No. 1831 squadron re-formed at RNAS Stretton in Cheshire on June 1st 1947 as an RNVR Fighter squadron, Lt. Cdr (A) N. G. Mitchell DSC RNVR in command. It was one of four squadrons formed in 1947 for the new RNVR Air Branch, the other three were 1830 at RNAS Abbotsinch in Renfrewshire, Scotland, 1832 at RNAS Culham in Oxfordshire, and 1833 at RNAS Bramcote in Warwickshire. 1831 was initially staffed by fourteen officers, and equipped with seven aircraft, a mix of Seafire F.15 and F17s and a single Harvard T.3.
Flying took place at RNAS Stretton each week-end. Pilots and Observers were required to carry out 14 days' continuous training each year, 100 hours non-continuous training (drills), and 12 week-ends on squadron duty. During this time they were expected achieve a minimum of 75 and a maximum of 125 flying hours. The two weeks of continuous annual training in air warfare and weapons training was carried out at other naval air stations; the first was at RNAS Culdrose, 4-17 September 1948.
Two further aircraft were received for pilot training, a Firefly T.1 in June 1948 and an Auster V in January 1949. Trendy struck on July 16th 1949 when two squadron pilots were killed while carrying out controlled descent in cloud; Lt. F. J. Dyke, RNVR in Seafire SP325 and Lt. E. H. R. Eccles, RNVR in SX314 died when they crashed into a hill top at Wildboar Clough, nr Macclesfield.
On September 21st the squadron embarked in the training carrier ILLUSTRIOUS for Deck Landing Training (DLT) completing on October 1st 1949. During this period afloat there were three flying incidents, all on the second day of flying; Lt G. S. Allen, RNVR in Sea Fire SR606 struck the rounddown with his tail and nosed over on the flight deck while Sub-Lt R. Gray, RNVR missed all the arrester wires and floated into the barrier in SR547 and Lt K. H. Tickle, RNVR did the same in SX165. A third squadron pilot was killed on February 12th 1950; Lt. G. A. Beaumont, RNVR dived into the ground in Seafire SX129 emerging from cloud at Adlington Hall, near Chorley, Lancashire.
Squadron Seafires marked the launching of the new Aircraft Carrier HMS ARK ROYAL; the ship was launched by the Queen Mother at Cammell Laird's Birkenhead shipyard on May 3rd 1950 with the squadron providing a fly past.
A second period of 14 days’ training afloat was conducted for the 1950 annual training session, embarking in ILLUSTRIOUS on August 29th to September 9th. There were four flying incident this time, the first happened while embarking, Lt. R. Proby, RNVR made a slow approach to the deck in SX253, the port wing did not pick up before landing, and the aircraft was damaged. On September 5th Lt.Cdr R. I. Gilchrist, RNVR in SX235 taking off from ILLUSTRIOUS the aircraft hood was jettisoned striking the fuselage as it went, the aircraft was diverted to land ashore. On the 6th Lt. R. E. Hallam, RNVR in SX242 bounced over all the wires and entered the barrier. On the 7th Lt. T. J. Hamer, RNVR made a heavy landing in SX288 on a pitching deck in poor visibility.
They took their Seafires to RNAS St. Merryn on July 7th 1951, completing that years annul training on the 20th. On return to Stretton they began to prepare for re-equipping with the Hawker Sea Fury in August 1951. They had received a Sea Fury T.20 two seat trainer in October 1950 for pilot conversion and 9 Sea Fury FB.11 were received in August 1951, the aging Seafires were withdrawn.
