Cromarty Archive

Barracuda aircraft over the firth -  5th Jan 1945

Barracuda aircraft over the firth - 5th Jan 1945

Date Added: 18 December 2003 Contributor: Calum Davidson Year: 1945 Picture No: 622

This would have been a common sight in the Cromarty Firth during 1944 and 1945. HMS Owl - aka RNAS Fearn - aka Fearn Drome was the home to at least two Squadrons, at any one time, of Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Barracuda Aircraft, based there "working up" prior to joining RN Carriers in the Clyde, during 1944 and 1945.

This picture is of 812 Squadron flying from the Cromarty Firth to Northern Ireland, and then the Clyde, to join HMS Vengeance in January 1945. Aircraft crashs were not uncommon, but 812 suffered serious loss on the 25th November 1944, when two Barracuda's collided over Nigg sands, killing 5 of the 6 crew. Their graves can be seen at Rosskeen Cemetry, Invergordon. The remains of the two aircraft can be seen - I have been told - at low tide, near to Barbraville pier. My Father served with 812 from June 1944 to August 1946, he was supposed to be flying on the 25th, but had been slightly injured in a crash at Fearn the previous day.

Almost all the Barracuda crews who flew over the Cromarty Firth served in the western approaches, the North sea and the Med, then following VE day, in the Pacific, with 11th Aircaft Carrier Squadron, destined for the invasion of Japan. 812 squadron, in HMS Vengeance was at sea steaming to start operations against Formosa (Tiawan) when peace was declared, following the dropping the two A bombs. They subsequently liberated Hong Kong, not returning to the UK until August 1946.

HMS Vengeance has just recently been retired from the Brazilian Navy - meaning it has served as warship for almost 60 years! It was a visitor to the Firth during the 1950's.

For more information See also picture #2369.

Albums: The Sea

Groups: Fearn Airfield


To Mr Calum Davidson: This crash, if it ocurred between 1900/2000hrs on 25Nov'44 then I witnessed it. My bedroom window at that time faced in the line Cromarty Harbour/Barbaraville, and I (at age 8) had just gone to bed, when there was this almighty explosion, through the rim of the 'blackout' I saw this bright red/yellow/orange glow, so I ran upstairs to the attic bedroom above to get a better view, the sea was alight with burning fuel, and the Chief Coastguard's house was silhouetted against the fiery backdrop. Several Barracuda aircraft crashed into Nigg Bay while diving on to bright yellow triangular targets.

As well as 812 the type was operated by 817, and 818 Sqdns, from RNAS Rattray, near Crimond. The type was first reported in action, against TIRPITZ, in a Norwegian Fiord, in April 1944.

Thank you for this air to air shot, an excellent piece of the Cromarty Firth's aviation history.
Comment left on 19 December 2003 by Clem Watson
Clem - thanks for that - that is fascinating. A couple of years ago my Father wrote up his wartime experiences - which can be read on-line at the HMS Vengeance Website. Here is what he wrote about the crash -

"At Fearn I flew one night as Air Radio in the TAG's position when we were carrying out Night Torpedo Bombing. We had lost two aircraft in the previous night's exercise. The pilot was a South African and, I was told, had taken a drink before flying. We were fine until we were landing and instead of cutting the engine at less than 6 feet[sea landing on a heaving deck called for dropping the last bit and catching the tail hook on the Arrester wires] he did so at maybe 16 feet. Our undercarriage went and the radio at knee level broke loose and caught my left knee and my face bounced down on the Gun. I wasn't bad enough to be in Sick Bay but I was lame for almost a year and I re-injured the kneecap slipping on the metal foot rest as I climbed into a Barracuda on the rolling flight deck. It has given me trouble off and on for periods throughout my life.

I was friendly with a TAG, a Somerset farmers son, named Gee, who was a champion beer drinker and a very prosaic character. I could hardly finish a pint without feeling overfull. One evening in Fearn I asked him down to the canteen for a pint and he said" No Jock me tickets up". I told him not to be silly, for with all the losses we had many of the young men were twitchy and depressed.

Next day I was held on the ground in a Barracuda with a U/S radio, when most of the squadron were in the air carrying out close flying. I got the receiver working on the Squadron’s operational band and heard the CO shouting on the other 5 planes to close up. They were flying at 1000 feet above the Cromarty Firth when the higher craft struck an air pocket and came down on the lower Barra. The two planes fell like stones to the sea. The crew of the bottom aircraft including my TAG friend were killed instantly. The top plane struck the sea and the Observer, Sub Lieutenant Sagg, a classical Cambridge scholar, staggered out on the sinking wing, inflated his Mae West and fell into the water.

He was picked up said to be black and blue and badly injured and we never saw him again. We presumed that he had died later for we buried the other men at Invergordon. I rediscovered their graves next to the lair for my brother in law in the 80's.

