No. 420 Squadron
Badge A snowy owl, wings elevated and adorsed
Motto Pugnamus finitum (We fight to the finish)
Authority King George VI, March 1943
The snowy owl is indigenous to Canada and hunts by night.
Formed at Waddington, Lincolnshire, England on 19 December 1941 as the RCAF’s 18th – fourth Bomber – squadron formed overseas, the unit flew Hampden, Wellington and Halifax aircraft on strategic and tactical bombing operations. From June to October 1943, it flew tropicalized Wellington aircraft from North Africa in support of the invasions of Sicily and Italy. After hostilities in Europe, it was selected as part of ‘Tiger Force” for duty in the Pacific, converted to Canadian-built Lancaster aircraft, and returned to Canada for reorganization and training. The sudden end of the war in the Far East resulted in the squadron being disbanded at Debert, Nova Scotia on 5 September 1945.
Brief Chronology: Formed at Waddington, Lines., Eng. 19 . Dec 41. Disbanded at Debert, N.S. 5 Sep 45.
Title or Nickname: “Snowy Owl”
Adoption: Women’s Air Force Auxiliary, London, Ont. (November 1943)
- W/C J.D.D. Collier (RAF), DFC 19 Dec 41 – 29 May 42.
- W/C D.A.R. Bradshaw 30 Mar 42 – 11 Apr 43.
- W/C D. McIntosh (Can/RAF), DFC 12 Apr 43 – 7 Apr 44.
- W/C A.G. McKenna, DFC 8 Apr 44 – 23 Oct 44 OTE.
- W/C G.J.J. Edwards, DFC 24 Oct 44 – 23 Nov 44 OTE.
- W/C W.G. Phelan, DFC 24 Nov 44 – 27 Jan 45 OTE.
- W/C F.S. McCarthy 28 Jan 45 – 23 Apr 45 OTE.
- W/C R.J. Gray, MBE 24 Apr 45 – 5 Sep 45.
Higher Formations and Squadron Locations
No. 5 Group,
- Waddington, Lines. 19 Dec 41 – 6 Aug 42.
No. 4 Group,
- Skipton-on-Swale, Yorks. 7 Aug 42 – 15 Oct 42.
- Middleton St. George, Durham. 16 Oct 42 – 31 Dec 42.
No. 6 (RCAF) Group,
- Middleton St. George, Durham. 1 Jan 43 – 15 May 43.
- En route to North Africa (1) 16 May 43 – 18 Jun 43.
Mediterranean Air Command:
No. 205 Group,
No. 331 (RCAF) Wing,
- Kairouan/Zina, Tunisia 19 Jun 43 – 29 Sep 43.
- Hani East Landing Ground, Tunisia 29 Sep 43 – 16 Oct 43.
- En route to England (minus aircraft) 17 Oct 43 – 5 Nov 43.
No. 6 (RCAF) Group,
No. 61 (RCAF) Base,
- Dalton, Yorks. 6 Nov 43 – 11 Dec 43.
No. 62 (RCAF) Base,
- Tholthorpe, Yorks. 12 Dec 43 – 11 Jun 45.
- En route to Canada 12 Jun 45 – 16 Jun 45.
RAF “Tiger Force” (for ops), RCAF Eastern Air Command (for training):
No. 6 (RCAF) Group,
No. 663 (RCAF) Wing,
- Debert, N.S. 16 Jun 45 – 5 Sep 45.
