442 Transport and Rescue Squadron (TRS)
The primary role of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron is the provision of aviation resources in support of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) in the Victoria Search and Rescue Region
This region consists of approximately 920,000 square kilometers of mainly mountainous terrain of Yukon and British Columbia and 560,000 square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean extending to approximately 600 nautical miles offshore, including over 27,000 kilometers of rugged British Columbia coastline. The rugged and often inaccessible terrain, severe weather, and large expanses of sparsely populated areas make the Victoria SRR the most demanding region in the country.
While approximately 80 of the Squadron's personnel strength of 200 are aircrew trades, including pilots, navigators, flight engineers, and Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs), the majority are maintenance personnel, charged with keeping the fleet of eleven aircraft at peak operational readiness.
On occasions when major search operations dictate the establishment of a forward operating base somewhere else in the province, 442's maintenance personnel will deploy with the aircrew, providing servicing and repairs to aircraft on site.
Designed and approved in 1957, 442 Squadron's badge is indicative of the Unit's long association with British Columbia. The central device is HAIETLIK, the Lightning Snake of Nootka First Nation Legend.
According to Nootka folklore, the Lightning Snakes were dispatched by the Thunderbirds to kill whales as a source of food. Once a whale was sighted, HAIETLIK attacked. Its head as sharp as a knife, with a tongue which shot bolts of fire, HAIETLIK was able to inflict injuries sufficient to permit the whale to be carried off as prey.
The Squadron's motto is: "UN DIEU, UNE REINE, UN COEUR" (One God, One Queen, One Heart).
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in early December 1941, concerns about the vulnerability of Canada's west coast were immediately raised. A decision was taken to strengthen the area with several fighter and bomber squadrons, based at Sea Island (now Vancouver International Airport) and other smaller stations along the coast.
On January 1st, 1942 at RCAF Station Rockliffe, Ontario, 14 Fighter Squadron formed under S/L B.D. Russel, DFC, and, equipped with ten Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks, moved west to Sea Island in April.
Less than one year later, after training and standing alerts from Sea Island, the Squadron moved north to the Aleutians in February 1943, where it joined "X" Wing, operating from Amchitka on strafing and dive-bombing sorties against Japanese-held Kiska.
Eight Squadron pilots were awarded the U.S. Air Medal during the Aleutian campaign.
A return to Boundary Bay, B.C. in September 1943, and several weeks of embarkation leave, preceded the Squadron's move to England in January 1944.
The European Campaign
In February 1944, the renamed 442 Squadron reconvened in Englandwith newly acquired Mark IX Spitfires. Combined with 441 and 443 Squadrons, they formed the all- Canadian 144 Wing commanded by the famous RAF flying ace W/C J.E. (Johnnie) Johnson. The Squadron initially flew air superiority missions over Britain, but its first major contribution to the war in Europewould be felt on D-Day. On the June 6th the Squadron was roused at 4:30 a.m. and proceeded to fly top-cover and ground attack missions until 10:00 p.m. that night. Many more missions were flown in the subsequent days, and on the June 15th, 144 Wing became the first Allied wing to be stationed permanently at an airbase in France. The Squadron flew extensively in support of operations in Normandy, and from June 26th to 30th it scored 15 victories while suffering no casualties. Following the breakout fromNormandy in late 1944, the Squadron advanced throughNorthern Europe with the Allied forces, continuing to support with top-cover and strafing missions.
On March 23rd, 1945 the Squadron was recalled to Britain and re-equipped with the P-51 Mustang. With the P-51’s dramatically increased range, 442 provided long-range bomber escort for the remainder of the war, with one of its more notable missions being escort to a flight of Lancaster bombers that attacked Hitler’s chalet in Berchtesgarden on April 25th, 1945.
By the time the Squadron was disbanded on August 7th, 1945, 442 Squadron claimed 58 enemy aircraft destroyed, 5 probable kills and 25 damaged. Furthermore, they also reported 91 rail lines cut, three supply dumps, over 900 vehicles, 125 locomotives, 200 freight cars, 23 tug boats, and six midget submarines to its credit. All of this at a cost of ten pilots killed in action, two killed in accidents, four taken prisoner (another two evaded capture). In the words of their first commanding officer, W/C B.D. Russel, DFC: “442 Squadron had a very enviable record, starting from scratch prior to D-Day, and becoming one of the highest scoring squadrons on the continent by the end of the War.”
442 Squadron re-formed at Sea Island, B.C. in April 1946 as a Reserve fighter squadron. Over the ensuing years, it flew a variety of Aircraft types, including Harvards, Mustangs, T-33s and F-86 Sabres.
In 1958, the role of the reserves underwent a major change and the Unit was re-designated an Auxiliary Transport Squadron tasked with emergency and light transport duties. For this, 442 was equipped with C-45 Expeditors initially and, later, single Otters both wheel and float equipped.
With the closing of Sea Island as a RCAF station in 1964, the Squadron was disbanded.
Concurrent with 442's post-war auxiliary existence, two Regular Force Flights also served at Sea Island: 123 Rescue Unit and 121 Composite Flight.
Tasked with rescue, mercy flights, light air transport and target-towing for army and coastal artillery, these units operated a variety of Aircraft types, including Norsemen, Lancasters, Dakotas, Cansos, Expeditors and Single Otters.
The two Flights were merged in 1953 to form 121 Composite Unit (121 KU) which continued the roles of both predecessors. Over the years, 121 KU flew Cansos, Dakotas, Expeditors, Single Otters, Albatross and Boeing-Vertol H-21 helicopters.
1960s and beyond
When Sea Island closed in 1964, 121 KU relocated to RCAF Station Comox and shortly thereafter, replaced the H-21 helicopter by the more modern CH-113 Labradors.
In July 1968, 121 Composite Unit was re-designated 442 Communications and Rescue Squadron, and, a few months later, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron. In 1970, both the Albatross flying boat and Dakota transport were replaced by CC-115 Buffalo Aircraft, giving the Squadron an entirely turbine-powered fleet. In 2002, the Labrador was replaced by the CH-149 Cormorant .
Since that time, the rapid increase in commercial and pleasure flying and boating in the Pacific Region and resultant increase in numbers of accidents and mishaps, has made 442 Squadron the busiest Rescue Squadron in the country.
442 Transport and Rescue Squadron
19 Wing Comox
PO Box 1000 Stn Forces
Lazo BC V0R 2K0
For information, please contact the Wing Public Affairs Officer at: