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1837 (1) September 1943 - September 1944
 

Formation and work-up

No. 1837 squadron officially formed in the United States at US Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode island, on September 1st 1943 as a single seater fighter squadron under the command of Lt. Cdr (A) A.J. Sewell DSC RNVR. Initial equipment was 10 Corsair Is. After familiarisation with the aircraft and equipment the squadron began training in earnest to prepare for active service. Training included navigation exercises, low flying, formation flying and combat tactics.

 The first flying incident occurred on the 13th when Sub-Lt G.W. Wiley RNZNVR, crashed landing in Corsair JT144, his engine failed due to a shortage of fuel, The aircraft was a write-off but the pilot was OK. The squadron moved to USNAS Brunswick on October 1st 943 to continue training.

Three days after arriving at Brunswick tragedy struck the squadron, their commanding officer, Lt. Cdr (A) A.J. Sewell DSC RNVR, in JT190, and Lt D.J.F. Watson RNVR, in JT198, were killed in a mid-air collision; They were conducting a formation flying exercise over Yarmouth, Maine, when they collided, the aircraft came down near Pownal, Vermont and burnt out. On the 5th Sub-Lt R.I. Forsyth RNZNVR, had a narrow escape when his aircraft, JT162 went into a spin from which he could not recover, he eventually managed to bale out. The aircraft crashed and the pilot landed OK.

Lt. Cdr R. Pridham-Wippell RN was appointed to take over as commanding officer from October 17th 1943 and training continued.

Sub-Lt Forsyth went on to have another incident on November 10th, this time he was landing on in Corsair JT107 in a cross wind; his Port wing dropped and scraped along the runway causing minor damage. There were only two other incidents during the work-up period, both involving Sub-Lt A.R. Michie RNVR; on November 27th he ran JT191 into a snow drift on his take off run and overturned the aircraft, and on December 18th he retracted the undercarriage of JT115 after safely landing on at Brunswick.

At the start of the New Year the Corsair Is were withdrawn and 14 Corsair IIs were issued in preparation for the squadron departing for the UK. The squadron flew to USNAS Norfolk to carry out a day of Deck Landing Practice (DLP) in Chesapeake Bay on January 8th 1944 (Possibly on HMS BEGUM or USS CHARGER). 1837 and their sister squadron 11838 were to make the voyage to the UK on the escort carrier HMS BEGUM which was making her maiden Atlantic crossing after leaving her builders yard. On completion of their DLP sorties their aircraft were taxied through the streets of Norfolk, wings folded, to the dock side for loading one evening [1].

HMS BEGUM sailed from Norfolk on the afternoon of January 14th, and on arrival at New York on the 16th was moored at the 56th street pier, Brooklyn where she was taken in hand by the Bethlehem Steel company for voyage repairs; the work was completed on the following day. She next embarked more stores and passengers for the crossing to the UK. Also alongside in Brooklyn was the CVE HMS TRUMPETER, she was making her third trip in the ferry role; both carriers left New York on January 18th to join convoy UT.7 for Liverpool. BEGUM was carrying 60 aircraft (36 Corsair and 24 Avenger) 36 of which were lashed on the flight deck, the squadron aircraft were stowed in the hangar deck as these were to be unloaded last. She had 68 tons of stores and 194 service and 45 civilian passengers including a party of school children and their mothers who had been evacuated to Canada earlier in the war and were now returning home to the UK.

The Atlantic crossing was without incident and BEGUM and TRUMPETER Split from the convoy off Oversay Island, Scotland on Friday January 28th and anchored in Liverpool Bay the following day. The passengers, stores and 36 airframes were disembarked during the weekend, leaving only the aircraft of the two operational squadrons on board. BEGUM sailed for the Clyde on Monday January 31st and anchored in Rothesay Bay on February 1st. While on route to Rothesay Bay 1837 & 1838 squadrons disembarked, 1837 departing for RNAS Burscough, Lancashire.

 Corsair JT333 was damaged while taxiing on the flight deck in preparation to disembark, the tailplane swung into the propeller of a stationary aircraft causing damage to both. The pilot, Sub-Lt H.A.l. Lamb RNVR was unhurt. The following day Sub-Lt A.R. Michie RNVR, damaged Corsair JT309when he landed at RNAS Burscough with the tail wheel retracted.

 After a brief stay at Burscough, both squadrons took leave before embarking for Ceylon in HMS ATHELING on February 26th 1944. On February 28th 1837 became part of the 6th Naval Fighter Wing; no other squadron was allocated before it was disbanded in August. They disembarked to the R.N. Air Section at R.A.F. Minneriya on April 13th.  

