RCAF Station Jarvis

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Coordinates: 42°49′44″N 080°02′39″W / 42.82889°N 80.04417°W / 42.82889; -80.04417 (RCAF Station Jarvis)

RCAF Station Jarvis
side view of university residence
The site of No. 1 B&GS in 2014.
Active 19 August 1940 – 17 February 1945
Country Canada Canadian Red Ensign 1921-1957.svg Flag of Canada.svg
Branch Royal Canadian Air Force Air Force Ensign of Canada (1941-1968).svg
Role British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
Aircrew training
Part of No. 1 Training Command
Schools No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School
Station Magazine The Fly Paper
G/C G. E. Wait - 1940
W/C W. F. Hanna - 1942
G/C A. D. Bell-Irving, MC - 1942
W/C W. Peace, DFC - 1943
G/C W. J. McFarlane - 1944
Aircraft flown
Trainer Avro Anson
Fairey Battle
Westland Lysander
Bristol Bolingbroke
North American Yale
North American Harvard

Royal Canadian Air Force Station Jarvis was a Second World War British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) station located near Jarvis, Ontario. The station was home to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School and is usually known by that name.[note 1] Bombing and Gunnery schools trained Air Gunners, Wireless Air Gunners, Air Observers, Air Bombers, and Navigator-Bomb Aimers. These airmen served as aircrew on bombers and maritime patrol aircraft.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was a temporary wartime measure that ended on 29 March 1945. No. 1 B&GS opened 19 August 1940 and closed on 17 February 1945. During this time 6,500 airmen were trained at Jarvis.[1][2][3][4]

Site selection and startup[edit]

1944 Navigation chart showing RCAF Jarvis and surrounding area. North is up, Lake Erie at bottom.[5]

Like most of the BCATP airfields, the station at Jarvis was located in a sparsely populated rural area close to rail lines and highways. Like the other Bombing and Gunnery Schools, a body of water was nearby, in this case Lake Erie, which provided space for bombing and gunnery ranges.

In 1934 American Airlines built an emergency landing strip six kilometres southeast of Jarvis.[6] This airstrip included a beacon light, radio range, and radio operator. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) used this airfield as the site for No. 1 B&GS.[7]

Construction of the airfield and facilities was overlapped with the start up of training operations. Contractors arrived on the site on 11 April 1940, followed by an advance party of airmen on 25 July 1940. The first six aircraft, Fairey Battles, flew in on 9 August 1940, and just ten days later the school opened with a class of 39 air observer trainees. Initial construction continued until early 1941.

Aircrew trades and training paths[edit]

Five different aircrew trades were trained at No. 1 B&GS. The original trades in 1940 were Air Observer, Air Gunner, and Wireless Air Gunner. By 1942 Commonwealth aircraft, their missions, and their crews had changed, and so did the trades. The Air Bomber and Navigator "B" (Bomb Aimer) trades were introduced in the summer of 1942.[8]

Most trades required access to both bombing and gunnery training, but the time spent in each section of the school varied depending on the trade. Air Gunners advanced from basic training at a Manning Depot to a 12-week gunnery course at Bombing and Gunnery School. After basic training Wireless Air Gunners went to Wireless School for 28 weeks and then came to Bombing and Gunnery School for a 4-week gunnery course. Air Gunners and Wireless Air Gunners were sent to Operational Training Units after their gunnery course.

Air Observers, Air Bombers, and Navigator-Bomb Aimers spent 8 weeks at bombing and gunnery school before moving on to Air Navigation School.


Armourers loading practice bombs at Jarvis in July 1941

The same pattern of instruction was used for both bombing and gunnery skills—ground based classroom and simulator training followed by aerial exercises. The amount of time spent in the air was low, especially between 1940 and 1942. During this early period air observers received 20 hours of aerial practice, and air gunners only 7 hours.

Bombing students learned how to use and maintain bombsights, direct the aircraft pilot during the bomb run ("right steady steady left left"), release the bombs, and record the results. Trainees dropped 5.2 kg practice bombs from Fairey Battles, Avro Ansons, or Bristol Bolingbrokes.

Gunnery students learned how to load, aim, fire, and clean Commonwealth .303 machine guns. They started by hand firing live ammunition on the 25 year range and moved on to firing the ground based aircraft gun turret at Hoover's Point. The final step was air-to-ground and air-to-air firing from Fairey Battles at ground targets or airborne drogues towed by Lysanders. Equipment for gunnery training included:

Corporal checking ammunition at Jarvis in July 1941

In November 1941 night aerial instruction was introduced and on some occasions aerial training took place 24 hours per day. By 1943 bombing and gunnery courses had been lengthened. Air Bomber trainee LAC Edmon Ryerse spent 36 hours in the air in 1943 during which time he dropped 86 practice bombs and fired 1,600 rounds of .303 ammunition from a Bolingbroke.

Bombing and gunnery trainees were required to master other skills as well. For example, to meet the standard for the Aircraft Recognition skill they had to learn to visually identify 72 different types of aircraft.[9]

The airmen and airwomen of 1 B&GS[edit]

Free people from many lands volunteered under the Air Training Plan.

A large number of American volunteers served as staff pilots at the school. Staff pilots flew a target tow aircraft, or flew a bomber for trainee gunners and bomb aimers. In January 1941, 55 of the 70 staff pilots at Jarvis were Americans. On 19 May 1942, 23 American staff pilots and 11 other American airmen stationed at Jarvis resigned from the RCAF and left to join the United States Army Air Corps.

