The Barry Marsden Memorial Award

Awarded to an individual, a complete aircraft crew, or an organisation, for an outstanding contribution to the preservation of life during (a) natural disaster(s).

2022 Awarded to: 442 (T&R) Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force

First awarded in 2022

On 15 November 2021, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron (442 Sqn) from 19 Wing, Comox showed exceptional dedication to their Search and Rescue (SAR) mandate in support of mass evacuation efforts caused by the unprecedented landslides that occurred near Agassiz, British Columbia (Canada).  These unstable landslides stranded hundreds of travellers on highway 7 which necessitated immediate airlift evacuation of over three hundred civilians including children trapped between the rising river and the cliff face.  

Barry Marsden Memorial - 442 Sqn RCAF442 Sqn’s primary Rotary Wing SAR asset, a CH149 Cormorant helicopter, was initially tasked to insert a Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team who were to assist with the evacuation efforts.  While they were enroute, the 442 Sqn leadership quickly realised that the potential for danger to Canadians was great and the need for more assets was imminent.  On their own volition, and despite personnel challenges, 442 Sqn was able to deploy two more CH149 Cormorant Helicopters as well as their CC115 Buffalo (Primary Fixed Wing SAR asset) to assist with the evacuation of trapped Canadians.  Within 2 hours from the initial call for help, 442 Sqn had three Cormorants with full SAR crews on scene working on evacuations. 

Through inspiring initiative, expert coordination and stalwart airmanship the Cormorant crews were able to land on highway 7 in deteriorating weather and gale force winds despite the congestion and debris caused by the landslides.  Utilizing the remaining daylight, 442 Sqn was able to safely complete the evacuation of 311 people, 26 dogs, and 1 cat.  During this process, the Search and Rescue Technicians assisting the HUSAR team were able to assess many of the submerged vehicles and confirmed that the area had been secured and no further imminent danger to life was present.  All assets were returned to base within 11 hours, ready to serve again, having completed the largest mass evacuation in Cormorant history.

The sense of duty displayed by all members of 442 Sqn in anticipating what needed to be done was evident from the technicians supporting efforts to launch all available helicopters, the crew members stepping up to volunteer to fly, and the leadership displayed by the command team as the crisis unfolded.  These efforts quickly gained national attention and showed the resolve and dedication to Canada that 442 Squadron exemplifies on a daily basis.  This performance is in keeping with the highest traditions of service and has brought great honour to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole.  

The outstanding performance and contribution of 442 Sqn in this time of exceptional distress, contributing to the preservation of life during a natural disaster, is thoroughly deserving of recognition by award of the Barry Marsden Memorial Award.

Previous Winners:

2022  442 (T&R) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force