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Cunningham's mistery swordfish

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#1 TiredOldSoldier



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Posted 06 February 2012 - 09:34 AM

Recently found this and I wonder if any rogue can shed some light on this "trivia mistery"
In Cunnignam's report on the action of calabria/punta stilo http://www.ibiblio.o...zette/38273.pdf on 9/7/1940 he mentions one of HMS Warspite's swordfish floatplanes was damaged by her fire and later thrown overboard. Problem is it's been impossible to find the origin of that plane, in June 1940 Med fleet floatplanes were operated by 700 FAA squadron with:
  • 2 Sworfish on HMS Warspite
  • 2 Swordfish on HMS Malaya
  • One seafox each on board HHS Orion and HMS Neptune, two more, one for each ship were in reserve near Aboukir (those cruisers didn't have hangars).
  • One seagull on HMAS Sydney
  • Two operational walrus plus a rerserve one on each of HMS Liverpool and HMS Glouchester.
One of Warspite's alloted planes K8445 was undergoing repairs and was replaced by fitting floats on a swordfish from HMS Eagle K8389 (so we have serials for these two).

3 of 700 squadron swordfish were phased out long after the battle (22/842, 6/7/43 and 1/11/43) this should be in the swordfish story that I don't have.
One swordfish from HMS Warspite was reported lost near Bardia on 21/6/1940 shot down by CR 32 fighters fro 8 Gruppo and the crew captured, another swordfish from 700 squadron (originally from HMS Malaya but flow off from Warspite is reported lost on 19/7/1940 to AA fire from Tobruk. This makes the 6th lost floatplane Swordfish during the naval battle a mistery as apparently there were only 5 float equipped palnes.

Just to make things more interesting ...
In Desert Prelude, by Gustavson and Long, there is no mention of the earlier loss but it does mention the loss of Seagull MkV A2-21 from HMAS Sydney during the action off Bardia on that day to a mistaken attack by Gladiators !!!. It reports two swordfish losses around 19/7 one from 700 squadron on a recon mission and one in a torpedo attack on Tobruk. The Tobruk attack was from temporarily land based 824 FAA from Eagle not from 700 FAA, Italian reports also mention one swordfish captured in that period so it must be one of these but the 700 Sq plane fell at sea. Desert Prelude reports the names of the crews of one of these planes (Lt. G. R. Browne, Lt. Grieve, K. C. Petty officer Wynn (KIA)) and implies that plane was part of the attack (so 824 FAA). In a Storia Militare article I found the crew of the 700 FAA plane as pilot L.M. Brown (escaped) while the observer Lt. Nedd was captured, while the lost 824 crew was pilot Lt. G.R. Brown (not Browne) and one crewmewmber dead in the crash (which matches the death of petty officer Wynn) so there is lots of details on those losses but no two sources agree 100%.

Looks like the most likely is the reported Bardia loss was a seagull (though a Mk V is really a Walrus).

Edited by TiredOldSoldier, 06 February 2012 - 04:40 PM.

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#2 Icare9



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Posted 06 February 2012 - 01:02 PM

For what it's worth, this is the info for P/O Wynn
WYNN, ROWLAND JOHN WILLIAM. Rank: Petty Officer Airman
Service No: F55068. Date of Death: 21/07/1940. Age: 34
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy. H.M.S. "Eagle"
Grave Reference: P. 242. Cemetery: CAIRO WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY
Additional Information: Husband of Kathleen Alice Wynn, of Gosport, Hampshire.

Interesting that there is no CWGC category for Fleet Air Arm, it's under the ship....
There were no UK HMS Warspite deaths in 1940.

However, that gets you no closer to your answer.....

#3 TiredOldSoldier



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Posted 06 February 2012 - 04:40 PM

Thanks, that seems to confirm HMS Eagle for Wynn's plane, there are no other deaths likely, a plane damaged on the catapult is by her own fire is unlikely to involve casualties though HMS Warspite also took a hit or near miss from either a bomb or an 8" HE shell that damaged a pom pom and a 4" AA mount and affected the crew of the .5 MGs on X turret around that time (reports are very contraddictory but the damage is consistent with an air burst from a thin cased projectile).
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#4 Takao



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Posted 06 February 2012 - 04:40 PM

If you can find a copy of "Aerofan", issue 95, Ocober-December, 2005, there was an article in there about the subject.
Documentation du musée de l'air et de l'espace

and from another board

Enrico Cernuschi:
Hello Gentlemen,

Warspite maintop was hit by a 8" Grenade by Trento at h 15.58. You may read the whole story, based on the TNA (former PRO) docs on Storia Militare, Jan. and Feb. 2008.
About the (fake) version of that ship Swordfish floatplane destroyed by a Warspite blast, then, you can see my "Il mistero dell'idrovolante scomparso" published, both in Italian and in English, by AEROFAN, nr. 95 Oct.- Dec. 2005.



PS Being my German little write me in Engliso or Italian about this subject, please.

#5 TiredOldSoldier



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Posted 06 February 2012 - 05:23 PM

At the link the article itself seems to be missing, finding a 7 year old copy of aerofan if not on the net looks difficult, his 1998 article on Rivista Marittima (the Italian navy's magazine) is probably easier to find. The source of my question is an article by Cernuschi on this mont's (Feb. 2012) Storia Militare that expands on the 2008 one but I will look that one up (I hopefully still have it) to see if it has more data, his is also the 8" shell theory, that looks reasonablr though British reports mention a 100Kg bomb, it would be intersting to find reports from the Brementon yard that eventually repaired the damage in 1941.
IMO his reference to a lost swordfish at Bardia is questionable as neither Warpite nor Malaya was there, a Walrus/Seagull from HMAS Sydney that was there makes a lot more sense (though the Gladiators instead of CR 32s are suspect ;)). So if no sworfish was lost there there were still two on HMS Warspite during the battle and one lost on the catapult makes sense, the loss would also explain why a plane from Malaya was operating from Warspite on the 19 (though it could also have been lent to the flagship to replace an earlier loss).

EDIT: In his 2008 article there is a slightly different story on Malaya's lent swordfish, it's crew is reported as Lt. Peter Nesbitt Nedd and commander Walter Leslie Morimer Brown and they were both captured by an Italian tug from Tobruk after their plane ditched for mecanical reasons (no mention of Tobruk's AA). Brown was sent back in March 1943 due to illness, he was the observer on the Warspite's swordfish that did fly during the battle and the Italiansd got from him some info on the damage to Warspite and Glouchester.

BTW Malaya's swordfish failed to launch during the battle but it's one of yhose scrapped in 1943.

Edited by TiredOldSoldier, 06 February 2012 - 06:05 PM.
Amazing, after repeatedly failing to post I swicthed PC and browser and the "saved autocontent" was still there.

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