Did someone in your family tree serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War? Between 1939 and 1945, the RCAF enlisted 232,000 men and 17,000 women. How can you find out about their service?
As with other Canadian military personnel, the only WW2 service files openly available are for the 17,395 who died. A selection of documents from Canada’s war dead records for RCAF casualties is available on Ancestry.ca/.
Perhaps your ancestor received an award that you are not aware of. Names of the 8,736 members of the RCAF who received decorations and honours, almost half of whom received the Distinguished Flying Cross, are listed in the 3 volume history of the Air Force, as noted here. These publications are available online
The R.C.A.F. Overseas, Volume 1: The First Four Years: Page 393 onwards
The R.C.A.F. Overseas, Volume 2: The Fifth Year: Page 387 onwards
The RCAF Overseas: The Sixth Year: Page 497 onwards.
Most of those, and likely more, should be in the Canada Gazette. As shown in the extract below, recognition was not confined or restricted to male members of the RCAF or to those who served overseas.
A valuable resource and not to be overlooked is the awards database of the RCAF Association. The entry for Nursing Sister Brown includes additional information on the locations where she served as well as the text of the commendation.
You may also find information in the various Royal Canadian Legion Military Service Recognition Books. Good for all military, not only RCAF, they are:
British Columbia/Yukon Command
Fourteen volumes starting in 2006. PDFs are not searchable.
Eleven volumes starting in 2009.
Eleven volumes and a commemorative booklet were published starting in 2007.
Manitoba/Northwest Ontario Command
Ten volumes starting in 2010.
Six volumes starting in 2014. A master index at www.on.legion.ca/docs/default-source/pdf/msr-book/msrb—names-listing.pdf?sfvrsn=299973f_4
New Brunswick Command
Thirteen bilingual volumes and a commemorative booklet is starting in 2003.
Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command
Fifteen volumes starting in 2005.
Prince Edward Island Command
Fifteen volumes and a commemorative booklet is starting in 2003.
Newfoundland and Labrador Command
Seven volumes known as Lest We Forget Books starting in 2011.
No research on those who served with the air force would be complete without consulting the RCAF Operations and Record Books (LAC: Royal Canadian Air Force operations record books [textual records (some microform)] (bac-lac.gc.ca). Many of these records have been digitized and are available at Heritage-Canadiana (Héritage (canadiana.ca).
Nothing will replace a close look at a complete service file. There are restrictions under Privacy legislation, but find out more about accessing military service records at LAC here: Requests for Military Service Files – Library and Archives Canada (bac-lac.gc.ca)
Finally, check newspapers and history websites for the hometown for mention of enlistment, return and other newsworthy events.
Thanks to Glenn Wright for a review and advice.