No. 410 (Cougar) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force has the
distinction of being the top-scoring night fighter unit in the
Tactical Air Force in the period between D-Day and VE-Day. Its record
book shows 78.3/4 enemy aircraft destroyed, two probably destroyed and
eight damaged. Of these 85 victories, 60 were won in the 11-month
period between June 1944 and the end of April 1945.
The story of No. 410 falls into five periods. It opens with a long,
relatively quiet and uneventful sojourn in the Lowlands and northern
England from June 1941 to February 1943. Its role was the night
defense of the British coast, but enemy aircraft were rarely seen, and
the Squadron could count only one destroyed and one damaged during
these 20 months. Then it moved south to a station
Lincolnshire where, in addition to its usual defensive duties, it
embarked an a period (March to October 1943) of offensive operations
into enemy-held territory by day and night to disrupt Nazi rail, road,
canal and air traffic. More than 30 trains were attacked, as well as
freight cars, vehicles, barges, tugs, factories and freight yards. In
air combat four Dornier bombers were destroyed and Cougar crews had a
share in the destruction of two more Hun aircraft.
In the next period, November 1943 to May 1944, the squadron was again
engaged in the night defence of Britain. This was the period of
"little Blitz" on England and the Cougars were at long last able to
come to grips with the foe. They shot down 14 raiders with five more
probably destroyed or damaged for good measure. But this success was
overshadowed by the events of the next three months (June to August
1944) when the Squadron patrolled nightly over the beachheads to guard
our troops and shipping against enemy bombers. Thirty-one times No.
410's Mosquitoes brought down their opponent and damaged, if they did
not destroy, three more. Then the Squadron moved to France and in the
next eight months added 25 "Kills" and a “damaged” to its score.
The badge of No. 410 Squadron, approved by His Majesty the King, in
May 1945, depicts a cougar's head superimposed on a crescent moon. The
moon and the Squadron motto "Noctivaga" (Wandering by Night) refer, of
course, to the unit's wartime role as a night fighter unit. The cougar
was selected as the squadron emblem because it was "a Canadian animal,
noted for its speed and power in striking down its prey". No. 410’s
record shows how well its personnel lived up to these characteristics
of its namesake.
The city of Saint John, New Brunswick, adopted the Squadron during the
war. In 1948, after a lapse of almost three and a half years, No. 410
was re-formed as the first fighter squadron in the peace-time Regular
Force. Equipped with Vampires, it is now stationed at St. Hubert
1 , near
Montreal, but will eventually move to another base in eastern Canada.
Although no longer directly associated with its war-time foster
parent, the unit will be part of the air defence of the Maritimes and
its personnel will, no doubt, have many opportunities to renew the old
bonds of friendship.