818 Naval Air Squadron

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818 Naval Air Squadron
BranchRoyal Navy
TypeCarrier based squadron
RoleOffensive Support
Part ofFleet Air Arm
Battle honoursNorway 1940
Narvik 1940
English Channel 1940
Spartivento 1940
Mediterranean 1940-1
'Bismarck' 1941[1]

818 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed in August 1939. It served on a number of the Navy's aircraft carriers during the Second World War, serving in most of the theatres of the war, before decommissioning at the end of the war.


Norway and the Mediterranean[edit]

818 Squadron was formed as a torpedo reconnaissance squadron at Evanton in August 1939. This was some two months earlier than had originally been planned, owing to the increased threat of war. The squadron was initially equipped with nine Fairey Swordfish Is, and then embarked on HMS Ark Royal at the navy's base at Scapa Flow.[2] Ark Royal was then deployed to search for enemy shipping off Norway. 818 Squadron then transferred to HMS Furious in April 1940, after the German invasion of Norway. On 11 April aircraft from the squadron attacked two German destroyers in Trondheim Fjord.[2]

The squadron then moved ashore, spending the period between May and June 1940 flying out of Thorney and RAF Carew Cheriton, working with RAF Coastal Command in the English Channel.[2] They returned to Ark Royal in mid-June, and sailed with her to the Mediterranean. They were used in the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, carrying out strikes against the Vichy-French battleship Strasbourg.[2] They again saw action in attacks on Italian targets on Sicily, and in the Battle of Cape Spartivento, with attacks on the Italian battleship Littorio on 27 November 1940. They were also involved in providing air cover for the Malta Convoys, and in February 1941 carried out attacks on targets at Livorno, Genoa, Pisa and La Spezia.[2]

Hunting the Bismarck[edit]

The breakout into the Atlantic of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941 led to the Ark Royal being ordered into the Atlantic with the British fleet to hunt and sink the German ship. When the Bismarck was located, aircraft from 810 and 818 Naval Air Squadrons carried out attacks. Eventually a Swordfish of 818 Squadron, probably the one piloted by Sub-Lt. John Moffat, struck Bismarck’s aft with a torpedo, jamming her rudder in a turn to starboard.[3] Unable to manoeuvre, the Bismarck swung around in a wide circle, allowing the ships of Force H to catch up and sink the Bismarck.[4]

The Mediterranean and Far East[edit]

The squadron later had their Swordfish replaced by nine Fairey Albacore Is, and they were embarked aboard HMS Formidable in February 1942.[2] Formidable then sailed to Ceylon to counter Japanese attacks, but by June a reduction in the threat of such attacks led to the squadron being disbanded.[2] It was reformed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent in October 1942 and was equipped with Swordfish IIs. They sailed aboard HMS Unicorn in March 1943 to provide cover for convoys to Gibraltar. Six aircraft from the squadron were used that August for operations during the allied invasion of Sicily.[2]

The squadron then returned to the Far East aboard HMS Unicorn in November 1943, where they were assigned to the Eastern Fleet. They went ashore at Ceylon, and were disbanded at Cochin in October 1944. They were again reformed, this time at RNAS Rattray in May 1945, and equipped with 18 Fairey Barracuda IIs, to operate as a torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadron.[2] It had been planned that the squadron would join the 22nd Carrier Air Group in one of the new Colossus class aircraft carriers, but the end of the war with Japan in August 1945 meant that the squadron was again disbanded, on Victory over Japan Day, 15 August.[2]



  • 818 Squadron at the Fleet Air Arm Archive
  • Rossiter, Mike (2007) [2006]. Ark Royal: the life, death and rediscovery of the legendary Second World War aircraft carrier (2nd ed.). London: Corgi Books. ISBN 978-0-552-15369-0. OCLC 81453068.
  • Jameson, William (1 April 2004) [1957]. Ark Royal: The Life of an Aircraft Carrier at War 1939–41 (2nd ed.). Periscope Publishing. ISBN 1-904381-27-8.
  • “With Gallantry and Determination” The Story of the Torpedoing of the Bismarck, Mark E. Horan