Military historian candidate is first recipient of Air Vice Marshal Keith Hodson Scholarship

News Article / July 26, 2019

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By Aviator Jacob Hanlon

Peter Rayls, a Ph.D. candidate studying Canadian military history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, is the first recipient of the Air Vice Marshal Keith Hodson Scholarship, awarded to him for his research on the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The Air Vice Marshal Hodson Scholarship will be presented annually to a graduate student whose thesis makes a significant contribution to the theme of Canadian military aviation.

Mr. Rayls’ dissertation focuses on the personal relationships between Canadian and U.S. Air Force officers who were influenced by the establishment of NORAD in 1957, the command’s early operations, and the emergence of a unique North American air defence culture.

It is also very fitting that Mr. Rayls’ thesis includes sections on Air Vice Marshal Keith Hodson's life and legacy, given the Vice Marshall’s role in the development of the RCAF doctrine during the Cold War and his final posting at NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado.

Air Vice Marshal Hodson was a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot who flew Spitfires in the Royal Air Force Fighter Command in 1941, completing 120 missions over Europe and receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). After the war, Hodson held a number of senior posts, including Commandant of the RCAF College in Toronto, Ontario, and Deputy Chief of Staff NORAD.

The RCAF Heritage Fund committee selected Hodson’s name as the scholarship’s namesake for serving the RCAF with great distinction, both as a combat pilot and as an individual who advanced the benefits of education in the RCAF.

"I am grateful to the RCAF Heritage Fund Committee for believing in the potential of my work,” Mr. Rayls said, and I am honoured to be the inaugural recipient of this scholarship.” The scholarship will help Mr. Rayls complete his dissertation by enabling his research at archives and libraries in Canada and the United States.

During the ceremony, Chairman of the Heritage Fund Major-General Blaise Frawley said that he and the committee were happy to see such a worthy recipient of the scholarship. Mr. Rayls’ accomplishments are indeed impressive: He is a U.S. Army veteran of 13 years, who served as an Armor Officer and a Human Resources Officer. He completed a combat tour in Iraq, and is the recipient of a Bronze Star. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College.

Mr. Rayls has a Bachelor of Science in Military History from the U.S. Military Academy and a Master of Arts in History from Ohio State University.

The RCAF Heritage Fund is an independent organization designed to promote and preserve Canadian military aviation history and heritage projects that have difficulty finding support from other sources. Individuals interested in applying for the Air Vice Marshal Keith Hodson Scholarship should contact Dr. Richard Mayne, Deputy Chairman of the RCAF Heritage Fund, at for more information.

Aviator Jacob Hanlon is with RCAF Public Affairs.

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