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Fighter Squadron: 441 Squadron From Hurricanes To Hornets
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Author
Larry Milberry
Pages
320
Year of Publication
2004
ISBN
0-921022-16-6

If you follow Canada's great aviation heritage, here is a book that is sure to "light your burners"! In 320 pages, 26 chapters and 700+ photos, Fighter Squadron celebrates one of Canada's truly legendary RCAF/CF squadrons. You will read of 441's beginnings, flying the famous Hurricane in a time when the unit was known as 125 Squadron. Operating on Canada's east coast, its mission is to help blunt any Axis threat, whether by long-range bomber or U-boat. For U-boat patrols, 125 carries depth charges, something that would have amazed the Hurricane's designers.

In 1944 the squadron goes overseas to join in the Air Defence of Great Britain. Now known as 441 Squadron, it flies Spitfire IXs on convoy patrols, escorts Allied bombers to targets in France, and conducts cross-channel "Rhubarbs" in search of targets of opportunity. Later, 441 gains renown in post- D-Day Normandy, harassing the Germans on the ground and destroying more than 50 enemy aircraft. Come the spring of 1945 and 441, by then re-equipped with Mustangs, faces disbandment along with most other RCAF squadrons.

The squadron soon reappears. Postwar come Cold War tales of the Vampire, then the classic Sabre. In its sentinel role with NATO the Sabre evolves into a legend of its own, and 441 excels from its bases at North Luffenham in England, and Marville, France. Along with its other NATO squadrons, Canada rules the skies over Western Europe, often taking top honours in NATO gunnery competitions.

The Sabre gives way to the awesome CF-104 Starfighter, first in nuclear strike and "recce", then in conventional strike (as far as 441 is concerned, its Starfighter "glory days" were in recce). Greatly loved by those who flew and serviced it, the Starfighter equips 441 into 1986. Finally, the Silver Foxes convert to the CF-18 Hornet, one of the world's top multi-role fighters. By 2004 this magnificent aircraft, in the midst of a "mid-life" ugprade, remains in 441 service. In the Hornet chapters you'll find 441 on deployment in the Arctic, competing in a host of exercises, tracking Soviet Bear bombers, in combat over Kosovo, and on post-9/11 operations.

Besides covering the aircraft, Fighter Squadron is a "people book" telling of daily life, exercises and operations. Here is a story of and for all those who served. Throughout the book the approach is consistent – solid research, great first-hand coverage, incredible photos. You needn't have served on 441 to totally enjoy this special book!

441 Squadron Update

Only a handful of 441 WWII personnel are still with us. Any one of them could have written a great story about his part in the war flying or fixing Hurricanes in Newfoundland or Spitfires in England and Normandy. After the war each man went into some interesting work. Sid Bregman became a prominent architect and a expert in ancient works of art, Bob Hayes went into sales and still was dabbling at this in 2005, Bruce Mackenzie was in dentistry, Clem Gerwing in leather products, Danny Brown was a lawyer, Jack Copeland went into the paper industry, etc. In December 2005 I had n enjoyable chat on the phone with Norm Brunton, who had loaned me some of his wartime photos for the book. I was fascinated to hear how Norm, after service with 125 and 441 squadrons, ended in Florida in the construction engineering world. There he spent years working on such projects as NASA's huge VAB – vehicle assembly building – at Cape Kennedy, then on assembly of the amazing Saturn 5 launch vehicle. Who would have thought! All of which goes to show that there's always a story behind the story. Norm notes that he has donated his wartime memorabilia to a museum in Dunedin, Florida.

