Skinner S 1987-007-03 43 Wing RFC1Museums often have items in their collections that languish in storage with little thought given to their significance until a special event or anniversary approaches.

Part of the fun being a museum volunteer is to have the opportunity to take an item that has been tucked away in a box or drawer for many years, delve into its story, see the significance and perhaps put it out there for others to share.

As the 100th anniversary of  WW1 approaches, the museum is anticipating a greater interest in the WW1 gallery. Our displays are being refreshed and artifacts such as D.F.C Lt. McConnell’s tunic and medals will be added.

The search for appropriate artifacts has brought to light two WW1 era cushion covers from RFC No.43 Wing and Taliferro Field No.3 Benbrook Texas, the site of the RFC School of Aerial Gunnery.

* The Taliaferro cushion was donated by Peter Mortensen from Honeymoon Bay on Vancouver Island in 1988.The donor of the Mortensen P 1988-0294 RFCBenbrook Texas Cushion Cover 1RFC No.43 Wing cushion cover is unknown. We only know that the person made the donation in 1987. The name Skinner has been attributed to this item but we have been unable to verify that this was in fact the owner or the person who made the donation.

These items in our collections could be classified as souvenirs, but are also a great connection to Canada’s part in the earliest days of military aviation.

Many may know of Canada’s participation in the B.C.A.T. P during WW2. Few though, may be aware of the role Canadians, as part of the Royal Flying Corps Canada, played in air and ground crew training for the Royal Flying Corps and the US Army Signal Corps aero squadrons.The instructors for air crew were drawn from those that had served overseas in combat.The RFC standards were such that upon graduation all trainees had achieved a level of  competence that they could be absorbed immediately into service with their squadrons.

Construction of three stations began in February 1917, and fifteen squadrons were operational by the end of June 1917. The RFC in Canada then reorganized into a Training Brigade in October 1917 and the stations became numbered wings.No.42 Wing, Camp Borden, No.43 Wing , Deseronto and No.44 Wing, North Toronto.

Nos. 42 and No.43 Wings moved to Camp Taliferro,Texas and started courses on 5 November 1917, as part of a reciprocal agreement whereby American flyers trained at Canadian facilities in summer and in the winter the RFC were able to train at the training facilities in the Fort Worth,Texas.

The RFC had gone to Texas to train pilots on the 250 Curtiss JN-4C. During this time 67,000 flying hours were logged,1960 pilots graduated, 69 officers and 4150 ground crew were trained. When the RFC returned to Canada in April 1918, 180 serviceable aircraft were left behind to aid the American training plan.

Should anyone have an interest in learning more of this period’s Canadian aviation history, our library has a copy of C.W. Hunt’s “Dancing in the Sky” which describes the period beautifully.

-Mel Birnie, Collections Management