Supermarine Seafire F.17's of 1831 Squadron RNVR Fleet Air Arm at RNAS Stretton in 1950. Image by RuthAS - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34832069
With their new aircraft the squadron flew to Malta for their next annual training period, arriving at RNAS Hal Far on May 19th 1952. The months before the start of this training were spent in practicing all types of weapon training and in long-range flying, while the R.N.V.R. ratings who were to accompany the Squadron were hard at work polishing up their knowledge of the Sea Fury aircraft with which the Squadron had been recently re-equipped. The flight out to Malta was accomplished in one day, with a stop for lunch at Hyeres outside Toulon, as guests of the French Naval Air Service. Eleven Furies including two trainers carried out this flight, which thanks to the Navigation of the Senior Observer, flying in the back of the Commanding Officer's aircraft, passed off almost without a hitch. One aircraft, however, had to remain overnight at Hyeres with a fractured oil-pipe, but the R.N. Instructor flew the necessary spares back from Malta the next morning, and by evening all the Squadron aircraft were safe at Hal Far. The squadron ground personnel, additional pilots, stores. etc., were flown out by Hunting Airways, with a stop at Nice.
1831 now began a considerable armament programme, carrying out rocket attacks on targets off the coast, air firing at drogues and winged targets, and attacks on units of the Mediterranean Fleet. On completion of this 10 days evolution their performance was rated as at least as good as the average R.N. Front Line Squadrons. Departing for RNAS Stretton on May 30th. They stayed overnight as guests of the French Nat at Hyeres before arriving home without incident.
On June 1st 1952 the RNVR Air Branch was reorganized into 5 Divisions; Scottish, Northern, Midland, Southern, and Channel. The Northern Air Division was formed at RNAS Stretton, 1831 Squadron’s C.O. Lt. Cdr (A) R. I. Gilchrist, M.B.E., R.N.V.R. was promoted to Commander and given the new command, he was temporarily replaced as 1831 Sqn C.O. by Lt. Cdr (A) K. H. Tickle, RNVR who, On August 18th became the C.O. Of the Divisions second squadron, 1841, which was formed at RNAS Stretton as an anti-submarine squadron equipped with five Firefly Is. Command of 1831 passed to Lt. (A) W. A. Storey, RNVR who was promoted to acting Lieutenant Commander.
Tragedy struck the new division only 5 weeks after its formation; Lt. A. G. J. Phillips, RNVR was killed in an air crash on July 7th, flying in Sae Fury VX657 performing an Aerobatic display at RAF Hawarden he made a slow roll to right following a low run over the airfield at 300ft and crashed.
In June 1953 aircraft from the Northern Air Division took part in the Coronation Review of the Fleet by Queen Elizabeth II at Spithead. Held on Monday June 15th 1953. Over 300 ships of the RN and commonwealth navies and the merchant navy, formed 14 miles of ships moored for the Review in the Solent. Beginning at 17:55 over 300 aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Australian and Royal Canadian navies, including the biggest R.N.V.R. air formation ever to be got airborne, one hundred aircraft, flew in formation over the assembled ships. The aircraft from the N.A.D. were flying from RNAS Culham and the Division had eight Furies and four Fireflies in the fly-past at Spithead.
The weapons training period for 1953, the first for the new Division was carried out at two different naval air stations, 1841 travelled to RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland for A/S training while 1831 returned to RNAS St. Merryn with a weekend of flying from ILLUSTRIOUS for DLT sessions, concluding on July 4th. The live firing scores was well up to standard and 55 deck landings were executed with only one barrier crash. This was Lt. Hamer on the 27th in Sea Fury VR926 , His tail hook snagged both Nos.7 and 8 wires but the was hook pulled out by the strain, the aircraft tipped on its on nose and engaged No.2 barrier.
August 30th 1953: Squadron personnel gather around the wreck off Sea Fury VX628, after Sub-Lt W. B. Ryde, RNVR made a wheels-up landing when his engine began cutting out on take-off.
In mid-August the squadron took part in the RAF Command air defence test, exercise Momentum flying missions along the south and east coast. Back at RNAS Stretton Sub-Lt W. B. Ryde, RNVR made a wheels-up landing in Sea Fury VX628 on August 30th, after his engine began cutting out on take-off. In September Division aircraft were in action during the joint British/US operation, exercise Mariner in the North Atlantic.
