18 May 2018

Egremont's Countess


2018 — Year of Women's Empowerment. We are not quite there yet after decades of struggle and consciousness-raising. With the passage of years perhaps we take some salutary, institutionalized changes for granted ... think voting, maternity leave. All the more reason to take note of women's achievements, women who lived in the shadows of even more constricting social conditions.

Elizabeth Ilive, 'Mrs Wyndham' by Thomas Phillips, 1799, private collection of Lord Egremont.
Elizabeth Ilive (c17691822) was one of them. In 1801 she wed George Wyndham, the wealthy, handsome, gregarious 3rd Earl of Egremont. At a moment of new beginnings for most newlyweds, their story was atypical for the times:
First of all, Elizabeth had been his mistress for some fifteen years;
Secondly, she had already been living with him at his Petworth estate in Sussex and had borne him seven children at that point;
Thirdly, Elizabeth left the Earl and her established life at Petworth permanently just two years after the marriage took place.

It was not unusual that the Earl would have a mistress of a lower-class status; keeping a mistress, or a series of them, was then commonplace in aristocratic circles. George Wyndham was no exception; he shared one of his mistresses with his friend the Prince of Wales. Nonetheless, it was quite unusual to marry one of them. Despite his long commitment to Elizabeth, the Earl carried on other liaisons that eventually may have caused the estrangement.

Little seemed known about Elizabeth Ilive other than she clearly was not of the upper-class mould. Rumours of her humble origins swirled. As "Mrs Wyndham" of Petworth House during her considerable tenure, Elizabeth apparently fulfilled her family and household duties but went far beyond the norm into agricultural interests and artistic patronage. Her husband did not always approve.

Who was this woman? This woman who received a silver medal from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce for her technological invention? Whose scientific curiosity led to potato cultivation? Whom William Blake, that visionary poet and artist, described as a "Mighty soul in Beauty's form"?

A portion of The Egremont Family by George Romney, private collection of Lord Egremont


Historian Sheila Haines, lead researcher on the Petworth Emigration Project, became interested in Elizabeth as one of its peripheral, obscure figures. After Sheila's untimely death, her inspired colleagues took up the research: gleaning contemporary accounts, hunting down countless records (with access to Petworth House Archives), finding collateral descendants, revealing a woman almost forgotten by her own family. Elizabeth's origins and ancestors are no longer opaque. Years of hard work were turned into a remarkable book that uncovers more of Elizabeth's character and relationships (and no, the 3rd Earl has not been ignored!).

Cover portrait for the book Elizabeth Ilive, Egremont's Countess is by Thomas Phillips, Elizabeth Ilive in a blue and white turban, courtesy of The National Trust.

The National Trust is currently holding an exhibit at Petworth House: "Elizabeth Ilive: A Woman Ahead of her Time." Without the details and guidance provided by the book, the exhibit could not have been so thorough. The book, itself a significant achievement thanks to Haines, Lawson, and McCann, is available at Waterstones book store only in the UK. Interested North Americans can purchase through the authors: leighalisonlawson (at) gmail.com.

Petworth House: western facade.
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Francois Thomas - geograph.org.uk/p/428734 labelled for reuse under Creative Commons license.
From long before the Suffragettes to the "Time's Up" movement, women's stories are being told.


© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman


24 March 2018

Conference Highlight of the Year!


This year the annual conference of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) is being held in one of my favourite places: Guelph! May 31st to June 3rd.

Watch for it

Guelph home of the notable University of Guelph (venue for the conference) with the university's renowned Scottish Studies Department; McLaughlin Library; the Arboretum; the Ontario Agricultural College; and the Ontario Veterinary College. Driving into town from the 401, especially on Brock Road, you must pass the ever-sprawling and charmless outlier subdivisions before finding the campus and any essence of the old town.



