No 451 Squadron RAAF


No. 451 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was raised at Bankstown, on the outskirts of Sydney, on 12 February 1941. Formed under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme, the squadron was destined for service with Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) overseas. It sailed from Sydney on 9 April 1941 and became operational in Egypt on 1 July. Equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighters and Westland Lysander utility aircraft, the squadron was employed in an army co-operation role. It carried out reconnaissance missions against German and Italian forces, directed artillery fire and engaged enemy troops, vehicles and emplacements on the ground.

The squadron supported British Commonwealth operations in the Western Desert from July 1941 until January 1942. It operated a two-aircraft detachment from within the besieged fortress of Tobruk between 13 September and 8 December 1941. In the meantime, the rest of the squadron was attached to the British Army's 13 Corps and was at the forefront of operations during the "Crusader" offensive in November and December 1941. On several occasions the advanced position of the squadron's landing grounds, combined with the fluid nature of the "Crusader" battles, resulted in the capture of its personnel by German ground troops. In what one pilot described as a "decidedly punch-drunk" state, the squadron was withdrawn from operations to rest and refit on 24 January 1942.

In February 1942, 451 Squadron relocated to Syria to join the British 9th Army as part of the Syria garrison. This move heralded a demoralising period for the squadron. The RAF's Middle East Command had more army co-operation squadrons than it could effectively employ, and the Australian Air Board refused to allow 451 Squadron to be converted to a fighter squadron. Thus, it remained virtually inactive in Syria, and in Cyprus where it maintained a detached flight, and morale plummeted. In January 1943 the squadron moved to Egypt as part of the Nile Delta defences and finally began to retrain as a fighter squadron. Any real threat to the delta had long since passed, however and the squadron’s lethargic existence continued.

In early 1944, 451 Squadron was re-equipped with Spitfire fighters and on 19 February it arrived on Corsica. The island would be its base for its next assignment: the support of Allied operations in southern Europe, including the campaign in Italy and the Allied invasions of Elba and southern France. In the wake of the easy progress of the land campaign, 451 Squadron relocated to southern France on 27 August. The rapid ground advance, however, quickly left the squadron out of effective range of the frontline and it began redeploying to Italy on 16 October. Italy would only be a lay-by for the squadron on journey that would ultimately end in Britain on December 1944.

The last months of the war in Europe were 451 Squadron's most active since 1941. Operating from several airfields in Britain, it escorted heavy bombers, conducted fighter sweeps, and attacked targets on the ground, including V2 rocket launch sites, across the steadily diminishing German-controlled territory in western Europe. After the cessation of hostilities, 451 Squadron moved into Germany on 27 September 1945 as part of the British occupation forces. It was planned that the squadron would form a long-term Australian presence among the occupation forces but sufficient volunteers could not be found to make this a viable proposition. Thus, on 21 January 1946 the squadron disbanded.



IDKU, EGYPT, 1943. A SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE AIRCRAFT OF 451 SQUADRON RAAF ON THE AIR FIELD. (DONOR J.S. ARCHBOLD)

Spitfire Mk.IXcs BQ-X & E. 451 Squadron, El Daba, Egypt, c.1943, Spitfire via Mike Mirkovic

Alec is far left, front row in this picture of 451 Squadron pilots and Administrative officers taken at Poretta, Corsica in March 1944. [Adapted by Keith Webb from entry in 'Noble 600']

Egypt, 1943. Pilot J.K. "Kirk" Bann and "Ken" Watts, of 451 Squadron RAAF, pose against the squadron's special Supermarine Spitfire aircraft which made a record altitude of 49,000 feet over Alexandria in 1943. (Donor J.S. Archbold)

The first Australian Fighter Wing has been formed in this country. One of the two squadrons, No. 451 Squadron RAAF, comprising the Wing has been in operations in the Middle East, Cyprus, Syria, Corsica, Southern France, Italy, Germany, and in Holland, equipped with cannon firing Spitfire FXVI aircraft against V2 rocket sites. Shown: Pilots of No. 451 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF. Back row, left to right: 420296 Flying Officer (FO) Clifford Hilston Stubbs; 425789 FO Jack Frederick Vintner; 421171 Pilot Officer (PO, later FO) David Alfred Cooper. Middle row: probably 420833 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) David Fisher; 425582 FO Cecil Gordon Ball; probably 421427 FO Bruce Fuller; O215060 FO (later Flt Lt) James Thomas Minahan; 420520 FO Joseph Barrington; 421827 FO Arthur Thomas Roe; Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt) J McDonald; 421362 Flt Lt Robert Thornton Milner; FO Ralph Hill; 421992 Flt Sgt (later FO) Sydney Alwyn Handsaker; FO Bob Field; 400486 FO (later Squadron Leader [Sqn Ldr]) Colin Watson Robertson. Front row: 407959 Flt Lt Reginald Harold Sutton DFC, 'A' Flight Commander; 400486 Sqn Ldr Colin Watson Robertson DFC, Commanding Officer of Jerilderie, NSW; 402321 Flt Lt (later Sqn Ldr) Douglas Mackenzie Davidson DFC, 'B' Flight Commander (accidentally killed in the UK on 6 January 1946).

