and units. All units of the original program, except for three bombing and gunnery schools, were in operation by the end of September 1941, seven months ahead of schedule. During 1941, 1,218 buildings of various types were completed and 28 new schools were opened.

B.C.A.T.P. changes were readily absorbed. In July 1940, the Canadian government accepted a British proposal to move 14 RAF schools to Canada. The next year, the RAF indicated that it wanted to relocate even more schools, bringing their numbers to 35, along with four operational training units and No. 31 Personnel Depot. Under a new agreement signed in June 1942, the termination date of the B.C.A.T.P. was extended to March 1945 from March 1943. The B.C.A.T.P. reached it's peak at the end of 1943 with 73 B.C.A.T.P. and 24 RAF flying schools in operations, supplemented by 184 ancillary units. At the outbreak of war in 1939 Canada had a total of 4,061 personnel in the R.C.A.F. At the peak of the war in 1944 there were 253,000 in the R.C.A.F.

During its five-year life, the "The Plan" involved almost 360 units and schools operating from approximately 230 sites, not including relief airfields. "The Plan" exceeded expectations: 131,553 aircrew from four nations were trained as well as some 44,000 ground crew, including approximately 17,000 in the Women's Division. While the purposes & the glory of the "Plan" was training aircrew this training could not have been carried out without the ground crew. It is generally concede that it took ten persons on the ground to keep one in the air. The training of ground crew was just as rigorous as that of the aircrew but generally less appreciated by the general population. Ground crew consisted of everything from aero engine mechanics(fitters) & air frame mechanics(riggers), instrument technicians, administration, vehicle mechanics & drivers to cooks, service police & some in other trades & occupations. More than 100 new airfields were built and many more vastly improved and expanded.

In terms of manpower involved, deadlines met and financial expenditure, the building of "The Plan" exceeded the building of the CPR. It was an undertaking whose success was underpinned by Canadian contractors, flying clubs, other government agencies and the ordinary person in the street. After the war and even today "The Plan's " legacy serves Canada.

The accomplishments were both numerous and impressive:

  • Some 8,300 buildings erected of which 700 were hangars or of hangar-type construction;fuel storage totalling more than 26 million gallons installed;
  • 300 miles of water mains and a similar length of sewer mains laid, involving two million cubic yards of excavation;
  • 100 sewage treatment and disposal plants and 120 water pumping stations completed;
  • Steam generation approached 80,000 horsepower; and
  • More than 2,000 miles of main power lines and 535 miles of underground electrical cable placed, servicing a total connected electrical power load of over 80,700 horsepower.
  • What it all cost.

    The original figure of $600,000,000 for the three year plan was thrown overboard early in the summer of 1941 when the Minister for Air estimated the joint expenditure of all countries to March 31, 1943, (the date the agreement will have to be renewed) would be $824,000,000, plus $28,000,000 for the completion of training pupils then in advanced schools. A rough breakdown of the $824 millions estimate shows this division:

    (a)United Kingdom contributions in kind (aircraft, engines and spares) -----------------------------------------------------------------------------$194,000,000;

    (b)Canada alone - being the cost of Recruiting and Manning Depots, Initial Training and Elementary Training of Canadian pupils ----$120,000,000;

    (c) Costs shared by Canada, Australia and New Zealand (of advanced training)--------------------------------------------------------------------$510,000,000;

    Total -----------$824,000,000.

    The final cost of the B.C.A.T.P. ended up being $2,231,129,039.26 of which Canada contributed $1,617,958,108.79.

    Britain's Sir Winston Churchill referred to "The Plan" as Canada's greatest contribution to the Allied victory in WW II. Because of "The Plan", U.S.A. President Roosevelt referred to Canada as "The Aerodrome of Democracy". By 1945 the Royal Canadian Air Force had become the worlds 4th largest Air Force.

    Manitoba's Training Establishments.

    #1 Central Navigation School - Rivers.

    #10 Service Flying Training School - Dauphin with satellite fields at North Junction & Valley River.

    #12 Service Flying Training School - Brandon with satellite fields at Chater & Douglas.

    #17 Service Flying Training School - Souris with satellite fields at Hartney & Elgin.

    #18 Service Flying Training School - Gimli with satellite fields at Netley.

    #33 Service Flying Training School - Carberry (RAF) with satellite fields at Oberon & Petrel.

    #3 Wireless School - Winnipeg.

    #7 Bombing & Gunnery School - Paulson.

    #3 Bombing & Gunnery School - MacDonald.

    #5 Air Observers School - Winnipeg.

    #7 Air Observers School - Portage La Prairie.

    #14 Elementary Flying Training School - Portage La Prairie.

    #19 Elementary Flying Training School - Virden.

    #26 Elementary Flying Training School - Neepawa

    #2 Manning Depot - Brandon.

    #7 Equipment Depot - Winnipeg.

    #8 Repair Depot - Winnipeg.

    #2 Training Command Headquarters - Winnipeg.

