December, 1961, Western Wings
The RCAF’s 425 ‘Alouette’ Squadron has been reactivated and will be based at RCAF Station Namao, near Edmonton. Disbanded in April 1961 as a CF-100 Squadron at RCAF station St. Hubert, Quebec, 425 is now being equipped with the CF-101 Voodoo, which are being introduced into Canada’s air defense system.
The squadron has a long and illustrious history. In June of 1942, during the Second World War, the infant 425 Squadron first saw the light of day as an operations order directing the formation of a fifth Canadian heavy bomber squadron.
Originally flying from England, 425 Squadron moved in April of 1943 into the Mediterranean theatre of the war, flying a total of 724 sorties into Sicily and Italy before moving back to an English base. With pinpoint tactical bombing, the Canadian squadron did much to soften up the enemy forces and enabled allied armies to proceed up the Italian peninsula.
Back in England by March of 1944, the Alouettes saw the last Berlin bombings. They also took part in the raids on Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, Frankfurt, and other industrial centres, as well as attacking some of Hitler’s flying bomb sites in western France.
In two and a half years, the squadron flew a total of 3,665 sorties, over 20,000 hours in the air. And the Alouette Squadron is not without its heroes. One Halifax bomber crew will never forget the day it was hit, while fully loaded, by another aircraft which was landing.
While flames shot skyward, five men worked feverishly with axe and crowbar to free the trapped crew. The rescuing people were flattened twice by explosions, but still worked on to free their trapped comrades. Air Commodore A.D. Ross, retired, working with the rescuers, lost one hand, but the crew was saved.
All in all the Alouette Squadron collected 190 decorations, as well as other honours. Reactivated in 1954, 425 Squadron was equipped with fighter aircraft and flew from RCAF Station St. Hubert as one of Canada’s Home Defence squadrons.
Since being disbanded last April, ten 425 crews have been training on the new CF-101 Voodoo. When the squadron is reactivated this fall at Namao, its aircrew will act as instructors to train other Canadians on the new aircraft.
This article originally appeared in the December, 1961 edition of Western Wings magazine.