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48 Seafires lost in 2 days at Landing on stations!!!


War Hero
Might be of interest to some....Reflections of a FAA pilot, by Hank Adlam. Salerno 43. a Task force of 2 Fleet Carriers, and 4 Escort Carriers, was choosen by the Admiralty, to provide air cover, over the beachhead. The 2 Fleet carriers had some 80 Wildcats and Seafires ( ie Spitfires with hook!!) The 4 escort carriers had some 80 Seafires. Wind conditions in Salerno was that of a zepher breeze and dead calm, entirely to have been expected at that time of year. Thus the Seafires on the Escort Carriers had to operate in a wind at 16knts over the deck. Whereas they needed 28knts of wind over the deck. The Salerno OP was planned by Rear Admiral Vian, despite never having served or flown from an a/c carrier, was put in charge of this first Multi Carrier operation of the RN. After 2 days the Escort Carriers had virtually run out of Seafires!!!!! no less than 48 Seafires had been written off, as the pilots attempted to land in those windless conditions. A great many pilots were killed and seriously hurt in this Fiasco. A further 10 lost to enemy fire. If only the Carriers had been used Knowledgeably I.E. Seafires for the Fleet Carriers, giving them the correct wind speed over the deck. The Wildcats operating from the Escort Carriers, as they could operate O/K given the 16knts they provided. quote HA


War Hero
Book Reviewer
The Seafire was notorious for its undercarriage collapsing in carrier landings. Gruesome pics in all sorts of places on the internet. Still in action off Korea from HMS Triumph which was hurriedly sent up there from Hong Kong when the North invaded in 1950 (due to us having to get rid of all our American aircraft when the US scrapped Lend Lease as soon as the war was over. Lots about Safires and their inadequacy in Ian Cameron's 'Wings of the Morning'. Ace in the air (but very limited endurance) but a disaster on deck.


War Hero
Quote HA The Seafire which was a normal Spitfire, with the attachment of the hook for deck landing. Was in reality entirely unsuitable fo Carrier operations. The narrow track of the undercarriage, its fragility, and that of the whole fuselage, made the Seafire unable to cope with the constant stresses of deck landings. The big woden propeller constantly shattered ,because it had to little deck clearance, Seafire had a very limited range, no bomb load, was not all that faster than the Wildcat, and with less firepower. The in line engine with scoop type coolers under the wings made a succesful ditching in the sea, very difficult. When landing on, it had a tendancy, to float over the wires when the engines were cut, ending up in the crash barrier.


Didn't the author of "They Gave Me A Seafire" touch on this in his book? I seem to remember him critising the Admiral for not understanding carrier aviation.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
The REASON we had such limited understanding of naval aviation at the top was that the officers who would have provided it had been siphoned off to the RAF in 1918.


War Hero
Zero_impact said:
Didn't the author of "They Gave Me A Seafire" touch on this in his book? I seem to remember him critising the Admiral for not understanding carrier aviation.
You could say :oops: :oops: :oops: Read this Quote.... HA :oops: The task force final conference of squadron commanders, was interupted by Admiral Vian after 10 minutes " all i have to say to you is get stuck in!!!! He was their to speak to many aircrew who were very likely to be killed in the next few days. It would have been better leadership if he had quietly emphasized the importance of the task ahead and expressed his confidence in them and wished them goog luck. At a similar meeting in the wardroom attended by all aircrew wearing normal daily tropical uniform of white shirts and shorts. Vian demanded to know why the aircrew were not wearing wings!!!! This after 3 years in charge of FAA Operations . He did not or never knew that wings were never worn with that uniform


War Hero
Book Reviewer
For a top-down view, 'Action This Day' AoF Sir Philip Vian, London 1960. He freely acknowledges that when given the Salerno escort carrier force he was "altogether inexperienced in the operation of a force of aircraft carriers". Indeed it is clear that he only got the job because he earlier had been given a pierhead jump to Husky when the intended admiral was killed in an air crash.

He writes that it was Captain Henry McWilliam, CO of the escort carrer HMS Hunter, who brought forward the idea of cropping the Seafire airscrews.

He also writes that the Seafires off Salerno were supposed to be relieved by the RAF on D+1 but that didn't happen for a long time as we hadn't captured the necessary (Montecorvino) airfield. The Americans eventually rigged up an alternative and the "all available Spitfires" (presumably including the RAF ones at Malta) were sent ashore on D+3 (Vian had reported on D+2 that his Seafire force was all in, but was told to stick it out).
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