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Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History


Canadian Military History: An Overview
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Canadian Military History: An Overview
Troops and Traditions

Air Forces

After the Second World War, the Air Historical Section proposed a multi-volume official history of the Canadian effort during the War. F.H. Hitchins, the air historian at that time, had already gathered much of the documentary record and produced preliminary narratives. The whole project was cancelled. The only works published were three popular volumes describing Royal Canadian Air Force operations overseas.

C.P. Stacey returned to Ottawa from the University of Toronto in 1965 to oversee the creation of an integrated Directorate of History in the Department of National Defence, built from the three separate service historical sections. He initiated a new project for an official air history, never suspecting that the project would stretch out over the next 30 years.

The Directorate of History produced three outstanding volumes of air force official history. The first, * Canadian airmen and the First World War, by S.F. Wise, the Director of History in the 1970s, depended heavily on British source material to tell the stories of Canadians flying overseas with the British air services and of the now largely forgotten Royal Air Force Canada training program which produced many Canadian pilots in Canada in 1917 and 1918. The second volume, * The creation of a national air force, by W.A.B. Douglas, includes the account of the founding of a Canadian air force between the wars, the enormous Canadian contribution through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in the Second World War, home air defence and the battle for the convoys from North American shores during the Battle of the Atlantic. The third, The crucible of war, by a team of historians led by Brereton Greenhous, recounts the story of RCAF operations in North West Europe, the Mediterranean and South East Asia during the Second World War. Department of National Defence downsizing and constraint during the 1990s suspended work on a projected fourth volume to cover the postwar period. To date (2000), The crucible of war has not appeared in French.

For a one-volume overview of Canadian air history, the reader should consult * Canada's air forces, 1914-1999, by Brereton Greenhous and Hugh A. Halliday, an official commemorative history for the 75th anniversary of the birth of the RCAF in 1924, or Larry Milberrry's Sixty years, a 1984 commemoration of the same event.

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