75th Anniversary of First Training Flight at Former British Pilot Training School to be Celebrated

The former Royal Air Force (RAF) Station De Winton, located southeast of Calgary in the Municipal District of Foothills, will be the site of a ceremony honouring the history of this World War II flying training school. The unveiling and dedication of a plaque will take place on the airfield site at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15. The airfield is located at the eastern end of Dunbow Road and approximately one kilometer south on Range Road 284. An alternate route is east on Highway 552 then north on Range Road 284.

The school, Number 31 Elementary Flying Training School, was transported from England in April 1941 to its site near the confluence of the Highwood and Bow Rivers. The first training flight took off on June 15, 1941.

This airfield, like six others established by the Canadian government specifically for the initial flying training of RAF personnel, was fully incorporated into the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in July 1942. During its operating years, the school trained students from 20 free or occupied countries including Commonwealth countries, France, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Poland, Belgium and Holland. The school’s float in the 1943 Calgary Stampede Parade heralded the international makeup of its student body with the slogan “We teach the world to fly”.

Special honours, including Honourary Wings from the Czechoslovakian Military Mission and the Belgium Military Service Cross, were presented to Squadron Leader R. Watts, the school’s commanding officer. In May 1943 the school earned the “Cock of the Walk” trophy for achieving the highest efficiency of any flying training school in the Commonwealth.

A fly-past of three historic aircraft of the types used at the school will conclude the program. A reception will be held at the Davisburg Community Hall where artifacts and documents from the school will be on display. Funding for the commemorative plaque is being provided by the Okotoks and District Historical Society.