From One World War to Another (1919-43)

The Air Force to 1942

The RCAF Overseas

Flight Sergeant, Royal Canadian Air Force, circa 1941-1943

Caption: Flight Sergeant, Royal Canadian Air Force, circa 1941-1943

As we have seen, Canada sent its entire air fleet, minimal though it was, to England in 1939. But it was not until June 1940 that the well-equipped No. 1 Canadian Squadron went overseas. It became operational on 24 August and inadvertently brought down two British Blenheims. That autumn it would make a more productive contribution to the great Battle of Britain and suffer casualties. Many Canadian pilots were already serving in the RAF as well.

In March 1941 there were still only three Canadian squadrons in Britain, all fighter squadrons. As of that time, all existing or future Canadian squadrons would get a 400 serial number. No. 425 Squadron (June 1942) would be Francophone, as the air force copied the army's effort of 1914. Some squadrons would be stationed as far from England as Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Egypt. In January 1942, Canada had 32 squadrons, including 11 bomber squadrons and approximately 10 for coastal defence. Ultimately there would be 48, including those forming the 6th Canadian Bomber Group. No. 423 Squadron would be fortunate enough to destroy two German submarines in May 1942.

At this stage Canada was still in the process of organizing its air effort, despite the fact that nearly three years had elapsed since the beginning of the war. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, however, was functioning well. In May and June 1942 representatives of 14 countries met in Ottawa to review its performance. Canada used the occasion to request its own bomber group within British Bomber Command, countering British reluctance by offering to defray all the costs of its overseas air force. Although Britain agreed in principle, it would do nothing to effect its implementation.

Additional Images

Leading Aircraftwoman, Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division, 1942-1946