Silvera Veterans: Wilbert (Bill) Wright

25 March 2024

Silvera is home to many veterans. To honour them and their selfless commitments, we are sharing the stories of a handful of the residents who have served. We are grateful to them for their service and their willingness to share their experiences.

Like many young men at the time, Bill Wright joined military service in 1940 as World War II was newly unfolding.

Bill, who is 104 years old and lives at Silvera’s Aspen community, was only 21 when he enlisted. The son of a farmer in Aylsham, Saskatchewan, Bill decided to join the air force six months after Germany invaded Poland. He served in Canada for the duration of his five-year air force career, stationed for nearly three years at the #12 Service Flying Training School in Brandon, Manitoba, then further north at the #10 SFTS in Dauphin for two more years.

BCATP: a key Allied war effort

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was a major Canadian contribution to the Allied war effort during WWII. The BCATP established 107 Service Flying Training Schools across Canada, producing 50,000 pilots, including students from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

“These flight schools were where the men got their wings,” explains Bill. “They all headed overseas from there.”

Each flight school housed 500 future bomber pilots at a time, where they learned to fly twin engine Cessna Cranes.

Becoming a sergeant

Bill primarily worked in procurement, becoming a sergeant at the central warehouse, where he was responsible for purchasing food and other items for the canteens.

“I was given a budget and had to purchase everything from wholesalers, ensuring the pilots in training were well set up at the snack bar,” he says.

Each morning Bill put out the orders and “did lots of bookkeeping.” He remembers earning about $36 each month as a sergeant.

As the son of a farmer, Bill was given two weeks off each spring and fall to help with seeding and harvest. “We just hoped that the weather lined up with our time off. One year it rained for my entire leave and all I could do was sit in the house and watch it come down.”

In 1942 Bill married his childhood sweetheart, Myrna. “We used to play together at the barn dances when she was just nine and I was 13. We fought all the time as kids so thought we’d get married and keep it going,” he laughs.

Life after the war

Bill was discharged from the air force in February 1945 and returned to his family’s homestead where he farmed for the next 12 years. He and Myrna had seven children. He eventually accepted a position as a grain buyer in Midale, SK for a decade before moving to Calgary, where he became an apartment manager.

“I did that until I had a heart attack at age 72, when I decided it was probably time to retire,” he says.

Myrna passed away three years later, and Bill eventually developed a close companionship with a friend that he and Myrna met when they used to go dancing at the Pioneer Club. Bill and Annabelle were companions for 19 years until she died in 2013.

Bill moved into Aspen 13 years ago and is looking forward to celebrating his 105th birthday in September, along with his seven children, 14 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

When asked for the secret to his longevity, Bill jokes that it can simply be chalked up to “wine, women and song!”