Church of Our Lady

The town's core of surviving limestone buildings and Victorian homes will please the historically-minded — so many designated heritage buildings. Part of the Guelph Civic Museum's mandate is caring for the childhood home of Colonel John McCrae, our beloved First World War soldier poet. The Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate is a National Historic Site, finest work of nineteenth century architect Joseph Connolly (design said to be based on Cologne Cathedral). Yes, you will see them on one of the OGS pre-conference tours. Guelph City Hall and the Armoury are also National Historic Sites.

Homewood

You are not likely to see the Guelph Junction Railway line; the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada; Ignatius Jesuit Centre; Homewood Health Centre, pioneer of addiction treatment; "the Albion," cherished drinking spot for generations of students since 1856; or the seven recreation/nature trails within the city unless you go looking for them. Oh well. I'm not a travel agent, am I?

Accommodation for the conference is offered at the university's East Residence (non-air-conditioned) or nearby hotels such as Holiday Inn, Delta, and Days Inn. Presumably once you are registered you will be given more information about locations for lectures, workshops, and meals. I don't need to repeat here the abundance of genealogical offerings over the period; something for everyone! It's all on the conference website. https://conference2018.ogs.on.ca/

It's not unusual to share the chairmanship of the conference. What is unusual is sharing it this year with a non-Ontario resident, a non-Canadian. I'm trying to get my head around that (it's principle, not personal) for the biggest genealogy conference in this country. Maybe I'm the only one who feels strange about it.


© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman


19 March 2018

CAMELOGUE

A cross-post from camelchaser.ca, not exactly by overwhelming demand, but just to say
Second edition of CAMELOGUE now available!


Created at and for sale on Blurb.com, $15.00 Canadian; the USD equivalent is less.

Now 110 pages, stripped of "fillers" in the first edition. Approximately half the book consists of edited past adventures; the rest is added adventures since 2012. I promise there will not be a Third edition.

Here's the public description:
A personal photographic chronicle of chasing camels in Arabic countries encumbered only by gender, age, opportunity, and gentle self-delusion. Impersonating a world traveller requires permanent smiles and sign language on high alert. Strange, the writer's pull to ancient civilizations. Stranger still, baking one's tender body in near-isolated deserts. Highly recommended for lovers of animals and warm climates. Lose yourself briefly here in a different world.

"Arabic" is over-stated only in that two of the countries are not. The United States and the Netherlands. Some of the experiences were divine. Others were funny or disappointing with a variety of characters, and just one heart-attack-scary night "hill climb."

Back cover:
Brenda Dougall Merriman is well-known as a genealogist for her serious books Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records; United Empire Loyalists: A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada; and Genealogical Standards of Evidence. She writes about her Canadian, Scottish, and Latvian ancestors at https://brendadougallmerriman.blogspot.com. She also writes about other adventures on her blog CamelDabble TravelBabble at https://camelchaser.blogspot.com.

07 February 2018

A Journal That Educates

The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) is likely the most prestigious journal in North America. Published by the society based in Washington, DC — yes, it's American-produced — it serves as a model for learning and writing (www.ngs.org). Both readers and writers benefit from the published results. "The Q" is more than worth the price of membership, available in print or electronic form.

Each issue contains several articles describing how a genealogist identified an elusive ancestor or solved an intricate lineage problem. They are the type of research obstacles every family historian runs into sooner or later — missing records or missing names; too many "same name" occurrences or language or handwriting barriers.

In such case studies, the reader learns about detailed research processes or potentially new resources that could apply to his/her own research. The editors ensure a teaching medium that often traces family lines into their international origins. Skilled research methods transcend borders.

Writers who submit articles also learn. They understand it's a rigorous process, demonstrating the Genealogical Proof Standard. In fact, the editorial contribution is a master lesson in fashioning a "soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion based on the strongest available evidence." I know whereof I speak; working with the editors is like an advanced class in analysis and exposition.

The "Q" has a long history (since 1912) of being headed by distinguished editors; the appointment of new co-editors to take position in 2019 is no exception. Alison Hare CG® is a remarkable Canadian who has served nine years as a trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). That service includes editorial assistance in various capacities and work on the standards manual committee, as well as chairing the NGS newsletter competition at times. She comes from a background of journalism experience and genealogical research in different regions.

