Two FAA Squadrons, Vought Chesapeakes ordered to Singapore, Aug 1941

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Staff Sergeant
Oct 19, 2021
On the Vindicator/Chesapeake, could it have flown from Hermes? France’s carrier was dead slow and small and yet operated the type.

The French ordered 20 in Feb 1939 and another 20 in May with deliveries between July and Sept/Oct 1939. These were based on the USN SB2U-2. The only time they operated from Bearn was for some trials and deck landing training in April 1940. I’ve not seen any information about what weights they were flying at during this period. All operational flying by the two equipped squadrons was from land bases.

The French intention was to operate them from the Joffre class carriers, the first of which, Joffre herself, was laid down in Nov 1938 and scheduled for completion around 1942.

The version acquired by Britain came from the French follow up order. These 50, ordered in March 1940, were based on the SB2U-3 with provision for much more fuel in integral wing tanks. This was the version that USMC Pilots flew at Midway. So they were a heavier aircraft to begin with. According to Eric Brown, Britain had then made some modifications to them which had some impact on their performance, all however with the good intention of turning it into an “operational aircraft”.

They were rejected by the RN as being unable to operate from escort carrier decks, 440-500ft long, while carrying a useful load. US carriers all had flight decks over 700ft long and operated them. Bearn falls in the middle with 600ft of flight deck, and the Joffre class were to have 660ft of flight deck.

Hermes had 570ft of flight deck but with a long round down aft, so offhand I’m not sure how much was useable.

So who knows if Hermes could have operated the Chesapeake or not. But the hot conditions of the Indian Ocean would not have helped with the take off distance. And I don’t know what conclusions, if any, you can draw from the Bearn trials.


1st Lieutenant
Jul 25, 2007
Utah, USA
There's something very odd about what's been done to this aircraft. There is a second opening aft of the cockpit that extends as far aft as the hori-stab leading edge. What's going on there? The rear fuse was a metal framework with nothing but control cables in it and covered over in fabric, so what is the hoop structure in the fuselage aft of where the rear canopy closes onto?

This question slipped past me in the flurry of activity yesterday.

This airframe was captured by the Japanese. I suspect the second opening is simply a reflection of the abandoned nature of the aircraft rather than it being an operational mod to the airframe. I think the "hoop" is merely the former for the upper fuselage decking. IIRC the Wirraway fuselage structure was a box section of metal struttery, with the upper decking being fastened onto the upper fuselage longerons.


Master Sergeant
Apr 17, 2017
midwest USA
The SB2U had a footprint of 34' 0"L x 16' 0"W x 16' 4"H with wings folded. If my info is correct the Hermes hangar clear height was 16' 0", so the tips of the wings might have to be modified, and the wings could only be folded/unfolded on deck??

TO run with 500 lb bomb and 118 USgal was 670/470 ft with 15/25 knot WOD
TO run with 1000 lb bomb and 216 USgal was 870/620 ft with 15/25 knot WOD
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special ed

Chief Master Sergeant
May 13, 2018
You all are correct. My faulty memory has forced me to divert valuable model building time and workbench building time to return to the books.
The book: Vichy Air Force at War
The authors: Jon Sutherland & Diane Canwell
The publisher: Pen & Sword
Unfortunately there is no index, so this required skimming through. No Skuas at Torch but many other British aircraft. I can recommend this book completely, as it reads like documentary with just enough political posturing to keep things straight. In the accounts of the French in the mid east there will be combat of nearly every French aircraft of the period including Martin 167F, Hawk 75 and Northrop 8a. Nearly all British from Swordfish, Fulmars, Sea Hurricanes Spitfires, Blenhiems, Gladiators and US supplied Tomahawks. The Germans used Bf 110s, Ju 88, Ju 90,Bf 109, He 111 and of course Ju 52. The Italians used their CR.42. There is enough action of biplanes attacking more modern, and yes the famous Skua, but the Skua action is absent after about Sept 1940, flying from Ark Royal. It covers all the mid east action and much of N.Africa. The last sections detail Vichy aircraft, pilots, and Indochina plus two pages on Aeronautique Navale. Shoot downs are recorded by type, airman involved, and survival or not.


Staff Sergeant
Oct 19, 2021
.....and the wings could only be folded/unfolded on deck??
Or possibly between the beams in the hangar roof supporting the flight deck. It would depend on their depth + hangar height (16ft) v the height of an SB2U with the wing panels being absolutely vertical.

Folding them on deck would slow deck operations given Hermes was not fitted with a barrier.

Escuadrilla Azul

Staff Sergeant
Feb 27, 2020
Hwas the second to fly, and he asked if the prior test had included a spin. He was answered in the affirmative so he duly tried to spin the beast...and found he couldn't get out of it. He tried everything in the book, ultimately "pudding basining" the stick and, somehow, the aircraft went into a normal dive from which he recovered. Needless to say, he tore a strip off the MU staff who'd told him it could be spun.
Well it could spin. Quite another thing is if it could be recovered from it!

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