INDEX OF NAVAL AIR SQUADRONS

 

 

803 

squadron 

 
Motto: Cave Punctum (Beware Of The Sting) 
Operational History and Background


HAWKER OSPREY I, S1693 "293", 803 Sqn FAA, H.M.S. Eagle, May 1934 [A0519]
©  Rick Kent FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS

At the outbreak of war, the squadron embarked on HMS Ark Royal with Skua and Rocs from Scapa for patrols off Norway and Anti-submarine operations in the North West Approaches, during which time whilst attacking U-30 on 14 September 1940 two Skua were lost.

The first German aircraft to be shot down by any British aircraft was by the squadron on 26 September when it destroyed a Do18.

The squadron, with only Skua, embarked on HMS Glorious in April for operations to defend Norway, and was operating from Hatston when it and 800 squadron dived-bombed the German cruiser Konigsberg at Bergen. But in June only two aircraft survived an attack on the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst whilst operating from HMS Ark Royal.


Konigsberg attacked and sunk by 800 and 803 squadron in Norway 1940

800 squadron attack on the German cruiser Konigsberg

In the attack on the Konigsberg, 800 Sqdn provided 5 aircraft and 7 crews while 803 Sqdn provided 11 aircraft and 9 crews. The force took off at 5.15 am on the 10th April, 1940. They arrived over
Bergen at 7.20 and made a quick circuit of the harbour, then the Skuas circled around and attacking the Konigsberg from behind the Floyen and the Ulriken mountains making their dives  from prow to stern, dropping 500 lb bombs, most bombs being released between 1,500 to 3,000 foot above the target. 

The Germans had 15 minutes warning of the approach of the dive bombers but only two 2cm guns on the prow of the ship could be bought to bear on the Skuas. The forward 3.7cm batteries of the Konigsberg had
been destroyed by the Norwegian harbour defences and the heavy AA guns at the rear of the ship
could not be bought to bear to fire forward over the main structure of the ship. Two Skuas had  holes shot in their wings but these caused no major damage.

Two direct hits amidships of the Konigsberg were claimed and another near the bow. One  bomb exploded next to the port side of the ship. Five bombs hit the harbour mole. The rest were near misses , mostly off the stern of the ship. The Konigsberg started sinking by the bows with flames rising from her. The damage caused by the bombs did not sink the ship directly, rather it was the inability of her crew to control the fires without the equipment damaged by the Norwegian shore batteries. Flooding caused by the bombing was minimal but could not be controlled because the Konigsbergs pumps were out of action due to the loss of electrical power. Magazines had to be deliberately flooded to stop the threat of fire reaching them. The 
Konigsberg finally sank some 2 hrs 45 mins after the Skua attack. 

On the two squadrons return flight, while climbing through clouds, one of the Skuas went into a spin and crashed, killing the leader of 803 Squadron's third section. Lt.BJ Smeeton, and his crewman Mid. (A) F Watkinson. All the other aircraft made it back to their base on the Orkneys.

First Wave attack on the Konigsberg by 803 Squadron
 
Section Aircraft Notes Pilot TAG
Blue-1  L2988?:A8F    Lt. William Paulet Lucy Lt. Michael Charles Edward Hanson
Blue-2  L????:A8G  Flak damage in wing, Reported hit Konigsberg amidship Capt. Eric Donald McIver LA Albert Alexander Barnard
Blue-3  L2925?:A8H  Reported hit Konigsberg forecastle Lt. Alexander Beaufort Fraser-Harris LA George Scott Russell
Green-1  L2924?:A8A    Lt. Harry Ernest Richard Torin Mid.(A) Thomas Anthony McKee
Green-2  L2918?:A8B    Lt. Leslie Alban Harris NA1 Desmond Alvin Prime
Green-3  L2905?A8L  Did not release on first dive, made second attack, Flak hole in wing. Lt.(A) William Coutenay Antwiss Church PO(A) Bryan Maurice Seymour
Red-1  L2923:A8P  Aircraft spun in on return flight, both crew killed Lt. Bryan John Smeeton Mid.(A) Fred Watkinson
Red-2  L????:A8Q  Reported hit on Konigsberg Lt. Cecil Howard Filmer NA1 Frederick Percival Dooley
Red-3  L2927?:A8R  Reported hit building on mole Acting. PO(A) Thomas Frank Riddler NA1 Horace Turner Chatterley

On reforming with 112 Fulmar in October 1940, the squadron subsequently saw service in the Eastern Mediterranean with HMS Formidable, including to provide fighter cover for the Malta convoys, and during with Battle of Cape Matapan shot down 2 aircraft and damaged 2 others. The squadron withdrew to Dekheila after HMS Formidable was damaged during the Crete evacuation, and re-equipped with RAF Hurricanes.

