Home  |   Museum  |   Bomber Command  |   Aircrew Chronicles  |   Aircrew Losses  |   Nose Art  |   BCATP  |   Lancaster  |   Media

BCATP Schools and Facilities in Alberta
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The Kenyon Field Airport was completed as a civilian airfield and officially opened on June 7, 1939. Named after Air Commodore Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, it was to be an important link in Trans-Canada Airlines plans.

With the establishment of the BCATP, the airfield became the site of #5 EFTS that officially opened on July 22, 1940. The local, civilian flying club provided the instructors and aircraft maintenance and the government provided the aircraft, supplies and other equipment. Severe wind in the area had an adverse effect on pilot training and the school was moved to High River in June, 1941.

Related Articles
BCATP in Alberta
Salute to the BCATP

#5 EFTS original instructors 1940.

The Kenyon Field Airport in Lethbridge was completed as a civilian aerodrome and officially opened in June 1939. It was to be an important link in Trans-Canada Airline's plans.

With the establishment of the BCATP, the airfield became the site of No.5 EFTS that officially opened in July 1940. However severe wind in the area made the use of the light Tiger Moth trainers too dangerous and the school was moved to High River in June 1941.

Fairy Battle with a student air-gunner.

Air photo of 8 Bombing and Gunnery School.

Later that year the RCAF opened No.8 Bombing and Gunnery School at the station. Runways were lengthened and strengthend and many new buildings were constructed for the training and housing of the instructors and trainees. In addition to the facilities at Lethbridge, the school leased 100 square miles on the Blood Indian Reserve to use for bombing and gunnery practice. A good relationship was established and the school's commanding officer, G/C Jones, was made an honourary chief with the name of Chief Heavy Shields.

G/C Jones took command on 8 September 1941 and the school's first aircraft arrived two weeks later. By the end of November there were 56 Fairey Battles and one Harvard on the station. Later Lysanders, Ansons, and Bolingbrokes were flown at the school. A total of 1600 air gunners and bomb aimers graduated from No.8 B&G. The school was closed on 15 December 1944, however the site remains active as the Lethbridge Airport.

Of the 11 Bombing and Gunnery Schools operated by the BCATP in Canada, No.8 was the only one located in Alberta.


Air gunners received twelve weeks of ground training and air-firing practice. Early classes used obsolete single Vickers guns on a flexible mounting in an open cockpit before proper gun turrets became available.

When No.8 B&G School opened in the fall of 1941, Fairey Battles were used as gunnery trainers and target tugs. Bristol Bolingbrokes gradually replaced the Battles as gunnery trainers first and then as target tugs. Beginning in the spring of 1943. Westland Lysanders were also used as target tugs. The Bolingbrokes were equipped with a Bristol B-1 mid-upper turret that carried twin .303 machine guns.

Painting of a Bolingbroke with a Lysander towing a target drogue.


Student Bomb Aimers received eight to twelve weeks of training. They also spent time at an 'Air Observers School' where their focus was on map reading and navigation skills.

Avro Ansons and Bolingbrokes were used to train bomb aimers. Practice bombs were fitted below the wings and released at a target by the students. When the bomb struck the ground, it emitted coloured smoke. As there was more than one bomb aimer in the aircraft, observers on the ground used the different colours of smoke to determine the accuracy and the identity of each bomb aimer.

The students each dropped 80 practice bombs during the course. Students who scored a direct hit customarily bought beer for the rest of the class.

Practice bombs

Rock design at 8 B&G.

The managing director of #5 EFTS from its opening in Lethbridge in 1940 until its closure in High River in 1945 was Dennis K. Yorath. The school was said to have been one of the most outstanding in Canada, noted for its efficiency of administration and operation. For his work in directing the school, Dennis Yorath was awarded the M.B.E. in 1946.

Mr. Yorath enjoyed an extensive career in aviation. He was became a charter member of the Calgary Flying Club in 1928 and remained active with the organization until after the war when he began to play a nationally significant role with the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association. He was named a member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973 with the following citation, "His business management abilities, coupled with a far-sighted appreciation of the country's civil flying requirements, were a prime factor in establishing a national pilot training scheme that has substantially benefited Canadian aviation."

BCATP Station Lethbridge Map Location

Bomber Command Museum of Canada