The Anniversary of The Channel Dash - 1942 - and the wider RN Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War

Were there any other than big gun Admirals? The leadership would have been shaped by the experience of the First World War, and most of those with experience of flying would have transferred to the RAF in 1918. Or maybe the experience of the Fleet being subject to showing by Zeppelins left a view of what the Battle Fleet needed protection from?

The dual command with both the RN and RAF trying to take command does not sound like a winning plan - each could either assume the other was responsible or decide to ignore wider knowledge. I am sure that the Admirals could have killed off the carriers, but they at least realised the need for them.

If Their Lordships had been given full control from 1930 what difference could it have made?

I certainly agree with your point about dual control (but seemingly zero accountability) between the two services, which makes the achievements of the FAA during WWII all the more admirable. The RNAS's influence on the development of the RAF was enormous, as almost every mission type conducted by the RAF had its origins in the experience of the RNAS, while the RFC (unsurprisingly given their origin) really offered only Air Cooperation (CAS and reconnaissance) to the mix.

As for your final question, I'll leave that to someone who was there.

'Offering criticism on the service hierarchies that made up the Fleet, backed up by his having served in six Carriers and flown from them in all five theatres of sea warfare during five years of the Second World War, Adlam presents a highly entertaining and potentially controversial study which is sure to appeal to a wide array of aviation enthusiasts. Adlam charts the catalogue of errors that blighted the history of the Naval Air Service, which followed the disastrous decision in April 1918 to transfer the whole of the Air Service of the Royal Navy to form the new RAF. The main and over-riding criticism that the author finds with the Fleet Air Arm lies in the manner in which it was led. Adapting the oft-quoted "Lions led by Donkeys" description of the British Army, Adlam describes the activities of the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War as the result of "Sea Eagles led by Penguins" practices, when experienced pilots were led into battle by senior members of the Navy who possessed little or no flying experience.'

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Yokel

LE
The first ships sunk by air-launched torpedoes, the aircraft were Short 184 seaplanes:-

The two prototype aircraft were embarked upon HMS Ben-my-Chree, which sailed for the Aegean on 21 March 1915 to take part in the Gallipoli campaign.[5] On 12 August 1915 one of these, piloted by Flight Commander Charles Edmonds, was the first aircraft in the world to attack an enemy ship with an air-launched torpedo. However, the ship had already been crippled by a torpedo fired by the British submarine E14.[6]

However, on 17 August 1915, another Turkish ship was sunk by a torpedo of whose origin there was no doubt. On this occasion Flight Commander Edmonds torpedoed a Turkish transport ship a few miles north of the Dardanelles. His formation colleague, Flt Lt George Dacre, was forced to land on the water owing to engine trouble but, seeing an enemy tug close by, taxied up to it and released his torpedo, sinking the tug. Without the weight of the torpedo Dacre was able to take off and return to the Ben-My-Chree.[7]

How many naval vessels were sunk by high-level bombing in WW2?

Up until 1 April 1918 the RNAS was miles ahead of the RAF in development potential but, even by the end of 1918, the Crabs had butchered their ex-sister-service by wholesale disbanding of ASW squadrons at home and in the Med. The post-war control of naval aviation by the RAF was a disaster for the RN as, once again, the Crabs poured as much resources as possible into strategic bombing and colonial air control (as a means of improving their image), ignoring fighters and the RN. The RN could exhibit all the interest it wanted to in naval aviation, it would never bet the interest or money needed to keep the air groups up to date until they controlled their own aircraft.

How the aircraft carriers came to be invented would be worthy of a thread of its own. Seaplanes were not only a bit fragile, but they too ages to launch (ships slows, aircraft prepared, engine started, lowered in water, and manned) - usually forty or so minutes. Whilst this was alright for attacks, it was no good for dealing with snapping Zeppelins or bombers. A better way was to launch the aircraft from a platform built over the guns of a major warship - cruisers most often

However the sortie rate was limited, which led to experiments with landing on a moving ship. HMS Formidable had her forward guns turrets removed, and the first landing was by Sqn Cdr Edwin Dunning. On a second attempt he was caught out by turbulence and his Sopwith Pup went overboard - he drowned.

