The 30th April / 1st May marks the 75th Anniversary of a R.A.F. Harrowbeer tragedy.

On the 20th April 1944 No.838 Fleet Air Arm Squadron arrived at R.A.F. Harrowbeer from R.A.F. Machrihanish, Scotland with their Fairey Swordfish aircraft.

On the 21st April 1944 another three Fairey Swordfish aircraft arrived from R.N.A.S. Worthy Down, Hampshire.

No.838  F.A.A.  Squadron were used for operations in the English Channel to seek and destroy enemy E-boats.

A  General Reconnaissance Wing was formed at Knightstone House ( the original Watch Office of R.A.F. Harrowbeer ) on the 22nd April 1944 under the control of No.19 Group.

The Squadron was to become part of No.156 Wing R.A.F. Coastal Command.


On the night of the 30th April around mid-night a number of Fairey Swordfish aircraft of No.838  F.A.A. Squadron were detailed to carry out a rocket projectile strike on a beached Elbing destroyer in the Abervrach Estuary, France. The beached Elbing destroyer had already been bombarded with bombs and cannon fire from Typhoon aircraft from R.A.F. Harrowbeer leading up to this operation. The beached destroyer was well defended with anti-aircraft guns on it and along the surrounding headland and numerous islands. The two leading aircraft were both immediately shot down crashing on French soil. A third aircraft was badly damaged by flak from the coastal batteries and ditched in the sea. The remaining formation realising what was happening turned for home abandoning the operation.

Unfortunately the pilots were not given the co-ordinates as reported by the Royal Navy, but the co-ordinates of a Mine-sweeper in a heavily defended harbour some ten to fifteen miles further to the east.

Nine Royal Navy airmen lost their lives on this operation and are remembered by the R.A.F. Harrowbeer Archives, may they rest in peace.

Sub-Lt. I. L. R. Wilson RNZNVR

Sub-Lt. E. T. Clark RNVR

P.O.  A. C. Rockley

Sub-Lt. L. F. Hayward RNZNVR

Sub-LT. D. J. Hanson RNVR

Ldg. Airman B. L. Rowntree

Sub-Lt. S. F. Such RNVR

Lt. J. B. Cook RNVR

P.O.  R. C. Grapes


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