Unending Seige

Canadians in Imperial Air Forces

The airmen would not be assembled in Canadian flights or in a national air corps, and they would not be commanded by their own officers. In short, the conditions that underlay Canadian national pride in the army did not exist for the air corps: These were colonial recruits in an imperial force.

Although thousands of Canadians had served in the British air force, no Canadian would rise above the rank of group captain (colonel). These men, who would form the basis of the Royal Canadian Air Force, were deployed everywhere. On the Franco-Belgian front and in Britain they faced off against the best of Germany's aircraft and pilots. They could also be found in less active air sectors: in Italy, in Macedonia where the Bulgarians and Turks were the main enemies, in Egypt and, later, in Russia. Some great names stand out: Billy Bishop, A.A. McLeod and Billy Barker would each earn a Victoria Cross. Raymond Collishaw recorded 66 kills and D.R. MacLaren 54 in just eight months of fighting. The 10 top aces of all the belligerent nations would include four Canadians: Bishop, Barker, Collishaw and MacLaren.