Click photo to enlarge
but nothing could destroy those three months spent in Winnipeg. I for one made many friends and still hear from them regularly, often with an item of news from the Winnipeg Tribune enclosed. Its good to know that even though such a distance separates us there's still a firm bond of friendship which I hope will never be broken.
Perhaps since that time there have been many groups of observers go through that school, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, English, even others, but none can have been welcomed with such open arms as we were. Thank you Winnipeg, on this first anniversary of our arrival at the gateway to the West.
Although we had six month together in Manitoba, progressing from keen but not too capable navigators in the early stages to fully trained observers by June, our paths since have been wide apart. We separated to various final training units all over England and Scotland. Afterwards some once again departed overseas, some were posted to bomber squadrons.
By now all are putting into practice the arts of navigation and bombing learned in a very peaceful situation but now exercised in a different one. We are proud to be helping to get those bomb loads to the target and then to direct the pilot safely home. And what a pleasure it is to land, often at night with very little light, knowing that once again one's small part in the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) effort has been carried out successfully.
Perhaps to end on a sad note. a few are known to have lost their lives. A few others are reported missing after operations. They unfortunately cannot express their appreciation, but we who remain do once again say we'll remember January, 1941, as beginning something we shall never forget.
There's always that hope that Winnipeg will be able to give us another welcome in happier circumstances.
Yours very sincerely,
One of the first class at No. 5 A.O.S.
From a Royal Air Force Station somewhere in England a letter arrived at the Tribune today to remind Winnipeg of an anniversary and of the passing of another year of war. It came from an Air Force sergeant who prefers to be anonymous except that he was one of the first class of air observers at No. 5 Air Observer School, Stevenson Field. That school opened Jan. 6 1941.
Bond Of Friendship
Some of the raw recruits who came to Winnipeg that zero day from Britain have died in air battles, some are missing, others are still carrying on with the training they got in Winnipeg. But here is the letter:
A Sergeant's Mess R.A.F. Station Somewhere In England, Nov.13, 1941.
By time you read this letter an anniversary will have arrived, an anniversary of an event which a group of English boys will never forget.
Do you remember how Winnipeg opened its new school for observers at Stevenson Field at the beginning of 1941? Now the beginning of 1942 approaches and perhaps you'd like to mention us again. Much has happened in these 12 months
No. 5 Air Observers School opened on January 6 1941. It provided instruction for navigators under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan for 1,575 days, closing on February 17 1945. It took over the location of No. 14 Elementary Service Flying School which was moved to Portage la Prairie Manitoba. No. 5 AOS was located in Winnipeg Manitoba on 60 acres of land at Stevenson Field on what is now the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport . The school was a civilian operation run by a company known as the Claydon Company Limited, located in St. Vital, now a suburb of Winnipeg. When it first opened, No. AOS employed 130 civilian of which 20 were pilots and the rest were mechanics, ground crew and technicians. The Royal Canadian Air Force provided instructors for the school. The school relied on the Avro Anson aircraft for training.
In 1943, new facilities were built on the southwest side of Stevenson Field. The new school had 33 structures and student numbers increased by three times. Winnipeg’s No. 3 Wireless School moved into the former Air Observer School buildings. Other neighbours included No. 8 Repair Depot which employed 480 employees and the MacDonald Bros wing factory which employed 800 employees.
Much of the above information came from the Manitoba Historical Society web site: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/airobserversschool5.shtml
In his work at the Commonwelth Air Training Plan Museum converting British Commonwealth Air Training Plan station reports to searchable text, Harry Hayward ran across the following newspaper article which has strong ties to No. 5 Air Observers School.
EXTRACT FROM WINNIPEG TRIBUNE - JANUARY 5TH, 1942
LETTER BRINGS REMINDER OF FIRST ENGLISH AIRMEN
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 037 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan School
No. 5 Air Obsever School
429 Squadron Halifax bomber "W" Winnipeg parked in England in 1944