Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher

Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher

Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher

A Grumman Wildcat fighter in British service about to land on HMS Searcher, one of the first escort carriers.

Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher - History

​Records show only one Wildcat missing in Scapa Flow, JV751 from HMS Trumpeter.

First the ships log was obtained from the National Archives.

The log book shows on 2nd December 1944 that Trumpeter was at anchor at Berth B2, south of Cava. The wind was a fresh SW and HMS Trumpeter had dragged her anchor 100 meters to the NE. Two more shackles ( 1 shackle = 22.9m) of anchor chain were let out.
Together with the original anchor chain out the Carrier is now 280m to the NE of B2 anchoring point.

At 10.45 three Wildcat aircraft and two Avengers were launched to fly to Hatston but due to a catapult failure one Wildcat, JV751 fell over the port side into the sea. The pilot Sub/Lt E.E.Ames. RN was rescued.

A WW2 chart of Scapa Flow showing the mooring positions was obtained form the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office at Taunton. This showed the location of B2 mooring. The chart was geo referenced so it could be used with SonarWiz 5 software and then used as a basemap to plan the search.

A side scan sonar search conducted on 6th February 2014 by SULA Diving using a C-Max CM2 sonar in the area NE of Berth B2 where JV751 reportedly went over the side of HMS Trumpeter.

​Above. The sonar waterfall overlaid onto the WW2 chart, using SonarWiz 5 showing the position of B2 anchoring point and a contact 280m away from B2 .

​K Heath/T Tibbits SULA Diving, chart UKHO.

​Above, the contact 281m NE from B2 berth

​K Heath/T Tibbits SULA Diving

On Monday 10th March 2014, the wreck of the Wildcat was finally confirmed by SULA Diving from Stromness and ARGOS Member Kevin Heath. Brett Green using a Seabotix LBV ROV searched the sea bed in the area of the sonar contact and soon pictures and video were fed back to the monitor on the boat of the shattered aircraft.
It would appear that soon after hitting the sea surface the propeller was torn off, the Wildcat flipped and travelled on coming to rest inverted. Instantly recognisable are the wing sections, the wheels with tyres and the Wright R 1820-56W radial engine. The wreckage lies in approx. 35 meters of water and the images below are from the video taken by the ROV.

Tag Archives: Grumman Wildcat

There must have been many people out there who thought that we were not going to publish any more volumes about the Old Nottinghamians of all ages who sacrificed their lives in the cause of freedom between 1939-1948.

But, while Covid-19 seized the world in its deadly grip, our work continued, albeit at a slower pace. And all those efforts have now ended with the publication of the third volume, detailing 24 of the High School’s casualties in World War II. Don’t think, incidentally, that we were running out of steam and had nothing to say. All five volumes have been deliberately constructed to contain the same amount of material as all of the others. And that material is all of the same quality.

This volume, therefore, portrays the families of these valiant young men, their houses, their years at school with Masters very different from those of today, their boyhood hobbies, their sporting triumphs and where they worked as young adults and the jobs they had. And all this is spiced with countless tales of the living Nottingham of yesteryear, a city so different from that of today. And as I have said before, “No tale is left untold. No anecdote is ignored.” Here are the teachers that many of them knew

And as well, of course, you will find all the details of the conflicts in which they fought and how they met their deaths, the details of which were for the most part completely unknown until I carried out my groundbreaking research.

These were men who died on the Lancastria in the biggest naval disaster in British history or in the Channel Dash or in the Battle of the East coast when the Esk, the Express and the Ivanhoe all struck mines. Some died flying in Handley Page Hampdens, or Fairy Barracudas, or Hawker Hurricanes, or Avro Lancasters or Grumman Wildcats or even a North American O-47B. One casualty was murdered by a German agent who sabotaged the single engine of his army observation aircraft. One was shot by the occupant of a Japanese staff car who was attempting to run the gauntlet of “A” Company’s roadblock. One was the only son of the owner of a huge business that supported a small local town, employing thousands. When the owner retired, the factory had to close. He had no son to replace him. His son lay in a cemetery in Hanover after his aircraft was shot down. Thousands of jobs were lost. And all because of a few cannon shells from a German nightfighter. The work of a few split seconds.

They died in the Bay of Biscay, the Channel, the North Sea, Ceylon, Eire, Germany, Ijsselstein, Kuching, Normandy, Singapore, Tennessee. None of them knew that they were going to die for our freedoms. And certainly none of them knew where or when.

But they gave their lives without hesitation. And they do not deserve to be forgotten. That is why this book exists, and so does Volume One, and Volume Two and in due course, so will Volumes Four and Five.

We should never forget this little boy (right), playing the part of Madame Rémy, and killed in Normandy not long after D-Day:

We should not forget this rugby player, either, killed in a collision with a Vickers Wellington bomber.

We should not forget this young member of the Officers Training Corps (front row, on the left). A mid-upper gunner, he was killed in his Lancaster as he bombed Kassel, the home of at least one satellite camp of Dachau concentration camp:

We should not forget this young miscreant, either, mentioned in the Prefects’ Book for “Saturday, October 20th 1934. “Fletcher was beaten – well beaten.” By June 23rd 1944, though, he was dead, killed with twelve others when two Lancasters collided above their Lincolnshire base. He wanted to have a chicken farm after the war. Not a lot to ask for, but he didn’t get it:

We should not forget the Captain of the School, killed when HMS Express hit a German mine:

We should not forget the son of the US Consul in Nottingham, the highest ranked Old Nottinghamian killed in the war:

And we should not forget any of the others, wherever they may turn up. Killed by the Japanese in Singapore :

Killed in a road block firefight in Burma:

And this little boy, still years from being shot down on his 66th operational flight by Helmut Rose, in his Bf109, German ace and holder of the Iron Cross First Class. And yes, that is the little boy’s Hawker Hurricane:

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The First XV player, proud of his fancy jacket:

A young man tricked into having to dress up as a young woman in “Twelfth Night”:

Two years later, getting a part as “Jean, a veritable Hercules….a convincing rural chauffeur”, in “Dr Knock”. Except that all of your friends think that you have got the part of the village idiot:

And a very frightened village idiot at that.

