Scimitar Aircraft Trials, Toulon.

Wondered if any members were aboard HMS CENTAUR in October 1962, when she took part in a trial at Toulon? She catapult launched the third Scimitar Prototype, WW 134, unmanned for an aircraft ditching trial in conjunction with(I think) the Aeronavale of the FN. I left 'Centaur' in April 1962 and rejoined her in February 1963 and so missed that bit of fun. It would be useful to know some details about the exact nature of the trial, what the objectives were, was the a/c launched with the engines running, or 'dead' was there any underwater filming and did the trial have a title? It was conducted by the RAE/A&AEE, ie, Boscombe Down, Cranfield and Bedford. The FAA Museum do not have any details. I believe the wreck was not recovered after the launch. Also, is there possibly an RAE/A&AEE Museum somewhere?
24/10/1962 WW134 Supermarine 544 RAE/A&AEE This was the third Scimitar prototype. At the end of its flying career it was dispatched to the French port of Mandier, Toulon. As part of trials it was deliberately launched off HMS Centaur without a pilot and now lies on the Mediterranean seabed think you probably have these dets Roger
Scouse, Thanks for that, yes, that's the dit I tracked down on the Wolverhampton Aviation Society site. I think the way to go now, unless somebody comes up with some new info, or perhaps an eyewitness acount, is try to find RAE and A&AEE records and or a museum, if they have one. The other option is the Aeronavale, who have a museum at La Rochelle, which is currently closed. I've tried this avenue before and as I left French halfway through the fourth form, mine is limited! Trying technical stuff on email, is difficult, even with French people, who speak good English. We live in hope! Out of interest, I had heard about this Scimitar 'Launch' over the years and was always given to understand that 'Ark Royal' which had visited Toulon around that time, did the trial. I wonder if they have the wrong carrier?
I was on the Centaur during that trial. In fact I was the flight deck SBA. I might have a photo of the actual aircraft - I will have a look. The trial - I think - was for an underwater, through canopy ejection system. I don,t think it was successful
Hello POMA,

Thanks for your reply, great stuff! That's the first new info and now I have more idea what the trial was about, I might be able to chase it via the through the canopy trial avenue. A photo would be great if you have one.

We might have met? I was an 807 Sqdn Armourer and left Centaur around April 1962, when the squadron disbanded. I rejoined her in February 1963 as the Ops Room Aircrewman, until I got a crash draft home from Aden on 7 May 1963, my 21st Birthday! To join No3 SAR Divers Course at Vernon.

You might recall an accident sometime in 1961-'62. I was working up a ladder on the (folded) port wing outer bomb pylon of an 807 Sqdn Scimitar and my LAM'O' was doing the same on the stbd outer pylon. The ship's radar set off the bomb Explosive Release Unit into his left hand. I never saw him again after he disappeared with the Flight Deck SBA down the forr'd lift and into the emergency entrance to the sick bay, whilst holding his mangled hand. I would appreciate any details you might remember of that incident please?


Used to knock around with Tony Russell, ships company LAM(O), and singer with the group The Stormsville Four.
The incident with the LAM(O)s hand injury I don,t recall I was probably not on flight deck duty that day. Did you rejoin after the boileroom incident or after we went to Liverpool.
I'll drag out all my old photos (after Christmas)(if sober enough)and see if I do have one of the scimitar on the catapult.
Years later I came accross a Surgeon Commander who was involved in underwater ejection trials, the trials took place in a Loch in Scotland. He got fed up shooting dummmies etc up through the water so one day he sat in the seat and fired himself out of the underwater contraption. Result a bollicking and an MBE.
I think the result of the trial on the Centaur was not a great success because the scimitar on hitting the water turned over and the seat fired down into the seabed.
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Think Tony Russell used to look and sing like Elvis? I met him again about 1990 when he had a good (civvie) number as the Wardroom Hall Porter at 'Raleigh'. The boiler room accident happened whilst I was away from 'Centaur'. I knew the blokes who died and remember the SD SLt Engineer and the Chief Stoker 'Albert' who had been the Stokers Reg Chief just before going back into the boiler room watchbill. I recall reading in the newspapers about a Welsh farmer on Anglesey, who gave a dramatic account about hearing it happen! A 'townie' of mine, LS Ball was Cox'n in the wheelhouse that night, right beside the boileroom and he didn't hear a thing! What the agricultural 'Ianto' heard was 'Centaur' blasting off steam from everywhere to reduce pressure and cool (I think) 'B' boileroom enough to enable access. There was a big purge around the whole RN after that, as it was found that the boileroom emergency escape manhole cover had been painted shut and it wouldn't open. They had to be checked on all other ships. Don't think it would have made much difference in that instance, with the place blasted full of superheated steam within seconds.

