Final answer – P-47 D?

My tribute to Ed Poscavage

Ed Poscavage’s story had to be told. This is why Joe Palladino wrote it, and then shared it with me. How Joe and I met is through a comment he made on my blog Our Ancestors. His wife and I were related.

Genealogy is another of my passion.

There is no information about how Ed Poscavage’s P-47 D looked like. It might have been a P-47 M. I have no way to tell.

I decided to paint it using this photo which I colorized.

Ed Poscavage joined the Air Force in July 1944 according to his RCAF discharge papers. I have no further information about his transition from a Hawker Hurricane and the P-47 D, and when he was posted with 366 Fighter Squadron which sported orange tails!

P-47 M

P-47 M

Remembering Richard Emerson Harmer

My special interest with USS Wasp CV-7? Richard Harmer was a Lieutenant Junior Grade on USS Wasp from December 1941 to August 1942*.

Dec 41 to Aug 42* – LTJG (Lieutenant (junior grade), VF-5 USS Wasp

Aug 42 to Oct 42 – LT, (Lieutenant)VF-5 (XO) USS Saratoga

Oct 42 to Mar 43 – LT, Project AFFIRM NAS Quonset Point

Mar 43 to Dec 43 – LT, VF(N)-75 (XO) NAS Quonset Point

Dec 43 to Feb 44 – LCDR (Lieutenant commander), VF(N)-101 (CO) NAS Barbers Point

Feb 44 to Sep 44 – LCDR, VF(N)-101 (CO) USS Enterprise

Sep 44 to Sep 45 – LCDR, NAS Vero Beach (Chf TrngO – VF(N))

Chick Harmer retired a Captain in 1961

(Cited from:

Note * Richard Harmer was on the Saratoga in June 1942. August 1942 is thus erroneous.

More here:


Wasp slipped out of Grassy Bay on 3 December 1941 and rendezvoused with Wilson (DD-408). While the destroyer operated as plane guard, Wasp’s air group flew day and night refresher training missions. In addition, the two ships conducted gunnery drills before returning to Grassy Bay two days later.

Wasp lay at anchor on 7 December 1941, observing “holiday routine,” it being a Sunday. In the Pacific, the Japanese broke the Sunday morning peace in a devastating surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and nearby naval and military installations on Oahu. Their daring attack plunged the United States into World War II in both oceans. On 11 December, Germany and Italy followed Japan into war against the United States.

Meanwhile, U.S. naval authorities felt considerable anxiety that the Vichy French warships in the Caribbean and West Indies were prepared to make a breakout and attempt to get back to France. Accordingly, Wasp, light cruiser Brooklyn (CL-40), and two destroyers, Sterett (DD-407) and Wilson, departed Grassy Bay and headed for Martinique. Faulty intelligence gave American planners in Washington the impression that the Vichy French armed merchant cruiser Barfleur had gotten underway for sea. The French were accordingly warned that the auxiliary cruiser would be sunk or captured unless she returned to port and resumed her internment. As it turned out, Barfleur had not departed after all, but had remained in harbor. The tense situation at Martinique eventually dissipated, and the crisis abated.

With tensions in the West Indies lessened considerably, Wasp departed Grassy Bay and headed for Hampton Roads three days before Christmas of 1941, in company with the aircraft escort vessel Long Island (AVG-1), and escorted by Stack (DD-406) and Sterett. Two days later, the carrier moored at the Norfolk Navy Yard to commence an overhaul that would last into 1942.

After departing Norfolk on 14 January 1942, Wasp headed north and touched at Argentia, Newfoundland, and Casco Bay, Maine, while operating in those northern climes. On 16 March, as part of Task Group (TG) 22.6, she headed back toward Norfolk. During the morning watch the next day, visibility lessened considerably, however, and, at 0550, Wasp’s bow plunged into Stack’s starboard side, punching a hole and completely flooding the destroyer’s number one fire room. Stack was detached and proceeded to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where her damage was repaired.

Wasp, meanwhile, made port at Norfolk on the 21st without further incident. Shifting back to Casco Bay three days later, she sailed for the British Isles on 26 March 1942, with Task Force (TF) 39 under the command of Rear Adm. John W. Wilcox, Jr., in Washington (BB-56). That force was to reinforce the Home Fleet of the Royal Navy. While en route, however, Rear Adm. Wilcox was swept overboard from the battleship and drowned. Although hampered by poor visibility conditions, Wasp planes took part in the search. Wilcox’ body was spotted an hour later, face down in the raging seas, but it was not recovered.

Rear Adm. Robert C. Giffen, who flew his flag in Wichita, assumed command of TF-39. The U.S. ships were met by a force based around the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh on 3 April. Those ships escorted them to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

While the majority of TF 39 joined the British Home Fleet, being renumbered to TF 99 in the process, to cover convoys routed to North Russia, Wasp departed Scapa Flow on 9 April 1942, bound for the Clyde estuary and Greenock, Scotland. On the following day, the carrier steamed up the Clyde, past the John Brown Clydebank shipbuilding facilities. There, workers paused long enough from their labors to accord Wasp a tumultuous reception as she passed. Wasp’s impending mission was an important one, one upon which the fate of the island bastion of Malta hung. That key isle was then being pounded daily by German and Italian planes. The British, faced with the loss of air superiority over the island, requested the use of a carrier to transport planes that could wrest air superiority from the Axis aircraft. Wasp drew ferry duty once again.

Having landed her torpedo planes and dive bombers, Wasp loaded 47 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. V fighter planes at the King George V Dock, Glasgow, on 13 April, before she departed the Clyde estuary on the 14th. Her screen consisted of Force “W” of the Home Fleet — a group that included the battlecruiser HMS Renown and antiaircraft cruisers HMS Cairo and HMS Charbydis. Madison (DD-425) and Lang (DD-399) also served in Wasp’s screen.

Wasp and her consorts passed through the Straits of Gibraltar under cover of the pre-dawn darkness on 19 April 1942, avoiding the possibility of being discovered by Spanish or Axis agents. At 0400 on 20 April, Wasp spotted 11 Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters on her deck and quickly launched them to form a combat air partol (CAP) over Force “W”. Meanwhile, the Spitfires were warming up their engines in the hangar deck spaces below. With the Wildcats patrolling overhead, the Spitfires were brought up singly on the after elevator, spotted for launch, and then given the go-ahead to take off. One by one, they roared down the deck and over the forward rounddown, until each Spitfire was aloft and winging toward Malta.

