Canada's Air War
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
of 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.