North Luffenham

Canada to England 1951


410 Squadron - The F-86 Sabre aircraft allocated to 410 Squadron, along with those earmarked for 441 Squadron (35 in total), were initially ferried from Dorval to Norfolk, Virginia. At Norfolk, the US Navy lent a hand by loading the aircraft onto the HMCS Magnificent at which time she sailed for the Halifax to pick up 410 Squadron aircrew and groundcrew personnel, and then onwards to the UK, arriving at Glasgow, Scotland on November 13th, 1951. From there it was a short hop to North Luffenham - the home of No. 1 Fighter Wing for the first three years. We must assume that some personnel transferred to North Luffenham probably travelled by Ocean Liner, or via the RCAF North Star.


Additional detail and comments by Grant Nichols of 410 Squadron:

S/L Larry Hall (deceased) was the OC when we converted from Vampires to Sabres and at North Luffenham until April 1952. My logbook shows that I flew a Sabre from Dorval to Halifax July 23, and returned July 25, 1951. Purpose was to let the Navy look at an actual Sabre and determine what difficulties they might have in loading a bunch of them aboard the Maggie. They decided there was a problem - I'm not sure if it was in moving them from the airfield to the ship, loading them aboard, or a combination of both. In any event it was decided to fly them to Norfolk and load them on there. I few a total of 3 trips from Montreal to Norfolk via Newcastle - the first on 4 September and the last on 24 September. The only incident on those ferry flights was when Johnny Marion (deceased) hit a buzzard just as he pitched out for a landing at Newcastle. It knocked the engine out but John deadsticked it in OK. The runways at Norfolk were short with the approach over power lines at one end, and a 4 lane highway just beyond the other end, but no problems.

The squadron all went over on the Maggie with the planes - the ones that wouldn't fit down below were cocooned and lashed down on deck. My wife was about to produce our first child at the time and I got special permission to stay behind for a few days and fly over later on a a Transport Command, North Star. The boys on the Maggie said it was a rough trip. They ran into a storm and were delayed a couple of days. At one point there was some concern they might lose some aircraft off the deck, but all ended OK.

The ship docked at Glasgow, the planes were moved to Renfrew and we ferried them from there to North Luffenham. I flew a total of 4 trips from 26 November to 4 December 1951 between Renfrew and North Luffenham.

The 441 aircraft were moved into hangers and stayed there until the squadron members arrived in February 1952. I seem to recall that the squadrons were established for 18 pilots and 12 aircraft. The third squadron to arrive at North Luffenham was 439 and they flew their aircraft across. I don't recall what happened to the extra aircraft in position at North Luffenham.

A side note on families. We were told in Canada, before the deployment, that it would be a one year tour in the UK and we were not to take our families. One reason given was that housing was very difficult. It seemed obvious to us that it would be impossible to rotate squadrons every year. In any event, almost without exception, the married ones moved their families anyway - at their expense. Sometime after that when the whiz kids in Ottawa realized that it was not possible to rotate married people every year they were reimbursed.


Additional detail and comments by Alan Robb of 410 Squadron:

I did my pilot training in 1950, the Vampire fighter OTU in the spring of 1951, then joined 410 Squadron at St. Hubert and Dorval just in time for the arrival of the Squadrons first Sabre. Larry Hall was the CO for that period through the move to North Luffenham until May 1952 when Duke Warren replaced him.

410 Squadron was the first to go to North Luffenham as it was the first to get the Sabre. A total of 35 aircraft were flown to Norfolk. It had been decided to move these aircraft to England on the Magnificent. Eleven of the 35 Sabres would be located in hangar space below the deck. The other 24 Sabres were cocooned by the US Navy as these aircraft would be making the trip on the carrier's deck. Norfolk had a large airport on the Navy base therefore they were well equipped to load the aircraft. The base at Norfolk was then and still is larger than all the Canadian Forces. With the Sabres now on the Magnificent, the Maggie then sailed to Halifax to pick up all the 410 Squadron aircrew and groundcrew personnel and then set sail for Glasgow.

It was a very rough crossing. The carrier listed more than it ever had in it's history due to the extreme weight of the 24 Sabres on the top deck of the small Fleet class carrier. At the peak of the storm, the ship's Captain was about to start dumping aircraft one at a time when the storm finally eased.

