Fleet Air Arm aircrew

Fleet Air Arm aircrew

Fleet Air Arm aircrew

A line-up of Fleet Air Arm aircrew.

Taken from Fleet Air Arm, HMSO, published 1943, p.127

Fleet Air Arm losses 1939-45

Post by sanpifer » 12 Nov 2017, 21:10

This is my first message in this great forum.

I would study the losses of Fleet Air Arm from 1939 to 1945, but I can't access to detailed sources (books or Internet sites).

For example, I cannot establish how many aircraft were lost inside british carriers.

HMS Courageous sank on 17 September 1939 with two squadrons (811 and 822 Sqdn FAA) of Fairey Swordfish aircraft aboard (24 planes), including 36 RAF service crewmen.

HMS Glorious sank on 8 June 1940 with at least 4 Squadrons aboard:
- 6 Swordfish (823 Squadron) and 9 pilots lost.
- 10 Gladiators (263 RAF Squadron) and 10 pilots lost.
- 6 Sea Gladiators (802 Squadron) and 8 pilots lost.
- 7 Hurricanes (46 RAF Squadron) and 8 pilots lost.
41 RAF ground personnel, and 18 were pilots lost their lives.
Some sources says carrier sink with 43 aircraft in all, but that numbers don't match with above 29 aircraft losses.

HMS Ark Royal losses at sinking are unknown.

HMS Eagle was sunk at Pedestal with 16 Sea Hurricane aboard.

HMS Hermes didn't transport any aircraft aboard when she was bombed by japanese naval bombers. All her aircrafts were at land bases.

HMS Audacity 3 Martlets on deck when she was torpedoed at HG-76 convoy. Previously, 1 Martlet was lost when it attacked U-131.

HMS Avenger was sunk at Atlantic on 15 September 1942 transporting 802 and 883 Squadrons with their 12 Sea Hurricanes and pilots.

HMS Dasher losses at internal explosion time are unknown.

802 Squadron had a unfortunate history. 802 Sqdn was aboard Glorious when she was shelled. Later, 802 Squadron suffered new losses aboard Audacity and Avenger when both carriers were torpedoed again. An unluckly career.

Re: Fleet Air Arm losses 1939-45

Post by sanpifer » 12 Nov 2017, 21:46

About victories/losses of Fleet Air Arm, we know that:

Total claims of Fleet Air Arm Squadrons amounted to perhaps 455 victories. The Fleet Air Arm produced 16 aces during the conflict.

In the final accounting, the Fulmar was credited with 122 kills. A total of 40 Fulmars were lost to enemy action. About 16 of these were in air-to-air combat. Only 3 Fulmars were lost to single-seat fighters. Most losses were incurred by the defensive armament of bombers.

In Fleet Air Arm service, Martlet/Wildcat pilots were credited with bringing down 54 aircraft to 4 losses (13.5 to 1): 11 Ju 88, 13 BV 138 10 FW 200 4 SM.79, 3 Me 109G 3 Morane 406C 2 Potez 63 and 1 each G.50, Z.506B, Re.2000, Bloch 174, He 111, He 115, He 177, Ju 290, and H6K. The FAA Hellcat pilots were credited with bringing down 5 aircraft to 1 loss (5 to 1): 2 He 115 2 Me 109G and 1 FW 190. The sole F6F loss was in the 8 May 1944 FW 190/Me 109 engagement. FAA F4F/FM's and F6F's, together then, had a score of 62 aircraft shot down with 5 losses (12.4 to 1).

Royal Navy Hellcats, known as Gannets, scored 52 kills: On 8 May 1944, 2 Me 109 and a Fw190 were downed. They also got 2 He 115 seaplanes on 14 May. The remaining kills were scored in the Pacific. 19 of the victories took place during the invasion of Okinawa.

At the end of the war, 18 FAA squadrons were operating the Corsair. In all, out of 18 carrier-based squadrons, 8 saw combat, flying intensive ground attack/interdiction operations and claiming 47.5 aircraft shot down.

I didn't know total kills/losses numbers for Sea Gladiator, Sea Hurricane, Seafires, Martlets (British Wildcat) in Europe/Pacific theaters.

Fleet Air Arm aircrew - History

The Seagull during WW2, flying over "mother", HMAS HOBART >>

When the British Pacific Fleet came to Australia in the latter part of the war, about 24 RAAF pilots volunteered to transfer to the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) and these men subsequently served aboard RN aircraft carriers and at RN Air Stations established in Australia.

The FAA came into being with the commissioning in 1948 of the Air Station HMAS ALBATROSS (at Nowra) , 805 Squadron (Sea Furies) and 816 Squadron (Fireflies).

The following year the Light Fleet Carrier, HMAS SYDNEY, was commissioned. Two further Squadrons, 808 and 817 were commissioned in 1950. In 1951, SYDNEY, with the Sydney Air Group embarked, sailed north to take part in the Korean War.

HMAS Sydney ends her Tour of Duty in Korea with her planes flying ceremonial escort

It was the intention of the Australian Government to equip the RAN with two aircraft carriers but technical advances meant that the second carrier, HMAS MELBOURNE, would require fitting with an angled deck and a steam catapult to accommodate the new generation of aircraft.

Whilst MELBOURNE was undergoing modernisation, the Royal Navy loaned to Australia the aircraft carrier VENGEANCE. HMAS MELBOURNE commissioned in 1956 and at the same time the RAN acquired Sea Venom all weather fighters and Gannet anti- submarine aircraft .

As SYDNEY could not operate Sea Venoms and Gannets the ship changed to a training role and later became a troop carrier taking men and material to the war in Vietnam.

