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Home>> Canada's Air War >> The RCAF>> Overseas>> Background


Royal Canadian Air Force Logo, circa WWIIIn World War I, Canadian Air Force personnel were integrated into units of the Royal Air Force (RAF). One part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) agreement signed in 1939 allowed for the existence of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) units overseas. The terms of the agreement were vague, and allowed for broad interpretation on the part of both the British and the Canadian governments. The Canadians understood it to mean that, eventually, all Canadian graduates of the BCATP would serve in RCAF units overseas. The British took it to mean that a limited number of RCAF squadrons would be formed, with the remainder of graduates serving in RAF units. The tension between these two positions would persist throughout the war.

Founded in 1924, the RCAF prior to 1938 was not much of a military service. Faced with no immediate military threat, it spent its first 14 years engaged in forest patrolling, aerial photography and as a police liaison in the service of other government departments. In 1939 it consisted of 4,061 members, all ranks inclusive. By 1940 Canada managed to muster enough airmen for three overseas squadrons. This grew to 47 squadrons by the war’s end in 1945.

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