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British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Farewell to the RCAF Women's Division

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By Kind Permission of
AIR VICE-MARSHAL K M. GUTHRIE, C.B., C.B.E.
Air Officer Commanding
No. 2 Air Command, R .C.A.F.
 
FAREWELL BANQUET
IN HONOR OF R.C.A.F. WOMEN'S DIVISION
UPON THE OCCASION OF THEIR DISBANDMENT
 
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER EIGHTH,
NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX
 
MESSAGES (Page 2)
 
To the Members of the R.C.A.F. Women's Division from THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE FOR AIR
 
In answering the call to help Canada's war effort, the challenge was at once accepted by the women of Canada. The work performed by the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division was a vital contribution to final victory. The cheerful and efficient manner in which you undertook and accomplished every task assigned to you won the admiration, not only of the men in the Service but also of the country as a whole.
 
I would like to personally express my appreciation to all members of the Women's Division for your magnificent work and to wish each one of you good luck and happiness for the future.
 
THE CHIEF OF THE A IR STAFF
 
On the occasion of your departure from the Royal Canadian Air Force, I would like to take this opportunity of complimenting you on the fine record you have established both in Canada and Overseas. The manner in which all members of the Women's Division have performed their duties bas not only reflected great credit on the Women's Division but contributed in no small measure to the successful conclusion of hostilities.
 
All tasks assigned to the Women's Division were efficiently carried out and were in keeping with the best traditions of the Royal Canadian Air Force. On behalf of every officer, NCO and airman of the Royal Canadian Air Force, I wish to express our thanks and appreciation for a job well done and extend to each of you our sincere good wishes for your future . May success and happiness continue to crown your every endeavour in Canada at peace.
 
THE AIR OFFICER COMMANDING No.2 AIR COMMAND, R.C.A.F.
 
At this time, my thoughts go out to all members of the R.C.A.F. Women's Division, who have served not only in my Command, but also in the whole R.C.A.F. I thank them for their magnificent service and wish them the greatest success in all of their endeavours.
 
It is with deepest regret that on behalf of all members of my Command, I must now bid you "farewell!" Tube spirit of the Women's Division of the R.C.A.F. will remain with us, and if, in the future the call should go out to you, I am confident that you will respond with the same enthusiasm as you did in 1941.
 
GOD BLESS YOU ALL!
 
MENU (Page 3)

COCKTAILS
DEVILLED EGGS STUFFED CELERY
TOMATO JUICE COCKTAIL
ROAST TURKEY WITH GIBLET SAUCE
SAGE DRESSING
CRANBERRY SAUCE
CREAMED MASHED POTATOES
GREEN PEAS DICED CARROTS
LETTUCE AND TOMATO SALAD
CHEESE OLIVES HOT ROLLS
NUTS FRUITS
APPLE PIE A LA MODE
COFFEE
 
 
ENTERTAINMENT and PRESENTATIONS

 
MEMBERS OF THE R.C.A.F. WOMEN'S DIVISION (Page 4)
No. 2 AIR COMMAND
(Included are the names of 119 WDs ranked as follows)
Four Flight Lieutenants
One Squadron Officer
One Warrant Officer 2
Two Flying Sergeants
17 Sergeants
38 Corporals
54 Leading Air Women
Two Air Women
  
A Summary of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division in World War II

When war was declared by Canada against the world’s Axis powers in September 1939, enlistment in the Canadian armed forces took a substantial jump by men, young and old wishing to get involved for reasons of patriotism, adventure and/or financial gain. Many women, with similar motivations went to their local Recruiting Centre with ambitions of enlisting as well. Much to their dismay, the army, navy and air force, following Government of Canada policy, prevented them from becoming soldiers, sailors and airwomen.

However, the government changed its tune in 1941 as the enlistment of men slowed because of the huge draw of them into service in the first two years of the war. The pool had shrunk considerably and new male recruits were in short supply for combat and non-combative duties. The Royal Canadian Air Force was the first of the service branches to breach the enlistment of women barrier when Ottawa, with an order-in-council in June 1941, changed the eligibility of women to take on non-combative jobs in the Canadian armed forces. Women began joining the RCAF as their motto decreed: ``We serve that men may fly.’’

The first rounds of airwomen, joined the RCAF as members of the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF) which was modelled after the British Royal Air Force’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). A number of women officers from the WAAF were seconded to Canada to assist with the implementation of the CWAAF. Princess Alice, Countess of Athione, was appointed Honorary Commandant of the RCAF Women’s Division.

