457 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was formed at Baginton, near Coventry, in England on 16 June 1941 in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Initially, the squadron’s ground crew was provided by the Royal Air Force, while the majority of the pilots were Australian. An Australian ground crew was raised at Williamtown, New South Wales, however, and joined the squadron on 30 October 1941. 457 was equipped with Supermarine Spitfires and became part of 9 Group of Fighter Command. 457 SQN spent the remainder of 1941 flying patrols and convoy escort missions, but seeing little enemy activity.
Based on the Isle of Man, first at Jurby (7 August - 2 October 1941) and then Andreas (3 October 1941 - 21 March 1942), the squadron had a slow introduction to active operations. Declared operational on 7 August 1941, it escorted convoys patrolled over the seas to Britain’s west but much of its time was devoted to training. The squadron effectively became an operational training unit, preparing Spitfire pilots for other squadrons, particularly 452 Squadron RAAF that were more actively engaged.
With the imminent return of 452 Squadron RAAF to Australia, 457 Squadron was redeployed for more active service with 11 Group at Redhill, just south of London, on 22 March 1942. For the next two months it conducted patrols over south-east England and the English Channel, and escorted bombing raids and conducted sweeps to engage enemy aircraft in the skies above occupied France and Belgium. During its short period of active operations, No 457 Squadron had shot down nine enemy aircraft as well as damaging a further seven. In constant contact with enemy fighters and sophisticated anti-aircraft defences however, Squadron loses began to mount.
Under orders to return to Australia, 457 Squadron withdrew from operations in Britain on 28 May 1942. It sailed for home on 21 June, arrived in Melbourne on 13 August, and re-assembled at Richmond on 6 September. The squadron began refresher training at Richmond with a motley collection of aircraft, its Spitfires having being commandeered in transit by the Royal Air Force in the Middle East.
457 Squadron returned to front-line service on 31 January 1943, under 1 Fighter Wing, defending Darwin. It was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose. During an attack on Darwin in March 1943, the Spitfires engaged an enemy force of 46 bombers and fighters, downing up to six enemy aircraft without loss. During the squadron’s time as part of Darwin’s air garrison it detached aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth. For the remainder of 1943, the Spitfires were engaged in constant combat with enemy aircraft, taking a heavy toll of Japanese aircraft.
By early 1944, with little enemy air activity over Darwin, the air defence of Darwin had been handed over to several Royal Air Force squadrons. Several Spitfires staging through Bathurst Island strafed barges, huts and a wireless station on Baba Island. This mission was the Squadron's first ground attack operation. From this point onwards No 457 Squadron Spitfires were increasingly utilised in the ground attack, and occasionally maritime attack roles for the rest of the war.
The squadron operated against targets in the Dutch East Indies from Sattler but, as part of the 1st Tactical Air Force, No 457 Squadron moved north to Morotai in the Indies in early 1945, and from here supported the invasion of Labuan. Beginning on 10 February, operations continued at a high intensity for the next three months. The squadron relocated again, commencing operations from the island of Labuan, off the Borneo coast, on 19 June, primarily in support of the Australian land campaign in British North Borneo. It mounted its last operational sorties on 13 August, two days before the Japanese surrender.
Shortly after the Japanese surrender in August, No 457 Squadron was disbanded on 7 November 1945.
Compiled with informatin from:
The Spitfire Association 2017,
RAAF Museum © 2009