No. 453 Squadron RAAF
|No. 453 Squadron RAAF|
|Active||23 May 1941 – 15 March 1942
18 June 1942 – 21 January 1946
16 February 2011–current
|Branch||Royal Australian Air Force|
Air traffic control (2011–current)
|Part of||No. 44 Wing|
|Motto||Ready to strike|
|Battle honours||English Channel and North Sea, 1939–1945
Fortress Europe, 1940–1944
France and Germany, 1944–1945
|Squadron badge heraldry||Perched on a branch a kookaburra|
|Squadron codes||TD (May 1941 – March 1942)
FN (June 1942 – August 1942)
FU (June 1942 – January 1946)
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.
World War II
Malaya and Singapore
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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. It was ordered back to Australia, and was officially disbanded at Adelaide on 15 March 1942. 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.
The squadron was reformed from Australian personnel in the United Kingdom 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 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. 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 Bf-110 fighter-bombers, during which five German aircraft were shot down and two Spitfires were destroyed.
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, 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 Bf-109s over Caen, during which several were shot down. 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.
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. 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.
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.
|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|
No. 452 Squadron was commanded by the following officers:
|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|
- Rawlings 1978, p. 445.
- Halley 1988, p. 475.
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