Fixed Wing Martlet operations from RN Carriers

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by oldcrowcv63, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #1 oldcrowcv63, Aug 19, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012
    In Don Linn's F4F Wildcat in Action study of the F4F Wildcat he cites on page 19 regarding the Martlet III flown by FAA 806 Squadron:

    "... their only known action at sea being when 806 Squadron deployed aboard the HMS Indomitable, for convoy escort duty in the Med..."

    It appears that Martlet IIIs were assigned to both 805 and 806 squadrons in the MTO, yet the FAA archive web site is little help in this regard as it appears to be indiscriminate in assigning squadrons either Martlet I, II and IV but neither 805 or 806 ever saw a Martlett III, unless you infer this from the cartoon of the III (with appropriate III USN! Bureau number) on their page.

    Fleet Air Arm 805 squadron profile. Squadron Database of the Fleet Air Arm Archive 1939-1945

    Since I have seen numerous sources (including Eric Brown's statement) that the folding wing Martlet IIs were embarked on Audacity, it would seem to be the only example of a fixed-wing Martlet actually embarked on a RN Carrier.

    I have come to the conclusion there is a large amount of incorrect or contradictory information on this aircraft that is continually repeated by subsequent authors, even in books as authoriative as America's 100 Thousand. Caveat Emptor!

    Anyone have a confirming or disputing source?
     
  2. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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  3. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    While this essay with its tables is indeed an interesting and clarifying summary of the various martlet Marks, unless I missed something, the only reference to an actual shipboard deplopyment I found was the one cryptic comment:

    "Contrary to popular belief Martlet Is did go to sea. They were equipped with hooks, but the holdback was not fitted."
     
  4. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    I dug out an old book:

    Naval Wings, RN carrier-borne aircraft since 1916, it implies that Indomitable, which was the only CV to operate Martlets during Pedestal, carried some or all fixed wing Martlets. This makes sense as Indomitable had a large forward lift, that could accommodate a fixed wing Martlet. Victorious, the other armoured CV carried Sea Hurricanes which could not be taken below as her lifts were too narrow, and Fulmars, and if the Marlets were folding wing (that would fit on Victorious' lifts), it would have made sense that they be used on Victorious rather than Indomitable. It may be that the FAA was scraping the bottom of the barrel and decided to use the fixed wing Martlet, as no folding wing variants were available.
     
  5. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, that's just the confirmation I was hoping to get! I didn't realize Indom had a larger lift. I thought all the armored Illustrious classs modified or not all had the small lifts. You don't happen to know the size of the forward lift do you?
     
  6. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    802 Sqn went to sea with Martlet Is aboard HMS Audacity in September 1941 operating in the Bay of Biscay on convoy escort duties, where a number of pilots shot down Fw 200s (five), including Eric 'Winkle' Brown, who shot down two on seperate occasions. Audacity, as you guys know was torpedoed on 21st November, with Brown being one of those saved.

    Martlet IIIs of B Flight, 802 Sqn operated aboard HMS Victorious off Norway at around the same time; Sub Lt Jimmy Sleigh shot down a He 111 on 13 September, which was the first of a Martlet (F4F) flying from a carrier.

    In support of an RAF Hurricane wing to Russia, two Martlet (Is or IIIs?) of 802 Sqn were briefly embarked aboard HMS Argus in September 1941, from which they then went to Victorious on the 9th.

    This info comes from Royal Navy Aces of WW2 by Andrew Thomas (Osprey) and is also mentioned in Wildcat Aces of WW2 by Barrett Tilman (also Osprey). I hope this helps, Oldcrow.
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Here's a bit more; regarding the Illustrious Class ships' lifts, their dimensions were 45 by 22 ft standard, but were modified and strengthened to receive heavier aircraft types in "...some" of the ships, including Illustrious and presumably Indom, since she had a larger hangar space to accomodate a bigger aircraft complement (modified whilst under construction), although no dimensions are mentioned in this source (Aircraft Carriers of the World 1914 to the Present by Roger Chesneau).
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The other problem facing martlets apart from wing folding (to get up and down the lifts) , was that the wing folding could not be in the traditional fold upwards. It had to be folded backwards, to clear the limited hangar clearances of RN CVs. This was made more difficult by the mid and later war practice of slinging spare a/c from the roof of the hangar....

    wanting closed hangar systems came at a price.....
     
  9. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    The first 3 Illustrious class had 2 x 45 x 22 lifts. The last 3 (all with double hangars) had 1 x 45 x 22ft after lift and one x 45 x 33ft forward lift.
     
