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

Force Z would suggest his 'experiment' was actually pretty accurate.

On the face of it perhaps, but in reality no.

Had PoW and Repulse been faced with a Billy Mitchell type attack then they wouldn't have been sunk.
It was torpedo bombers that did for them in massed attacks

Time and technology had moved on by 1941.
Prince of Wales in particular was well equiped to counter air attack, trouble was whe was built for a different fight and crucially a different climate. Fire control radars and AA amunition failed to operate properly in the heat/humidity and nobody anticipated torpedo bomber attack on the scale they got.

Had a carrier been with it Force Z it might have been different, had the state of the art fire control radars been working it might have been different, had all the AA amunition worked it might have been different. Even if the RAF's Brewsters been there an hour earlier it might have been different

That's war I suppose, sometimes the other side wins.
 
Yamato was hit by at least 11 torpedoes and 6 bombs. It was the torpedoes that did for her. She would have probably survived the bombs.
Who was it said - you dont sink ships by making holes that let air in - but by making holes that let water in
 

Yokel

LE
Now who was it who said we could have had all the American naval fighters we wanted? It certainly was not AV Alexander MP, who had succeeded Churchill as First Lord of The Admiralty. From here:

Minute from First Lord of Admiralty to Prime Minister [AVIA 46/ 136] 6 December 1941

Supply of Grumman Martlet fighters

FIGHTER AIRCRAFT FOR THE FLEET AIR ARM.

I am increasingly anxious as regards the prospective situation of shipborne fighter aircraft. I attach a chart on which graphs show how the aircraft available fail to meet the requirements. It will be seen from the graphs that up to the end of 1942 the situation is apparently satisfactory, but I would point out that this apparently satisfactory position is due to the use of the obsolescent Fulmar in the first line squadrons aided by the supply of 260 Hurricane ‘Ones’ from the Royal Air Force, which have been converted for use in Carriers, and by the prospective supply of 200 Spitfires, which you yourself were instrumental in obtaining for us from the Royal Air Force subsequent to your visit to H.M.S. INDOMITABLE.

It was hoped that with the supply of Martlets from the United States of America commencing at the rate of 20 per month, as it should have done from October, 1940, we could have kept our heads above water until the new fleet fighters, Firebrand and Firefly, came into effective production. Owing to the failure of the U.S.A. to keep their promise, the situation deteriorates to a marked degree after the end of 1942. We wish to increase the number of Auxiliary Carriers by a total of 15 in 1942, and are considering a further 15 in 1943 and 1944. This will accentuate our difficulty, because although at present the idea of using these Carriers for anti-submarine purposes is predominant, it may well be that Germany will push out her air-raiders to an extent which will require Auxiliary Carriers to be equipped with fighters in addition to anti-submarine craft.

It is clear, therefore, that unless drastic steps are taken to increase the production of fleet fighters, we are likely to be in a nasty hole from the beginning of 1943 onwards. Although we have use of a number of Hurricanes, and in prospect of a number of Spitfires, it must emphasised that these are not really suitable aircraft for operating from Carriers for the following reasons:

(a) They cannot be used in the small lifts of VICTORIOUS, ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE.

(b) Although they can be used in the Carriers fitted with large lifts, they occupy so much more space than a folding aircraft that a drastic reduction in the small number of aircraft which can be carried by any one Carrier is dictated.

(c) Their small endurance requires a Carrier to be turned into the wind so often in order to relieve fighter patrols that the consequent reduction of speed of advance of the ships from which it may be operating is quite unacceptable under certain circumstances.

(d) The R.A.F. aircraft cannot carry the equipment in the way of radio sets and homing beacons, which we have found necessary, for successful operations from Carriers…

The American folding fleet fighter is the ideal aircraft for the job, but here again the productive capacity of the United States is barely sufficient to meet the requirements of their own Navy, which is much behind in modern aircraft owing to the fact that Congress has not allowed them to change their aircraft more than once every five years.
 
