Cromarty Archive

Aircraft Carrier leaving the Firth

Aircraft Carrier leaving the Firth

Date Added: 28 November 2003 Contributor: Clem Watson Year: 1957 Picture No: 585

Albums: The Sea


(Editor Comment - when this photo was orginally posted, it was dated 1964)

I think this vessel is HMS Eagle - sister ship to the Ark Royal. In 1964 she had just had a major refit. For another picture have a look at
Comment left on 28 November 2003 by Calum Davidson
This photograph was actually taken with a simple Ensign Box Camera, which I still possess as a collecter's piece. Comment left on 04 February 2005 at 17:45 by Clem Watson
Clem - was she HMS Eagle? Comment left on 04 February 2005 at 22:11 by Calum Davidson
The number below the 'funnel' is illegible unfortunately. I'm certain it is HMS Eagle.
She was carrying Westland Wyvern single seat naval strike aircraft up for'hd, and they
all carried the letter 'J' on the fin. The prefix letter for Carriers was the letter 'R', in
Eagle's case, she was R 0? Maybe some 'sailor of the sixties' who was stationed on board
could positively identify? Retired matlots over to you!
Comment left on 04 February 2005 at 23:55 by Clem Watson
Clem - if she was carrying Wyverns it dates the photo to between September 1954 and March 1958, not 1964. The FAA only operated that type of Aircraft between those dates. HMS Eagle operated Wyverns - as 813 Squadron RNAS - from May 57 to March 58. The cars in the photo look more 50's than 60's so may be it was an earlier visit to the Firth?

However I'm certain your photo shows HMS Eagle - there is a very similar shot at
Comment left on 06 February 2005 at 20:57 by Calum Davidson
Calum, Thanks for help on that one. Your date is correct. The Home Fleet had bi-annual visits to the Firth all through the 50's, as Spring and Autumn Exercises. My father was given a list of all ships arriving on those visits in his capacity as Lifeboat Cox., and operating the Cromarty/Invergordon Ferry. Comment left on 06 February 2005 at 22:21 by Clem Watson
Clem - I've changed the date to 1957. Comment left on 12 February 2005 at 18:36 by Calum Davidson
Me and my brother were just talking about the Eagle and we're wondering whether she suffered the same fate as The Ark Royal or is she still on the reserve list? Comment left on 06 June 2005 at 19:29 by Dave Smith
Dave - HMS Eagle is long gone - she was scrapped in 1978, at Cairnryan I seem to recall. Comment left on 07 June 2005 at 21:50 by Calum Davidson
I served on the Eagle from September 57 to May 59 I was on board when we sailed from the The Firth. The ship in the photo looks like the Eagle - however if my memory serves me well the weather was not very good - the photo looks as if it was taken in bright sunlight. I have some good photos of my time on the ship, both on deck and in the messdeck. Comment left on 26 July 2005 at 20:29 by Brian Harper ex ME1 National Service
I served on Eagle from 1957/1959.
I think this was us leaving Cromarty Firth after picking up various bits and pieces including ratings who had been on courses whilst in refit. I can certainly remember about 20 Comms Ratings coming into 5g1 mess. You will note no 'threepenny piece radar' above the bridge which was added when she went in for massive refit in 1959. Great memories .
Comment left on 16 October 2005 at 20:41 by Harry Donkin (Signalman)
Has to be Eagle. Ark Royal had a side lift & forward star. turrets removed at this time.
Eagle had 813 & 827 easter 55-nov 55, 830 in 56 (Suez), 813 in 57-58 all Wyverns
Eagle visited Firth autumn 55 & mid 57. It left autumn 55 for Norway with 3 other carriers in foul weather, I know, being air electronics cpo 827. So we have 1957.
Comment left on 04 November 2005 at 20:50 by Bryan Gibbs
Squadron on board Eagle 1955-1956 had prefix J on tail fins. I served on her as cook(s) for that time. Comment left on 10 December 2005 at 20:06 by Bob Lawrence
I have old black and white photos from my father (Gronwy (Taff) Jones) who was stationed at RSM CONDOR Arbroath in the mid 50's and early 60's and who also served aboard the Eagle. The photos are similar to those on show.

