Canada in the Second World War


Air Vice-Marshal G.M. Croil

George Mitchell Croil, born June 5th, 1893, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; died April 8th, 1959, in Vancouver, B.C. Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) officer.

Air Vice-Marshal G.M. Croil.

Air Vice-Marshal G.M. Croil.
National Defence Image Library, PL 117513.

During WWI, G. M. Croil wore the badge of the Royal Flying Corps and trained new pilots in Salonika and in the Middle East; he was for some time T.E. Lawrence’s (Lawrence of Arabia) own pilot on desert missions.

Appointed to the Canadian Air Board in 1919, Croil helped ensure that Canada maintained an air force during the peace era. He was instrumental in establishing air force bases in Morley and High River, Alberta. When the RCAF was founded in 1924 under the authority of the Canadian Army, Croil was among its first officers. In 1925, he was sent to Britain as liaison officer with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and attended training at the RAF Staff College. Back in Canada, he served for five years as Commanding Officer of the Camp Borden (Ontario) training base. In 1931, Croil, once more in Great Britain, completed his training at the Imperial Defence College. He was appointed Senior Air Officer with the RCAF, and in 1938 succeeded in securing the RCAF’s independence from the Army. A dedicated advocate of a strong, independent, national air force for Canada, Croil was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal and became Canada’s first Chief of Air Staff.

A reserved man, strict and professional, Croil stood out as an exceptional administrator. When C.G. Power became Minister of Defence for Air in May 1940, he asked for Croil’s resignation: while acknowledging Croil’s qualities as a conscientious officer, he admitted to being somewhat put off by his “puritanical and regimental” disposition. Professional to the end, Croil accepted an appointment as Inspector General of the RCAF. He retired in 1944.