458 Squadron RAAF

458 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was formed at Williamtown, New South Wales, on 10 July 1941. Formed under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme, the squadron was destined for operations in Europe. In early August, the 37 airmen then in it sailed for the United Kingdom, where they joined further personnel from across the British Commonwealth being gathered at Holme-on-Spalding Moor. The squadron was equipped with Vickers Wellington medium bombers, and as part of 1 Group Bomber Command, commenced operations over German-occupied Europe on 20 October 1941. For the next three months the focus of the squadron’s operations was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany.

In January 1942 the squadron was reallocated to Middle East Command. Its relocation was a chaotic affair. The air and ground crew were separated and the squadron’s aircraft were commandeered for operations by other squadrons from Malta, where they had stopped on their way to Egypt. Finally arriving in the Middle East, the squadron’s ground crew worked on the maintenance of bombers operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force, while the air crew were attached to 37, 70, 104, 108, and 148 Squadrons RAF. 458 Squadron was not reunited until 1 September 1942.

Based at El Shallufa in Egypt, the squadron was re-equipped with Wellingtons and trained in the techniques employed to attack ships and submarines with both bombs and torpedoes. Henceforth, 458 Squadron’s primary role was to seek out and attack enemy shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. In this role, its aircraft operated from airfields in Egypt, Malta, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Sardinia, Corsica, and Italy. The squadron also undertook conventional bombing tasks, most notably in support of the Allied invasion of southern France in August 1944.

458 Squadron relocated for the final time, to Gibraltar, on 26 January 1945. With the occupation of southern France, and the continuing progress of the Allied campaign in Italy, enemy submarines and surface vessels in the Mediterranean presented little threat. From Gibraltar, the squadron roamed out across the western Atlantic, escorting Allied convoys and searching for German submarines. The squadron was still carrying out these tasks when the war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. It disbanded on 9 June 1945.

Squadron Motto

  • We find and destroy

Squadron Code

  • MD

Glossary

Equipment

Battle Honours

Casualties

  • 141 (65 Australian) dead

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

Australian personnel only:

  • 3 DFC
  • 1 MM

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM 64, RAAF formation and unit records
       ORMF 0118, Roll 87
       1/279 September 1941 - September 1944
       1/280 July 1943 - June 1945
  • Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history. Volume 4 maritime and transport units, (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995).
  • P. Alexander, We find and destroy: history of 458 Squadron, (Sydney: 458 Squadron Council, 1979).