Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 3: Hawker Hurricane

Hawker Hurricane

Data current to 9 April 2021.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1023)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 314), Vancouver, British Columbia, 1939.

The Hawker Hurricane is a single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–1940s that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd. for service with the Royal Air Force (RAF).  The Hurricane developed through several versions, as bomber-interceptors, fighter-bombers, and ground support aircraft in addition to fighters.  Versions designed for the Navy were popularly known as the Sea Hurricane, with modifications enabling their operation from ships.  Some were converted to be used as catapult-launched convoy escorts.  By the end of production in July 1944, 14,487 Hurricanes had been completed in Britain and Canada.

A major manufacturer of the Hurricane was Canadian Car and Foundry at their factory in Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ontario.  The facility's chief engineer, Elsie MacGill, became known as the "Queen of the Hurricanes".  The initiative was commercially led rather than governmentally, but was endorsed by the British government; Hawker, having recognised that a major conflict was all but inevitable after the Munich Crisis of 1938, drew up preliminary plans to expand Hurricane production via a new factory in Canada.  Under this plan, samples, pattern aircraft, and a complete set of design documents stored on microfilm, were shipped to Canada; the RCAF ordered 20 Hurricanes to equip one fighter squadron and two more were supplied to Canadian Car and Foundry as pattern aircraft but one probably did not arrive.  The first Hurricane built at Canadian Car and Foundry was officially produced in February 1940.  As a result, Canadian-built Hurricanes were shipped to Britain to participate in events such as the Battle of Britain.  Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF) was responsible for the production of 1,451 Hurricanes.  (Wikipedia)

Canadian built Hurricanes

Hurricane Mk. X
CCF-built variant.   A total of 1,025 Mk. II airframes were made for Holland (1), the RAF (624), and the RCAF (400), between July 1941 and May 1943. The Mk. X designation has been used by the RAF for the CCF-built Mk. I but it is usually defined as Mk. II airframes fitted with a Merlin 28 engine.  About two thirds of the CCF built Mk. II airframes shipped to Britain did so without an engine, the remainder being fitted with Merlin 28s in Canada, but the engine was nearly automatically removed upon arrival and a Merlin XX fitted instead and the aircraft called Mk. II by the RAF.  Apart from some test flights in Canada and England no Hurricane flew powered by a Merlin 28.  Canada also only imported 285 Merlin 28 for Hurricanes, all of which were shipped to Britain either as a separate engine or attached to a Hurricane.
Hurricane Mk. XI
Canadian-built variant. Designation used for 150 aircraft from the RCAF Mk. XII order sent to Britain, these aircraft had their Merlin 29 removed and were either shipped without an engine or fitted with a Merlin 28.  Fitted with Merlin XX on arrival in Britain and called Mk. II by the RAF.
Hurricane Mk. XII
Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 29. Initially armed with 12 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, but this was later changed to four 20 mm (.79 in) cannon.
Hurricane Mk. XIIA
Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber.  An order for 400 Mk. II airframes for the RCAF powered by a 1,300 hp (970 kW) Packard Merlin 29, armed with eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, production starting in June 1942. 150 sent to Britain in 1943 either engineless or fitted with a Merlin 28. Also a batch of 30 RAF order Mk. II airframes retained in Canada in late 1941 and initially fitted with Merlin III became Mk. XII when later fitted with Merlin 29.
Holland standard Hurricane.
Canadian built variant. RAF serial airframe AM270 was completed around early March 1942 to Dutch standards, including US built Merlin, instruments and gun sight, as the prototype of an order for the Netherlands East Indies (KM/KNIL).  Given the Dutch serial HC3-287, its subsequent fate is unclear beyond being used by CCF for test flying. AM270 was also used by the RAF for a Consolidated San Diego built Catalina creating a further level of confusion.

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I (50), (Serial Nos. 310-329, 1351-1380), Mk. IIC (1), (Serial No. A274 (ex HV961), Mk. XII (401), (Serial Nos. 5376-5775, 9426), Mk. XIIA (50), (V7402, BW835-BW884), Sea Hurricane (1), (Serial R4177), for a total of 503 aircraft.

RCAF Hurricane Squadrons in Canada's Home War Establishment during the Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War Canada had only a handful of obsolete post First World War Siskin and Atlas biplane fighters for air defence.  The RCAF attempted to fill the void with Grumman Goblin and Curtiss Kittyhawk fighters until Canadian industry could start producing the Hurricane built under license from Hawker in England.  The Canadian Car and Foundry Company, in Fort William Ontario (now Thunder Bay) flew the first Canadian-built Hurricane on 9 January 1940.  It differed from the British-built Mk. I Hurricane by having a Packard-built Merlin engine.

Hurricane production in Canada accelerated rapidly after the initial production of Mk. Is.  The introduction of the Packard-built Merlin 28 engine brought a designation change to Hurricane Mk. X, which was similar to the British-built Mk. IIB with eight machine guns.  The Hurricane Mk. XI, which followed, was the first built specifically for RCAF requirements.  The major production version, the Hurricane Mk. XII with the Packard-built Merlin 29 engine, had a 12-gun wing.  However, later production Mk. XIIs were equipped with four cannons and a universal wing.  The Mk. XIIA Hurricane was identical to the Mk. XII except for having an eight-gun wing.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, in response to the German potential to conduct air attacks on Canada with long range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors and aircraft launched from the converted aircraft carrier Graf Zepplin, the RCAF established an air defence network to protect Canada's eastern air approaches and Halifax's strategic harbour.  The first British-built Hurricanes appeared at RCAF Station Dartmouth in November 1939 with the arrival of No. 1 Squadron.  The Squadron was transferred to England in June 1940 where it was the only Canadian squadron to participate in the historic Battle of Britain.  The squadron was subsequently re-numbered No. 401 Squadron and went on to become the RCAF's highest scoring squadron in the Second World War.

