809 Naval Air Squadron

809 Naval Air Squadron

809 Naval Air Squadron was a squadron in the Fleet Air Arm.


It flew Supermarine Seafires off HMS Stalker as part of Task Force 88 (Operation Dragoon) in 1944. Between May 1954 and August 1959 it operated De Havilland Sea Venoms. 809 NAS re-formed on 15th January 1963 as the second frontline Blackburn Buccaneer S mk1 sqn (after 801 NAS) and was formed using aircraft and crews from the recently disbanded 700Z NAS (the Buccaneer S1 trials and training unit) under the command of 700Z's commanding officer, commander 'Spiv' Leahy. The squadron was tasked with continuing 700Z's duties and became the Buccaneer Headquarters squadron. The aircraft at the time were painted in 'anti flash' white with toned-down markings because of the Buccaneer's nuclear role, with the squadron badge of a Phoenix on the sides of the jet intakes. By 1965 the Buccaneer force had switched to the standard Fleet Air Arm finish of Dark Sea Gray upper surfaces and white undersides, and the squadron badge was moved to the tail.

In April 1965 809 NAS disbanded again and its role was taken over by 736 NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth. 809 re-formed in 1966 under the command of Lt Cmdr Lyn Middleton and was now equipped with the Rolls Royce Spey powered Buccaneer S mk2. RN Buccaneers were now being painted Dark Sea Grey overall with all markings other than roundels in either light grey or light blue to reduce visibility. 809 embarked on HMS|Hermes|R12|6 with six aircraft for the next two years, then from 1968 were shore-based again at Lossiemouth, during which time they formed a display team and attended many air shows.

In 1970, having increased its complement to 14 S2s 809 embarked on the newly refitted HMS|Ark Royal|R09|6 and, from 1972 onward, became the last RN Buccaneer squadron following the disbandment of 800 NAS. Around this time the squadron transferred its home base from RNAS Lossiemouth (which was being transferred to RAF control, later becoming the home base of the last RAF Buccaneer sqns) to RAF Honington. 809 NAS continued to alternate between RAF Honington and HMS "Ark Royal" until November 1978, when after flying off the carrier for the last time in the Mediterranean, the squadron flew direct to RAF St Athan, where the aircraft were formally handed over to the RAF. 809 squadron was officially disbanded at Lee-on-Solent on the 13 December 1978, and the aircraft were used to form 216 squadron in 1979.

During the Falklands War of 1982, the Fleet Air Arm only had three Sea Harrier squadrons, 800 and 801 with five aircraft each for frontline operations from respectively HMS "Hermes" and HMS|Invincible|R05|6, and 899 NAS with aound twelve Sea Harriers operating as the Headquarters and training sqn. At the outbreak of War, 899 sent three aircraft to join 801 NAS aboard HMS "Invincible" and seven aircraft to join 800 NAS aboard HMS "Hermes". These aircraft salied with the Task force whilst the remains of 899 set about bringing the remaining Sea Harriers in store or on other duties into operational use. It was planned to form a third frontline sqn with ten Sea Harriers, but only eight could be brought together initially. These aircraft were painted a lighter low visibility grey than the rest of the Sea Harrier fleet, and were then issued to the reformed 809NAS, under Lt Cdr Tim Gedge, which were transported south on the ill-fated Atlantic Conveyor (see [http://home.planet.nl/~alder010/Landen/GB-unit/SQU-GB-809.html] ). After arriving with the Task force, the aircraft and pilots were split between the two carriers and were absorbed by their sqns, as 899's aircraft had been earlier. After the ceasefire, 809 re-formed as a single unit and returned to the UK aboard Hermes, where after a very short break they embarked aboard the newly completed HMS|Illustrious|R06|6 and returned to the South Atlantic, remaining on station until relieved by RAF F-4M Phantom FGR2s of 29 Squadron now based at Stanley airport. "Illustrious" returned home in December, and 809 NAS finally disbanded on 17 December 1982.


* [http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/Squadrons/809.html Fleet Air Arm 809 Squadron - WWII service]
*"The Buccaneers", by Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork, ISBN 1852606118

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