RCAF Airwomen planning June reunion

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17 janvier 2019 - RCAF

Thousands of Canadian women served in the Second World War: there were 4,480 Nursing Sisters and, in 1941, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s women’s division was created. There were 50,000 women in the Canadian Armed Forces, of which approximately 17,000 served in the RCAF, working in both traditional and non-traditional trades.

In 1951, the Canadian government declared women would be recruited into the RCAF, as it 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. July 3, 1951, the first 80 enlisted women arrived for basic training at St. Jean, Quebec. By 1953, the number of women had increased to 3,133 and, by 1955, the number had dropped to 2,903. By the early 1960s changes in radar technology meant the RCAF's personnel needs had dropped considerably and it decided to stop recruiting women. In 1960, there were over 2,800 women, in 1962 there were 2,024, in 1963 there were 1,830 and in 1966 there were only 530 women left in the RCAF. In 1958, there were 63 trades open to women; by 1963, there were only 13 trades open to women. In 1967, the Army, Navy and Air Force were unified.

One day in Vancouver in 1988, Diane White and Shirley Duff met at a department store "by chance" and made a luncheon date 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. They set about planning a reunion and held a very successful one in Vancouver in June 1990, attracting women from all across Canada, the United States and Mariana Islands. A second reunion was held in Ottawa in June 1993. After that, it became a periodic occurrence. These RCAF Airwomen reunions have attracted anywhere from 200 to 450 ex-airwomen and a good time is had by all, renewing old friendships and making new ones.

Reunions continue every second year. The next reunion is June 7 to 9 at the Marriott, 100 Kent Street, Ottawa. Visit www.rcafairwomen.ca to join and register for the reunion. You’ll also receive our monthly newsletter.
If you were a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s women's division, or an airwoman in the Canadian Armed Forces member, retired or not; you may join the RCAF Airwomen. Get to know many of the ladies who lived history, including Second World War veterans, and hear from women in active roles in today’s RCAF.