A Brief History

Canadian women served in the Second World War, 1939 - 1945 and were very involved in the war effort. There were 4480 Nursing Sisters serving. In 1941 the RCAF women’s division was created. There were 50,000 in the CAF of which approximately 17000 served in the RCAF, working in both traditional and non-traditional trades.

In 1951 the Canadian government declared that women would be recruited into the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The RCAF needed greater numbers of personnel because of the construction of three radar lines across the country: the Distant Early Warning Line, the Mid-Canada line and the Pinetree line. The RCAF began to recruit women as part of the permanent force. On 3 July 1951, the first 80 enlisted women arrived for basic training at St Jean, Quebec. By 1953 the number of women had increased to 3133 and by 1955 the number had dropped to 2903. By the early 1960's changes in radar technology meant that the RCAF's personnel needs had dropped considerably and they decided to stop recruiting women. In 1960 there were over 2800 women, in 1962 there were 2024, in 1963 there were 1830 and in 1966 there were only 530 women left in the RCAF. In 1958 there were 63 trades open to women and by 1963 there were only 13 trades open to women. In 1967 the Army, Navy and Air Force were unified.


The Founders of the RCAF Airwomens Group

The reunions were originally held for "veterans" of the years 1951 to 1967, many of whom had stayed in contact over the years. One day in Vancouver in 1988 Diane White (1940-2017) and Shirley Duff (1928-2023) met at a department store "by chance" and made a luncheon date for later, to talk over old times. During that luncheon they thought it would be a great idea to hold a reunion of all airwomen from the 1951 to 1966 era. So they set about planning a reunion and held a very successful one in Vancouver in June 1990. They attracted women from all across Canada, the US and Mariana Islands. A second reunion was held in Ottawa in June 1993. After that it became a periodic occurrence and here we are today.

These reunions attracted anywhere from 150 to 450 ex airwomen and a good time is had by all, as they renew old friendships and make new ones. If you are an ex airwoman or a currently serving airforce woman and would like to be added to our data base, please fill out the form on the New Member page.