    Legacy Of The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan For Manitoba

    When the war was over many of the training bases were converted to civilian use thus providing several more airfields than would have been the case had the B.C.A.T.P. not existed.

    The training establishment changed the social and economic conditions in many communities for ever. For example the influx of 1,500 or more trainees and staff were added to places such as Virden, Neepawa, Souris, etc.. Hundreds of B.C.A.T.P. buildings became community halls, hockey rinks, housing, and business structures.

    National Legacy

    Because young men & women from all parts of Canada came together during training, it was probably one of the greatest unifying forces in our history.


    The Museum had its beginnings in 1980 when a local group headed by Ed Baker became concerned that several trainer aircraft owned by Wes Agnew of Hartney, Manitoba, would be sold to foreign interests. Mr. Agnew was a R.C.A.F. Flight Instructor in the B.C.A.T.P. and had a desire to see a Museum formed to honour the men and women who trained under "The Plan". A deal was struck with Mr. Agnew and his five aircraft formed the nucleus around which the Museum was formed.

    The C.A.T.P.M. was incorporated in the Province of Manitoba as a Non-Profit, Charitable organization March 4, 1981. Registered with Revenue Canada November 1, 1981 as a Charity under Registration No. 10106 9029 RR 0001.

    The Museum opened in 1981 in Hangar No. 1 at the Brandon Airport. Located one mile north of the City, the airfield was the site of No. 12 Service Flying Training School operated by the B.C.A.T.P. during World War II.

    Construction of the school, in which the museum is located, began on November, 1940 and was completed and opened for service on May 10, 1941. The Hangar was one of five built at #12 SFTS and was used to hangar the Cessna Crane aircraft which were used for pilot training.

    The hangar was decommissioned on March 30, 1945.

    The mandate of our museum is to collect, preserve, restore, and display artifacts of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (B.C.A.T.P.) and to commemorate the 18,039 who gave their lives while in the R.C.A.F. between 1939 and 1945.

    During the formative years a concerted effort was mounted by volunteers to retrieve and store over fifty airframes and hundreds of parts for various aircraft from farms on the Prairies. This cache of parts has enabled the Museum to rebuild several aircraft and will serve as a source of restoration material for many years to come.

    The airport is now administered by the City of Brandon and the Museum premises are leased from the City under a long-term lease at nominal cost. Museum aircraft have access to the airport runways for flying activities.

    Funding for initial operation was by way of Charter Member fees, individual and service club donations. In 1984 a "Destination Manitoba" grant enabled the Museum to improve the premises and secure title to several trainer aircraft.

    A Dedication Ceremony on June 4, 1984 dedicated the museum as a Memorial to all of Canada's airmen and airwomen who died in training and operations during World War II.

    Once the Museum opened, individuals began to donate other artifacts used during training and actual operations overseas.

    One of the major undertakings was the research and the compiling of a "Memorial Book" containing the names and short biography of each of the Canadian airmen and women lost in training and operations during World War 11. Also included are the names of airmen from other countries who served & died with the R.C.A.F.. This book contains over 18,000 biographies and is displayed in the Museum's Chapel. The first edition was published in 1992, sold out, and the second edition was printed in 1996.


    Our mission is to commemorate the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan by telling its story, preserving its artifacts, and, paying tribute to the over 18,000 R.C.A.F. personnel who gave their lives during WWII.


    Our purpose is to tell the story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and its place in history to the world wide community by:

  • Providing a suitable climate to experience the "artifacts of the era" in a visual, audio and tactile manner.
  • Collecting, preserving and restoring the artifacts of the era, providing a setting for reflection and remembrance, thus, the museum is a memorial to all R.C.A.F. personnel who served during WWII 1939-45.
  • We are exclusively dedicated to preserving the memory of "The Plan". We preserve the memory of all components including Air Crew, R.C.A.F. Womens Division, Nursing Sisters, Ground Crew and civilians. We have a human orientation, eg: memorial book, chapel, personnel effects, photos, etc. Also, we have a mechanical aspect, eg: static and flying aircraft, engines, motor transport and other training artifacts.
  • As stated above, we consider the "story" is as important as the "inventory" and many current stakeholders were involved with "The Plan," eg; veterans, civilian staff. The facility and artifacts are history and not re-creations.
  • We serve the world wide community as a comprehensive source of information and materials of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and its story.

    The philosophy of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is to tell the story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan with truth and objectivity with the purpose of preserving the memory and history of "The Plan".

    We are committed to the development and maintenance of a museum where:

    - volunteers feel good about working here and become ambassadors for the Museum;

    - visitors are made welcome and leave with a better understanding of "The Plan," especially the reasons "The Plan" was created and the war effort;

    - all stakeholders are satisfied about their interactions with us.


