No. 453 Squadron RAAF

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No. 453 Squadron RAAF
453 RAAF.jpg
Brewster Buffalo aircraft at Sembawang Airbase, Singapore, November 1941
Active 23 May 1941 – 15 March 1942
18 June 1942 – 21 January 1946
16 February 2011–current
Country Australia Australia
Branch Ensign of the Royal Australian Air Force.svg Royal Australian Air Force
Role Fighter squadron (1941–1946)
Air traffic control (2011–current)
Part of No. 44 Wing
Motto Ready to strike[1][2]
Battle honours Malaya, 1941–1942; English Channel and North Sea, 1939–1945; Fortress Europe, 1940–1944; France and Germany, 1944–1945; Normandy, 1944; Rhine
Squadron badge heraldry Perched on a branch a kookaburra[1][2]
Squadron codes TD (May 1941 – March 1942)[3][4]
FN (June 1942 – August 1942)[5][6]
FU (June 1942 – January 1946)[5][7]
Aircraft flown
Fighter Brewster Buffalo
Supermarine Spitfire

No. 453 Squadron is an air traffic control unit of the Royal Australian Air Force. 453 Sqn served as a fighter squadron during World War II.

It was first formed, as an Article XV squadron for service with British Royal Air Force (RAF) formations overseas, at Bankstown, New South Wales on 23 May 1941. 453 Squadron saw combat first in the Malayan and Singapore campaigns of 1941–42. Severe aircraft losses effectively destroyed the squadron and it was disbanded in March 1942.

A successor unit by the same name was raised in Britain from mid-1942, to take part in fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe until 1945. The squadron was disestablished in 1946.

The squadron was reformed in its current role during 2011.

Pilots of 453 Sqn run to their Brewster Buffalo aircraft in response to a scramble order.


World War II[edit]

Malaya and Singapore[edit]

The squadron was deployed to Singapore in August 1941, as fears of war with Japan increased. 453 Sqn, along with No. 21 Squadron RAAF, No. 243 Squadron RAF and No. 488 Squadron RNZAF, converted to Brewster Buffalo fighters which proved to be poorly-built, unreliable and unpopular with the pilots. The squadron was deployed to airfields at Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

I reckon this must have been the last battle in which the [Royal] Navy reckoned they could get along without the RAF. A pretty damned costly way of learning. I had worked out a plan with the liaison officer on the Prince of Wales, by which I could keep six aircraft over him all daylight hours within 60 miles of the east coast to a point north of Kota Bharu. This plan was turned down by Admiral Phillips. Had I been allowed to put it into effect, I am sure the ships would not have been sunk. Six fighters could have made one hell of a mess of even 50 or 60 slow and unescorted torpedo-bombers.

As we could do nothing else, we kept virtually the whole squadron at readiness at Sembawang while the Fleet was out. I was actually sitting in my cockpit when the signal eventually reached us that the Fleet was being attacked. Phillips had known that he was being shadowed the night before, and also at dawn that day. He did not call for air support. He was attacked and still did not call for help. Eventually it was the captain of Repulse who called for air support just before his ship sunk.

– Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors.[8]
Brewster Buffalo wrecks in Singapore circa late January 1942. Two of the aircraft visible, serials W8156 and W8207, were operated by 453 Squadron RAAF.

When the Japanese invasion of Malaya occurred on 8 December (7 December in the Western Hemisphere, coinciding with the attack on Pearl Harbor), the commanding officer of 453 Squadron, Squadron Leader W. J. Harper was visiting Australia. A British officer, Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors of No. 243 Squadron RAF was attached to 453 Sqn as acting CO.

The squadron was ordered to provide air cover for the two British battleships making up Admiral Tom Phillips' Force Z: Repulse and Prince of Wales. However, Phillips' actions, including a resistance to liaise with the Allied air forces, led to the battleships being vulnerable when a Japanese air attack occurred on 10 December. The acting commanding officer of 453 Sqn was not notified of the location of Force Z until an hour after the Japanese attack began. Repulse and Prince of Wales were both sunk. (See quotation box to the left, for an eyewitness account of the action.)

The squadron strove to support Allied ground troops in Malaya by providing air cover and attacking Japanese troops and transport, but the outnumbered Allied squadrons suffered high losses in the air and on the ground.

On 24 December, with only three working aircraft remaining, 453 Sqn withdrew to Singapore and merged with 21 Squadron.[9] The Buffalo pilots fought on until 5 February, when just six Buffaloes remained operational. In spite of many technical and problems the Buffalo squadrons claimed a 2:1 kill ratio against Japanese aircraft in 1941–42.

When 453 Squadron arrived in Java it could not again be made operational. It was ordered back to Australia, and was officially disbanded at Adelaide on 15 March 1942.


453 Sqn Spitfires, featuring "invasion stripes" on their wings, at an airfield in Normandy in mid/late 1944.
France 1944. Members of 453 Sqn meeting Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Hugh Trenchard (right), at landing ground B11 (Longues-sur-Mer). The squadron had just completed an armed reconnaissance mission during which 22 German vehicles were destroyed. Trenchard is talking to the squadron's Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Donald Smith.

