No. 455 Squadron
|No. 455 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was formed at Williamtown, New South Wales, on 23 May 1941. Formed in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme, the squadron was destined for service in Europe with Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). While the Williamtown party awaited shipping to transport it overseas, other personnel, predominantly members of the RAF, began assembling at Swinderby in the United Kingdom. 455 Squadron came into existence there on 6 June 1941. Equipped with Handley Page Hampden medium bombers, the squadron joined RAF Bomber Command, as part of 5 Group, becoming the first Australian squadron to do so. |
455 Squadron mounted its first bombing raid, against Frankfurt, on the night of 29 August and thus became the first Australian squadron to bomb Germany. The major focus of its operations was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany, although it also took part in mine laying sorties in enemy-frequented waters. Although notionally Australian, 455 Squadron has been described during this period as a "League of Nations" Squadron being composed of Australian, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Rhodesian personnel. On 12 February 1942 the squadron was involved in an attack on the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as they ran the gauntlet of the English Channel. The attack was unsuccessful but it foreshadowed the squadron's next role.
On 27 April 1942, 455 Squadron was transferred to Coastal Command. Still flying Hampdens, it retrained as a torpedo-bomber squadron and operated against German shipping off the Norwegian Coast from its base at Leuchars in Scotland. In September, the squadron temporarily relocated to Vaenga in Russia to protect a Murmansk-bound merchant convoy from attack by German surface vessels. 455 Squadron flew only one mission from Vaenga and returned to Britain by sea in late October, having handed its Hampdens over to the Russians.
Re-equipped with Hampdens, 455 Squadron resumed operations from Leuchars in December 1942 and these continued throughout 1943. In late December 1943, the long-obsolete Hampdens began to be replaced by Bristol Beaufighters. New tactics were developed around the Beaufighters and 455 Squadron was formed into a strike wing with 489 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Airforce. The ANZAC Wing, as it became known, moved to Langham on 12 April 1944 and subsequently conducted operations to keep German vessels clear of the English Channel during the build-up to, and conduct of, the D-Day landings.
With the Allied position in France secure, the ANZAC Wing returned to Scotland. It joined two other Beaufighter squadrons at Dallachy on 20 October 1944 to form an even bigger strike wing, which wrought havoc on German shipping, mainly along the Norwegian and Dutch coasts. 455 Squadron flew its last operation of the war on 3 May 1945 - since April 1942 it had sunk ten merchant ships, one submarine, four minesweepers and three escort vessels. The squadron disbanded on the 26 May 1945.
|References||AWM 64, RAAF formation and unit records ^*ORMF 0118, Roll 84 ^*1/243 June 1941 - June 1942 ^*1/244 July 1942 - May 1943 ^*1/245 June 1943 - April 1944 ^*1/246 May 1944 - May 1945 ^*1/247 May 1941 - May 1945 ^*1/248 March 1944 - May 1945; Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history. Volume 3, bomber units, (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995).; I. Gordon, Strike and strike again: 455 Squadron RAAF 1944 - 45, (Belconnen: Banner Books, 1995).|
|Related conflicts||Second World War, 1939-1945|
|Decorations||Australian personnel only: 1 GM; 1 BEM; 3 DSO & 1 bar; 31 DFC & 5 bars; 2 DFM; 5 MID|