Have you thought about looking for a relative who served in the RCAF?

My family moved to the Comox Valley just two years ago.  As we settled in and started to acquaint ourselves with our new home community, I shared our discoveries with my Mom.  She reminded me that she and my Dad had lived here toward the end of WWII, when Dad was stationed here at the Comox Air Force Base.  Her memories sparked my curiosity.  I wondered what life here would have been like.  I knew he loved his time with the Air Force and decided I wanted to know more about this important part of his life.  What better place to start my search than at the Comox Air Force Museum!  I went in one morning to see if I could “find my Dad”.  I was pointed in the direction of the Library.

I found out that it’s easier to find and research someone who died while serving, as opposed to someone who survived. So my first step was to get a form from the librarian: Application for Military Service Information. I filled out the application and tucked it into the mail. I received a letter advising me that it would take a few months to gather the information for me. ( Ottawa will first address requests related to benefits, etc., and then those needed for personal research ).

In the meantime, I happened upon a list, written by my Dad, that included some of his assignments. This gave me a starting place for my research. I found it helpful to have some specific questions to guide me for each of his assignments:

Where exactly was he stationed ( name of base, its location, the community around the base )?

Why was he there? What was his assignment?

What kind of work did he do? What airplanes would he have worked on? ( he was a mechanic )

What were the specifications of each of the aircraft he worked on?

What was the environment like there ( on base and in the surrounding area )?

What was daily life like on the base? What would he have eaten? What would he have done in his free time?

I then took my questions to the Air Force Museum and the librarian and other volunteers helped me locate the answers in the books in the library. One volunteer knew exactly where to find information about aircraft, another with information about food and cooking for one hundred or more servicemen, another with information about squadron history, and yet another with information about the medals my Dad had.

I also went online to supplement my information. The librarian gave me an email contact the led to someone who had more information to share with me ~ that led me to another contact… and so it went… I worked back and forth ~ Museum library, online, emails… I found that everyone I connected with was more than willing to take time to help me, to help me find my answers.  In fact, as I write this, I’ve just received another photo of my Dad from someone who continues to be on the lookout for me!

And so the “story” I discovered grew. By the time the package arrived from the Ottawa archives, I was able to confirm with even more detail, my Dad’s assignments and dates of service. The extra information that came in the package enhanced my project.  I now have something special I’ve been able to share with my Mom, as well as other interested members of the family.

Hopefully, my personal experience will give you some ideas about how to begin your own journey of discovery! Come into the Comox Air Force Museum Library to get started!