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403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron

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No. 403 Squadron RCAF
403Sqn 300.jpg
Active1941 to Present
Country Canada
BranchCanada Royal Canadian Air Force
Motto(s)Stalk and Strike
Battle honoursDefence of Britain 1941–1944
English Channel and North Sea 1942
Fortress Europe 1941–44
France and Germany 1944–45
Normandy 1944
Squadron Badge heraldryA Wolf's head, caboshed[1]
Squadron CodesKH (Mar 1941 – May 1945 )
Aircraft flown
FighterCurtiss P-40 Warhawk, Supermarine Spitfire, North American P-51 Mustang
HelicopterCH-135 Twin Huey, CH-136 Kiowa, Bell CH-146 Griffon
TrainerCanadair CT-133 Silver Star
TransportBeechcraft Model 18, de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter

403 "City of Calgary" (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (403 Sqn) is a squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) located at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. It is equipped with CH-146 Griffons and provides operational aircrew training to the crews who will fly the helicopter. The squadron also conducts operational test and evaluation, develops aviation tactics and carries out operations in support of the 1 Wing mission. It also supports the local Army requirements of the Combat Training Centre. It was founded as No. 403 Squadron RCAF.

A pilot will spend three months at Gagetown learning to fly the Griffon before being posted to one of 1 Wing's five operational squadrons. While at Gagetown, pilots learn advanced aircraft handling, including slinging and hoisting, tactical formation, flying and low-level tactical flying.

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World War II

403 Sqn Curtiss Tomahawk I in July 1941.
403 Sqn Curtiss Tomahawk I in July 1941.

No. 403 (Fighter) Squadron RCAF was formed at RAF Station Baginton (now Coventry Airport), Warwickshire, England, on 1 March 1941.

The first squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) formed overseas under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), it was identified by the letters KH.

Initially equipped with the Curtiss Tomahawk I, they were replaced with the Supermarine Spitfire after only 29 operational sorties. Through continual replacement and updating, the squadron flew various models, Mk I through Mk XVI, of this very popular aircraft.

It was flying a Mk IX Spitfire in 1943 that ace George "Screwball" Beurling scored his 30th air victory while flying with the squadron.[2]

The squadron served in RAF Fighter Command and Second Tactical Air Force for over four years.

By May 1945, the squadron had a record of 123 enemy aircraft destroyed, with a share in seven more, 10 probably destroyed, and 72 damaged with a share in one more.

Ground targets destroyed or damaged included 30 tanks, 50 locomotives, and nearly 100 other vehicles. Sixteen Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), four DFC with Bar, and one Military Medal were awarded to members of the Squadron, in addition to a number of Mentions in Despatch.

The "Wolf" Squadron and many other units paid a high price in lives and aircraft. Eighty-five aircraft were destroyed. 76 pilots were reported missing; of these, four were killed, 39 presumed dead, 21 captured, and nine successfully evaded capture.

Battle honours

The squadron has been awarded seven battle honours for its wartime service:[3]

Post-war period

Early in 1948, ex-Air Force officers in Calgary pressed for the formation of an Auxiliary Squadron in the city.

An active campaign was undertaken and, in June 1948, the reformation, effective 15 October 1948, of 403 Auxiliary Squadron with a Fighter-Bomber designation was announced. Its primary role would be close support to the Army.

Early pilots were highly experienced veterans with operational experience on a variety of aircraft.

The reformed squadron was equipped with the Harvard MK II, and received the first of its North American P-51D Mustangs in the latter part of 1950. It would remain in service until 1958 when the type was retired from RCAF service. F/O Lynn Garrison was the last 403 pilot to fly the Mustang.

In January 1952, the squadron enlisted its first female officer, P/O V.A. Harding. In September 1952, "City of Calgary" was incorporated into the squadron's title.

In November 1953, the squadron's title was changed to "Fighter" Squadron. In October 1955 the squadron received its first jet, the Canadair CT-133 Silver Star.

In June 1956, the squadron was informed that its role was to change and that it would be re-equipped with the C-45 Expediter and the DHC-3 Otter. In addition, it would move to Air Transport, and receive its first Navigator.

The squadron transferred to Training Command, in December 1956, with the role of training a reserve of transport aircrew for the Auxiliary and Regular Forces.

In February 1958, the squadron became a general Transport and Rescue Squadron responsible for operations in support of military and civilian requirements.

During the summer of 1961, the squadron was advised that consideration was being given to equipping the Auxiliary units with helicopters. Nothing came of it but, for the squadron, it was a sign of things to come.

Activated as Operational Training Squadron

In January 1968, the squadron was activated as 403 (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (Hel) OTS at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa and was equipped with 10 CUH-1H helicopters. Once again, it was formed specifically to support the Land Forces.

In July 1972, the squadron was given the role of training of aircrew and technical personnel for the Tactical Helicopter and Rescue Squadrons.

To carry out its new role, the squadron joined 422 Squadron at CFB Gagetown and was equipped with 11 CH-135 Twin Huey and 10 CH-136 Kiowa helicopters. In August 1980, the squadron gained aircrew and support personnel from the disbandment of 422 Squadron.

