Empire Air Training Scheme

Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS)

No. 6 Service Flying School Mallala South Australia in 1944 Opened in 1941, it was used until 1960 when it closed to be converted into a motor racing circuit; the track of which follows the centre roads and the arced taxiway.

The Empire Air Training Scheme was the solution to the realisation that Great Britain did not have the capacity to produce aircrew in the numbers required to sustain combat operations in NW Europe in WW II.   

Instructor and student with North American Harvard II aircraft of No.2 Service Flying Training School (S.F.T.S.) (Royal Canadian Airforce Schools and Training Units), R.C.A.F., Uplands, Ontario, Canada. July 1941. Nicholas Morant, July, 1941. MIKAN 3521068. Uplands, Ontario, Canada Department of National Defence. Library and Archives Canada, PA-190248 

The plan provided for the coordinated recruitment and training of aircrew from around the British Empire, with basic training to be conducted in home countries and Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe) with advanced aircrew training to be conducted in the UK or Canada, the latter because of its relative proximity to the 'front line' and aircraft production in Great Britain. The original plan was to provide up to 50,000 aircrew.

Until the creation of the Empire Air Training Scheme, the RAAF throughput of trainee pilots was only about 50 per year. In fact Australia alone graduated some 27,899 aircrew of a total of 37,000 plus Australians who were trained under the scheme.

During 1940, RAAF schools were set up around Australia.  These were Elementary Flying Training, Service Flying Training, Air Navigation, Air Observer, Bombing and Gunnery and Wireless Air Gunnery schools. Site selection was based primarily on weather and terrain that was conducive to maximise flying operations year round without risk of enemy intervention.  Most bases were therefore inland in places such as Temora, Narrandera, Wagga Wagga and Tocumwal in NSW, Mildura in addition to established bases at East Sale, Point Cook and Laverton in Victoria .  Edinburgh and Malala in South Australia, and Cunderdin, Geraldton, Pearce and Bindoon in WA were also home to training bases.  A full list can be found here

The de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth was the predominant basic training aircraft of the Commonwealth and the Empire Air Training Scheme throughout WW II.

For a period, most RAAF aircrews received advanced training in Canada. On 14 November 1940, the first contingent to graduate from advanced training in Canada embarked for the UK. From mid-1940, however, some RAAF trainees began to receive advanced training at RAF facilities in Souther Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)

A graduation parade at an Empire Aircrew Training Scheme base in Canada. The Aircraft are North American Harvards.

When war broke out with Japan in late 1941, most RAAF aircrews completed their training in Australia and served with RAAF units in the South West Pacific Theatre of Operations.

Australian personnel were also assigned from Europe and the Mediterranean to RAF squadrons in the South ast Asia Theatre (Burma and India).

Some Article XV (identified by a squadron number in the 400s) squadrons were also transferred to RAAF or RAF formations involved in the Pacific War. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of RAAF personnel remained in Europe and RAAF Article XV squadrons continued to be formed there.


The 27,899 aircrew, who had qualified under the Empire Air Training Scheme, supplied approximately 9 per cent of all aircrew who fought for the RAF in the Mediterranean and European theatres in the air war against Italy and Germany.They flew in operations over German and Italian cities; they sank enemy ships and submarines; shot down many enemy aircraft; and RAAF bombers dropped many tons of bombs.

As the war progressed the Scheme was so successful that supply began to outstrip demand.  Following a request by the UK government the Scheme was wound back significantly. Australian involvement was effectively terminated in October 1944.  The EATS was formally wound up on 31 March 1945.

This image illustrates the fearful toll exacted on aircrew in WW 2, particularly those involved in the bombing campaign against Germany. Group portrait of 30 Course, 4 Initial Training School, Royal Australian Air Force, B Squadron, 13 Flight, held between July and September 1942 at Victor Harbor in SA.

Identified, left to right, back row: 427446 Arthur John Davies (later killed in action (KIA) on 14 December 1943 whilst serving with 100 Squadron, RAF); A R Bridge; J Coulter; R A Cooper; 417806 Kenneth Ian Cole ( later KIA on 12 September 1944 whilst serving with 100 Squadron, RAF); F W Clarke; P M Carmody; 427436 Leonard William Cann (later KIA on 5 January 1945 whilst serving with 29 Op Training, RAF); S W Cooper.

Third row: 417811 Joseph George Crowe (killed accidentally on 26 July 1943, at Golgol Course, NSW); 417460 George Bruce Davies (later KIA on 22 October 1943 whilst serving with 1654 Conversion, RAF); G V Creek; E R Brooks; R C Cotton; J E Burch; 417809 John Eyre Brown (later KIA on 21 April 1944 whilst serving with 467 Squadron, RAF); 417812 Ronald Irving Cummings (later KIA on 25 March 1944 whilst serving with 466 Squadron, RAF); J H Crawford; 417807 Howard Norman Cornish (later KIA on 12 September 1944 whilst serving with 625 Squadron, RAF).

Second row: M J Cassidy; 427445 George Martin Dann (later KIA on 10 May 1944 whilst serving with 463 Squadron, RAF); W Dibb; 417799 Peter John Calder (later KIA on 17 March 1944 whilst serving with 17 Op Training, RAF); J J Budiselic; R J M Coventry; N G Clark; M G Church; G I Dalziel; H M Carr.

Front row: C C Davidson; 427438 Gergo Caveridge (later KIA on 28 September 1944 whilst serving with 463 Squadron, RAF); G T Brown; R Corlett; R V Clarkson; Leading Aircraftman A J Oliver (staff); G S Browne; S L Clark; 427447 Frederick Davis (later KIA on 26 December 1944 whilst serving with 148 Squadron, RAF); V R Chapman; R C Cowell.


(C) Steve Larkins May 2013