HMAS Sydney .
May 1965 -11th March 1972

The troop transport HMAS Sydney was the first RAN ship to have operational service in Vietnam. She completed 22 voyages in 7 years.

Sydney was a former air craft carrier that had served in the Korean War.

She was converted to a troop carrier and ran an almost ferry like service between Australia and Vung Tau for the 7 years of her commitment to the Viet Nam conflict.

The Fleet Air Arm was heavily involved in the Vietnam War with aircrew and maintenance personnel from 723 Squadron serving in-country with 9 Squadron RAAF and the United States Army's 135th Assault Helicopter Company. During the fifties and sixties, MELBOURNE and her squadrons took part in operations in the Far East Strategic Reserve. In 1967 the MELBOURNE took delivery of a new generation of aircraft, the Douglas Skyhawk (A4G) and the Grumman Tracker (S2E). In the early seventies the Westland Sea King helicopter was introduced as the Wessex replacement.

The paying-off of MELBOURNE in 1983 marked the closing of the RAN fixed-wing aircraft carrier era.

The Sea Kings, Squirrels and the Seahawks helicopters continue to provide the Royal Australian Navy with a significant capability afloat. The Kaman Seasprite (SH2-G) is the most recent acquisition of rotary wing aircraft for RAN

The RAN Fleet Air Arm has seen active service in Korea, the Malaya Emergency, Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor and more recently, the War Against Terrorism.

Over the years since 1948, the RAN Fleet Air Arm has operated 22 different types of aircraft - a real challenge to the aircrew and the maintenance personnel.

The RAN Fleet Air Arm has forged a proud tradition over the years. A tradition of professional service and outstanding achievements. The Fleet Air Arm men and women of today carry on these high standards of dedicated service.

Admiral Sir Victor Smith, regarded as the "Father" of the RAN Fleet Air Arm, in the nineteen fifties adopted the motto-:"Second to None" for the FAA. This motto is as true today as it was in Sir Victor's day.


The decision to build an airfield on the land now occupied by the home of the Fleet Air Arm, HMAS ALBATROSS, was taken soon after the declaration of WWII in 1939. In 1944, the British Admiralty directed certain Naval forces to the South West Pacific area, and this of course necessitated the provision of shore base establishments for the Royal Navy and its Fleet Air Arm in Australia.

On 3 July 1947, the Commonwealth Defence Council approved the formation of a Fleet Air Arm which would be controlled and operated by the Royal Australian Navy. The initial planning provided for the purchase of two aircraft carriers, necessary aircraft and the establishment of shore facilities. The carriers were later named HMA Ships SYDNEY and MELBOURNE and the shore facilities were established at Nowra, NSW.

HMAS Albatross was commissioned on 31 August 1948 and the 20 Carrier Air Group,comprising Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft, were transported from England to Australia onboard the carrier HMAS SYDNEY. These aircraft, operated by 805 and 816 Squadrons, disembarked to Nowra in May 1949. In November 1950, they were joined by the 21st Carrier Air Group of 808 and 817 Squadrons also flying Sea Furies and Fireflies.

The Fleet Air Arm has been expanding ever since. As more capable aircraft have been acquired, so ground support facilities have had to be built to service the more sophisticated equipment. In April 1955, Sea Venoms and Gannets arrived and as a consequence radar workshops and additional test facilities were required.

In 1965, it was decided to buy American aircraft to replace the ageing British Gannets and Sea Venoms. MacDonnell Douglas A4G Skyhawks and Grumman S2E Trackers were obtained to operate from the carrier and Fleet Flagship HMAS MELBOURNE. The Fleet Air Arm has in service the SeaHawk helicopter which restored to the RAN many of the capabilities lost when the Tracker Squadrons disbanded in 1983, and is currently negotiating the purchase of 11 Kaman SH.2G(A) Super Seasprite helicopters to enhance the war fighting capability of the new ANZAC class frigates.

The Fleet Air Arm of today comprises not only operational squadrons but also a vast support network dedicated to maintaining those aircraft and improving the skills of the individuals who maintain and operate them. Departments such as the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Training Unit (AMAFTU) are responsible for the trial, installation and development of modifications to aircraft, as well as the development of procedural guidelines for the operation of aircraft from various classes of ship.

The Air Warfare Systems Centre (AWSC) offers full mission training on Sea King and SeaHawk simulators. The Centre is also responsible for the development and maintenance of complex SeaHawk computer software.

The history of the Fleet Air Arm has not been lost either - the RAN Historic Flight was formed in 1985 with the aim of restoring to flying condition as many ex - Navy aircraft types as possible. It is a separate activity to that of the Naval Aviation Museum. Established in 1974, the Naval Aviation Museum aims to preserve the heritage of Australian Naval Aviation and the Fleet Air Arm. It also endeavours to present the deeds and sacrifices of those naval air personnel who have served their country both in war and peace.

Statistics : Over 35 million page visitors since 11 Nov 2002

The FAA today [ edit | edit source ]

Personnel [ edit | edit source ]

In 1938, Admiralty Fleet Orders 2885 announced the formation of an Air Branch of the Royal Naval Reserve. Thirty three unmarried men signed up for 18 months full-time flying training however, before these first volunteers were able to gain their wings Britain was at war. At the end of hostilities in 1945 the RNVR(A) was 46,000 strong, with over 8000 aircrew. Post war the RNVR(A) comprised 12 dedicated reserve squadrons, grouped regionally into Air Divisions. However, defence cuts in 1957 disbanded the five Air Divisions, and the following year the RNVR was merged with the RNR. The RNR Air Branch was commissioned at RNAS Yeovilton on 16 July 1980, and shortly afterwards 38 ex-regular aircrew began refresher training. Today the Air Branch comprises approx 250 ex-regular service Officers and Ratings, covering all aviation trades, tasked to support the Fleet Air Arm.

