RCAF No. 6 Group, RAF Bomber Command

No. 6 (RCAF) Group


No. 6 Group RCAF Badge: A maple leaf superimposed on a York rose.  The York rose symbolises the association with Yorkshire, where the Group was formed.  Motto: "Sollertia et ingenium" - "Initiative and skill".  RAF Bomber Command badge.

No. 6 Group RCAF consisted of RCAF heavy bomber squadrons serving in Europe from 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War.  The group operated out of airfields in  Yorkshire, England.  Originally, No. 6 (Bomber) Group was an RAF organization, renamed No. 91 (Bomber) Group RAF on 11 May 1942.  On 25 October 1942, the 6 Group designation was transferred to the RCAF.

No. 6 Group RCAF was made up of Article XV squadrons, which included RCAF units formed under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), for service with British operational formations.  This meant that No. 6 Group RCAF was part of RAF Bomber Command, although a significant number of personnel from the RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and other Allied air forces were attached to No. 6 Group RCAF during the war.  All of these allied aircrew were were placed in a common pool, and assigned to Article XV and RAF squadrons in Europe, the Mediterranean Theatre, Africa and South-East Asia, according to operational needs.  During the war, 44 Canadian, 17 Australian and six New Zealand Article XV squadrons were formed.

The RCAF began participating in operations by RAF Bomber Command in 1941, but its squadrons were initially attached to RAF groups.  In addition, many individual RCAF personnel belonged to RAF aircrews, serving in RAF squadrons.  The Canadian government wanted RCAF bomber squadrons and personnel to be concentrated, as much as possible, in a distinct, identifiably Canadian group.

When No. 6 Group RCAF was formed on 25 October 1942, it was comprised of eight squadrons.  At the peak of its strength, No. 6 Group RCAF consisted of 14 squadrons.  Fifteen squadrons would eventually serve with the group, which was almost every RCAF heavy bomber squadron.  Headquarters for No. 6 Group RCAF was at Allerton park, near Knaresborough and Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England.

Significant operations involving No. 6 Group RCAF included raids on U-boat bases in Lorient and Saint-Nazaire, France and night bombing raids on industrial complexes and urban centres in Germany.

No. 6 Group RCAF flew 40,822 operational sorties.  A total of 814 aircraft and approximately 5,700 airmen did not return from operations and 4,203 airmen lost their lives.

The following RCAF squadrons were part of No. 6 Group RCAF: Nos. 405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons.  Wikipedia.  Bashow, David L. No Prouder Place: Canadians and the Bomber Command Experience 1939-1945. (St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2005); Dunmore, Spencer and William Carter. Reap the Whirlwind: The Untold Story of 6 Group, Canada's Bomber Force of World War II.  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McLelland and Stewart Inc., 1991); Milberry, Larry, ed. Sixty Years - The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924 - 1984.  (Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Canav Books, 1984).

(RCAF Archives Photo, PL-31680)

No. 6 Group RCAF overseas.  On Friday 11 Aug 1944, His Majesty King George VI, dressed in the uniform of a Marshal of the RAF, visited several stations of  No. 6 Group RCAF in Britain.  He was accompagnied by the Queen and Princess Elizabeth.  The Royal Family are shown in the above historic photograph standing with Group Captain Clare Annis, OBE, of Vancouver (next to Princess Elizabeth), Air Commodore J.E. John Fauquier, DSO and Bar, DFC, of Ottawa, Canada's leading pathfinder (holding gloves), and Air Vice Marshal L.S. Breadner, CB, DSC, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the RCAF Overseas (on extreme right).  Air Vice Marshal C.M. ‘Black Mike’ McEwan is standing behind the royal ladies.   Air Vice Marshall Roy Slemon is standing behind the King.  The RCAF’s Warfare Centre building is named after then Group Captain Annis, who went on to higher rank.

Royal Air Force Historical Record for No. 6 Group RCAF, Bomber Command

In 1944, No. 6 Group RCAF flew 25,353 operational sorties and dropped 86,503 tons of bombs and mines with the lowest loss percentage of four-engined aircraft in the whole of Bomber Command.  Following D-Day, during one single month (August), Handley Page Halifaxes and Avro Lancasters of No. 6 Group RCAF flew 3,740 operational sorties and dropped 13,274 tons of bombs - more than the total dropped on London by the Luftwaffe during the entire war.  Aircraft serviceability was maintained at an average of more than 80 per cent.  For two attacks on Duisburg made within a period of 16 hours on 14 October 1944, No. 6 (RCAF) Group supplied 501 aircraft - 25 per cent of the total force - in the greatest day's effort of its existence.  Five aircraft were lost, including four of them in the daylight attack.  The Group's heaviest attack of the war was against Dortmund on the night of 6/7 October 1944, when 293 Avro Lancasters and Handley Page Halifaxes took off from their Yorkshire and near-Yorkshire bases.  273 bombed the primary target, three attacked an alternative, two failed to return, and the remainder were for various reasons unable to drop their bombs.

The cost of No. 6 Group RCAF, with the single exception of the pay and allowances of attached RAF and other non-RCAF personnel, was borne by the Canadian Government.  The full upkeep of the operational squadrons, including the cost of fuel and ammunition, was defrayed from Canadian taxes and domestic loans.

When the Second World War in Europe ended in May 1945, the RCAF had 11 bomber stations in England. Seven of these were operational stations, controlled by No. 6 Group RCAF, and four were bomber training units officially controlled by the RAF Training Group, but having a long association with the Canadian Group.  All of these stations were in, or just beyond, the Vale of York in the area north of Harrogate, the famous spa, and the ancient city of York.  Group headquarters were in the castle at Allerton Park, immortalised as "Castle Dismal" by No. 6 Group RCAF's public relations officer, the home of Lord Mowbray and situated east of Knaresborough.

No. 6 Group RCAF officially assumed operational status at 0001 hours on 1 January 1943.  During the next three days the RAF handed over to the Group six stations with the RCAF squadrons established there.  These were Leeming (Nos. 408 and 424 Squadrons), Middleton St. George (Nos. 419 and 420 Squadrons), Dishforth (Nos. 425 and 426 Squadrons), Croft (No. 427 Squadron), Dalton (No. 428 Squadron) and, lastly, Skipton-on-Swale, which was then still under construction.  The Group was also given control of No. 405 Squadron, then serving with Coastal Command (and later transferred to No. 8 (PFF) Group), and No. 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) with other specialised formations.  With the exception of Nos. 405, 408 and 419 Squadrons, which had Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIs or Mk. Vs, all the aforementioned squadrons were then flying Vickers Wellingtons.

Ready for operations, No. 6 Group flew its first mission on the night of 3/4 January 1943, when six Vickers Wellingtons from No. 427 Squadron were sent to lay mines off the Frisian Isles.  From that first mission, the Canadian squadrons were active almost right up to VE Day, until their final mission against Wangerooge on 25 April 1945.

As No. 6 Group RCAF grew, other stations and squadrons were added.  RAF Station Wombleton was turned over to the Canadians while under construction, and was completed by 20 October, to round out the stations of the training base.  No. 429 Squadron joined the Group when East Moor station was taken over from the RAF on 1 April 1943.  On 18 June 1943, the permanent station of Linton-on-Ouse became Canadian, and with it the Tholthorpe station, then under construction.  When Tholthorpe was ready for operations No. 62 (Beaver) Base was formed.  At that time, No. 6 Group RCAF then had the full complement of stations for wartime organisation under its control.  On 1 May 1944, Nos. 63 and 64 Bases were created and the only major change that followed was the transfer of the training base to RAF control in November 1944.

Three completely new squadrons were formed by No. 6 Group RCAF.  These were No. 432 on 1 May 1943; No. 434 on 13 June 1943; and No. 433, which began to form on 25 September 1943.  For some months No. 431 Squadron remained the only Canadian bomber squadron serving with the RAF apart from the Group, but it was taken over on 15 July 1943.  The last established squadron to be added was No. 415, which had been serving with Coastal Command, but was transferred to No. 6 Group RCAF on 12 July 1944.

As the squadrons converted from Vickers Wellingtons through Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIs and Mk. Vs, and from Lancaster Mk. IIs to Halifax Mk. IIIs and Mk. VIIs and Lancaster Mk. Is, Mk. IIIs and Mk. Xs, many transfers occurred from station to station.  Of all the RCAF squadrons of No. 6 Group RCAF, No. 419 alone remained at the one station, Middleton St. George, from the formation of the Group until the end of the war.  It was to this squadron, incidentally, that the first Canadian-built Avro Lancaster Mk. X (Serial No. KB700), the famous "Ruhr Express", was delivered, after flying three operational sorties with No. 405 Squadron in No. 8 (PFF) Group, coded LQ-Q.  While serving with the Moose Squadron, it was coded VR-Z, and flew a further 46 operational sorties before being destroyed in a crash at Middleton St. George on returning from Nuremberg on its 49th operation, on the night of 2/3 January 1945.

