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800 Naval Air Squadron
HMS Ark Royal planes.jpg
Blackburn Skuas of 800 Naval Air Squadron on the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal
Active 3 April 1933 - 5 dec 1945
1982 - 2004
2006 - 2010
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Type Carrier based squadron
Role Offensive Support
Part of Fleet Air Arm
Garrison/HQ RAF Cottesmore
Motto(s) Latin: Nunquam non paratus
(Translation: "Never unprepared")
Anniversaries none
Equipment Harrier GR.7
Battle honours Norway 1940-4
Mediterranean 1940-1
Spartivento 1940
Malta Convoys 1941-2
Norway 1940-4
'Bismarck' 1941
Diego Suarez 1942
North Africa 1942
South France 1944
Aegean 1944
Burma 1945
Malaya 1949
Falkland Islands 1982
Lt/Cdr. R.D. Lygo (1954-55), Lt/Cdr. A.D. Auld, DSC (1982-83).

800 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed on 3 April 1933 by amalgamating No's 402 and 404 (Fleet Fighter) Flights.



The squadron was first equipped with nine single-seat Hawker Nimrod fighter aircraft and three two-seat Hawker Ospreys to act as navigation leaders for the Nimrods. It served aboard HMS Courageous in the Home Fleet. In 1935-1936, the carrier and squadron operated in the Mediterranean. The squadron re-equipped with the Blackburn Skua in November 1938 and took these aboard HMS Ark Royal. The Skua was a dive bomber with a secondary fighter role to allow the destruction or driving-off of enemy reconnaissance aircraft.[1]

In 1939, 800 Squadron was flying primarily Blackburn B-24 Skuas and a few Blackburn Rocs from HMS Ark Royal. The Squadron was transferred to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939.

Second World War

During the German invasion of Norway in 1940, whilst based at Royal Navy Air Station Hatston, Kirkwall, Orkney 800 and 803 Squadrons dive-bombed the German cruiser Königsberg at Bergen on 10 April 1940, 800 Squadron providing five Skuas to the force that sank the Königsberg.[2] The squadron embarked on Ark Royal later that month, with the carrier providing air cover to the fleet and to Allied troops. 800 Squadron's Skua's claimed six Heinkel He 111 bombers shot down and a further as probably destroyed.[3] On 13 June 1940, Ark Royal launched a dive bomber attack against the German Battleship Scharnhorst, under repair at Trondheim, with 800 Squadron losing four Skuas out of six, with the Squadron's Commanding Officer, Captain R.T. Partridge, RM was taken POW, while 803 Squadron lost four Skuas from nine.[4] In July 1940, the squadron was involved in the attack on the French Fleet at Oran. Two SM-79 bombers were shot down off Sardinia.

The squadron was regrouped with Fairey Fulmars in Gibraltar during April 1941, proceeding with two Flights to HMS Victorious to search for the Bismarck, and to HMS Argus. On regrouping later that year, the squadron joined HMS Furious for an attack on Petsamo, and after the West Indies onboard HMS Indomitable was involved in the Madagascar operations.

Hawker Sea Hurricanes were received in 1942 and took part in the North African landings off HMS Biter in November 1942. In July 1943, the Squadron was the first FAA squadron to be equipped with the Grumman Hellcat. The squadron, operating from HMS Emperor provided escort for Fairey Barracudas in the April 1944 attacks from against the Tirpitz in Alta Fjord, Norway.


During the Korean War, the Squadron and its Seafire F.47s were on board HMS Triumph however, and their first operation was a strike by 12 Seafires and 9 Fairey Fireflies on Haeju airfield on 3 July 1950. Because of their short range, the Seafires were frequently given the Combat Air Patrol task over the fleet. During the Inchon landings in September 1950 Seafires flew armed reconnaissance missions and spotted for the bombarding cruisers. But, by the end of the month, No 800 had only three serviceable aircraft and no replacements were available in the Far East. The inevitable crop of landing accidents and cumulative airframe stress damage meant the end of the Seafire's operational life. During the Korean War the squadron flew 245 offensive patrols and 115 ground attack sorties before HMS Triumph was replaced by HMS Theseus with its Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflies.

