Dogs of Air Training (Part 1)

Military pets have long been a part of military (and Canadian) history, so we were pleased to find three local examples in the class photos from No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Sky Harbour, Goderich.

Class 1

class photo of the first class at No. 12 EFTS

No. 1 Sky Harbour Class, December 10, 1940, image A993.0003.010. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

The first class dog of No. 12 EFTS was Shorty the cocker spaniel, pictured sitting with his owner, LAC (Leading Aircraftman) Bill “Tex” Hopkins of Dennison, Texas. Thanks to a clipping from the Stratford Beacon-Herald, we were able to confirm that Hopkins was Shorty’s owner, and that after graduation from No. 12 EFTS, he accompanied Hopkins to his next stage of training.

Shorty and Tex in the newspaper

Excerpt from the Dec. 10, 1940 issue of the Stratford Beacon-Herald, front page.

Class 21

Dog with Class 21 at No. 12 EFTS

No. 21 Sky Harbour Class, about 1940-1943, image A993.0003.030a. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

portrait of Hank Henry

F.K. “Hank” Henry, image A993.0003.394.

We’re not sure, but based on appearance, we suspect the dog in the Class 21 photo might be Hank Henry’s dog, because we know he had a fox terrier with him on base. Henry was one of the original seven instructors posted to No. 12 EFTS, and one of his fellow instructors, Herbert Davidson, recounts in his memoir that his dog accompanied him on instructional flights:

The dog sat inside the back end of the coupe top atop the fuselage and slept, but as Hank said, “not when the student had control.” –Herbert Davidson, Airmans Dilemma, self-published, page 43.

Class 100

Dog with Class 100 at No. 12 EFTS

No. 100 Sky Harbour Class, about 1943-1944, image A993.0003.074e. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

We don’t have much information about this dog, or his classmates in the photo. We have names to accompany many of the class photos, but not all. In this case, we know from the uniforms that these trainees from the Fleet Air Arm, the aircraft branch of the British Royal Navy. Because the Fleet Air Arm only trained at No. 12 EFTS for about a year, we can date this photo to 1943 or 1944.


In Dogs of Air Training—Part 2, I’ll be posting a pair of letters about a dog-related incident that were published in the school’s newsletter. In the meantime, for more about military companion animals (including rabbits, cats, goats, and monkeys), check out these fine links:

Creature Comforts, an exhibit from the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum in Victoria, BC about the history of naval mascots.

In Praise of the Squadron Dog, an illustrated article about the companion dogs of military aviation.

War Animals (1914-1918), a Flickr set from Library and Archives Canada

Beer addendum

ad on back of magazine

Black Horse Beer Ad from the back cover of Recte Volare, Vol. 1 Issue 1, April 1942. 2010.0037.120.

As an addendum to last week’s New Year’s beer post, here is an advertisement for Black Horse Beer from the back cover of the first issue of Recte Volare, the magazine of Royal Air Force No. 31 Air Navigation School at Port Albert. The magazine includes news stories, editorials, comics, and local advertising. Recte Volare was started in April 1942 and replaced an earlier No. 31 ANS periodical called The Compass News.



Happy New Year (Beer)!

My favorite group of photos from the Henderson air training collection are the ones taken during the 1944 New Year’s Day meal at No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School, Sky Harbour, Goderich. Compared to all the individual head shots and formal class photos, these are refreshingly candid. For the most part, the airmen pictured in this series are members of the British Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (hence the sailor-looking uniforms). By 1943, the RAF had a surplus of trained pilots, so the British Navy started training their airmen at No. 12 EFTS to continue making use of the facilities.

Due to the indoor lighting and the general state of merriment it’s hard to make out a lot of detail in these photos. As soon as I saw all those bottles, however, I needed to know what kind of beer they were drinking. Luckily, there is just enough detail across the series to be able to make out a few kinds: O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale, Black Horse Ale, and something made by Montreal’s Dow Brewery.


Detail from image no. A992.0003.339, showing a closeup of an O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale beer bottle, New Year’s Day at Sky Harbour, 1944. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.

The O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock was confirmed by this photo:
Through some internet sleuthing, I also found out the the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library has a very nice collection of historical Canadian beer labels, including an era-appropriate O’Keefe’s label.

beer label

O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock Ale label, c. 1933-1967.

The Black Horse Ale was confirmed by beer boxes visible in a couple of the photos (for instance, the first photo in the top gallery, bottom right). The Dow Brewery beer might be obvious to a Canadian beer historian, but I couldn’t pin it down. If you can identify the beer, contact us, we’d love to know.

Closeup of beer bottles

Detail from image no. A992.0003.328, New Year’s Day at Sky Harbour, 1944. J. Gordon Henderson, photographer. Rights: Public domain.