When the launch was complete, Wasp retired toward England, having safely delivered her charges. Unfortunately, those Spitfires, which flew in to augment the dwindling numbers of Gloster Gladiator and Hawker Hurricane fighters, were tracked by efficient Axis intelligence and their arrival pinpointed. The unfortunate Spitfires were decimated by heavy German air raids which caught many planes on the ground.

As a result, it looked as if the acute situation required a second ferry run to Malta. Accordingly, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that Malta would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Roosevelt responded in the affirmative. Rising to the occasion, Wasp loaded another contingent of Spitfire Vs and sailed for the Mediterranean on 3 May. Again, especially vigilant for submarines, Wasp proceeded unmolested. This time, the British aircraft carrier HMS Eagle accompanied Wasp; and she, too, carried a contingent ofSpitfires bound for Malta.

The two Allied flattops reached their launching points early on Saturday, 9 May 1942, with Wasp steaming in column ahead of Eagle at a distance of 1,000 yards. At 0630, Wasp commenced launching planes, 11 F4F-4s of VF-71 to serve as CAP over the task force. The first Spitfire roared down the deck at 0638, and 22 of the Spitfires took off with no difficulties. The twenty-third, however, piloted by Sergeant R. D. Sherrington, RCAF, lost power soon after takeoff and plunged into the sea. Both pilot and plane were lost.

Misfortune again seemed to dog the mission when Pilot Officer (PO) Jerrold A. Smith discovered his long-range tank to be defective. Wasp – which had launched the last British aircraft at 0738 – bent on full speed and recovered Smith’s Spitfire Vc, X-3 (BR-126) at 0743. The Spitfire came to a stop just 15 feet from the forward edge of the flight deck, making what one Wasp sailor observed to be a “one wire” landing. “The pilot landed with considerable skill,” Commodore C. S. Daniel, Royal Navy, Commodore Commanding Force “W” later reported, “and immediately asked permission to fit a new tank, take off and proceed independently, but this was not allowed.” Wasp launched Smith the following day [10 May] to fly to Gibraltar; he ultimately reached embattled Malta in X-3 on 18 May, flying in from Eagle.

With Operation Bowery having been completed – Wasp having launched 47 Spitfires and Eagle 17 – Wasp set sail for the British Isles while a German radio station broadcast the startling news that the U.S. carrier had been sunk! Most in the Allied camp knew better, however, and, on 11 May 1942, Prime Minister Churchill sent a witty message to the captain and ship’s company of Wasp:”Many thanks to you all for the timely help. Who said a Wasp couldn’t sting twice?”

The unsung heroes of the Battle of Britain: The groundcrew of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron

Article by Major Mathias Joost (source here)

The Hurricanes had scrambled 30 minutes ago. They sat there waiting, some closing their eyes in an effort to catch some sleep, others talking casually—all trying to fill the time until the aircraft returned. Occasionally, a contrail could be seen in the sky, but no sounds from the mad fighting in the air reached their ears. The wait and the uncertainty simply added to the tension of whether their airplane, their pilot would return safely, having scored a victory over the Luftwaffe.

If there were unsung heroes during the Battle of Britain, they were the groundcrew and support staff who allowed the fighter pilots to do their job of closing with the enemy and shooting him down. For the airmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) serving with No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron, this was no different than for their comrades in the Royal Air Force (RAF). None had any experience in combat operations, and yet they were now thrown into the maelstrom of war, expected to keep the aircraft operational at any cost. The senior ranks were expected to provide guidance and leadership under conditions that they themselves had not experienced before.

Although the official RCAF name for the squadron was No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron, it was often listed as No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron to differentiate it from the RAF’s No. 1 Squadron.

While the airmen of the squadron, and each of the respective trades, helped to make No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron a success during the Battle of Britain, this article will focus upon the groundcrew of the two flights who kept the aircraft ready to scramble at a moment’s notice. They have not received the attention that has been given to the fighter pilots, yet without their strenuous efforts, the results of the squadron’s activities could have been less noteworthy. The groundcrew of the two flights remain largely anonymous because their names and efforts have not been recorded, yet there is enough information available to provide an overview of what they were doing and what they accomplished.

No discussion about the airmen of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron would be complete without understanding that this was not a homogenous group. When the squadron arrived in the United Kingdom in June 1940, more than 300 airmen arrived with the unit: 84 were Regular Force, 72 were reservists and 148 had signed up after December 1939 as part of the Special Reserve. An assorted group, most of them had very limited experience in independent operations. The personnel of the Regular Force and Auxiliary had their own particular cultures based on the nature of their operations, while the members of the Special Reserve were mainly new recruits with limited military experience. This was an obstacle that the leadership of the squadron had to face in creating one large team.

Besides the question of integrating three different components, there was the question of merging two squadrons into one. On 26 May 1940, No. 115 (Fighter) Squadron was disbanded, and most of its personnel transferred to No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron. Before this, No. 115 Squadron had initially operated the Fleet Fawn aircraft but began to receive North American Harvard aircraft in November 1939 and, in January 1940, the first Fairey Battles arrived. These were hardly front-line aircraft, which meant that when the squadron’s personnel were merged with No. 1’s, they had a steep learning curve to get themselves up to speed on the Hawker Hurricane.

No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron began to re-equip with the Hawker Hurricane in February 1939. The start of the war saw it moved from Calgary, Alberta, to St. Hubert, Quebec, and then to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where it performed patrols in the approaches to Halifax Harbour. While some of its personnel had experience in Canadian operations, such as photographic survey work, the transition of the squadron to its wartime establishment brought an influx of new recruits. Some of these additions arrived as late as May 1940, shortly before the squadron deployed to the United Kingdom. On 9 June, the squadron embarked for deployment overseas. En route to the United Kingdom, the senior personnel of the newly enlarged squadron, both officers and senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs), had to create a unified team out of two squadrons and three components.

Once in the United Kingdom, the squadron members began training to bring themselves up to date on the latest operational and emergency procedures, such as learning about the new radio equipment and anti-gas drills. Although not yet operational, they were not immune from attack. On August 14, 1940, a German raid demolished two buildings and inflicted minor injuries to two airmen. By August 17, the squadron had moved to Northolt, which would be its home for the next two months.

