Royal Canadian Air Force

During World War II the RCAF of 1939 expanded into the fourth largest air power of the Allied Forces. Its small group of aging Aircraft was replaced by thousands of the latest training and operational types and its personnel increased more than fifty-fold to a peak of over 200,000. In Canada, a vast training organization was formed to put over 80 operational squadrons in the field on coastal defence, shipping protection and overseas duties.

The Air Cadet Corps
The expansion of the Air Force and operation of the large training establishment depended upon a steady flow of recruits. One valuable agency in maintaining a steady supply of pre-trained recruits was the Air Cadet Corps. Formed in June 1941, as a voluntary civilian organization, the Air Cadet League was subsequently incorporated in the RCAF in April 1943. Air Cadet squadrons with over 30,000 schoolboys between 12 and 18 years of age received preliminary instruction during the war. Many later served with distinction in operational squadrons.

During the war, the RCAF was divided into three major forces. One force was engaged in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), another was employed in theatres of war overseas, and the third was stationed in Canada in the Home War Establishment on western hemisphere operations.

The British Commonwealth
Air Training Plan (BCATP)
From the beginning of hostilities it was recognized that one of Canada's major roles in the war would be as a training ground where instruction could be carried on away from the actual battle area. Government representatives from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada met in Ottawa and signed an agreement in December 1939 to set up the BCATP, converting Canada into what President Roosevelt later termed "the aerodrome of democracy."

The initial plan provided for Elementary Flying Training Schools, Service Flying Training Schools, and Air Observer Schools. Supplementing these were numerous other units for recruiting, training, maintenance, and administration, making a total of 74 schools, depots and other formations. When fully developed, the BCATP was required to produce 520 pilots a month with elementary training, 544 pilots with service training, 340 air observers, and 580 wireless operator-airgunners. The first schools opened in April 1940, and all were in operation by 1942. The initial responsibility for establishing, administering and operating this complex plan was placed upon the shoulders of the RCAF which had scarcely more than 4,000 officers and airmen.

It was a challenging task. Sites for dozens of aerodromes had to be selected, roads and runways built, hangars, barracks, and other buildings erected. Incredible quantities of equipment, ranging from thumbtacks to airplanes had to be procured. Experts had to be recruited - doctors, dentists, chaplains, technicians, executives, mechanics, bookkeepers, cooks, teachers, flying instructors - to receive, examine, equip, instruct and train the thousands of young men who were clamouring to enlist. Around the nucleus of RCAF personnel and the specialist RAF officers who had been sent to assist them, a force of skilled men from all walks of life rapidly gathered. Among them were some of Canada's leading citizens: doctors, engineers, bush pilots, scientists and lawyers. From the US came a contingent of American commercial pilots eager to help in what they considered to be the common cause.

At the close of 1943, the BCATP reached its maximum expansion of 97 schools and 184 ancillary units. Production averaged over 3,000 graduates per month, and in less than three years 82,000 trained aircrew were qualified. The reserve of aircrew was in excess of immediate needs overseas and it was possible to start a reduction in training early in 1944. The closing down of schools was accelerated in October and at the end of March 1945, the BCATP officially was terminated. It had done its job beyond all expectations.

The Defence of Canada
Eastern and Western Commands were assigned the defence of Canada's coasts. Their maritime squadrons went on duty at the beginning of September 1939, and continued to operate over the Atlantic and the Pacific until the final surrender of Germany and Japan. The bulk of the work fell to Eastern Air Command (EAC). After Pearl Harbour the major responsibility continued to be EAC's, whose Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief directed all the work of air protection in the North West Atlantic.

Battle of the Atlantic
The first 18 months of the war were relatively quiet, but from the spring of 1941, the resources of EAC were taxed to their utmost limits in the grim Battle of the Atlantic. Enemy U-boats were sighted and attacked in Canadian coastal waters. The enemy even penetrated into the St. Lawrence River to sink vessels.

