504 Blatchford Field Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron
In Edmonton 1949, #504 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron was born. Fifty years later, # 504 is still going strong and growing opportunities for young people. #504 Squadron is Edmonton’s third Air Cadet Squadron, formed under the command of Squadron Leader Johnny Romaniuk to meet the growing popularity of the Air Cadet movement in the post-war years. # 504 was one of four squadrons originally sponsored by the Royal Canadian Air Force Association # 700 Wing; 699 squadron was sponsored later. In 1958, # 9 Wing was created to consolidate and co-ordinate the squadrons under Wing Commander Harold Webbee. # 504 Squadron along with 12, 395 and 570 squadrons moved to new quarters at RCAF Edmonton in a building inherited from the United States Air Force, who had occupied it during WWII.
In 1962 the Wing was moved to new quarters, upstairs from the Base Communications center. The squadrons found their training areas were restricted and there were complaints from the ground floor operations. Consequently, the four squadrons fond separate locations and in 1965, # 9 Wing was officially disbanded. In 1964, # 504 Squadron moved to the recreation complex beside # 700 Wing (now HMCS Nonsuch) at 117 and Kingsway Avenue. Unfortunately, with this move came more difficulties. So, # 504 was forced to move to Baldwin Junior High School.
During the late 1970s, # 700 Wing RCAF began having financial difficulties, consequently all five squadrons were forced to seek new sponsors. In 1980, 504 Squadron entered into a partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion, # 24 Montgomery Branch. The Legion arranged for the unit to Edmonton’s Prince of Wales Armory, built in 1914. The years between 1985 and 1990 marked a strong growth period for 504. Lead by a dedicated staff and a strong sponsorship, 504 grew from only 4 officers and 42 cadets in 1985 to a staff of 12 and an enrollment of 200 cadets in the 1989/90 training year, becoming the largest Air Cadet squadron in the Prairie Provinces.
In 1985, two Squadron members received their Gold Level Duke of Edinburgh Awards at Banff. In 1987, 504 Squadron sent eight cadets and two officers to Ottawa to receive their Gold Level Duke of Edinburgh Awards from His Royal Highness, Prince Edward. For two consecutive years 1989 and 1990, 504 was awarded the Top Squadron in Alberta award.
During 1989, the City of Edmonton agreed to a land exchange with the Government of Canada and substituted the Canada Place property for land and buildings that the Prince of Wales Armory were located on. Eventually, the City decided to renovate the Armory and re-designate it into the new City Archives. With the completion of the decision, 504 Squadron was faced with the possibility of another relocation. Coincidentally, several other organizations were also looking for a compatible building in which to locate. During 1989/90, these organizations, including 504, formed as umbrella organization – or lobby group – in order to solicit the cooperation of the City of Edmonton. In April 1991, the city agreed to allow the Edmonton Aviation Heritage Society (the umbrella organization) to lease the former 418 City of Edmonton Squadron hanger. This hanger is the last one-of-a-kind in Canada – being the only double-long/ double-wide hanger remaining. The hanger was originally built during WWII when Blatchford Field (now the City Center Airport) was a staging ground for both the U.S. Army Air Force and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. 418 Squadron was the last operational Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron to occupy the hanger. This decision was dependent upon two things – that housing for 504 would be available in September and that E.A.H.S provide a Business Plan by December 1991. Consequently, 504 moved into the Edmonton Aviation Heritage Center in June and commenced renovations in September of 1991.
Since September of 1991, renovations to our training space and changing circumstances have been the norm. In order to raise funds for the restoration of hanger, the E.A.H.S has rented the hanger for car sales and other revenue-raising activities. With the donation of some materials acquired with the help of the E.A.H.S, the cadets and parents of the Squadron have completed major renovations to our offices and classrooms. 504 parents have donated many man hours of volunteer labor and also acquired many items for renovation use. This has consisted of the demolition of the west annex to include pulling out old drywall, insulating, dry walling. taping, painting, replacing windows, electrical and plumbing fixtures. At this time, major office renovation work is essentially complete with some minor cosmetic work and the construction of classroom/ storage space yet to be done.
The overall facility and 504’s area in particular, will continue to develop and improve over the nest years as materials and funding become available. During the summer of 1993, it was anticipated that new classrooms and office/ storage space would be built and in the future all lighting fixtures will be replaced, ceiling, walls and floors will be resurfaced and paint. In addition to the benefits of the various groups working together, the cadets will benefit from this partnership. We hope to have cadets working on a regular basis with the members of the other groups. They will be working on vintage aircraft and learning about airframe structure or engines; working in the museum as tour guides and learning about the rich aviation history of Blatchford Field (City Center Airport) and Alberta or perhaps working with our military and aviation partners during a Fly-in. We like to think of a facility as a “living museum” with the museum chronicling the past; the cadets being out future.
With the closure of Branch 24 Montgomery Royal Canadian Legion, it was decided in 1995 to change the name of the cadet squadron from 504 Montgomery to 504 Blatchford Field. in June of 1997 the squadron also changed its crest to reflect that of out affiliated unit, 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, presently based in Winnipeg. This move was to promote and strengthen our affiliation to the unit which has in recent years diminished due to the distance of both squadrons.
504 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron has proven its resolve to survive the challenge of many obstacles over the years and will continue to promote in our youth of tomorrow the aims of the air cadet movement. We are proud to have received the Top Squadron Award for 1997/1998 and also the Top Sponsor Award. This is a reflect of dedication of cadets, staff and parents to the cadet movement and and the youth of Alberta.
