Canadians in Battle of Britain: 2020 - 80th Anniversary



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80th Anniversary Battle of Britain Tour: September 2020: "The Few"

12 - 21 September 2020:  9 nights/10 days Fighter Command WW2 – The Battle of Britain


Canadians in Fighter Command (Battle of Britain)
Only one Canadian Fighter squadron was operational during the Battle of Britain: No. 1/401 Squadron (Middle Wallop and Croydon) (*also the famous Polish 303 Squadron was based here). Canadians also fought in the RAF's 242 (Canadian) Squadron, which was heavily - although not exclusively - Canadian. It was led by famous RAF Squadron Leader Douglas Bader during the Battle of Britain.

More than 100 Canadians are thought to have participated in the Battle of Britain with mostly RAF squadrons, with 23 losing their lives during the battle. Many Canadian fighter aces also fought with various RAF units during the battle of Britain and after, such as George Beurling, Henry Mcleod, *Wille McNight (wingman to Sir Douglas Bader), Robert (Buck) McNair – and many others.

Three RCAF squadrons of night-fighters using the powerful Beaufighter ( 406, 409 and 410) and wreaked havoc on German Bombers from 1941 onwards, and several RCAF squadrons – No's 401, 402, 403, 411, 412 – participated in what were called "Rodeo" operations (fighter raids over enemy territory), "Circus" operations (medium bomber escort), and "Ramrod" operations (heavy bomber protection).

Those were dangerous missions and RCAF squadrons suffered heavy casualties. The dreadful aborted Dieppe raid by Canadians also cost the 9 RCAF squadrons involved in the raid 14 aircraft destroyed and 9 pilots killed.

The Battle of Britain would not have been won without the contribution of another Canadian: Max Aitken – known as Lord Beaverbrook. Prime Minister Churchill appointed Lord Beaverbrook, a newspaper tycoon, as minister of Aircraft Production in May 1940.

He took no 'prisoners' with British officialdom and actually increased product so that during the battle replacement aircraft was actually increased. In the month before his appointment only 256 fighters were produced. In the critical month of September, as RAF losses reached their height, his system produced 465 fighters. With the end of the Battle of Britain, another key Canadian contribution to the war in the air would begin to show its effect as the first pilots, observers and gunners were emerging from the schools of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada.

The RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) - Beyond the Battle of Britain - D-Day and Beyond
Operation Totalise was an offensive launched by Allied troops of the First Canadian Army during the later stages of the Operation Overlord, from 8 to 13 August 1944. The intention was to break through the German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allied positions in Normandy and exploit success by driving south to capture the high ground north of the city of Falaise. The overall goal was to precipitate the collapse of the entire German front and cut off the retreat of German forces fighting American and British armies further west. The battle is considered the inaugural operation of the First Canadian Army, which had been formally activated on 23 July. In the early hours of 8 August 1944, II Canadian Corps launched the attack using mechanized infantry. They broke through the German front lines and captured vital positions deep in the German defences.

It was intended that two fresh armoured divisions would continue the attack, but some hesitancy by these two comparatively inexperienced divisions and German armoured counter attacks slowed the offensive. Having advanced 9 miles (14km), the Allies were halted 7 miles (11km) north of Falaise, and forced to Prepare a fresh attack All RCAF fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons, including the six territorial defence squadrons that were sent overseas in 1943 and 1944, were assigned to the 2nd *TAF, (RAF *Second Tactical Airforce – especially formed for D-Day invasion) except for No 402, which served with the British Air Defence.

Each RCAF squadron prepared for the very specific role it was to play. Those that were to ensure air superiority by attacking enemy aircraft used Spitfires IX or XXI. Fighter-bomber squadrons specialized in ground attacks flew Typhoons. Reconnaissance and photography units were supplied with Mosquitos, Mustangs and non-armed versions of the Spitfire, their role being to provide the army with data on the terrain and on enemy positions. D-Day and later - required air cover and fire support, tasks that were performed by the United States Army Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Fighters protected the invasion fleet from enemy air attacks. Tactical fighters supported the ground forces by attacking German armoured forces and fortified defensive positions. Bomber squadrons were responsible for destroying strategic targets: railway lines, bridges, and fuel and ammunition depots. The RCAF deployed 15 fighter squadrons equipped with Spitfires. They provided air cover for the invasion fleet and escorts for RCAF bombers. Four RCAF tactical support squadrons flew Typhoons, ('Tiffys') heavily armed ground-attack planes that could carry a 2,000-pound (908-kilogram) bomb load or eight rockets.

They played an important role in destroying German armoured forces during the Normandy landings. RCAF Bomber Group 6, composed of 14 RCAF squadrons, attacked several key strategic targets. With railways, bridges, and fuel and ammunition depots damaged or destroyed, the German forces were unable to launch an effective counterattack against the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy. On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, when the Allies set foot on the beaches of Normandy, the Luftwaffe put up almost no resistance to the massive invasion.

Fighter squadrons escorted invading troops and attacked enemy ground positions; air superiority was easily established over the bridgehead. Later, as ground forces forged ahead, that superiority was easily maintained over an area that now reached some 100 km behind enemy lines. Allied ground forces could then move freely while German troops, whether they used roads or railways, or moved across fields could not do so without being targeted by RAF and RCAF fighters. No. 438 Squadron was assigned the task of dive bombing two concrete block houses overlooking the beach on which the 50th British Division was to land tanks.

This operation had to be performed just as the tanks landing craft lowered their ramps. Two days after D-Day, maintenance and construction commando squadrons arrived in Normandy to build airstrips. Ground crews of RCAF No 144 Wing (including Nos 441, 442 and 443 Squadrons) were deployed near Banville as early as June 9th, 1944. Both air and ground crews had to get used to the dust and lack of comfort of their temporary facilities. The bases and support personnel of the other Spitfire and Typhoon squadrons were also transferred to Normandy, as the bridgehead became more solid.

As the campaign unfolded, encounters between RCAF fighters and the Luftwaffe became less and less frequent. Fighter attacks were mostly directed at ground targets: trucks, tanks, and artillery positions. When German troops in the Falaise Pocket were surrounded, on August 18th, 1944, fighters of all types were thrown into the battle.

On that single day, No. 127 Wing RCAF (Nos 403, 416 and 421 Squadrons) destroyed or put out of commission over 500 military vehicles, totalling some 290 hours of flight and firing 30,000 20-mm rounds. When the Campaign of Normandy was over, fighter units moved up their bases to remain close to the front.

Their role did not change much as the Allies moved ahead slowly through North-Western Europe:support to the ground forces, bomber escort missions, attacking bridges, canals and enemy vehicles, road and rail convoys. The Luftwaffe, as weakened as it was, put up a bitter resistance as the Allies came closer to Germany but late April 1945 it was all over.






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