This presentation was written six years ago when I knew nothing about a RCAF fighter squadron stationed in England…

This was the first Canadian squadron formed overseas that had no ties to any previous flying unit.

Created on 1 March 1941 as No. 403 Army Cooperation (AC) Squadron equipped with the Curtiss Tomahawk.

In May of 1941 the Squadron’s role was changed to Fighter and it exchanged its Tomahawks for Supermarine Spitfire Mk Is and moved from Baginton to Ternhill.

The Squadron moved again in August to Hornchurch to commence offensive operations and replaced its Mk I’s with new Spitfire Mk Vb’s.

The Squadron continued operations from various airfields in the south of England until July 1942, when it withdrew to Catterick. It returned briefly to Manston to participate in operations over Dieppe on the 19th of August.

The Squadron then moved to Kenley in January 1943 and converted to Spitfire Mk IX’s. Kenley became No. 127 Airfield in No. 17 Fighter Wing, and then 127 Wing of the new 2nd TAF (Tactical Air Force) later in the year.

In April 1944 the wing moved to Tangmere for operations during the Normandy invasion, moving to French soil on 16 June. Patrols over the front and frequent aerial engagements followed throughout the summer and fall. Moving into Belgium in November the Squadron maintained regular contact with the remainder of the Luftwaffe and this ensured that the unit ended hostilities as the RCAF’s second highest scoring unit with 125 1/4 victories claimed.

The code letters carried by the Squadron during this period were KH.

The Squadron was disbanded at Fassberg, Germany on 10 July 1945.


44 thoughts on “Presentation

  1. Je voudrais retrouver la famille de deux jeunes frères Canadiens tombés à Courseulles les 6 et 8 juin
    1944. Mes parents avaient adopté leurs tombes au cimetiére de Reviers Bény-sur-Mer et ont correspondu très longtemps avec leurs parents. Ces jeunes gens ne faisaient pas partie du régiment de la Chaudiere et ils étaient Anglais. Ils s’appelaient White et les prénoms de leurs parents étaient ANDREW et MILDRED.

    Qui pourrait m’aider à retrouver quelqu’un de cette famille, car nos enfants et petits-enfants aimeraient continuer ce devoir de mémoire?

    Avec tous mes remerciements

  2. 25-March 1944
    RCAF Flt Lt PENNOCK, CLIFFORD GEORGE (J/5128) age: 22
    He was killed whilst flying in Spitfire IX, MJ355 KH-H of No 403 Sqn, which crashed after pulling out of a dive whilst carrying out a dive bombing practice. He is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.

    From the website.

  3. Sorry for my bad English!

    I am looking for informations about Charles P. THORNTON. His Spitfire was shot down near Courtrai (Belgium) but Thornton bailed out
    and the man and his aircraft fell in my area, here, in Warneton (Belgium), on 15 May, 1944.

    A person, now dead, gave him his civilian clothes but Charles was too tall.

    Nevertheless, Thornton was caught by the Germans and he went in Germany in a prisoner-of-war’ camp.

    After the war, the Belgian man wrote to Thornton and Thornton came to Belgium in 1951 to meet again the man who had helped him.

    I am searching further informations.
    In 1946 his adress was :
    Flight lieutenant C.O. Thornton, J.4256, RCAF c/o Military Post Office, 134. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
    He was living in Detroit.
    If somebody…

    • Je suis francophone. J’ai écrit ce blogue en langue anglaise, car la plupart des gens qui furent dans l’escadrille 403 n’étaient pas Français.
      Je vous recontacte.

    • Bonjour Francis,

      The operational records book (AIR 27/1783) mentions the following details :

      At 0930hrs the squadron was off on an escort job to Doai, while passing north of Lille Huns were sighted on an airfield, the Wingco who was leading sent yellow section down after one FW190 which had just landed, Chuck Thornton who was leading the section gave the first burst followed by …(ORB difficult to read) Williams, Doug Orr and Tony Bryan. The Huns plane was last seen burning but it was an expensive do as Chuck Thornton’s plane was badly hit resulting in Chuck having to bail out, he was last seen heading for a nearby woods as fast as he could run. We have lost for the time being one of the best liked chaps of our squadron, a real guy, but he’ll come back just live Dave Goldberg. There was to have been a bombing do this afternoon but it was cancelled and the rest of the day was taken up with a little practice flying.