In 1997 812 held a reunion and I was walking across to the hotel to join the others and passed a car with a man emerging. He said " From your walk are you ex-812. Can I join you My name is Sagg". I almost said - you're dead but shook hands and we chatted. He had recovered unfit for flying and, as he had studied Hebrew ended up as an interpreter with the Services in Palestine before returning to Cambridge where he had just retired as a Don."
Comment left on 20 December 2003 by Calum Davidson
Hms Vengeance has just arrived in India to be scrapped - following 60 years service with 3 navies (Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and the Brazilian Navy) - she is the last of the major British warships to have visited the Cromarty firth. See Comment left on 11 April 2004 at 22:22 by Calum Davidson
Dear Calum

My name is Julie Campbell and I am the Business Director for the Highland Aviation Museum, based at Dalcross Ind. Estate by Inverness Airport (former RAF Dalcross site). The Museum opens towards end April 2005. I have read with interest your fathers wartime experiences, and I have very much enjoyed viewing aviation/military themed photographs on this website.

I wonder if you would be interested in sharing your fathers wartime experiences and photos with the Museum, visitors to the area, school children and local alike?
Comment left on 28 March 2005 at 15:04 by Julie Campbell - Highland Aviation Museum, By Inverness Airport
Julie - I am sure that my Father would be delighted to let you use his writings and information, drop me an e-mail and I'll pass you his e-mail and phone number. I'm just back from his 80th Birthday party, and he keeps in touch with other Fleet Air Arm members who served in his Squadren at HMS Owl. There are also a number of other Cromarty people who have vivid memories of WW2 aviation in the Inner Moray Firth. Again e-mail me. One final point, I assume you have been talking to a Mr Keith Bryers of Munlochy? Keith is an old school friend of mine from Inverness and we now work together. He has undertaken extensive research into WW2 aviation in the Highlands and has a very deep knowledge of your area of interest. Comment left on 29 March 2005 at 20:29 by Calum Davidson
Calum, my father also witnessed both the incidents you mention. The incident in Clem's account was most likely a Sunderland Flying boat that had just taken off and probably with a trainee pilot. When he saw it the outer starboard engine was already on fire, the plane was very low at about 200 feet and flying parallel to Bank Street. Clem would have had a good view from his window! After clearing the harbour it appeared to climb, then after a few hundred yards plunged into the sea and burst into flames.

In the very early part of the war 1939/40 he also remembers seeing a very old twin engined flying boat (either a Saro London or Stranraer) crashing in the same area. It was rumoured to have had two or more MPs on board at the time but was never confirmed presumably due to war time censorship. There were no survivors. This flying boat landed and then somersaulted, the upturned hull was visible for some time.

He also witnessed the Barracuda collision; the aircraft were flying in formation when it appears the wingtips touched. The collision was not violent and the aircraft appeared undamaged but they both fell into a slow spin like falling leaves and into the sea.

Ironically my father joined this very squadron at Eglington, Northern Ireland (HMS Gannet) just after the war and had no idea that this was the same squadron he'd seen so many times at home until this image appeared. He also joined HMS Vengeance for 10 days to test the UK's home defences and for the purposes of the exercise was sunk by torpedo. This exercise was so real that they also got 5 days survivors leave!
Comment left on 30 April 2005 at 09:45 by Andrew Bathie
Thanks Andrew - remarkable update! The Barbraville crash was caused by pilot error, with both aircraft attempting to manouver in to the same space in the formation, 3 of the 5 Aircrew are buried in Roskeen Church. My father's service with 812 ceased on the 12th August 1946, when the Squadron was disbanded after 2 years and 1 months service in the Atlantic, Med, British Pacific Fleet and East Indies Fleet. Your father must have joined on the 1 October 1946, when it was re-formed at HMS Gannet, operating with Fireflies. It is a small world. I saw my Dad yesterday, where he gave me a number of old copies of the Fleet Air Arm Association Newsletter "the Airey Fairey" which detail a number of Barracuda crash's in the Cromarty Firth - all from Fearn. (He and my Mum are busy planning a round the world trip for later this year, back to India, Hong Kong and Australia, courtesy of the "Returned Heros" scheme, which helps veterns to re-vist their theatre of operations)

