Hamilton man takes over Tiger Squadron
Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton James, who grew up on the Mountain, takes over Trenton search and rescue squad named after Tiger-Cats
The Tiger Squadron now has a Hamiltonian at the helm.
Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton James took over as commanding officer of the 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron during a ceremony held in Trenton Thursday morning.
“There is immense pride in taking over a search and rescue squadron and the city of Hamilton squadron,” said James.
“Search and rescue is a domestic responsibility for the military — it’s a way the military and government can give back to people.
“There is nothing bad about saving lives.”
James was born at McMaster Hospital and lived on the Mountain, before moving to Dundas.
With a lifelong interest in flying, he joined the 735 Air Cadet Squadron in Dundas, and by the time he was 16 he had his glider licence.
He served in Nova Scotia search and rescue for five years, as a search and rescue instructor at Trenton for four years, and most recently, as an air adviser to the Commander of 1 Canadian Division in Kingston.
The storied Tiger Squadron, named after the Hamilton Tigercats, was formed in 1942 as a bomber squadron stationed in England. Today it functions primarily as a search and rescue unit, based in Trenton with two types of aircraft — the Griffon helicopter and the Hercules airplane — and about 200 squadron members.
“These are the guys you want to see coming down a winch when you are in trouble,” said James.
The squadron was named the Tigers after the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce sent care packages to 424 during the Second World War which included cigarettes and footballs.
From 1946 to 1964 it was stationed at RCAF Station Hamilton, and was formally adopted as the City of Hamilton Squadron in 1952.
Their search area spans from the Rockies to Quebec City and the North Pole, said James. The squadron responds to about 400500 calls a year.
“The search is the Hercules, the rescue is the helicopter,” said James. The Hercules carries about 4,500 kilograms of equipment, everything from a chainsaw to tents and toboggans — all of which can be sent out the back, including search and rescue technicians, via parachute.
Going forward James said he wants to “continue the legacy” of the squadron and maintain “high morale” while assisting Canadians.
“One of our goals is to promote 424 Squadron amongst Hamiltonians,” said James.
“If we make a few Hamiltonians understand we have their backs, then it’s mission accomplished.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Leighton James addresses the crowd at the 424 (Transport and Rescue) Squadron Change of Command ceremony Thursday morning.