Can anyone who may have came into contact with my father please get in touch, thanks.
Comment left on 10 December 2005 at 23:37 by Vince Jones
I served onboard H.M.S. Hermes and as i recall she was the only carrier of this time to have a side lift. Both the Big E and the Ark had for'd and aft lifts with only one of these servicing the lower hangar. Comment left on 25 December 2005 at 22:00 by Maurice Oliver
H.m.s eagle was r05, ark royal was r07. Comment left on 02 March 2006 at 21:57 by Johnny man
If this is the Eagle, it was taken prior to the big refit during which the main radar antenna, a large drum shaped object above the bridge was fitted, cant be more specific, it was a long time ago, and I was POME on her so anything above the waterline not my part of ship. Comment left on 23 June 2006 at 16:05 by Len Carter
The radar you are talking about on the Eagle is the 984 3d radar and comprehensive display system (CDS) it was an aircraft control system.Victorious and Hermes also had that system. I was an aircraft handler on Eagle on its last commission. I also served on Ark royal and Hermes. Ark Royals pennant number was R09 Eagle r05 and Hermes was r12 Comment left on 12 July 2006 at 12:54 by Fred Daly
Hope this will bring the 'Eagle Saga' to a close!
Taken from the official book of HMS Eagle Third Commission Feb 1957 - May 1959.
The Work Up August 1957.....
Another Friday, the 2nd August, saw us away at last for our work-up. We had little time left before 'Strikeback', (huge NATO exercise) so Bank Holiday Monday found us off Ford embarking our squadrons in such poor visibility that the pilots at times lost the ship on the down-wind leg of the circuit. For most of them this was their introduction to carrier flying, but they all did their deck-landing qualification and landed on in a day. Our squadrons consisted of 803 and 806 Sea Hawks, 894 Sea venoms, 813 Wyverns, 814 Gannets, and 849 'A' Flight Skyraiders. It was the first experience of this sort of thing for most of the ship's company, too, and there was no lack of spectators in the 'Goofers' positions.
And so to the seas around Lossiemouth, where it is always fine weather at this time of year - or nearly so. But the Lossiemouth weather of August 1957 was a nightmare for a carrier working-up in a hurry. We gave up our visits to Invergordon and Lossiemouth in order to make up for lost flying days, but consoled ourselves with the prospect of a visit to Rosyth later. ..... we did however go into Cromarty to pick up crew and stores!!!!
I was on the flag deck that wonderful evening when we entered the Cromarty Firth