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Yokel

LE
As for Winkle Brown - why not look at his comments regarding the converted fighters?

Firstly the Sea Hurricane:

Short in range with the ditching propensities of a submarine, harsh stalling characteristics, a very mediocre view for deck landing and an undercarriage that was as likely as not to bounce it over the arrester wires. What less likely a candidate for deployment aboard aircraft carriers as a naval single-seat fighter than the Hurricane could have been imagined … Yet, legacy of parsimony, expediency and shortsightedness inflicted on British naval aviation (it) undoubtedly was, the Hurricane was to take to the nautical environment extraordinarily well.
— Captain Eric Brown, Wings of the Navy

The Sea Hurricane was, thus, like the Seafire that was to follow it aboard British carrier decks, very much a product of desperation, albeit a product that, despite its inevitable shortcomings, was very welcome indeed as was, for a year, to reign as the fastest fighter in the FAA’s inventory.

— Captain Eric Brown: Wings of the Navy

In spite of being press-ganged into naval service, taking on tough duties with escort carriers protecting Russian convoys, the Hurricane adapted to its environment remarkably well and gave a good account of itself. Unfortunately, when it was ditched in the sea the consequences were lethal.

— Captain Eric Brown: Duels in the Sky

There was no question of adopting the crabbed approach with the Sea Hurricane as was later to be developed for the Seafire to improve forward vision. The use of rudder on the approach in the Sea Hurricane produced a considerable increase in nose-heaviness which was quite unacceptable in this delicate situation, so it was a straight approach or nothing and the inadequate view forward simply had to be accepted.

— Captain Eric Brown: Wings of the Navy

Then on the Sea Hurricane variants page:

Perhaps it is sufficient to say that, contrary to logic, it took to the naval environment remarkably well. A thoroughly competent Fleet fighter it was not and could never have been, but it was a great dogfighter with, in its cannon-armed versions, plenty of punch and, most important, it reached the Fleet Air Arm at a time when that service desperately needed a relatively fast and reasonably modern single-seat fighter embarked in its carriers.
— Captain Eric Brown, Wings of the Navy

Lets move on to the Seafire - development

The Seafire, certainly aesthetically the most elegant fighter ever to grace a carrier deck, was the product of adversity; it might be said to have been born of desperation.
Wings of the Navy: Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown

We pushed the Seafire to its limit, which was the amount of stress the frail undercarriage would take. The Martlet’s sea legs were far stronger and more resilient than the Seafire’s. If the Seafire was landed on its main wheels instead of being three-pointed, it would bounce like a spring lamb, whereas the Martlet’s bandy legs would just give a bit more at the joints and harmlessly absorb the heavy shock. This was an important characteristic because landing bounce meant missed wires and a ticket into the crash barrier.
— Captain Eric Brown: Wings On My Sleeve

“The Seafire had seen more than eight years of first-line service and the number of combat sorties that it flew in that time must surely have approached five figures. For my own part, I regretted its passing as, for me, it marked the end of an era... It was an aeroplane which seemed tailormade for the pilot and I cannot imagine any other aircraft that would have permitted the liberty of the crab-type approach that I and may other pilots used for deck landing. True, it left much to be desired with regard to robustness, particularly in its early versions, but then it was doing something that it was never meant for in the first place.”
 
indeed a valid point, but what’s missing in the whole period 1918-39 was any noticeable intellectual thinking on air power and its employment within the Royal Navy.

I agree. It's curious that before the RAF was formed the RNAS made most of the scientific investigations into instrumentation and tactics yet, as soon as it gave up its aircraft, the RN seemed to lose all interest in the matter.
 
I agree. It's curious that before the RAF was formed the RNAS made most of the scientific investigations into instrumentation and tactics yet, as soon as it gave up its aircraft, the RN seemed to lose all interest in the matter.