504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force (1939 – 1952)
On 21 October 1939 “Nottingham’s Own” squadron flew its first war patrol. From that data, it gradually built up a record of achievement, which will long remain a highlight in the annals of the County. Its pilots fought gallantly in the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, in Russia and over France to uphold the Squadron’s motto ‘Vindicat in Ventis’ (Vengeance in the Winds). Formed at Bushwell in 1928, the Squadron, consisting mostly of men from Nottingham, received powerful support from many prominent firms in the city. It rapidly developed into a splendid espirit-de-corps which stood in good stead in those trying days just over a decade after its formation.
The Squadron, flying Hurricanes, scored its first success against the enemy on 2 April 1940, when some of its pilots spotted two Heinkel float planes near Smith’s Knoll Lightship and promptly shot one of them into the sea. Six weeks later the Squadron transferred its activities to France to reinforce fighters cooperating with the British Expeditionary Forces. Its stay was brief – May 12 – 22 – but before returning to England, one of its pilots, F/Lt. Royce, damaged aircraft. At this time he was leading the Squadron, as the Squadron Commander had been shot down. F/Lt. Royce was awarded the D.F.C for his leadership, the first of the Squadron to achieve this honor.
The Squadron next joined issue with the enemy in the Battle of Britain. On 15 September, that memorable day in the annals of the Royal Air Force – the Squadron took on a group of Dorniers between Fulham and Gravesend. Five of the enemy were shot down and five seriously damaged. The most spectacular of these successes was watched by hundreds of Londoners. One of the squadron’s pilots (Sgt. R.T. Holmes) in his first aerial combat – shot down a Dornier into Victoria Station yard and then bailed out of his own aircraft. Ho landed in a Chelsea garden. Before lunch that day, the pilots were again in action with the enemy between South London and Mornchurch. Three more Nazi bombers were shot out of the sky on a terrific dog-fight.
On 26 September the Squadron moved to the Bristol area and within a few hours were in action again. Intercepting a large formation of bombers attempting to attack an aircraft factory, the Squadron completely routing the enemy, forcing them to jettison their bombs at random without causing damage. Six of the bombers were shot down close to a factory, along with one of their own planes. Management, along with workers, showed their appreciation by making a gift of a casket, suitably inscribed, to the Squadron, which also received many congratulatory messages on the pilot’s fine courage and display. During September 1940, the Squadron’s pilots flew more than 400 hours, mostly operational, and destroyed eighteen enemy aircraft with eight more probably destroyed and fourteen damaged.
Flying 1,000 hours a month during March, April, May and June of 1941, the Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader A.H. Rook, carried out bomber escorts to France and shipping patrols besides night patrols over Plymouth. In May they were escorting the battleship Resolution when two Heinkels were encountered; one being destroyed and the other damaged. In July, the Squadron was posted to Fairwood Common to re-form with the new aircraft. Then a flight and the Commanding Officer were posted to form the nucleus of a new squadron. The destination of the new unit was a secert. Later it was revealed that they had landed at Murmansk to form part of the first and only R.A.F Hurricane Wing sent to assist the Russians. Most of those who went to Russia were Nottingham men.
In August the Squadron moved again, this time to Northern Ireland where they were engaged in the protection of shipping . First contact with the enemy was made at the end of November when a Ju.88 was sighted at 11,000 feet. In the resulting combat over Belfast, the Ju.88 sought cloud and disappeared. Earlier the following year, the Squadron was re-equipped with Spitfire V-B’s and during the spring and summer was mainly employed in training and Army Cooperation exercises. In the autumn of 1942 however, the Squadron re-opened its score. On 23 August, two Sergeant pilots intercepted a Ju.88 off the mountains of Mourne and shot it down – the first ‘kill’ by the fighters based in Northern Ireland. In October the Squadron moved to the South of England and for the remainder of 1942, was engaged in flights over the Channel and providing fighter cover for bombers in raids over France and Germany. In 1943 the Squadron continued to escort our bombers on raids over the Continent, including Cherbourg, Lortient and Morlaix.
Fighter groups and bomber escorts formed the major portion of the squadrons operations for a spell in 1944. On 18 July of that year, # 504 helped to protect the thousand bombers which dropped 5,000 tons on German positions near Caen. Then followed a profitable period which the Squadron, operating as Spitfire dive bombers, sank or damaged a number of enemy ships, mainly large barges, in the Dutch Islands.
Pilots of the Squadron were also entrusted with several special missions – escorting distinguished people to Normandy, including the King and Mr. Winston Churchill. On one day in August 1944, the Squadron did no fewer then three special escorts to France. Amongst those being escorted were: Archbishop Sinclair, then Secretary of State for Air, Admiral Ramsey and Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory. A few days before the First Airborne Division made its famous landing at Arnhem, the Squadron was sent on a special flight over the area to draw the enemy’s flak. It was a most hazardous operation as the pilots were instructed to fly at only two thousand feet. When the Airborne Division took off, # 504 pilots saw them safely across part of the way and on the succeeding days escorted more glider and troop carrying aircraft to the area.
Later in the year, the Squadron was switched to long-range escort to our bombers on their raids on the Fuhrer and at the end of March 1945, the Squadron moved to Wiltshire to convert to Meteor III aircraft. The Squadron disbanded on 10 August 1945 and re-formed on 10 May 1946 at Syeroton, moving to Hucknell early in December, initial equipment was comprised of Mosquito MKXXX aircraft.
In May 1948, the Squadron received Spitfire MK-22, but the squadron’s role was changed to that of a fighter squadron. They moved to Wynceswold, on the 2nd of April 1948. They remained at Wynceswold until disbanding in common with all other Auxiliary Airforce Squadrons on the 9th of March 1952.