Next the rear turrets were removed to separate the take off and landing areas, and so that landing pilot to not have to land in front of the superstructure. Formidable was used for operations at the end of the First World War, but tests at the National Physical Laboratory showed that a flush deck was desirable in terms of avoiding turbulence. HMS Argus was so constructed, but did not enter service until after the war.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
For those with an interest in the development of the FAA in WWII, I can thoroughly recommend 'Kamikaze Hunters: Fighting for the Pacific, 1945' by Will Iredale.

View attachment 554358

Don't be fooled by the title, as in addition to giving a very good account of the British Pacific Fleet, there is a lengthy introduction about FAA flying training and operational theory.

'An objective author, Mr. Iredale highlights the bureaucratic turmoil among Winston Churchill and his leaders, the resistance for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) to receive training and top-notch equipment, flaws in the FAA selection process, and territoriality expressed by the Royal Air Force. Despite the difficulties and occasional roadblocks, FAA pilots and the Royal Navy earned the respect of their Allies and the Japanese forces because “[n]o one could deny that the airmen of the British Pacific Fleet had risen to the task. . . The Royal Navy’s airmen had pulled their weight with the American task groups” (p. 331–32).

'Filled with stories of beauty to the brutality of war, Mr. Iredale’s foreshadowing and storytelling intrigue the reader with several questions:

1. Whatever happened to Wally Stradwick? Tommy Gunn? Don Cameron? Prince Philip?

2. Which country’s ship decks were best constructed to withstand kamikaze attacks?

3. Why did it take so long to change FAA selection criteria?

'Any reader interested in a perfect blend of military history, 360-degree perspective, resilience, and story that transports you to relive the past should read Mr. Iredale’s book. All Airmen would benefit from the wealth of historic examples of service before self, integrity, and excellence in all we do from Allied forces. Also important are adapting technology to increase battlefield advantage as well as the power of the human spirit to individually and collectively overcome adversity. Airmen from all generations should take advantage of the myriad of stories Mr. Iredale provides to learn from The Kamikaze Hunters and facilitate success. '



I would recommend that book to anyone!

My favourite part is where the Trainee F.A.A. Pilots are in Miami.
 

Yokel

LE
Adlam describes the activities of the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War as the result of "Sea Eagles led by Penguins" practices, when experienced pilots were led into battle by senior members of the Navy who possessed little or no flying experience.'

Amazon product

I am sure that I said this earlier on this thread - there was no mechanism (between the wars) for naval flyers to get promoted to Flag rank or to be on the staff of Flag officers, as the flying expertise was not shared with the wider Navy. This influenced both policy and decision making in wartime - particularly the early years. However many of the RN's well known commanders did use carrier aircraft successfully.
 
Force z was suppose to have air cover - unfortunatly there was an accident involving the carrier

How much of the subsequent deployment was really down to a complete belief manouvering ships were invulnerable and how much was its desperate they go we think they should be able to deter aggression / fend off attacks long enough to escape.

As for their fateful voyage - air cover was requested -

I myself think exigencies of war and unfortunate circumstance resulted in them not having air cover - rather than an idea they were able to function without it

A bit of both I think. But mostly necessity rather than wishful thinking.
I alos believe they underestimated the strength of air attack the Japanese had available

Everybody knew they were vulnerable without air cover but I think there was a genuine belief that capital ships could stand against air attack
It's also the reason that I think the sinking of Forze Z was the pivotal moment regarding air v capital ships.
Up until then it was widely believed that a manouvering and defended capital ship was capable of fighting off air attack

Demonstrations against anchored undefended ships wasn't viewed as proof of vulnerability
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
A bit of both I think. But mostly necessity rather than wishful thinking.
I alos believe they underestimated the strength of air attack the Japanese had available

Everybody knew they were vulnerable without air cover but I think there was a genuine belief that capital ships could stand against air attack
It's also the reason that I think the sinking of Forze Z was the pivotal moment regarding air v capital ships.
Up until then it was widely believed that a manouvering and defended capital ship was capable of fighting off air attack

Demonstrations against anchored undefended ships wasn't viewed as proof of vulnerability

see the ludicrous exercise the Admiralty conducted pre war with the Home Fleet.
an entire Fleet banging away as a slow target drone, basically a radio controlled Tigger Moth, for nearly 3 hours in 1937 with zero effect, and declared a great success.
And yes, the RN was aware it’s ships were very vulnerable to air attack, its own Director of Research described it’s ineffective gunnery director as a 'menace to the service’ in 1938.
The Admiralty had also received a note from its own CinC Med in 1938 warning about the effectiveness of German aircraft at sinking ships at sea during the Spanish Civil War.

we must also assume the Admiralty was totally unaware of its own plans in 1918 to wage large scale air attacks on the German High Seas Fleet with carrier planes, or the continuos exercises both the Japanese and Americans had been conducting into sinking ship with aircraft since the 20’s.
 
