Canadian Wings :: The History & Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force


the Beginning

Canadian Aviation Corps. 1914 - 1915


Canada found itself at war with Germany on August 4, 1914. Several European nations were employing the airplane as a military weapon. Canada, however, had neither aircraft or aircrew in her armed forces. Colonel Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence, was responsible for assembling the Canadian Expeditionary Force for overseas service. Colonel Hughes inquired to the British Secretary of War about the about the need for aviators and was advised that Britain could accept 6 experienced aviators immediately, with more positions to follow. Colonel Hughes was unable to find any aviators to meet the British needs, but did approved the formation of a small aviation unit to accompany the Canadian Expeditionary Force to England.

The Canadian Aviation Corps was formed on September 16, 1914 and consisted of two officers and one mechanic. E.L. Janney was appointed the "Provisional Commander" of the CAC with the rank of Captain and was authorized to spend not more than five thousand dollars for the purchase of an airplane. Captain Janney arranged to purchase a biplane from the Burgess-Dunne Company in Massachusetts and the aircraft was delivered to Quebec City.

The airplane arrived on October 1 and was immediately loaded aboard one of the thirty ships of the Canadian Expeditionary Force bound for England. On arrival in England the aircraft was unloaded and trucked to Salisbury Plan where the Canadian Troops were training. The aircraft never flew in England as not one of the three members of the CAC was a qualified pilot. Parked out in the damp English climate, the Burgess-Dunne quickly deteriorated and was eventually written off.

By May 7, 1915 the Canadian Aviation Corps had ceased to exist and this ended the short life of Canada's first military aviation force.

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