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Second World War (1939 – 1945)

gallery-sww1When war was declared on Germany, 1 September 1939, the RCAF had a total strength of 4,000 regular personnel, an auxiliary force of 12 squadrons and a total of 270 aircraft. During the Second World War, the RCAF expanded into the fourth largest air power of the Allied Forces. 232,000 men and 17,000 women enlisted in a service that operated a total of 86 squadrons, including 47 overseas (Europe or South-east Asia). Many other thousands of Canadians fought in the British Royal Air Force or other Commonwealth air forces.


The RCAF’s war effort was oriented towards the training of Commonwealth air forces personnel, operations in the theatres of war overseas, and defence of the country’s East coast.

British Commonwealth Training Plan (BCATP)
When the war started, representatives of gallery-sww3Commonwealth governments met in Ottawa to discuss the instruction needs for the Royal Air Force personnel. On 17 December 1939 the “Riverdale Agreement” was signed and thus began the training plan set up by the British Air Ministry. Canada was chosen as the primary location due to ample supplies of fuel, wide open spaces suitable for flight and navigation training, industrial facilities for the production of trainer aircraft, parts and supplies, the lack of any threat from Luftwaffe and Japanese fighter planes. When fully developed, the BCATP was required to produce 520 pilots a month with elementary training, 544 pilots with service training, 340 air observers, and 580 wireless operator-air gunners. BCATP reached by 1943 its maximum expansion: 97 schools and 184 ancillary units, with over 3,000 graduates per month. The program was officially terminated at the end of March 1945.

The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain was a sustained strategic effort by the Luftwaffe during the summer and autumn of 1940 to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force. This was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces during the Second World War and caused huge damages, especially civilian casualties as a result of air raids over London. The RCAF arrived in Britain at the beginning of the 1940 summer; No. 1 Squadron began operations on 19 August, at a time when the Luftwaffe’s attacks on southern England were increasing in intensity. By the end of October 1940, 54 enemy aircraft were definitely destroyed or damaged by the RCAF fighter aircraft and three pilots had been killed in action.

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