|Harry Donking (Signalman)
Comment left on 12 July 2006 at 17:45 by Harry Donkin
My father, Norman Chadwick ME1 DSKX 898052, would have known if this was Eagle as he served on this carrier and the Ark Royal between 1951/58 but he died 5/7/06. I am going through all sites of these carriers finding just what my dad's life was like in his service. He loved nothing more but to tell you stories of where he had been. If anyone knew my dad please e-mail me. Thank you. Comment left on 17 July 2006 at 17:25 by Jeff Chadwick
looking for george morrow (jock~)who served on the hms eagle 1957 to 1959 Comment left on 11 February 2007 at 19:10 by George Williams (bungy)
Looking for anyone who knew of or has any information about William (Bill) Fogden who served on HMS Eagle 1955-1956. If anyone knew my grand-dad please e-mail me. Comment left on 04 March 2007 at 17:14 by Jonathan Thomson
Yes it's the Eagle.I was a boy seaman on 'Apollo' and was on exercise with the big'E', she then went to Rosyth and we went back to Invergordon to prepare for the Fleet Review by Queen Elizabeth on HMY Britannia in Sept '57. I believe a CPO Hogg from Cromarty was serving on Britannia at that time. Comment left on 21 March 2007 at 11:43 by Padric MacDonald
If anyone knew of the accident on 20th August 1957 in which the observer and flying tel were killed when a Gannet went over the side I should like to know My late husband was the flying tel concerned
many thanks
Comment left on 06 April 2007 at 10:48 by Bunny
Hi Padric, CPO Hogg would have been my great uncle Donald Hogg from 76 Big Vennel. Comment left on 09 July 2007 at 18:55 by Alan Pike
With regards to Bunny's request for info of a Gannet going over the side in August 1957. I can find no mention of this accident in Neil McCart's book history of the Eagle. I did not join the ship until September 1957 but had no knowledge of this accident.
Brian harper ck 973088
Comment left on 10 July 2007 at 17:19 by Brian Harper
re the last message, i saw the gannet go off the flight deck, backwards, as it was staged by the round down, and reported it to the compass platform.i was on duty on the flag deck. Comment left on 12 November 2007 at 21:08 by Barry Wells Ex Rn Bunting Tosser
I can not make out the pennant number, but Eagle was RO5.When I served on her, (her last commision), she had a large radar fitted, which looked like a large dustbin upturned. I joined her in Singapore in august1971.We retuned to the UK via Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and finally Gibraltar, berthing in Portsmouth in February 1972, where the grand old lady was decomissioned.She was then towed to Plymouth where she laid up in the harbour for a few years, slowly being stripped of her spares for the Ark. Eagle was the longer and wider ship of the two, and of course I would have to say the happier(moral wise). The ark became longer after adding two twelve foot extensions at the bow, so that the F4 phantoms were able to take off. Comment left on 13 November 2007 at 13:39 by Tony Fraser-Mackenzie(nee Archer)
It made an old matelot very happy when the announcement was made that two new carriers are to be built...but I am not in agreement with their names...Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. Let's use carrier names ie. "EAGLE" and "GLORIOUS" Comment left on 13 November 2007 at 20:48 by Padric MacDonald
Padric, I couldn't agree more! Let's just hope they're the same size as the old big E. Comment left on 14 November 2007 at 08:29 by Tony Fraser-Mackenzie(nee Archer)
There is another 'photo of HMS 'EAGLE'on the Invergordon Image/archive, 'photo No.885. I think it was taken before 1957 and pre the big re-fit. I have written a wee yarn on there as well... Comment left on 23 November 2007 at 13:01 by Padric MacDonald
Can anyone help me answer a question in a quiz on a French naval website? What happened on board the EAGLE at 3.15 pm on 15 June 1953? I'm sure it was in the Coronation Review at Spithead at the time, when EAGLE was alongside the Soviet cruiser SVERDLOV to starboard, VANGUARD ahead and I think INDOMITABLE was astern. I've searched as many sites as I can find but no luck so far. The French say it was 'an exceptional event on a warship' and it only happened once on HMS EAGLE. Can't believe the French could know any more than the British about it...... Comment left on 26 November 2007 at 23:34 by Ian D
You are right about the coronation review at spithead. At 3.15 on June 15th 1953 as the royal salute of 21 guns was fired a Mrs W.McCracken gave birth to a daughter on board the Eagle which she named Elizabeth.
Comment left on 27 November 2007 at 17:46 by Brian Harper Ck 973088
I unfortunately ran out of time to answer the question but the French tell me that Mrs W G S McCracken, a guest on board HMS Eagle, gave birth at that moment to a daughter whom she named, of course, Elizabeth. Eighteen years later this same little girl was received ceremonially on board the Eagle in Sydney Harbour by Captain Robertson on one of Eagle's last calls in Australia, between the 4th and 9th of August, 1971. The Frenchman who set the question had found the information in Neil McCart's book HMS EAGLE 1942-1978, PP 25-26.

Some of you may well have tried to communicate the answer without success - I'm afraid I left one symbol out of my e-mail address - My apologies for this!
Comment left on 28 November 2007 at 10:54 by Ian D
Thanks for the confirmation, Brian. Somebody actually did make what they must have thought was a wild guess (..un accouchement? a birth?) and got the correct answer in time! Comment left on 30 November 2007 at 11:19 by Ian D
When tne Gannet went over the side in August 57. She was on the stern of the flight deck waiting for free take off, Eagle turned into the wind doing a fair speed, the chocks were removed and she appeared to blown over the stern. Comment left on 29 December 2007 at 21:01 by John Churchill Ex Stoker
I served in HMS EAGLE Feb, 57 to June 59. I was one of 4 Radio Electricians Mates(A)in a mixed mess 5J1 of fishheads and cowboys and we all got on well. I ended having been a naughty boy in the Aircraft Battery Charging Room 5 deck, for 18 months AND it was the best job I ever had, besides HMS Osprey. Comment left on 07 February 2008 at 12:00 by ROBIN H (SLINGER) WOOD
According to Air-Britain's book "Fleet Air Arm Fixed Wing Aircraft since 1946" the Gannet AS.4 lost on 20/8/57 was XA416 (285) of 814 Sqdn. To Quote: "Parked on aft end of flight deck, port wing lifted prior to free take-off, a/c swung through 180 deg and slid over stern inverted, HMS Eagle, Moray Firth. Cat ZZ 20/8/57 (Lt TMB Seymour OK; Lt WPH Swayne & L/tel (A) RK Llewellyn both killed." This is slightly at odds with with the eye-witness accounts above. The book suggests that the a/c did a 180 and went over the round-down nose first whereas the witnesses say tail first. I think tail first would explain why the pilot survived. There is a book on the Gannet coming out this year, perhaps it will comment on this sad incident. Comment left on 12 May 2008 at 22:49 by Ken Law
I was on the flight deck of the Eagle when the Gannet went backwards over the stern. We were towing a splash target at the time. The pilot escaped by climbing out over the nose as the props were shattered by hitting the flight deck. After the accident there was dead silence over the whole ship. It was quite eerie. Comment left on 01 October 2008 at 22:40 by Ron Jackson
I failed to add yesterday that there were three gannets at the rear of the flight deck in herring bone formation.
The aircraft that went over the side was on the port side of the deck, another on the starboard and one in the middle
in front of the other two. When the centre one put the engines on full power and started to move forward the back draught seemed to catch the one on the port side and lift a wing. It was at an angle and the starboard undercarriage went over the side first. At this point it disappeared from my view. I wondered if the splash target had hit the gannet.
I suppose it is possible that the front of the aircraft slewed round out of my sight. Those on the quarter deck would
see it as it hit the sea. Subsequently I worked as a PO on Gannets on 849 sqdn.

