Amica at Arbutus Manor
Royal Canadian Air Force – #1 Squadron – Served 3 years
In September 1943, a very young girl left her home in the Okanagan – Joan had volunteered to be a member of Canada’s Air Force.
With other volunteers, Joan took the local train to Sicamous, British Columbia, where the next morning they caught the train to Ottawa. During her journey, Joan realized what a large and beautiful country we lived in. On arrival, she was amazed at the number of brick houses compared to British Columbia where they were mostly made of wood.
Arriving at the Rockcliffe Air Force Base, Joan was assigned to #1 Squadron. After basic training, she stayed on to help with the arriving technical trainees (TTs). She was then posted to Toronto for four weeks of Specialist training and then on to Trenton, the largest Commonwealth Air Training Plan (CATP).
Like everyone in her class, Joan had a desire to fly! After miles of red tape right up to the Squadron Leader, Joan was the lucky one to be selected. Geared up for flying with a flight suit, boots, helmet and a parachute the pilot neglected to show her how to use, Joan was ready to fly. Also on board with Joan, the inevitable brown paper bag!
“As we zoomed up and up, I lost complete control of my muscles and, my playful pilot showing off his skills, looped the loop, which did nothing to help my equilibrium! He flew through fluffy white clouds and immediately dropped down, down under the bridge over the Trent River.
“I no longer believed my heart was working. Very relieved, he brought the plane to a very smooth landing. The pilot congratulated me for not needing the brown paper bag.”
Joan was then posted back to Toronto where she worked in the “bullpen” where pilots who had been through hundreds of Sorties were discharged. Some were badly maimed while others had limbs amputated. The stories they told were incredible.
Discharged in Vancouver in July 1946, Joan never regretted her three years in a “Greatcoats and Gumboots”.
“We served, that men may fly.”