OTD: RCAF joins first bombing of Berlin

On today’s date in 1940, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) planes joined the U.K.’s Royal Air Force (RAF) in the first bombing attack on the centre of Berlin, Germany.

King George V authorized the re-designation of the RCAF in 1924—94 years ago—but the history of Canada’s aerial warfare force began years earlier.

In 1920, what was then known as the Canadian Air Force was established as the successor to a two-squadron Canadian Air Force authorized by the British Air Ministry in August 1918, during the First World War.


To honour the creation of the RCAF, Canada Post issued a pane of 16 authentically detailed aircraft stamps in September 1999.

During the First World War, Canadians flocked to join the British air services, and by the end of the war in 1918, one in four RAF officers was Canadian. More than 1,600 Canadian airmen gave their lives during the 1914-18 conflict.

Between the two world wars, the RCAF was involved with various military and civilian duties, flying supplies to the north, performing aerial surveys and carrying out forestry and fire detection patrols.

During the Second World War, Canada’s air force grew to be the fourth-largest allied air power. Nearly 250,000 Canadian men and women wore the proud RCAF blue around the world, and more than 17,000 aircrew perished.

The RCAF provided a transportation squadron during the Korean War (1950-53) before joining in the defence of North America and Western Europe and provided land-force transportation and search-and-rescue service at home.

The air force returned to combat in the Gulf War (1990-91) and in 1999 with NATO forces in the Balkans.


Canada Post selected the 16 featured aircraft after consulting a panel of eminent historians, aviation experts and representatives from the Office of Air Force Heritage and History. The selection criteria called for a range of planes that marked significant milestones in the development of Canada’s air force.

Consideration was given to visual appeal, time period, aircraft finish and affiliation with specific air-force units. Aircraft previously featured on Canadian stamps were excluded from the selection process.

“The researchers deserve a lot of the credit when it comes to this set,” said Tiit Telmet of Toronto’s Telmet Design Associates. “The authenticity they were able to help us achieve is outstanding.”

Each of the aircraft drawings represented 30 to 40 hours of computer drawing, said Illustrator Garry Lay, “largely because we went through so many revisions in our attempts to be accurate.”

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