|No. 450 Squadron RAAF|
North Africa, c. 1943. A Curtiss (P-40) Kittyhawk fighter-bomber belonging to 450 Squadron, loaded with six 250 lb (110 kg) bombs
|Active||7 February 1941 – 20 August 1945|
|Branch||Royal Australian Air Force|
|Part of||Desert Air Force|
|Nickname(s)||"The Desert Harassers"|
|Engagements||World War II|
South-East Europe, 1942–1945
Egypt & Libya, 1940–1943
North Africa, 1942–1943
Gordon Steege (1941–1942)|
John Williams (1942)
|Squadron badge heraldry||A jaguar's head couped, pierced by a rapier in hand.|
DJ (Dec 1941 – Apr 1942)|
OK (Dec 1941 – Aug 1945)
North American Mustang
No. 450 Squadron was a unit of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during World War II. It was the first RAAF Article XV squadron formed for service with the British military, under the Empire Air Training Scheme. During its existence, No. 450 Squadron included personnel from several different British Commonwealth countries and air forces. The squadron fought in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign, the North Africa Campaign, the Tunisian Campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Italian campaign, serving in both a fighter and fighter-bomber role. It was disbanded in August 1945 following the conclusion of hostilities.
History[edit | edit source]
The first Australian squadron raised for service with the British military under the Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme, No. 450 Squadron was formed at RAAF Williamtown, near Newcastle, New South Wales, on 7 February 1941, a week before No. 451 Squadron. Both units were intended to be "infiltration" squadrons, which would consist initially only of ground crew and would receive a nucleus of experienced pilots after arriving in their designated theatre of operations.
Middle East and North Africa[edit | edit source]
Under the command of Flight Lieutenant Bruce Shepherd, No. 450 Squadron left Australia on 11 April, embarking on the troopship Queen Elizabeth at Sydney, and arriving in Egypt on 3 May 1941. At RAF Abu Sueir, Squadron Leader Gordon Steege took command of the squadron before it was combined with the pilots and Hawker Hurricanes of No. 260 Squadron RAF, to form an operational squadron. The combined unit, known as No. 260/450 (Hurricane) Squadron, then relocated to Amman in Transjordan. Its first operation was on 29 June 1941, when the Hurricanes attacked Vichy French airfields and infrastructure during the invasion of Syria. No. 260/450 Squadron operated for ten days only and flew 61 sorties against airfields, 20 on offensive patrols and six on bomber-escort duties during the Syrian campaign.
In August 1941, No. 450 Squadron personnel were separated from No. 260 Squadron, when the latter received its own ground crew. No. 450 Squadron moved to Rayak airfield, Lebanon, where it was allocated Hurricanes and Miles Magister trainers. A batch of 20 trainee Australian, British and Canadian pilots were posted to the squadron in early October, and it began duties as an Operational Training Unit. However, a fortnight later these pilots were posted out, and lacking trained pilots, the squadron's aircraft were re-allocated. On 20 October, the squadron moved to Burg El Arab, Egypt, and began operating as an advanced repair, salvage and service unit, taking part in the North African Campaign.
By December 1941, the squadron was receiving pilots and on 18 December, it began taking delivery of Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighters. Training began the following month, and No. 450 Squadron commenced operations from RAF Gambut on 19 February 1942, with an uneventful patrol near Tobruk. Three days later Sergeant R. Shaw became the first pilot from the squadron to claim an aerial victory, after he was scrambled and intercepted a Junkers Ju 88 bomber, at an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,100 m), south-east of Gazala. The squadron then remained active for most of the war, generally alongside No. 3 Squadron RAAF and No. 112 Squadron RAF in No. 239 Wing, Desert Air Force (DAF, later known as the First Tactical Air Force).