      Ramrod 889: Escort to 36 Marauders bombing marshalling yards Douai. Results not seen. F/L C.P. Thornton a/c hit by flak forced to bale out, last seen walking towards woods in Coutrai area. Flak. Heavy accurate. Weather: 7/10ths clouds at base 6,000 ft to 7,000 feet.

      F/L. C.P. Thornton Up 0930 down 1030
      F/L. E.C.Williams
      F/O. A.J.A.Bryan
      F/O. J.D.Orr
      W/C. L.V.Chadburn
      F/L. W.J.Hill
      F/O. J.Preston
      F/O. H.V.Boyle
      F/L. H.R.Finley
      F/L . C.T.Brown
      F/L. M.J.Gordon
      F/O. E.D.Kelly

      (The orb is not always easy to read.)
      Best regards from another part of Belgium


  4. Thank you – Merci – dank U

    I had only those informations

    An hour later the Wolf Squadron lost one of its flight commanders while escorting Marauders to bomb the
    marshalling yards at Douai(France). Passing north of Lille (France), the Wolves saw some Huns on an airfield near Courtrai (Belgium – Kortrijk in flemish, airfield of Wevelgem of Moorsele), and one section dived on an FW. 190 which had just landed.

    F/L C. P. Thornton got in the first burst, followed by F/L E. C. Williams, F/Os J. D. Orr and A. J. A. Bryan, and the Focke-Wulf was set ablaze. But Chuck Thornton’s aircraft was hit by flak and he had to bale out. Although Chuck headed for cover as fast as his legs would move the Nazis caught him.

    The RCAF Overseas : The Fifth Year. Toronto, 1945, p.131

    • I know about this Website. I used it for some 403 pilots.

      Flight Sergeant Robert E Barbour
      Flight Lieutenant James D Lindsay (DFC)
      Flight Lieutenant R A Morrison
      Flight Lieutenant C Leslie Rispler
      Flying Officer Aurel A Roy
      Flying Officer Robert C Shannon
      Flying Officer Arthur Van R Sainsbury (died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1974)
      Flying Officer Marvin Silver (F/O Silver also flew TB752 with No 66 Squadron (RAF))
      Flying Officer Frederick W Town (destroyed an He111 with TB752)
      Squadron Leader Henry P M Zary (DFC) (Officer Commanding 403 Squadron. Destroyed an Me109 with TB752 – died from pleurisy in a Quebec Hospital in 1946)



  5. I have a picture that I found at a Car Boot sale in Dorset, and after posting it to my @LynnsWPics site on Twitter, the feeling is that it is of the Ground Crew of the RCAF 403 Squadron, taken on 15 August 1942, you are more than welcome to have it for your collection if you think it is, would love you to look…and please let me know how I can send it to you if you would like it,

    Kind Regards,


  6. A very good morning, as a writer I am busy now gathering information for a book about WW2, concentrated on what happened during wartime in the Holland region in and around the small village of Hillegom. On July 29th 1943 a Spitfire of the 403 sqn made an emergency landing at Hillegom and the pilot, ltn J.E.Abbotts, was arrested by the Germans. Looking for more details about this aircrash and what happened to the pilot. Any suggestion is welcome!

    • I found this in the ORBs (Operational Record Book) of RCAF 403 Squadron…

      Please tell us more after about this pilot.


