No. 455 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War

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No.455 Squadron (RAAF) was formed as a night bomber squadron in RAF Bomber Command, but moved to Coastal Command in 1942 where it remained for the rest of the war, mainly operating as a strike squadron.

The personnel who were to man the squadron began to assemble at Williamstown, New South Wales, on 23 May 1941. The squadron itself was officially formed at Swinderby on 6 June 1941, making it the first night bomber squadron in the RAAF and the first Australian squadron in Bomber Command. It was equipped with the Handley Page Hampden.

The squadron flew its first operation on 29 August 1941, impressively soon after being formed (although this first raid appears to only have involved Squadron Leader French, who flew a single aircraft from the squadron during a raid on Frankfurt). However it didn't remain in Bomber Command for terribly long, and on 19 April was transferred to Coastal Command. During its time with Bomber Command the squadron flew a total of 424 sorties in 92 raids (56 bombing raids, 29 minelaying operations and 7 leaflet dropping operations), losing 14 aircraft for a loss ratio of 3.3%.

The squadron was sent to Leuchars to train as a torpedo bomber unit. It received specially modified torpedo carrying Hampdens in May 1942,

In September 1942 the squadron flew to Vaenga in northern Russia to help protect the next Arctic convoy after the disaster of convoy PQ.17, and to deliver its aircraft to the Soviets. A mixed force containing two squadrons of Hampden torpedo bombers (144 and 455), one of Catalinas (210) and four photographic reconnaissance Spitfires. PQ.18 left Loch Ewe on 3 September, and although it lost ships to the U-boats and the Luftwaffe, the Germany navy didn't come out. The Hampdens carried a series of patrols, but there was nothing to find. After two weeks the squadron personnel returned to the UK, leaving their aircraft behind - the westwards trip, against the prevailing winds, was judged to be too dangerous for the Spitfires or Hampdens.

After its return to Leuchars the squadron began to attack German convoys along the Norwegian coast. For the first five months of 1943 it was one of three Hampden squadrons (with Nos.489 and 144) which were Coastal Command's only strike force capable of operating off Norway.

The squadron was also used on anti-submarine duties. On 30 April 1943 a Hampden from the squadron sank U-227 with bombs as the U-boat was passing west through the gap between the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

The last Hampden operation was flown on 10 December 1943, and the squadron converted to the Beaufighter X. It took some time to convert to the new aircraft, and the first Beaufighter strike wasn't flown until 6 March 1944. The squadron used its Beaufighters as torpedo bombers, initially against targets along the Norwegian coast. In March-April it formed the Leuchars Strike Wing, along with No.489 Squadron.

On 5 March 1944 the two squadrons attacked and sank the German sub-chaser Unitas IV/ UJ1703 off the south-west coast of Norway. On 6 March they sank the German merchant vessel Rabe off Stavanger and the Norwegian vessel Ryfylke off Lister.

In April 1944 the squadron (again with No.489 Squadron) moved south to Langham, to join a strike wing carrying out attacks off the Dutch coast.

On 14 May the two squadrons sank the Dutch merchant vessel Vesta and the German minesweeper M.438 off Borkum.

On 15 June 1944 the squadron took part in a four squadron attack on Shiermonnikoog in which the German minesweeper M.103, Belgian depot ship Gustav Nactigal and the Dutch experimental vessel Coburg/ Schiff 49 were all sunk.

On 6 July 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Norderney in which the German merchant vessel Stadt Riga was sunk and the Ernst Brockelmann damaged.

On 21 July 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Wangeroog in which the German minesweeper M.307 and Finnish merchant vessel Orient were sunk.

On 8 August 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Egersund in which the Norwegian merchant ship Vim was sunk and the German merchant ship Carsten Russ was damaged.

On 10 August 1944 the squadron sank the German merchant vessel Santos off Heligoland.

On 13 August 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Heligoland in which the minesweeper M.383 and flak ship Preussen were sunk.

