No. 463 Royal Australian Air Force heavy bomber squadron equipped with four-engined Avro Lancaster Mk.I and Mk.III heavy bombers was formed in the United Kingdom in late 1943. Based on Waddington airfield in Lincolnshire County the squadron commenced nighttime bombing raids to Germany, France and Norway from beginning of 1944 until the end of war in Europe.
Australians dropped 11000 tons of bombs, lost 78 Lancasters and 546 men of aircrew in 2525 combat missions – these was the heaviest casualties among all Australian bomber squadrons in Europe. However, such mournful statistics wasn’t unusual for air warfare of WWII. And No.463 squadron wouldn’t stand out of many if it wasn’t for the squadron codes. After being formed in November 1943 the squadron was presented with «PO» code, which was almost immediately changed to «JO». Exactly these letters read as «Joe» considerably defined the image of squadron’s aircrafts. It’s hard to tell what was the reason for so many paintings on 463’s Lancasters – maybe Command counted on somehow lifting subordinates’ morale this way?
Either way, majority of bombers got names on their big black noses according with personal code letter and a funny picture. Furthermore, the most famous Joe of WWII, also known as «Uncle Joe» – Joseph Stalin, became the central figure of it.