"Keen as mustard"
This website is an attempt to tell the story of a much-forgotten and overlooked part of the system which trained the young men of the 1940s to become aircrew so that they could play their part in the fight against the Nazi war machine.
Worldwide Allied Governments agreed to set up a system for achieving this aim, it was initially known as the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) which latterly was re-named to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). It involved the countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
Southern Rhodesia is probably the least well known, despite the fact that it was the first country to operate schools where flying training could take place. Its story will be told in this website through the eyes of two keen young men; Toby Williams who along with thousands of others made the long journey to this far off land-locked country in the middle of Africa and his friend from the small country town in Wiltshire, Max Venton.
Toby, who was christened William Charles but was known as Toby from birth, is my father and I'm honoured to be able to document his adventures in the 1940s. Fortunately he left diaries, photographs, his logbook and many other items for me to use in trying to reconstruct those long-ago days, I regret that I didn't sit down more often with him to talk about his life in the RAF prior to his death in 2006.
Max was in the ATC along with Toby, he had attended Trowbridge Grammar School and was an articled clerk to the Melksham Town Surveyor. He was passionately interested in natural history and along with his school friend Dick Spencer had many "adventures" in the areas around his home town of Melksham.
Toby and Max volunteered together and shared all their early life in the RAF together until Max was sent back to the UK after gaining his wings whilst Toby was retained in Rhodesia.
Like Toby, Max was a great writer, recording many of his experiences in letters which I'm fortunate to have been given by Max's brother Colin. These young men's voices will be heard throughout this website, Max's experiences can also be read about in www.ordinarycrew.co.uk