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Wildcat V JV384.  882 Squadron, HMS Searcher. Norway May ’44. How would it be marked?


Grey Beema

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I am looking into the aircraft flown by SLt John Arthur Cotching DSC RNVR . 

 

I have already completed the conversion of a Tamiya F4F-4 to a Martlet II to represent AM968/8M, 'A' Flight 806 NAS HMS Indomitable, Operation Pedestal Aug-1942.  Used by SLt JA Cotching† to destroy S.79 and Re.2001 on 12.08.42.

 

51982597597_78850f8e79_z.jpg

 

Now I am building the Hobby Boss Wildcat FM-1 to represent Wildcat V JV384 6*F of 882 Squadron, HMS Searcher May ’44.  Cotching shared in the destruction of 2 x BV138 during Operation Croquet.  I know this aircraft as it is identified in Aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm 1939-1945 .Ray Sturtivant who states:-  JV384 882 Sqn ('6F') from 09.43.  2 x BV138 Shot down in sea shared with other Wildcats, off Vevang 0820 06.05.44 S/Lt JA Cotching.

 

I am tyring to find a picture of the Wildcats aboard HMS Searcher in May that show how the aircraft were marked.  Should the markings be S6F?  SF? '6F', Etc?.

 

HMS Searcher was part of the strike group assigned to Operation Tungsten for the attack on Tirpitz in April ’44.  There were six carriers in total: two fleet carriers; Victorious and Furious and four escort carriers; Emperor, Pursuer Searcher and Fencer

 

My understanding is that when multiple carriers server together the aircraft were to carry the Carrier letter.  I have seen photos in the IWM Photo Collection of Emperor’s aircraft carrying the large ‘E’ and Pursuer’s a large ‘P’

 

mid_000000.jpg?action=e&cat=Photographs HELLCATS OF THE FLEET AIR ARM ATTACK ENEMY SHIPPING. 14 MAY 1944, ON BOARD THE ESCORT CARRIER HMS EMPEROR, OFF NORWAY. HELLCAT FIGHTER BOMBERS FROM THE ESCORT CARRIER HAVE TAKEN PART IN ATTACKS ON ENEMY SHIPPING OFF THE COAST OF NORWAY.. © IWM (A 23781) IWM Non Commercial License

 

but I have not found a photo from Searcher confirming if a large ‘S’ was on the aircraft for this period (but possibly for Jul ’44 in the Med see below).

 

mid_000000.jpg?action=e&cat=Photographs FIGHTERS OVER PURSUER. 20 JULY 1944, ON BOARD THE ESCORT CARRIER HMS SEARCHER IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.. © IWM (A 25042) IWM Non Commercial License

 

mid_000000.jpg?action=e&cat=Photographs FIGHTER AIRCRAFT OF THE ESCORT CARRIER HMS SEARCHER 20 JULY 1944, ON BOARD HMS SEARCHER IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.. © IWM (A 25041) IWM Non Commercial License

 

mid_000000.jpg?action=e&cat=Photographs KEEPING FIT AT SEA. JULY 1944, ON BOARD THE ESCORT CARRIER HMS SEARCHER WHEN THE SHIP'S COMPANY WERE ON DECK FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING.. © IWM (A 24588) IWM Non Commercial License

 

There were two squadrons aboard Searcher 882 and 898.  It was common practice to identify the senior fighter squadron on a carrier with ‘6’ the next ‘7’ etc.  Thus 882 should have been marked ‘6’ and 898 ‘7’.   If I look at photos of Emperor’s aircraft which was 800 and 804 squadrons, the two squadrons seem to be differentiated by white codes for 800 aircraft and red lined white for 804 rather than ‘6’ & ‘7’.  The photo I have seen of Pursuer’s aircraft at this time just seem to have an aircraft ID i.e. no ’6’ or ‘7’. 

 

From the photos of aircraft on Searcher in the Med above  I am thinking that maybe it should be 'SF' on the fuselage and '6F' on the cowling.

 

Given the Sturtivant Identified the aircraft specifically as ‘6F’ does anyone have a photo of 882 Sqn in or about May ’44 to confirm how it was marked?

 

@iang, @EwenS, @Lee Howard any ideas?

 

 

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Another thought occurs to me.  As the two squadrons, 882 and 898 had 20 aircraft between them, were they just lettered A- M = 882 and N-Z 898 thus negating the need to differentiate between the squadrons?

 

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17 hours ago, Grey Beema said:

does anyone have a photo of 882 Sqn in or about May ’44 to confirm how it was marked?

Here's a photo of an 882 Wildcat in August 1944. It's a bit later than what you want. Our feeling was that the anomalous 6 and S marked a transition phase where the codes changed from 6 to S but your alternative explanation is interesting.

https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/235111168-grumman-wildcat-jv368-an-accidental-australian-in-the-faa-arma-hobby-f4f-4-to-fm-1/

I do have some others collected while studying Sherborne's Wildcat.

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As Emperor's aircraft were carrying the carrier identification letter, then it seems more than likely that Searcher's did too.  I say this despite knowing full well that individual FAA units can often be distinguished by their individual approach to official markings.  However, I'm not sure that this would have applied to a closer-operating group such as these escorts.