No. 800 Sqn. Attackers on HMS Eagle in 1952/53

In August 1951 the Supermarine Attacker enters service with the Squadron at Ford, West Sussex, later embarking on HMS Eagle. It was the first jet fighter to be standardised in the Fleet Air Arms first-line squadrons, and by 1953 the sqn had upgraded to the FB.2 version of the Attacker, but the following year the Attacker was withdrawn from frontline service and passed to training and reserve units. 800 NAS then recommissioned with Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk FB.3s in July 1954, and joined the newly commissioned HMS Ark Royal (R09) the following year. As with other FAA Sea Hawk units at the time, the sqn operated later marks of Sea Hawk as they became available culminating in the FGA.6. During the 1950s, 800's aircraft usually had the tails painted red, and this evolved into a forward pointing red arrowhead design with crossed swords over a trident in yellow in the centre.


800 NAS reformed as a Supermarine Scimitar F.1 unit in July 1959 with six aircraft, under the command of Lt. Cmdr. D. P. Norman AFC at RNAS Lossiemouth, later re joining HMS Ark Royal (R09)'s air group in March 1960. After operating worldwide from the Ark, 800 returned to 'Lossie' in December 1963 and disbanded in February 1964, its aircraft being passed to 803NAS to bring that unit up to 16 aircraft. A month later 800 NAS recommissioned as a Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 squadron, equipped with 10 Buccaneers and four Scimitar F1s for service on the newly refitted HMS Eagle. The latter aircraft were for the next two years operated by 800B Flight, their aircraft adorned with a 'foaming tankard' badge on their tails as they were to be used as in-flight refuelling tankers as the underpowered Buccaneer S.1 could not be launched from a carrier with a full weapons load and full fuel tanks. The Buccaneers were launched fully armed but with a light fuel load, and would then 'top up' from waiting Scimitars which had been launched previously. 800 NAS was the only FAA squadron organised this way, and it was an interim measure pending the arrival of the Mk 2 Buccaneer. In June 1966 the Mk 2s began to replace the Mk 1s and the Scimitars, completing the process by November of that year.

In March 1967 the oil tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground on Seven Stones Reef near Lands End and started to leak thousands of tons of crude oil into the sea, putting nearby beaches at risk of pollution. In an attempt to minimise the damage to the environment, the Buccaneers of 800 NAS along with those of the training squadron 736 NAS were ordered to destroy the tanker and its cargo. Flying from RNAS Brawdy in Wales on 28 March 1967, eight Buccaneers dropped 42000 lbs of High Explosive bombs and achieved a 75% success rate. The aim was to rip open the hull of the tanker to release its cargo then set fire to it on the open sea, destroying the oil before it reached the beaches. After this the squadron rejoined HMS Eagle for the remainder of her career.

During this period the squadron operated 14 Buccaneer S.2s, and as with its sister squadron 809 Naval Air Squadron aboard Ark Royal in the 1970s, the squadron normally kept ten strike aircraft ready, two more fitted with a specially designed reconnaissance pallet in the rotating bomb bay, and the final two aircraft were fitted with buddy refuelling pods as tanker aircraft. After covering the British withdrawal from 'East of Suez' HMS Eagle returned home to pay off in January 1972, her squadrons flown back to their shore bases to disband. 800 Squadron returned to Lossiemouth and disbanded on 23 February 1972, and its aircraft were passed to the RAF.

1980s, Falklands War, 1990s

On 31 March 1980, 800 NAS was recommissioned with five BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1s at RNAS Yeovilton under Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gedge, a former Phantom pilot, and embarked in the new HMS Invincible until June 1981 when it transferred to HMS Hermes, recently refitted with a 12-degree "ski jump" ramp to assist Sea Harrier operations.

