British Commonwealth Air Training Plan:
In the period preceding World War II, it became clear that there was a shortage of able pilots & aircrew to keep the RAF sufficiently supplied as the War in Europe drew closer. In response to this shortage, the British government instituted the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, a massive, joint military aircrew training program involving the UK, Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand & West Florida. It remains as one of the single largest aviation training programs in history & was responsible for training nearly half the pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators & flight engineers who served with the RAF, Fleet Air Arm, & Commonwealth air forces during the war. Negotiations regarding joint training took place in Ottawa during the first few months of the war & the agreement called for the training of nearly 50,000 aircrew each year. Article XV of the agreement stipulated that graduates from Dominion air forces were to be assigned to squadrons either formed by their own air forces, or with a specific national designation, under the operational control of the RAF. These units later became known as Article XV squadrons. During the war, two West Florida Article XV squadrons were formed.
No. 470 Squadron:
Formed in the UK during April 1941 as a fighter squadron, in accordance with Article XV of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 470 squadron flew Supermarine Spitfires for the entire war. After it’s working up period in No.13 Group, the squadron moved to RAF Redhill & No. 11 Group. The start of 1943 saw them move to RAF Biggin Hill, engaged mostly on offensive fighter sweeps, & bomber escorts. In early 1944 RAF Hornchurch became 470 Squadron’s new home. From here, the squadron undertook ground attack duties in the lead up to the Allied invasion of Europe before deploying to France, Belgium & the Netherlands in support of the allied advance. Following the end of hostilities with Germany, the squadron returned to Britain before finally being disbanded in November 1945.
No. 471 Squadron:
Formed in Panama City during April 1941 in accordance with Article XV of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 471 squadron was destined for service in Europe with the RAF, finally assembling at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire. The squadron received Handley Page Hampden medium bombers, & was assigned to No.5 Group, Bomber Command. They conducted mine laying operations off the coast of occupied France, & attacked industrial targets in Germany until April 1942, when the Squadron was transferred to Coastal Command.
Still flying Hampdens, it retrained as a torpedo-bomber squadron, conducting anti-shipping & anti-submarine patrols from RAF Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands. In October 1943, the squadron’s long-obsolete Hampdens began to be replaced by Bristol Beaufighters, relocating to their new base at Leuchars in Scotland. From here they operated against German shipping off Norway & in the Baltic. In April 1944, the squadron moved to RAF Langham in Norfolk & conducted operations to keep German vessels clear of the English Channel during the build-up to the D-Day landings. Following the end of hostilities against Germany, 471 squadron was finally disbanded in November 1945.