  10. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    The backward folding wings also reduced the folded width, to only 14ft on the Martlet and Seafire. This meant that they could fit 4 wide in the 62ft wide hangars.
     
  11. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    According to Eric Brown, Audacity went to sea (with him) flying Martlet IIs with folding wings. I have a number of other sources that also say they were IIs. Somehow I missed the the mention in Wildcat Aces, so thanks for the tip.
     
  12. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Thank God for erasers and paper clips! (how Leroy Grumman solved the problem)
     
  13. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info.
     
  14. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #14 oldcrowcv63, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012

    Attached Files:

  15. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    That photo can't have been taken during Excess (Jan 1941) because it shows Martlets on Illustrious, and they weren't deployed then. Looking here:
    HMS Valiant, British battleship, WW2
    the earliest date for that photo would be August 1942.
     
  16. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Ahhhh yep...
     
  17. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Now, I knew you were going to raise that Oldcrow, but the serial number of the Martlet he flew off Audacity was AL254, which was assigned to a Martlet I. In Wildcat Aces there's a profile of it and in RN Aces there is a photo of it, albeit blurry, so only the identifying letter is visible ('R'). First 85 Martlet I serials: AL236 to AL262, AX725 to AX738, AX824 to AX829, BJ507 to BJ527 and BJ554 to BJ570. This from British Naval Aircraft since 1912 by Owen Thetford. In British Naval Aviation, The Fleet Air Arm 1917-1990, Ray Sturtivant lists Martlet BJ516 of 802 Sqn flying from Audacity as being shot down by an Fw 200 on 8 November, the day in which Brown shot down his first Fw 200.

    The caption from Wildcat Aces of Brown's Martlet I AL254/R: "Eric Brown, later famous as a test pilot and as the leading carrier aviator (with 2400 carrier landings) in the Fleet Air Arm first encountered Grumman's latest fighter when Martlet Is were 'acquired' by 802 Sqn at Donibristle in early 1941. He scored a victory in the type on 8 November the same year, claiming the destruction of a KG 40 Fw 200. The Martlet I was intended for French Aeronavale service, but with no provision for carrier operation and with metric instruments. They were powered by a Wright 1820-G205A Cyclone engine, driving a Hamilton Standard propeller, because the F4F-3's Pratt and Whitney R-1830 was not then cleared for export."

    So, was Brown right or wrong? He is known to contradict himself. Many years ago he wrote an account for Air International on flying the Me 163 Komet, which was later published in its entirety in Wings of the Luftwaffe, which stated he never flew the '163 VF214 under power, only under tow, but in his autobiography he claims he did fly it powered. Other sources on captured enemy aircraft in Britain also claim that the Me 163 was never tested (flown) under its own power in Britain.
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I confess I always thought that Audacity was the only instance that Martlet Is ever flew from carriers. If you have that amount of detail, i will happily stand corrected
     
  19. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #19 oldcrowcv63, Aug 22, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
    Re-reading Winton's Find, Fix and Strike, He says the RN CVs lined up for the Madagascar Ironclad operation (5/5/42) included:

    Illustrious with 2 VF squadrons: 881 with 12 fixed wing Marlet Is and 882 with 8 folding wing Martlet IIs and 2 TBR squadrons: 801 and 829 with 20 Swordfish between them. Total: 40 aircraft
    Indomitable with 3 VF squadrons: 800 and 806 with 24 Fulmars and 880 with 9 Sea Huricanes and 2 TBR squadrons: 827 and 831 with 24 Albacores between them. Total: 57 aircraft.

    Formidable was also in the IO at that time and (according to the Admiralty's Pink List Dated 5/1/42) possessed an airwing comprised of, two VF squadrons: 888 with 12 Marlet Is and 803 with 12 Fulmar and 1 TBR squadron: 820 with 12 Albacore. Total: 36 aircraft.

    I am a bit astonished at the variety of types, their occasionally small numbers (for early 1942) and the change in composition that each airwing appears to have experienced from week to week.

    I am beginning to think there is a complex back story to all of this and that perhaps much of FAA history remains to be written or it could be that I am just ignorant of the more detailed sources: My own FAA library consists of selected xeroxed sections (typically pertaining to ops during early 1942) from:

    Winton: FF&S
    MacIntyre's Fighting Admiral
    Whitehouse's Squadrons of the Sea
    Sturtivan's FAA at War
    Popham's Sea Flight
    Cameron's Wings of the Morning
    Brown's Wings of the Navy

    None of these provide anything like the detail provided by Lundstrom.
     
  20. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    i need to get lundstrom i can see
     
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