Friday, April 13, 2012

Untiring Avengers

Sometimes, when you're searching for old photos, it helps to ask, and then to not take "no" for an answer. I had canvassed this one particular antique store and found nothing, and when that's the case, I always make a point of asking the proprietor if they happen to have any photos that I may have overlooked. "No", the kind, elderly lady answered, "I don't have anything like that." At that moment, I just happened to glance down into the glass display case between us, and there was a stack of photos labeled "WWII". "What about those?" I asked. She looked surprised, as if they had appeared out of thin air. Buried in the stack of images of various ships was this one, which caught my eye: Avengers!

This is the British carrier HMS Indefatigable, the seventh and (so far) last Royal Navy vessel to carry that name (not including C.S. Forester's fictional vessel). She was launched on December 8, 1942, but not commissioned until May 3, 1944. Because of the delay, the Brits successfully carried out Operation Bijou, in which disinformation was spread that the ship had entered service shortly after being launched. Code-breaking of Japanese communications showed that the ruse had been successfully, so much so that the enemy believed that Indefatigable had completed an entire cruise to the far east and back to Clyde for refitting at the time that she was actually commissioned. While she missed most of the action of the war, she did have the honor of being present in Tokyo Bay for Japan's surrender. She was scrapped in 1956.

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm operated over 1,000 Grumman Avengers  (initially they called them "Tarpons", but soon dropped that name for "Avenger"), in various series, or "marks". Since our photo isn't dated, though, I have no idea which version is shown here.

One thing is clear, though, and that is this photo was taken in the Pacific theater of operations, since the FAA insignia on the Avengers' wings is an alternate one used only in the Pacific, and which doesn't have the center red circle, since that color could be mistaken for the Japanese insignia.

And if anyone can tell me what squadron is represented by tail code "S", I'd be much appreciative!

1 comment:

  1. Wikimedia has a picture of an Avenger going over the side of the Indefatigable in 1945, with an S on its tail, here: They call it the 820 Naval Air Squadron. Another Wikipedia page mentions the 820 NAS also: I do not know if there was more than one squadron of Avengers on the ship, but I rather doubt it. This page indirectly backs me up on that hunch:

    Love your old images - thanks so much!