Understandable I feel

1)No longer have aircraft nor air minded people
Leading to a shortage within the service of thought in a particular direction
Somewhat Ironic given the reason for the RAF is that Land couldnt be trusted to develop - fund and use the flying branch correctly - yet no one considered that a land orientated airforce may neglect the naval aspect.

2) Aircraft now the responsibility of the RAF
Logically then isnt the RAF now continuing this work and better suited to do it
Unfortunatly the reverse is also the case - well its not land based so the navy will continue that development

3) Funding we can fund this or something floaty

Not a great suprise then that everyone perhaps thought it wasnt their responsibility leading to a massive whoops moment.
 

Yokel

LE
Looking at references about the conversion work done on the Sea Hurricane and Seafire, I considered it noteworthy that one of the things that was added was an HF radio set. Obviously the mast height of warships was limited, so the VHF range would be limited.

I wonder if the aircraft launching from wartime carriers stayed at low altitude until they were a certain distance from the carrier, as they do nowadays?
 

Yokel

LE
Going back to the issue of fighters, the Aircraft 1939-1945 section of Guy Robbins' The Aircraft Carrier Story 1908 - 1945 says that the intended replacement for the Fulmar was the Firefly, but due to changes to design and other problems it was not in service before 1944.

As a result of the obsolescence of the Fulmar and the Firefly's slow production, the FAA depended on further emergency action to obtain fighters. The Royal Navy picked up (June 1940) a French order for 81 Wildcats (first known as the Martlet I in the FAA), which began delivery in July. However, the US Navy also had a crisis in modern single seat fighters and most Wildcats and later Hellcats were required by them.

It was not until 1942-43, with production by General Motors' Eastern Aircraft Division, that 640 more Wildcats were delivered. Some Belgian Buffalos were also taken over by the FAA but were not used on carriers since they lacked arrestor hooks. The FAA therefore turned to navalised versions of the famous Battle of Britain RAF monoplanes.
 
Fiords are extremely deep (as in 2,000 feet deep) and thus too deep for moored or ground mines.
Operation Royal marine

The British floated fluvial mines down rivers which flowed into Germany from France. The plan was to destroy German bridges, barges and other water transport.


They did it in 1940 on the Rhine so a Fjord could have been done as well
 
Operation Royal marine

The British floated fluvial mines down rivers which flowed into Germany from France. The plan was to destroy German bridges, barges and other water transport.


They did it in 1940 on the Rhine so a Fjord could have been done as well
How well did they work in 1940? Not well, since all you need is a strong net to stop the floating mines. And what did the Germans surround the Tirpitz with? Strong anti-torpedo nets.
 
How well did they work in 1940? Not well, since all you need is a strong net to stop the floating mines. And what did the Germans surround the Tirpitz with? Strong anti-torpedo nets.
How well did bombing work? not very well since it took 857 sorties and 4 years and what did the Kriegesmarine surround the ship with?

Flak guns

I can play this game also
 
How well did bombing work? not very well since it took 857 sorties and 4 years and what did the Kriegesmarine surround the ship with?

Flak guns

I can play this game also
I’m merely pointing out that mining wouldn’t have work, and that the British really only had two options - bombing or midget subs. Both were eventually used and the Tirpitz was neutralized. Yes, it took a lot of effort, due to range and limits on technology, but I’m not sure what other options they had.
 

Yokel

LE
Putting ships into Norwegian waters for minelaying would not really have been an option at that stage of the war - mid 1942 and afterwards. The air threat would have been high with the Luftwaffe operating from captured airfields, not to mention U boats.

Until mid 1943 the Atlantic would have been the main effort, and then the build up for the Normandy landings.
 