The most critical period was in 1942 and the first six months of 1943 when submarine activity in the North Atlantic reached its peak. Then the tide turned, and although the introduction of the acoustic torpedo and later the "Schnorkel" breathing-tube presented new serious defence problems, the sea and air forces of Britain, US and Canada retained the upper hand until the last U-boats surrendered in May 1945. Aircraft of EAC sank six submarines. This figure is not full measure of the Command's contribution, nor would the total number of sightings and attacks express it. A better indication is to be found in the thousands upon thousands of hours flown by the aircrew, through weather that was often appalling, while they carefully searched the grey expanse of water, forced the enemy to crash-dive or remain submerged, drove them away from our convoys and permitted the ships to continue on their way unmolested. It was weary and unglamorous work but its importance cannot be over-emphasized. The battle lines of Western Europe were fed by the long Atlantic sea lanes. Although there was much less submarine activity on the Pacific coast, the Aircraft of Western Air Command (WAC) were not unrewarded for their long hours of hunting. One venturesome Japanese submarine was sent to the bottom near Prince Rupert by two US naval vessels after it had been so badly damaged by an RCAF Bolingbroke that it was unable to escape.

In the late spring of 1942, WAC sent several bomber- reconnaissance and fighter squadrons to Alaska and the Aleutians to assist the American forces in checking a Japanese threat from that direction. For months they carried out reconnaissance patrols and strafing missions in that isolated theatre of war. During one of these missions, a Canadian Kittyhawk pilot shot down a Japanese Zero, the only enemy Aircraft that was destroyed by home-based units during the war. The Canadians remained in the Aleutians, flying side by side with the Americans in "the worst flying weather in the world," until the Japanese withdrew from Kiska in August 1943. Later another potential threat developed when the Japanese began sending paper balloons across the Pacific carrying incendiaries and small bombs. The balloons caused no appreciable damage although they kept the west coast fighter squadrons on the alert for many months,

To move Aircraft and supplies from the US to Alaska and the Aleutians, a North West Staging Route was developed within Western Air Command. Along this aerial highway also flowed great quantities of Aircraft and material for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The volume and importance of the traffic led to the formation in June 1944, of the North West Air Command with headquarters at Edmonton. It was formed to administer the great chain of airfields and Aircraft control facilities. On both coasts the Aircraft Detection Corps contributed outstanding service. This was an organization of volunteer civilian ground observers - farmers, woodsmen, schoolboys, housewives, fishermen - who reported movements of Aircraft and kept watch for submarines or suspicious surface vessels. There was little enemy activity for them to report, but their network of observer posts on many occasions was of assistance in rescuing Aircraft in distress. Although the Corps was officially disbanded in November 1944, observers remained on the watch in certain key areas until the end of hostilities.

The RCAF Overseas
The heavy commitments of the RCAF in the development and administration of the BCATP, in addition to its responsibility for air defence, made it necessary to retain the greater part of the Force at home. Only three squadrons could be spared for overseas service in the early months of the war.

The Original Three
The first of these units for overseas service was No. 110 Army Co-operation (Auxiliary) Squadron which was strengthened by personnel from No. 112 (Auxiliary) and No. 2 (Permanent) Squadrons. No. 110 arrived in Britain in February 1940, and began training with the intention of accompanying the Canadian Army divisions to France. Four months later when the war situation was extremely critical, No. 112 Army Co-operation (Auxiliary) Squadron and No. 1 Fighter (Permanent) Squadron, reinforced by personnel from No. 115 (Auxiliary) also went overseas.

The fall of France and the cessation of land operations in Western Europe relegated the two Army Co-operation squadrons to a long period of waiting, but No. 1 Fighter Squadron saw action in the Battle of Britain in the summer and autumn of 1940.

The 400 Block
At the end of 1940 the first trickle of BCATP graduates began to flow overseas, most of them being posted to RAF units. In the initial stages of the Plan many of the aircrew graduates had to be retained in Canada as instructors for the further expansion of the BCATP. However, as the number of personnel available for service abroad increased, it became possible to organize new RCAF squadrons in Britain. Many of these new units were RCAF in name rather than in fact, until the policy of "Canadianization" eventually changed the situation.

When this expansion of the RCAF overseas began in the spring of 1941, a new system of numeration was adopted to avoid confusion with RAF units. The 400-449 block was allotted to the RCAF and the three original squadrons were given new numbers; No. 110 became No. 400, No. 1 became No. 401, and No. 112 (which had been reorganized as No. 2 Fighter in December 1940) became No. 402.