How the aircraft carriers came to be invented would be worthy of a thread of its own. Seaplanes were not only a bit fragile, but they too ages to launch (ships slows, aircraft prepared, engine started, lowered in water, and manned) - usually forty or so minutes. Whilst this was alright for attacks, it was no good for dealing with snapping Zeppelins or bombers. A better way was to launch the aircraft from a platform built over the guns of a major warship - cruisers most often

However the sortie rate was limited, which led to experiments with landing on a moving ship. HMS Formidable had her forward guns turrets removed, and the first landing was by Sqn Cdr Edwin Dunning. On a second attempt he was caught out by turbulence and his Sopwith Pup went overboard - he drowned.

Next the rear turrets were removed to separate the take off and landing areas, and so that landing pilot to not have to land in front of the superstructure. Formidable was used for operations at the end of the First World War, but tests at the National Physical Laboratory showed that a flush deck was desirable in terms of avoiding turbulence. HMS Argus was so constructed, but did not enter service until after the war.

I think we talked about this on another thread, but the seaplane carrier ConOps was really quite twisted. Her aircraft were reconnaissance assets, so they were tasked to support the light cruiser/destroyer screen scouting ahead of the fleet. So that the cruiser squadron commander could command effectively, and the whole operating radius of the seaplanes could be used, this meant the seaplane carrier deployed in the screen...

...or in other words, an unarmed converted liner would be on point, steaming towards the enemy at full speed as they steamed towards us, and as soon as the seaplanes were wanted, she would be expected to stop, heave to, and hoist them overboard. Did I mention that the battlecruiser group will be coming up behind at 27 knots while this is happening?

At Jutland, IIRC, the seaplane carrier was the first ship to sight the enemy - not because the seaplane found them, but because the ship sailed through a patch of fog at full speed keeping up with Goodenough's cruisers and...whoops!

you can see why they invented the aircraft carrier.
 

Daz

LE
see the ludicrous exercise the Admiralty conducted pre war with the Home Fleet.
an entire Fleet banging away as a slow target drone, basically a radio controlled Tigger Moth, for nearly 3 hours in 1937 with zero effect, and declared a great success.
And yes, the RN was aware it’s ships were very vulnerable to air attack, its own Director of Research described it’s ineffective gunnery director as a 'menace to the service’ in 1938.
The Admiralty had also received a note from its own CinC Med in 1938 warning about the effectiveness of German aircraft at sinking ships at sea during the Spanish Civil War.

we must also assume the Admiralty was totally unaware of its own plans in 1918 to wage large scale air attacks on the German High Seas Fleet with carrier planes, or the continuos exercises both the Japanese and Americans had been conducting into sinking ship with aircraft since the 20’s.
And the shipboard AA was better by who exactly at the start of the war??, certainly not the US
 
A bit of both I think. But mostly necessity rather than wishful thinking.
I alos believe they underestimated the strength of air attack the Japanese had available

Everybody knew they were vulnerable without air cover but I think there was a genuine belief that capital ships could stand against air attack
It's also the reason that I think the sinking of Forze Z was the pivotal moment regarding air v capital ships.
Up until then it was widely believed that a manouvering and defended capital ship was capable of fighting off air attack

Demonstrations against anchored undefended ships wasn't viewed as proof of vulnerability


Part of the problem was that the *other* new exciting technologies - radar and analogue computing - showed up and dazzled everybody. Prince of Wales was packing no fewer than 9 gunnery radars and some really impressive old-timey computing to convert that into gunlaying, and it worked really well on the Germans during Operation Halberd.

Then it broke down on the night.
 
