764 (1) April 1940 - November 1943
Formation and work-up
The squadron formed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on April 8th 1940 as an Advanced Seaplane Training Squadron, Lt. Cdr F. E. C. Judd in command. Equipment included Walrus amphibians, Seafox and Swordfish
Seaplane; after completing a conversion course successful trainee embarked in the Seaplane Carrier HMS PEGASUS for the catapult training phase before passing out.
South Wales - Seaplane Flying Training Course Part II
After only a short time of operations the squadron was relocated to RAF Pembroke Dock in South Wales on July 3rd; Lt. Cdr H. L. McCulloch, assumed command of 764 on July 16th.
Training continued but from August was the Seaplane Flying Training Course Part II - Advanced Seaplane training, trainees arrived having complete Part I conducted by
squadron at RNAS
Sandbanks. Most of the Seafoxes were handed over to
squadron in November 1940. the squadron began operating from another site up river at Lawrenny Ferry. This site was being developed as an RN establishment and the squadron’s Walrus aircraft moved there on October 4th but remained attached to RAF Pembroke Dock; the Swordfish
floatplanes had been withdrawn in September. Lt. Cdr (A) H. Wright RN, took over as commanding officer on October 17th.
The new facilities at Lawrenny Ferry commissioned as an RN Air Station under the control of HMS DAEDALUS on February 1st 1942 and the squadron’s detachment at RAF Pembroke Dock ended. It is believed that the commanding officer of 763 also assumed the role of officer-in-charge RNAS Lawrenny Ferry.
American built Sikorsky Kingfisher floatplanes began to arrive in the summer, the first of these joined in July 1942. At its peak maximum squadron strength was 12 Walrus amphibians and 6 Kingfisher floatplanes; as many as 33 Walrus passed through the unit during the period May 1941 - October 1943, compared with only 8 Kingfishers. Kingfisher floatplanes were slow to join on squadron inventory, a second arrived in October and this number had reached 6 by February 1943. This number rose to six in March 1943. In the next two months four of these were out of commission; two crashed in March, FN688 flown by Sub-Lt P.H. Skinner RNVR was caught in a downdraught and crashed on touchdown while FN694 flown by Sub-Lt C.R. Hawkswell RNVR undershot, hit a rock and capsized. In April Sub-Lt Hawkswell was in two other Kingfishers that capsized at their mooring buoy; FN680 capsized on start-up and FN689 capsized in a crosswind and a strong tide starting up. As a result of these accidents only one Kingfisher [FN661] remained operational during May through to August when FN701 arrive; the first Kingfisher to join the squadron [FN662] had been retained aboard HMS PEGASUS in January 1943.
Attrition amongst the Walrus complement was also fairly high, there were 5 incidents during 19423: on July 2nd K8340 flown by Midshipman P.L.B.C. Young RNVR grounded on slipway; R6546 piloted by Sub-Lt J.D. Nunn RNVR ran into a derelict jetty, on August 6th; the repaired K8340 made a forced landing striking a hedge on September 8th after the pilot, Sub-Lt S.W. Richards RNZNVR, got lost; W3079 flown by Sub-Lt G.A. Garrold RNVR crashed into trees during a night landing on November 9th; on November 25th Lt M.P.B. Franklin RN, landed L2230 in minefield to rescue the crew of Sunderland DV972 of 119 Sqn RAF, the aircraft failed to take off due to a lack of fuel and after 5 hours was left to sink; all were rescued by launch. There were another 6 incidents in 1943: Lt D.H. Angel RN, ran aground taxying L2234 down the Cleddau River after night flying on very dark night on February 4th, he had a second incident on April 3rd when he swerved on landing in W2704 and its port wing touched down; on May 18th Sub-Lt L.L.C. Rosseter RNVR rammed W2718 into a yacht while embarking passengers from a motor dinghy; on August 4th W3031 capsized in the Cleddau River after its Starboard wingtip hit on landing. Midshipman B.G. Bridgewater was killed but Sub Lt. F.W. Smallwood was rescued; on August 27th P5707 struck a pinnace with a wing tip and the aircraft dived into the water, the pilot Lt. Cdr R.L.M. Shannon was uninjured but a 14-year-old Sea cadet, Alec Hancock, was killed "due to war operations" - presumably he was in the pinnace.
By the middle of 1943 the need for dedicated Seaplane Training schools was ended, 764 Squadron was disbanded at Lawrenny Ferry on November 7th 1943.
764 (2) February 1944 - September 1945
Formation and work-up
764 squadron reformed at RAF Gosport on February 19th 1944 as the User Trials Unit under the temporary command of Lt. (A) E.D.J.R. Whatley RN. At its formation it had only 4 aircrew, three pilots and one observer and Initially received 3 Barracuda Mk.II and 3 Avenger Mk.II. The squadron was to conducted trials on radio and radar equipment and some torpedo trials. Lt. (A) D.L.R. Hutchinson RNVR, assumed his appointment as Commanding Officer, and a second observer arrived on April 19th just before the squadron was to fly North to operate as a detachment at RNAS Crail commencing on April 22nd, The Avengers returned to Gosport at the end of May 1944 but the Barracudas operated from CRAIL until May 1945.
