Browse "Air Force"

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Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War

In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.


Janusz Zurakowski

Janusz Zurakowski, aviator (born 12 September 1914 in Ryzawka, Russia ; died 9 February 2004 in Barry's Bay, ON ). Raised in Poland, he joined the Polish Air Force in 1937, escaped to England and took part in the Battle of Britain.


John Emilius Fauquier

John Emilius Fauquier, air force officer (b at Ottawa 19 Mar 1909; d at Toronto 3 Apr 1981). Educated at Ashbury College, Fauquier, a commercial pilot, joined the RCAF in 1939, eventually commanding 405 (Pathfinder) Squadron, RCAF, and from December 1944, 617 (Dambuster) Squadron, RAF.


Joseph Pierre Roméo Vachon

Joseph Pierre Roméo Vachon, pilot, airline executive (b at Ste-Marie-de-la-Beauce, Qué 29 June 1898; d at Ottawa 17 Dec 1954). After service in the RCNVR during WWI, Vachon joined Laurentide Air Service in 1921 and in 1924-25 performed an aerial survey of Québec's North Shore.


Leonard Birchall

Leonard Joseph (Birch) Birchall, CM, O Ont, air force pilot, war hero, educator (born 6 July 1915 in St. Catharines, ON; died 10 September 2004 in Kingston, ON). During the Second World War, Birchall became known as the “Saviour of Ceylon” for alerting Allied forces of an approaching Japanese fleet. Captured after sending his message, he is also renowned for the courage and leadership he displayed while a prisoner of war.


Leonard Braithwaite

​Leonard Austin Braithwaite, CM, OOnt, QC, lawyer, politician (born 23 October 1923 in Toronto, ON; died 28 March 2012 in Toronto). Braithwaite was the first Black Canadian elected to a provincial legislature. He served as a Liberal member of the Ontario Legislature from 1963 to 1975.


Leonard Braithwaite (Primary Source)

Leonard Braithwaite served with the Canadian Air Force as a Safety Equipment Operator from 1943 to 1946. However, he was rejected multiple times at a Toronto recruiting station because he was Black. Read and listen to the story of how Braithwaite overcame adversity and served overseas.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.


Lloyd Samuel Breadner

Lloyd Samuel Breadner, air chief marshal (b at Carleton Place, Ont 14 July 1894; d at Boston, Mass 14 Mar 1952). Commissioned in the Royal Naval Air Service 28 December 1915, he won a Distinguished Service Cross as a fighter pilot in 1917.


Mynarksi's Wartime Heroism

It was June 12, 1944, and the D-Day invasion of Normandy was less than a week old. Waves of Allied bombers were pounding German positions, but on this afternoon Flying Officer Patrick Brophy, 22, from Port Arthur, Ont., was feeling uneasy.


Raymond Collishaw

Raymond Collishaw, CB, DSO & Bar, OBE, DSC, DFC, fighter pilot, senior Royal Air Force (RAF) commander, businessman (born 22 November 1893 in Nanaimo, BC; died 28 September 1976 in West Vancouver, BC). Collishaw was one of the great aces of the First World War and an important RAF commander in the North African theatre during the Second World War.


RCAF (Women's Division)

Members of the Women’s Division (WD) of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were wartime pioneers. Thousands of young Canadian women volunteered to serve at home and abroad during the Second World War as part of the air force.


Robert Leckie

Robert Leckie, air marshal (b at Glasgow, Scot 16 Apr 1890; d at Ottawa 31 Mar 1975). A much-decorated flying-boat pilot in WWI, Leckie was the only airman to be credited with downing 2 Zeppelins.


Sam Steele

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, mounted policeman, soldier (born 5 January 1848 in Medonte, Canada West; died 30 January 1919 in London, England). As a member of the North-West Mounted Police, Steele was an important participant in the signing of Treaty 6 and Treaty 7, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the North-West Rebellion and the Klondike gold rush. His military career began as a private in the Red River Expedition, included service in the South African War as an officer commanding Lord Strathcona’s Horse and as a major general during the First World War.