Most of Canada's Home War Establishment fighter squadrons were equipped with Canadian produced Hurricanes.  Eastern Air Command (EAC) Nos. 126, 127 and 129 Hurricane Squadrons were formed at RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in the summer of 1942.  No. 125 and No. 128 Squadrons were formed at Sydney, Nova Scotia, while No. 130 Squadron was formed at Mont Joli, Quebec, in the summer of 1942.  All of these squadrons provided air defence for the East Coast, especially Halifax's strategic harbour.  These six Hurricane squadrons were disbanded at the end of the war.  (Shearwater Aviation Museum)

Eastern Air Command (EAC) was tasked with coordinating air defence in the Atlantic region. The Dominion of Newfoundland – not yet a part of Canada – was placed under Canadian military protection so that EAC territory included Eastern Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.  EAC headquarters were located in Halifax, next to those of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), since maritime protection entails close cooperation between navy and air force. A network of air force bases expanded rapidly: Halifax, Dartmouth, Yarmouth, Sydney, Gander, Torbay, Bagotville. Flying boat bases were built in Gaspé, Shelburne, and Botwood.  The East Coast fighters served alongside the bombers of Nos. 5, 10, 11 and 113 (Bomber-Reconnaissance) Squadrons, and Nos. 117 (BR) and 162 (BR) which flew out of Iceland under  British Coastal Command. 

On the West Coast, RCAF established Western Air Command (WAC) on 1 March 1938, and started building facilities to support a Pacific Coast-based air force.  Western Air Command (WAC) Nos. 132, 133 and 135 Squadrons were formed at Patricia Bay, British Columbia, and No. 163 Squadron was formed at Sea Island, British Columbia.  Squadrons assigned to the protection of the northern sector formed No. 4 Group, with headquarters in Prince-Rupert.  No. 2 Group’s HQ at Jericho Bay (Vancouver) was in charge of the southern sector of the British Columbia coast.  The West Coast fighters served alongside the bombers of Nos. 8, 115 and 149 Squadrons, RCAF.

No. 125 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 20 April 1942 at RCAF Station Sydney, Nova Scotia, as part of  Eastern Air Command, flying Hawker Hurricanes.  It was renumbered No. 441 Fighter Squadron when it transferred overseas to RAF Station Digby, Lincolnshire, England, on 8 February 1944.  It was posted to airfields in England, France, and Belgium throughout the Second World War, flying the Supermarine Spitfire.  When the squadron returned to England it was disbanded on 7 August 1945.

No. 126 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 27 April 1942 at RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as part of as part of  Eastern Air Command, flying Hawker Hurricanes.  Nicknamed the Flying Lancers, the squadron was employed on East Coast air defence until disbanded on 31 May 1945.  No. 126 Squadron's unit code was BV, with Hurricane Mk. XIIA (Apr 1942 - Dec 1942), Serial Nos. BW835 F, BW844 O, BW852 J, BW853 L, BW854 X, BW855 E, BW867 Z, BW882 H, and Hurricane Mk. XII (Dec 1942 - May 1945), Serial Nos.  5430 L, 5476 B, 5489 D, 5489 E, 5496 X, 5640 G, 5653 F, 5664 N, 5665 M, 5668 H, 5672 Z, 5699 P, 5700 T, 5709 V, 5712 R, 5717 S.  Casualties: Operational: 2 aircraft, 2 pilots killed.  Non-Operational: 7 aircraft, 4 pilots killed, 1 airmen died.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4982739)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA (Serial No. BW850), coded BV-T, No. 126 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, patrolling from its base at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 9 Aug 1942.  This Hurricane has been converted to the Mk. XIIA version by Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF).  This aircraft retains its eight-gun wing.

No. 127 Squadron, RCAF, formed in July 1942 at RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as part of as part of  Eastern Air Command.  It operated along the East Coast of Canada (including RCAF Gander in Newfoundland) flying Hawker Hurricanes until late 1943, when it was selected for overseas service.  Arriving in Britain on 8 February 1944, it was redesignated No. 443 Squadron at Bournemouth and was soon based at RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, together with Nos. 441 and 442 Squadrons as Article XV squadrons under RAF control.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3592489)

Infantrymen of The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, who are riding in a Universal Carrier, talking with F/O O.K. Morgan, who stands in front of a Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII with No. 127 (F) Squadron, RCAF, Gander, Newfoundland, May 1943.  This Hurricane is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (443 Squadron Photo)

Working up on Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vs from RAF Westhampnett, the squadron received Spitfire Mk. IXs the following month when a move was made to Holmesley South to form No. 144 Wing, RAF, 2nd Tactical Air Force, and the squadron became operational.  The first sorties were as bomber escorts and until the invasion in June the squadron carried out deep penetration missions using 90 gallon drop tanks.  During the landings themselves, the squadron provided low level fighter cover and on 15 June 1944 it moved to France, where it served in the close-support and armed reconnaissance role.  It became heavily involved in ground attack sorties and continued to move forward following the Allied advance through Belgium and into the Netherlands to maintain its close air support of the ground forces.  Having returned to RAF Warmwell for an air-firing course the squadron missed the Luftwaffe's New Years attack on Allied airfields.  Unlike its two fellow squadrons, it did not return to Britain, but stayed on the continent, following the Allied armies advance into Germany equipped with the Spitfire Mk. XVI.  With the end of the war the squadron joined the British Air Forces of Occupation until disbanding at Uetersen on 15 March 1946.

 (Francois Dutil Photo)

Hawker Sea Hurricane (Serial No. BW837), No. 127 Squadron, RCAF, Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, 1942.

No. 128 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 7 June 1942 at RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as part of as part of  Eastern Air Command.  It operated along the East Coast of Canada flying Hawker Hurricanes until it was disbanded on 30 September 1944.

No. 129 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 28 August 1942 at RCAF Station Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as part of as part of  Eastern Air Command.  It operated along the East Coast of Canada, flying Hawker Hurricanes until it was disbanded on 15 March 1944.

No. 130 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 1 May 1942 at RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec, as part of as part of  Eastern Air Command.  It operated along the East Coast of Canada flying Hawker Hurricanes until it was disbanded on 15 March 1944.

