Air Force

Air support for the Canadian Corps at Vimy
Air Force

Air support for the Canadian Corps at Vimy

As the Canadian Corps prepared for the attack on Vimy Ridge, it was assisted by I Brigade, Royal Flying Corps. Four squadrons of Corps (army co-operation) aircraft mapped the German defences and located enemy artillery batteries; by April 9, 1917, 180 of 212 hostile batteries had been pinpointed and their co-ordinates plotted on maps. I Brigade also had four squadrons of fighters to defend the Corps aircraft and discourage enemy reconnaissance of the front. It was a grim business, because the German Air Force was flying superior Albatross fighters armed with twin machine guns which outclassed most of their RFC counterparts. The Corps squadrons were flying two-seat BE-2 reconnaissance aircraft; even the latest models were verging on obsolescence. No. 16 Squadron was specifically tasked t...
Before they were bush pilots
Air Force

Before they were bush pilots

The air war was the nursery of Canada’s bush flying heritage Since 1973, Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in Wetaskiwin, Alta., has honoured more than 200 individuals who contributed to the nation’s aerial achievements, progress and heritage, including pilots, executives, designers and writers. More are added each year. The Hall’s website is spartan in describing their achievements, but a book, They Led The Way (1999), is more detailed. Even so, the literature for most inductees focuses on the peacetime work that led to their nomination. There is room to ponder those with First World War flying origins. Stuart Graham (1896-1976) was Canada’s first bush pilot. In 1919, he flew a former U.S. Navy Curtiss HS-2L in stages from Dartmouth, N.S., to Grande-Mère, Que. Using an improvised...
Air Force

Air Force: The fighter pilot who hated killing

Stearne Tighe Edwards was a faithful friend to his fellow pilots and a respectful adversary to his enemy combatants The air war of 1914-1918 is widely seen as one of fighter pilots duelling in pristine skies high above the industrial-scale slaughter below. It is a romantic myth of knights of the air and high-scoring heroes. The air war was, in fact, grim and ruthless. Pilots strove to achieve surprise through advantages of sun, altitude and attacks from behind. Chivalry was easy only when an opponent was dead or captured. A man parachuting from an observation balloon might be strafed or spared. The British flying services of the First World War never gave official status to the term ‘ace’ and one will never find an authorized list itemizing their scores. This practice recognize...
Double duty
Air Force

Double duty

Flying veterans of one world war often served with distinction in the next Thousands of Canadians served in the British flying services during the First World War, and a few were able to find a place in the Royal Canadian Air Force between the wars. Others took up commercial aviation, for varying periods and with mixed success. Most returned to civilian studies or careers, with little contact to their earlier aerial incarnations. Yet when the nation went to war again, many stepped forward to “do their bit,” their flying badges of 1914-1918 proudly displayed on distinct Canadian uniforms. Three of their stories represent a larger pool of service and adventure. John Ender Palmer (1896-1964) was born in England and raised in Canada from the age of 10. At 18, he joined the Canadian Exped...
Canadian flyers go to war
Air Force

Canadian flyers go to war

Canada’s air force was born in fits and starts The first tool for military aviation was the hot air balloon, first used during the French Revolutionary Wars. In the American Civil War, both sides employed observation balloons. By 1910, the airplane had proven its capability for sustained flight, and many armies investigated the utility of these machines. Italy used balloons and aircraft in a campaign in 1911-12 that ousted Turkey from Libya. All belligerents—Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria—used airplanes in the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913. When Europe blundered into war in August 1914, it was expected that aircraft would play a role. What surprised everyone was how rapidly the airplane revolutionized combat. In one stroke, it rendered obsolete the traditional methods of reconnaissa...
VE-Day in Pictures
Air Force, Army, Home Front, Military History, Navy, Remembrance

VE-Day in Pictures

Timeless images of relief and joy It’s over! The guns in Europe are silent and the troops are coming home. As the news marking the Allied victory in Europe spreads from east to west, so does the party. At the front, “men pinch themselves and feel they’re still alive,” CBC war correspondent Matthew Halton reports. In Halifax, a symphony of ships’ horns and whistles begins celebrations that travel like a wave overland to the West Coast, where air-raid sirens summon still-sleeping Vancouverites to join in the jubilation. Forgotten for the moment are the black armbands and the grim task ahead with Japan. Today—May 8, 1945—our part of the world is free.
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