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May 1944 - December 1945
 

Formation and work-up

1843 squadron officially formed in the United States at US Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine on May 1st 1944 as a single seat fighter squadron under the command of Lt. Cdr (A) D.K. Evans, RNZNVR. Initial equipment was 18 Corsair IIIs. 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 squadron briefly moving to US Naval Auxiliary Airfield Bar Harbour, Maine on June 5th for four days of Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) training. There were very few accidents during the three months at Brunswick; the first occurred on May 6th when Sub-Lt. B Willman RNVR, while taxing with folded wings in Corsair JS715 his tailplane struck the mainplane stub of an adjacent aircraft. Four days later the same pilot retracted the undercarriage of Corsair JS667 while taxing. On May 15th Sub-Lt. H Colgate RNVR scraped his Port wing tip on the ground while landing on in Corsair JS665. Sub-Lt. MJ Rouse RNVR narrowly avoided a serious incident on June 1st while on a low flying exercise in Corsair JS665, the Starboard intercooler hit a tree but the aircraft manage to land on safely. Finally, on June 26th Corsair JS657 flown by Sub-Lt. H Colgate was tipped on its nose by the prop wash from another aircraft while taxying for take-off, causing the prop to peck the ground.

On completion of working up at USNAS Brunswick the squadron was re-equipped with 18 Corsair IIs in late July 1944; with these they flew to US Naval Air Station Floyd Benet Field, Brooklyn, New York. Here the R.N. Air Section present on the station prepared them for embarking in the Escort Carrier HMS TROUNCER which was undergoing voyage repairs alongside at the 35th Street Pier, Brooklyn, 11 miles away. The aircraft were towed through the streets and hoisted aboard on August 2nd.

On completion of her repairs TROUNCER sailed from New York on August 11th as part of convoy CU.35 bound for the UK. The ship arrived at Liverpool on the 22nd. [1] After being disembarked the squadron arrived at RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland on August 24th.

 

RNAS Eglinton and the 10th Naval Fighter Wing

Training intensified once the squadron was established at Eglinton. On September 20th Lt. Cdr D.F.V. Davis RCNVR, temporarily assumed command. This training was to have a heavy toll for the squadron pilots with two killed in air crashes during October. On October 2nd while on local section formation drill Sub-Lt, U. Baker RNVR, in Corsair JT471, dove out of cloud into Lough Foyle 10 miles North-East of Eglinton and was killed on impact. On the 9th Sub-Lt C.H. Schweager RCNVR flying in Corsair JT693 suffered an engine failure and had to make a forced landing at Baliykelly, the aircraft was written off but the pilot was OK. The following day the second fatality occurred when Sub-Lt RJ McHaffne in Corsair JT479 dove out of cloud into the sea 5½ miles off shore.

On October 14th 1944 No. 1843 received a new commanding Officer, Major P.P. Nelson-Gracie RM , and together with 1845 squadron formed the 10th Naval Fighter Wing at Eglinton; 1843 was earmarked for the escort carrier HMS ARBITER and 1945 for HMS SLINGER, both for service with the British Pacific Fleet.

The squadron moved to RNAS Ayr on October 23rd, returning to Eglinton on December 15th; there are no accidents recorded during this period. A detachment of 8 aircraft undertook Deck Landing Training (DLT) on the escort carrier PATROLLER between December 21st & 23rd before Christmas and embarkation leave was granted.
 

Preparations to Join HMS ARBITER

On return from leave flying training resumed in preparation for joining the escort carrier ARBITER. There were five more flying incidents, including one fatality; on January 2nd Corsair JT629, piloted by Sub-Lt W. Noble RNVR, flew into a flock of crows on low level Tactical interception exercise, pilot and aircraft landed safely. On the 14th Sub-Lt E. Barker RNVR, taxiing for take-off in Corsair JT651 was involved in a ground collision when a wing hit a lorry waiting to cross the runway. Corsair JT692 crashed while on a test flight on January 18th, the aircraft came down 3 miles East of Ballymoney, 10 miles North-East of RAF Muilagbmore, the pilot, Sub-Lt P.S. Ross RNVR, was killed. On the 28th Corsair JT602 experienced engine problems and eventually it failed; Sub-Lt L J.R. Ferguson RCNVR, managed to glide it to earth and landed wheels down but failed to brake and ran off the end of the runway at Eglinton into a cow shed. Finally, on January 30th the drop-tank fell off JT669 while Sub-Lt C.H. Sehweager RCNVR was taxying on the runway, damaging the aircraft fuselage.