In May/June 1943, Nos. 420, 424 and 425 Squadrons were sent to North West Africa Air Command, where they served under No. 331 Medium Bomber Wing until the following November.  They then returned to England and to No. 6  Group RCAF.  The Tiger Squadron settled at Skipton and the Snowy Owls and Alouettes at Tholthorpe.  With the arrival of No. 415 Squadron at East Moor in July 1944, all squadrons had been settled at the stations that were to be their homes for the rest of the war.

The Headquarters for No. 6 Group RCAF during the Second World War was at Allerton Park from Oct 1942 onwards.  Air Officer's Commanding, included Air Vice-Marshal GE Brookes, from 25 Oct 1942, and Air Vice-Marshal CM McEwen, from 29 Feb 1944.

Thirteen RCAF Squadrons flew the Vickers Wellington during the Second World War:

No. 405 Squadron RCAF 'Vancouver Squadron', Code letters "LQ".

No. 407 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "RR".

No. 415 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "6U".

No. 419 Squadron RCAF 'Moose Squadron' Code letters "VR".

No. 420 Squadron RCAF 'Snowy Owl Squadron' Code letters "PT".

No. 424 Squadron RCAF 'Tiger Squadron' Code letters "QB".

No. 425 Squadron RCAF 'Alouette Squadron' Code letters "KW".

No. 426 Squadron RCAF 'Thunderbird Squadron' Code letters "OW".

No. 427 Squadron RCAF 'Lion Squadron' Code letters "ZL".

No. 428 Squadron RCAF 'Ghost Squadron' Code letters "NA".

No. 429 Squadron RCAF 'Bison Squadron' Code letters "AL".

No. 431 Squadron RCAF Code Letters "SE".

No. 432 Squadron RCAF 'Leaside Squadron' Code letters "QO".

By late 1944, victory was more a matter of time rather than a question of being achieved and the decision was made on 20 October 1944 to form a very large bomber force code named “Tiger Force”.  By June of 1944 formation and re-equipment orders had been issued to all of the Canadian Bomber Squadron’s allocated for Tiger force.

Each Squadron was to be equipped with Canadian built Lancaster Mk. Xs from the FM and KB serial number series.  These aircraft, which had been built at the Victory Aircraft Production in Malton, Ontario, had been steadily arriving in England since mid 1944.  This arrangement would allow all of the squadrons to operate the same Lancaster variant.

A total of 141 Lancaster Mk. Xs were allocated to Tiger force.  Fortunately, the victory against Japan brought the war to an end, resulting in the disbandment of Tiger Force.

No. 6 Group RCAF, Operational Squadrons

Nos. 405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons.

No. 405 (Long Range Patrol) Squadron, RCAF was formed at Driffield, Yorkshire, on 23 April 1941 as an Article XV squadron and equipped with the Vickers Wellington bomber.  It flew the RCAF's first bombing operation ten weeks later on 12/13 June 1941, attacking the railway marshalling yards at Schwerte, Germany.  It converted to the Handley Page Halifax in April 1942, taking part in the historic 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne on the night of 30/31 May 1942.

In late October 1942, the squadron was loaned to Coastal Command to fly anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay at the time of the North African landings.

The squadron returned to Bomber Command at the beginning of March 1943, flying with No. 6 Group RCAF for short time before being selected for the elite No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group based at Gransden Lodge Airfield, with which it served until the end of the war.  Through the last 20 months of the bomber offensive the squadron was equipped with the Avro Lancaster.

The squadron's last operational mission took place on 25 April 1945 when nine Lancasters bombed the Berghof, and four aircraft bombed enemy gun batteries on island of Wangerooge.  The squadron was disbanded on 5 September 1945.

No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group

The Pathfinders were target-marking squadrons tasked with locating and marking targets with flares, which the main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing.  The Pathfinders were normally the first to receive new blind bombing aids like Gee, Oboe and the H2S radar.

The early Pathfinder Force (PFF) squadrons was expanded to become a group, No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group, in January 1943.  The initial Pathfinder Force was five squadrons, while No. 8 Group ultimately grew to a strength of 19 squadrons.  While the majority of Pathfinder squadrons and personnel were from the RAF, the group also included many from the air forces of other Commonwealth countries.

(IWM Photo, CH 6609)

Armourers wheel a trolley of 1,000-lb MC bombs into position for hoisting into Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, coded LQ-Q, of No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, at Pocklington, Yorkshire, England, Aug 1942.  On the right, another armourer is fitting the release gear to Small Bomb Containers (SBCs) filled with 30-lb incendiary bombs.

(IWM Photo, CH 4718)

Officers of No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, the first Canadian bomber unit,outside their mess at Topcliffe, Yorkshire. Back row, (left to right): Pilot Officer W McEwen, Pilot Officer R K Durbridge, Pilot Officer K F Thiele, Flying Officer W Taylor, Flying Officer W Jefferson Smith, Pilot Officer G Kelly, Pilot Officer J Morris, Pilot Officer T C Bradshaw, Pilot Officer C Morris, Pilot Officer D Miller, Mr D A Rait, Pilot Officer H F Beckett, Pilot Officer G M Worthington, Pilot Officer M K Solheim, Pilot Officer G Gibson, Pilot Officer R Locke, Flying Officer S M Russell, Pilot Officer J Cherry, Pilot Officer P J Wilson. Middle row, (left to right): Mr P A Canning, Flight Lieutenant S Robertson, Flight Lieutenant J Garneau, Acting Squadron Officer P E Messenger, Flight Lieutenant J Searby, Flight Lieutenant G N Street, Flight Lieutenant G N Ruthven, Flying Officer V Tapp, Flying Officer C Lockyer, Flight Lieutenant A F Allen, Flying Officer E C Bulmer, Flight Lieutenant D R Scrivens, Flight Lieutenant D R Hall, Pilot Officer R Mather, Flight Lieutenant J Fauquier, Flight Lieutenant F J Christopher, Pilot Officer L P Frizzle, Acting Squadron Officer V Townley, Flight Lieutenant H F Stowell, Acting Squadron Officer E Heape, Flying Officer W Featherston, Mr J Wardrop. Front row, (left to right): Flight Lieutenant J McCormack, S/O P H Charles, Squadron Leader F G Turner, Squadron Leader P L Barrow, Squadron Leader M A Harker, Wing Commander C Fenwick-Wilson, Group Captain S O Bufton, Squadron Leader W B Keddy, Flight Lieutenant H R Chatterton, Squadron Leader E O Walker, Squadron Leader H C Jolly, Acting Squadron Officer A R Simpson, Squadron Leader E M Parry.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5131009)

Vickers Wellington Mk. II (Serial No. W5515), RCAF No. 405 Squadron.  W5515 was intially coded LQ*M.  It later became also LQ*R and finally LQ*Y, and nicknamed "Moonshine" and later, "Berlin or Bust".  The flight flight crew is in northern England.   Left to right: F/Sgt. C.W. Higgins, pilot, F/Sgt. H. Wigley, pilot, Sgt. Lawrence J. Nadeau, wireless-operator air-gunner, Sgt. F.H.J. Farrell, navigator, Sgt. A. Smith, air gunner and Sgt. I Watters, second wireless-operator air-gunner.  Each member of the crew wears a tiny figure as that depicted on their plane as a mascot.

(IWM Photo CH 6614)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. II (Serial No. W7710), coded LQ-R, "Ruhr Valley Express", No. 405 Squadron RCAF, Pocklington, Yorkshire, England ca 1942.  An extra truck was painted on the nose insignia after each mission.  W7710 crashed at Niehuus, Denmark, on the night of 1/2 October 1942 while returning from a raid on Flensburg, Germany.

(IWM Photo, C4458)

Handley Page Halifax bombing a target over Mimoyecques, near Marquise, France, 5 July 1944.

(IWM Photo, CH 6627)

Tiredness etched on the face of a young Halifax pilot of No. 405 (Vancouver) Squadron, RCAF, after returning from an operation over Germany, July-August 1942.

No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 24 June 1941, as part of No. 5 Group, RAF.  It was the second RCAF bomber squadron formed overseas.  The "Goose" Squadron, was initially based at RAF Lindholme in Yorkshire, England, and equipped with Handley Page Hampdens.  No. 408  Squadron converted aircraft several times during the war, changing from Hampden aircraft to the Handley Page Halifax, and then to Avro Lancaster bombers in August 1943 after moving to RAF Linton-on-Ouse and where it became part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.

