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Old 13-12-2012, 01:51
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SeidelJ SeidelJ is offline
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Default HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Gudday once again.
I'm posting this as a new thread as - while I've seen much written on the Crete and Mediterranean campaigns of 1941 - I've seen very little on HMS Formidable's involvement and of the events surrounding Operation MAQ3.
If I've done so incorrectly, please don't hesitate to correctly reposition this post.


HMS Formidable Operation MAQ3, Crete, 26 May 1941:

From the Armchair Admiral’s couch:

Desperate times call for desperate deeds. The desperate need to stem the flow of devastating air attacks on Crete and units of the Royal Navy in the eastern Mediterranean during April and May 1941 saw HMS Formidable’s tired and depleted air wing pitted against the might of X Fliegerkorps.
The outcome may almost be seen as inevitable.

J.D. Brown’s Carrier Operations in World War II lists HMS Formidable’s paper strength at the time as 41 aircraft:
• 12 Fulmars (803 squadron)
• Up to 8 Fulmars (806 squadron)
• 12 Albacores (826 squadron)
• 9 Albacores and Swordfish (829 squadron)

But, by March 1941, the cost of emergency measures put in place during the Battle of Britain had struck home. All Fleet Air Arm aircraft production had been suspended in contribution to a “total effort” in the production of Hurricanes and Spitfires for the defence of the home islands.
By the time of Formidable’s arrival in the Mediterranean, FAA stocks of reserve aircraft and spare parts were being rapidly depleted.
It was a constant struggle to maintain an adequate number of operational aircraft. A detachment from Illustrious’ 805 Squadron (Fulmars) is listed as being embarked between March and April 1941 and increasing numbers of Swordfish were being drafted to maintain an effective TBR (torpedo, bomber, reconnaissance) wing as stocks of the newer Albacore were rare.

Reports of available, serviceable and deployed aircraft are often confused, particularly for the day HMS Formidable was bombed.
It seems Formidable departed Alexandria with a respectable (for that time) 27 aircraft. But Admiral Cunningham tantalisingly wrote later that some of these were known to be in “suspect” condition.
Perhaps the 12 aircraft made ready on Formidable’s deck on May 26 were all she could muster. We know four of these were Albacores and four Fulmars. We know a further four aircraft (types unknown) developed problems before or shortly after take-off.
Exactly how many Fulmars the armoured carrier had to defend herself and the warships of Force A, MAQ3, that day remains uncertain. But it seems to be as few as four.

The damage to HMS Formidable was serious, but much less severe than that suffered by HMS Illustrious earlier that year. It took six months and a US dockyard before the carrier could return to service. However, the structural distortion caused by a near-miss would haunt HMS Formidable or the rest of her life.


Prelude

HMS Formidable had arrived later than expected in the Mediterranean. She had initially been assigned to relieve Ark Royal at Gibraltar. Her journey began in December 1940 when she escorted a convoy to Sierra Leone. After HMS Illustrious was seriously damaged in January 1941, Formidable was ordered to work her way around to the Indian Ocean towards Alexandria via the Suez Canal.
But the Suez Canal had been mined with magnetic and new acoustic weapons by Germans. It took some considerable effort before the RN was confident enough to risk their valuable fleet carrier in the confined waters on March 9, 1941.

Massawa: While held up in the Red Sea, Formidable launched an air strike on shipping in and around the Italian port of Massawa . The strike met unexpectedly strong fighter opposition. Fourteen aircraft engaged in the attack, which saw a support ship torpedoed, a destroyer damaged by a bomb and two merchant ships sunk. Two Albacores did not return – one of which made a forced landing 20 miles from Massawa due to engine trouble. All six crew were captured.
Once in Alexandria, Formidable’s 803 Squadron Fulmars were joined by those of 806 Squadron.
She was pressed into Mediterranean service after a 10-day respite.
Operation MC9: Formidable was deployed on March 20 with HMS Barham, Valiant and Warspite, with the cruisers Glouchester and York, to cover Convoy MW6.

Battle of Matapan: Eight days later, her Fulmars and Albacores played a central role in the Battle of Matapan. TBRs from Formidable damaged one heavy cruiser, allowing her to be caught by the battlefleet. The following day, on the March 29, Formidable’s Fulmars played a key role in breaking up waves of attacking aircraft as the battlefleet withdrew to Alexandria.

Operation MD2: On April 18 Formidable was at sea with HMS Valiant, Warspite and Barham, the cruisers Ajax, Calcutta, Gloucester, Orion and Phoebe, and 11 destroyers, to screen the departure of empty ships from Malta and to take up position for a bombardment of Tripoli. On this day the Fulmar belonging to 803 Squadron’s senior pilot was hit while leading his flight to engage Italian bombers. The aircraft’s windscreen was covered in oil and the instrument panel destroyed. Though wounded in the arm and thigh, he put the Fulmar on the deck of Formidable with only one wheel down – but the hook detached and the aircraft bounced off the island and skidded over the forward guns and bow and into the sea. Lt Donald Gibson was recovered by a destroyer, but Observer Sub Lt Ashbrook was killed.
On April 21 HMS Formidable’s Albacores were again active, this time deploying flares on a 49-minute night-time bombardment of Tripoli by the battleships, the cruiser Gloucester and nine destroyers. Formidable remained further out to sea in the company of cruisers. The following day, the 22nd, saw her Fulmars once again operating in defence of the withdrawing fleet. Two Ju88s were claimed shot down.
Between 17 and 23 April, Formidable’s 17 Fulmars had completed 156 sorties. April 22 had proven the peak of flight operations, with up to 14 Fulmars in the air at once. Eight aircraft were claimed shot down in this period, and three listed as “probable”.

Operation Tiger: On May 6 HMS Formidable, with HMS Valiant, Barham, Warspite, Ajax, Orion, Perth and Abdiel with 12 fleet destroyers deployed to cover a complex series of shipping movements. Prime responsibility was for the transit of a convoy carrying 295 tanks and 43 Hurricanes for the Middle East from the United Kingdom. But also part of the operation was the passage of Convoy MW7 from Alexandria to Malta and the delivery of the reinforcing feet units HMS Queen Elizabeth, Glouchester and Fiji to Alexandria. On May 9 and 10 the force was providing Distant Cover for the Tiger convoy as it passed Malta towards Alexandria when Formidable’s Fulmars repulsed several air attacks. Some seven enemy aircraft were claimed shot down. The cargo was safely delivered to Alexandria on May 12. Ominously, HMS Formidable reported only four remaining serviceable Fulmars when she docked.