Today, the regular Fleet Air Arm has approximately 5,200 personnel, Ζ] which represents over 15% of the Royal Navy's total strength. The Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation & Carriers) is Rear Admiral R G Harding OBE. Η]

Aircraft [ edit | edit source ]

The FAA operates fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The FAA uses the same designation system for aircraft as the RAF.

Three types of fixed-wing aircraft are operated by the FAA for training purposes: pilot training is carried out using the Grob Tutor while, from March 2011, observer training is done using four Beechcraft King Air 350s. ⎖] The third type is the Hawk T1, which is used to simulate enemy aircraft for training purposes including AEW Fighter Control, air-to-air combat and ship attack.

Today the larger section of the FAA is the rotary-wing part. Its aviators fly four types of helicopter, and within each type there are usually several marks/versions which carry out different roles.

Pilots designated for rotary wing service train at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, RAF Shawbury. The School is a tri-Service organisation consisting of civilian and military instructors (including Naval instructors and a Naval Squadron) that take the student from basic flying through to more advanced flying such as instrument flying, navigation, formation and captaincy.

The oldest aircraft in the fleet is the Westland Sea King, which performs missions in several versions. The Sea King HC4 serves as a medium-lifter and troop-transporter in support of the Royal Marines. The HAS5U model operates in the search and rescue and utility roles, while the Sea King HU5 is designed for search and rescue work (although the HAS5Us are often called HU5s as well). [ citation needed ] The HAS6C is used for assault transport training and the ASaC7 operates in the AEW role.

Intermediate in age is the Westland Lynx. The Lynx AH7s serve the FAA in the observation and anti-armour helicopter roles, but are mainly a light-lift helicopter. Along with the Sea King HC4s, they are part of the Commando Helicopter Force, which provides support to 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines.

The surface combatants of the Royal Navy have their helicopters provided for the most part by the Lynx HMA8 aircraft. The Lynx have primarily an anti-submarine warfare role and anti-surface vessel role. They are able to fire the Sea Skua anti-surface missile, which was used to combat the Iraqi navy in the 1991 Gulf War. It can be armed with Stingray air-launched torpedoes and depth charges for anti-submarine warfare, as well as a machine gun. The Lynx was originally envisaged for surface combatants that were too small for the Sea King, but now equips most surface ships of the Royal Navy.

The newest helicopter in the FAA is the AgustaWestland Merlin HM1. This has now replaced the Sea King HAS6 in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role, and is deployed on the various ships of the Royal Navy.

Future aircraft [ edit | edit source ]

In the Persian Gulf, the RN sustains a number of commitments in support of both national and coalition efforts to stabilise the region. The Armilla Patrol, which started in 1980, is the navy's primary commitment the Gulf region. The Royal Navy also contributes heavily to the combined maritime forces in the Gulf in support of coalition operations. ⎗] The UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC), overseer of all UK warships in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters, is also deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. ⎘]

Although currently the Fleet Air Arm is an all rotary wing force in terms of its front-line operations, the introduction of the F-35B Lightning II will see a restoration of fixed wing operations. An initial order of 48 airframes was made in 2012 to equip the air wings of the planned two Queen Elizabeth class carriers, with the operation split between the FAA and the Royal Air Force, as was the case with Joint Force Harrier.

The Fleet Air Arm will obtain a total of 28 AW159 Wildcat helicopters to replace the current Lynx in use on the Ship's Flights of the Royal Navy's escorts - this will perform a range of roles including anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare and airborne surveillance.

To replace the Sea King in the Commando role, the Fleet Air Arm will receive the Merlin HC.3 fleet currently operated by the RAF - some of these aircraft will remain as HC.3 standard, while the rest will be fully navalised and classed as HC.4.

In addition to replacing the Commando Helicopter Force Sea Kings, there is also a project to replace the Sea King in the Airborne Surveillance and Control mission, which has seen a number of proposals put forward, based on the type of aircraft carrier the platform would be expected to operate from. One idea has been to fit the existing Searchwater radar to the Merlin helicopter, while other options have included the E-2 Hawkeye and an ASaC version of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft [ citation needed ] . The "Crowsnet" helicopter based radar system project has been delayed until at least 2020. ⎙] The Main Gate for the project is at 2017.

The Royal Navy signed a £30 million contract for the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle on the 20 June 2013 giving the Navy their first UAV when delivered.

Squadrons [ edit | edit source ]

Fleet Air Arm flying squadrons are formally named Naval Air Squadron (NASs), ⎚] a title used as a suffix to the squadron number. The FAA assigns numbers in the 700–799 range to training and operational conversion squadrons and numbers in the 800–899 range to operational squadrons. During WWII the 1700 and 1800 ranges were also used for operational squadrons.

