Cream of the Crop

Cream of the Crop: Canadian Aircrew, 1939-1945

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Cream of the Crop
    Book Description:

    English describes the development of a uniquely Canadian selection system that attempted to match the aptitudes of aircrew candidates to the duties they would perform and the evolution of the RCAF's training program from a haphazard system with enormous attrition to one that became the model for many modern systems. He traces the development of aviation psychology and the treatment of psychological casualties of air combat. English pays particular attention to the LMF controversy and the RCAF's response as well as the effect of morale and leadership on the psychological well-being of, and casualty rates among, Royal Air Force and RCAF bomber squadrons.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6595-1
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiv-2)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    One of the greatest problems a modern society can face in time of war is how to use the talents of its citizens most effectively. Invariably there are too few people to perform all the complex tasks required by a nation at war. This is especially true where flying and fighting in the air are concerned. Countries that choose to raise large air forces confront the difficult challenges of identifying people who are able, in a relatively short time, to learn how to fly, and, once the aviators are trained, of conserving those valuable resources as far as possible.


  7. 2 “A Good Airman Is Worth a Battalion of Infantry”: Aviator Recruiting and Selection, 1914-45
    (pp. 17-40)

    Written procedures for the selection of combatants date from at least biblical times, when the people of Israel recorded practical instructions for choosing who would fight in time of war.² One of the qualities the ancient Israelites examined in choosing their warriors was courage:

    And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What manis there thatis fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.³

    Ideally, a good selection system should employ tests that are as simple as possible and that...

  8. 3 Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten: Aircrew Training, 1914-45
    (pp. 41-60)

    Success in air warfare depends heavily on the skills of those who operate the aircraft. The training of flying personnel is influenced by many factors, including political considerations, aircraft availability, human-resource and selection policies, strategic and operational requirements and wastage. In war, all of these factors interact in a complex and constantly changing manner to determine the quality of the final product - the trained flyer.

    One of the greatest difficulties in designing a system of flying instruction in World War II was that one to three years were needed to train aircrew to operational standards, during which time it...

  9. 4 A Predisposition to Cowardice? Aviation Psychology, 1914-45
    (pp. 61-80)

    In both world wars, psychological casualties were responsible for a huge drain on British and Canadian air force manpower. In 1944, for example, it was found that “mental disorders” accounted for one in three medical discharges from the Canadian air force.¹ But with regard to aircrew lost on operations it was often difficult to know whether psychological factors had contributed to their deaths. The causes of most combat losses were never precisely established, and in many cases it was difficult to know whether carelessness, fatigue, or impaired mental function produced by combat stress² contributed to an aircraft’s damage or destruction....

  10. 5 What’s in a Name? The RAF and “Lack of Moral Fibre”
    (pp. 81-102)

    The formulation and administration of policies governing aircrew who, in the judgment of British and Canadian air force authorities, “lacked moral fibre,” was surrounded by controversy. According to the RAF’S Inspector General in late 1942, LMF presented one of the “most difficult of all human problems” faced by the flying service.¹ For some airmen, the threat of being labelled LMF could inspire as much fear as operations against the enemy.² Even today the subject of LMF engenders heated debate. It remains a politically delicate issue, and the fragmentary nature of the official record concerning LMF has aroused suspicion in some,...

  11. 6 Conserving the Cream of the Crop: The RCAF and “Lack of Moral Fibre”
    (pp. 103-130)

    In addition to the uneven application of regulations and the genuine difficulty of distinguishing most waverers from psychological casualties, the RAF’S LMF procedures created other serious problems. Many of these problems were attributable to the way in which LMF policies were developed. The first rules governing waverers, as we have seen, were introduced in 1940 by the Air Ministry as a stopgap measure to deal with “acute neurosis,” particularly among Bomber Command aircrew after the force had sustained heavy casualties. The rules were meant to regulate all cases of removal from flying duties where the airman’s mental state was at...

  12. 7 None for All and One for One: The Canadian Manpower Crisis
    (pp. 131-144)

    The allocation of manpower in both world wars was of central importance to Canada’s effort in those struggles and to its evolution as a nation. Conscription, with its inseparable military and political dimensions, was introduced in 1917 as a means of addressing a shortage of military manpower. From that time on, its potential to split the nation turned conscription into a “complex and contentious” issue that “haunted the minds of Canadian politicians.”¹ The present chapter has as its main theme the RCAF’S part in the Canadian conscription crises of World War II. The discussion here will assess the air force’s...

  13. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 145-154)

    Forty years and two world wars after the first powered aircraft staggered into the sky, aviation had changed beyond recognition. By 1944 huge fleets of multi-engined aircraft, capable of flying in almost any weather, could drop tons of explosives on targets hundreds of miles from their bases. But more than the aircraft had changed. Large numbers of aircrew with special abilities were now required to man the new machines, and training times had increased from weeks to months and even years. Yet despite these differences, the crews of the most modern combat aircraft were still human, and displayed many of...

  14. APPENDIX A Bomber Command Psychological Casualties
    (pp. 155-158)
  15. APPENDIX B Selected Statistics of the Special Cases Committee RCAF “R” Depot
    (pp. 159-160)
  16. APPENDIX C RCAF Aircrew NP Ratios in Bomber Command, 1944-45
    (pp. 161-162)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 163-212)
  18. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 213-220)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-234)
  20. Index
    (pp. 235-239)