No. 459 Squadron RAAF


No. 459 Squadron RAAF
Members of 459 Squadron RAAF with one of the squadron's Martin Baltimore aircraft in the Western Desert of Libya, 1944
Members of 459 Squadron RAAF with one of the squadron's Martin Baltimore aircraft in the Western Desert of Libya, 1944
Active10 February 1942 – 10 April 1945
Disbanded10 April 1945
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
BranchRoyal Australian Air Force
RoleMaritime patrol
Part ofNo. 21 Group, RAF Middle East Command[1]
Motto(s)Death to the invaders[2]
Battle honours[3]South-East Europe, 1942–1945
Egypt and Libya, 1940–1943
El Alamein
Mediterranean, 1940–1943
Squadron badge heraldryA Scorpion (unofficial)[2]
Squadron codesGK (1942–1943)[4]
BP (1943–1945?)[5][3]
Aircraft flown
BomberLockheed Ventura
Martin Baltimore
PatrolLockheed Hudson
Bristol Blenheim

No. 459 Squadron RAAF was a Royal Australian Air Force squadron that operated during World War II. It was formed in early 1942 and served as a maritime patrol and bomber unit in the Mediterranean theatre until early 1945, operating mainly Lockheed Hudson aircraft. In early 1945, the squadron was transferred to the United Kingdom with the intention of being transferred to RAF Coastal Command and converting to Vickers Wellington bombers; however, due to a series of delays the conversion was not completed and the squadron was disbanded in April 1945.


Raised as an Article XV squadron under the terms of the Empire Air Training Scheme, No. 459 Squadron was established at Burg-el-Arab, Egypt, on 10 February 1942 and allocated to the Royal Australian Air Force. Under the temporary command of Squadron Leader Phillip Howson, the squadron was assigned to No. 201 Group RAF, which formed part of Middle East Command, and was tasked with performing the maritime reconnaissance role.[3] Although the squadron initially possessed only six aircraft – two Lockheed Hudsons and four Bristol Blenheims – its first operations came four days after it was formed, when two Hudsons conducted a reconnaissance mission during which an unsuccessful attack was made on a German or Italian submarine.[6] In April, Wing Commander Keith Hennock assumed command of the unit and the following month the squadron had received its full complement of Hudsons and had ceased operating the Blenheims, which had been on loan from No. 203 Squadron RAF.[3]

Throughout the remainder of 1942 and into early 1943, the squadron operated against German shipping in the Mediterranean, focusing mainly upon interdicting German sea lines of communication that were being used to resupply forces in North Africa. Throughout June, July and August, the Hudsons destroyed a large number of German landing craft. German losses were so heavy that the vessels were withdrawn from the area, although the Australian squadron had suffered heavy losses in achieving this. The squadron's headquarters moved several times during, with several moves between bases in Egypt, before the squadron was moved to Libya, taking up station at Gambut airfield in December 1942, where it would remain until April 1944. Additionally, detachments of the squadron were also to various places in Aden, Cyprus and Palestine,[3] from where further missions were launched, including one that resulted in the sinking of a destroyer in September 1942. The squadron's first success over a U-boat came in June 1943, when German submarine U-97 was sunk by a No. 459 Squadron Hudson.[6]

In September 1943, the squadron was re-roled temporally as a level bomber unit, widening its field of operations to Crete and mainland Greece, launching several day and night operations.[6] The squadron was equipped with Lockheed Venturas in February – March 1944, and although several operations were undertaken around the Greek Islands, the type was not considered successful and in July 1944, No. 459 Squadron was re-equipped with Martin Baltimore aircraft.[3] Prior to the conversion, the squadron had moved its headquarters to Palestine in April 1944;[3] it remained there until August 1944, when No. 459 was transferred back to Berka, in Libya.[7][8][9]

No. 459 Squadron continued operating around the Greek Islands until late February 1945, when it was posted to the United Kingdom as part of a plan to transfer the squadron to Coastal Command and convert to Vickers Wellingtons. After transiting through Egypt, the move was completed by ship, and at the same time, many of the squadron's experienced aircrew were either transferred to other squadrons, or were repatriated back to Australia for rest or demobilisation. In the United Kingdom, the squadron established itself at RAF Chivenor, in Devon, but shortly after its arrival, as a result of the earlier delays, on 10 April 1945 the squadron was disbanded, having not flown its Wellingtons operationally.[6] A total of 53 Australian personnel were killed during the war.[3]