When No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron became operational on August 17, the 240 men played varying roles in supporting the pilots. The squadron was divided into a headquarters section and two flights. The headquarters section consisted of about half of the establishment, with trades such as clerks, cooks, motor mechanics, batmen, waiters and general-duties airmen, as well as the aircraft servicing trades who were part of the “repair section” or “maintenance section” responsible for the longer-term repairs of the squadron’s aircraft. The large size of the headquarters section can be explained in part by the fact that the squadron was a self-contained unit. There were 26 vehicles on its establishment that required maintenance, including ten tenders, three fuel bowsers and three motorcycles (six bicycles were also authorized!). Each of these support trades had its role to play, whether picking up supplies from depots or keeping the vehicles running, especially the fuel bowsers. The cooks were busy from early in the morning until late in the evening, supported by the batmen and waiters, whether the squadron had been in the air or the pilots were returning from a night out.

The groundcrew for the two flights consisted of aero-engine and airframe mechanics, electricians, instrument makers, wireless and electrical mechanics as well as general-duties staff. Led by a flight sergeant, each flight’s groundcrew was expected to keep their aircraft functioning through routine maintenance and short-order repairs. Any maintenance or repairs that would take hours rather than minutes were sent to the headquarters maintenance section that included all these trades plus armourers, carpenters, fabric workers and metal workers. The maintenance section was also responsible for ensuring that the spare aircraft were ready to be brought to the flight line on a moment’s notice. Thus, it was the flight sergeants of “A” and “B” Flights who had the greatest responsibility, having to identify any potential problems and decide whether they could repair them or send the aircraft to maintenance, ensure that the work done was of the highest standard and be responsible for the readiness of the aircraft.

For the aircraft maintainers, their goal was to get all 12 of the squadron’s Hurricane aircraft operational each day. There was a lot of early morning activity, long before the pilots even got out of bed. Under RAF Fighter Command, England had been broken down into regions or sectors. Each sector operations room would receive instructions as to the state of readiness for the morning. The sector would then assign different states to each squadron as required. If brought to immediate readiness, the pilots would get ready, head to the dispersal area and then wait for the telephone call – boredom followed by the rush of excitement. The maintainers had to get the aircraft ready for operations, whether the squadron was in a “ready” state or not and regardless of the weather conditions. This was necessary because the unit’s readiness state could change, the weather could clear up, or a pilot or two might be tasked to carry out a more mundane mission, such as conducting a meteorological flight or shooting down a barrage balloon that had gotten loose.

The working hours of the maintainers began very early. While the pilots got up an hour before dawn in case of a dawn raid, the maintainers had already been up for an hour or more – testing the engines; checking the radios, their batteries; and ensuring that the aircraft were ready for action. When the order was given for a scramble, the fitters were in the cockpits firing the starter cartridges and bringing the Hurricanes’ Merlin engines to life as the pilots ran towards their aircraft. Generally, the pilot would arrive on the run, be helped into the cockpit and have his harness secured. The fitter would jump down from the wing and then ensure the chocks were pulled from in front of the wheels. It took a well-practised team to achieve a quick departure.

Once the Hurricanes were in the air, there was always nervous tension waiting for the planes to return, sometimes individually, other times in their flights of three or rarely in formation. Preparations began for their return. The armourers would ensure that ammunition was on hand and patches for the gun-ports were ready. Meanwhile, a fitter would have an oxygen bottle on hand to exchange for the one in the Hurricane while others would ensure the fuel bowsers were ready.

As each aircraft returned, its crew would watch for battle damage, for the patches over the gun ports to be missing, showing that the guns had been fired. For those whose pilot and airplane did not return, there was always the hope that he had landed at another airfield. Each team did their best for “their” pilot and plane—these were their pride and joy. They shared in the victories as much as the pilots and felt the losses equally.

Once on the ground, the oil in the engine would be checked and topped up, as would the fuel for the aircraft. The battery for the radio and the oxygen cylinder were changed. If necessary, ammunition was added and the breeches and barrels checked. Finally, wheels, brakes and oleos were inspected, control surfaces were checked for damage and freedom of movement, and a general inspection of the aircraft was carried out. If a tire needed to be changed, there was often no time to get the jack – 10 men under the mainplane would lift the wing while the wheel was replaced. The ideal turnaround time was 12 minutes. Once their own aircraft was done, they would help out with others. Only after all the aircraft had been serviced could the team for each aircraft sit, but not relax.

The call of duty also went beyond one’s own squadron. An RAF fighter pilot, Sergeant James Harry “Ginger” Lacey recounted an instance where his Hurricane received a hole in the radiator. He glided into RAF Station Lympne and, while he ate lunch, the fitters and riggers there replaced the radiator. If a squadron had an extra aircraft or two because the crews had done a grand job, they would sometimes lend one to another squadron sharing the airfield. This was the case in September, when No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron lent one of their Hurricane aircraft to Flying Officer Wojciech Januszewicz of 303 Squadron so he could take off on a sortie that night.

On a normal day, there might be a single scramble, but even when none occurred, patrols were to be conducted to watch for Luftwaffe intruders or to protect the airfield while raids were going on elsewhere. Early mornings could bring a meteorological flight. Some days were busier than others. On September 5, the squadron was scrambled three times but saw no action, while on September 17, it was four times with but one engagement with the enemy. The scrambles and meeting with the enemy were not without their casualties in terms of pilots and aircraft. As examples, on August 26, two aircraft were damaged and one destroyed while on September 1, one aircraft was destroyed and two damaged, one of which was written off after landing. While these were the more extreme examples where aircraft were written off or taken off the line for longer repairs, there were many occasions where battle damage or other problems removed an aircraft temporarily from the line.

Overall, almost as many aircraft suffered Category 2 damage that required them to be taken off the flight line as suffered Category 3 damage that caused them to be written off. These write-offs were mostly caused by pilots bailing out of damaged Hurricanes, but a few were written off after their return, which speaks volumes about how much damage the Hurricane aircraft could take and still be able to bring their pilots home safely. This was the case on September 1, when two aircraft returned to Northolt but were written off as Category 3. However, sometimes it might have been better to bail out of the aircraft than return it to base. Lacey was lambasted by his squadron engineering officer for flying back an aircraft that among other problems had 87 bullet entry holes and innumerable large gashes. Despite the damage, it was not written off, requiring the engineering officer to have the aircraft repaired! These Category 2 damages could take some time to repair. Squadron Leader Ernest McNab’s Hurricane, damaged on August 26, was not ready until September 10.

Small repairs – Category 1 damage – would be dealt with while the aircraft remained in the dispersal area. These lesser repairs were not noted in the squadron records, but likely were a major source of work for the crew of each aircraft or the crews in the hangars. After all, it would be too much to expect that after combat there was not some damage to the fabric-covered surfaces of the Hurricane or that some mechanical part needed work or replacement. Even if the work was done in the dispersal area, this did not necessarily mean the aircraft would be ready for the next scramble.