On 29 August 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Heligoland in which the mine destructor ships Hermes/ Sperrbrecher 26 and Valeria/ Sperrbrecher 176 and the flak ship Mewa VIII/ Vp1269 were sunk.

On 6 September the squadron took part in an attack off Wangeroog in which the lightship Emil and the merchant ships Rosafred and Breda were sunk.

On 8 September the squadron helped sink the merchant vessel Hengelo off the south-west coast of Norway

On 11 September the squadron took part in an attack in which the minesweepers M.426 and M.462 were sunk

On 25 September the squadron took part in an attack off Den Helderin which the minesweeper M.471 and harbour defence vessel Jannetje/ Vs.423 were sunk

In October 1944 the squadron returned to Scotland to join the Dallachy Wing (Nos.144, 404, 455 and 489 Squadrons). It was then used to carry out attacks on shipping along the Norwegian coast and in the Skagerrak. It performed this role to the end of the war.

On 15 October 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Wangeroog in which the harbour defence vessels Europa and KFK.93 and the light gun barge Margaret/ LAT 15 were sunk

On 8 November 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Midtgulen in which the merchant velles Aquila and Helga Ferdinand were sunk and the Framnaes was damaged.

On 5 December 1944 the squadron took part in an attack off Orstenfjord in which the merchant vessels Radbord and Albert Janus were sunk.

On 6 January 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off the west coast of Norway in which the lighter MW.151 was sunk,.

On 8 January 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Korsfjord in which the Norwegian tug Trygg and merchant ship Fusa were sunk.

On 9 January 1945 the squadron took part in attacks off Flugsaetfjord and Sognefjord in which the merchant vessel Sirius and salvage tug Blaaveis were sunk.

On 8 March 1945 the squadron took part in an attack in which the German merchant vessel Phoenicia was sunk in the Kiel Canal and the Danish ferry Heimdal sunk off Midgulen.

On 24 March 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Egersund in which the merchant vessels Thetis and Sarp were sunk.

On 4 April 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Feddefjord in which the merchant vessel Palmyra was damaged.

On 7 April 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Sognefjord in which the merchant Oldenburg was damaged.

On 11 April 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off the south-west coast of Norway in which the minesweeper M.2 was sunk.

On 22 April 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Maaloy in which the merchant vesselt Elmar was sunk.

On 23 April 1945 the squadron took part in an attack off Sognefjord in which the merchant vessel Ingerseks was sunk.

On 3 May 1945 the squadron took part in an attack om Kiel Bay in which the Danish merchant ship Java was sunk and the Falstria and Jutlandia damaged.

The squadron was disbanded on 25 May 1945.

Aircraft
July 1941-December 1943: Handley Page Hampden I
December 1943-May 1945: Bristol Beaufighter X

Location
June 1941-February 1942: Swinderby
February-April 1942: Wigsley
April 1942-April 1944: Leuchars
    September 1942: Detachment to Vaenga
April-October 1944: Langham
October 1944-May 1945: Dallachy

Squadron Codes: UB

Duty
No.18 Group, Coastal Command: -15 February 1943-

Books

The Cinderella Service: RAF Coastal Command 1939-1945, Andrew Hendrie. A complete history of RAF Coastal Command during the Second World War, based on the author's PhD and thus backed by some very impressive original research. Covers the Command's aircraft and weapons as well as the anti-submarine, anti-shipping (both military and merchant) campaigns, and Coastal Command's own 'Cinderella' functions of air-sea rescue, photo-reconnaissance and the meteorological flights [read full review]
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The Strike Wings - Special Anti-Shipping Squadrons, 1942-45, Roy Conyers Nesbit. A history of Coastal Command's Strike Wings, dedicated groups of anti-shipping squadrons that devastated German coastal shipping during the Second World War, but at a very high cost, written by someone who flew in the same role after the war and with a great use of eyewitness accounts and both Allied and German sources. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 April 2022), No. 455 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAAF/455_wwII.html

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