No. 408 Squadron flew 4,610 sorties and dropped 11,340 tons of bombs.  A total of 170 aircraft were lost and 933 personnel were killed, listed as missing in action (MIA) or became prisoners of war (PW).  Squadron members won two hundred decorations, and 11 battle honours for its wartime operations.  On 5 September 1945, No. 408 Squadron was officially disbanded.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5029693)

Handley Page Hampden, coded EQ, No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, with Sgt. A.W. Wood, Sgt. H.D. Murray, Sgt. D.L. Henderson and Sgt. W.M. Fraser.

(RAF Photo)

Handley Page Hampdens of No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, being loaded with mines, 1942.

(IWM Photo, HU 107822)

Handley Page Hampdens, coded EQ, No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, being loaded with mines, 1942.

(IWM Photo, HU 107823)

Handley Page Hampdens, coded EQ, No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, being loaded with mines, 1942.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS704), No. 408 Squadron, RCAF.

(IWM Photo, HU 56276)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. II, (Serial No. LL725), coded EQ-C, of No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, being bombed up Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, ca. 1944.  Armourers are backing a tractor and trolley loaded with a 4,000 lb HE bomb "Cookie" and incendiaries under the open bomb-bay.  LL725 was lost over Hamburg on 28/29 July 1944.

(No. 408 Squadron Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS723), coded EQ-B, No. 408 Squadron, RCAF.  The aircraft was nicknamed 'Titus'.

(408 Squadron Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. LL-634), coded EQ-F of No. 408 Squadron, RCAF, sitting a dispersal at Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire, summer of 1944 .

No. 415 (Long Range Patrol Force Development) Squadron, RCAF, was formed at Thorney Island on 21 August 1941 as a torpedo-bomber squadron, armed with Handley Page Hampdens.  It flew from a number of different bases, attacking enemy convoys and shipyards.

In March 1943 Acting Wing Commander George Howard David Evans, RAF, was appointed as Commanding Officer.  A week later while flying an air test his aircraft crashed.  On 8 April he undertook a night 'roam' over St Malo and Cherbourg armed with bombs but did not find a target.  The following day he led 12 Hampdens to Docking and on 10 April six to St Eval.  Later in the day he led five Hampdens in a torpedo attack against the Italian blockade runner Himalaya which was being escorted by eight German warships in the Bay of Biscay.  His aircraft was hit several times by flak and was forced to turn back to Bordeaux.  The squadron received the following signal: "From AOC 19 Group A/479 11 April.  Please convey to W/Cdr Evans and those concerned my hearty congratulations on the great determination shown by himself, F/O Brenner, P/O Batten and F/Sgts Clive and McGee, in pressing home their important attack on the enemy blockade runner on 10 Apr in the face of the heaviest opposition."  On 20 April 1943 Wing Commander Evans was awarded the DFC for his previous service with 489 (RNZAF) Squadron.  He handed over command of No. 415 (Swordfish) Squadron on 1 August 1943 and was made a member of the DSO on 1 October 1943 for his leadership of the squadron.

In October 1943 the squadron was re-equipped with Vickers Wellingtons and Fairey Albacores.  While operating out of Bircham Newton, it became a successful E- and R-boat hunter unit.  During the D-Day operations, No. 415 Squadron it used its bombers to lay protective smoke screens for the Allied ships as they assaulted the coastline and landed troops ashore.

In July 1944, the squadron was transferred to No. 6 Group, RCAF, and moved to East Moor, where it was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIIs.  No. 415 Squadron began major bombing of German targets on 28/29 July, when it attacked Hamburg.  For the next nine months the squadron carried out major bombing runs over important enemy targets in a variety of places.  It carried out its last bombing mission on 25 April 1945, attacking the gun batteries on the island of Wangerooge.  The squadron was disbanded in May 1945.

(RAF Photo)

Handley Page Hampden (Serial No. AE201), coded GX-Q, No. 415 Squadron, RCAF, 1942.  AE201 was destroyed on ground at Thorney Island when (Seril No. P2065) blew up beside it while re-fuelling, on 26 February 1943.  (Brad Gossen)

(RN Photo)

Fairey Albacore (Serial No. L7075), 2nd prototype, ca 1940.  The Fairey Albacore was flown by No. 415 Squadron, RCAF, and by RCN and RCNVR pilots in service with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy.

(F/O G. K. Fletcher Photo, courtesy of his son, Doug Fletcher, via the Bomber Command Museum)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. III (Serial No. MZ-946), coded 6U-O, No. 415 Squadron, RCAF, D.D. McNeill and his flight crew.  
This is a rare photo of a Halifax Mk. III with a mid-under gun.  Most of the No. 415 Squadron Halifax Mk. IIIs had the mid-under gun, but it was usually censored out of the photos.  On each op a spare gunner would be chosen from the pool to operate the mid-under gun.  Back Row L to R:  Sgt. D.J. Owens RAF, Flight Engineer; F/Sgt R.H. (Rube) Ward RCAF, Air Gunner; F/O W. (Bill) Underhill RCAF, Bomb Aimer; and F/O D.D. (Doug) McNeill RCAF, Pilot.  Front Row L to R: F/O G.K. (George) Fletcher RCAF, Navigator; F/Sgt Walter (Whitey) White RCAF. Air Gunner,  and F/Sgt F.B. (Fred) Davies RCAF, Wireless Op.

(F/O G. K. Fletcher Photo, via Doug Fletcher, and the Bomber Command Museum)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. III (Serial No. NA-124), coded 6U-I, No. 415 Squadron, RCAF, at Eastmoor, England, in 1944.  This is another of the Halifax's that had the mid-under gun installed.

No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Mildenhall, England in 1941 as part of No. 3 Group, Bomber Command.  The squadron moved to RAF Middleton St, George when it joined No. 6 Group, RCAF, and remained in England until 1945.  The squadron operated Vickers Wellington, then Handley Page Halifax and finally Avro Lancaster bombers during this period.  It was the third RCAF bomber unit to be formed in England.  It began flying operations in January 1942, converting almost immediately to Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs,  The squadron moved north to Leeming as part of No. 6 Group, RCAF, in August 1942.  In November it was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIs, which it flew for the next 18 months on night offensive bombing missions against Germany.  After three quick moves it settled at Middleton St. George in November and stayed there for the rest of its service in Bomber Command.

In April 1944 the squadron began to convert to Canadian-built Avro Lancaster Mk. Xs that had been flown across the Atlantic.  The squadron remained continuously on the offensive until 25 April 1945, when it flew its last sortie.  Squadron personnel flew a total of 4,325 operational sorties during the war from Mannheim to Nuremberg, Milan to Berlin and Munich to Hanover, inflicting heavy damage on the enemy.  As a result of its wartime record, No. 419 Squadron became one of the most decorated units under the RCAF during the war.  Over a span of roughly three-and-a-quarter years it logged 400 operational missions (342 bombing missions, 53 mining excursions, 3 leaflet raids and 1 "spoof") involving 4,325 sorties.  One hundred and twenty nine aircraft were lost on these operations.

Between January 1943 to March 1944, No. 419 Squadron was involved in over 200 sorties involving 2,400 crewing operations losing 59 aircraft, a rate of one in every 40.  415 men were either killed or taken PW during those 15 months, averaging 4 crews a month.  The average crew survival rate was between 2 and 3 months when about 20 missions would be flown.  In general mining operations were relatively safer missions.  In particular the attacks on German cities intensified from early October when more than 100 crews were regularly dispatched to bomb Frankfurt, Mannheim, Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig and Nuremberg.  During March 1944, the squadron carried out many mining missions, before taking part in No. 6 Group RCAF's 118-crew attack on Nuremberg at the end of the month.  It suffered the squadron's worst loss of the war, with 13 aircraft going down on one sortie.

No. 419 Squadron was, like other squadrons in 6 Group, RCAF, heavily involved in bombing missions during the run up to the June landings in Normandy.  Rail-yards were successfully attacked at Trappes (6/7), Le Mans (13/14), Amiens (16/17), Laon (23/24), Aulnoye (25/26), Courtrai (26/27) and Vaires-sur-Marne (29/30) as well as mining operations in the Gironde Estuary (3/4), Brest (4/5), Lorient, Brest, St Nazaire, the Terchelling Islands (11/12), Heligoland (18/19 and 30/31) and Kiel Bay (22/23).  An aircraft factory at Meulan Les Mureaux was bombed on 2/3 March.  No. 419 Squadron flew back to Canada in June 1945 and was disbanded at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on 5 September 1945.