Has your Father ever been back to an 812 Reunion? They are held every so often, and the HMS Vengeance crew get together every April.
Comment left on 11 May 2005 at 20:41 by Calum Davidson
Thanks Calum, no my father hasn't attended any reunions, he is a member of the local Fleet Airarm association though. If you can pass on details of dates/venue I'll certainly pass it on. Comment left on 22 May 2005 at 17:48 by Andrew Bathie
Cheers Andrew - I will. He might also enjoy the HMS Vengeance Website. Comment left on 27 May 2005 at 19:42 by Calum Davidson
Hello Calum, very interesting site and some fascinating accounts. I am interested in gathering information on the RAF station at Longman, Inverness which was operational during the war. Any information would be appreciated, particularly photographs. Provided I can get enough information I intend to compile a nostalgic type article for "The Hub" magazine, which is a free mag covering Inverness, Nairn and Dingwall area. Comment left on 31 May 2005 at 12:52 by Colin Sutherland
Colin - my aplogies, I seem to have missed your comment. For info on Inverness (Longman) airbase you would be best to speak to Julie Campbell of the Highland Aviation Museum at Dalcross. Her, and her husbands, knowledge is far deeper than mine. Comment left on 02 July 2005 at 15:07 by Calum Davidson
I'm afraid this is a tale of what might have been. My late wife who served at Fearn as an Air Mech. Engines in Station Flight at Fearn in the latter years of the war could, I'm sure, have contributed much to this site. She spoke of how many Barracudas crashed into Nigg Bay.
From her I learnt:-
Any old ire, any old ire,
Any, any, any old iron.
Down at Lee you get them free,
Built by Faireys for a crew of three.
Bags of fun, no front gun,
An engine you can't rely on.
You know what you can do
With your Barracuda too.
Old iron, old iron.
As I know from her that the men would not countenance any of their number using 'unseemly' language in the hearing of the Wrens, I can well believe that that is a 'sanitised' version.
Comment left on 12 June 2006 at 13:07 by Douglas M. H. Crook
your website was a chance find on the net, i will pass it on to my father who is 82, and served as an armourer on 818 squadron, i have found very littlle info about this unit, and would be pleased to here from anyone who served at crimond when dad did, which i think was 1944, pre d-day as he would have been ay preddannack in cornwall then. Comment left on 12 June 2006 at 22:11 by Robert Cox
Robert - 818 Squadron RNAS - have a look at for more information on this famous RN unit. Comment left on 12 June 2006 at 23:02 by Calum Davidson
Douglas - I have heard my father - and an old TAG pal of his - sing a very much ruder version of this song! Comment left on 12 June 2006 at 23:04 by Calum Davidson
I'm sure they would, Calum.
As I said, the men with whom Marjorie worked took great care to shield the Wrens from such language.
Comment left on 12 June 2006 at 23:44 by Douglas M. H. Crook
These aircraft were scrapped when my father was serving in the Fleet Airarm just after the war. Other than the radios they were sold complete for £18 apiece! Comment left on 18 June 2006 at 19:34 by Andrew Bathie
Andrew - despite being one of the FAA most common aircraft, no complete Barracuda airframe exists anywhere currently. The FAA museum displays the front half of one, dug from a bog in Northern Ireland, and parts salvaged from a crash in on the Paps of Jura have been stockpiled for an eventual restoration. Large numbers were dumped of the coast of Australia, when the FAA converted Barracuda squadrons to Fairey Fireflies (including 812 RNAS - my fathers squadron). Pictures of this can be seen on the HMS Vengeance website.

If their are any Barracuda wrecks remaining on the bottom of the Cromarty Firth they may yet have some value!
Comment left on 18 June 2006 at 19:54 by Calum Davidson
An interesting site, especially regarding the Barracudas. My father was also an armourer who finished his service at Crimond on 818 Squadron. His name is Sid Noonan and he is still alive and well and living in Aintree Liverpool. He was knicknamed scouse, as were probably all Liverpudlians during the war. His last ship was the Chaser with 816 Squadron. My father knew a fitter/armourer from Birmingham called Cox. Could this be the father of Robert Cox? My father was an air mechanic at St Merryn, Cornwall with 748 Squadron. At Crimond he would have been a Leading Air Mechanic. As an aside my father also played the guitar in the band at St Merryn. He still has the guitar with many scars from wartime escapades. Regards. Comment left on 28 June 2006 at 22:42 by Steve Noonan
I was interested to see the comments that you have all been adding as I am working on a project to locate, identify and photographically record 20th Century Military structures. This can be anything from Hangars to pillboxes and include remains of aircraft crashes. If any of you know of precise locations where there are remains I would be interested to hear as many of these sites now seem to be disppearing at an alarming rate despite having survived for all this time. I am also working on getting some form of sponsorship which will enable all of these photos to be visible to all on a website. So far I have taken in excess of 3000 photos. Comment left on 08 September 2006 at 09:14 by Jeremy Flack
I have been trying to piece together my father's Fleet Air Arm Career. As Lt Cdr Julius (Buddy) freedman he was, I believe, Staff Officer (Air) and CGI, HMS Owl from April 1944 to July 1945. Interested to know if anyone remembers him. He died sometime ago but spoke to me about the problems with the Barracudas. Comment left on 16 September 2006 at 18:20 by Lawrence Freedman
Calum, I was just joining 812Sqn and was in a lorry going to the base. We saw the 2 planes collide. I was part of the funeral party at Invergordon, a long time ago but have never forgoten that day or those lads. Comment left on 27 November 2006 at 14:46 by Bob Stoddart
Thanks for the comment Bob - my Father was at the same burial party, and by a strange coincidence my Aunt and Uncle are both buried within a few yards of the Naval Graves. Photos of the graves can be seen on the HMS Vengeance website. Comment left on 28 November 2006 at 13:40 by Calum Davidson
I am seeking info on the men and women who flew/navigated aircraft over from the USA and Canada to Fearn during WWII. In particular a Ronald Duncan Fraser. Is there any info or sources you can point me to? Any help/advice is much appreciated. Comment left on 24 January 2007 at 15:48 by Frank Ward
I have a pal who studies these things Frank - I'll ask him. Comment left on 24 January 2007 at 23:20 by Calum Davidson
Frank - no new information I'm afraid. Comment left on 10 April 2007 at 22:19 by Calum Davidson
I was a Wren Air Radio Mechanic on 750 Squadron (Royal Naval Observer School) in 1952 when we were flying Barracudas. I'm trying to get information on the radio and radar equipment which was fitted at that time. The only equipment I can clearly recall is the ASH radar (ASH bomb) which I seem to remember was fitted below the body of the aircraft and the VHF set, the 1500. I can't even recollect whether the wire aerial, fitted from just behind the pilot's cockpit to the tail, was for HF for VHF. Needless to say, it is hard to find air radio mechanics of that time, particularly those who knew the Barracudas. Other equipment I vaguely remember, which may or may not have been on the Barras, was: ZBX, IFF, and on the inflatable lifeboat, SARAH (Search and Rescue and Homing).If anyone can help me on this I would really appreciate it. Comment left on 15 February 2008 at 12:27 by Dorothy Allen
Dorothy - my Dad was a Petty Officer - Air radio with 812 Squadron RNAS from June 1944 until May 1946, so he was prety familiar with the Barracuda radio systems. 812 flew Barracudas until January 1946, and then Fireflies. My understanding is that the Fleet Air Arm used the pre-war T1115/R116 transmitter/radio right through WW2, whilst the RAF used the T1154/R1155 from 1941 to the mid 50's.

