No. 450 Squadron was formed at Williamtown, NSW on 16 February 1941, together with No. 451 as ‘infiltration’ squadrons, i.e. units which, on arriving in the Middle East, would blend with a nucleus of experienced R.A.F. Officers to form a composite squadron.
This happened at Abu Sueir in May 1941 the squadron combining with No. 260 Squadron, the Australian unit providing mainly ground crew and No. 260 most of the pilots.
As such the squadron entered into the Syrian campaign on 29 June 1941, by attacking the Vichy French airfield at Baalbeck. This type of ground strafing continued until August when the two squadrons were separated and 450 SQN began to build up its own full existence. For the rest of the year the squadron was engaged in nonoperational flying and serving largely as a salvage and repair unit.
By December 1941, the squadron’s first Kittyhawk had arrived and it moved to Egypt to work-up for operations. These began on 20 February 1942, with an uneventful patrol from Gambut. Two days later Sgt. R. Shaw was scrambled on interception and found a Ju88 at 20,000 ft. which he shot down south-east of Gazala. Further combats followed.
The squadron was mainly involved in fighter cover duties combined with escorts to Bostons day bombing, and this continued as the year drew on with the added complication of moving bases as the full retreat to Egypt was on. In October 1942, the squadron was involved in the Alamein breakout, at first attacking enemy airfields in the Daba area and escorting bombing and interdiction raids.
By now the Kittyhawks were being used as fighter bombers with 500 lb. bombs, in addition to their pure fighter tasks. The long push forward was now on with squadron personnel leap-frogging forward to establish bases to put the Kittyhawks in range of the enemy. At one point, No. 450 had to be restrained from moving into an area not yet cleared of Germans.
In one fortnight in November, 450 SQN moved six times; all this enabled the squadron to keep up a continuous cover for the Advancing army formations as well as fighter-bomber attacks. As the advance went on there were fewer and fewer targets for the Kittyhawks and their patrols were more in the nature of reconnaissance flights. However, on moving into Tripolitania, 450 SQN found plenty of ground targets in the Ju52 transports assembled to evacuate the Wehrmacht...
Thereafter a lull enabled the squadron to rest and come up to full strength before entering into the next drive onwards into Tunisia. Most of the operations involved fighter cover and sweeps over the forward areas but the occasional airfield strike livened up squadron life.
After an end of the year lull, 9 January saw No. 450 Squadron back in intensive action once more finally to enter Tripoli on 23rd by which time again targets were at extreme range for the Kittyhawks. As 450 SQN moved up again poor landing-grounds and heavy rains prevented a build-up of operations, however, by March 1943, the final land battles to eject Rommel from North Africa began. During this battle 450 SQN was used almost exclusively in ground-attack work and by the end of the month was working up to a high pitch once more, again moving to keep near the front-line and, at El Hamma, coming under German shell fire.
Then with the enemy evacuating, attention was switched to the great numbers of German transport flying troops out to Sicily; finally, 450 SQN went over to armed recce along the North African coast, attacking enemy vessels.
A rest period was followed by a move to Malta in July 1943, for action over Sicily. Here its role was that of interdiction behind the enemy line, bombing M.T. on roads, its Kittyhawks carrying two 250 lb. bombs each. It was soon operating from Sicily itself and then turning attention to the Italian mainland working behind the Salerno bridgehead, again on interdiction, and going into Italy on 17 September 1943. Almost immediately the squadron transferred to the Adriatic coast as the whole of Southern Italy came under Allied control.
The winter took a hand in reducing operations and during November No. 450 took a rest, resuming Rover operations at the end of the month. These were continued, as and when weather was suitable, into the New Year. As operations opened up in 1944 the squadron was engaged in a variety of tasks including long-range bombing, anti-shipping patrols and more tactical strafing and reconnaissance sorties.
As the Allies slowly moved northwards so the squadron kept up, entering into the offensive on the Gothic Line in August/September 1944. Then came another lull as winter once more set in. At the end of the year 450 SQN received a Mustang 111 with a view to re-equipment but this never came about, the squadron soldiering on with Kittyhawk IVs.
In the New Year interdiction sorties were flown as soon as the weather permitted but now the end was in sight. 450 SQN's last big operation was on Venice, operation ‘Bowler’, and attack on the docks with bombs. Final mopping-up operations, often under ‘cab-rank’ directions, were soon over and 450 SQN lingered for a further three months, and was disbanded at Lavariano on 20 August 1945.
Oct 1942 — Nov 1942
Extract from Operations Record Book...
"40652 S/Ldr JEA Williams, Commanding Officer, had to force land, approximately 2 miles north of the road, after he and the formation had strafed the area for a distance of about 5 miles. He was seen to get out of the aricraft, apparently uninjured, and it is almost certain that he is taken prisoner of war"
Signed - MCH Barber S/L
Extract from "The Great Escape" Records...
“40652 S/L John E A Williams DFC, Australian, born
6-May-19, 450 Sqdn, PoW 31-Oct-42, recaptured near Reichenberg, murdered 29-Mar-44 by Lux, cremated
S/Ldr. M.C.H. BARBER
Nov 1942 — Mar 1943
S/Ldr. J.P. BARTLE
Mar1943 — Nov 1943
S/Ldr. S.G. WELSHMAN
Nov 1943 — Dec 1943
S/Ldr. K.R. SANDS
Dec 1943 — Apr 1944
S/Ldr. R.T. HUDSON
Apr 1944 — Jun 1944
S/Ldr. J.D. GLEESON
Jun 1944 — Oct 1944
S/Ldr. J.C. DOYLE
Oct 1944 — Aug 1945
F/Lt. B. McR. SHEPHERD
Mar 1941 — ... 1941
Rank on Discharge: Squadron Leader
Date of Discharge: 25 June 1945
Posting at Discharge: O/S HQ ME
S/Ldr. G.H. STEEGE DSO, DFC, MID
...1941 — May 1942
Date of Enlistment: 21 July 1937
Locality on Enlistment: NORTH SYDNEY
Place of Enlistment: POINT COOK, VIC
Date of Discharge: 31 October 1972
Posting at Discharge: Headquarters Operational Command
Rank on Discharge: Air Commodore
WW2 Honours and Gallantry:
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Click here for further service information on
Air Commodore Gordon Henry Steege DSO, DFC, MID, RAAF no. 213
Whilst the 450 Squadron RAAF Association cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information, we believe the source is reliable.
S/Ldr. A.D. FERGUSON DFC
...May 1942 — Oct 1942
Date of Enlistment: 19 July 1938
Locality on Enlistment: NORTH SYDNEY
Place of Enlistment: POINT COOK, VIC
Date of Discharge: 2 November 1945
Posting at Discharge: RAAF Station Maryborough
Rank on Discharge: Wing Commander
WW2 Honours and Gallantry: Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
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