Jump to content

Blackburn Skua


Bert
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello,

I'm looking for information about the Skua of No. 803 Squadron. In Sept 1939 in South Atlantic, recorded the FFA's first kill in WW2, downing a Do.18.

Any idea on the camouflage, codes and markings?

Thanks all,

-Bert

Edited by Bert
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Photos of 803 on Ark Royal prewar show no camouflage, but camouflage was introduced in May 1939 to be implemented "at earliest convenient time". 800 Sq on the Ark apparently retained overall Aluminium into the first months of the war.

See Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings Atlantic and Mediterranean Theatres 1937-1941 by Stuart Lloyd.

The aircraft is not identified by serial or code in Sturtivant's FAA Aircraft 1939 to 1945.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 26.9.39 Ark Royal launched several fighter patrols to prevent Luftwaffe shadowing, while covering the escape of the damaged British submarine Spearfish from German waters. The British force was 250 miles North West of the North Sea island of Heligoland:

11.00 One section of three 803 Sq Skuas claimed a Do-18 damaged in position 57.36N 02.36E. These were: (codes recorded, serials are not recorded, but taken from other sources, so may be inaccurate)

L2997:A7B Campbell/ Hanson

B? Kindersley / Hurford (recorded as 'B' -possibly 800 sq A6B or an error

L2909:A7K Gardner/ Busby

11.30 Second section of three 803 Sq Skuas forced down a Do-18. This was the first FAA kill of the war.

L2974: A7C MCEwen/ Seymour

L2887: A7F Evans/Cunnigham

: A7M Robertson/Ashby

These serials are from an immediately pre-war IWM film, so may not be accurate for September 26.

12.00 Third section of three 800 Sq Skuas claimed a Do-18 damaged.(serials recorded, codes are not recorded)

L2879: A6? Finch-Noyes/ Cotterill

L2935: A6? Monk /Hall

L2934: A6? Spurway/Thomas. It is possible that this Skua was coded A6H

I believe these three Skuas were likely A6F, A6G and A6H, as I know the serials of A6A, A6B, A6C, A6K, A6L and A6M, which are different from those listed.

Edited by iang
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ian,

This is great stuff. How "immediately pre-war" was the IWM film and were the Skuas camouflaged or still in pre-war silver? I was rather surprised to see silver Skuas aboard Ark in late 1939 in your book so I'm guessing Silver would be an option for Sept 1939 depending on which unit was deployed and when.

Many thanks,
Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark,

The serials come from an IWM film taken in June 1939. These were accelerator trials involving two of Ark Royal's Swordfish and Skua squadrons. The camera was set up opposite the catapult and 803 Squadron filed through (except the CO's aircraft and A7K), providing clear viewing of all the serials. 800 Squadron didn't participate, possibly because they were not yet embarked. 820 Squadron had obliged earlier, though none of the section leaders' aircraft were used.

I think these serials are fairly reliable for 26th September for the aircraft listed by code in the Admiralty Report on the Do-18 kill. The only losses I am aware of among 803 Squadron was the loss of A7K and A7M during the attack on U-30 following the Fanad Head incident on 14 September 1939. As a note of caution, however, Sturtivant lists A7K as L2957 and A7M as L2873. The IWM film does not show A7K, but it does show A7M and it is L2883 not L2873. L2883 has an operational history with 800 Squadron after 14.9.39, so it cannot be a simple transcriptional error. I have a print of A7M from the IWM film, where the serial can be clearly seen (I can't remember whether I used this in the book or not).

As far as I am aware there are no datable images of 803 Squadron between this June 1939 film and the Norwegian campaign. There are plenty of 800 Squadron (only 800 Squadron was embarked as a fighter squadron during Ark Royal's attempt to intercept Graf Spee in the South Atlantic in November/December 1939). All the images of 800 Squadron from this period show uncamouflaged aircraft as does the earlier IWM film of 803 Squadron. I conclude, therefore, that 803 Squadron Skuas were also likely to be uncamouflaged in September 1939, when they operated alonside 800 Squadron on Ark Royal. I would guess that 803 Sqadron Skuas were camouflaged soon after they disembarked for Hatston on October 1 1939.

HTH

IG

Edited by iang
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are plenty of 800 Squadron (only 800 Squadron was embarked as a fighter squadron during Ark Royal's attempt to intercept Graf Spee in the South Atlantic in November/December 1939). All the images of 800 Squadron from this period show uncamouflaged aircraft as does the earlier IWM film of 803 Squadron.

