Maple Leafs over Tunisia
80 Years Ago this month, a brilliant original Kodachrome:
A pilot of No. 417 “City of Windsor” Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force climbing into the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire fighter at Goubrine, Tunisia, April 1943.
At this time, No 417 was the only Canadian fighter squadron in the Mediterranean Theatre and was equipped with Spitfire Mk VB and Mk VC aircraft.
They were based at the remote Goubrine field, some 90 miles south-southeast of Tunis, and the squadron counted at least two aces on its rolls counting Flight Lieutenant Albert Ulrich “Bert” Houle, the squadron’s skipper at the time. 417 Squadron would later include James Francis “Stocky” Edwards who would splash three Focke-Wulf Fw 190s on the same day over the Anzio Beachhead.
As noted by the RCAF Association on 417 Sqn:
Formed at Charmy Down, Somersetshire, England on 27 November 1941 as the RCAF’s 16th – seventh Fighter – squadron formed overseas, the unit was ordered to the Middle East in the spring of 1942.
Equipped with Hurricane and, later, Spitfire aircraft, it spent five months in the defense of the Suez Canal and the Nile Delta. In April 1943 it became the only Canadian squadron in the Desert Air Force and was to provide air defense and close support to the British Eighth Army through the closing stages of the Tunisian campaign, and throughout the Sicilian and Italian campaigns.
The squadron was disbanded at Treviso, Italy on 30 June 1945.
The unit’s battle honors include “Defence of Britain 1942. Egypt and Libya 1942-1943. North Africa 1943. Sicily 1943. Italy 1943-1945: Salerno, Anzio and Nettuno, Gustav Line, Gothic Line.”
Reactivated post-war, the squadron flew P-51 Mustangs briefly and then was disbanded once again.
Reformed a third time in 1970, they flew CF-104s out of Cold Lake until taking another decade off with the retirement of the “Missile with a Man in It.”
Stood back up in 1993 for the fourth time, No.417 is still flying out of Cold Lake and equipped with three CH-146 Griffon helicopters.
Wonderful pictures, many thanks! (An aside … while your article headline is correct, often when the Maple Leaf in question is proper noun, like the air force, hockey team or logo art, it is written Maple Leafs; as leaves refer a bunch of leaf, like you would rake into a pile in autumn.)