World War Two
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Preparing for the Offensive, 1943
In late 1942-1943, Lee-on-Solent became a hive of aviation activity, with the threat of the Luftwaffe attacks being reduced, it formed the centre of preparations and operational crew training for the new and still secret dive-bomber, the Fairey Barracuda. The tests involved naval test pilots from RAF Boscombe Down.
Barracuda Conversion Courses commenced in earnest in early 1943, so as to train the Fleet Air Arm bomber pilots who were still largely flying biplanes rather than the new monoplanes. Some of the initial units included 827, 830 and 831 naval air squadrons, the first arriving at Lee on 27 December 1942. Aircrews trained at Lee-on-Solent went on to successfully attack the German battleship Tirpitz in April 1944 in Arctic Norway, and take part in operations in the Pacific in 1945.
Other aircraft to have their front line squadron conversion courses at Lee included the Beaufighter Conversion Course, which formed 798 squadron in October 1943. The wartime Admiralty Glider Research Unit was also connected with Daedalus, flying gliders behind aircraft carriers to investigate the turbulence they caused, and the possible use of gliders for troop and equipment deployment as was seen in the subsequent D-Day and Arnhem operations.
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