The Wheatsheaf Inn

431 Squadron Snowbirds 70th Anniversary this year

On 11th November 1942 the RCAF created the famous 431 'Iroguois' Squadron (now the Canadian Forces Snowbirds) at Burn.

In October 2012 Burn Parish Council celebrated the 70th anniversary of its formation by erecting a memorial stone next to the one for 578 Squadron's. The current Commanding Officer and Warrant Officer came over from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where the modern day 431 Squadron are based.

Press Release

The commanding officer of a Canadian air force squadron flew 4,000 miles at the weekend to attend a special event in a tiny North Yorkshire village.

Lieutenant Colonel Maryse Carmichael yesterday (Sunday) unveiled a new memorial stone in the village of Burn, near Selby, to commemorate the founding of her 431 Squadron at the village's World War Two airfield exactly 70 years ago.

The Royal Canadian Air Force 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, served at Burn between 1942 and 1943. In that time the squadron flew around 320 sorties from Burn, losing 17 of their Wellington bombers and 85 crew.

Now known as the 'Snowbirds', the squadron is the Canadian equivalent of Britain's Red Arrows.

Burn Parish Council decided to recognise the sacrifice and contribution made by those Canadian war heroes with a commemoration stone and memorial service on the small village green.

Lt Col Carmichael and her Chief Warrant Officer Alan Blakney travelled from their air base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to attend a memorial service in the village's Methodist chapel, followed by the commemoration ceremony on the green.

Warrant Officer Blakney gave a reading at the chapel service while Lt Col Carmichael removed the Canadian flag to unveil the stone. Young bugler David Critchley played the Last Post and 40 Air Training Corps cadets performed a march past.

At the ceremony were almost 40 VIP guests including Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Brigadier Nigel Wood, representatives of the Royal Air Force, Royal Air Forces Association, Air Training Corps, 578 Squadron (which also flew out of Burn during World War Two), the Yorkshire Air Museum and the Fraternity of Old Selebians.

In the village pub, The Wheatsheaf, there was a small exhibition of photographs and other memorabilia from 431 Squadron. And the pub was selling 'Snowbirds' beer, specially brewed by the Brown Cow Brewery at nearby Barlow.

Lt Col Carmichael - the first woman pilot to fly with the Snowbirds - said afterwards: "It's a great honour to be here in Burn to see our squadron commemorated like this. We really appreciate what the village has done to recognise the contribution made by our wartime colleagues and the great sacrifices they made in the eight months they served at Burn.

"Those early members of the squadron are not forgotten, but what Burn has done today has helped us remember how significant it was. We feel a real bond with the village where 431 Squadron was born all those years ago.

" As a thankyou gesture she presented a plaque to the village, giving Burn the rare honour of membership of the Society of Honorary Snowbirds.

She also presented the village with a framed montage depicting 431 Squadron. Parish Council chairman Chris Phillipson said: "In all these years, 431 Squadron has never been adequately recognised and we thought it appropriate on the 70th anniversary to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by those Canadian airmen and the contribution they made towards winning the war.

"We are honoured that the commanding officer of the Snowbirds and Warrant Officer Blakney travelled all this way to our small village to take part in this event and that so many VIPs turned out for our commemoration ceremony."

Bill Hearld
Proper PR
Public Relations, Media & Photography
Tel 01757 270 607 or 07794 880 543


snow 12.jpg (77026 bytes)


snow 18.jpg (67829 bytes)


snow 20.jpg (141309 bytes)


snow 30.jpg (183255 bytes)


snow 25.jpg (83627 bytes)


snow 1.jpg (99381 bytes)


snow 3.jpg (93568 bytes)


snow 34.jpg (79539 bytes)


snow 36.jpg (128458 bytes) snow 45.jpg (72714 bytes) snow 51.jpg (65621 bytes) snow 56.jpg (101356 bytes)

The Wheatsheaf was popular with the RAF bomber crews of 578 Squadron, (Based on the wartime airfield just a short walk away). The off-duty airmen would pop in for some refreshment after long flights over Europe.

Strong ties with the RAF continue, The Wheatsheaf enjoys reunion visits by members of the squadron and their families trying to find details of lost comrades or just to browse through our library of information adorned on the walls.

Number 578 Squadron was formed on the 14th January 1944, as a heavy bomber squadron equipped with Handley Page Halifax B.III aircraft.

It began operations on 20th/21st January 1944, and between that date and 15th March 1945, flew 2,721 operational sorties, all of them with No. 4 Group.

Among the various decorations won by No 578 was a Victoria Cross; it was awarded posthumously to Pilot Officer CJ Barton who displayed great gallantry in bringing home a crippled aircraft from Nuremberg on 30th/31st March 1944.

Two of the squadron's Halifaxes passed the century mark on operations: LW587 (successively identified as "V" and "A") and MZ527 ("W" and "D"). They flew 104 and 105 operations respectively and logged their 100th trips (as "A" and "D") on the same night-3rd/4th March 1945, when they bombed Kamen.

Their first Operational Mission in WWII was 20th/21st January 1944, when 5 Halifaxes bombed Berlin.

Their last Operational Mission in WWII was 13th March 1945, when 13 Halifaxes bombed Wuppertal. 

The squadron was disbanded on the 15th April 1945.

Directly opposite The Wheatsheaf is a
monument to the 219 Airmen who gave
their lives whilst serving at RAF Burn.

Further reading: 578 Squadron website

The Wheatsheaf Inn
Main Road
North Yorkshire

Tel: 01757 270614

Proprietors: Andrew Howdall and Joanne Mosey


Privacy Policy

Opening Times
Monday 12 noon 11 p.m.
Tuesday 12 noon 11 p.m.
Wednesday 12 noon 11 p.m.
Thursday 12 noon 11 p.m.
Friday 12 noon Midnight
Saturday 12 noon Midnight
Sunday  12 noon 11 p.m.

Food Times
Lunchtime Mon to Sun: 12 noon - 2 p.m.
Evenings Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat: 6.30 p.m. - 8.30 p.m.