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Yokel

LE
Despite what a certain poster claims, aircraft carriers were vital to the Royal Navy during the war, in pretty much every theatre. This old interview with the late Duke of Edinburgh mentions a number of things, such as:

- The role of carrier aircraft at Matapan.
- The way HMS Illustrious was targeted by the Germans as they knew how important she was to tthe Mediterranean Fleet.
- The experience of his ship acting as plane guard and seeing British carriers being hit by Kamikazes, and not being critically damaged.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Despite what a certain poster claims, aircraft carriers were vital to the Royal Navy during the war, in pretty much every theatre. This old interview with the late Duke of Edinburgh mentions a number of things, such as:

- The role of carrier aircraft at Matapan.
- The way HMS Illustrious was targeted by the Germans as they knew how important she was to tthe Mediterranean Fleet.
- The experience of his ship acting as plane guard and seeing British carriers being hit by Kamikazes, and not being critically damaged.

In the Atlantic, Aircraft Carriers provided "Mobile Air Superiority/Air Cover" and proved to be a key asset in not only plugging the "Atlantic Gap" but also hunting down U-Boats for "Hunter Killer" groups of Destroyers to destroy.

In the Pacific, Aircraft Carriers and Submarines beyond all doubt took the war to mainland Japan. The best weapon against the Kamikaze was carrier borne Fighters like the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat and even the FM-2 Wildcat.
 

Yokel

LE
In the Atlantic, Aircraft Carriers provided "Mobile Air Superiority/Air Cover" and proved to be a key asset in not only plugging the "Atlantic Gap" but also hunting down U-Boats for "Hunter Killer" groups of Destroyers to destroy.

In the Pacific, Aircraft Carriers and Submarines beyond all doubt took the war to mainland Japan. The best weapon against the Kamikaze was carrier borne Fighters like the F4U Corsair and the F6F Hellcat and even the FM-2 Wildcat.

Some of us are well aware of the role played by the carrier. Nevertheless this has been an educational thread, particularly in terms of the fighters used by the RN, and why there were large numbers of Sea Hurricanes and Seafires as well as Wildcats, Hellcats, and Corsairs.

You can see many similarities with today in terms of things such as ship/aircraft integration, the 'whole ship' nature of shipborne aviation, and the coordination between ships and aircraft. Fighters operating under the control of anti aircraft cruisers, defence in depth against air attack, escort carrier based Swordfish working with and communicating with ASW escorts...
 
Some of us are well aware of the role played by the carrier. Nevertheless this has been an educational thread, particularly in terms of the fighters used by the RN, and why there were large numbers of Sea Hurricanes and Seafires as well as Wildcats, Hellcats, and Corsairs.

You can see many similarities with today in terms of things such as ship/aircraft integration, the 'whole ship' nature of shipborne aviation, and the coordination between ships and aircraft. Fighters operating under the control of anti aircraft cruisers, defence in depth against air attack, escort carrier based Swordfish working with and communicating with ASW escorts...
I highly recommend Norman Friedman’s Fighters Over The Fleet for the history of fighter control.

Amazon product
 

Yokel

LE
I highly recommend Norman Friedman’s Fighters Over The Fleet for the history of fighter control.

Amazon product

The Beginnings of Naval Fighter Direction - David L Boslaugh Capt USN (Retired)

In the Royal Air Force the facilities and procedures for fighter direction were methodically worked out under the direction of Air Chief Marshal Dowding. However, fighter direction in the Royal Navy seems to have grown from the bottom up. The first use of naval radio location “in anger” was at the Royal Navy’s Scapa Flow base in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, but it would be for gunnery direction rather than fighter direction. In this instance, in late March 1940, the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew, newly fitted with her Type 79Z RDF set, was moored at the flagship’s buoy when her RDF officer Lieutenant John R. Hodge detected an unidentified flight 50 miles to the south. He was able to judge their approximate height from their fade ranges, and he could tell from the blip pattern that they were “many.” Curlew hoisted flags warning the anchored fleet of their approach. With a few marks on a plotting board, Hodge was able to estimate the attacker’s speed and estimated time of arrival. Then Curlew hoisted a yellow flag, meaning air attack was expected in five minutes. Approximately nine twin-engine bombers soon appeared and were visually confirmed as German, upon which the assembled ships threw up a wall of bursting AA projectiles in front of the formation. The attackers turned back and dropped their bombs in the sea. Radio location was wrapped in layers of secrecy, and Curlew soon got the reputation that she could forecast air attacks. LT Hodge would later write, “In Scapa we soon devised a special plotting board to enable us to plot both at sea and in Harbor. It was from this board that we worked out the speed of approaching planes."