The squadron's main roles—escorting daylight raids by Douglas Boston bombers, and ground attack missions in support of the Eighth Army—were hazardous and resulted in relatively heavy losses. Nevertheless, between February 1942 and May 1943, No. 450 Squadron pilots claimed 49 German and Italian aircraft destroyed in air combat, for the loss of 28 Kittyhawks. From 26 May, all Kittyhawk units operated primarily as fighter-bomber units.
Along with the rest of the DAF, No. 450 Squadron took part in the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, during October and November 1942, attacking enemy airfields in the RAF El Daba area. By this time the DAF Kittyhawks were using two or three US-supplied 500 lb (230 kg) bombs, rather than the two to six 250 lb (110 kg) bombs previously carried, increasing the impact of their raids. The squadron suffered several losses during this time, including one of its aces, Squadron Leader John Williams, who was shot down and taken prisoner on 31 October 1942, three days after he had been appointed commanding officer.
During this period, the DAF squadrons moved many times because of the rapidly changing front line. Ground crews "leapfrogged" ahead, to prepare for the aircraft. No. 450 Squadron moved six times during two weeks in November. No. 450 squadron found itself using captured or hastily constructed airfields; one Kittyhawk was destroyed and several personnel killed or wounded by land mines.
From late 1942, No. 450 Squadron was engaged in the Tunisian Campaign. As the Allied forces advanced, by March 1943, the squadron was operating from Medinne along the Mareth Line. That month they flew over 300 sorties. Further moves occurred, and by mid-April they were based at Karouan. Throughout April and early May, 350 sorties were flown, including attacks on Axis shipping in Cape Bon and in the Gulf of Tunis. The campaign came to an end in mid-May, but the squadron continued defensive patrols into June.  As a result of its involvement in the North African fighting, the squadron received the nickname, "The Desert Harassers", and adopted the motto, "Harass", which were derived from a comment by the Nazi propaganda broadcaster "Lord Haw Haw", who described the unit as "Australian mercenaries whose harassing tactics were easily beaten off by the Luftwaffe."
Europe[edit | edit source]
No. 450 Squadron and the other DAF fighter squadrons played a significant ground attack role in the Allied invasion of Sicily, during July–August 1943. Using RAF Luqa, Malta, as a staging post, they operated in a light interdiction role, carrying two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs, to attack Axis road vehicles; the first attack being made against Carlentini. Following the Allied victory in Sicily, on 1 August Nos. 450 and 3 Squadrons moved to Agnone, near Catania, from where they commenced close air support operations, working closely with Allied ground units. On the night of 11 August, the airfield was attacked by Ju 88 bombers, dropping incendiary, anti-personnel and high explosive bombs, for more than an hour. Because the personnel camp had been placed some distance from the operations facilities, only one Australian was wounded, although casualties among other units amounted to 12 killed and 60 wounded. A total 18 RAAF Kittyhawks were destroyed, including 11 belonging to No. 450 Squadron. Despite this, the two RAAF squadrons mounted 22 sorties the following day.
During the subsequent campaign on the Italian mainland, which commenced in early September 1943, the squadron continued its close air support role, operating from Grottaglie, although it also undertook anti-shipping operations, including an attack on Manfredonia on 21 September, during which its aircraft sunk to vessels. The following month, No. 450 Squadron was transferred to Foggia, and then moved on to Mileni where they were briefly withdrawn from operations to convert to newer model Kittyhawk IVs, before rejoining the campaign in late November. In December, the squadron moved to Cutella, near Termoli, on the central Adriatic coast of Italy. There it encountered problems with severe winter weather restricting operations. In addition, Cutella airfield was located close to the beach; heavy rains caused a storm surge on 1 January 1944, and the airfield became covered with seawater, which damaged some aircraft.
Meanwhile, Williams and another prisoner of war from No. 450 Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Reginald Kierath, were among the Allied POWs at Stalag Luft III, in eastern Germany. In March 1944, both took part in "The Great Escape" and were among 50 POWs murdered by the Gestapo, after being recaptured. Williams, who was 27 years old and from Sydney, was officially an RAF officer, as he had joined the British service under a Short Service Commission, in 1938. Kierath, who was 29 and from Narromine, New South Wales, was an RAAF officer.