Representative Aircraft (Unit Code PT)
Handley Page Hampden Mk.I (Dec 41 – Aug 42)
- P1187 X P1314 S P2094 Q P4400 J P5332 T X3057 C AD915 F AE202 K AE248 A AE258 W AE260 0 AE267 V AE314 Q AE355 A AE384 M AE389 D AE390 Z AE853 T A T130 S A Tl32 U AT134 K AT135 R AT136 N AT228 P
Vickers Wellington B.Mk.III (Aug 42 – Apr 43)
- X3800 Z X3808 B X3926 A X3963 D Z1679 B BJ717 Q BJ966 R BK235 T BK295 H BK331 W BK365 L DF636 S DF637 F HK330 K
Vickers Wellington B.Mk.X (England, Feb – May 43)
- HE157 U HE294 P HE375 H HE417 L HE422 Q HE457 S HE458 W HE481 0 HE550 C HE555 A HE569 P HE630 V HE632 R HE682 T HE693 W HE732 J HE771 F HE863 G HE873 D HE965 R HE975 U MS479 F MS482 Y
Vickers Wellington B.Mk.X (North Africa, May – Oct 43)
- HE640 E HE975 U
Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.III (Dec 43 – May 45)
- LW122 Z LW392 S LW419 F LW421 K LW476 J LW645 T LW692 V MZ473 G MZ502 U MZ503 L MZ504 H MZ505 X MZ569 R MZ594 W NA169 0 NA509 B NP951 Y NR135 E NR138 T NR139 A NR717 P NR207 C NR208 D NR258 I
Avro Lancaster B.Mk.X (Apr – Sep 45, not on operations)
- KB871 E KB885 Y KB886 H KB896 0 KB898 W KB901 Q KB902 C KB908 P KB909 R KB910 V KB914 A KB923 N KB927 I KB928 K KB993 J KB937 G KB938 D KB941 U KB942 M KB946 Z
Operational History: First Mission 21/22 January 1942, 5 Hampdens from Waddington despatched to bomb targets at Emden; 2 bombed the primary target, 2 bombed the alternative, 1 failed to return. A sixth laid mines in the “Nectarines” (Frisian Islands) area.
Last Mission: 22 April 1945, 17 Halifaxes from Tholthorpe despatched to Bremen but on arriving over the target the master bomber ordered them not to bomb; explanation not recorded.
Summary Sorties: 4186.
- Operational/Non-operational Flying Hours: 22,820/9137.
- Bombs dropped (1944-45): 9771 tons.
- Victories: Aircraft: 6 destroyed, 2 damaged.
- Operational: 65 aircraft; 324 aircrew, of whom 84 were killed or presumed dead, 228 missing.A check of a series of publications called “Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War – Aircraft & Crew Losses”, © W. R. Chorley, Midland Publishing, revealed appendices listing Prisoners of War by Squadron, with their Camp & PoW Number. There are no entries for 1939-41. In 1942, 17 personnel of No. 420 Squadron are listed by rank, initials and surname, of which 9 were at Stalag Luft III. In 1943, the figures were 7 in total, with none being at Stalag Luft III. For 1944, it lists 14, of which there were 2 for Stalag Luft III. In 1945, it is split between those known to have been taken to a PoW Camp (8 from No. 420 Squadron, but only 1 with PoW Camp Details: (Stalag 11B), those thought to have been PoWs or who were repatriated badly wounded (21 from No. 420 Squadron but no PoW Camp details), those who arrived home aboard the ‘Letitia’ and ‘Arundel Castle’ in February 1945 (no PoW Camp details), and those killed when Allied Fighter-Bombers strafed a PoW column near Gresse on 19th April 1945 (no PoW Camp details).
- Non-operational: 3 aircraft; 12 personnel were killed, 6 injured, 1 died.
Honours and Awards: 1 bar to DFC, 38 DFC’s, 9 DFM’s.
- English Channel and North Sea 1942-1944.
- Baltic 1942.
- Fortress Europe 1942-1944.
- France and Germany 1944-1945: Biscay Ports 1942-1944, Ruhr 1942-1945, Berlin 1944, German Ports 1942-1945, Normandy 1944, Rhine. Biscay 1942-1943. Sicily 1943. Italy 1943: Salerno.
(1) Ground crew departed by ship on 16 May; aircraft took off 5 June. Two aircraft were shot down over the Bay of Biscay by German fighters and their crews listed as missing. See also No. 331 (Medium Bomber) Wing.