Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
RCAF Reserve Auxiliary Aircraft Control & Warning Units 1949-1961

RCAF Reserve Auxiliary Aircraft Control & Warning Units  1949-1961

Data current to 8 Feb 2021.

Reserve Auxiliary Aircraft Control & Warning Units

Reserve Auxiliary Aircraft Control & Warning Units began to form in 1949 with the last of these units fully available by late 1951. The reason behind the Reserve units was "to provide a pool of trained personnel that would be able to augment, in an emergency, the operation of Regular Aircraft and Control Units (ACWUs) on a 24 hour basis."

These Reserve units were spread across Canada in the major population centres for two reasons. The first was the larger locales would have a large pool of young men, and later women, to recruit from. The second, and by no means less important reason, was the fact that each of the centres had some sort of Regular or Reserve military establishment from which they could expect support. In the majority of the cases, these units were RCAF stations and squadrons. Others such as Quebec City and Halifax could somewhat reluctantly count, on the Army and Navy, to assist the fledgling AC&W Units.

The Reserve AC&W Units, all re-designated as Auxiliary on 1 November 1951, were issued with a four number designator that began with the number 2. The next three numbers were always a 4 and the remaining numbers ran the gamut from 01 to 55. These designations usually followed a sequence that appeared to form a set of numbers based on Auxiliary or even Regular Air Force flying units such as 2401, 2402, 2416 and 2420. It must be noted here that the Auxiliary AC&W Units and Squadrons had nothing to do with their flying counterparts. While some of the units were, in fact, formed around personnel and equipment that had been in the flying unit with the same number such as No. 403 (FB) Squadron, the numbering was coincidental and for convenience sake, as those flying units with the same numbers were located in the same geographical area as the AC&W Squadrons.

The Auxiliary units were equipped with the AMES-11C mobile radar and associated equipment, that was mounted in a variety of trucks. These trucks formed into convoys and were able to deploy anywhere as directed by either squadron, Group, or Command Headquarters. These vehicles and their operators deployed far and wide to not only Regular AC&W Stations in their areas but to other locations in the field to exercise with both Auxiliary and Regular flying squadrons. Additionally, personnel regularly deployed to Regular Squadrons during weekends, summer camps, and for extended periods of time to augment their Regular counterparts as this was their original reason for formation. These Regular Squadrons included not only those manned by the RCAF, but also those sites operated by the USAF.

When first formed, the Auxiliary units usually reported to the local RCAF Reserve/Auxiliary Headquarters, or if there was not a local headquarters, then to the closest headquarters such as Montreal. The Auxiliary converted to an emergency and rescue role in the late fifties. When the role of the Auxiliary flying squadrons changed to the aforementioned role, their directing Headquarters, to which the ACWUs also reported, switched from their former Groups and Commands to Air Transport Command.

As the ACWUs were created for, and occupied with air defence, it was decided that these squadrons would report directly to Air Defence Headquarters. This change came into effect in October 1958.

All of the Auxiliary ACWUs achieved Squadron status on 1 December 1953. They were also all to share the same fate with the coming of SAGE. As SAGE was an automated system and all auxiliaries were only trained with the manual system, it was decided that they could no longer augment the Regular Force and would not be trained to operate SAGE as a cost-cutting measure. All of the Auxiliary Aircraft Warning & Control Squadrons were disbanded by the end of 1961 after performing more than a decade’s worth of valuable and much appreciated service.  (C & E Museum)

Auxiliary Aircraft Warning & Control Squadrons

2400 AC&W Unit, Toronto, Ontario, 14 Dec 1949-31 Jan 1961.

2401 AC&W Unit, Montreal, Quebec, 15 Dec 1948-31 Aug 1961.

2402 AC&W Unit, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1 Oct 1950-31 Mar 1961.

2403 AC&W Unit, Calgary, Alberta, 1 Jun 1952-1 Jun 1961.

2405 AC&W Unit, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1 May 1950-31 Aug 1961.

2416 AC&W Unit, Ottawa, Ontario, 15 Jul 1950-31 Dec 1961.

2420 AC&W Unit, London, Ontario, 15 Jun 1951-31 May 1961.

2424 AC&W Unit, Hamilton, Ontario, 1 Oct 1950-31 Jan 1961.

2442 AC&W Unit, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1 Apr 1950-31 Mar 1961.

2450 AC&W Unit, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Sep 1949-31 Dec 1961.

2451 AC&W Unit, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, 15 Apr 1951-1 Aug 1951.

2451 AC&W Unit, Windsor, Ontario, 4 Jan 1954- 31 May 1961.

2452 AC&W Unit, Quebec City, Quebec, 15 Apr 1951-31 Dec 1961.

2453 AC&W Unit, Thre Rivers, Quebec, 1 Sep 1951-31 Aug 1961.

2455 AC&W Unit, Victoria, British Columbia, 15 Jan 1951-31 Mar 1961.

2400 AC&W Squadron (Auxiliary)

2400 Squadron was formed on 14 December 1949 within Training Command to "maintain and operate radar facilities required by No. 400 (F) Squadron (Auxiliary) and No. 411 (F) Squadron (Auxiliary) for the practice of air interception". The unit was equipped with the AMES-11C mobile radars mounted on trucks.

The squadron was located at the Eastville Avenue building at Scarborough Bluffs. The high high cliffs in this area were considered ideal for radar

On 22 March 1950, the Unit was renamed as 2400 Aircraft Control and Warning Unit (Reserve). 1 August 1951 saw 2400 AC&WU transferred from Training Command to Air Defence Command. On 1 November 1951, 2400 AC&W Unit (Reserve) was re-designated as 2400 AC&W Unit (Auxiliary). The unit was active in participating and exercising with the Regular AC&W Squadrons. The two most commonly visited units were Edgar and Falconbridge.

