No. 461 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War

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No.461 Squadron (RAAF) was a maritime patrol squadron in Coastal Command that carried out patrols over the Western Approaches and Bay of Biscay from 1942 to the end of the war.

The squadron was formed at Mount Batten (in Plymouth Sound) using detachments from other Australian squadrons in Coastal Command. It became operational on 1 July 1942 and flew patrols over the Western Approachs and the Bay of Biscay.

Soon after becoming operational it became clear that Plymouth Sound was too congested to take another squadron of flying boats, so the squadron began to operate from Poole Harbour, officially moving to Hamworthy (on the edge of the harbour) in August 1942.

On 12 August 1942 a Sunderland from the squadron was lost during an attempt to rescue the crew of a Whitley from No.172 Squadron which had crashed on the night of 11-12 August. The Sunderland attempted to land in rough seas, but lost its starboard wing tip on landing, the starboard engine burst into flames and the aircraft sank. The crew escaped, but their dinghy sank, and only the navigator survived, having reached another dinghy originally dropped for the original survivors.

In April 1943 the squadron moved to Pembroke Dock, which would be its main base for the rest of the war. Its main duty was now to patrol over the Bay of Biscay hoping to catch the U-boats on their way to or from their French bases. This role continued until the U-boat bases were either liberated or beseiged after the D-Day landings.

On 2 May 1943 an aircraft from the squadron sank U-465 just to the north-west of Cape Ortegal, at the north-western corner of Spain.

The squadron was originally credited with sinking U-332 on 2 May 1943, but that U-boat had probably been sunk on 29 April by a Liberator from No.224 Squadron.

In June 1943 the dangers of patrolling over the Bay of Biscay were made clear when a Sunderland from the squadron flown by Ft Lt Walker, was attacked by eight Ju 88s. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Sunderland fought back, claiming three certain victories and a probable and safely returning to base, although with one crewmember dead and all of the rest wounded.

On 30 July aircraft from the squadron and from No.502 Squadron combined with the ships of Captain F.J Walker's2nd Escort Group to sink three U-boats. No.461 Squadron sank U-461, No.502 Squadron and the ships sank U-462 and U-504. To make a bad day for the U-boats worse, another two were sunk by American aircraft elsewhere in the Atlantic.

In September-October 1944 the squadron operated a detachment from Sullom Voe in the Shetlands.

The squadron was disbanded at Pembroke Dock on 20 June 1945.

April 1942-May 1943: Short Sunderland II
August 1942-May 1945: Short Sunderland III
March-June 1945: Short Sunderland V

April-August 1942: Mount Batten (Plymouth Sound, Devon)
August 1942-April 1943: Hamworthy (Poole Harbour, Dorset)
April 1943-June 1945: Pembroke Dock
    September-October 1944: Detachment to Sullom Voe (Shetlands)

Squadron Codes: UT

No.19 Group, Coastal Command: -15 February 1943-


Short Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2, Jon Lake. A look at the service carrier of the most successful British flying boat of the Second World War, and a key component in Coastal Command's battle against the U-boat. Covers the introduction of the aircraft, its role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, West Africa and other theatres.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 May 2022), No. 461 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War,

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