A history of 1701 Naval Air Squadron


Formation and work-up

No.1701 Squadron formed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent on February 1st 1945 as an Air Sea Rescue (ASR) squadron for service in the Pacific. 6 pilots and 6 Telegraphist Air Gunners assembled under the command of Lt. (A) L.F. Plant RNVR. They were initially issued with 6 Sea Otters which to carry out a short workup. These aircraft were withdrawn in late March and 8 news ones issued before the squadron travelled to RNAS Belfast in preparation for embarking in the escort carrier HMS BEGUM  for passage to the Pacific for operations with the British Pacific Fleet. The work-up period had only one incident, on March 20th JM907, flown by Sub-Lt E. G. Pearce, RNVR had its engine cut out just after take-off and the aircraft struck high ground overlooking the beach, bounced, and dived onto the beach and overturned., there were no casualties

The equipment, stores, aircraft, and personnel of 1701 and 721 squadron (6 Vengeance TT.IV) were embarked on April 17th; all aircraft were hoisted aboard. BEGUM sailed later the same day to join convoy KMF.43 which had sailed from the Clyde, on reaching Gibraltar BEGUM left the convoy and made independent passage to Port Said to transit the Suez Canal. On leaving the Suez Canal the ship continued on to Colombo where she took on fuel and stored ship before sailing for the Admiralty Islands, north of New Guinea in the south-western Pacific. The squadron was to be split into two flights of 4 aircraft; ‘B’ flight was put ashore at RNAS Ponam in the Admiralty Islands while ‘A’ flight would be disembarked to RNAS Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.

A Supermarine Sea Otter at RNAS Lee-on-Solent.

Operations in the Pacific: May 1945 – October 1945

‘B’ flight: BEGUM arrived off the Island of Ponam on May 27th and anchored overnight. The next day 721 squadron and 'B' Flight of 1701 ASR squadron were put ashore to RNAS Ponam, HMS NABARON. Ponam is small coral island lying close off the northern coast of Manus Island, the largest of in the Admiralty Islands group, situated two degrees south of the Equator, about two hundred miles north of the New Guinea coast and more than 2,000 miles from Sydney, Australia.

The island was only 1 mile long by ¼ mile wide. All aircraft had to be off loaded by lighter because of an encompassing coral reef which prevented the carriers from tying up to a jetty. The former American coral airstrip was on loan to the Admiralty and occupied by MONAB 4 (Mobile Naval Air Base 4) in support of the British Pacific Fleet in the forward operating area.

Little is known about the flight’s activities at Ponam but it was short lived; with the end of hostilities in mid-August the RN Air Station was beginning to rundown to closure and various units were prepared for evacuation to Australia from September onwards. ‘B’ flight was embarked in the escort carrier REAPER on October 3rd for ferrying to Hong Kong where the squadron was now to be based. They arrived at RNAS Kai Tak on October 13th.

‘A’ flight: Disembarked at Brisbane on June 14th they arrived at RNAS Maryborough on the 15th. Maryborough was a Royal Australian Air force station 160 miles north of Brisbane, 20 miles inland from the north Queensland coast, occupied by MONAB 6, HMS NABSTOCK.

It is unclear what duties the squadron performed in Australia, but they alternated between RNAS Maryborough and RNAS Bankstown in Sydney, New South Wales. The first time they flew south was on July 24th, staying at Bankstown until August 7th. The second time was after the end of hostilities on October 15th, and may have only been a detachment to Bankstown; at least one aircraft, JN118, remained at Maryborough its starboard oleo collapsed when Sub-Lt R.N.C. Carr-Gregg landed on the airfield. The detachment returned on October 21st and the whole flight moved to RNAMY Archerfield on November 1st. They were to join the rest of the squadron at RNAS Kai Tak and embarked in the escort carrier STRIKER for ferrying to Hong Kong on November 4th. They arrived in Hong Kong on November 16th.

December 1945, officers of the Air Engineering Department of MONAB 8 pose with one of 1701 suasion Sea Otters at Kai Tak.

rations in Hong Kong: November 1945 – December 1946

The airfield at Kai Tak was a joint RN/RAF station, the RN (West) side of the station housed MONAB 8, HMS NABCATCHER. The former Japanese occupied airfield had been reopened by the RN and had accommodated several disembarked squadrons from the carriers that had liberated the colony and helped in the repatriation of detainees and POWs; at the time of 1701 arriving there were only two other RN squadrons on the station, 1850 (Corsair) and 812 (Barracuda) from the Light Fleet Carrier VENGEANCE. 1701 Headquarters was established at RNAS Kai Tak on November 1st 1945 under the command of Lt. (A) P. H. Woodham DSC,RNVR and reclassified as a second-line unit. VENGEANCE re-embarked her squadrons on December 20th leaving 1701 as the only RN flying unit.

 On December 17th a detachment (possibly 1 aircraft) was embarked in the escort carrier CHASER returning to Kai Tak on the 31st. The squadron received two more aircraft in the New Year; a twin-engine Oxford was added In April, followed by a RAAF Tiger Moth (A17-84) in July possibly to add a communications element to the squadron’s duties.



Squadron Disbanded

 On August 27th 1946 1701 squadron was disbanded at Kai Tak as part of the reduction in British forces in the area, its aircraft being absorbed into 721 FRU, the Sea Otters forming an ASR flight. On the same day the RN presence at Kai Tak was reduced in status to an R.N. air section, HMS NABCATCHER’s accounts mow being held in HMS TAMAR the local naval base.


Content revised: 23 October 2022


Primary information sources

Additional sources:





No badge issued for this squadron



Battle Honours


Aircraft Types

Sea Otter I Feb 45 - Aug 46

Oxford Apr - Aug 46

Tiger Moth II Jul - Aug 46


Commanding Officers

Lt. (A) L. F. Plant RNVR 1 Feb 1945

Lt. (A) P. H. Woodham DSC RNVR 19 Oct 1945

Squadron disbanded 27 Aug 1946


















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