Squadrons active in the FAA are: ⎚]

Squadron Type Aircraft Base Role Notes
700W Naval Air Squadron Rotary Lynx Wildcat Yeovilton Lynx Wildcat Trials unit
702 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Lynx Yeovilton Training (Lynx)
703 Naval Air Squadron Fixed wing Grob Tutor Barkston Heath Elementary flying training
705 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Squirrel HT.1 and HT.2 Shawbury Basic and Advanced Single Engine helicopter training (DHFS)
727 Naval Air Squadron Fixed wing Grob Tutor Yeovilton Pilot grading and Air Experience
736 Naval Air Squadron Fixed wing BAe Hawk T.1 Culdrose Air combat simulated training Formerly FRADU
750 Naval Air Squadron Fixed wing Beechcraft King Air 350ER Culdrose Observer grading and training
771 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King HAR.5 Culdrose Search and Rescue
809 Naval Air Squadron Fixed wing Lightning II Marham Naval strike Reformed 2013 operational 2016
814 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Anti-Submarine Warfare Converting to Merlin HM.2
815 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Lynx HAS.3/HMA.8 Yeovilton Small ship flights To convert to Wildcat HMA.2 in 2015
820 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Anti-Submarine Warfare Converting to Merlin HM.2
824 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Training (Merlin) Converting to Merlin HM.2
829 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Merlin HM.1 Culdrose Small ship flights Converting to Merlin HM.2
845 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King HC.4/HC.4+ Yeovilton Commando support (CHF) Converting to Merlin HC.4 ⎛]
846 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King HC.4/HC.4+ Yeovilton Commando support (CHF) To convert to Merlin HC.3 ⎛]
847 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Lynx AH.7/9 Yeovilton Commando support (CHF) Converting to Wildcat AH.1
848 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King HC.4 Yeovilton Training (Sea King) (CHF) Converting to Merlin HC.4/HC.5
849 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Training (Sea King ASaC)
854 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Airborne Surveillance
857 Naval Air Squadron Rotary Sea King ASaC.7 Culdrose Airborne Surveillance
HMS Gannet SAR Flight Rotary Sea King HAR.5 Prestwick Search and Rescue

815 Naval Air Squadron is due to begin transitioning from the Lynx to the new Wildcat HMA.2 in 2015, while 824 Naval Air Squadron has begun the process of conversion to the HM.2 version of the Merlin. ⎜] The three Sea King squadrons of the Commando Helicopter Force are in the process of transitioning to the battlefield variants of the Merlin that are being transferred from the RAF. ⎝] 809 Naval Air Squadron will be the first operational FAA unit to be equipped with the F-35B Lightning. ⎞] Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) is near Helston in Cornwall and Yeovilton (HMS Heron) is near Ilchester in Somerset. Their satellite, or relief, airfields are at Predannack and Merryfield respectively. Squadrons that were active at some point can be found in the List of Fleet Air Arm aircraft squadrons.

New Zealanders – Fleet Air Arm

New Zealanders served at one time or another in every unit of the Royal Navy’s fleet Air Arm. New Zealanders also took part in every major battle in which the FAA took part.

Having initially enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, New Zealand officers in the FAA were to see action and serve with distinction in the Indian Ocean with the British Eastern Fleet, in escort convoys to Russia and across the Atlantic Ocean, in operations off the Norwegian Coast, in the defence of Malta, in the North African campaign, Italy, Greece and Crete, off Madagascar, over the English Channel, and off Normandy and Southern France.

New Zealanders were also to comprise a substantial proportion of the British Pacific Fleet, which on some occasions operated closely with and off the aircraft carriers of the United States Pacific Fleet. Several of the carriers from the British Pacific Fleet made visits to New Zealand ports.

Many aircraft types were flown by the New Zealanders in the FAA, including Swordfishes, Walruses, Albacores, Barracudas, Hurricanes, Fireflies, Corsairs, Hellcats and Seafires.

The aircraft carriers from which they operated varied considerably from converted bulk-grain or oil carriers, which had flight decks built over their superstructure, and were known as merchant aircraft carriers, which had flight decks built over their superstructure, and were known as merchant aircraft carriers or MACships, to catapult aircraft merchantman (CAM ships), which could launch defensive fighter aircraft (hot not recover them, the pilot usually having to ditch alongside the vessel when his retaliatory task was over) to the more conventional Escort and Fleet carriers.

The squadrons the New Zealanders served in included: Nos. 700, 800, 803, 806, 807,809,826-831, 834-839, 841, 879, 882, 885, 896, 899, 1771, 1839, and 1840.

A number of aircrew also served in the Seafire squadrons of the shore-based No. 3 Naval Fighter Wing based at Lee-on-Solent in England, which were among the 6,500-odd combat aircraft that played a decisive part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.

In addition to the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet, the other Fleet and Escort carriers on which New Zealanders served included:

  • HMS Archer
  • HMS Argus
  • HMS Attacker
  • HMS Audacity
  • HMS Avenger
  • HMS Battler
  • HMS Biter
  • HMS Campania
  • HMS Eagle
  • HMS Emperor
  • HMS Empire
  • HMS Fencer
  • HMS Furious
  • HMS Hermes
  • HMS Hunter
  • HMS Khedive
  • HMS MacDermott
  • HMS MacAndrew (and other MAC ships)
  • HMS Nabob
  • HMS Nairana
  • HMS Pursuer
  • HMS Queen
  • HMS Searcher
  • HMS Stalker
  • HMS Trumpeter
  • HMS Unicorn
  • HMS Vindex.

FAA Pilots S/LT (A) Rod Thompson RNZNVR & S/LT (A) J. Pollock RNZNVR

in full flying kit beside a Tiger Moth Trainer at RNZAS Elmdon – now Birmingham Airport

Attack on the Tirpitz

One of the more memorable events of World War Two in which New Zealanders in the FAA took part was an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz.

Although damaged by midget submarines in September 1943 and holed up in the Alten Fjord in northern occupied Norway, the battleship was five months later sufficiently repaired to go to sea.

A series of carrier-borne sorties were therefore planned. Within the strongly escorted carrier attack force, which included Victorious, Furious, Emperor, Searcher, Fencer and Pursuer, there were about 60 New Zealanders, including Barracuda aircrew of Nos. 827 and 830 Squadrons and Hellcat pilots of No. 1840 Squadron.

