Following the end of the First World War, a Canadian Royal Flying Corps was proposed, which became the Canadian Air Force. Over several years it was reorganized and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) came into being in 1924. As with the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army, establishments, training, equipment and doctrine were closely allied with the British model. Uniforms and equipment were in most cases virtually identical to those worn by the Royal Air Force. Between 1924 and 1939 there was little requirement for an Air Force Police establishment, most security and policing duties were carried out by general duty NCOs under the authority of the Station Adjutant. As of 1939 there were less than 5,000 personnel in the RCAF.
The advent of the Second World War brought about a huge and rapid expansion of the RCAF. From just under 5,000 Officers and Airmen in 1939, the RCAF numbered 250,000 by the end of the war.
The RCAF Police had it's beginnings in March 1940 when Group Captain M.M. Sisley was appointed as the first Provost Marshal of the RCAF. Originally called the Guards and Discipline Branch, the name was changed a year later to the Directorate of Provost and Security Services (DPSS). The DPSS was subdivided into two branches: Police and Security. These branches supplied gate and perimeter security for airfields and installations, and conducted disciplinary patrols. During the Second World War, RCAF Police were known as RCAF Service Police (SP).
The RCAF in Canada was based on geographical Commands under the direction of Headquarters Command. The Provost Marshal of the RCAF was established at Headquarters Command in Ottawa. There were 8 Assistant Provost Marshals (APM)s, one being assigned to each of the major Commands.
West Coast Maritime Air Command with headquarters in Vancouver.
East Coast Maritime Air Command with headquarters in Halifax.
Eastern Air Command, headquartered in Montreal covered Quebec, the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland.
Western Air Command, headquartered in British Columbia.
As well, there were 4 Training Commands:
#1 Training Command - Ontario, headquartered in Trenton.
#2 Training Command - British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, headquartered in Winnipeg.
#3 Training Command - Quebec, headquartered in Montreal.
#4 Training Command - Alberta, headquartered in Calgary.
Each APM had one or two Deputy Assistant Provost Marshals (DAPM)s who were responsible for day to day policing and security. DAPMs were later established at larger training and operational bases in Canada and overseas. A Warrant Officer Service Police commanded a Service Police Pool of NCOs and Airmen who carried out police duties such as train and disciplinary patrols, escort and VIP protection, as well as physical security and access control. Trained Investigators, often former Civil Police detectives, conducted criminal and loss investigations. During the war, a large number of Royal Air Force personell were stationed in Canada, as instructors or students on aircrew training. These British airmen resented being subject to arrest by Canadian RCAF SP. A similar problem occurred in England when the RCAF SP accompanying RCAF squadrons had to deal with RAF airmen. The problem was solved by designating a number of Canadians as Royal Air Force Police. Evidently the British more readily accepted arrest by their "own" police!
The first Service Police Course was held at the RCAF Manning Depot in Toronto in December, 1939. Service Police were twice volunteers, first in the RCAF, and again as Service Police. From the beginning, the RCAF SP benefitted from a large number of volunteers from civilian police forces. A number of experianced policemen were granted either direct Commissions as Officers or Warrant Officer rank. Training for all SP ranks comprised the usual courses of Military Law, physical security procedures, unarmed combat ("police holds"), small arms training, driving, and foot and rifle drill.