New Squadrons
The first unit formed overseas was No. 403 Fighter in March 1941. Seventeen more squadrons were formed in 1941, ten in 1942, four in 1943, and nine in 1944, so that by the end of the war the number of squadrons in the overseas 400 series had grown to 44. Included in this number were six squadrons which, after periods of service in EAC and WAC, were transferred to Britain late in 1943 and early 1944 and completed a second tour of operations with the Second Tactical Air Force. No. 162 Squadron was also detached from EAC for operations with Coastal Command from bases in Iceland and Northern Scotland during the last 17 months of the war. In addition to these 45 units there were also three Air Observation Post (AOP) squadrons (Nos. 664, 665 and 666) composed of Royal Canadian Artillery and RCAF personnel. The total number of squadrons that saw service overseas was 48 (including No. 162 Squadron).

The RCAF squadrons included 15 bomber, 11 day-fighter, three fighter-bomber, three fighter-reconnaissance, four night- fighter and intruder, six coastal, three transport, and three AOP. In addition to these units there were large numbers of RCAF personnel who served in RAF formations in the air and on the ground in every command and theatre of the war.

The Battle of Britain - Fighter Command
It was in the critical period of May-June 1940, when France was crumbling and the cause of freedom seemed in retreat, that No. 1 Fighter Squadron of the RCAF arrived in Britain under the command of S/L E.A. McNab. After a few weeks training the squadron began operations August 19, 1940, at a time when the Luftwaffe's attacks on southern England were increasing in intensity. The first few days only resulted in fruitless scrambles; then on August 26, the Canadian Hurricane pilots finally encountered a formation of Dornier 215 bombers, three of which they destroyed. Eight weeks later, when the Squadron flew to Scotland for a well-earned rest, the score stood at 31 enemy Aircraft definitely destroyed and 43 more probably destroyed or damaged. Three pilots had been killed in action - the RCAF's first combat casualties.

The three most successful fighters, S/L McNab, F/L G.R. McGregor, and F/O B.D. Russel, were awarded the DFC and thus became the first members of the RCAF to be decorated for gallantry in action. In the Battle of Britain the RCAF had received its baptism of fire and had acquitted itself with distinction.

"Rhubarbs and Circuses"
It was the summer of 1941 before the Canadian fighter pilots, whose strength had now increased to five squadrons, were again heavily engaged in action. In the interval the character of the air war had changed. The Luftwaffe's daylight offensive against Britain had been thrown back with heavy losses. Fighter Command, released from its defensive role, lost no time in resuming the offensive.

Late in December 1940, Aircraft of Fighter Command began daylight operations over northern France starting an air offensive which grew steadily in magnitude until the day of final victory. In time, many types of offensive operations were developed (in addition to the routine work of patrolling over convoys moving along the coast), but broadly speaking the activities of the fighters fell into two categories - "rhubarbs and circuses". The purpose of a "rhubarb" was to hit the enemy on the ground where it would inconvenience him the most. Hurricanes and Spitfires in pairs or larger formations struck into Nazi-occupied France and Belgium attacking railroads, munitions factories, airfields, electric lines and gun posts.

The "circus" was a large formation of bombers and fighters which roared high across the Channel to strike at railroad junctions, airfields, or munitions plants. It had a twofold objective - to inflict damage upon the enemy's communications and industries, and to draw the Germans into the air where the fighter escort could engage it. These varied operations forced the Nazis to maintain large anti- Aircraft defences in the threatened areas and at the same time steadily whittled down the Luftwaffe's fighter strength.

In all this work, squadrons of RCAF Hurricanes and Spitfires played their part. In air battles over the Pas de Calais many pilots won distinction - D.R. Morrison, J.C. Fee, L.V. Chadburn, K.L.B. Hodson, L.S. Ford, R.W. McNair and H.C. Godefroy, to name but a few. At first the Canadian squadrons flew in formations with other RAF units. Then, an all-Canadian wing of three squadrons was formed and by the time D-Day arrived there were three of these RCAF Spitfire wings. One was led for many months by W/C J.E. Johnson, the top-scoring fighter pilot of the RAF, who ended the war with 38 victories to his credit.

Americans in the RCAF
The US did not enter the war until December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Many Americans did not wait for this declaration of war and instead opted to join the Allied Forces.

One story is that of P/O Claud Weaver III, DFC, DFM, an American, born at Oklahoma City, Okla., on August 18, 1922. He came to Canada to enlist in the RCAF at Windsor, ONT., on February 13, 1941. He earned his wings in October 1941, went overseas at once, and after a brief period with a fighter squadron in Britain was posted to Malta. There he flew with No. 185 Squadron from July to September, 1942.

