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No.808 Naval Air Squadron was a single-engine fighter squadron that served on the Ark Royal until she was sunk, then helped support the landings at Salerno before joining the East Indian Fleet.
No.808 Squadron was formed at Worthy Down on 1 July 1940, as a single-engine fighter squadron using the Fairey Fulmar I. This was soon replaced by the Fulmar II, before the squadron moved north to RAF Castletown in Caithness, to protect the Home Fleet's base at Scapa Flow. This was a brief assignment, and in the following month the squadron moved south to Donisbristle, where it joined HMS Ark Royal.
The squadron had an eventful time on the Ark Royal, claiming nineteen victories (with No.807 Squadron) in ten months. After arriving in the Mediterranean at the start of November the squadron was involved in attacks on Italian airfields on Sicily on 9 November and in the inconclusive action off Cape Spartivento on 27 November. In May 1941 the squadron took part in the hunt for the Bismarck, and she was still on the Ark Royal when she was torpedoed on 13 November 1941. In the aftermath of this disaster No.808 was absorbed by No.807 Squadron.
The squadron was reformed at Donibristle on 1 January 1942, once again as a Fulmar squadron. A series of shore bases was followed by a short spell on the escort carrier Biter (starting in September), before in December the Fulmars were replaced by Seafire L.IIcs. Another spell on-shore followed, before a first period on the Battler in March 1943. In June-July four aircraft formed 'A' Flight on the Battler, escorting a Gibraltar convoy. On the return journey 'A' Flight shot down an Fw 200.
In July the entire squadron embarked on the Battler, taking part in the attack on Salerno of September 1943. Slow progress on the ground meant that the Seafires had to provide fighter cover for five days, and by the end of battle only thirty of the original 180 Seafires available were still operational.
After the Salerno landings the squadron returned to the UK on HMS Hunter, before joining the 3rd Naval Fighter Wing at Burscough. In May 1944 Seafire L.IIIs arrived, and the squadron was allocated to the 2nd Tactical Air Force, taking part in the operations to support the D-Day landings.
In October 1944 the squadron converted to the Grumman Hellcat, before in January/ February 1945 joining the escort carrier HMS Khedive, part of the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron in the East Indian Fleet. The carrier reached the Far East in February, one of the members of the squadron to arrive.
Operations began with Operation Sunfish of 4 April 1945, a combined reconnaissance of Port Swettenham and attack on Emmahaven. Next came Operation Dracula, an attack on the Japanese at Rangoon on 22 April.
Next came Operation Dukedom of May 1945, a successful attempt to stop the Japanese cruiser Haguro rescuing the isolated garrison of the Andaman Islands. The squadron was present at the Japanese surrender in Malaya, before disbanding in December 1945.
1 July 1940-November 1942: Fairey Fulmar
December 1942-May 1944: Supermarine Seafire L.IIc
May 1944-October 1944: Supermarine Seafire L.III
October 1944-December 1945: Grumman Hellcat
1 July 1940-: Worthy Down
5 September-2 October 1940-: RAF Castletown, Caithness
2 October 1940-: Donisbristle
October 1940-14 November 1941: HMS Ark Royal
1 January 1942: Reformed at Donibristle
January-September 1942: Donibristle, St. Merryn, Yeovilton, Belfast
September-December 1942: HMS Biter
December 1942-May 1943: Shore-based
March 1943: HMS Battler
May-June 1943: Yeovilton and Turnhouse
Detachment on HMS Battler
July-August 1943: HMS Battler
Early-May 1944: Burscough
May-Autumn 1944: Lee-on-Solent
Autumn 1944-January 1945: Ballyhalbert
January-December 1945: HMS Khedive
Squadron Codes: Fulmar - 7A+; Seafire 3A+; Hellcat K6A+ and C7A+
Duty/ Battle Honours
1941: Malta Convoys