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September 1944 - January 1946


Formation and work-up

No.709 Squadron formed at Royal Naval Air Station St Merryn on 15 September 1944, under the command of Lt. Cdr (A), (P), W.C. Simpson, DSC RNVR. The squadron was to operate as a Ground Attack School, part of the School of Naval Air Warfare. Initially the squadron comprised of only 3 pilots as instructors, their equipment was a mix of Seafire L.III and Hellcat I & IIs, the Seafires being inherited from Nos.808 and 885 Squadrons of No.3 Naval Fighter Wing which were re-equipping with Hellcats at the time. A small number of Harvard trainers were also received in the New Year.



Courses provided training in the techniques of strafing and Dive Bombing, with live firing practice at Trelliga Ranges, 11 miles North East of the airfield. By the start of January 1945 the squadron strength had increased to six pilots, reaching its peak in October 1945 when there were 20 naval pilots on strength. An Army liaison section was also attached to the squadron to instruct pilots in the techniques of Army Co-operation Flying.

During its time in operation the squadron had five serious flying incidents, two of which were fatal air crashes: the first occurred on November 15th 1944 when Seafire NF493, 'S5N' was making a practice Dive Bombing attack over the range at Trelliga when the propeller and half the reduction gear fell off, the unknown pilot escaped without injury but the aircraft crashed. On March 30th 1945 Lt. H.D. Barr RNR, flying in Hellcat JV240 flew through debris after making a Rocket projectile attack at Treligga Range, this caused aileron damage but the aircraft made it back to St Merryn. Lt. J.A. Grogan RCNVR was killed on May 19th 1945 when attempting a forced landing in bad visibility, 1 mile South of Wellington, Somerset, the aircraft, Seafire NF564 crashed and caught fire killing the pilot. The second fatality happened on August 7th 1945 during range training; Lt. M.C. Ferrer RNZNVR, was killed when making a dummy dive at a cliff top target, his aircraft Seafire NN193 went straight into the sea ¾ of a mile West of Treligga Range. The last recorded incident involved Hellcat JV243 flown by Lt J.E.F. Rankin RNVR, unable to lower the undercarriage a successful belly landing was made at St Merryn on December 13th 1945.

The officers of 709 squadron, March 2nd 1945. Group includes 3 Army liaison officers and 3 RAF officers. Third officer Clare Nepean is seated, canter, Lieutenant Commander W. C. Simpson, DSC RNVR, the squadron Commanding officer is seated to her right. Photo from the collection of Third officer Clare Nepean. Click to see larger image.


Squadron Disbanded

 Training continued for several months after the end of the war, the squadron receiving newer variants of the Seafire from November 1945, including Mark XV, XVII and 45, but the squadron was disbanded at St Merryn on January 6th 1946.



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Content revised: 27 September 2021


Primary information sources

Additional sources:






No badge issued



Battle Honours



Aircraft Types

Seafire III Sep 1944 - Nov 1945

Hellcat I Sep 1944 - Jan 1946 Hellcat II Sep 1944 - Sep 1945 Harvard lib 1945 - Jan 1946

Harvard III Feb 1945 - Jun 1945 Seafire XV Nov 1945 - Jan 1946 Seafire XVII Dec 1945 - Jan 1946 Seafire 45 Dec 1945 - Jan 1946


Commanding Officers

Lt. Cdr (A), (P) WC. Simpson, DSC RNVR 14 Sep 1944

Squadron disbanded  31 May 1946


Aircrew and Squadron Personnel




Gallery page






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