Black Canadians in the RCAF
This photos shows LAC W.K. Rock and LAC T.S. Wong preparing for final exams at 9 EFTS in November 1943. Both graduated as pilots but too late to proceed overseas. Of note, Rock was commissioned on 2 June 1944 and ended the war as a Flying Officer. After the war he became a well-known and respected doctor in Windsor, setting up his practice in 1952 and was even the city's coroner.
(PMR 75-358 F. Pattison Photo)
By Mathias Joost
With Black History month upon us, it is important to remember that Black Canadians have made a contribution in the field of aviation in Canada. One noteworthy contribution was during the Second World War when the issue was not what they achieved, but rather that they were able to enlist at all.
Getting into the RCAF in the early war years was not easy. In late 1938 and early 1939, the government passed three Orders-in-Council that prevented visible minorities from enlisting in the RCAF. In April 1941, the RCAF then attempted to change the policy, but not until February 1942 did the Cabinet approve the elimination of all racist barriers. Despite the rules, at least eight were able to enlist, through their own pressure and because of the blind eyes turned by some RCAF recruiting officers toward the regulations. Even after the regulations were changed, however, Black Canadians still often had a hard time enlisting as some recruiting officers chose to ignore the new regulation to be "colour-blind."
Perhaps 100 Black Canadians - as well as some from other nations - served in the RCAF during the war. The numbers are hard to determine as there is no record of who was Black, Asian or Aboriginal – the RCAF simply did not keep such records. What is certain is that of the 45 confirmed names, 19 were accepted as aircrew, of whom seven were pilots. These included one future Tuskegee Airman, who, after qualifying for his RCAF wings, had to redo his pilot training again to get his USAAF wings. The best known is Allan Bundy who served with 404 Squadron; others, however, performed equally important roles in the BCATP and the Home War Establishment.
So when we remember the contribution made to this country by Black Canadians, remember also the struggle they faced to enlist and the their desire to serve this country and the cause of freedom.
For profiles of five Black Canadians in the RCAF during the Second World War, please click here.
Mathias is always looking for the names of other Black-Canadians who served in the RCAF during and after the Second World War. Photos are most welcome too.
For more information on Black history in Canada, please visit the Historica Dominion Institute's site, www.blackhistorycanada.ca.