English version | French version

Canadian Air Force (1920-1924)

From the CAF to the RCAF

Efforts toward the creation of a Canadian air element continued at the beginning of 1920s. The Canadian government established an Air Board of seven members to regulate and control commercial and civil aviation throughout the Dominion in 1919. The Board was also charged with defending the country from the sky. This included the organization and administration of the Canadian Air Force (CAF), authorized on 18 February 1920. The new organization was given a provisional establishment of 1,340 officers and 31,905 airmen, but it remained as a non-permanent air force. Its only function was to give a 28-day refresher courses every other year to officers and airmen who had served in the RAF during the war. A small headquarters was set up in Ottawa, under the Air Board, and Camp Borden was taken over to serve as the CAF training centre. Operations began there in October 1920, with all equipment, aircraft and hangars donated by the British government.

By the end of March 1922, when refresher training at Camp Borden was suspended, 550 officers and 1,271 airmen had completed the 28-day course.gallery-ww21By 1922, a transition plan for the future organization of the Air Force was needed. It was a period of reorganization for the Canadian forces that culminated with legislation passing on 1 January 1923; the Militia, the Naval Service, and the Air Board were thus incorporated under one Ministry of National Defence.


The prefix “Royal” to the Canadian Air Force was added in 1923, but made official on 1 April 1924. The RCAF was to be administered by a Director responsible to the Chief of the General Staff and had three components: an Active Air Force (permanent), an Auxiliary (part-time) Air Force and a non-active Reserve. The Active Air Force on the day of the RCAF’s birth was a modest 68 officers and 307 airmen; actual strength was 61 officers and 262 airmen. The insignia, ensign and badges were similar to those of the Royal Air Force. A Latin motto was adopted: “Per Ardua Ad Astra” (through adversity to the stars).


gallery-ww22 gallery-ww23