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The Year That Was 1954

The following is taken verbatim from 439 Squadron archives.  Rank and decoration are those  held by the individuals at the time of writing. Background details, with rare exception are very scarce, so fresh input is always welcomed. 

Jan 1 - 10 New Years party held in the Officer's' Mess, and was attended by all the pilots and wives. Everyone enjoyed themselves. The week was spent on normal flying except when snow and rain made the runway too icy for flying. The spare time gave all pilots, a chance to attend lectures, films, and catch up on intelligence reading. F/0 Martin had the only prang, when his wing dropped on landing, causing "B" Category damage.

Jan 11 - 17 All types of flying carried out in this period with concentration on low level navigation. Dinghy drill attended by all pilots Wednesday afternoon. F/Os Kerr and Rozdaba visited Zweibrucken.

Jan 18 - 23 This week was filled with anxiety for some, with F/O's Rozdaba, Kerr, Morrison, Bradley, Martin, Ruecker, Moore, Wingate, Gillies, Frazer and Hannah writing promotion exams. F/O Elphick attended the ground defence course. A new radar drogue was towed on test by F/O Hallee. Little flying done in this period apart from sector recce trips for F/Os Misselbrook and Crowthers who have reported in from Chatham.

Jan 24 - 31 Exercise. with the RAF Auxiliary radar controllers carried out with few PIs being done. F/O Moore took S/L Burk, who will be with 439 on contact training, up on a sector recce. F/O Davis reported for duty from Chatham. F/L Bliss and FIG Wingate have taken over the operation of the Sabre Flight Simulator for 1 (F) Wing. F/L Hanson has taken over the duties as "B" Flight Commander, with F/O Hamilton acting as Deputy Flight Commander.

Feb 1 - 7 Pilots and aircraft were moved to RAF Acklington, with ground crew and equipment moving by convoy. The flight room was set up and the pilots briefed for air to air firing. Little firing was done however due to low cloud and haze. A cocktail party was held on the evening of the 6th by the CO of Acklington and the RAF Officers in our honour. It turned into a real thrash with everyone having a good time.

Feb 8 - 14 Most a this week was spent trying to put in time. A visit was organized to a local brewery where the products were sampled by the pilots. Fog and continuous rain blanketing all England. The 8th however, saw 46 sorties completed with F/O Moore and F/O Hamilton taking the honours with 49 hits each. No other flying done In this period. Later in the week a visit me paid to the Air Sea Rescue unit at Blyth.

Feb 15 - 21 A little more flying done this week, but a lot of trips aborted due to duff weather. Tuesday afternoon everyone paid a visit to Bournemouth Castle. Friday we had a party for the RAF. They seemed to like the Canadian V.O. (a brand of Canadian rye whiskey).

Feb 22 - 28 Flying improved for the remaining two days at Acklington, with 36 effective sorties flown on the 23rd . Visibility once again down on the 24th . Air firing scrubbed and our eleven aircraft departed for North Luffenham at 1040 hrs, all down at home base 1130 hours. Flying cancelled for the 25th and 26th whilst our ground equipment was being transferred from Acklington. Pilots briefed in preparation for the coming exercise Magna Flux.

Mar 1 - 7 Exercise Magna Flux on this week, with Met briefing being held at 0530 hrs, and pilots in the cockpit at first light. Two sections scrambled the first day but no enemy aircraft sighted. March 2nd and 439 saw their first action . F/O Bradley shot down a B-45. F/L Wenz's section - 1 Lincoln, F/L Hanson's section - 1 F-84. Weather once again holding back the flying with the airfield in the red, 50 % of the time for the remainder of the exercise. March 4th saw the last successful interception with F/L Hanson's section intercepting three F-84's. F/O Davis shown the local area on a sector recce. Pilots stood down for the week-end.