No. 132 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 14 April 1942 at RCAF Station Patricia Bay, British Columbia, as part of Western Air Command.  It was disbanded on 30 September 1944.

No. 133 (Fighter Squadron), RCAF, formed on 3 June 1942 at RCAF Station Patricia Bay, British Columbia, as part of Western Air Command.  It was disbanded on 10 September 1945.

 (RCAF Photo via Chris Charland)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5414), downtown Edmonton, Alberta, 1945.

  (DesMazes collection Photo)

Photo taken in Lethbridge, Alberta in late 1942-early 1943.  This aircraft was one of the No. 133 Fighter Squadron Hawker Hurricanes that made an historic trip to Boundary Bay, BC, in February 1943.  Boundary Bay had been re-designated a Home War Defense Station and No. 133 was tasked with protecting the Air space of the Greater Vancouver Area from possible attack from Japanese Forces.  The Squadron made the trip non stop from Lethbridge.

No. 135 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, formed on 15 June 1942 at formed at Mossbank, Saskatchewan.  It flew the Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII and Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. IV on West Coast defence until it was disbanded at Patricia Bay, British Columbia on 10 Sep 1945.

No. 163 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, authorized as No.163 (Army Co-Operation) Squadron at RCAF Station Sea Island, Vancouver, British Columbia on 1 March 1943.  The squadron flew the Bristol Bolingbroke Mk. IV aircraft as part of Western Air Command on West Coast photographic work.  The squadron also flew the North American Harvard Mk. II in close air support training for Canadian troops at Wainwright, Alberta.  It converted to the Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII in Jun 1943.  On 14 Oct 1943 the squadron was redesignated No. 163 (Fighter) Squadron and was re-equipped with the Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. I and Mk. III.  The squadron was employed on West Coast air defence until it was disbanded on 15 March 1944.

No. 414 Squadron was assigned to Army Co-operation Command in 1941 and No. 430 Squadron in early 1943. They were equipped with Curtiss Tomahawks, and later with North American Mustangs.  All three RCAF Army Co-operation squadrons were assigned to the 2nd Tactical Air Force and took part in the air defence of Great Britain between 1941 and 1943.

Fighter Command’s role was to protect Great Britain by intercepting enemy intruders.  The Chain Home, a series of radar stations built along the coast, and an extensive network of observers and ground controllers provided early warning of approaching aircraft.  This allowed the RAF to detect enemy bombers and fighters and direct fighter squadrons to intercept them.  This detection and interception-based system demonstrated its efficiency during the Battle of Britain (July-October 1940).

During the Battle of Britain, Fighter Command pilots flew Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires.  Those aircraft performed in an outstanding manner against Luftwaffe bombers (Heinkel He 111, Dornier Do 17, Messerschmitt Bf 110 and Junkers Ju 88).  The Hurricane, however was no match for the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter that was faster, more flexible and, able to reach higher altitudes.  The Bf 109 was also a formidable foe for the Spitfire Mk. II that the RAF used as of July 1940.  Allied fighter pilots had to be extremely skilful to make the best possible use of their manoeuvrability during those merciless encounters with the Luftwaffe.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1020)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 314), Vancouver, British Columbia, 1939.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1019)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 314), Vancouver, British Columbia, 1939.

Hawker Hurricanes serving with Canada's Home Defence establishment during the war.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3207274)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 315).

 (Griffin Library Photo via Fred Paradie)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 1362), on Noorduyn 10 skis being tested at the CC&F factory in 1942.  This Hurricane crashed on 8 March 1944 at Bagotville, Quebec.

 (DND Photo via Chris Charland)

Canadian-built Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII from No. 130 "Panther" (F) Squadron.  The squadron operated Hurricanes from RCAF Stations Mont-Joli and Bagotville in Quebec and RCAF Station Goose Bay, Labrador between September, 1942 and March, 1944.  The Hurricane superceded the Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. I which had been in use by the squadron between May and October 1942.  (The Serial No. would be in the 53xx, 54xx, 55xx, 56xx, 57xx series).  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 358371)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII with jettisonable fuel tanks, 19 May 1944.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

(RCAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5625), No. 13 (Photo) Squadron, RCAF.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.  This Hurricane is painted with a Type C-1 roundel on her fuselage.  It was built at the Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF) factory at Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay).  5625 was delivered to No. 3 Training Command, and then went to a Home War Establishment squadron.  5625 survived the war, but after being struck off strength (SOS), languished in a scrapyard in Guelph, Ontario, until being sold for parts to Rem Walker of Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1980.  Components of 5625 (as well as two other CCF Hurricanes (Serial Nos. 5547 and 5424) were used in the restoration of Hurricane Mk. XII (Serial No. 5711).  5711, with 5625 parts, was then sold to B.J.S. Grey of Duxford, UK in December 1982.  This aircraft was shipped from Canada to the Fighter Collection at Duxford, on 9 June 1983. It was registered as G-HURI in Great Britain.

(RCAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5625), No. 13 (Photo) Squadron, RCAF.

 (RCAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5470), possibly RCAF Station Bagotville, Quebec, ca 1945.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (Bagotville Air Defence Museum Photo)

No. 1 OTU’s flight line in the fall of 1943. 

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3207275)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 16 Sep 1942.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 3650867)

Hawker Hurricane Mk XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5698), Oct 1944.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3650865)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5698).  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4164721)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583666)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF, aircraft controls, 7 Feb 1945.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3643694)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, cockpit.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3643708)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, cockpit.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3582338)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5650), 26 Jan 1943.  It is equipped with a Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, and twelve gun wing.

 (RCAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF (Serial No. 5501), coded L, No. 125 (Fighter) Squadron, 28 Feb 1943.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583271)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF, with Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, twelve gun wing and auxilliary gas tanks, 31 Aug 1943.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583034)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, RCAF, with Hamilton Standard propeller without spinner, glare shields, twelve gun wing and auxilliary gas tanks, 31 Aug 1943.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3207506)

Hawker Hurricane, No. 5 Operational Training Unit (RCAF Schools and Training Units), Boundary Bay, British Columbia, 1 Dec 1942.

