In March 1941, No. 403 "Wolf" Squadron became the first Canadian squadron formed overseas without ties to any previous flying unit in Canada.
They were also the first RCAF squadron to fly Spitfires, and fly Spitfires they did! The Wolves rapidly became the second highest scoring Commonwealth squadron over Western Europe, and on Christmas Eve 1943, they were adopted by the City of Calgary. Their aircraft were identified by the letters KH. When hostilities ended, 403 "Wolf - City of Calgary" Squadron had recorded 125 confirmed kills.
The War Years: 1939 – 1945
Originally, the Wolf Squadron was the 403 Army Cooperation (AC) Squadron and was equipped with the Curtis Tomahawk. In May 1941, the role was changed to fly fighters and they exchanged their Tomahawks for Super marine Spitfire MK1's, becoming the first RCAF Squadron overseas to fly the Spitfire. In April 1944 they exchanged their MK1's for the newer Spitfire MK 1X’s . In June of that year they moved to France and on to Belgium in November 1944 and Germany in February 1945.
This squadron served with honour in the defense of Britain (1941-1944), Dieppe – 1942, Normandy – 1944, English Channel and North Sea – 1942, and France and Germany 1944-1945.
When hostilities ended the 403 Squadron had recorded the second highest scores in the RCAF, at 125 victories. These victories however came at a high cost, with 44 pilots killed and 21 Prisoners of War. The Squadron was disbanded at Fassberg, Germany 10 July 1945.
Under the leadership of great pilots like J.E, "Johnnie" Johnson, CB, CBE, DSO, DFC, DL and Hugh Constant Godefroy, DSO, DFC and bar, Croix de Guerre with Gold Star and the #1 Ace of WW11 – George Frederick Beurling went on to be known as "The Falcon of Malta" and had 31 victories (26 while flying from Malta) and James Douglas Lindsay, DFC, who was an ace of 403 with 6 victories and 5 damaged for a war total of 8. He was also awarded the U.S. DFC for his Korean service.
The Auxilary Years: 1948 – 1964
During the 1941 – 1945 period the 403 was adopted as the “City of Calgary Squadron”. After being reactivated during the Cold War on 15 October 1948, it was titled officially No 403 “City of Calgary” (FB) Squadron (Auxiliary) 3 September 1952. From then on it retained its "City of Calgary" designation.
Starting with Harvard Mk11 and 1Vs the Squadron received Mustangs Mk 1Vs in late 1950 and T-33 jets in 1954. Many WW11 pilots who had operational experience in Spitfires, Mosquitoes, Lancasters and Beaufighters formed the first group.
Among this group was the first C.O. Mostyn-Brown, AFC who had also been decorated by the French in the Normandy invasion, John McKay DFC and Bar with 11 victories in Spitfires and who later added a MIG-15 in Korea, Don Freeman DFC and Bar and AR Roy Cruickshank who chased V1 rockets over the English Channel.
This group, plus the new short service pilots honed their skills on Thursday nights and the week-ends plus two weeks at summer camp each year. Gunnery exercises were carried out at Cold Lake and joint exercises with the USAF at Malstrom Air Force base, Great Falls, Montana. During 1956, the Mustangs were declared obsolete and were replaced with C-45 Expeditor Mk3s and the CSR-123 Otter.
While the move from a fighter Squadron and Air Defense Command to Air Transport was not welcomed by the Squadron, one positive was some former Second World War Navigators who had been retained in roles such as Armament Officers were now able to return to flying.
The Squadron continued this role of transporting Calgary area Army Units, cadets and search and rescue operations. Another important function was that all pilots must meet the requirement of class one instrument ratings. On 30 June 1964 the Squadron was disbanded.
Unification: 1968 – Present
Three years after the Auxiliary Unit was disbanded the squadron was re-formed as #403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron (HOTS) and was located at Petawawa, Ontario. After four years of operating out of a Hussar’s tank hanger and a small sports field as a helipad, the Squadron moved in 1972 to CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick, a location they still occupy today. The aircraft flown by this unit include UTTH Bell CUH.H (CH 118) Hueys; Kiowa OH-58 A (CH136): and the Twin Huey UH-IN (CH135); and Bell 412 (CH146) Griffon helicopters.
While the Squadrons role was primarily that of a training unit, there were times when they had a tactical flight and have performed many and varied roles over the years, world wide.
Some of these include:
- Carrier plane guard trials – HMCS Bonaventure
- Exercise Arctic Express – Norway
- FLQ Crisis – Montreal, Canada
- Exercise Arctic “75 – including the support of mapping on Southampton Island, NWT.
- Jamaica on several occasions
- Exercise Winged Warrior – combined operations with USAF aircraft in the U.S.A.
- El Gorch, Egypt – Operation, Calumet.
The squadron also conducted many additional search and rescue operations, including one where their quick response in -20 C weather of a mother, her two young children and their pilot in Algonquin Park, saved them from a cold night in the bush.
Providing the highest standard of training available anywhere was the primary goal of (HOTS) and with excellent maintenance and good leadership this has been achieved often under difficult conditions and circumstances with very few accidents.