Historic Sites of Manitoba: Bombing and Gunnery School No. 7 (Paulson, RM of Dauphin)
This site, on 640 acres of land east of Dauphin in the Rural Municipality of Dauphin, was the largest of its kind used for training of military personnel during the Commonwealth Air Training Plan of the Second World War. The base was sometimes referred to as Paulson Airport because it was serviced by a spur line from the Canadian National Railway, near a small siding to the south called Paulson. Chosen due to its close proximity to Lake Dauphin, near which bombing and gunnery practice took place, construction of the facility began in late 1940 and most buildings were completed by January 1941.
Six large aircraft hangars were erected by the Claydon Construction Company. Other nearby buildings included barracks and mess halls for officers and enlisted men and women; a 10-bed hospital; a dental clinic; garages and workshops, a recreation and dance hall, fire station, and stores. Two large concrete tanks held water for drinking and other uses, and a small sewage treatment plant was on the northern edge of the property. In the centre of the site was a parade ground. The total cost of construction was around $1.25 million. The Royal Canadian Air Force took command of the site from civilian contractors in early June 1941 and it achieved full operational status on 23 June 1941. In early November, electrical power to the site was provided by the Manitoba Power Commission.
The base operated 24 hours a day, with the first aircrew training classes beginning in late June 1941. Courses typically took 25-26 weeks for each cohort of pilots, gunners, and observers. The final classes received their wings on 2 February 1945 and the school closed a couple of weeks later. By April 1945, 150-200 personnel were transferred to other facilities. Eventually, nearly all buildings were sold and moved away, or were demolished.
At the time of a June 2015 site visit, the only remaining building was an Officers Mess, which had been moved from its original site for use as farmyard storage. Paved roads around the grounds were cracked and mostly overgrown with vegetation, although the concrete floors of the six hangars and a few buildings were still readily visible. Trees had grown through cracks in the paved runways, and the areas around the runways were mostly sown to agricultural crops. Sewer drains and water lines were still visible at several spots around the site.
Photos & Maps
“Biggest yet, Air School at Paulson opens,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 June 1941, page 3.
“Paulson Air School opens,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 June 1941, page 5.
“Victory Turrets: Paulson Gunners are active,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 September 1941, page 1.
“Power ready for Paulson Air School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 October 1941, page 20.
“Joe-Jobs aid flying safety,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 June 1942, page 3.
“Air School at Paulson wins Pennant Award,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 November 1942, page 4.
“Stewart takes Command of Air Force School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 February 1943, page 11.
“7 Manitobans get Wings at Paulson Air School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 June 1943, page 5.
“Paulson Bombing School sets record,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 August 1943, page 7.
“City briefs [Group-Capt. H. E. Stewart],” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 March 1945, page 6.
Wings Over Dauphin: A History of a Forgotten Era by Elsie Lesyk, 1995.
We thank Yvonne Lozinski and Richard Kutcher for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 2 March 2016
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