The activity continued into July and on 4/5 July, 456 Squadron Mosquitoes had a fruitful night: P/O S. Williams and F/O K. Havord in Mosquito HK282/L destroyed a Do 217, and He 177s were destroyed by F/Lt Bob Cowper DFC and F/O W. Watson in HK356/D; F/O E. Radford and F/Sgt W. Atkinson in HK312/G, and P/Os I. Sanderson and G. Nicholas in HK249B.
It was during June that the Germans began their flying-bomb assault. The first attack on 12/13 June was a flop because of lack of equipment and special fuel. Out of ten bombs launched, only four crossed the English coast. Three of these fell in open country and the fourth demolished a railway bridge in the East End of London, killing six people. However, the threat posed by these vengeance weapons was dire. Rings of anti-aircraft batteries were deployed in the flight paths of these incoming `malignant robots’, and `AntiDiver’ patrols by fighters – Tempests, Spitfires, Mustangs, Meteors and Mosquitoes – were set up to intercept. F/Lts K. Roediger and J. Dobson made 456 Squadron’s first definite V-1 kill on 9/10 July and by the end of the month ten had been destroyed. By the end of August, the squadron tally stood at twenty-four, F/Lt Roediger accounting for nine of them.
A lull in flying-bomb attacks saw the squadron training for cross-country navigation in preparation for new work. Prior to this, squadron aircraft were not permitted to penetrate deep into enemy territory because of the highly secret apparatus carried. This was no longer a concern and eight aircraft were deployed to Manston, a forward base, for patrols over the Holland and Belgium fronts. On 6/7 October, W/O J. Mulhall and F/O J. Jones in HK317/Y destroyed a Ju 188. Hopes for more successes were dashed when bad weather restricted flying for most of the rest of the month. On 5 November, W/Cdr Hampshire was promoted to Group captain and succeeded by S/Ldr B. Howard (later promoted to wing commander).
Once more the squadron’s role was changed from Continental patrols to new anti-diver work. This latest role had it searching for and destroying He 111s that were launching flying bombs from over the North Sea. Although successes were achieved, losses were high. On 7 November, an unusual crew was posted missing, Lt E. Woodward and Ensign W. Madden, two of four US Marine fliers attached to 456 Squadron for operational experience. They were to have returned to the USA to instruct on RAF night-fighting techniques. An extended period of poor weather followed and by 18/19 November it had been so bad that No. 2 Group, of which 456 Squadron was part, had been unable to operate for eleven consecutive days and twelve nights. The following day, F/Os D. Arnold and J. Stickley in Mosquito HK246/U destroyed a Heinkel that dropped burning into the sea.
W/O J. Mulhall and F/O J. Jones faded to return from an antidiver patrol on 23/24 November but the following night, F/Os F Stevens and F/O W Kellett in Mosquito HK290/J destroyed a He 111 after a twenty-five-minute chase. It blew up on the sea close to the Dutch coast On 30 December, 456 Squadron was re-located to Church Fenton and re-equipped with Mk XXX Mosquitoes.
The squadron was held in reserve for much of the first quarter of 1945. With its new aircraft, training now centred on another fresh role – that of night fighters for bomber support. Unfortunately, by the time it was ready for operations there were few opportunities left as the Luftwaffe was now a spent force and the battlefronts were almost beyond the range…
W/O Mulhall is on this memorial.
The crash is detailed here.
HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND. 1943-09-23. AIRCREW MEMBERS OF A MOSQUITO NO. 456 SQUADRON RAAF OF FIGHTER COMMAND BASED AT RAF STATION MIDDLE WALLOP.
LEFT TO RIGHT:
409368 FLYING OFFICER (FO) M. N. AUSTIN, MELBOURNE, VIC
411157 WARRANT OFFICER A. S. MCEVOY, SYDNEY, NSW
411411 FO R. S. WILLIAMS, PATONGA BEACH, NSW
404891 FLIGHT LIEUTENANT G. PANITZ, SOUTHPORT, QLD
403330 PILOT OFFICER (PO) G. F. GATENBY, BATEMANS BAY, NSW
404897 PO J. M. FRASER, BRISBANE, QLD
404543 FO J. W. NEWELL, MAREEBA, QLD
403128 PO A. M. ABBEY, COFFS HARBOUR, NSW
414280 FO S. D. P. SMITH, BRISBANE, QLD
403654 FLIGHT SERGEANT A. J. KEATING, SYDNEY, NSW (IN FRONT)
Date 23 September 1943
No. 456 Squadron RAAF was formed on 30 June 1941 at RAF Valley, Isle of Anglesey, Wales, in the United Kingdom under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme as a night-fighter squadron, equipped with Defiant turret-fighters. The squadron was soon re-equipped with Beaufighters and scored its first kill in January 1942. Throughout the year, the squadron’s aircraft operated in a mainly defensive role over the United Kingdom, but in December 1942, the squadron was re-equipped with Mosquito fighters and began offensive “Ranger” missions over Europe attacking a variety of targets ground targets including German rolling stock, and also attacking German bombers close to their airfields during “Intruder” missions.