To quote from the announcement in the NGS newsletter UpFront, Alison said, “NGSQ has played an important role in my personal development, inspiring me with its high quality and continual demonstration of approaches to solve genealogical problems. It is an unexpected honor to serve as its co-editor. Alison will meet the new challenge with her personally meticulous style.

Co-editor Nancy A. Peters, CG®, CGLSM, is from North Carolina, also a BCG trustee; as a professional genealogist, she has wide research, writing, and teaching experience. May both these special women find great inspiration in their predecessors and great satisfaction in shaping a new era next year.


Correction: Dyslexic blogger has corrected Alison's comment.


© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

14 January 2018

Conference Freebies

Frivolous? Yes, but  bags. Family historians have bags.



Bags are the most popular handout at genealogical conferences. Why not? We need bags to haul not only the stuff we bring with us to the conference but also the growing masses paper, books, gadgets, snacks we collect from daily visits to the vendors.    


Pens are good. Pens are also common. But they don't last as long as bags. While re-usable drinking bottles are making inroads, fabric bags are sturdy, practical, re-usable, suiting many further purposes. If you collect indiscriminately, you have a handy carryall for every day of the month. And lest it slip your mind for a moment, a constant reminder that you have more research to do.



The oldest bag I've saved was from wayyyy back in the 1990s when Kawartha Branch hosted the Ontario Genealogical Society's (OGS) annual Conference. A small bag, perfect for library books. A little worn and ink-stained now.  


                  ~~ The gifts that keep on giving ~~

However, it would not be quite accurate to say that you can never have enough bags. Sometimes you can. Sometimes when you open the cupboard door they fall out in a messy heap. They multiply like crazy, taking up more space than the groceries you tote home in them.

Let me show a different handout from OGS. A one-time special item that anyone would find useful:



Attention, OGS and other conference organizers! How brilliant is that?!

This is a great answer for aging (who isn't?) family historians who want to capture provenance of family heirlooms, gifts received, sentimental souvenirs, and/or personal jewellery and art work — especially when we have devised certain items to certain heirs. Continuity.

Now I don't know what the cost of such an item would be, ordering in the hundreds. But doesn't it grab your fancy, just a little?




© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

02 November 2017

The Petworth Emigration Story

The collaborative historical-genealogical study known as the Petworth Emigration Project began almost thirty years ago; it is still very much alive under the sponsorship of the Jackman Foundation. 
What is it? ... in essence, the identification and background of English families that came to Upper Canada by means of an assisted emigration plan in the 1830s. The Petworth Emigration Committee was organized by Reverend Thomas Sockett of Petworth parish in Sussex; it was sponsored by George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont. Emigrants came from parishes in Sussex and beyond.

Letters written after their arrival helped to reconstruct many families and revealed their locations in Canada. Archival sources in England and Canada contributed yet more contemporary information to the entire story, and many of the involved individuals.

And at a lovely reception at the Earl of Egremont's Petworth estate in 2000, the culmination of ten years' research on about 1,800 families was published in two volumes by McGill Queens Press. The book launch was also celebrated in Canada.





The first volume lists the names and basic information of all known emigrants:

Wendy Cameron and Mary McDougall Maude. Assisting Emigration to Upper Canada: The Petworth Project, 1831-1837.

Wendy Cameron, Sheila Haines, and Mary McDougall Maude. English Immigrant Voices: Labourers' Letters from Upper Canada in the 1830s.





Detailed information can be seen on our website www.petworthemigrations.com where surname indexes and other compiled indexes aid the curious researcher. There too, descendants can post new family information and connections. 







Facebook pages were adopted early, one to encourage and maintain contact with and between descendants (Petworth Emigrants) and one relating to the parish (Petworth Emigration Project). We deposited our research material and working papers with the University of Waterloo in Kitchener, Ontario.

Associated publications
Sheila Haines, ed. 'No Trifling Matter,' Being an Account of a Voyage by Emigrants from Sussex and Hampshire ... . UK: University of Sussex Centre for Continuing Education, 1990.