The effort to keep the two flights airworthy was a constant battle, one that the maintainers did not always win. On September 27, the squadron was scrambled three times, with contact with the enemy each time. In the morning’s combat, three aircraft were shot up, with Flying Officers Peter Lochnan and William Sprenger making forced landings at Gatwick and Kenley respectively. For the second scramble, only eight Hurricanes were available to take-off against the Luftwaffe instead of the usual twelve the squadron would send up. Finally, during the last scramble at 1500 hours, the squadron could only put six aircraft in the air, one of which – that of Flying Officer De Peyster Brown – was shot up and then nosed over on landing. While four aircraft suffered Category 2 damage, at least two others suffered Category 1 damage, thus were not available. The fact that only six aircraft scrambled at 1500 hours suggests that all the spare aircraft had been used in the efforts over the previous days; hence, those on the flight line were the only ones available.

These efforts to keep the squadron flying were surely monumental, thus the well-deserved recognition the two flight sergeants in charge of “A” and “B” Flights received. The citations for Flight Sergeant Cecil Melvin Gale, who was mentioned in despatches, and Flight Sergeant John Robert Burdes, who received a British Empire Medal, give an idea of their accomplishments and the pressure these men were under:

“Flight Sergeant Gale, C. M., is NCO in charge of ‘A’ Flight, No. 1 Canadian (F) Squadron. Working under trying conditions, he has maintained the squadron aircraft in a capable manner. Owing to the intense operational activity during the latter part of August and September, the flight maintenance crew were called upon to work to the limit. Flight Sergeant Gale carried out his duties, often working from very early morning until late into the night, with a result that sufficient aircraft … were available at all times.”

“Flight Sergeant Burdes is NCO in charge of ‘B’ Flight, No. 1 Canadian (F) Squadron. His work in this capacity has been excellent. Working under unfamiliar and adverse conditions, he has kept a maximum number of aircraft serviceable for operational flying. His continual good spirits and ability have won the confidence of both men and officers.”

When the squadron was not called upon to take to the air, the maintainers were busy with routine maintenance and inspections, all done at the dispersal area. For example, the canopy had to be checked to ensure that it would slide freely, so the pilot could more easily and safely jump out in an emergency. The propeller had to be inspected to ensure that its pitch control functioned easily. Wiring had to be checked to ensure it was not frayed or damaged. Armourers were busy checking that each gun was clean, that the various mechanisms were moving smoothly and that the gun heaters were functioning. With some of the battles occurring at over 18,000 feet [5,848 metres], the guns required heaters to prevent them from freezing and thus being seized up when they were most needed.

When the required maintenance demanded more time or effort, the Hurricane would be brought into the hangar to be worked on when time was available, often at night. This would be done in a blacked-out hangar with only the light from a couple of inspection lamps to guide the maintainers. Two blessings were the Air Transport Auxiliary and the Ministry of Aircraft Production who could replace missing or badly damaged aircraft almost immediately. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Clark, Air Officer Commanding 11 Group, RAF Fighter Command, noted that his fighter squadrons were never dangerously short of Hurricanes or Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. However, this was an overnight service, which required a squadron’s maintainers to salvage and repair what they could to keep a squadron up to strength for that day’s fighting.

This high level of activity was not maintained in an atmosphere of calm and quiet. While the personnel of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron were not attacked at Northolt during the period when the Luftwaffe bombed RAF stations, the biggest initial problem the airmen were to experience was sleep deprivation due to night-time raids. On the nights of September 8 and 9, there were aircraft overhead most of the night. Some bombs even landed nearby early in the morning of the 9th. The tension and threat, combined with the resultant sleeplessness, could make anybody jumpy. During a night-time raid on September 11, the casing from a nearby anti-aircraft gun came down near the mess, sending a group scurrying for shelter. This would be a continual issue during the squadron’s front-line service.

It was not until September 25 that the station was truly attacked. On that day, the barracks took two direct hits but suffered no casualties. Over the next three nights, bombs were being dropped in the area again, either keeping everyone awake or giving them a rough night sleeping. As the squadron adjutant noted on the 27th: “The attention of the enemy bombers [is] particularly noticeable before midnight. After that time as a rule those who do not go out are either so tired or so ‘tired’ that they immediately drop asleep not hearing or caring about the funny noises that go on in the neighbourhood.”

On October 1, there were more bombs at night near the south boundary of the airfield, which resulted in talk of moving the squadron to other accommodation at night so they could get a decent sleep. Certainly, everyone was more on edge now. This was observable on October 3, when, during the morning standby, everyone dove for cover for an alarm. It was a false alarm caused by three Hurricanes from 229 Squadron, with whom they shared the airfield, returning after a dawn patrol. By this time, the Luftwaffe was sending over single fighter aircraft or a small group to stage attacks against various targets in southern England, targets that included RAF stations. The worries were justified when a single raider dropped out of the clouds on October 6 and dropped two bombs. Two hangars were destroyed as were two Hurricanes. Sergeant Antoni Siudak from 303 Squadron was killed when the Hurricane in which he was taxiing was hit, while from the station defences Aircraftman Second Class Henry Eugene Stennett was killed and Aircraftman Second Class Kenneth Boyns wounded.

The groundcrew did not have to fight, but that should not take away from the fact that they were capable of heroic efforts. Corporal Russell Bragg, later commissioned, was bestowed with Member, Order of the British Empire in part for his activities during the Battle of Britain. The recommendation in British records indicates:

“This officer is the squadron engineer officer. During the Battle of Britain and during several bombings of Northolt, and later at Digby, he was always in the forefront directing others and setting an example for all. It has been due to his unrelenting efforts that his present unit was transferred from older to newer aircraft in record time. He has been responsible for the fine serviceability record of the unit and has rendered outstanding services throughout.”

The recognition of Bragg needs to be put in context. He was representative of the many airmen who kept the aircraft in the air, whether they could sleep at night or not, under the stress of surprise attacks or bombs dropping onto them during the night. In the four-day period when the squadron was kept under tension in late September, there was only one problem – Flying Officer Brown took off on the morning scramble of the 27th, but had to return when the wheels would not retract. He came back for a second aircraft and then raced to get back into the fight. This was in fact the only in-flight unserviceability noted in the squadron records during the entire period of the Battle.

Another factor that affected the groundcrew needs to be taken into account – the state of readiness. It was not only the pilots who were affected by the waiting to scramble, it was their groundcrew also. They had to be ready to get their aircraft in the air. Whether or not a squadron was called to a readiness state included many factors, including what the weather forecast was. But, the squadron would not be advised of its readiness level until after the maintainers had gotten to work readying the aircraft.