HTH

IG

A question, Sir, regarding 800 Sqdn Skuas in the South Atlantic. Do any of the pictures show the undersurfaces? Is it possible they were painted in the black/white scheme?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are several pictures showing the undersurfaces of 800 Squadron Skuas in autumn 1939. The port wing was black, but starboard was not white but standard pre-war silver finish. The wing tips were in different colours, which I believe were section markings (3 sections of 3 aircraft embarked).

arkroyalskua_zpsfe661973.jpg

Edited by iang
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a note of caution, however, Sturtivant lists A7K as L2957 and A7M as L2873. The IWM film does not show A7K, but it does show A7M and it is L2883 not L2873. L2883 has an operational history with 800 Squadron after 14.9.39, so it cannot be a simple transcriptional error.

Ahhh...the vagaries and illicit pleasures of linking individual serial numbers to aircraft code markings: a task that is, at its core, a virulent form of insanity albeit catalysed by the ever-present temptation of new-found wisdom that all too often is wracked and shredded on the implausibility of incorrect book-keeping, mistaken interpretation of photographs and the omniscient "sods law" decreeing, to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, that even though illogical and out of step with the orderly military mind, sometimes people just did stupid stuff!

Yeah...been there! :banghead:

So "state of the thought" is overall silver with black port underwing and potentially some retention of pre-war section markings. and, since this is Sep '39, no fin flashes.

Now if we could just get clear markings info for the aircraft on the Konigsberg raid...Oops, there I go again. Back to the happy bouncy room for you m'laddo!

Edited by mhaselden
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now if we could just get clear markings info for the aircraft on the Konigsberg raid..

I think they would have looked very similar on April 10th to the photos we have of 803 Squadron's (8)Q: L2991 s/d over Åndalsnes on April 26th

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahhh...the vagaries and illicit pleasures of linking individual serial numbers to aircraft code markings: a task that is, at its core, a virulent form of insanity albeit catalysed by the ever-present temptation of new-found wisdom that all too often is wracked and shredded on the implausibility of incorrect book-keeping, mistaken interpretation of photographs and the omniscient "sods law" decreeing, to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, that even though illogical and out of step with the orderly military mind, sometimes people just did stupid stuff!

What the hell have you bin smokin', eatin' drinkin' !! ??

I'll 'ave double !!

DR

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Somewhere I have a picture taken on board Ark Royal during the hunt for the Graf Spee. It shows Skuas still in their silver finish at that period so we might assume that at least some 803's Skuas, if not all were in that scheme in September 1939.

Martin

PS:I will try and get a picture up when my sick printer/scanner is feeling better.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahhh...the vagaries and illicit pleasures of linking individual serial numbers to aircraft code markings: a task that is, at its core, a virulent form of insanity albeit catalysed by the ever-present temptation of new-found wisdom that all too often is wracked and shredded on the implausibility of incorrect book-keeping, mistaken interpretation of photographs and the omniscient "sods law" decreeing, to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, that even though illogical and out of step with the orderly military mind, sometimes people just did stupid stuff!

Yeah...been there! :banghead:

So "state of the thought" is overall silver with black port underwing and potentially some retention of pre-war section markings. and, since this is Sep '39, no fin flashes.

Now if we could just get clear markings info for the aircraft on the Konigsberg raid...Oops, there I go again. Back to the happy bouncy room for you m'laddo!

The antidisestablishmentarianism present within the whole concept staggers the imagination. Treading the minefield of paint schemes again are we?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 years later...

Raising an old topic here but one which is vexing me at the moment as we try and nail down the second edition of 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'.

 

I have seen the colour photo from cine film which shows aircraft 'Q' with wings folded which some have stated is L2991. However, we have L2991 as 'A' and L2955 as 'Q'. Can someone advise how the aircraft in the cine film has been positively identified as L2991, please, as I remain sceptical.

 

I'd still like to hear from anyone with any suggested amendments to the Skuas (and other types - Gladiators, for instance) from what was printed in the first volume. Mick and I have spent nearly 20 years working on this, both in terms of new research and a huge amount of fact and error checking, and it would seem a waste of effort and counter productive if we unwittingly go to print with errors that others may have identified.

 

Thanks

 

Lee

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi.

 

First a page from catalogue ADM 199/479 held at the National Archives, Kew. Reports and narratives from Operation DX of Norway in April 1940:

ADM-199-479-s.215-26.-April-loss-of-Skua

 

Then a photo of one frame of the film taken after the Skua was brought ashore in Aalesund clearly showing L2991 serial number. 

Skua-L2991-serial-number.jpg

 

Bengt.....

and a happy easter to all.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many thanks. One of the documents I didn't manage to copy when I was last able to get to TNA (a year ago!). I've been trying to go through all such records in a bid to double check and make sure nothing has been missed....which clearly on the first pass it was! Do you happen to have a copy of the whole document (for sharing offline)?

