75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

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

MORE…

 

I AM HONOURED TO SPEAK ON THIS PIVOTAL BATTLE WHICH ALTERED THE HISTORY OF THE FREE WORLD 75 YEARS AGO.

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_McGill

S/L (Retired as G/C) Roy Foss  OBE   09 Nov 1938 – 26 May 1940             Baie d’Urfe QC

http://www.ganderairporthistoricalsociety.org/_html_war/foss.htm

 

Wartime 401 COs (many Montreal area reservists

served prior to WWII in No.115 Squadron)

 

http://401squadron.canadaboard.net/t395-the-real-no-401-squadron-medals-and-awards

AND

Senator (Retired as a G/C) HdeM Molson OC OBE OQ   Montreal QC

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartland_Molson

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1408742/Hartland-Molson.html

 

All Squadron Leader COs:

EA McNab DFC         01 Nov 1939   Permanent Force

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/McNabEA.htm

GR McGregor  CC OBE DFC   02 Nov 40   Retired as G/C, Pres Trans Canada Airlines,  War Ace

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/McGregorGR.htm

http://acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/McGregor.htm

PB Pitcher  MiD       13 Dec 40  Lawyer

http://www.aviation.ca/2015083120389/news/canada/military/royal-canadian-air-force/20389-battle-of-britain-profile-of-courage-flying-officer-paul-brooks-pitcher

AD Nesbitt OBE  DFC   12 Mar 41

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/NesbittAD.htm

http://www.bbm.org.uk/Nesbitt.htm

 

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

http://flyingforyourlife.com/pilots/ww2/h/hodson/

EL Neal DFC                        22 Jan 43

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/NealEL.htm

LM Cameron DFC   18 Dec 43       POW

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/CameronLM.htm

IF Kennedy DFC*    03 Jul 44        

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/KennedyIF.htm

HC Trainor DSO  DFC*      26 JUL 44       POW

http://acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/trainor.htm

RIA Smith DFC*      28 Sep 44        POW, Retire as G/C,  Malta War Ace, Lawyer

http://acesofww2.com/Canada/aces/smith-ria/

HJ Everard DFC       03 Dec 44       POW,  Retire as G/C

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/EverardHJ.htm

WT Klersy DSO  DFC*        04 Jan 45        KIA

http://www.canadaveteranshallofvalour.com/KlersyWT.htm

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    neroutsos@shaw.ca       Sidney BC

LCol Fergus Kyle  70-73   ve3lvo@rac.ca    Burlington ON

LCol (Retired as Col) Art Crosby (deceased)  73-75

LCol Tony Valenti 75-77   tonyv@valcomp.com     Toronto ON

LCol Robert Huot  77-79   bob@bobhuot.com          North Saanich BC

LCol (Retired as BGen) Joe Oakley  79-82   joakley@sympatico.ca Drummondville QC

LCol Michel Thériault  82-8   mailto:mc.terio@hotmail.ca     Montreal QC

LCol Ivan Morrell  86-90       Alberta CA

LCol Warren Davey  90-93   mailto:wsdavey@gmail.com  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.

 

Updated: 15 September 2015

One Comment