On 9 April 1940 Germany invaded Norway and Denmark, and all eight of the RN ships fitted with the Type 79 RDF took part in the relief campaign. These were the battleships HMS Rodney and HMS Valiant, the heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk, the light cruiser HMS Sheffield, and the AA cruisers HMS Carlisle, HMS Coventry, HMS Curacoa, and HMS Curlew. The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was also in the Norwegian campaign, and even though she was not equipped with RDF, her Air Signals Officer Lieutenant Commander Charles Coke is generally credited with originating naval fighter direction. The cruisers Sheffield or Curlew usually accompanied Ark Royal and sent their RDF detection and tracking reports to the carrier via wireless telegraph Morse code. Coke had no fighter direction facilities other than a corner of the carrier’s Bridge Wireless Office, a telegraphist who wrote down the RDF reports from the cruisers, and a “Bigsworth Board.” The Bigsworth Board was a plotting device used by aircraft navigators. It was about two feet across and had an attached parallel pantograph arm. Coke used the board to plot the track of the incoming raider, to compute its speed, and later, to compute the heading and speed required of a fighter to intercept the raider. Ark Royal carried a complement of Blackburn Skuas that were used both as fighters and dive bombers. They were crewed by a pilot and a rear-seat gunner/radio operator, who used Morse code rather than voice radio.

Coke was also adept at Morse code and sent his information to Ark Royal’s fighters by wireless telegraph. In the beginning, he sent only the raider’s location, course, and speed to the fighters, and left it up to the aircrew to determine a heading and speed for intercept. Coke called this the “informative method” of interception. As he gained more experience he found he could maintain a fairly accurate track of the friendly fighter by a combination of dead reckoning and periodically requesting the cruiser to get an RDF measurement on the fighter. He was then able to tell the fighter what heading and speed, and some times altitude, he should fly for intercept. Coke called this the “directive method.” The whole process, from RDF detection to receipt of order in the fighter took about four minutes, which called for Coke to anticipate attacker and fighter locations by four minutes. The top speed of the Blackburn Skua was around 225 mph, whereas the opposing German Junkers, Ju 88, and Heinkel He 111 bombers could exceed 270 mph. This added another dimension of difficulty to Coke’s fighter direction. The fighter had only one chance, and could not pursue. The goal was to vector the fighter to a position ahead and above the bomber, and up-sun if possible. In May and June 1940, at the latitude of the Norwegian Campaign, daylight lasted for almost all of the 24-hour day, giving the Germans daylong opportunity for attacks on the British fleet. It is said that Coke rarely left his post in the Ark Royal bridge during those two months. In the meantime, the newly built carrier HMS Illustrious was commissioned on 25 May 1940, and would be the first RN carrier fitted with the Type 79Z radio location set. She went to a work-up location near Bermuda to exercise her air squadrons, and in the process tried out the informative method of fighter direction.

By 11 June 1940, the AA cruiser Carlisle had transited the Mediterranean and was in the Red Sea off Aden. Nearby ashore, was a squadron of RAF Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters that did not have the benefit of radio location equipment. Arrangements were made that Carlisle, with her RDF equipment, would provide fighter direction support to the squadron, and early that morning the perfect opportunity arose. Carlisle’s radar operator detected a flight of twelve Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers at about forty-five miles range flying at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Her gunnery officer, Lieutenant F. C. Morgan, vectored the Gladiators out to meet the oncoming raid. Between ship and shore based guns and the Gladiators, nine of the bombers were destroyed in the air and the three remaining were forced down in the desert where their crews surrendered