And the MAC ships?
They entered service after the back of the U Boat arm had been broken irreparably in May 1943. Not only did they lose 25% of their submarines in a month, an entire generation of combat experienced Officers were wiped out, a loss the Germans were never enable to make good.
What caused that? Any one factor?
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
And the shipboard AA was better by who exactly at the start of the war??, certainly not the US

US had far and away the best AA gunnery of any combatant in WWII.

Their 5” Mk12 mount with its Mk37 tachymetric director were head and shoulders in advance of any other navy’s guns in WWII, and was actually able to bring dive bombers under effective fire.
After HMS Delhi was refitted by the USN and fitted with those systems, it was found to be so good, the RN placed an order for 82 ship sets, but Pearl Harbour got in the way delaying deliveries.


RN technical mission 1942 report on USN Mk 37 FCS
"is considerably in advance of anything likely to be available from British sources for some time to come"

Destroyer Weapons of WW2
"The USN Mk 37 system was outstandingly good, and although having a 'mechanical' computer was superbly engineered. It could cope with aircraft speeds up to 1000 knots and [with] diving targets, and the director had triaxially stabilised sights and radar. Streets ahead of contemporary British systems, the '37 system' showed what a combination of foresight, know-how, finance and production capability could produce"



12D7938E-88ED-4FE7-A0F6-C2489B119AD8.jpeg
 

Part of the problem was that the *other* new exciting technologies - radar and analogue computing - showed up and dazzled everybody. Prince of Wales was packing no fewer than 9 gunnery radars and some really impressive old-timey computing to convert that into gunlaying, and it worked really well on the Germans during Operation Halberd.

Then it broke down on the night.


I don't know if it's true or not but I did once read that the reason PoW was lost was that a near miss tripped the ring main that fed power to the guns.
Left her effectively defenceless at the crucial time and kept secret for obvious reasons.

Can't remember where I read it and whether it was verified fact or not.
 

Daz

LE
US had far and away the best AA gunnery of any combatant in WWII.

Their 5” Mk12 mount with its Mk37 tachymetric director were head and shoulders in advance of any other navy’s guns in WWII, and was actually able to bring dive bombers under effective fire.
After HMS Delhi was refitted by the USN and fitted with those systems, it was found to be so good, the RN placed an order for 82 ship sets, but Pearl Harbour got in the way delaying deliveries.


RN technical mission 1942 report on USN Mk 37 FCS
"is considerably in advance of anything likely to be available from British sources for some time to come"

Destroyer Weapons of WW2
"The USN Mk 37 system was outstandingly good, and although having a 'mechanical' computer was superbly engineered. It could cope with aircraft speeds up to 1000 knots and [with] diving targets, and the director had triaxially stabilised sights and radar. Streets ahead of contemporary British systems, the '37 system' showed what a combination of foresight, know-how, finance and production capability could produce"



View attachment 554407
Note the question was at the start of the war - 1939, not later as you've noted with the Mk37, part of the reason why the Mk 37 was so good was its use of radar and to quote wikki

"The Tizard Mission to the United States provided the USN with crucial data on UK and Royal Navy radar technology and fire-control radar systems. In September 1941, the first rectangular Mark 4 Fire-control radar antenna was mounted on a Mark 37 Director"

And of course, the fire control system is only part of the equation, and there's the guns themselves, numbers of, type of and how many were carried etc
 

load_fin

War Hero
One thing that greatly assisted the development of USN carrier tactics and doctrine was the extensive war gaming curriculum at the Naval War College. They incorporated carriers into the games right after WWI, which meant almost all senior officers in WWII at least had a broad theoretical knowledge of carrier tactics. Spruance, who was not an aviator, was thus able to effectively wield his carrier forces.

Wargaming the British way...
Using coloured chalk on the floor with trainee commanders sitting behind a screen.
Western Approaches Tactical Unit made its mark on the Battle of the Atlantic, and Phil the Greek lead courses for a while. Possibly the last survivor of a WATU course.

 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
If you read some of the posts on this thread, you'd wonder why the RN ever even bothered to cast off and put to sea, as it would appear that we were so outclassed and doomed before crossing the harbour threshold.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
I don't know if it's true or not but I did once read that the reason PoW was lost was that a near miss tripped the ring main that fed power to the guns.
Left her effectively defenceless at the crucial time and kept secret for obvious reasons.