Crisis in Greece and Crete: On May 20, HMS Formidable – when the protection offered by her Fulmars is needed the most – finds herself tied up in Alexandria still with only four serviceable fighters. The attrition of the previous months had simply been too high, and the flow of replacement aircraft too slow. A desperate hunt was underway for aircraft, spare parts and equipment.
As German forces marched down the coast of Greece and attacks on Crete mounted, the last RAF aircraft on Crete were withdrawn to the safety of Egypt on May 19. The numbers of German fighters were simply overwhelming and further operations were considered wasteful.
But the Royal Navy still strove to maintain control of the seaward approaches to Crete. Fully aware of the risks – the sailors at least had learned the lessons of Norway – the warships pressed on in the face of an enemy in complete control of the skies.
A significant victory was achieved on May 21 when three cruisers and four destroyers intercepted and sank 11 small vessels carrying German troops were sunk. Some 297 Germans were killed.
Retaliation is swift: Luftwaffe attacks damage HMS Dido, Orion, Ajax and four destroyers in four hours of sustained bombing. Italian aircraft sink the destroyer HMS Juno south-east of Crete.
The next day is a disaster: HMS Naiad and Calcutta are damaged in air attacks. HMS Warspite is so severely damaged (with 43 killed and 69 wounded) she is later ordered to the United States for extensive repairs. The cruisers HMS Gloucester and Fiji are left without anti-aircraft ammunition and sunk by Stukas.
On May 23, HMS Kelly and Kashmir are sunk by 20 Ju-87s from I/StG.2 after the ships bombarded German positions at Maleme airfield, Crete.


Admiralty pressure

It is against this backdrop of overwhelming air attack that Admiral Cunningham had to contend with “most unhelpful” instructions from the Admiralty Office in London.
The Commander-in Chief had informed the Admiralty that the scale of air attack now made it impossible for his ships to operate in the Aegean or near Crete in daylight. “The Navy could not guarantee to prevent seaborne landings without suffering losses, which, added to those already sustained, would very seriously prejudice our command of the Eastern Mediterranean,” he wrote.
The Chiefs of Staff reply was blunt: If greater effort than that suggested by Cunningham was not enacted, the enemy would be able to considerably reinforce their invasion force upon Crete. The Fleet and Royal Air Force must “accept whatever risk” in preventing reinforcements reaching Crete, and considerable losses were expected. The Admiralty wrote that only experience would determine how long such operations could be maintained.


May 25, Operation MAQ3:

In a move hinting at desperation and bowing to political pressure, Commander-in-Chief Admiral Cunningham ordered HMS Formidable to put to sea with his battlefleet.
Intelligence had assessed that most of the damaging Stuka attacks (by III/StG2) were being launched from Scarpanto (now known as Karpathos) in the Dodecanese Islands, some 50 miles east of Crete.
HMS Formidable’s aircraft were to attack the airfield.

In a marathon effort, Formidable had been able to restore her squadrons to a total of 27 aircraft. A narrative dated 24 May, 1948, by Admiral Cunningham reports Formidable had a total of 12 operational Fulmars (though some were rated as “suspect”).
J.D. Brown’s Carrier Operations in World War II adds that Formidable sailed with a reduced complement of 15 Albacores and Swordfish.
The number was considered enough to protect the carrier, the fleet, and conduct a strike.
At noon on May 25, Formidable – with HMS Queen Elizabeth, Barham and eight destroyers as Force A of MAQ3 – departed Alexandria for Scarpanto Island.

By 0500 the fleet had made its way to about 100 miles south-south-west of Scarpanto. A force of 12 aircraft was ranged on deck for the strike.
The condition and position of the 15 remaining operational aircraft Formidable sailed with is unreported.
Admiral Cunningham’s narrative states four Albacores and four Fulmars took part in the attack. Two aircraft could not be flown off, and two more returned to the carrier due to unserviceability.
The FAA – which had been joined by a few Wellingtons in the attack - achieved surprise, but little damage. The Albacores destroyed two aircraft and damaged others in their bomb attack. The strafing Fulmars attacked a park of CR42s and Ju87s.
After the strike aircraft returned, Force A withdrew to the south

Force A was reinforced by the cruisers HMS Ajax and Dido and four more fleet destroyers at 0700.
From this time on enemy aircraft were continually being detected shadowing the force. Two of these were claimed shot down by fighter patrols, but the Fulmars had been unable to intercept at least four others. Cunningham wrote that three enemy aircraft were shot down for certain that day and two were listed as probable. He also wrote that one Fulmar was lost.

Admiral Cunningham’s narrative states that Formidable had only eight remaining serviceable aircraft at this point (the same number as had participated in the airfield strike). These sortied 24 times during the forenoon, engaging in 20 combats, he wrote.
According to Ben Jones’ chapter in British Naval Aviation, the first 100 years, only four of the serviceable aircraft were Fulmars.

At 1200 hours Force A altered course again, this time to the west to provide distant cover for a convoy. At 1300 hours the fleet was logged as 90 miles north east of Bardia.

At 1320 Force A was attacked by 17 Ju87Bs from II/StG2 which had flown out of North Africa on a hunt for troop ships. (There is some discrepancy between reports as to which Stuka unit was involved. II/StG2 gets the most credible mentions, but some say it was StG1 and others StG3). Also taking part in the attack was 11 Ju88s of LG1.
Two Fulmars were airborne and vectored to intercept. They did not have enough height to successfully intervene in the initial attack run.

The Germans believed HMS Formidable had been caught flat-footed. They thought she was in the process of recovering aircraft and therefore not in a position to launch fresh fighters to defend herself.
Not that she had many Fulmars left to launch. Nor was the heavy fighter likely to have been able to climb to interception height fast enough.
According to German accounts, the first Stuka formation was from II/StG2 led by Major Walter Enneccerus. This group had previously taken part in the attack on HMS Illustrious. Oberleutnant Bernhard Hamester leading 5 Staffel spotted Formidable and took advantage of the opportunity by attacking at once. Staffel 4, led by Oberleutnant Eberhard Jakob, and Staffel 6, led by Oberleutnant Fritz Eyer, followed suit.

The dive-bombers plunged through the flak to strike HMS Formidable with two 1000lb bombs (some accounts say 2200lb bombs).
Her starboard hull plating was blown out between 17 and 24 bulkheads. “X” 4.5in turret was disabled, and the carrier’s arrestor and accelerator gear were put out of action.
A near-miss caused underwater damage and Formidable’s speed was reduced to 17knots.
Casualties included 12 killed and 10 wounded.

