Week 14, Final Report & Assignment
- Wow! What a fast semester! This should be the last of my
assignments. The report is also posted on my class website:
The garment I decided upon to study was a Royal Canadian Air Force
Uniform. I ended up buying a complete uniform / less cap / dated
1952 and I only paid $18.00 via Ebay. I decided on this item not only
because it was relatively inexpensive but also the historical
significance and the fact I knew one of the professors at UAF served
in the Canadian Air Force during this period.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was one of a couple precursors to
today's modern Canadian Air Force. The first being the Canadian
Aviation Corps formed in 1914. This branch of service consisted of a
couple aviators and few planes. In 1924 the prefix Royal was adopted
to bring the organization into line with the other British
Commonwealths armed forces.
During war the RCAF had three components, two stationed in Canada and
the other London. Those stationed at home were in charge of
protected the country, as well as, training new pilots. Those
stationed out of London saw service in Western Europe, Asia, and the
In 1997 the Canadian Air Force was condensed into a single division.
When I contacted Dr. Cornwall he was excited at the opportunity to do
an interview with me regarding the uniform. Peter G. Cornwall is a
retired Flying Officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force and is an
Associate Professor Emeritus of History (Ph.D., University of
Michigan, 1970) has taught courses at UAF that include Modern Japan,
East Asia, naval and military histories. He was also a Professor at
West Point and his publications include Alaska's Rural Development.
Dr. Cornwall began his account by telling me that every morning the
soldiers would have to look at a board in the barracks to see which
of the several uniforms they had would be the required dress for the
day. The uniform he explained that I had bought was a #6 Summer Dress
The three ribbons above the breast pocket from left to right;
Volunteer Ribbon w/ Maple Leaf Clasp representing a volunteer during
the war from Canada. If the person had been from another country,
such as New Zealand as in Dr. Cornwall's case, the clasp would have
been a different representation. The second ribbon is a Victory
Medal on behalf of the victory of WW2. The third and final is the
Canadian Forces Decoration for 12 years of good conduct. Further,
this award allowed the wearer to add the initials, C.D., after his
name. Interestingly, the uniform included no Theatre ribbon, meaning
the person did serve overseas.
The buttons on the jacket are non-tarnish buttons, Dr. Cornwall
explains shortly after WW 2, this feature was added. Further, he
says soldiers were, extremely enthused because they didn't need
polished. He goes on to explain the crown icon on the buttons is
that of the crown of King George the 6th and that it differs from
today's Royal Air Force, as Queen today wears the crown of St.
This uniform was that of a Sergeant as noted by the rank badges,
other characteristics that differ an enlisted from an officer's
uniform include in part, quality of the cloth and bellows pockets
instead of integral pockets. Another mark difference is that an
Officer would only have the word Canada across the shoulder and not
an Albatross badge.
Dr. Cornwall explained the Albatross badge should not be confused
with that of an Eagle and that the Albatross was the largest bird
capable of sustained flight. He explained a true military badge or
button for an enlisted man would also have an Albatross, and that the
head would always be facing backwards.
He went on to explain the cutting of the uniform was also different
then other uniform. The armpits being cut fairly high, thus bracing
the wearing, making him stand with his shoulders back and chest out.
Dr. Cornwall ended the interview by saying, "A lot to be said for
Some information that can be gathered from the uniform includes, that
it belonged to a relatively skinny man with a small waist between 30"-
32" - that he was between 5'11 and 6 tall - further, he probably had
a non-muscular build, having a 43" breast, making the solider around
170 lbs + -. We also know that in 1952 he had already been in the
military for 12 years, meaning he was active during the war; however,
never leaving Canada. This could suggest a Canadian administrator or
trainer in one of the two Training Centers operating during this time
in central Canada (one at Moose Jaw, the other at Cold Lake);
however, the latter is pure speculation. What is not conjecture is
that we know the man volunteered before the war; and it can be safely
assumed he was between the ages of 17 - 20 when he volunteered in
1940, making him between the ages of 29 32 at the time he wore this
uniform. Finally, we can surmise from Dr. Cornwall's assessment of
the material being in exceptional condition that the man shortly
retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force after receiving his
Canadian Forces Decoration. I assume he didn't get promoted, as this
only requires new badges not an entire jacket, also I thought perhaps
the man outgrew the uniform, except there is enough extra material
that the jacket could have been let out.
Initially, I thought this assignment and this study garment would
teach me a lot about the Canadian Air Force Uniform but was
pleasantly surprised I learned just as much about the person wearing
Please note, all information is from Dr. Cornwall & www.rcaf.com.