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


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First World War
Troops and Traditions

The War in the Air

Canada did not have an air force during the First World War but, by its end, approximately one-quarter of the aircrew in British Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons were Canadian. A sizeable RAF training establishment operated in Canada to produce new aircrew. The monumental first volume of the official history of the Royal Canadian Air Force, S.F. Wise's Canadian airmen and the First World War, not only describes the work of Canadians flying overseas and aviation in Canada, but also provides a revisionist interpretation of air warfare 1914-1918. Much of the other literature on the war in the air is biographical. Tales of individual Canadian airmen in action are effectively told in a personal and anecdotal fashion in R.V. Dodds' The brave young wings. Other writers, most recently David Bashow, have followed the well-trodden path of biographies of notable fighter pilots. In Barker VC, Wayne Ralph has used this approach very successfully. Hugh B. Monaghan's memoir shows another perspective of the war in the air, that of a pilot of a heavy night bomber who became a prisoner of war. The published diary of Frank Shrive, listed in the Intervention in Russia, 1918-1921 section, is a unique record of an air observer operating in the extraordinary conditions of North Russia.

Bashow, David L. -- Knights of the air : Canadian fighter pilots in the First World War. -- Illustrated by Stephen P. Quick. -- Toronto : McArthur, 2000. -- 210 p.

Bishop, William Arthur. -- The courage of the early morning : a son's biography of a famous father : the story of Billy Bishop. -- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1965. -- 211 p.

Chajkowsky, William E. -- Royal Flying Corps : Borden to Texas to Beamsville. -- Cheltenham, Ont. : Boston Mills Press, 1979. -- 127 p.

Collishaw, Raymond ; Dodds, R.V. -- Air command : a fighter pilot's story. -- London : W. Kimber, 1973. -- 256 p.

Dodds, R.V. -- The brave young wings. -- Stittsville, Ont. : Canada's Wings, 1980. -- 293 p.

Hartney, Harold E. -- Up and at 'em. -- Edited by Stanley M. Ulanoff. -- Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1971. -- 360 p.

  • Canadian pilot in No. 20 Squadron, RAF, and later commissioned into the U.S. Air Service, where he commanded the 27th Aero Squadron and the 1st Pursuit Group on the Western Front in 1918.

Monaghan, Hugh B. -- The big bombers of World War I : a Canadian's journal. -- Burlington, Ont. : R. Gentle Communications, [s.d.]. -- 101 p.

Ralph, Wayne. -- Barker VC : William Barker, Canada's most decorated war hero. -- Toronto : Doubleday Canada, 1997. -- 308 p.

A rattle of pebbles : the First World War diaries of two Canadian airmen = Un crépitement de galets : les journaux de deux aviateurs canadiens de la Première Guerre mondiale. -- Edited by Brereton Greenhous. -- Ottawa : Canadian Government Publishing Centre, Supply and Services Canada, 1987. -- 366 p. -- (Department of National Defence Directorate of History monograph, no. 4)

  • Diaries of John Bernard "Don" Brophy, a Royal Flying Corps pilot in France, killed in 1916, and Harold Price, a pilot in the Mesopotamian theatre.

  • The diaries themselves are in English only.

Richardson, Leonard Atwood. -- Pilot's log : the flying log, diaries, letters home and verse of Lt. Leonard Atwood Richardson, Royal Flying Corps, WWI, 1917-1918. -- Compiled by Elizabeth Richardson-Whealy. -- St. Catharines, Ont. : P. Heron Pub., 1998. -- 257 p.

  • Flew SE5As with No. 74 Squadron, R.A.F.

Sullivan, Alan. -- Aviation in Canada, 1917-1918 : being a brief account of the work of the Royal Air Force Canada, the Aviation Department of the Imperial Munitions Board and the Canadian Aeroplanes Limited. -- Toronto : Rous & Mann, 1919. -- 318 p.

* Wise, S.F. -- Canadian airmen and the First World War. -- [Toronto] : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1980. -- 771 p. -- (The official history of the Royal Canadian Air Force : vol. I) -- Also published in French under the title: Les aviateurs canadiens dans la Première Guerre mondiale

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