In a ten-day period from September 18 to 27, the squadron was at readiness on six days: the 18th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 27th. On the 18th, the entire day was spent at readiness except for a brief period in the afternoon; on the 22nd, the squadron kept sliding back and forth between readiness and available, while on the 27th, it was the entire day again. On the 23rd and 24th, the squadron had to be at readiness 30 minutes before dawn, which came at 0536 hours to be exact. Sometimes, when it appeared that there would be a quiet day, the squadron would be called to readiness late in the day, as happened on September 21, when the squadron was called to readiness at 1800 hours and later scrambled.

The continual activity and readiness was taking its toll. Captain R. J. Nodwell, the squadron’s medical officer, noted in late September that there was a change in the squadron compared to three weeks earlier: “There is a definite air of constant tension and they are unable to relax as they are practically on constant call.” He noted the long hours and overwork with not even 24 hours’ leave. His recommendation was that the squadron be removed from operations to allow it to recuperate. In this, he was talking not just of the pilots but of the squadron as a whole. Even the Protestant chaplain, Flight Lieutenant W. S. Dunlop, had observed that his duties required him to remain with No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron for most of its operational period instead of being able to visit Nos. 110 and 112 Squadrons, which were part of his chaplaincy. While he found he had to spend extra time visiting wounded pilots and identifying remains, there was also the rest of the squadron to which he had to minister. It was, therefore, recommended that an additional Protestant chaplain be sent to the United Kingdom.

On October 9, No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron was pulled from the front line and deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, as part of No. 13 Group. Here the squadron rested and recuperated. Although they were operationally active again as of October 13, the pace of operations was slower and less stressful. Replacement pilots, four of them who had been with No. 110 Squadron, arrived to replenish the ranks, with more to follow as Battle of Britain pilots were posted out. In between dawn and dusk patrols, the first hockey practice was held at a rink in Ayr on the 27th.

In the coming months, it was not only pilots who were arriving and departing. For the groundcrew who had been so busy during the Battle of Britain, changes would also come. The experience and skills of these first RCAF groundcrew in combat were to serve the RCAF admirably throughout the rest of the Second World War in many ways. The abilities and experience of the squadron’s maintainers can be seen in the activities during and after the war. At least 15 aircraftmen and leading aircraftmen were commissioned, including three who became aeronautical engineers, while many more corporals and sergeants were also commissioned. Three examples show the level of ability and skill present among the groundcrew.

Flight Sergeant William MacLean, a wireless and electrical mechanic who had come to No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron from No. 8 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron shortly before No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron proceeded overseas, was promoted to warrant officer class 2 on November 1, 1940 and repatriated to Canada. Here he went back to school at No. 4 Wireless School in Brantford, was commissioned and returned to the United Kingdom to be assistant signals officer at RAF Station Digby. He then went on to other duties in Canada including officer in charge of air operating training at No. 4 Wireless School and officer in charge of fighter communications training at No. 1 Wireless School in Montreal. In 1944, he returned to the United Kingdom to be base signals officer at No. 63 RCAF Base in Leeming. He had a long post-war career, rising to the rank of wing commander.

William Muir also had a long career in the RCAF. An airframe mechanic, he was a sergeant during the Battle of Britain, later being placed in charge (I/C) of a flight with the squadron. In August 1941, he was repatriated and became the NCO I/C of servicing and of the maintenance squadron at No. 16 Service Flying Training School at Hagersville. Commissioned, he became the squadron engineering officer at the Advanced Tactical Training Detachment at Greenwood, later becoming engineering officer of 126 Squadron. After the war, he was the engineering officer at various squadrons, schools and even of Station Trenton, Ontario. He retired as a squadron leader.

One of the veterans of the Battle of Britain was also an original member of the RCAF. Warrant Officer Class 2 Arthur Warner enlisted in the nascent Canadian Air Force in 1920 as an engine mechanic and already had a distinguished career before the Battle of Britain. As the head mechanic, he was responsible for the training of the aircraft maintainers and ensuring the integration of the many new members to the squadron when it left Canada. On March 24, 1941, he was commissioned as a flying officer and was promptly posted to No. 403 Squadron as an engineering officer. In November 1941, he was posted to No. 418 Squadron as the squadron engineering officer, the position in which he remained until June 1943 and repatriation to Canada. He served with distinction after the war, rising to the rank of wing commander before retiring on 22 August 1943.

Other airmen served in further ways. The RCAF was continually looking for groundcrew who wished to serve as aircrew. Among the groundcrew who remustered to aircrew were Sergeant Alexander Laxdal and Leading Aircraftman A. L. Kay, who became pilots; Aircraftman First Class A. E. Dumaresq and Aircraftman First Class U. R. Ettienne, who became air gunnery officers; and Aircraftman First Class J. K. Cameron and Aircraftman First Class R. H. Murphy, who became a navigator and bomb aimer respectively.

Sergeant John Elviss was also one of these. An aero-engine mechanic, he joined No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron in November 1939. In July 1941, newly-promoted Flight Sergeant Elviss returned to Canada and, in March 1943, was commissioned and graduated from No. 7 Service Flying Training School as a multi-engine pilot. After training for maritime reconnaissance operations, he was posted to the United Kingdom. Serving with the RAF’s No. 206 Squadron flying Liberators, he attacked a U-boat, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. He continued to serve in the RCAF until November 1961.

However, not all of the ground crew wished to remuster, or were qualified – or sought – to be commissioned. There were at least 15 corporals or aircraftmen who rose to the rank of warrant officer by the end of the war. Others whose experience and knowledge proved important for the RCAF continued to serve as airmen.

Sergeant Bernard Bettin was the NCO I/C of the maintenance section, overseeing the repairs of aircraft sent to the hangar. An aero-engine mechanic, he was described as a master at troubleshooting the Merlin engine. In July 1941, Flight Sergeant Bettin was repatriated and posted to 3 Bombing and Gunnery School, MacDonald, Manitoba, and then to 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, Lethbridge, Alberta. He was the NCO I/C of the Bombing Flight and of the Servicing Flight respectively, in effect being responsible for the seven types of aircraft flown at these schools. Warrant Officer, Class 1 Bettin remained in the RCAF after the war, where his knowledge of many aircraft and engine types had him serve in many units. He even served as station warrant officer at Trenton from September 1955 to April 1957.

