Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division
In 1941, two years after the inception of the British
Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), the Royal Canadian
Air Force Women’s Division (RCAF WD) was formed. H.R.H. Princess
Alice, wife to the Governor General of Canada, was invited
to give her support and became the Honorary Air Commandant.
Women across the country cheered and lined up to join
the war effort.
Women were not permitted to be trained as fighters and
their participation was best described by the slogan "We
serve that men may fly". Although women could not be trained
for combat, their contribution was no less important. In
the beginning, there were eight official trades for enlistment
in the Women’s Division: cook,
transport driver, telephone
operator or general
duties. As the war persisted, women
were later enlisted to do some of the work that men did,
and so they became service police, motor mechanics, radio
operators, meteorologists and photographers.
to the Initial Training School that the men had to go through,
basic training for women lasted four weeks and upon completion,
one was AW2 (Air Woman 2) by rank and Standard by trade
classification. It was from this point that women would
specialize and eventually be posted.
The pre-existing attitude toward women enlisting was not terribly positive. Some people challenged the
presence of women in the Air Force and women who wanted
to enlist were often not supported. Although women had officially
been invited to enlist, that did not mean all felt they
were a welcome addition. Some people felt "nice women" did
not join up. How frustrating this must have been, men were
idolized for donning a uniform and women were berated. Nonetheless,
the women involved pressed on. Many found that in training,
they would build up skills and confidence in being part
of the RCAF. However, on posting days, they were met with
resistance from the men on the bases.
after women had been part of the RCAF for a while, and had
shown their male counterparts that their role was of just
as much value, they were accepted as an integral part of
the organization. However, in 1945 when the war ended, the
Royal Canadian Air Force decided to close the Women’s Division.
Women were not allowed back into the RCAF until 1951.