457 SQUADRON RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA
DURING WWII

 

457 Squadron RAAF was formed at Baginton, Coventry in England on 16 June 1941. An Australian contingent for the Squadron was formed at Williamtown Airfield in New South Wales on 10 July 1941. This Australian contingent left Australia for England on 7 August 1941. On the same day, the English contingent for 457 Squadron became operational in their Spitfires at Jurly, on the Isle of Man.

The Squadron moved to Andreas on the Isle of Man on 3 October 1941. They then moved to Red Hill Airfield in Surrey on 22 March 1942. 457 Squadron flew its last operational mission in Europe on 28 May 1942. The Squadron then flew to Church Fenton on 16 June 1942 to get ready to move to Australia. They left on the ship "Stirling Castle" on 20 June 1942. 452 Squadron RAAF and 54 Squadron RAF were also on board the "Stirling Castle".

Squadron Leader Kenneth Elwyn James (408021) took over as the Commanding Officer of 457 Squadron on 18 June 1942. The Squadron arrived in Melbourne from England on 13 August 1942 and assembled at Richmond Airfield in New South Wales on 6 September 1942 after two weeks of well deserved leave.

457 Squadron was fully equipped with Spitfires by November 1942. The Squadron relocated to Camden in New South Wales on 7 November 1942 in the middle of their Operational Training program.

No. 1 Fighter Wing was formed and comprised:-

The first Advanced Party of 457 Squadron left for Darwin on 31 December 1942 and the main body of the Squadron left by ship on 12 January 1943 on board the MV Maetsuyker. The Squadron started operating from Batchelor Airfield in the Northern Territory by 20 January 1943. They relocated to Livingstone Airfield on 31 January 1943.

457 Squadron was scrambled a number of times in February 1943. Flight Lieutenant D.H. Maclean and Flight Sergeant J. McDowell shot down a "Dinah" on 7 March 1943.

On the morning of 15 March 1943, approximately 20 Japanese bombers escorted by 24 Zeros were reported to be approaching Darwin. The three squadrons of No. 1 Fighter Wing were scrambled and intercepted the Japanese aircraft in an area from around Darwin to up to 90 miles out to sea. 457 Squadron claimed two Zeros shot down and all Squadron aircraft returned safely to Livingstone Airfield. Japanese records later revealed that the two Zeros were not shot down. They also damaged one Zero, three probable shoot downs and one Betty bomber damaged.

Over the next month and half, they were not scrambled and the Squadron practised tactics and training co-ordination with Army and other RAAF units. Millingimbi Airfield was attacked on 9 May 1943 by six Japanese Sally bombers. A Detachment of six Spitfires was sent to Millingimbi Airfield later that day.

The Japanese carried out another air raid the following day, 10 May 1943, and were met by the six Spitfires of 457 Squadron. Two Zeros were claimed as shot down and another two were damaged. Again records later revealed that these two Zeros were not shot down. The Japanese carried out further raids with the 457 Squadron Spitfires having mixed success in attacking the Japanese aircraft. Pilot Officer Bruce Little of 457 Squadron dived into the woodland and wiped the wings off his Spitfire A58-81, BS 199 (ZP-S) while trying to shake off a Zero on 10 May 1943. He struck the ground at 160 mph, somersaulted several times and plummeted through the trees, came to a shuddering halt, upside down (Colin thinks), and walked a few kilometres back to base.

The rest of the Squadron continued to operate out of Livingstone Airfield intercepting Japanese aircraft on many occasions. By 1 July 1943, a pilot's dispersal hut had been erected which included a dining area, a readiness area complete with telephones, maps, charts and intelligence information. They also had the luxury of a gramophone, a radio, books and games.

On 18 July 1943 two Mitsubishi Ki-46-II "Dinah" reconnaissance aircraft of the 70th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (Independent Squadron or FCs) were on a reconnaissance mission over the Darwin area. Squadron Leader Kenneth Elwyn James (408021) of 457 Squadron RAAF, shot down one of the two Japanese reconnaissance aircraft. It was "Dinah" No. 2414 piloted by Captain Shunji Sasaki with his observer Lieutenant Akira Eguri.

On 18 August 1943, Spitfire AR-558, piloted by F/O Warwick James Turner (403773), of 457 Squadron RAAF made a wheels up forced landing at Darwin Civilian Airfield on the North South runway.

