Juno Beach Centre | Canada in WWII
   Arms & Weapons
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In the Air
 
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
Home Defence
RCAF Fighter Squadrons Overseas
RCAF Bomber Squadrons Overseas
RCAF Anti-Submarine Squadrons Overseas
The RCAF Women’s Division
Ferrying Aircraft Overseas

“The eyes of our people have turned, with particular interest and pride, to the Royal Canadian Air Force” stated Canadian PM W.L. Mackenzie King in 1939. No one could imagine the part Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were about to play, or the challenges they would face in the following years.

The threat of an air or naval attack by Japan in the west or by Germany in the east prompted the Canadian government to make territorial defence its military priority. Canada also took on the responsibility of training pilots from all parts of the British Commonwealth: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan became of such vital importance that on its account Canada was referred to as “the aerodrome of Democracy”.

In 1939 the Canadian Government still hoped that the overseas involvement of its air force would remain limited; the fall of France and the ensuing Battle of Britain, however, forced a radical revision of priorities. Fighter and bomber squadrons from the RCAF were sent abroad to join the RAF, playing a significant role in protecting the British Empire, and later in attacking Nazi Germany.
To fulfill its mission, the RCAF could count on the support of its numerous female auxiliaries, as well as on the contribution of civilian workers. Military and civilian personnel worked together to fly overseas the airplanes built in American and Canadian factories.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Canada has wide-open spaces, well protected by their remoteness from possible hostile intrusions. Its population, among the largest in the British Commonwealth, can provide many recruits. Canada’s industrial infrastructure can produce airframes for training planes. Towards the end of the 1930s, Canada met all the requirements to become the training ground for the air force that the defence of the British Empire demanded. Learn More
Home Defence

RCAF Fighter Squadrons Overseas

In response to the growing threat of a war between Japan and the Unites States, the Royal Canadian Air Force established Western Air Command on March 1st, 1938, and started building facilities to support a Pacific Coast-based air force. Following the Munich crisis, the RCAF set up Eastern Air Command (EAC) on September 15th, 1938, and prepared a new defence plan that included building bases and deploying squadrons in the Maritimes. Learn More

British military doctrine viewed fighter squadrons as a defensive weapon, to be used in case Great Britain were to be attacked, while bombers were to serve the offensive. It is only after the successes of the Battle of Britain that the Royal Air Force used fighters in offensive operations. For the Army, fighters had a support role to play in both defensive and offensive ground actions. Learn More

RCAF Bomber Squadrons Overseas

RCAF Anti-Submarine Squadrons Overseas

The Canadian government shared the British view with regard to strategic bombing and the Royal Canadian Air Force assigned more squadrons to Bomber Command than it did to Fighter Command or to Coastal Command. In all, 15 Canadian bomber squadrons were formed in Great Britain. Learn More

In Great Britain air force units protecting merchant convoys from enemy submarines were placed under the control of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Coastal Command. Its mission was essentially a defensive one: air patrols ensuring convoy safety by preventing U-boat attacks. Learn More

The RCAF Women’s Division

During the war, women played a significant role with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Their contribution to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) was especially important: as women took on many different responsibilities, men were made available to serve overseas and BCATP schools had no concerns about personnel shortages. Learn More
Ferrying Aircraft Overseas
In the summer of 1940, North American aircraft manufacturers already had orders for some 26,000 planes, to be delivered overseas at a pace of a thousand a month. The logistics for the transportation of so many planes rapidly became a major undertaking. Learn More