I first joined No. 454 Squadron in February 1944 from RAF Shandur in Egypt until I was tour expired the following January. My connection with the Squadron continued more recently as the Secretary of the 454/459 Squadron’s Association and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the foreword of this book. 454 was a wonderful Unit, with a mixture of Australians, British, South Africans, Canadians and Kiwis and both aircrew and ground crew alike really pulled together to get the job done. This book certainly tells their story.
The Squadron was to fly four different mission types. After a few months training on obsolete Blenheims in Iraq, 454 moved to Egypt and commenced convoy escort and anti-submarine patrol work. Then, in late 1943, these became Greek Island reconnaissance and strike control missions where much enemy action was seen including a significant convoy attack which ended German hopes of supplying their Aegean outposts. After August 1944, the role again changed to formation daylight bombing and finally, night bombing northern Italian targets, including the Po River crossings, as the war drew to a close. During our time in the Middle East and Italy, we broke many records for aircraft service abilityand mission success.
454 Squadron was one of the RAAF’s little known units and ran the risk of being relegated to a minor corner of history. Consequently, I am very pleased that a serving Air Force Officer, Air Commodore Mark Lax, has taken on the task of compiling the Squadron’s short but eventful history aptly titled From Alamein to the Alps, the old Desert Air Force motto. It perfectly describes the Squadron’s journey from the deserts of Egypt by way of a short period of remote training in Iraq, then back to Egypt on operations then finally working its way up the eastern coast of Italy, to the foot of the Alps. At the end of the war, we were the most northern Allied Squadron and had established a fine and envious record throughout the theatre.
Alamein to the Alps is also a people story and through a combination of official records, anecdotal accounts and narrative, the human side also comes out. We celebrated our successes but sadly, we also had some losses along the way. 96 names are recorded on the Squadron’s Honour Roll as paying the ultimate sacrifice and many more suffered wounds and personal loss. To guide us through the harder times, we were blessed with good leaders and a strong spirit. This is also a record of the service of those we lost.
454 Squadron’s story has finally been told and I hope you will agree with me that those who served in the Unit all contributed to make sure the Squadron’s unofficial motto, Nihil Impossible – Nothing is Impossible – was well and truly lived up to.