Reviews

  • In COPA Flight of October 2004 reviewer Bob Merrick calls Fighter Squadron "a splendid addition to Canada's published aviation history". Bob adds, "Hurricanes to Hornets tells a fascinating story in an interesting, readable way. The pictures are superb, the prose clear and well researched. [The book] would make a wonderful gift ... It's an inspiring look at a large section of Canada's military aviation history through the exploits of one squadron that helped make the history."
  • Writing in the Toronto Sunday Sun of October 3, 2004, columnist Mike Filey observes: "Aviation buffs are in for a real treat. Larry Milberry ... has a new book... Fighter Squadron tells the fascinating story of one of the Canadian Armed Forces' most experienced and decorated squadrons... Written in a factual and entertaining style, Larry's book is a valuable addition to a Canadiana
  • Airforce magazine for Fall 2004 comments: "Once again Canada's foremost aviation historian and publisher, Larry Milberry, has come up with a winner ... one of the most eye-appealing aviation books to hit the market in recent times... a comprehensive collection of stories, anecdotes and profiles of the proud people who made up the squadron over its nearly 62 years of service to Canada."

Reader Comments

Fighter Squadron now is out among its best critics – you readers. So far the reaction has been encouraging, at least among those who have thought enough of our efforts to order a book. Here are some initial comments, including constructive criticism:

