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.


On August 1, 1962, the Lions were reac­ti­vated as a Fighter Squadron fly­ing F-86 Sabres at St-Hubert, before mov­ing to Germany.

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).


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