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Canada's Air War

Royal Air Force MosquitoThe British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) grew into the largest air force training plan in the Commonwealth. Over the course of World War II, over 130,000 aircrew from around the Commonwealth and beyond went through its program. Dozens of training facilities were set up across Canada, from Prince Edward Island to Sea Island, British Columbia. The Plan was arguably one of the country’s most important contributions to the war.

Part of the BCATP agreement was that Dominion graduates would be incorporated into national squadrons. This allowed for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), along with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and other Dominion air forces to maintain units overseas, rather than being incorporated into the Royal Air Force (RAF) as the British had originally proposed.

The bulk of RCAF units served in Northwest Europe. There they helped in the defence of Great Britain, participating in famous events such as the Battle of Britain and the Battle Royal Air Force Mosquitoof the Flying Bombs. They carried out operations day and night, conducted intruder operations and contributed to the bombing campaign that would eventually help defeat Germany. The RCAF 331 wing supported the invasion of Sicily, which led to a foothold in fascist Italy. In Southeast Asia, one squadron kept the peace over the Indian Ocean, while two transport squadrons served in the 1944 Burma campaign. Meanwhile, many Canadian airmen served around the world in the RAF.

The RCAF Home War Establishment was divided into the Western Air Command and the Eastern Air Command. Their mission was to protect Canada’s coastal areas from potential invasion. Sustained battle was rare for squadrons serving in Canada. The Eastern Command saw the most action, protecting ships from German U-boats in the North Atlantic.

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