My Father flew in Barra Mark 2's - with no radar, which was fitted in the Mark 3, which I understand was never used in the Far East, which was his theatre of operations. I suspect that you would have known the Griffin engined Mark V, a post war variant which had the ASH Radar under the left wing. I have e-mailed you my Dads e-mail address so you can ask him direct.
Comment left on 15 February 2008 at 20:32 by Calum Davidson
Thanks, Calum, I'll look forward to getting your email. When I was on 750 squadron I worked on Barracudas and Ansons, then on Sea Princes and Fireflies. Although I can remember the radar and radio equipment I worked on, I can't remember which was fitted to the Barras, except the 1500 VHF. Comment left on 16 February 2008 at 15:13 by Dorothy Allen
Hi, I'm researching the men on the Shipston on Stour War Memorial one of whom was at HMS Owl and was killed in a flying accident on the 7th June 1944. His name was Leslie John Sutton he was a Leading Airman. His body was not recovered and he is remembered on the FAA memorial at Lee on Solent. I think that Ernest Allison was killed in the same accident. I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows anything about this accident. Thanks in advance Mike. Comment left on 17 February 2008 at 10:21 by Mike Wells
Mike - sorry for the delay in getting back to you, but I have managed to source the information from a local aviation historian who I work with.

Leading Airman L J Sutton who was the TAG (Telegraphist-Air-Gunner) in Barracuda DP985 of 828 Sqn, Fearn, which suffered a mid-air collision with BV798 of the same unit 084degrees 10 miles Tarbat Ness at 12:10, whilst reforming after a torpedo-dropping exercise. Leading Airman E W Allison was the TAG in BV798. All other crew were also lost.