An airframe mechanic, Flight Sergeant John Burdes had more than 10 years’ experience in the RCAF. Repatriated in July 1941, he served with Nos. 115 and 135 Fighter Squadrons, being promoted to warrant officer, class 1 in April 1942. Post-war, he reverted to flight sergeant, serving as regular support staff at various Auxiliary squadrons, retiring in December 1956 as a warrant officer, class 1.

Of those who rose to the rank of warrant officer, class 1 or class 2, many were Special Reserve enlistees and Auxiliary members. Some of the more remarkable rises include Auxiliary members Aircraftman, 1st Class (AC1) Walter Young, an armament artificer, and Special Reservist AC1 Ernest Leatherbarrow, an airframe mechanic, both of whom became warrant officers, Class 1.

While later RCAF squadrons that were formed or were sent to the United Kingdom would have their share of highly skilled and capable groundcrew, those of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron were pioneers. No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron was the first Canadian squadron to engage in combat. It was also the first to come under and experience the stress of an enemy attack. More importantly, this experience was passed along to new RCAF squadrons as veterans of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron’s fight were posted to newly formed and existing squadrons and schools in Canada as well as in the United Kingdom.

During the Battle of Britain, the technical support for the squadron performed in an outstanding fashion. Working long hours and under great pressure and stress, they kept the squadron’s aircraft ready for combat in a high-tempo, high-stakes battle, despite sleepless nights, pilots injured or killed and the threat of attack. Only one problem was noted in this whole period, a record that speaks to the quality of the personnel and supervision.

Considering that personnel of three components and two squadrons had to be amalgamated in a short time, the maintainers’ work speaks volumes. The leadership, at both the officer level and among senior airmen, had welded men of divergent experiences into an efficient and effective team.

As the first squadron into combat, the experiences of the squadron’s maintainers could be a benefit to newly formed RCAF squadrons in the United Kingdom, to schools in Canada and to squadrons in Canada – and they were. The mettle of MacLean, Muir and Warner demonstrated so clearly during the Battle of Britain was re-emphasized during their later deployments. Their experience under pressure would have been a benefit to everyone in their squadrons and schools, and their participation in the Battle would have brought respect and admiration. The fact that they served in newly formed squadrons was a boon to these units, as the experience of these Battle of Britain veterans would have served the squadrons well. The RCAF, apparently, also recognized this, as many of the technicians were repatriated, going on to serve in Canadian squadrons and schools.

For the RCAF, the Battle of Britain was not just about the pilots but also the groundcrew who kept the aircraft flying. They served the RCAF well, providing a pool of talented and capable airmen who would serve the RCAF throughout the war and after.

This article is also being published, with scholarly footnotes, in the Royal Canadian Air Force Journal’s special Battle of Britain edition (2015).

Major Joost is a historian at the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH).


A Hurricane is re-armed while a section flies overhead. From the photo album of Flying Officer R.W.G. Norris, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who served with No. 1 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. PHOTO: With the permission of the National Air Force Museum of Canada

115 Sqn onboard ship

The original caption of this photo reads “Several non-commissioned officers of the RCAF’s No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron adopted a member of the overseas headquarters staff before departing for active service overseas. The group includes one of the oldest and one of the youngest members of the unit: Sergeant John Burdes having been with this squadron for nine years, while Flight Sergeant Saunders was transferred from another squadron less than 24 hours before sailing. In this photo, taken on June 8, 1940, are (left to right) Corporal A.L.P. Gagnon of St. Boniface, Manitoba; Flight Sergeant L.G. Saunders of Ottawa, Ontario; Sergeant John R. Burdes of New Westminster, British Columbia; Sergeant-major A.C. Wilson of Ottawa, Ontario, who was sailing to join the Overseas Headquarters of the RCAF in England; and Sergeant F. Worrell of Montreal, Quebec.” PHOTO: DND Archives, PL-535

#1 Squadon on board ship

Airmen of of the RCAF’s No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron sit for a photograph on board ship on June 8, 1940, before departing for Europe on active service. Soon after their arrival in Great Britain, many, if not all, would undoubtedly be in the thick of things during the Battle of Britain. PHOTO: DND Archives, PL-537


Aircraftman First Class J.A. Peterson of Prince Albert, Saskatoon, tests transmitting and receiving on the radio in a Hurricane aircraft. This was done every day before the aircraft was put on the flight line. Aircraftman First Class Peterson was a wireless and electrical mechanic who served in the Battle of Britain with No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron. He retired at the end of the war as a sergeant. PHOTO: DND Archive, PL-4466

Among Canada’s “Few”: The RCAF’s No. 1 Squadron in the Battle of Britain


This article found on the Internet has been archived. I am posting here to remember Canada’s “Few”.

Article by Dr. Richard Mayne

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s No. 1 Squadron’s contribution to the Battle of Britain represents the first time our nation sent an expeditionary air force into battle in a coalition environment.

2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a battle that changed the course of the Second World War.

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, immortalized the of Battle of Britain with his famous declaration that “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”.

These words are highly recognized because they perfectly capture the desperate struggle that took place over the skies of United Kingdom 75 years ago. Less well known among the Canadian public is the role that their nation played in this decisive battle.

More than 100 pilots and an unknown number of groundcrew from Canada served during the battle as part of the Royal Air Force’s 242 “Canadian” Squadron, as well as in other British units. However, among those “few” there were also the airmen of No. 1 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). As the only national unit to see combat in the Battle of Britain, it is essential to explore and understand why the actions of this specific squadron are important to both the modern RCAF as well as the nation.

The Battle of Britain is generally recognized to have taken place between July 10 and October 31, 1940, and was marked by the Luftwaffe’s attempt to gain air superiority over Southern England so that the German Army could invade the United Kingdom – or at least force it to a negotiated settlement with terms that favoured the Nazi’s state. Fought on the heels of the Battle of France, the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command was greatly weakened after they had lost some 453 fighters and many combat pilots in the attempt to prevent Germany from capturing Western Europe. It was devastating blow, and the RAF was quick to turn to the Commonwealth, as well as the remaining pilots from its recently defeated allies, to help save Great Britain from the German onslaught that they knew was coming.

No. 1 Squadron prepares for war

Even before the fall of France, No. 1 Squadron was preparing itself for war. Years of interwar defence cuts had hurt the RCAF, as was evident by the fact that No. 1 needed to absorb 115 Squadron (a Montreal-based auxiliary unit), and be augmented with personnel from three bomber reconnaissance squadrons – as well as personnel from a Toronto manning depot – to bring it to a wartime complement . When all was said and done, more than 300 members of this substantially enlarged No. 1 Squadron boarded the steamship Duchess of Atholl for the transatlantic voyage to the United Kingdom.

