405 Squadron – The Canadians

Bennett wrote in his book Pathfinder:

“I gained another squadron, No 405, when 6 Group* was formed. This raised an awkward matter of principle, as I had insisted from the outset that I would not have any segregation or differentiation in the Path Finder Force. Thus, when the Australians came to me at one stage and asked whether I would have an Australian squadron, I refused point-blank, much to their surprise. The question of the 405 Squadron was different, because it was affiliated to a complete Main Force Group. Nevertheless, I insisted that the crews of this so-called Canadian squadron must not be more than 50 per cent Canadian. I maintained this principle right until the end. I did agree that the CO would always be a Canadian, and it started off under the command of Wing-Commander Fouquier, a thoroughly ‘press-on’ type if ever there was one.”

* 6 (RCAF) Group was formed in 1942. AOC George Brookes (English by birth, he had emigrated to Canada with his parents when aged 16) was given the huge task of setting up from scratch a complete bomber group on foreign soil. His contribution was so outstanding the he received the Order of Bath. He was succeeded as AOC by “Black Mike” McEwen (Canadian by birth) in February 1944.

 

PFF War Effort

“Between 18th August 1942 and 8th May 1945 the Path Finder Force and the Light Night Striking Force* flew 50,490 bombing sorties and dealt with 3,440 targets. Casualties were 3,618.

The contribution of an aircrew member of Bomber Command who completed an operational tour or died in the process – measured in terms of danger of death, both in intensity and duration – was, in my view, far greater than that of any other fighting man, RAF, Navy or Army. The contribution of a Pathfinder, in the same terms of intensity and duration of danger – and indeed of responsibility – was at least twice that of other Bomber Command crews. Great Britain and the Empire have, in the goodly time of ten years since the end of the war, strangely failed to erect any Nelson’s column in memory of Bomber Command, the most powerful striking force in all British history.”

DON BENNETT

* The Light Night Striking Force – Mosquitoes, which could carry a 4,000 lb bomb – the aircraft would go out in batches of up to 120 a time, or more frequently in small batches of 10 to 20 in intervals thoughout the night, and thus cause unpredictable chaos in addition to the main raid. Bennett says of the Light Night Striking Force that this was the name he used for it “much to the dislike of my C-in-C”.

 

PFF HQ, Castle Hill House, January 2008

Castle Hill HouseBennett’s HQ was originally at RAF Wyton. When the PFF expanded dramatically, it moved to Castle Hill House, Huntingdon, in June 1943, and remained there for the rest of the war.
The photographs, taken by Steven Hanglands, shows Castle Hill House as it was more than sixty years after the war. Does anyone know of a photo taken there in wartime or soon afterwards?

PFS Plaque - Castle Hill House