  • Aero Journal, a superb EU aviation publication, notes of Fighter Squadron in its No.39/October 2004: "une vaste panorama d'une unité typique de l'aviation de chasse canadienne ... beau livre, bien illustré Merci, AJ!
  • Klaus Kropf writes from Ingolstadt, Germany that I am wrong with the figure of 269 Luftwaffe pilots killed on the F-104. The correct number is 116. Klaus knows this, since he is the authority – he flew F-104s for the Luftwaffe, and has authored the book on the subject. He also points out that the Dutch F-84 shown on p.125 is really a Norwegian F-84G. Other, he notes: "During my recent holidays I managed to read your 441 Squadron book. Just great! I could not stop reading until I had finished it. Just another brilliant Larry Milberry product." Thanks, Klaus!
  • From 441 Spitfire pilot Bruce MacKenzie: "You have done a magnificent work in bringing the history of 441 to life and to light. I have found the latest chapters to be just as interesting as are the first ... I suspect that all members and former members of 441 will be obtaining copies." Bruce points out that on p.41 (lower photo) Mackenzie's and Dewar's names are transposed, and that's Heasman who is "partially obscured", with Kimball behind him. CANAV sure hopes that Bruce's assumption about sales comes true!
  • From Spitfire pilot Len Wilson: "That's a great job you did on 441 Squadron. On p.59, in the photo from Sid Bregman's collection, that's me standing beside Fraser Dewar. That photo was taken on our trip from Digby to OTU at Rednal, where Johnny Johnson had sent us. From there Sid went to 441, while I went to 442. Look forward to a book about 442 some day. You'd better hurry before we all pop off!"
  • Writes CF-104 pilot Ted Delanghe, "Fabulous book ... wonderful layout, fascinating pics." Adds former 441 CO, Paul Manson, "I am biased, but I think this is one of your best, and that is really saying something." Paul also notes: "The account of my training is a year out. I attended the STU from September to November 1967, not 1966. Subsequent dates are all likewise one year out. Thus, I graduated from 417 OTS at Cold Lake on May 21, 1968, and proceeded to 441 Squadron in Lahr, not Marville, which had closed by that time ... I did indeed start the OTS course at Cold Lake as a squadron leader and became a major, along with all S/Ls, on 1 February 1968, during the course. (There were seven of us majors on Course 29, so, naturally, we were known as the 'Major Disaster'!) Just before graduation I was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and became the CO-designate of 441 Squadron."
  • From Claude A. LaFrance: "I now have read your excellent book on the history of 441 Squadron. All the events you narrate that I have lived or heard about first hand are certainly described accurately. Congratulations, Larry, for another great book about our Air Force history. This memory lane trip reminded me of our Florennes caper and here is a bit of background about that:
    Cuppy and I were having a beer in he officers' mess, when the Belgian Wing Commander, who brought in their first F-84F (the first Belgian Air Force aircraft capable – barely – of supersonic flight) came into the mess. He held court at the bar, telling the sprogs how much skill and courage were required to fly such an advanced aircraft, etc.
    I thought that his monologue was hilarious and translated it in real time to Cuppy. The more I explained this to him, the more disgusted he became at this 'hero talk'. Cuppy no longer was enjoying the excellent Belgian beer in his glass and, when the Wingco explained that he was to 'boom' the parade square at the right moment during the acceptance ceremony to be presided over by the Belgian Chief of the Air Staff the next day, Cuppy said, 'Claude, are you thinking what I'm thinking?' I acknowledged that I was, and immediately became worried. After all, thinking like Cuppy was not necessarily a career-enhancing activity. I could see myself accompanying him on one of his routine trips to see A/V/M Campbell.
    Nonetheless, I quickly overcame that fleeting moment of sanity, and organized the McIlraith flight for the next day (as mentioned on p.119). The flight took off before the ceremony, which I then monitored from the cockpit of a parked Sabre, communicating with McIlraith on 441's squadron frequency. At the right moment I gave the green light and four solid booms hit the airport. The F-84F boom came less than a minute later, but it was a weak one, evidently not too well aimed. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the mess later on was quite cool until our departure!"
  • From Scott Haldane in Scotland: "Well, it's here – 441 came in the mail this morning. What can I say – 11 out of 10, best of the best, absolutely superb!"
  • John Otley of Dover, Kent sounds like a satisfied reader: "Received with thanks Fighter Squadron. A brilliant book! Well up to your usual standards."
  • From 125 Squadron "original" Ted Commins: "Received history of 441 Squadron ... excellent on the Torbay stay ... Great to read about Jake Copeland, a fellow long-serving Canadian International Paper associate."
  • From June Copeland, Jake's wife: "Thank you for your labour of love in recording these histories of our brave young fighters. It means so much to them and to their families and is history that should not be lost."
  • Hal Taylor, who flew Sabres with 441, points out that in the bottom photo on p.111 his score on this shoot was 80.3%. Also, in the photo on p.126, that's Hal, not Ken Stacey, on the wing. In closing, Hal notes: "Thank you so much for
  • Brian Castledine writes: "I just closed the cover on Fighter Squadron. Congratulations – what a wonderful chronology of one of Canada's foremost fighter squadrons. Of course, what made the reading so special for me was that I was once a proud member of 441 in the Starfighter days... You have made 441 Squadron the envy of all other fighter squadrons and Sandy and I are proud to be part of it. Who knows, you may have started a trend. Thanks so much." Brian also notes how Royal Flush was so important in 441's early days: "As you pointed out in the book, that first year of competition was not a banner year, but the team did make the cover of the Marville Arrowhead Tribune. What was more significant, that event marked the first year 441 was involved in tactical reconnaissance since WW!"
  • 441 Sabre pilot Donald Syms comments that Fighter Squadron "is terrific", but notes a couple of faux pas. In the photo on p.106 the names should read Fikowski, Webber and Syms. Something similar occurs on p.110 where the guys in the back row are Kincaid, Mitchell and Syms.
  • Bob Flynn, one of CANAV's solid old supporters, has a slightly different take on our new book: "I didn't know that 441 was so famous. In my day 414 held the spotlight – we taught the others how it was done." Fair enough, Bob! You "Black Knight" types are entitled to your view of the universe!
  • Roger Lindsay in the UK writes: "The 441 book is like no other squadron history that I can recall. I was expecting a much slimmer volume, but I guess by now I should have known that you would give the project the full CANAV treatment ... As usual, the galaxy of photographs makes this an outstanding history in its own right, while your penchant for fascinating and highly descriptive captions always adds considerable enjoyment." Roger has authored books about the Venom, Javelin and Lightning, and now is working on a huge "Fighters of the Fifties" project. Should you have any personal stories for his new project, or any photos to lend from those days, e-mail Roger at rogerl@ecosse.net.
  • One of the world's finest aviation magazines is Propliner. Although it has nothing to do with fighter planes, Propliner's editor, Tony Merton Jones, has written to CANAV: "I am constantly amazed at the remarkable standard you achieve with each and every publication, and this book is no exception ... I have enjoyed reading through the book, and the wealth of top quality illustrations is stunning."