ADF-SERIALS
Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History
RAAF Fairey Swordfish Mk.I

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Swordfish V4689  October 1943 IWM photo via Brendan Cowan

     
 

Swordfish Image Gallery

 
     
  The Royal Australian Air Force received an unexpected temporary windfall in early 1942 when it collected crates containing six Fairey Swordfish.

On the 17 March 1942 the Duty Officer at RAAF Pearce informed Group Captain Paddy Hefferman that a number of wooden aircraft cases had arrived at the nearby Bullsbrook railway siding from the Port of Fremantle. It was assumed at the time that these boxes contained Kittyhawk fighters intended to re-equip No 77 Squadron, RAAF as 19 P-40Es were being offloaded from the SS Robin Tuxworth (USA) at the time.

When it was discovered that the crates in fact contained Swordfish, Hefferman decided to have the aircraft assembled by SGT Wright, who had experience on Wapiti aircraft though no handbooks accompanied the crates.

14 Sqn RAAF, based at RAAF Pearce, had sent off four of their Hudsons to Northern command as reinforcements by Feb 42, leaving eight Hudsons (One to be lost at Broome, A16-119, 02/03/42), and had attached, in February 42, 6 US Navy Pilot Ratings and two Observer Ratings, along with a single Grumman JF2 Float Plane (Pilot Lt Collins USN) from the 20/02/42. With units short of aircraft at Pearce, the unexpected arrival of the Swordfish must have been seen as an opportunity too good to pass up.

GPCAPT Hefferman flew the first of the assembled aircraft and the aircraft are known to have been operated by 14 Squadron and No 25 Squadron as well as RAAF Pearce Station Headquarters

No 25 SQN operated at least three of the aircraft on anti-submarine patrols around Rottnest Island and Gage Roads off the Port of Fremantle. All squadron pilots converted to the Swordfish but it appears that Sergeant Coulter amassed the greatest number of hours while another Sergeant Dudley Irwin (Navigator) later became Minister of Air in the Australian Federal Government of John Gorton in 1969.

No 14 SQN was also allocated Swordfish for communications work and regularly flew between Pearce and Squadron detachments based at Busselton, Cunderdin and Carnarvon.

RAAF Pearce Station Headquarters also appears to have used a Swordfish as a flight to Cunderdin on the 27 March 1942 flown by GPCAPT Hefferman, FLTLT Kirkman and FLGOFF Kimpton was recorded.

Officialdom eventually caught up with the Station's unofficial fleet of Swordfish when RAAF Headquarters in Melbourne gave orders to have the aircraft disassembled and re-crated for forwarding to their appropriate recipients.

It apears that the aircraft were then sent to Royal Navy in Nairobi before being engaged in varied carrers as recorded below.

2 AD in Richmond also overhauled a seventh Swordfish Mk.I airframe, K8849, from HMS Warspite during Feb-Mar 1942 when the ship was ported in Sydney. This was one of six tranistiting from Cape Town, South Africa on route to 151 MU Singapore for the RN FAA as reserve float aircraft for HMS's P O Wales and Repulse, then repacked redirected for HMS Warspite and others in theatre (which were then Ceylon based, but temporarily ported Australia), arriving 2nd March 1942 at Fremantle WA with floats included in crates, but with landing gear attached.

