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Royal Canadian Air Force celebrates 100 years

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One hundred years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is a major anniversary, but military historian John Boileau says it’s important to note our country’s military aviation contribution started well before 1924 -- during the First World War.

“Eight of the top 20 aces of the Royal Air Force were Canadians. Billy Bishop was the highest scoring British ace and a Canadian,” said Boileau, who added more than 20,000 Canadian airmen served during the war.

According to retired Col. John Orr, the post-First World War early years of the RCAF involved civil aviation and peacetime duties.

“Forestry, and forest fire patrol was one,” said Orr.

“Anti-smuggling, and anti-rum running operations on the East Coast and aerial photography.”

In 1938, the Air Force was on par with the navy and army.

“By late 1944, it was the fourth largest Allied Air Force in the world,” said Boileau.

“This was from a country with a population around 11 million people.”

The 20 year period, starting in 1948, represents a significant chapter in aviation history with the growth of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Air Branch.

“They introduced three aircraft carriers, three different types of fighter aircraft, three types of fixed wing anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and two anti-submarine warfare helicopters,” said Orr.

A park on Chebucto Road in Halifax was the location of the city airport until the early 1940s.

“The Air Force operated there briefly,” said Orr.

That space was deemed too small for high-performance aircraft, so Air Force operations were moved to Shearwater. The RCAF history that took place at this long forgotten airport, is still celebrated.

“This park commemorates Wing Commander Saunders,” said historian Blair Beed.

“The streets surrounding it commemorate the men from the Royal Canadian Air Force who died in the Second World War, so the names will always be remembered.”

The Royal Canadian Air Force will hold a series of events in the coming months, to celebrate a century of proud military flying service.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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