Fleet Air Arm Protecting Convoys

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22308) Protection for convoys is one of the jobs of the Fleet Air Arm planes of the Royal Air Naval Station, Sierra Leone. Here a Boulton Paul Defiant from the station sweeps over a big convoy which is just leaving Freetown Harbour. The aircraft took off from from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Part of the wings and struts of the biplane from wh… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016128

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22306) Two of the station’s Boulton Paul Defiant aircraft in flight after taking off from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016127

 

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7869) A Fairey Fulmar returns to HMS VICTORIOUS after doing patrol during a Home Fleet convoy to Russia. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185619

Escorting convoys to Russia was a brutal task given the terrible weather and constant attacks by German aircraft and U-boats out of Norway. Home Fleet provided “distant cover” since fleet carriers like HMS Victorious and battleships such as KGV were too valuable to risk anywhere close to German air attack. Home FLeet distant cover was laid on in the event the Tirpitz came out.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22312) A Fairey Fulmar aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm about to take off from HMS SPURWING, a Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, on a coastal reconnaissance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186969

The Royal Navy named all of its bases as if they were ships. Hence, HMS Spurwing was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm base providing cover for convoys forming up off Freetown, Sierra Leone, a major convoy destination point where escorts changed.

The Royal Navy did most of its accounting by ship so it was easier to keep track of everything if all bases were treated as ships. For instance, unassigned officers were carried on the books of HMS Victory although they were obviously not on the ship itself although it did have accommodation for a small number of officers in transit.

If you wrote someone in the Royal Navy in World War Two, you addressed the letter to that person followed by name of ship followed by GPO, London.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6123) A Fairey Fulmar being flagged off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. The carrier’s island can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185487

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6120) A Fairey Fulmar taking off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. Two more of the aircraft can be seen at the end of the flight deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185486

The two photographs above are unusual because they show planes both landing and taking off from the Royal Navy fleet carrier HMS Victorious while the carrier is at anchor in the Royal Navy Home Fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow.

Because of aerodynamic reasons, carriers in World War Two typically had to turn into the wind which gave added lift to planes taking off.  As an aircraft carrier neared its anchorage, the planes based on the carrier took off while the carrier was still at sea and could turn into the wind and flew to a Fleet Air Arm base on land.

They usually practiced landing on a carrier deck by landing on runways on land marked with the length of a carrier deck. Aircraft carrier pilots then and to this day often describe landing on a carrier as a “controlled crash.” It isn’t and wasn’t for the faint of heart.

In the last few years, the US Navy has started to fly drones from aircraft carriers which calls in question our naval strategy based around massive aircraft carrier battle groups. This is according to defense writer and expert Thomas Ricks, not me.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6955) A Fairey Fulmar warming up on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the Donald Duck painted on the nose of the plane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185544

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7003) Sub Lieutenant (A) M Bennett, RNVR, in the cockpit of his Fairey Fulmar on board HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the art work on the nose of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185552

RNVR means Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Officers wore wavy stripes on their coat sleeves instead of regular stripes worn by professional “regular service” officers. Hence known as “wavy navy.” Nonetheless, RNVR officers came to vastly outnumber the regular service officers of whom there were only about 5,000 when the war began.

RNVR officers who were pilots assigned to the Fleet Air Arm wore a small insignia denoting this. The men claimed the small insignia was meant to inform all other RN personnel that they knew absolutely nothing about the navy.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7279) In the hangar deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Hvalfjord, Iceland a row of Fairey Fulmars is flanked on either side by two rows of Fairey Albacores, all with their wings folded. The photograph was taken around the time of the search for the TIRPITZ. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185573

Hvalfjord was a treacherous anchorage because it was exposed to vicious winds. Ships at anchor normally dropped both bow and stern anchors which they usually didn’t do in more protected anchorages as well as keep steam on since they often had to make revolutions for two or three knots simply to stay where they were and not drag their anchors if a storm came up.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 5950) The forward part of the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS with Fairey Fulmars and Fairey Albacores on board during preparations for Norwegian operations. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185479

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7540) A bearded Fleet Air Arm gunner, Leading Airman C H Clark, from Tadworth, Surrey, exits his Fairey Albacore aircraft carrying his flying kit, after his aircraft returned from a patrol to HMS VICTORIOUS off the coast of Iceland. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185586

 

Featured image shows: Fairey Albacores, the torpedo carrying plane of the Fleet Air Arm landing on the deck of HMS VICTORIOUS while the ship was en route to Hvalfjord, Iceland from Scapa Flow. The automatic Bat can be seen in the right of the picture, as can the arrestor wires running across the flight deck.

