870 Naval Air Squadron

870 Naval Air Squadron (870 NAS), also known as VF-870, was a squadron of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). It was formed when 803 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy was renumbered to 870 NAS on 1 May 1951. It operated throughout the 1950s and early 1960s before disbanding on 7 September 1962. It was the first RCN squadron to operate jet aircraft.[3]

870 Naval Air Squadron RCN
Active1 May 1951 – 30 March 1954
1 November 1955 – 7 September 1962
Disbanded7 September 1962
Country Canada
Branch Royal Canadian Navy
TypeFighter squadron
Motto(s)Intercedimus et delemus
(Latin for To intercept and to destroy)
ColorsWhite and blue
Squadron badgeAzure issuant from a base barry wavy of three Argent and Azure a winged demi lion Or armed and langued Gules.[1](The design shows a lion rising from the water by means of wings and assuming a fighting posture.)
Squadron codeBC (May 1951–June 1952)[2]


870 Naval Air Squadron was formed on 1 May 1951 when 803 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm was re-numbered.[4] It was initially based at RCNAS Shearwater, Nova Scotia, with the Squadron operating the Hawker Sea Fury FB.11.[4] In November 1952, 870 NAS adopted an American-styled squadron designation becoming VF-870.[5] On 24 September 1953, the Squadron relocated to RCAF Summerside on Prince Edward Island.[4] VF-870 had its first deployment in January 1954 when it was attached to HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21), it finished its deployment on 9 March. The Squadron stood down for the first time on 30 March.[4]

VF-870 reformed on 1 November 1955, this time equipped with 10 McDonnell F2H-3 Banshees, becoming the first jet squadron in the Royal Canadian Navy.[3][6] The commanding officer of VF-870 at its reformation was future Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Cdr. Robert Hilborn Falls.[6] A total of 39 Banshees were eventually purchased second-hand from the United States Navy (USN) for a cost of $25 million, serving with VF-870, VF-871 and VX-10.[7][8] VF-870 was attached, along with VF-871, to the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure (CVL 22) – Canada's newest carrier – from which it would deploy.[4] While not deployed, VF-870 was based at RCNAS Shearwater.[3] The Squadron participated in the 1956 Canadian International Air Show in Toronto.[6] The Squadron suffered a loss in August 1957, when a Banshee crashed into a Grumman Avenger AS.3, with one aircraft taking off as the other was landing.[9] VF-870 made their first deployment on 7 September 1957, which lasted until 30 October.[4]

On 26 March 1959, VF-871 amalgamated with VF-870 thus leaving the Squadron as the only RCN unit to operate the Banshee.[1] The Squadron made its final deployment on HMCS Bonaventure on 9 April 1962, lasting until 29 June 1962.[4] While not deployed, VF-870 flew intercepts in the Canadian sector of NORAD.[3][7] VF-870 disbanded for the last time on 7 September 1962. Throughout its service, the Royal Canadian Navy lost 12 of the 39 Banshees it had purchased, including those of VF-870.[10] A replacement for the Banshee never came to fruition making VF-870 one of only three RCN squadrons to ever operate a jet fighter.[3][8]

Aircraft flown

Commanding officers

  • Lieutenant-Commander D. D. Peacocke (May 1951–Feb 1953)[4]
  • Lieutenant-Commander D. M. Macleod (Feb 1953–Apr 1954)[4]
  • Lieutenant-Commander R. H. Falls (Nov 1955–Dec 1957)[4]
  • Lieutenant-Commander W. J. Walton (Jan 1958–Apr 1960)[4]
  • Lieutenant-Commander K. S. Nicolson (Apr 1960–Sep 1962)[4]


  1. "Volume 4: Operational Flying Squadrons". National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  2. Walker, R. W. R. "Canadian Military Aircraft – Serial Numbers – Royal Canadian Navy – 1945 to 1968". Canadian Military Aircraft Serial Numbers. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  3. Forsyth, Bruce. "The rise and fall of the Royal Canadian Navy's Fleet Air Arm". Canadian Military History. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  4. "870 Naval Air Squadron". www.wings-aviation.ch. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  5. "870 Squadron (Canada)". Fleet Air Arm Archive (Archived). Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  6. Bourdon, Buzz (9 December 2009). "Admiral Falls 'trained for war, acted for peace'". The Global and Mail. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  7. "McDonnell Banshee". Shearwater Aviation Museum. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  8. "McDonnell Banshee". Royal Canadian Air Force. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  9. Kealy, J. D. F.; Russell, E. C. (1967). A History of Canadian Naval Aviation 1918-1962. Ottawa: Queen's Printer. pp. 47–71. OCLC 460555.
  10. Cook, D. Glenn. "Aircraft on display: McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee 126464 (Archived)" (PDF). Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Retrieved 8 December 2018.

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