The arrestor wires can be seen across the deck. Counting from
aft, the aim is to hook onto number 3. This Guppy looks as if it will catch
number 2. Once down it must quickly be unhooked, the hook stowed ( a manual
operation on these) and the 'plane taxied to the parking area. There's another
in the circuit which can be seen coming in the distance. The round painted
area just in front of the Skyraider is the aft lift (elevator) used to move
aircraft between the flight deck and the hangar deck.
Down safely and free of the wire. The mechanics have stowed
the hook and checked the tail wheel locking pin is now disengaged. Meanwhile
the pilot waits to receive clearance to taxi or, if he is last one down,
to leave it there and let the ground crew park it with a tractor. The letter "B" on the vertical
tail signifies that this Skyraider is assigned to HMS Bulwark.
The jets have been catapulted and gone leaving the humble Guppies to make
a free take off along the deck. A catapult launch of a Skyraider was rare
and then only done to give an aircrew the 'feel'. The forward lift is visible
as is the beginning of the Angle Deck.
Skyraider with your pregnant look,
I read you like an open book.
One day, when letters you have brought
And on the deck you are safely caught,
You will collapse with labour pain,
Producing infant aeroplane.
An idle moment between flying operations and taken advantage
of by the maintenance crew to get their overalls and headgear off to cool
down a little. The Guppies were always parked at the aft end of the flight
deck ready for 'instant' launch.
It's almost the end of the voyage and the ship is in the English
Channel on it's way to Portsmouth. On the way past Lands End, the aircraft
will leave the ship for the very last time to return to their Headquarters
and home base in Cornwall. The maintenance crews will follow after the ship
docks about two days later. The comments on the radome are just a bit of
humour to be read by the HQ receiving crew when the Guppies arrive. 'Oggieland'
is a term of endearment applied by RN sailors to The West Country of England;
especially Cornwall and Devon. The term is derived from 'oggie' which is
a colloquial name for a Cornish pasty.
In addition to their prime role of 'flying radar stations',
the Guppies undertook numerous other 'fetch
and carry' tasks. Foremost among these was the delivery and collection
of mail. The comic comment chalked on the radome was to advise all and sundry
of the ship's crew that this was to be the very last flight ashore with
mail.It wasn't known then but it was also to be the very last fixed wing
flight from Bulwark's deck. After arriving at Portsmouth she went into refit
and was converted to become the world's first Commando Carrier and from
then on flew only helicopters.
Always a precarious undertaking requiring extreme flying skills
and nerves of steel. I watched a young pilot do his first 'real' approaches
to land in a Guppy on deck and after six wave offs he was told to forget
it and go back to HQ. He was determined. With his final opportunity he cut
his engine as he crossed the stern and dropped the Guppy on the deck from
at least 15 feet high. It survived, so did he and he went on to hone his
skills sufficiently to skim in, day or night, like a stone kissing water.
The officers and men of 849 Squadron, D Flight on HMS Bulwark,
This poem says it all. Some things never change!
(This poem was penned by 'The Boss', Lieut. Cdr.
The reference to the ship getting a clout is significant.
On our outward bound voyage down through the Red Sea, an Arab dhow, showing
no lights and loaded with pilgrims on their way to Mecca, collided with
us in the middle of the night. Fortunately, little damage was done to either