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 Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.”

CPL. ROD DOUCET PHOTO

Lieu­tenant-Colonel Leighton James ad­dresses the crowd at the 424 (Transport and Res­cue) Squadron Change of Com­mand cer­e­mony Thurs­day morn­ing.

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