The Link Trainer

Value of the Link trainer was stressed by the head of Link instruction at Norman Rogers Airdrome in a talk to the Kiwanis Club. He told them that the machines were being used by every air ministry in the world. “They are made at Gananoque, practically on our doorstep, and sent to every part of the world. We are able to give the same conditions a flyer would meet in an Atlantic gale; in fact, it’s a bit rougher. Even instructors and Wing Commanders with thousands of hours to their credit must take periodic refresher courses in Link trainers.”

The trainer got its name from the designer, Ed Link. A resident of Binghamton, New York, Mr. Link spent his holidays at his summer home on an island near Chisamore’s Point, just east of Gananoque. He flew his own aircraft, a Grumman Widgeon, and was a regular visitor to the waterfront when he called at the Custom House. Over the years, he made friends in town, and so it was that in 1937 he chose Gananoque as the site for a Canadian plant which was essential in order to supply the trainers to Britain.

The Link Manufacturing Plant on Mill Street began operation with approximately sixty employees. The Gananoque Reporter noted that two Link trainers valued at $15,000. were lost by enemy action en route to England in April 1940 and on May 9, reported that the company had obtained an order for eighty trainers to be used in the air training scheme. On the 23rd another item stated that the plant may be required to work on twenty-four hour production schedule seven days a week. This was, of course, before shift work became standard. Its facilities were expanded to meet the increased demands for the trainers during the war year. One week later, the Department of Munitions & Supplies announced a contract amounting to $1,500,000.00 had been placed with Link’s. Production was increased 250% and 100 men were employed at the plant. With unemployment running at less than one percent, families now enjoyed a much higher standard of living.

More women were now employed outside the home as well as serving in the WRENS (Navy), CWACS (Army),and WDS (Air Force). The Assistant Director of National Selective Services said in a statement in 1942:

“The Dominion now is in a labour crisis which must be faced and solved, and Canadian women must fill the breech caused by the shortage of manpower. Where there are women who are unwilling to work without a good reason, we will have no compunction about telling them quite plainly where their duty lies.”

No. 13 Course, comprising thirty F.A.A. and twenty R.A.F. pupils, arrived for training twelve days ahead of schedule. The C/O recorded that “unless aircraft and adequate spares arrived very shortly, this unit will be reduced to fifty percent output.” On the April 19, 1941, twenty-five naval ratings and fourteen R.A.F. pupil pilots were awarded their flying badges.

The C/O’s diary recorded that two flight mechanics were declared deserters and struck off strength on the 23rd. Did they think their absence wouldn’t be notice with sixty-seven aircraft unserviceable and no parts in sight? It left only twenty-seven aircraft to maintain.

On April 30, 1941, the unit strength was: 87 officers; 4 civilians, 10 WO’s, 68 Flt Sgts. and Sgts., 1049 Cpls and other ranks, for a total of 1,218.

No. 31 extended a warm welcome to the the King’s representative in Canada: Governor General, His Excellency, the Earl of Athlone, and Lady Alice. They toured the station along with members of the U.K. Air Liaison Mission. A former Canadian F.A.A. pilot recalled their visit:

“We had been invited to the graduation ceremony at the Royal Military College, and the dance and party that followed. We arrived back at the camp very late, or rather, very early the next morning which was the morning of the Governor-General’s visit. Very tired, we stood at attention while he gave the salute and since no one remembered to order ‘at ease’, several began one-by-one to keel over.”

An outbreak of scarlet fever in No. 9 pupils’ hut put one in hospital and the remainder under quarantine. No. 7 Course completed training and were posted; No. 21 Course, consisting of five naval officers and forty-five airmen, arrived from the U.K., bringing the month of May to a close.

Next Chapter: More Problems With The Fairey Battles

Previous Chapter: First F.A.A. Pilots Receive Wings In Canada