How Did the Gay Symbol of the Red Poppy Come to Symbolize Veterans Day?

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The Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, in November 2004 (with wreaths laid down on Remembrance Day). Photo Chris Nyborg.

The British Legion, a veterans organization created after World War One, known then as the ‘Great War’, began the tradition of selling red poppies once a year to assist veterans. The first British Legion Poppy Day was held in Great Britain on 11 November – Armistice Day – 1921. Several organizations for veterans in the US including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars quickly adopted the symbol as did veterans’ groups throughout the British Empire.

The red poppy came to symbolize youthful death in battle because of the haunting poem, In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by Surgeon-Major John McCrae, MD, First Field Artillery Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

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Surgeon-Major John McCrae, 1st Brigade CFA, Canadian Field Artillery, Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  

McCrae had been operating on wounded soldiers for seventeen days in a row during the terrible slaughter of the Second Battle of Ypres, which took place between 22 April and 25 May 1915 near the Belgium city of Ypres in the province of West Flanders. This furious struggle, now long forgotten, was fought between the French Army, with their British allies, against their common enemy, Imperial Germany.

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German storm troopers, led by an officer, emerge from a thick cloud of phosgene poison gas laid by German forces as they attack British trench lines. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Courtesy of the Guardian of London.

This battle was fought over control of the Belgium city of Ypres and lasted for thirty-three days. It merits a footnote in history because it was the first battle on the Western Front where the Germans used poison gas. The use of such gas is a war crime and had been forbidden by the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare. Germany was a signatory to both treaties.

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Red poppies blew across the battlefield during the slaughter.

The poppy is a flower whose seed lies dormant in the ground. It only blooms in warm weather when the soil is rooted up. Because the ground of Flanders had been rooted up by days of artillery fire, there were red poppies blooming in profusion all over the battlefield. There were so many poppies that the wind would often catch the fragile flowers and blow them in waves over the blasted soil.

Hence the first line: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow…” (not ‘grow’ as many seem to write)

Major McCrae was deeply pained by the death of a young friend, killed the previous day by random artillery fire. Sitting outside his field dressing station the next day, McCrae was looking over the cemetery in which his young friend had been buried. He took a pad and wrote what became the most famous poem of the war. The poet himself died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918 and is buried in France.

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Surgeon-Major John McCrae’s grave, Wimereux Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France

“In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Because this poem is often thought to be an anti-war poem, expressing the futility of war, the third stanza is usually left out. You will understand the reason when you read it:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Paul Fussell, the distinguished American scholar and expert on the literature of World War One, writes about this poem in his magisterial work, The Great War and Modern Memory:

“Things fall apart two thirds of the way through…and we suddenly have a recruiting poster rhetoric…We finally see – and with a shock – what the last six lines really are: they are a propaganda argument – words like ‘vicious’ and ‘stupid’ would not seem to go too far – against a negotiated peace.”

Fussell also points out the symbolism in England long associated with the red poppy: homosexuality. In the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, Patience, which opened in 1881, he calls our attention to the following lyrics:

“…if you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your medieval hand,
everyone will say,
As you walk your flowery way,
…what a most particularly pure young man this pure young man must be!”

One need not be a gay man, such as myself, to immediately understand the symbolic reference.

Fussell’s erudition as a scholar of English literature is never more evident than in his parsing of Two Loves, a poem written in 1894 by Lord Alfred Douglas, one time lover of Oscar Wilde. In a dream, the poet discovers in his garden a beautiful naked youth who has lips, ‘red like poppies’. Desperate to know who this lad is, the poet beseeches the youth to tell his name and finally the youth says, “I am the love that dare not speak its name.” This last being the polite way of saying ‘homosexuality’ in decades past.