Fearn based Barracuda Squadrons would practice torpedo attacks - live torpedos with dummy warheads - on naval vessels operating in the Moray Firth. Looks like a mid air collison ten miles out to sea, which is why all the crew were lost and no bodies recovered.
Comment left on 26 February 2008 at 13:53 by Calum Davidson
Many many thanks for taking the time to find this information, it makes Leslie's story much more complete. If your email is still the same I'll send you a copy of the page we have on him, which may be of interest to yourself and/or your local aviation historian. Kindest regards, Mike
Comment left on 26 February 2008 at 14:34 by Mike Wells
I would be interested if anyone remembers or knows the whereabouts pf Ivy Munro Mansfield (Sanderson) WRNS78102, also known as Iris Munro Sanderson. This former Leading Wren was at HMS Owl/ Fearn 20/11/44 to 29/5/46 and was trained as a Cook.
Ivy or Iris was my birthmother but I do not remember or have any photos of her as I was born 14.01.47 and adopted March 1947.
I have just been re united with my birth father's family in Holland. I have a half sister and a half brother .
My fathers name was Jan Gilbert Boon Von Ochsee who enlisted from the Dutch East Indies. BVO flew with 860 squadron and was also involved in the attack on the Tirpitz.
My father presumably met my Mother who was born in Edinburgh 13.3.26 at Fearn before being transferred back to Indonesia in August 1946. He stayed in the Dutch Navy flying Catalinas in Dutch New Guinea after Independence in Indonesia and retired in 1965 from the Dutch Navy and died 10 years ago. I would be interested to know if photos exist of Wrens serving at HMS OWL and if so how I can access such photos to identify my Mother.
I have just lost the Mother who adopted me and would like to try to trace my birthmother if not already deceased.
I would be grateful for any help or memories from any Navy or Air Force Personell who remember either of my birth parents around March April 1946 at Fearn Scotland.
Colin Burgess
Waiheke Island
New Zealand
Comment left on 07 July 2008 at 06:55 by Colin Burgess
With reference to Mike Wells question posted on 17th February 2008, which I have only seen today, I am able to add the following. I was an Observer on 828 sqdn from March 1944 until June 1945. My pilot was Doug Williams and TAG Dutchy Holland. On 7th. June 44, we flew an A.L.T. exercise early morning. Later in the morning I flew in a Defiant piloted by a Lt. Hobbs (not 828 sqdn) "ALT. spotting"for the second ALT of the day. We did not see the crash of the two aircraft but it was at this time that the two Barras crashed. I well remember that having been told of the accident, our CO Lt.Cdr. Swanton, immediately ordered two Alt exercises in the afternoon; at the time we thought it a tough decision but, of course, the right one. I have no record of the TAGs names, which you have, but the other chums killed were: Miff Smith and his Observer Jack Mc.Lean: Basil Green and his Observer Tony Bateman. The parents came to the funeral, which of course we all attended (we in the back of a truck)I guess at Invergorden, and I remember the feeling of guilt when meeting the parents in the lunch that followed in the mess afterwards. Not that I had anything to do with loss of their boys. I recently mentioned this to a services "Head Shrink" and he said this is a very common emotion. With others, I think of them on 11 Nov, and count my blessings as I approach my 85th year. Regards to all who read this. Cyril Price Comment left on 24 September 2008 at 16:00 by Cyril Price
ref: the barracuda wreck site off Barbraville, I visited the crash site as a young lad, about 26 years ago, there wasn't much left of the two craft but you could make out the cockpit and engine blocks. They can still be seen today at low tide. I dare say that there is not much left now, I might plan another visit to cure my curiosity. Comment left on 18 October 2008 at 14:20 by Chris Agate
Thanks for the info Chris - I may just get a tide table and visit the site myself. As you will see from the thread above it was two aircraft from my Dads squadron that crashed, and he was supposed to be flying with them that day. Comment left on 20 October 2008 at 17:35 by Calum Davidson
i am a radio cillector and have pieces of radio used in the barracud aircraft which i can donate to a museum if you have one Comment left on 25 October 2008 at 10:30 by DAVE PATRICK[G8KAP
My mother is the widow of Tony Bateman, observer flying with Basil Green and who died in the barracuda crash 7/06/44. She was Wren Wendy Bateman and at this tragic time was based at HMS Peewit, East Haven, Carnoustie. Mum is still alive and approaching 85yo. My brothers and I would like to hear more of these events of 7/06/44 and know that mum will take comfort from all your kind thoughts, above. Maybe someone even remembers mum. Comment left on 23 February 2009 at 15:59 by Rowenna Wallace
As a former Barracuda pilot I was very interested in the pages of this site. I did Barracuda familiarisation at Fearn, then deck landing training at Easthaven, torpedo training at Crail finishing early 1945. Joined 817 when it reformed at Crimond, later continued at Fearn where we celebrated VJ Day after which 817 disbanded. With a change of aircraft I flew on the BEA Scttish routes from Renfrew 1946-57. I have some photos which may be of interest. Comment left on 13 March 2009 at 22:48 by Iain Crosbie
Further to the contribution of Rowenna Wallace on 23 February I have a photograph of the crews of 828 squadron which must have been taken at Fearn not long before the tragic crash on 7/06/44 and I will be happy to send a copy to the family. Also I would try to answer any questions that Rowenna and her brothers may wish to send to me. My e-mail address ic:[email protected] Comment left on 04 April 2009 at 17:51 by Cyril Price
Re crash of Baracudas on 7th June 1944. I am the nephew of Miff Smith (or Douglas Carruth Smith, to give him his full name) who was lost that day. He was an avid diary writer, of which I now have ownership along with many photos from his time in the Fleet Air Arm. I'm sure this stuff would be of interest to some, and I am also keen to find out more about my uncle's service and any more information on the crash. Comment left on 08 June 2009 at 22:57 by Rob Dalziel
Re crash of Barracudas. Most interested your entry of 8th. June Rob. Your uncle was known on the Sqdn as "The desert rat" and doubtless his diary will give you details of his appointment prior to 828 sqdn. with a desert based squadron. The new 828 sqdn. had only been formed a short time before the 7th June 44 and they were early days to get to know each other well but I well remember your uncle as a modest and friendly colleague and with the other new friends he was greatly missed.

