No 452 Squadron RAAF


No. 452 Squadron RAAF was the first Australian squadron formed under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) in Britain during the Second World War. Its first personnel gathered at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey on the 8th of April 1941, where the Australians received instruction from a RAF veteran of the battle of Britain, Flight Lieutenant Bernard ‘Paddy’ Finucane. The squadron became operational on the 22nd of May of that year, flying Supermarine Spitfires. In late July 1941, the squadron moved to Kenley airfield, just outside London.

No. 452 Squadron rapidly developed a formidable reputation in operations against German forces. They began with convoy patrols, bomber escort missions and fighter sweeps over occupied France. The Squadron found itself in regular action against German aircraft and by the end of the year, No 452 Squadron was acknowledged as the leading fighter squadron in RAF Fighter Command. In one month alone, the Squadron destroyed twenty-two Bf109s.

In March 1942, Squadron Leader Keith "Bluey" Truscott - who was to go on to become the RAAF's second highest scoring ace - claimed No 452 Squadron's last victory in the European theatre. During its 13 months in England, No 452 Squadron had - for the loss of twenty-two pilots - been credited with destroying nearly seventy German aircraft, and damaging a further seventeen.

452 Squadron were involved in many different kinds of operations. One of the most unusual was escorting a bomber that — with the co-operation of the Germans — dropped an artificial leg by parachute into Europe, for the use of the British ace Douglas Bader, who was a prisoner of war. The bombers flew on to bomb a factory.

Another notable operation was the attack on the German warships Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau which were attempting the "Channel Dash", from their French harbour. Allied aircraft inflicted severe damage to these ships, despite intense anti-aircraft fire. The squadron did not lose an aircraft or suffer any damage to it on this occasion. Keith Bluey Truscott was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this action. Truscott was perhaps the best-known of the squadron's fliers. Although it was an RAAF unit, while it was in Europe, 452 Squadron also had some British personnel, from the Royal Air Force as well as other British Commonwealth air forces and other nationalities. One of these was the Irish ace Paddy Finucane.

A number of Polish pilots also flew with the squadron and proved to be formidable pilots, despite occasional language problems.

In March 1942, 452 Squadron replaced its sister, 457 Squadron, at RAF Andreas, Isle of Man, where it remained until British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to an Australian Government request to dispatch three fully equipped Spitfire squadrons to Australia to reinforce the RAAF. The squadrons selected were the Australian No. 452 and No. 457 Squadrons as well as the British No. 54 Squadron RAF. 452 Squadron sailed for home on 21 June on board the MV Stirling Castle, which was also carrying the men of No. 457 and No. 54 Squadrons. Stirling Castle arrived in Melbourne on 13 August, and re-assembled at RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales on the 6th of September. The squadron began refresher training at Richmond, using a varied collection of aircraft because its Spitfires had been commandeered in transit by the Royal Air Force in the Middle East.

452 Squadron became operational again on the 17th of January 1943. Re-equipped with Spitfires, it was based at Batchelor Airfield in the Northern Territory and there joined No. 1 Wing RAAF, which defended Darwin from Japanese air raids. The squadron was relocated to Strauss Airfield on the 1st of February and, with the exception of a brief period between 9th and 27th of March 1943 when it was deployed to RAAF Base Pearce to reinforce the air defences of Perth, it remained there (Strauss Airfield), protecting Darwin, until the 30th of June 1944, in May 1944 having become part of No. 80 Wing RAAF.

On the 1st of July 1944 the Squadron moved to Sattler Airfield in the Northern Territory. The protection of Darwin had been handed over to two Royal Air Force squadrons, allowing 452 Squadron to be employed in a ground attack role for the rest of the war. Initially the squadron operated against targets in the Dutch East Indies from Sattler Airfield, but on the 11th of December 1944 it joined the 1st Tactical Air Force and was relocated to Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, to support the Australian operations in Borneo (Kalimantan). The ground staff established themselves quickly at the newly captured Juwata airfield on Tarakan on the 10th of May 1945, but the state of the landing field was such that it was not fit for the aircraft of the squadron until the 29th of June. Following the landing at Balikpapan on the 1st of July a detachment of 452 Squadron Spitfires moved there on the 15th of July, to support the land campaign. The squadron’s last sortie of the war was flown on the 10th of August 1945 and it disbanded two months later at Tarakan on the 17th of November 1945.



452 SQN Spitfires over Darwin, 1943

A 452 SQN Spitfire on Millingimbi Island, N.T., with FSGT Duncan

Strauss, NT. 25 April 1943. Group portrait of pilots of No. 452 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF in front of one of the Squadron's aircraft. Left to right: Back row: 404491 Flying Officer (FO) J. P. Adam of Qld; 402675 FO Williams; 403070 Flight Sergeant McDowell of NSW; Wing Commander Clive R. (Killer) Caldwell DFC and Bar, of NSW; FO P. A. Goldsmith DFC DFM; 403013 Flight Lieutenant E. S. Hall of NSW; 401778 Sergeant C. Duncan of Vic. Front row: 403614 Sergeant F. White of NSW; 404613 FO J. G. Gould of Qld; and 404998 Flight Sergeant Paul Tully of Qld.