In 1958, the units new role was to "train Auxiliary personnel including those in the trades of Fighter Controller and Fighter Control Operator in all aspects of air control and warning operations and to maintain and operate radar and communications facilities as directed by AOC, ADC". Narrative reports on the Pinetree Line web site confirm that 2400 AC&W Squadron was active at RCAF Station Edgar, ON during the years 1953 to 1959, RCAF Station St. Margarets in 1957, RCAF Station Falconbridge in 1955, as well as RCAF Station Mont Apica in 1952.

2400 AC&W Squadron was disbanded on 31 January 1961 as a result of the implementation of SAGE into the RCAF. With SAGE, there was no longer a requirement for the Auxiliaries to be trained in manual operations to backup the Regular RCAF AC&W Squadrons.

2401 AC&W Squadron (Auxiliary)

The build-up of the RCAF in the post war period included a large number of Auxiliary units and squadrons. Some were flying squadrons, others were training units and schools and still others were radar squadrons. The first of these was 2401 Radar Squadron RCAF (Auxiliary) Montreal, Quebec which was equipped with the truck-mounted AMES-11C mobile radar. The squadron was initially located in the Sternthal Building at 1435 St. Alexander and later moved to 2 Laurier West.

2401 Radar was formed on 15 December 1949 within Central Air Command to "maintain and operate radar facilities required by No. 401 (F) Squadron (Auxiliary) and No. 438 (F) Squadron (Auxiliary) for the practice of air interception". The squadron was stationed at RCAF Station St. Hubert, located on the south shore of Montreal. On 1 April 1949, the unit came under operational control of Training Command. Later that year, they came under Air Defence Group for operational requirements while they remained with Training Command administratively.

On 22 March 1950, the squadron was re-named as 2401 Aircraft Control & Warning Unit RCAF (Reserve) Montreal. In 1951 the unit’s new role was to "train Reserve personnel in all aspects of air control and warning operations and to maintain and operate radar and communications facilities as directed by AOC, ADC".

In effect, this meant that while the unit personnel still worked with the two Reserve flying squadrons at St. Hubert, Nos. 401 and 438, they were actually to be a trained pool of personnel for the various Regular radar units. In fact, 2401 AC&W Squadron personnel regularly deployed to the numerous radar sites through-out Eastern Canada during summer training camps, on weekends, and whenever their presence was required. Lac St. Denis, being so close to Montreal, was one of the main Stations that 2401 AC&W Squadron personnel regularly visited and they were well known for the high quality of their work. Narrative reports indicate that personnel from 2401 AC&W Squadron were employed at RCAF Station Lac St. Denis every year between 1952 and 1958. There is also evidence in official narrative reports that personnel from 2401 AC&W Squadron served at RCAF Station Senneterre in 1954, 1955 and 1959.

2401 AC&WU was transferred in its entirety from Training Command to Air Defence Command on 1 August 1951. 1 November 1951 saw all of the Reserve squadrons and units return to the designation Auxiliary vice Reserve so 2401 AC&WU® was now 2401 Aircraft Control & Warning Unit (Auxiliary). On 1 February 1953, 2401 AC&W Squadron was tasked with the formation of a school to train both Fighter Controllers and Fighter Control Operators for all of the Auxiliary AC&W Units.

2401 AC&WU was once again designated a Squadron in late 1953. On 3 January 1956, No. 1 Radar and Communications Unit (Auxiliary) was disbanded and absorbed into 2401 AC&W. With this amalgamation, 2401 AC&W Squadron retained their roles of training Auxiliary Fighter Controllers and Fighter Control Operators as well as maintaining and operating radar and communications facilities. They were also tasked with training both Auxiliary ad Primary Reserve Force personnel in the telecommunications and maintenance trades associated with radar operations.

Notwithstanding the outstanding support to both Regular and Auxiliary flying squadrons as well as AC&W Squadrons, it was decided in early 1960 that all of the Auxiliary AC&W squadrons would be disbanded by 1962. This decision was not brought about by financial considerations but by the fact that the SAGE system was under development and was expected to come on line at various radar stations within the next few years. The SAGE system would eliminate the manual back-up to the Regular squadrons that was at the time provided by the Auxiliary. As a result, on 31 August 1961, 2401 AC&W Squadron was disbanded.  (C&E Museum)

2442 AC&W Squadron (Auxiliary)

The 2442 Aircraft Control & Warning Unit (Reserve) Vancouver was formed on 1 April 1950 to train personnel in radar operations for the new radar station then under construction, and to train the personnel in all aspects of aircraft control and warning.  Training was carried out in quarters provided in the Reserve Centre on Hastings Street, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

On 1 Nov 1951, 2442 AC&WU was re-designated as 2442 Aircraft Control & Warning Unit (Auxiliary), and on 1 Dec 1953, the unit became a squadron.  In the fall of 1951, the squadron moved to a building converted for it at RCAF Station Sea Island, and with the addition of up-to-date training equipment the work became both life-like and interesting.  The number of personnel was enlarged and the unit prepared for the emergency that has not come in its lifetime.  In the event of war or national emergency, they would have become Guardians of the Skies working from the completed "Pinetree" radar sites.  They provided a strong reserve of trained manpower in a time when the Korean War was still on and the Cold War threatened to become warmer.

2442 AC&W Squadron was another victim of the SAGE system.  Consequently, it was disbanded on 31 March 1961.  (Sea Island Heritage Society)