After attending Manning Depots and Initial Training Schools, the next step for British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) recruits was attending Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS).
In June 1940, the decision was made to establish an Elementary Flying Training School at Sky Harbour Airport, located just north of Goderich. The school was operated by the Kitchener-Waterloo Flying Club as part of the BCATP.
In October 1940, the first group of 35 students arrived. For many it would be their first time in an airplane. As the war went on, the school continued to expand, and by June 1942 the school could accommodate 240 students. No. 12 EFTS also became the largest industry in Goderich during this time, employing over 500 personnel.
The first EFTS courses lasted 8 weeks. Students attended 126 hours of ground lectures and logged 50 hours of combined flying time under daytime and nighttime conditions. After 8 hours of flying with an instructor, students would start flying solo.
Men who did not pass their courses or flying tests would “washout” and be reassigned to another service in the Air Force, such as Air Navigation or Air Gunners. Men who successfully completed all components of the course graduated to Service Flying Training Schools located across the country.
Royal Navy – Fleet Air Arm
By 1943, the RAF had a surplus of pilots and the demand for new pilots decreased. To continue making use of the school, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm started training their pilots at No. 12 EFTS.
In July 1944, the school was closed and the site was repurposed as No. 102 Aircraft Holding Unit.
Notable people affiliated with No. 12 EFTS
Marion Orr was hired in 1942 as a control tower operator and left at the end of the year to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, ferrying aircraft to England for the remainder of the war. She is the subject of a Historica Canada Heritage Minute.
Jackie Rae was a vaudeville performer prior to the war. He later became a Canadian and British Television star as host of The Jackie Rae Show, Spot the Tune, and The Golden Shot. For his service during WWII, Rae was given the Distinguished Flying Cross.
David Hornell was the first member of the RCAF to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He received the award posthumously, for “valour and devotion to duty” during a U-boat attack. On June 24, 1944, after sinking a German submarine, Hornell was forced to land his damaged aircraft in the sea. He spent several hours in water waiting to be rescued, succumbing to his injuries shortly after help arrived.
Joe McCarthy, an American who joined the RCAF, was part of the "Dambuster" squadron that attacked Moehne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in Germany. This dangerous mission was the inspiration for the film The Dam Busters. He received a Distinguished Service Order and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.