Earlier this week I put out a series of tweets about the Fleet Air Arm, it’s men and it’s aircraft. Some missed them so I have put them all together here, with a few bonus shots. What surprised me when putting this article together was that RAF Leuchars near St Andrews in Fife was Number One Flying School before WW2 and was the main training base for the Fleet Airm, before it was moved down south. Ironically RAF Leuchars is clsoing as an airbase and will become an Army base.
A long and varied career but will always be RAF Leuchars to me. Anyway I digress on with photos starting off with training shots at Leuchars during the late 1930s and the men who did the instructing.
This shot shows a Sgt Instructor addressing his group of Navy pilots and ground crew, inter service rivalry appears to have been set aside between the Senior and Junior service (The Navy has traditions, the Army has customs, the RAF has habits) and they are sharing a joke by the look of it. The RAF also teach the Army parachute training.
Although based on land the training had to recreate onboard conditions, ratings wore Navy uniforms, navy slang and terms were used and simulated carrier landing strips and ships catapults (see photo) were set up to give an air of nautical operations.
Here a Rating checks the parachute of a Petty Officer prior to him climbing into the workhorse of the fleet, the Vicker Supermarine Walrus, this aircraft is an amphibian rather than a flying boat. Note the extremely big bellbottoms the sailor has on, perfect for tangling with aircraft parts.
The Firth of Forth was a popular training area for the RAF and the Navy, this next shot shows an attack with a dummy torpedo at wave tope level by a Hawker Horsley. Biplanes very much still ruled the roost in the 1930s particularly in naval aviation, which seemed to lag behind on terms of equipment.
Aircraft such as the Bristol Baffin were still flying at the outbreak of war despite being ridiculously outclassed.
There were many other biplanes such as the Fairley Albacore and the Blackburn Swordfish which saw action in WW2, most famously against the Battleship Bismark, in truth they could only operate when they out of range of land fighters which would decimate them or at night such as the famous attack on Taranto Harbour which was the blueprint for the Pearl Habor attack.
The writing was on the wall for these biplanes although they were still there, like this Fairey Seafox ready for launch on HMS Neptune in the sunny Med. This last picture in this post is the Fairey Firely which looks like an overgrown Spitfire, introduced as the war went on it was a potent figher bomber with it’s 4 cannon. The end of the war brought about the last of the high performance propellor planes and the jet era.
I will cover them in a later post.