 

Lee

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Lee Howard said:

Many thanks. One of the documents I didn't manage to copy when I was last able to get to TNA (a year ago!). I've been trying to go through all such records in a bid to double check and make sure nothing has been missed....which clearly on the first pass it was! Do you happen to have a copy of the whole document (for sharing offline)?

 

Lee

Yes, these documents are pure gold when researching Fleet Air Arm. I'll send you a PM regarding sharing.

 

Bengt

Bodo/Norway

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/25/2013 at 10:08 PM, Test Graham said:

Photos of 803 on Ark Royal prewar show no camouflage, but camouflage was introduced in May 1939 to be implemented "at earliest convenient time". 800 Sq on the Ark apparently retained overall Aluminium into the first months of the war.

See Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings Atlantic and Mediterranean Theatres 1937-1941 by Stuart Lloyd.

The aircraft is not identified by serial or code in Sturtivant's FAA Aircraft 1939 to 1945.

As the Stuart Lloyd book says, there are no known photographs of 803NAS between the summer of 1939 and April 1940, So we don't know for sure what their aircraft looked like on the day of the kill (26.9.39).  

 

We have the Charles E Brown photos of 803 aircraft sometime shortly after May 1939 when just embarked on Ark Royal wearing the pre-war finish of overall aluminium paint with polished metal spinners, silver fronts to the propeller blades with the rear surfaces painted black. They carried the blue-red-blue carrier band of the Ark's air group with the full letter-number-letter identification code in white (or possibly silver?) over the carrier band. 

 

We also have photos of 800NAS aircraft on Ark Royal, taken in December 1939, still in the pre-war aluminium finish whilst hunting for the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic.  They didn't carry the carrier band, but carried wingtip section markings. At this time, the port wing under-surface was painted black, obliterating the under-wing roundel on that side.  They didn't carry the full letter-number-letter identification code but had single letter aircraft identifier on the fin (I assume because it was the only Skua squadron on board?). Not sure where 803 NAS were at this time.

 

So at the time of the first kill it is presumed the 803NAS aircraft were still in the pre-war aluminium finish but that the blue-red-blue carrier band would have been removed.  It is not know whether they continued to carry the full letter-number-letter identification code (presumably in black?) on the fuselage or followed 800NAS' suit and used a single letter aircraft identifier on the fin.  However, if both squadrons were on the Ark at the time, you would think the squadrons would be marked differently to tell them, apart, possibly a number-letter identification code. 

 

This is of course all conjecture.  Any further thoughts or corrections?

 

Simon

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was bemused by the above document listing planes coded for other sections; red: F and H, and yellow: Q, assigned to blue or third section that early in the war.  Blue section would normally have been K, L, and M,

no?   Maybe it's just me....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is a summary of what I was able to gather from infromation pieced together from many sources, including the first edition of FAA Aircraft 1939-1945. All errors are my own.

 

1.

Initial Skua carrier trials aboard HMS Courageous carried out with: K5179, L2869, L2870, in Autumn 1938.

803 Squadron reformed out of 'B' Flight of No. 800 Squadron on 21 November 1938, while 800 Squadron re-equipped with 9 Osprey Mk. IVs. This unit embarked in the new carrier 'Ark Royal' for her shake-down cruise, returning in March 1939. Meanwhile, between December 1938 and February 1939 initial deliveries of Skuas went to 803 Sqn..

 

2.

With 'Furious' under refit, 'Courageous' temporarily replaced her as the training carrier and deck-landing training was carried out in February 1939, reportedly with three Skuas: L2884, L2898, L2899.

800 Sqn. disembarked its Ospreys to Worthy Down on 24 March 1939 and began re-equipment with Skuas.

In April 1939 No. 801 Squadron, at the time essentially a deck-landing training squadron,  received a few Skuas in addition to its 12 brand-new Sea Gladiators. Whereas the latter carried the blue carrier band of 'Courageous', at least one photo shows an unmarked Skua. However, at the beginning of the month 'Courageous' also entered a refit, temporarily leaving the FAA with no training carrier.

 

3.

Between 30 April and 7 May 1939 803 Squadron was briefly embarked in 'Ark Royal', with full carrier markings of blue-red-blue fuselage band and letter-number-letter codes. On 6 May, several photographs of 803 Squadron Skuas and 820 Squadron Swordfish were taken while the aircraft overflew the 'Empress of Australia' and the escorting ships of the Home Fleet on the start leg of the Royal visit to Canada. A number of pictures of 803 Squadron Skuas overflying the southern coast of England appeared in Flight Magazine, beginning from the 25 May 1939 issue, so they were probably taken in May. At least one section leader (A7F:L2887) carried two blue stripes on the fin.