As the number of women in Royal Canadian Air Force increased, more airmen were allowed to take their places in combat related jobs. Seeing the need to put some distance between the CWAAF and Britain’s WAAF, another order-in-council in 1942 allowed for subtle changes in management of the women and the group was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division.

The process of training and deployment of airwomen into air force jobs was similar to that used for airmen. The women were sent through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to pick up the skills and knowledge required to do their jobs in the air force. Upon completion of physical, mental and social testing at the Recruitment Centre, the women were sent to one of two Manning Depots (No. 6 in Toronto and No. 7 in Rockclffe (Ottawa)) to complete basic training, i.e. learn how to march, who to salute, how ranks worked within the air force, etc. From here, most women went on to various British Commonwealth Air Training Plan ground schools to learn their trades.

In the early months of the RCAF Women’s Division, women were allowed to work in nine trades. As they proved their abilities, the list of allowable trades expanded to 69 by the 
end of the war.  Women found meaningful work as clerks, telephone operators, drivers, hospital assistants, instrument mechanics, parachute riggers, photographers, air photo interpreters, intelligence officers, instructors, weather observers, pharmacists, wireless operators, service police, pharmacists, laboratory assistants and dozens of other trades. Many airmen were able to move into air force units in combat zones throughout the world as ground support workers and air crew flying fighters, bombers and transport aircraft.

The results of integrating women into the Royal Canadian Air Force were remarkable. Over 17,400 served in the RCAF Women’s Division between 1941 and 1946. Over 1,000 became air frame and aero engine mechanics gaining certification for their abilities as tradespersons. Women were deployed to every British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and other RCAF facility in Canada and Newfoundland. Many WDs found work overseas with 1,500 serving in RCAF Headquarters and No. 6 Bomber Group, both located in Great Britain. Some were deployed to positions  as liaisons with American government and military groups in the United States.


Twenty members of the RCAF Women’s Division received the British Empire Medal, 12 received the MBE (Most Excellent Member of the British Empire) and one, Dr. Jean Davey received the OBE (Order of the British Empire). Twenty-eight women died during World War II while in service to the RCAF WD.

Women also struck a blow for pay equity while service in the Women’s Division. When first allowed to serve in the RCAF, a women’s wage was 2/3 of that paid to airmen. Common thought at that time was that women could only complete 2/3 of the work of men. By the end of the war, women were receiving 80% of the wages given men. In 2017, this is a terrible situation, but it was a positive gain at the time. The increased wages for women found its way into the private sector, which up to that time, only paid 40% of that paid to a man.

The following figures help to explain the important contributions made by women to the Canadian armed forces during World War II. As mentioned previously, 17,400 women served as WDs, 21,600 as CWACs in the Canadian Army, 7,100 as WRENs in the Royal Canadian Navy. Four thousand, four hundred and eight women served as Nursing Sisters in hospitals and other medical facilities in Canada and overseas of which 481 were attached to the RCAF.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division was disbanded in 1946. With Canada involved in the Korean War in 1951, women were once again encouraged to join the RCAF. This time they were not set apart from the men as members of the Women’s Division. They were enlisted as airwomen on equal footing with that of the men. Both genders followed the same service motto - ``Per Ardua Astra – Through Adversity to the Stars.’’

Women still serve with distinction in the Royal Canadian Air Force. The final barrier was breached in 1988 when women were first allowed to fly aircraft in combat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Canadian_Air_Force_Women%27s_Division  

Princess Alice, Countess of Athione
Honorary Commandant of the
RCAF Women’s Division.
​World War II Rank Structure in the RCAF

RCAF WD Rank                    RCAF equivalent

Air Chief Commandant      Air Vice-Marshal
Air Commandant                Air Commodore
Group Officer                      Group Captain
Wing Officer                        Wing Commander
Squadron Officer                Squadron Leader
Flight Officer                       Flight Lieutenant
Section Officer                    Flying Officer
Assistant Section Officer   Pilot Officer
Under Officer 1st Class     Warrant Officer                                                    Class 1 
Under Officer 2nd Class   Warrant Officer                                                    Class 2
Flight Sergeant                   Flight Sergeant
Sergeant                              Sergeant
Corporal                              Corporal
Leading Aircraftwoman    Leading                                                                  Aircraftman