The Birth of a Swift Death: 401 Squadron at its 100th anniversary

In a black and white photograph, a man in uniform sits on the wing of a vintage aircraft; two more stand beside the aircraft.
This March 15, 1943, photo shows Sergeant S.W. Moores (left) of Fredericton, New Brunswick; Flying Officer J.E. Sheppard of Vancouver, British Columbia; and Sergeant R.W. Lawson of Buffalo, New York, all members of 401 Squadron, the first Royal Canadian Air Force squadron deployed overseas during the war. PHOTO: DND Archives, PL-15640

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They promise “A Swift Death to the Enemy”, and this motto is something that 401 Squadron has dutifully delivered when its country needed it the most. More to point, however, 401, who are known as the “Rams,” has reached a milestone as it is the first Canadian squadron to celebrate its Centennial, which officially occurs this month, November 2018.

This is a unique feat, the more so since this celebration even precedes the RCAF’s own 100th anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2024. It is not surprising, therefore, if some people wonder how this is possible, particularly since various histories claim that this squadron was born in 1937, while others date its formation to three years earlier. Yet, after careful and deliberate research, the Canadian Armed Forces’ official publication on Lineages determined that 401 can, in fact, trace its heritage back to No. 81 (Canadian) Squadron, which then became the Canadian Air Force’s No. 1 Squadron on or about November 20, 1918.

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