The Swordfish HS469

Swordfish HS469 was delivered to the Royal Navy (RN) at Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Manston in February 1943. This Swordfish was flown by RN 841 Squadron while seconded to the RAF Coastal Command on English Channel operations and thence on to Royal Naval Air Station Lee-On-Solent in April 1943, where it was disassembled, crated and shipped to HMS Seaborn, a Royal Naval Air Section tenant unit at RCAF Station Dartmouth N.S. HS469 was reassembled at HMS Seaborn and test flown 12 July 1943 by Lieutenant Richard S. Bunyard RN. It was transferred, on 28 August 1943, to RN 745 Squadron, which provided aircraft to Number 1 Naval Telegraphist Air Gunner School (TAGS) at RCAF Station Yarmouth N.S. as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BACTP). In August 1944, HS469 was involved in a runway undershoot incident.

During 1944 while at Yarmouth, HS469, originally a Mk. II, underwent modification No. 408 to enclose the open cockpits with a canopy, thereby converting it to one of the 59 Mk. IV Swordfish operated by the School in January 1945.

On 2 August 1945, the Swordfish was transferred to the RCN and retained its HS469 identification, but according to regulations at the time was registered on RCAF inventory. The RCN announced in July 1946 that the Swordfish were finally being withdrawn from service, although some aircraft were dispersed throughout Canada for ground training purposes. HS469 was stuck off strength on 17 August 1946 and disposed for scrap in Ontario.

HS469 languished in a farmer's field in Ontario for many years until resurrected by group of naval aviation enthusiasts in the Toronto area in the early 1980's. After more than 13 years of painstaking work HS469 flew in April 1994 at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, one of only four airworthy Swordfish in the world at the time, and donated to the Shearwater Aviation Museum.

FAIREY SWORDFISH AT SHEARWATER

Since there were insufficient aircraft carriers to escort convoys across the Atlantic the British converted 19 grain ships and oil tankers to Merchant Aircraft Carriers (MAC). The grain ships, fitted with a 400 foot flight deck, hangar and elevator, operated four Swordfish while the tankers with a 460 foot flight deck had no hangar to accommodate their three Swordfish. In September 1940, Royal Naval Air Section HMS Seaborn was formed as lodger unit at RCAF Station Dartmouth to service the Swordfish as they were flown ashore from their MAC Ships. As the Swordfish suffered high attrition flying from their small MAC Ships in the heavy North Atlantic weather, replacement Swordfish were shipped in crates in holds of other merchant vessels to Halifax where they were assembled and test flown at HMS Seaborn for the MAC Ships returning in convoys to England. Many of the reassembled Swordfish were also flown to the Royal Navy's No. 1 Telegraphist Air Gunner School (1 TAGS), a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan lodger unit at RCAF Station Yarmouth N.S., where they were used as training aircraft.

When HMS Seaborn was decommissioned on 28 January 1946, the Royal Navy donated the 22 Swordfish currently at HMS Seaborn to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The newly acquired Swordfish were used to form Fleet Requirements Unit 743 where they were used for general purpose duties. With approval to form a RCN air arm reserve, some of the veteran Swordfish were ferried to 11 Naval Reserve Divisions across Canada for ground crew instructional purposes.