Grumman Martlet (F4F Wildcat) in British service

The Grumman F4F Wildcat saw action in the British Fleet Air Arm as the Martlet. An important early duty saw the Martlet used to escort crucial convoys in the Mediterranean, including several to Malta. American Wildcats of the U.S.S. Wasp took part in two attempts to reinforce the air defences of Malta by flying Spitfires off a carrier to the beleaguered island.

Martlet IIs and IVs were used during the 1942 invasion of Madagascar.


Grumman Martlet lined up to take off


Grumman Martlet descending into the hanger deck


Grumman Martlet landing


Grumman Martlet showing the folding wings

British Martlets briefly served in the Pacific between May and July 1943, and took part in the battle of the Coral Sea and the fighting in the Solomon Islands. During a period when the U.S. Navy was short of carriers, HMS Victorious was loaned to them, serving with the U.S.S. Saratoga.

The Martlet was involved in every major allied landing in the Mediterranean, seeing action during Operation Torch in November 1942, in the invasion of Sicily, the landings at Salerno, and the invasion of southern France.

The later models were most often used on escort carriers, helping to guard the vital trans-Atlantic supply lines. Their role was to shoot down the long range Focke-Wulf Fw 200s and Heinkel He 177s that shadowed convoys, although they were also using directly in anti-submarine warfare.

The Wildcat VI even saw action against the Bf 109 towards the end of war, in a fight off the Norwegian coast (26 March 1945) in which the Wildcat pilots claimed to have shot down four Bf 109s.

Post-war the Wildcat was quickly phased out of British service, partly because of the general disarmament at the end of the war, and partly because the terms of lend-lease meant that Britain would have had to pay for any aircraft she retained. The F4F Martlet/ Wildcat fulfilled a crucial role in the Fleet Air Arm, providing it with a fast robust fighter at a time when it was dangerously short of modern aircraft.

Wildcat Aces of World War 2, Barrett Tillman. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 3. A well balanced look at the combat service of the Grumman F4F Wildcat, the most important Allied naval fighter for most of the Second World War, looking at its service with the US Navy from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war, and its role with the Fleet Air Arm. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 March 2007), Grumman Martlet (F4F Wildcat) in British service, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_F4F_combatUK.html

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