Reverend Dr Allan Miller sent us this letter from The Sarnia Canadian Observer which shows an interesting glimpse of life with 89 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Rathbun for pilots-in-training. It was written by Cadet William Boyce Mavity to his mother, Emily and published in the newspaper 100 years ago today.

Letter from Camp Rathbun

Camp Rathburn, Deseronto
Dear Mother—Here I am away out at Camp Rathburn, which is about twenty minutes walk from Deseronto. This is a small camp, there being only about 100 cadets in training. Camp Mohawk is about a mile away. This afternoon I went up for my first “joy ride” and it’s almost impossible to describe the sensation. In starting off the bumping of the wheels on the uneven ground can be felt, but as the machine gains speed it gradually lifts itself off the ground and seems to be riding on cushions, there being no jar whatsoever. The ground seems to fall away from the machine until it gains level flying position, when the machine seems to be suspended in the air and the ground moving. The machine I was in attained an altitude of 5,000 feet (the Curtis will not climb over 8,000) and you can’t imagine how strange the earth looked. It was impossible to discern people on the ground, but cows and horses were evident. Houses looked like little blocks and roads like long narrow strips of white ribbon. The farming country looks like a checkerboard and the Bay of Quinte and small lakes look just like pools of melted lead.

Bay of Quinte from the air

DA 2012.10 (09)

The only thing that bothered me, was when the instructor headed the machine into a straight nose dive. The earth started to rush toward us and I began to feel sick at the stomach. The machine dropped about 4,000 feet before it straightened out. I was up 30 minutes. You can’t imagine how strong the wind is at a high altitude and especially when the machine is falling. I wore a big heavy leather coat, thick gloves, goggles and a crash helmet. The wind exerts such pressure on the helmet and forces it on your head so hard that your head aches. The goggles were not very air tight and the wind nearly blew my eyes out. I will go up again tomorrow and will be allowed to guide the machine myself. This morning a cadet started on his first solo flight. He went up twice and landed twice, but the third time he tried to land, the machine landed on its nose and was completely demolished and he didn’t even get scratched. In fact, he got another machine and went up again.
The meals we get here are swell. We get 90 cents a day extra while flying, but they take $8 a week for board. We have fresh tomatoes, chicken, cake, ice cream, pie fruit—in fact, the best of everything and all is well cooked. We have flowers on the tables and have waiters to wait on us and eat with the officers. At present I am sleeping in a tent with two other fellows. We have a coal oil stove and lantern, too.
Well I will close now, write soon,
My address is
No. 15300 Cadet W. B. Mavity
89th C.T.S. R.F.C.
Deseronto Ont.

Mavity had originally enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February 24th, 1917, but was discharged six weeks later for being under age. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1918 after his nineteenth birthday. He completed his training was granted a temporary commission as a 2nd lieutenant on September 5th, 1918.