On the outbreak of the Falklands War 800 NAS, now under the command of Lt/Cdr. Andy Auld RN, was brought up to its wartime strength of twelve Sea Harrier FRS1s by transferring seven aircraft and their crews from the training squadron 899 NAS. The other Sea Harrier squadron 801 NAS, aboard HMS Invincible similarly received three aircraft. The squadron embarked on HMS Hermes whilst she was still alongside in Portsmouth Dockyard. Two of the squadron's planes were lost, one when it exploded on take off from HMS Hermes and one shot down during an attack on Goose Green. No Harriers were lost in air-to-air fighting and the squadron destroyed 13 enemy aircraft. Lieutenant-Commander Gordon Batt DSC was killed in action flying a Sea Harrier FRS 1 from HMS Hermes on 23 May 1982. During the conflict another Sea Harrier squadron, 809 NAS was formed with eight spare aircraft and sent south aboard the MV Atlantic Conveyor, and on arrival in the South Atlantic these aircraft were divided between the two carriers, four each to 800 NAS and 801 NAS. The aircraft were absorbed into these squadrons, as the 899 aircraft had been, but remained recognisable as they had been painted in light grey low visibility camouflage as opposed to the dark sea grey scheme used by all the other Sea Harriers.

Post war, 809 NAS reacquired its aircraft and crews and returned to the UK alongside 800 NAS aboard Hermes, only to embark aboard the newly completed HMS Illustrious and return to the Falklands so that Invincible could be relieved to return home. 809 NAS disbanded in December 1982 on return to the UK. Illustrious had been sent into the South Atlantic before being commissioned properly and spent the next few months catching up on preparations for full commissioning, after which 800 NAS was transferred to Illustrious in September 1983. Squadron strength was increased first to six Sea Harriers then gradually up to eight aircraft as a result of lessons relearned during the conflict. In the mid-1990s. the squadron re-equipped with the more capable Sea Harrier FA.2.

In January 1998, in addition to 800 NAS’s Sea Harriers FA.2s, RAF Harriers GR.7s operated from HMS Invincible in the Persian Gulf, typically in a mix of seven FA.2s and seven GR.7s.


Harrier GR7 of 800 NAS

In April 2004, while based in Yeovilton the squadron was disbanded following the decision to withdraw the FA.2s early as a cost-saving measure. It was re-commissioned on 31 March 2006 under Commander Adrian Orchard RN, when 800 NAS became the first RN squadron within Joint Force Harrier as part of Number 1 Group within RAF Strike Command. In March 2007, the squadron combined with 801 NAS to form the Naval Strike Wing. On 1 April 2010, NSW reverted to the identity of 800 Naval Air Squadron.[5] The squadron disbanded later that year, as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and the subsequent withdrawal of Harrier fleet.[6]

Post World War II engagements

Action over Korea, flying more than 350 combat sorties without losing a single man or aircraft, and in the Suez crisis 1956, Malaysian Emergency 1949 The Falklands, 1982 and offensive operations in the Balkans in 1990s. 800 NAS are also the only fixed wing Squadron to complete a tour of Afghanistan operating out of Kandahar airport. Although the Naval Strike Wing have also completed tours, it is made up of elements of both 800 and 801.

Falklands War

The squadron operated Twelve Sea Harrier FRS.1s aboard HMS Hermes during the Falklands War under the command of Commander Lt Cdr Andy Auld. The Squadron was supplemented by eight pilots and seven aircraft from 899 NAS. Later in the conflict four aircraft and pilots were transferred from 809 NAS. From an Air Combat perspective' 800 Squadron were effective to the extent of shooting down Thirteen Argentine Aircraft and Destroying Three more on the Ground.[7]

1 May 1982 A Pucara of FAA Grupo 3 destroyed and two more damaged and not repaired at Goose Green by CBU's by Lt Cmdr Frederiksen, Lt Hale and Lt McHarg RN. Lt Jukic killed in the destroyed aircraft. Dagger A of FAA Grupo 6 shot down over East Falkland by Flt Lt Penfold RAF using Sidewinder. Lt Ardiles (Cousin of the Footballer Osvaldo Ardiles) killed.