At the start of February 1945 the squadron began re-equipping again, this time receiving Corsair Mk. IV aircraft and an increase in squadron strength to 24. Two of these new aircraft were slightly damaged on February 13th when the squadron prepared to depart for RNAS Belfast, KD578 (Sub-Lt G.V. Thomnas RNVR) was taxied into by KD602 (pilot un-named). The squadron flew out from RNAS Belfast to embark in HMS ARBITER on Valentine’s Day 1945 to begin a flying program to work-up with the ship in preparation for passage to Australia.

The squadron suffered the first of three flying accidents after only four days of training while the ship was steaming off Cumbrae light in the firth of Clyde. On Sunday, February 18th Sub-Lt D.J. Scarrott RNVR was killed when his Corsair, KD582, turned sharply on take-off and dove into the sea; an elevator had been damaged by the prop of another aircraft while running up on the flight deck. This was spotted prior to take off but too late to abort the launch. The same prop damage was inflicted on KD599 piloted by Sub-Lt Ingram RNVR, but he was able to abort his launch. The third incident involved Sub-Lt. M.J. Rouse RNVR, who caught the last arrestor wire and put his Corsair, KD594 into the number 3 barrier. The squadron suffered a total of 17 incidents during its association with ARBITER, mostly barrier crashes. Two of the most spectacular (and photographed) incidents involved Sub-Lt B.G. Appleton RNVR, who managed to put an aircraft into each of the flight deck catwalks; on February 22nd while landing in KD611 he caught number 4 wire and drifted sharply to port, the port undercarriage leg running into the walkway where the aircraft became firmly stuck. On March 22nd he lost sight of the Deck Landing Control Officer and flew KD607 into the starboard walkway, the aircraft fell overboard, removing an anti-aircraft gun mounting as it went, the pilot was OK.

 

On Passage: Greenock to Colombo March 1st – May 1st 1945

HMS ARBITER sailed from the Clyde on March 1st bound for Australia. The ship’s first port of call was Gibraltar on the 9th where ARBITER stored ship before transiting the Mediterranean, for Port Said where she arrived on March 18th. After mooring at E3 berth overnight and having refuelled ARBITER proceeded through the Suez Canal. After a stop at Port Suez on the southern end of the canal ARBITER made for Bombay, calling at Aden to take on more fuel, arriving at Bombay on March 28th. The next leg took ARBITER to Colombo on the west coast of Ceylon; she entered Colombo harbour on Sunday April 1st.

ARBITER weighed anchor on April 3rd and disembarked the aircraft of 1843 to the RN Air Station at Colombo Racecourse the next day before taking passage for a round trip to Cochin, S. India to collect replacement airframes, and stores not available in Australia, The ship arrived back in Ceylon on the 8th, this time at Trincomalee on the east side of the island. The squadron remained ashore at Colombo until April 13th before re-joining the ship at Trincomalee. From Trincomalee the ship made a non-stop voyage to Sydney, Australia; the traditional ‘Crossing the line’ ceremony was observed in the Indian Ocean as they crossed the equator.

1843 squadron was flown off to RNAS Schofields, on the outskirts of Sydney on May 2nd 1945 before ARBITER entered Sydney Harbour and secured alongside number 4 berth at Woolloomooloo. During the launch of the squadron Corsairs, KD598 piloted by Sub-Lt G.V. Thomas RNVR, rolled backwards and one wing was struck by the prop of another aircraft on deck. The personnel and stores of 1843 squadron were then off loaded at Woolloomooloo and transported to RNAS Schofields as the ship prepared for its first operational voyage as part of the of the British Pacific Fleet.

 

Operations with the British Pacific Fleet, a voyage to the Admiralty Islands: May - June 1945

Once established at Schofields flying training continued; on May 12th Sub-Lt E. Barker RNVR, had a lucky escape when his aircraft, KD588 suffered an explosion caused by the residue of petrol after being refuelled, and on the 14th Sub-Lt M.J. Rouse RNVR, in Corsair KD601 wrote of his aircraft when he selected the dive brake instead of the undercarriage. The majority of the squadron was to re-embark in ARBITER for a voyage to the Admiralty Islands; of those remaining at Schofields Sub-Lt K.E. Vogan RNVR, was killed on May 30th when his aircraft failed to pull out of a vertical dive and crashed into a hillside near RAAF Menangle.

On the morning of May 20th a detachment of 1843 squadron re-joined ARBITER as she finalised loading before sailing for the Admiralty Islands. Squadron maintenance personnel and equipment was embarked while their aircraft were hoisted aboard and stowed in the hangar; there was to be no flying on the outward voyage because all available space was filled with stores and equipment for ferrying north.