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3 hours ago, Ed Russell said:

Here's a photo of an 882 Wildcat in August 1944. It's a bit later than what you want. Our feeling was that the anomalous 6 and S marked a transition phase where the codes changed from 6 to S but your alternative explanation is interesting.

https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/235111168-grumman-wildcat-jv368-an-accidental-australian-in-the-faa-arma-hobby-f4f-4-to-fm-1/

I do have some others collected while studying Sherborne's Wildcat.

Thanks Ed - your photo goes int he same direction as my thinking.  I think this is the route I am going to go down  'S o F' on the fuselage and '6F'on the cowling but without the red band.

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8 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

As Emperor's aircraft were carrying the carrier identification letter, then it seems more than likely that Searcher's did too.  I say this despite knowing full well that individual FAA units can often be distinguished by their individual approach to official markings.  However, I'm not sure that this would have applied to a closer-operating group such as these escorts.

The more I think about it the more I agree.  Just because there is an "exception to every rule" doesn't necessarily mean the this is the rule without the exception.  So my thinking is going the same way  'S o F' on the fuselage and '6F'on the cowling.  Time to get the Sellotape out..

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I've quite a few Admiralty photos of individual aircraft from Searcher's air group from March 1944, including: 7C, 7M, 7M, 7L, 6H, 6V and 6J. Several have pasted details to the reverse, so there is no doubt about the date or ship. 

 

The 898 Wildcats are all marked with 7x on the fuselage, repeated on the cowling (in white or Sky - difficult to be sure).

 

The 882 Wildcats are marked as Ed Russell's photo of 6B - that is,  Sx on the fuselage and 6x on the cowling (again - white or Sky) . 6J definitely has a coloured lip to the cowling - possibly red or yellow.  The photo of 6V shows it after going overboard, with it's nose buried in the sea, so the cowling lip colour is unknown. 6H doesn't appear to have a coloured cowling lip (the photo is taken from the front quarter, so this is the one photograph from the series where the fuselage code is not visible ).  I suspect that coloured cowlings  are section ID colours applied locally.  In which case 6F would be the same as 6G and 6H, and 6H was yet to be painted when the photo was taken

 

 

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1 hour ago, iang said:

I've quite a few Admiralty photos of individual aircraft from Searcher's air group from March 1944, including: 7C, 7M, 7M, 7L, 6H, 6V and 6J. Several have pasted details to the reverse, so there is no doubt about the date or ship. 

 

The 898 Wildcats are all marked with 7x on the fuselage, repeated on the cowling (in white or Sky - difficult to be sure).

 

The 882 Wildcats are marked as Ed Russell's photo of 6B - that is,  Sx on the fuselage and 6x on the cowling (again - white or Sky) . 6J definitely has a coloured lip to the cowling - possibly red or yellow.  The photo of 6V shows it after going overboard, with it's nose buried in the sea, so the cowling lip colour is unknown. 6H doesn't appear to have a coloured cowling lip (the photo is taken from the front quarter, so this is the one photograph from the series where the fuselage code is not visible ).  I suspect that coloured cowlings  are section ID colours applied locally.  In which case 6F would be the same as 6G and 6H, and 6H was yet to be painted when the photo was taken

 

 

Ian, that is fabulous thank you so much.

 

Chancing my arm, you wouldn’t have a photo of John Cotching would you?

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38 minutes ago, Grey Beema said:

Ian, that is fabulous thank you so much.

 

Chancing my arm, you wouldn’t have a photo of John Cotching would you?

No, sorry.   I thought I had a photo of 882:6F, but apparently not.

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2 hours ago, Ed Russell said:

Red band for Operation Dragoon. Hellcats of 800 Sqn (Emperor) and VOF-1 (Tulagi) carried the same marking.

 

Possibly if later, but the photo is March 1944.

 

Edit -  Ah, the dangers of quick responses. On reflection you are probably right. The photo of 6J is a wartime Admiralty issue, but unlike most of the others is undated - so it could be Dragoon. This also makes me reconsider whether the codes in March would have been 6x rather than Sx on the fuselage. 7L, 7C, 7M and 6H all have Admiralty press release details pasted to the reverse dated March 1944.  Of these, 6H does not show the fuselage code as noted above. 7H and 6V are modern prints, so the date is not recorded.  Therefore, I have no  image of an 882 Wildcat that shows Sx fuselage codes that I can definitely date to March 1944.  Given that 894 definitely used 7x in March 1944, it may be that 882 used 6x at this time.

 

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I have a photo of JV437 '6M' of 882 NAS (one of the ones that apparently shared the kill on 6.5.44 but I don't yet have the pilot's name - unless @iang has it from one of the combat reports I haven't had chance to intercept at Kew yet) but it's undated, although the a/c was with the unit from 10.43 to 10.44.  Unfortunately the cowling can't be seen, but the number and letter are either side of the fuselage roundel, similar to the RAFM photo on p.237 of the first edition of FAAA39-45 showing JV377 '6C' and others, not together to one side of it. The 882 NAS photos I have for aircraft with S-prefixed codes are all dated from Jan 1945 onwards. 

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Many thanks to @iang, @Ed Russell, @Lee Howard, brilliant information and ironically I started with with the picture on P.237, FAAA39-45 before remarking as 'S*F'.  I have now reverted back to '6*F' with the 6 & F the same height as the red in the roundel.

 

This is what I ended up with - does it look about right?

 

53304472436_8429611fa0_z.jpg

 

53304472431_61402d8cae_z.jpg

 

Regards


 

 

 

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