The Canadian Forces Snowbirds (431 Air Demonstration Squadron) is a Canadian icon comprised of serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their pilots and technicians work as a team to bring thrilling performances to the North American public. Serving as Canadian ambassadors, the Snowbirds demonstrate the Skill, Professionalism and Teamwork inherent in the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Canadian Armed Forces.
75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
“The Battle of France is over, I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin”
-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
This year, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain as well as the courageous airmen and hardworking ground crew who sacrificed so much during this difficult time in history. The Battle was waged over a period of just over three months from July 11 until October 31, 1940.
The Battle of Britain was the first military confrontation won by air power and Germany’s first defeat in the war. For the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Battle of Britain was the first opportunity to fight as Canada’s Air Force and represents a significant milestone in the organization’s history.
Approximately 103 Canadians flew in the Battle of Britain, mainly as members of No. 1 Fighter Squadron RCAF, later renamed 401 Fighter Squadron, and in the Royal Air Force’s 242 “All Canadian” Squadron. Much of their success is owed to the 300 Canadians who served as ground crew and worked around the clock to fix broken aircraft in order to have them in the air for the next attack.
The Battle of Britain is commemorated every year on the third Sunday of September. On this day, the German Luftwaffe launched their largest bombing attack of the conflict, but thanks to the brave aircrew and ground crew, the Luftwaffe was pushed back and marked a turning point in the conflict.
431 Air Demonstration Squadron has its roots in the Second World War as a Bomber Squadron formed in 1942. Despite not participating in the Battle of Britain, members of 431 Squadron have, throughout their existence, shared a similar work ethic with those brave few who served in the Battle of Britain.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
The Supermarine Spitfire may be the best known fighter of the Second World War, but the Hawker Hurricane was actually used more during the Battle of Britain. In fact, the Hawker Hurricane scored a higher number of Royal Air Force victories over the Luftwaffe than the Spitfire. It was heavily used by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force.
Both aircraft played important roles during the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire would typically intercept the German fighters, leaving the Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers.
The Hawker Hurricane featured many firsts in terms of aircraft design. It was the first monoplane fighter aircraft of the Royal Air Force, the first with an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear and the first fighter that could exceed 300 mph (531 km/h) in level flight.
More than 14,500 Hawker Hurricanes were built between 1937 and 1944 with some 1,400 built in Canada by Canadian Car and Foundry.
No. 1 Squadron RCAF was formed in Canada on September 21, 1937 and flew the Siskin aircraft. The Squadron began flying the Hawker Hurricane in 1939 and moved to England in June of 1940. Members flew alongside the Royal Air Force throughout the Second World War and are notable for having fought in the Battle of Britain.
At the outset of the Battle of Britain, the pilots had very limited training in combat and some had only 20 flying hours. Their Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Ernest McNab, Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), was nervous for his members but on their second sortie on August 19, 1940, the squadron destroyed three German aircraft and damaged 3 others.
In 1941 all RCAF squadrons were re-designated as “400 series” squadrons in order to avoid confusion with Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons. No. 1 Squadron RCAF was renamed and 401 Fighter Squadron was born.
Squadron Leader Ernie McNab, OBE, DFC, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his brilliant contribution to victory during the Battle of Britain. He was the commanding officer of No. 1 Squadron RCAF (later 401 Fighter Squadron) when the Allies were pushed out of France in June 1940 and was the first person to lead an RCAF unit into battle.
Flying a Hurricane, he won the Royal Canadian Air Force’s first victory during the Battle when he destroyed a Dornier 215 on August 15, 1940. He also became the RCAF’s first ace during the Battle of Britain, credited with 5.5 “kills”. He survived the war, and served in the RCAF until 1957.
The Snowbirds are the proud ambassadors of the following foundations:
431 has flown these aircraft
THE HATITEN RONTERIIOS (Warriors of the air)