(DND Archives Photo, PL-7091)

Vickers Wellington aircrew.  From left, No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, riggers Leading Aircraftman James Gardiner (Yorkton, Saskatchewan); Leading Aircraftman Fred Fitzhugh (Verdun, Quebec); and Leading Aircraftman Fred Scott (Midland, Ontario); and a Royal Air Force crewman, load ammunition onto a Wellington aircraft at a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber base in England on 9 Feb 1942.

(DND Archives Photo, PL-7096)

The all-Canadian crew of No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, Vickers Wellington Mk. 1C bomber, coded “H” for Harry, gather for a photograph on their Royal Canadian Air Force base in England on 9 Feb 1942.  From left are Squadron Leader F.W.S. Turner (Ganges, British Columbia); Pilot Officer K.E. Hobson (Winnipeg, Manitoba); Flight Sergeant G.P. Fowler (Victoria, British Columbia); Flight Sergeant C.A. Robson (Truro, Nova Scotia); Flight Sergeant N.G. Arthur (Edmonton, Alberta); and Flight Sergeant H.T. Dell (Niagara Falls, Ontario).  The groundcrew member on the wing is unidentified.

(IWM Photo, TR 11)

Royal Air Force ground crew push a 4,000lb blast bomb towards the bay of a Vickers Wellington bomber of No. 419 Squadron, RCAF at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, 1 May 1942.

(Ian Duncan Photo)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. II (Serial No. DT-669), coded VR-L of No. 419 Squadron, on dispersal at Middleton St. George, England.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542805)

RCAF Avro Lancaster (Serial No. KB700), "Ruhr Express" being bombed up for a mission over Berlin.  Ground crews are steering two "cookies" (block-buster bombs) into position under the bomb-bay.  This aircraft was the first Canadian built Lancaster.  The “Ruhr Express” flew two operations with No. 405 Squadron before completing its service with No. 419 “Moose” Squadron.  On 2 January 1945, KB700, the first Canadian built Lancaster, experienced hydraulic problems while attempting to land following a raid to Nuremberg, its 49th operation.  The flaps would not deploy properly and, after overshooting the runway, the aircraft ended up in a farmer’s field where it collided with a trench digger.  Amid exploding ammunition the crew escaped but fire destroyed the aircraft.

(RCAF Photo, PL29477)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. Xs, newly built Canadian aircraft, marshalled for take-off, 1st Op, No. 419 (Moose) Squadron, RCAF, 3 May 1944.

(RCAF Photo, PL43704)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, No. 419 Squadron, RCAF, preparing for raid on Wangerooge Island, 25 Apr 1945.

(RCAF Photo, UKLS736)

Avro Lancaster, with needle props, No. 419 Squadron, Middleton, St. George, 3000th sortie.

(RCAF Photo, PL43394)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, No. 419 Squadron, at their dispersal site, Middleton, St. George, England, 18 Apr 1945.

No. 420 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at Waddinton, Lincolnshire, England, on 19 December 1941.  During the Second World War, the squadron flew Avro Manchester, Handley Page Hampden, Vickers Wellington, Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster bombers on numerous strategic and tactical bombing operations.  From June to October 1943, No. 420 Squadron flew tropicalized Vickers Wellington aircraft from North Africa in support of the invasions of Sicily and Italy.  In April 1945 they converted to Avro Lancasters, and when hostilities in Europe concluded, it was selected as part of Tiger Force slated for duty in the Pacific, and returned to Canada for reorganisation and training.  The sudden end of the war in the Far East resulted in the Squadron being disbanded at Debert, Nova Scotia on 5 September 1945.

(Sheila Beer Photo)

Vickers Wellington medium bomber crew, No. 420 Squadron, RCAF.  L to R: F/O A. Freeman, Pilot; Sgt W. Hill, Wireless Op; P/O E. Douglas, Navigator; Sgt G. MacDougall, Rear Gunner; P/O H. Dowds, Bomb Aimer.  They were lost on 17 Aug 1943 over the Mediterranean, operating out of North Africa.

(RCAF Photo)

Avro Manchester Mk.1A (Serial No. L7486), with extended tail fins.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4752281, cropped)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III (Serial No. MZ620), No. 420 City of London "Snowy Owl" Squadron, RCAF, Tholthorpe, England, 6 Jan 1945.  This aircraft is fitted with a Preston Green Gun Mount.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4752281)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III (Serial No. MZ620), No. 420 City of London "Snowy Owl" Squadron, RCAF, Tholthorpe, England, 6 Jan 1945 (2)

(Bert Parker Photo)

Handley Page Halifax tail gunner, No. 420 Squadron, RCAF.

(Ian Duncan Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. X (Serial No. KB-871), coded PT-E, No. 420 City of London "Snowy Owl" Squadron, RCAF, at dispersal.

No. 424 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire in England on 15 October 1942, as the sixth RCAF Overseas bomber squadron.  It was allocated to No. 4 Group, RAF, where it was initially equipped with the Vickers Wellington Mk. III medium bomber, and later with Mk. Xs.  No. 424 Squadron joined No. 6 Group, RCAF and began operations on 15 January 1943, after moving to RAF Leeming, and then to RAF Dalton.  By the end of April 1943, No. 424 Squadron had bombed Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Bochum, Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, and took part in a third trip to Duisburg.  No. 424 Squadron RCAF 'Tiger Squadron' aircraft wore the code letters "QB".

On 10 April 1943, No. 424 Squadron was selected to become part of No. 205 Group, RAF, forming part of No. 331 (RCAF) Medium Bomber Wing, flying Vickers Wellington B Mk. X bombers, for operations in North Africa.  The Wellingtons were tropicalized for use in the heat, sand, and frequent dust storms, and offered much improved performance including the ability to fly on one engine.  Its first new mission was in support of Operaton Husky, the invasion of Sicily (9/10 July), while based in Tunisia.  The squadron bombed airfields, harbours, freight yards and rail junctions.

No, 424 Squadron was declared operational at Zina (Kairouan West) Airfield, Tunisia on 26 June 1943, operating from a rough and primitive airstrip scraped out of scrubby unused olive groves, initially bombing 'pre-invasion' targets, then bombing in support of Allied Ground Forces in Sicily, and Operation Avalanche, the invasion of Southern Italy (3 September).  Flying almost nightly, the 'Tigers' operated from Zina Airfield until 29 September 1943.  The squadron moved to El Hani East Landing Ground (Kairouan), from where they continued to support Allied Ground Forces in Italy.  The last mission of No. 331 (RCAF) Wing was on 5 October 1943 when twenty-one Vickers Wellington B Mk. X aircraft of No. 424 and No. 425 Squadrons bombed the airfield at Grosseto, Italy, half-way between Rome and Pisa.  They departed on 15 October 1943.

No. 424 Squadron arrived back in Yorkshire, on 6 November 1943, and was assigned to No. 63 Base, RCAF, at RAF Skipton-on-Swale, arriving in time for yet another North Yorkshire winter.  The squadron was re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. III heavy bombers.  Operating out of Skipton-on-Swale, it continued in the night offensive against Germany throughout 1944.  In October 1944, a Mat Ferguson 'Squadron Badge' was submitted to the Chester Herald of the Royal College of Arms and 'much modified' came to be approved by King George VI in June 1945.  No. 424 Squadron gained its "Tiger" nickname.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4046925)

Skipton-on-Swale bomber base in the UK, used by RCAF squadrons during the war, seen on 10 Aug 1945.

In January 1945, No. 424 Squadron was re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. Is and Mk. IIIs and flew its final sortie in April 1945.  After VE Day, the squadron served with No. 1 Group RAF 'Bomber Command Strike Force', flying POW repatriation missions from Italy from 30 August.   The squadron was disbanded at Skipton on 15 October 1945, having received fourteen battle honours.

Returning to Canada, the squadron was re-activated at Mount Hope, Ontario, on 15 April 1946, as No. 424 (Light Bomber) Squadron (Auxiliary).  Its headquarters was again at 275 James Street, Hamilton, Ontario, where 'The City of Hamilton' Squadron had began its 'lineage' with the RCAF Canadian Home War Establishment (HWE) No. 19 Bomber Squadron, on 15 May 1935.

(RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III bomber “O” for Oscar, with No. 424 “Tiger” Squadron, RCAF, taxis for takeoff from Skipton-on-Swale in England, ca 1944.   During its career with the Tigers, it completed 62 sorties on enemy targets.  This Halifax Mk. III is equipped with Bristol Hercules radial engines, but other versions used the more well-known Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.

(RCAF Photo)

Avro 683 Lancaster Mk. X (Serial No. NG347), coded QB-P for Papa, “Piccadilly Princess”, No. 424 "Tiger" (B) Squadron, RCAF.