Formidable’s two Fulmars gave chase to the departing Stukas. Each claimed a Stuka destroyed. II/StG2’s records confirmed one aircraft of 5 Staffel downed and five damaged by the fighters and flack. Three Stukas had to make emergency landings before reaching their home airfields.
During the attack, one Fulmar was hit and the pilot wounded in the leg. Both Fulmars were able to return to Formidable’s flight deck despite the damage. The Fulmar Cunningham reported as been lost during the defence of the fleet may have been earlier in the day.

During the same attack, the destroyer HMS Nubian was hit aft and had her stern blown off. But the damage was mostly above the waterline, and she was able to continue at 20 knots.

An urgent request for air cover was initially met by the arrival of a single Blenheim, which loitered only minutes. Three Hurricanes from 1 SAAF then attempted to take up station over Force A but their arrival was met with AA fire. Three further Hurricanes, this time from 274 Squadron, later relieved this flight. A third fight of three Hurricanes, from 73 Squadron also took position over the fleet. Later, another flight of three Hurricanes, also from 73 Squadron, arrived in time to chase away a single Ju88.

By 1800, Formidable was reportedly able to fly-off her remaining aircraft again.

After dark, Force A split HMS Formidable off with four destroyers to make their way back to Alexandria. The remainder of the force continued covering operations.
HMS Formidable made the safety of Alexandria at dawn on May 27.


After Action Reports

The consequences of losing HMS Formidable were immediate: On May 27 Convoy AN31 for Suda Bay was ordered to turn back in the face of overwhelming air opposition. The remains of Force A was attacked by 15 Ju88s and He111s. Barham was hit on “Y” turret, starting a serious fire which took two hours to contain. Two of her bulges were flooded by near-misses. Two bombers were claimed shot down and one observed to be damaged. Admiral Cunningham ordered Force A to return to Alexandria. He had no answer for the relentless air attacks. The cruisers and destroyers, however, continued their courageous efforts to evacuate trapped Commonwealth troops until June 1.

The damage to Formidable was extensive. The lack of available dockyards meant the carrier had to withdraw to the United States for repair at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She was not available again until December 1941.

While in the United States, Formidable took delivery of a squadron of Grumman Martlet Mk II fighters – one of the first real steps to address the weaknesses of the stoic Fulmar.

The “experience” demanded by the Admiralty in its dispatches to Admiral Cunningham was well and truly learned – at least by those at sea. Complete air control allowed an invasion to take place even if control of the seas had not been established. That control of the seas could not be long maintained under intense air attack.
Admiral Cunningham resolved not to send detachments of his battle group into harm’s way. From now on, he wrote, the whole force – from carrier and battleship down to destroyer and frigate – would need to be committed as one force.
Admiral Cunningham had always been impressed by the capability of even single carriers in his fleets: “whenever an armoured carrier was in company, we had command of the air over the fleet … and also gave us vastly increased freedom of movement .”
But, three months after the attack on Formidable, Admiral Cunningham wrote that he believed two carriers carrying five fighter squadrons were the necessary minimum to maintain adequate fighter coverage for the fleet. He felt there needed to be up to 18 aircraft in the air when the risk was most acute.
His request for two carriers was denied on the grounds of a lack of available ships.

Rear Admiral Boyd, who was in command of carrier operations during MAQ3, commented on the defence of Formidable: “The behaviour of fighter aircraft was as usual beyond praise and the direction of them by Commander Yorke was admirable”.

In another assessment, Formidable’s Fighter Direction Staff ruled that Fulmars in the face of shore-based aircraft were simply not given enough time to reach interception heights by the detection range of the Type 279 radar. This made a standing fighter patrol essential, they advised.


Conclusion

Clearly HMS Formidable had been unready when pressed into the desperate action to protect retreating Commonwealth troops and tired and harried naval vessels operating under enemy air superiority.
Whether this was through the true belief that her patched-up air group was up to the task or simply a bloody-minded attempt to sate the demands of an ignorant Admiralty will never truly be known.

Was the sacrifice of HMS Formidable, and all the other Commonwealth Naval vessels sunk or damaged during the Crete campaign worth it?

Out of the 32,000 Commonwealth troops deployed to Greece and Crete, 18600 were evacuated.
One New Zealand solider wrote: “With a torch we flashed an S.O.S. and, to our tremendous relief, we received an answer. It was the Navy on the job – the Navy for which we had been hoping and praying all along the route”.

These words add weight to Admiral Cunningham’s declaration that it takes three years to build a ship, but 300 years to build a tradition.

There is rightly little credit or glory to be expected in these operations of retreat but I feel that the spirit of tenacity shown-by those who took part should not go unrecorded. More than once I felt that the stage had been reached when no more could be asked of officers and men, physically and mentally exhausted by their efforts and by the events of these fateful weeks. It is perhaps even now not realised how nearly the breaking point was reached, but that these men struggled through is the measure of their achievement and I trust that it will not lightly be forgotten.
(Signed) A. B. CUNNINGHAM.
Admiral. Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean.
September 14, 1941

Last edited by SeidelJ : 13-12-2012 at 02:18.
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Old 13-12-2012, 02:11
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SeidelJ SeidelJ is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Some pictures said to be of the attack on Formidable:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 38_hms_formidable_bombed_crete.jpg (79.2 KB, 23 views)
File Type: jpg 39_hms_formidable_bombed_crete.jpg (67.5 KB, 22 views)
File Type: jpg Formidable_Crete_1941_05_26_a_air_attack.jpg (42.9 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg Formidable_Hit_Crete.jpg (221.6 KB, 35 views)
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Old 13-12-2012, 08:26
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

"There is rightly little credit or glory to be expected in these operations of retreat but I feel that the spirit of tenacity shown-by those who took part should not go unrecorded. More than once I felt that the stage had been reached when no more could be asked of officers and men, physically and mentally exhausted by their efforts and by the events of these fateful weeks. It is perhaps even now not realised how nearly the breaking point was reached, but that these men struggled through is the measure of their achievement and I trust that it will not lightly be forgotten".
(Signed) A. B. CUNNINGHAM.
Admiral. Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean.
September 14, 1941

Brave words indeed but the Greek Affair and the debacle that was Crete- were almost the undoing of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean

I agree that HMS Formidable had been unready when pressed into the desperate action to protect retreating Commonwealth troops and tired and harried naval vessels operating under enemy air superiority.
Whether this was through the true belief that her patched-up air group of obsolescent Fulmars was up to the task; or simply a bloody-minded attempt to sate the demands of an Admiralty goaded on by the architect of these tragedies-Churchill- may never truly be known.


