1923: The next stage of Leonard’s life was about to begin.
He sailed from Liverpool on the SS Megantic on 1st June 1923. He was 14 years old, travelling with a large group of about 100 boys – the Salvation Army’s latest shipment of children to Canada. From his War Service file we learn that between 1924 and 1926 he worked as a farm labourer, eventually leaving to get a better job. From 1926 to 1928 he studied grades 9 and 10 at the Manitoba CCS. Between 1928 and 1941 he was employed periodically as a carpenter, miner and drill operator by D. A McKenzie of Matlock Beach, Manitoba, and in 1940 he did a few months’ work for Mr A E Holmes of Winnipeg, working as “a finisher and a miner and diamond drill operator”.
He applied to join the RCAF on May 1st 1940 but was refused because he was not tall enough. He reapplied on February 14th 1941 and enlisted at Winnipeg on 11.10.41. Presumably the height requirements had been relaxed!
The interviewing officer described him as “a good natured husky fellow who has roughed his way – confident but not overbearing”. Leonard’s ambition was to be an Air Navigator but he was thought to be unsuitable for this role because he was rather a “plodder” and although he had worked hard to achieve a good general standard of education the study for the navigator role would be beyond him. He was obviously well-regarded, though, being described as “generally courteous and cooperative, a man who has worked very hard and is a dependable, serious, plodder type”.
Leonard’s Service Records on Ancestry.co.uk include his Final Training Report which included the comment that he was “a keen bomb aimer who has shown great improvement in his cross country bombing.” He was regarded as a very keen officer and was awarded his Air Bomber Badge on 22nd January 1943.
He was posted overseas in March 1943 and disembarked in the UK in April of the same year.
To be concluded…..