Canadians in the Battle of Britain, 1940

Many Canadians served in the fighter squadrons which repulsed the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940.  In fact, although the RAF only recognises 83 Canadian pilots as flying on fighter operations during the Battle of Britain, the RCAF claims the actual figure was over 100, and that of those 23 who died and 30 more were killed later in the war.  Much of this confusion can be attributed to the fact that apart from RCAF members flying in RCAF units, there were those RCAF members who were in RAF units as well as Canadians who were members of the RAF, not the RCAF.  Another 200 Canadian pilots fought with RAF Bomber Command and RAF Coastal Command and during the period and approximately 2,000 Canadians served as ground crew.

Of these, 26 were in No. Squadron, RCAF, flying Hawker Hurricanes.  The squadron arrived in Britain soon after Dunkirk with 27 officers and 314 ground staff.  This squadron would later be re-numbered as No. 401 (City of Westmount) Squadron, RCAF, in line with Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  It was the only fighter unit from the Commonwealth air forces to see combat in the Battle of Britain.

No. 1 Squadron made an inauspicious start to its service with Fighter Command, when on 24 August 1940 two of its Hurricanes mistook a flight of Bristol Blenheims for Junkers Ju 88s, shooting one down with the loss of its crew; an example of what is now known as friendly fire.  No. 1 became the first RCAF unit to engage enemy aircraft in battle when it met a formation of German bombers over southern England on 26 August 1940, claiming three kills and four damaged, with the loss of one pilot and one aircraft.  By mid-October, the squadron had claimed 31 enemy aircraft destroyed and 43 probables or damaged for the loss of 16 aircraft and three pilots.

Other Canadians were spread across RAF squadrons, and on the second day of the Battle, 11 July, Canada suffered its first fighter casualty.  In a Luftwaffe attack on the Royal Navy Dockyard naval base at Portland Harbour, Pilot Officer D. A. Hewitt of Saint John, New Brunswick, flying a Hurricane with No. 501 Squadron, RAF, attacked a Dornier Do 17 bomber and was hit himself.  His aircraft plunged into the sea.  Another Canadian pilot, Richard Howley, died eight days later.

The dispersed Canadian airmen included one who flew with No. 303 (Polish) Squadron.  A total of 12 Canadian pilots in the Royal Air Force including Willie McKnight flew with No. 242 Squadron, RAF, at various times through the Battle.  On 30 August, under the command of Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, nine No. 242 Squadron aircraft met 100 enemy aircraft over Essex.  Attacking from above, the squadron claimed 12 victories for no loss.

Canadians also shared in repulsing the Luftwaffe's last major daylight attack. On 27 September 303 Squadron and 1 Squadron RCAF, attacked the first wave of enemy bombers. Seven aircraft were claimed destroyed, one probably destroyed and seven were damaged.

The top Canadian scorer during the Battle was Flight Lieutenant H. C. Upton of No. 43 Squadron, RAF, who claimed 10.25 aircraft shot down.  Wikipedia

No. 242 Squadron, RAF, was an RAF squadron notable for having many pilots who were either RCAF personnel or Canadians serving in the RAF, to the extent that it was sometimes known, unofficially, as No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron.  It was also the first squadron to be commanded by Douglas Bader.

Canadians in the Battle of Britain, 1940

Many Canadians served in the fighter squadrons which repulsed the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940.  In fact, although the RAF only recognises 83 Canadian pilots as flying on fighter operations during the Battle of Britain, the RCAF claims the actual figure was over 100, and that of those 23 who died and 30 more were killed later in the war.  Much of this confusion can be attributed to the fact that apart from RCAF members flying in RCAF units, there were those RCAF members who were in RAF units as well as Canadians who were members of the RAF, not the RCAF.  Another 200 Canadian pilots fought with RAF Bomber Command and RAF Coastal Command and during the period and approximately 2,000 Canadians served as ground crew.

Of these, 26 were in No. Squadron, RCAF, flying Hawker Hurricanes.  The squadron arrived in Britain soon after Dunkirk with 27 officers and 314 ground staff.  This squadron would later be re-numbered as No. 401 (City of Westmount) Squadron, RCAF, in line with Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  It was the only fighter unit from the Commonwealth air forces to see combat in the Battle of Britain.

No. 1 Squadron made an inauspicious start to its service with Fighter Command, when on 24 August 1940 two of its Hurricanes mistook a flight of Bristol Blenheims for Junkers Ju 88s, shooting one down with the loss of its crew; an example of what is now known as friendly fire.  No. 1 became the first RCAF unit to engage enemy aircraft in battle when it met a formation of German bombers over southern England on 26 August 1940, claiming three kills and four damaged, with the loss of one pilot and one aircraft.  By mid-October, the squadron had claimed 31 enemy aircraft destroyed and 43 probables or damaged for the loss of 16 aircraft and three pilots.

Other Canadians were spread across RAF squadrons, and on the second day of the Battle, 11 July, Canada suffered its first fighter casualty.  In a Luftwaffe attack on the Royal Navy Dockyard naval base at Portland Harbour, Pilot Officer D. A. Hewitt of Saint John, New Brunswick, flying a Hurricane with No. 501 Squadron, RAF, attacked a Dornier Do 17 bomber and was hit himself.  His aircraft plunged into the sea.  Another Canadian pilot, Richard Howley, died eight days later.

The dispersed Canadian airmen included one who flew with No. 303 (Polish) Squadron.  A total of 12 Canadian pilots in the Royal Air Force including Willie McKnight flew with No. 242 Squadron, RAF, at various times through the Battle.  On 30 August, under the command of Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, nine No. 242 Squadron aircraft met 100 enemy aircraft over Essex.  Attacking from above, the squadron claimed 12 victories for no loss.