Mk VC EE El Daba, Egypt, c. 1943-12. Supermarine Spitfire797 of No. 451 Squadron RAAF standing on an airfield on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The aircraft, with the nickname "Oliva" painted on its nose, was one of three Spitfires attached to the squadron in 1943-03 for the specific purpose of intercepting high-flying enemy reconnaissance aircraft. The squadron was otherwise involved in the defence of the Nile delta and in protecting allied convoys in the Mediterranean. (Donor M. Johnson)

May 1944, Poretta, Corsica. In front of a Spitfire undergoing servicing are pilots (left to right) F/O W. W. Thomas of Malvern, SA; F/O E. C. House DFM DFC of Gnowangerup, WA; S/Ldr E. E. Kirkham of Concord, NSW, and; F/O H. J. Bray of Moolcolah, Qld, not long after claiming four FW190s over Italy.

Corsica Flightline

451 Squadron fighters.

RAF Station Matlaske, England. C. 1945-05. Pilots of No. 451 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF standing around an aircraft, prior to an escort mission. Left to right: Flying Officer (FO) E. R. Newberry of Sydney, NSW; Flight Sergeant J. F. McDonald of Nagambie, Vic; Pilot Officer (PO) A. T. Roe of Condobolin, NSW; Flight Lieutenant R. H. Sutton of Vic (in cockpit); FO D. A. Cooper of Sydney, NSW, and PO W. R. Field of Sydney, NSW.


Poretta, Corsica, France. c. May 1944. Engineering officer, 21243 Pilot Officer G. B. Ballantyne of Newcastle, NSW, a member of No. 451 Squadron RAAF (in slacks), with three of his fitters in front of a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft on an airfield in Corisca.

Poretta, Corsica, France. c. March 1944. Group portrait of the pilots and Administrative officers of No. 451 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF, which is at present operating from their new base in the Mediterranean. Back row, left to right: 144056 Flying Officer (FO) R. S. Shepherd of England; 406266 FO J. Mercer of Perth, WA; 425789 Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt) J. F. Vintner of Stanthorpe, Qld; 421362 FO R. T. Milner of Sutherland, NSW; 412260 Flt Sgt W. R. Field of Wollstonecraft, NSW; 404756 FO J. D. Gleeson of Rockhampton, Qld. Front row: 401095 FO A. E. Arnel of Edithvale, Vic; 407465 FO W. W. Thomas of Adelaide, SA; 408541 FO J. D. Wallis of Bayswater, Vic; 421745 FO J. T. Minahan of Bronte, NSW; 406247 Pilot Officer (PO) F. C. House of Gnowangerup, WA; PO G. B. Ballantyne of Newcastle, NSW. Seated: 262723 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) F. W. Perrottet of Mosman, NSW; 257451 Flt Lt H. C. Ferguson of Brighton Beach, Vic; 408177 Flt Lt J. D. Ward of Burnie, Tas.

Poretta, Corsica, France. May 1944. A Super-marine Spitfire aircraft warming up prior to take off over Italy. The aircraft belongs to No. 451 Squadron RAAF, which has been operating in the Middle East for three years. Flying Hurricanes this squadron was active in the early Western Desert campaigns as an Army Co-operation Squadron.

Cuers, France. October 1944. A song outside the mess of No. 451 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF in southern France. 425582 Flight Sergeant C. G. Ball of Tully, Qld, is playing the piano, and left to right are: 421362 Flying Officer (FO) R. T. Milner of Sutherland, NSW; 416218 FO M. A. Kemp DFC of Gawler, SA, and 21243 Pilot Officer G. B. Ballantyne of Newcastle, NSW.

IDKU, EGYPT, 1943. A SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE AIRCRAFT OF 451 SQUADRON RAAF ON THE AIRFIELD. (DONOR J.S. ARCHBOLD)