Saskatchewan in war: the social impact of the British commonwealth air training plan on Saskatchewan
Over 131,000 aircrew were trained by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Saskatchewan air schools trained twenty percent of the pilots and thirty percent of some categories of aircrew. The numbers were impressive. There were many social ramifications with the coming of the Air Training Plan. Saskatchewan had suffered more than any other province of Canada during the Great Depression. The air schools brought economic recovery, as well as the stress, of housing shortages and tension brought by large numbers of personnel arriving in the small communities. In spite of these strains, the population responded with warm acceptance. Patriotism was important in the good relations between the air schools and the host communities. The people of the province opened their homes to the airmen at Christmas. The airmen, in turn, acted to help with the harvests across the province.
In the early years of the war Saskatchewan found her population greatly decreased because of enlistments and the migration of people out of the province to the industrial centres of Canada. This lower population of the province created a need for the air personnel to participate in cultural and sporting events in the communities. The schools provided bands where the local community had lost their band or never had one. Civilians brought the schools stage shows and concerts. Schools and communities united to produce fairs and carnivals. Air personnel and civilians danced together. Airmen and airwomen became the central figures in local sports. In the hockey season of 1942-43, the airmen took over the senior hockey league in the province. In cultural and sporting events, the airmen, airwomen and the local civilians united as one community.
Only the Service Flying Training School at Moose Jaw reported friction between civilians and airmen. The violence at Moose Jaw in 1944 was the result of poor morale and discipline among a group of airmen. The disturbances were important because they demonstrated the potential for friction between civilians and air personnel.
Patriotism, economic recovery and the unity of air schools and host communities for the war effort brought a significant and lasting change to the province. The Second World War was an important chapter in Saskatchewan history that cannot be ignored.