Mount Hope Airport Site: British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

In 1940, it was announced that negotiations for the purchase of 1,600 acres of land in the Mount Hope area of Hamilton were almost completed. The tracts of farmland were to be developed as a huge airport to be used in connection with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By August 1940, the buildings were going up and by October of 1940 they were finishing the landing strips. On November 23, 1940, No. 10 Elementary Flying School was opened by Air Commodore G. E. Brookes, air officer commanding No. 1 training command of the RCAF. Students were already at the school and learning to fly under the auspices of the Hamilton Flying Training School.

The Mount Hope facility continued to expand, and as a result, in June, 1941, No. 33 Air Navigation School, operated by officers of the Royal Air Force, for the training of young English lads as observers, opened next door to the Elementary Flying School. In command of the school was Wing Commander C. H. Brill, sent from England where he had been second-in-command of a Royal Air Force station.

"Entering the school is like going to a little piece of England; on all sides you hear accents which those who know English dialects would be able to identify as native to various parts of the Old Country. The personnel, only recently arrived in Canada, are still trying to figure their money in terms of dollars and cents, still trying not to jump out of their seats when they hear a railway locomotive's bell. (In England, bells will sound only when the invader has come). Training at the school goes beyond the observers' training course originally laid down under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In the old days, the observer in a British bomber, who makes the calculations which keep the machine on its course and guides it to the objective - possibly an arms factory deep in Germany - depended mainly on what is called dead-reckoning navigation. Dead-reckoning navigation depends on the ability of the observer to check the course every now and then with known landmarks which are indicated on his map and to correct his course accordingly. But today, the bomber usually flies high above the clouds, where it is not possible to see the ground at all, and most bombing flights are done at night when it isn't possible to see anything on the blacked-out countryside of Europe. So, at No. 33 Air Navigation School and at the other similar schools now in operation or being erected in different parts of Canada, observers-to-be are taught astral or celestial navigation."--The Hamilton Spectator

Some of those British "lads" who trained at Mount Hope were so taken with the Hamilton area that they returned to settle there after the war. At war's end, the airport was turned over to the city to operate and maintain. Under its stewardship It expanded and grew and is now known as the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

Excerpted from:

Houghton, Margaret. Hamilton at War: On the Home Front. Burlington, ON: North Shore Publishing, 2005.