At the end of the Second World War the RCAF had 164,846 men and women in uniform. The country needed to shift its economy to a peace-time footing, with a much smaller Air Force of about 16,000. There was, however, a new threat: The Cold War with former ally, the Soviet Union.
The answer was to augment the regular forces with an Auxiliary or reserve force, the so called “Weekend Warriors.” These were citizens who gave up their weekends and some vacations to serve Canada’s military.
The Auxiliary was assigned the role of defending Canada’s major cities, a task they would continue for 12 years. Authority was granted for the formation of 15 auxiliary squadrons, with No. 418 Squadron, based at Blatchford Field, Edmonton, being one of the first in April 1946.
Designated No. 418 (Fighter Bomber) Squadron, this unit was equipped with Mitchell B-25 twin-engine bombers. The aircraft was a workhorse from the Second World War, but was showing its age, leading to many maintenance problems.
The Museum’s bomber is a gift from Terry and Brian Harrold. This aircraft was originally taken on strength by the RCAF in August 1953, spending most of its service life at No. 2 Air Navigation School in Winnipeg before being retired in February 1962. The Harrolds were active in purchasing several B-25s after the war, most of which were converted to airtankers for forest fire fighting purposes.
When this aircraft was restored, it was decided to commemorate one of 418 Squadron’s Mitchells from the 1950s – HO 251, which was involved in the infamous crash into the side of the hangar that today houses the Alberta Aviation Museum. In May 1957, this particular B-25 suffered a hydraulic brake line failure that led to a loss of steering capability causing the aircraft to veer into the side of the hangar. The cockpit was crushed but both officers on board were fortunate to escape with relatively minor injuries.
By 1958, defense cuts reduced the squadron’s activities to a transport role flying the Single Otter and C-45 Expeditor from RCAF Station Namao. Today No. 418 Squadron is inactive.