This Lancaster was abandoned after it crashed near Hartford Bridge, Hampshire, in the UK, after being severely damaged in the rear fuselage and starboard wing by a night-fighter immediately after dropping its bomb load over the target at Mannheim, Germany on the 10th of August 1943.  The aircraft was destroyed.  The head and shoulders of the “Princess” nose art was recovered the day after the crash by the pilot and ended up on display at the Canadian War Museum in April 1949.  This piece of the fuselage is believed to still be in the possession of the Museum.  (Note: Handley Page Halifax Mk. V, (Serial No. EB247), coded ZL-P, also carried the name “Piccadilly Princess”, when it flew with No. 427 "Lion" (B) Squadron, RCAF).

No. 425 Squadron, RCAF, the first French Canadian squadron, was formed on 22 June 1942 at RAF Dishforth in Yorkshire, England, as a bomber unit flying Vickers Wellingtons.  No. 425 Squadron RCAF 'Alouette Squadron' aircraft wore the code letters "KW".  The squadron went into action for the first time on the night of 5/6 October 1942, bombing  Aachen, Germany with a small number of aircraft.  In 1943, the squadron flew to Kairoun, Tunisia, and from there, it conducted operations against Italy and Sicily, returning to the UK in November of the same year.

(Library and Archives canada Photo, PL-10810, MIKAN No. 4752227)

No. 425 (Bomber) Squadron aircrew with their Vickers Wellington bomber, standing left to right, Sgt Roland Dallaire, F/Lt Jean "Rocky" Saint-Pierre, Sgt André Peloquin, P/O Don Larivière, and Sgt Jean Raymond kneeling in front.

In December 1943, they were re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers and flew their first mission with these aircraft in February 1944.  Their final operation took place on 25 April 1945, when they bombed gun batteries on the Frisian island of Wangerooge.  Following the end of the war in Europe, in May 1945, No. 425 Squadron re-equipped again, this time with Avro Lancaster Mk. Xs.  The squadron flew back to Canada in June 1945, to prepare for their role in Tiger Force for the continuing war against Japan.  The use of atomic bombs and firebombing raids on Japan led to the end of the war and the need for Tiger Force.  No. 425 Squadron was disbanded on 5 September 1945 at RCAF Station Debert, Nova Scotia, less than three weeks after the Japanese surrender.

(NASM Photo 1B46195)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III (Serial No. X3763), coded KW-E, No. 425 'Alouette' (B) Squadron, RCAF, late summer of 1942.

(Bomber Command Museum Photo)

Vickers Wellington B. Mk. III (Serial No. X3763), coded KW-E, No. 425 'Alouette' (B) Squadron, RCAF, late summer of 1942.

(Bomber Command Museum Photo)

Handley Page Halifax, coded KW--, No. 425 (Alouette) Squadron, RCAF.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4752236)

Pilots of the "Alouette" squadron, lying on the grass outside their flight room, await briefing orders. The front three, left to right: P/O Pierre Hache, F/O Jules Dargis, F/O Roland Langlois. Second row: P/O Leopol Brochu, F/Sgt. Jean Paul Lacaille, P/O Gilles Boulanger, (air gunner) Third row: W/O J. Arthur Ryan, F/Sgt. Denis Dejardins (air gunner) and W/O Vernon Irvine. No. 425 Squadron, RCAF, 7 July 1944.

(DND Photo)

Avro Lancaster, RCAF No. 425 Squadron, VE Day celebration, RAF Tholthorpe, England, 8 May 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-PL26875)

Original caption: New Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III's for No. 425 'Alouette' (B) Squadron, RCAF, shown prior to taking off for an op.  The squadron operated the type from Dec 1943 to May 1945.

No. 426 Squadron, RCAF, was first formed at RAF Dishforth, England on 15 October 1942, with Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs and Mk. Xs.  The squadron flew with No. 4 Group, RAF, carrying out its first operational mission occurred on the night of the 14th and 15 January 1943, when seven Wellingtons bombed Lorient, France.  The squadron flew its missions at night, principally over Germany.  Unlike the other RCAF Wellington squadrons it did not go to Tunisia that year, but remained operating over Germany.  In 1943 No. 426 Squadron was transferred to No. 6 Group, RCAF, and in June it moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, where it was re-equipped with the Bristol Hercules radial-engined Avro Lancaster Mk. II heavy bomber.  Shortly afterwards, No. 426 Squadron resumed the offensive, and continued with the night campaign from Linton for the next ten months.

On April 1944, No. 426 (Bomber) Squadron began to re-equip with Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIIs and Mk. VIIs, and for the next year continued to operate with these bombers as part of No. 6 Group.

During the war it flew 261 operational missions (242 bombing missions and 19 mining excursions) involving 3,213 sorties, and in doing so lost 88 aircraft.  Its last operation took place on 25 April 1945, when 20 Halifaxes bombed gun batteries on the island of Wangerooge.  On 25 May 1945, the squadron was renamed to No. 426 Transport Squadron.

Possibly, the most heroic act realized by a member of the squadron during the war took place on 20 October 1943, when Flight Sergeant Stuart (the pilot) and his crew were sent to bomb Leipzig.  During the mission he was engaged by enemy Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Junkers Ju 88 fighters.He initially managed to shake them off, but not before having his aircraft rendered almost unfit to fly, leaving it with a shattered cockpit, damaged and gun turrets, holes in the fuel tanks, damaged hydraulics and no navigation instruments.  Against all odds Stuart decided to continue the mission and successfully bombed his target before guiding his crippled aircraft home.  He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM).  The squadron was disbanded on 1 January 1946.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster Mk. II (Serial No. DS689), coded OW-S, No. 426 Squadron, RCAF.  Manufactured by Armstrong-Whitworth, Aircraft Ltd. Baginton, Coventry, this bomber is equipped with Bristol Hercules radial air-cooled engines and bulged bomb-bay doors to carry the large ‘Super-cookies’.  DS689 flew several missions over Berlin until it was lost during a raid on Stuttgart on the night of 7/8 December 1943.

DS689 was delivered to No. 426 Squadron on Monday 29 June 1942.. The aircraft failed to return from night-operations to Stuttgart on the night of Thursday, 7 October 1943, becoming the 28th aircraft from the Squadron to become non effective and struck off charge, becoming the 214th Squadron aircraft to become non-effective and struck off charge flying out of RAF Station Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, the 592nd aircraft from Canadian Squadrons operating in Bomber Command, the 350th aircraft from No.6 (RCAF) Bomber Group, to become non-effective and struck off charge and the 52nd aircraft to become non-effective flying from Base Station RAF Station Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire, the main Station of No.61 (Beaver) Bomber Base No.6 (RCAF) Bomber Group.  Lancaster DS689 was the 75th aircraft having been briefed to attack Stuttgart to become non-effective and struck off charge and the 285th aircraft from the Group to become non-effective and struck off charge following an operational sortie and the 263rd aircraft to become non-effective and struck off charge following a bombing sortie. Air Ministry (AM) Form 78 indicates that DS689 had 339 hours 35 minutes flying time logged against the airframe.

(RAF Photo)

No. 426 Squadron, RCAF, Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, coded OW-H, with H2S radome under the rear fuselage, 1944.

(RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III bomber in RCAF service, operating from an airfield in England, ca 1944.

(Library and Archive Canada Photo, PL-026887)

Original caption: "Target For Tonight".  The recipient of the DFC and holder of the 1939-43 star, F/L Victor Rolfe from Windsor, Ontario, checks a position on a map at No. 6 (RCAF) Group Headquarters in Allerton Park, Yorkshire, England.  A navigation expert, F/L Rolfe saw service with No. 426 'Thunderbird' (B) Squadron on Vickers Wellingtons from June 1942 to June 1943 taking part in attacks on such targets as Hamburg, Essen, Dusseldorf, Cologne and many others.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26858)

Original caption: No. 426 'Thunderbird' (B) Squadron Avro Lancaster, painted B for Beer, with a crest showing a beer-drinking gremlin at work.  The insignia shows that the aircraft has done seven operational flights to date.  Its second mission was an extra special affair, marked by a beer bottle, during which the crew shot down a German night fighter shown by the swastika at the end of the gremlin's tail.  The ground crew who look after this four- engined bomber are from left to right: LAC J.D. Pat Paterson, aero engine mechanic; LAC Alex Omesklan, airframe mechanic; LAC R.I. Monty Coristine wearing the beret and seated in the cockpit; and Sgt. A.S. Art Hughes-Games, airframe mechanic, who painted the crest on the kite during his spare moments.  All are attached to the Thunderbird squadron operating from an RCAF Station commanded by Group Captain W. A. Jones.