ARBITER was to operate as a ferry and replenishment carrier but she also embarked half of Maintenance, Storage & Reserve Unit No.5 (M.S.R.5) in order to service and maintain a stock of spare aircraft afloat as part of the Forward Aircraft Poll (F.A.P.). The other half was embarked in the escort carrier CHASER with the same purpose. M.S.R.5 was embarked on May 15th along with spare aircraft which were loaded for transport to the forward base at Ponam in the Admiralty Islands. Also embarked for ferrying to the RNAS Ponam were the personnel and equipment of M.S.R. 6 which embarked on the 18th: this unit was to be attached to HMS NABARON, Mobile Naval Air Base (MONAB) No. 4, which had been installed on the US Naval Airstrip on Ponam.

A single Corsair from 1843 was ranged on deck ready to be catapulted; had the need arisen to launch this aircraft to intercept a Japanese threat it could not have returned to ARBITER because the flight deck was covered in crates, vehicles and other deck cargo. Nearing New Guinea, ARBITER hit bad weather; huge waves broke over the flight deck and, despite being securely lashed down several crates were washed overboard. During the height of the storm the ARBITER began to roll quite alarmingly; without her full tanks of aviation fuel and oil acting as ballast, she would have been in danger of turning turtle. Once the storm was over the Corsair lashed down on the catapult was checked over, it had not suffered any damage.

On reaching the Island of Manus in the Admiralties ARBITER moored in Seeadler Harbour and began unloading stores and equipment for the BPF forward base (HMS PYPES); on completion she weighed anchor and proceeded to Ponam Island, 22 miles up the coast to off load M.S.R. 6 and the aircraft of 1843 squadron. The squadron aircraft were the last items to be disembarked to RNAS Ponam on May 31st; unloading was a long slow process since Ponam was surrounded by a coral ringed lagoon, all stores, vehicles and aircraft that could not be flown ashore had to be hoisted outboard using the ship’s derricks and ferried ashore on motorized lighters.

The squadron spent three weeks ashore conducting flying training. It is not clear what ARBITER’s tasking was during this period, presumably conducting flying training, as 1843 was a ‘spare’ squadron and ARBITER had not yet been assigned to replenishment duties. However she appears to have been experiencing engine trouble while at Manus, sufficiently serious to require full speed trials early on June 22nd prior to proceeding to Ponam to embark the aircraft of 1843 on June 25th. ARBITER sailed for Brisbane later that day.


Preparations to Join HMS ARBITER

Arriving off the Brisbane coast on July 4th the squadron was flown off to RNAS Maryborough, Queensland; this was the end of the squadrons association with ARBITER.

The squadron was to re-join the admin & maintenance personnel who had arrived on the station the day before, having travelled up from RNAS Schofields. This was to be a short stay however, the entire squadron moved again on the 15th, back down to New South Wales to RNAS Jervis Bay. The stores and equipment were flown down by the Dakotas of the newly formed RAAF Transport Command, the remainder of the personnel travelling by train. The squadron spent one week on RNAS Jervis Bay, living under canvas in quagmire like conditions before moving for the final time to their new home at RNAS Nowra, only a few miles up the road,

1843 was to be a spare squadron, eventually joining No. 3 Carrier Air Group, a spare Air Group which formed at Nowra on August 2nd 1945 and comprising of 854 (Avenger) squadron and 1843 & 1845 (Corsair) Squadrons. The end of the war came before the Air Group was deployed and it was disbanded on October 20th 1945. All personnel from the Air Group not assigned to other units and duties embarked in the troop ship S.S. STRATEDEN on October 24th for passage to the UK. 1843 squadron's aircraft were retained at Nowra. The squadron was officially disbanded on December 10th 1945 on reaching the U.K.


Notes:
[1] It is not clear whether a ferry load of U.S. airframes was embarked at Brooklyn in addition to 1843 squadron. It is also unclear as to how 1843 was disembarked; the ship arrived in Liverpool Bay on August 22nd and the squadron arrived at RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland on the 24th. Some commentators suggest they may have been off loaded at RNAs Belfast before the ship reached Liverpool.  

 



First-Line squadrons menu | go to the top

 

Content revised: 25 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

 

None

 

Aircraft Types

 

Corsair III May 1944 - Jul 1944

Corsair II Jul 1944 - Feb 1945

Corsair IV Feb 1945 - Sep 1945  

 

Commanding Officers

 

Lt. Cdr D.K. Evans RNZNVR 1 May 1944

Lt. Cdr D.F.V. Davis RCNVR (temp) 20 Sep 1944

Major P.P. Nelson-Gracie RM 14 Oct 1944

 t. Cdr PCS Chilton RN 11 Feb 1945

Squadron disbanded 10 Dec 1945

 

 

Aircrew and Squadron Personnel

 

Click here

 

 

 

 

 © 2016 Tony Drury www.royalnavyresearcharchive.org.uk


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