Please note:

All three of the titles published in this series so far are on sale with both Amazon and Lulu. All royalties will be given to two British forces charities, and if this is important to you, you will prefer to buy from Lulu. This will generate a lot more revenue.

For example,

If Volume 3 is bought through Amazon at full price, the charities will get £1.23 from each sale.
If Volume 3 is bought through Lulu, that rises to £9.48.

Incidentally, if you see the price of the book quoted in dollars, don’t worry. The people at Lulu periodically correct it to pounds sterling, but it then seems to revert to dollars after a few days, although nobody seems to know why.

Project Habakkuk

In 1942, Geoffrey Pyke, a British inventor working for Combined Operations Headquarters, thought he had the solution.

With steel in short supply, Pyke believed that a large amount of ice could be broken off the Arctic icecap, hollowed out, and used as a floating airfield to launch air wings to escort convoys.

Ice, he believed, would become the new strategic material that could win the war for the Allies.

Parts of the plan were not that far-fetched. Ice could float, icebergs were difficult to destroy — as demolition teams tasked with blowing them up after the sinking of the Titanic had proved — and ice was easier to replace than precious steel.

Moreover, Pyke and his team eventually created pykrete — a material made of ice and wood pulp that was at least as strong as concrete and largely resistant to warm temperatures. The development meant that the carrier could be built from the ground up and not made out of an iceberg.

Pyke described the idea to Lord Mountbatten, the head of Combined Operations, who passed it along to Churchill. The prime minister seemed taken with it and ordered the concept to be studied.

Pyke named the effort Project Habakkuk, a misspelling of the name of a prophet from the Old Testament who wrote "behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you."

A 60-foot, 1,000-ton test ship was constructed in Patricia Lake in Alberta, Canada, in 1943. It had a cooling system to keep the ice frozen and showed that the idea was possible — at least in theory.

The decommissioned escort carrier was sold to J & A T Vatis, a Greek shipping company, and renamed Captain Theo in 1952. In November 1961, she encountered and rescued 11-year-old Terry Jo Duperrault, who had been adrift at sea in a cork raft for four days after surviving a mass murder aboard the Bluebelle and the subsequent scuttling of the ketch by the murderer. The ship was sold again in 1966 to the Chinese shipping magnate Tung Chao Yung, becoming Oriental Banker. [4]

Oriental Banker was scrapped at Kaohsiung [3] in Taiwan, commencing on 21 April 1976. [4]

1111 Stewart Avenue
Bethpage, New York 11714-3580

Telephone: (516) 575-3369
Fax: (516) 575-2164


Public Company
Incorporated: 1929
Employees: 21,200
Sales: $3.24 billion
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 3721 Aircraft 3728 Aircraft Parts and Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified 7374 Data Processing and Preparation 3812 Search and Navigation Equipment 3713 Truck and Bus Bodies 3699 Electrical Equipment and Supplies, Not Elsewhere Classified

The manufacturer of the U.S. Navy's F-14 "Top Gun" fighter aircraft, Grumman Corporation was acquired by Northrop Corporation, another U.S. aerospace manufacturer, in 1994, ending 65 years as producer of military aircraft and electronic surveillance equipment and beginning a new era as a component of Northrop's organization. In addition to manufacturing aircraft and military hardware, Grumman manufactured postal and firefighting vehicles.

Leroy Grumman left the Navy in 1920 to become a test pilot and chief engineer for Grover and Albert Loening, who manufactured an airplane called the Fleetwing. In 1923, Vincent Astor's New York-Newport Air Service Company lost one of its Fleetwings over the ocean. Cary Morgan (a nephew of J.P. Morgan) was killed in the accident, which a later investigation revealed was caused when Morgan fell asleep with his foot obstructing the pilot's controls. Nevertheless, bad publicity surrounding the accident put Astor's company out of business. Grumman and a fellow worker named Leon Swirbul purchased the airline from Astor and later transformed it into a manufacturing company, building amphibious floats for Loening aircraft.

Unlike other aircraft manufacturers who entered the business as barnstormers or hobbyists, Leroy Grumman was a graduate of the Cornell University engineering school. Leon Swirbul was a product of the disciplined military aviation program. Both men continued to work for the Loening brothers while operating their own company, which they had named Grumman Aircraft Engineering. However, when Keystone Aircraft purchased Loening Aeronautical in 1928, the entire operation was moved to Keystone's headquarters in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Grumman and Swirbul decided to remain in Long Island and operate their own company.

After building a number of experimental airplanes, Grumman Aircraft manufactured its first fighter, designated the FF-1, for the Navy in 1932. This design was improved upon in subsequent models and led to the development of the successful F4F Wildcat, Grumman's first fighter with folding wings. With folded wings, twice as many airplanes could be stored on an aircraft carrier as before. The company also manufactured a line of "flying boats" called the Goose and the Duck.

Coincidentally, a second factory for manufacturing warplanes was dedicated by Grumman on the morning of December 7, 1941, as the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor. At the outset of the war Grumman had an advantage over non-military manufacturers because the company didn't require retooling. Automobile manufacturers, for instance, had to be converted from the production of cars and trucks to battle tanks and airplanes, assembly lines for sewing machines had to be refitted to produce machine guns. Grumman's only task was to increase its output and develop new airplane designs.