The Sabres were towed by road from the docks at Glasgow, to Renfrew airfield where the cocooning was removed and the aircraft were serviced for one test flight - then the trip to North Luffenham. I was one of four pilots who spent about four days there doing test flights followed by the ferry flight to North Luffenham. We spent a few days sitting out bad weather as did the other group before us so the last flight was about 9 December 1952.

The extra aircraft for 441 Squadron were maintained by 410 Squadron and just flown and stored in the 441 hanger at North Luffenham until February 1953 when the 441 Squadron aircrew and groundcrew arrived at North Luffenham.


The Mystery of the Magic Number



Click on the description text to view the photograph.
  1. Downtown Glasgow looking out of the rear of an RAF "lorry" - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jim Downey.

  2. These double decker buses provided the transporation to Glasgow - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jim Downey.

  3. Sabres on the road to Renfrew and finally get air tested - November 1951.
    Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer.

  4. Through the residential areas enroute to Renfrew RAF Station - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jim Downey.

  5. Offloading RCAF Sabres in Glasgow - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  6. Offloading RCAF Sabres in Glasgow - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  7. Offloading RCAF Sabres in Glasgow - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  8. Cocooned Sabres on the deck of the Maggie prior to offloading at Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  9. Cocooned Sabres on the deck of the Maggie prior to offloading at Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Sabres (L-R) 19185 (441 Squadron), 19147 and 19182 (410 Squadron).
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  10. Cocooned Sabres on the deck of the Maggie prior to offloading at Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  11. Movement of Sabres from below decks to the upper deck of the HMCS Magnificant - November 1951.
    410 Squadron Sabre 19182.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  12. Movement of Sabres from below decks to the upper deck of the HMCS Magnificant - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  13. Movement of Sabres from below decks to the upper deck of the HMCS Magnificant - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  14. Arrival at the docks in Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  15. Arrival at the docks in Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  16. Arrival at the docks in Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    410 Squadron Sabre 19179 at left.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  17. Arrival at Glasgow docks and unloading begins - November 1951.
    Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer.

  18. Approaching the docks at Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  19. Approaching the docks at Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    410 Squadron Sabre 19179 at left.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  20. Starboard side cannons served as part of the "Maggies" defences - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jean-Guy Choquette

  21. Air Force life on the "Maggie" - November 1951.
    Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer.

  22. F/O Tom Lauzon of 410 steers for the RCN. But fear not, Lauzon had been in the merchant navy during the war so he knew something about boats - November 1951.
    Courtesy Bill Bain.

  23. F/O "Moe" Morrison does some target shoorting aboard ship heading for Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy DJ Morrison.

  24. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  25. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  26. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  27. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  28. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  29. Cocooned RCAF Sabres on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant en route to Glasgow Scotland - November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  30. Under way. The "Maggie" steams on the open sea with her cargo of Sabres destined for 1 Wing, North Luffenham - November 1951.
    Courtesy Bill Bain.

  31. Cocooned Sabres begin their rough ride across the Atlantic - November 1951.
    Courtesy DJ Morrison.

  32. Cocooned Sabres lashed on the deck of the Maggie - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jean-Guy Choquette

  33. The port side of the "Maggie" in the Atlantic - November 1951.
    Courtesy Jean-Guy Choquette

  34. HMCS Magnificent leaves Canada - November 1951.
    Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer.

  35. 410 and 441 Squadron Sabres start to accumulate on the deck of the HMCS Magnificant at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  36. A 410 Squadron Sabre is hoisted aboard the HMCS Magnificant at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  37. A 410 Squadron Sabre is hoisted aboard the HMCS Magnificent at dockside in Norfolk, Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy Bill Bain.

  38. Loading of RCAF Sabres onto the HMCS Magnificant at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  39. 410 Squadron Sabres lined up for loading at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy Ren L'Ecuyer.

  40. HMCS Magnificant approaching Pier 5 at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  41. HMCS Magnificant approaching the docks at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  42. HMCS Magnificant approaching the docks at Norfolk Virginia - October 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  43. Extracts taken from HMCS Magnificent Ship's Log - October-November 1951.
    Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

  44. Aerial view of HMCS Magnificent - October 1951.
    Courtesy Claude L Murphy.

  45. Aerial view of HMCS Magnificent - October 1951.
    Courtesy Claude L Murphy.

  46. Aerial view of HMCS Magnificent - October 1951.
    Courtesy Claude L Murphy.



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Updated: September 29, 2004