As the hostilities erupted that brought about the First World
War, many were unsure what role the airplane would play in the
coming hostilities. It quickly became clear that aircraft could
play a crucial role in the military effort. Those who wanted to
be pilots could choose which service they wanted to enter, as
the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were
available to provide training. These two services merged on 1
April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force.
Alberta made some very significant contributions to the air
forces of the allies with the exploits of aces like Captain
Wilfrid Reid (Wop) May of Edmonton, who shot down thirteen enemy
aircraft during his time in service; Arthur Roy Brown, also of
Edmonton, who was given credit for shooting down the Red Baron;
and Donald Rodrerick MacLaren of Calgary, who shot down
forty-eight aircraft and six balloons. Frederick Robert Gordon
McCall, also of Calgary, claimed thirty-five victories before
the war ended. Lieutenant George Gorman, from Edmonton,
participated in a bombing mission to destroy the bridge at
Voyennes, France on 8 August 1918, but was forced to land in
enemy territory, becoming a prisoner of war.
All of these WWI pilots returned to Alberta after the war and
made significant contributions to the nation’s fledgling
aviation industry. They all played important roles in the
development of the strong air service Canada has today.