No. 456 Squadron RAAF

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No. 456 Squadron RAAF
456 Sqn (UK0562).jpg
Members of No. 456 Squadron RAAF in front of a de Havilland Mosquito night fighter in 1943
Active 30 June 1941 – 15 June 1945
Country Australia
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Night fighter
Part of

RAF Fighter Command:

Battle honours[4] Fortress Europe, 1940–1944
France and Germany, 1944–1945
Normandy, 1944
Biscay, 1940–1945
Insignia
Squadron codes PZ (Jun 1941 – Sep 1941)[5][6]
SA (Sep 1941 – Dec 1941)[7]
RX (Dec 1941 – Jun 1945)[7][8]
Aircraft flown
Fighter Boulton Paul Defiant
Bristol Beaufighter
de Havilland Mosquito

No. 456 Squadron RAAF was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) night fighter squadron, operational over Europe during World War II. Formed in mid-1941, the squadron was the RAAF's only night fighter squadron.[9] It was also the first RAAF unit to use a roundel featuring a red kangaroo in a blue circle, on some parts of its aircraft. While this insignia was unofficial and the squadron's main markings conformed to the RAF roundels used by British and other Commonwealth units, it inspired the post-war roundel used by the RAAF.[10]

History[edit]

No. 456 Squadron RAAF was formed on 30 June 1941 at RAF Valley, Isle of Anglesey, Wales, in the United Kingdom under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme as a night-fighter squadron, equipped with Defiant turret-fighters.[11] The squadron was soon re-equipped with Beaufighters and scored its first kill in January 1942. Throughout the year, the squadron's aircraft operated in a mainly defensive role over the United Kingdom, but in December 1942, the squadron was re-equipped with Mosquito fighters and began offensive "Ranger" missions over Europe attacking a variety of targets ground targets including German rolling stock, and also attacking German bombers close to their airfields during "Intruder" missions.[4]

In March 1943, after a move to Middle Wallop, No. 456 Squadron was utilised in the night fighter and long-range day fighter roles.[11] It also provided a detachment of aircraft to conduct fighter sweeps in support of aircraft mounting anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay, and escorted air–sea rescue vessels picking up downed airmen.[12] Further moves occurred as the squadron relocated first to Colerne and then Fairwood Common. It continued in the fighter and ground attack roles until the end of the European war. In January 1944, it was deployed in defence of London following an increase in German bombing (Operation Steinbock) during which its crews accounted for 12 German aircraft, continuing in the air defence role until late February or early March when the squadron moved to Ford.[13]

The squadron's first success came on the night of 1/2 March 1944 when 164 German bombers operated over England. Pilot Officer R. W. Richardson claimed a probable victory against a Dornier Do 217 at 03:05 near Ford airfield.[14] On 21/22 March Flying Officer K. A. Roediger claimed a Junkers Ju 88 off Rye at 01:12. Detailed loss records indicate eight Ju 88s failed to return—four can be attached to the claims of other squadrons and four cannot.[15]

No. 456 Squadron's most successful night fighter ace Wing Commander Keith Hampshire achieved a run of success. At 23:50, near Walberton in Sussex he engaged a Ju 88A-4 of 6 Staffel Kampfgeschwader 6. The aircraft, code 3E+AP, crashed near Arundel railway station. Pilot Hauptmann Anton Oeben parachuted clear and was made prisoner of war. Observer Feldwebel Otton Bahn was captured badly injured after his parachute failed to open but died of wounds. The same fate befell Unteroffizier Gerhard Drews and Herbert Ehrhardt was listed as missing in action.[16] Hampshire followed this up on the 27/28 March. Over Beer, Devon, he engaged another Ju 88A-4, code 3E+FT, Werknummer 44551, shooting it down at 23:35. Unteroffizier Günther Blaffert was captured, Obergefreiter Gerhart Harteng was killed, Obergefreiter Josef Helm and Gefreiter Adam Kurz was posted missing. Once again the men were from KG 6, this time from 9 staffel.[17] Within minutes the commander gained a second contact and Ju 88A-4, B3+BL, Werknummer 0144551 from 3./Kampfgeschwader 54, crashed near Taunton, Somerset at 23:51. Oberfeldwebel Hans Brautigam, Obergefreiter Kurt Chalon, Alfred Maletzki were captured and Unteroffizier Robert Belz was killed.[18]

On the night of 18/19 April 1944 Flight Lieutenant C. L Brooks engaged a Messerschmitt Me 410A-1 near Nuthurst, Sussex at 22:28. At an altitude of 24,000 ft Brooks hit the German aircraft destroying the starboard engine and setting the wing alight. The machine, from 1./Kampfgeschwader 51, code 9K+JH, Werknummer 20005, nose-dived vertically into the ground. Leutnant Reinhold Witt and Unteroffizier Ernst Tesch were killed.[19] On 25/26 April three pilots were credited with victories: Flying Officer Roediger claimed a Junkers Ju 188 at 05:16 off Portsmouth. Flying Officer G. R. Houston claimed a Ju 88 off Portsmouth at 23,500 ft at 04:57. According to the report the enemy disintegrated at 20,000 ft. Flight Lieutenant R. V. Lewis claimed a Ju 188 at 23:57, 25 miles off Portsmouth. The Mosquito's armoured screen was smashed when the bomber exploded directly in front of it.[20] Flying Officer A. S. McEvoy claimed a further success on 14/15 May 1944, shooting down a Ju 188A-2 over Greenlands Artillery Range, Larkhill, Wiltshire at 02:00. The machine, code U5+HH, Werknummer 160089, from 1./Kampfgeschwader 2 was destroyed and pilot Feldwebel Heinz Mühlberger was captured, Obergefreiter Willi Eberle, Unteroffizier Artur Krüger, Feldwebel Werner Heinzelmann and Obergefreiter Ewald Steinbeck were killed.[21] A further claim was made by Flying Officer D. W. Arnold at 00:20 over Medstead. 13 German bombers were shot down, nine of them Ju 88 and Ju 188s. Five of the nine bombers cannot be attributed to a particular claim.[22]

