The Birth of a National Air Force

The end of the First World War had brought many attempts to give Canada a national Air Force. Both the short-lived Royal Canadian Naval Air Service (RCNAS) in 1918 and the No.1 Canadian Wing, Canadian Air Force (CAF) a year later in England had failed to take roots.

In Borden, the aerodrome portion of the Camp had remained empty since January of 1919 and the flying fields had been sold by the Imperial Munitions Board to the Canadian Government. After the Air Board was formed in 1919, the attention quickly turned back to Camp Borden and its training facilities. Soon, an “Imperial Gift” of over one hundred surplus land aircraft, seaplanes, kite balloons and airships found its way to Camp Borden.

On July 5th 1920, Camp Borden was taken over by the Canadian Air Force (CAF), a newly formed non-permanent, non-professional force under the control of the Air Board, and the camp became officially the first flying station of the CAF, its School of Aviation. Shortly after, No. 1 Wing CAF was formed at Camp Borden. It was comprised of a School of Special Flying, one Squadron with two flights, and a ground instructional section.

During the fall, refresher training began. Modest in many aspects, the training programme was aimed initially at renewing licenses for those who had already been trained as air and ground crew during the war. By March of 1922 when the last refresher course ended, 550 First World War flyers and 1,271 airmen had been re-qualified at Camp Borden.

The birth of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was not an overnight event. It was achieved through a transition period that went on from the creation of the Air Board in 1919, the Canadian Air Force in 1920, and a major reorganization that culminated in 1924 with the proclamation of a new “Royal” Canadian Air Force. Soon after the royal assent was given by King George V, the new RCAF adopted the sky blue uniforms and insignias patterned after those of the RAF.

On the day of the official birth of the RCAF, Camp Borden was by far the most important station in terms of assets, personnel, and flying activities. With its 24 Officers and 125 Other Ranks, Camp Borden was home to more than half of the personnel of the RCAF. Camp Borden was also the only station involved in year-round military training activities.