History

The Squadron was formed in the United Kingdom on the 16th of June 1941. It was the second of the RAAF single-engine fighter squadrons to be formed in England under the Empire Air Training Scheme Agreement. The Squadron was located at Baginton in Warwickshire but moved to Jurby, Isle of Man, on 7 August for training purposes. The Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader P.M. Brothers (DFC) and the two flight commanders were British but the majority of the pilots were RAAF, trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme. The ground crew were originally RAF but were replaced by RAAF airmen who formed the ground crew component of the Squadron in Australia on 10 July 1941, and set sail for England from Williamtown on 7 August 1941.

While at Jurly the Squadron was mostly involved in training its own, as well as other squadrons’, pilots for operational duties. However the Spitfire pilots were also involved in convoy escorts and ocean patrols during this period, in late September the Squadron’s Mk I Spitfires were replaced with Mk IIa aircraft. Soon after, on the 3rd of October, the Squadron moved to Andreas, Isle of Man. Already the Australianisation policy for the Squadron had begun with the only non-Australian aircrew being the Commanding Officer and the two flight commanders.

The Squadron re-equipped again on 11 December 1941, when the Mk. Vb Spitfires arrived replacing the recently acquired Mk IIa. During this period the Squadron had a number of accidents, reducing the serviceability to a dangerously low state as certain essential spares could not be obtained. This, coupled with the responsibility of training other squadrons’ pilots, meant that the efficiency of the Squadron suffered.

The Squadron received orders to re-locate and on the 22nd of March 1942 moved to Red Hill Airfield, Surrey. The Squadron replaced 452 Squadron with this move, taking up its post at the front. The Squadron’s roles included convoy escorting, shipping protection, bomber escorts and sweeps over northern France, the Channel and southern England. The first action experienced by the Squadron occurred on 26 March 1942 when, as part of a larger force, a sweep was made over France. Success was immediate, with the Commanding Officer claiming the first kill for the Squadron when he shot down a Bf-109. Unfortunately the Squadron also lost a Spitfire. By the end of the first week of operations the Squadron had shot down three aircraft with many other possibles and damaged.

The Squadron’s personnel came under the control of 11 Group whilst operating out of Red Hill. They were kept extremely busy, making 32 sweeps over enemy territory in their first month of operations, only eight days of which were non-operational. They continued their protection activities and fighter sweeps and on 29 May were involved in a large air battle over Cape Gris-Nez. The unit was split, eventually landing at various airfields. After being collected and transported back to base by road the pilots were met and congratulated by the King who had followed the battle from Operations Headquarters and was so impressed he requested to meet the Squadron.

At the end of May the Squadron was withdrawn from operations, flying its last operation in Europe on 28 May. The Squadron flew to Church Fenton on the 16th of June and prepared to leave for Australia. The ship, Stirling Castle, set sail on the 20th of June 1942, carrying not only 457 Squadron but 452 and 54 (RAF) Squadrons also. During this move 457 Squadron received a new Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader K.E. James (RAAF), who assumed command on 18 June 1942.

The Squadron arrived in Melbourne on the 13th of August 1942 and assembled at Richmond, New South Wales, on the 6th of September after 14 days of leave. The Squadron began refresher training on Wirraways and Ryans while waiting for the arrival of the Squadron’s Spitfires. By November the Squadron was fully equipped with Spitfires and was undergoing an intensive operational training program when it moved to Camden, New South Wales, on the 7th of November 1942. The Squadron, along with 452 and 54 (RAF) Squadrons made up the newly formed Number One Fighter Wing, commanded by Wing Commander Clive Caldwell.

In late December the Squadron received word that it was to move north for the protection of the Darwin area against the Japanese. The first of the advance parties left on 31 December 1942 and the main body of Squadron personnel set sail on the 12th of January 1943, on board the MV Maetsuyker. By the 20th of January 1943, the Squadron was operating out of Batchelor, Northern Territory, against the Japanese. This was only a temporary airfield and on the 31st of January 1943, the Squadron re-located to Livingstone Airstrip.

Squadron aircraft were scrambled a number of times during February however little success was experienced, the first kill not occurring until 7 March 1943, when a ‘Dinah’ was shot down by Flight Lieutenant D.H. Maclean and Flight Sergeant J. McDowell. The first large scale raid which the Squadron had to contend with occurred on the morning of the 15th of March. Approximately 20 Japanese bombers, escorted by 24 ‘Zekes’ were reported approaching Darwin. The Squadron scrambled, along with aircraft from 452 and 54 Squadrons, intercepted the enemy and engaged in dogfights which ranged from overhead Darwin to 90 miles out to sea. All 457 Squadron aircraft returned safely having excelled themselves in their first encounter with the ‘Zeke’. Their tally was two ‘Zekes’ destroyed, one damaged, three probables and one ‘Betty’ damaged. The next month and a half was without any enemy activity, meaning the Squadron was able to practise tactics and training co-ordination with the Army and RAAF units.

May 1943 saw the return of Japanese raids on the Darwin area. Millingimbi was attacked on the 9th of May by six Japanese ‘Sallys’. This enemy action resulted in a detachment of six Spitfires to the island that day. The following day the Japanese returned, only to be greeted by the 457 Squadron Spitfires; two ‘Zekes’ were shot down and two were damaged. Raids continued on the island, the Spitfires having mixed success.

The Squadron continued to operate out of Livingstone engaging the enemy on numerous occasions. By the 1st of July the living and working conditions at the airstrip had been upgraded and considerably improved. The Squadron now had a pilots’ dispersal hut which contained a dining area, a readiness area equipped with telephones, maps, charts and intelligence information, as well as a gramophone, radio, books and games.