LCDR Coke completed his tour in Ark Royal in early 1941 and visited the Naval Air Division in the Admiralty in May to arrange for his next duty. During the discussions he outlined his fighter direction experiences and put in a strong plea for formal training of future naval fighter directors. There may be truth in the old adage, “be careful what you ask for, you may get it.” He was later called in and told that his next tour would be to establish a fighter direction school. For school facilities he was given space in the control tower at RN Air Station Yeovilton, some 12 miles south of ancient Glastonbury Abbey. Coke’s first action was to “borrow” a ground control intercept RDF set from the Royal Air Force and have it installed at Yeovilton. He set up a three-week course, of which half would be lectures and half practical exercises in fighter direction. For the latter, Coke, by then a Commander, had hoped to get sufficient aircraft services that students could get the experience of using the RDF in live intercepts, however, not enough aircraft services were available. He had to find a way to simulate both attackers and defending fighters, and his solution was ice cream vendor’s tricycles. He equipped the trikes with a compass, a radio and a metronome to allow the bomber and fighter trike “pilots” to precisely control their pedaling speeds in accordance with orders from a student fighter direction officer. The “fighter” tricycles also had slotted front shields to restrict their pilots’ visibility to a few yards so that they could not see their target until they were within simulated visual range of their quarry.
 

Sticky847

Old-Salt
The Beginnings of Naval Fighter Direction - David L Boslaugh Capt USN (Retired)

In the Royal Air Force the facilities and procedures for fighter direction were methodically worked out under the direction of Air Chief Marshal Dowding. However, fighter direction in the Royal Navy seems to have grown from the bottom up. The first use of naval radio location “in anger” was at the Royal Navy’s Scapa Flow base in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, but it would be for gunnery direction rather than fighter direction. In this instance, in late March 1940, the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew, newly fitted with her Type 79Z RDF set, was moored at the flagship’s buoy when her RDF officer Lieutenant John R. Hodge detected an unidentified flight 50 miles to the south. He was able to judge their approximate height from their fade ranges, and he could tell from the blip pattern that they were “many.” Curlew hoisted flags warning the anchored fleet of their approach. With a few marks on a plotting board, Hodge was able to estimate the attacker’s speed and estimated time of arrival. Then Curlew hoisted a yellow flag, meaning air attack was expected in five minutes. Approximately nine twin-engine bombers soon appeared and were visually confirmed as German, upon which the assembled ships threw up a wall of bursting AA projectiles in front of the formation. The attackers turned back and dropped their bombs in the sea. Radio location was wrapped in layers of secrecy, and Curlew soon got the reputation that she could forecast air attacks. LT Hodge would later write, “In Scapa we soon devised a special plotting board to enable us to plot both at sea and in Harbor. It was from this board that we worked out the speed of approaching planes."

On 9 April 1940 Germany invaded Norway and Denmark, and all eight of the RN ships fitted with the Type 79 RDF took part in the relief campaign. These were the battleships HMS Rodney and HMS Valiant, the heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk, the light cruiser HMS Sheffield, and the AA cruisers HMS Carlisle, HMS Coventry, HMS Curacoa, and HMS Curlew. The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was also in the Norwegian campaign, and even though she was not equipped with RDF, her Air Signals Officer Lieutenant Commander Charles Coke is generally credited with originating naval fighter direction. The cruisers Sheffield or Curlew usually accompanied Ark Royal and sent their RDF detection and tracking reports to the carrier via wireless telegraph Morse code. Coke had no fighter direction facilities other than a corner of the carrier’s Bridge Wireless Office, a telegraphist who wrote down the RDF reports from the cruisers, and a “Bigsworth Board.” The Bigsworth Board was a plotting device used by aircraft navigators. It was about two feet across and had an attached parallel pantograph arm. Coke used the board to plot the track of the incoming raider, to compute its speed, and later, to compute the heading and speed required of a fighter to intercept the raider. Ark Royal carried a complement of Blackburn Skuas that were used both as fighters and dive bombers. They were crewed by a pilot and a rear-seat gunner/radio operator, who used Morse code rather than voice radio.

