Canada in the Second World War


Air Vice-Marshal Robert Leckie

Robert Leckie, born April 16th, 1890, in Glasgow, Scotland; died March 31st, 1975, in Ottawa. Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) officer.

Air Vice-Marshal Robert Leckie in January 1944

Air Vice-Marshal Robert Leckie in January 1944
National Defence Image Library, PL 23609.

Like many other WWII senior officers, Robert Leckie first made his mark during WWI. Trained at the Toronto Curtiss Aviation School, he joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a flying boat pilot in 1915. Flying his HS-2L Curtiss through North Sea storms, Leckie earned quite a reputation during anti-submarine patrols and anti-Zeppelin defence missions. When the war ended, he was a wing commander with the Royal Air Force (RAF), created in 1918 by the union of the different British flying corps.

Detached from the RAF from 1919 to 1922, Leckie was Director of Flying Operations for the Canadian Air Board and he played an important role in the development of air mail and passenger service in Canada: the first Trans-Canada flight dates from 1920. Leckie later returned to the RAF where he served until the beginning of WWII. Posted in Malta as RAF Commanding Officer for the Mediterranean, he was called back to Canada in 1940.

In 1940, he was selected by the British Air Ministry to take charge of air force training in Canada from the RCAF HQ. Appointed Air Member for Training and promoted to Air Commodore, he found himself in a delicate position, having more seniority than any of his superiors, except for the Chief of Staff! Despite objections, Leckie took his new posting in February 1940; in 1942, he was transferred to the RCAF.

In January 1944, Robert Leckie was promoted to Air Marshal and RCAF Chief of Air Staff, a position where he served until 1947. A leader of great intelligence and talent, Leckie was one of Canada’s best air officers of WWII.