No. 809 Naval Air Squadron (FAA): Second World War

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No.809 Naval Air Squadron was a single-engined fighter squadron that served extensively in the Mediterranean and in the Far East, taking part in the invasions of North Africa, Italy and the south of France and the liberation of Rangoon and Malaya.

The squadron was formed at Lee-on-Solent on 15 January 1941 and was equipped with the Fairey Fulmar II. After a working-up period the squadron embarked on HMS Victorious in July 1941, becoming one of the first squadrons to operate from the new carrier.

Its first combat operation came in the same month, during the unsuccessful raid on the Norwegian port of Kirkenes. This saw the squadron clash with the Luftwaffe, losing three Fulmars but claiming four Bf 109s and Bf 110s.

The squadron took part in the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz of 9 March 1942, providing a fighter escort for the Albacores of Nos. 817 and 832 Squadrons (also based on the Victorious).

The next major event was Operation Pedestal of August 1942, a major Malta convoy. This time the squadron shot down two enemy aircraft for the loss of three Fulmars.

At the end of August the squadron disembarked, and was based at Sawbridgeworth, where it underwent Army co-operation training. At the same time 'B' Flight was used to form No.879 Squadron, leaving No.809 with six aircraft (the two squadrons would operate together later in the war as part of No.4 Naval Fighter Wing).

In October 1942 the squadron re-embarked on Victorious, in preparation for Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. Its Fulmars were used for tactical reconnaissance during this operation, no longer being suitable for use as front line fighters.

After Operation Torch the squadron converted from the Fulmar to the Supermarine Seafire, and moved from the Victorious to the support carrier Unicorn, starting a period in which it would operate from a series of smaller carriers.

In September 1943 No.809 Squadron took part in Operation Avalanche, the naval element of the landings at Salerno. HMS Unicorn and the escort carriers in the fleet had the role of providing close air support at low and medium level, but the failure to capture an airfield on land meant that the Seafires had to operate as interceptors. While they didn't suffer too many losses in combat, this put the fragile Seafires under a great deal of pressure, and by the end of the short campaign the majority of the fleet's aircraft were out of action. The survivors moved onshore for operations on 13 and 14 September, before the RAF was finally able to take over.

Towards the end of 1943 the squadron returned to the United Kingdom to join the 4th Naval Fighter Wing. A period of working-up on HMS Stalker followed, before the same carrier shipped the squadron out to North Africa, where for much of the time it operated in detachments based on land.

In August the squadron came together on HMS Stalker, and took part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France. This was followed by operations in the Aegean, and then another return to the United Kingdom in November 1944.

In the UK the squadron converted to the Seafire L.III, before returning to North Africa on HMS Attacker. Once again the squadron was based on land, this time at Dekheila, but only for a short period, for in February/ March 1945 the squadron rejoined HMS Stalker, and moved to the Far East, where the Stalker became part of No.21 Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the East India Fleet.

In May 1945 the Japanese decided to evacuate their garrison from the Andaman Islands. No.809 Squadron, temporarily on HMS Shah, took part in Operation Dukedom, an attempt to intercept the Japanese cruiser being used in the evacuation. The first attempt to catch the Japanese failed, and they were able to return to Singapore, but on their second sortie the Japanese were detected by aircraft from No.809 Squadron. Although an attack by naval aircraft failed to inflict serious damage, the Japanese ships were kept under observation, and were ambushed by a destroyer squadron. The cruiser was damaged, sinking on the next day.

In June No.809 was back on the Stalker for Operation Balsam, a reconnaissance and fighter-bomber mission over southern Malaya. No.809's role was to attack Lhokseumawe airfield, where they destroyed a Ki-43 and damaged a Ki-21, as well as destroying a train on the return journey. The squadron was also used to provide fighter cover for the liberation of Rangoon, and the re-occupation of Malaya and Singapore.

Aircraft
January 1941-March 1943: Fairey Fulmar II
Spring 1943 onwards: Supermarine Seafire

Location
15 January-July 1941: Lee-on-Solent
July 1941-August 1942: HMS Victorious
August 1942-October 1942: Sawbridgeworth
October 1942-August 1943: HMS Victorious
August 1943-Late 1943: HMS Unicorn
Late 1943-February 1944: HMS Stalker/ Andover
February-May 1944: Dale
May-November 1944: HMS Stalker
November 1944: UK
Late 1944: To North Africa on HMS Attacker, then operating from Dekheila
March 1945-: HMS Stalker
May 1945: HMS Shah
June 1945-: HMS Stalker

Squadron Codes: Fulmar 6A+, Seafire S: A+ and D6A+

Duty/ Battle Honours
Arctic 1941
Malta Convoys 1942
North Africa 1942
Salerno 1943
South of France 1944
Aegean 1944
Burma 1945

Books

Fleet Air Arm Carrier Warfare, Kev Darling. A complete history of the Fleet Air Arm's use of aircraft carriers, from the earliest experiments during the First World War, through the Second World War, where the carriers became the most important capital ships in the navy, the Korean War, which saw the Fleet Air Arm involved from the beginning to the end, the Falklands War, which re-emphasised the important of the carrier and right up to the current 'super-carriers'. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 July 2010), No. 809 Naval Air Squadron (FAA): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/FAA/809_NAS.html

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