Brenda Dougall Merriman. The Emigrant Ancestors of a Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1993.

Leigh Lawson. The Jackman Family in West Sussex 1565-1836. n/a, 1999.

Jane Britton. Petworth Project GA136 [Finding Aid]. University of Waterloo, Doris Lewis Rare Book Room, 2002.

Sheila Haines and Leigh Lawson. Poor Cottages and Proud Palaces: The Life and Work of Thomas Sockett 1777-1859. UK: Hastings Press, 2007.

Sheila Haines, Leigh Lawson, and Alison McCann. Elizabeth Ilive: Egremont's Countess. To be published late 2017.

Merriman, Cameron, Maude, Lawson, McCann, E.J.R. Jackman;
Haines is missing in this photo. 

New descendants, additions and corrections to family information, photographs, and even the occasional relevant letter continue to arrive via Facebook and our website. The Petworth Emigration Project remains healthy and well in the twenty-first century.


© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman




15 October 2017

A BCG Honour

A lovely honour came my way. Retired from client research as I am, and having put four personal family histories more or less adequately to paper, I feel a few degrees removed from mainstream genealogy. Nonetheless, the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has awarded me Emeritus status upon my retirement from the mandatory evaluation system. Not only was it a surprise, it is an honour few receive and honestly I feel not quite worthy.


It's true I was board-certified for thirty-eight years and served six years as a trustee, but so many others contributed much more to BCG than I. Perhaps it has more to do with growing recognition and acceptance in Canada of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and other principles promulgated by BCG. It is so pleasing to see increased awareness of the GPS and related standards spreading in this country among local speakers, workshops, and contributors to the various newsletters/journals I see.

And it's not only Canada. The growth of the Association of Professional Genealogists in many countries is influencing professionalism which is not some kind of elite word. Family historians are learning the wisdom of becoming more professional in their research planning, analysis, conclusions, and writing.

At formational meetings to establish the Association for Professional Genealogists, Joy Wade Moulton, CG, was a strong but overruled advocate for calling it Association for Professional Genealogy. The distinction is very clear to me.

It seems eons ago now that the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS) undertook from its inception to incorporate genealogical standards into the curriculum, not without a great deal of trepidation over how to present it. Teaching online was a new educational ballgame for us and had to include student-instructor interaction. Back around Y2K, we didn't exactly have a model to follow. Teamwork was essential; we had a big team and we pulled!

But it's really BCG behind the drive for principles and standards to raise consciousness in both our own beloved field and in the world of academic social sciences. Besides the board's Genealogy Standards, brilliant publications flow from board-certified peers, to mention only a few ― Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace; Tom Jones' Mastering Genealogical Proof and Mastering Genealogical Documentation; and Professional Genealogy, a Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians.

The BCG, established in 1964, is based in Washington, DC, but its examination process is open to anyone anywhere in the English language. The skills, competence, and comprehension of applicants are judged by board-certified associates ... see bcgcertification.org.

When I began to do research work for clients, there was just one such regular researcher at the Archives of Ontario — Elizabeth Hancocks, once a board-certified genealogist herself. Libby generously shared her comprehensive knowledge of the records – sometimes even the archivists consulted her – with unfailing good humour. I simply can't list all the inspiring mentors I've had, all the societies that hosted me, all the fun times (and hard work) at so many conferences, and all the exceptional friendships that stay with me.

If I have had any influence at all, I hope it's attesting that we owe it to our families — past, present, and future(and to ourselves!) — to be the best recorders of our heritage we can possibly be.

Only a genealogist will understand this image.


Other pursuits have beckoned but the fire's not out. I may have retired but one never stops being a genealogist and family historian.


© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

 

07 September 2017

Sharing the Love

At a recent genealogy conference I met a distant Facebook friend for the first time. The person was aware of this, my blog, and had visited it more than once.

I was asked:
"Brenda, why don't you consider speaking engagements? You should give talks at these conferences."
As if the idea were new. The tone was encouraging.