I have quite an extensive exchange of e-mails with Rowenna Wallace on behalf of her mother and I would be happy to try to answer any questions you may have but I do not have any detailed information on the cause of the crash - however there are some conflicting reports in some of the comments in the Cromarty Archive. Could you please find out from your uncle's papers or log book the name of his TAG. It will either be Leading Airman L.A.Sutton or Leading Airman E.W.Allison. Would be most grateful as trying to help Mike Wells (see his comment 7th). Feb 08. Thanks in advance.
Comment left on 16 June 2009 at 18:00 by Cyril Price
Dear Mr Davidson: I am doing some research on my dad's naval carreer. I have found out that he was on the H.M.S. Karel Dooman. I have found a photo that says Baraca H.M.S, Owl in Fearn Scotland. I wonder if your dad remembers the Dutch navy in that area at in 1946. Any help that you can give me would be so appreciated. Comment left on 02 August 2009 at 21:03 by JoAnn Thompson
Dear JoAnn

my birth father J.G Boon Von Ochssee was a Dutch pilot with the Royal Navy based at HMS Owl in April 1946 and left for Indonesia on the Karel Doorman around August 1946. I was born to Wren from HMS Owl (refer July 2008 comment )in Jan 1947 adopted and was recently reunited with my Dutch Family all ex Indonesia now in Holland NZ and the USA
My birth father married a Dutch girl Hettie from Indonesia and her uncle was the Commodore of the Karel Doorman on that particular voyage. Hettie is still alive and lives Holland and is the Mother of my half sister Catalina named after the flying boats my father flew in Dutch New guinea after Indonesian independance
Comment left on 03 August 2009 at 07:39 by Colin Burgess
hi Colin:would you know where I could write to find out about my dad's service in the Dutch Navy. I know this is a long shot, but do you think any of your relatives would have known my dad. His name was Tony, (Antonius) Loeffen, he was born in Veldhoven on Dec. 30,1922. I have traced him to a Jan Kirle who served with him for a time in Ipswich. He now lives in Australia. Any information is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much Joann Comment left on 03 August 2009 at 16:06 by JoAnn Thompson
Hi JoAnn. Your Dad would have been a member of 860 Squadron RNAS, which was the Dutch squadron with the Royal Navy, and subsequently with the Royal Netherland Navy on the escort carrier the Karel Doorman.

860 squadron had the following bases:-

Ayr 3 September 1945 to 30 October 1945
HMS Nairana 30 October 1945 to 15 November 1945
Ayr 15 November 1945 to 19 April 1946
Fearn 19 April 1946 to 7 May 1946
Saint Merryn 7 May 1946 to 27 July 1946
HrMS Karel Doorman 27 July 1946 to October 1946
Morokrembagan, Java October 1946 to 18 March 1950
HrMS Karel Doorman 15 July 1950 to 15 June 1956

They flew Barracuda II's - like the aircraft above from my Dad's squadron 812. My Father would not have met any of 860 Squadron - he was at Fearn in late 44, but by 1946 was in Ceylon, on route home after the end of the War in the Pacific.
Hope this helps. Calum.
Comment left on 03 August 2009 at 21:20 by Calum Davidson
Thanks Calum: this maybe a new piece to the puzzle. Your quick response is very much appreciated Comment left on 03 August 2009 at 23:27 by JoAnn Thompson
Frederick Arthur Hadley information as I have it, crashed his plane in the Moray Firth, April 21 1945. Can anyone confirm this? Comment left on 08 December 2009 at 18:52 by Sue Little Eaton
Hi there, My name is Ted Tunnicliffe, and I'm the younger brother of Sub-Lt (RNVR) Tim Tunnicliffe, killed in a Barracuda MD951 accident on the Firth of Clyde, 8th of February 1945. A brief internal (Family) account of the life and death of Tim is available from my brother, the Rev Martin Tunnicliffe. Please contact me if you wish to know more details. Comment left on 02 January 2010 at 17:21 by Ted Tunnicliffe
Frederick Arthur Hadley 816 squadron crashed his Barracuda into the Moray Firth, April 21 1945. I'm trying to find out which ship he flew from and why he crashed. Comment left on 11 January 2010 at 16:29 by Sue From Little Eaton Derbyshire
Yes, I read about this one, and there is I believe a photo of the crash site somewhere on the net. Tim was in 815 squadron, based at Mullaghmore in Ireland. He was on anti-submarine patrol. Nothing was ever found, except a life-jacket... Comment left on 12 January 2010 at 08:12 by Ted Tunnicliffe
Hullo. I'm Ted Tunnicliffe's brother Martin. Tim's fatal accident had added poignancy in that it was witnessed by his older brother from the bridge of the ship on which he was an officer. I have written Tim's story for the family, but I have also prepared a shorter paper for general circulation entitled "Missing Presumed Dead". Please contact me if you would like a copy. Comment left on 12 January 2010 at 11:32 by Martin Tunnicliffe
Hello my name is Richard Hadley and i am trying to discover the fate of my Uncle Sub Lt Frederick Arthur Hadley of 816 squadron. He flew Baracuda aircraft and was reported missing on 21st April 1945 aged 20.As far as I know his crew consisted of John P Osborn and Maurice W Everett. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Comment left on 20 March 2010 at 15:32 by Richard Hadley
Richard and Sue - I have no specific details of the crash in which Fredrick Hadley and his crew were lost, but as the CWGC only records his death on the FAA memorial at Lee-on-Solent his body was never recovered. In April 45 816 Squadron RNAS was based at Fearn Airfield in Easter Ross - known as HMS Owl. Fearn was the main base for the FAA's Barracuda (a naval dive and torpedo bomber) squadrons in the final stage of their training before joining a ship. The training undertaken was as close to operational flying was possible, so fatal crashes were not uncommon.