MILLINGIMBI ISLAND, NT. 1943-11-21. A Mk Vc SPITFIRE AIRCRAFT FLOWN BY 452 SQN RAAF IN THE NT. IN THIS PHOTO, F/O F C O'Loughlin QY-A FLIES ESCORT DUTY

Group portrait of pilots of No. 452 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF at RAF Station Kirton-in-Lindsey, the first fighter squadron of which the flying personnel (with the exception of two flight commanders) are entirely Australian. It became operational in May 1941. Identified left to right: 287473 Sergeant (Sgt) Paul St John Makin; 400141 Flying Officer (FO) Keith Kipling Cox (accidentally killed in the United Kingdom, 23 January 1944); possibly Archie Stuart; Flight Lieutenant (F/LT) Brendan Eamonn Fergus "Paddy" Finucane RAF, DSO, DFC & two Bars (killed during operations over Etaples, France, on 15 July 1942, aged 21 years); 407078 Ian Arthur Lace Milne ; 402120 Sgt James Neate Hanigan (killed on active service at Carlisle, England, on 7 September 1941, aged 24 years); 402129 Frederick Revis McCann; 402144 Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith (killed during operations over the Timor Sea on 15 March 1943, aged 24 years); 257414 Sqn Ldr Robert Wilton Bungey DFC (killed in a ground accident in South Australia on 10 June 1943, aged 28 years); 400166 Flying Officer (FO) William Douglas Willis (killed during operations near Rouen, France, on 18 September 1941, aged 24 years); possibly 402007 Flt Lt Alex Roberts; 400148 FO Donald Edwin Lewis (accidentally killed over the English Channel on 21 January 1942, aged 19 years); possibly Flt Lt Dougas; 404086 Sgt Andrew Gordon Costello (killed during operations over the United Kingdom on 5 July 1941, aged 23 years); 400213 Sqn Ldr Keith William "Bluey" Truscott DFC & bar (killed in an accident near Exmouth Gulf, WA, on 28 March 1943); 402115 Sgt Richard George Gazzard (killed during operations over Belgium on 19 August 1941, aged 21 years). Absent: 404087 Pilot Officer Raife James Cowan, 408022 Justin O'Byrne (later POW); 402232 PO William Davies Eccleton (killed in action in France on 19 August 1941, aged 25 years); PO R T Holt.

Spitfires from No. 452 Squadron taking off from Kenley Airfield, UK, for France, 1941

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA of No. 452 Squadron RAAF landing at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, over other aircraft parked in the 'B' Flight dispersals.

Pilots of No. 452 Squadron: Brendan "Paddy" Finucane (centre), Keith William "Bluey" Truscott (left) and Raymond Thorold-Smith (right). 1941, Kirton in Lindsey. 452 carried the code letters "UD" and the aircraft behind the pilots is a Spitfire Mk. V"Paddy" Finucane was an Irishman who became one of the most decorated Spitfire aces during the Battle of Britain. On April 15, 1941, Paddy crossed paths with one of Germany's highest decorated pilots in history, Oberstleutnant Adolf Galland, shooting up his aircraft so badly that Galland had to bail out on his return route short of the French coast.Bluey Truscott became one of Australia's best-known flying aces of the Second World War. An RAAF pilot, Truscott was commissioned in February 1941, and then ordered to England where he joined No. 452 Squadron as a foundation member on 5 May. Flying a Spitfire Mk. V, he scored his first victory in August. Thorold-Smith nicknamed "Throttle" was another Australian and a founding member of No. 452 Squadron. A tall man, at 6'3", he had trouble fitting into the confines of a Spitfire cock-pit. All three pilots became aces and advanced rapidly to the rank of Squadron Leader (Paddy became Wing Commander). Sadly, their careers didn't last long: Finucane was shot down and killed over the Channel on 15 July 1942. The other two went to Australia but were both killed in March 1943.


Some of the 452 Squadron fellows 1940/41 England.

February 1942 - Pilots of No. 452 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF based at an RAF Station in Redhill, England. L to R: 402157 Pilot Officer (PO) John Rodney Henry Elphick; 403463 Flying Officer Robert Armstrong; 400213 Squadron Leader Keith William Truscott DFC (died 28 March 1943 in Western Australia); 402256 PO Mark Ernest Sheldon (died 11 August 1942 on operations over New Guinea); 402260 Flight Lieutenant Raymond Harold Charles Sly (died 9 May 1942 on operations in Malta); 404724 PO Davidson Freeman Evans.