The AEW.1 Troop Carrier?
As an amusing point of interest, at one stage, knowing the versatility of these aeroplanes, we tried to covert one of them from the AEW.1 role to troop carrier. All the radar equipment was stripped out and the scanner and radome removed. The senior pilot took it up and very quickly brought it back down again. I believe his comment was that, "it flew like a pig". Apparently it was permanently nose down (or tail high depending on your point of view) and even on maximum trim he couldn't get it to level off. I understand a signal was sent to Douglas asking why it wouldn't fly straight and level. I think the answer was that because of the additional weight of two observers and radar gear in the back, it had been necessary to alter the attachment positions of the wings to the fuselage. So the idea of 'flying buses' was quickly shelved.
The Role of the AEW.1 Skyraiders in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy
849 Squadron was the only Skyraider squadron in the Fleet Air Arm, comprising about 22 aircraft. These were assigned to Headquarters Flight (I think 6) at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, and 4 each to A, B, C & D Flights. The Flights were embarked on whichever aircraft carriers were in commission at the time.
All the Skyraiders were used primarily in the AEW role plus mail collection and a variety of personnel movements. I do not know of any of them being used in a truly combat role with the exception perhaps of the Suez crisis in '56; but that was just before my time. While Bulwark was in commission in '58, there were hotbeds of hostility in Jordan/Gaza and later in Oman which we 'quelled' and our Guppies were used to assist in fighter/ bomber directions. But those operations were over in a matter of weeks and didn't really amount to very much ultimately.
Life in the Rear Crew Compartment of the AEW.1
It was a very rare thing for ground crew to get the opportunity [to fly in the back.]. The only time it sometimes happened was when a 'plane was being test flown after a maintenance job and the 'driver' wanted some ballast in the back. I think in the 18 months I was on the squadron, I only flew two or three times. As for taking photographs from the back, I don't remember anybody doing it. The door was on the starboard side and on entering you stepped across an open space to the two seats set side by side, one against the port fuselage and the other in the middle so to speak. This gave room on the starboard side to get at the assorted radio/radar chassis' stuffed behind and in front of the seats. The observer (Lieut.) always had the port side seat and the ballast man always got the 'blind' seat. Of course, set into the door and port fuselage were the blister windows which gave a very distorted view unless your head was almost inside them. And, they were very often smeared with an oily lead like residue from the engine exhausts.
Bulwark is pronounced "Bull-walk" although, at times it does tend to sound a little like "Bull-wok". The nickname for the ship was "The Rusty 'B' " Her numerical identity was R08. The R meaning carrier and she was number 8. All her aircraft displayed a B on the tail fin which identified which carrier they were from. This initial letter was good for all our carriers with the exception of Ark Royal which used R - for Ark- the A being designated to Albion.
One of the more significant features of HMS Bulwark is the Angled Deck. This was a British invention but only fully exploited by the USN because of the cost. We incorporated a semi angle whereas the USN went the whole way with a full angle. The benefit of this allowed safe and unrestricted parking in the forward deck area and a clear flight path in the event of a 'wave off' or aborted landing. The angled deck has now been replaced with the 'Ski Jump' on modern British carriers.