Title: No. 457 (RAAF) Squadron 1941 – 1945, Spitfire
Author: Listemann, Phil and Grant, Jim
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Date: 2007
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 90 pages
Comments: The detailed history of 457 Squadron RAAF during World War 2.
No. 457 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was formed at Baginton, near Coventry, in England on 16 June 1941 in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Initially, the squadron’s ground crew were provided by the Royal Air Force, while the majority of the pilots were Australian. An Australian ground crew was raised at Williamtown, New South Wales, however, and joined the squadron on 30 October 1941. 457 was equipped with Supermarine Spitfires and became part of 9 Group of Fighter Command.
Based on the Isle of Man, first at Jurby (7 August – 2 October 1941) and then Andreas (3 October 1941 – 21 March 1942), the squadron had a slow introduction to active operations. Declared operational on 7 August 1941, it escorted convoys patrolled over the seas to Britain’s west but much of its time was devoted to training. The squadron effectively became an operational training unit, preparing Spitfire pilots for other squadrons, particularly 452 Squadron RAAF, that were more actively engaged.
With the imminent return of 452 Squadron RAAF to Australia, 457 Squadron was redeployed for more active service with 11 Group at Redhill, just south of London, on 22 March 1942. For the next two months it conducted patrols over south-east England and the English Channel, and escorted bombing raids and conducted sweeps to engage enemy aircraft in the skies above occupied France and Belgium.
Under orders to return to Australia, 457 Squadron withdrew from operations in Britain on 28 May 1942. It sailed for home on 21 June, arrived in Melbourne on 13 August, and re-assembled at Richmond on 6 September. The squadron began refresher training at Richmond with a motley collection of aircraft, its Spitfires having being commandeered in transit by the Royal Air Force in the Middle East.
457 Squadron returned to front-line service on 31 January 1943. Re-equipped with Spitfires, it was based at Batchelor in the Northern Territory and joined 1 Fighter Wing, defending Darwin. The squadron relocated to Livingstone on 31 January where it remained until it transferred to the newly-formed 80 Wing and moved to Sattler on 13 May 1944. During the squadron’s time as part of Darwin’s air garrison it detached aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth. While at Livingstone, the squadron was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose.
By early July 1944, the air defence of Darwin had been handed over to several Royal Air Force squadrons, allowing 457 Squadron to be employed in ground attack, and occasionally maritime attack roles for the rest of the war. Initially, the squadron operated against targets in the Dutch East Indies from Sattler but, as part of the 1st Tactical Air Force, it was deployed to Morotai in the Indies in early 1945. Beginning on 10 February, operations continued at a high intensity for the next three months. The squadron relocated again, commencing operations from the island of Labuan, of the Borneo coast, on 19 June, primarily in support of the Australian land campaign in British North Borneo. It mounted its last operational sorties on 13 August, two days before the Japanese surrender. 457 Squadron disbanded on 7 November 1945.