No. 427 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at Croft, England on 7 November 1942 and spent its wartime entirely in England as a part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.  The squadron flew Vickers Wellington Mk. IIIs and Mk. Xs, from its first operational mission on 14 December 1942, a minelaying sortie to the Frisian Islands, until May 1943 when it was relocated to Leeming, North Yorkshire.  Re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax Mk. V aircraft, the squadron flew intensely until early 1944 when it replaced its inventory with Halifax Mk. III aircraft.  This fleet saw the greatest number of missions and in slightly more than a year's time they were then replaced by Avro Lancaster bombers prior to the end of the Second World War.  The Lancasters were used for prisoner of war repatriation until the end of May 1946.  No. 427 Squadron was stood down on 1 June 1946.

(DND Archives Photo, PL-40064)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III bomber, nicknamed "Gutsy Girty", from No. 427 Squadron, shown at Leeming, Yorkshire, with its crew before a night operation.  No. 427 Squadron RCAF (Lion Squadron) aircraft wore the code letters ZL.

Representative Aircraft (Unit Code ZL)

Vickers Wellington B.Mk.III (Nov 42 – Mar 43), 21604 P   BK364 K   BK389 L.

Vickers Wellington B.Mk.X (Feb – May 43)

Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.V (May 43 – Feb 44), EB241 A EB243 U EB246 S EB247 P DK146 Q DK186 L DK226 Y LK627 K LK633 G LK637 V LK643 T LK644 C LK658 H LK684 R LK799 N LK923 B LK965 W LK972 F LK974 J LK975 E LK976 Z LL139 D LL169 L LU 94 C.

Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.III (Jan 44 – Mar 45), MZ304 B LK755 S L V828 Q L V829 D L V830 H LV831 P LV883 W LV922 B LV986 V LV987 K LV994 J LV995 Y LV996 E LW161 V LW162 D LW163 U LW548 L LWSS8 A LW559 F LW572 R LW575 0 LW576 C LW577 K LW759 Z.

Avro Lancaster B.Mk.l & III (Mar 45 – May 46), ME393 D ME426 C ME498 K MESOl T NX548 J NX549 U NXSSO V NXSSl G NX552 S NX553 H NX554 F NXSSS R PA260 Q PA263 E PA271 W RAS34 A RA536 N RA537 P RA538 B RA539 0.

Summary Sorties: 3328.  Operational/Non-­operational Flying Hours: 18,512/11,271.  Bombs dropped: 10,294 tons.  Victories: Aircraft: 10 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 10 damaged.  Casualties: Operational: 90 air­craft; 522 aircrew, of whom 35 were killed, 477 missing (of whom 10 POW, 11 proved safe), 10 injured.  Non-opera­tional: 6 aircraft; 22 personnel, of whom 15 were killed, 5 injured, 2 died of natural causes.

Honours and Awards: 4 DSO’s, 6 bars to DFC, 147 DFC’s, 1 AFC, 2 CGM’s, 16 DFM’s, 8 MiD’s.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26868)

Handley Page Halifax bomber.  Original caption: "It is tough enough to get back from an attack on Berlin with four engines working generally, but these three members from No. 427 'Lion' (B) Squadron of the RCAF's No. 6 Bomber Group in England, limped home on two engines and had a third cut out on them just as they hit the deck in a recent raid.  Besides all this they were attacked by an enemy fighter on the way home and had to take strong evasive action.  Left to right: F/Sgt. C. Axford, F/Sgt. R.D. Anderson and P/O R.C. Deegan.

No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, also known as the Ghost Squadron,was the ninth long-range heavy bomber Article XV squadron formed overseas during the Second World War, at RAF Dalton in Yorkshire, England on 7 Nov 1942.  The squadron was initially assigned to No. 4 Group, RAF.  With the creation of No. 6 Group, RCAF, the squadron was reallocated on 1 Jan 1943 operating with it until 25 April 1945.  No. 428 Squadron RCAF Ghost Squadron aircraft were coded NA.

The squadron was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington Mk. III and Mk. Xs.  It carried out its first operational mission on 26-27 Jan 1943, when five Wellingtons bombed the U-Boat base at Lorient in Brittany, on the Bay of Biscay.  In the early part of June 1943, the squadron moved to RAF Middleton, St. George, where it remained for the remainder of the war.  Around this time the squadron was converted to Handley Page Halifax Mk. V heavy bombers, later supplemented by Mk. IIAs.

In January 1944, Halifax bombers from No. 428 Squadron participated in the first high-level mining raid (Gardening), when mines were dropped by parachute from 15,000 feet (4,570 m) over Brest on 4/5 Jan and Saint-Nazaire on 6/7 Jan 1945.  The squadron flew its last sortie with the Halifax on 12 June 1944.  Shortly afterwards, No. 428 Squadron converted to the Canadian-built Avro Lancaster B Mk. X, with the first sortie taking place on 14 June 1944.

For the final phase of the air campaign against Germany, the squadron took part in day and night raids, with its last operational sortie taking place on 25 April 1945, when 15 Lancasters bombed anti-aircraft gun batteries defending the mouth of the Weser River on the Frisian Island of Wangerooge.  No. 428 Squadron RCAF remained in service in the United Kingdom until the end of May 1945.

By the middle of June the squadron had moved to RCAF Station Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, where it was disbanded on 5 Sep 1945.

(IWM Photo, CH 9867)

Vickers Wellington Mk. X (Serial No. HE239), coded NA-Y, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, damaged by anti-aircraft fire, while approaching its target at Duisburg, Germany on 8–9 April 1943.

(Chris Sheehan Photo)

Handley Page Halifax, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, carrying out engine run between the two main hangars at the Middleton St George airfield.  This aircraft later made a crash landing at another field .  Note the nose art " git up them stairs " 4th April 1944.  The pilot was F/L Chuck Ford.

(Jim Poulter Photo via Chris Sheehan)

Handley Page Halifax, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, with her crew, Middleton St George, UK, April 1944.   Pilot F/O Gouthreau far right, 2nd right is F/Sgt Jim Poulter A/G, 3rd from the right is A/G Sgt Bert Greenacre.  In the middle is P/O Harry Beaton the Bomb Aimer. Far left is Sgt Ernie Wilkinson the Flight Engineer, 2nd from the left is F/Sgt C Robinson the wireless Operator, 3rd from left is F/O Frank O Connor the Navigator. This photograph and his flying helmet " early C type " was given to me in 1986 at a reunion at MSG by Jim Poulter.

(Chris Sheehand Photo)

Avro Lancaster, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, with her crew, Middleton St George, UK, 1944.

(Chris Sheehan Photo)

Avro Lancaster, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, "Goofy", with Radar Mechanic Harold Greer, Middleton St George, UK, 1944.

(RCAF Photo via Chriss Sheehan)

Avro Lancaster (Serial No. KB882), coded NA-R, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, typical English scene, Middleton St George, UK, 1944.  KB882 was later converted to Mk. 10 AR standard with a 3 foot nose extension.  It is one of the 17 Lancasters that survive.

(RCAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster "Sugars Blues", No. 428 Squadron, Radar Mech Harold Greer, Middleton St George, England.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614986)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. X (Serial No. KB760), coded NA-P, with aircrew and groundcrew, No. 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF.  They flew the squadron's 2,000th sortie, a raid on Bremen, Germany, 18 Aug 1944.  The badge for the squadron's sponsor, the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) is visible on the nose.

(RAF Photo)

Avro Lancaster bombing St. Vith, Belgium, 26 Dec 1944.

From the RCAF Facebook page: On 25 April 1945, many Canadian aircrew took part in a 482-aircraft Bomber Command raid aimed at knocking out German coastal batteries controlling the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven.  Five Handley Page Halifax bombers and two Avro Lancaster bombers were lost – four Halifaxes and the two Lancasters to collisions – resulting in 28 Canadian and 13 British airmen being killed.

(RAF Photo via James Craik)

An impressive aerial photograph of 12 Lancasters of No. 428 Squadron RCAF 'Ghost Squadron', lined up nose to tail taken 31 May 1945, the day they left for Canada. 15 Canadian built Lancasters took off at one minute intervals from their Bomber Station at Middleton St. George Yorkshire in the UK.  They were the first of the Canadian Squadrons to leave the United Kingdom after VE Day.  More followed daily until all aircrew were gone.  They were heading home to join "Tiger Force" for the war in the Pacific.

No. 429 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 7 Nov 1942 and initially assigned to No 4 Group at RAF East Moor.  It was reassigned to No 6. Group, RCAF, and flew until it was disbanded on 31 May 1946.  The squadron moved to RAF Leeming in 1943.  During the war No. 408 Squadron flew Vickers Wellingtons in the Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role from Nov 1942 to Aug 1943, then the Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber from Aug 1943 to March 1945, then the Avro Lancaster B Mk. I and Mk. III from March 1945 to May 1946.  The squadron also flew the Douglas Dakota transport aircraft.  No. 429 (Bison) Squadron aircraft wore the code letters AL.

