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The first action seen by a Royal Canadian Air Force
(RCAF) squadron was in the Battle
of Britain, which took place over the summer and early
fall of 1940. This was No. 1 Squadron RCAF (later changed to 401),
a fighter unit formed at Northalt in August, which flew for
two months until the battle ended in October. Although
28 men from No. 1 Squadron received the Battle of Britain
clasp, most RCAF airmen to serve in the Battle of Britain
served in Royal Air Force (RAF) units. RCAF crewmen had
been serving in the RAF since the beginning of the war,
and significant numbers would continue to do so throughout.
the Battle of Britain was over, fighter operations shifted
to Europe in a strategy called "leaning forwards into France".
Fighters accompanied bombers in limited bombing runs. The
strategy was weak, however, accomplishing little while the
costs were high. Commonwealth fighters, including four new
RCAF squadrons created in 1941, took up to four losses for
every one the German Luftwaffe shot down.
Gradually, however, air superiority became established.
Raid of 1942, while disastrous for the Commonwealth
ground forces, was something of a turning point, with the
loss ratio dropping to approximately two losses for every
one German plane destroyed.
By the middle of 1944, fortunes had turned around,
as Canadian fighters supported the D-Day invasion and the
subsequent Operation Overlord. The quality of fighters in
the Luftwaffe had deteriorated and losses for the RCAF
became a fraction of those of their adversaries. The goal
of some pilots, which many achieved, became that of a
trick", shooting down three enemy aircraft in one sortie.
While the Luftwaffe posed less of a threat, flak from anti-aircraft
guns on the ground was still a danger.
While the Germans had sustained a fatal blow with the success
of D-Day, they came up with a new technology in 1944: the
flying bomb. These were the first missiles, and were sent
from mainland Europe to crash into London. Fighter squadrons,
including three RCAF squadrons, were dispatched to down the
missiles before they arrived. The RCAF squadrons were credited
with shooting down 97 flying bombs out of a total of 1,771
destroyed. More than 2,300 of the bombs hit London.
After sustaining heavy casualties during daytime bombing raids
early in the war, Germany switched to night raids. Britain
dispatched fighter squadrons to defend against these attacks,
including three RCAF squadrons: 409, 406 and 410. Aided
by superior radar technology, the latter two helped defend
London against the Little Blitz, with the 406 Squadron claiming
12 downed enemy aircraft, and the 410 Squadron,10. This
defensive role lasted until 1944, when more offensive operations
Allied push into
RCAF Squadron 418 was involved in night flying of a different
sort—intruding. This involved flying to German bomber
bases and attacking enemy aircraft as they took off. The
aim of intruding was to keep German crews on edge, forcing
them to stay alert and to keep their airfields blacked out
for longer periods of time.