The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) share a deeply intertwined history and an enduring relationship steeped in shared tradition. Below, we have highlighted six important moments and interesting facts spanning almost 100 years of RAF-RCAF partnership and cooperation.
1. The Beginnings
The first seeds of the Royal Canadian Air Force were planted during the final days of the First World War in 1918, when two RAF squadrons were given a “Canadian” designation and a brand new Royal Canadian Naval Air Service was established in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
2. A Big, Beautiful Gift
British assistance was crucial to the establishment of the Royal Canadian Air Force on April 1, 1924. The United Kingdom’s donation of 100 aircraft and their wartime training of Canadian airmen were crucial to the RCAF’s rapid integration into the wider Canadian defense apparatus.
3. Canada to the Rescue!
Though the Royal Canadian Air Force was formally established in 1924, a number of Canadian airmen remained with the RAF throughout the interwar years. By the advent of the Second World War, there was such a high number of “CAN-RAF” personnel that the №242 “Canadian” Squadron was created, significantly helping combat initial German aggression in Western Europe during 1940.
4. Saving Britain
Approximately 100 Canadians flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940, the first major military campaign to be exclusively fought by air forces and one of the most important battles of the Second World War. The bulk of Canadian losses were suffered by the №1 Fighter Squadron of the RCAF, though the critically supported by №110 and 112 Squadrons. Twenty-three Canadians perished fighting in the battle.
5. A Tragic Ending
The first Canadian to die in active service during the Second World War was Pilot Officer Ellard Alexander Cummings, 23, of Ottawa. He was killed only hours after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939 when a Westland Wallace biplane of the RAF Air Observer School entered a thick fog and crashed into a Scottish hillside. Cummings — who enlisted on May 7, 1938 — belonged to a group of Canadians who had enlisted directly in the Royal Air Force (CAN/RAF).
6. The Ultimate Honor
A total of seven RCAF airmen have been awarded the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for unparalleled courage “in the face of the enemy.” The Victoria Cross takes precedence over all other military awards in the Commonwealth.