RAF Serial Type Aircraft History
V4683 Mk.I NOTE: One source quotes this serial as one of the six RAAF Swordfish, however, this appears to be a "blackout block" serial number, so the aircraft should not exist! Our theory is that this is a misprint for V4685 which seems to have followed a similar path to the other five aircraft. Alternatively, V4683 may be a misprint for V4693.
V4685 Mk.I Possible RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Operated by units from RAAF Pearce until 30/4/42
5/42 Returned to RN
RN History
nd RNARY Nairobi
25/1-/42 RNARY Fayid
11/42 - 5/43 815 Sqn, LG.139, ('Q')
30/7/43 Tested at RNARY Nairobi
V4688 Mk.I RN History
12/9/41 Delivered
RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Operated by 25 Sqn from RAAF Pearce on anti-submarine duties until 30/4/42
5/42 Returned to RN
RN History
nd RNARY Nairobi
25/10/42 RNARY Fayid
2/43 815 Sqn, LG.139
10/4/43 Engine failure on take-off for night exercise, burst into flames 1/2 mile from LG.08 Mersa Matruh (Sub Lt J.C. Taylor Killed, LA A.J. Harris slightly injured)
V4689 Mk.I RN History
13/9/41 Delivered
RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Operated by 25 Sqn from RAAF Pearce on anti-submarine duties until 30/4/42
5/42 Returned to RN
RN History
9/42 789 Sqn, Wingfield (South Africa)
2/10/43 C Sqn, Aeroplane & Aircraft Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down asV4689/G for handling trials with pumpkin searchlight and radar as used on Swordfish Mk.III aircraft
29/10/43 - 5/12/43 Take-off trials with various external loads
6/44 735 Sqn, Burscough
7/44 Telecommunications Flying Unit, Defford.

V4692 Mk.I RN History
15/9/41 Delivered
RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Operated by SHQ Pearce on communications duties and 25 Sqn on anti-submarine duties,
5/42 Returned to RN
RN History
nd RNARY Nairobi
19/10/42 RNARY Fayid
2/43-3/43 810 Sqn, Tanga
nd HQ Dekheila
19/8/44 Landed into emergency barrier and burnt out HMS HUNTER (Lt Cdr R.G. How, OK)
V4693 Mk.I RN History
16/9/41 Delivered
RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Operated by 25 Sqn and possibly by 14 Sqn from RAAF Pearce for anti-submarine duties
5/42 Returned to UK Authorities
RN History
9/42 789 Sqn, Wingfield (South Africa)
nd RNARY Nairobi
14/10/42 - 1/43 810 Sqn, Tanga ('2M')
1/43 RNARY Nairobi
10/5/43 788 Sqn, Port Reitz ('TT')
6/12/43 Written off after engine failure at 4,000 ft during exercise with HM ships (Sub Lt R.D.M. Farrell OK)
V4694 Mk.I RN History
16/9/41 Delivered
RAAF History
17/3/42: Collected from Bullsbrook railway siding and delivered to RAAF Pearce for erection,
Flown by Station HQ Flight Pearce March-April 42
13/4/42 Operated by 14 Sqn from RAAF Pearce on communications duties
5/42 Returned to UK Authorities
RN History
9/42 RNARY Nairobi
11/42 810 Sqn, Tanga ('2P')
27/3/43 Hit obstruction landing RNAS Machrihanish (Lt Cdr A.G. McWilliam)
5/43 766 Sqn, Machrihanish
12/43 767/769 Sqns, Arbroath and Abbotsinch
2/44 768 Sqn, Abbotsinch
2/44 774 Sqn, St Merryn
22/4/44 Barrier crash HMS ARGUS (Sub Lt J. Provin)
24/4/44 Barrier crash (Sub Lt E.P. Jardine)
30/6/44 Major damage in barrier crash HMS VINDEX (Lt E.J. Ward)
 
     

This page is managed and updated by Brendan Cowan.

Sources: "British Military Aircraft Serials 1911-1979" Bruce Robinson, "RAAF Pearce. Australia's Pilot Training Base." Leslie R Jubbs, RAAF Pearce ORB, "Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945" by Ray Sturtivant and Mick Burrow (Air Britain1995) and "The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm" by Ray Sturtivant and Theo Ballance (Air Britain 1994), RAAF Rathmines Correspondence Register, http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/aircraft/swordfish.htm ,

Emails: Phantom, Message Board Discussion , Joe Barr, Gordon Birkett, Michael Louey,

Updated 28 November 2013

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