Aircraft operated

No 459 Squadron operated the following aircraft:[7][8][9]

From To Aircraft Version
February 1942 May 1942 Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV[10]
March 1942 December 1942 Lockheed Hudson Mk.III
July 1942 January 1944 Lockheed Hudson Mk.IIIa
August 1943 April 1944 Lockheed Hudson Mk.VI
September 1943 November 1943 Lockheed Hudson Mk.V
December 1943 July 1944 Lockheed Ventura Mk.V
July 1944 February 1945 Martin Baltimore Mks.IV, V
March 1945 April 1945 Vickers Wellington Mk.XIII

Squadron bases

No. 459 Squadron operated from the following bases and airfields:[7][8][9]

From To Station Remark
10 February 1942 14 May 1942 LG.39/Burg-el-Arab, Egypt Dets. at LG.05/Sidi Barrani, Egypt and RAF Gambut, Libya
14 May 1942 30 June 1942 LG.40/Bahig South, Egypt
30 June 1942 10 September 1942 LG.208/LG 'Z', Mahsma, Egypt Dets at LG.226/Gianaclis, Egypt; RAF St Jean, Palestine;
RAF Khormaksar, Aden; Scuscuiban;
RAF Socotra, Yemen; Gambut III, Libya;
LG 227/Gianaclis Satellite, Egypt
28 November 1942 18 December 1942 LG.226/Gianaclis, Egypt Dets at RAF Khormaksar, Aden; Scuscuiban;
Socotra, Yemen; Gambut III, Libya;
LG.227/Gianaclis Satellite, Egypt; Berka III, Libya
18 December 1942 5 April 1944 LG.143/Gambut III, Libya Dets at RAF Khormaksar, Aden; Berka III, Libya;
LG.227/Gianaclis Satellite, Egypt; RAF Nicosia, Cyprus;
LG.91, Egypt; LG.07/'Z'LG/Matruh West, Egypt;
RAF Lydda, Palestine; Gianaclis, Egypt;
RAF El Adem, Libya; RAF St Jean, Palestine
and RAF Ramat David, Palestine
5 April 1944 15 May 1944 RAF Ramat David, Palestine
15 May 1944 9 August 1944 RAF St Jean, Palestine
9 August 1944 17 February 1945 Berka III, Libya Det. at Mersa Matruh, Egypt
17 February 1945 25 February 1945 RAF Almaza (No 22 PTC), Egypt
25 February 1945 14 March 1945 en route to the UK
14 March 1945 10 April 1945 RAF Chivenor, Devon Disbanded before becoming operational

Commanding officers

No. 459 Squadron was commanded by the following officers:[2][3][7]

From To Name
10 February 1942 19 April 1942 Squadron Leader P.W. Howson (acting)
19 April 1942 15 September 1942 Wing Commander K.S. Hennock
15 September 1942 4 October 1943 Wing Commander P.W. Howson
5 October 1943 9 November 1944 Wing Commander A.D. Henderson
9 November 1944 10 April 1945 Wing Commander C.E. Payne



  1. ^ Delve 1994, p. 67.
  2. ^ a b c "459 Squadron History: 1942–1945". 454 & 459 Squadron Associations. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "No. 459 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  4. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 76.
  5. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 23.
  6. ^ a b c d Eather 1995, p. 117.
  7. ^ a b c d Rawlings 1982, p. 223.
  8. ^ a b c Halley 1988, p. 480.
  9. ^ a b c Jefford 2001, p. 95.
  10. ^ "RAAF Bristol Blenheim Mk.I, IV & V". Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History. Retrieved 11 February 2020.


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Delve, Ken (1994). The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
  • Eather, Steve (1995). Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-15-3.
  • Flintham, Vic; Thomas, Andrew (2003). Combat Codes: A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit Codes Since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. (2001) [1988]. RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 1912 (2nd ed.). Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. (1982). Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.

Further reading

  • Kane-McGuire, Leon (2007). Desert Scorpions: A History of 459 Squadron RAAF, 1942–45. Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 978-0-9803204-6-6.

External links

  • RAAF Museum: 459 Squadron
  • 454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons Association
  • History of the 459 RAAF Squadron
  • Australian War Memorial: 459 Squadron