The story of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) tartan goes all the way back to January, 1942.
Group Captain Elmer G. Fullerton, Station Commander of No. 9 Service Flying Training School, RCAF Station Summerside, Prince Edward Island, wanted to celebrate his Scottish heritage by organizing a “Robbie Burns Night” mess dinner. He borrowed bagpipes for his station band and searched for a suitable tartan to outfit the band in full Scottish regalia.
Group Captain Fullerton then decided to design an original pattern that represented the Royal Canadian Air Force. With coloured pencils, he produced the prototype using light blue, dark blue and maroon colours. The original sample of the proposed tartan was created by Patricia Jenkins and Loom crofters of Gagetown, New Brunswick. It was the Gagetown weavers who added a white line to the design.
He then ordered a sample of the material to be sent to RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa for approval. The design was endorsed by the Air Council, and Air Vice-Marshal J. A. Sully sent it off to Scotland’s Lord Lyon, King of Arms, for approval in July, 1942.
The approval was granted on August 15th, 1942 and the design was officially registered as the RCAF tartan. As a result, the RCAF became the first air force in the world to have its own distinctive tartan. The speed of the process from original concept to the final approval in a period of eight months is quite awe-inspiring!
Since then, the distinctive RCAF tartan has been worn by members of RCAF pipe and drum bands. It is also used in other ways, including ties, mess kit cummerbunds, or ladies’ sashes. If you visit our Museum, you may find some of our volunteers wearing the tartan vest as they welcome you!