During the war, Grumman developed new aircraft such as the amphibious J4F Widgeon, the TBF Avenger naval attack bomber, and a successor to the Wildcat called the F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat was developed in response to the Mitsubishi Zero, a highly maneuverable Japanese fighter with a powerful engine. Grumman aircraft were used almost exclusively in the Pacific war against Japan, and provided the American carrier forces with the power to repel many Japanese naval and aerial attacks. U.S. Secretary of Navy Forrestal later said, "In my opinion, Grumman saved Guadalcanal."

No other aircraft manufacturer received such high praise from the military. Grumman was the first company to be awarded an "E" by the U.S. government for excellence in its work. The award further increased the high morale at Grumman. The Grumman company turned out over 500 airplanes per month. To maintain that level of productivity the company provided a number of services to its workers, including day care, personnel counseling, auto repair, and errand running. In addition, employees were substantially rewarded for their efficient work. The company had always had an excellent relationship with its employees, largely as a result of policies set down by Leon Swirbul, who oversaw production and employee relations while Grumman involved himself in design, engineering, and financial matters. By the end of the war, Grumman had produced over 17,000 aircraft.

The sudden termination of government contracts after the war seriously affected companies such as Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell Douglas, as well as Grumman. Many aircraft companies first looked to the commercial airliner market as an opportunity to maintain both their scale of operation and profitability. The market suddenly became highly competitive. Although Grumman manufactured commercial aircraft, it elected to remain out of the passenger transport business. Those companies which did manufacture commercial transports lost money, and some even went out of business. Grumman continued to conduct most of its business with the Navy. In addition to its F7F Tigercat and F8F Bearcat, the company developed a number of new aircraft, including the AF-2 Guardian and the F9F Panther and F10F Jaguar, Grumman's first jet airplanes.

During the 1950s, Grumman developed two new amphibious airplanes called the Mallard and Albatross new jets included the Tiger, Cougar and Intruder. It also diversified its product line by introducing aluminum truck bodies, canoes and small boats. In 1960, Grumman's co-founder Leon Swirbul died.

Grumman created a subsidiary in 1962 called Grumman Allied. The subsidiary was established to operate and coordinate all of the company's non-aeronautical business, and allow management to concentrate on its aerospace ventures. When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) completed its Mercury and Gemini space programs, it turned its attention to fulfilling the challenge made by the late President Kennedy, namely, landing a man on the moon before 1970. The Apollo program called for several moon landings, each using two spaceships. The command modules, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, were intended to orbit the moon while the lunar modules, built by Grumman, landed on the moon. Grumman's contract with NASA specified construction of 15 lunar modules, ten test modules and two mission simulators. Only 12, however, were actually built.

Design problems already faced by Grumman engineers were compounded by their limited knowledge of the lunar surface. The lunar modules had to meet unusual crisis-scenario specifications, such as hard landings, landings on steep inclines, and a variety of system failures. Nine thousand Grumman personnel were devoted to the lunar module project, representing a reorientation of the company's business--Grumman had entered the aerospace industry.

The United States made its first manned moon landing in July 1969, with several more to follow through 1972. Grumman's spaceships performed almost flawlessly and represented a new and special relationship between the company and NASA. Grumman was later chosen by NASA to build the six-foot thick wings for the agency's space shuttles.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, Grumman maintained a good relationship with the Pentagon. While that relationship continued to be good during the 1970s, it was marked by a serious disagreement over the delivery of 313 of Grumman's F-14 Tomcat fighter jets. At issue was who was to pay for cost overruns on a government-ordered project--the company or the taxpayer? Grumman was losing $1 million per F-14 and refused to deliver any more to the Navy until its losses were covered. The company pleaded its case in full-page advertisements in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post . Grumman argued that completion of the contract under the present terms would bankrupt the company. The matter was later resolved when the Defense Department agreed to cover Grumman's losses, and the company agreed to a new contract procedure which would automatically review project costs on an annual basis and make adjustments when necessary.

Grumman's swing-wing F-14s became operational in 1973 and soon established itself as the standard carrier-based fighter jet for the U.S. Navy. Assigned to intercept attacking jets and protect carrier battle groups, the Tomcat had variable geometry wings that swept back when it was sprinting and swept out when it was landing. It could independently track 24 targets and destroy six of them at a time. F-14s performed successfully in intermittent raids and dogfights with Libyan pilots over the Gulf of Sidra.

In addition to the F-14, Grumman manufactured the E-2C Hawkeye, an early warning airborne command center able to track over 600 objects within three million cubic miles of airspace. The Israeli Air Force used E-2Cs to direct its air battles with Syrian pilots over Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in 1982. During those battles, Syria lost 92 of its Soviet-built MiGs while Israel lost only two of its jets. In the Falkland Islands War, Britain's HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Exocet missile launched from an Argentine Super Etendard attack jet. U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman asserted that if the British had an E-2C in the Falklands, they would have had unchallenged air superiority and would not have lost any ships to Exocet missiles. Both examples illustrated the value of the Hawkeye.

The Navy's A-6 Intruder attack bomber and EA-6B Prowler radar jammer were also manufactured by Grumman, which also re-manufactured 42 General Dynamics F-111 bombers for the U.S. Air Force. The new aircraft, designated EF-111, was designed to jam enemy radar surveillance "from the Baltic to the Adriatic." According to Grumman's chairperson Jack Bierwirth, "it's one of the great exercises to fly this plane against the E-2C." This volley of electronic countermeasures showed the extent to which Grumman's only competition for a long time was itself.

