803 Naval Air Squadron

803 Naval Air Squadron

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=803 Naval Air Squadron

branch=Royal Navy
command_structure=Fleet Air Arm
motto="Cave Punctum"
(Latin:"Beware of the sting")
battle_honours=North Sea 1939
Norway 1940
Libya 1940-1
Matapan 1941
Crete 1941
Mediterranean 1941-4

803 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadron.



803 NAS was formed on April 3 1933 by promoting No 409 (Fleet Fighter) Flight to the status of a squadron, with nine Ospreys. In the same month it embarked on HMS|Eagle|1918|6 for the Far East, where it remained (transferring to HMS|Hermes|95|6 in January 1935) until disbandment on 1 October 1937.

803 Squadron was re-formed on 21 November 1938 at RNAS Worthy Down out of 'B' Flight of No 800 Squadron. Equipped with six Ospreys and 3 Nimrods, then (from December 1938) six Skuas and 3 Nimrods, the squadron embarked on HMS|Ark Royal|91|6 in April 1938 as an RAF squadron but was transferred to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939.

World War Two

On the outbreak of World War Two, the Skuas and Rocs which formed 803 Squadron were embarked on HMS|Ark Royal|91|6. Operating out of Scapa Flow, the Squadron carried out anti-submarine patrols in the Northwestern Approaches (losing two Skuas in an attack on U 30 on 14 September 1939 and defending SS "Fanad Head") and regular patrols off Norway (during which the squadron shot down the first German aircraft to be shot down by a British aircraft in the war, a Dornier 18, on 26 September 1939). The squadron's activities continued off Norway (though leaving her Rocs behind), operating there in April 1940 from HMS|Glorious|77|6. 803 and 800 Squadrons successfully dive bombed and sunk the cruiser "Konigsberg" at Bergen (with 800 providing 5 aircraft and 7 crews in contrast to 803's 11 aircraft and 9 crews), though an attack by 803 from "Ark Royal" on battlecruiser "Scharnhorst" in June was less successful, with the loss of all but 2 aircraft

803 Squadron was re-formed (with 112 Fulmar) in October 1940, and after that served in the Eastern Mediterranean off HMS|Formidable|R67|6, fighting at the Battle of Cape Matapan (shooting down 2 aircraft and damaging two more) and providing fighter cover for the Malta convoys and the evacuation of Crete. After "Formidable" was damaged at Crete, 803 Squadron moved to Dekheila, where it was re-quipped with RAF Hurricanes. Next it was based in Palestine for operations against Syria from June 1941, then in August 1941 was merged into the RN Fighter Squadron (a combined unit fighting in the Western desert).

Re-equipped again with Fulmar IIs in March 1942, it next operated from Ceylon against the Japanese (such as against the Easter Sunday Raid), rejoining "Formidable" in the Indian Ocean in April. 803 Squadron then saw operations in East Africa in 1943, before absorbing 806 Squadron for army co-operation exercises. The new combined squadron was disbanded at Tanga in August 1943, and only re-formed in June 1945 ready to join 19th Carrier Air Group in the Far Eastern theatre. At the re-formation it was based at Arbroath and equipped with 25 Seafire L.IIIs, but just as it was about to ship out to the Far East in August 1945, that theatre of war came to an end.


803 Squadron was thus transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in January the following year when HMCS "Warrior" was commisissoned, in which she was re-numbered 870 Squadron (RCN) in May 1951 (with the 803 designation returning to the Royal Navy).

803 NAS became the first FAA sqn to operate a 'nuclear capable' aircraft in 1958 when it received the Supermarine Scimitar F mk1. The sqn deployed aboard the newly reconstructed carrier HMS Victorious R38 and remained attached to her air group for the next two years, after which the sqn transferred to HMS Hermes R12 for another two years then finally to HMS Ark Royal. From first commissioning until it joined Ark Royal, the sqn had a normal complement of 8 aircraft, but when assigned to Ark's air group the ships larger size and hangar capacity meant the sqn doubled in size to 16 aircraft. This was achieved by merging 800 NAS into 803, as the former sqn was due to re equip with Blackburn Buccaneer S mk1 aircraft. 803 NAS had the distinction of being both the first and last Supermarine Scimitar frontline sqn in the Royal Navy, and disbanded on 1 October 1966 after 8 years and 5 months in commission. The Scimitars went to RNAS Brawdy, Pembrokeshire. There, they were overhauled before flying to Airworks at Hurn. Subsequently many appeared around the UK on display at large establishments. 803 NAS reformed as the Buccaneer S mk2 trials and HQ sqn based at RNAS Lossiemouth on 3 July 1967, and in August 1968 demonstrated the FAA's ability to reinforce forward deployed carriers when a flight of four Buccaneer S2s flew from Britain to HMS Hermes in the Indian Ocean. With the rundown of the RNs carrier force, 803 NAS was disbanded on 18 December 1969 and the aircraft were transferred to the RAF. source: FAA museum, FAA Buccaneer Association (http://www.faaba.org.uk/)

World War II battle honours

* North Sea 1939
* Norway 1940
* Libya 1940-1
* Matapan 1941
* Crete 1941
* Mediterranean 1941-4

Post World War II engagements

Aircraft flown

*Hawker Osprey 1932-1944
*Hawker Nimrod 1933-?
*Skua II Dec 1938-Oct 1940
*Roc I April 1939-April 1940
*Fulmar I Oct 1940-June 1941
*Hurricane I June 1941-March 1942
*Sea Hurricane June 1942-Aug 1942
*Fulmar II March 1942-Aug 1943
*Seafire III June 1945-end of WW2
*Seafire F.XV Aug 1945-end of WW2
*Hawker Sea Hawk 1953-57
*Supermarine Scimitar 1958-1966
*Blackburn Buccaneer 1967-1969

External links

* [http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/Squadrons/803.html Fleet Air Arm 803 Squadron]
* [http://www.rafweb.org/Sqn712-825.htm Squadron history]
* [http://newbernpilates.com/Biographies/1941-1950/Nelson_Gracie.htm Pilot with 803 NAS]

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