After a momentary blink I realized that the average blog visitor sees only the latest post and knows nothing of the blogger's history. If there is any history. Or if the visitor cares to explore a step further.

Blogger ‒ the medium ‒ does provide a "View my complete profile" page the visitor can click on. When I checked, mine says 
            "Life happens, and then we die."

Smartass, yes; biographically revealing, no. What was I thinking? Probably that a bullet-point resumé would sound just like all my contemporary colleagues who frequented perennial conference programs. 

BC Genealogical Society, Richmond BC, 1991

The answer to "considering" it, dear Facebook friend, is complex. First of all, I've done it. For twenty-five years I did it as a Certified Genealogical Lecturer®. At dozens of Ontario Genealogical Society branches and annual conferences. Dozens of venues across the country and in the U.S.A. with NGS and FGS. There were extra special events: being invited to speak at the 150th anniversary of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (1995); the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences (1996); the first and only (so far) Great Lakes Conference in Fort Wayne (1994).

With Sylvie Tremblay, Quebec City, 1996

A conference in Brandon MB saw me accidentally sharing the ensuite bathroom with David E. Gardner, author of the then-standard English genealogical textbook; I saw the Blue Jays win the World Series while on a weekend engagement in Saskatoon; I was detained at the border on the way to Grand Traverse MI; that NH motel of critical U.S. election Primaries; in 1996 I gave the APG luncheon talk, "Marrying, Divorcing, and Murdering Your Relatives" ... plenty of stories where all that came from.

Secondly, some people are born to public speaking. I am not. I had to train myself to feel comfortable, to enunciate clearly without raising my voice, to adopt a spontaneity that did not come naturally for question times. In other words, to perform. I'm a writer, not a speaker.

Thirdly, every speaker on the genealogy circuit will tell you it's not only the endless hours of preparation for your podium notes (reading a "paper" is never acceptable), it's also the timing, tailoring to audience level, creating accompanying visuals, the handouts, syllabus material, and complying with equipment and conference arrangements. Before that, thankless hours are spent composing submissions to a call for papers. Hard work.

National Institute of Genealogical Studies, 2004

Is it worth it? Oh yes. The token honorarium is negligible in the grand scheme of things. But the opportunity to be there at yet another gathering of like-minded colleagues, always learning yourself, is its own reward. Best of all, it only takes one person to thank you for a new insight, a new resource, a new research avenue, to restore equilibrium.

Speaking engagements ... one aspect of a professional genealogist's life.

Is it time to update "my complete profile"? Yesterday's child, my friend. Probably age-related. Ya think?


© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

18 August 2017

Second World War Flight Training Schools

More fascination with Canada's participation in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). In my previous lengthy post (see post below this one), I show how to access the daily reports for the Elementary Flight Training Schools (EFTS). I also mention that names are scattered throughout the reports for EFTS No. 2 at Thunder Bay. We are reminded that the city was formerly the friendly rival twins of Fort William (location of the school) and Port Arthur ... usually, but not always, friendly. For the record and besides the flight training school, the war effort in this locale included Port Arthur Shipbuilding and Canadian Car & Foundry in Fort William.

Back in Second World War days, they were smallish towns. Interaction between the school and civilians was immediate and often intense. After their flying hours, ground lectures, and homework, the flight trainees had a variety of sports programs as well as a fair amount of leisure time, so they became familiar with the towns. Outside labour was constantly necessary for the buildings and mechanical maintenance, for provisions and care of the resident air force officers and changing groups of trainees. Tours of the facility were arranged for a stream of visitors.



Random entries from the commanding officer's daily reports in the summer of 1941 recall places and businesses from the past:
The Royal Edward Hotel saw its share of beverage consumption by enthusiastic airmen on passes. The Italian Hall was one of the few other venues for social mixing. Boulevard Lake was used in a program of Tuesday night swimming – in the warmer months! Otherwise it was the YMCA. The local IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) was quick to organize regular events such as on-site dances, and as previously mentioned, the Public Library donated books and bookshelves to the school.