During the series of strikes, which were diving massed attacks from high altitude, the Tirpitz was initially caught by surprise.

Eight direct hits and five probable hits were scored, mostly by 725, 450 and 225-kilogram armour-piercing bombs, before the German smoke screen was set up.

One bomb hit just forward of the bridge and penetrated two decks, but failed to explode. The Tirpitz was left burning fiercely, but was not sunk. (It was sunk 9 months later, with the loss of 900 lives, by 5500-kilogram bombs delivered by RAF Lancasters based in Scotland.)

After the FAA attack, described by Winston Churchill as a ‘most brilliant feat of arms’, Sub- Lieutenant (A) (the ‘A’ stood for ‘Air’) J. D. Herrod of Waiuku, who was senior pilot of No. 827 Squadron aboard HMS Furious and pilot of one of the bombers, and Lieutenant (A) R. J Harrison of Nelson, who led a fighter squadron off HMS Searcher, were both awarded the DSC.

Another New Zealander, Lieutenant Commander Archibald (‘Arch’) Richardson of Gisborne, a Hellcat Pilot of No. 1840 Squadron, was considered for the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross for his part in the attack but eventually received a Mention-in-Despatches.

He died during his third mission against the Tirpitz when ‘a hail of flak and shell disintegrated his aircraft’.

The 27-year-old Hellcat pilot was very popular aboard Indefatigable, and after the war, when the Fleet Carrier visited New Zealand waters it made a special visit to the Gisborne area and flew a large formation of its Seafires, Fireflies and Avengers over the town in remembrance of Richardson.

Other awards for gallantry made to the New Zealanders in the FAA during the war included one D.S.O., 37 more DSCs and two bars, one DFC, three MBEs, 47 Mentions-in-Despatches, and two Letters of Commendation.

A disproportionately large number of New Zealanders saw service in the Fleet Air Arm on during World War Two, a number of them on these two carriers, HMS Indomitable, and HMS Victorious.

Many served in the ship-borne fighter squadrons, reportedly making up approximately 50 percent of such aircrew in the final stages of the war. The aircraft in the foreground are Sea Hurricanes their land equivalents did not have folding wings. (Air Ministry)

For a small country, New Zealand was to have an incredibly large representation in the FAA, making up more than 10 percent of its total aircrew.

This contribution was particularly marked among the big aircraft carriers of the British Pacific Fleet, including HMS Indomitable, Indefatigable, Illustrious, Implacable, Formidable and Victorious, in which the New Zealanders served with distinction.

Their presence was particularly marked among the ship-borne fighter squadrons, and, as the war drew to a close, approximately 50 percent of the aircrew in such units was from New Zealand.

New Zealanders served in all of the 50-odd aircraft carriers commissioned during the war and in all of the Royal Navy Air Stations, including those in the West Indies. Besides those who flew, many New Zealand ratings also served in the carriers as seamen, telegraphists, and radar operators and mechanics.

A small group of New Zealanders selected for FAA training did not even get to England they were captured en route by a German surface raider in the Tasman Sea.

The German crew made the New Zealanders sign a pledge that they would not enter the war, before off-loading them in December 1940 on Emirau Island, north of New Guinea.

Later rescued, the men were initially forced by the New Zealand Government to keep their pledge, but six months later were given permission to join the RNZAF and fly on operations.

World War Two was to draw over 40,000 New Zealanders into the country’s Air Force. This was a remarkable effort for a country so small and so far removed from the initial conflict.

In fact, New Zealand was to contribute more, per capita, to the British Commonwealth’s training of pilots than either Canada or Australia providing some 12 percent of the total Commonwealth force to be trained.[1]

Fleet Air Arm — Defending Britain’s Navy

In the British military the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is the branch of the Royal Navy designated responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. It was formed in the years between the world wars, in 1924. Originally under control of the RAF, it 1939 the FAA came under control of the Admiralty and operated aircraft on ships along with land-based aircraft responsible for defending the Royal Navy’s facilities and shore establishments.

The organization struggled in the years leading up to World War Two. The greatest failure to keep pace with technological developments lay in the area of naval aviation. The Admiralty was only now regaining control of the Fleet Air Arm from the RAF, whose equipment programs had given priority to fighters and bombers. The navy was entering the war equipped with biplanes that looked like survivors from the previous conflict.

In the early 1940s Fleet Air Squadrons 817 and 832 made up the striking force that would be thrown at German shipping. They were equipped with Fairey Albacore torpedo planes, the replacement for the Swordfish. The RAF’s interwar control of naval aviation had meant that the navy had inherited a service that was dismally lacking in aircraft and weapons capable of taking on ships. For the first years of the war the men of the Fleet Air Arm were stuck with inadequate and ill-equipped airplanes, which they flew with extraordinary élan and determination despite being profoundly aware of their shortcomings.

An account from Sub-Lieutenant Charles Friend provides a good overview of the conditions of the Fleet Air Arm at the time.

Friend had just arrived on 832 Squadron, his latest posting in an incident-packed war that had included taking part in the air attacks on Bismarck. He was a reservist, a “hostilities only” volunteer. Like many young men of the time he was fascinated by flying, and in 1939 had given up his job as a lab assistant at the Paint Research Station in Teddington, Middlesex, to join the Fleet Air Arm. Friend was a grammar school boy, intelligent and lively. He brought a healthy dose of civilian skepticism with him into the enclosed world of the professional navy. On the whole, though, he found his new life congenial. “I had been made aware of the military virtues of obedience and loyalty in my family and school life as most of us had at the time,” he wrote later. “The loss of complete independence in service life at all levels was compensated for by an abiding sense of belonging to an organization with a purpose.” 9 In the early spring of 1942, he was just twenty-one but had already seen enough action to furnish several military careers. As well as the Bismarck operation, he had watched the sinking of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, hunted submarines in the Atlantic, and been aboard the carrier Ark Royal when a U-boat sunk her in the Mediterranean in November 1941.

Friend was an observer, and most of his flying had been done in Swordfishes. He found the Albacore “like a first class version of the Swordfish. It was an improvement on the dear old Stringbag because it had a more powerful engine and it was more aerodynamically efficient.” Unlike the “Stringbag” it had an enclosed and heated cockpit, which represented an enormous improvement to the lives of the crew, particularly in the savage conditions of the Arctic. It also had an automatic life raft ejection system which triggered in the event of the aircraft ditching. One innovation was particularly welcome. The installation of a “P Tube” meant they could relieve themselves in comfort. In the Swordfish, the crew had to make do by filling the empty containers of aluminum dust markers or flame floats, used to determine wind direction and tide speed, before flinging them overboard. It was important to choose the right side, “because over the wrong one, the slipstream opened them and showered the contents back into the cockpit.”

The Albacore already bore an air of obsolescence. It was a biplane, and its fixed undercarriage hung below, dragging through the air and slowing it down. Even with the extra horsepower offered by its new 1,065-horsepower Bristol Taurus II fourteen-cylinder radial engine, it could still only manage a top speed of 150 knots (172 mph) in straight and level flight. Its usual speed was a mere 90 knots (103 mph), which made the observer’s job of navigating easier but severely limited its searching capabilities especially when the wind was against it.

Some pilots felt the controls were heavier than those of the Swordfish and it was harder to take evasive action after dropping a torpedo. 10

There were other antiquated touches. The pilot’s seat was just ahead of the upper main plane, and a long fuel tank separated him from the observer. Communication took place via a Gosport speaking tube—a simple length of flexible pipe. Pilots often forgot to connect them. According to Friend, to gain the attention of the man at the controls of a Swordfish, “one simply reached over and banged his head.” In Albacores, though, “we all carried a long garden cane to reach forward past the tank to tap him on the shoulder.” Detailed messages were written down and passed forward in an empty Very signal cartridge stuck on the end of the stick.

Contact among aircraft and back to the ship took place by radio and Morse code and was used only to report a sighting of the enemy or in extreme emergencies. The Aldis lamp was still a useful tool to signal from air to deck or to other aircraft. When flying in formation they “resorted to making Morse with a swung forearm—‘zogging’ it was called.” As protection the Albacore had one fixed forward-firing .303-inch machine gun in the starboard wing, which the pilot operated. The rear cockpit was fitted with twin Vickers K guns operated by a third member of the crew, which delivered more firepower than the Swordfish’s single Lewis gun.

Compared with the Luftwaffe’s sleek Condors and Heinkels, compared with the Japanese Mitsubishi torpedo and bomber aircraft, the “Applecore” was slow and feebly armed. Thus equipped, the Fleet Air Arm could hope to achieve little. Given the quality of its aircraft, it had performed remarkably well. So far, the FAA actions had sunk three Italian battleships and six destroyers, as well as a German light cruiser, largely thanks to the skill and boldness of the crews.

By 1943 the Fleet Air Arm seemed to offer the navy the best hope of success. British naval aviation had at last struggled into the modern era. It had a new monoplane torpedo bomber, the all-metal Fairey Barracuda II, which replaced the wood and canvas Albacore biplanes. The specification for an up-to-date torpedo bomber had been issued in 1937, but the priority given to production of RAF aircraft meant that it did not start reaching the FAA’s squadrons until January. It performed best as a dive-bomber, helped by large flaps that held it steady as it swooped on its target. The Barracudas were supported by a new generation of very effective carrier-borne fighters, American-manufactured Corsairs, Wildcats, and Hellcats.

The FAA had been the target of some sniping from Churchill, who in July 1943 flicked an ill-considered memo at the stolid First Lord of the Admiralty, Albert Alexander, noting the “rather pregnant fact” that out of the service’s 45,000 officers and ratings, “only thirty should have been killed, missing or prisoners during the three months ending April 30.” It seemed “clear proof of how very rarely [the FAA] is brought into contact with the enemy.” This was despite the “immense demands . . .made on us by the Fleet Air Arm in respect of men and machines.”

This article on the Fleet Air Arm is from the book The Hunt for Hitler’s Warship © 2015 by Patrick Bishop. Please use this data for any reference citations. To order this book, please visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

You can also buy the book by clicking on the buttons to the left.

Current squadrons [ edit | edit source ]

RAN squadrons follow the same numbering system as those of the Royal Navy, with operational units numbered from 800 onwards and training units numbered from 700 onwards:

    – Aerospatiale AS 350BA Ecureuil (Squirrel) and Agusta A109E: Ώ] 723 Squadron is the Fleet Air Arm's primary helicopter training unit. ⎲] It is employed as a conversion unit for newly qualified pilots to learn to fly helicopters and also provides aircraft and crews for ships' flights on the RAN's hydrographic vessels. In addition, 723 Squadron provides the RAN's helicopter display team. – currently being formed to operate the RAN's six MRH 90s. ⎳] – Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk: Ώ] 816 Squadron provides Seahawk helicopters for use aboard Adelaide and Anzac class guided missile frigates. ⎲]

RNZN and the Fleet Air Arm

New Zealand’s involvement in naval aviation goes back to before the First World War when New Zealand citizens volunteered to fly as part of the Royal Naval Air Service.