The electronic sophistication of Grumman's aircraft invited criticism from military reformers who argued that modern weapons had become too complex and therefore unmanageable. In the 1970s, these reformers, led by Gary Hart, widely publicized this view. The ultimate success of their movement could have had disastrous effects for Grumman. Following the costly disagreement over the F-14, the company's long term viability was threatened even more by these reformers under the Carter Administration.

Continued attempts to sell F-14s to foreign governments failed, as did lobbying efforts to sell more of the jets to the U.S. Navy. Consequently, Grumman made an effort to diversify its product line. The strategy was ambitious but failed. The company's Dormavac freight refrigerators had no market (losing $46 million), and its Ecosystems environmental management and research venture was unable to turn a profit, resulting in losses of $50 million.

In 1978, Grumman acquired the curiously named Flxible bus division from Rohr Industries. Many of the buses developed cracked undercarriage components, prompting some customers (such as the City of New York) to pull all of their Flxible buses out of service. Grumman filed a $500 million suit against Rohr, alleging that details of design flaws were not revealed prior to the sale. The suit was dismissed in court. Grumman's losses in this venture approached $200 million before the entire division was sold to General Automotive in 1983 for $41 million.

In 1981, Grumman faced a hostile takeover from LTV Corporation, a steel, electronics, and aircraft conglomerate based in Texas. Grumman's workers mobilized an enthusiastic demonstration of support for their company's resistance to LTV. Leroy Grumman, who retired from the company in 1972, raised employee morale when he voiced his support of the opposition to the LTV takeover attempt. A U.S. Court of Appeals later rejected LTV's bid to take over Grumman on the grounds that it would reduce competition in the aerospace and defense industries.

Leroy Grumman died the following year after a long illness. It was widely reported that Grumman was blinded in 1946 by a severe allergic reaction to penicillin administered during treatment of pneumonia. In fact, Grumman was not blinded. His eyesight did, however, begin to deteriorate many years later as his health began to wane.

The Grumman Corporation faced another threat when it became involved in a scandal involving illegal bribes to government officials in Iran and Japan. After the Lockheed Corporation was accused of such improprieties, the sales practices of other defense contractors such as Grumman came under scrutiny. During the investigation of Grumman, a Japanese official named Mitsuhiro Shimada committed suicide.

After the investigations subsided, the companies in question were free to concentrate all their efforts on more constructive matters. Grumman engineers, however, had something highly unconventional on their drawing boards. Grumman's chairperson, Jack Bierwirth, was credited with saying, "If you don't invest in research and development, you damned well aren't going to accomplish anything." With that in mind, Grumman, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, developed a special jet called the X-29 specifically to demonstrate the company's advanced technology. The revolutionary feature of the X-29 was that its wings swept forward, appearing to have been mounted backwards. This feature gave the X-29 superior maneuverability. To counteract the inherent instability of such a design, the X-29 was equipped with a Honeywell computer system which readjusted the canards (wing controls) 40 times a second, maintaining stable flight.

The X-29 was tested under the auspices of NASA during 1984 and 1985. Never intended for mass production, only one X-29 was built as a "technology demonstrator." Bierwirth described projects such as the X-29 as "marrying electronics with computer programming, then putting wings on it."

John Cocks Bierwirth, a former naval officer, became Grumman's chairperson and chief executive officer in 1976. Regarding his mission as "essentially building the corporation of the future," Bierwirth divided Grumman's operations into nine divisions under centralized management. According to Bierwirth, Grumman's future was with aircraft, space, and electronics. However, work on such projects as a new post office truck were designed to maintain a stable and diverse product line. Bierwirth claimed, "We think we are a good investment for people who are interested in the long term and are willing to grow with the company Grumman is not a three month in-and-out investment."

Grumman's investments in research projects, however, did not prove as successful as Bierwirth hoped. Throughout the 1980s, with the notable exceptions of contracts for F-14 fighters and A-6 attack aircraft, Grumman was hobbled by research projects and product introductions that failed miserably. The company's diversification into the production of buses began the decade's string of failures, portending further mishaps to follow. The 851 Flxible buses purchased by New York's Metropolitan Transport Authority in 1980 were withdrawn from service three years later after repeated breakdowns, a failed venture for which Grumman paid $40 million in 1988 to settle legal claims against it. Other problems riddled the company, none larger nor more damaging in the long-term than its overwhelming dependence on government-funded military contracts. As Grumman's debt rose, exacerbated by research projects that swallowed vast amounts of cash and generated little profit, the company increasingly weakened, staggering, by the end of the decade, on untenable ground.

In 1988, the company named a new chief executive officer, John O'Brien, whose selection augured a return to more profitable days. O'Brien later became chairperson but resigned in 1990 amid allegations of illegal activities. He later plead guilty to bank fraud stemming from an investigation into bribery and political corruption, adding the public relations scandal and the financial charges that followed to Grumman's host of troubles. O'Brien's replacement was Renso L. Caporali, a Grumman employee since 1959, who began steering the embattled company in a positive direction.

Under Caporali's stewardship, Grumman experienced wholesale changes. The company's debt, which had risen to as high as $884 million in 1989, was trimmed 60 percent in the first three years of his tenure, payroll was reduced from a peak of 33,700 in 1987 to 21,000 by 1993, and Grumman's headquarters staff was cut by more than half. Perhaps more important, Caporali attempted to wean Grumman away from subsisting on military aircraft contracts by tapping the company's established expertise in data technology to produce tax processing systems for the Internal Revenue Service. Also, Caporali used the company's knowledge of integrating electronics and data systems. Caporali thus oversaw one of Grumman's few success stories in the past decade when the company's work on the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) program met with high praise in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Although Grumman could not expect to garner any profit from its involvement with the JSTARS project until 1994, the success of the project, triumphantly hailed by General Norman Schwarzkopf, was a public relations boon for company plagued by scandals and misfortune.