On September 12th the Division made a short visit to the Royal Netherlands Air Station at Valkenburg; an armada of four Fireflies, eight Sea Furies, four Rapides, an Anson and a Sea Prince, carrying a party of 50 personnel, left Stretton in mid-morning and arrived in time for lunch. After a ‘night out’ in Amsterdam they flew back the next day.
Weekend training continued into 1954; Sub-Lt E. Jackson, RNVR survived writing off his Sea Fury VW703 while landing at RNAS Culdrose on March 1st, making a low and slow on final approach, he attempted to go round again but, swung to starboard on becoming airborne, then stalled into a coal compound. On March 23rd Lt. W. P. Hughes, RNVR was killed during a Sunday training flight over Manchester when his aircraft VW242 went into an uncontrollable spin after he lost control while executing a roll above cloud at 6,000ft. He recovered from the spin at 1,OOOft, then hit the ground 1 mile from Barton airfield. In April the undercarriage of WE805 collapsed at end of landing run on the 11th, the pilot Lt. Rougier was unhurt.
The RNVR reached its golden jubilee in 1953 but had to postpone its celebrations for a year because of the Coronation and subsequent Fleet Review. It was celebrated on June 12th 1954 on Horse Guards Parade and was reviewed by the Queen. The Northern Air Division again took part in a mas fly past of RNVR aircraft. At this time the N.A.D. strength was 2 squadrons, with 77 officers and 130 ratings, RNVR, and 4 officers and 105 ratings, RN.
It appears that some detached training and deck DLT was carried out in July, prior to the annual training fortnight; while at RNAS Brawdy Lt. (E) P. Barlow, RNVR in VZ350 taxying on the peritrack struck another stationary squadron aircraft VW693. Sub-Lt R. W. R. Jones, RNVR flying in WG625 is recorded as catching No.5 wire, then bounced over the remaining wires and entered No.2 barrier and ending up on its nose on ILLUSTRIOUS on July 22nd.
1954 also saw the Division fly out to RNAS Hal Far for another period of annual training in August, arriving on the 20th to carry out a programme of live firing. They left to return to Stretton on September 3rd. Later that month Lt. Cdr (A) F. Morrell RNVR assumed command of 1831 squadron. Later that month Lt. Cdr (A) F. Morrell RNVR assumed command of 1831 squadron; he remained in this role until April 23rd 1955 when he was relieved by Lt. Cdr (A) P. L. V. Rougier RNVR .
The squadron lost two more experienced pilots on November 21st 1954; during a formation flight from RNAS Eglinton Lt. T. J. Hamer in VR922 ('106/ST') and Sub-Lt E. Jackson in VW664 ('101/ST') turned to port off track in cloud, believed to have collided and crashed into the sea.
The New Year saw 1831 earmarked for a further re-equipping, this time they were to receive the Supermarine Attacker FB.2. In May 1955 they became the first R.N.V.R. unit to convert to jet aircraft, receiving seven Attacker FB.2s. and a Sea Vampire T.22 trainer.
Receiving this new equipment mean that they would forgo the year’s annual training fortnight to concentrate on working up with the Attacker. The other half of the Division did however fly out to Malta to operate from RNAS Hal Far on May 31st.
Command of the squadron now passed to the newly promoted Lt. Cdr (A) P. L. V. Rougier RNVR April 23rd, Lt. Cdr Morrell assumed command of 1841 squadron in July.
The Supermarine Attacker fighter bomber Mk.2.
Conversion from Sea Fury to Attacker was carried out by 718 squadron which was reformed at RNAS Stretton on April 25th 1955 as a jet conversion course specifically to train pilots from 1831 squadron equipped with Attacker FB.2 and Sea Vampire T.22 . This task was completed by early July and 718 moved to RAF Honiley on July 4th to carry out the same function for 1833, the only other RNVR squadron to operate the Attacker. 1831 inherited its aircraft from 718 on its departure.