      Thursday, 29 July, 1943

      It was very warm, bright and clear today with very few clouds. 12 Group Ramrod 22: The Wing went to Cotishall for this operation and took-off from there, led by W/C Johnson. The role of the Wing was top cover to Marauders. Rendezvous was made South of Southwold at 12,000 feet with the bombers who turned back when they were within 20 miles of Ijmuiden. Our Wing continued on to the target before crossing out at the coast over Zandvoort at 22,000 feet. Soon after crossing the coast, enemy aircraft were seen below and sections of 421 Squadron were detailed to attack while 403 Squadron remained as top cover. In the following engagement, W/C Johnson fired on one, which is claimed as damaged, and P/O Linton of 421 fired on one, which he saw crash SW of the Schipol aerodrome and is claimed as destroyed. About the same time, F/L Fowlow with 421 Squadron destroyed a ME 109, which was seen to crash SW of Amsterdam. Sgt Dixon of 421 attacked the other ME 109 of the pair that were flying together and claimed this one as damaged. 421 Squadron later got one more 109 that was claimed as destroyed and was seen to crash. P/O J.E. Abbotts and F/L Goldberg, both of 403 Squadron were flying with 421 Squadron and were bounced southwest of Amsterdam. P/O Abbotts was last seen in this area and is posted as missing. No one saw him being attacked. 403 Squadron gave cover throughout the entire engagement and were not engaged themselves. There was moderate light and heavy flak encountered in the Amsterdam -Schipol and Noordwijerhout area. The Wing crossed the coast on the way out in the Noordwijerhout area at various heights and times, pancaking at Cotishall at about 1115 hours. The Wing took-off by 1115 hours and the Sections were as follows:

      Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
      F/L Dover S/L Godefroy F/O Ogilvie
      F/O Preston P/O Gray F/L Southwood
      F/O Lambert F/O Middlemiss F/O Dowding
      F/O Foster F/O Brannagan F/O Browne

      P/O J.E. Abbotts and F/L Goldberg flew as White 3 and 4 with 421 Squadron. Red 2, P/O Gray, returned from the sweep and landed at Kenley, his a/c being u/s.

      Ramrod 171: W/C Johnson led the Wing on this operation, taking-off from Kenley with our role being forward target support. The operation went according to plan to the target, thence to Dieppe and Neufchatel at 29,000 feet before losing height while they came out over the Somme Estuary at 20,000 feet. Slight flak was experienced from Le Trait. No enemy were seen and the Wing crossed in over the English coast at Hastings. The Wing was up by 1748 hours and down by 1920 hours. The Sections were as follows:

      Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
      F/L Dover S/L Godefroy F/O Ogilvie
      F/L Goldberg F/S Shouldice F/L Southwood
      F/O Brannagan F/O Lambert F/O Dowding
      WO Hargraves Sgt Cousineau F/O Browne

      F/L Goldberg, Blue 2, returned early, his a/c being u/s and F/O Foster, as a spare, flew
      in his place.

      There were 32 non-operational sorties today which included the trip done by the Squadron back from Cotishall to Kenley after the sweep and then up to Cotishall again at night for a sweep the next day. There was also some local flying and a number of a/c tests carried out. P/O Abbotts has yet to return from the 1st operation and is posted as missing. No one saw what happened to him.

    • He was marched to Stagluft 3 where the Great Escape took place. He did not attempt to escape but did exercise sessions in the yard while men made the tunnel. After the war he returned to Owen Sound On married had two children. He was killed in a car accident December19, 1959.

  7. I am looking for information on E. B. (Ted) Argue who served with 403 and was shot down April 1942 and became a POW. I would like to get the Serial Number and aircraft Codes for his aircraft. He was my supervisor when I began work at PWC in Ottawa and I had made a model of his Spitfire aircraft and I would like to make another. By the way Ted died about 2012.
    Stu Tait

      • Saturday, 25 April, 1942

        Weather, clear but with considerable ground haze. The Squadron was at readiness at 0545 hours. At 0915 hours, the Squadron was briefed as follows: North Weald Wing, with 121 Squadron at 18,000 feet, 403 Squadron at 20,000 feet and 222 Squadron at 22,000 feet were to rendezvous at Clacton at 1009 hours with six Bostons at 12,000 feet. Debden was to act as escort wing at 14,000 – 17,000 feet and we were to be escort cover. The French Coast was to be crossed 10 miles East of Dunkirk at 1025 hours. We were then to make a wide turn to starboard and approach the target from the Southeast at 1027 hours and then return to Manston at 1100 hours. Target support wing was to be Northolt at 22,000 – 25,000 feet who were to cross the French Coast between Calais and Gravelines at 1025 hours, and then sweep inland to cover the withdrawal of the bombers.

        Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that rendezvous was made at Clacton at 1000 hours. We crossed the French Coast at Nieuport at 1025 hours and were over the target at Dunkirk at 1030 hours and saw bombs hit on the quayside. After passing the target we saw six FW 190s who came down out of the sun on the port side. I tried to head e/a off but was balked by some Spitfires who were following them. We encountered a fair amount of flak two miles off Dunkirk while following the bombers out. On the was in when we were half-way across the Channel, I saw Blue 2, P/O Zoochkan go into a spin with his engine stopped and called to Blue 3 to follow him down. I then received word from Blue 1, F/O Dick, stating that he had been hit and was going back with Blue 3 and Blue 4 to follow him. After escorting the bombers back to Manston at 1040 hours, we started to look for someone in the sea about six miles East of Manston, but as other Spits were also looking for this person, Operations asked if I cared to find Zookie who was reported as down in the Channel. Ops gave a vector of 95 degrees. When I was told to orbit, I asked for a fix and was told that I was 10 miles too far East and 5 miles too far North. I was given a vector of 220 degrees but saw no sign. I was then told to return to Manston and rendezvous with a Lysander. I followed the Lysander until my gas showed 15 gallons.

        P/O Magwood and P/O Somers saw Zookie overshoot P/O Dick, Blue 1, with Zookie’s port wing colliding with Dick’s prop, tearing a large hole in the wing tip. The wind then lifted off 2/3s of the stress skin. He went into a violent spin. Maggie and Larry Somers followed him down but lost him at 5,000 feet. They did not see him bale out and gave several Maydays. The next view that they got of Zookie was with him in the water with no dinghy but he did appear to be uninjured as he waved to them. Somers went back to 6,000 feet and gave another Mayday, then tried to find Magwood but could not so he proceeded home alone. Magwood kept Zookie in sight for 35 minutes but as colouring faded lost him. He continued to circle for over an hour. No rescue boats or aircraft were in sight; Ops said that the sea was too rough for rescue boats. As no word was received that he was picked up, it looks as if Zookie drowned. It all looks like a poor show and the boys are mad. Magwood did a very good job as did S/L Campbell and Larry as they patrolled an area alone which was very vulnerable to enemy attack. Everyone misses Zookie, he was a nice lad, part Polish but raised in Canada on a farm. Dickie had only two feet left on each propeller blade. He made a deadstick landing from 8,000 feet over Manston but crashed on landing, receiving severe head injuries and is now in the hospital under observation for a fractured skull. We are glad that Dickie got out of it alive. At 1530 hours, the Squadron was again briefed for a second sweep. North Weald was to rendezvous at Red Hill with six Bostons and act as top cover at 19,000 – 22,000 feet, Debden Wing as close escort at 12,000 – 14,000 feet and 12 Group as escort cover at 15,000 – 18,000 feet. We were to leave Red Hill at 1600 hours, be over Hastings at 1613 hours, cross the French Coast South of Berck at 1632 hours, be over the target at Abbeville at 1635 hours, come out at Le Treport at 1641, and cross the English Coast at Beachy Head at 1651 hours. The target support wings were Kenley at 18,000 – 21,000 feet and Biggin Hill at 22,000 – 26,000 feet. The withdrawal support wing was Hornchurch at 22,000 – 26,000 feet.

        Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that rendezvous was made the Bostons at Red Hill and we crossed the French Coast at Berck at 1632 hours. Just after crossing, I reported to the W/C that there were a/c to the port and was told to keep an eye on them, noting that some went to smoke trial height above and behind us. Then I saw about 20 e/a come down out of the sun on our tail. Red Section at this time was at the extreme left of the formation. The e/a dived as a bunch on Red Section. I warned Red Section and the W/C of the number of e/a and I then turned sharply right into them. They were travelling so fast that, by the time that I got around, the e/a had passed and split up. I saw one FW 190 on the tail of Red 4, F/S Argue, and turned into the e/a, making him veer slightly to the left. I followed and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a Spitfire pouring glycol; the e/a then dived away. I turned to look for the Spitfire but, owing to the melee, I could no longer see him. By this time, the other two Squadrons had turned around. Not seeing anything else but Spitfires, I climbed and took up top position. We escorted the bombers home safely. P/O Munn, Red 3, and F/S Argue, Red 4, are assumed to be shot down as the S/L saw one pouring glycol and some pilots in 222 Squadron saw two Spitfires pouring glycol and going down in shallow dives. It is hoped that they baled out. F/S Argue had a pistol with him. While Ted was the smallest pilot in the Squadron, he was one of the most aggressive fighters and had a very breezy way with him that appealed to everyone. He had recently shot down a FW 190 over France which the Air Ministry stated that, while the cine-gun shows almost positively that the aircraft was destroyed, only a probable could be allowed. When Argue heard this he said, “What do they want us to do, rope them and bring them back?” Bill Munn only recently received his P/O; he is a good type, quite and unassuming and there is little doubt that he would soon have led a section. However, we expect them both to turn up. P/O Hurst, Yellow 4, in the melee with the 20 e/a was attacked, with 2 cannon and 1 m/g shell passing through his port wing. He stayed with the Squadron and, upon reaching England, landed at Manston. Unfortunately, he hit a soft spot in the field and nosed over, damaging the prop, and receiving a slight head injury but otherwise okay and back on duty. He volunteered to fly immediately but the W/C is taking his place so that he may have a days rest. F/S Walker, Blue 2, saw about 8 e/a come down on his port side and Walker turned slightly to meet their attack, then swung to the starboard on an e/a’s tail, firing a 5 second burst of M/G at the e/a from quarter starboard astern form 400 yards range. No damage was observed and Walker made no claim. This ends the worst day that the Squadron has had for casualties and now we are short of pilots. While we have lost several fighter aircraft, our bombers all returned safely from their targets.

  8. I’ve read through your blog with great interest after learning recently that my grandfather’s military medical career included a stint as the medical officer with the 403 Squadron (F/L DS Munroe). I see his name mentioned on a few occasions in the operations record books of 1943 and 1944 during his time with the squadron. I was wondering if you might know of any additional background or records on the RCAF Medical Service, as it would help fill in the blanks. Any guidance would be much appreciated.

  9. Pingback: The Names – Comment | RCAF No. 443 Squadron

    • This is the history of that plane.

      model: Vb
      factory: West
      engine: M45

      5 MU 27-4-42

      403 Squadron 3-6-42

      CAC ops 3-43

      ros 401 Squadron 27-3-43

      FAA 12-4-43

      ros 416 Squadron 3-6-43

      310 Squadron 7-6-43

      52 OTU 24-6-43

      VASM 9-7-43

      M46 install

      ARF 2-12-43

      FAAC 15-4-44

      ros CGS 16-1-45

      Reid Sigrist refurb to Portugal 16-9-47

  10. I am looking for information about my Cousin F/L Stanley W Matthews who was shot down on November 18, 1943 I believe near St Omer, France. He was never found or recovered. I’d like to find any details that may exist about the mission he was shot down on, was it by flak or ground fire, an air combat battle, if his Spitfire has ever been found or any other details. Many thanks in advance. Rick Anthony, Victoria, BC, Canada

    • Not much information. Hit by flak and heard he was going to jump. Body never found, probably lost at sea.
      Do you want this page of his service record?

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