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Old 13-12-2012, 09:39
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

I will stick my neck out and disagree that the Fulmar was "obsolescent"... I'd say it was "inadequate".

In May 1941 only one US carrier had the Wildcat. The rest had the F3F biplane. It would be another month or so before Enterprise and Yorktown were to receive their single squadrons of Wildcats.

Yes, the Fulmar was a direct descendant of the Fairey Battle light bomber prototype. The specifications for fleet fighter were drawn up before the capabilities of radar were known, and therefore the weighty addition of an Observer was a requirement.

What is becoming clear to me is that is the Mediterranean carrier operations of 1940 and 41 that "wrote the textbook" for subsequent fleet carrier operations around the world.

The Royal Navy developed Radar Fighter Direction techniques and teams out of necessity during these times. It was for this reason HMS Victorious, when assigned as "USS Robin" to the US Pacific Fleet in 1943, was given the dedicated role of fleet fighter defence carrier. It had fighter direction experience - something the US liaison officers and pilots were keen to observe.

This explosive development in technology and doctrine makes the Fulmar very much a "transition" aircraft.
And I'd say its speed and armament even made it "ahead of its time" when pitted against its 1940 to June 1941 contemporaries.

It was even often mistaken by German and Italian pilots for the Spitfire. While something of a morale victory, there is no doubt the FAA actually needed something with a Spitfire's performance by 1942.

But, by then, even the "new" Wildcat was inadequate against the Zero.

As the British carrier fighter directors found, the Fulmar had a critical weakness: Its climb rate of 1200ft per minute. This meant it simply had no chance to launch and gain sufficient interception height in the time provided by the then available radars.

To counter this, the British carriers needed standing fighter patrols.
They rarely had enough operational fighters to provide one.

This lack of operational fighters in 1941 was as much a consequence of the emergency effort to build Spitfires and Hurricanes for the Battle of Britain (when all FAA production was suspended) as it was the operational levels and loss rates of the Fulmar in the Mediterranean.

Where things went "pear-shaped" for the Fulmar, in my humble opinion, was 1942 and 43.

This was when a replacement for the Fulmar should have been becoming operational.

Instead, the Firebrand was a failure. Mixing old doctrine with modern performance requirements was always going to be a huge challenge.

The Sea Hurricane and Seafire conversions were barely adequate as a stop-gap measure.

And the Firefly was simply too slow in its development.

The FAA eventually got the aircraft it needed - the outstanding Sea Fury and Sea Hornet. But this was too late for the war.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 28_fulmar_Formidable.jpg (67.1 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg 29_fulmar_launchFormidable.jpg (101.1 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg revenge_venerable.jpg (40.4 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg 10301857.jpg (304.6 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg SEA_HORNET (1).jpg (15.9 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg Fireflay.jpg (517.3 KB, 11 views)

Last edited by SeidelJ : 13-12-2012 at 09:50.
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Old 13-12-2012, 10:17
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Well Seidel my short answer to inadequate is obsolescent ie. becoming obsolete-apart from the Swordfish,which was also obsolescent;Fairy made poor aircraft generally in WW2. The WW2 history of the FAA was marred by being tethered to Fairy and Blackburn aircraft manufacturers; and was only relieved by aircraft produced by the American Aircraft Co's of Grumman and Chance Vought
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Old 13-12-2012, 10:51
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

My argument disagrees with you only for the period 1940 to mid-late 1941

You will note I agree with you regarding FAA aircraft development (though I didn't mention the Blackburn Skua, as it was already mostly off the front line by 1941 - the time this article adresses)

I feel blanket criticism is unfair as only experience demonstrated weaknesses in the face of new and constantly emerging lessons of war.

The Fulmar failed in that it was unable to be upgraded to meet these evolving challenges.

In 1940 and 41, the Fulmar was the best carrier fighter available in any numbers - with the serious weakness being its climb-rate which could be counter-acted through standing fighter patrols.

You have to remember: this aircraft was regularly going up against Italian and German land-based fighters in 1940 and 41 when it intercepted bomber raids.
None of these interceptions turned into a Marianas style "turkey shoot" (for either side).

Nevertheless, by 1942 the obsolescent tag applies.

Before then, it is ... challenged? But no more so than any other carrier fighter.

I doubt anyone could say the Sea Gladiator or F3F would have been a better fighter for the RN in 1940-41, even if they did have a much higher climb rate.

And saying the Wildcat was better is a bit tough as it was only entering advanced production during 1941 and not generally available ... And the RN was actually an early adopter of the aircraft (Taking over Greek production models, if I recall).


The much-maligned Swordfish remained in operation throughout the war - despite its increasing relative weaknesses - because it could do what no other aircraft could do: Deploy from tiny carriers in terribly rough weather. The fact that it could not "surprise" a submarine because of its slow approach speed was irrelevant - it forced these submarines to dive, and therefore lose the chance to intercept convoys/fleets.

Would a TBD Devastator have been better in 1940/41 against Bismark, at Taranto, or Matapan? In some circumstances, yes, in others, no. Tellingly, it was not in operation in 1945 on escort carriers.

The Swordfish was flying with radar in 1941. Ground-breaking.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Douglas_TBD_Devastator_beim_Torpedoabwurf.jpg (119.8 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg F3F-3s_over_NAS_Corpus_Christi_1941.jpg (427.9 KB, 7 views)

Last edited by SeidelJ : 13-12-2012 at 11:35.
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Old 13-12-2012, 11:15
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

I am sorry if you feel my criticism of Fairey and Blackburn Aircraft Co's is blanket coverage; but the fact remains that their aircraft left much to be desired.Had that not been the case, the FAA would have had no need of Grumman or Chance Vought-I refer to the Avenger and the Corsair of course.
Both British Aero Co's were so slow at getting their aircraft into service- they WERE obsolescent by the time they did.Should you happen to have a copy of ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett -you will find the same criticisms between pp35-70.
The fact that the FAA got on with their work- is down to the men who flew these "crates"

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Old 13-12-2012, 11:31
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

My argument is that the Avenger and Corsair were not available to any navy in January or May 1941. No more so than the FA-18 Hornet.

What was available was the Devastator and F3F.

So comparing the Fulmar to more advanced - and later - aircraft simply is not in context.

I am attempting to compare the Fulmar with its 1941 contemporaries: this was the time the Illustrious and Formidable found themselves heavily engaged in the Mediterranean.
In that context, it seems a very reasonable aircraft - despite its poor climb rate.

