75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain
Note from 3303 J.R. (John) Neroutsos:
The 15th of September 2015 will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a significant milestone.
No. 1800 Group Captain de Hartland Molson OBE OC OQ fought in the Battle of Britain with No. 401 (Fighter) Squadron. Canada’s only squadron to participate in that decisive battle. Senator Molson was the only ex-cadet, I believe, to have fought in that aerial conflict.
3334 Major General David Wightman this past week made a short presentation on the occasion to the Vancouver Island Ex-Cadet Club. I attach his speaking notes together with a short 401 Squadron Chronology that is hyper-linked to each Commanding officer’s bio. It paints a picture of an exceptional air force unit in which all of Canada should take pride.
401 is historically and by individual deeds at the right of the line in the order of battle.
3303 J.R. (John) Neroutsos
3334 Major General David Wightman’s address
to the VANCOUVER ISLAND EX-CADET CLUB
03 Sep 2015
On the occasion of the Remembrance of
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
FROM JULY TO OCT 1940 SMALL GROUP OF FIGHTER PILOTS FLYING HURRICANES AND SPITFIRES BATTLED NAZI BOMBERS AND THEIR FIGHTER ESCORTS ATTEMPTING TO ESTABLISH AIR SUPERIORITY OVER SE ENGLAND FOR THE INVASION OF BRITAIN.
FROM JULY UNTIL SEPTEMBER IT WAS A DAYLIGHT BATTLE WITH THE LUFTWAFFE TARGETING RAF AIRFIELDS AND COASTAL RADARS.
IT WAS A FEROCIOUS BATTLE WITH MANY MISSIONS FLOWN EVERY DAY AND HIGH LOSSES ON BOTH SIDES.
TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF THE SCALE OF THE BATTLE, NOWADAYS ONE AIRCRAFT CRASH IS BIG NEWS. ON THE WORST DAY OF THE BATTLE – ALMOST 200 AIRCRAFT, GERMAN AND BRITISH, CRASHED TO THE GROUND IN SE ENGLAND – THATS IN A SINGLE DAY!
BY OCTOBER GERMAN LEADERSHIP HAD DECIDED THE DAY LOSSES WERE UNSUSTAINABLE AND SWITCHED TO NIGHT OPERATIONS.
AT NIGHT SMALL, WELL CAMOUFLAGED AIRFIELDS WERE AN IMPOSSIBLE TARGET SO BY DEFAULT THE CITIES BECAME THE TARGETS. THE BLITZ BEGAN AND IT CAUSED TERRIBLE DESTRUCTION AND CASUALTIES IN BRITISH CITIES ESPECIALLY LONDON.
BUT THE SWITCH ENABLED THE RAF TO REBUILD AND INTENSIFY THEIR DEFENSIVE EFFORTS.
IT SOON BECAME CLEAR TO THE GERMANS THAT THE RAF WAS STILL A POTENT FORCE AND THAT AIR SUPERIORITY COULD NOT BE ACHIEVED.
BY THE END OF OCTOBER HITLER CANCELLED THE INVASION OF BRITAIN AND MOVED HIS MASSED FORCES TO RUSSIA.
SO ALTHOUGH THE BLITZ CONTINUED THE IMMEDIATE CRISIS WAS OVER PRIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL ROSE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND SAID:
“NEVER IN THE FIELD OF HUMAN CONFLICT WAS SO MUCH OWED BY SO MANY TO SO FEW”
CANADIAN PARTICIPATION IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN WAS SIGNIFICANT WITH ABOUT 120 PILOTS FIGHTING – MOST OF THEM IN RAF SQUADRONS BUT FROM THE BEGINNING, ONE FULL RCAF SQN WAS IN THE FIGHT. IT WAS 401 (FIGHTER) SQUADRON, AN AUXILIARY SQUADRON FROM MONTREAL EQUIPPED WITH HURRICANES.
IT WAS A LEGENDARY SQUADRON WITH LEGENDARY PEOPLE LIKE ERNIE MCNAB, FRANK MCGILL, HARTLAND MOLSON AND GORDON MACGREGOR.
THE SQUADRON WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL, FINISHING THE WAR WITH 195 VICTORIES, ONE OF THE HIGHEST SCORES ON THE ALLIED SIDE AFTER THE WAR 401 SQUADRON RETURNED HOME TO RCAF STATION ST HUBERT AND BECAME 401 “CITY OF WESTMOUNT” SQUADRON IN THE RCAF AUXILIARY.
FOR THE FIRST FEW YEARS 401 SQUADRON WAS EQUIPPED WITH FRONT-LINE AIRCRAFT LIKE THE VAMPIRE AND THE F86 SABRE.
THEN BUDGETARY PRESSURES TOOK OVER AND THE SQUADRON WAS DISBANDED IN 1996.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT 401 FIGHTER SQUADRON HAS JUST RECENTLY BEEN RECONSTITUTED AS A REGULAR FORCE CF18 SQUADRON AT COLD LAKE ALBERTA.
I WANT TO NOTE THAT WE HAVE IN OUR MIDST AS A MEMBER OF THE VANCOUVER ISLAND EX-CADET CLUB A FORMER COMMANDING OFFICER OF 401 “CITY OF WESTMOUNT” SQUADRON. HE IS BRIGADIER GENERAL (RESERVE, RETIRED) JOHN NEROUTSOS.
HE WILL REMIND US THAT THE RESERVES HAVE BEEN AN ESSENTIAL PART OF EVERY MAJOR WAR IN WHICH CANADA HAS BEEN INVOLVED AND THAT IT IS CRIMINAL THAT THE RESERVES ARE BEING ALLOWED TO WITHER AWAY AGAIN. I AGREE WITH HIM.
