Did You Know?

The War in the Air

Canadian achievements in the air during the Second World War were remarkable. The smallest of Canada’s three services in 1939, with insufficient manpower and inadequate equipment, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) expanded by 1945 to the fourth largest air force of the Allied powers. RCAF units took part in every major air operation overseas, from the Battle of Britain to the bombing of Germany and, in addition, played an important role in air training and in the protection of shipping and transportation. They flew every kind of aircraft there was from the workhorse Dakota to the Mosquito, Halifax, Liberator, Lancaster and the glamorous Spitfire. In all, more than 232,500 men and 17,000 women served in the RCAF both in home defence and farther afield. They flew into the German industrial heartland, with the Desert Air Force in the Middle East, on coastal patrol from Ceylon, over the Burma Road, the Norwegian fiords, and out over the Atlantic on U-boat patrol. In addition, thousands of Canadians served with the RAF overseas.

Canadian air personnel were involved in three major areas of service during the war: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan; the theatre of war overseas; and the Home War Establishment.

1. Pilots_of_No._1_Squadron_RCAF_with_one_of_their_Hawker_Hurricanes_at_Prestwick,_Scotland,_30_October_1940.
A group of pilots of No. 1 Squadron RCAF (renamed No. 401 Squadron in 1941) gather round one of their Hawker Hurricanes at Prestwick, Scotland, 30 October 1940. The Squadron Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader E. A. McNab, stands fifth from the right, wearing a forage cap. Photo: Archive Photo