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RCAF No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron in the Battle of Britain

Seventy-one years ago today, No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force departed Montréal, Québec for the United Kingdom.  There were destined to be part of the few to whom so much was owed by so many, in PM Churchill’s famous phrasing.

The RCAF’s No 1 (Fighter) Squadron is the only Canadian squadron that took part in the Battle of Britain. Transferred overseas in June 1940, the pilots went through intensive training to be up to the level of their RAF counterparts before being sent to the front. In their Hurricanes, the pilots of No 1 Squadron had their first encounter with the enemy on August 23rd, 1940, and took part in the action until October 8th. Three pilots were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC): Squadron Leader E.A. McNab, Flight Lieutenant G.R. McGregor and Flight Officer B.D. Russel.

— “RCAF Fighter Squadrons Overseas.”  Juno Beach Centre.  n.d.  Web.  08 June 2010.

Groundcrew servicing Hawker Hurricane aircraft 315 of No.1 (F) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. Rockcliffe, Ontario. September 5th, 1939—a mere four days before the start of the Second World War. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-063512)

Groundcrew removing the chocks from Flight Lieutenant E.A. McNab's Hawker Hurricane aircraft 315 of No.1 (F) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. Rockcliffe, Ontario. September 6th, 1939. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-063510)

S/L E.A. McNab, Commanding Officer, with a Hawker Hurricane I aircraft of No.1 (F) Squadron, RCAF. Northolt, England. September 12th, 1940. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / e005176200)

S/L E.A. McNab (centre) and pilots of No.1 (F) Squadron, RCAF. Northolt, Surrey. September 12th, 1940. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / MIKAN #3643021)

An unidentified airman refuelling a Hawker Hurricane I aircraft of No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF. Northolt, England. October 6th, 1940. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / e005176201)

Pilots at readiness with a Hawker Hurricane I aircraft of No. 1 (F) Squadron, RCAF. Digby, England. January 22nd, 1941. (Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / e005176202)

In 1941, No. 1 (F) Squadron was renamed No. 401 Squadron and transitioned to new aircraft (later-model Hurricanes and early Spitfires).  The squadron ended the war as the top-scoring unit within the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force, with 186 ½ kills—29 of which were from 1940 under the old No. 1 Sqn moniker.

In more contemporary times, 401 Squadron transitioned to rotary wing craft and was most recently known as 401 Tactical Helicopter and Training Squadron, flying the CH-136 Kiowa.  When the Kiowas were retired, the squadron’s days were numbered; it was disestablished on June 23rd, 1996.

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Landseaire airborne yacht

James Kightly, journalist and author of the Vintage Aeroplane Writer, shows off the glamorous postwar conversion of Consolidated PBY-5A 34045 (civil registry N69043) to a Landseaire flying yacht.  His informative and droll image captions are not to be missed.

You’ll forgive me for marvelling at the aesthetics of film photography, flying boats and pleasant company, of course.

(Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine.  February 2nd, 1950)

Mid-cabin sleeping area. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Sunbathing on one of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Lounge/bar in one of what was formerly one of the waist gunner blisters. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

On-board shower. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Moored for port visit. Note nose gunner blister has been removed; bow is more streamlined than typical wartime PBY. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

At the saloon table, playing cards. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

For a fuller description of the amenities aboard these hedonistic craft, see Maurice F. Allward’s article “Airborne Yachts—Luxury Conversions of  Wartime Catalinas” in the July 1953 issue of Flight International.  Also see the full LIFE magazine archive of images of this craft, if you desire more.

Air Ministry: Operation Icelift (1955)

The RAF’s Nos. 201 and 230 Squadrons, operating Short Sunderland V flying boats, supplied the British North Greenland expedition between 1951 and 1954.  Later in 1954, the squadrons ferried the entire expedition (including the husky dog teams) back to Pembroke Dock, Wales.

Star Wars fans will be interested to know that a hangar on the former RAF flying boat base was also the fabrication site of a full-scale Millenium Falcon model, built in 1979 for the filming of The Empire Strikes Back.

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Goodwood Revival 2009 by Bernie Condon

The skillful, fortunate Bernie Condon has captured some great images and rare vehicles seen at this year’s Goodwood Revival.  His efforts reinforce my conviction that a man should attend at least one Goodwood meet before he departs from this earth.

Vickers Vimy Bomber, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

Spitfire Pair, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

Racing Cars, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

DH Rapide, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

See more images in Mr. Condon’s Goodwood Revival 2009 Flickr set.

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – Original Short (1998)

It’s not hard to see why Hollywood optioned the Sky Captain story after viewing this original short film.

Unfortunately its 2004 big-screen treatment left a lot to be desired.  I both loved and hated it; torn between loving the concept and visuals, but hating the dialogue, casting and execution in general.

One day someone will take another crack at this, and do it right.

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The Air Force that was

Flickr user twm1340 has scanned a series of old USAF training slides with many gorgeous old photographs of long-retired aircraft (and some, tellingly, who have no modern replacement in sufficient numbers, such as the KC-135 and B-52).

Martin RB-57 Canberra, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Boeing B-47E Stratojet, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Convair B-58A Hustler, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Fairchild C-123 Provider, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, originally uploaded by twm1340.

See the whole Flickr set for more.