Better know a Canadian functionary: the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Air Marshal William Bishop, first commander of the Canadian Air Force. Portrait by Alphonse Jongers.

Air power in the Canadian military first took the form of the Canadian Aviation Corps, which was formed in September 1914 and sent to England under Provisional Commander Capt. Ernest Lloyd Janney to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I. They had one airplane that never flew because it didn’t hold up to the damp English weather and was disbanded in May 1915.

Canadian airmen served in the Royal Air Force in the UK until a Canadian Air Force was established under the command of legendary flying ace Lt.-Col. William “Billy” Bishop. The war ended less than two months later and the original CAF was disbanded in Europe in February 1920, having flown zero missions.

The CAF was re-formed as an air militia at Camp Borden in July 1920. It became an independent service branch at the formation of the Department of National Defence in 1922, and became the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924. Its commander was the Air Officer Commanding from 1920 to 1921, the Officer Commanding from 1921 to 1922, the Director from 1922 to 1932, the Senior Air Officer from 1932 to 1938, and Chief of the Air Staff from 1938 to 1964.

During the unification of the Forces, the Air Force was dissolved in 1964. Its duties were split between Air Defence Command and Air Transport Command, with additional air power transferred to Mobile Command (the Army) and Maritime Command (the Navy). The flying forces were reunified in a new Air Command in 1975, under a Commander until 1997, when the title was changed to Chief of the Air Staff. In 2011 the old name of the Royal Canadian Air Force was restored, and its commander restyled as Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Chief of the Air Force Staff.

From 1920 to 1964 ranks in the RCAF followed the same as those of the RAF. Since 1975, Air Force ranks have matched the ranks of the Army.

The commandants of Canada’s air forces since 1920 have been:

Air Cdre. Arthur Kellam Tylee OBE, 1920–1921.
Wing Cdr. Ronald Francis Redpath, March–July 1921.
Wing Cdr. James Stanley Scott MC AFC (1st time), 1921–1922.
Wing Cdr. James Lindsay Gordon DFC (1st time), 1922–1924.
Wing Cdr. William George Barker VC DSO MC, April–May 1924.
Group Capt. James Stanley Scott MC AFC (2nd time), 1924–1928.
Wing Cdr. Lloyd Samuel Breadner CB DSC (1st time), 1928–1932.
Squadron Ldr. Albert Abraham Lawson Cuffe, April–September 1932.
Group Capt. James Lindsay Gordon DFC (2nd time), 1932–1933.
Wing Cdr. George Owen Johnson CB MC, June–December 1933.
Air Vice Marshal George Marshall Croil CBE AFC, 1934–1940.
Air Marshal Lloyd Samuel Breadner CB DSC (2nd time), 1940–1943.
Air Marshal Robert Leckie CB DSO DSC DFC CD, 1944–1947.
Air Marshal Wilfred Austin Curtis OC CB CBE DSC ED CD, 1947–1953.
Air Marshal Charles Roy Slemon CB CBE CD, 1953–1957.
Air Marshal Hugh Lester Campbell CBE CD, 1957–1962.
Air Marshal Clarence Rupert Dunlap CBE CD, 1962–1964.

Vacant, 1964–1975.

Lt.-Gen. William Keir Carr CMM DFC OStJ CD, 1975–1978.
Lt.-Gen. George Allan MacKenzie CMM CD, 1978–1980.
Lt.-Gen. Kenneth E. Lewis CMM CD, 1980–1983.
Lt.-Gen. Paul David Manson OC CMM CD, 1983–1985.
Lt.-Gen. Donald M. McNaughton CMM CD, 1985–1986.
Lt.-Gen. Larry Albert Ashley CMM CD, 1986-1988.
Lt.-Gen. Fred R. Sutherland CMM CD, 1989-1991.
Lt.-Gen. David Huddleston CMM MSC CD, 1991-1993.
Lt.-Gen. G. Scott Clements CMM CD, 1993–1995.
Lt.-Gen. Allan Marvin DeQuetteville CMM CD, 1995–1997.
Lt.-Gen. David N. Kinsman CMM CD, 1997–2000.
Lt.-Gen. Lloyd C. Campbell CMM CD, 2000–2003.
Lt.-Gen. Kenneth R. Pennie CMM CD, 2003–2005.
Lt.-Gen. James Steven Lucas CMM CD, 2005–2007.
Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt CMM CD, 2007–2009.
Lt.-Gen. Joseph Paul André Deschamps CMM CD, 2009–2012.
Lt.-Gen. Joseph Aimé Jean Yvan Blondin CMM CD, 2012–now.

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