Although Grumman's condition was improving, it continued to rely on the federal government for the bulk of its revenues. In 1992, Grumman derived roughly 90 percent of its $3.5 billion in revenues from the government, an alarming percentage for a market sector experiencing little growth. Seemingly entrenched in this unenviable position, Grumman, pundits speculated, either needed to acquire additional business or be acquired itself. The latter occurred, leading to a bidding war for Grumman between the Martin Marietta Corporation and Northrop Corporation, which reached its climax in mid-1994, when Northrop emerged as the winner and acquired Grumman for $2.1 billion.

With its acquisition, Northrop gained the electronic surveillance expertise of Grumman as well as its established ties with the U.S. Navy, which complemented Northrop's long history of conducting business with the U.S. Air Force. Merged together, Northrop and Grumman, under the stewardship of Northrop's chief executive officer and chairperson, Kent Kresa, represented a larger force to navigate the turbulent waters characterizing the aerospace industry in the post-Cold War era.

Principal Subsidiaries: Grumman Aerospace Corp. Grumman Allied Industries, Inc. Grumman Data Systems Corp.

Biddle, Wayne, "Meditations on a Merger: Grumman-Northrop, Etc.," The Nation, June 20, 1994, p. 87.
"Fighting Fit: Martin Marietta and Grumman," The Economist, March 12, 1994, p. 75.
Grover, Ronald, and Dean Foust, "Firefight in the Defense Industry," Business Week, March 28, 1994, p. 31.
Norman, James R., "Ninth Life?," Forbes, April 26, 1993, p. 72.
Pellegrino, Charles R., and Joshua Stoff , Chariots for Apollo: The Making of The Lunar Module, New York: Atheneum, 1985.
Ropelewski, Robert, "Grumman Corp: Destined for Diversification," Interavia Aerospace World, March 1993, p. 18.
"Shooting Star Grumman," The Economist, May 25, 1991, p. 76.
Thruelsen, Richard , The Grumman Story, New York: Praegeri, 1976.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories , Vol. 11. St. James Press, 1995.

Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher - History


Grumman F6F Hellcat N4994V in the United States in 1968 (Eric S Favelle)

Country of origin:


Single-seat carrier-borne fighter

Power Plant:

One 1,492 kw (2,000 hp) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp eighteen-cylinder two-row air-cooled radial engine with two-stage two-speed supercharger



Six 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Colt-Browning machine guns in wings


One of the most successful fighter aircraft of World War II, the Grumman Hellcat was a development of the Grumman Wildcat fitted with a Double Wasp engine providing 1,492 kw (2,000 hp), the prototype, the XF6F-1, flying at Bethpage on Long Island, New York on 26 June 1942 the second prototype, the XF6F-3, flying six weeks later on 30 July 1942.

To produce the new design a new facility was built on Long Island and the first Hellcats were delivered to United States Navy (USN) Squadron VF-9 on 16 January 1943. During the following months this unit took up assignment on board the aircraft carrier ‘USS Essex’. By the end of 1943 the Hellcat was almost exclusively the fighter attached to all fast and light US Navy aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

The type was also used as a fighter bomber, one operation occurring on 5 November 1943 when F6F-3s from the ‘USS Princeton’ and ‘USS Saratoga’ provided combat air patrols for a bomber force attacking Rabaul in New Britain, PNG, which was then in Japanese hands. The first real test of the type occurred on 4 December that year when 91 F6F-3s supported a strike on shipping at Kwajalein and airfields on Roi Island, when 50 Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sens were encountered and 28 were destroyed for the loss of three Hellcats.

Production of the F6F-3 amounted to 4,403 aircraft. One variant was the F6F-3P for high-altitude photo reconnaissance. Others were fitted out for night fighting. Production continued throughout the war and, when it reached its conclusion in November 1945, some 12,275 had been completed, the last model being the XF6F-6.

Development led to the F6F-5, which had aerodynamic improvements, a re-designed engine cowling, new ailerons and strengthened tail surfaces. The engine remained the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 but was the R-2800-10W variant with a water injection system which provided an additional 10 per cent power for limited periods. The first F6F-5 flew on 4 April 1944. Some later aircraft had two machine guns replaced by 20 mm cannon and were able to carry two 454 kg (1,000 lb) bombs or six 12.7 cm (5 in) rocket projectiles. The Hellcat was credited with 4,947 of the 6,477 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air by US Navy pilots.

Great Britain received the Hellcat under Lend-Lease arrangements, a total of 252 F5F-3s being delivered and serving with Fleet Air Arm (FAA) Squadrons under the designation Hellcat F Mk I. Hellcats on board British aircraft carriers ‘HMS Victorious’, ‘HMS Furious’, ‘HMS Searcher’, ‘HMS Pursuer’ and ‘HMS Fencer’ were involved in providing cover for aircraft attacking the German battleship ‘Tirpitz’ in Norway in March 1943. Most operational use of British Hellcats occurred in the Far East Theatre. Later the Royal Navy received 930 F6F-5s and 80 F6F-5N night fighters and these were designated F Mk II and NF Mk II. British Hellcats participated in major actions against Japanese targets, particularly the attacks on oil refineries in Sumatra in January 1945.

Late in World War II a number of Royal Navy units continued for a period to operate the Hellcat in this region, being based at naval stations including ‘HMS Nabberly’ at Bankstown, NSW, and ‘HMS Nabthorpe’ at Schofields, NSW. These units included Nos 706, 885, 1840 and 1845 Squadrons, Royal Navy. In addition No 723 Squadron, which was formed in the United Kingdom with Miles Martinet target towing aircraft, operated the Martinet from Schofields and Nowra and also, after World War II, had a small number of Hellcats and Corsairs on strength. Most were reported to have been returned to the United States of America under the terms of Lend-Lease.

