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172 "York" Squadron was formed in 1942 and based at the Royal Canadian Air Force College, 1107 Avenue Road in Toronto. The Commanding Officer of the day, Squadron Leader Glen Kessler, formed a committee to design a squadron crest. Because all Royal Canadian Air Force squadron's numbers started with the numeral 4 to differentiate them from RAF, RAAF and RNZAF squadrons, there were no Canadian squadrons with which to logically identify.

The CO wrote to the British Ministry of Defence to inquire about the existence of a 172 Squadron in the Royal Air Force (RAF). There had been one, active only during World War II. It was an anti-submarine unit based in the South-West of England. The centre of their crest had a gannet flying over the medieval tower of Barnstable, where they had been stationed.

The Squadron was credited with sinking a German submarine, U-502, on July 5, 1942, in the Bay of Biscay. This was the first time that a Wellington bomber using depth charges had sunk a U-boat. The CO thus proposed a design incorporating the gannet from 172 Sqn RAF with Toronto City Hall's twin towers.

The squadron conducted a competition for a suitable motto that was translated into Latin. The cadets selected, "Per Laborem Ad Victoriam" (Through Labour to Victory). A year or so later, the Squadron was presented with a flag with the new crest and the motto on it. 172 "York" Squadron stood down and was disbanded on Oct. 23, 1979.

The squadron number was re-activated when 172 "Clarington" Squadron was formed on Oct. 1, 2005 and remains there today. Capt. Jason Bell, CO from 2008, adopted the same cadet motto and developed a crest emulating 172's history but unique to the Clarington Area. Incorporating the new and distinctive Royal Coronet design exclusive to Royal Canadian Air Cadets, 172's crest depicts a local osprey instead of a gannet and uses the colours of black and white, one colour of the local osprey and now 172 Sqn.