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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 (RCAFWD) 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, clerk, equipment assistant, fabric worker, hospital assistant, motor transport driver, telephone operator or general duties. As the war went on and on, 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.

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.
Eventually, 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.

Women Working in the Repair Depot

Women Working in the Repair Depot

Magazine Cover

Magazine Cover