World War Two
War Declared and the Phoney War, 1939

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War declared and the Phoney War, 1939

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, on 3 September 1939, it became clear that the Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers were too vulnerable to operate their aircraft solely in an anti-submarine role and so the naval squadrons were re-tasked to undertake the role of surface "search and torpedo-attack". Tthe Air Stations were then sought to accommodate these units, including at Lee-on-Solent. This led to many front line Fleet Air Arm squadrons being formed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent.

Fairey Swordfish Mk I with floats were stationed at Lee on Solent 1938-1940
Despite the general period of inactivity ashore at this time which gave rise to the expression "Phoney War", HMS Daedalus housed the Office of the Admiral (Air) and was the main depot for Naval Air Ratings and training continued for the Walrus and ship's flight pilots at Lee. It also became home for 781 Communications Squadron (which was to be continuously stationed at Lee for the next 4 decades) and it provided reserve aircraft storage for a time. 781 squadron was equipped with various types of aircraft including the Fulmar, Hornet Moth, Swordfish, and Walrus in the first instance. Later types to be introduced included the Beaufighter, Dominie,  Hudson, Oxford, Proctor, Tiger Moth and Vega Gull.
1940 and the Blitz

The Fleet Air Arm took over the building early in the year. HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent, transferred the Royal Naval 765 and 766 Seaplane School to Poole, with a total complement of 18 flying boats. Their aircraft included the amphibious Walrus or 'Shagbat', known for air-sea rescue work, the Swordfish or 'Stringbag' torpedo carrying biplane and the single float Seafox and Kingfisher. Instructions for stowage of the sea planes still remain on the wall of the boatshed, now part of the Royal Motor Yacht Club. (Ref.)

King George VI visiting HMS Daedalus in July 1940

1 September 1939 This table lists the squadrons at the start of the war 

No 702 (Catapult) Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Swordfish I seaplane
No 712 (Catapult) Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Walrus I
No 716 (Catapult) Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Seafox I
No 753 Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Shark II
No 754 Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Seafox I, Vega Gull III, Walrus I

No 765 Squadron, Lee-on-Solent/Seafox I, Swordfish I seaplane & Walrus I


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