Fryer Studio came regularly to take photographs; they donated the Fryer Memorial Cup for flying competition among the course students. McKellar Hospital tended to an assortment of minor or major casualties from the flyers, plus the occasional unmentionable virus. Actually, an outbreak of mumps caused real fear and concern. Mahon Electric serviced the school buildings; Gibson-Elm did interior painting. Crawley & McCracken were early food caterers who did not work out for unspecified reasons. Burney's Taxi (special rates for dance nights) delivered many a pie-eyed trainee desperate to reach the school before night curfew.

It was up to civilian manager Hector Dougall to handle the construction contracts, general supplies, office services, and maintenance of aircraft and equipment. Claydon Construction was frequently mentioned with regard to construction of new runways and ongoing building needs. EA Bell was another contractor, for example, securing the "gasoline hose pits." Ditto Mr Kerr of Warren Paving Co. Both city mayors (Charles Cox, Port Arthur; Chisholm Ross, Fort William) were castigated at one time or another for arbitrarily supplementing the itineraries of important visitors, thus spoiling a strict military schedule. 

Senator Norman Paterson donated rifles for the school's rifle range, and came by several times over the duration for a chat; Judge McComber along with Mr. Elliott "of the Court House" and Mr. Boyd were given a tour. Orville Wieben of the Lakehead Flying Club lent the use of his facilities when flooding caused delays in the assembling of Oxford aircraft. Alex Sinclair was the principal of Port Arthur Collegiate Institute; he came to discuss his school's air cadet program with RCAF personnel.


 HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent, was not the only royal dignitary to visit. In late August 1941, Canada's Governor General, the Earl of Athlone and his wife Princess Alice arrived by train for one of those highly organized tours coordinated by various interested parties. The daily report relates the unhappiness of the school's commanding officer with the organizing elements:
This meeting was at times quite stormy as the mayor and his committee had, without consulting the Services, indicated that a guard of honor would be supplied at the railway depot. Furthermore, although this visit of the Governor General was to inspect war industries at the Lakehead, the civil authorities had endeavored to increase his itinerary by omitting to mention war industries such as the 102nd Training Centre, but instead had included the mountain view from the first ledge of Mt. McKay and such like. This is recorded in this Diary because it is the normal idea adopted by the local authorities here, that the local view for an item of inspection is far more important than Units of this nature and other centres of equal importance.
(The 102nd Training Centre comprised the EFTS complex.)
Mount McKay, Fort William

I must say the daily reports are also contain names of basic training students, flying conditions, and RCAF personnel. Who went on to advanced flight school, who "washed out," who had accidents with the airplanes ... it's all there in No. 2 EFTS. Might be worth another go at extracting. I see there are also daily reports on the same microfilm reel C-12336 for:
Malton, Ontario (No. 1 EFTS)
London, Ontario (No. 3 EFTS)
Boundary Bay/Sea Island, Vancouver (No. 8 EFTS)
Stevenson Field, Winnipeg (No. 14 EFTS)
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (No. 14 EFTS)
Edmonton, Alberta (No. 16 EFTS)
Caron, Saskatchewan (No. 18 EFTS)
Chatham, New Brunswick (No. 21 EFTS)
L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec (No. 22 EFTS)
Pearce, Alberta (No. 36 EFTS)
Windsor Mills, Quebec (No. 4 EFTS)
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (No. 6 EFTS)

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

20 July 2017

Aerodrome of Democracy

"Aerodrome of Democracy" ... U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous description of Canada's massive contribution to Second World War aviation. Over 50,000 pilots were among 130,000 air crew trained in this country.[1]

Schools were set up to train not only pilots but also navigators, mechanics, wireless operators, gunners, and so on. Thousands of young Brits, Canadians, and even some Americans were processed here, swelling the population of the communities they briefly joined; a significant number of men returned after the war to settle here.