A Section of six Spitfires was deployed to Drysdale Mission Airfield on 4 November 1943. On 6 November 1943 they intercepted and damaged a Japanese "Dinah" reconnaissance aircraft. On 12 November 1943, Flying Officer Smithson, scrambled from Livingstone Airfield and shot down two Japanese aircraft earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Spitfire Mk. F.VC, A58-21 (BS300), of 457 Squadron RAAF, piloted by Flying Officer Arthur John Gould (404062) ran off the runway on take off from Livingstone Airfield for a practice flight at about 1640 hours on 23 November 1943. The Spitfire struck a vehicle parked on a nearby roadway killing the two occupants.

The Drysdale Detachment returned to Livingstone Airfield in December 1943 being relieved by 54 Squadron RAF.

Squadron Leader T.H. Trimble took over as Commanding Officer from Squadron Leader James on 2 February 1944. In March 1944, 457 Squadron and 452 Squadron received orders to deploy to Perth after a Japanese Task Force was detected moving through the Indian Ocean.

457 Squadron Spitfires left Livingstone Airfield for Perth on 9 March 1944. The Squadron encountered low cloud and rain showers with visibility down to less than half a mile on occasions during their first leg to Derby, via Wyndham. They were scheduled to reach Port Headland by sunset. After leaving Derby they encountered a severe dust storm forcing pilots to fly by their instruments. They were eventually forced to land at Pardoo Station where they spent the night.

They left for Port Headland the next morning and were met there by four C-47s which had left Livingstone loaded with the squadron equipment and personnel. They left Port Headland for Carnarvon leaving one damaged Spitfire behind. Another made a forced landing due to fuel line problems.

457 Squadron finally arrived at Guildford Airfield, Perth on 11 March 1944. 457 Squadron and 452 Squadron were immediately placed on alert. The Japanese threat never eventuated and the Squadron flew training missions and took part in public relations and war bond exhibition flights. 457 Squadron was ordered back to Livingstone Airfield on 23 March 1944. The move was completed by 28 March 1944.

On 18 April 1944, two Spitfires from 457 Squadron plus Spitfires from 54 Squadron RAF and 452 Squadron RAAF escorted Beaufighters from 31 Squadron RAAF for a successful attack on a Japanese Radar Station on Babar Island. All aircraft returned safely.

457 Squadron aircraft left Livingstone Airfield on 10 May 1944 to take part in Operation Boarshed from a secret location. This also involved the movement of Squadron equipment and personnel in C-47s. All aircraft, equipment and personnel returned to their new home at Sattler Airfield by 24 May 1944.

The Squadron started protection duties at Drysdale Airfield on 1 June 1944 where the following day it received the first of its Mark VIII Spitfires which replaced its Mark V Spitfires.

The first of 457 Squadron pilots left for Morotai on 16 December 1944 where they were to operate with the rest of 80 Wing.

On 18 December 1944 Squadron Leader B.D. Watson took over as Commanding Officer of 457 Squadron from Squadron Leader Trimble. An advanced party left Darwin on board the SS Mexico on 18 January 1944 and arrived in Morotai on 1 February 1944. Seven C-47s transferred equipment and personnel on 4 February 1944.

On 6 February 1944, the Spitfires of 457 Squadron left Sattler Airfield for Morotai. The Squadron became operational at Morotai on 10 February 1945 with five Spitfires attacking enemy aircraft on Galela Airfield scoring many damaged Japanese aircraft. By the end of February 1945, 457 Squadron had completed 113 operational sorties. They had destroyed three Japanese barges and one fuel dump and made many strafing runs on parked aircraft and anti-aircraft sites.

On 5 June 1945 the Squadron equipment and personnel sailed for Labuan where they were operational by 19 June 1945.

Squadron Leader Watson was replaced by Flight Lieutenant D.H. Maclean as Commanding Officer on 31 August 1945. The Squadron aircraft left for Oakey on 9 October 1945 where they arrived on 31 October 1945. 457 Squadron was officially disbanded at Labuan on 7 November 1945.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Anthony Cooper for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History
Volume 2 - Fighter Units

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 18 October 2016

This page last updated 20 October 2016