Image: Sergeant Paz Quille

 

 

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!

PIPER IN RCAF TARTAN
circa 1963

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

VINCENT RCAF TARTAN BLAZER

If you visit our Museum, you may find some of our volunteers wearing the tartan vest as they welcome you!  In fact two of our volunteers will be wearing the Vincent blazer, pictured to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the remaining piece of the original 16 yards of RCAF tartan produced in 1942. This photo was provided by Keith Williamson, son of Squadron Leader Bill Williamson, who was band officer at 9 Service Flying Training School at Summerside, PEI, when the school’s commanding officer, Group Captain E.G. Fullerton, developed the concept for an RCAF tartan. Squadron Leader Williamson was tasked to find a weaver who could produce samples for approval. Photo Keith Williamson