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[Photo Album]: Female World War II Pilot Trainer
Canada, 1941. Near Fine. Oblong folio. Measuring 11" x 15". Screw bound black cloth over paper boards with "Photographs" stamped in gilt on the front board. Contains 451 sepia-toned or black and white gelatin silver photographs measuring between 1.5" x 2.5" to 8" x 10", with captions. Near fine album with some rubbing with near fine photographs.An album compiled in 1941-42 by Marion Angelina Gillies (1915--64), a pilot and one of only a few Canadian women certified as an aviation instructor. She worked for her father's private flying school, filling a void left by the experienced, mostly male, training pilots who were drawn into the task of preparing pilots for military duty. A newspaper clipping pasted at the rear of the album shows Marion with her father and another aviatrix who was also training to become a private aviation instructor.Gillies Flying School operated out of Barker Field at Portage La Prairie, Manitoba which was also selected as the location for the No. 7 Air Observers School. Recruits trained in the Avro Anson airplane for eight weeks and learned basic navigation techniques and also studied aerial photography. Based on the photos in the album, Marion clearly had unique access to the training facilities and a close relationship with many of the pilot training instructors, who likely formerly worked for her father. For example, included are several candid photos of Russell Leslie "Ginger" Coote (1898--1970), a legendary World War I fighter pilot and Bush pilot. The BCATP (The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) was a massive, joint military air crew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand during World War II. Canada was chosen as the primary location for the training schools because of its ideal weather and wide-open spaces suitable for flight and navigation training, as well as minimal threat from either the Luftwaffe or Japanese fighter aircraft. Schools and facilities were set up at 231 locations across Canada.The album is also filled with numerous photos of trainees. Among them is a group photo of the first class of observers at #7 A.O.S.: a caption pasted into the book names each of the graduates. Another group photo is captioned "New Zealand class at P.A." There are photographs of top-ranking officials visiting #2 A.O.S. in Edmonton in 1941, including a photograph of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902--42) with other military leaders, as well as two photographs of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King (1874--1950) touring the installation. Another photo shows someone practicing jumping from a plane with a caption which reads "bail" underneath it. One photo of a plane with its front end nose to the ground reads, "one of the several reasons why you shouldn't over run your field and then slam on the brakes." There are also photos of fun and leisure time with a photo of Marion drinking from a flask and the men playing poker. She also kept photos of other aerial of locations around Canada.Throughout the album various planes are shown including Ryan S.T., Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson, Republic p-43, Lockheed "Yippy" P-38, Boeing B-17, Spitfire, Curtiss Helldiver, E.F.T.S. Tiger Moth, Bristol Blemheim Mk. VI., Consolidated B-24, Brewster Buffalo, Curtiss P-40, Gee Bee A, Eaglerock A-2, General Aristocrat IIIc, Boeing 40b4, Flamingo G-2, American Eagle OX5, Bristol Monolane of 1918, Martin Bomber MB-I 1918, British R.E. 8, among many others. Some of the airplanes are photographed on the runway, but there are also numerous photographs of planes in flight as well as the interior with photos of pilots at the yoke. The album also includes photos of a variety of Naval ships, including the U.S.S. Raleigh, U.S.S. Barracuda (submarine), U.S.S. Enterprise, U.S.S. Preston, U.S.S. Idaho, U.S.S. Wyoming, and HMCS Kenora.There are a number of photos of a fire on May 21, 1941 at A.O.S. Portage La Prairie hanger number two. According to newspaper accounts, a trainee at the school was killed when he crashed his Tiger Moth training plane into the hangar, also destroying six Avro-Anson planes. A series of four photos of the fire carries the caption "four reasons why airplanes should not spin out of climbing turns." The album contains another dozen photos showing the burning hangars and attempts to save planes, along with the aftermath. One photo shows a close up of the remains of the airplane with the caption: "the root of all evil. The remains of the pilot and Moth."Marion included a wide variety of airplane crashes, some more serious than others. The caption under one reads, "Plop! And another Tiger Moth bit the dust!" Another is more gruesome, with two photos showing "remains of a Cessna and its crew after a wing blew off." Marion and Fred Gillies likely were pulled into military service when the Canadian government shut down civilian flying schools in 1942 as part of gas rationing efforts.While there is no definitive proof within the album that Gillies was training military pilots, all of the context seems to indicate that this was likely. An extensive and interesting collection of aviation photography from an early aviatrix during World War II.
      [Bookseller: Between the Covers- Rare Books, Inc. ABA]
Last Found On: 2017-12-17           Check availability:      IOBABooks    

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