21 May 1982 Two A-4C Skyhawks of FAA Grupo 4 shot down near Chartres, West Falkland by Lt Cmdr Blissett and Lt Cmdr Thomas RN using Sidewinders. Lt Lopez and Lt Manzotti killed. Dagger A of FAA Grupo 6 shot down near Teal River Inlet, West Falkland by Lt Cmdr Frederiksen RN using Sidewinder. Lt Luna ejected. A-4Q Skyhawks of CANA 3 Esc shot down near Swan Island in Falkland Sound by Lt Morrell RN using Sidewinder. Lt Cmdr Philippi ejected. In same attack A-4Q Skyhawk shot down near Swan Island in Falkland Sound by Flt Lt Leeming RAF using 30mm cannon. Lt Marquez was killed.

23 May 1982 Puma SA.330L of CAB 601 flew into ground near Shag Cove House, West Falkland attempting to evade Flt Lt Morgan RAF. Agusta A-109A of CAB 601 destroyed on ground in the same incident, by Flt Lt Morgan and Flt Lt Leeming RAF using 30mm cannon. Dagger A of FAA Grupo 6 shot down over Pebble Island by Lt Hale RN using Sidewinder. Lt Volponi killed

24 May 1982 Two Dagger A of FAA Grupo 6 shot down north of Pebble Island by Lt Cmdr Auld and a third by Lt D Smith using Sidewinder. Maj Puga and Capt Diaz ejected, but Lt Castillo killed.

8 June 1982 Two A-4B Skyhawks of FAA Grupo 5 shot down over Choiseul Sound by Flt Lt Morgan RAF and a third by Lt D Smith, using Sidewinders. Lt Arraras, Lt Bolzan and Ensign Vazquez killed.

Surface Ship

9 May 1982 Flt Lt Morgan and Lt Cdr Batt dropped 1000 lb bombs at the Spy trawler Narwal, when their original target of Port Stanley airfield was obscured by cloud, one bomb lodged in the trawler's hull before they raked it with 30mm cannon fire. Narwhal sank under tow the following day.


800 NAS lost two Aircraft and Pilots during the conflict.[8]

4 May 1982

Wreckage from Lt Nick Taylor's Sea Harrier

Lt Nick Taylor RN, shot down over Goose Green by radar-controlled, 35mm Oerlikon fire from GADA 601 as he ran in to attack. The aircraft exploded and hit the ground very close to the airstrip. Argentine forces buried Nick with military honours close to where he fell. Lt Nick Taylor's Grave

23 May 1982 Lt Cmdr 'Gordy' Batt crashed into sea north east of Falklands shortly after take-off, the cause is still unknown.

Gallantry Awards

Lt Cmdr G W J Batt RN was Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross - Posthumous

Lt Cmdr A D Auld RN, Lt Cmdr N W Thomas RN & Flt Lt D H S Morgan RAF were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their conduct and leadership throughout the campaign.

Aircraft flown

The 800 squadron has flown 15 different aircraft types, including




  • Brown, David (1972). Carrier Air Groups, Volume 1: HMS Eagle. Windsor, UK: Hylton Lacy Ltd.. ISBN 0-85064-103-9. 
  • Sturtivant, Ray; Theo Ballance (1994). The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm (2 ed.). Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd.. ISBN 0-85130-223-8. 
  • Thetford, Owen (1994). British Naval Aircraft since 1912 (4 ed.). London: Putnam. ISBN 0-85177-861-5. 

External links

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