One of the post-war decisions made by the Army was to retain a limited ability to conduct airborne and airlift operations in Canada. The value of using towed gliders to supplement and enhance the transport element required for these operations resulted in the purchase in 1947 of a number of Hadrian CG-4A gliders (see photos below). As there was no formal designation of an airborne unit in the post-war establishment, these aircraft were assigned, along with the Parachute Training School, to the Joint Air School (JAS) that had been established at RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba 3 May 1947. The JAS was re-established as the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC) 1 Apr 1949.
The Glider Section, consisting of ten gliders, was assigned to 112 (T) Flight RCAF and administered through the Tactical Air Support School (TASS) of the CJATC. The Army trained twenty-eight mainly non-commissioned officer pilots during this period from 1948 until the Section was disbanded in 1953. The first pilots were trained in the UK and the remainder received initial flying training on light aircraft at the Brandon Flying Club, Brandon Manitoba and then went on to qualify on gliders at Rivers. Shown below are two photos; the first being of Sgt RE (Ralph) Ridley receiving his Glider Pilot wings in the UK from LtCol I (Iain) Murray, CO of the Glider Pilot Regt; the second being of the first Glider Pilot Course at the CJATC 3 Oct 1949.
L to R: Betcher, Chatry, Labrie, Mason, Raven, Wagner
The following personnel were designated as Glider Pilots. Ranks indicated are the highest rank attained during the individual’s service:
Andrews HN, Maj RCE
Beach WE, MWO RCOC
Betcher N, Maj RCASC
Bisset CK, Capt CintC
Camilleri PA, WO PPCLI
Chaplin WRB, Capt RCASC
Chatry HS, MWO PPCLI
Clayton CE, MWO RCE
Crewdson J, Cpl RCIC
deGobeo RPL, LtCol RCR
Dimond FB, Maj transfer to RCAF
Flewin GJR, Capt RCA
Grace GK, Maj RCA
Gunton GA, LtCol PPCLI
Hoskin MG, Cpl 1 Can Para
Labrie FM, Cpl R22eR
Mason GH, SSgt RCR
McGregor HG, Capt PPCLI
Mitges AJ, CWO RCE
Muir RB, Capt PPCLI
Nicholls WH, Capt PPCLI
Potts DL, WO2 RCE
Probyn AJ, Maj QORofC (see note below)
Raven PJ, CWO, RCASC
Reid CH, Maj RCASC
Richards RW, Sgt RCR
Ridley RE, Capt QORofC
Wagner FJ, Capt RCASC
Note: Maj Probyn’s complete Flying Logbook can be viewed in pdf format by clicking on the Last Flight Section of this Website, then under the letter P in the alphabetical listings in that Section, then at the end of his narrative
The WACO CG4A was designed by the Weaver Aircraft Company of Troy Ohio and was one of the most successful gliders used by the Allied Forces with nearly 15,000 being produced by a number of sub-contractors. The name “Hadrian” was used by the UK and Canadian Forces. Its construction consisted of a fabric covered metal framed fuselage with plywood wings with a two-ton useable load. The aircraft was capable of a 130 mph cruising speed behind a C-47 tow aircraft and carried two pilots and 13 passengers or a jeep.
The RCAF acquired 34 Hadrian Mk II gliders. Four aircraft had RAF Serial Nos KH 944, 945, 946 and 947. A further 30 were purchased in 1946 with Serial Nos from 9501 through 9530 and these aircraft were delivered to the Reserve Equipment Maintenance Satellite (REMS) Detachment of 10 Repair Depot (10 RD) at Gimli Manitoba in 1946.
CJATC received ten Hadrians in 1947 with Serial Nos 9507, 9508, 9517, 9518, 9519, 9520, 9528 and 9529 as well as HK 946 and 947. These aircraft were all returned to storage at Carberry Manitoba by 1954 and were sold as surplus along with the remaining gliders that were still in storage and that had been moved from Gimli when the Station was reactivated as 2 FTS in 1950.
Below is a photo of then Sgt Howie McGregor PPCLI in front of a WACO/Hadrian/CG4A Glider on Exercise EAGLE in 1949.
Further historical information on glider operations in the Canadian Army (primarily RCASC) can be found in the book “The Last Waggon” authored by Col (Ret’d) JD Murray RCASC. The specific chapter in the book , Chapter 9 “The Corps in the Air”, was authored by LtCol (Ret’d) LM RodenBush RCASC. A section of that chapter, less its notes, is included below:
A precursor to the new concepts mentioned above was the Canadian Army's continued interest in glider operations following World War II. While this had nothing to do with the nuclear battlefield, many believed that the glider still had a place in support of major amphibious landings, like D-Day, and in the delivery of troops and supplies across a major obstacle. The RCASC was not in the forefront of this endeavour but it certainly maintained an interest in it. Evidence of this is the injury of three Corps personnel in a glider crash in 1949 and the training of Cpl W.R.B. Chaplin as a glider pilot in 1951. As military fortunes go, it was the glider training of a few infantry personnel, in addition to Cpl Chaplin, that was later to boost the Corps' experience level in aviation. Infanteers, Sgt N. Betcher, Cpl P.J. Raven, and Pte F.J. Wagner graduated from Glider Course 1. Glider Course 2 included two former British Army glider pilots who, due to their recent association with Canadian Army pilots in England, were "lured" into becoming founding members of the "Canadian Army Air Corps." When, after graduation, it was revealed that there was to be no such corps, all members of Course 2 left the army. This was not an overall loss to Canada as most joined a now expanding RCAF. S/Sgt C.H. Reid, also infantry, qualified on Course 3 as did Cpl Chaplin on Course 4. After commissioning, Lts Reid, Wagner, and 2/Lt Chaplin requalified as pilots and the two infantry officers transferred to the RCASC. Requalification required only the advance phase of training because their glider training had included a powered-flight phase at the Brandon Flying Club. At a much later date, S/Sgt Betcher rejoined the aviation field as a technician.