Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division

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Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division
Rcaf womens.jpg
RCAF Women's Division badge
Active 1941–1946
Country Canada
Allegiance Canada
Branch Element of the Royal Canadian Air Force
Role Operational support. Various duties.
Size Approx. 17,400 personnel
Nickname "WD"
Motto We Serve That Men May Fly
Disbanded December 1946
Honorary air commandant Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

The Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division was an element of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) which was active during the Second World War.

The Women's Division was originally called the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF), which formed in July 1941. The CWAAF was modelled on and structured like the Royal Air Force Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). The name change to Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division occurred in February 1942. Women's Division personnel were commonly known as WDs.


Part of a Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division recruiting poster.
Women from the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division, 1941

At the beginning of the war, the RCAF was experiencing a shortage of personnel. Men were needed for combat duties overseas and for training duties at British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools across Canada. To allow as many men as possible to contribute to wartime operational duties, WDs took over many responsibilities once held by men. The original 1941 order-in-council authorized "the formation of a component of the Royal Canadian Air Force to be known as the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force, its function being to release to heavier duties those members of the RCAF employed in administrative, clerical and other comparable types of service employment."[1]

Duties expanded as the war progressed. Among the many jobs carried out by WD personnel, they became clerks, drivers, fabric workers, hairdressers, hospital assistants, instrument mechanics, parachute riggers, photographers, air photo interpreters, intelligence officers, instructors, weather observers, pharmacists, wireless operators, and Service Police. RCAF regulations at the time precluded women who possessed flying licences from flight instructing or front-line duty.[2] Most WDs were located at British Commonwealth Air Training Plan training stations across Canada; many served overseas with RCAF Overseas Headquarters and No. 6 (bomber) Group. Over 17,400 women served with the Women's Division before it was discontinued in December 1946.[3] Thirty WDs died during the war.[4]

Princess Alice, the then viceregal consort of Governor General Alexander Cambridge, Earl of Athlone, served as Honorary Air Commandant of the Women's Division.


The Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division used a rank structure similar to that of the Royal Air Force's WAAF.[5] Ranks are listed with the most senior rank at the top.

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 WO 1
Under Officer 2nd Class WO 2
Flight Sergeant Flight Sergeant
Sergeant Sergeant
Corporal Corporal
Leading Aircraftwoman Leading Aircraftman
Aircraftwoman 1st Class Aircraftman 1st Class
Aircraftwoman 2nd Class Aircraftman 2nd Class

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ziegler 1973, p. 6.
  2. ^ Barris 2005, pp. 302-303.
  3. ^ Granatstein 1989, p. 36.
  4. ^ Greenhous 1999, p. 120.
  5. ^ Ziegler 1973, p. 13.
  • Barris, Ted. Behind The Glory: The Plan that Won the Allied Air War. Markham, Ontario: Thomas Allen & Son Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-88762-212-7.
  • Greenhous, Brereton; Halliday, Hugh A. Canada's Air Forces, 1914–1999. Montreal: Editions Art Global and the Department of National Defence, 1999. ISBN 2-920718-72-X.
  • Granatstein, J.L.; Morton, Desmond. A Nation Forged In Fire - Canadians and the Second World War 1939-1945. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys Ltd., 1989. ISBN 0-88619-213-7
  • Ziegler, Mary. We Serve That Men May Fly - The Story of the Women's Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Hamilton: RCAF (WD) Association, 1973. No ISBN.

External links[edit]