 

Operations with the Eastern Fleet, April – September 1944

 The squadron was to spend the next three months conducting flying training in Ceylon, embarking briefly in the Maintenance Carrier UNICORN on June 5th for two days of Deck Landing Training (DLT). During this period ashore there were four recorded flying incidents; on April 28th Lt R.D.B. Hopkins RNVR, while flying in Corsair JT278 from R.N. Air Section China Bay had to make an emergency landing after his starboard engine cowling broke off in flight. On May 1st Sub-Lt R. Forsyth RNZNVR, made a barrier crash carrying out DLP in Corsair JT239 aboard UNICORN, Sub-Lt D Holland RNZNVR made a heavy landing at Minneriya in JT250 on May 5th, while Sub-Lt G.W. Wiley RNZNVR, crashed on landing in Corsair JT311 at Minneriya on June 1st. the aircraft overturned but the pilot was OK.

Operation PEDAL

On June 19th the squadron embarked in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS in order to bolster the carrier’s fighter strength for attacks on the harbour and Japanese military facilities of Port Blair in the Andaman Islands during Operation PEDAL. ILLUSTRIOUS was to embark a record 57 aircraft for this strike; 15 Barracudas, 9 from 810 squadron and 6 from 847, with 42 Corsairs (14 each) from 1830 & 1833, (15th Naval Fighter Wing) and 1837 squadron.

Task Force 60 comprised of the Fleet Carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, Battle-Cruiser RENOWN, light cruisers CEYLON, KENYA and NIGERIA, and destroyers QUALITY, QUICKMATCH, QUILLIAM, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RELENTLESS, ROEBUCK and Rotherham, and submarines CLYDE and TANTIVY for air/sea rescue. The ships departed Trincomalee in Ceylon on 19 June. At 0530 on June 21st a strike force of 15 Barracudas, escorted by 16 Corsairs took off from the launch position about 95 miles west of Port Blair; A further 8 Corsairs were launched to establish Combat Air Patrols above the task force itself. The weather over the Andaman Islands was poor, and the Barracudas found it hard to locate their targets.

At the height of the operation, ILLUSTRIOUS had 53 of her 57 aircraft airborne. It took an hour to recover all aircraft successfully. The Barracudas were tasked with bombing harbour facilities and faced stiff anti-aircraft fire as they dove through scattered rainstorms over their targets. Another force of Corsairs were tasking with strafing targets; Half of them to strafe shipping, a seaplane base, a sawmill, and a headquarters building. The other half were sent to attack nearby airfields. No Japanese fighter opposition was encountered, but a handful of Japanese aircraft were claimed as destroyed on the ground.

The mission was deemed a moderate success: Two Barracudas had to return before dropping their bombs with engine failure, one Barracuda was shot down over Port Blair while a damaged Corsair managed to struggle back over the coast for its pilot to be rescued from the water. The Force withdrew later that day and arrived back at Trincomalee on the 22nd. 1837 disembarked to RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 23rd. Operation CRIMSON 1837 returned to R.N. Air Section Minneriya on June 26th but this was to be a short stay before re-embarking in ILLUSTRIOUS on July 8th for a strike against targets at Sabang, Sumatra.


Operation CRIMSON

This operation involved a naval bombardment and aerial strikes on Japanese airfields in the Indonesian cities of Sabang, Lhoknga and Kutaraja on the Island of Sumatra with carrier aircraft suppressing the airfields and providing air cover for the bombarding force. force 62 comprised of the Carriers VICTORIOUS and ILLUSTRIOUS, battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, RENOWN, and the French battleship RICHELIEU, Cruisers CEYLON, CUMBERLAND, GAMBIA, NIGERIA, PHOEBE, and TROMP, with Destroyers QUALITY, QUICKMATCH, QUILLIAM, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROCKET, ROEBUCK, and ROTHERHAM, supported by submarines TEMPLAR and TANTALUS.

ILLUSTRIOUS retained the same57 aircraft for this strike as for the earlier operation PEDAL; ; the 15 Barracudas, were all from 810 squadron (847 had been absorbed by 810 at the end of June), and 42 Corsairs. VICTORIOUS only embarked 39 Corsair fighters, 1834, 1836 and 1838 squadrons (1838 had 11 aircraft).