In August 1980, the Air Ground Operations School was formed to provide advance training for future Flight Commanders and Operations Officers. Renamed Aviation Tactics Flight in June 1995, the Flight continues to provide this training, and aviation support to the Combat Training Centre, 1 Wing and the Air Force.

As a Rotary Wing Aviation Unit, the squadron conducted two rotations of the Multinational Force and Observers.

Renewing Air Reserve relationship

In July 1990, the squadron renewed its post-war relationship with the Air Reserves. At that time the Combat Training Centre (CTC) Gagetown Detachment of the CFB Chatham Air Reserve Augmentation Flight (ARAF) took up residence in the squadron. The flight became an integral part of the Squadron in 1996.

403 RCAF Squadron Otter, Burnt Stick Lake, Alberta 1963
403 RCAF Squadron Otter, Burnt Stick Lake, Alberta 1963

Renamed the Air Reserve Section in 1998, the squadron's reservists are incorporated into and provide support to all flights.

In August 1992 the Land Aviation Test and Evaluation Flight (LATEF) was formed to conduct, on behalf of 10 Tactical Air Group (10 TAG), operational and tactical testing of land aviation helicopter systems and support equipment, and to propose operational and tactical doctrine where applicable. It quickly evolved into a valuable asset and has been integrally involved in the testing and improvement of CH-146 Griffon systems.

The Kiowa and Twin Huey were phased out of the squadron by the end of 1994 and early 1995 respectively and were replaced by the CH-146 Griffon in March 1995.

The squadron became the first operational CH-146 unit in 10 TAG in October 1995.

In October 1996, a full motion flight simulator was added to the squadron's establishment.

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Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk is an American single-engined, single-seat, all-metal fighter and ground-attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The P-40 design was a modification of the previous Curtiss P-36 Hawk which reduced development time and enabled a rapid entry into production and operational service. The Warhawk was used by most Allied powers during World War II, and remained in frontline service until the end of the war. It was the third most-produced American fighter of World War II, after the P-51 and P-47; by November 1944, when production of the P-40 ceased, 13,738 had been built, all at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facilities in Buffalo, New York.

Coventry Airport

Coventry Airport

Coventry Airport is located three nautical miles south-southeast of Coventry city centre, in the village of Baginton, Warwickshire, England. The airport is operated and licensed by Coventry Airport Limited. Its CAA Ordinary Licence allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), or Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) often referred to as simply "The Plan", was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, during the Second World War. BCATP remains as one of the single largest aviation training programs in history and was responsible for training nearly half the pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during the war.

George Beurling

George Beurling

George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling, was the most successful Canadian fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War.

RAF Fighter Command

RAF Fighter Command

RAF Fighter Command was one of the commands of the Royal Air Force. It was formed in 1936 to allow more specialised control of fighter aircraft. It served throughout the Second World War. It earned near-immortal fame during the Battle of Britain in 1940, when the Few held off the Luftwaffe attack on Britain. The Command continued until 17 November 1943, when it was disbanded and the RAF fighter force was split into two categories; defence and attack. The defensive force became Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) and the offensive force became the RAF Second Tactical Air Force. Air Defence of Great Britain was renamed back to Fighter Command in October 1944 and continued to provide defensive patrols around Great Britain. It was disbanded for the second time in 1968, when it was subsumed into the new Strike Command.

Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)

Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 to other ranks, of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and other services, and formerly to officers of other Commonwealth countries, for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".

Air Defence of Great Britain

Air Defence of Great Britain

The Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) was a RAF command comprising substantial army and RAF elements responsible for the air defence of the British Isles. It lasted from 1925, following recommendations that the RAF take control of homeland air defence, until 1936 when it became RAF Fighter Command.

English Channel

English Channel

The English Channel, also known as simply the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Southern England from northern France. It links to the southern part of the North Sea by the Strait of Dover at its northeastern end. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

North Sea

North Sea

The North Sea lies between Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. An epeiric sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the English Channel in the south and the Norwegian Sea in the north. It is more than 970 kilometres (600 mi) long and 580 kilometres (360 mi) wide, covering 570,000 square kilometres (220,000 sq mi).

Lynn Garrison

Lynn Garrison

Lynn Garrison is a Canadian pilot and political adviser. He was a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot in the 403 City of Calgary Squadron, before holding jobs as a commercial pilot, film producer, director and mercenary. Garrison has also accumulated a substantial collection of classic aircraft, flying many of these as well as organising their restoration and preservation. He participated in the Nigerian Civil War as a mercenary, assisting the military of Biafra.

Operation Overlord

Operation Overlord

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 (D-Day) with the Normandy landings. A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.



The Rhine is one of the major European rivers. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps. It forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, and Swiss-German borders. After that the Rhine defines much of the Franco-German border, after which it flows in a mostly northerly direction through the German Rhineland. Finally in Germany the Rhine turns into a predominantly westerly direction and flows into the Netherlands where it eventually empties into the North Sea. It drains an area of 9,973 sq km and its name derives from the Celtic Rēnos. There are also two German states named after the river, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.


Source: "403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th),

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  1. ^ Halley 1988, p. 490.
  2. ^ Shores & Williams 1994, p.127
  3. ^ Department of National Defence (December 2008). "Battle Honours". Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
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