• Si Biggs

Royal Marines Battle of Britain Pilots

Unit/ Formation: RM Airmen Location: Wick & Hatston Period/ Conflict: World War II Year: 1940 Date/s: July - October 1940 56 Fleet Air Arm pilots took part in the Battle of Britain with four becoming fighter 'aces'.



Although rarely acknowledged, three Naval pilots also flew with the famous 242 Squadron commanded by the legendary Douglas Bader including his wingman 'Dickie

Cork'.


The young Naval aviators who took part in the Battle of Britain between July and October 1940 saw some of the fiercest fighting of the battle.


As early as the first week in June, the Admiralty had given up more than 40 semi-trained pilots to the RAF, 30 more would join them. In all 57 naval pilots (“The Few of The Few”) would fly for the air force in the Battle of Britain; four of the 57 became ‘aces’ (downing at least five enemy aircraft).


23 Naval pilots served with twelve RAF Fighter Command Squadrons, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes including Sub Lt ‘Dickie’ Cork flew with the legendary ‘tin-legged’ Douglas Bader and his 242 Squadron.

Captain AE Marsh RM

Cork was Bader’s wingman during the battle, a popular character who remained proud of his naval heritage despite his RAF comrade’s constant ribbing and efforts to draw him over to the ‘dark side’.


A further 33 served with 804 and 808, the two Fleet Air Arm Battle of Britain Squadrons who operated under Fighter Command, providing Dockyard defence.


The two Fleet Air Arm squadrons flew Gloster Sea Gladiators, Grumman Martlets and Fairey Fulmars, normally only seen flying from aircraft carriers. 804 Naval Air Squadron, based at Hatston in Orkney, Scotland consisted of 22 pilots flying Sea Gladiators and Martlets whilst the 11 pilots of 808 Squadron based at Wick, Caithness were equipped with Fulmars.


A Sea Gladiator, N2275, shows the dinghy pack under the fuselage and the arrestor hook. With 804 NAS in 1940 it helped bring down two He 111s

While everyone knows the story of air to air combat over the skies of southern England, it is often forgotten that the Luftwaffe carried out over 500 attacks on Scotland, on shipyards and warships in the Firth of Forth.


Royal Marine Battle of Britain pilots were Captain AE Marsh RM and Lieutenant AJ Wright RM who flew with 804 and Lieutenant RC Hay RM with 808. Hay would become the only Royal Marine Ace.


In early July 1940 Wright was serving with 804 Squadron at Hatston, flying Sea Gladiators on dockyard defence. Wright embarked on HMS Furious by air with 'A' Flight of 804 on 5th September. The flight disembarked and returned to Hatston on 8th September during the Battle of Britain.


Fairey Fulmar Mk II N4062 - Carrier-based reconnaissance/ fighter aircraft

In all, seven naval pilots were killed and two wounded between July 10 and October 31 1940 – the official dates of the battle. Their names – and the 48 other Fleet Air Arm men who fought in Britain’s skies that fateful summer are listed on the Battle of Britain memorial in London.


More about Lt Ronald Cuthbert Hay, DSO, DSC & Bar here


The Few of the Few (navywings.org)


More about the Naval Pilots here on the RN Website (no mention of RM's)




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