Right in the centre - Seize the moment!


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Some opportunities only come along once in a while. One such opportunity is the movie, For the Moment, and it is coming to Neepawa’s Roxy Theatre on August 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Not only is the movie an opportunity, it should be a must-view for people of all ages, but especially for younger people. It’s not suitable viewing for children, but it tells a story that if it hadn’t happened, Canada, Britain and the whole free world as we know it might be speaking German today and under Nazi rule.

If that sounds overly dramatic, consider that in the early 1940s, much of Europe was under Hitler’s Nazi rule. Britain was the next target and was only saved by the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain. British pilots flying Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft beat back the German Luftwaffe, which were much more superior in numbers and equipment. The British losses were great, but the German losses were greater, giving Hitler pause to consider his options. He chose not to invade.

Knowing that invasion was likely and that even if it never came, Europe would have to be wrestled back from German control, British prime minister Winston Churchill implemented the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to train more pilots and air crew. Thousands of crew members were trained. Huge numbers died in battle, some even in training, some even here in Manitoba.

The BCATP Museum in Brandon says on its web site, “The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of World War II was the largest infrastructure program Canada had ever seen. The training establishments changed the social and economic conditions in many communities forever. The influx of 1,500 or more trainees and staff suddenly added to communities across Manitoba, and after the war ended, many of the B.C.A.T.P. buildings became community halls, hockey rinks, housing, and business structures. Not surprising, with young men and women from all parts of Canada coming together during training, it was probably one of the greatest unifying forces in our history.”

So what has this to do with our area? Quite a bit actually. There were training bases at Brandon, Rivers, Neepawa, MacDonald, Carberry and Chater. The BCATP impact on the area was huge and is still being felt today. The quote above talks about buildings being re-used and that is true. A trained eye can spot the shingled buildings in towns and farmyards all over western Manitoba. The museum at Brandon has some, the Neepawa Legion is another.

But old re-used buildings are only a small, lingering part of the story. The real story and the effects of the war, the BCATP and the aircrew is told in the For the Moment movie. The human effort, the financial load and impact and the horrendous strain on peoples’ lives and emotions comes back to life in the movie. It was shot in 1993 and features people, places, buildings and vehicles from across western Manitoba. It is not a documentary, as there are some historical inaccuracies. For instance, the movie shows several different types of planes on one air base when in fact, an air base would have mostly one kind of plane. Neepawa had Tiger Moths for example. One trainee said the movie showed a lot more romance and social life than what actually existed on the bases, but others say the trainees came to town regularly for community dances and other events. Neither is the movie a novel, as many of the events actually happened and some of them all too often.

A trip to the BCATP Museum in Brandon (the air museum day is on Aug. 9 this year) and a viewing of the movie on Aug. 10 will give anyone a greater appreciation for our freedom. In summary, what stood between us and defeat in the 1940s was the BCATP, a very stubborn British prime minister and very resourceful people from all the Allied countries. Many would say it was also the hand of God intervening. Go to the museum and the movie and decide for yourself. Regardless of the method, our freedom wasn’t free, it was bought at great price.

By the way, the movie is free but donations will be accepted.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.