Comment left on 02 October 2008 at 22:38 by Ron Jackson 02 October 2008
I served in Eagle 1954-1956 as a National Service Stoker D/K 946176. Not a very happy ship in those days. I still have many photos of the old ship and I would say without a shadow of doubt that this is the Eagle. Comment left on 07 November 2008 at 15:08 by Neil Sims
Are there any comms ratings who server on the Eagle 57-59? The comms officer at that time was LT cdr Prince. Eagle was a good ship and it was only the Ark coming on the scene that prevented us on the Eagle from some great trips . The Eagle did the work the Ark got all the glory!!

Tom Costello
RO2 (5G1 Mess) Prior to joining Woodbridge Haven in Singapore and then transferring to Combined Ops and being stationed in Manoel Island (Malta)
Comment left on 10 July 2009 at 17:21 by Tom Costello ([email protected])
hi tom, i was in 5g1 till end 58 i think it was, then went to cinc eastlant nato h/q northwood, came out in 60, some good times! bomber wells, ex bunting. Comment left on 11 July 2009 at 12:39 by Anonymous
Tom is certainly right about the Ark getting all the glory, but the Eagle did all the hard stuff. Then came the Victorious which again put the Eagle in the shade. Comment left on 12 July 2009 at 17:36 by Brian Harper Stoker 5L2 Mess 1957/59
Thats very good to know... thanks Comment left on 03 October 2009 at 17:31 by Kelli Garner
Great photo. Looking to make contact with anyone who served on Eagle when the Westland Wyverns of 813, 827 and 830 Squadron were on board between 1954 - 58, and who may have some photos of the aircraft or stories and memories of their time in FAA service. Comment left on 25 April 2010 at 20:04 by Rob Carter
Talk of the lost Gannet has resurrected some fading memories of this commission so thanks to all who commented. Ex 5G1 & 6E Mess
Stan Snape (PO Tel)
Comment left on 14 January 2012 at 12:54 by Stan Snape
Hi. This ship is HMS Ark Royal, the only way you could tell the 2 ships apart was the the main mast the one forward of the bridge when HMS Eagle was first commissioned 1951 her main mast was made to a tripod design, this stayed with her till her big refit from 1959-64 when she entered sevice with an upgraded radar suite including the massive 3-D Type 984 and the double mattress (AKE-2) of Type 965. if you look close at your photo you can see the main mast was a lattice mast, when Ark Royal was completed in 1955 they used this lattice type mast on her. i hope this is of some use. Comment left on 14 January 2012 at 17:55 by John Gallagher
Still not happy with the names of the new about EAGLE instead? Comment left on 14 January 2012 at 18:40 by Pat Macdonald
tom, i think i,m right pricky prince? a hell of a good man for an officer!!!bomber wells..c/j962520, god, you never forget!! Comment left on 14 January 2012 at 19:07 by Bomber Wells
Yes 'Bomber' Tom was correct. Pricky (SCO) Jimmy Green (ASCO) Taff Balsdon (CRS) Comment left on 19 January 2012 at 13:52 by Stan Snape
This Carrier is definitely HMS Ark Royal. It's very easy to tell her apart from her sister. HMS Eagle was originally completed with a 'Tripod' mast, whereas Ark Royal was completed with a more modern 'Lattice' mast, which is clearly visible in this image. Comment left on 28 February 2013 at 23:32 by Phil Chadwick
Thanks for the info on the Gannet that went overboard. My dad, Ray Llewellyn, was one of those that lost their lives in the accident. Comment left on 10 November 2013 at 11:23 by Jeff Stonehouse
A few more interesting old Pathe News items here on YouTube...

Comment left on 29 April 2014 at 18:45 by Andrew Bathie
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