British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan

No. 11, Service Flying Training School, Yorkton, Saskatchewan


Cesna Crane - Aircraft used by the Yorkton Flight Training School of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. 1942-1943

As early as the onset of the war in 1939, Mayor Charles Peaker and other city officials were on a quest to have the Federal Government establish a flying training school near Yorkton. The plans were promoted by the Liberal party candidate Allan McLean and Liberal Member of Parliament, George W. McPhee. Their bid was successful and construction of the facilities began in the spring of 1940 on a site a few kilometres north of Yorkton, with two relief stations located at the nearby communities of Rhein and Sturdee.

By November, the project was in a sufficiently advanced stage, to allow for the first official plane to bring Air Vice Marshall G. M. Croll and his party for an inspection. The official opening was held on June 11, 1941. It was an impressive complex consisting of 40 buildings, including a large mess hall, a 35-bed hospital, and hangars to shelter some 200 planes.

It created a boom for Yorkton, and an opportunity for close involvement with the 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 the military personnel and citizens.

The first Commanding Officer was Group Captain George R. Howsam. Students came from all over Canada, and the Commonwealth countries to perfect their 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 2000 pilots had earned their wings at the Yorkton school.

References:

- THE YORKTON ENTERPRISE, "City valiantly contributed to armed forces during war years." Wednesday Oct. 6, 1965

- Philip D. Redant, YORKTON’S MILITARY HISTORY: An Outline. Originally published by the Yorkton Enterprise under "Pioneers." Undated.

- Yorkton Centennial Committee, YORKTON York Colony to Treasure Chest City. 1982.

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