On 29 April 1944, several USAAF P-47 Thunderbolt pilots mistook Cutella for an Axis airfield and strafed it. No. 450 Squadron suffered no fatalities or aircraft destroyed, but the pilot of a float plane belonging to an air sea rescue unit was killed, some ground personnel were wounded, a Kittyhawk belong to No. 3 Squadron was destroyed and several others were damaged.
No. 450 Squadron later operated at a variety of airfields in central and northern Italy, operating under the "Cab Rank" system, whereby patrolling fighter-bombers would attack as requested by army air liaison officers. No. 450 Squadron also took part in the major offensive against the Gothic Line, in August–September 1944. From November, the squadron's targets included German forces in Yugoslavia. On 21 March 1945, the squadron took part in Operation Bowler, a major air raid on Venice harbour. The attack resulted in the sinking of a merchant ship, a torpedo boat, and a coastal steamer, as well as the destruction of five warehouses and other harbour infrastructure.
In mid-1945, the squadron became the second RAAF unit, after No. 3 Squadron, to receive North American Mustangs, albeit too late to see action during the war. No. 450 Squadron was disbanded on 20 August 1945 at Lavariano, a few miles south of Udine in north-eastern Italy. During the war, the squadron lost 63 personnel killed in action, of whom 49 were Australian.
Aircraft operated[edit | edit source]
|May 1941||December 1941||Hawker Hurricane||Mk.I|
|December 1941||September 1942||Curtiss Kittyhawk||Mk.I|
|1942||September 1942||Curtiss Kittyhawk||Mk.Ia|
|September 1942||October 1943||Curtiss Kittyhawk||Mk.III|
|October 1943||August 1945||Curtiss Kittyhawk||Mk.IV|
|May 1945||August 1945||North American Mustang||Mk.III|
Squadron bases[edit | edit source]
|16 February 1941||9 April 1941||RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales|
|9 April 1941||12 May 1941||en route to Middle East|
|12 May 1941||23 June 1941||RAF Abu Sueir, Egypt|
|23 June 1941||29 June 1941||RAF Aqir, Palestine|
|29 June 1941||11 July 1941||RAF Amman, Jordan|
|11 July 1941||18 July 1941||Damascus, Syria|
|18 July 1941||4 August 1941||RAF Haifa, Palestine|
|4 August 1941||19 August 1941||RAF El Bassa, Palestine|
|19 August 1941||25 October 1941||Rayak airfield, Lebanon|
|25 October 1941||12 December 1941||RAF Burg El Arab, Egypt|
|12 December 1941||30 January 1942||LG.207/LG 'Y' (Qassassin), Egypt|
|30 January 1942||16 February 1942||LG.12 (Sidi Haneish North), Egypt|
|16 February 1942||22 February 1942||LG.139/Gambut Main, Libya||Det. at RAF El Adem, Libya|
|22 February 1942||9 March 1942||LG.142\143/Gambut Satellite, Libya|
|9 March 1942||16 April 1942||LG.139/Gambut Main, Libya|
|16 April 1942||17 June 1942||LG.142\143/Gambut Satellite, Libya|
|17 June 1942||18 June 1942||Lg.148/Sidi Azeiz Airfield, Libya|
|18 June 1942||24 June 1942||LG.75, Egypt|
|24 June 1942||27 June 1942||LG.102, Egypt|
|27 June 1942||30 June 1942||LG.106, Egypt|
|30 June 1942||2 October 1942||LG.91, Egypt|
|2 October 1942||14 October 1942||LG.224/Cairo West, Egypt|
|14 October 1942||6 November 1942||LG.175, Egypt|
|6 November 1942||9 November 1942||LG.106, Egypt|
|9 November 1942||11 November 1942||LG.101, Egypt|
