© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons

The Bristol Beafighter

When the Beaufighter was equipped for carrying a torpedo later in the war, it became the best British

anti-shipping aircraft of the the time. Note the four cannon on the underside of the nose.


Maximum Speed: 512 kph/318 mph

Power: 2 Bristol 1770hp Hercules XVII 14 cylinder air cooled radials.

Wingspan: 17.63m/57ft 10in  Length: 12.7m/41ft 8in  Wing Area:  46.73m²/503squ ft


The Beaufighter was originally conceived as a multi-role aircraft, and fighter versions appeared during the Battle of Britain. 


In November 1943, Wing Commander J.A.G. (Jack) Coates (RAF) assumed command from Wing Commander Campbell, and Berka III again became the base. 

The Squadron flew unarmed long range photo reconnaissance missions into the western Aegean, and 75 small ship sightings were reported in December alone.  Many of these small ships were attacked by RAF Beaufighters, which flew 30 minutes behind the 454 Squadron reconnaissance aircraft, and were alerted by coded sighting reports.  On 31 December, Flight Lieutenant Railton (RAF)

evaded two prolonged attacks by pairs of Bf109s.


 

201 Group RAF merged with Air Headquarters Eastern Mediterranean on 21 February 1944, and 454 Squadron came under the command of RAF Station Berks.  Squadron Leader Cashmore and Flight Lieutenant Gray, located the Livenza, a 6,000 ton motor vessel, and its convoy escort, in Melos Harbour.  The following day Beaufighters sank it, losing three aircraft, but destroying two Bf109S. A week later Flying Officer Crouch successfully battled his way through the Kythera Strait, having provided a diversion over Melos, whilst Coates photographed a new Freya radar station. 

During February formation practice, in boxes of six aircraft, was increased. 


In April 1944, Coates handed over command to Wing Commander Mike Moore.  The new Commanding Officer continued the concentrated bombing training program, and directed small formation operational bombing attacks on southern Greek targets – Kalamata. Plyoe – for harassment and further experience, meanwhile maintaining the well-established long range unarmed photo reconnaissance program, especially in the western and central Aegean Sea, and around the western Greek coast. 


The Squadron’s finest search and strike results were achieved on 1 and 2 June 1944 under Moore’s command. 

From first light on 1 June, after an Axis convoy had at last left Piraeus Harbour, eight 454 Squadron Baltimores in turn shadowed three merchant vessels, four destroyers and eight escort vessels, and their fighter escorts. 

Despite many attacks, the reconnaissance crews made close low level passes at the convoy, regularly photographing and reporting its progress.  At 1700 hours, after the last shadowing Baltimore had been lost, a strike force from Gambut led by three 454 Squadron Baltimores attacked about 30 miles north of Candia Harbour.  All but two merchant vessels were sunk; two Bf109s were shot down. 


Whilst long range reconnaissance penetrations of the upgraded, radar-controlled fighter and flak-defended areas of the eastern, western and central Aegean, Crete, and southern Greece had paid significant dividends, a high price had been exacted; 21 crews were lost in 10 months.  The operational result was increased enemy isolation and supply deterioration of the garrisons. 


By July 1944, 454 Squadron had been transferred to the Desert Air Force at Pescara on the Italian Adriatic Coast, to support 8th Army. 


Beaufighter (flying over Fiume in the former Yugoslavia [a nearby city to Trieste -Italy] - is now known as Rijeka.)