The squadron was reformed from Australian personnel in the UK at RAF Drem, near Edinburgh, in Scotland on 18 June 1942. The squadron was equipped with Supermarine Spitfire aircraft, and joined the RAF Fighter Command. The squadron provided defensive air patrols over Britain and surrounding waters, escorted bombers over enemy-controlled Europe, and conducted offensive strikes in its own right attacking targets on both land and sea.

Soon after D-Day the squadron moved to France, operating from the hastily-constructed landing ground B11 at Longues-sur-Mer, close to the front line.

From November 1944 to March 1945, 453 Squadron was heavily engaged in striking at assembly and launch sites used by the Germans in their V-2 rocket attacks against Britain.

On 2 May 1945, the squadron escorted the aircraft that returned Queen Wilhelmina to The Netherlands after three years in exile. This was 453 Squadron's last mission of the war.

After the war it was planned that the squadron would form a long-term Australian presence among the occupation forces but sufficient volunteers could not be found to make this a viable proposition. Thus, on 21 January 1946 the squadron disbanded.

During the war the squadron suffered 29 fatalities, all but one of them Australian.

Since 2011[edit]

453 Squadron was re-raised, as an air traffic control unit, on 16 February 2011. It forms part of No. 44 Wing and is headquartered at RAAF Base Williamtown.

The squadron maintains subordinate flights at RAAF Base Williamtown, RAAF Base Richmond, RAAF Base East Sale, RAAF Base Edinburgh, RAAF Base Pearce and the Royal Australian Navy air base HMAS Albatross, providing air traffic control for these bases.[10]

Aircraft operated[edit]

From To Aircraft Version
August 1941 February 1942 Brewster Buffalo Mk.I
June 1942 April 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
March 1943 June 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXb
June 1943 October 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc
June 1943 January 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
January 1944 July 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXb
July 1944 September 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXe
September 1944 November 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXb
November 1944 June 1945 Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVI
August 1945 January 1946 Supermarine Spitfire LF.XIV


Commanding officers[edit]

Officers commanding No. 453 Squadron RAAF[11]
From To Name
23 May 1941 17 August 1941 Flight Lieutenant William Keith Wells
17 August 1941 6 September 1941 Squadron Leader William Faulkiner Allshorn
6 September 1941 2 December 1941 Squadron Leader William John Harper
2 December 1941 15 December 1942 Squadron Leader Timothy Ashmead Vigors
15 December 1941 15 March 1942 Squadron Leader William John Harper
12 June 1942 4 August 1942 Squadron Leader Francis Victor Morello
4 August 1942 13 January 1943 Flight Lieutenant John Richard Ratten
13 January 1943 14 March 1943 Wing Commander James Hogarth Slater, AFC  (KIA)
14 March 1943 11 May 1943 Squadron Leader John Richard Ratten
11 May 1943 28 September 1943 Squadron Leader Kelvin Milne Barclay
28 September 1943 2 May 1944 Squadron Leader Donald George Andrews, DFC
2 May 1944 28 September 1944 Squadron Leader Donald Hamilton Smith
28 September 1944 27 August 1945 Squadron Leader Ernest Arthur Roy Esau, DFC
27 August 1945 6 January 1946 Squadron Leader Douglas Mackenzie Davidson, DFC
7 January 1946 21 January 1946 Flight Lieutenant Toderick Edmund Hilton, DFC


  1. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, p. 445.
  2. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 475.
  3. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 96.
  4. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 107.
  5. ^ a b Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 42.
  6. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 72.
  7. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 73.
  8. ^ Shores and Cull 1992, pp. 117 & 125.
  9. ^ Ford, Dan. "RAAF 453 Squadron". Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Senator Feeney Celebrates the Reformation of Number 452 and 453 Squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown". Media release. Senator The Hon. David Feeney MP Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. 16 February 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, p. 446.
  12. ^ Halley 1988, p. 476.
  13. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 94.


  • Bennett, John. Defeat to victory: No. 453 Squadron RAAF. Point Cook, Victoria, Australia: Royal Australian Air Force Museum, 1994. ISBN 0-642-19785-7.
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A full explanation and listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied air force unit codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(Retd.). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Listemann, Phil H. No. 453 (R.A.A.F.) Squadron, 1941–1945: Buffalo, Spitfire. Philedition, 2009. ISBN 978-2-9532544-1-9.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (2nd edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Shores, Christopher and Brian Cull with Yasuho Izawa. Bloody Shambles, Volume One. London: Grub Street Publishers, 1992. ISBN 0-948817-50-X.
  • Vigors, Tim. 2006. Life's Too Short to Cry: The Inspirational Memoir of an Ace Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot. London: Grub Street Publishers. ISBN 1-904943-61-6.

External links[edit]