Admittedly, this post relates to my own family history but possibly of interest to others. The British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) 1940-1945 was a widely- and well-organized home effort in Canada (it was also active down under in Australia and New Zealand). We seem to hear little of it in regard to military matters that affected our ancestors ― and yet there it is on the Veterans Affairs Canada website: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/second-world-war/british-commonwealth-air-training-plan.


Civilian participation was crucial in the beginning; local flying clubs and experienced flying instructors were the first to mobilize. In many cases, new airfields had to be constructed. The Plan quickly grew into Canada's major role of the Second World War under the administration of the RCAF, with 231 sites for schools around the country at its height. It was so successful at graduating aircrew that by 1943 they had to pull back somewhat.
The organized training of a successful air crew candidate would take between 50 and 90 weeks, often depending on the demand for various types of air crew which altered at different times. After recruitment, participants were sent to one of an eventual total of seven Manning Depots for an introduction to military life. It was here their path for aerial training was determined. 
Those chosen for pilot training then proceeded to one of seven Initial Training Schools (ITS) to take part in a ten-week course in pre-flight training. From here, pilot trainees were posted to one of 30 Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS) (operated by government-supported civilian Flying Clubs across Canada) for eight weeks of flight instruction. 
After soloing on Moths or Finches and an assessment of whether pilot aptitudes would be best suited for single-engine fighter, multi-engine bomber or transport, the successful neophyte headed off to one of 29 Service Flying Training Schools (SFTS) -twenty of these were twin-engine schools- for advanced training on more powerful aircraft. It was at the successful completion of this course that pilots finally won their coveted wings.[2]

DeHavilland Tiger Moth was a popular training plane
The family connection is with Elementary Flight Training School (EFTS) No. 2 at Fort William, Ontario (since incorporated with Port Arthur to become Thunder Bay). Hector F. Dougall had been the first president of the Fort William Aero Club, later named the Lakehead Flying Club, and became civilian manager of the wartime school. It was designated No. 2 (Malton, Ontario, was No. 1 ― now the site of Toronto's Pearson International Airport) thanks to wartime Minister of Munitions and Supply, C.D. Howe, who happened to be Port Arthur's MP.

I knew little about this period in Thunder Bay: DeHavilland Tiger Moths were used for pilot training. Some thirty machines were always operational, housed in two purpose-built hangars.[3] The runways were the flying club's original grass strips until 1943. In 1941, Dougall posed with official visitors. The middle uniform is HRH Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942), at the time an air commodore in the RAF; he was a pilot himself and strongly believed that aviation proclaimed the future. The Duke was to die a year later in a plane crash.


Could I learn more? RCAF records seemed to be indicated; they are held at Library and Archives Canada in the former RG 24, now R112-522-X. But many of the EFTS's microfilmed daily reports have been digitized on Héritage (http://heritage.canadiana.ca). No name indexes here and no list of contents ... you will have to scroll patiently through the chronological daily reports and other items. The access path is given below. I would like to hear if anyone else has good luck!

EFTS No. 2 was on microfilm reel C-12336, officially opened on 24 June 1941 with an agreement between the RCAF and the civilian operating company, Thunder Bay Air Training School Ltd. The Air Force supplied planes and relevant equipment, office furnishings, accommodation for their supervisors, and the like. The company provided flight instructors, clerical staff, the "operating and maintenance of aircraft and equipment," and contractors for building runways, barracks, and necessities. It seems to me from the accumulated context that the company also acted as a liaison between the school itself and the two towns it bordered.

At first CSO Johnson's reports are perfunctory ― weather good, flying this morning, ground studies this afternoon. By the spring of 1941 they develop into detail about who "washed out" or who graduated to an intermediate level school. Much internal business about scheduling, personnel changes, examinations, sprinkled with names. There is constant turnover of trainees, plus repairing and upgrading the facilities. Visitors are noted; crashes and collisions by trainees are described; familiar local names crop up as visitors, facilitators, contractors. Much excitement when Oxford training planes arrived.

