Less We Forget Poppy

The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.
A Canadian Hero

Less We Forget Poppy

Chapter 1: RCAF: Enlist – Training (Canada/UK) / 419 Moose Squadron First Missions

Section 1.2 : TRAINING in CANADA – British Commonwealth Air Training Plan School

Image of Flag being raised at No 2 Manning Depot Brandon Manitoba
No. 2 Manning Depot, Royal Canadian Air Force,
Brandon Manitoba
Postview view of the Manning Depot No. 2 (1940s) Brandon Manitoba
Postview view of the Manning Depot No. 2 (1940s)

Immediately after I had signed up at the Reception Centre in Montreal I was shipped out to No. 2 Manning Depot Brandon, Manitoba. The trip from Toronto to Brandon, through Northern Ontario bush country, along Lake Superior and the lake country from Thunder Bay was very impressive, especially for the first time.

RCAF No 2 Manning Depot Brandon was then under the command of W/C R.M. Smith along with officers S/L Sewell, F/L Knight, and W/O Sullivan.

Image of Airmen in Formation No 2 Manning Depot Brandon Manitoba

For the first few months (August to October 1940) I was given basic training at Brandon Manitoba. 2 M.D. (Manning Depot) unit was part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan School system Ref: 1.33   Ref: 1.35   Ref: 1.36   Ref: 1.38 and the majority of crews in Bomber Command squadrons went through one of these.
(There were approximately 131,550 Pilots, Observers, Navigators, Bomb Aimers, Wireless Air Gunners and Air Gunners who graduated under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada.)

We were confined to barracks at Brandon for the first two weeks while we received our uniforms, medical examinations, induction lectures, and introduced to military discipline.

These RCAF Manning Depots were basically a station where civilians were transformed into uniform material suitable for further aircrew training. As mentioned, we were issued various articles of our uniform: shoes, socks, underwear, shirts, pants, coats, wedge cap, shaving kits, shoe polish and brush, towels, soap, etc., everything an airman would need.
We had our first inoculation parade a few days after our military style haircut. We had heard about these inoculations and how bad they were. For those who dreaded needles this was a memorable day. We rolled up our sleeves on both arms and we walked between a bevy of white gowned swabbers, doctors, and "catchers" (for those that fainted). We got 5 needles in about a minute and a half. I was surprised to see so many guys keeled over when they received the TABT shot.

Military life consisted of large numbers of rules and regulations, which had to be obeyed, and as long as a person complied, it was not unpleasant. We also obviously went through the basic training or "boot camp" regime of physical, educational, and military drill.

One of the most memorable things about Brandon was the absolutely awful food that we were given. Some time after I had left there the officer in charge of the food was court-martialed for stealing supplies and selling them to a local restaurant.

Sports programs were carried out as part of our training, and we were regularly entertained by various celebrities, Marlene Dietrich visited, and entertained, giving a very impressive concert.

The parade ground at Brandon Manning Depot was known as the gopher patch. Apparently there was a gopher town there before the military came; the gophers did not want to leave. As a consequence, care had to be taken when marching to avoid stepping into a gopher burrow.

In October 1940 (from October 9th to October 20th) I was sent to the 7 E.D. (Equipment Depot) unit in Winnipeg where I was assigned to "guard duty" while I waited for an appropriate course to come up at an ITS (Initial Training School).

After October, I hop scotched across the country getting trained by the Air Force ........ starting out from Winnipeg Manitoba;

  1. Hubert Brooks and Colleagues at 2 ITS Regina SK  November 1940 then October 28th to November 27, 1940 to: #2   I.T.S. (Initial Training School) in Regina, Saskatchewan where I was given basic training to be either a pilot or a (navigation) observer. Routine went as follows:
  2. then 27–November–1940 to January–1941 to: #3 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training School) in London Ontario. Image of Hubert Brooks at 3 EFTS London Ontario 1940
  3. from January to end of February 1941 I was at #1 Manning Depot in Toronto Ontario. 1 M.D. was located at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds in Toronto. This was where recruits from Canada, the United-States and all around the Commonwealth were gathered together, awaiting assignments to bases across Canada to begin/continue their training to become pilots, observers, air gunners and ground crew in the RCAF.
    In one huge building there were six thousand men in double deck bunks. It was incredible. However the food was good and the beds comfortable. Essentially this was a staging area for me until my next training assignment.

  4. Certification In Log Book that Hubert Brooks an Air Observor in RCAF then 3-March-1941 to 25-May-1941 to: #1 A.O.S. (Air Observer School) in Malton, Ontario Ref: 1.34   Ref: 1.37 where I was trained under the U/T (Under Training) Observer Course. At the Air Observers school, we did bombing and photo flights. I accumulated a little more than 69 hours of day time and slightly more than 12 hours of night time flying on the course with an Anson 1 aircraft. We started out at Malton and would fly to Oshawa, Orillia, Baden, Port Dover, Port Perry, Argyle and so on and return to Malton at the end. I passed with a grade of 65% - good but not great.
    Upon passing the 'specialist' Observer Trade Course with an "above average" grading, I was promoted to the rank of Sgt (Sergeant) effective 7-July-1941.

  5. Certification In Log Book that Hubert Brooks an Air Observor (Armament) in RCAF
  6. then 25-May-1941 to 6-July-1941 to: #4 B.& G.S. (Bombing and Gunnery School) in Fingal, Ontario (just south-west of St Thomas) where I acquired bombing and gunnery training. We learned about the terminal velocity of bombs, which told us how fast they would fall if they were streamlined or not. We did over twenty-five hours dropping 6½ pound practice bombs. We often went on firing our 303 machine guns at drogues pulled by an airplane. Every 5th shell was a tracer so you could watch where your bullets were going. When it was your turn to shoot, you were designated a colour for your shells. This colour showed up on the drogue if you hit it. We spent about 10 hours doing this. I got a 66% on this course - consistent with my last grade!!