Coke was also adept at Morse code and sent his information to Ark Royal’s fighters by wireless telegraph. In the beginning, he sent only the raider’s location, course, and speed to the fighters, and left it up to the aircrew to determine a heading and speed for intercept. Coke called this the “informative method” of interception. As he gained more experience he found he could maintain a fairly accurate track of the friendly fighter by a combination of dead reckoning and periodically requesting the cruiser to get an RDF measurement on the fighter. He was then able to tell the fighter what heading and speed, and some times altitude, he should fly for intercept. Coke called this the “directive method.” The whole process, from RDF detection to receipt of order in the fighter took about four minutes, which called for Coke to anticipate attacker and fighter locations by four minutes. The top speed of the Blackburn Skua was around 225 mph, whereas the opposing German Junkers, Ju 88, and Heinkel He 111 bombers could exceed 270 mph. This added another dimension of difficulty to Coke’s fighter direction. The fighter had only one chance, and could not pursue. The goal was to vector the fighter to a position ahead and above the bomber, and up-sun if possible. In May and June 1940, at the latitude of the Norwegian Campaign, daylight lasted for almost all of the 24-hour day, giving the Germans daylong opportunity for attacks on the British fleet. It is said that Coke rarely left his post in the Ark Royal bridge during those two months. In the meantime, the newly built carrier HMS Illustrious was commissioned on 25 May 1940, and would be the first RN carrier fitted with the Type 79Z radio location set. She went to a work-up location near Bermuda to exercise her air squadrons, and in the process tried out the informative method of fighter direction.

By 11 June 1940, the AA cruiser Carlisle had transited the Mediterranean and was in the Red Sea off Aden. Nearby ashore, was a squadron of RAF Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters that did not have the benefit of radio location equipment. Arrangements were made that Carlisle, with her RDF equipment, would provide fighter direction support to the squadron, and early that morning the perfect opportunity arose. Carlisle’s radar operator detected a flight of twelve Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers at about forty-five miles range flying at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Her gunnery officer, Lieutenant F. C. Morgan, vectored the Gladiators out to meet the oncoming raid. Between ship and shore based guns and the Gladiators, nine of the bombers were destroyed in the air and the three remaining were forced down in the desert where their crews surrendered

LCDR Coke completed his tour in Ark Royal in early 1941 and visited the Naval Air Division in the Admiralty in May to arrange for his next duty. During the discussions he outlined his fighter direction experiences and put in a strong plea for formal training of future naval fighter directors. There may be truth in the old adage, “be careful what you ask for, you may get it.” He was later called in and told that his next tour would be to establish a fighter direction school. For school facilities he was given space in the control tower at RN Air Station Yeovilton, some 12 miles south of ancient Glastonbury Abbey. Coke’s first action was to “borrow” a ground control intercept RDF set from the Royal Air Force and have it installed at Yeovilton. He set up a three-week course, of which half would be lectures and half practical exercises in fighter direction. For the latter, Coke, by then a Commander, had hoped to get sufficient aircraft services that students could get the experience of using the RDF in live intercepts, however, not enough aircraft services were available. He had to find a way to simulate both attackers and defending fighters, and his solution was ice cream vendor’s tricycles. He equipped the trikes with a compass, a radio and a metronome to allow the bomber and fighter trike “pilots” to precisely control their pedaling speeds in accordance with orders from a student fighter direction officer. The “fighter” tricycles also had slotted front shields to restrict their pilots’ visibility to a few yards so that they could not see their target until they were within simulated visual range of their quarry.
That reminds me of a tv program from the 70’s(?) about the history of naval aviation and it included an interview with Micheal horden ( actor) about his time in training with fighter controlling and there was a piece of film of him on the ice cream trike cycling around yeovilton airfield, must be on YouTube somewhere.
 

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