805 Squadron – history

Today Dad describes the history of 805 Squadron which he joined in 1947.


805 Squadron consisted of 12 Seafire 17 fighters.  The Commanding Officer was a Lieutenant Commander (Peter Hutton) under whose command were twelve pilots, all Lieutenants or Sub-Lieutenants and one Sub-Lieutenant Air Engineer Officer.

Some half dozen Petty Officers were in charge of ratings who were trained in the various trades necessary for maintenance of the aircraft.  Airframe Fitters, Engine Fitters, Armourers, Electricians and Radio Mechanics.  These totalled about 40 men.

There was also a miscellaneous group of which I was one who were responsible for a variety of duties apart from the above trades.  A writer, two storemen, a petrol tanker driver, two safety equipment men (myself and Derek (Sam) Turner and various other odd bodies.  Altogether the Squadron was a self-supporting composite unit of about 75 officers and men.

The other squadron No. 816 was a similar self contained group with slightly more personnel because their aircraft were Fairy Firefly reconnaissance that carried a crew of two.

I can’t say that there was a great deal of any fraternisation between the two Squadrons certainly among ratings because each squadron has a different role.  816 had a reconnaissance role which meant it extended some distance from ship or base whilst 805 in it’s fighter role was concerned mainly with ship defence.  At Hal Far the two squadrons were operating from different dispersals and there was no daily contact.

On board ship the ratings of the two Squadrons were berthed adjacent to each other the separate.

No doubt the Officers of the two Squadrons mingled socially and of course they had to liaise closely with each other in their operational roles,

There was no animosity here.  I am simply pointing out that each Squadron was a self-contained, cohesive, efficient unit trained and capable of maintaining itself and operating effectively not only from the ship, it’s real home, but also at some isolated airfield anywhere in the Mediterranean.

Indeed at one stage in 1947, 816 Squadron spent two weeks flying from an airfield in Palestine whilst the ship operated at sea using only our fighter squadrons.

We didn’t know much about the history of 805 Squadron at that time save that it was known as a desert Squadron (because at some stage during the war it had worked from desert airstrips in support of the African campaign) and also because of the Squadron crest which strangely for a Navy unit was two crossed palm trees.

Since then I have researched the Squadron history.  805 was raised at Takoradi in the Gold Coast, West Africa in late 1940 flying Fairly Fulmers which had only just come into production as a naval fighter aircraft.  The new squadron then flew the full breadth of Africa to Mombasa on the Red Sea then moved up to Egypt.  From there the squadron transferred to HMS Eagle operating from her in the protection of two Malta convoys.  When the Eagle left the Mediterranean for a time, 805 squadron transferred to the airfield at Maleme in Crete and from there gave protection to convoys taking troops to (and subsequently from) beleaguered Greece.  This was in March 1941.

Shortly after this, when Greece fell, Crete became the next target for the Germans who commenced with a bombing blitz.  805 squadron lost all their flights in this blitz and in a step back in aircraft generation were provided with one ancient Brewster Buffalo and three Gloster Gladiators dual winged aircraft.  These were no match at all against the modern German aircraft and were quickly lost.

At that time there was a Maleme an RAF 33 Squadron of Hurricane fighters having arrived there from Greece.  After one sortie against the Germans the RAF pilots abandoned their machines which the 805 squadron pilots then took over and continued the fight against the Luftwaffe but with the odds against them 805 was soon again decimated.

When German paratroopers landed in Crete, the remaining personnel of 805 were evacuated to Egypt.  At that time only two 805 squadron pilots had survived.  The squadron reformed in the Canal Zone in Egypt once again with the antiquated Brewster Buffalo shortly to be replaced with the American Grummman Martlet a much more effective modern day fighter.  This was about June 1941 before the US had been brought into the war.  From then until the battle of El Alamein in November 1942 805 squadron operated as a desert squadron a period of nearly 18 months.

The squadron then moved to Nairobi in Kenya and subsequently disbanded.

In the absence of any further information (and all records of the squadron went with it when the squadron was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy after operating from the Australian carrier HMAS Sydney off Korea in February 1952. The squadron was then disbanded finally in 1960) I can only assume that after disbandment in early 1943 the squadron was re-activated in 1946.

At that time July 1946 805 with 816 embarked in HMS Ocean to sail for the Mediterranean in July 1946.  When HMS Ocean left England 805 squadron were flying Seafire 15s (XV) but these proved unsuitable for carrier work and were replaced by Fairy Fireflies which were not fighters at all but were the same type of aircraft flown by 816 Sqdn, which were two seater fighter/reconnaissance aircraft.

Again in early 1947, 805 fireflies were replaced with Seafire 17s (XV11).  This was the aircraft in use when I joined the Squadron  The Squadron had the same role ashore as it did afloat i.e. as a fighter defence provision.

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