No. 458 Squadron RAAF
No. 458 Squadron RAAF was a Royal Australian Air Force squadron that operated during World War II. It was formed in Australia under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The squadron flew various versions of Vickers Wellington bombers, first in Europe and later in the Middle East. It was disbanded in mid-1945, following the conclusion of hostilities in Europe.
|No. 458 Squadron RAAF|
Crew from No. 458 Squadron in front of their aircraft, December 1941
|Active||8 July 1941 – 9 June 1945|
|Branch||Royal Australian Air Force|
|Part of||No. 1 Group RAF, Bomber Command|
RAF Middle East Command
|Motto(s)||We find and destroy|
|Battle honours||Fortress Europe, 1940–1944|
France and Germany, 1944–1945
South-East Europe, 1942–1945
|Squadron Codes||FU (Sep 1941 – Mar 1942)|
MD (Oct 1942 – Apr 1943)
No. 458 Squadron was formed at Williamtown, New South Wales, on 8 July 1941 as an Article XV squadron under the terms of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Consisting of only ground staff, the squadron departed for the United Kingdom in August to join other personnel assembled at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, where the squadron was officially established as No. 458 (Bomber) Squadron on 25 August 1941. From the outset, the squadron drew personnel from many different countries, with many coming from Britain, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Australia.
Equipped with Wellington Mk.IV bombers, No. 458 Squadron formed part of No. 1 Group RAF of Bomber Command. It participated in its first operational sortie on 20/21 October, when ten of its aircraft joined in night attacks made against the ports of Emden, Antwerp and Rotterdam. Further attacks were made against industrial targets in France and Germany over the course of several months as part of a strategic bombing campaign. In addition, the Wellingtons were involved in mine-laying operations along enemy occupied coasts. In late 1941, No. 458 Squadron provided a flight to help raise the newly formed No. 460 Squadron RAAF. At the end of January 1942 the squadron was withdrawn from Bomber Command to serve in the Middle East.
Middle East and Mediterranean
The relocation to Middle East Command was, in the words of historian Steve Eather, "chaotic". Air and ground crews were separated as the latter went by sea, while the aircraft were flown out to the Middle East by their crews. While refuelling in Malta, many of the squadron's aircraft were re-allocated to other squadrons, and as a result many crews had to wait in Malta for transport on to Egypt. The move also resulted in the loss of the squadron's commanding officer, who was shot down by German aircraft while en route. It was May by the time that the ground crew reached Egypt, and when they arrived, many were re-allocated to other squadrons, and they too were re-allocated to various units, servicing a variety of aircraft from Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces. Many of the aircrews suffered similarly, being temporarily detached to various squadrons including: Nos. 37, 70, 104, 108, and 148 Squadrons RAF.
On 1 September 1942, the No. 458 Squadron was re-constituted at El Shallufa, in Egypt, and began a new life of maritime patrols, convoy escorts and mine laying operations, once again flying Wellington bombers. In this role, the squadron deployed a number of detachments to various locations around the Middle East. On 30 March 1943, No. 458 Squadron was transferred from El Shallufa to LG. 91, also in Egypt. They continued anti-shipping operations after this and in the middle of 1943 the squadron's crews were responsible for sinking or damaging many ships, including an Italian cruiser and a destroyer. In June, the squadron deployed to Tunisia. This was followed by a further move to Bone, in Algeria, in October 1943, from where further maritime operations were flown, including anti-submarine patrols, which resulted in several attacks. The squadron sank its first U-boat in mid-May, when U-731 was attacked by a Wellington based at Alghero, on Sardinia. In August, the squadron flew bombing missions in support of Operation Dragoon, in southern France. Further moves came in September 1944, with the squadron relocating to Foggia Airfield, in Italy, and deploying detachments to Falconara and Rosignano in Italy and La Vallon, in France.
The squadron's final move came on 26 January 1945 when it was re-established at RAF North Front, Gibraltar. As a result of the Allied liberation of France, and the continued advance of Allied forces in Italy, there were few targets for the squadron in the Mediterranean any more; as a result the squadron was re-tasked to patrol from Gibraltar across the western Atlantic to escort Allied convoys and search for German U-boats. These duties occupied the squadron until the end of the war in May 1945. No. 458 Squadron disbanded shortly thereafter on 9 June 1945 at Gibraltar. Losses during the war amounted to 141 personnel being killed, of whom 65 were Australian.
|August 1941||January 1942||Vickers Wellington||Mk.IV|
|February 1942||April 1942||Vickers Wellington||Mk.Ic|
|October 1942||November 1942||Vickers Wellington||Mk.Ic|
|October 1942||September 1943||Vickers Wellington||Mk.VIII|
|June 1943||May 1944||Vickers Wellington||Mk.XIII|
|February 1944||June 1945||Vickers Wellington||Mk.XIV|
|8 July 1941||7 August 1941||Williamtown, New South Wales, Australia|
|7 August 1941||25 August 1941||en route to the UK|
|25 August 1941||February 1942||RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire|
|February 1942||March 1942||en route to the Middle East||Dispersed upon arrival|
|1 September 1942||30 March 1943||Shallufa, Egypt||re-establishment|
|30 March 1943||18 June 1943||LG.91, Egypt||Dets. at RAF Luqa, Malta and Blida, Algeria|
|18 June 1943||9 October 1943||Protville I, Tunisia|
|9 October 1943||25 March 1944||Bone Airfield, Algeria||Dets. at Blida, Algeria; RAF Luqa, Malta;|
Grottaglie Airfield, Italy; Ghisonaccia Airfield, Corsica;
Borizzo Airfield, Sicily and Réghaïa, Algeria
|25 March 1944||3 September 1944||Alghero Airfield, Sardinia|
|3 September 1944||29 January 1945||Foggia Airfield, Italy||Dets. at Falconara Airfield, Italy; Rosignano Airfield, Italy|
and La Vallon Airfield, France
|29 January 1945||9 June 1945||RAF North Front, Gibraltar|
|1 September 1941||15 February 1942 (MIA)||Wing Commander N.G. Mulholland, DFC|
|15 February 1942||1 June 1943||Squadron Leader L.L. Johnston|
|1 June 1943||27 September 1943||Lieutenant Colonel B.R. McKenzie (SAAF)|
|27 September 1943||1 July 1944||Wing Commander J. Dowling|
|1 July 1944||9 June 1945||Wing Commander R.C. MacKay, DFC|
- Moyes 1976, p. 253.
- Delve 1994, p. 67.
- "No. 458 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 73.
- Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 71.
- Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 89.
- Eather 1995, p. 115.
- Moyes 1976, p. 254.
- Eather 1995, pp. 115–116.
- Eather 1995, p. 116.
- Rawlings 1982, p. 214.
- Halley 1988, p. 479.
- Jefford 2001, p. 95.
- Eather 1995, p. 117.
- 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). RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
- Moyes, Philip J.R. (1976) . Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
- Rawlings, John D.R. (1982). Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
- Alexander, Peter; Pettit, Peter (2002) . We Find and Destroy: A History of 458 RAAF Squadron (3rd ed.). Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 1-876439-08-4.
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