On the 4th of November 1943, a section of six Spitfires was deployed to the Drysdale River Mission Airfield. Two days later they were scrambled to intercept an enemy reconnaissance aircraft which they damaged but failed to destroy. On the 12th of November 1943, Flying Officer Smithson, operating out of Livingstone, became the first fighter pilot in the North Western Area to shoot down two enemy aircraft during the one sortie. This exploit earned the 457 Squadron pilot the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). In December the Drysdale River detachment was relieved by 54 Squadron and returned to Livingstone.

Squadron Leader James, an original member of the Squadron from its formation in England, was posted south and replaced by Squadron Leader T.H. Trimble on the 2nd of February 1944. The new Commanding Officer was extremely experienced, having served in the Middle East and having the impressive record of two enemy aircraft destroyed and four damaged.

In March 1944, a Japanese task force was detected moving through the Indian Ocean. This movement was seen as a possible threat to Western Australia. 457 Squadron, along with 452 Squadron, received orders to deploy to Perth. The Squadron Spitfires departed Livingstone on the 9th of March 1944, led by the Commanding Officer. The trip took over two days and was made quite difficult by the poor weather conditions the pilots had to contend with.

On the first leg of the journey to Derby, via Wyndham, the Squadron had to contend with low cloud and rain showers often reducing visibility to less than half a mile. The plan was for the Squadron to reach Port Headland by nightfall. However, after departing Derby the Squadron had to fly through a fierce dust storm. The storm was so severe that all pilots were operating solely on instruments making navigation near impossible. The Spitfires were forced to land at Pardoo Station and spend the night there before proceeding to Port Headland the following day.

The Spitfires were met at Port Headland by four C-47s which had left Livingstone loaded with the Squadron equipment and personnel. The Squadron departed for Carnarvon leaving one damaged Spitfire behind and having another force land en route due to fuel line problems. The Squadron finally arrived at Guildford, Western Australia, on the 11th of March 1944.

The Squadron, along with 452 Squadron, was immediately placed on alert duty. As the Japanese threat on Western Australia passed, the Squadron flew mostly training missions and public relations/war-bond exhibition flights. The stay in Perth was brief and on the 23rd of March the Squadron was ordered back to Livingstone. By the 28th of March all Squadron aircraft, equipment and personnel had returned to Livingstone.

On the 18th of April 1944, two Spitfires, with others from 54 and 452 Squadrons, escorted by Beafighters from 31 Squadron, combined to take part in an attack on a Japanese radio station on Babar Island. The strike was assessed as being extremely successful, and all aircraft returned home safely.

The Squadron was ordered out to take part in Operation ‘Boarshead’. The Squadron aircraft left Livingstone on the 10th of May for the secret destination from which the operation was to be launched. Once again Squadron equipment and personnel were transported by Douglas C-47s. By the 24th of May, all members of the Squadron had returned to Sattler, their new base, and resumed their normal duties.

The Squadron resumed its protection duties at Drysdale on the 1st of June 1944 and received the first of its new Mk. VIII Spitfires, replacing the Mk. Vc, on the 2nd of July. On the 18th of December, Squadron Leader Trimble handed over command of the Squadron to Squadron Leader B.D. Watson. Two days prior to Squadron Leader Watson taking command, the first of 457 Squadron’s pilots left for Morotai, where the Squadron, along with the rest of 80 Wing, were to operate.

It was not until the 6th of February 1945 that the Spitfires of 457 Squadron left Sattler for Morotai. An advance party had departed Darwin on board the SS Mexico on the 18th of January, arriving at Morotai on the 1st of February. Seven C-47 transports were also involved in the transfer of equipment and personnel, departing on the 4th of February.

The Squadron became operational again on the 10th of February 1945 when five Spitfires attacked enemy aircraft on Galela strip, scoring many hits. At the end of February the Squadron had completed 113 operational sorties, destroying three barges and one fuel dump, and making numerous strafing runs on parked aircraft and anti-aircraft sites. While operating out of Morotai the Squadron provided top cover in support of other Squadrons performing bombing raids, and attacked enemy camps, supply barges, motor transports and Japanese supply depots throughout the Halmaheras and adjoining areas.

The Squadron continued this heavy operational workload during the following months. March and April saw the Squadron total over 180 operational sorties. In May the Squadron performed its first dive bombing raids and continued to use this method of attack extensively in conjunction with the usual strafing runs. Orders were issued on the 27th of May 1945 to prepare the Squadron for another move.

On the 5th of June 1945, the Squadron equipment and personnel sailed from Morotai for Labuan, Borneo. By the 19th of June, the Squadron was operational again, attacking enemy targets over Borneo. The Squadron’s primary roles now were air support of advancing Allied ground troops and fighter defence of the island. Some of the Squadron’s targets were enemy buildings, shipping, fuel supplies and grounded aircraft. On the 20th of June Flight Lieutenant G. Campbell and Flight Lieutenant S.G. Scrimgeour were involved in an attack on a Japanese ‘Dinah’ which resulted in the Squadron’s first air combat and kill, since 12 November 1943, at Darwin.

The Squadron was still applying full pressure on the Japanese when word was received of the Japanese surrender on the 15th of August 1945. Squadron Leader Watson departed as Commanding Officer of the Squadron on the 31st of August, handing over to Flight Lieutenant D.H. Maclean. The Squadron continued to operate in September, performing security patrols, air tests and general flying exercises. On the 9th of October the Squadron aircraft departed Labuan for Oakey, Queensland, arriving on the 31st of October. The Squadron was officially disbanded at Labuan on 7 November 1945.