History of the 417 Squadron
The 417 "City of Windsor" Squadron was formed as an RCAF squadron in England on November 27, 1941, flying Spitfires. The 417 Squadron operated with the 8th Army in North Africa, in the Sicilian landings and in Italy in close support of the Army. The palm tree in their badge suggests the desert, the sword air support to the Army, and the axe the fighting in Italy.
Motto: Supporting Liberty And Justice
Second World War
In April 1942, the Squadron was sent to Egypt to join the Desert Air Force, the only RCAF Squadron in that theatre. Initially equipped with Hawker Hurricanes, 417 Squadron conducted combat patrols against Axis Aircraft operating over the Suez Canal.
The Squadron drew first blood when on September 26, 1942 Flight Sergeant JHG Leguerrier shot down a Luftwaffe JU-88 near the town of Suez.
As the Second World War progressed, 417 continued its combat patrol missions, battling the enemy Aircraft in their Hurricanes and Spitfires alongside the rest of the Desert Air Force. 417 Squadron was also tasked to provide close air support to the advancing allied ground troops in the African Campaign.
With each allied victory 417 Squadron moved through a variety of different theatres including North Africa, Sicily, Malta and Italy. 417 Squadron fought steadily on until disbanded on June 30, 1945 in Treviso, Italy, where it had fought its last aerial battle.
417 Squadron was reformed and disbanded twice since its original period of activity. The Squadron was reactivated on June 1, 1947 as a Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron at RCAF Station, Rivers, Manitoba, where it flew Mustangs and Harvards in the close air support role until August 1, 1948.
Twenty-two years later, in 1970, 417 Squadron was again reformed, but from the No. 6 (Strike and Reconnaissance) Operational Training Unit (OTU) at CFB Cold Lake, which had been training pilots on the CF104 Starfighter since 1961.
417 continued as the CF104 OTU until the Squadron was phased out in April 1983, only to make a reappearance exactly ten years later in 1993 as 417 Combat Support Squadron.
Existing as an entirely separate unit, and during one of 417 Squadron's periods of inactivity, Base Flight at Cold Lake was formed on 24 August 1954.
Base Flight's original and main reason for being was that it was to provide a vital communications link to Edmonton, then five hours away by road. The Flight endeavoured to do this with their first Aircraft, a Beechcraft Expeditor.
In the process of expanding its role, Base Flight amassed a wide variety and number of Aircraft, making it one of the largest and most active flying units in Canada's post-war Air Force.
The fleet included H-5 "Dragonfly" and H-34 "Horse" helicopters, DeHavilland "Otters" and the famous C-47 "Dakotas", three of which were modified with nose cones to efficiently train upcoming CF 104 pilots on air intercept radar systems.
Base Flight also employed the T-33 Silver Star as utility transport, airborne target trainer and as an air combat adversary.
On the helicopter side, the main roles were, and still are, to rescue downed aircrew and to provide Medical Evacuation services (MEDEVAC) to both military and civilian communities. To fulfil these and other diverse roles, Base Flight added to the two original above-mentioned helicopters by receiving three UH-1 Huey or Iroquois helicopters and later, two CH-135 Twin Huey Aircraft.
After almost 39 years of diligent service, Base Flight's "Vigil Borealis" ended to make way for the re-birth of an old familiar name, yet this time with some different and more modern roles ... 417 Combat Support Squadron.