However, it would appear many, if not all, Royal Navy Grumman Hellcats, Chance Vought Corsairs and Grumman Avengers were off-loaded from their carriers in Sydney, NSW and taken to Bankstown, where they were stored in the open. Some of these were broken up at the aerodrome, but many others were taken to the docks in Sydney, placed on board ships and taken to sea where they were dumped over the side, or fired pilotless off the catapults. Occasionally parts of these have been caught in fishing nets of fishing trawlers.

On Thursday, 17 January 1946, the ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper in Sydney announced 720 Navy planes were to be scrapped and dumped off the coast. It stated “a further 300 carrier planes of the British Pacific Fleet will be dumped into the sea off Sydney Heads in the next 10 weeks”. Later “the British Navy will dump another 420 planes, including wrecks…Some of the planes only recently uncrated and assembled, have never been flown in Australia…included Lend-Lease aircraft and involve Avengers, Barracudas, Hellcats and Corsairs…the planes are mostly single seater types which could not be put to civilian use, were obsolescent and some had no salvage value”.

The Hellcat continued in service with the US Navy and US Marine Corps after the war, a number being converted to target drones. The type also saw service in the ground-attack role in French Indo-China from 1950 when Grumman Hellcats were supplied as part of American support for France in its battle with Viet Minh forces. Others were supplied as part of the United States Mutual Air Program to the air forces of Argentina and Uruguay where they served up to 1961.

A number of examples have survived and have been privately operated by warbird enthusiasts in Europe and the United States. A number have also survived in museums.

Grumman Wildcat of HMS Searcher - History

Vought SB2U Vindicators were featured in the 1941 Warner Bros. film Dive Bomber.

The SB2U is prominently featured in the 1941 film Dive Bomber.

The Vought SB2U Vindicator is an American carrier-based dive bomber developed for the United States Navy in the 1930s, the first monoplane in this role. Obsolete at the outbreak of World War II, Vindicators still remained in service at the time of the Battle of Midway, but by 1943, all had been withdrawn to training units. It was known as the Chesapeake in Royal Navy service.

The SB2U was evaluated against the Brewster XSBA-1, Curtiss XSBC-3, Great Lakes XB2G-1, Grumman XSBF-1 and Northrop XBT-1. All but the Great Lakes and Grumman submissions were ordered into production. Designated XSB2U-1, one prototype was ordered on 15 October 1934 and was delivered on 15 April 1936. Accepted for operational evaluation on 2 July 1936, the prototype XSB2U-1, BuNo 9725, crashed on 20 August 1936. Its successful completion of trials led to further orders.

Historically significant U.S. Navy aircraft have been located and recovered by A and T Recovery, these include the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber Bureau Number 2106 which survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway the only Vought SB2U Vindicator Scout-Bomber known to exist, the Grumman F6F Hellcat Fighter Bureau Number 25910, and an extremely rare early "Bird Cage" Vought F4U-1 Corsair. The following are examples of the many A and T Recovery rescued aircraft and their present display locations:

In early December 1941, Lexington was ferrying 18 U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers to Midway Atoll and at that time she embarked 65 of her own aircraft, including 17 Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters. During the Wake Island relief expedition later that month, Saratogas air group consisted of 13 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters, 42 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 11 Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers. The ship also carried 14 Marine Corps Buffalos for delivery at Wake. Before the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in mid-1942, Saratogas air group consisted of 90 aircraft, comprising 37 Wildcats, 37 Dauntlesses and 16 Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. In early 1945, the ship carried 53 Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters and 17 Avengers.

Ordered on 30 June 1934, and entered into a US Navy competition for new bomber aircraft to operate from its aircraft carriers, the Douglas entry was one of the winners of the competition. Other aircraft ordered for production as a result of the competition included the Brewster SBA, the Vought SB2U Vindicator, and the Northrop BT-1 which would evolve into the SBD Dauntless.

Hill earned his wings as a United States Naval Aviator in 1939 and joined the fleet as a TBD Devastator torpedo bomber pilot aboard the USS Saratoga, before joining a Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bomber squadron aboard.

The principal aircraft depicted in Dive Bomber are Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers and Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, although many other types are included, especially parked, as backdrops. The N3N Canary trainers were the primary type in use at Naval Air Station North Island and are featured prominently in the flight training sequence.

During World War II, as a contractor within the Civilian Repair Organisation, Heston Aircraft Company was heavily engaged in repair and other support work on military aircraft. From late 1940, Heston Aircraft played a major role in modifying Supermarine Spitfires for the photographic reconnaissance task. The company equipped the Spitfires with vertical and oblique cameras, additional fuel tanks, and modified cockpit canopies. Many marks of Spitfire were repaired at Heston throughout the war. Other types to be repaired and modified included the Fairchild Argus, Fairey Battle and the naval Vought SB2U Vindicator.

Captain Richard Eugene Fleming (November 2, 1917 – June 5, 1942) was a United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in World War II during the Battle of Midway. Fleming piloted a Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bomber in an attack on the.

Cleland joined the Navy and became a naval aviator shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He married Ora Lee Cleland during his flight training. After graduation he was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Wasp flying the Vought SB2U Vindicator and Douglas SBD dive bombers, providing close air support for the initial Guadalcanal landings. Cleland was on the Wasp when she was sunk in September 1942, spending over 4 hours in the water, waiting for rescue.