Can't remember where I read it and whether it was verified fact or not.

she was lost the minute she left harbour after her Admiral refused air cover from both the RAAF and RAF.
Admiral Tom Phillips was of the firm opinion ships underway were invulnerable to aircraft, and anyway, the Japanese had non torpedo bombers and his ships were quite capable in his mind of handling high altitude bombers.

Such a shame he wilfully ignore a few home truths.

First hand experience in the Med had confirmed the 1938 assessment that the HACS was utterly useless against aircraft

And not only did the Japanese have torpedo bombers, they flew twice as fast as the Swordfish he imaged was the cutting edge of anti ship technology, far too fast for the slow firing 5.25” guns to bother them.
 
she was lost the minute she left harbour after her Admiral refused air cover from both the RAAF and RAF.
Admiral Tom Phillips was of the firm opinion ships underway were invulnerable to aircraft,

""The overall commander of the fleet in Asia was Admiral Sir Tom Phillips. On December 8th, Phillips met with officers on board ‘Prince of Wales’. Reports indicated that Japanese forces had landed at Kota Bharu in the very northeast of Malaya and at Singora in southern Thailand. Phillips decided that the best use of Force Z was to sail north from Singapore and attack the Japanese along Malaya’s eastern coastline before their navy arrived to support the landings. However, Phillips realised the importance of aerial support and requested such from what the RAF could offer. On the afternoon of December 8th, as Force Z steamed north, Phillips received a message that he could expect no air cover. Therefore, a vital requirement as laid down by Phillips went unanswered.""



and anyway, the Japanese had non torpedo bombers and his ships were quite capable in his mind of handling high altitude bombers.

""Regardless, Phillips elected to proceed. It is believed that four factors entered into his decision: He thought that Japanese planes could not operate so far from land, he believed that his ships were relatively immune from fatal damage via air attack, he was unaware of the quality of Japanese aircraft and torpedoes,""


Such a shame he wilfully ignore a few home truths.

First hand experience in the Med had confirmed the 1938 assessment that the HACS was utterly useless against aircraft

And not only did the Japanese have torpedo bombers, they flew twice as fast as the Swordfish he imaged was the cutting edge of anti ship technology, far too fast for the slow firing 5.25” guns to bother them.
It doesnt mention anything that would support or refute the rest of your post - but as you are completely wrong about his rejection of air support and Torpedo bombers I think its safe to file it under more made up bollox to suit Photex perception
 
If you read some of the posts on this thread, you'd wonder why the RN ever even bothered to cast off and put to sea, as it would appear that we were so outclassed and doomed before crossing the harbour threshold.
We’re all familiar with the Eagle Squadron, whose brave and skillful American pilots taught the RAF how to fight while singlehandedly winning the Battle of Britain, but few have heard of the naval equivalent, the Sea Eagles. It was these hearty American sailors that brought the RN up to the level necessary to fight a modern war. Unfortunately, petty jealousies have prevented their tale from being told, with the exception of their heroics surrounding the capture of U-571 and its Enigma machine.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
Note the question was at the start of the war - 1939, not later as you've noted with the Mk37, part of the reason why the Mk 37 was so good was its use of radar and to quote wikki

"The Tizard Mission to the United States provided the USN with crucial data on UK and Royal Navy radar technology and fire-control radar systems. In September 1941, the first rectangular Mark 4 Fire-control radar antenna was mounted on a Mark 37 Director"

And of course, the fire control system is only part of the equation, and there's the guns themselves, numbers of, type of and how many were carried etc

the addition of Radar merely gave the Mk37 a blindfire capability on top of its already superlative fire control capabilities.
The Mk37 entered service on the Destroyer USS Sims in August 1939. It was so far in advance of anything else, the RN was still fitting it after WWII.

The standard US director being fitted up to 1939 was the Mk33, fitted since 1934, it too was a tachymetic director - able to hit dive bombers at speeds up up to 400mph - a capability the RNs HACS totally lacked as it was only a two axis director.

in fact, the HACS was already obsolete before it was installed in the mid 30’s, it had been designed to tackle aircraft sportingly flying straight and level at up to 200mph, which was a bit of bugger as planes were doing a lot better than that. It was eventually modified in 1940 to be able to tackle planes doing the unheard of speed of 250mph! - a performance rather shy of the Mk37 that maxed out over 1000mph.
 
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