    The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-45, operated as a memorial by a group of highly motivated people oriented volunteers including veterans



    The hangar which serves as the home of the museum is in itself an artifact of "The Plan" and contains artifacts which have been donated from all over Canada, the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand. The collection now numbers over 10,000 artifacts consisting of photographs, uniforms and clothing, personal papers, logbooks, station magazines, tools, equipment, trade badges, medals, and a host of other articles used in "The Plan" and in overseas operations.

    "Barbers Book"

    Contains over 22,000 names and signatures of airmen as they received their haircuts while passing through No. 2 Manning Depot, Brandon. Photocopy on display may be read by visiting public.


    Fourteen aircraft are now on display. The Auster, Harvard, Cornell, and Stinson HW-75 are airworthy; a Cessna Crane and Tiger Moth are being restored. Eight other types of training aircraft are on static display along with a collection of various types of aircraft engines. A restored Link Trainer (early flight simulator) is also on display.

    Vehicles - R.C.A.F. - 1940's

    Staff car, Six-wheel-drive Crash Tender, Half ton truck, Ford airfield tractor, Jeep. Aircraft refuelling tanker under restoration.


    The aircraft and vehicles are housed in an authentic hangar just as they were in wartime. (Area 19,000 square feet - unheated). Other artifacts are displayed in heated display area on two levels (2,000 square feet). Heated aircraft restoration shop (3,000 square feet) and storage of 800 square feet. Souvenir shop on premises.


    In the quiet of the Chapel visitors can view the book of remembrance "THEY SHALL GROW NOT OLD", read the "we regret telegrams, view the photos of our war dead , and spend a few silent moments remembering all those young Canadians who gave their lives that we might be free



    Operated by 40 local volunteers, an executive director, a financial officer and one to three part-time staff (summer students) as required.

    Governing Body

    Twelve Directors elected by the membership.

    Membership (2007)

    Over 900 members from all, parts of Canada, the United States, England, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and other parts of the world.


  • Open daily except Christmas Day.
  • Conducted tours can be arranged. Special emphasis placed on conducted tours for school tours, 4-H, church and Scout and Guide groups.
  • After hours tours available by appointment.
  • Workshop open to the public. Actual restoration work may be viewed.
  • One flying aircraft available for special events and air shows.
  • Chapel features "Memorial Book" and private memorials placed by families of airmen and airwomen lost in training and operations.

    Campaign Chair Bob Mazer, Co-Chair Lori Dangerfield and Past President Reg Forbes are pleased to announce that the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon embarked on a Fundraising Campaign in 2004 called ABOVE AND BEYOND, to expand and upgrade the historic and unique facility. "The Plan" started with a force of 4,000 in 1939, grew to 253,000 by the peak of the war in 1944 and became the 4th largest Air Force in the world. This was a meeting and training place for Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand and other Commonwealth personnel as well as those who escaped from occupied Europe - all volunteers. It is important that the story of "The Plan" continue to be passed down to younger generations.

    The Campaign has a Five Division structure, each with a chair, to promote awareness of "The Plan's" history, and targets groups and individuals who share a connection to that history. Support can be shown in a variety of ways. In addition to cash or liquid assets, other examples are Gift in Kind, Will Bequests, Planned Giving, etc. Tax Receipts will be issued. The five ranges of recognition are:

    Friend Under $1,000.

    Bronze - $ 1,000. - $ 4,999.

    Silver - $ 5,000. - $24,999.

    Gold - $25,000. - $49,999.

    Platinum Over $50,000.

    Names of donors will be placed on a Recognition Wall for public view. This Campaign has sparked interest throughout Canada and abroad. While total preservation, expansion & upgrades will be developed over time, Phase 1 is currently underway at an estimated cost of $2.6M.

    A wise nation preserves its' records, gathers up its' muniments,, decorates the tombs of its' illustrious dead, repairs its' great public structures, and fosters national pride and love of country by perpetual references to the sacrifices and glories of the past. - Joseph Howe, August 31, 1871

    Books Relating to the B.C.A.T.P

    Aerodrome of Democracy - Hatch

    Wings For Victory - Dunsmore

    The Plan - Williams

    Training For Victory - Conrad

    Behind The Glory - Barris

    The Royal Canadian Air Force, a pictorial history - Winton

    Other suggested reading regarding the R.C.A.F. in WW II

    Aircrew memories - AirCrew Association, Vancouver Island Branch

    Memories On Parade - Wartime Pilots & Observers

    THEY SHALL GROW NOT OLD - Allison & Hayward

    For Additional Information

    Mailing Address:

    Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

    Box 3, Grp 520, RR5

    Brandon, MB R7A 5Y5



    Internet Web Page:


    The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, the Costume Museum of Canada, Winnipeg, the Manitoba Agriculture Museum, Austin, the Mennonite Heritage Village, Steinbach, the New Iceland Heritage Museum, Gimli, the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, and St. Boniface Museum, Winnipeg have all received the honour to be designated by the Province as Manitoba Signature Museums. This designation is aimed at selected museums which showcase special collections and have the potential to be significantly enhanced heritage tourism attractions.


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