The Carty brothers

Wednesday 27 March 2024

History of Black Canadians in the Royal Canadian Air Force

by Olivia Barrett, Editorial Associate

April 1, 2024, marks 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The RCAF provides air and space defence for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

While the Canadian government allowed for Black people to enlist in the army beginning in 1941, they were only allowed to enlist in certain branches.

It was not until 1942, nearly 20 years after its creation, that the government officially lifted the colour barrier for the RCAF. Despite this, Black Canadians were already enlisting with at least 13 Black airmen and officers in the RCAF.

Prior to the policy change that allowed visible minorities to join the RCAF, they could only enlist the general duty trades, such as the No.2 Construction Battalion in the First World War. This battalion consisted entirely of Black Canadians at a time when they could only serve in the CAF in service, transport and manual labour units.

There are several different accounts of the first Black-Canadian in the RCAF. While we may not know who was the very first, these are the stories of a few of the first Black-Canadians in the RCAF.

Junius Lyman Edward Hokan

Junius Lyman Edward Hokan

Pilot Officer Junius Lyman Edward Hokan is one of the first Black men to join the RCAF and his contributions made him an extraordinary officer. Born and raised in St. Catharines, Ont., Hokan enlisted in RCAF at 18, likely following the example of his father, Lyman William Hogan who enlisted in the Canadian Field Artillery in 1914. Hokan joined the RCAF in 1940 despite enlistment policies being restricted to those of “pure European descent,” some recruiting officers discarded this requirement and allowed Black Canadians to enlist. On Aug. 8, 1941, he received his pilot wings and, due to his high standing, was commissioned as a pilot officer. Hokan was then sent to the United Kingdom, where he was transferred to the Royal Air Force. He was later posted to No. 610 Squadron on Feb. 18, 1942. In April and May 1942, Hokan was part two crucial events: the shooting down of a Junker JU-88 bomber while he was the leader of the Yellow Flight and as the wingman for the squadron leader when he received “a quarter share of a Dornier DO-217 bomber with three other pilots,” according to the Government of Canada’s article on him. In addition to his record as a pilot officer, Hokan also designed a “position-finding spherant,” a tool which gave navigator two sides of the position-fixing triangle, the article explained. In August 1942, Hokan was posted to 401 Squadron. While on a mission on Sept. 26 along with 64 and 133 Squadrons, 401 Squadron realized they would soon run out of fuel. Hokan radioed other squadron members that he was out of fuel and was last seen in a gradual dive. On Nov. 6, 1942, Hokan’s name was on the RCAF’s casualty list as “killed on active service.”

Allan Selwyn Bundy

Allan Bundy

Flying Officer Allan Bundy is credited with being the first Canadian-born Black pilot in the RCAF. Born in 1920 in Dartmouth, N.S., Bundy had three siblings, one of which also joined the RCAF and the other joining an Air Cadet Squadron. When the Second World War began, Bundy tried to enlist in the Air Force but was rejected “without a satisfactory explanation,” according to the Government of Canada’s article on Bundy. He attempted again after the RCAF lifted these requirements and ignoring his conscription notice for the army. Bundy flew with the 404 Squadron, which was known as “The Buffaloes” because of the image on the squadron badge. Bundy was assigned to No. 5 Manning Depot in Quebec in July 1942. Over a year later on Sept. 3, 1943, Bundy received his wings and commission as a pilot officer. After three months of training at 1 General Reconnaissance School in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Bundy was posted overseas. Throughout his career, Bundy flew on numerous successful operations in Beaufighters and Mosquitos from northeastern Scotland. He flew his last mission in 1945, returned home in July of that year and was released from service on Aug. 17. On Dec. 9, 2001, Bundy passed away in Toronto.

The Carty Brothers

The Carty brothers: Adolphus, William, Clyde and Donald and Gerald

For the Carty family from Saint John, N.B., military service ran in their blood. Five of the brothers served during the Second World War, following their father, Albert Carty, who served with No. 2 Construction Battalion during the First World War. Four of the brothers, Adolphus, William, Clyde and Donald, served in the RCAF. Flight Sergeant Adolphus was an airframe mechanic; Flight Sergeant William was an aeronautical inspector; Leading Aircraftman Clyde was a firefighter; and Aircraftman (Second Class) Donald was an equipment assistant. Gerald enlisted once he turned 18 and served in the UK. There, he trained in radio and radar operations for aircrew. He became one of the youngest commissioned officers in the RCAF. The two youngest brothers, Robert and Malcolm, joined the Army and Air Cadets while still at home during the war, according to the Veterans Affairs Canada article about the Carty Brothers.

Sources Cited:

Gouvernement du Canada. (2021, February 17). Government of Canada. News Article – Royal Canadian Air Force –

Canada, V. A. (2021, July 8). The Carty Brothers. Veterans Affairs Canada. 

National Defence, R. C. A. F. (2021, July 6). Government of Canada. News Article – Royal Canadian Air Force –