463 squadron RAAF
463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was formed from C Flight of 467 Squadron RAAF at Waddington in the United Kingdom on 25 November 1943, in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Like 467 Squadron, 463 was equipped with Lancaster heavy bombers and formed part of 5 Group of RAF Bomber Command. Its first commanding officer was Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith, the nephew of the famous Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.
The squadron began operations the night after its formation with an attack on Berlin. Night raids on Germany became a focus of the squadron's activities and it was heavily engaged during the battles of Berlin and the Ruhr. It also took part in numerous raids on the sites used to assemble and launch V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets against Britain. The squadron's "future" though was far from assured as this rather pithy letter to the Air Ministry testifies:
Prior to the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, the emphasis of Bomber Command's operations switched to military targets in and around Normandy. On D-Day, 6 June 1944, 467 Squadron attacked the German artillery batteries on Pointe du Hoc, which covered "Omaha" beach, but with little success. Raids in support of the ground campaign continued throughout June and into July, with an increasing number being conducted in daylight - but the focus of Bomber Command's operations progressively returned to the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. 463 Squadron also operated three specially-modified Lancasters for the RAF film unit which were used to record bombing raids and their results. One of these aircraft took part in the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz on 15 September 1944.
463 Squadron continued to mount raids against Germany until the war's end. The declining effectiveness of the German defences meant that by this time some raids, even against major German cities, such as Hamburg on 9 April 1945, were being flown in daylight. During this raid the squadron had its first encounter with German jet fighters. The squadron flew its last raid on the night of ANZAC Day 1945.
In 17 months of operations, 463 Squadron flew 2,525 sorties, dropped 11,430 tons of bombs, and its gunners destroyed six enemy aircraft. As was the case throughout Bomber Command, these results came at considerable cost - the squadron lost 546 aircrew, 225 of whom were Australian, and 78 aircraft. In proportion to its size - 463 Squadron operated throughout the war with only two flights instead of the usual three - it sustained the highest loss rate of any of the Australian bomber squadrons.
The squadron had begun ferrying liberated Allied prisoners of war to Britain even before the war ended, and it continued in this role after the cessation of hostilities. It relocated to Skellingthorpe on 3 July 1945 and was one of the squadrons identified to form part of "Tiger Force", Bomber Command's intended contribution to the strategic bombing of Japan. The war in the Pacific ended before the force could be deployed and 463 Squadron disbanded on 25 September 1945.