 

4.

The Royal Navy assumed administrative control of the Fleet Air Arm on 24 May 1939; on that day Worthy Down became a naval station and received the ship name H.M.S. Kestrel. Donibristle, which was home to 801 Squadron, also became a naval station as H.M.S. Merlin, but the unit was renumbered 769 Squadron, in recognition of its deck­-landing training tasks. It retained a mixed complement of Skuas and Sea Gladiators and began operating again from H.M.S. Furious, which left Devonport dockyard on 12th June 1939, reaching Rosyth on the 15th.

 

5.

During the summer of 1939, the Fleet Air Arm demonstrated the Skua in the displays organised for the opening of the Derby and Birmingham Airports on June 17 and July 8 respectively. Existing photos invariably show unmarked aircraft, suggesting that the unit involved was probably 800 Sqn. Probably at the end of June 1939, aircraft of 800 Squadron were also extensively photographed at Lee on Solent (Flight Photographs ?). In this case, it seems that section leaders (L2880, L2879, L2933) sported coloured fins (horizontal black/white stripes, red, blue, respectively). Seemingly, all other aircraft had the up-turned part of the wing tips painted in the corresponding section colours.

The display routine started with a climb to about 15,000ft., after which they made a mock dive-­bombing attack, pulling out at about 2,000ft. This was followed by a converging low attack and a demonstration of carrier landing. Performances of a similar kind were planned in August during Navy Week at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham. However, the Home Fleet moved North at the end of July, in preparation for the imminent war.

 

6.

'Ark Royal' sailed with the Home Fleet from Scapa on the evening of 31st August and the following day 800 and 803 Squadrons began patrolling between the Orkneys and Norway to check for the movements of German naval and merchant units.

 

7.

From October 1st, 1939, No. 803 Sqn. settled at Hatston, while 800 Sqn. stayed on 'Ark Royal' that left for Force 'K' and the South Atlantic. 803 Sqn. operated from Hatston and Wick, providing patrols over shipping off the north-eastern coasts of Great Britain. At some time its complement became 8 Skuas and 4 Rocs (four sections with two Skuas and one Roc each). It may be reasonable to assume that, at this point, its aircraft were camouflaged.

Skuas were also taken on strength by No. 758 Sqn, No. 759 Sqn (Fighter School), No. 774 Sqn (Armament Training) and No. 770 (Deck-landing Training). 759 Sqn. eventually absorbed No. 769 Sqn.

 

8.

No. 801 Sqn. reformed as a front-line unit on 15 January 1940.

No. 806 Sqn. was formed on 1 February 1940.

No. 800 Sqn. returned with 'Ark Royal' on 15 February

 

HTH

 

Claudio

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, expositor said:

I was bemused by the above document listing planes coded for other sections; red: F and H, and yellow: Q, assigned to blue or third section that early in the war.  Blue section would normally have been K, L, and M,

no?   Maybe it's just me....

A couple of days before Ark Royal had lost a few Skuas, that had been forced to ditch through lack of fuel. This may explain some reshuffling.

Lt. Lucy's section always appears to have been referred to as Blue Section, although pre-war practice suggests it should have been Red Section.

 

803 Sqn. sections were usually reported as Green, Blue, Yellow, Red in that order. L2896 took part in the disastrous Trondheim raid and was fished out of a Norwegian fjord years ago. This was the aircraft of 803 Sqn CO (Lts. Casson/Fanshawe taken POW) and colour photos taken on its recovery show that the 'A' code on its fin (over the red-white-blue stripes) was painted in green with a thin black outline.

Black/white photos taken in 1940 of other shot down aircraft suggest 'F' was blue and 'Q' was red, which agrees with section colours above. Both letters F and Q would have partly disappeared against either the blue or thered fin flash stripe and in this case seemingly a thin white line appeared to separate the code letter, only on the relevant colour.

Later photos of 803 Sqn on Ark Royal in the Mediterranean include 'K', quite convincingly in plain yellow.

 

800 Sqn. seems to have always carried single letter codes mid-height on the fin in black, probably introduced shortly before the outbreak of war. In Norway letters remained on the fin even after red-white-blue stripes covering the entire fin were introduced.

Later in the Mediterranean, the single letter was carried on the fuselage and a small '6x' code was painted on the wing leading edges in white, thinly outlined in black. 803 Sqn. carried '7x' in the same position, usually in black sometimes with a thin white outline. Some photos hint at the use of coloured spinner caps by 800 Sqn at this time.

 

Claudio

Edited by ClaudioN
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...