408 Squadron RCAF: The Rockcliffe Years, 1949-1964

Front Cover
408 (Goose) Squadron Ottawa Group, 2014 - 606 pages
The story of the 408 Squadron, RCAF during its time in Ottawa at RCAF Station Rockcliffe has never been told in its entirety. Such an omission, perhaps understandable given the other events that took place at the same time, has denied the public a knowledge of the great achievements this Squadron accomplished for Canada, namely completion of the photography used for the first complete and accurate maps of the country; maps that in some of Canada's remote regions replaced those originating in the Mid-1840s with the Franklin Expedition or the expeditions that searched for him. Adding to the accomplishment was the Shoran radar survey that provided the control that ensured the land's features were correctly placed on the world's grid of latitude and longitude. Then beginning in 1950 during the "Cold war", the Lancaster aircraft of 408 took up the task of Arctic Reconnaissance that by year-round patrols checked that enemy lodgements were not being intruded into Canada's Arctic regions. Concurrently, the squadron was also providing tactical air support to the Canadian Army formations of the Mobile Strike Force. Other squadron tasks inlcuded ice reconnaissance for shipping, highly accurate mapping data for Mid-Canada radar line, transport support for the same, special Meteorological Flights to detect Soviet nuclear weapons testing, wildlife surveys, forest fire reporting and air searches for downed aircraft or lost ships, transport of sick aboriginals from remote communities and providing aircrew to monitor overflights by Soviet aircraft. Much of the squadron's flying took them to the Arctic regions where flying was carried out lacking accurate local weather forecasts, where only widespread airfields offered an alternative haven in the event of bad weather or aircraft unserviceabilities. Navigation aids were often limited to astro fixing and in the area of the North Magnetic Pole the aircraft compasses wandered about and required a complicated navigation technique employing gyros and astro observations. It was flying that was always demanding, usually involving some degree of risk and at times extremely dangerous. And while the aircrew and ground crew coped with their tasks, other airmen during the years of the radar survey served in the remote areas in tents for periods of up to 50 days operating and repairing sensitive radar equipments by which geographic features were fixed accurately. In the last two years in the high Arctic Islands, in the land of midnight sun and not many miles from the North Pole, all installations were made in winter by Dakota aircraft on skis, temperatures were 30 or 40 degrees below zero at times and wind storms kept the men indoors for many days though still keeping the radar equipments functioning. Through conditions were often dangerous and always demanding, the young men who manned 408 Squadron were well motivated, knowing how important their contributions were to the security and development of the country. This is the story of those 16 years that 408 Squadron functioned from Rockcliffe - it is late in the telling as many of those who served are now gone, but hopefully this book will tell Canadians what was done and in doing so help remember those who did their best to help secure and build a country.

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