In August, Sgt Weaver was decorated with the DFM, for destroying five enemy fighters and participating in a bomber kill within a period of one week. He ran his Malta score up to ten before being shot down over Sicily and taken prisoner on September 9, 1942. A year later he escaped from the Prisoner of War (POW) camp and walked 300 miles to freedom. Appointed to a commission, he immediately returned to operations with No. 403 (RCAF) Squadron in Western Europe, late October 1943. He won two more victories before he was shot down and killed in air combat while on a "ranger" mission in the Amiens area on January 28, 1944. March 1944, the award of the DFC was published and P/O Weaver also was mentioned in dispatches in June 1944.

Air Prelude to the Invasion
After some sharp encounters in the air during the summer and autumn of 1943, the German fighter squadrons almost disappeared from the coastal area in the six months preceding the invasion of Normandy. Many of them had been withdrawn to Germany in a vain attempt to stem the devastating daylight blows of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Fortresses and Liberators. There was no lack of work however, for the squadrons of the Second Tactical Air Force as the aerial preparation for D-Day gained momentum.

Mk XVIE Spitfire
In the spring of 1944, the Spitfires became fighter-bombers, carrying a 500 lb. "egg" under each wing with which to blast bridges, railroad junctions, radar posts and coastal defences. Again and again the Spitfires dive-bombed the carefully camouflaged "rocket" sites which the Nazis were constructing in the Somme and Pas de Calais areas in preparation for the flying bomb (V-1) offensive against England. An RCAF wing of Typhoon fighter-bombers formed early in 1944, also had an active share in all these operations.

From Normandy to The Baltic
At dawn, June 6, 1944, the Canadian fighter wings were sent over the beaches to stand guard while the Allied Forces poured ashore. Then, when the beachheads were firmly established, they gave air support to the British and Canadian Forces during the long and bitter fighting around Caen. The Luftwaffe did not often appear over the battle area and on the few occasions when it did come out in strength it lost heavily. June 28, 1944, RCAF Spitfires shot down 26 enemy Aircraft and crippled a dozen others. Four days later they bagged 20 more, plus 11 damaged.

Ground strafing on armed reconnaissances, which steadily nibbled at the Wehrmacht's armoured fighting vehicles and motor transport, reached a climax in the four days in mid- August when the Nazi Seventh Army, caught in a pocket between Falaise and Argentan, sought to escape eastward. From dawn to dark, Spitfires and Typhoons raked the long columns of vehicles with cannon and machine-gun fire and left the roads strewn with blazing, smoking, shattered wrecks. The RCAF Wings alone estimated that they had destroyed or damaged over 2,600 enemy vehicles. Then began the long pursuit across northern France and Belgium into the Netherlands and finally through the West Wall, across the Rhine River and into the plains of north- western Germany. The fighter wings covered the advance of the Armies, drove the enemy airforce out of the sky, blasted bridges and strongpoints, and paralysed movement by road or rail.

When hostilities ended, No. 126 RCAF Spitfire Wing had flown 22,372 sorties and had destroyed 361 enemy Aircraft. The record of No.127, the second Canadian Spitfire Wing, was equally impressive. During the same period, No. 143 Typhoon Wing made 11,928 dive-bombing sorties and dropped 6,442 tons of bombs on Nazi defences, lines of communication and other objectives. These Typhoon squadrons calculated they had blown up 16 bridges and two lock gates, cut rail lines in 1,210 places, and destroyed or damaged over 3,600 locomotives, freight cars, tanks, vehicles, and barges. Repeatedly the pilots had been commended for the support given troops on the ground by their attacks on enemy positions.

Throughout all this long period No.39 Wing also had performed other valuable services such as carrying out photographic and tactical reconnaissances to gather information for the staffs planning the June 6th invasion which had the Codename "Overlord." Then, moving to the continent, they had continued this work for the British Second Army as it fought its way from the beaches of Normandy to the banks of the Elbe River and beyond. The Wing was the first major RCAF formation to cross the Rhine River and it ended the war deeper in Germany than any other Canadian unit.

The Desert Air Force
In addition to these squadrons which served in Western Europe with Fighter Command and Second Tactical Air Force (TAF), another RCAF day-fighter squadron (No. 417) flew with the famed Desert Air Force on operations from the Nile valley in Egypt to the plains of northern Italy. Its Spitfires gave air protection to the port of Alexandria, participated in the closing stages of the Tunisian campaign, covered the Allied invasions of Sicily and Calabria, and guarded the beach-head at Anzio. Then, they become fighter-bombers and supported the Eighth Army as it slogged its way up the peninsula to the foothills of the Alps.

