From One World War to Another (1919-43)

Canada’s Military between the Wars

The Air Force 1919-1939

Vickers Vedette flying boat, Royal Canadian Air Force, late 1920s

Caption: Vickers Vedette flying boat, Royal Canadian Air Force, late 1920s

The Canadian Air Force was established in 1920 and redesignated the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924, with Permanent, Non-Permanent and Reserve elements. Until 1938 this force was under the general command of the Army Chief of Staff. At its inception it was given 140 obsolete British aircraft from the First World War, contraptions that were used almost exclusively for civilian operations on behalf of the federal government. The mid-1930s saw the first preparations for a war that by then seemed inevitable. In 1939 Canada acquired and built some British Hurricane fighters, not up to the latest model of the German Mel09s but able to play an important operational role. When war broke out, the Royal Canadian Air Force could marshal 53 aircraft, most of them obsolete. The country's only real military arm was a squadron of seven Hurricanes.

Apart from its few ships, Canada was basically without modern weaponry. For example, the militia had four late-model anti-aircraft guns, four anti-tank guns and 14 light tanks barely out of the factory. Its total strength was ridiculously low, and none of the three arms, except for a part of the little navy, was ready to carry out basic operational duties when called upon.

Additional Images

Lieutenant, Canadian Air Force, 1920-1924