BCATP Station Lethbridge

#5 Elementary Flying Training School

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.

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#5 EFTS original instructors 1940.

#8 Bombing and Gunnery School

Later that year the RCAF opened the #8 Bombing and Gunnery School at the station. Runways were lengthened and strengthened 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.

Wing Commander Jones took command on September 8th and the school’s first aircraft, Fairey Battle No. 1879, arrived on September 22nd. The first class of Wireless-Air Gunners arrived on October 11th. By the end of November there were 56 Battles and one Harvard on the station. Later Lysanders, Ansons, and Bolingbrokes were operated at the school. Almost 1,600 air gunners and bomb aimers graduated from this school.

When the RCAF left the base in 1944, it continued to be used and remains the site of the Lethbridge Airport.

Dennis K. Yorath

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.”