816 Squadron in April 45 was in the final stages of training for the invasion of Japan, (The Royal Navy would have provided 25% of the aircraft covering the landings) and was destined to join the light Fleet Carrier HMS Ocean.

As you will see from the photo above my Fathers squadron 812 was part of the British Pacific Fleet at the end of the war, and he was also based at Fearn in late 44. His Squadron suffered a fatal crash in November 44, loosing two aircraft and 5 out of the 6 crew.

I'll do some more digging and see what I can find out about the 21st April crash.
Comment left on 28 March 2010 at 15:20 by Calum Davidson
hi calum i wish to thank you for your lnformation regarding frederick arthur hadley 816 squadron all we have is photos of him and his crew standing next to his plane so your imput is much vauled Comment left on 30 March 2010 at 20:35 by Sue Little Eaton Derbysire
Richard and Sue, I have a little more background, from a pal of mine who has a database of all wartime plane crashes in the Highlands and Islands.

Sub Lt FA Hadley was flying a Barracuda Torpedo and Dive bomber. His was a Barracuda Mk.II (the same as the picture above of my Dads squadron), serial no PM822, of 816 Sqn, based at HMS Owl, Fearn. Three crew �“ Pilot, Observer and TAG (Telegraphist Air Gunner). The Pilot and Observer would be Sub Lt’s and the TAG a Petty Officer (PO).

The crash was caused by the aircraft failed to pull out of a turn on an ART (torpedo dropping exercise) and it then crashed into the sea. Torpedo bombing called for the Barracuda to fly very low - within a few feet of the sea - drop the torpedo, and then make a steep turn at low level to avoid the ship they were trying to sink, as well as anti-aircraft fire.

So it would seem that they crashed into the sea at high speed whilst making this turn, which would have caused the aircraft to break up and sink almost immediately. The cause could be pilot error, a wingtip catching a larger wave than usual or simply a freak gust of wind?

We will never know, but their deaths would have been almost instantaneous, and as their bodies were never recovered, it would be safe to assume that must have remained within the fuselage which sank.

No exact location was recorded, I’m afraid, but these exercises invariably took place in the Inner Moray Firth, usually 10 to 20 miles North East of Tarbert Ness Lighthouse, so it’s safe to assume that the last resting place of Sub Lt FA Hadley and his crew is in that general area. You can find it on Google Maps.

As you know all three crew are listed on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial. Sub-Lt(A) Everett RNVR was 19 and PO(A) Orsborn RN was 20.

Hope this helps.