Of course this changes in 1942: I've already mentioned the Firebrand. I guess now we have included TBRs in this discussion, there can be little doubt the Fairey Barracuda also was a failure (It was off the front-line about the same time as the Swordfish). The Fairey Firefly was a reasonable strike-fighter, though too late to be of any significance.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Firefly.jpg (38.6 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_0112.JPG (149.2 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg Fulmar 6620673051_ce1c104ac0_b.jpg (93.2 KB, 13 views)

Last edited by SeidelJ : 13-12-2012 at 11:57.
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Old 13-12-2012, 12:12
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

OK -we will have to agree to disagree-I understand what you are trying to do; but things just do not work that way; and we are just going around in circles.
The FAA- throughout WW2, got on with the work they had to do, with the tools they had to work with.I am not making comparisons with the USA,for the sake of it.WE did not make a really top notch FAA aircraft until after the war was over; and then we are talking DH and Hawker.
My name is Jim by the way-you can call me that if you so wish

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Old 13-12-2012, 12:47
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Hiya Jim. I'm Jamie.

I guess I just see late 1939, 1940 and 1941 as the years that the lessons of war were "learnt".

Before this, everything was just theory.

From 1942 onward, there was no longer any excuse for not knowing the "modern" demands on aircraft, carriers and ships.

To judge the Fulmar (or even F3F and F4F for that matter) by 1944 standards just seems a bit tough
Things don't work that way.

Acceptance trials for the F4U only began in February 1941 - after protracted design work began in 1938. The first production run of Corsairs was ordered in June 1941 (about the same time as the Wildcat began to be delivered in meaningful numbers). The first production Corsair did not take to the air until June 1942, and carrier qualification trials began in September. They did not start operating from US carriers until November 1943.

As already stated several times: I agree that Britain's air industry was unable to keep pace with the rate of change over the full course of the war. Another example is the development of the Spearfish...

But any criticism of the Fulmar needs to be in the light of its contemporaries - pre-war specification, production and delivery aircraft.

I'm happy to compare the Barracuda to its contemporaries: It failed.
And the Firefly was barely adequate when compared to the Corsair as a strike fighter.
The Sea Skua was clearly not successful, even before war broke out in 1939.

But the Fulmar, Swordfish, Albacore and hastily adapted Sea Hurricane are the aircraft that took the hard knocks to teach the air industries what was actually necessary - and possible - in a carrier-borne aircraft. The design change in the F4Us armament to wing mounted 50 cals in November 1940 is a case in point...

And when you compare them to what other nations had in operation at the same time - they're not as bad as often depicted.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg illustrious_corsair_barracuda.jpg (93.8 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg Illustrious_Corsair43.jpg (54.1 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Victorious_Corsairs_Fleet.jpg (36.7 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg ww2memoir-Formidable-WhiteingIm027.JPG (100.0 KB, 17 views)

Last edited by SeidelJ : 13-12-2012 at 13:17.
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Old 13-12-2012, 13:07
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

"The FAA- throughout WW2, got on with the work they had to do, with the tools they had to work with.I am not making comparisons with the USA,for the sake of it" Perhaps you missed that bit-I am not making comparisons at at all-what I said and I will repeat it "because WE the British could not come up with a really top notch,fit for purpose FAA aircraft,we welcomed the Avenger and the Corsair"- when they became available to us in late 1944 into 1945.
I am perfectly aware that the years 1939/40/41 were the learning curve years for all manner of things-hardware,tactics,etc. but the aircraft Co's which supplied the FAA learnt NOTHING-even the Fairey Firefly was obsolescent when it came into service-not so Supermarine ,Hawker,Avro. HPage and DH-they developed their aircraft TO KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES.WE also made poor AFV's

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Last edited by jainso31 : 13-12-2012 at 13:20.
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Old 13-12-2012, 13:29
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

So the only disagreement we have relates to criticism of the Fulmar's 1940 and 41 performance.

I say it was among the best carrier aircraft available at that time (and point out that none were ideal).
You say the Fulmar was obsolescent in 1941 because it could not later match 1944 aircraft.

I ask what 1940 aircraft could - not even the Wildcat and Zero were effective front-line carrier fighters in 1944.

This post is about the conditions HMS Formidable and her air group experienced in 1941.

The Barracuda, Avenger, Corsair and Firefly do not belong in that context.

I'm sure there are plenty of other threads debating the relative strengths and weaknesses of varying aircraft.
I bet most of those don't always take their relative operational timelines into account, either.
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Old 13-12-2012, 13:43
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

I do not in any way mean to be rude or dismissive; but we are flogging a dead horse.Yes- last year we did quite an extensive thread on the Formation of, and Operations of the FAA in WW2 and aircraft were discussed to exhaustion see link below-so this is like reploughing a field already ploughed.Been there ,done that,etc. should we not return to the original thread of HMS Formidable and see what can be squeezed from that-MAQ3 was a small but important operation.

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forum...n+of+the+ FAA

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Old 14-12-2012, 12:43
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SeidelJ SeidelJ is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

I've managed to find a tantalising taste of the official report written by Formidable's Captain shortly after the event.
It has spurred me to cough-up a princely sum to get my greedy hands on the complete set of Admiralty correspondence for Mediterranean Fleet Air Arm operations in 1940-41... available early next year
But that's what interest in these topics will do to you.

Availability minutes show that as late as the 24th of May, Formidable had only seven serviceable Fulmars.
According to the Formidable's Captain, 13 had been restored to operational status on 26 May. One of these became unserviceable when the air-group landed on the carrier as it left Alexandria.
He also spells out that there were 7 Albacores and 8 Swordfish operational.

The sample pages also reveal the sole Fulmar to be shot down that day was during a morning interception of reconnaissance aircraft.
A Ju88 was intercepted about 0855, and it was seen departing with a stopped engine and fuel leak. But the Fulmar of Black Section leader was also hit - in the engine cooling system. The aircraft ditched near the fleet and the crew was recovered by HMS Hereward at 0940. The second pilot of Black Section landed safely 5 minutes later.

What the document reveals is that Formidable was conducting air operations at a much earlier stage than the generally reported 1800.
A "section" of Fulmars was flown off at 1542 (there may have been earlier launches, as the sample skipped the key pages about the 1320 attack and its immediate aftermath).

Also, there is mention of at several different "sections" being flown off to cover the fleet after the attack. Green section(803sq) and a single aircraft of Yellow section (803sq), are mentioned for the period after 1542.
This shows that at least three Fulmars were still operational after Formidable was bombed.
The Captain reports the last aircraft was landed at 2015 - so either Green and Yellow sections were very busy or there were even more operational Fulmars (though I guess there may have been TBRs up for anti-submarine and spotting patrols).

