Fred Rainer was born in Calgary, Alberta on November 11, 1911. In 1942, at the age off 19, he attended a swearing in ceremony to join the efforts of WWII. By age 20, he went from a non-flyer to a pilot of the Harvard airplane. Rainer was still in Canada, but was living a life much different than his previous one.
WWII brought a lot of change to the world. For Rainer that change started the day he signed up and continued through to the end of the war. Rainer was put through a heavy training routine. He trained on the de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft and the Avro Anson.
Once Rainer got his wings, he was promoted to flying instructor. “I was first in my class,” said a proud Rainer. “Usually, that gives a pilot first choice, but that wasn’t really the way things worked this time. I was assigned to teach others to fly, so I stayed in Canada…in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
Pilot Fred Rainer became one of many soldiers who in the line of duty sat in the cockpit of the Harvard or some other war plane teaching more young soldiers how to keep themselves safe in the sky. “We did our best to make them competent in emergency situations.” The Canadian pilot training program was called the Commonwealth Training Program and “was the biggest on in the world at that time and there has never been a bigger one since,” Rainer stated. “We were training soldiers from Europe…England and Norway, New Zealand and Australia. The program was the largest pilot training course ever inaugurated in the world.”
Rainer’s time in the air was plentiful and he became an expert at night instructing. “It was a particularly tough type of instructing, but necessary,” Rainer stated.
Training on the Mitchell Bomber was going to be Rainer’s last assignment before being transported to Burma to fight. “Fortunately, the Japanese quit at that point,” said Rainer “and I was discharged.”
At the age of 87, Fred Rainer has moved on to family life. He settled at Gibsons Landing after the war and raised four children; Dave, John, Patty and Claudia. Son Dave lives in Princeton and just happened to notice that at the 2011 Princeton Air Show a Harvard airplane was coming to town to perform under the competent hands of pilot John Mrazek. Dave made a few calls, plotted with his family and soon had arrangements in place for their father to relive a piece of history. Mrazek took Fred up for a twenty minute flight. “He landed with a big grin on his face,” said son John. “It was quite a thrill for dad.”
“These kids really look after me,” stated Fred.
“The whole family came for the weekend,” said Claudia. “Dave set this up and got dad this opportunity. I think the whole experience has been wonderful for him.”