The squadron moved into RNAS Lee-on-Solent on July 1st 1944 where Lt. (A) K. Lee-White RN took over as commanding officer, also on this date ’B’ flight formed as a Factitial Trials flight equipped with Firebrand
F.Is but this was redesignated No.708 Squadron on October 1st. A second detachment, a Torpedo Trials Flight, operated from RNAS Machrihanish, the largest of these trials started on September 27th 1944 when aircraft carried out net defence trials in the Clyde. On completion of these trials the flight was absorbed into 778 Trails squadron at RNAS Arbroath.
The squadron received its fourth commanding officer on November 5th 1944 when Lt. (A) G.A. Donaghue RNVR arrived; he was one of only two squadron pilots to have a recorded flying intendent, while at RNAS Machrihanish on a very icy January 22nd 1945, when his Avenger slid forward out of control with its brakes fully on when the chocks were removed. The other was at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on June 22nd 1945 when Sub-Lt J, Incley RNVR had to make an emergency landing in Barracuda LS799 after a hydraulic leak, he hit an air raid shelter on landing,
The whole squadron was back at RNAS Lee-on-Solent by the end of May 1945 and Captain D.B.L. Smith Royal Marines arrived to take over as CO on June 3rd. Several Firefly Is were received in June for familiarisation on the type prior to their planned addition to the squadron’s inventory but permeant issue was compelled when it was decided two disband the squadron. 764 squadron disbanded at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on September 1st 1945.
764 (3) May 1953 - November 1954
No.764 squadron next reformed at RNAS Lossiemouth on May 18th 1953 by redesignating No.766 Squadron ‘A’ flight as an Advanced Training squadron. Under the command of Lt. Cdr P.S. Brewer RN, it operated the existing inventory of Seafire XVIIs and
Firefly T.1 and T..2 dual trainers as the Part 1 (Fighter) course of the Operational Flying School.
The squadron moved to RNAS Yeovilton on September 23rd 1953, where a new commanding officer, Lt. Cdr B. Bevans
DSC, RN took over on the 28th. In May 1954 the first jet
aircraft were added to the inventory in the form of the Sea
Hawk F.1 alongside 13 Seafires and 6 Fireflies.
The squadron disbanded at Yeovilton on November 23rd 1954.
764 (4) February 1955 - July 1972
Formation and operations at RNAS Ford
No.764 next reformed on February 1st 1955 at RNAS Ford as a Fighter Pilot Holding Unit under the command of Lt. Cdr D.F. Battison RN. Equipped with 10 Sea Hawk F.1 and F.2ss and 10 Sea Vampires including some T.22 dual trainers, it gave continuous flying to pilots awaiting appointment to first line squadrons, and also converted USA-trained pilots to British procedures. The Sea Vampire T.22s were equipped to train pilots in all forms of fighter combat and ground attack.
In May 1955 two Wyvern S.4 were added to give type conversion to pilots who had completed their operational training, before joining a first line squadron. Sea Hawk FB.3s began to arrive in March 1956; on March 1st part of the squadron became No.767 Squadron taking with it some of the Sea Hawk F.2s to become a Fighter Pilot Pool Squadron. In February 1957 the Wyvern element also became independent, as the Wyvern Conversion Flight.
Operations at RNAS Milltown
On June 21st 1957 the squadron moved to RNAS Lossiemouth leaving behind its Sea Vampires and the Sea Hawk F,I and F.2s, receiving new Sea Hawk FGA.4s in July. With this move its role changed to comprise of an Air Weapons Training Flight, a Commanding Officers and Senior Pilots Designate Course, a Jet Fighter Pilot Pool and a Target Towing Unit. The squadron operated out of RNAS Milltown, the satellite airfield for RNAS Lossiemouth. Meteor T.7 two-seat trainers were received in December 1957 but were withdrawn in March 1958 but Sea Hawk FGA.6s were received that October. Beginning in December 1958 Hunter T.8 two-seat trainers began to arrive, and the Sea Hawk were gradually withdrawn the last leaving in July 1959. A few Scimitars were received in February 1959 but these departed in May and by August the squadron equipment comprised 12 Hunter T.8s.
The squadron’s main task changed again from March 1959, its main task became Air Warfare Instructor training; the Commanding Officers and Senior Pilots Designates Course was retained, but a mew third task was Swept Wing Conversion to Hunter T.8s. From July 1962 some of the Hunter T.8s were replaced by Hunter GA.11s; a few of these were later converted to PR.11s. Three Hunter T.8Bs arrived in 1968, and later a few T.8Cs were also used.
On March 26th 1965 No.764B Squadron was formed from the remnants of No.736 Squadron; this squadron was operating Scimitars as part of the Naval Air Warfare and Strike School and these aircraft were passed to 764B. On the same day 736 reformed and reequipped with Buccaneer S.1s from 809 squadron. Under the command of Lt. Cdr J. Worth RN, 764B had been formed solely to train Airwork pilots to fly the Scimitar, disbanding in November on completion of this task.
No.764 continued operating a complement of 10 Hunter GA.Ils and 4 Hunter T.8Cs.from Lossiemouth/Milltown until it disbanded on July 27th 1972.
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09 April 2019
Sources used in compiling this account:
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)