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Neepawa Airport’s WWII past

April 2009

Longtime residents of the Neepawa area will probably remember a time when the air buzzed with the sound of RCAF aircraft from an aerodrome south-west of Rivers. Early in the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force entered into an ambitious project: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, an astounding program that saw 130,000 personnel from Great Britain and the Commonwealth graduate from 107 training schools across Canada.

The aerodrome at Neepawa was originally opened by the Royal Air Force when No. 35 EFTS, originally founded in Moncton, re-located to Neepawa on 30 May 1942. A Relief Landing Field was built near the Village of Eden.  The relief field, usually consisting of either grass or asphalt runways, one hangar, maintenance facilities and barracks for overnight
stays, allowed pilot trainees to conduct circuit training on landing and taking-off in their airplanes. Some also served as sub-unit training schools.

No. 35 EFTS closed on 30 January 1944 and No. 26 EFTS stood up in its place, run by the RCAF. No. 26 would have a short life as it too closed on 25 August 1944. The aerodrome was then used as a storage depot until 1945, when the RCAF abandoned the site.

The former station is now the Neepawa Airport.  The original triangle shaped airfield was abandoned when a new 3510 foot runway was constructed across the lower portion of the triangle in 1994. The Neepawa Flying Club uses this airfield.

Today very little remains of the former school.  Other than the abandoned runways, only the rifle range building remains.  The control tower was destroyed in a fire several years ago and the sole remaining hangar, occupied by Prairie Forest Products as a storage facility, burned to the ground in a fire in November 2008.  The former school’s other buildings were torn down for material or relocated following the closure of the school.

Prairie Forest Products still occupies the property and have plans to rebuild their facilities.  The remainder of the property is occupied by Provost Signs and Knight Upholstery.

At RCAF Detachment Eden, the abandoned airfield and the hangar, now covered in metal sheeting, are all that remain. The property is now used for farming.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/neepawa-airport-once-an-air-force-base/


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  1. John Gillespie

    I learnt to fly at Neepaway in 1942. Often on skis fitted to Tiger Moth Aircraft. enjoyed much hospital from locals. thank you and we’d remembered? John Gillespie.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi John,

      I’m glad that I brought back some memories. If you have any photos of Neepawa or any of the other bases you were at that you wish to share, please send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.


  2. Sharie Lomas

    My Father, Sergeant CV Grady arrived at the Neepawa Air Base on 6 April 1943. He was an RAF Flying Instructor. He met my Mother in Eden and married her on Jan 22, 1944 at her family’s
    home. Dad returned to England shortly after their marriage and was stationed in Scotland . He was with Coastal Command until the end of WW2. He had to ditch a Spitfire in the North Sea but luckily he was close enough to the shore and people saw him go down. They came out in boats to rescue him. He landed the Spitfire ‘tail down’ he said. That was the most he ever told me about the War. So many brave airmen lost their lives. When Dad returned to Canada after the War he joined the RCAF and made a career out of it. He passed away in 2009 in BC , Canada. Thanks very much for posting the information about
    the EFTS at Neepawa, Manitoba. It is much appreciated for Ancestry purposes.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Sharie,

      Thanks for sharing your story about your Dad. It’s nice to hear those personal stories. It’s too bad that he didn’t talk about the war more than he did, but my family members who served in WWI and WWII didn’t speak much about the war either. It’s understandable, but it for family historical purposes (if not general historical documentation), it would have been nice if they could have at least written about their experiences, even if they promptly put the documents in a drawer and never touched them again. I find some of those personal stories more interesting than watching even the best war movie.

      If you have any photos that you wish to share, please send them to bruce@militarybruce.com.

      Thanks, Bruce

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