Search Great War Images from the U of S

Air War

The Great War saw 22,812 Canadians serve with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Services. A separate Canadian Air Force was not created until 1920. The romance of the open skies was attractive to many a young Canadian. Some saw the air war as an appealing alternative to life in the muddy trenches of the Western Front.

The first wave of recruits came from people with flying experience. Western recruits were processed through Winnipeg then sent on to Toronto Island for training. By war's end, almost a quarter of all British flyers were Canadian. Of the 6,166 British Empire air service fatalities, 1,388 were Canadian.

The press loved the heroes of the air. Of the 171 Canadian air aces (five or more enemy aircraft or airships destroyed), 'Billy' Bishop was the most celebrated with 72 kills. 10 percent of the University of Saskatchewan students, staff and faculty who volunteered for war served in the Flying Corps.

Of the 349 men from the campus community who volunteered for war, 16 were part of the Royal Flying Corps, and 53 served in the Royal Air Force. John Duncan MacFarlane joined the RFC upon enlistment. A collection of MacFarlane’s original photograph albums, primarily documenting life overseas for Canadian servicemen during the Great War came to the University Archives and Special Collections in 2003.

The materials in this section have been selected from the J. D. MacFarlane fonds, Brock Silversides fonds.