World War I was now upon us. I had finished High School at Kelvin Tech., and was now at the University of Manitoba, going in for Engineering. News of the part flying machines were playing in warfare was appearing in our daily papers regularly. At this time there was no recruiting for the Royal Flying Corps in Canada and if one wanted to join this Service, one would have to present oneself at Headquarters in London, England. To this ultimate end, I joined a local Infantry Battalion, (the 223rd) with a promise from the C.O. that I would be allowed to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps after we arrived overseas.
This, along with two buddies of mine, (Frank Fredrickson and John Davidson) was accomplished and it and it was not long after arriving overseas that we found ourselves enroute to the Air Ministry in London where we were accepted as Cadets and sent to St. Leonard's-on-Sea for Cadet Training. Having completed our course in England we were packed off to Egypt, to learn to fly. Here we had our School of Military Aeronautics in the Hotel Heliopolis at Heliopolis just outside Cairo. From here we went to Ismailia where we had our elementary training on the Maurice Farman biplane, very much like the first flying machine I saw back at the Winnipeg Exhibition in 1910, except perhaps, that there were no front outriggers or front elevators. My Instructor Lt. Colley and I sat in a "bath-tub" type nacelle slung in between the two planes with the engine just behind us. Dual control was accomplished by reaching around the party in front, practically sitting in your lap, if it was arranged that you should sit in the seat proper. I had long legs and arms, so I was usually the one behind with the Instructor in front of me.
After some two hours and twenty- three minutes of "taking-off, banking and landings," I was "launched". After two successful landings, I was called in , having snapped an undercarriage wire in the last one. Thus did I finally gratify that old urge or yearning. I sure thought I was somebody after that but fortunately reason and common sense took over, as flying hours piled up-and with them a very healthy respect for engines and aircraft. With a total of 10 hours and 2 minutes in the air, I graduated from No. 21 Training Squadron, Ismailia and was recommended for advanced training on Gnome Avros, at No. 58 Training Squadron at Suez.
Here my actual flying training started. The Rotary Gnome engine was a tricky engine to control, and fortunately I, with the previous experience of engine running and adjusting the motorcycle carburettor, took to it like a relative. These old 504K Avros with either Gnome or Monosoupape rotary engines were a delight to fly, "sensitive and reactive" to the slightest touch of the controls. Graduation from No. 58 T.S. was all too soon, however trainees were piling up and could not be accommodated for lack of aircraft and Instructors.
And so we found ourselves returning to Heliopolis where the School of Aerial Gunnery was located. Here flying as an aerial Gunner, jockeying an old BE2c or a D.H.6 (we actually used live ammunition), we flew our assigned target practice. And then if we had a few rounds left over, we would hit for the neighbouring desert hoping to find a stray dog or something we could shoot at. This training we really enjoyed. This course ended all too soon, only ten days in all.