Mar 8 - 13 Not too much flying this week as we are having rough weather with lots of rain and fog. Pilots attending lectures and aircraft recognition exams. F/L Kelly led a section of four on Mar 10th consisting of F/O's Hannah, Fraser, and Gillies, to Salisbury Plain on an air-to-ground display for the Air Land Warfare School. G/C Somerville flew one trip with 439 on the afternoon of the 11th. Fogged In on the remainder of the 11th with free beer in the afternoon for the accident free month of February.

Mar 14 - 20 Weather duff again for most of the week. Pilots attending more lectures, given by F/L Davis on intelligence, and W/C Lindsay on tactics, also periods of aircraft recognition attended. Weather cleared on the 16th with 30:10 flying time put in. S/L Burk and F/L Wenz flew to Kinloss (Scotland) on the 16th and returned on the 17th. Weather down to zero all day of the 18th, more lectures, and pilots polishing aircraft in the afternoon. Commenced flying 12:00 hrs., on the 19th. G/C Sommerville and F/L Wenz flew to Bentwaters return. New pilots, F/O's Castle and Jones reported in to the Squadron.

March 21 - 27 Weather good on Sunday, so an Amy ack-ack team set up guns on the field to check tracking of low-flying jet aircraft. Two trips were flown by F/L Wenz and F/O Davis. Weather down in the a.m. on Monday, but flew in the afternoon. Two aircraft blew tires no landing due to a severe cross-wind. Normal flying on the 23rd and pilots off to Northampton on the 24th for dinghy drill. Weather down on the 25th and back to normal flying on the 26th. F/O Castle and F/O Jones up on their first trips for sector recce.

Mar 28 - Apr 3 Squadron behind in hours so everyone flew PI's on Sunday. For a change more than half the week was decent. Full advantage was taken with high and low level battle trip, cine work, QGH's and GCA's. being flown. Week-end stand-down .

Apr 5 - 11  W/C Lindsay and S/L Belleau off to Biggin Hill on Monday, returning in the afternoon. F/L Hanson and F/O Morrison flew to 4(F) Wing, returning on the 6th . Practice for the fly-past welcoming the Queen back to Britain began on the 6th Normal flying on the 7th. On April 8th, F/O Elphick had oil pressure failure in Sabre 19155. His engine seized about 1 mile from the station, and he crash landed between the farmhouse and the end of runway 26. The aircraft caught fire, but F/O Elphick made a fast retreat and was unhurt.


This is the last entry in the Squadron diary, there being no further entries until October 1958. A brief hand written summary of the missing years follows:

The Squadron was stationed in North Luffenham, England, until March 1955, when it was moved to 1(F) Wing, Marville, France. The F-86 Mark Is were flown until March 1955, the Mark V's until July 1956, and the Squadron is presently flying Mark VIs 

During this time NATO commitments were carried out including full scale exercises, Zulu's, training and deployments.

More recent history includes deployment to Sardinia in June and July 1957. 439 Squadron was the first RCAF Fighter Squadron to go to 1 AWU (Air Weapons Unit) Decimomannu, Sardinia, in September 1957, and since deployed two more times for weapons firing. A deployment to Pferdsfeld, Germany, was made in July 1958 while the runway at Marville was being resurfaced. During the 24 day deployment, the Squadron carried out full commitments, including Zulu, and had good weather for living under canvas.

Between June and September F/Os Burke, Pattee, Carter, and Castledine were brought to combat readiness standards with F/L Chapman and F/O McQueen undergoing phase training. F/Ls Gourlay and Milne, F/Os Issacs, McCann, Laundreville and Hollingshead left the Squadron during this time.

F/L Norn was a member of the RCAF team which competed for the 4th ATAF Trophy shoot at Cazean, France in July 1958. The team consisted of F/Ls McGarva, Norn and Henry with F/Os Paul (top man) and Barker. Team competed against Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, French Air Force and Belgian Air Force. The RCAF team won the competition with a substantial margin.

Copyright 1998 - 2005 Michael T. Melnick. All rights reserved.

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