Daily Archives: 20 February, 2010

The Lee-on-Solent Fleet Air Arm Memorial

Lee

Lee-on-Solent was selected as the site for the Fleet Air Arm Memorial as it was the location of the large Naval Air Station HMS Daedelus. It is one of the lesser known Memorials in the UK, but remembers 1,925 men of the Fleet Air Arm who have no known grave, most of them having been lost at sea.

The Fleet Air Arm served in almost every theatre between 1939 and 1945, such was the growing importance of sea-based airpower. Men and aircraft were lost in air combat, accidents, and also when aircraft carriers were sunk – the Royal Navy lost seven in the Second World War.

The Fleet Air Arm carried out many daring operations in the Second World War, including the hugely succesful strike on the Italian fleet at Taranto in 1940, the sinking of the Bismarck in 1941, and operations against the battleships Scharnhorst, Gneiseau and Prinz Eugen during their channel dash in February 1942.

20 Portsmouth men are remembered on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial:

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious was sunk on 9 June 1940. Onboard were Air Mechanic 1st Class Harry Aldington (28, North End), Warrant Air Mechanic Leslie Ayres (34, Southsea) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class William Nevitt (20, North End). She had recovered RAF aircraft from Norway and was in the process of returning to England when she and her Destroyer escorts were intercepted and sunk by the German Battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Douglas London (21, Copnor) died on 27 November 1940. During this time his ship, HMS Hermes, was on station in the South Atlantic defending convoys and intercepting German warships.

Petty Officer (Airman) Ronald Hurford (28, Stamshaw) died on 1 January 1941 when HMS Formidable was in the process of transferring from the South Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

From HMS Goshawk Air Mechanic 2nd Class George Harris (21, Milton), Air Fitter James Davitt (19, Portsea), Chief Petty Officer (Airman) Alfred Dicks (36, Portsmouth) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class Stanley Newnham (29) were all killed on 17 January 1941. HMS Goshawk was a Naval Air Station in Trinidad.

Sub-Lieutenant Francis Gallichan (25, Southsea) was killed on 30 July 1941. His ship, HMS Furious, was operating in support of Arctic Convoys to Russia, Furious launched an air attack on Petsamo. 11 Fairy Swordfish Biplanes were lost.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Leonard Sanger (22, Copnor) died when HMS Audacity was sunk on 22 December 1941. Audacity was a captured German Mechant ship, converted into the Navy’s first Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier. Operating in defence of an Atlantic Convoy, she was spotted by Kondor aircraft and subsequently torpedoed by U571.

Leading Photographer Sydney Horne (23, Cosham) of HMS Sparrowhawk died on 1 April 1942. HMS Sparrowhawk was a Naval Air Station in the Orkneys. It hosted a number of different aircraft, including Swordfish, Rocs and Avengers.

Leading Airman John Bristow (20, Cosham) was a crew member of HMS Avenger when he died on 4 May 1942, while she was in transit from the US to England, having been acquired as part of the Lend-Lease agreement.

HMS Dasher sank on 27 March 1943. Amon those killed were Air Mechanic 1st Class William Cluett (21, Portsmouth), Chief Petty Officer (Air) George Chaplin (35, Fratton) and Petty Officer (Airman) Albert Young (44, Cosham). Whilst at anchor in the Clyde a fire onboard caused her to explode. An inquiry found that the fire was probably caused by a dropped cigarette.

Sub-Lieutenant Edward Clark (23, Hilsea) was serving in 838 Naval Air Squadron when he was killed on 1 May 1944.

Sub-Lieutenant (Air) Leslie Smith (21, Milton) was onboard HMS Illustrious when he was killed on 11 June 1944. During June 1944 Illustrious was operating in support of US Landings in the Mariana Islands, by launching diversionary air raids on Sabang.

Lieutenant (Air) George Cornish (24 Southsea) of HMS Puncher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 8 June 1945 ‘for gallantry, determination and devotion to duty in carrying out a successful air operation in the face of heavy opposition’, for action on 26 March 1945. In poor weather Puncher launched air attacks on German shipping in Alesund, Norway. Cornishas killed during the attack.

Lieutenant Kenneth Lorimer (22, Southsea) died on 20 March 1947. He was serving at HMS Ferrett, a shore establishment in Derry, Northern Ireland.

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Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, Uncategorized, World War Two

Line-up announced for Navy Days 2010

The Royal Navy’s two newest warships are set to take part in the Royal Navy’s annual showcase this summer, alongside historic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

The first two Type 45 Destroyers, HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, will be open to visitors during Navy Days 2010 in Portsmouth Dockyard, between Friday 30 July and Sunday 1 August. As well as Royal Navy ships a number of vessels from foreign navies are also expected to visit Portsmouth for the event. Other ships on display will include two Type 23 Frigates. A rare visitor will be RFA Argus, a helicopter training and casualty recieving ship. She is one of the only ships in the world to have a CT scanner fitted among her medical facilities. She served in the Falklands war as a civilian ship, before being taken into RFA service.

Captain Paul Lemkes, Deputy Naval Base Commander, said: “Navy Days is a fantastic opportunity for the Royal Navy to be able to show the public, close up, the capabilities it contributes to UK Defence. I am particularly delighted that we are planning to have two Type 45 destroyers on show in their home port so that visitors will be able to see how the Royal Navy is maintaining its place at the forefront of maritime operations with this cutting edge class of warship. I am sure that RFA Argus will be a big hit with visitors too. She is a one-off ship with a very special capability and does not often get the chance to have the public on board.”

As well as ships many other displays are planned. The Royal Navys Black Cats helicopter team, the Royal Signals White Helmets motorcyle display team, the Royal Artillery Black Knights parachute team, the Royal Navy Dive Team and a Field Gun competition are just some of the displays already confirmed, with more expected.

Events such as this are absolutely crucial to the Royal Navy. Now more than ever it is important for the armed forces to work hard to let the general public know what they do. Especially the Royal Navy, who might expect severe cuts in the upcoming Defence Review. While operation commitments are important, it is also important for the Navy to pull out all the stops to put on a first-class show. The RAF, ever publicity savvy, would not miss a chance to showcase itself. It would be really good to see a bigger ‘headline’ act. Fingers crossed!

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Filed under Dockyard, event, Navy

First Light by Geoffrey Wellum

I’ll sat it again, I’m a big fan of the veterans first-hand account. I much prefer reading about the normal guy at the sharp end to hearing about the tit-for-tat arguments between Generals. Even with a fighter pilot, traditionally a well-covered part of the war, there is much to be learnt from personal stories.

Geoffrey Wellum volunteered for the RAF just prior to the Second World War, and this book charts his wartime experiences. From learning to fly in a Tiger Moth, and then a Harvard, Wellum brings alive the dedication and training required to make the grade as a fighter pilot. He was posted to an operational squadron at Biggin Hill at the height of the Battle of Britain. He was thrown pretty much straight into combat, demonstrating just how fast some of the few had to learn. For his efforts Wellum was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Then after a tour as an instructor Wellum took part in the epic Operation Pedestal convoy to reinforce Malta. Transported into the Mediterranean onboard the Aircraft Carrier HMS Furious, Wellum took off just after HMS Eagle was torpedoed. After landing on the besieged island he witnessed the cripplied Tanker Ohio limping into Valetta Harbour.

Wellum writes warmly of the cameraderie of a front line fighter squadon. We are also reminded just how young many of ‘the few’ were. But what really sets this book apart is the way that Wellum describes the rigours of air to air combat. He writes in a manner that brings the emotions, the intensity alive for the reader. He takes you into the cockpit with him. It is quite remarkable that he is able to recall those experiences all these years later.

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Filed under Book of the Week, Royal Air Force, World War Two