Courtesy Paul O’Neil
Courtesy Paul O’Neil
This is post No.199 about the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan commonly known as the BCATP.
Strangely enough I did not know its existence before 2010 when I started looking for more information on a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot.
Eugène Gagnon DFC (1921-1947)
Little by little my interest about the BCATP grew and grew. So when I found this week pictures from the past, I just got curious. Eugène Gagnon was also at No.1 Manning Depot, then at Uplands, but he missed the shooting of Captains of the Clouds.
LAC Art O’Neil did not miss it. I don’t have his service record to prove it, but I have got pictures to prove he was there.
LAC Art O’Neil at No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto, circa 1941
Collection Art O’Neil (courtesy Paul O’Neil)
I believe Art O’Neil met LAC Terence Phelan there.
I have Terence’s service record. This is only a few of the pages found on Ancestry.
Art and Terry found themselves at No.16 SFTS Hagersville.
I just had to show these pictures yesterday that were shared by Art O’Neil’s son. Art O’Neil was a Beaufighter pilot in North Africa and in Italy.
There is so much more history in this picture below where actor Dennis Morgan is seen with two recruits.
Terry Phelan, who was Art O’Neil’s friend, is on the left.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)
HOLLYWOOD’S VIEW OF THE RCAF
Jimmy Cagney signs an autograph for LAC J.R. Ducharme.
Hollywood, which produced thousands of military-themed movies during the Second World War to boost morale and back the war effort, first used the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) as a plot angle in the rather bad film A Yank in the Royal Air Force (RAF), which was released in 1941 and starred Tyrone Power and Betty Grable.
That same year, the dream machine again turned its attention to Canada. Captains of the Clouds starred some big names of the time: James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale, Sr., and Brenda Marshall. Director Michael Curtiz, a prolific and gifted filmmaker, was also responsible for classics like Yankee Doodle Dandy, Robin Hood and Casablanca.
Captains of the Clouds is pure — and sometimes hokey — melodrama, but the cast and crew really did come to Canada to film sequences at North Bay and Ottawa and at a host of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) stations such as Uplands, Jarvis and Trenton, all in Ontario. The film depicts the transition of bush pilots to military pilots and the work of the BCATP — and the flying sequences are fantastic.
Besides, Billy Bishop is in this movie, playing himself. Even the wings parade, conducted at Uplands, features an actual class from No. 2 Service Flying Training School receiving their wings from Bishop. That’s a piece of history that makes this film worth watching.
A/M Billy Bishop and Jimmy Cagney trade stories while filming Captains of the Clouds on July 21, 1941, at RCAF Station Uplands in Ottawa.
Cast members of Captains of the Clouds with RCAF officers at RCAF Station Rockliffe (left to right): W/C J.L. Hurley, Dennis Morgan, James Cagney, S/L Harold Pearce and Alan Hale, Sr.
DID YOU KNOW…
For the premiere of Captains of the Clouds on February 21, 1942, RCAF pilots flew copies of the film to Ottawa, New York, London, Cairo, Melbourne, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
That’s a piece of history that makes this film worth watching.