Aviation Historian 19
R.Flude - The Pacific Express
A Vought Corsair IV of No 1846 Sqn aboard HMS Colossus in 1945. The unit had received the variant - built by Goodyear at Akron, Ohio - that February, before embarking in the carrier for the Far East. Several of the Corsairs ferried to Ceylon by air went on to serve with No 1846 Sqn, although the unit saw no action in the Pacific.
Commissioned on April 2, 1945, HMS Glory embarked the Fairey Barracudas of No 837 Sqn and the Corsair IVs of No 1831 Sqn before sailing for the Far East to become part of the British Pacific Fleet. A number of the air-ferried Corsairs joined No 1831 Sqn in theatre, but none saw action. Glory is seen here with Fairey Fireflies and Corsairs on the deck in January 1946.
A trio of No 1846 Sqn Corsair IVs over Cape Town in South Africa, with the majestic Table Mountain as a backdrop, during the refit of HMS Colossus at Simon’s Town in January 1946. Corsair “117” is KD750, one of the 37 air-ferried to the Far East in the first half of 1945. The unit was disbanded on its return to the UK in July 1946.
Corsair II JT633 of No 1834 Sqn wears the FAA’s distinctive Far East American-style insignia with bars applied either side of the dark blue roundel without the red “meatball” in the centre, so as to avoid confusion with the red hinomaru (“sun-circle”) markings on Japanese aircraft. The “P” on the fin denotes that the aircraft was operating from HMS Victorious, which joined the British Pacific Fleet in November 1944.
A detachment of No 1851 Sqn Corsairs from HMS Venerable was sent ashore during the Allied occupation of Hong Kong in late August 1945. The FAA’s Corsairs had their wings clipped by 8in (20cm) on each side in order to accommodate the type with its wings folded upwards when stowed on the Royal Navy’s carrier hangar decks.
Hellcat pilot Lt John Haberfield RNZNVR of No 1839 Sqn aboard HMS Indomitable in 1945.
Hellcat II JX715 of 896 Sqn, coded B-8V, has its engine run up aboard HMS Empress on August 28, 1945. Having sailed from South Africa to Ceylon aboard HMS Ameer in April, the unit remained in the Indian Ocean with the East Indies Fleet, undertaking fighter sweeps and bombing strikes on the Nicobar Islands and Phuket in Thailand that July.
In total, some 1,182 Grumman Hellcats were supplied to the Royal Navy by the USA under Lend-Lease arrangements, divided into 252 Hellcat Is and 930 Hellcat Ils. The type entered Fleet Air Arm service with No 800 Sqn in July 1943, first seeing action during anti-shipping strikes off the Norwegian coast in December 1943.
With full flap selected and arrester hook trailing, a Hellcat II prepares to take a wire while operating with a carrier of the British Pacific Fleet. A nimble fighter capable of taking on the best Japanese fighters on its own terms, the Hellcat soon proved to be an invaluable addition to the FAA’s inventory in the Far East and Pacific theatres of combat.
Originally built as a two-seat dive-bomber (and employed in that role by the RAF in Burma from early 1943) the Vultee Vengeance was used by the Royal Navy’s Fleet Requirements Units, Nos 721 and 733 Sqns, as a target tug. Vengeance IV HB484 is seen here with the yellow-and-black stripes the type wore for the latter role.