716 (1) July 1936 - January 1940
The unit number 716 was first used for a Catapult Flight of the Fleet Air Arm of the RAF. The flight formed on July 15th 1936, under the command of Lt F.E.C. Judd RN, by renumbering No. 443 (Catapult) Flight, to operate in ships of the 6th Cruiser Squadron
on the South Africa Station.
While it was in home waters the flight had its shore based Headquarters at RAF Mount Batten, Plymouth and RAF Lee-on-Solent from January 1st 1938, and at Simonstown when on station in South Africa.
The flight operated only a handful of Osprey IV seaplanes, one of which was initially embarked in the Leander Class Cruiser HMS AMPHION which arrived at Simonstown in October 1936 to spend the next two years as Flagship on the Africa station. Based on the Cape of Good Hope she operated as far north as Dakar on the west coast and Beira on the east. HMS NEPTUNE arrived on station in October 1937 and relieved AMPHION which then began her mid-commission refit at Simonstown.
The Ospreys were replaced by Seafox Mk I aircraft in October 1937 with the arrival of HMS NEPTUNE .
AMPHION departed Simonstown early in October 1938 to return to the UK. She paid off on December 15th 1938 for a refit and was later sold to the Royal Australian Navy. This left only NEPTUNE in the 6th Cruiser Squadron.
By the end of 1937 the Flight was elevated to squadron status and a new commanding officer, Lt A.J.T. Roe RN, was appointed on April 25th 1938. The Squadron was transferred to Admiralty control on May 24th 1939.
In January 1940 all Catapult Squadrons were merged into No.700 Squadron which was to assume responsibility for all ships flights; No.716 Squadron was disbanded at
Simonstown on 21 January 1940.
716 (2) June 1944 - September 1945
Formation and work-up
716 squadron reformed at RNAS
Eastleigh on June 28th 1944, under the command of
Lt. Cdr J.F. Nicholas RN as the Air/Sea Rescue
Section of the School of Safety Equipment. The
squadron was initially equipped with 2 Sea Otter
Amphibians and one Wellington Mk.X1 which were used
to provide training for officers and ratings in
Training included instruction in the use of safety
equipment in use the Navy, with particular reference
to naval air/sea rescue apparatus. Instruction and
exercises in the use of Visual Signalling, Wireless
Telegraphy, Radio Transmission, and Automated
Signalling Devices, as applied to air/sea rescue.
Conduct navigation and search exercises. Sea Otters
were employed to teach rough water landings and the
recovery of survivors and the principles of Carrier based air /sea
rescue organization. The squadron’s Wellington was
employed for dropping air/sea rescue apparatus and
shore based air/sea Rescue organization. All pupils
were taught first aid techniques to be used on rescued survivors. In addition to its training task the
squadron carried out development work on safety
Flying from Eastleigh
the squadron conducted training flights in the Solent
area but a detachment of the squadron joined the
escort carrier HMS RULER at Greenock in January 1945
for a few days; a detached air sea rescue Flight was
also established at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on March 10th
There was only one
flying accident during the squadron’s time operating
with the School of Safety Equipment; on April 13th
1945 Sea Otter JM804 of the Lee-on-Solent detachment
porpoised on take-off in the Solent, 1½miles S of
the slipway and capsized. The pilot, Lt. S. Green
suffered minor injuries but his observer, Lt. E.C.
Soughton was killed.
No.716 disbanded at
Eastleigh on 1 September 1945.
09 June 2017
Sources used in compiling this account:
Admiralty Fleet Order 3622/44—R.N. Air Station, Eastleigh— Establishment of Safety Equipment School
Admiralty Fleet Order 4854/44—Safety Equipment School, Eastleigh—Establishment of an Air/Sea Rescue
Sturtivant, R. & Burrows, M. (1995)'Fleet Air Arm
Aircraft 1939 to 1945' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain
Sturtivant, R & Balance, T., (1994)'Squadrons of the
Fleet Air Arm' Tonbridge Wells, Air Britain (Historians)