The carriers launched their first strike aircraft from a position 35 miles north of Sabang before dawn, at 0530 on the morning of July 25th. ILLUSTRIOUS launched 18 Corsairs, while Victorious sent up 16. Eight from each carrier was tasked with attacking Sabang airfield (RAMROD). Two from Illustrious were sent to attack a radar/radio station. The remainder were to form a CAP over the bombardment ships.

The launch had been planned for pre-dawn to allow the strike sorties to approach out of the dawn, but this was delayed because the fight deck parties struggled to range the aircraft in the darkness. Launch was 5 minutes late and further delay came when the strike groups attempted to assemble before setting off for the coast. 1838 squadron’s aircraft set out on the wrong course, and struggled to locate its target in the darkness using old maps. Errors in the planning soon became apparent; it was still dark as the RAMROD aircraft struck at 0600 and straffed their targets, the airfields of Sabang, Lho Nga and Kotaraj; they faced intense anti-aircraft fire and targets were difficult to identify in the pre-dawn light. Nevertheless, two Japanese aircraft were claimed destroyed, and two damaged, on the ground. One damaged Corsair limped over the coast and out to sea where the pilot was rescued. Aircraft then acted as bombardment spotters for the Battleships which commenced fire at 0655. Two small ships were sunk, oil facilities were set alight and harbour infrastructure destroyed. The force withdrew at 0930, and two Japanese aircraft tried to shadow, but both were intercepted and shot down. Four of ILLUSTRIOUS' 1833 squadron Corsairs, JT207, JT282, JT284, and JT297 also claimed a Ki-21 'Sally' shot down into the sea and exploded 20 miles West of Sabang, at 0930. Later that afternoon a group of 10 A6M ‘Zero’ or Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ fighters was detected on radar 50 miles out, approaching the Force. They were engaged by a group of 13 Corsairs. Sub-Lt F.B. Hoffer RNZNVR and Sub-Lt FG.L. Morgan RCNVR, from 1838, each shot down one ‘Zero’. Two others were damaged in the exchange. Two of 1837s’ aircraft were involved in the aerial combat, both being flown by pilots from 1830 squadron, Lt P.S. Cole in ’7F’ engaged 2 A6Ms at 1805, one pulled up in a steep climb and was lost to view, the other crashed into the sea with its tail missing, Sub-Lt H.D. Whelpton in ‘7K’ claimed an A6M shot down into the sea at 1815. The Force arrived back at Ceylon on July 27th and 1837 flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse.


The 47th Naval Fighter Wing and Operation BANQUET

At the begining of August 1944 1837 squadron became part of the 47th Naval Fighter Wing, joining 1834 and 1836. The squadron embarked in the Fleet Carrier VICTORIOUS on August 14th 1944 in preparation for strikes against Padang airfield, Emmehaven harbour and the Indaroeng Cement Works. [2] This was also Intended as a diversion during US operations at Hollandia in New Guinea and to provide air-sea rescue facilities during US air attacks on NW Sumatra on the 23rf (Operation BOOMERANG).)

Task Force 64, which comprised of Fleet Carriers INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS, Battleship HOWE, Cruisers CEYLON and KENYA, with Destroyers RAPID, RAIDER, REDOUBT, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and ROTHERHAM, left Trincomalee on August 18th. By 0550, August 24, the Force was at its launch position. The sky was clear and the seas were slight but there was nearly no wind at just six knots. The carriers had to steam at 27 knots to generate enough wind-over deck to get their aircraft airborne. Each carrier launched 10 Barracudas, each carrying 500lbs of bombs. Escorting this strike force were 19 Corsairs from Victorious. At 07.10, a second strike wave was launched. This time it was made up of nine Barracudas from INDOMITABLE and three from VICTORIOUS. The escort was 12 Corsairs, again from VICTORIOUS.

The aircraft arrived over Emmahaven and Padang to discover the ports largely abandoned. The Barracudas nevertheless carried out their strike and one Corsair was lost to light anti-aircraft fire. Two ships totalling 6000tons were claimed as damaged. The Indaroeng cement works strike was successful; it was put out of action for two months. 1837 had at least 3 aircraft involved in this operation (others may have flown CAP); JT330flown by Sub-Lt J.B. Page RMVR, struck the rounddown landing on, JT433 flown by Sub-Lt G.W. Wiley RNZNVR made a heavy landing and twisted its fuselage. Sadly Sub-Lt T.A. Cutler was killed when his aircraft Corsair JT322 crashed into the sea during the Padang strike, probably hit by flak. He had only recently joined the squadron and was the only member of 1837 to be killed in action.

