Battle of the Atlantic 80 – Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

The pressing need to provide air cover for the convoys demonstrated only too clearly the strategic importance of carrier borne aircraft to bridge the gap. With the larger fleet aircraft carriers deployed in the Mediterranean, the Fleet Air Arm, displaying typical resolve and determination, rose to the challenge.
Desperate times called for desperate measures and early in the war, under Churchill’s direction, reinforced Sea Hurricanes were carried to the mid-Atlantic and launched by rocket powered catapult from merchant ships. For a short time these Catapult Armed Merchant (CAM) vessels and Naval Fighter Catapult Ships (NFCS) became vital, keeping the Kondor threat at bay until escort carriers and aircraft became available.
The pilots of these aircraft were extraordinarily courageous as they took off knowing that on completion of their mission, their only recovery option was to bale out or ditch in the sea and hope to be picked up by their mother ship or another ship in the area.
One naval CAM pilot, Sub Lt David Wright (A) RNVR of 804 Naval Air Squadron, described his first launch as terrifying.

“It was like sitting on an exploding bomb”.

CAM pilot, Sub Lt David Wright (A) RNVR

The first naval pilot to launch from a NFCS ship, shoot down a Kondor and survive his subsequent ditching, was Lt Bob Everett RN who was awarded the DSO. Nine German aircraft were shot down by Navy and RAF CAM pilots, an outstanding feat of airmanship and co-operation between the services.