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Thread: Battle of Britain impact on air force recruiting

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    Default Battle of Britain impact on air force recruiting

    Hi all,

    In speaking with a veteran recently, I heard one plausible explanation for the high percentage of young men who signed on with the RCAF. He said the Battle of Britain was very much on the minds of everyone at the time and this had an impact on recruiting. "It was the way to go" he said, indicating the air force was the prestige service in many minds after 1940.

    Can anyone share anecdotal evidence of this from their neck of the woods?
    Last edited by dfuller52; 3rd December 2009 at 23:51.
    David

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    Well I don't have anything conclusive, but my grandad enlisted on the 7th October 1940. He never said why he signed up before his death but with that date I had a feeling there was a connection to the previous two months events.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    A few of the RCAF BC veterans I have spoken to told me that their fathers' WWI experiences in the trenches played a significant fact in their enlistment choices. One fellow said that aspect alone excluded the army and the convoy losses excluded the RCN.

    Having said that a lot of the RCAF service files I have looked at have the man enlisting and serving in the militia, some as early as August 1939 before volunteering for the RCAF. One fellow spent a whole six days in the army before realizing he'd rather fly.

    Dave

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    Thanks guys. I wondered about the trenches thing as that's what got Billy Bishop into the RFC.

    Some of the reasons I have been pondering are:

    The EATS/BCATP was well publicized in Canada
    Stories about the exploits of Canadian Bush Pilots
    The film Captains of the Clouds (1942), with an appearance by Billy Bishop
    Billy Bishop himself and his prominence in WW2
    The school I am researching was a senior matriculation school, i.e. better students who went on to university (many of my guys were pilots and navigators).

    Some of my subjects were early RCAF (one was pre-war) but most signed on in 1942-43 and began arriving in England in 1943-44.

    Any similar notions from England, Australia or NZ that anyone can think of?
    David

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    David;

    Early in the war the RCAF had fairly high education requirements for aircrew, which may have skewed the statistics for schools like Malvern. These requirements only dropped later in the war when all the bright kids were not enough.

    From reading, and talking years ago to older relatives, I think the memories of the trenches were very much on peoples minds at the time. It was only a little over 20 years from the end of trench warfare to the start of the Second Great Unpleasantness. Just about every one of your Malvern boys probably had a relative or neighbour either wounded or killed in the First War, or who shared personal stories. To put 20 years into perspective, that's like you and me today remembering hairstyles, clothes, and music from the late 1980s. It doesn't seem all that long ago (at least to old farts like me).

    Certainly, many Canadian politicians and senior military people had personal memories of the first war, which made the BCATP a logical choice in their minds. From what I've read, Mackenzie-King early on hoped that taking on the BCATP would even keep Canadians from flying in the war in Europe. His concern, he said in his writings, was a mix of memories of the first war, and concern about re-election after the voters started to see the casualty lists from the war he had got them into. As a result, the government made a major push for RCAF recruitment and RCAF production, and was willing to support things like Captains of the Clouds.

    Another point to ponder: the line "aerodrome of democracy", made famous by FDR, was coined by a minor Canadian diplomat who was a veteran of trench warfare - Mike Pearson. (For you non-Canucks, he later became Canadian PM and won a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting UN peace keeping forces.)
    Last edited by Bill Walker; 5th December 2009 at 01:11. Reason: added last para

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    Ian Macdonald sent me this reply, which he had intended to post here (thanks again, Ian):

    If you have not already consulted HIGH FLIGHT, AVIATION AND THE CANADIAN IMAGINATION Jonathan F. Vance, Penguin Canada, 2002, ISBN 0-14-301345—9, I would recommend it.

    While not directly concerned with WWII RCAF recruitment and enlistment it sets it in context and provides a lot of interesting comment on the press and CBC coverage of the war which would have certainly influenced those young men and women. He states, It would be difficult to overestimate the impact of the Blitz on Canadian opinion. A good read, too.
    David

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