443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron

443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron (MHS) is the west coast operational CH-148 Cyclone squadron.

While 443 MHS is part of 12 Wing, its home base is in Patricia Bay, British Columbia. It provides three helicopter air detachments known as HELAIRDETs in support of the Royal Canadian Navy Pacific Fleet based in Esquimalt, B.C.

The squadron provides service to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and frequently embarks HELAIRDETS in the Halifax-Class frigates HMCS Calgary, Ottawa, Regina, Vancouver, and Winnipeg and other vessels.

Here at home, 443 MHS works with the RCN in supporting government efforts to combat drug, fisheries, and environmental violations in Canadian waters. Internationally, it supports RCN operations in surface and subsurface surveillance as well as peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

History

443 Squadron traces its roots to No. 127 Fighter Squadron RCAF, one of several fighter squadrons of Canada’s Eastern Air Command, formed in the early months of 1942. Equipped with Canadian-built Hawker Hurricanes, the Squadron conducted air defence operations while stationed at Gander, Newfoundland and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

With the diminished threat to North America and in preparation for the invasion of continental Europe, No. 127 (F) Squadron, along with a further five RCAF home-based squadrons, transferred to the United Kingdom and re-designated as 443 (F) Squadron RCAF (to fit within the Air Ministry’s designation convention) in February 1944 and equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX. 443 Squadron, along with its sister squadrons 441 and 442, commenced flying operations with 144 (F) Wing RCAF, W/C Johnnie Johnson commanding, of the 2nd Tactical Air Force just prior to the Normandy Invasion. 144 (F) Wing RCAF was the first Allied air wing to operate from French soil. These operations continued until August 1944. The Squadron then hop-scotched across France, Belgium, and Holland with 126 and 127 (F) Wings RCAF until "VE" Day, continuing to serve with the British Occupation Forces until disbanding in March 1946.

In 1951, 443 (F) Squadron (Aux) was reformed at Sea Island, Vancouver, as a Day Fighter Squadron in the RCAF Auxiliary, first flying P-51 Mustangs and eventually F-86 Sabres. In 1958, with the RCAF Auxiliary assuming the roles of Civil Defence, Search and Rescue and Light Transport, 443 (Aux) Squadron was re-equipped with the C-45 Expeditor and later the DHC-3 Otter and performed these roles until its second disbandment in March of 1964.

A decade later, in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, the Royal Canadian Navy’s only ship-borne helicopter squadron HS 50 (HS is the NATO designation for a Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron) was successfully meeting the needs of the Navy. However, to better administer HS 50 Squadron, it was split into HS 423 and HS 443 in September of 1974. Each squadron was tasked with continuing to provide the Commander of Maritime Command with operational Sea King Helicopter Detachments.

In response to the ever-growing need for ship-borne helicopter assets in the Pacific, HS 443 Squadron was transferred to Victoria International Airport at Pat Bay, British Columbia, in July of 1989 where it now provides the Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific with Helicopter Air Detachments. Early in 1995, HS 443 was re-designated as 443 Maritime Helicopter (MH) Squadron to better fit the ever-changing geopolitical situations and the increasingly diverse roles of maritime helicopters and the ships they support.

Equipment

Squadron badge

Our Sting is Death

Significance: The squadron was known as the “Hornet Squadron” during the Second World War and therefore adopted a hornet as its badge.

Contact information

443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron
PO Box 17000 Station Forces
Victoria BC  V9A 7N2