Enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force

Orille Hogue

Editor's note: We are honoured to welcome a new column by local retired veteran Orille Hogue, called War Stories. Mr. Hogue's column, which focuses on his time before, during and after the Second World War, will run regularly in the Central Plains Herald Leader.

It was the summer of 1942 and I really wanted to join one of the services. After being laid off from the Highways Department, I decided to try to get in the Air Force, maybe as ground crew.

I took a bus to Winnipeg and walked from the bus depot to the old Robinson Building, where the air force recruiting centre was located. On arriving ,I inquired about joining, only to be told that the ground services were filled and wouldn't take any new recruits for another couple of weeks.

Then they told me that I could try and enlist as an aircrew cadet.

On filling the enlistment papers they found out that I had only a Grade 10 education. They told me that I needed to have a full Grade 12 or university credits. The recruitment officer said that it might be too hard for me to do, but as they were short of recruits, he would be willing and would let me try if I wanted.

The next morning myself and 14 other recruits found ourselves in a classroom with desks that had a booklet sitting on each desk. We were told to sit at one of the desks, but not to touch the exam folder.

The instructor told us that it was a two hour paper and when the clock struck 9:30 a.m., he told us to open the exam paper and start.

I was startled when I opened the paper. On page one it seemed I knew all the answers. As I quickly went on, everything seemed so easy and I got to the last page in a little over 45 minutes.

I closed the book and sat there watching the rest working on that exam. On seeing this, the instructor came over and whispered if I found the exam too tough? I whispered back that I was finished.

As I skimmed it, it seemed some of my answers were wrong. I finally decided not to change anything so I closed the exam paper again.

As the instructor was watching me he came over and picked up my paper and whispered that I go out and wait till the two hours was up. I felt that I had done pretty well and could hardly wait till tomorrow to get the results.

The next morning after breakfast we marched around the parade square for an hour, then they marched us back to the classroom. I could hardly believe that I had finished forth out of 15.

The rest of the day we took medicals and eye tests, which showed that I had perfect eyes and would make a good air observer. As this was Friday, they let us go home for the weekend.

Getting home I told my parents that I was in and going to fly. My mother cried, but my dad was very quiet.

The weekend flew by and then it was back to the recruiting centre. Monday morning we went on parade and practiced our marching. We were still in our civies but they told us we would get our uniforms on Wednesday.

After lunch my name was called and told to report to the orderly office. Once there they told me to report to the M.O.'s office. It seemed that they needed another chest X-ray. Afterward, the doctor told me that I had a spot on one lung, so I would not be allowed to continue. In other words, I was unfit for military duty.

I asked the doctor if I could join some other branch in the military and he said he didn't think so.

The day I was to receive my uniform I was sent back home on the farm. No one could know how down I felt to get home and tell everyone that the air force had rejected me.

But I would have the last laugh as later I would join the army. I also would make the round trip home, though I did get a couple of nicks, courtesy of the German Army.

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