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|Signatures on this item|
Lieut (A) N C Gillis RNVR.
|Volunteered for training as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm in 1940. After training he was posted to join HMS Indomitable and sent to the Far East. The posting did not materialise and after some months in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Nairobi, Kenya, joined 810 Squadron in HMS Illustrious. 810 was a Swordfish squadron and remained so until HMS Illustrious returned to UK. The squadron then reformed with Barracuda aircraft and rejoined the Illustrious. After a short spell with the Home Fleet the Illustrious was despatched to serve with the Mediterranean Fleet, subsequently returning to the Home Fleet. 810 Squadron served in the ship during this time and was retained in the ship when she retuned to the Eastern Fleet and was actively engaged in the Burma campaign. During joint operations with the US carrier Saratoga, Lt Gillis was mentioned in Despatches during the operation at Sabang in Malaysia. Having overspent his time in an operational squadron he was returned to UK where he served as Dive-Bombing Instructor at RNAS Crail, then converted onto twin-engine aircraft and flew in a Mosquito squadron until demobilised in 1946.|
Sub Lieut (A) Stanley T Brand RNVR
|Although in a reserved occupation volunteered on his 18th birthday to train as pilot in the Fleet Air Arm. He flew open cockpit biplane Swordfish aircraft from Merchant Aircraft Carriers called "Macships". These were 8000 ton grain ships or oil tankers fitted with a flight deck, carrying their usual cargo and manned by a Merchant Navy Master and crew. They sailed in convoy back and forth across the North Atlantic in all the extreme weather conditions experiened on that ocean. The oil tankers lacked a hangar, so maintenance was carried out on open deck exposing the aircraft, ground crew and aircrew to the fury of the sea, ice and gales. By keeping U-boats submerged instead of allowing them free range on the surface, in 24 months only two merchant ships were sunk by the enemy in convoys protected by Macships. This was in spite of there being greater numbers and more efficient U-boats at sea in this period than at the time of our greatest losses in the Battle of the Atlantic.|
Sub Lieut Bruce Vibert
|Volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm in May 1941 and helped to form 842 Squadron, the Royal Navy’s last to be formed with the Fairey Swordfish in March 1943. Working mainly from the escort carrier HMS Fencer during the squadron’s two-year existence, the role was anti-submarine, ranging from the occupation of the Azores to North Russia. Protection to the Home Fleet was also given during two operations against “Tirpitz”, sheltering in Northern Norway. The Squadron finally came under Coastal Command to work the Western Approaches and English Channel. It achieved several successes against the U-Boats. He later served in the Pacific as a deck landing control officer before, post war, joining the RCN and there becoming a helicopter pilot. Today he supports the RNHF as a speaker about the Swordfish.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Swordfish||Torpedo bomber and reconnaissance biplane, crewed by three, with a top speed of 154mph, reduced to 136mph as a float plane. Maximum ceiling 19,000 feet, reduced as a float plane. Armed with a .303 Vickers machine gun fixed forward and one in the rear cockpit. One 1610lb torpedo or up to 1500lb bomb load. At the outbreak of world war two the fleet air arm had 13 operational squadrons. The Fairey Swordfish has earned its place in history for major contributions to naval warfare, during the Norwegian campaign, and especially during the raid on Taranto. In November1940, twenty Swordfish took off from HMS Illustrious to attack the Italian fleet in their Harbour of Taranto. At Least nine torpedoes hit their targets. Seven Italian ships were badly damaged including the battleships, Caio Duillio, Littorio and Conte De Cavour. This was followed in February 1942, by a heroic but suicidal attack on German battlecruisers in the English Channel by six Swordfish of 825 squadron from RAF Manston. All aircraft and crews were lost. This resulted in a Victoria Cross for the leader Lieutenant Commander E Esmonde. The next major event was the torpedo attack on the Bismarck by Swordfish from HMS Ark Royal, which badly damaged the steering gear of the Bismarck which helped in the final destruction of the German battleship by Royal Navy battleships. The Fairey Swordfish was also used in anti-submarine and anti-shipping roles. The Swordfish sunk more enemy ships (by tonnage) than any other aircraft acting in the same role. By the end of the war the Fleet Air Arm still had nine active squadrons, but these were finally disbanded in May 1945. A total of 2399 Swordfish were built.|
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