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
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Fighter (1941–46)
Air traffic control (2011–current)
Part of No. 44 Wing
Motto(s) Ready to strike[1][2]
Battle honours[3] English Channel and North Sea, 1939–1945
Fortress Europe, 1940–1944
France and Germany, 1944–1945
Normandy, 1944
Rhine
Malaya, 1941–1942
Insignia
Squadron badge heraldry Perched on a branch a kookaburra[1][2]
Squadron codes TD (May 1941 – March 1942)[4][5]
FN (June 1942 – August 1942)[6][7]
FU (June 1942 – January 1946)[6][8]
Aircraft flown
Fighter Brewster Buffalo
Supermarine Spitfire

No. 453 Squadron is an air traffic control unit of the Royal Australian Air Force. It was established at Bankstown, New South Wales, in 1941 as a fighter squadron, in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme for overseas service with the Royal Air Force during World War II. No. 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 disanded in 1946. It was re-formed in its current role in 2011.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

Malaya and Singapore[edit]

No. 453 Squadron pilots run to their Buffalos in response to a scramble order

No. 453 Squadron was raised as an Article XV squadron under the terms of the Empire Air Training Scheme, at Bankstown, New South Wales, on 23 May 1941.[9] It was deployed to Singapore in August 1941, as fears of war with Japan increased. No. 453 Squadron, 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 initially deployed to Sembawang.[10]

When the Japanese invasion of Malaya began on 8 December (7 December in the Western Hemisphere, coinciding with the attack on Pearl Harbor), the commanding officer of No. 453 Squadron, Squadron Leader William Harper was visiting Australia. A British officer, Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors of No. 243 Squadron RAF, was attached to No. 453 Squadron as acting commanding officer.[11]

Buffalo wrecks in Singapore c. January 1942; two of these, W8156 and W8207, were operated by No. 453 Squadron.

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, exposed the battleships to a Japanese air attack that occurred on 10 December. The acting commanding officer of No. 453 Squadron was not notified of the location of Force Z until an hour after the Japanese attack had begun. Repulse and Prince of Wales were both sunk.[12] Three days later, the squadron's 16 aircraft were ordered to move to Ipoh; during the move, three aircraft were lost as a result of accidents. On arrival, the squadron was "scrambled" to defend the airfield against a Japanese bomber attack and in the ensuing dogfight, five Japanese aircraft were destroyed.[9] The following day, the squadron was again scrambled to defend its airbase against a large formation of 40 Japanese fighters; three Japanese aircraft were shot down for the loss of one aircraft in the air, and several on the ground. After this, No. 453 Squadron moved to Kuala Lumpur where they received a batch of replacement aircraft.[9]

No. 453 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. The heaviest losses came on 22 December when five Buffalos were destroyed and another four damaged, with three pilots being killed.[9] On 24 December, with only three working aircraft remaining, No. 453 Squadron withdrew to Singapore and merged with 21 Squadron, which was brought up to strength with an allocation of replacement aircraft.[9][13] The amalgamated unit continued to fight on, until late January when they were separated again. No. 21 Squadron was then sent to the Netherlands East Indies, while No. 453 continued to operate the remaining six Buffaloes. In early February, only four aircraft remained operational and they were flown to Java while the squadron's ground crew were evacuated by ship. When No. 453 Squadron arrived in Java it could not be brought up to operational readiness again due to lack of serviceable aircraft.[9] It was ordered back to Australia, and was officially disbanded at Adelaide on 15 March 1942.[3] In spite of many technical problems, and being outmatched by the Japanese Zero, the Buffalo squadrons claimed a 2:1 kill ratio against Japanese aircraft in 1941–42.[14]

Europe[edit]

Members of No. 453 Squadron meet Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Hugh Trenchard (right), at landing ground B11 near Longues-sur-Mer, in 1944. 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 United Kingdom at RAF Drem, near Edinburgh, in Scotland on 18 June 1942.[9] 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 Allied bombers over Europe, and conducted offensive strikes in its own right attacking targets on both land and sea. Its first engagement with German aircraft came on 31 October 1942, after it had moved to Hornchurch; during this action the squadron accounted for three German fighters and one bomber, and lost one of its own aircraft.[9] At the end of the year, the squadron relocated to Southend and continued operations from there until mid-1943 when it moved to Ibsley, remaining there until August when it moved once again to Perranporth. While operating from there, on 8 October, the squadron engaged a formation of eight German Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter-bombers, during which five German aircraft were shot down and two Spitfires were destroyed.[10]

Further moves occurred throughout the early part of 1944 as the squadron undertook mainly ground attack duties in the lead up to the Allied invasion of Europe. Soon after D-Day the squadron moved to France,[15] where it operated from the hastily constructed landing ground B11 at Longues-sur-Mer, close to the front line. On 16 June, a large-scale dogfight was fought with 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109s over Caen, during which several were shot down.[15] As the Allies advanced, the squadron moved forward so that it could continue to provide close support to the ground troops. This continued until September 1944 when the squadron was withdrawn back to the United Kingdom. From November 1944 to March 1945, No. 453 Squadron was heavily engaged in striking at assembly and launch sites used by the Germans in their V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks against Britain.[3]

On 2 May 1945, the squadron escorted the aircraft that returned Queen Wilhelmina to The Netherlands after three years in exile. This was No. 453 Squadron's last mission of the war; it moved between several bases in Britain in the months immediately following the end of hostilities before deploying to Germany in September.[15] 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.[3]

Since 2011[edit]

No. 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, New South Wales. The squadron maintains subordinate flights at 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.[16]

Aircraft operated[edit]

No. 453 Squadron Spitfires, featuring invasion stripes on their wings, at an airfield in Normandy in mid/late 1944

No. 453 Squadron operated the following aircraft:[11][17][18]

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]

Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors on the loss of Prince of Wales and Repulse:[12]

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.

No. 452 Squadron was commanded by the following officers:[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

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, p. 445.
  2. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 475.
  3. ^ a b c d "453 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–45 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 
  4. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 96.
  5. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 107.
  6. ^ a b Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 42.
  7. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 72.
  8. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 73.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Eather 1995, p. 108.
  10. ^ a b Eather 1995, pp. 108–109.
  11. ^ a b c Rawlings 1978, p. 446.
  12. ^ a b Shores, Cull & Izawa 1992, pp. 117 & 125.
  13. ^ Ford, Dan. "RAAF 453 Squadron". Warbird Forum. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Red Roo Models Buffalo Down Under Books". HPM Hobbies. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c Eather 1995, p. 109.
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ Halley 1988, p. 476.
  18. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 94.

References[edit]

  • Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-364-6. 
  • Eather, Steve (1995). Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-15-3. 
  • Flintham, Vic; Thomas, Andrew (2003). Combat Codes: A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit Codes Since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-281-8. 
  • Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians). ISBN 0-85130-164-9. 
  • Jefford, C.G. (2001) [1988]. RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 1912 (2nd ed.). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6. 
  • Rawlings, John D.R. (1978) [1969]. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers). ISBN 0-354-01028-X. 
  • Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Izawa, Yasuho (1992). Bloody Shambles, Volume One. London: Grub Street Publishers. ISBN 0-948817-50-X. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, John (1994). Defeat to Victory: No. 453 Squadron RAAF. Point Cook, Victoria: Royal Australian Air Force Museum. ISBN 0-642-19785-7. 
  • Listemann, Phil H. (2009). No. 453 (R.A.A.F.) Squadron, 1941–1945: Buffalo, Spitfire. Philedition. ISBN 978-2-9532544-1-9. 
  • 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]