458 Squadron RAAF
A History of RAAF No. 458 Squadron
458 Squadron RAAF
No. 458 Squadron RAAF was a Royal Australian Air Force squadron during World War II. It was formed in Australia, under the Empire Air Training Scheme. The Squadron flew various versions of Vickers Wellington bombers, first in Europe and later in the Middle East.
No. 458 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was formed at Williamtown, NSW on the 10th July, 1941. From its base in Britain at Holme-on-Spalding Moor (in Yorkshire), the Squadron commenced operations over German occupied Europe on the 20th of October, 1941. It was equipped with Vickers Wellington medium bombers and was part of 1 Group Bomber Command.
The twin-engine Wellington’s were the first bombers to be used in the war offensive that began in September 1939, with 8 Wellington squadrons in operation. They were the mainstay of Bomber Command for over two years up until 1942, with 21 squadrons in operation at that time. After that, four-engine heavy bombers entered service.
In January 1942, No. 458 Squadron was relocated to Middle East Command. Based at El Shallufa in Egypt, the Squadron was trained in techniques employed to attack ships and submarines with both bombs and torpedoes. Henceforth No. 458’s primary role was to seek out and attack enemy shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. As seen on its banner, its aircraft went on to operate from many different airfield locations in Egypt, Palestine, Malta, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Italy and Gibraltar. The Squadron also supported the Allied invasion of southern France in August 1944. No. 458 operated until the 9th of June 1945 (the end of the war in Europe had occurred on May 8th, 1945).
The Squadron’s banner also shows its crest with the flying torpedo (indicating its primary role of anti-shipping operations in the Mediterranean theatre of war) and the corresponding motto: Invenimus Et Delemus: We Find and Destroy. Close to 1750 personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada, and South Africa proudly served under No. 458
The Squadron’s wartime service is recorded per standard Defence Department procedure of the time, in the Official Operations Record Book. 822 pages tell the story from Squadron formation in July 1941 through almost 4 years of war service to disbandment in June 1945. This once TOP SECRET document provides a valuable insight and accurate record of what took place daily/weekly in the life of this RAAF unit…
National Archives of Australia – 458 RAAF Squadron Operations Record Book (type in: 458 Unit History in the search line, then click on the Digitised item)
1941: Pages 1-43
1942: Pages 44-81
1943: Pages 82-357
1944: Pages 358-736
1945: Pages 737-822
WWII History / Campaigns
No. 458 was formed at Williamtown, New South Wales on 10 July 1941. The squadron “originals” departed for England 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. Equipped with Wellington Mk.IV bombers, No 458 Squadron soon participated in its first operational sortie on 20/21 October, when ten of its aircraft joined in night attacks made by No. 1 (Bomber) Group RAF against the ports of Emden, Antwerp and Rotterdam. In addition to bombing missions over France and Germany the Wellingtons were involved in mine-laying operations along enemy occupied coasts. At the end of January 1942 the squadron was withdrawn from Bomber Command to perform services in the Middle East.
TO THE MIDDLE EAST
The relocation to Middle East Command proved to be a chaotic affair. Air and ground crews were separated as the latter went by boat and the squadron’s aircraft were commandeered for operations by other squadrons from Malta, where they had stopped on their way to Egypt. When they finally arrived in the Middle East, the squadron’s ground crew found themselves working on the maintenance of bombers operated by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force, while the air crew were already being attached to 37, 70, 104, 108, and 148 Squadrons RAF.
IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Finally, on 1 September 1942, 458 Squadron was re-united at El Shallufa, Egypt and began a new life of attacking ships and submarines with bombs and torpedoes, maritime patrols, sea rescue missions, convoy escorts and mine laying operations. In these roles, its aircraft operated from airfields in Egypt, Malta, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Sardinia, and Corsica. The squadron also still undertook conventional bombing tasks, such as in support of the Allied invasion of southern France in August 1944. No 458 Squadron moved altogether to the European continent in September 1944, when it moved its headquarters to Foggia Airfield, Italy, while detachments were deployed to Falconara Airfield, Italy; Rosignano Airfield, Italy and La Vallon Airfield, France.
26 January 1945 the squadron was to move one final time, to RAF North Front, Gibraltar. With the allied liberation of France, and the continuing progress of the Allied campaign in Italy, enemy submarines and surface vessels in the Mediterranean presented little threat anymore. The squadron new task was now to roam out from Gibraltar across the western Atlantic, escorting Allied convoys and searching for German submarines. The squadron was still carrying out these tasks when the war in Europe ended. 458 Squadron disbanded shortly thereafter on 9 June 1945 at Gibraltar.