Robert takes this blog about 23 Squadron very seriously, so seriously he is adding more information about his father when he was with RAAF 456 Squadron.
R.C. Harris was posted with a Royal Australian Air Force squadron based in England.
Details of R. C. Harris’ time with 456 Squadron RAAF
4th April 1943 to 30th September 1943
Total hours flown during this period:-
Total hours: 409.40
Total of Operational Hours: 48.35
Pilots flown with during this period:
He flew 136 times (107 times with F/Sgt Hough) during his time with 456.
Many flights were under one hour – 51; only two of these short flights being undertaken at night.
The three flights with the Squadron Leaders were:-
- 1. GEE Homing and Fixing (GEE is a British radio navigation system)
- 2. To Gatwick. GEE Exercise
- 3. To base. GEE exercise.
The above is the only mention of GEE during this period and these activities were undertaken in Avro Ansons thus suggesting training sessions for my father. These flights took place on 08/07.1943 with the flight lasting for 2 hours., 11/07/1943 @ 10.35 lasting for 30 minutes and again on the same day @ 11.45and lasting for 1 hour and 15 minutes
In the remarks column of the log book are the following activities, some of which are self explanatory but others are unclear:-
- · A.S.R patrol, (air and sea rescue)
- · Beat Up,
- · Air/Air Firing,
- · Canopy,
- · Investigating “bandits”,
- · Sopley Patrol,
- · Aircraft display for Royal Armoured Corps,
- · A.S.R patrol at 0 feet French coast,
- · Investigated 2 bogeys, Bullseye, Search for Charcoal.53,
- · Calibration. 50 feet, 240 degrees from Swanage,
- · Searchlight Co op. Colerne 18,000 feet,
- · S/L interception,
- · Mahmoud,
- · Toucan,
- · Harpoon,
- · Bullseye,
- · Ranger cross country,
- · A/C test,
- · Bomber affiliation G.C.I, (ground-controlled interception)
- · G.C.I/ Wrafton G.C.I/Cricklade,
- · Aircraft test,
- · Air/Sea firing,
- · Air/Ground firing,
- · Air/Sea firing and camera gun exercise,
- · Deputy exercise.
In addition to the Anson mentioned above, the bulk of the flying hours were carried out in Mosquito II Fs with varied numbers.
The two flights in an Airspeed Oxford were “To High Ercall” and “To Middle Wallop” with no other explanation.
The one flight with P/O Heath was in a Boeing B-17 F Fortress II and the purpose of the flight was apparently A/C Test. The flight lasted for one hour and ten minutes.
My father’s duties throughout this period were as NAV/R. Interestingly, his duties had previously been described as Observer but the designation changed.
His time at 456 was signed off by the Officer Commanding 456 Squadron (a Wing Commander) whose signature looks like “Howely” with an indistinguishable initial.
From 456 Squadron he then moved to 62 O.T.U at Ouston (but more of that for another time).
About “Howely”… Officer Commanding 456 Squadron
From 1 June 1943 to 14 December 1943 Wing Commander G. Howden was Commanding Officer
A group of officers at No. 456 (Mosquito) Squadron, RAAF Fighter Command based at RAF Station Middle Wallop. Left to right: 402863 Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Richard William Hyem, Gunnedah, NSW; 12631 Pilot Officer (later Flying Officer) Francis Alfred Saw, Camberwell, Vic; Wing Commander G Howden DFC RAF, Guildford, WA; 400309 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt, later Sqn Ldr) Danbigh Leon Norris-Smith, Heidelburg, Vic; and Flt Lt (later Wing Commander [Wing Cdr]) Gordon Panitz, Southport, Qld. Wing Cdr Panitz was killed on operations over France on 22 August 1944 while serving with RAAF 464 Squadron.
456 Squadron RAAF
No. 456 Squadron was the Royal Australian Air Force’s only dedicated night fighter squadron during the Second World War. An Article XV squadron, it was formed at Valley, on the Welsh island of Anglesea, on 30 June 1941 and joined 9 Group of Fighter Command. The squadron was initially equipped with Boulton Paul Defiant aircraft but had barely begun operations before it was re-equipped with Bristol Beaufighters at the end of September. Obsolete, the Defiant was ill-suited to the night fighter role, but operating the potent radar-equipped Beaufighter, the squadron was well-equipped for stalking German bombers in Britain’s night skies.
The squadron operated Beaufighters from Valley for a little over a year before it was re-equipped with De Havilland Mosquitoes in December 1942. The Mosquito was even more versatile and its introduction, combined with a lessening of the German air threat over Britian, led to a diversification of 456 Squadron’s activities. From the start of 1943 it was also employed on offensive patrols over occupied Europe, striking at both German bombers near their home airfields and at targets on the ground. On 30 March 1943 the squadron relocated to Middle Whallop, in Hampshire to the east of Salisbury.
Although the night skies remained the squadron’s principal domain, it also mounted operations in daylight, attacking trains and other enemy transport in France, and flying patrols in defence of Coastal Command aircraft operating over the Bay of Biscay.
On 17 August 1943 the squadron moved to Colerne, to the east of Bristol. The move marked the beginning of a lull in operations in which the squadron’s energies were devoted to training. On 17 November it again moved, to Fairwood Common, in south Wales and mounted patrols in support of Bomber Command’s operations over Germany.