Monday, 12 May 2003

HMS Battler - Report on working up - 808 Squadron and 835 Squadron

From……….Lieut. Commander (Flying)
Date………..12th May 1943
To………….Commanding Officer, HMS Battler

SUBJECT: Report on Working Up (including Admiralty Trials) 6th April 1943 to 6th May 1943

Submitted:

Admiralty officers embarked on 6th April. On that day three successful accelerator launches with a dead load were carried out. April 7th was unsuitable for flying owing to a gale. 808 Squadron and 835 Squadron stores and personnel were embarked. Admiralty flying trials took place on 8th and 9th April. The accelerator and arrester were passed as satisfactory.

On 10th April 835 Squadron, 6 Swordfish, embarked and also two Seafires and four Spitfires of 808 Squadron, the latter for deck landing practice as only the Squadron Commander had previous landing experience on the type. Nine other pilots of 808 Squadron had previously only done four landings each in Fulmers.

808 Squadron

From the outset trouble was experienced when landing on Seafires. On a number of occasions the aircraft was fully arrested with it’s tail well up. The tail then dropped vertically and resulted in wrinkles appearing in the stressed skin of the fuselage. On 14th April when 5 aircraft had been affected in this manner (one only slightly) it was decided to discontinue deck landing with Seafires and a report made to Admiralty.

On 18th April Admiralty officers embarked and during trials on 18th and 19th April new arrester gear settings were tried and found satisfactory except that the barriers could not be used, and Admiralty permission to continue was received on 20th April.

As the majority of the pilots had now not flown for fourteen days approval was obtained to disembark them to Machrihanish for flying practice and ADDL’s. This was done on 21st April. From this date until May 6th Fighter Direction and R/T Exercises were carried out and ten pilots in the squadron completed a minimum of four deck landings. The latter proved to be a slow process. It was considered necessary to have a minimum wind speed over the deck of 25 knots for initial DLP and this could not be achieved on three days, when Swordfish were operating successfully. The lack of sea room in the exercise area also contributed, owing to the short time that could be spent steaming into the wind.

808 Squadron flew 34 hours from the ship (100 hours from Machrihanish) and carried out a total of 109 landings. Of these, apart from wrinkled fuselages sustained after otherwise normal landings, seven resulted in minor damage which was repaired on board, and four in major damage repairable ashore.

Barriers have not yet been used when landing Seafires and settings allowed in Admiralty message timed 290332B have not been used as it was considered essential to use settings which are known to be satisfactory until pilots are more experienced. Barriers will have to be used under operational conditions, unless the number of aircraft is reduced, as two Seafires have to be carried permanently on deck.

It is considered that another fortnight will be required to complete the working up of 808 Squadron and fighter direction personnel.

835 Squadron

The squadron was increased from 6 to 9 aircraft during exercises. This caused a certain amount of dislocation as new crews had to be given landing training, and other training such as anti-submarine ASV etc The rest of the squadron had done their working up period ashore.

One day and one night ALT were carried out with their full complement of aircraft. Working up has mainly been landing practice and anti-submarine training, including navigation exercises, live dropping, attacks on towed target, ASV etc, and night flying. All pilots except two newly joined have been qualified in night deck landing on dark nights.

Except as regards new crews in certain particulars, the squadron is considered fully worked up for operations from an escort carrier and to have reached a very satisfactory standard of efficiency.

835 Squadron flew 147 hours from the ship by day, and 35 hours by night and carried out a total of 174 day amd 66 night deck landings. Of these one night landing resulted in major damage, the airframe being recommended for write off. No damage was sustained in any other landing.

Major RM, Lieut. Commander (Flying)

Notes:

No undue difficulty was experienced in manoeuvring aircraft in the hangar in spite of the sloping deck and congestion with the full complement of aircraft unbanked and this is expected to be the case in any condition of sea which permits of flying.

The necessity for always refuelling on the flight deck until the petrol system is altered has been a considerable handicap, especially in the case of Seafires when the barriers are not in use as they then have to be ramped specially for refuelling and all flying operations must cease.

Maintainance of aircraft was made difficult due to the large number of spares and stores items allowed by BB 378, 378A and J not having yet been supplied.

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