Night-fighting was still crude and elementary at the beginning of the war. Radar assisted the Air Force to become more effective. By the time the RCAF night-fighter squadrons (Nos. 406, 409 and 410) became operational in the autumn of 1941, Beau-Fighters equipped with airborne interception radar (AI) were already in use and the night blitz of the Luftwaffe had been checked. Sporadic attacks, such as the "Baedeker raids" continued, and the Canadian night- fighter teams were able to collect a total of 55 enemy Aircraft destroyed, 100 probables, and 27 damaged in the period before D-Day.

The invasion opened a new chapter in their history, as the squadrons now flying Mosquitos patrolled over the beach- heads and the enemy's rear areas to intercept German night raiders. In the last 11 months of the war, the three squadrons shot down or destroyed on the ground over 150 enemy Aircraft with 60 more as probably destroyed or damaged.

When the German V-1 flying-bombs began buzzing across the Channel in June 1944, two RCAF Mosquito squadrons were detailed to patrol the night skies as part of the first line of defence. No. 409 Squadron destroyed ten flying-bombs during the comparatively short time it was engaged on this work. The other squadron, No. 418, shot down 77 V-1s over the Channel and five more over the English coast. One crew, S/L Russ Bannock and F/O R.R. Bruce, contributed 19 of this total.

Before it entered the V-1 campaign, No. 418 had won an outstanding reputation as an intruder squadron. Flying Bostons and then Mosquitos, the crews had been engaged on a counter-offensive against the Nazis' night operations, patrolling over enemy airfields attack bombers as they returned from raids or enemy night-fighters that sought to intercept allied bombers. When no targets were to be found in the air, the intruder crews dropped bombs on runways, bridges or rail junctions. Many victories were scored on these night sorties, but the squadron achieved its greatest success on daylight intrusions deep into enemy-held territory where its Aircraft sometimes penetrated as far as the Baltic coast. Great fighter teams such as S/L Charlie Scherf of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and his Canadian observers, F/Os E.A. Brown and C.G. Rinlayson; F/O J.T. Caineand P/O E.W. Boal; S/L R.A. Kipp and F/L Pete Huletsky repeatedly distinguished themselves on these far- ranging forays.

In the three years that No. 418 Squadron was employed as an intruder unit (November 1941-44) it tallied 105 enemy Aircraft destroyed in the air, 73 destroyed on the ground and 103 damaged in combat or strafes. In the last five months of the war, the Squadron was converted to close support work for the armies in Western Europe, making night bombing attacks on enemy concentrations and communications.

Bomber Command
When the war began Bomber Command's Aircraft consisted of single-engined Battles and twin-engined Blenheims, Whitleys, Hampdens and Wellingtons. Five years later these sturdy war-horses were replaced by fast twin- engined Mosquitos and large four-engined heavy bombers, the Halifax and the Lancaster. Mosquitos were regularly carrying 4,000 lb. "block-busters" as far as Berlin, and the normal bomb load for the heavies was four to five tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs.

The Command had increased many times in size; it had its own night-fighter force capable of protecting streams of RCAF bombers, and could call upon several hundred medium bombers from its Operational Training Units to carry out "spoof" or feint (to divert attention and/or deceive opponent) attacks. Bombs had grown from the 500-pounder used in the first raids in September 1939, to the giant earth-shaking "Ten-Ton Tessie." The whole technique of bombing had been completely transformed by the use of radar which guided the Aircraft to the target, identified the objective even when cloud completely covered the ground, and told the bomb-aimer precisely when to let his bombs drop. Pathfinders led the way for the main bomber force pinpointing and marking the target with flares while Master bombers directed the ensuing attack.

Instead of using small forces to scatter bombs individually over several targets, Bomber Command now concentrated its great strength on one objective to saturate it with truly devastating effect. The cities of Cologne, Bremen, Hamburg, and Berlin were the proof of the devastation.

RCAF Bomber Development
The first Canadian bomber squadrons were Nos. 405 (Wellington) and 408 (Hampden), formed in April and June 1941. In December, Nos. 419 and 420 squadrons were organized and began operations a month later on the same Aircraft. For over a year these four original units carried the RCAF standard in Bomber Command. Cologne, Bremen, Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, Mannheim, Duisburg, Berlin, Essen...most of the names in the "Bomber's Baedeker" appeared on their list of targets.