Think you met Surgeon Commander (later Captain) 'Sandy' Davidson MBE, who did the underwater ejection trials and received his MBE for the first 'live' trial underwater ejection trial using the new system. They continued doing trials in the tank at 'Vernon' in the early 1960's when I was (occasionally) doing safety diver for the dunker when my ship at that time 'Hermes' was alongside in Pompey. I met him again in 1967 when he was PMO of 'Eagle' during the Aden Withdrawal. I think he was a Ship's Diver too?

Well they discovered that a Scimitar might invert on ditching! Our Scimitar, Call Sign '194' of 807 Sdn which was ditched off Kuwait by SLt Andy Alsop stayed upright and he escaped. It was at Standeasy time 1000! That was during the 1st 'First' Kuwait crisis in 1961 and the Brits under the codename Op 'Vantage' stopped the Iraqis invading Kuwait. The Yanks called us 'Colonial Warmongers' then and their oil workers in Kuwait wouldn't speak to British soldiers who were keeping the Iraqis out (So there!) Times change! Who led the charge thirty years later?
If the scimitar ditching with Subby Alsop is the one I'm remembering he didn,t even get his feet wet. Do you remember the antics of Battler Britten(Britain). Most of the scimitar pilots were real characters.

The boiler room incident was very nasty. We did eventually get the emergency hatch open and one of the Flight Deck Chief Handlers got dressed up in fearnought suit but only managed to get halfway down the ladder. I think he tried to lasso one of the casualties but it was becoming too dangerous so we had to pull him up. The youngest casualty, just come up from being a junior stoker,had the bunk below mine for a little while.
Have started looking through the archives so far pictures of Gannets, Whirlwinds, Scimitars and Vixens landing and taking off, one of the sea vixen taking Chapman Pincher(Defence Correspondant - Daily Express) off after a visit to watch some exercise. Oh, and some of Tony Shaun and the Stormsville Four!!!. I'll keep looking even though I feel Christmas Part 2 coming along.
POMA, Sorry for delay in replying to your last. Presumably, as a 'Sick Bay Tiff' you were at the scene when they finally opened up the Boiler Room aboard 'Centaur'. I heard it was like something from hell. As a guarded statement, the only CPO in the Flight Crew Crew was the 'Captain of the Flight Deck' who, around that time, was Chief Airman AH 'Bungy' Williams, who was also a noted FAA Field Gun Trainer? I am certainly open to and interested in anybody else's comment that might update mine: I understood that the first man in after they opened the hatch, was NA AH 'Big Frank' Nugent, a Flight Deck Firesuitman and probably NA AH Tom Nolan too, another FD Firesuitman. It is entirely possible, of course that Bungy Williams donned a Fearnought Suit and went in as well. I remember SLt 'Battler' Britten (Sp?) one of 807 Squadron Scimitar pilots who was a very approachable guy and easy to talk to at Sqdn PU's. He later went flying 728 Sqdn, Meteor Target Tug Mk22, that were converted Night Fighters Mk14. It was a tandem seat, two-crew, non-ejection seat old jet. Ratings' Aircrew of my old sub specialization flew in the back and operated the winch to stream the wire with the gunnery 'banner' target. In 1962 Battler was flying with NAM 'AE' (Aircrew) Johnny Gill, who I knew from Air Mechanic training at Arbroath in 1959. They did a dummy attack on a minesweeper, Battler 'overcooked' it a bit and hit the 'Sweeper's' mast! I believe that it 'flamed-out' one of the engines (poss the port unit) the canopy went and when Battler got it back to Hal Far, Johnny had gone and all that was ever found of him, was a flying boot sole mark on the tail of the Meteor. Apparently Battler was affected very badly afterwards I believe. All very sad and I heard that after he left the navy, he went into civil aviation. Incidentally, I was on deck in 'Fly One' when Chapman Pincher arrived in the right-hand seat of an 893 Sqdn Sea Vixen. A very unusual privilege accorded to a non-aircrew civilian! It shows how much influence he carried in the 1960's.
Sorry its taking so long to locate photo. Tried everywhere - hoping I wasn't going to have to do this but it looks like a search of the attic is next stage. In the meanwhile photo of Chapman's Vixen.
Thanks Poma, I shouldn't think the slogan lasted very long! I seem to remember Chapman being treated almost like Royalty whilst he was on board. Thanks for your Toulon Scimitar photo efforts. Don't spen too much time over it, life's too short!

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