The Luftwaffe (German air force) bombing offensive against Royal Air Force (RAF) bases created a critical shortage of pilots by the third week of the attacks. As a result, RAF Fighter Command declared Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Squadron Number 1 operational. This decision was made even though the commander of the squadron, Squadron Leader Ernest McNab, did not feel that his unit was combat ready.
On 24 August 1940, RAF Fighter Command dispatched RCAF Squadron Number 1 on its first mission. It was assigned to intercept a formation of German bombers over southern England. However, Squadron Leader McNab was not aware that RAF Fighter Command had also sent three RAF twin-engine Blenheim patrol planes to the same area. As a result, RCAF Squadron Number 1 attacked the three British planes, shooting down one and damaging the other two before McNab could break off the operation. Fortunately, the British airmen did not suffer any fatalities.
Two days later, RCAF Squadron Number 1 was sent on another intercept mission. The squadron downed seven German bombers, but Flight Officer R.L. Edwards was killed in a point-blank attack on a German Dornier bomber. Edwards was the first RCAF pilot to die in combat.