No.401 Squadron

A Rocky Mountain sheep’s head, caboshed
A Rocky Mountain sheep’s head, caboshed
Mors celerrima hostibus - Very swift death for the enemy
01 March 1941
10 July 1945

On 1 March 1941 at RAF Digby, No. 1 Squadron RCAF was renumbered as No. 401 Squadron. After an initial period of defensive duties, the squadron began to fly offensive sweeps over France in July, before re-equipping with Spitfires in September.

Becoming operational on Spitfires in October 1941, No. 401 Squadron joined the Biggin Hill Wing providing bomber escorts and making fighter sweeps. In January 1943 the squadron moved to Yorkshire, before moving back down south in May and becoming part of the Second Tactical Air Force, flying bomber escort missions again.

Soon after the Normandy invasion No. 401 Squadron moved to northern France and operated in the ground-attack role, destroying enemy airfields, transport and communications. As the liberation of Europe proceeded No. 401 Squadron moved to the Netherlands in October 1944. The squadron could still make offensive sweeps, but was also responsible for fighter patrols and, on 5 October 1944 five aircraft from No. 401 Squadron attacked and destroyed a Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter, the first credited to either an RAF or an RCAF squadron.

After the war No. 401 Squadron spent a short period of time with the British Air Forces of Occupation before being disbanded on 10 July 1945.


Hurricane II 1941 - 1941
Spitfire II/V/IX/XIV/XVI 1941 - 1945

Reference Sources

The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force
James J Halley Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 1988

RAF Squadrons
Wg Cdr C G Jefford Airlife 2001

Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft
John D R Rawlings Crecy Books 1993

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