No. 162 Squadron (RCAF): Second World War

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No.162 Squadron (RCAF) was a Canadian flying boat squadron that was formed on the Canadian east coast in 1942 as a long range anti-submarine warfare squadron, and that spent most of 1944 and the first half of 1945 operating with RAF Coastal Command in Iceland and Scotland, where it was credited with sinking five U-boats and a share in a sixth.

The squadron was formed at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, from the Canso 'A' detachment of No.10 Squadron, RCAF, on 19 May 1942. This was the Canadian built version of the Consolidated Catalina.

However it would take several months for the newly formed unit to expand from its original size to full squadron strength. The squadron was joined in the Yarmouth area by American B-25s of the US First Air Force from September 1942.

In October 1942 a detachment of two Cansos from the squadron was moved to Mont Joli to help in the attempt to defeat a German attack on shipping in the St. Lawrence River. At the end of the year a plan was put in place to move the entire squadron to the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the 1943 shipping season, to help defend against any repeat of the U-boat attacks. However by the spring of 1943 the Eastern Air Command had decided to use the squadron elsewhere. In the event neither plan could be put into effect because problems with the newly formed No.160 Squadron meant that No.162 had to stay active at Yarmouth until September 1942.

On 24 September 1942 the squadron sent detachments to Gander (Newfoundland) and to the US base at Stephenville (Newfoundland), to support No.1 Group's operations in support of the Atlantic convoys. On 5 October 1942 all available aircraft moved to Goose Bay, Labrador, once again to support No.1 Group.

Towards the end of the year the sea ice prevented flying boats operating from Newfoundland. In December No.162 Squadron sent two aircraft to Gander where they helped replace the Digby's of No.10 Squadron, and used it's Canso amphibians as land based patrol aircraft. However the squadron was still not at full strength despite having been formed for over a year. Over the winter of 1942-43 Nos.5 and 162 had twelve Canso 'A's between them, and thewe were the only RCAF aircraft with the range to reach the danger zone in the gap between shorter range aircraft in Canada and long range aircraft from Iceland.

On 1 December 1943 the Canadian Cabinet War Committee agreed to move No.162 to Iceland, to join No.120 (VLR) Squadron, RAF, the only squadron on the island with very long range aircraft. The squadron set off for their new base on 1 Janary 1944, carrying most of their supplies with them. The move was supported by No.164 (Transport) Squadron, RCAF and by two supply ships from the RCAF Marine Squadron, which carried the heavier stores. On 7 January 1944 the squadron arrivd at Reykjavik, having flown from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The squadron joined Coastal Command's forces in Iceland, which were using their flying boats to close the mid-Atlantic gap. It flew its first operations soon after arriving, and the move was largely completed by February. A first (unsuccesful) attack on a U-boat was recorded on 22 February 1944.

The squadron was used to fly long range patrols over the convoy routes. During this time it was credited with the destruction of five U-boats and a share in a sixth.

On 17 April 1944 the squadron's aircraft attacked U-342, and Flying Officer T.C. Cooke was credited with it's destruction. The U-boat was sunk with no survivors, early on her first patrol. She was rather unlucky to have been found by Cooke, who was on a meterological flight well to the west of Iceland.

A detachment of the squadron was based in Scotland from May-August 1944. The first four aicraft arrived at Wick on 23-25 May 1944 and the entire squadron was operating from there by the end of June. The squadron joined Coastal Command's operations off the Arctic coast of Norway.

On 3 June 1944 Flight Lieutenant R.E. McBride sank U-477, and on 11 June Flying Officer L. Sherman sank U-980 well to the north of the Shetlands. Sadly two days later Sherman's aircraft was shot down while attacking U-48o. Although five men managed to get into a dinghy, only one survivor was eventually rescued by a Norwegian whaling vessel.

On 13 June 1944 an aircraft flown by Flying Officer J.M. McRae attacked U-715. The Canso was shot down, but this time all eight of her crew managed to either get into the sole dinghy or hang onto its sides. A lifeboat was dropped by a Vickers Warwick from No.281 Squadron, but three of the crew died before they could be rescued. U-715 was badly damaged and sank soon after the attack, with 16 survivors.

Flight Lieutenant D. E. Hornell was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in an attack on U-1225 on 24 June 1944.The U-boat decided to fight it out on the surface, and his aircraft was repeated hit by gunfire. However he managed to carry out a low accurate attack and the submarine was sunk. His Canso was also badly damaged and he managed to put it down on the water. However only one dinghy remained intact, so the crew had to take turns out of the water. Two men died before they were rescued after twenty-one hours, and Hornell died soon afterwards.

On 30 June 1944 an aircraft flwon by Flight Lieutenant R.E. McBride spotted a U-boat. He was able to bring other aircraft into the attack, but his own depth charges 'hung up' and refused to drop. Eventually he was able to guide a Liberator of No.86 Squadron, RAF, to the scene, where it sank U-478. McBride was credited with a share in the victory.

After this very succesful period at Wick, the squadron retruned to Iceland on 6 August 1944, after U-300 had been spotted to the south-east of the island, prompting fears that the Germans were about to return to that area.

The squadron returned to Canada on 14 June 1945, where it was based at Syndey, Nova Scotia. It was used to guard against any rogue U-boat that refused to surrender, but this danger was soon over and the squadron was disbanded in August 1945.

Aircraft
January 1944-June 1945: Consolidated Canso A (Catalina)

Location
January 1944-June 1945: Reykjavik
    May-August 1944: Detachment to Wick

Squadron Codes: GK

Duty
Anti-submarine warfare

Books

 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 May 2021), No. 162 Squadron (RCAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RCAF/162_wwII.html

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