I'm sure the full set of documents will show exactly how much the FAA pilots and the carriers were able to achieve with how few aircraft...


I've also clarified that it was II/StG 2 that provided the Stukas for the attack. Where some authors get confused is that this group was later redesignated part of StG 3
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Old 14-12-2012, 13:23
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Seidel-it all goes to prove what I have been saying-like a mantra :-
"The FAA- throughout WW2, got on with the work they had to do, with the tools they had to work with".Good ,Bad,or Indifferent.
However I do congratulate you on your perseverance in researching the minutiae -you will find a note to that effect in your User CP. Keep up the good work; but do not overdo the doggedness.

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Old 14-12-2012, 22:21
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

This is simply furthering why I have engaged in a discussion on the attacks on Britain's armoured carriers (Illustrious in Operation Excess, Formidable here, and perhaps I'll zero-in on Indomitable's bombing and torpedo hit later.

Most books I have read simply gloss over these events with one or two sentences and unsubstantiated assertions.

An attack that removes a key capital ship from the course of the war for minimum of six months (and in this example completely changes the nature of the war at sea in the Eastern Mediterranean) deserves much greater analysis and detail IMHO. Even if it is in just a "small" operation like MAQ3.

Some assertions seem to get perpetuated into a kind of mythology...

For example several books I've read make assertions along the lines of "no British carrier was able to continue air operations after being attacked in the Mediterranean - a key purpose for which they were designed". This now begins to look at least a little suspect (at least in the case of Formidable).

And then there are assertions that the armoured carriers were "ineffective" due to their small air group and obsolescent aircraft. Certainly they failed to defend themselves on at least four occasions in the Med, but I'm also interested in finding out why they failed (doctrine, design or circumstances) and what they achieved.


As always, this remains my humble opinion (supported where possible by details in the minutae )

Last edited by SeidelJ : 14-12-2012 at 23:38.
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Old 15-12-2012, 07:49
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Good morning Seidel re. your last post:-

What was not discovered until late in the war was that the kamikaze impacts proved to have a long term effect on the structural integrity of British carriers and their post war life was shortened, as the RN lacked the financial resources to repair the damage, in contrast to the vast resources of the USN which was even able to rebuild carriers such as Franklin that had been completely gutted and the crew decimated by IJN attacks.

HMS Formidable (R67) was an excellent example of this; while she weathered a severe kamikaze hit in 1945 which cratered her deck armour, the hit caused severe internal structural damage and permanently warped the hull (damage worsened in a postwar aircraft-handling accident wherein a Vought Corsair rolled off a lift and raked the hangar deck with 20mm cannon fire, causing a severe fire); but plans to rebuild her as per Victorious were abandoned due to budget cuts, not structural damage, and she lingered in reserve until 1956 before being towed off to the breakers. The Royal Navy planned to rebuild most of the armoured carriers in the early post war period:
There seems to have been general agreement that the first ship to be modernized should be an Illustrious.

Formidable was laid up and required a long refit in any case, so she was provisionally selected for modernization. Illustrious was a deck landing training and trials carrier, and could not be spared, particularly as she was needed to test the new generation of naval aircraft. This left HMS Victorious as the only other candidate. In early 1951 the other two ships of the programme were HMS Implacable, followed by HMS Indefatigable, for modernisation, respectively, 1953–55 (to relieve HMS Eagle so that she could refit in 1956 with steam catapults) and 1954–57. HMS Indomitable was scheduled for a more limited modernisation (1957) as the future deck landing training ship. At this time Eagle was scheduled for completion in August 1951 and Ark Royal in 1954, so that the full programme would provide the Royal Navy with five fleet carriers plus a semi-modernised deck landing training ship.

Illustrious suffered a similar battering, especially off of Malta in 1941 when hit by German dive bombers and late in the war was limited to 22 knots (41 km/h) because her centreline shaft was disabled due to accumulated wartime damage; she spent five years as a training and trials carrier (1948–53) and was disposed of in 1954.

Indomitable was completely refit to like-new condition, only to suffer a severe gasoline explosion on board, which caused "considerable structural and electrical damage to the ship". Indomitable was refitted between 1948 and 1950 and served as flagship of the Home Fleet then served a tour of duty in the Mediterranean, where she was damaged by the petrol explosion. She was partially repaired before proceeding under her own power to Queen Elizabeth II's 1953 Coronation Review, before being placed in reserve in 1954.
Indomitable was scrapped in 1956. The explosion which occurred on Indomitable's hangar deck, while severe, would also have caused severe casualties and extensive damage to an Essex-class carrier, several of which returned to service after hangar explosions, primarily due to the USN's considerable financial and material resources. The postwar Royal Navy could only afford to rebuild Victorious and had to abandon plans to rebuild four other armoured carriers due to cost, and to provide crews to man the postwar built carriers, such as Ark Royal, due to reductions in manpower.

Another factor is the advantage in resources that the US Navy had over the Royal Navy. The numerous and capacious American yards on the East and West Coasts allowed the US Navy to build and repair carriers at a more leisurely pace and higher quality individually, while producing ships collectively at a furious rate. The British with their strained facilities were forced to rush repairs (indeed the overloaded British shipyards had forced some vessels to be sent to the US for repairs) and some ships such as Illustrious, were out of the war for months.

"no British carrier was able to continue air operations after being attacked in the Mediterranean - a key purpose for which they were designed". This now begins to look at least a little suspect (at least in the case of Formidable) however Illustrious was permanently damaged.


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Old 16-12-2012, 11:30
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

HMS FORMIDABLE

Class & type: Illustrious class carrier

Displacement: 28,661 tons full load
Length: 743.75 ft (226.70 m)
Beam: 95 ft (29 m)
Draught: 28 ft (8.5 m)

Propulsion:
6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Pearsons geared turbines producing 110,000 shp (82 MW) driving three shafts
Speed: 30.5 knots (56 km/h)
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)

Complement: 1,200

Armament:
8 QF 4.5 inch (113 mm) Mk III guns
48 2 pdr (40-mm) guns

Aircraft carried:
1940: 36 Fulmar and Swordfish
1943: Martlets, Seafires, and Albacores
1945: 54 Corsair and Avenger

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Old 08-01-2013, 03:55
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

I've managed to get my hands on some of the original reports pertaining to this event:

Quote:
Letter from Rear Admiral, Mediterranean Aircraft Carriers1 to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean [ADM 199/ 810]
13 June 1941

HMS Formidable’s operations, 25– 27 May 1941

Forwarded, concurring in the remarks of the Commanding Officer, H.M.S. ‘Formidable’.