Comment left on 01 April 2010 at 21:53 by Calum Davidson
Hi calum. I wish to thank you and your friend for your information regarding Frederick Authur Hadley. Without your help we would still be searching. Your help is truly appreciated. Comment left on 02 April 2010 at 15:35 by Sue Little Eaton Derbysire
Hi Calum, in line with Sue I wish to thank you for your help in piecing together my Uncle's last flight. The information you have provided has finally laid ghosts to rest and for that i am truly grateful. Kind Regards Richard Hadley.
Comment left on 02 April 2010 at 18:44 by Richard Hadley
Hi Ted or Martin Tunnicliffe, for a long time I have been trying to disover the fate of my late cousin Sub Lieutenant Frank Wilson MPK following an air accident 8th February 1945, and have recently discovered a connection with your late brother and would appreciate any information you can give. Now 89, I am the only surviving member of Frank's family. I was serving in the Far East at the time, and on my return could never get his mother to talk about the accident. Comment left on 11 April 2010 at 22:21 by Les Lord
Hello Les. In Martin's book "Missing", wherein he tells the story of Tim's flying career and subsequent death, he states that your cousin was Tim's observer on that last fatal day. So I'm afraid that he perished with Tim and the air gunner, Petty Officer Johnson. All I can add is that - after having made various enquiries and contacted a few people who new Tim at the time - the other members of the squadron appreciated Tim, and one person even said that his crew always said they wouldn't like to fly with anyone else. I hope this will help put your mind at rest. Comment left on 12 April 2010 at 10:11 by Ted Tunnicliffe
Hello Ted, thanks very much for your prompt reply and information about Frank Wilson. I also had an E-Mail from Martin last night and have E-Mailed back direct. Never expected I would have had replies so quickly. Kind regards, Les Lord. Comment left on 13 April 2010 at 10:35 by Les Lord
Glad to have been of some usefulness, Les. Hope it helps put your mind at rest. All the best. Ted T. Comment left on 14 April 2010 at 09:54 by Ted Tunnicliffe
Hi Ted, Yes thanks, afer sixty-five years I feel that Frank has finally been laid to rest. Thanks again. Comment left on 14 April 2010 at 19:51 by Les Lord
Thank you for the information on Frederick Arthur Hadley - my uncle- my mother's youngest brother. I live in NZ now but I see that relatives in Derbyshire have been active in searching the net. I remember Arthur well and this information will help 'fill in the pieces' for me. Comment left on 28 January 2011 at 03:53 by Joan Hoffman
Hello, I'm trying to find information regarding sub lieutenant John Hitch, he was killed on 26th May 1944. I believe this was the result of a mid air collision. Any information would be gratefully received. Thanks in advance.
Comment left on 31 May 2011 at 10:26 by Matt
Any more info Matt - his squadron for example? I've seen his grave at Rosskeen, and he was at HMS Owl, which was used for "working up" Barracuda Squadrons for the Far East. He had the DSC, so that suggests that he had been on active service for some time. Comment left on 31 May 2011 at 23:11 by Calum Davidson
Sorry the info is a bit scarce. i believe it was 841 squadron. He was killed alongside two other servicemen, J Davey and A Twining, both of whom he is buried next to at Roskeen. John is from a Gloucestershire family, there is an inscription commemorating his death at Badgeworth church near Cheltenham. i dont know much more than that, i'm afraid. Comment left on 01 June 2011 at 10:17 by Matt
I have not read any comments about a crash at ST Martins farm in the Black Isle. I was 12 years of age and was at my Grandparents house on school holidays when one of my jobs was to take to my grandfather his half yocking at morning tea break. When I arrived at the field a plane had just crashed in the field opposite and was on fire. No-one could get near it with extreme heat and unfortunately the crew were lost. I was told at the time it was a Botha from RAF Evanton which was directly opposite across the water. The locus was beside the road leading from Stuart Castle to the main road on a sharp bend in St Martins farm field which is now overgrown with whin bushes. Every time I pass it I think I can smell the burning fluid from the hydraulics. Comment left on 11 February 2012 at 22:18 by George Macdonald
I remember in March 1946 when two barracuds were flying together, chasing each other, and the one in front made a sharp bank to the right (withoutout compensating with increased throttle?) and fell out of the sky like a plate falling through water, and not having enough height to level out and the 3 of a crew were killed, the pilot officer was a pilot offer Sheriff, from New Zealand 23 years of age. Comment left on 15 June 2012 at 15:45 by Dugald MacAngus
Re. memo. It was March 1945 and Pilot was a sub. Leu and he crashed into the ground 20 yards from the guard room at B.Camp Comment left on 15 June 2012 at 20:57 by Dugald MacAngus
I am trying to find some information about my husband's uncle, David Joseph Torres who is named on the Lee on Solent memorial. He was a Sub Lieutenant at HMS Owl and died on 18 January 1944.
Comment left on 11 September 2012 at 22:06 by Sheila Torres
Hello all, I'm a researcher on the Channel 4 series "The Restoration Man" and in our forthcoming series we will be documenting the restoration of the ATC tower at Fearn, as it is converted into a habitable abode.

I was fascinated by some of the testimonials I read on this thread, as I'm looking for accounts of life at Fearn when it was a wartime airfield. These can range from stories of relatives to personal memories if you were stationed there. Photos and other memorabilia are also more than welcome. I'm more than happy to talk to anyone about the project, so if you feel you have something worth sharing, then do please contact me 0208 222 4948 or on my email at [email protected]

Many thanks & look forward to hearing from you soon.
Comment left on 31 March 2014 at 15:23 by Nicholas de Taranto
I am the step brother of the observer who died in the barracuda accident over Nigg bay involving two aircraft, I have information that explained what happened and the officers involved

Comment left on 17 September 2015 at 13:57 by John Crosthwaite
I am doing research in regards to my late father Peter King TAG. Possibly with 785 816 818 and 836. We know he was with the 852. He was involved in wreak of either Fairey Swordfish or Barracuda at Crail (sea landing). Nick name Dinghy King. Comment left on 25 April 2016 at 18:49 by Matthew King
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