    See website NO. 4 BOMBING & GUNNERY SCHOOL FINGAL for PHOTOS and a video along with training course participants at the RCAF Fingal training facility.
    As can be seen from the web site, Hubert Brooks was trained:

    Course 19: May 26 - July 5, 1941
    and Wing Commander W.D. Van Vliet presented wings to graduates:
    (AUS.400029) Laurance David Orbuck, (NZ403573) Gordon McDonald Frostick, (NZ403558) Selwyn Charles Orme,
    (R/74283) Harold Bryan Livingston Gittins, Argentina, Kenneth Frederick Hampton Hale, (R/56265) Hubert Brooks

  7. then 7-July 1941 to 18-August 1941 to: #1 A.N.S. (Air Navigation School) in Rivers Manitoba (a hamlet situated about 20 miles from Brandon Manitoba) where I learned to navigate by the stars which is called astro navigation.

    The purpose of 1 ANS was to teach advanced navigation to air observers who had graduated from bombing and gunnery schools.
    The location of Rivers, Manitoba was selected because the climate allowed generally cloudless skies which was ideally suited to the instruction and training of astro navigation.

    We were trained on Avro Anson aircraft. On this course I accumulated 12 hours of day time flying and a little more than 34 hours of night time flying.

    Although there are literally billions of stars in the sky, only a very limited number in each hemisphere can be relied upon for navigational purposes. In order to establish a plane's position on a navigational map one had to obtain readings on two stars with a bubble sextant from the airplane's plexiglass astrodome. I had had some previous training on the sextant at Air Observer School in Malton but nothing as concentrated as now. For this course, the sextant we used had a bubble as an artificial horizon to obtain the altitude of the stars, in contrast to a naval sextant which uses the true horizon. One then plotted these readings on the navigation map and, if one's work had been done accurately, one would obtain their exact position. In addition to using the sextant on practice flights, we were required to take 250 star shots on the ground and plot them using the international air almanac. To complete the exercise and to find the required stars in the summer sky. This was involved work that utilized navigation books, Greenwich time, correct readings, and a lot of self-assurance. In the air in the Avro Ansen it wasn't quite that easy to deduce one's exact location but under ideal conditions we could fix our position within a couple of miles. Astro navigation was intended to be a supplement to all the other aids. More often we used Polaris, the pole star, as a general reference point to satisfy ourselves that the compass was behaving.

    I enjoyed this course!
    Avro Anson aircraft
    Hubert Brooks' Compass

By 18-August-1941, I had graduated from all of my courses and was set as a navigator / bomb aimer.

Editor's Note: At the beginning of World War II, those destined to be air observers graduated from ITS to Air Observer School (AOS) for a 12 week course on aerial photography, navigation and reconnaissance. After AOS, trainees would move onto Bombing and Gunnery School (B&GS) for 10 weeks and then to Air Navigation School (ANS) for another four weeks. Observers badge was a "O" half-winged brevet

In June 1942, it was decided that these duties were too much for one person and the position of air observer was broken up into two positions: navigator and air bomber. A navigators badge was a "N" half-winged brevet and an Air Bombers or Bomb Aimers badge a "B" half-winged brevet. The "N" badge was not at all popular with the observers.

After graduation the air force gave me 2 weeks holiday so I could return to see my folks in Montreal before departing for Europe and off to war.

RCAF Sgt. Hubert Brooks     RCAF Sgt Hubert Brooks and sister Doris RCAF Sgt Hubert Brooks and sister Doris 2
        Doris Brooks (sister) & Hubert Brooks
Hubert Brooks
& sister Doris

RCAF Training School Graduating Class1
Hubert Brooks: Back Row: 5th from left

RCAF Training School Graduating Class2
Hubert Brooks: FrontRow: 1ston left

RCAF Training School Graduating Class3
Hubert Brooks: Back (3rd) Row: 7thfrom left

RCAF no 1 Observor School May25_1941
Hubert Brooks: Front Row 3rd from end

And as stated in my description of my training program in the foregoing, I had also managed to get a few hours on some "fixed wing" aircraft.

Hubert Brooks by aircraft 1 Hubert Brooks by aircraft 2
Hubert Brooks by aircraft 3 Hubert Brooks by aircraft 4 Hubert Brooks by aircraft 5
Hubert Brooks by aircraft 6 Hubert Brooks with colleagues in flying suits

Hubert Brooks at age 19
Proudly Wearing his Observers badge - a "O" half-winged brevet
PHOTO Courtesy: Estate of Mary Brooks
Photo supplied by Trina DeWolfe
 Hubert Brooks at age 19

Official Diploma Presented to Hubert Brooks upon Graduation to Rank of Pilot Officer

Note: (Diploma was not officially generated – red tape – until January 7, 1944)

Official RCAF Diploma presented to Hubert Brooks upon graduation as Pilot Officer

Not to forget the Airmen's PRAYER BOOK and the Saint Christopher Medal that was given to all airmen (not that any of us thought we'd need either)!

Image of Cover of Airman's Prayer BookImage of First Page of Airman's Prayer BookImage of Saint Christopher MedalImage of Saint Christopher Medal Backside

After my holidays, I was sent to Halifax. Here we had a document parade, making out of our wills and received a whole new set of inoculations.

On 14-Sept-1941 I boarded a ship – I think it was the Mauritania as best I can recall – for the U.K. We had fairly good accommodations. We slept in hammocks four deep with about eight inches between them. The ship was packed with troops.

We arrived in the U.K. on 29-Sept-1941. I was now one step closer to the action!


The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.

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