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Harper Government Designates Canadian Participation in the Royal Flying Corps as an Event of National Historical Significance

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 11/10/12 -- On behalf of the Honourable Peter Kent, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced the designation of Canada's participation in the Royal Flying Corps as an event of national historic significance.

"Today's designation commemorates the massive contribution Canada made as a young country to the Allied cause in the First World War," said Minister MacKay. "By training thousands of pilots for the Royal Flying Corps, Canada made an important military contribution that not only made it a world leader in aviation, but also set the stage for its future as an independent nation."

During the First World War, nine facilities were set up in Canada that trained 11,928 air force personnel of all ranks for the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force), many of whom, after the war, would provide the foundation for the development of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Canadian airmen made a vital contribution to the success of the Royal Flying Corps' war effort. Prominent members of the Royal Flying Corps included two recipients of the highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross: William Avery Bishop, with 72 credited victories, the second highest total in the Royal Flying Corps; and, William Barker, with 50 victories and one of the most decorated Canadian serviceman in history.

This new designation will be included in Canada's system of national historic sites, persons and events, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

"The designation of Canadian Participation in the Royal Flying Corps commemorates a significant contribution to the development of Canada as a nation, both domestically and abroad," said Minister Kent. "Today's national historic designation reminds Canadians of how Canada's military heritage has shaped Canada as we know it today as well as how Canada came into its own on the global stage."

The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was established in 1919 and is supported by Parks Canada. It advises the Minister of the Environment regarding the national significance of places, persons and events that have marked Canada's history. On behalf of the people of Canada, Parks Canada manages a nationwide network that makes up a rich tapestry of Canada's historical heritage and offers the public opportunities for real and inspiring discoveries.

For additional information, please see the accompanying backgrounder at under Media Room.



When the First World War began, Canada did not have its own air force. Until Britain's Royal Flying Corps (RFC) established training camps in Canada (January 1917) the only way for a Canadian to become a pilot was to enlist in the regular forces and try to transfer to the air service, or to travel at his own expense to England and attempt to enlist directly. The importance of air power grew steadily throughout the war. Aircrafts were used to photograph enemy defences, direct the heavy guns that bombarded those defences, and ward off enemy aircraft intent on doing the same. The more important aircraft became to waging war, the more airmen were needed and in late 1916, RFC expansion plans were developed calling for the creation of 35 new training squadrons, most of which would be located outside Britain.

The establishment of the RFC training scheme in Canada brought together the RFC's need for more trained airmen and the growing desire of Canadians to take part in the air war. By the end of the war, there were nine training facilities in Canada and the Royal Air Force (by then, the RFC had merged with the Royal Air Service to form the new RAF) in Canada had a total strength of 11,928 in all ranks (993 officers, 6,158 other ranks, 4,333 cadet pilots and 444 other officers under training). In its twenty and one-half months in Canada, the RFC/RAF training establishment had recruited 16,663 personnel and had graduated 3,135 pilots (of whom 2,539 went overseas and 356 remained in Canada as instructors) and 137 observers, of whom 85 were sent overseas. At the time of the armistice, it had an additional 240 pilots and 52 observers ready for overseas service.

Canadian participation in the RFC contributed significantly to the allied victory. Spurred on by patriotism, a sense of adventure and the romance of flying, thousands of young Canadians joined the RFC and served with distinction. They were involved in all aspects of the flying war. Of the twenty-seven Allied pilots who had thirty or more combat victories, ten were Canadians, including top ace "Billy" Bishop with 72 victories and the third top ace, Raymond Collishaw with 60 victories. Also, three Canadians - Bishop, Major William Barker and Lieutenant Alan McLeod - won the Commonwealth's highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross.

Participation in the RFC catapulted Canada into the aviation age. After the war, Canada had a substantial nucleus of skilled workers for the aviation industry, a school of aviation, complete with trained instructors and equipment, several hundred pilots, some 7,000 workers trained as mechanics for the aviation industry, and roughly 700 aircraft available at low prices to pioneer airlines and Canada's own fledgling air force.

Canadian participation in the RFC also provided a foundation for the development of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Prior to the formation of the RCAF, Canada's involvement in air defence consisted of the short-lived Canadian Aviation Corps, a small, two-squadron Canadian Air Force attached to the RAF in England and its participation in the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). On 18 February 1920, the second Canadian Air Force was formed. This "home-based" CAF was formed as a part of the Air Board, and was authorized to appoint six officers and men with temporary rank. The new CAF "was a non-permanent organization to provide biennial 28-day refresher training to former officers and airmen of the wartime Royal Air Force." The program started at Camp Borden, using the installations erected by the RAF in Canada for their wartime training, and former RFC ace, William Bishop was the CAF's first commander. The CAF was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924.

Adam Sweet
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of the Environment

Media Relations
Parks Canada

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