The Force arrived back at Trincomalee on August 27th, 1837 flew ashore to RNAS Colombo Racecourse on the 28th. This was their last action as a squadron; a reorganisation of resources saw the squadron disbanded on September 9th 1944, the aircraft and aircrew being absorbed into 1834 and 1836 to enlarge them.


 


 

 

1837 (2) July - August 1945
 

Formation and work-up

No.1837 reformed as a single seater fighter squadron on July 1st 1945 at RNAS Eglinton, Lt. Cdr (A) R. Tebble RNVR, in command. They were equipped with 22 Corsair Ils, 18 of these were inherited from No.1835 Squadron which was re-equipping with Mk. IVs. 1837 was earmarked for the 4th Carrier Air Group in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS with the British Pacific Fleet.

Ten days after the squadron formed at Eglinton one of its pilots had a spectacular crash on landing; Sub-Lt A.M. Black RNVR, in Corsair JS496 (‘H’) the aircraft overshot, cartwheeled on its port wingtip, tearing off the engine and propeller. The pilot was OK. The squadron moved to RNAS Nutts Corner on July 31st 1945 to continue training.

Tragedy struck on August 8th when Sub-Lt I MacAllister was killed shortly after take-off from Nutts Corner; flying in Corsair JS593, ('R'), he attempted to return to the station after smoke began pouring from the engine but the aircraft dove into the ground and burst into flames, South West of Nutts Corner, 1mile South West of Dundrod. On the 9th Sub-Lt N.E. Phillips RNVR, bounced landing on in JSS40 and the Port wing tip struck the ground. Lt A.W. Watson RNVR made a forced landing at Mullaghmore on August 13th after his aircraft, JS812, developed engine trouble.

With the end of hostilities on August 15th 1945 the squadron was no longer required, and it disbanded at Nutts Corner on August 18th, its aircraft going to No.1 Naval Air Fighter School at Yeovilton.

 


 


Notes:

 [1] The date of January 19th is given for the 1837 & 1838 squadrons embarking in BEGUM but this must be an error- the ship had sailed from New York in convoy UT.7 on the 18th. The ship was also carrying 36 American aircraft as a ferry load which would have been embarked at Norfolk Naval Operating Base. Usual practice was to load the squadron aircraft first and to stow them in the hangar, then load the preserved airframes for delivery as deck cargo. On arrival at New York BEGUM was carrying 60 aircraft (24 squadron Corsairs, plus 12 Corsairs and 24 Avengers as deck cargo). It is therefore assumed that the date of loading was sometime between February 9th and 13th 1944.


[2] 1837 squadron is listed as embarking in VICTORIOUS (Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994)) and individual aircraft records reflect participation in operation BANQUET (Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995)). In other commentaries on this operation (Brown, D. (1974)), 1837 is not mentioned and the Air Group is recorded as totalling 49 aircraft, 28 Corsairs (1834 & 1836) and 21 Barracudas (822). This is obviously an error, 822 did not embark in VICTORIOUS until September 11th for operation LIGHT (Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994)). The correct Air Group should read 831 (21 Barracudas), 1834, 1836 & 1837 (Corsairs,; number embarked unknown, but less than maximum strength as the carrier could not accommodate 42 in addition to the 21 Barracudas).



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Content revised: 23 November 2016

 

Sources used in compiling this account:

Brown, D. (1974) 'Carrier Operations in World War 2 - vol 1 the Royal Navy' Shepperton, Ian Allen Ltd.

Smith, P.C., (12001) 'Task Force 57: The British Pacific Fleet, 1944 - 45' Bristol, Crecy Books

Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)

Winton, J. (1969) 'The forgotten Fleet', London, Michael Joseph Ltd.

 

On-line archive Fold3.com various documents including;

Admiralty War Diaries

Norfolk Navy Yard War Diaries

Mew York Navy Yard War Diaries

Miscellaneous documents

 

 

 

 

 

 

No badge issed

 

 

 

Battle Honours

 

Sabang 1944

 

Aircraft Types

 

Corsair Mk. I Seep 43 - Jan 44

Corsair Mk. II Jan - Sep 44

Corsair III Jul - Aug 45

 

 

Commanding Officers

 

Lt. Cdr (A) A.J. Sewell DSC RNVR 1 Sep 1943

Lt. Cdr R. Pridham-Wippell RN 17 Oct 1943

Squadron disbanded 9 Sep 1944

 

Lt. Cdr (A) R. Tebble RNVR 1 Jul 1945

Squadron disbanded 18 Aug 1945

 

 

Aircrew and Squadron Personnel

 

Click here

 

 

 

 

 © 2016 Tony Drury www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk


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