They arrived on June 20, 1940, and quickly made their way to their first airfield, Middle Wallop, where they joined 10 Group of the RAF’s Fighter Command. Located well to the west of where the main battle was anticipated to take place, this relatively safe sector represented a good area for the squadron to adjust and undergo some of all-important operational training. They were not there for long, however, as on July 4, No. 1 was relocated to Croydon just south of London. In doing so they were also transferred to11 Group, which was responsible for the sector that would bear the brunt of the coming battle.

The Battle of Britain was just entering what some historians would later call its first phase (July 10 to mid-August), which was characterized by the Luftwaffe’s attempt to engage the RAF by attacking ports and local convoys over the English Channel. No. 1 Squadron did not participate in this stage as it continued with its operational training. But that did not stop No. 1’s commanding officer, Squadron Leader Ernest A. McNab, from scoring the squadron’s first victory. The son of a former lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan, Squadron Leader McNab was a natural leader and had considerable flying experience from his previous 14 years of service with the RCAF. The problem was that, like all members of his squadron, he had never seen combat. Realizing that he would soon be leading his men into battle, Squadron Leader McNab made arrangements to fly with an operational RAF squadron. He soon proved his mettle as, on August 15, 1940, he managed to line up and destroy a Luftwaffe Dornier Do 215 bomber over Kent.

Squadron Leader McNab’s victory was a pivotal moment for a squadron that was getting closer and closer to the fighting. In fact, on the same day of his achievement, Croydon was bombed by a formation of Messerschmitt Me 110 fighter-bomber aircraft that destroyed the armament section quarters and orderly room. While the raid itself was small, it had larger implications as it was part of a shift in the Luftwaffe’s tactics that had occurred two days earlier.
No. 1 Squadron joins the fight

On August 13, known as Adlertag (Eagle Day), the Luftwaffe had redirected the fight from the Channel to the RAF’s radar sites and airfields. Their aim was simple: they would first blind the RAF, by robbing it of its radar network, and then German bombers and fighters would destroy Fighter Command.

This was the fight that No. 1 joined when it became operational on August 16 and moved from Croydon to Northolt. However, the war started a slowly for the squadron; during the first eight days of its operational existence they were scrambled a number of times but without engaging the enemy.

Unfortunately, the fog of war shrouded their first encounter. Believing that they were attacking Junkers Ju 88 bombers, the squadron’s actions had resulted in a friendly fire incident that brought down two British aircraft. The fact that the RAF had started the war with a similar incident – in which two British Hurricanes were destroyed by friendly Spitfire fighter aircraft – was little consolation to the Canadian pilots involved. The entire incident hit the squadron hard but, as they were desperately needed in the battle, they carried on.

Two days later, No. 1 temporarily relieved an exhausted RAF unit at North Weald. They barely had enough time to land before they were scrambled. This was followed by another sortie in the afternoon, and it was in this latter encounter that No. 1 engaged the Luftwaffe in battle for the first time. It also brought the first victories that squadron scored as a unit. The engagement was intense, involving a formation of 25 to 30 Do 215s, of which No. 1 claimed three enemy aircraft and another three heavily damaged.

These successes, however, came with a price. Two of No. 1 Squadron’s Hurricane fighter aircraft (one of which was flown by Squadron Leader McNab) were badly mauled and, after forced landings, both were written off.

The third was far more serious than just the loss of an aircraft. While flying next to Squadron Leader McNab, who had just succeeding in downing a Do 215, Flying Officer Robert Edwards opened fire on another aircraft. As the rounds from his Hurricane sheared off the tail of his victim, Flying Officer Edwards was hit by the Do 215’s rear gunner, which resulted in both aircraft ploughing into the ground. It was another difficult moment for No. 1 as the squadron never had to deal with a combat fatality before. As such, Flying Officer Edwards had the dubious distinction of being the first combat death suffered by a member of the RCAF while serving with a Canadian flying unit.

After four days of constant readiness, the squadron again saw action on August 31 when a group of Me 109s pounced on No. 1 from out of the sun. The Canadians were caught by surprise and the engagement did not turn out well. Bursts from only two Hurricanes were the best that the Canadians could muster and both missed their mark.

The other side of the score sheet was more decisive as the Germans downed three Hurricanes with two pilots suffering burns and the third bailing out with minor injury. Although this particular battle was lopsided, the Canadian were given the opportunity to even the tally later that day when No. 1 intercepted a group of approximately 50 bombers over Gravesend. Having to fly through heavy “friendly” anti-aircraft fire to get to their prey, the squadron slashed into the German formation, which resulted in immediate victories over two Me 109 fighters as well as damage to a third. The bombers of this force also suffered as No. 1 claimed two Do 215s destroyed with another damaged. In return, the Germans accounted for only one Hurricane in which the pilot, who had received severe burns, nevertheless managed to survive.

The operational pace was clearly picking up and it was a sign of what was to come. The squadron began to realize, however, that there was routine in the midst of the chaos. For instance, it was observed that No. 1 scrambled three times in a 24-hour period during the first week of September, which occurred “at the usual hours of 09.00 hrs, Noon and 1700 hrs”. On the remaining days of that week they scrambled at least once, and all this culminated in two squadron engagements along with three enemy aircraft destroyed, two probable and eleven damaged. It was a good week. But weighed against these successes, the squadron saw one of its aircraft shot down (the pilot survived) while another Hurricane suffered heavy damage and a third was written off.

Luftwaffe begins bombing London

The following week saw yet another change in the Luftwaffe’s tactics, although it was not immediately appreciated. Thanks to an earlier accidental raid on London – the Luftwaffe had directed that populated areas of the capital were off limits – the RAF’s bombers struck back at Berlin. Tactically the relatively small RAF raid achieved little, but its strategic value was immeasurable. Fighter Command was taking a beating while it was the focus of the German’s attack, yet an outraged Adolph Hitler wanted Britain’s cities to pay for the raid on Berlin. This marked the beginning of a new phase of the battle as the Luftwaffe’s efforts shifted to the strategic bombing of London and other metropolitan areas of the United Kingdom. Their aim was to bring the heart of the empire and its citizens to their knees by aerial assault. It was the beginning of the Blitz.