During the Invasion of Normandy, the squadron provided air cover for Allied shipping, shooting down 14 German aircraft in the process. Later, it helped defend Britain against V-1 flying bombs, shooting down 24 between June and August 1944.[13] In September 1944, No. 456 Squadron's aircraft supported British troops around Arnhem, before concentrating their patrolling efforts over the Netherlands and Belgium.[13] A move to Church Fenton occurred at the end of the year, and the squadron began operating over Germany, escorting heavy bombers and attacking German airfields.[23] The unit's final wartime commander, Wing Commander Bas Howard, was killed in an accident on 29 May.[9] The squadron was disbanded on 15 June 1945 at RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex.[23] During the war, the squadron lost 29 personnel killed, including 23 Australians; its crews were credited with shooting down 71 aircraft including 29 V-1 flying bombs.[4] No. 456 Squadron aircrew received the following decorations: one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and one British Empire Medal.[24]

Aircraft operated[edit]

No. 456 Squadron operated the following aircraft:[25][26][27]

From To Aircraft Version
June 1941 November 1941 Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I
September 1941 July 1942 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IIf
July 1942 January 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIf
December 1942 April 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.II
June 1943 October 1943 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.VI
January 1944 February 1945 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XVII
December 1944 June 1945 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XXX

Squadron bases[edit]

No. 456 Squadron operated from the following bases and airfields:[25][26][27]

From To Base Remarks
30 June 1941 30 March 1943 RAF Valley, Isle of Anglesey, Wales Det. at RAF Colerne, 15–30 Mar 43
30 March 1943 17 August 1943 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire Dets. at RAF Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire
and RAF Predannack, Cornwall
17 August 1943 17 November 1943 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire
17 November 1943 29 February 1944 RAF Fairwood Common, Glamorgan, Wales
29 February 1944 30 December 1944 RAF Ford, West Sussex
30 December 1944 16 March 1945 RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire
16 March 1945 15 June 1945 RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex

Commanding officers[edit]

No. 456 Squadron was commanded by the following officers:[4][25]

From To Name
30 June 1941 27 March 1942 Wing Commander C. G. C. Olive, DFC
27 March 1942 1 February 1943 Wing Commander E. C. Wolfe
1 February 1943 1 June 1943 Wing Commander M. H. Dwyer
1 June 1943 14 December 1943 Wing Commander G. Howden
14 December 1943 1 July 1944 Wing Commander K. M. Hampshire, DSO & Bar, DFC
1 July 1944 29 May 1945 Wing Commander B. Howard, DFC
29 May 1945 15 June 1945 Squadron Leader R. B. Cowper

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Delve 1994, p. 57.
  2. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 526.
  3. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 529.
  4. ^ a b c d "No. 456 Squadron". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 8 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 84
  6. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 98
  7. ^ a b Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 105
  8. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 91
  9. ^ a b Turner 1999, p. 118
  10. ^ Cowper, Bob (2007). "456 Squadron Night Fighters" (pdf). The Aussie Mossie (December, No. 50): 5, 11. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Eather 1995, p. 112
  12. ^ Barnes 2000, pp. 280–281
  13. ^ a b c Barnes 2000, p. 281
  14. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 210
  15. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 255
  16. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 267
  17. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 281
  18. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 283
  19. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 312
  20. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 357
  21. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 380
  22. ^ Mackay 2011, p. 384
  23. ^ a b Eather 1995, p. 113
  24. ^ Barnes 2000, p. 282
  25. ^ a b c Rawlings 1978, p. 447
  26. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 478
  27. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 94

Bibliography[edit]

  • Barnes, Norman (2000). The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-130-2. 
  • Bennet, John (1995). Fighter Nights: 456 Squadron RAAF. Belconnen, Australian Capital Territory: Banner Books. ISBN 1-875593-10-1. 
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-364-6. 
  • Delve, Ken (1994). The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-451-5. 
  • 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. 
  • Lewis, Stephen; Cowper, Bob (2007). Chasing Shadows – Wartime Biography of Squadron Leader Bob Cowper. Adelaide, South Australia: DPA Publishing. ISBN 1-921207-15-9. 
  • Mackay, Ron (2011). Parry, Simon, ed. The Last Blitz: Operation Steinbock, the Luftwaffe's Last Blitz on Britain — January to May 1944. Surray, Kent: Red Kite. ISBN 978-0-9554735-8-6. 
  • RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: A Concise History. Volume 2: Fighter Units. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. 
  • Rawlings, John D.R. (1978) [1976]. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers). ISBN 0-354-01028-X. 
  • Turner, Jim (1999). The RAAF at War: World War II, Korea, Malaya & Vietnam. East Roseville, New South Wales: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-889-1. 

External links[edit]