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Newlyn, Cornwall

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    Posted: 10 Sep 2016 at 10:34
Newlyn Air Station
Newlyn opened in January, 1917, as a base to allow seaplane anti-submarine patrols to be extended further west along the British coast. Although known as Newlyn, the new air station was two miles south of Penzance, on the western side of Mount’s Bay, and centred on the narrow apron between the harbour and Carn Gwavas. Two Bessoneau hangars were set up to accommodate the aircraft, and the officers were to be accommodated in York House. Later, the Bessoneau hangars were replaced by a small shed, capable of housing six Short 184 folder seaplanes. From 25 May, 1918, the establishment at Newlyn was officially twelve aircraft, although this strength was not maintained. Newlyn was used as an erection facility for aircraft en route to other stations, notably Tresco, and the Trinity House shed at Penzance was made available to house disassembled aircraft.
The first two Short 184 folders, serial numbers 8049 and 8350, were allocated on 4 January, 1917, and were erected for testing on 20 January. Two other Shorts arrived at Newlyn on the same day. These were 8355 and 9092, and both were stored in the Trinity House shed at Penzance, pending erection and dispatch by air to Tresco. 8355 was erected on 18 February, and arrived at Tresco on 24 February. 9092 was supposed to go to Tresco on 29 March, but was still not ready on 17 April, and wasn’t to arrive at Tresco until 9 June.
Meanwhile, 8049 was detached to Penzance on 2 February, and returned to Newlyn on 18 February. Two days later the aircraft suffered a damaged float while being manhandled on a slipway trolley, and the sortie by Flight Sub-Lieutenant HW Found and AM2 SH Bromhead had to be abandoned. The damage may have been serious enough to require the fitting of a new float as 8049 is not noted as being operational until 8 March, when Fight Sub Lieutenant AT Sketchley flew it on anti-submarine patrol. Found was flying 8049, with Leading Mechanic S Bremner as observer, on 29 March, when it suffered engine failure, forcing Found to land. 8049 was towed in to Falmouth, and returned to Newlyn on 5 April. Presumably, 8049 was both damaged and no repair work had been undertaken at Falmouth, as the aircraft was selected for deletion on 9 April, and struck off charge a month later.
A Curtis H12 flying boat, 8652 from Tresco, was beached at Newlyn on 11 March, after engine failure had forced Flight Sub Lieutenant JC Railton to land, and then 8652 began to sink. It was struck off charge on 30 March. This was not the only Curtiss H12 to arrive at Newlyn, 8654 was there in early 1918, but was returned to Tresco on 15 March with fuel pump problems.
AM2 Bromhead was the observer in 8350, piloted by Flight Sub Lieutenant VG Dean, on 16 March when a U-boat was spotted about 10 miles south east of Dodman Point. Dean attacked the submarine which escaped. The next day 8350 was forced down by engine failure off Cape Cornwall. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Found and AM2 UG Tongue were lucky enough to be spotted by a French cargo ship which took the Short in tow, handing it over to Royal Navy launch ML359 10 miles off Newlyn. ML359 was less successful in towing, and the Short capsized. The wreckage was recovered by the drifter Gardiner.
9092 may have been delayed at Newlyn because the first possible replacement Short 184, N1242, does not appear to have arrived at Newlyn until 4 June, coming from Cattewater. This was soon out of action with damage to the float undercarriage being sustained the next day, as N1242 took off for Fishguard. It didn’t return to Newlyn, so may have been in transit only.
Short 184 N1191 arrived from Great Yarmouth on 15 July, but left for Tresco ten days later. This may have been because it wasn’t practical to operate patrols from Newlyn with a single aircraft. Fairey Hamble Baby N1191 was at Newlyn in July, but it may be significant that this aircraft was detached to Tresco from 25-29 July. On 27 July N1240 arrived from Tresco, followed four more Shorts on 29 July. These were Saunders-built Shorts N1604 and N1605, from Cattewater, together with N1240 and the returned N1191, from Tresco.
Two more Fairey Hamble Babies arrived in August. N1208 was just passing through, but N1205, supposedly en route from Cattewater to Fishguard, was still at Newlyn in November and doesn’t seem to have left for Great Yarmouth, by rail, until 1 February, 1918.
N1606, another Saunders-built Short, arrived on 22 August, having undergone acceptance trials at Calshot.