Canadians also shared in repulsing the Luftwaffe's last major daylight attack. On 27 September 303 Squadron and 1 Squadron RCAF, attacked the first wave of enemy bombers. Seven aircraft were claimed destroyed, one probably destroyed and seven were damaged.

The top Canadian scorer during the Battle was Flight Lieutenant H. C. Upton of No. 43 Squadron, RAF, who claimed 10.25 aircraft shot down.  Wikipedia

 (DND Archives Photo, PMR78-327)

Sub-Lieutenant Gardaien [sic] (left) and Canadian Pilot Officer Noel Stansfeld with a Hawker Hurricane Mk. I at No. 242 “Canadian” Squadron, RAF Coltishall, England, in 1940.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3644386)

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader DSO (front centre) with some of the Canadian pilots of his Squadron, 242 (Canadian) Squadron, grouped around his Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft at Duxford, Sep 1940.  No. 242 Squadron pilots, Denis Crowley-Milling, Hugh Tamblyn, Stan Turner, (Saville (on wing), Neil Campbell, Willie McKnight, Douglas Bader, Eric Ball, Homer, Ben Brown, 1940.

 (IWM Photo, CH 1342)

Three decorated fighter pilots of No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron, RAF, standing outside the Officers' Mess at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.  They are (left to right): Pilot Officer W. L. McKnight, Acting Squadron Leader D.R.S. Bader (Commanding Officer), and Acting Flight Lieutenant G.E. Ball.  By the date this photograph was taken these pilots had, between them, shot down over thirty enemy aircraft.  c1940.

 (IWM Photo, CH 1431)

Hawker Hurricanes of 242 (Canadian) Fighter Squadron led by Squadron Leader Douglas Bader DSO, DFC. Bader was one of the Royal Air Force's top fighter aces until he was shot down in 1941; he spent the remainder of the war in a German POW camp.

Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons normally had 12 aircraft each; when the squadron attacked, the planes split up into groups of three or four.

 (IWM Photo, CH1321)

Pilot Officer William Lidstone "Willie" McKnight, a fighter pilot from Calgary, Canada, photographed during the Battle of Britain, when serving with No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron RAF, Sep 1940.   Between May and November 1940, McKnight achieved 16.5 victories in combats over France and England.  He was shot down and killed during a low level intruder sortie ('Rhubarb') over France, on 12 January 1941.

 (IWM Photo CH 1376)

 Flight-Lieutenant P.S. Turner of No. 242 Squadron RAF, rests on the tail elevator of his Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, after landing at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, (No. 242 Squadron was based at Coltishall, Norfolk at this time).  Turner, a Canadian citizen, was a successful fighter pilot over France and during the Battle of Britain in 1940, destroying ten enemy aircraft.

Canadians flying Hurricanes in RAF Squadrons

 (IWM Photo CH 1670)

Howard Peter "Cowboy" Blatchford, DFC (25 February 1912 – 3 May 1943) achieved the first Canadian victory in the Second World War.  Blatchford was born in Edmonton, Alberta on 25 February 1912, and enlisted in the RAF in February 1936.  He was posted to No. 41 Squadron RAF in early 1937.  In April 1940 he was posted to No. 212 Squadron RAF, flying photo-reconnaissance operations.  In June he joined the Photographic Development Unit as a flight commander, later transferring to No. 17 Squadron RAF in September, flying Hawker Hurricanes.  He soon joined No. 257 Squadron RAF, under the command of Squadron Leader Robert Stanford Tuck.

In December 1940, Blatchford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  His citation:

Flight Lieutenant Howard Peter BLATCHFORD (37715), No. 257 Squadron. In November, 1940, this officer was the leader of a squadron which destroyed eight and damaged a further five enemy aircraft in one day.  In the course of the combat he rammed and damaged a hostile fighter when his ammunition was expended, and then made two determined head-on feint attacks on enemy fighters, which drove them off.  He has shown magnificent leadership and outstanding courage.

Blatchford became commanding officer of No. 257 Squadron RAF in July 1941.  He was promoted to wing commander in September that year, becoming wing leader of the Digby Wing.  On 23 September 1941, John Gillespie Magee, the author of the famous flying poem "High Flight," arrived at Digby for his first operational posting, on RCAF 412 Squadron.   On October 12, 1941, Magee's squadron moved from the Digby aerodrome to the nearby RAF Wellingore, from which he was operating when he died.  Blatchford finished his tour of duty in April 1942, returning to operations in February 1943 as wing leader of the Coltishall Wing.

Leading the Coltishall Wing to escort bombers attacking a power station in Amsterdam, Blatchford was shot down and killed in action on 3 May 1943 by Obfw. Hans Ehlers (Officer) of II Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 1.  His body was never found.  He is commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

At the time of his death, Blatchford had claimed five aircraft shot down, three shared aircraft shot down, three "probables", four damaged and one shared damaged.

 (IWM Photo, CH 8239)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIB  (Serial No. HV894), with Flight-Lieutenant J.R, Sterne, RCAF of No. 174 Squadron, RAF, standing, at Odiham, Hampshire, UK.  HV894 "Our John" was named after Wing Commander John Gillan, and paid for by a fund set up by his mother after he was reported missing in 1941.

 (IWM Photo, C 465)

Canadians who served in the RAF in the opening days of the war may have been in this photo, showing pilots of No. 87 Squadron, RAF, racing to their Hawker Hurricane Mk. Is (early models with two-bladed propellors).  The unit was at Lille-Seclin in France ca Nov 1939.  This was a mock scramble for the benefit of the official photographer. 

Both Spitfires and Hurricanes had wooden props while in France prior to Dunkirk, but these were quickly changed out to 3 bladed propellors (metal) while in Britain.  No. 87 Squadron arrived at Lille-Seclin from Merville, France, on the 5th of November. They immediately set up a detachment at Le Touquet.  They were certainly flying Hurricane Mk. Is with three-bladed props by March, 1940.  The squadron was re-equipped with the Hurricane Mk. IIC in June, 1941.