So decades before the red poppy became the symbol of youthful death in battle, it had long been associated with homosexual love. Professor Fussell suggests the poet unconsciously expresses a certain homoeroticism in connection with his young friend in the poem.

“…Short days ago…We lived…Loved and were loved, and now we lie…”

Professor Fussell was a combat veteran himself. He was drafted into the US Army in 1943, at age 19. In October 1944 he landed in France, as part of the 103rd Infantry Division. He was wounded while fighting in France as a second lieutenant in the infantry, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Veterans Day in the United States take place on 11 November because this is the yearly anniversary of the armistice which ended the actual shooting in World War One. The peace talks and the Controversial Treaty of Versailles came months later.

The armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred Eighteen.

Ten million young men had perished in the war, never to write the poetry of their lives.

Quick Reaction Squadron Royal Air Force vid clip

Official RAF 40 second vid clip on their Quick Reaction Alert Squadron. Jet fighters can take off within 90 seconds of an alert.

 

 

53 RAF aircrew lost their lives in the Dambuster raids We Shall Remember Them

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Bouncing Bomb code-named Upkeep underneath a Lancaster bomber.

Image: British Ministry of Defence, Air Historical Branch. 

LEST WE FORGET

133 RAF aircrew participated in the Dambusters attack.

Of those, 53 lost their lives–a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. The dead were all young men in the prime of their lives.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

From the poem Here Dead We Lie

by A.E. Housman

 

OPERATION CHASTISE (THE DAMBUSTERS’ RAID) 16 – 17 MAY 1943 (CH 9750) The Targets: A vertical reconnaissance photo showing the breach in the Eder Dam. The awkward approach to the dam resulted in the failure of the first three attempts to place a bomb accurately enough to destroy it. The fourth aircraft to attack (AJ-N) succeeded, however. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022178

 

Photograph collection of Dambusters IWM

One of the Famous Dambusters’ Pilots Was An American

“…chisel-jawed American pilot Joe McCarthy circled over the heart of Nazi Germany’s industrial machine.”

comment on his American pilot from interview with John “Johnny” Johnson, last survivor of the famous Dambusters from the Bristol Post of 13 May 2013

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Dambuster’s American pilot Joe McCarthy

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Then Flight Lieutenant RAF, American Joseph Charles “Joe” McCarthy DSO DFC and BAR, being introduced by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC to His Majesty King George VI after the Dambusters’ Raid.

Comments Charles McCain: “Joe McCarthy had made his way to Canada before the USA became a belligerent in World War Two and joined the Royal Canadian Air force. Many RAF bomber crews were comprised of men from different parts of the empire including the Royal Australia Air Force, Royal New Zealand, etc. So McCarthy was officially in the Royal Canadian Air Force but the only way to know that would have been a small patch on the standard RAF uniform which said, “Canada”.

Also, after they completed training and were dispatched to the manning depots, the men self selected into their bomber crews. On a specific day, the command would put all the different men in their different specialties in one large hanger and they would mill about until they had found a crew they liked. The higher-ups never got involved.”

As the war went on, however, the Canadian Government insisted that all Canadian squadrons be created and they were. Unlike the other self-governing Dominions of the British Empire, the Canadians didn’t want to mix in their men in either Bomber Command or the Royal Navy. They created their own navy, the Royal Canadian Navy. Unfortunately, without the presence of the highly skilled and trained Royal Navy or Royal Navy Reserve or experienced Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve officers, their navy took several critical years to achieve even the lowest level of competence.

After the war, Joe McCarthy became a Canadian citizen and enjoyed a successful career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. You can read more about him here:

http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,joemccarthy.html

 

LEST WE FORGET

133 RAF aircrew participated in the Dambusters attack. Of those, 53 lost their lives–a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. The dead were all young men in the prime of their lives. 

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

From the poem

Here Dead We Lie

by A.E. Housman

##########

Posted by writer Charles McCain, author of the World War Two naval epic:

An Honorable German.