In May and June 1942, the first three 1,000 bomber raids were carried out against Cologne and Bremen and a number of Halifaxes joined the veteran Wellingtons and Hampdens in the Canadian bombing force. No. 405 Squadron, which flew the four-engined heavies, was now under the command of W/C J.E. Fauquier, the first RCAF officer to lead a bomber squadron. Thrice decorated with the DSO and with the DFC for his services as bomber pilot, squadron commander, and master bomber, Johnny Fauquier, as he was best known, became the RCAF's outstanding bomber leader of the war. He rose to the rank of Air Commodore and was one of the senior staff officers at the Canadian Group Headquarters. He later voluntarily relinquished this rank to assume command of the famous No. 617 ( "Dam-Busters") Squadron of the RAF, which had breached the Mohne and Eder dams and then had sunk the German battleship, the "Tirpitz."

No 6 Group Formed
By the fall of 1942, the number of Canadian bomber units had grown to five with the addition of No. 425 ("Alouette") Squadron. Six more Wellington units were organized before the year ended and in January 1943, RCAF Bomber Group No. 6, was formed under the command of A/V/M G.E. Brookes. He was succeeded a year later by A/V/M C.M. McEwen.

North African Wing
Three RCAF bomber squadrons were detached to the Mediterranean theatre to take part in the invasion of Sicily and Italy. In May and June 1943, Nos. 420, 424 and 425 Squadrons (recognized as No. 331, Medium Bomber Wing under the command of G/C R Dunlap) moved by sea and air from England to Tunisia, Africa. For over three months their Wellingtons went out almost every night to bomb airfields, harbours, freight yards, and rail junctions in preparation for the landings by the British, American, and Canadian troops. When Italy deserted the Axis and became a co-belligerent the Wing returned to Britain and rejoined No. 6 Group.

The Final Tally
The winter months of 1944-45 with their long periods of fog and rain caused a decrease in the high tempo of the Group's operations. By early spring of 1945, the Group's pace again quickened in the final all-out offensive. Targets however, were rapidly becoming scarcer as the Allied armies drove into Germany from east and west. The enemy's fighter defences were overwhelmed and daylight attacks, with escorts of long-range Mustangs and Spitfires, were carried out with little loss.

During its 28 months on operations with Bomber Command, No. 6 Group flew 271,981 hours on 40,822 sorties and dropped 126,122 tons of bombs and mines. Its losses totalled 814 crews missing.

Coastal Command
As implied in its slogan "Find the enemy; strike the enemy; protect our ships," from September 1939 to May, 1945, was the waging of war against the enemy's U- boats, warships, and merchant shipping, in close co- operation with the Admiralty and Royal Navy. Coastal's other responsibilities embraced photographic reconnaissance, air- sea rescue, meteorological flights and in the early months of the war, minelaying. From an embryo organization of five headquarters and 25 subordinate units at the beginning of the war the Command developed into a powerful force which at the end of the campaign comprised 10 headquarters and 247 subordinate units.

To the cause of keeping Britain's life-lines open and strangling the enemy's commerce, Canada contributed large numbers of aircrew and ground personnel as well as a small group of civilian and service scientists familiarly known as "the back-room boys" or "boffins." There was indeed virtually no sphere of endeavour within Coastal Command in which the RCAF did not participate. At one time or another, while Coastal was fighting the Battle of the Atlantic and clearing the seas for the invasion of North-West Africa and the landings in Normandy, seven RCAF squadrons served under its banner. These included three squadrons, Nos. 404, 407, and 415, equipped with landplanes - Blenheims, Beaufighters, Mosquitos, Hudsons, Wellingtons, Hampdens, and Albacores; three squadrons, Nos. 413, 422 and 423, equipped with Catalina and Sunderland flying-boats; and No. 162 squadron on detachment from Eastern Air Command, flying the amphibious Canso. The war records of the seven Canadian units illustrate the versatility of Coastal Command's operations.

No. 404 Squadron spent most of the war in northern Scotland and the Shetland Isles. Its career began as a coastal fighter unit, sending its Blenheims on long reconnaissances and escort missions across the North Sea to the coast of Norway. Once re-equipped with rocket-firing Beaufighters, it became a strike unit, harrying Nazi shipping from the fiords of Norway to the ports of southern France. No. 407 Squadron gained fame as an anti-shipping unit that made daring mast-height attacks on enemy convoys off the Frisian Islands and the Dutch coast. With a record of 83,000 tons sunk or damaged in a single month, it was acclaimed as the most successful strike squadron in Coastal Command during the latter part of 1941 and early 1942.

