At the beginning of World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force was experiencing a shortage of personnel. Men were needed for combat duties overseas and for training duties at British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools across Canada.
The original 1941 order-in-council authorized “the formation of a component of the Royal Canadian Air Force to be known as the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, its function being to release to heavier duties those members of the RCAF employed in administrative, clerical and other comparable types of service employment.” Women’s Division personnel became commonly known as WDs.
Duties expanded as the war progressed. Among the many jobs carried out by WD personnel, they became clerks, drivers, fabric workers, hairdressers, hospital assistants, instrument mechanics, parachute riggers, photographers, air photo interpreters, intelligence officers, instructors, weather observers, pharmacists, wireless operators, and Service Police.
RCAF regulations at the time precluded women who possessed flying licences from flight instructing or front-line duty.
Most WDs were located at British Commonwealth Air Training Plan training stations across Canada; many served overseas with RCAF Overseas Headquarters and No. 6 (bomber) Group. Over 17,400 women served with the Women’s Division before it was discontinued in December 1946.