2. The ship was handled admirably during the attack and the defence put up by the gun armament was spirited. The attack was successful because conditions favoured dive-bombing and without one man control the Pom-Poms are slow and inaccurate. Aircraft were very difficult to see against a misty blue background.

3. The behaviour of the fighter aircraft was as usual beyond praise and the direction of them by Commander Yorke was admirable.

There were 13 Fulmars serviceable on the carrier that day. But only four of the six scheduled to take part in the attack on the Stuka airfield at Scarpanto were able to take off. The other two both suffered engine failure.

The document goes on to say there was fairly intensive Carrier Air Patrol activity in the morning (involving about eight aircraft) to intercept enemy recon machines.

One of these Fulmars was shot down, the crew being recovered safely.

Flying for roughly 2-hour periods during the morning, these Fulmars had all landed on for refueling, rearming (and probably lunch) before 1310.

Only two fighters (Brown Section) were available to take off to replace them. And they took off at an inopportune time. The Stuka attack was in radar contact and the Fulmar's 1200ft/m climb rate didn't give them an opportunity to get into a good intercept position.

Both Fulmars were able to land on Formidable less than 10 minutes after the attack (though one went into the crash barrier).

It seems no aircraft were launched until after 15:00.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:55
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Thank you Seidel for the additional details appertaining to Formidable at Matapan.Hereunder her career details for WW2:-

Throughout her career HMS Formidable operated mainly in the Mediterranean, where she, suffered bomb damage that kept her out of action. Her initial role was to accompany a convoy to Capetown from December 1940 to January 1941. Subsequently she was called to the Mediterranean to replace HMS Illustrious in February 1941.

She took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan 27-29 March 1941, and in the two following months was involved in convoy escort. She supported Crete operations in May where she suffered serious damage in air attacks by 1000kg bombs on 26 May 1941, and so was out of action for six months. Between June till December 1941 she underwent repairs in the USA, after which she sailed for the Indian Ocean remaining there between March-August 1942.-She was out of action for a year

She returned in October 1942 to the Mediterranean and remained on station there until October 1943, where she took part in the North African landings in November 1942, Sicily landings in July 1943, and Salerno landings in September 1943. On completion of her Mediterranean tour of duties she took part in an Arctic convoy in October 1943

HMS Formidable was refitted between January -June 1944 and then her aircraft were involved in the operation "Mascot" attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz in Norway on 17 July 1944. She took part in further attacks on Tirpitz 22, 24 and 29 August 1944 as part of the "Goodwood" operations.

HMS Formidable sailed for the Far East on 16 September 1944, being stationed at Gibraltar between September 1944 till January 1945 after machinery breakdown. She finally joined the British Pacific Fleet in place of HMS Illustrious on 16 April 1945. She subsequently took part in air strikes against Sakishima Gunto between April-May 1945. Between 4-9 May 1945 she was hit by Kamikazes - yet was able to operate aircraft within a few hours of attack, her aircraft later took part in air strikes against Japanese home islands between July-August 1945.

HMS Formidable arrived in Sydney, Australia on 23 August, subsequently undertook trooping voyages to UK September 1945-November 1946.

Formidable was reduced to reserve at Rosyth in March 1947, stricken 1950 and sold in 1953. She was scrapped at Inverkeithing from November 1956.

Battle Honours
Matapan 1941, Crete 1941, Mediterranean 1941, North Africa 1942- 3, Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943, Okinawa 1945, Japan 1945.

A LUCKY SHIP and a STURDY ONE-IMHO

jainso31

http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/Ships/FORMIDABLE.html
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Old 26-07-2013, 22:28
dunmunro1 dunmunro1 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Quote:
Originally Posted by jainso31 View Post
Well Seidel my short answer to inadequate is obsolescent ie. becoming obsolete-apart from the Swordfish,which was also obsolescent;Fairy made poor aircraft generally in WW2. The WW2 history of the FAA was marred by being tethered to Fairy and Blackburn aircraft manufacturers; and was only relieved by aircraft produced by the American Aircraft Co's of Grumman and Chance Vought
Many people don't realize that Fairey and the FAA's production priorities took a real hit during the BofB which caused considerable delays to Fairey projects, especially regarding the RR Griffon engine (developed at Admiralty expense) and the Firefly. The Fulmar was happily exempted from the freeze on non-RAF aircraft development and production during the BofB but the Barracuda and Firefly weren't.

The Albacore was not a bad aircraft, but it was delayed by production problems with the Bristol Taurus engine and it was meant to supersede the Swordfish by 1940, yet the USN, for example, was still flying the much inferior Douglas TBD at Midway so Fairey wasn't the only company with production delays. The Barracuda began to enter service in early 1943, not that much later than the Grumman Avenger, and actually before the Curtiss SB2C. The Grumman Avenger is often compared with the Barracuda but this is very unfair to the Barracuda, as the Avenger was not a highly stressed torpedo-dive-bomber like the Barracuda (along with the Swordfish and Albacore) and so it was not nearly as good at attacking naval targets as the Barracuda. It could carry a heavier weight of bombs further but could only deliver them via level or glide bombing. The Avenger has had lots of favourable press but in fact it killed a lot of aircrews because it was not stressed for the steep glide bombing role:
http://www.sfu.ca/~dmunro/images/TBF_death.jpg (USN Naval Aviation News, 1948)
and both the USN and RN reported a number of fatal TBF/TBM accidents during WW2 and NACA was even asked to investigate the possible causes. Yet, in contrast, the Barracuda acquired a reputation as a widow maker, yet the Avenger never did! Go figure...


Regarding climb rates, the Fulmar I/II could do 1200/1440fps using their normal climb power, but combat power increased this by about 1/3. The Marlet IV was not much better, at about 1550fpm:
http://www.sfu.ca/~dmunro/images/martlet4.pdf
and this is a 1942 fighter!

Last edited by dunmunro1 : 27-07-2013 at 00:17.
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Old 27-07-2013, 08:00
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Hi dunmonro1-thank you for you for your excellent dissertation on the Fairy and Blackburn FAA aircraft-there is much I would grudgingly agree with; but
the long and short of it was the long term contract tie that the Admiralty had with the two company's and notwithstanding glitches caused by bombing and engine development-they just did not produce modern, fit for purpose aircraft.
The fighter side was woeful-we having to use the quite unsuitable Spitfire variant-the Seafire with it's flimsy undercarriage.Indeed it was not until the war was over; that we started to make fit for purpose FAA aircraft -with the aid of Hawker and De Havilland.