When the Hudson became obsolete for this work No. 407 Squadron was converted to an anti-submarine role, using Wellingtons equipped with powerful Leigh Lights to illuminate the target for night attacks. Four definite kills were credited to the crews of this squadron in addition to a number of other U- boats and midget submarines more or less severely damaged.

After a period of service on Hampden torpedo-bombers attacking enemy shipping, No. 415 Squadron was re- equipped with Wellingtons and Albacores and won many successes in night attacks on flagships, motor-torpedo-boats and merchant vessels in the North Sea and English Channel before transferring to Bomber Command in the summer of 1944.

Nos. 422 and 423 (Sunderland) Squadrons were continuously employed in the campaign against the U-boat escorting convoys and searching the seas from Iceland to Gibraltar. Six submarines were sent to the bottom by crews of these squadrons. Early in 1944, No. 162 Squadron flew its Cansos from Nova Scotia to Iceland to join Coastal's forces in the Battle of the Atlantic and its crews killed six U-boats, five of them in a period of less than a month.

South-East Asia
Farther afield No. 413 (Catalina) Squadron carried out coastal duties over the Indian Ocean and adjacent waters. Formed in Britain,it had started operations over the North Sea late in 1941, but early in the following year was hastily transferred to South-East Asia where the Japanese flood had broken loose. The Catalinas arrived in Ceylon just in time, for on one of the first sorties flown from the new base S/L J. Birchall and his crew discovered an approaching Japanese invasion fleet. The Catalina was shot down, but its warning message enabled the island's defences to be ready and Ceylon was saved.

In the months that followed the squadron sent detachments to the east and west coasts of Africa until it became the most widely dispersed unit in the RCAF. No. 413 continued its reconnaissance, convoy escort, and air-sea rescue operations until late in 1944 when it returned to Britain for conversion to a new role and never completed its new assignment due to the termination of hostilities.

Transport Command
In addition to its representation in Fighter, Bomber, and Coastal Commands the RCAF also contributed units to Transport Command of the RAF. The RCAF did not form its own transport squadrons until the late summer of 1944 when three transport squadrons were formed overseas: two transport squadrons to operate in South-East Asia and one to operate in north-west Europe. No. 437 Squadron was initially employed in towing Horsa gliders taking part in the airborne assault on Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine at Wesel. After the German surrender, No. 437 Squadron moved to Belgium where it conducted airlift operations throughout the European continent from Norway to Greece.

Some of the worst flying conditions of World War II were experienced by Nos. 435 and 436 Squadrons in South-East Asia. Attached to the Combat Cargo Task Force the squadrons carried out troop movements and air drops under enemy fire and in almost impossible weather conditions. Their contribution was extraordinary in that over a period of just one year they flew over 50,000 hours during which they airlifted nearly 60,000 tons of supplies and 30,000 passengers.

At the end of World War II the three Dakota squadrons teamed up in Europe to form a Wing until they were eventually disbanded between August 1945 and May 1946. Later these airmen became the backbone of Air Transport Command.

Western Europe
The third unit, No. 437 Squadron, began operations almost immediately, towing gliders for the airborne landing at Arnhem in September 1944. In the months that followed, its Dakotas dropped supplies and ferried troops, equipment, ammunition, and gasoline to continental bases, returning with casualties and VIPs. In March 1945, the Squadron again towed gliders for the Rhine crossing at Wesel and then resumed its routine ferrying work.

After the German surrender, No. 437 moved to the continent and extended its operations as far afield as Oslo, Vienna, Naples, and Athens. Its Aircraft brought home released prisoners of war and displaced civilians, carried food supplies for the relief of starving peoples of the once Nazi-occupied lands, and flew mail from home to Canadians scattered over the continent.

In the Far Eastern theatre of war the Dakotas of Nos. 435 and 436 Squadrons did similar work in vastly different surroundings. Supporting the Fourteenth Army Operations in Burma they dropped supplies by parachute on DZs (drop zones) which were usually small clearings in the jungle where from the air appeared to be no larger than "geranium pots."

In addition to the hazards of the jungle and the storms and diseases of the tropics, the crews often had to run a gauntlet of intense ground fire from Japanese positions close to their DZs or landing strips. On one occasion the unarmed Dakotas were attacked by enemy fighters.