Expecting the usual attacks on airfields, No. 1 was ordered to protect Northolt on September 7. It did not take long before they noticed that something had changed. After spotting a large raid of approximately 200 enemy aircraft over London, the squadron wanted to respond but the sector defences refused as they still expected attacks on airfields. Two days later, No. 1 finally got its chance to defend London as an interception of an incoming raid led to the destruction of one Me 109 and another three damaged in exchange for one Hurricane in which the pilot survived.

The rest of the week was a mixture of relatively quiet days combined with active and exhausting combat. From September 10 to 14, the squadron accounted for one Heinkel He 111 bomber destroyed and one damaged as well as a truly unique victory when a lumbering Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft was shared with a RAF squadron. In contrast, No. 1 during this period saw one Hurricane shot down (with the pilot suffering a leg wound) while another crash landed.

September 15: A pivotal day

The next day, however, was so active and decisive that it has become the key date that is associated with the commemoration of the Battle of Britain. Having launched a massive raid on London, the Luftwaffe had selected September 15 as the day that they would try to inflict such serious damage on the capital that they hoped it would bring the British people to the point of capitulation. No. 1 was at constant readiness throughout the day, and twice it was scrambled to take part in this pivotal battle for survival.

Fighting over the Biggin Hill area, the squadron’s second encounter went better than the first. In fact, the morning’s scrap was particularly painful as it not only resulted in one pilot bailing out with injuries, but it also saw the squadron’s second casualty when Flying Officer Ross Smither was killed by a Me 109 that had attacked out of the sun. However, thanks to the second battle, No. 1 ended the day having destroyed three and a half enemy aircraft, along with two probables and two damaged. It was a small but important contribution to overall claims that the RAF and its allies downed 185 German aircraft with a loss of only 25 of its own on that day.

Of course, postwar analyst produced a more accurate picture which suggests that the real score was 61 to 31, but this did not take away from the fact that this was a resounding success for the RAF. Although it was unknown to most at that time, this victory was so decisive that the Germans soon decided to indefinitely postpone their invasion of Great Britain.

No. 1 Squadron’s most successful day

From September 16 to 26, the squadron again witnessed a period where it constantly scrambled and was at an ongoing state of readiness, but saw little action. That did not change the fact the squadron was continually under stress as a lack of steady replacements meant that the pilots got little rest or prolonged leave. The strain was almost unbearable. Having started the battle with roughly 24 pilots, No. 1 had just over half that original number by mid and late September. Yet despite the exhaustion and hurdles, No. 1 nevertheless managed to have its most successful day of the entire battle on September 27.

Starting out with only eight serviceable aircraft, which was reduced to six by the evening, No. 1 survived engagements with 70 enemy aircraft through 26 sorties over three scrambles which the unit’s diary observed had reduced them to “a very tired and unshaven group of warriors”. Yet the vengeance that they had unleashed on the enemy was staggering. Their efforts, which were achieved in partnership with the Polish 303 and RAF 229 Squadrons, had left one Ju 88 destroyed, one Ju 88 probable, four Me 110s destroyed, one Me 109 destroyed and one Me 110 damaged. Unfortunately, it also resulted in another RCAF fatality – although it would be the squadron’s last for the battle – as Flying Officer Otto Peterson’s aircraft was shot down near Kent.

The air battles of September 27 were the last time that the Luftwaffe appeared in force over the skies of southern England during daylight hours. While the battle itself was not yet over, No. 1 finally received the well-earned rest that they so desperately needed on October 9 when it was reassigned to 13 Group and the relatively quiet skies of Scotland.

The battle ends for No. 1 Squadron

The Battle of Britain was finally over for No. 1 Squadron. For 53 days, 28 pilots had flown with No. 1 and the constant combat had cost the unit three of its members, eleven wounded, and sixteen aircraft. In exchange, while sources vary, No. 1 had filed combat reports claiming 30 enemy aircraft destroyed, eight probably destroyed and 35 damaged. They had done well and the press recognized that fact by proclaiming them “Canada’s new heroes”. Indeed, at a time when most of the Canadian military had not yet seen combat, No. 1 was able to take our nation’s fight to what appeared to be an untouchable enemy.

Why we remember

And this is one of the key reasons why the Battle of Britain is important to both today’s RCAF and Canada as a whole. Never before had Canada sent its own identifiable national air assets on an expeditionary operation in a coalition atmosphere. But this contribution to the Battle of Britain would set a 75-year pattern where the government of Canada would demonstrate its support to alliance commitments as well as the restoration of international stability and order by sending RCAF squadrons overseas and into harm’s way. Moreover, the nation can be proud that its air force was directly involved in an early epic battle of the Second World War; one that not only helped save a country, but also stemmed what many feared was an invincible German war-machine.

That tradition of assisting allies still exists today and extends to the RCAF’s 2011 involvement over the skies of Libya and the current conflict against the Islamic state in Iraq.

No. 1 Squadron also achieved a number of other important “firsts” for the RCAF: its first Battle Honours; first unit victory over an enemy aircraft; and first personal decorations for bravery. But perhaps the most crucial element of No. 1 Squadron’s participation in the Battle of Britain is that it was the first time that members of an RCAF unit died protecting the values that define Canada as a people and a nation. And it is for this reason, more than any other, that commemorating the first Sunday after the 15th day of September represents an important exercise in national identity and sacrifice.

Dr. Mayne is the Director, RCAF History and Heritage

Jacques Chevrier was one of the “Few”.


Intermission – Remembrance Day 2017

LeoFarley Frank and me

Leo Farley, Frank Haines, and Gérard Pelletier did not survive the war. That picture was taken at RAF Drem where RCAF  410 Squadron was stationed.

Here are some of the other photos Gérard Pelletier took when he was stationed at RAF Drem.

Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier’s pilot was Frank Haines.

Featured Image -- 42






Frank’s Boulton Paul Defiant Mark I crashed on March 26th, 1942. Gérard was able to jump only injuring his left shoulder and having bruise ankles.



Click here for more…


Gérard was luckly to survive on March 26th, 1942…

His luck ran out on September 3rd, 1942.

Intermission – Leo Farley

Leo Farley

Leo’s picture was in Gérard Pelletier’s album.


So I got curious…

Leo Farley died in 1942.

His name is here as well as the featured picture.

Leo Farley

Leo’s name is also here on a list.

Here’s a picture of Leo Farley in Gérard Pelletier’s photo album.

Frank Haines and Leo Farley

Frank Haines is on the left and Leo is on the right holding a camera.

More intermission posts ahead to remember both of them.

Featured Image -- 42

Frank Haines

In fact the three of them…

LeoFarley Frank and me

Leo Farley, Frank Haines, and Gérard Pelletier