SO LET US ALL REMEMBER THE YOUNG LIVES LOST IN THIS EPIC BATTLE OF BRITAIN.
LET US ALL BE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL THAT IN 1940 THE BATTLE UNFOLDED AS IT DID.
LET US ALL DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO ENSURE SUCH A BATTLE NEVER OCCURS AGAIN.
401 Brief Chronology
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few “
No. 15 (Fighter) Squadron (Auxiliary) 01 Sep 1934
No. 115 Squadron (Auxiliary) 15 Nov 1937
Absorbed into No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron 26 May 1940
No. 401 (Fighter) Squadron 28 May 1940 – 10 Jul 1945
401 Disbanded 10 Jul 1945
No. 401 (F) Squadron (Auxiliary) 15 Apr 1946
N0. 401 ”City of Westmount“ (F) Sqn (Aux) 04 Sep 1952
No. 401 “City of Westmount” Sqn (Aux) 01Nov1958
No. 401 ”City of Westmount” Air Res Sqn 01Feb 1968 and integrated into CAF
401 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron 1980
401 Disbanded 23 June 1996
Pre WWII COs and Founder of No.115
The Non-Permanent Active (later Auxiliary) Air Force / NPAAF
(NPAAF provision made in 1924 but only established in 1932 & Montreal QC in 1934)
S/L (Retired as A/V/M) Frank McGill CB 01 Sep 1934 – Nov 1938 Westmount QC
S/L (Retired as G/C) Roy Foss OBE 09 Nov 1938 – 26 May 1940 Baie d’Urfe QC
Wartime 401 COs (many Montreal area reservists
served prior to WWII in No.115 Squadron)
Senator (Retired as a G/C) HdeM Molson OC OBE OQ Montreal QC
All Squadron Leader COs:
EA McNab DFC 01 Nov 1939 Permanent Force
GR McGregor CC OBE DFC 02 Nov 40 Retired as G/C, Pres Trans Canada Airlines, War Ace
PB Pitcher MiD 13 Dec 40 Lawyer
AD Nesbitt OBE DFC 12 Mar 41
NR Johnstone 29 Aug 41
Acting Squadron Leader Alexander Vallance Riddell JOHNSTONE (90163), Auxiliary Air Force. This officer has proved himself to be a leader of ability and determination and has been mainly responsible for the high standard of morale in his squadron. He has destroyed four enemy aircraft of which one was shot down at night. (London Gazette – 1 October 1940)
AG Douglas DFC 25 Jan 42 (RAF)
KLB Hodson OBE DFC* 03 Jun 42
EL Neal DFC 22 Jan 43
LM Cameron DFC 18 Dec 43 POW
IF Kennedy DFC* 03 Jul 44
HC Trainor DSO DFC* 26 JUL 44 POW
RIA Smith DFC* 28 Sep 44 POW, Retire as G/C, Malta War Ace, Lawyer
HJ Everard DFC 03 Dec 44 POW, Retire as G/C
WT Klersy DSO DFC* 04 Jan 45 KIA
EA Ker DFC 23 May 45
Last mission: 05 May 1945.
Operational sorties: 12,087.
61 pilots, 6 killed, 28 presumed dead, 18 POW, 9 evaded capture.
Squadron Aces: S/L WT Klersy, F/L J MacKay, F/L DR Morrison, F/O GD Cameron, F/O JP Francis, F/O RR Bouskill, F/L GW Johnson, S/L LM Cameron, and F/O DB Dack.
Decorations: 15 DFC’s, 4 bars to DFC, 1 DFM.
The squadron ended the war as 2 TAF’s top scoring unit, claiming 112 aerial victories between 6 June 1944 and 5 May 1945. Their total score for the war was 195 confirmed, 35 probably destroyed and 106 damaged, 29 of which were claimed during 1940 when operating as No.1 RCAF Squadron.
Former COs 401 Squadron Post WWII period
W/C FG Grant DSO DFC (deceased) 47-48
W/C (Retired as G/C) JW Reid DFC (deceased) 48-51
W/C (Retired as G/C) HJ Everard DFC CD (deceased) 51-55 (& Dec 1944)
W/C JM Grisdale CD (deceased) 55-57
W/C AJ Edwards CD (deceased) 58-61
W/C (Retired as G/C) HJ Everard DFC CD (deceased) 61-61
W/C T Bowie CD (deceased) 61-65
End of wartime veterans
Post War (non WW II) Commanders
W/C Doug Adkins 65-68 Florida USA
W/C (Retired as BGen) John Neroutsos 68-70 [email protected] Sidney BC
LCol Fergus Kyle 70-73 [email protected] Burlington ON
LCol (Retired as Col) Art Crosby (deceased) 73-75
LCol Tony Valenti 75-77 [email protected] Toronto ON
LCol Robert Huot 77-79 [email protected] North Saanich BC
LCol (Retired as BGen) Joe Oakley 79-82 [email protected] Drummondville QC
LCol Michel Thériault 82-8 mailto:[email protected] Montreal QC
LCol Ivan Morrell 86-90 Alberta CA
LCol Warren Davey 90-93 mailto:[email protected] Waterloo ON (Last Res CO)
Major Mike Desgroseillers (deceased) 93- 96 Regular Force CO
Squadron disbanded 23rd of June 1996. Squadron Colours laid up at Westmount City Hall on the 15th of September 1996.
No. 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron RCAF stood up at Cold Lake AB on the 30th of June 2015.