I know this will not be my last post on this blog. I know it because someone will one day share pictures and stories about 23 Squadron like so many people did since 2010.
This is post no. 384, and the end of the beginning of this blog about RAF 23 Squadron.
I will repost for you the first article I wrote in 2010 so you won’t have to search for it…
This blog about RAF 23 Squadron wasn’t meant to pay homage only to a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot from Bromptonville, Quebec, a small town in the Eastern Townships.
Eugène Gagnon DFC
Since 2010, a 84 year-old man had been trying to convince the people of Bromptonville to pay homage to Eugène Gagnon, a hometown boy, who had died in a plane crash near Windsor Mills on October 21st, 1947. Eugène had never talked much about what he did in the war with the RCAF let alone with the RAF.
Eugène Gagnon was like a brother to Marcel Bergeron.
In 2010, Marcel asked for my help to find more about his war hero when he was just 14 years-old. At first he didn’t not have much information to go on, only Eugène’s discharge papers…
And a knock on the door of a World War Two veteran.
This is really how this blog started. A knock on a door!
First post April 5, 2010
This could be the start of the amazing story of the airmen of a forgotten squadron in Little Snoring.
Please leave a comment…
Picture taken in 1945 before the squadron was disbanded (Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)
No. 23 Squadron formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 Sep 1915 under the command of one of the RAF’s most experienced operational pilots – Captain Louis Strange. After a brief period attempting to counter German airship flights over London, the Squadron moved to France with its FE2Bs initially employed on escort duties. By early 1917, Spad single-seaters had arrived, and were being used on offensive patrols. By the end of the War, the Squadron had converted to Dolphins, and flew these until disbanded at the end of 1919.
On 1 July 1925, No. 23 Squadron reformed at Henlow with Snipes, but these were replaced shortly after with Gloster Gamecocks. In 1931, the Squadron was tasked with carrying out trials on the new Hawker Hart two-seaters, taking the production version, known as Demons, on strength in 1933. It wasn’t until late 1938 that the squadron received its first monoplanes in the form of Blenheims, and these were used as night-fighters in the early days of World War II whilst based at Wittering. In 1941, Havocs replaced the Blenheims, and these were used with great success in the intruder role, until themselves replaced by the Mosquito in mid-1942. At the end of the year, the squadron moved to Malta in support of allied operations in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK in 1944.
In September 1945, the Squadron had disbanded, reforming a year later at Wittering with Mosquito night-fighters. By late 1953, Venom night fighters had joined the Squadron, before Javelin all-weather supersonic fighters replaced these in 1957. In 1964, the Lightning replaced the Javelin, and it was with this classic aircraft that the squadron continued until Phantoms were received in late 1975, this coinciding with a moved to Wattisham in Suffolk. After the Falklands War in 1982, the Squadron occupied Port Stanley airfield until reduced to a Flight of four aircraft in 1988, reforming at Leeming with Tornado F3s. Defence cuts following the end of the Cold War saw the unit disbanded in March 1994. No. 23 Squadron was again reformed, this time as part of the Waddington AEW Wing in 1996, sharing not only the aircraft with the already established No. 8 Squadron, but operational duties in Europe and the Gulf.
The Squadron was officially disbanded on 2 Oct 2009.
This Squadron has been virtually reformed…
If you have any information about 23 Squadron and you wish to share what you know, you can contact me using this form.
On November 11th, 2016, this medal was awarded posthumously to Joseph Achille Eugène Gagnon who flew 33 operations with RAF 23 Squadron.
Eugène Gagnon never received any recognition from his hometown of Bromptonville except when he died on October 21, 1947.
Early in 2016 I had received a phone call from Clément Gagnon, a man who was looking for veterans to honour with a medal given by l’Assemblée nationale du Québec. On November 11, 2016, Jacques Gagnon, Eugène’s nephew, received the medal from a member of the National Assembly of Quebec.
When Maxime Laporte, the President of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, mentioned the fact in his presentation of the medal that Eugène Gagnon had flown 33 night operations mostly over German airfields, murmurs were heard from the people attending the commemoration.
When Jacques Gagnon heard those, he felt a tremendous pride as well as a profound humility when he received the medal.