"Hurricanes were using the two pitch prop until the summer of 1940.  I don't know when the first constant speed props were introduced on the production line but there was a mad scramble with teams of DH propeller specialists traveling from airfield to airfield with truck loads of parts instructing the squadron fitters how to convert the 2 pitch props to constant speed. The DH crew would make the first conversion with the RAF fitters watching, then they would work together and then the RAF fitters would do a conversion with the DH men watching, if that went well the DH men left enough parts to convert the reaming aircraft and the DH men were back in the truck driving to the next airfield. Hundreds of planes were converted in a short period of time. Most, if not all, of the Hurricanes in France had two pitch propellers."  (Chris Charland)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4283438)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IV (Hurri-bomber), flown by these Canadian pilots in the Burma Theatre of War, 28 Feb 1945.  F/L F.H. Sproule and Warrant Officer H.E. Johnny Walker.  These two Canadian Hurri-bomber pilots were among the busiest men on the Burma front.  Frederick Howard Sproule was from Alberta.  He was later promoted to Squadron Leader and received the DFC in October, 1945.  Both he and Johnny Walker were pilots with the RAF's No. 42 (F) Squadron based at Onbauk, Burma, when the photo was taken.  Squadron Leader R. E. Stout was the commanding officer.  The Hurricane Mk. IV they are shown with here was flown by their squadron between October 1943 and June 1945.  They also flew the Hurricane Mk. IIc between April and June, 1945.  The squadron converted to the Republic (P-47) Thunderbolt Mk. II in July 1945.

The Hurricane Mk .IV had the "universal wing", able to mount different variations as needed, including four 20-mm cannon, two x 250 or 500 lb bombs, two x 40 mm Vickers 'S' guns, drop tanks, or eight '60 pounder' RP-3 rockets.  Two .303 in Brownings were fitted to aid aiming of the heavier armament.

(RAF Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC (Serial No. BD867), coded QO-Y, of No. 3 Squadron, RAF based at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, UK.

RCAF Hurricane Squadrons overseas during the Second World War

The first RCAF squadron to fire its guns in anger, No. 1 Squadron (which later became 401 Squadron), flew Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain.  Two other RCAF squadrons, No. 402 and No. 417 Squadrons, flew the type in overseas operations, while a further ten squadrons operated the aircraft in Canada.

No. 401 Squadron, RCAF, Second World War logo.  During the Second World War it was a fighter squadron and is notable for having fought in the Battle of Britain.  Postwar, the squadron operated in Canada as an auxiliary squadron, reserve squadron and a helicopter and training squadron.  In 2015 it was reactivated as a Tactical Fighter Squadron.

No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron RCAF, was formed as a fighter unit at RCAF Station Trenton, Ontario, on 21 Sep 1937, with Armstrong Whitworth Siskin aircraft.  The squadron was formed from the Fighter Flight of No. 3 (Bomber) Squadron.  In August 1938, the squadron moved to Calgary, Alberta, and was re-equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighters in February 1939.  It was mobilized at St-Hubert, Quebec, on 10 Sep 1939, and on 5 Nov 1939 it moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The unit began as a permanent peacetime unit which, augmented by personnel from RCAF No. 115 Squadron (Auxiliary), arrived at its first base in the UK, Middle Wallop, on 21 June 1940.  It had brought its own Hurricanes from Canada, and as these were not fully up to UK standard, the squadron was non-operational until mid-August when it moved to RAF Northolt.  At the time the squadron comprised 27 officers (21 pilots) and 314 airmen.  To gain experience of Fighter Command operations, S/L E.A. McNab, Commanding Officer, flew on operations attached to No. 111 Squadron, and claimed a German Heinkel He 111 bomber destroyed on 11 Aug 1940.

No. 401 Squadron moved to Croydon in July 1940.   The squadron's début was inauspicious when two Bristol Blenheims of RAF Coastal Command were accidentally shot down on 24 August, and three crewmen killed.

On its second patrol on 26 Aug 1940 it met with 25–30 Dorniers and was credited with three destroyed and three damaged in the fight.  However, three of the squadron's aircraft were shot down and one pilot, F/O R.L. Edwards, was killed.  The squadron experienced a fairly high aircraft loss rate during the end of August and into September as the squadron battled against the German formations over south London.

On 21 September the squadron participated in the first attempt at a wing formation operation by the Northholt-based squadrons, with No. 229 Squadron, RAF, and No. 303 (Polish) Squadron, although no enemy aircraft were encountered.  By 27 September, although downing seven bombers, only six aircraft were operational by the end of the day.

On 11 October the depleted squadron was moved to RAF Preswick in Scotland and its operational activity was coastal patrol work over the Clyde approaches.

During the 53 days it participated in the battle the squadron claimed 30 enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed eight, and damaged 35.  It flew 1,694 sorties (1,569 operational hours and 1,201 non-operational), lost three pilots killed, thirteen wounded, 17 aircraft FB/Cat.3 and 10 Cat. 2.  The most successful pilots were F/L Gordon McGregor (five kills), S/L E. A. McNab (four and one shared), F/O B. D. 'Dal' Russel (four and one shared), F/O J.W. Kerwin (three) and F/O A.D. Nesbit (three).  Three Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC) were awarded.  On 2 Nov 1940 McGregor took over as CO from McNab.

In Feb 1941, the squadron moved south to RAF Digby.  It was here on 1 March that No 1 Squadron RCAF was renumbered to No. 401 Squadron.

The squadron had replaced its Hurricanes with Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIs in Sep 1941, Mk .Vs in late 1941 and in July 1942 some of the first examples of the new Mk. IX.  Kostenuk, S.; Griffin, J.  RCAF Squadron Histories and Aircraft: 1924–1968.  (Toronto, Ontario, Samuel Stevens, Hakkert & Co. 1977)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3203344)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No.  315), No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 6 Sep 1939.  This aircraft was flown by Flight Lieutenant Ernest A. McNab.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3208141)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 315),  No. 1 (F) Sqn, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 5 Sep 1939. 

