For World War II veteran Jim Ashworth, joining the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941 was an obvious choice.
“Well, we were needed of course,” said Ashworth. “I’d just finished high school and was working up at the park, and all my friends joined, and we thought we better go and get this over with, so we joined up. That was the general atmosphere anyway.”
At the age of 20, Ashworth, a native of Cranbrook, would begin his training in Canada as a pilot in January before being shipped to England in November of the same year.
Ashworth had never flown before joining the RCAF, but after spending a year in England, he was sent to Southeast Asia for the Burma Campaign, which was part of the Asia-Pacific War of WWII.
“I didn’t really want to go that far, but you didn’t have much choice; they were short of pilots and you had to go,” said Ashworth, who went on to become a squadron leader. “Some of the decisions, you did what the higher authority told you to do.”
He would end up flying 90 hours during the Burma Campaign before being sent back to Canada near the tail-end of 1944. Arriving back in Canada was a huge relief, as some of his strongest war memories were of the poor living conditions pilots would sometimes have to live with.
The end of the war was “exhilarating,” said Ashworth.
He then stayed on with the RCAF for a total of 26 years until retiring in 1966.
During that time Ashworth was also posted at a radar station in Tofino on Vancouver Island as part of a distant early-warning system that saw radar stations all across the U.S. and Canada in case of a Soviet bomber attack during the Cold War.
After retiring from the RCAF, Ashworth moved back to the East Kootenay where he co-owned and operated the Hoodoos Mountain Resort for a number of years.
He regularly takes part in Remembrance Day ceremonies in the Columbia Valley and visits Windermere Elementary School each year as part of their ceremonies.
“It really warms things up for everybody,” Ashworth said. “The teachers do a great job in giving the kids the word.”