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As war approached in 1939, Canada began to realize that it would in fact be pulled back into European politics and throw its weight behind Britain. With the outbreak of hostilities on September 1st, 1939 the Canadian government debated about what the Canadian contribution the war effort would be. With the success of the Blitzkrieg in Poland, the allies realized how important air power had become as an instrument of war.

Britain and Canada set to work planning a training program for new pilots which would be outside of the range of German forces and have the vast territory to set up large training facilities. Canada was the ideal location for what was to become known as the British Commonwealth Air Training Program.  An agreement was reached on December 17, 1939 between Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand which would centralize most pilot and aircrew training in several bases in Canada.

Canada was located beside the United States which although not directly involved in the war at that point, would become an industrial supplier of planes and parts. crew could be quickly shipped to England from Canada and conditions in many parts of Canada were ideal for training. King was also hoping that the huge manpower requirement of training the Commonwealth forces would negate demands on Canada for fighting forces in Europe. This would enable the Liberals to be able to avoid conscription and the conscription issue.

The British wanted to be able to incorporate Canadian airmen in whatever British units would require them but as with the ground forces in the First World War were kept as Canadian units, King wanted the Canadian airmen to remain in RCAF units. This proved to be impractical due to the different logistics and Canada had to settle for having Canadian identification badges on their shoulders.

The training program began on April 29th, 1940 and lacked airfields, trainers and planes but the quick expansion of the program quickly overcame these problems. The overall training was operated by the RCAF with support from many of the flying clubs in Canada. The organization expanded to 231 sites with 107 schools and 184 ancillary units. Over 104,000 men and women formed the ground support for the program with another 11,000 involved with the direct aircraft operations. The cost of the program during the war ended up being over $1.6 Billion which produced almost 132,000 pilots and air crew from Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., other commonwealth countries and occupied European countries.

This program made it possible for the allies to wrestle control of the air from Herman Goering's Luftwaffe and take the war to the heart  of German. Although the program officially ended on March 31st, 1945 some air bases such as Camp Borden continued to train Commonwealth pilots well into the late 1960's