Oxford Airspeed

Company president Dougall is mentioned here and there, at one point earning the undisguised admiration of the CSO and numerous witnesses by physically ejecting from the site an obnoxious employee. Recreation for the trainees included a weekly dance hosted by local young ladies. Other activities included "deck tennis," horseshoe pits, softball, football, a rifle range, weekly movies and dances, concerts, and swimming at Boulevard Lake or the YMCA. Billiards tables, bookcases, books, and more were donated by the towns.

The school produced a newsletter called The Thunderer with a lot of frat house-type content frowned on by the CSO as "an undesirable form of wit". Rivalry between RAF and RCAF candidates became obvious in sports and the social scene; hints abound about some rather "riotous" graduation celebrations. It strikes me that they were fond of poetry (and composing doggerel). These men had an intense but exhilarating time, never to forget their training days. "The Spirit of Thunder Bay" was one of many poems. Here are the last two stanzas from "Ave Atque Vale Coursus" by "Howdy" Sutton in Vol. 1 No. 4:

Now you leave this place, 
And we here know, that in the race 
To strike the blow For Liberty and Grace, 
Your names will show.
God speed and Luck we say, 
And hope we all, on a certain day 
You will recall, that spot called Thunder Bay, 
Where we were friends.

The Duke of Kent arrived in a Lockheed aircraft on 19 August 1941, a visit timed with military precision for two or three stops in the area. Among the UK accompaniment was a Scotland Yard bodyguard. Senator Paterson lent one of the four cars for the occasion. Met by squadron leader Johnson and higher BCATP officers, the Duke inspected the Honour Guard, was presented to Dougall who introduced civic dignitaries, and quickly toured the facilities. He did manage a private "interview" with Dougall, but altogether the royal visit was cut shorter than expected because Port Arthur Ship Building Yards had been added to the itinerary. Johnson's report refers disparagingly to the Port Arthur mayor obliviously creating an unforgiveable delay: "Mayor Cox having organised, rather disgracefully, a tour of the hill city."

The access path to these fascinating records is:
Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx) > Online Research > Military Heritage > War Diaries, Ship Logs and Operations Record Books > Air - Second World War (1939-1945) and Korean Conflict > Advanced Archives Search where you note three search-term boxes. Enter 24-104a in the first box and a location (e.g. Fort William) in the second box (24-104a is the LAC Finding Aid to the collection). This should give you the archival description, the volume number, and the microfilm reel number for your chosen location, assuming a BCATP facility existed there. You might receive more than one result. Now you are ready to see if Héritage has digitized the material you want, by entering the microfilm number into their search box at http://heritage.canadiana.ca.

Besides the obvious ― such daily reports may include in-house newsletters ― where else to look? Ceremonies were held for the openings; adjacent towns welcomed the new arrivals with social activities; tours were often given ... think local newspapers and aviation club histories. Municipal archives and town museums are another possible source of information. In addition, perhaps of interest:

Brandon, Manitoba, has the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum (http://www.airmuseum.ca/). The website is featuring Vignettes of the schools and related wartime memories for Canada's 150th anniversary. Another research project is gradually adding daily reports of the BCATP training schools from the RCAF digital images at ritage.

The archival catalogue of the Canadian War Museum is not online at this time. They do have some BCATP periodicals of the wartime period (also many artifacts and photographs), but best to contact their Research Centre for a search: http://www.warmuseum.ca/learn/research-collections/.

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada at Nanton, Alberta (http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/main_museum.html), commemorates servicemen and aircraft of the bomber command and BCATP.

National Air Force Museum of Canada (http://airforcemuseum.ca/en/) in Trenton, although it does not specifically refer to BCATP in its online collections.

Whether you have a Canadian or British airman ancestor, or maybe a civilian employee at the schools, the BCATP might provide a glimpse into a brief but important window of his life. I am extremely grateful for the expertise and patient assistance of noted military historian Glenn Wright in this endeavour.


[1] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/british-commonwealth-air-training-plan/.
[2] Rich Thistle, British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada (https://www.richthistle.com/about/articles/41-british-commonwealth-air-training-plan-in-canada).
[3] Jim Lyzum, Aviation in Thunder Bay (Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 2006), 35.

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman