Post by Dave Homewood on Nov 11, 2008 10:52:14 GMT 12
On the 21st of August 1941 it was announced in the New Zealand Herald newspaper, quoting Minister of Defence the Hon. Fred Jones, that a new New Zealand torpedo squadron had been formed in the UK.
This was of course No. 489 Squadron which formed on the 12th of August 1941. Jones said the squadron would be "equipped with aircraft of a modern type which had already been proved in numerous successful actions."
Not mentioning the type, the Herald speculated (and published a photo) that the aircraft would be Fairey Swordfish. However the squadron was initially equipped instead with Bristol Beauforts and Blenheims.
It might have been interesting if they had got Swordfish, but I think perhaps the more modern twin engined aircraft must have been preferred by the crews. Do you agree?
It would have been interesting for an RAF(NZ) Squadron to get Swordfish when they were only being used by the Royal Navy at the time. Perhaps that would helped the lean to a more modern type. I certainly would have raised my eyebrows at getting a biplane when 75 Squadron had Wellingtons!! ( No disrespect to any Swordfish drivers reading this!! ;D) So short answer................yes I agree!
Post by Dave Homewood on Nov 11, 2008 17:28:58 GMT 12
I guess considering many of the pilots and other crew would have learned to fly on the Vildebeest and Vincent there wouldn't have been much change for them. The Swordfish was practically the same as a V-bomber.
The Swordfish was a beautiful aeroplane to fly, and it had a few firsts. The Royal Navy Historic Flight has several still flying and I had my time as one of the "lucky bastards" who got to do it. Did you know it had airborne radar before anything else? Having said that, by 1941 the Swordfish should not have been mistaken for a "modern type" although it had been "proved in numerous successful actions."
Post by Dave Homewood on Nov 11, 2008 20:42:49 GMT 12
How good was the Beaufort's record in comparison to the Swordfish at that time? You don't hear a lot about what the Beaufort did, it is somewhat eclipsed by the Blenheim (which 489 Sqn also got issued some of) and the Beaufighter (which they got later on).
Oldnavy, When did the Swordfish get the radar fitted? Was that in experimental test flying or first in operational usage?
Not experimental by any means. It was fully operational, but kept very secret. Speaking to some of the Men of Taranto and other good old boys a few decades ago (doesn't time fly?) and they have some amazing stories to tell. If you remember the Swordfish attacks on Bismark, the first wave of Swordfish struck an RN Cruiser (luckily missing) by mistake before carrying on to Bismark. The weather was very poor, but the position was nearly right...as you would expect for the cruiser marking the target. The impression I have is that the attacks were performed using radar. Happy to be corrected.
NB: the Swordfish sunk more tonnage of enemy shipping than any other aircraft type, with most success on night operations in the Med, and they played a big part in the Arctic convoys. The other great feat of the bravery of the Swordfish crews was the opposition to the Channel Dash (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen) where Lt Cdr Eugene Esmond won the VC leading his squadron in to attack without any top cover.
"A Fairey Swordfish Mk.III with ASV Mk.XI radar between its wheel legs, dipole arrays on its wings struts, and rocket launching rails under the wings." & "The Swordfish was extremely easy to fly and easy to land on a carrier deck, a quality that would become very important for night operations on the small decks of escort carriers. Although the Swordfish was stable around all axes, it could make remarkably short turns. It could also be dived vertically to very close to the sea surface, and then make an abrupt pull-out. Very little speed built up in the dive. Therefore the Swordfish was not necessarily an easy prey for a fighter, but it was during the long, slow and straight run that was required to launch a torpedo." & "The Swordfish was now equipped with ASV radar and rocket projectiles for anti-submarine operations. The Swordfish Mk.II had wings with metal-skinned undersides and launching rails for eight 60lb rockets. The provision for a float undercarriage was deleted, and the more powerful Pegasus 30 engine installed. The Mk.III had ASV Mk.XI radar in a big radome between the landing gear legs. This radar had a range of about 40km against ships, and in good conditions also against U-boats; but it would detect a Schnorkel only in very calm seas and at distances below 8km. Some Mk.IIs and many Mk.IIIs became Mk.IVs when a cockpit canopy was installed." ____________________________
"The Swordfish had been equipped with ASV radar as early as October 1940, to help it hunt down German U-boats cruising on the surface. Two months later, on 21 December 1941, a Swordfish operating from Gibraltar was the first aircraft to sink a submarine at night. A year and a half later, on 23 May 1943, a Swordfish was the first aircraft to prove the effectiveness of rockets in antisubmarine warfare when one Stringbag sunk the U-752 off the coast of Ireland, even though the U-boat put up a strong defense with its quadruple 20 millimeter flak guns."
He is that old, apparently, and sometime this month will be even older.
Strange that you should mention his age, actually, I plan to surprise him with a groovy birthday present.
After all, one can't enter one's 13th decade without appropriate accoutrements.
Namely, he needs a spiffy new Zimmer frame, and I've narrowed my choice to these three beauties, all designed for the ancient birdie.
Made from 150-gallon tanks recycled after once-only use as 'emergency night landing gear.' Optional beard trimmer extra.
Relives accidental droppage ("Oopz-a-daisy!") of drop tanks by means of self-spilling, spring-loaded cup holder/ejector tea cup.
Ideal for use when confronting an oldie's wheelchair/Zimmer access ramp in low, low, low-light. Upon hitting, or "striking" the ramp, pressure-activated tyres alerts the user via the handlebars' inbuilt alarm lights and sounds go off. This month only, comes with a bonus coupon for a serve of meatballs at Luigi's Cafe.
So, am still thinking about which model to buy for a birthday surprise for Der FlugAeronavale.
Maybe I'll just settle for a jumbo tin of puree'd Quality Streets.
Having been raised by a toothless bearded hag (Jumpin' Jack Flash) I'll forgo the Quality Sweeties tah.
The third frame Striker 5000 would have to be my choice due to the TRAINING WHEELS. "Wheels on Fire, Rolling down the road" and a free serving of Meatballs - who could ask for more. Please sir. I insist that the frame be made from a single strand of solid TITANIUM however, can't be too careful.
As for my age then 'only my nose knows'. Not pushing up daisies so far. Farm remains unbought.
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2008 19:37:56 GMT 12 by FlyNavy
Post by Dave Homewood on Nov 13, 2008 15:17:05 GMT 12
I find it interesting how large the radome is on that Swordfish, when our Vincents carried ASV and never had a big lump like that.
I'm also curious if anyone knws what the Beaufort's record was like in service by August 1941. Was it well liked? Was it capable? Did it do the job well?
I know that george Gudsell told me that when he flew the Australian built ones in Singapore they were terrible, really poorly built and hated by the crews. He said it probably saved him as his entire Flight of new Beauforts were pulled back to Australia to be rebuilt while the other half of the squadron, still on Vildebeests, were slaughtered when the Japs invaded. I mentioned this on the FlyPast forum and was ridiculed by lots of Aussies who reckoned their Beauforts were fantastic, but I'd rather believe someone who flew them and knew it for real than someone who'd read a book about it, which was probably based on propaganda.
Gunner Les Sayer: Courage Saturday November 15,2008 By John Ingham
A HEROIC Second World War airman who took part in the raids to sink the German warship Bismarck has died aged 93.
Les Sayer flew in a 120mph part-fabric Swordfish biplane which crucially damaged the 50,000-ton vessel, the most feared in the world with eight 15-inch guns.
Mr Sayer was a telegraphist air gunner on the plane flown by Lieutenant Percy Gick when they found the warship in the North Atlantic in May 1941 after Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill had ordered: “Sink the Bismarck”. In a night attack, Gick and Gunner Sayer were the only Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm crew to score a torpedo hit.
Forty-eight hours later another Swordfish jammed Bismarck’s rudder and it was finished off by the Royal Navy.
Last night, Mr Sayer’s widow Valerie, of Wakes Colne, Essex, paid tribute to the former Barnardo’s boy, who died on November 1.
It was not something he would boast about Mr Sayer’s widow Valerie Mrs Sayer said: “It was not something he would boast about. He remembered dropping the torpedo and hitting the Bismarck, causing an oil leak. “But as they pulled away the Bismarck couldn’t hit them with her guns because they were so low, so they were putting shells into the water. One splash caused the fabric to split. So Les sat looking down at water.
Mr Sayer won the Distinguished Service Medal for the mission. After the war he spent more than 30 years in civil aviation and was awarded an MBE.
Last Edit: Nov 19, 2008 23:52:26 GMT 12 by FlyNavy
In relations to Torpedo Bomber Squadrons in the pacific, In early 1942 the RNZAF was in negotiation with the British Aircraft Purchasing board and the RAF to acquire some Beauforts to be used for torpedo bombers. However, as the Australian Beauforts were having difficulties with production and the immediate threat to Australian from the Japanese advance, the RNZAF requirement went on hold. However, some personnel did proceed to Australia for instruction on the art of torpedo dropping. When the Avengers were about to be introduced, discussion again took place on the need for a torpedo bomber (one of the TBF's stated roles) again the need for this had gone as the RNZAF role was well away from the opportunity of attacking any major japanese naval targets in the Solomons
Captain 'Alfie' Sutton was a Fleet Air Arm observer who was the last survivor of the raid against the Italian Navy at Taranto.
Last Updated: 7:00PM GMT 17 Nov 2008
Alfie Sutton , who has died aged 96, was the last survivor of the 42 young naval airmen whose attack in 1940 on the Italian fleet at Taranto, southern Italy, altered the balance of power in the Mediterranean and changed the nature of naval warfare.
As an observer (the Fleet Air Arm equivalent of an RAF navigator), Sutton and his pilot, "Tiffy" Torrens-Spence, flew to Malta from the carrier Illustrious, then picked up reconnaissance photographs of the port, where the entire Italian battle fleet lay.
The first striking force of 12 Swordfish took off at 20:40 on November 11, six carrying torpedoes, four carrying bombs and two illuminating flares. An hour later Sutton and Torrens-Spence set out in Swordfish L5K with the second strike of nine aircraft; each Swordfish carried an overload tank of petrol in the observer's cockpit, displacing the observer to the air gunner's rear seat. The extra petrol enabled the aircraft to remain airborne for five hours, but Sutton was uneasily conscious that his head and back were resting on the tank as the aircraft dropped down to attack.
He recalled that the enemy was well alerted by the previous attack, so that battery after battery of anti-aircraft fire opened up as they followed the coast; from 60 miles away he saw a greenish coloured cone of anti-aircraft fire and searchlights over the port. To deliver a successful torpedo attack the Swordfish had to fly level at a height of less than 150 ft to within 1,000 yards of the target. As the Swordfish went into its screaming, whistling dive he saw the aircraft in front spin away out of control, almost hitting the water, and then felt a terrific jolt when Torrens-Spence pulled out of the dive. With tracer and incendiaries streaming up at them, Torrens-Spence called out, "The one to port is too close. What's that ahead?" "Dead ahead is Littorio," Sutton replied. "Right! I'll take that bastard."
The battleship started to fire, wreathing the aircraft in smoke and making it stink of cordite. When Torrens-Spence let the torpedo go at 700 yards the battleship seemed to fill the horizon, and Sutton thought he could see down the muzzles of the close-range guns. Immediately after the release L5K turned steeply, hit the water, bounced, and staggered between the tethering buoys of two barrage balloons into the air.
Suddenly the aircraft was out of the cauldron of fire, and everything seemed quiet. Taranto was in chaos: the battleship Conte di Cavour was sunk, and the battleships Littorio and Caio Duilio heavily damaged. British losses were two Swordfish, one crew killed and one captured. In one night, the Royal Navy had inflicted more damage on the Italian fleet than it had on the German High Sea Fleet in the daylight action at Jutland in 1916; it also gave the Japanese a model for Pearl Harbor. With others, Sutton and Torrens-Spence were awarded the DSC.
Alan William Frank Sutton, known in the Fleet Air Arm as "Alfie", was born on May 21 1912. His father was killed on the Somme, and Sutton was educated at Christ's Hospital, Sussex, before joining the Navy as a special entry cadet in 1930. He trained for one year in the monitor Erebus at Devonport and then served in the battlecruisers Renown and Repulse and the destroyer Basilisk before specialising as a naval observer in 1937. Before the war he flew in Swordfish in 823 and 825 naval air squadrons in Glorious and Illustrious.
On September 4 1940 Sutton and Torrens-Spence led a dive-bombing raid on Calato airfield in the island of Rhodes, having taken over leadership of the strike after their commanding officer's aircraft suffered an accident on deck. Two months later Sutton was flying with Lieutenant-Commander "Ginger" Hale, who led a torpedo strike against an enemy convoy off Sicily, sinking two merchant ships. Early next day the Swordfish crews took off on a bombing raid over Tripoli. Sutton was twice mentioned in dispatches for these operations.
When Illustrious was bombed by the Germans on January 10 1941 and had to be repaired in Alexandria, the remnants of the squadron operated for several weeks with the Army on the desert front. Next Sutton became naval liaison officer to the RAF in Greece, planning nightly operations by 815 naval air squadron, which flew against Italian shipping in the Adriatic from a hidden airfield in the mountains of Albania.
When their location was betrayed by the unexpected arrival in a Junkers of King Peter of Yugoslavia, who was being hunted by the Germans, Sutton withdrew first to Maleme, Crete, and then, after German paratroopers landed, organised a platoon of sailors and RAF groundcrew to fight alongside the New Zealanders in trying to retake the airfield. Three surviving Swordfish out of 22 flew on to Egypt, while Sutton tramped over the White Mountains to the island's south coast.
At Sphakia, where the defeated Allied forces were being evacuated by the Navy, he appointed himself beachmaster and, after several thousand men had been taken off, got away himself in one of the last boats. He was awarded a Bar to his DSC for his outstanding gallantry, fortitude and resolution. After a few days in hospital for repairs to his feet which, having worn out his shoes, were like "horse's hooves", he quickly returned to duty.
Admiral "ABC" Cunningham was accused of parsimony in his praise for Taranto, but he described Sutton's efforts in Greece and Crete – where he had lived for several weeks on a diet of gin and bully beef, developing the early symptoms of scurvy – as "an example of grand personal courage under the worst possible conditions which stands out brightly in the gloom". As staff officer (air) to the admiral commanding the eastern task force during Operation Torch, Sutton helped plan the taking of Algeria and Morocco from the Vichy French in 1942.
The following January he was air staff officer of 846 squadron, flying Avengers from the escort carrier Ravager in the Battle of the Atlantic. Promoted acting commander a year later, he became operations officer of the fleet carrier Implacable, and prepared the operation when the Fireflys of 1771 squadron located and photographed Tirpitz at Tromsø, in Norway, and made the Fleet Air Arm's last airborne torpedo strike of the war on October 28 1944.
In March 1945 Sutton sailed for the Pacific, where he planned attacks on targets in the Tokyo plain before the war ended.
Immediately afterwards he became second-in-command of HMS Nabcatcher (Kai Tak), the air station at the edge of Hong Kong harbour. After staff appointments he commanded the frigate Bigbury Bay from 1951 to 1953, which included a spell in the Antarctic and as guard ship in the Falkland Islands. He was chief staff officer of the carrier Squadron during Operation Musketeer, the Suez invasion, and finished his naval career as Director of the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich, from 1962 to 1965.
Sutton was aide-de-camp to the Queen in 1964. On retiring, he was a graduate of the Naval Staff College, the Joint Services Staff College and the Imperial Defence College; he was also appointed CBE. In addition he held a unique record in having won the Admiralty's Naval History Prize essay competion in 1939, 1947, 1949 and 1956.
After the Navy Sutton worked for the chemical division of the Distillers Company and then for BP until 1977, when he retired to devote himself to the gardens and woods at his home, Northangar, in Surrey.
Alfie Sutton, who died on November 6, married, in 1940, Peggy Cazeuax de Grange. She survives him with two sons and two daughters; another daughter predeceased him.