Summary Sorties: 3221 (including 45 airlifting 1055 POW’s back to England).  Operational/Non-opera­tional Flying Hours: 17,289110,934.  Bombs dropped: 9356 tons.  Victories: Aircraft: 7 destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 10 damaged.  Casualties: Operational: 71 air­craft; 451 aircrew, of whom 82 were killed, 322 missing, 23 POW, 7 injured; 17 proved safe. Non-operational: 11 air­craft; 25 personnel, of whom 15 were killed, 10 injured.

Honours and Awards: 2 bars to DFC, 45 DFC’s, 1 AFC, 1 CGM, 7 DFM’s.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-026844)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. II, coded AL-N with ground crew members from No. 429 'Bison' (B) Squadron, admiring the Bison head which was presented to the squadron on behalf of the Canadian National Railways by Mr. P. A. Clews, the European manager of the Canadian National Railways.  Left to right: LAC W. A. Johnson, Cpl. T. F. McDonnell, LAC R. D. Heniger, LAC J. E. Tait, Cpl. T. M. Power, LAC D. J. Robertson and Cpl. J. L. Toole.

(Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Photo)

No. 429 Squadron, group photo with an Avro Lancaster.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26853)

Original caption: "Easy does it too" is the insignia on "E" for "Ernest" a Handley Page Halifax four-engined bomber from No. 429 'Bison' (B) Squadron of the RCAF's No. 6 Bomber Group in England.  It is very appropriate to say the least as the artiest in this case finds it easy to paint insignias on "kites".  The only Canadian member of the crew "E" for "Ernest" Sgt. A.C. Shierlaw mid-upper gunner is shown looking down from the pilot's seat of the Halifax.  Before enlisting Shierlaw was employed in advertising and display work with the Ottawa Journal.

(NAC Photo, PL42838, e999920460-u)

Handley Page Halifax (Serial No. LV993), coded M for Mother, No. 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF.  LV993 was a veteran of 95 trips on enemy targets.  LV993 is shown here with its ground crew, and the pilot who flew it on its last 12 trips.  In all the Crew flying this aircraft totalled 232 years in age, probably one of the oldest in No. 6 Group, RCAF.  Left to right, LAC W.H. Rollinson, Langstaff, Ontario, rigger; LAC W.H, Patterson, Toronto (182 Morse St.) Ontario, fitter; F/L J.L. Brown, Domremy, Saskatchewan, pilot of the aircraft; Sgt. E.A. Smith, Brandon, Manitoba, fitter: and LAC R.W. Wright, Toronto, (2722 Yonge St.) rigger.

(NAC Photo, PL33722 e999920460-u)

No. 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF, LAC A.C. Rollinson, of Langstaff, Ontario, a rigger with the squadron, paints an honorary DFC on the veteran "M" for "Mike" veteran Handley Page Halifax (Serial No. LV993), flown by Squadron Leader Lou Neilly, DFC, of Toronto and Gilford, Ontario.  Canadian ground crew often rewarded their “babies” with decorations after they have completed a certain number of operational trips.  Above can be seen the DFC awarded the aircraft after 30 sorties and the oak leaf which Sgt. E.A. Smith, Brandon, Manitoba, a member of the ground crew was awarded when mentioned in despatches (MiD).  

(DND Photo, PL42839 - e999920461)

The same aircraft from No. 429 (Bison) Squadron, RCAF, later in its service, with pilot F/L J.L. Brown, Domremy, Saskatchewan, painting the last bomb on "M" for "Mike" veteran Handley Page Halifax (Serial No. LV993) of the squadron, indicating that it had completed 95 sorties on enemy targets before being posted to another squadron.  

Usually yellow bombs represented missions over Germany or Occupied Europe, red bombs represented missions to Berlin, ice cream cones were for missions over Italy (none on this particular aircraft).  Bomb symbols with the small parachute on top of the mine denote missions flown to drop sea mines, known as "Gardening".  (Frank Michael Wallace)

After LV993 left No. 429 Squadron, it was used by the RCAF's No. 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit at Dishforth, Yorkshire.  The unit was nicknamed "Caribou".  It was then transferred to No. 462 (B) Squadron, RAAF, at Driffield, Yorkshire.  It does not appear to have reached 100 combat sorties before being struck of strength on the 8th of August, 1946.  The Australian squadron was part of No. 100 Group, whose role was radio-counter measures.  LV993 was coded AL-J before being re-coded to AL-M.  (Chris Charland)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26858)

Original caption: Standing before his mashed rear turret is rear gunner F/S G. Pedro Lapierre who flies with No. 408 Goose (B) Squadron of No. 6 Bomber Group overseas.  His skipper, P/O W.G. Bill Phillips flying the crew on their 14th trip, said, "We had just dropped our load on burning Berlin and got beyond the target area when things started to happen".  Lapierre said, "we gunners had our eye on a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 stooging along astern port quarter down about 600 yards away".  The mid-upper gunner Sgt. G. Currie, said, "suddenly I saw a Junkers Ju 88 on the port quarter up starting to dive at us from above and I warned the pilot and rear gunner to prepare for action".  The German night fighter dove in directly from astern and at 200 yards let go a full charge of cannon shells and machine gun bullets right into the rear turret.  Miraculously, the rear gunner escaped unscathed.  "All I saw was a fighter coming in behind and I let go with my four guns before the glaring flash of his tracer blinded me," said Lapierre who was knocked out by the concussion of the shells.  All perspex in the rear turret was broken, the armour plating and oxygen equipment were shot away, the bomb-bay and doors were riddled, the engine cowling was shot away etc.  The mid-upper gunner shot the fighter down as it followed through about 20 feet above his turret.  Gunner Lapierre shown here, said, "Believe me it's a terrible sight starting into the blazing guns of a German night fighter".

No. 431 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 11 Nov 1942, at RAF Burn, in North Yorkshire England.  The squadron was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington B Mk. X medium bombers and assigned to No. 4 Group, RAF.  The squadron moved to RAF Tholthorpe in mid-1943 as part of the move to bring all RCAF squadrons into No. 6 Group, RCAF.  Here, it converted to the  Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III heavy bomber.  In December 1943 the squadron moved to RAF Croft where it was re-equipped with Halifax Mk. IIIs and later, Avro Lancaster B Mk. Xs.  The squadron moved to RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, after the war, and was disbanded there on 5 September 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542802)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V (Serial No. LK640), coded SE-Q, "Q-Queenie", No. 431 Iroquois Squadron, RCAF, 16 Nov 1943.  The scantily-clad lady rates mention on the fuselage along with members of the crew whose names appear as "Dave," "Bill", "Mac", "Lorne" and "Bob". LK640 crashed into the sea on the night of 18 Nov 1943 while on an attack on Mannheim, Germany.  Flown by F/O Carefoot, RCAF, all were lost.

No. 432 Squadron, RCAF, was first formed at RAF Skipton-on-Swale on 1 May 1943, as part of No. 6 Group, RCAF.  The unit was initially equipped with Vickers Wellington Mk. X medium bombers.  The squadron deployed to RAF East Moor in mid-September.  In Oct 1943, it was re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. II heavy bombers.  In February 1944 the squadron converted to Handley Page Halifax Mk. IIIs, upgrading these to Halifax Mk.VIIs in July.

As part of a RCAF public relations plan, the town of Leaside officially "adopted" No. 432 Squadron, RCAF.  The squadron took the town's name as its nickname, becoming 432 "Leaside" Squadron RCAF.  The sponsorship lasted the duration of the war.  The squadron was disbanded at East Moor in May, 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3615003)

Avro Lancaster B Mk. II (Serial No. DS848), coded QO-R with aircrew, No. 432 (Leaside) Squadron, RCAF, 1944.

(Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Photo)

Handley Page Halifax (Serial No. NP697), coded QF, "Ferdinand", No. 432 Squadron, RCAF.

