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Swordfish HS554 comes home.

Constructed by the Blackburn Aircraft Co. in 1942 this airframe served with the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy before being retired from service in 1946. Navy Wings is delighted to welcome to HS554 to the Navy Wings associate aircraft collection. Tom Smith, who along with his father was instrumental in bringing her back home from Canada, tells the story of her journey back to the UK.

‘Swordfish HS554 came to us from Canada in the middle of summer last year, being such a big aircraft it took some clever packing and the Canadians at Vintage Wings of Canada did a good job. Getting her out of the two sea containers in the middle of the July heatwave was, whilst thrilling, an intense two day ordeal which I wouldn’t want to repeat. I would not have got anywhere without the help and ingenuity of several very handy individuals.

Since she moved to her new home at White Waltham it has been a constant education but we are making progress on all fronts. The engine, which was the cause of some consternation over in Canada, is in excellent hands and will someday lift this often under celebrated aircraft back into the air. The airframe itself is in good condition and was airworthy prior to the engine trouble. We hope it will give us little trouble too, so far so good. Paperwork seems to be the biggest mountain but I think entirely manageable, nonetheless.

We decided to take on the Swordfish for several reasons. My grandfather was an observer in the Fleet Air Arm during the war, he flew in Swordfish, Barracuda, Albacore and later Avengers and various others. I have his logbook and his navigational notes which illustrate the constant challenge those unimaginably brave naval airmen faced. We thought that to pass up on an opportunity to bring a part of that history back to the UK would be a shame and a bit faint hearted of us. Fairey Aviation was based at White Waltham for a time after the war and it is a fantastic opportunity to represent that part of the airfield’s history also. The thought of three Swordfish in formation together again was too tantalising a concept to resist, we hope we can realise it one day’.

It is fantastic to welcome another Swordfish to the Navy Wings Associate collection and this particular example HS554 is, to our knowledge, the only other flying aircraft left in the world. As work continues with her restoration to full flight status, we will continue to report on her progress and our collective aim is to have a flight of three Swordfish flying at some stage in the next couple of years, which will be a sight to behold.

Jock Alexander