Nearing the end of his three years as a Naval aviator, Guyton attended a TWA ground school for the DC-3 aircraft. With only a few weeks remaining at NAS North Island, Guyton reluctantly accepted a position to join TWA as a co-pilot. However, with just days remaining in the Navy, Guyton met a factory representative from Vought-Sikorsky and subsequently landed a test-pilot position for Vought teaching the French Navy to fly American dive-bombers. His last day as a Navy pilot was July 16, 1939. Guyton spent the next three days at Vought's Stratford, Connecticut factory in a “study in frenzy”, preparing for France and learning as much as possible about the SB2U Vindicator (the French version of that plane had been dubbed the V-156) before departing for Paris.

Hiryū reinforced the CAP with launches of 3 more Zeros at 08:25. These fresh Zeros helped defeat the next American air strike from Midway, 11 Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers from VMSB-241, which attacked the battleship Haruna starting around 08:30. Haruna escaped damage and 3 of the Vindicators were shot down. Although all the American air strikes had thus far caused negligible damage, they kept the Japanese carrier forces off-balance as Nagumo endeavored to prepare a response to news, received at 08:20, of the sighting of American carrier forces to his northeast.

After a short stint at Spartan Aircraft, Beisel became Assistant Chief Engineer at Chance Vought in 1931. He was the lead designer for the innovative SBU-1 and SB2U Vindicator scout/bombers, and in 1934 received the Manley Memorial Medal (SAE) and the Wright Brothers Medal for Cowling and Cooling of Radial Air-Cooled Aircraft Engines, a technical paper he co-authored. Promoted to Chief Engineer at Vought, Beisel headed up the design team that produced the F4U Corsair, the first fighter aircraft to exceed a speed of 400 mph in level flight with a full military load. Beisel’s ingenious design combined the most powerful engine available with the largest diameter propeller ever built. The Corsair became one of the most famous fighters of the Second World War and played an important role in establishing Allied dominance of the air in the Pacific. Beisel also served as lead designer for Vought's first jet-powered carrier fighter, the F7U Cutlass. Though having several advanced features, it, like many early jets, was underpowered and unreliable. Its tall front landing strut and problems with the ejection seat made it particularly dangerous for pilots, and by 1956, after a series of accidents, it had been withdrawn from service by the Navy.

811 Squadron was reformed in July 1941 at RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus), near Portsmouth, as a torpedo-bomber reconnaissance squadron, and was equipped with two Sea Hurricanes and fourteen American Vought SB2U Vindicators, which the British called the "Chesapeake". The squadron also received two former civilian Avro 652s (the precursor to the Avro Anson) which they operated until March 1942. The Chesapeake's were part of an order originally placed by the French Navy in March 1940, but after the fall of France the order was taken over by the British. The aircraft were fitted with an additional fuel tank and armour, and the single French 7.5 mm Darne machine gun was replaced by four British machine guns. It was intended that they be used as anti-submarine patrol aircraft operating from the escort carrier, but it was soon realised that the Chesapeake lacked the power to fly from such a small vessel while carrying a useful load, and they were reassigned to training squadrons in November 1941, and the squadron received Swordfish Mk.2's as replacements.

At the Battle of Midway, Marine Corps SBDs were not as effective. One squadron, VMSB-241, flying from Midway Atoll, was not trained in the techniques of dive-bombing with their new Dauntlesses (having just partially converted from the SB2U Vindicator ). Instead, its pilots resorted to the slower but easier glide bombing technique. This led to many of the SBDs being shot down when they became vulnerable during their glide, although one survivor from these attacks is now on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum and is the last surviving aircraft to fly in the battle. On the other hand, the carrier-borne squadrons were effective, especially when they were escorted by their Grumman F4F Wildcat teammates. The success of dive bombing was due to one important circumstance:

The squadron was formed as Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 143 (VMSB-143) on March 1, 1943 at Naval Air Station San Diego, California. Equipped with Vought SB2U Vindicators, after training the unit departed the United States on October 15, 1942 on the SS Lurline. Upon arriving at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal on November 12, 1942 the squadron was transitioned to the Douglas SBD Dauntless. The squadron was also augmented with nine Grumman TBF Avengers shortly after arrival at Henderson Field.

The Vought XSB3U was an American biplane scout bomber developed by Vought-Sikorsky for the United States Navy during the 1930s. Developed as an alternative to the SB2U Vindicator monoplane, the aircraft proved unsatisfactory to the Navy in comparison, and development was not pursued.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

The Wildcat first took to the air on September 2, 1937. Although records show it to be a successful fighter, during World War II it was outclassed in several areas (maneuverability, climb speed, and service ceiling) by its nemesis, the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero.” But American pilots overcame the Wildcat’s shortcomings with tactics, such as the Thatch Weave (developed by Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Thatch), a criss-cross pattern flown by a pair of F4Fs to cover each other against attackers. General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division also built Wildcats, under the FM-2 designation. In fact, more Wildcats were built by Eastern than by Grumman. A float-equipped version, known as the Wildcatfish, was tested, but the rapid expansion of land bases and of the escort carrier fleet ended the need for an amphibious airplane. (Britain’s Royal Navy also flew the fighter, dubbing it the Martlet.)

FM-2 Specs
Span:  38 ft. 0 in.
Length:  28 ft. 11 in.
Height:  9 ft. 11 in.
Empty Weight:  5,448 lbs.
Max Speed:  332 mph
Normal Range:  900 mi.
Ceiling:  34,700 ft.

HMS Searcher (D 40)

Transferred to the Royal Navy under lend-lease.
Returned to the United States Navy on 29 November 1945.
Stricken by the United States Navy on 7 February 1946.
Sold into merchantile service being renamed Captain Theo.
Renamed Oriental Banker in 1965.
Scrapped in Taiwan in April 1976.

