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No. 11 Service Flying Training School (Yorkton)

In order to participate in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), which was established in Canada in 1939 at the onset of World War II, Mayor Charles Peaker of Yorkton and other politicians, including the Liberal member of Parliament for the area, George W. McPhee, asked the federal government to establish a flying training school near that city. Their bid was successful, and construction of facilities for the training station began in the spring of 1940, on a site a few kilometres north of Yorkton. Two relief stations were also built at the nearby communities of Rhein and Sturdee. The station at Yorkton was an impressive complex consisting of 40 buildings, including a large mess hall, a 35-bed hospital, and hangars to shelter some 200 planes.

By November 1940, work on the project had progressed to a sufficient stage to allow for an official opening on June 11, 1941. The first commanding officer of the station was Group Captain George R. Howsam. The station created a boom for Yorkton, bringing opportunities for the city to become closely involved with its airmen and airwomen. A hostess club was organized, with headquarters on the third floor of the old city hall, which provided a diversity of social events for military personnel and local citizens. Students came from all over Canada and the Commonwealth to perfect their flying skills. They flew North American Harvards and twin-engine Cessna Cranes—unfortunately not without a few fatal accidents. By the end of the war in 1945, an estimated 2,000 pilots had earned their wings at the Yorkton school.

Therese Lefebvre-Prince

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