‘Scheme F’ was introduced in World War Two where New Zealanders were recruited to serve with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA).

Many saw service during WW I, several being decorated for gallantry. This close involvement came to a close in April 1918 with the formation of the Royal Air Force, which absorbed both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

During the 1920s aviation at sea went through a major period of development which saw the advent of aircraft being carried on cruisers.

New Zealand was generally on the periphery of such developments however, an Avro aircraft of the New Zealand Permanent Air Force, fitted with floats, was embarked on HMS Diomede for the expedition to Samoa in 1928.

The aircraft was simply craned outboard and took off from the water and later recovered by crane. Stowage arrangements left something to be desired and on the return voyage a large weight landed on the aircraft, considerably reducing the space taken up, but also causing major damage.

The commissioning of HMS Achilles into the New Zealand Naval Forces in 1936, saw the arrival of regular naval aviation in New Zealand.

By this time the Royal Navy had a number of pilots and the Walrus aircraft embarked in our cruisers invariably had naval pilots.

As in the Royal Navy ground crew was provided by the air force. In New Zealand this support was provided initially by the New Zealand Permanent Air Force, after 1937 renamed the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

The aircraft were from 720 Flight and were launched by catapult and recovered after landing on the sea by being craned inboard.

Achilles and Leander were the only two aircraft carrying cruisers operated by the RNZN. By 1943 the aircraft carrier had come of age and HMS Gambia had her aircraft facilities removed prior to commissioning into the RNZN. Post WW II cruisers were intended to operate as part of a carrier task force and therefore had no requirement for their own aircraft.

The rapid increase in the number of aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, created a great need for pilots and aircrew.

In 1942, New Zealand was invited to recruit personnel for the Royal Navy to serve in the Fleet Air Arm, under what was called ‘Scheme F’. The initial intake consisted primarily of personnel who had volunteered to join the Air Force, but for whom there was not yet a place.

Recruiting for Scheme F continued, somewhat sporadically until June 1945.

Some 1066 recruits left New Zealand under this scheme of whom something in the order of 600 served as frontline pilots or aircrew, with a maximum of about 450 in May 1944.

This number formed a significant proportion of the Fleet Air Arm and they saw action in many operations, from the attack on Tirpitz in 1943 to the final attacks on Japan in 1945.

Of the New Zealand personnel who saw service with the Fleet Air Arm, about 150 were lost and there were many awards for gallantry.

By the early 1960s aircraft carriers had become fewer and cost dictated that there would be even less in the future.

At the same time the range of shipborne sonar had outstripped the range of antisubmarine weapons then available.

Accordingly, there was a requirement for a light aircraft for reconnaissance and as an antisubmarine weapon platform.

In the Royal Navy the answer was the WASP helicopter, which came into service in the RNZN with the commissioning of HMNZS Waikato.

More help with Fleet Air Arm

From vague memory it wasn't uncommon to have FAA types cutting about on RAF stations, a few were in the Battle of Britain too. Yeovil was certainly a major base but there were a few stations scattered across the world, I'm not sure if there was a dedicated training area though, quite a few pilots were trained in Canada too. I'll have to check my books.

Just stumbled across this passage too:

The Seafire, p34, Combat Career 1942 to 1945. David Brown.

Spose Yeovilton was probably the main base then.


759 NAS was first formed on 1st November 1939 at Eastleigh, as a Fighter School and aircraft pool unit. Its original inventory included 9 Blackburn Skuas, 5 Blackburn Rocs and 4 Gloster Sea Gladiators. On 1st December it absorbed 769 NAS and became the Fleet Fighter School.
On 16th September 1940, the Squadron made the move to RNAS Yeovilton, and soon began to receive examples of the Grumman Martlet, Fairey Fulmar and Miles Master, with the Sea Hurricane also arriving at Yeovilton in 1941.

In 1943 it became a part of the Naval Air Fighter School as the advanced flying training component, and by the middle of that year it had a fleet of over 100 aircraft! From 1944 the Squadron re-equipped with Corsairs, and remained based at Yeovilton until disbandment in February 1946, when it was absorbed into 794 NAS.


Here's a list of world bases, might be some more training stuff:

Ceylon (Sri Lanka) Maharagama, RN aircraft training establishment (HMS Monara)(1944 - to train singalese recruits to the FAa)

I knew Canada had something to do with it:

Fleet Air Arm & the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)

Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS)

See the BCATP history by Veterans Affairs Canada

At the start of the Second World War, the British Government looked to the Empire and Dominions for air training help because the United Kingdom did not have the space to accommodate training and operational facilities, and because aerodromes in the United Kingdom were vulnerable to enemy attack. The Agreement was signed by Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand on 17 December 1939, it listed the percentage of trainees each country would send, the percentage of costs each would take on, the training schedule, and the aerodrome opening schedule.
Between 1940 and 1945, some 151 schools had been established across Canada with a ground organization of 104,113 men and women. By the end of the Second World War, the BCATP (Canada) and the EATS (Australia/NZ) had produced 131,553 aircrew, including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners, and navigators for the Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

During the early war years the RAAF & RNZAF's primary task was to train aircrew for the RAF under the Empire Air Training Scheme, however when Japan entered the War both the RAAFs and RNZAF turned their attentions increasingly to the protection of the Pacific and their own shores.

When the BCATP and EATS came to a close on 31 March 1945, the four participating governments had spent CAN $2.2 billion on the training plan, CAN $1.6 billion of which was Canada's proportion.

