461 Squadron formed in England in April 1942. Patrols commenced in July, and by September eight German U-boats had been attacked with several of the submarines sustaining damage. By May 1943 a Squadron Sunderland sank the first of what were to be many U-boats destroyed during the year.
The threat posed to the slow flying Sunderlands from agile enemy fighters led 461 Squadron ground staff to modify their Sunderlands with twin gun nose turrets and galley mounted machine guns. These modified aircraft were known as flying hedgehogs by their German adversaries, and were to prove so effective that they were later adopted throughout the RAF.
One of 461 Squadron's modified Sunderland's was attacked by eight Ju88 fighters over the Bay of Biscay. In the epic battle which followed, three fighters were destroyed, and the remainder forced to abandon the combat with damage. The bullet riddled flying boat, with five wounded crewmen on board limped to the Cornish Coast and made a force landing in the shallows.
1944 saw 461 Squadron operating in a new role - that of night strike using radar equipment and 'leigh' lights. As well as this role, anti-submarine patrols remained the most important activity, with the squadron sinking three more submarines in 1944.
By 1945 the Sunderlands had been fitted with sonobuoy submarine detection equipment, however, even with this new technology, German U-boats remained difficult to detect. In the last six months of the war the squadron was unable to add to its tally of German submarines.