836 Naval Air Squadron
|836 Naval Air Squadron|
|Active||March 1942 - July 1945|
|Part of||Fleet Air Arm|
|Battle honours||Atlantic, 1943-45|
836 Naval Air Squadron officially formed for the first time at Palisadoes, Jamaica in March 1942 as a torpedo bomber reconnaissance squadron flying the Fairey Swordfish. It operated from HMS Buzzard at Palisadoes, Jamaica in spring 1942 and it subsequently embarked on HMS Biter in June 1942 for the UK, where it joined RAF Coastal Command in January 1943 for operations in the English Channel from RAF Thorney Island. 836 returned aboard the Woolworth-class carrier HMS Biter to be re-formed to provide personnel and aircraft for the MAC ships, 836 was later based at Maydown, known as HMS Shrike, in Northern Ireland, not far from Lough Foyle, and commanded by Acting Lieutenant Commander Ransford Slater. He took command in July 1942 and worked up the squadron at Thorney Island until March 1943 when it was based at Machrihanish.
Lieutenant Commander Slater
Slater had personally led the squadron's 'A' flight in the first attachment to MV Empire MacAlpine in April 1943 and he was the only regular Royal Navy officer in the unit, all others being wartime RNVR. Slater had recognised from the outset that successful operations required the aircrew and ship's crew to work together as a team. That was potentially a problem since the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy had widely differing working practices and traditions.
"During the weeks of training, Slater was in his element. His leadership was evident in every aspect. His skill in unlocking the secrets of how to land on a floating postage-stamp were passed on to his pilots, while, at the same time, he made the team feel that their contribution to the success of the enterprise was vital.."
One thing he arranged was that the air party on the ships signed ships articles and hence placed themselves under the orders of the Ship's Master. For this they were supposed to receive one shilling per month and a bottle of beer per day. They got the beer - seven bottles every Sunday. It also entitled them to wear the small silver 'MN' lapel badge on their uniforms, which caused not a little upset with more traditional senior RN officers. Another of Slater's rules for the squadron was that flight commanders must have completed a full round trip under another flight commander before being eligible to take over.
The squadron operated the Fairey Swordfish Mark II and they were painted all white (apparently the best camouflage for daylight flight over water). Some flights got carried away and replaced the Royal Navy legend on the rear fuselage with Merchant Navy - to the consternation of some observers. With a flight for each of 19 ships, plus a few spare flights for training and relief, the squadron eventually grew to a strength of 91 aircraft, certainly a Fleet Air Arm record and probably a world one. Slater was awarded the military OBE for his efforts, particularly for landing on a MAC ship carrying 2 depth-charges after his arrester hook had been torn away. He was killed by flying into powerlines near Derry on 28 June 1944.
Some of the crews and aircraft were lent to 816 Naval Air Squadron during the middle of 1944. 816 NAS were based at Perranporth Airfield and carried out anti-submarine patrols under the control of Coastal Command. The loan was due to the expected increase of U-Boat activity in the Channel area as a result of the D-Day landings.
After VE-Day, 836 squadron was disbanded in July 1945.
|March 1942||February 1943||Fairey Swordfish||Mk.I|
|March 1943||June 1945||Fairey Swordfish||Mk.II|
|August 1943||September 1943||Supermarine Walrus|
|December 1944||May 1945||Fairey Swordfish||Mk.III|
|March 1942||July 1942||Lieutenant Commander J.A. Crawford|
|July 1942||June 1944||Lieutenant Commander R.W. Slater, DSC|
|June 1944||March 1945||Lieutenant Commander J.R.C. Callander|
|March 1945||July 1945||Lieutenant Commander F.G.B. Sheffield, DSC (Acting)|
- Sturtivant, Ray & Theo Ballance. The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.