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The women who serve that men may fly

The Story

By 1942 women serve in all three branches of Canada's military. The Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division -- the WDs -- is now thousands strong. What was it like for the first 150 brave women to take basic training? This dramatic episode of Comrades in Arms tells their story. It concludes with messages from real WDs -- a former Eaton's parcel inspector who is now a weather observer and a woman who once packed coffee but now packs bullets. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Comrades in Arms
Broadcast Date: Oct. 23, 1942
Guest(s): Evelyn Baxton, Vernice Blouth, Doreen Darling, Martha Frame, Alice Seaman, Nellie Walsh
Music: Samuel Hersenhoren
Producer: J. Frank Willis
Writer: Dick Diespecker, Andy McDermott, William Strange
Duration: 11:18
Photo: National Defence Image Library, PL 14623

Did You know?

. The Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force (CWACs) was created on July 2, 1941 - the first Canadian military branch to accept women. A year later it was integrated with the Royal Canadian Air Force and renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division.
. The WDs first trained at Toronto's Havergal College, a private girls' school designated as "No. 6 Manning Depot." The first 150 recruits joined in October 1941 and completed their training on Dec. 1, 1941.

. At its height in December 1943 the WD had 591 officers and 14,562 members of all ranks. Over 17,000 women - eight per cent of all RCAF personnel - served in the WD by war's end.
. The WD was disbanded on Dec. 11, 1946 as the Canadian military was drastically reduced.

. A key contribution of the WD was operation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which trained 159,340 aircrew personnel (including 49,507 pilots) from Australia, New Zealand, England and Canada from late 1939 until March 31, 1945.
. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the program "Canada's greatest contribution to the Allied victory"; U.S. president Roosevelt called Canada "the aerodrome of democracy."

. In 1951 women were permitted to join the RCAF directly. They were accepted as pilots in 1979; in 1987 Canada allowed female fighter pilots.
. CBC's Comrades in Arms debuted Oct. 2, 1942. It was the first broadcast of "combined operations" with Canada's army, navy and air force all contributing to the show. In addition to dramatizations it promised "Men and women will play their true roles in this radio feature series reflecting current history."


On Every Front: Canadian Women in the Second World War more