|11 November 1942||14 November 1942||LG.76, Egypt|
|14 November 1942||15 November 1942||LG.139/Gambut 1, Libya|
|15 November 1942||19 November 1942||Gazala Airfield, Libya|
|19 November 1942||8 December 1942||Martuba Airfield, Libya||Det. at Antelat Airfield, Libya|
|8 December 1942||18 December 1942||Belandah Airfield, Libya|
|18 December 1942||1 January 1943||Marble Arch Airfield, Libya|
|1 January 1943||9 January 1943||Alem el Chel Airfield, Libya|
|9 January 1943||18 January 1943||Hamraiet 3 Airfield, Libya|
|18 January 1943||24 January 1943||Sedadah Airfield, Libya|
|24 January 1943||14 February 1943||RAF Castel Benito, Libya|
|14 February 1943||8 March 1943||El Assa Airfield, Libya||Det. at Ben Gardane Airfield, Tunisia|
|8 March 1943||21 March 1943||Nefatia Airfield, Tunisia|
|21 March 1943||6 April 1943||Medenine Airfield, Tunisia|
|6 April 1943||14 April 1943||El Hamma Airfield, Tunisia|
|14 April 1943||18 April 1943||El Djem Airfield, Tunisia|
|18 April 1943||18 May 1943||Alem East Airfield, Tunisia|
|18 May 1943||13 July 1943||Zuwara Airfield, Libya|
|13 July 1943||18 July 1943||RAF Luqa, Malta|
|18 July 1943||2 August 1943||Pachino Airfield, Sicily, Italy|
|2 August 1943||16 September 1943||Agnone Airfield, Sicily, Italy|
|16 September 1943||23 September 1943||Grottaglie Airfield, Italy|
|23 September 1943||3 October 1943||Bari Airfield, Italy|
|3 October 1943||27 October 1943||Foggia Main Airfield, Italy|
|27 October 1943||28 December 1943||Mileni Airfield, Italy|
|28 December 1943||22 May 1944||Cutella Airfield, Italy|
|22 May 1944||12 June 1944||San Angelo Airfield, Italy|
|12 June 1944||23 June 1944||Guidonia Airfield, Italy|
|23 June 1944||9 July 1944||Falerium Airfield, Italy|
|9 July 1944||28 August 1944||Creti Airfield, Italy|
|28 August 1944||11 September 1944||Iesi Airfield, Italy|
|11 September 1944||20 September 1944||Foiano Airfield, Italy|
|20 September 1944||17 November 1944||Iesi Airfield, Italy|
|17 November 1944||25 February 1945||Fano Airfield, Italy|
|25 February 1945||19 May 1945||Cervia Airfield, Italy|
|19 May 1945||20 August 1945||Lavariano, Italy|
Commanding officers[edit | edit source]
|25 March 1941||31 May 1941||Flight Lieutenant Bruce McRae Shepherd|
|31 May 1941||23 April 1942||Squadron Leader Gordon Henry Steege, DFC|
|23 April 1942||28 October 1942||Squadron Leader Alan Douglas Ferguson|
|28 October 1942||2 November 1942||Squadron Leader John Edwin Ashley Williams, DFC|
|2 November 1942||14 March 1943||Squadron Leader M. H. C. Barber, DFC|
|14 March 1943||31 October 1943||Squadron Leader John Phillip Bartle|
|31 October 1943||1 December 1943 (KIA)||Squadron Leader Sydney George Welshman, DFM|
|6 December 1943||7 April 1944||Squadron Leader Kenneth Royce Sands|
|7 April 1944||14 June 1944||Squadron Leader Ray Trevor Hudson, DFC|
|14 June 1944||26 October 1944||Squadron Leader John Dennis Gleeson|
|26 October 1944||20 August 1945||Squadron Leader Jack Carlisle Doyle, DFC & Bar|
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Rawlings 1978, p. 441.
- Halley 1988, p. 473.
- Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 68.
- Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 80.
- Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 95.
