A WW2 R.A.F. pilot's survival story…

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823 Squadron Over The Glorious

823 Squadron over the "Glorious" in 1938

823 Squadron over the "Glorious" in 1938

Taken during fleet exercises in March 1938. On the outbreak of war, this torpedo spotter reconnaissance Swordfish squadron embarked from Dekheila, Egypt to HMS Glorious in search of enemy shipping in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.  The author, Wing Commander Garlick served on 802 Squadron attached to the Glorious before the war.  HMS Glorious was sunk by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in the Norwegian Sea on 8 June 1940, having been recalled from Malta for the defence of Norway. Half of 823 squadron were lost.  Only two on-board pilots survived who were picked up in life rafts three days later.  The remainder of 823 were stationed at Hatston, on the Orkney Islands.

Fairey Swordfish

Fairey Swordfish Float-Plane

Fairey Swordfish Float-Plane

From Wing Commander Garlick’s photo album.  A Fairey Swordfish Float-Plane flying off Gibraltar.  This had a wingspan of 45 and a half feet and a top speed of 139 m.p.h.  They were the ‘eyes of the fleet’ used for submarine patrols and were operated from Royal Navy battleships using a crane.  They could carry a torpedo and with a slow approach speed could be very accurate in delivery.  As a slow aircraft, they were highly vulnerable to fighter attack and consequently were mostly used out at sea away from any likely fighter reach.

Air Gunnery Instructor Training

Crack Shot - Author in centre

Crack Shot - Author in centre

Photo of the author at air gunnery instructors training course led by ‘Sailor’ Malan.