F/O Allan Bundy

Black and Asian Canadians who wanted to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the first half of the Second World War faced huge roadblocks. Government regulations and RCAF recruiting documents made it clear that visible minorities were not to be enlisted; however, despite the prescription of “pure European descent, some recruiting officers turned a blind eye to the policies. Before the restrictions were completely lifted on March 31, 1942, at least 10 Black Canadians had been enlisted. Of about 100 Blacks who served in the RCAF during the war, perhaps the best known is Flying Officer Allan Bundy. He joined in June 1942 and was possibly the first Black pilot in the RCAF. He served with 404 Squadron flying Beaufighter and Mosquito aircraft in the highly dangerous anti-shipping role.


These Canadian Spitfire pilots, serving overseas with 403 Squadron, are all BCATP graduates.

In contrast to the peacetime era, when new military pilots were commissioned as provisional pilot officers, all members of the RCAF started off as leading aircraftmen 1st class, regardless of their jobs. By the time pilots finished their training at Service Flying Training Schools, they were sergeants.

Then it gets confusing…

The original British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) agreement didn’t mention commissions. In July 1940, the RAF announced that 33 per cent of pilots and observers would be commissioned on graduation. Seventeen per cent were to be granted commissions later on, selected from those who demonstrated “distinguished service, devotion to duty and display of ability in the field of operations. There was no provision for commissioning wireless operator/air gunners until 1941. In 1942, when the agreement was up for renewal, Canada dug in its heels and adopted its own policy. Pilots, observers, navigators and air bombers considered suitable” and recommended would be commissioned, while the existing quota for air gunners and wireless operator/air gunners — 20 per cent of graduates — was retained.

Needless to say, this caused some heartache because there were now two commissioning policies within the BCATP: one for Canadians and one for all the other Commonwealth nations. In fact, sometimes Canadians who graduated from training with a lower standing were commissioned, while British flyers who graduated at or near the top of their classes remained as non-commissioned officers.