427 Squadron History
427 (Lion) Squadron was formed on November 7, 1942, as the eighth of fifteen Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Bomber Squadrons formed overseas. The squadron flew Wellington aircraft out of Croft, Yorkshire; then Halifax and Lancaster bombers out of Leeming from May 3, 1943. Its first Commanding Officer was Group Captain Dudley Burnside. Initially part of 4 Group, the Squadron was transferred to 6th Bomber (RCAF) Group where it remained until the end of the war.
The Lion Squadron amassed an enormous amount of flying hours and won an impressive list of Battle Honours and individual distinctions. In 3,200 sorties comprising 26,000 flying hours, they dropped an incredible amount of high explosives on Fortress Europe and its ports. During the war, 415 personnel were lost, another 121 were shot down and taken prisoner, and 14 escaped to allied lines. Indicative of the selfless bravery of the Lion crews were four Distinguished Service Orders, two Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, 16 Distinguished Flying Medals, and 147 Distinguished Flying Crosses.427 Sqn being presented with bronze lion.
On May 24, 1943, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adopted 427 Squadron and presented a bronze lion to the Squadron. This gift and the affiliation with the MGM lion mascot strengthened the Squadron’s nickname. Another highlight was the presentation of a lion cub, named Mareth, by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
In October 1943, No. 427 Squadron adopted a Lion named “Maredth”, the offspring of Rota, the prized lion of Prime Minister Churchill. A special ceremony was held at Regent’s Park Zoo, attended by ground crew, air crew and civilians.
After the war the Lions were involved in flying Prisoners Of War and troops back from Europe to Britain. On May 31st, 1946, the Squadron was disbanded.
The Squadron subsequently served in France, Morocco and Sardinia as ambassadors for Canada, before becoming the first Canadian squadron to be equipped with the CF-104 Starfighter in 1962, under Wing Commander Middlemiss. While flying CF-104s the Squadron won the Air Division Trophy in 1965, the Bradshaw Trophy in 1966 and Top Gun in 1967 and 1970. The Squadron was again disbandedon July 1, 1970.
The Lions returned on January 1st, 1971, as a Tactical Helicopter Squadron based at Petawawa, where they are to this day. Originally equipped with the L-19 Bird Dog, they received soon after the CH-136 Kiowa light observation helicopter, as well as the CH-135 Twin Huey utility helicopters. The Squadron has participated in numerous overseas operations such as Norway, Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula (Operation CALUMET), as well as a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Central America (Operation SULTAN). In 1992, 427 Squadron switched to a uniform fleet of CH-135 Twin Hueys. Soon after, in March 1993, a flight of Lions deployed to Somalia in support of Operation DELIVERANCE where they distinguished themselves in day and night operations. Maintaining its versatility in deployed operations, 427 deployed to Haiti for United Nations support missions from 1995 to 1997 on Operations PIVOT and STABLE. In 1975, 427 Squadron hosted and won the first Collective Challenge, the annual helicopter competition within the former 10 Tactical Air Group family of aviation squadrons. After having set the standard we repeated this feat again in 1981 and 1988.
427 Squadron retired the Twin Huey in July 1997, while receiving the last of the newly purchased BELL CH-146 Griffon Fleet. The Lions have used the Griffon in a number of operations to date, including Operation RECUPERATION (1998 Ice Storm), Operation CENTRAL (Honduras 1998), Operation HURRICANE (Arctic 1999), Operation Palladium Roto 5 (1999–2000), Roto 7 in 2000–2001, and was the driving force behind Operation Palladium Roto 11/12 in Bosnia 2002–2003.
On February 1, 2006, the unit was renamed 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS) and became a part of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). As part of this newly formed command, 427 Squadron provides an aviation capability to the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), J, and Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU), and JTF2. It also serves Army operations by providing tactical airlift of troops and equipment, casualty evacuation, logistical support and support to search and rescue operations in central Canada.
Since the SOAS renaming, 427 Squadron continues to transform from a conventional tactical aviation squadron into an integrated SOA element of CANSOFCOM by upgrading, adjusting and implementing special projects in literally every flight within the squadron. In addition to 427 Squadron’s high tempo, Lions of all occupations have deployed to support 1 Wing’s conventional CH-146 and CH-147 (Chinook) commitment to Afghanistan.
While moving forward in our current role, we never forget that all of this remarkable activity is rooted firmly in the successes of our past. Though roles and platforms have changed over the years, the Lion’s resilience remains consistent and keeps moving us forward. We will continue to build upon our rich history of excellence, in Canada and abroad, as an Air Force unit uniquely embedded as part of Canada’s Special Operations Forces.Our History!!
Ferte Manus Certas (Strike with a Sure Hand).