The first trainees at Jarvis were Canadians, followed by Australians, British, Newfoundlanders, New Zealanders, Norwegians, and Poles in early 1941. In 1942 a Belgian trainee graduated.[10]

Women were admitted to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941 as members of the Women's Division - the WDs. The first WDs, 70 in number, arrived at Jarvis on 27 April 1942, and within six months airwomen were serving in many areas of the station including the control tower, the bomb plotting office, the kitchens, and the stores. Airwomen were not permitted to serve as aircrew.


The school's facilities included an airfield and camp, marine units at Port Dover and the mouth of Nanticoke Creek, and a 29 kilometer long bombing and gunnery range over Lake Erie. Individual bombing targets were located along the shoreline at Evans' Point, Peacock Point, Port Ryerse, and Turkey Point and there was a land target 6 kilometers north of Hagersville. Observation towers, quadrant huts, secondary control towers, and motor transport sections were associated with these targets.

A gunnery range featuring a gun turret mounted on rails was installed on leased property at Hoover's Point.

The airfield, marine units, and bombing and gunnery ranges were connected by a private telephone network.

"Taken on Strength"[edit]

When a person joined the staff at Jarvis or a piece of equipment was delivered an entry was made in the station's records. The person or equipment had been officially taken on strength.

By 31 December 1940, 70 officers, 556 airmen, 97 trainees, 18 attachments, and 115 civilians, a total of 856 people, were on strength at Jarvis.

Two years later 93 officers, 977 airmen, 244 trainees, 14 others and 121 civilians, a total of 1,449 people, were on the books. The station was home to a fleet of 99 aircraft: 35 Ansons, 34 Bolingbrokes, 19 Lysanders, 9 Battles, 1 Yale and 1 Harvard.

At the peak of training activity in December 1943 1,857 men and women, including 147 civilians, were on strength at Jarvis.

Notable events at No. 1 B&GS[edit]

Honours and awards[edit]

While flying at night on 27 October 1942 Pilot Officer (P/O) John Williams spotted a train on fire near Jarvis. He landed at Jarvis and organized a work party to put out the fire. Williams was awarded the George Medal for his actions.[11] Other airmen in this party were Sgt. R. Picard, L. Mayhew, Leading Aircraftman P.H. Gibson and (RAF) J. Turnstall. Picard received the British Empire Medal.[12] The train consisted of tank cars filled with gasoline, some of which had already exploded when the airmen arrived on the scene.


By 1947 the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation had scrapped the airplanes, dismantled the hangars and other buildings and sold them off, and cleared the site. For eight years it was leased to local farmers and then sold to Russell and Larry Hare, whose farm adjoined the airfield. In 1955 the site was turned into an automobile race track called Harewood Acres by the British Empire Motor Club of Toronto. Other uses were made until the property was sold in 1974 to Texaco Canada and turned into the Nanticoke Oil Refinery, which started producing oil products on 17 November 1978.[13] In 2014 the refinery remains in operation as an Imperial Oil facility.

On 21 August 1993, Imperial Oil and 412 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association erected a historical plaque dedicated to the personnel who served at the station, with the reverse side of the plaque memorializing the thirty-eight Commonwealth airmen and one civilian who died while serving at No. 1 B&GS.[14]

Scenes from No. 1 B&GS[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ the standard short form is No. 1 B.&G.S.. also shortened as No. 1 B&GS or 1 B&GS.


  1. ^ Hatch, F. J. (1983). The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945. Ottawa: Directorate of History, Department of National Defence. ISBN 0660114437. 
  2. ^ Schweyer, R. (1978). Wheeler, W. J., ed. "Jarvis: The First Three Years". The CAHS Journal. Willowdale, Ontario: Canadian Aviation Historical Society. 16 (4): 105–110. 
  3. ^ Schweyer, R. (2003). Sights On Jarvis. Nanticoke, Ontario: Heronwood Enterprises. ISBN 0969489633. 
  4. ^ Hewer, H. (2000). In for a penny, in for a pound: the adventures and misadventures of a wireless operator in Bomber command. Toronto: Stoddart. ISBN 077373273X. 
  5. ^ Air Navigation Edition Toronto-Windsor (Map) (1942 ed.). Cartography by Hydrographic and Map Service. Canada Department of Mines and Resources, Surveys and Engineering Branch. 
  6. ^ Post, Bill (2003). Jarvis and the American airlines experience. Jarvis, Ontario: Jarvis Library Guild Book Committee. p. 80. ISBN 0973249609. 
  7. ^ Schewyer, R. et al.No. 1 Bombing & Gunnery School. Local History Collection, Jarvis Public Library
  8. ^ Tyre, Robert, ed. (November 1942). "R.C.A.F. Sequence of Training Chart". The Airman's Post. No. 2 Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba: Royal Canadian Air Force. 2 (9): 13. 
  9. ^ Stierman, L.A.C. Hy., ed. (April 1942). "Grad. Letters". Sparks. No. 4 Wireless School, Guelph, Ontario: Royal Canadian Air Force, Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museum ID 1984.32.4. 1 (2): 7. 
  10. ^ "Believes 'Duty to Fight', Belgian Gets His Wing". Toronto Globe and Mail. 16 March 1942. p. 7. 
  11. ^ Anon. "Honours & Awards - RCAF Personnel 1939-1945". Air Force Association of Canada. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Anon. "Honours & Awards - RCAF Personnel 1939-1945". Air Force Association of Canada. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Nanticoke Refinery: 2007 Report to Our Neighbors" (PDF). Imperial Oil. September 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  14. ^ Kelly, Gena (July 15, 2013). "Memorial service held at site of school". Retrieved 28 October 2014.