First World War
The airplane quickly became a tool of war, despite the scepticism of Sam Hughes, Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence. Canada did not have its own air force in the First World War but Canadian airmen served with the British Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force (RAF) and The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
Of these men, 192 emerged as “aces,” having destroyed more than five enemy aircraft each. W.A. “Billy” Bishop and William Raymond Collishaw topped this list, becoming household names that remain familiar to us even a century later.
Second World War
Bomber Command and No.6 Group
When the Second World War broke out, the RCAF had a total Permanent Force strength of only 298 officers and 2,750 men. But these numbers grew rapidly. By 1943, Canada had its own group within Bomber Command of the RAF, which consisted of fifteen squadrons, flying Lancasters, Halifaxes and Wellingtons.
The Bomber Command exhibit retells the story of No. 6 (RCAF) Group and features reproductions of aircraft nose-art painted on original aircraft exteriors. You can even experience a pre-flight briefing in an authentic Second World War Nissen hut.
British Commonwealth Air Training Program
The British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) was developed after the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) made it too hazardous to train aircrew in Britain. Between 1940 and 1945, the BCATP trained more than 130,000 airmen from Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Enough material was used to construct runways for the program that the same amount of material could have paved a highway from Vancouver to Ottawa. The BCATP had training facilities in over 200 locations across Canada and almost 100 of them were airfields. The museum contains an extensive exhibit of flying centers across the prairies, the programs candidates were taught, and descriptions of different aircraft pilots learned to fly.
RCAF Operations Overseas
The Battle of Britain was the first campaign that Canadian airmen served in as a solely Canadian unit. No. 6 Bomber Group and other RCAF squadrons of fighters and nightfighters were stationed in Britain throughout the Second World War, in addition to two transport squadrons located in the Far East.