Remembrance Day 2015

In honour of Remembrance Day, I’ve decided to post some more about my Dad, Thomas Hogue, and his time in the R.C.A.F. (Royal Canadian Air Force). Dad, a welder with Canadian National Railways, spent time at the No. 1 Technical Training School in St. Thomas, Ontario, where the R.C.A.F. trained ground crews as part of an initiative known as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. St. Thomas is in southwestern Ontario.

Google map showing St. Thomas, Ontario

Google map showing St. Thomas, Ontario

The Technical Training School was established in 1939. It was housed in what had originally been the brand new Ontario Psychiatric Hospital. When war broke out, the patients were transferred to other hospitals, and the complex acquired to train R.C.A.F. ground crews. There’s a great aerial photo of the buildings here from the Elgin County Archives.

Here’s a historical plaque commemorating the School.

Photograph by Alan L. Brown, Courtesy of ontarioplaques.com

Photograph by Alan L. Brown, Courtesy of ontarioplaques.com

Dad’s service in the RCAF began November 1, 1940. I have an old, torn letter of reference from his CNR supervisor, dated February 14, 1940.

Reference letter from CNR

Reference letter from CNR

I’m not sure how long Dad was in St. Thomas, but my Mom and two brothers lived there for awhile, and my third brother was born there in 1941. Here’s a newspaper article that talks about St. Thomas during World War II.

The Ottawa Journal, Fri, Jun 18, 1943, Page 2, accessed on Newspapers.com

The Ottawa Journal, Fri, June 18, 1943, Page 2, accessed on Newspapers.com

And here are some pictures of Dad and his workmates on the grounds of the facility.

Thomas Hogue at St. Thomas

Thomas Hogue at St. Thomas

 

RCAF Training School, St. Thomas, Ontario

RCAF Training School, St. Thomas, Ontario

Once he was finished in St. Thomas, Dad was posted back to Winnipeg, and worked at #8 Repair Depot. This was located at the airport in Winnipeg, which was then known as Stevenson Field.  From the website of the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport I found out:

In 1936, a major development took place that gave Winnipeg’s airport a dramatic impetus to growth. An act of Parliament created Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA). Winnipeg was chosen to be its operating headquarters for the new, national airline…

Soon after TCA became fully operational, the Second World War brought another surge of activity. The airport mushroomed into a mini-city. The field was suddenly host to dozens of new buildings, hundreds of planes and thousands of workers. RCAF training schools, overhaul shops, TCA’s main operating base and executive offices, and the airplane manufacturing facilities of Midwest Aircraft and MacDonalds all appeared almost at once.

A news item in The Winnipeg Tribune, Thursday, July 4, 1940, announced that the construction contract for the repair depot was awarded to Bird construction Co.

“The repair depot will consist of about 23 buildings, including seven hangar repair shops each 112×128 feet, a headquarters building, quarters and mess buildings for officers, N.C.O.’s and men, and numerous other smaller structures.  Exact cost could not be learned, but it is in the neighborhood of $450,000.”

So that’s where Dad spent his war years. Here’s a picture from our family photo album, clearly showing the TCA signage.

Stevenson Field

Stevenson Field

And here’s a picture of Dad and an unidentified co-worker, standing next to a plane, presumably one they worked on.  Dad is on the right.

Thomas Hogue on right, at St. Thomas Training School

Thomas Hogue on right, at St. Thomas Training School

Like most people, now that Dad is gone, I wish I knew more about that time in his life.  After the war, he went back to working for CNR, from which he retired in 1970.