Celebrating Women's Service in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)

rcaf logoFrom 7-9 June 2019, the RCAF Airwomen's group held their biennial reunion in Ottawa, Ontario. Approximately 150 women who had served in the RCAF in the Second World War, during the Cold War, and through to the 2000s, traveled from across Canada to enjoy three days of reunion events. During the course of two receptions, two banquets, a boat tour, a church service, and a brunch, the attendees were able to reconnect, reminisce, and make new friendships with women who shared the common bond of air force service for Canada.

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Second World War Veteran's Table: (L-R) Mirindy, Victoria, Joan, Beryl, Cecelia, Connie;
(standing) Rachel, Sally

Dr Rachel Lea Heide (CAHS National Director and Treasurer) was invited to attend the weekend's events and meet some of the remarkable women who had served in the RCAF. In addition to meeting ladies who had served on the DEW Line and others who had deployed to Afghanistan, Dr Heide had the privilege of sitting with five Second World War veterans during the two evening banquets, all of whom shared their service experience through conversation and photo albums. Mirindy's job was providing meteorological reports before pilots embarked on their flying missions. Victoria was a flight control officer who was involved in guiding aircrafts' landings. Cecelia was a timekeeper at a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) base. Beryl was involved in administration at another BCATP base at #6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. She shared stories of serving with her twin sister and surviving flights flown by inexperienced pilots. Connie drove transport trucks and ran physical education programs for various RCAF stations. She spoke of her posting overseas to an operational base in England; she and her husband were also in the first group of Canadians to move to Colorado Springs as part of the newly established North American Air Defence Command (NORAD).

For each of the two evening banquets, there were inspiring guest speakers. On Friday night, Dr Andrew Burtch (Cold War historian at the Canadian War Museum) spoke about the RCAF's post-war recruiting of women between 1951 and 1967. While there were still limits on the trades women could join, there was an expansion of the roles they were asked to fill compared to the Second World War.

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Friday's Guest Speaker Dr Andrew Burtch

Saturday evening's guest speaker was the Honourable Karen McCrimmon (Member of Parliament for Kanata-Carleton) who had a 31-year career in the RCAF as a navigator, retiring as a lieutenant-colonel. She spoke poignantly to the former service women in the room, thanking them for the trails they blazed for women in Canada's military today; she called them her heroes. Ms McCrimmon then spoke about true leadership being about serving others, and she applied this definition to what the women in the room had done for their country, to leaders she had seen while working in the RCAF, to her decision to run as an MP, and to what Canada can offer the rest of the world.

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Saturday's Guest Speaker Honourable Karen McCrimmon

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Karen McCrimmon and Leah Mosher (reunion organizer, former RCAF C130 pilot from the 1980s-2000s)

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The Honourable Karen McCrimmon and Dr Rachel Lea Heide with a CAHS Journal

If any former or currently serving RCAF women wish to become a member of this group, receive their newsletter, and be informed about upcoming events and reunions, we invite you to visit and browse their pages. The CAHS thanks this year's organizers for the privilege of attending and being a part of a wonderful gathering of amazing women who contributed to Canada's defence and security and aviation history.

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RCMP Miserable Ride (charitable organization that mimics the RCMP Musical Ride) provided entertainment on
Friday evening

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RCAF Musicians provided entertainment on
Saturday evening

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RCAF Piper piped guests into the banquet on
Saturday evening

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Table honouring missing service personnel

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Uniform and photograph display table

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RCAF Airwomen Reunion swag