In March 1943, after a move to Middle Wallop, No. 456 Squadron was utilised in the night fighter and long-range day fighter roles. It also provided a detachment of aircraft to conduct fighter sweeps in support of aircraft mounting anti-submarine patrols in the Bay of Biscay, and escorted air–sea rescue vessels picking up downed airmen. Further moves occurred as the squadron relocated first to Colerne and then Fairwood Common. It continued in the fighter and ground attack roles until the end of the European war. In January 1944, it was deployed in defence of London following an increase in German bombing (Operation Steinbock) during which its crews accounted for 12 German aircraft, continuing in the air defence role until late February or early March when the squadron moved to Ford.
The squadron’s first success came on the night of 1/2 March 1944 when 164 German bombers operated over England. Pilot Officer R. W. Richardson claimed a probable victory against a Dornier Do 217 at 03:05 near Ford airfield. On 21/22 March Flying Officer K. A. Roediger claimed a Junkers Ju 88 off Rye at 01:12. Detailed loss records indicate eight Ju 88s failed to return—four can be attached to the claims of other squadrons and four cannot.
No. 456 Squadron’s most successful night fighter ace Wing Commander Keith Hampshire achieved a run of success. At 23:50, near Walberton in Sussex he engaged a Ju 88A-4 of 6 Staffel Kampfgeschwader 6. The aircraft, code 3E+AP, crashed near Arundel railway station. Pilot Hauptmann Anton Oeben parachuted clear and was made prisoner of war. Observer Feldwebel Otton Bahn was captured badly injured after his parachute failed to open but died of wounds. The same fate befell Unteroffizier Gerhard Drews and Herbert Ehrhardt was listed as missing in action. Hampshire followed this up on the 27/28 March. Over Beer, Devon, he engaged another Ju 88A-4, code 3E+FT, Werknummer 44551, shooting it down at 23:35. Unteroffizier Günther Blaffert was captured, ObergefreiterGerhart Harteng was killed, Obergefreiter Josef Helm and Gefreiter Adam Kurz was posted missing. Once again the men were from KG 6, this time from 9 staffel. Within minutes the commander gained a second contact and Ju 88A-4, B3+BL, Werknummer 0144551 from 3./Kampfgeschwader 54, crashed near Taunton, Somerset at 23:51. OberfeldwebelHans Brautigam, Obergefreiter Kurt Chalon, Alfred Maletzki were captured and Unteroffizier Robert Belz was killed.
On the night of 18/19 April 1944 Flight Lieutenant C. L Brooks engaged a Messerschmitt Me 410A-1 near Nuthurst, Sussex at 22:28. At an altitude of 24,000 ft Brooks hit the German aircraft destroying the starboard engine and setting the wing alight. The machine, from 1./Kampfgeschwader 51, code 9K+JH, Werknummer 20005, nose-dived vertically into the ground. Leutnant Reinhold Witt and UnteroffizierErnst Tesch were killed. On 25/26 April three pilots were credited with victories: Flying Officer Roediger claimed a Junkers Ju 188 at 05:16 off Portsmouth. Flying Officer G. R. Houston claimed a Ju 88 off Portsmouth at 23,500 ft at 04:57. According to the report the enemy disintegrated at 20,000 ft. Flight Lieutenant R. V. Lewis claimed a Ju 188 at 23:57, 25 miles off Portsmouth. The Mosquito’s armoured screen was smashed when the bomber exploded directly in front of it. Flying Officer A. S. McEvoy claimed a further success on 14/15 May 1944, shooting down a Ju 188A-2 over Greenlands Artillery Range, Larkhill, Wiltshire at 02:00. The machine, code U5+HH, Werknummer 160089, from 1./Kampfgeschwader 2 was destroyed and pilot Feldwebel Heinz Mühlberger was captured, Obergefreiter Willi Eberle, Unteroffizier Artur Krüger, Feldwebel Werner Heinzelmann and Obergefreiter Ewald Steinbeck were killed. A further claim was made by Flying Officer D. W. Arnold at 00:20 over Medstead. 13 German bombers were shot down, nine of them Ju 88 and Ju 188s. Five of the nine bombers cannot be attributed to a particular claim.
During the Invasion of Normandy, the squadron provided air cover for Allied shipping, shooting down 14 German aircraft in the process. Later, it helped defend Britain against V-1 flying bombs, shooting down 24 between June and August 1944. In September 1944, No. 456 Squadron’s aircraft supported British troops around Arnhem, before concentrating their patrolling efforts over the Netherlands and Belgium. A move to Church Fenton occurred at the end of the year, and the squadron began operating over Germany, escorting heavy bombers and attacking German airfields. The unit’s final wartime commander, Wing Commander Bas Howard, was killed in an accident on 29 May. The squadron was disbanded on 15 June 1945 at RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex. During the war, the squadron lost 29 personnel killed, including 23 Australians; its crews were credited with shooting down 71 aircraft including 29 V-1 flying bombs. No. 456 Squadron aircrew received the following decorations: one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and one British Empire Medal.