Operations with the Attacker went relatively smoothly, there were only three recorded flying incidents during 1955: On August 27th 5 Sub-Lt W. J. Brennan, RNVR had to make a precautionary landing in WP276 (‘174/ST') after a loss of power. Lt-Cdr C., J. Lavender, RNVR was killed on November 16th after taking violent evading action in WP281 (‘172/ST’) to avoid hitting a Sea Prince after take-off, the aircraft dived into the ground 400 yards from the eastern boundary of the airfield. On December 17th Lt P. Barlow, RNVR had to make belly landing on the grass beside the runway in WK322 (‘173/ST') after the port undercarriage failed to lower.
In March 1956 the N.A.D. took part in Operation "Appointment with Venus" the largest reserve forces exercise of the year involving some 700 Volunteer Reservists from the R.N.V.R., R.M.F.V.R., T . A ., R.A.F.V.R. and W.R.N.V.R. and staged on the Llŷn Peninsular, Caernarvonshire. Attackers of 1831 Squadron and the Avengers of 1841 Squadron provided search, reconnaissance, shadow and strike forces for the operation; altogether thirty-two sorties were flown between 09:00 Saturday, March 10th, and noon on Sunday, March 11th, totalling 73.30 flying hours. Perfect flying conditions and 100 per cent aircraft serviceability meant that every mission task was fulfilled.
In April the Attackers and Avengers of the N.A.D. made a second visit to the Dutch air station at Valkenburg, arriving on April 12th and returning the following day. On the 17th and 18th of May 1956 HRH Prince Philip paid a visit to RNAS Stretton to inspect the Division.
May 1956: HRH Prince Philip inspects the Northern Air Division. Members of the Royal Naval Reserve stand on parade with their Supermarine Attacker fighter bomber jets.
1831 took their Attackers to
RNAS Brawdy at the end of July 1956 to resume their two weeks of continuous training. The weapons training period commenced on July 28th and completed on August 10th. During the live firings one aircraft was damaged; WK325 (830/ST') flown by Sub-Lt D. Croll, RNVR suffered damage to the port tailplane and main spar after jettisoning unexpended rocket projectiles in to the sea. It is unknown if the squadron pilots carried out any deck landing training in the Attacker.
Due to defence spending cuts the R.N.V.R. Air Branch was axed in 1957, the organisation and its squadrons ceased to exist on March 10th 1957. During the squadron’s 10 years of operations 8 pilots were killed, 3 in Seafires, 4 in Se Furies and 1 in an Attacker crashes.
Content revised: 21 September 2022
Motto: Nec temere nec timide
(Neither rashly nor timidly)
Seafire F.Mk.15 & 17 June 457 - Aug 51
Auster V Jan 49 - Mar 54
Harvard T.2b May 50 - Nov 54
Harvard T.3 Jun 47 - Jul 50
Sea Fury T.20 Oct 50 - Jun 55
Sea Fury FB.11 Aug 51 - Jun 55
Firefly T.3 May 52 - Aug 52
Firefly A.S.6 Mar53 - Nov 1955
Sea Balliol T.21 Oct 54 - Feb 57
Sea Vampire T.22 May 55 - Mar 57
Attacker FB.2 May 55 - Mar 57
Lt. Cdr (A) N. G. Mitchell DSC RNVR 1 Jun 1947
Lt. Cdr (A) R. I. Gilchrist MBE RNVR 26 May 1948
Lt. Cdr (A) K. H. Tickle RNVR 1 Jun 1952
Lt. Cdr (A) W. A. Storey RNVR 18 Aug 1952
Lt. Cdr (A) F. Morrell RNVR 1954
Lt. Cdr (A) P. L. V. Rougier RNVR 23 Apr 1955
Squadron disbanded 10 Mar 1957
Aircrew and squadron personnel
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Records indicate that the Sea Otters issued at RNAS Lee-on—Solent were passed to 1701 Sqn which formed there on February 1st 1945. It is assumed that only squadron personnel embarked in KHEDIVE for passage, aircraft, equipment and stores being issued on arrival in India.