Tuesday 7th February; 7:30pm
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“NIHIL OBSTAT – One man’s War in 825 NAS”
One man's war in the Battle of the Atlantic
May 2023 officially marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic – a theatre of global conflict that Churchill acknowledged as vital to our ultimate victory. During the first two years of the battle – the Allies were singularly ill prepared and naive against a determined and powerful enemy and losses were high. The Allies needed to innovate and succeed at many levels; Intelligence, Tactics, Co-ordination, Weaponry and Technology. One of the key tactics introduced by the Royal Navy to deal with the U Boat threat was the small “Escort Carrier”, operating a complement of aircraft in the Anti Submarine (A/S) role protecting North Atlantic convoys.
Tudors talk will focus on the experiences of his father, an Observer flying in Swordfish aircraft, whilst serving in 825 NAS. The famous squadron re-formed late in 1942 after the ill-fated “Channel Dash” sortie. The talk is not about the Fairey Swordfish; whose illustrious history and exploits have been covered extensively elsewhere in other books and films. Rather, using his fathers flying logbook and assisted by additional research at the Fleet Air Arm Museum and elsewhere, the talk describes the personal experiences of one RNVR Observer in a front line FAA squadron during 1943 and 1944.
The aircrews flew in any and all weathers over a grey featureless ocean, looking for surfaced U-Boats or periscope trails, freezing in open cockpits in obsolete aircraft. Finding a blacked out carrier, a postage stamp in the ocean using dead reckoning, at night and landing on a pitching deck after long 4 hour sorties – required skill, teamwork, concentration and determination. These were brave men and their attrition rate was high.
As we reflect now – this is ultimately is a tribute to all the men and women who served to win the Battle of the Atlantic.
Tudor Rees is an amateur historian specialising in the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. His family have a long connection with the Royal Navy. During WW1 his grandfather fought in the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland. Earlier ancestors served in the US War of Independence (on both sides!) and with Captain Cook discovering the New World. During WW2 Tudors’ father volunteered for service in the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and his mother the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Tudor is interested in understanding the human stories of conflict and has worked as a mentor for the charity SSAFA.
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