Updated: Feb 17
Eric Victor Watts, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)
When Eric Victor Watts joined the RCAF on May 10, 1939, the Government of Canada had already approved a number of racist policies and practices intended to prevent opportunities for Black Canadians and Asian Canadians wishing to join the Air Force. Still, Eric Watts enlisted as an armourer and quickly proved himself a natural leader with superior instructing and supervisory skills: he rapidly rose to the rank of Warrant Officer, Class 2.
Throughout the Second World War, the RCAF was always looking for personnel willing to become aircrew, so in December 1943, Watts stepped forward to began training as a pilot. After qualifying as a pilot in March 1945, Eric remained in Canada and served at several RCAF training schools until November 1946. After the war, the RCAF had too many pilots, so Eric returned to his previous role as an armaments instructor and supervisor. Again, his leadership skills were recognized and he was repeatedly recommended for promotion to officer. Finally, in February 1951, while he was attending an RCAF Ground Defence course, an officer position became available and Eric Watts was commissioned as a Flying Officer.
Eric Watt then went on to served as an instructor and as a supervisor of armaments at RCAF Station Trenton and Camp Borden (both in Ontario). In November 1955, Watts was posted to RCAF Headquarters where he worked on various armaments programmes, including the development of the Sparrow II missile which was planned for the innovative Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow interceptor aircraft.
In August 1959, Watts took up the posting he really wanted – as the Maintenance Armaments Office with 445 Squadron at RCAF Station, Marville, France (also know as 1 Wing). This posting was with one of four RCAF wings (each containing three fighter squadrons) established in Europe as part of Canada’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the Cold War. Eric then went on to serve as the 1 Wing’s Armaments Officer. In that post, he led an organization that was ranked last for serviceability of armaments systems, to become the best RCAF wing in Europe. For his outstanding work, Eric Watts was promoted to Squadron Leader on January 1, 1962. He returned to Canada in July 1963, and served in leadership and staff positions until he retired in 1966.
During the Second World War, Eric Watts rose through the ranks to become an armaments supervisor and then a pilot in the training system. In both capacities he had to demonstrate that Black-Canadians were every bit as capable as anybody else. He succeeded and went on to more important roles after the war.
Eric Watts passed away in Belleville, Ontario on 18 March 1993
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