Operational History and Background

After the outbreak of war this torpedo spotter reconnaissance squadron of 9 Swordfish sailed with HMS Ark Royal for the South Atlantic and thence the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Fairey Swordfish Mk.I L9781, 820 Sqn FAA, HMS Ark Royal, 1939

In April 1940 the squadron carried out bombing attacks on Vaernes airfield, when the ship was recalled for the defence of Norway, then with the Fall of France attacked French battleships at Oran, and subsequently attacked Cagliari and Dakar.

Fairey Swordfish Mk.I K8422, 820 Sqn FAA, 1940

In November 1940 the squadron attempted an attack on the Italian battleship Littorio off Sardinia, and remained in the Mediterranean the rest of the year.

Bismarck smoking on the horizon whilst under fire from the big guns of the Fleet immediately prior to her being sunk, 26 May 1941

In May 1941 the squadron was involved in the successful torpedo attack on the German Battleship Bismarck which was subsequently sunk by the Fleet. In June 1941 the squadron was involved in Malta convoys, returning on HMS Victorious to Iceland in November, and to the Indian Ocean with HMS Formidable in February 1942.

In April 1942 the squadron participated in the Madagascar operations, and subsequently the North African landings during which it sunk U-331 on 17 November, and remaining in the Mediterranean for the Sicily and Salerno landings.

The squadron disbanded in November 1943 at Donibristle.

Taken shortly after the Operation Goodwood II strike on 22 August 1944.
Tirpitz is located in the upper right corner, hiding behind the smoke.

The squadron reformed in January 1944 at Lee-on-Solent as a torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadron with 12 Barracuda IIs, embarking in June on HMS Indefatigable to take part in attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, Alta, North Norway Norway (Operation Mascot 17 July 1944, and Operations Goodwood in August 1944).

29 August 1944. Barracudas of 820 and 826 sqdns from HMS Indefatigable carry out another attack on Tirpitz in Operation "Goodwood IV". The Barracudas can be seen approaching the coast at low level to avoid detection by the German radar.

In September 1944 it re-equipped with 21 Avengers and embarked on HMS Indefatigable in November for the Far East. At Ceylon the squadron joined No 2 Strike Wing with 849 squadron, and took part in the attack on the oil refineries at Palembang, Sumatra in January 1945. It subsequently was involved in strikes on the Sakashima Gunto islands.

24-29 January 1945 - Fleet Air Arm strikes on oil installations at Pladjoe around Palembang, Sumatra - the largest operation ever undertaken by  the Fleet Air Arm - successful strikes are made by aircraft from Task Force 63 - HM carriers "Indomitable", "Illustrious", "Indefatigable" and "Victorious".

In June 1945 the squadron joined 7th Carrier Air Group, and was involved in strikes around Tokyo just before VJ-Day. The ship and squadrons finally returned to the UK in March 1946.

Avenger JZ595 of 820 sqdn from HMS Indefatigable in the FAA strike on Palembang, 24 January 1945
Painting by Bob Durnan

Norm Struthers, was a telegraphist air gunner with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm during WW2. He was part of the crew of a Grumman Avenger ( 820 Squadron A/C No. JZ595-pilot, John Baggs - observer, Don Withers ) from HMS Indefatigable that took part in the raid on the oil refineries at Palembang, Sumatra on January 24, 1945. They had to dive through fighters ,flak and barrage balloons to strike the targets. Corsairs and Fireflies provided fighter cover and attacked the Japanese airfields. The raid was a success and it denied much needed petroleum products to the Japanese military.

Battle Honours
Norway 1940 - 1, Spartivento 1940, 'Bismarck' 1941, Atlantic 1941, Malta Convoys 1941, North Africa 1942 - 3, Sicily 1943, Salerno 1943, Palembang 1945, Okinawa 1945, Japan 1945

Commanding Officers and Squadron Personnel

  • L/CGB Hodgkinson, RN Jan 1939-Aug 1940
  • L/C A Yeoman, RN Aug 1940-Oct 1940
  • L/C JA Stewart-Moore, RN Oct 1940-July 1941
  • L/C W Elliott, RN July 1941-June 1943
  • L/C JCN Shrubsole, RN 4 June 1943-Nov 1943
  • Lt(A) WR Nowell, RN Jan 1944-Oct 1944
  • L/C(A) SP Luke, RN Oct 1944-May 1945
  • L/C(A) FL Jones, DSC & bar, RNVR May 1945-June 1945
  • L/C JP Camp, DSC & bar, RN June 1945-end of WW2
  • Aircraft
    • Swordfish I Sept 1937-June 1941
    • Battle April 1939-April 1939
    • Albacore I July 1941-Nov 1943
    • Barracuda II Jan 1944-Oct 1944
    • Avenger I Oct 1944-end of WW2
    Ships and Squadron bases
    To be listed
    The Squadron Today
    Link to current Fleet Air Arm squadron information

    Associations and Reunions
    No information

    820 squadron today. MOD website
    Order of Battle Mers-el-Kebir (Operation Catapult) 3 July 1940. Contributed by Dan Muir  Role of 820 sqdn in the Battle
    With Gallantry and Determination" The Story of the Torpedoing of the Bismarck by Mark E. Horan
    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  
    Robert Horsten's FAA
            Last Modified: 23-2-2001


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