by Diva Claire Carter
After a year of scanning, digitizing, formatting and researching, the Henderson Digitization Project is online! The project shares over 850 photographs taken by Goderich photographer, J. Gordon Henderson, at WWII Air Training Sites in Huron County.
If you don’t know about this part of Huron County’s military history, here’s a quick backgrounder. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) aimed to quickly increase the number of pilots, navigators, bomb-aimers, wireless operators, air gunners and flight engineers able to fight in the war. The agreement was signed by Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia on December 17, 1939.
Under the BCATP, over 90 training schools were opened across Canada, graduating more than 130,000 people between 1940 and 1945. Four of these training schools were established in Huron County, No. 9 Service Flying Training School (Centralia), No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (Goderich), No. 31/ No. 5 Radio School (Clinton) and No. 31 Air Navigation School (Port Albert).
The Henderson Digitization Project tells the story of daily life at these training sites. Photos are varied and capture group and individuals in both posed and casual settings. Daily life is also captured, including weddings, funerals, parties, training and flight.
I find it really exciting that these negatives have been turned into photographs and are now easily found online. A quick flip through gives a sense of who the men and women were that worked at these air training sites and may have travelled to Huron from the other side of the world. The Huron County Museum has been contacted by individuals from as far away as the UK who have ties to the base.
I find myself partial to the portraits of the young airmen. The details in the different uniforms and gestures tell a story. We don’t know the fate of each of these men, but can imagine the charisma, humour or sense of duty they brought to their jobs based on their facial expressions and body language. This photo of F/LT Simpson is one of my favourites:
The photos can be accessed at http://digital.huroncounty.ca, and can be searched by keywords, categories or as a whole collection. The Museum is asking for help from the public to identify some staff and trainees or provide additional details.
There is also a blog that provides additional details and stories behind the project and photos. It can be accessed here, http://blog.huroncounty.ca/museum.