SAYS NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR NELSON DeMILLE

“A truly epic and stirring tale of war, love, and the sea. An Honorable German is a remarkable debut novel by a writer who…seems he was an eyewitness to the history he portrays in such vivid detail. An original and surprising look at World War II from the other side.”

To purchase copies including Kindle and Nook click here:

http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/

For a signed and personally inscribed first edition hardback go to this specific link on author’s website:

http://charlesmccain.com/buy-an-honorable-german/

 

and

The Frat House Fire Escape Plan: Sigma Nu, Tulane and the 1970s

“LOL funny, revealing & satirical account of college life in 1970s New Orleans.”

http://charlesmccain.com/

HMS Duncan Joins US Carrier for Ops Against ISIL

HMS Duncan joins US Carrier on strike operations against ISIL

 

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HMS Duncan working alongside the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Paul Hamilton during her deployment.

07/07/2015    Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan is working around the clock to support day and night strikes against key ISIL targets in the Middle East launched from the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

She’s the latest Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer to take her place with a US carrier battle group on operations in the Gulf region, and is part of a coalition of more than 60 countries.

 

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Britain’s most advanced warship powering along in an American carrier battle group in the war against ISIL.

It is her job to shield the 100,000-tonne American carrier from any foe by sea or air – HMS Duncan’s Sea Viper missiles can take out the latter at up to 75 miles away.
But more important for the ongoing mission in the Gulf is her ability to provide air traffic and fighter control – the former keeps the aircraft apart while the latter guide F-18 Super Hornet bombers flying from the Roosevelt’s deck on to their ISIL targets.

 

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LS(AWW) Clough on the bridge wing of HMS Duncan.

(photo courtesy British Ministry of Defence)

“This deployment has been the highlight of my 24 years in the Royal Navy, and I know my sailors and Royal Marines are proud of all we have achieved so far,” said Commander Rich Atkinson, HMS Duncan’s Commanding Officer.

“Duncan’s cutting-edge capabilities make her the natural choice to escort the Theodore Roosevelt and provide the umbrella of protection she requires to carry out uninterrupted air strikes in the fight against ISIL.”

The Portsmouth-based destroyer is on her first tour of duty – as is electronic warfare specialist Able Seaman Ash Stroud.

“We’re very much a full part of the carrier strike group – we’re often the primary escort which shows that the US Navy trusts us to protect one of their most powerful warships,” he said.

“Whilst nine months away from home is a long time, I’m really proud to be contributing to such a worthwhile mission.”

 

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A Seahawk Helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt landing onboard HMS Duncan during her 2015 deployment.

 

As well as supporting the international effort against the ISIL fundamentalists – the 8,500-tonne warship has also joined the wider security mission in the region: patrolling the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and accompanying shipping through the key choke points in the region such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al Mandeb.

Working with the US carrier also sets the pace for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth class carriers – allowing the Service the opportunity to develop effective techniques.

“I’ve been with HMS Duncan since she was built on the Clyde and it’s great to see her now, three years on, showing her flexibility as a deployed Royal Navy warship,” said Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Samuel Velickovic, who works on the destroyer’s bridge.

“Not only are we a visible sign of Britain’s commitment to the region, we’re also demonstrating how advanced the Type 45 destroyer is in providing air defence as well as a range of other missions. I’m proud to be part of HMS Duncan – the best Type 45 there is.”

 

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Leading Seaman (Above Water Warfare) Austin in the Operations Room of HMS Duncan during her 2015 deployment. (photo courtesy UK Ministry of Defence)

 

All photos courtesy British Ministry of Defence

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2015/july/07/150707-duncan-joins-us-carrier-on-operations

During World War Two, a previous ship named HMS Duncan was made famous by Admiral Sir Peter Gretton, one of the great convoy escort commanders of World War Two.

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Waterloo Reenactors Rehearsing on Horse Guards Parade

practicing Waterloo re-enactment
practicing Waterloo re-enactment

 

re-enactors on Horse Guards Parade
re-enactors on Horse Guards Parade

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Waterloo Reenactors rehearsing on Horse Guards Parade
Waterloo Reenactors rehearsing on Horse Guards Parade

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Rehearsing Waterloo