Andrew Thomas describes how a record-breaking unit of Royal Canadian Air Force submarine hunters acquired their distinctive nickname
During World War Two, the Royal Canadian Air Force became the fourth largest on the Allied side. To most, it is its activities working alongside the RAF in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East that immediately spring to mind. Or perhaps, the massive contribution it made to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which sustained the air offensive against Germany.
Less known is its contribution flown from home shores, as part of the force’s Home War Establishment, where the RCAF was tasked with the defence of the northwest Atlantic convoy routes. Its squadrons routinely monitored Canadian waters for U-boat activity, patrols controlled by the 1938-established Eastern Air Command (EAC).
The most successful EAC bomber reconnaissance (BR) unit was 10(BR) Squadron, formed in September 1939. It would end the war with the hard-won accolade ‘The North Atlantic Squadron’. The new squadron first flew the woefully unsuitable Wapiti biplane, but in April 1940 its first twin-engine Douglas B-18 Bolo bombers (known as the Digby) arrived. Though not ideal, it was then the longest-ranged aircraft available to them. In June, ‘A’ Flight, under Squadron Leader HM Carscallen, detached to Gander in Newfoundland with five Digbys and, with Carscallen at the stick, 10(BR)’s first patrol was flown on June 17, 1940.