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3574053)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 328), 26 Aug 1939.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614996)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I (Serial No. V7288), coded YO-A, No. 1 (F) Squadron, with Squadron Leader Ernest A. McNab, CO, Northolt, England, 12 Sep 1940.  He also flew (Serial No. P3069), coded YO-A.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3203458)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF No. 1 (F) Sqn, 1939.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3545933)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF No. 1 (F) Sqn, 1939.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3581404)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 328), RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 26 Aug 1939.

 (RCAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 328), No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 26 Aug 1939.

 (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3545871)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 315), No. 1 (F) Squadron and North American Harvard Mk. I, (Serial No. 1330), 1939.

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-145)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No.  315), No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 15 Feb 1940.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3203345)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No.  315), No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 6 Sep 1939.  This aircraft was flown by FLt E.A. McNab.

 (IWM Photo CH 1733)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, No. 1 Squadron, RCAF, pilots at Prestwick, Scotland, 30 Oct 1940.  Squadron Leader Ernest A. McNab, the Squadron Commanding Officer, stands fifth from the right, wearing a wedge cap.

The RCAF’s No 1 (Fighter) Squadron is the only Canadian squadron that took part in the Battle of Britain.  Transferred overseas in June 1940, the pilots went through intensive training to be up to the level of their RAF counterparts before being sent to the front.  In their Hurricanes, the pilots of No. 1 Squadron had their first encounter with the enemy on 23 August 1940, and took part in the action until 8 October 1940.  Three pilots were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC): Squadron Leader E.A. McNab, Flight Lieutenant G.R. McGregor and Flight Officer B.D. Russel.

 (IWM Photo CH 1566)

Flight-Lieutenant M.H. Brown and Pilot Officer Chatham of No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF, standing by the nose of a Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, at Wittering, Huntingdonshire.  Mark Henry Brown was the first Canadian fighter pilot of the war to become an 'ace'.  When this photograph was taken, he had shot down at least 18 enemy aircraft over France and Great Britain, and in the following month, was appointed Commanding Officer of No. 1 (F) Squadron.  One year later, flying from Malta, he was killed in a fighter sweep over Sicily.

(Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN 3614988)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF, at RAF Digby, England, 22 January 1941.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 361497)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. I, No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF, being refueled, ca 1941.

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-4484)

Pilots from No. 401 Squadron, RCAF, run to their Hurricane aircraft ca 1941.  Groundcrew are waiting to help the pilots put on their parachutes and get into the aircraft.  The Hurricanes could skim off the ground three minutes after an alarm was sounded.

 (IWM Photo, CH2275)

Hawker Hurricanes of No. 401 Squadron, RCAF, at RAF Digby, England, 16 March 1941 (note the dog on the wing).

No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 5 Oct 1932 as No. 12 Army Co-operation Squadron, a unit of the non-permanent active Air Force.  On 15 Nov 1937, No. 12 Army Cooperation Squadron was renumbered No. 112 Army Cooperation Squadron, flying a variety of aircraft types including the Avro 626 and the de Havilland Tiger Moth.

After the outbreak of war, No. 112 Squadron was sent to Ottawa in Feb 1940, and re-equipped with Westland Lysander that had been left behind when No. 110 Squadron was posted overseas.  The squadron was  sent to Europe on 30 June 1940 with the intention to have No. 112 Squadron become part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) but the decision was made that Army Co-operation squadrons were not needed in France, and the squadron was re-deployed to coastal defence duties in England.

On 11 Dec 1940, the squadron was re-designated No. 2 Squadron, RCAF, and was equipped with the Hawker Hurricane Mk. I. In March 1941, while stationed at RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, England, the squadron was renumbered as No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, to comply with Article XV and was re-equipped with the Hawker Hurricane Mk. II the following May, and then Hurricane Mk .IIBs in June.  With these aircraft, No. 402 Squadron began training to become the first "Hurribomber" unit, commencing operations in this role in Nov 1941, carrying pairs of 250 lb bombs beneath the wings.

In March 1942, the Squadron resumed its fighter role moving to RAF Colerne, where it converted to Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vbs.  The Squadron then took part in cross-channel Ramrod and Rodeo sorties from various bases, including RAF Kenley and RAF Redhill, until August when it received Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXs, which it fought the Luftwaffe over Dieppe on 19 Aug 1942.

 (IWM Photo, IWM 01)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIE (Serial No. BE485), coded AE-W, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, during Operation Jubilee over Dieppe, France, Aug 1942.

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-6897)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIE (Serial No. BE485), coded AE-W, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, during Operation Jubilee over Dieppe, France, Aug 1942.  The Squadron was based at Warmwell, Dorset, often crossing the English Channel on intruder sorties into occupied France..  It carries 250 pound bombs slung under its wings.  The Mk. IIE version was fitted with a 'universal' wing, permitting a variety of armament and stores to be carried without the necessity of modifying control systems and electrical circuits.

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-6898)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIE (Serial No. BE485), coded AE-W, No. 402 (Fighter) Squadron, RCAF, banking.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5010705)

Canadian fighter pilot, Sgt. G.D. Robertson, No. 402 Squadron RCAF after his first claim is painted on his Hawker Hurricane.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5010699)

Hawker Hurricane (Serial No. 5054), coded AE-Q, Sgt. K.B. Handley talking with Sgt. G.D. Robertson, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF.

 (IWM Photo, HU69094)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIb (Serial No. P3021), coded AE-X, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, based at RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, 1941.

 (IWM Photo, CH4566)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIE (Serial No. BE485), coded AE-W, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, based at Warmwell, Dorset, UK, in flight carrying two 250-lb GP bombs. The Mk. IIE version was fitted with a 'universal' wing, permitting a variety of armament and stores to be carried without the necessity of modifying control systems and electrical circuits.

 (IWM Photo, CH3901)

A 12-gun Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIb "Hurribomber", No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, being re-armed at Manston, UK on 6 Nov 1941.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-136720)

Groundcrew servicing a Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIB aircraft of No. 402 (City of Winnipeg) Squadron, RCAF, Fairwood Common, Wales, March 1942.

 (RAF Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIE (Serial No. BE492) of No. 402 Squadron, RCAF. with 250 lb bombs.

 (Luftwaffe Photo, courtesy of Michel Beeker)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIb (Serial No. Z3424), coded AE-H, No. 402 Squadron, RCAF, flown by Sgt David W. Jenkin, shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109, near St. Omer, France, 27 Aug 1941.

No. 417 Squadron, RCAF, was formed on 27 November 1941 at RAF Charmy Down in England, at the RCAF's 16th - seventh Fighter - Squadron formed overseas.  Known as the "City of Windsor" squadron, it was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes and later Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA and Mk. IIB (Nov 41 -Feb 42), and Spitfire Mk. VB (Feb - Mar 42).  No. 417 Squadron fighters were coded AN from 1940-1946.  

It was initially deployed in Egypt in the spring of 1942, and followed the allied advance through the western desert.  Transferred to Port Tewfik, Gulf of Suez, June 1942 as part of Desert Air Force, it had no aircraft until September when they received Hurricane Mk. IICs and later Spitfire Mk. VBs and Mk. VCs in October, 1942.  It spent five months in the defence of the Suez Canal and the Nile Delta.  In April 1943 it became the only Canadian Squadron in the Desert Air Force and was to provide air defence and close support to the British Eighth Army through the closing stages of the Tunisian campaign, in the defence of the Suez Canal and the Nile Delta, and throughout the Sicilian and Italian campaigns.  

No. 417 Squadron was transfered to Triploi Libya, in February 1943, where it served with No. 244 Wing.  It was transfered to Ben Gardane, Tunisia, in March, 1943, and then moved to Mellaha and Goulvine.  It was transferred again, this time to Malta for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in mid 1943.  It moved to Cassabile, south of Syracuse, Sicily in July, 1943, and then to Lentini West and Gerbini, where it was re-equipped with Spitfire Mk. VIIIs.  The squadron again moved, this time to Canne, Italy, in November 1943, where it provided aircover for the Battle of Ortona.  

The squadron was detached from the Desert Air Force in January 1944 and moved to Naples under US XIII Air Support Command to cover the bridgehead at Anzio.  It acquired a few Spitfire Mk.  IXs, then transferred to Venafro (near Monte Cassino), in April 1944.  The squadron was trained to drop 500 lb bombs from Spitfire Mk. VIIIs in June 1944 and begin operations as fighter-bombers.  This shift to the ground attack role contributed to a six-fold increase in the monthly casualty rate.  They moved to Littorio, Fabrica and Perugia (north of Rome) in July-August of 1944.  The squadron thenm moved to Loreto, south of Ancona, at the end of August 1944.  No. 417 Squadron was disbanded at Treviso, Italy on 30 June 1945.  

In the Middle East, No. 417 Squadron flew Hurricane Mk. IIB (Sep - Oct 42), Hurricane Mk. IIC (Sep 42- Jan 43), Spitfire Mk. VB and Mk. VC (Oct 42 - Sep 43), Spitfire Mk. VIII (Aug 43 -Apr 45), and Spitfire Mk. IXB (Apr - Jun 45)

Hawker Hurricanes preserved in Canada

 (Author Photos)

Canadian Car & Foundry (Hawker) Hurricane Mk. XII (Serial No. 44013), RCAF (Serial No. 5418), No. 135 Squadron, Reynolds Aviation Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

 (Canadian Forces Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII (Serial No. 5584), (520199), No. 163 (Fighter) Squadron, Canada Aviation and Space Museum collection. 

 (DND Archives Photo, PCN-3898)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII (Serial No. 5584), (520199),No. 163 (Fighter) Squadron, Canada Aviation and Space Museum collection.

 (Author Photos)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII (Serial No. 5584).  Canada Air and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

 (Kogo Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IV, RAF (Serial No. KZ321), Vintage Wings of Canada, Gatineau, Quebec. 

 (Author Photo)

Hawker Hurricane Mk. IV, RAF (Serial No. KZ231), JV-N,  No. 6 Squadron, RAF, Reg. No. CF-TPM, Vintage Wings of Canada, Gatineau, Quebec.

Catapult Aircraft Merchant (CAM) ships equipped with Hawker Sea Hurricanes

 (RN Photo)

Catapult Aircraft Merchant (CAM) ships were equipped with a Hawker Sea Hurricane mounted on a catapult launcher.   They were used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available.  The CAM ships mounted a rocket-propelled railing that launched a single aircraft dubbed a "Hurricat" or "Catafighter" to destroy or drive away an attacking bomber.  Normally the Hurricane fighter would be lost when the pilot then bailed out or ditched in the ocean near the convoy.  CAM ships continued to carry their normal cargoes after conversion.  The concept was developed and tested by the five fighter catapult ships, commissioned as warships and commanded and crewed by the Royal Navy, but the CAM ships were merchant vessels, commanded and crewed by the Merchant Navy.  

When a CAM ship arrived at its destination, the pilot usually launched and landed at a nearby airfield to get in as much flight time as possible before his return trip.  Pilots were rotated out of CAM assignments after two round-trip voyages to avoid the deterioration of flying skills from the lack of flying time during the assignment.  CAM sailings were initially limited to North American convoys with aircraft maintenance performed by the RCAF at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. 

In total, there were nine combat launches.  Nine German aircraft were destroyed (four Condors, four Heinkels and a Junkers 88), one damaged and three chased away.  Eight Hurricanes were ditched and only one pilot was lost.

 (RN Photo)

 Catapult Aircraft Merchant (CAM) ship with a Hawker Sea Hurricane mounted on a catapult launcher.

 (No. 438 Squadron Photo via Francois Dutil)

Hawker Hurricane with a group of No. 438 Squadron pilots in Ayr, UK, 1943.