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Old 28-07-2013, 09:20
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SeidelJ SeidelJ is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Dunmunroe: I have to agree with you wholeheartedly.

The problems facing the FAA came from many sources:

a) 1930s design requirements. These were brought about by the RAF's insistence that it could somehow appear anywhere in the world in time to protect the RN's battlefleet in time. There was no need for fighters on carriers: only recon as this could provide spotting for battleship guns and help find the enemy fleet!

b) The Battle of Britain saw a lasting impact. Fulmar production was slowed. Early conversion plans for the Spitfire were canned. And only a few, worn-our Hurricanes were converted to Sea Hurricane standard. It is also often ignored in these discussions that the British Islands were under siege - the Battle of the Atlantic and the imperative to defend the homeland from air and sea attack took precedence. This is reflected in the suffering of the FAA.

c) The RN's aircraft engine program was abandoned. This was supposed to produce the engine for the Barracuda. As the result of this cancellation, the Barracuda was finished with an engine with roughly half the intended horsepower. And they were surprised it was underpowered!


In the end, among the environment of compromise and survival, the Fulmar did extraordinarily well (in a time when the lead fighter of the USN was the biplane F3F3). It is insulting that both US and British analysists of the war compare the Fulmar's performance against the Corsair and Hellcat! It also needs to be rememvered that the F4F contemporary of the Fulmar had no self-sealing fuel tanks or armour!!! Only later versions (built to RN specification) had these, and these were the aircraft used to replace the Fulmar.

The Barracuda was rightly abandoned in The Pacific. It's already over-strained under-spec engine could not stand the heat to produce enough thrust. Another forgotten point was that the Admiralty - late in the Barracuda's development - suddenly insisted that it be a high-wing design to give the observer the best possible view. This changed the whole balance of the aircraft, putting the elevators lower than the main wing and therefore reducing the aircraft's stability.

The Seafire was a desperate compromise. As was the Sea Hurricane.
But the Seafire's good points were ignored. It was an excellent deck-launch aircraft - needing a very short takeoff. In the air, it was a true Spitfire - fast, high rate of climb and a good rate of turn. It suffered in the landing arena as it was designed to land on emergency grass fields - with a two-point landing (nose level) on a level field. Carrier landings needed a three-point landing (with tailhook) on a pitching deck.
Howeve, by the end of World War II, techniques and training had dramatically reduced the Seafire's deck landing accident rate. And the use of 90gal US Kittyhawk drop tanks gave it a 3.5 hour endurance and also changed the little interceptor's aerodynamics to such a degree that it was able to make much safer - and slower - deck landing approaches! (At this point the Seafire III was also carrying a 500lb bomb in strike raids).
The USN was so impressed by the interceptor performance of the Seafire at lower levels against the Japanese Kamikaze's that they ordered an urgent revision of the Corsair to produce a similar interceptor.
The Seafire XV, however, caused many people to forget how well the Seafire III ended up performing as the XV was something of a failure.

The FireFly was a surprise to all: While not fast enough to be considered a true fighter, the attack aircraft had the very first "variable geometry" wing through its revolutionary flap system. This enabled it to out-fly most Japanese fighters it encountered as it surprised them by beating them at their own game - a turning fight. It's range, rocket and bomb load also proved sufficiently useful in the strike role

Reading the documentation from Churchil, the Admiralty and the RAF command from the early war years is truly amazing. The ignorance and contradictions contained within their words is simply gobsmacking. Some were enlightened - but these were simply silenced by "voices in authority".

An example: Churchill lambasting Admiral Sommerville over not having enough Hurricanes to defend Ceylon, a few short months after Churchill himself cancelled all transfers of fighters to the Eastern theatre...


What is always forgotten is that HMS Illustrious and Formidable were operating in an environment nobody had ever actually fought before. In the 30s this was all just the subject of theory. Here, they were discovering the reality - the hard way.
The battles of Sicily, Taranto, Crete and Malta taught everybody a lesson.
Not just the British - who were slow in enacting their lessons because of the economic pressures of defending their beseiged homeland.
The Japanese learnt.
The United States learnt.
Even the Germans learnt - changing the design and planned air complement of the Graf Zeppelin.

The end result: The attack on Pearl Harbour through to the fast carrier strike forces of the USN of the 1944 Pacific.

These lessons would not have been present, however, without the actions of from September 1939 through to Pedestal of August 1942.
Why everybody has to deny this seems to me to be more a matter of national pride than historical accuracy.

In many ways the RN can only blame itself.
It insists on being a "silent" service...
Most other navies tend to blow their own trumpet - as loud as humanly possible

Last edited by SeidelJ : 28-07-2013 at 09:59.
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Old 28-07-2013, 09:54
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

"In the end, among the environment of compromise and survival, the Fulmar did extraordinarily well (in a time when the lead fighter of the USN was the biplane F3F3). It is insulting that both US and British analysists of the war compare the Fulmar's performance against the Corsair and Hellcat! It also needs to be rememvered that the F4F contemporary of the Fulmar had no self-sealing fuel tanks or armour!!! Only later versions (built to RN specification) had these, and these were the aircraft used to replace the Fulmar".

GM SJ-Think you are quite wrong in the above statement.

Re.F3F3
On 21 June 1938, the Navy ordered 27 improved F3F-3s, as new monoplane fighters (F3F biplanes were never in the war on active service) like the Brewster F2A and Grumman's own F4F Wildcat which were taking longer to develop, than had been planned.These F3F3's were all removed from squadron service by the end of 1941.The Fairy Fulmar was brought into service in June 1940; but was mostly withdrawn by end on 1941/.early 1942

Re. SEAFIRE
The first Seafire variant to overcome many of the existing problems of poor undercarriages and deck stability , low operational flying time, etc. was the Mk XVII with its new undercarriage design, reinforced structure and extra fuel tanks, although there were still some compromises and it entered service well after the war was over.

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 28-07-2013 at 10:37.
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Old 28-07-2013, 16:18
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: HMS Formidable: Operation MAQ3, 25 May, 1941

Fairey_Battle.jpg....Fairey Battle


300px-Fairey_Fulmar_Mk_I_(M4062).jpg....Fairey Fulmar

Looking at the Fairey Fulmar-it does not take a lot of imagination to see what it's antecedant was =the singularly unfortunate Fairey Battle-and it is a hallmark of this Aviation Co.that not a lot of innovation was put into design.The Firefly comes from the same old mould.Strangely enough they must have taken a mad scientist onto the staff to produce the Barracuda.!!

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 28-07-2013 at 17:06.
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