The squadron operated against Syria from Palestine in June 1941, then in August became part of the combined unit operating in the Western desert as the RN Fighter squadron.

In March 1942 the squadron re-equipped with Fulmar IIs and flew from Ceylon in defence against Japanese attacks and the following month operated from HMS Formidable in the Indian Ocean.

In 1943 the squadron operated in East Africa and after absorbing 806 squadron undertook army cooperation exercises, disbanding at Tanga in August 1943.

The squadron reformed in June 1945 at Arbroath with 25 Seafire L.IIIs, and was due to join 19th CAG at the time of VJ Day.

Originally formed as 803 Squadron as part of the Royal Navy and was transferred to the RCN in January 1946 upon the commissioning of HMCS Warrior. It was later renumbered to 870 Squadron (RCN) in May 1951 and the 803 designation returned to the Royal Navy.


SUPERMARINE SEAFIRE F.XV, PR504 "B", 803 Sqn RCN, HMCS Warrior, April 1947 [A0226]
©  Rick Kent FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS

Battle Honours
North Sea 1939, Norway 1940, Libya 1940 - 1, Matapan 1941, Crete 1941, Mediterranean 1941

Commanding Officers and Squadron Personnel

  • L/C DRF Cambell, RN March 1939-Feb 1940
  • Lt WP Lucy, RN Feb 1940-May 1940
  • L/C J Casson, RN May 1940-June 1940
  • Lt JM Bruen, RN June 1940-Oct 1940
  • L/C JM Wintour, RN Oct 1940-Nov 1940
  • Lt JM Bruen, RN Nov 1940-July 1941
  • Lt DCEF Gibson, RN July 1941-April 1942
  • Lt BS McEwen, RN April 1942-Aug 1942
  • Lt WL Irving, RN Aug 1942-Oct 1942
  • L/C(A) BF Cox, RNVR Oct 1942-Aug 1943
  • L/C(A) LD Wilkinson, DSC, RNVR June 1945-end of WW2

  • Aircraft

    • Skua II Dec 1938-Oct 1940
    • Roc I April 1939-April 1940
    • Fulmar I Oct 1940-June 1941
    • Hurricane I June 1941-March 1942
    • Sea Hurricane June 1942-Aug 1942
    • Fulmar II March 1942-Aug 1943
    • Seafire III June 1945-end of WW2
    • Seafire F.XV Aug 1945-end of WW2


    Ships and Squadron bases
    To be listed

    The Squadron Today
    Link to the current squadron information


    Associations and Reunions

    800-804 Squadron Armourers 1942-45
              Contact: Tom Brown, 27 Heatherset Gardens, Norbury, London. SW16 3LS, UK



     
     

    FURTHER INFORMATION
     
    The Sinking of the Konigsberg. in BLACKBURN SKUA website Role of 803 in this historic attack
    DIVE BOMBING'S FIRST VICTIM By NJ Hickman 803 sqdn and the Konigsberg attack
    Order of Battle Mers-el-Kebir (Operation Catapult) 3 July 1940. Contributed by Dan Muir  Role of 803 sqdn in the Battle
    World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway American based World Aircraft Carrier Lists & Photo Gallery - one of the definitive online sources for British and world aircraft carrier & seaplane tender data, histories and images - over 1000 photos. 
    Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8  
    An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS including FAIREY FULMAR Mk. I, 803 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Formidable, Mediterranean Sea, December 1940, SUPERMARINE SEAFIRE F. Mk.XV, 803 Squadron, Royal Canadian Navy, H.M.C.S. Warrior, April, 1947   
    See Canadian subsequent history of the squadron
     
            Last Modified: 23-2-2001


     

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