Commands listed for HMS Searcher (D 40)

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1Capt. Gerald Oulton Colthurst Davies, RN15 Feb 194323 Jan 1945
2Capt. John William Grant, DSO, RN23 Jan 1945Oct 1945 ?

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Notable events involving Searcher include:

21 Apr 1944

Operations Planet, Ridge and Veritas.

On 21 April 1944, two forces departed Scapa Flow for operations off Norway, these were divided in two groups

Force 7 was made up of the battleship HMS Anson (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.R. Moore, KCB, DSO, CVO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, CBE, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSO, DSC, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Kent (Capt. G.A.B. Hawkins, DSC, MVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kempenfelt (Capt. M.L. Power, OBE, RN), HMS Venus (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson DSO, RN), HMS Vigilant (Lt.Cdr. L.W.L. Argles, RN), HMCS Algonquin (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Piers, DSC, RCN), HMCS Sioux (A/Lt.Cdr. E.E.G. Boak, RCN), HMS Swift (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Gower, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. R.M.W. MacFarlan, RN).

Force 8 was made up of the light cruisers HMS Royalist (Capt. M.H. Evelegh, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T. Bisset, RN), HMS Jamaica (Capt. J. Hugh-Hallett, DSO, RN), escort carriers HMS Emperor (A/Capt. T.J.N. Hilken, DSO, RN), HMS Pursuer (A/Capt. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Searcher (Capt. G.O.C. Davies, RN), HMS Striker (Capt. W.P. Carne, RN) and the destroyers HMS Serapis (Capt. P.G.L. Serapis, DSC, RN), HMS Ursa (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, DSC, RN), HMS Undaunted (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Mackenzie, RD, RNR), HMS Wakeful (Lt.Cdr. G.D. Pound, DSC, RN), HMS Wizard (Lt.Cdr. D.T. McBarnet, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. T. Gorazdowski) and HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. P.B.N. Lewis, DSC, RN).

Operation Planet

The target date for this operation was 24 April 1944. When the forces arrived in the operations area on 23 April the weather forecasts were unsuitable and they reversed course for 24 hours but the weather to following day was equally bad. Both forces proceeded to the flying off position but there was no improvement in the weather so Vice-Admiral Moore decided to cancel the operation. Both forces then proceeded as for Operation Ridge.

In the meantime the destroyers HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin had been detached to fuel at the Faroes where they arrived on the 24th. After fuelling they were instructed to wait there for further orders.

Operation Ridge.

Operation Ridge was originally intended to be carried out in two parts 'Ridge Able' was to be an attack on shipping in the Bodo area by Force 7 and 'Ridge Baker' was to be an attack on shipping in the Rorvik area by Force 8.

In the event it was decided that both forces were to carry out 'Ridge Able' in two stikes, one attacking Bodo harbour and the other sweeping the leads to the southward.

The two forces arrived at the flying off position at dawn on 26 April 1944. Weather conditions were not ideal and were worse inshore and in the end both strikes attacked the same target - an escorted convoy of 4 or 5 merchant ships in approximate position 67.06'N, 13.57'E at about 0600 hours. The convoy was southbound, presumebly having left Bodo about one hour previously. Four merchant ships and one escort vessel were claimed to have been hit with bombs. The largest merchant ship was reported beached and burning. Two other were also seen to be on fire.

[The convoy attacked was en-route from Narvik to Germany with iron oreand was made up of four merchant vessels Eugenio C. (4094 GRT, built 1928), Itauri (6838 GRT, built 1923), Leena (1079 GRT, built 1905) and Lotte Leonhardt (4167 GRT, built 1937). It was being escorted by the patrol vessels V 5905 / Varanger and V 5906 / Nordpol. The Eugenio C., Itauri and Lotte Leonhardt were sunk while the V 5905 was damaged.]

Besides the attack on the convoy two Barracudas and several fighters attacked Bodo harbour in spite of the weather. One hit was claimed on a large merchant ship. Two other Barracudas attacked a derelict merchant vessel that was ashore. They obtained at least one hit.

One Barracuda, two Corsairs, one Hellcat and one Wildcat were lost during the attacks. Another Hellcat crashed while landing on HMS Emperor.

At 0730/26, HMS Victorious, HMS Kent and two destroyers (HMS Venus and HMS Vigilant) parted company to conduct operation 'Veritas' (see below). The remainder of Forces 7 and 8 set course to return to Scapa Flow where they arrived on the 28th. HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin also returned with them having joined Force 8 on the 27th having departed the Faroes on the 26th.

Operation Veritas.

On leaving Force 7, the 'Victorious'-Force proceeed to the flying off position (69°31'N, 12°50'E). Reconnaissance flights were to be carried out for a possible future amphibious assault on Narvik. The flying off position was reached at 1620/26 and six Corsairs with long range fuel tanks were launched for the operation.

The aircraft returned to HMS Victorious almost two hours later. One Corsair had machine gunned a tanker on the way back starting a small fire amidships. All aircraft landed safely despite the difficult conditions due to the weather. ( 1 )

22 Feb 1945
HMS Totem (A/Lt.Cdr. M.B. St. John, DSC, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area during with HMS Searcher (Capt. J.W. Grant, DSO, RN). ( 2 )

15 Mar 1945
HMS Trusty (Lt. H.S. May, RN) conducts exercises with HMS Searcher (Capt. J.W. Grant, DSO, RN). ( 3 )

4 May 1945
German U-boat U-711 was sunk at Kilbotn, near Harstad, Norway, in position 68°43,7'N, 16°34,6'E, by depth charges from Avenger and Wildcat aircraft (846, 853 and 882 Sqn FAA) of the British escort carriers HMS Searcher, HMS Trumpeter and HMS Queen.

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

Watch the video: Grumman Wildcat. Curator on the Loose!