- Eather 1995, p. 103.
- Barnes 2000, pp. 250 & 255.
- Eather 1995, pp. 103 & 105.
- Herington 1954, pp. 121–121.
- "No. 450 Squadron, Royal Australian Airforce: The Desert Harassers". 450 Squadron RAAF Association. http://450squadronraaf.smugmug.com/gallery/8205783_f4Vyb#!i=536252828&k=QbZBhsk. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Barnes 2000, p. 254.
- "251025 Squadron Leader Bruce McRae Shepherd". Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_1077918.asp. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- Barnes 2000, p. 250.
- RAAF Historical Section 1995, p. 106.
- Herington 1954, p. 95.
- Barnes 2000, pp. 250–251.
- "450 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11143.asp. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Barnes 2000, p. 251.
- RAAF Historical Section 1995, pp. 107–111.
- Brown 1983, p. 259.
- Brown 1983, pp. 257–258.
- "40652 Squadron Leader John Edwin Ashley Williams, DFC". Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/people_1077919.asp. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
- Barnes 2000, pp. 251–252.
- Eather 1995, pp. 103–104.
- "No 450 Squadron". RAAF Museum Point Cook. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20091001224431/http://www.raaf.gov.au/raafmuseum/research/units/450sqn.htm. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- Barnes 2000, p. 252.
- Eather 1995, p. 104.
- RAAF Historical Section 1995, p. 109.
- Turner 1999, p. 88.
- Wilson 2005, pp. 100–101.
- Herington 1954, p. 578.
- Barnes 2000, p. 253.
- Herington 1963, p. 70.
- Edlington, David (8 April 2004). "The Great Crime: Aussies Among Murder Victims". http://www.defence.gov.au/news/raafnews/EDITIONS/4605/history/story01.htm. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
- "No. 34501". 12 April 1938. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34501/page/
- "Kierath, Reginald Victor". World War II Nominal Roll. Commonwealth of Australia. http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/script/veteran.asp?ServiceID=R&VeteranID=1053367. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
- Duncan, George (2008). "More Lesser-Known Facts of World War II". http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/more_facts.html. Retrieved 15 February 2008.
- Franks 2003, p. 108.
- Herington 1963, p. 111.
- Herington 1963, pp. 346–349.
- Herington 1963, p. 353.
- RAAF Historical Section 1995, p. 111.
- Rawlings 1978, p. 442.
- Halley 1988, p. 474.
- Jefford 2001, p. 94.
- Halley 1988, pp. 473–474.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to No. 450 Squadron RAAF.|
- Barnes, Norman (2000). The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-130-2.
- Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
- Brown, Russell (1983). Desert Warriors: Australian P-40 Pilots at War in the Middle East and North Africa, 1941–1943. Maryborough, Queensland: Banner Books. ISBN 1-875593-22-5.
- 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, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
- Franks, Norman (2003). Beyond Courage: Air Sea Rescue by Walrus Squadrons in the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian Seas 1942–1945. London: Grub Street. ISBN 9781904010302.
- Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, UK: Air Britain (Historians). ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
- Herington, John (1954). Second World War: Volume III – Air War Against Germany and Italy, 1939–1943. Australia in the War of 1939–1945 (1st ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 3633363. http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/chapter.asp?volume=28.
- Herington, John (1963). Second World War: Volume IV – Air Power Over Europe, 1944–1945. Australia in the War of 1939–1945 (1st ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 3633419. http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/chapter.asp?volume=29.
- Jefford, C.G. (2001) . RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 1912 (2nd ed.). Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
- RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: A Concise History. Volume 2: Fighter Units. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 9780644427944.
- Rawlings, John D.R. (1978) . Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
- Turner, Jim (1999). The RAAF at War: World War II, Korea, Malaya & Vietnam. East Roseville, New South Wales: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-889-1.
- Wilson, David (2005). Brotherhood of Airmen: The Men and Women of the RAAF in Action. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-333-0.
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