N1605 was the first to see action. Flight Lieutenant AT Sketchley and Observer Sub Lieutenant GG Speight spotted a U-boat 7 miles east of Wolf Rock on 16 August and attacked it, dropping a 100 lb bomb. This attack was not successful.
N1604 was under repair on 16 August, having been damaged the day before, but on 8 September Flight Lieutenant HJ Horsey spotted another U-boat in the same general area, this time an estimated16 miles south east of Wolf Rock. A 65 lb and a 100lb bomb were dropped, but again without success.
N1606 arrived on 22 August. On 12 September, N1607 arrived at Newlyn, via Cattewater and, on 27 September N1240 arrived from Tresco. Two more Shorts arrived the next month, N1618 on 20 October and N1620 a week later. This was balanced by the loss of N1605, struck off charge on 10 October after being wrecked, and N1240 which left for Cattewater on 22 October. N1607 was surveyed on 30 October, after damage, and struck off charge a week later.
N1254 was delivered to Newlyn on 9 December, possibly as a direct replacement for N1607, and N1612 arrived from Cattewater ten days later, on 19 December.
That same day Flight Lieutenant JS Hughes and Observer Sub Lieutenant GG Speight, in N1606, spotted a U-boat about 10 miles south west of the Lizard, at map reference 4952N 0527W. The U-boat was attacking merchant shipping, and the rack of a torpedo was seen clearly. Hughes attacked and bombed the U-boat, claiming it severely damaged, though German records do note any loss.
N1191 left for Cattewater on 20 December, possibly for overhaul, and did not return. Fairey Hamble Baby N1191 left on the same day. Short 184 N1612, which had come to Newlyn just over a week before, had something of a reputation for engine trouble, and this may have brought it down again on 28 August. It was towed in, surveyed and struck off charge on 1 January, 1918.
Short 184 N2828 arrived in January, 1918 in transit to Tresco, and visited again on 17 March, also en route for Tresco. On 3 August N2828 made the return journey from Tresco, when it was allocated to Newlyn. Eight days later it suffered float damage taking off in a swell, but was repaired and remained at Newlyn until January, 1919.
The New Year seems to have fairly uneventful, possibly because flying was limited by the weather. Flight Lieutenant JW Hobbs and AM RL Hobson, in N1604, were first to see action when they spotted a submerged U-boat at 5012N 0625W, on 3 February. They dropped a 100 lb, but the U-boat escaped.
Three Shorts arrived in February, N1635 on 5th, N1616 on 17th, and N1622 on 27 February.
The first operational loss of aircrew was on 3 March, when N1606 failed to return from a patrol, and it was assumed Observer Sub Lieutenant BG Rowley had drowned.
Short 184 N2797 arrived at Newlyn on 21 March, but only stayed briefly as it was in transit from Cattewater to Tresco, arriving at Tresco on 23 March. N1770 arrived at Newlyn on 23 March, having been forced down with engine failure. It remained at Newlyn, and was taken on charge officially by the end of April. Newlyn’s own N1604 was forced down with engine failure on 27 March, and ended up at Cattewater for repair, where it was struck off charge in May, so N1770 may have been retained as a replacement.
On a more positive note, Flight Sub Lieutenant spotted a U-boat on 24 March, while flying N1618, and dropped 65 lb and 100 lb bombs on it. Although as usual, German records do not confirm a loss. Two more U-boats were attacked on 6 May. Ensign HT Stanley, United States Navy, and Lt JW Nixon, in N1616, dropped two 100 lb bombs on a U-boat at 5033N 0520W, and Lieutenant AB Blanksby and Second Lieutenant R Nicholson, in N1767, bombed a U-boat at 507N 4058W. Unfortunately only one of the 100 lb bombs dropped by N1767 exploded, and no U-boat losses are recorded. N1767 had arrived at Newlyn only two days before.
The Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April, 1918, and the officers stationed at Newlyn Seaplane Station (on the establishment of HMS Daedalus) that day were:
Squadron Commander JS Mills DSC; Lieutenant RNVR Sir JKD Mackinnon Bt
Lieutenant RNVR R Davidson; Acting Flight Commander WB Callaway;
Flight Lieutenant RM Hughes; Flight Lieutenant BR Millar; Flight Lieutenant LER Murray; Flight Lieutenant GE Wildman-Lushington; Observer Lieutenant GG Speight;
Observer Lieutenant BE Harrison; Temporary Surgeon JA Watson;
Flight Sub Lieutenant HJ Horsey; Flight Sub Lieutenant MR Banks;
Flight Sub Lieutenant EL MacLeod; Flight Sub Lieutenant NG Fraser;
Flight Sub Lieutenant WB Woodland; Flight Sub Lieutenant KF Hilder;
Flight Sub Lieutenant FAD Gauntlett; Flight Sub Lieutenant AC Lester;
Observer Sub Lieutenant KG Styles; Observer Sub Lieutenant HC Welbourne;
Warrant Officer WH Jinman; Warrant Officer R Nicholson.
Observer Captain BE Harrison was lucky to escape when he dug in the port wing of N1618 on landing in Mounts Bay, and cart wheeled, on 24 April. Damage must have been slight as N1618 was repairable, and soldiered on until early September. N1620 was struck off charge in April.
N2798 arrived on 25 April, from Cattewater, followed by N1767, N2631, N2854, N2919, and N2961 in May. N2954 passed through en route to Tresco on 18 May, and was to return, en route to Cattewater, on 25 September.
The seaplane unit at Newlyn was reconstituted as 424 and 425 (Seaplane) Flights, Royal Air Force, on 25 May. Each flight had an establishment strength of 6 aircraft which may explain the number of new arrivals that month.
Second Lieutenant RL Pallet and Lieutenant AG Bishop, in N2959, attacked a U-boat at 5010N 0310W on 11 June, dropping both 230 and 100 lb bombs. Another two U-boat were attacked, one by N2631, on 30 June. N2958, piloted by Captain WS Callaway with Second Lieutenant JW Nixon as observer, attacked the other with 230 lb and 100 lb bombs, after sighting it at map reference 4927N 0623W.
N2958 was believed lost on 2 July, and it seemed that the luck of the observer, Second Lieutenant Nixon had run out finally. Fortunately, after being adrift for three days, the wrecked seaplane was spotted by HMS Active and both Nixon and his pilot, Second Lieutenant RA Jacquet, were rescued. Jacquet reported that he had been forced to land in the dark after his compass failed.
Equally lucky were Second Lieutenant TL Harding and AM2 WF Fox, both injured, but only slightly, when Harding stalled N1635 and spun into Mounts Bay on 29 July. The Short was salvaged, but wasn’t worth repairing and so was struck off charge in September. N1616 an N1254 had been struck off charge in early August, and on 1 September Lieutenant FF Smith and observer Lieutenant J Whitehead were drowned, when N2961 was forced to land in heavy seas. Smith and Whitehead were to be the only fatal casualties suffered by 235 Squadron.
235 Squadron, RAF, had been formed on 20 August, by combining 424 and 425 (Seaplane) Flights, both of which remained at Newlyn. The new squadron was part of 71 Wing, in 9 Group, and was commanded by Major AK Robertson.
N2960 and N2799 were delivered to Newlyn on 2 September, followed by N2988 on 11 October, N2979 on 16 October, and N2989 at about the same time. Of these, only N2979 might be considered to have had ‘interesting’ service as it was forced to land, following engine failure, on 17 December. It sank while on tow to Newlyn, but must haven been salvaged and repaired as it is noted as being at Torquay in January, 1919.
235 Squadron was reduced to cadre in January, 1919, with most of the Shorts going to 418 Flight, 239 Squadron. These included N1622, N1767, N2631, N2919, and N2959. N2960, N2989, N2798, N2799, N2828, N2919, N2979. N2988 seems to have been struck off charges and not transferred, probably because it was in a poor state and considered not worth repairing.
Newlyn was decommissioned in February 1919, and 235 Squadron was disbanded on 22 February, 1919.
Although the seaplanes operating from Newlyn had failed to destroy any U-boats, the service undertaken by their crews was significant in fighting the U-boat by limiting its operations on the surface, particularly in daylight. This, in turn, helped ease the pressure on the merchant seamen engaged in both transatlantic and coastal trade.

Known photos:
Newlyn aerial view.
Short 184 N2988 at Newlyn.
Short 184 at Newlyn.
Short 184 and Fairey Hamble Baby at Newlyn. The Baby is probably N1208, at Newlyn between August 1917 and January, 1918.
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