No. 433 Squadron, RCAF, was formed at RAF Skipton-on-Swale on 25 Sep 1943, but was without aircraft for nearly two months.  When these arrived they were the latest version of the Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, and No. 433 worked up on them to begin operations on 2 Jan 1944. For the next year the squadron was continuously operational on Halifaxes over the Continent by night.  In January 1945 the Halifaxes were replaced by Avro Lancaster Mk. Is, and No. 433 Squadron used these for three months, by which time the war in Europe had come to an end.  No. 433 was not disbanded but, as part of No. 1 Group, flew trooping flights from Germany and Italy, bringing back troops and POWs.  This continued until 15 Oct 1945, when the squadron disbanded at Skipton-on-Swale.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5129634)

Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III (Serial No. MZ808), coded BM-P, "Pride of the Porcupines".  Aircrew and groundcrew members of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, No. 6 Bomber Group, gang up on the miniature English automobile owned by one of the aircrew members.  Left to Right: LAC D.W. Higgins, LAC Tom Collins, AC "Duke" Ducarme, Sgt. Sandy Grant, air gunner; Sgt. Bill Keen, bomb aimer; F/Sgt. Bob Thomas, navigator; LAC Gordon Austin, Sgt. Bill Mackay, flight engineer; Warrant Officer Jack McNaughton, pilot.  MZ808 crashed on Fynn Island, Denmark after being shot down by a 1./ NJG 3 night-fighter flown by Oberleutnant Herbert Koch while returning from a Gardening mission in Kiel Bay on 17 August, 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614993)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III (Serial No. HX290), No. 433 Sqn, RCAF tail gunner in front of his Boulton Paul four gun turret.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614991)

Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III (Serial No. MZ807), coded BM-C, No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, returning from a raid on Le Mans, France.  Skipton-on-Swale, England, 23 May 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614994)

Aircrew of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, en route to their Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III aircraft before taking off to raid Hagen, Germany, 2 Dec 1944.

No. 434 Squadron, RCAF, was first formed at RAF Tholthorpe, England on 13 June 1943.  It was initially equipped with the Handley Page Halifax Mk. V.  On 13 Aug 1943 it flew its first operational sortie, a bombing raid across the Alps to Milan, Italy.  In May 1944 the unit received Halifax Mk. IIIs to replace its Mk. Vs.  The squadron was adopted by the Rotary Club of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and to show its connection to the city adopted the nickname "Bluenose Squadron", the common nickname for people from Nova Scotia and a tribute to the schooner Bluenose.  An image of the schooner is on the squadron badge.

The squadron moved to RAF Croft in December 1943 and re-equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. Is and Mk. Xs in December 1944.  After VE, the squadron was earmarked for Tiger Force to carry on the war against Japan, but was never deployed to the Far East.  The unit was disbanded at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on 5 September 1945.

During the war, No. 434 Squadron flew 198 missions, including 179 bombing, 17 mine laying, one diversionary and one sea search.  This was made up of a total of 2,582 individual aircraft sorties, including 45 prisoner of war airlift sorties.  It flew 14,622 operational flying hours and dropped 10,358 tons of bombs plus 225 mines.  The squadron accounted for seven enemy aircraft destroyed along with two probable and four damaged.  No. 434 Squadron lost 75 aircraft, and had 484 aircrew operational casualties, including 34 killed, 313 presumed dead, 121 made prisoners and 16 who evaded capture and escaped.  The non-operational casualty total was eight killed, plus one member who died of natural causes.  Unit personnel received six bars to the DFC, 108 DFCs, six DFMs, one BEM and seven MiDs.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4207036)

Avro Lancaster bombing a target in Europe, 21 March 1945.

(Bomber Command Museum of Canada Photo Collection)

RCAF Air Vice-Marshal Clifford Mackay “Black Mike” McEwen, commander of No. 6 Group, RCAF in the foreground, RAF Air Vice-Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris, in the middle, and RCAF Air Marshal G.O. Johnson, AOC RCAF Overseas, in the background, wave goodbye to the first of 141 Canadian Lancasters departing for Canada from RAF Middleton St. George, in the UK.

A/V/M McEwen was a First World War fighter pilot with 22 aerial victories.  One of the Avro Lancaster Mk. Xs destined to join Tiger Force was Lancaster (Serial No. KB999), the 300th Canadian-built Lancaster.  When it came off the assembly line in Malton, Ontario, Victory Aircraft Corporation production staff dedicated this aircraft to McEwen and had his pennant painted on the nose with the words “Malton Mike”.  After the end of the war, KB999 was assigned to the No. 405 Vancouver Squadron, RCAF, and flew A/V/M McEwan to Canada on 17 June 1945.

(RCAF Archives Photo)

Headquarters, No. 6 Group, RCAF, Overseas, 23 May 1944.  All branches of the armed services work in close harmony as bombing operations against enemy targets are carefully planned at headquarters of the RCAF Bomber Group "somewhere in Great Britain".  Air Vice Marshal CM McEwen, MC, DFC and Bar, Air Officer Commanding, discusses a point of interest with some of his senior officers. Beside him are, left to right: Major AKL Stephenson, Nelson, BC.; Air Commodore CR Slemon, CBE, Winnipeg and Bomanville, Ontario, senior air staff officer; Group Captain JE Fauquier, DSO and Bar, DFC, Ottawa, in charge of operations; and a Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Navy.

(RCAF Archives Photo, PL-44700)

RCAF Group Captain John E. Fauquier, DSO & 2 Bars, DFC, an Ottawa native, serving with No. 617 Squadron, RAF, is dwarfed by a Ten-Ton-Tessie, a 22,000 lb super RAF Grand Slam bomb, 18 June 1945.  This streamlined bomb was dropped by RCAF crews on German targets towards the close of the European hostilities.  G/C Fauquier, after two out-standing tours with the Pathfinder force was tagged "King of the Pathfinders".

Three thousand miles across a hunted ocean they came, wearing on the shoulder of their tunics the treasured name, “Canada,” telling the world their origin. Young men and women they were, some still in their teens, fashioned by their Maker to love, not to kill, but proud and earnest in their mission to stand, and if it had to be, to die, for their country and for freedom.

One day, when the history of the twentieth century is finally written, it will be recorded that when human society stood at the crossroads and civilization itself was under siege, the Royal Canadian Air Force was there to fill the breach and help give humanity the victory. And all those who had a part in it will have left to posterity a legacy of honour, of courage, and of valour that time can never despoil.

Speech by Father J.P. Lardie, Chaplain, No. 419 Squadron and No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, at the dedication of the RCAF Memorial at Middleton St. George, 15 June 1985.  (Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Alberta)

(DND Photo)

Aircrew walking to their RCAF No. 6 Group Handley Page Halifax bomber in October 1944.

Bomber Command Losses

The successes of Bomber Command were purchased at terrible cost. Of every 100 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 45 were killed, 6 were seriously wounded, 8 became Prisoners of War, and only 41 escaped unscathed (at least physically). Of the 120,000 who served, 55,573 were killed including over 10,000 Canadians. Of those who were flying at the beginning of the war, only ten percent survived. It is a loss rate comparable only to the worst slaughter of the First World War trenches. Only the Nazi U-Boat force suffered a higher casualty rate.

The Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Albert, has compiled the following statistics:

Statistical Summary of Bomber Command’s Operations

Total sorties:   392,137
Total aircraft lost:   12,330
Tons Dropped:   955,044
Total mines laid:   47,307

Canadian Bomber Command Losses Statistics

The Bomber Command Museum’s best estimate for the number of Canadians killed while serving with Bomber Command is 10,250.

(IWM Photo, CH 3175)

Short Stirling.

RCAF (Overseas) Bomber Casualties by Aircraft Type [Hugh Halliday Statistics]

  • Halifax 3675 (32.8 %);  
  • Lancaster 3349 (29.9 %);  
  • Wellington 2586 (23.1 %);  
  • Stirling 523 (4.7 %);  
  • Hampden 296 (2.7 %);
  • Whitley 280 (2.5 %);  
  • Mosquito 259 (2.3 %);  
  • Blenheim 127 (1.1 %);  
  • Manchester 123 (1.1 %)
  • Total: 11,218

These numbers include non-Bomber Command operations and aircraft such as the Mosquito and Blenheim in non-bomber variants.

These numbers include 379 Americans who were serving in the RCAF.

These numbers do not include Canadians in the RAF.

RCAF Airmen killed in RCAF Squadrons by Aircraft Type [Hugh Halliday Statistics]

  • Hampden 92 (2.2 %);
  • Lancaster 985 (23.5 %);  
  • Wellington 707 (16.9 %);
  • Halifax 2407 (57.4 %);
  • Total: 4191

Bomber Command Training Units, RCAF Squadrons, and RAF Squadrons [BCMC Statistics]

  • 1498 (14.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed training at Bomber Command OTU’s and HCU’s.
  • 4255 (39.9 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed on RCAF Bomber Command Squadrons.
  • 4906 (46.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed on RAF Bomber Command Squadrons.

Bomber Command Casualties by Year [BCMC Statistics]

  • 1939 -10 (0.1 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1940 -73 (0.6 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1941 -532 (5.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1942 -1809 (17.0 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1943 -3031 (28.4 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1944 -4081 (38.3 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.
  • 1945 -1121 (10.5 %) Canadians and other RCAF killed.