Traces of World War 2 
RAF / Royal Navy - No. 801 Squadron
10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

      home - latest update 28 February 2008

801 SQUADRON - Bomber, Blackburn Skua and Blackburn Roc
Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm

History | Operations and losses | Sources | Links | Books | Questions and/or remarks

The squadron was formed January 1940 at Donibristle with six Skuas, taking part in the Norway operation in April 1940 from HMS Ark Royal.

As the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and its French and Belgian allies fell back on Dunkirk at the end of May 1940 units of the Fleet Air Arm were assigned to the control of RAF Coastal Command to provide support for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the BEF. In all 4 Squadrons of Swordfish, 1 squadron of Albacores and two squadrons of Skua/Rocs were involved. The Skua/Roc Squadrons were 801 and 806.

At the same time No 2 AACU (Anti Aircraft co-operation Unit, controlled by the RAF) also used at least 1 Skua over Dunkirk, ( see Skua over Dunkirk at Night). The Skuas and Rocs flew fighter sweeps, dive bombing and reconnaissance missions.

The Skuas and Rocs were often more at risk from their own side than the Germans. Aircraft identification skills were very poor at this time. In particular the Skuas and Rocs were at a disadvantage in wearing FAA camouflage colours. This was unfamiliar to most RAF pilots who often assumed that all British aircraft were camouflaged brown and green the standard RAF camouflage colours.

Source: John Dell, Skuas over Dunkirk

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Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Not all operations listed; those with losses are.

31/05/1940: Dunkirk, F. 3 Planes lost, 4 MIA
31/05/1940: Dunkirk, F. (second mission) 1 Plane lost, 2 WIA
12/06/1940: Boulogne, F
13/06/1940: Boulogne, F
19/06/1940: Boulogne and Calais, F. 1 Plane lost, 1 WIA
21/06/1940: Cap Griz Nez, F. 1 Plane lost, 2 MIA

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31/05/1940: Dunkirk, F

Ten Albacores and nine Skuas bombed German pontoon bridges over the Nieuport Canal, near the coast North East of Dunkirk. Direct hits were claimed. Returning home the Skuas were engaged by 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109s of I/JG20 and two Skuas of 801 Squadron (L2917 and L3005) were shot down. Another Skua crash landed back at Detling. The battle was not all one sided, the Skuas claimed one Bf109 shot down and another damaged. It seems the Messeschmitts may have broken off the chase to go after three Coastal Command Hudsons, who in turn escaped claiming another Bf109 shot down. The Skua that crash-landed back at Detling is probably the one described in Capt Eric Brown's "Wings of the Navy" and Alexander McKee's "Strike from the Sky", as providing an example of the Skua's sturdiness, with nine bullet holes in one propeller blade alone, the top cylinder of the Perseus engine shot away, along with the pilot's windscreen and canopy.

On this very day the British 12th Infantry Brigade (consisting of the 2nd Bn Royal Fusiliers, 1st Bn South Lancashire Regt and 6th Bn The Black Watch) were holding the sector of the Dunkirk perimeter opposite Nieuport. They had just beaten off a strong German attack but at 5pm massive German reinforcements were observed moving along the canal. Just then bombing by British aircraft stopped the enemy movements and the Germans turned and fled.

Type: Blackburn Skua
Serial number: L2917, ?
Operation: Dunkirk
Lost: 31/05/1940
Sub-Lieutenant (A) John B. Marsh, RNVR, H.M.S. Furious, [801 Sqdn.], age 26, 31/05/1940, missing
Naval Airman 1st Class George R. Nicholson, RN FAA/FX. 80148, H.M.S. Vulture, [801 Sqdn.], age 22, 31/05/1940, missing
Shot down in flames by Bf109's following an attack in the Nieuport area and crashed. Crew commemorated on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial, UK

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Type: Blackburn Skua
Serial number: L3005, ?
Operation: Dunkirk
Lost: 31/05/1940
Petty Officer Airman Noel Reid, RN FAA/FX. 76578, 801 Sqdn. H.M.S. Daedalus., age 29, 31/05/1940, missing
Lieutenant Robert L. Strange, RN , H.M.S. Furious, [801 Sqdn.], age 25, 31/05/1940, missing
Crew commemorated on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial, UK

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Blackburn Skua
Serial number: ?, ?
Operation: Dunkirk
Lost: 31/05/1940
Crash landed at Detling, UK

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31/05/1940: Dunkirk, F (second mission)

In air combat over Dunkirk, a Skua of 801 Squadron was shot down.

Type: Blackburn Skua
Serial number: ?, ?
Operation: Dunkirk
Lost: 31/05/1940
Midshipman (A) R.M.S. Martin RNVR, injured
Naval Airman R. Hedger, injured
Both returned to the UK.

Source: British and Other Navies in World War 2 Day-by-Day

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12/06/1940: Boulogne

On the 12th and 13th June Rocs of 801 Squadron dive-bombed E-boats in Boulogne harbour. The reconnaissance flights of 801 Squadron revealed the Germans to be digging in large guns at Cap Griz Nez.

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19/06/1940: Boulogne and Calais

In a raid by British 801 Squadron against Boulogne and Calais, Lt J. W. Collett was wounded

Type: Blackburn Skua
Serial number: ?, ?
Operation: ?
Lost: 19/06/1940
Lt. Collett (Observer), injured
Name and fate other crew member unknown.
Crash landed at Manston on return from operations.

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21/06/1940: Cap Griz Nez

On the 21st June 801 squadron, with an escort of RAF Hurricanes, dive bombed the gun positions at Cap Griz Nez, loosing one Roc to ground fire

Type: Blackburn Roc
Serial number: ?, ?
Operation: Cap Griz Nez
Lost: 21/06/1940
Naval Airman 1st Class Frederick Berry, RN FAA/FX. 82150, H.M.S. Vulture, [801 Sqdn.], age unknown, 22/06/1940, missing
Sub-Lieutenant (A) Anthony V.M. Day, RN, H.M.S. Furious, [801 Sqdn.], age 21, 21/06/1940, missing

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Air of Authority
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database
Australian War Memorial
Bail-outs for 1940
T.K. Derry (1952), The Campaign in Norway
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Casualty Lists Royal Navy
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Fleet Air Arm Archive - 801 Squadron
Fleet Air Arm Archive 1939-1945
Fleet Air Arm in the Battle of Britain
Fleet Air Arm Museum
Fleet Air Arm Archive 1939-1945: Prisoners of War
Flying Marines
Lee-on-Solent Memorial (missing FAA members)
Prisoners of War captured in Europe 1940
Royal Air Force - 801 Naval Air Squadron
RAF - Campaign Diary - The Battle of France (May-June 1940)
RAF History - Bomber Command
RAF Museum: British Military Aviation in 1940
RAF Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940
Royal Air Force History Section
The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945
The Second World War - a day by day account

Skuas over Dunkirk - John Dell


Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008
Norman Franks, Air Battle Dunkirk
Alexander McKee, 'Strike from the Sky', Grafton
Ross McNeill 'Royal Air Force Coastal Command Losses of the Second World War' (Midland Counties)
Peter C. Smith, 'Skua! The Royal Navy's Dive Bomber', Moorland publishing Co, 2006


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This page is dedicated to the men of 801 Squadron.

With thanks to Alex Smart.

© Bart FM Droog / Rottend Staal Online 2008. Permission granted for use of the data gathered here for non commercial purposes, if this source is mentioned with a link to