Elementary training took approximately eight weeks, which included at least 50 hours of flying. Aircraft commonly used at Elementary Flying Training Schools were de Havilland Tiger Moths, Fleet Finches, and Fairchild Cornells. Successful trainees then progressed to Service Flying Training Schools for more advanced instruction. the course length varied from 10 to 16 weeks, and flying time varied from 75 to 100 hours. Potential fighter pilots trained on single-engine North American Harvards while pilots selected for bomber, coastal, and transport operations received training on twin-engine Avro Ansons, Cessna Cranes, or Airspeed Oxfords.

Fleet Air Arm Legends: Supermarine Seafire

Matthew Willis’s Supermarine Seafireoffers a brief yet discerning look at the Supermarine Seafire in Fleet Air Arm service from 1942-1950. Meant to fulfil a desperate need for a modern fighter aboard the Royal Navy’s carrier decks in the chaotic early days of World War II, the Seafire rose doggedly to the occasion and served into the early days of the Korean War with mixed results.

Willis divides the book into fourteen chapters: #1-3 deal with the design, testing and development of the aircraft, chapters #4, 7, 9, 11, and 12 deal largely with various combat operations from 1942-1950 and chapters #5, 6, 8, 10, 13 and 14 discuss challenges operating from carriers, photo-reconnaissance role, modifications/upgrades for the airframe, pilot experiences and finally detailed technical data along with notes and an index. Each chapter is illustrated with photographs, along with a color plate section spanning pages 56-51. Willis is known for previous World War I and II aviation titles such as Blackburn Skua and Roc (2007), Sopwith Pup (2015), Fairey Flycatcher (2016), and Fairey Barracuda (2017).

Willis sets out with an onerous task: to cover the lifespan of the legendary Spitfire’s navalized cousin, the Seafire, in a mere 114 pages. While meant as a cursory introduction to the versatile yet temperamental aircraft, the text provides interesting details backed with strong visuals. While most readers know about the vaunted Spitfire and its role in the Battle of Britain, few may know that its folding-wing doppelgänger served onboard decks of British fleet and escort carriers from the middle of the war until 1950. With the impressive pedigree the Spitfire established as a first-class fighter, albeit short-legged with limited fuel capacity, the Seafire remained a match for contemporaries like the German Me-109 and Japanese Zero. The Seafire itself did not have the overall success of the Spitfire, particularly in accidents and handling characteristics which life aboard ship only intensified. A design that worked well for airstrips did not translate as well to aircraft carriers, producing engine and airframe problems along with many landing mishaps. Seafire pilots felt that a major recurring headache with the aircraft were “deck landing accidents.” [94]

The Seafire saw action first in Operation Torch during November 1942, supporting the landings against the Vichy French in North Africa. Later the Seafire participated in the 1943 Sicily and Italian invasions and a year later in the epic 1944 D-Day and Dragoon landings in France. Seafire squadrons also served in the Pacific and took part in the later carrier operations against the Japanese, destroying their share of enemy aircraft not only in the European and Mediterranean but also Pacific theaters.

One of the less well-known places the Seafire played a role was in the Dodecanese islands near Turkey, where German forces held territory until war’s end. A photo on page 54 of a Seafire mounted with an American-made 500-lb bomb used against Dodecanese targets serves as testimony to the fighter-bomber role forced on the Seafire as a matter of wartime exigency.

Since the early war defeats in the Indian Ocean the British Eastern Fleet had not dared to challenge the Imperial Japanese yet by 1944 improving war fortunes brought the Seafire to action, although early experience disappointed with accidents and poor results. By 1945 the Seafire continued to disappoint but quickly had to prepare for the rising kamikaze threat. Assigned to combat air patrol (CAP) missions almost exclusively, the Seafires did have some success but their short-range and “fragility” [70] meant they never matched up to the better yet limited number of American-made fighters used by the British such as Hellcats and Corsairs. Even with their best efforts, the British carriers HMS Victorious and Formidable were both hit by kamikazes which caused considerable damage which led to Admiral Philip Vian’s derisive assessment of the Seafire pilots for their inability to stop the incoming attackers.

While World War II remains a very popular era, the postwar exploits of the Seafire require some mention. Besides serving in Malaya and Indochina with the French, the fighter had one major last task to complete. During the early months of the Korean War in 1950 the Seafire made its last combat appearance, flying off the HMS Triumph with support from HMS Unicorn until HMS Theseus arrived and terminated the Seafire career as more modern aircraft took over the role. As Willis stated on page 87, “the Seafire’s distinguished, if sometimes troubled, combat career” ended in September 1950.

Matthew Willis’s Supermarine Seafiredetails the turbulent career of one of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s single-seat fighters with a strong heritage as the Spitfire design, serving not only as a fighter but also as in fighter-bomber and reconnaissance roles. Those interested in aircraft modeling will appreciate the color plates and photographs much as naval aviation enthusiasts interested in the Fleet Air Arm.

While the 120+ color / black and white images are great, the greatest strength of the text is the inclusion of eyewitness accounts of flying the Seafire. Pilot Henry ‘Hank’ Adlam, for example, felt the mishandling of the carrier-based fighters by Admiral Vian during the 1943 Salerno landings showed he “understood absolutely nothing about the capabilities of the aircraft under his command and was completely out of his depth.” [36-37] Another example comes from Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Crosley, who in 1944 successfully strafed several small German vessels in Norway during Operation Begonia using the wing-mounted 20mm cannons: “we emptied our magazines at these most satisfactory targets, and left them on fire and stopped.” [45]

Supermarine Seafire (Fleet Air Arm Legends Series #1)by Matthew Willis, Tempest Books, Horncastle, UK (2020).

Watch the video: Fleet Air Arm Aircrew Officer Observer Navigation and Weapons Systems