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Fleet Air Arm Notable People

Throughout the hundred plus years of Naval Aviation there have been many heroes and innovators. Making a choice of who should be included is difficult and controversial but the list below represents a selection of extraordinary individuals who deserve to be remembered.


Reginald Joseph Mitchell

Reginald Joseph Mitchell

Aeronautical Engineer & Aircraft designer (1895-1937). Responsible for Supermarine Walrus and the Spitfire.

R.J. Mitchell was born at 115 Congleton Road, Butt Lane, Kidsgrove, Staffordshire. After leaving Hanley High School at the age of 16 he gained an apprenticeship at Kerr Stuart & Co. of Fenton, a locomotive engineering works. At the end of his apprenticeship he worked in the drawing ...

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Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford VC RNAS

Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford RNAS
Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford RNAS
Rex Warneford

7 June 1915

The first Naval Aviation Victoria Cross was awarded to Flight Sub Lieutenant Reginald Warneford serving with the Royal Naval Air Service. Whilst flying over Belgium on a night-time mission to intercept Zeppelins, Flt Sub Lt Warneford spotted Zeppelin LZ.37 flying over Ostend. He climbed to 11,000 feet and diving towards the giant airship, he released his bombs. As the giant airship ...

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Flight Lieutenant Richard Bell Davies VC RNAS

Flight Lieutenant Richard Bell Davies RNAS
Flight Lieutenant Richard Bell Davies RNAS
Vice Admiral Richard Bell Davies  VC CB DSO AFC
medfals of Vice Admiral (VAdm) Richard Bell-Davies VC CB DSO AFC
Victoria Cross of Vice Admiral (VAdm) Richard Bell-Davies

19 November 1915

Flight Lieutenant Richard Bell-Davies Royal Naval Air Service was taking part in a bombing raid on the Bulgarian railway when a fellow pilot, Smylie was shot down. Bulgarian troops were moving in to capture him, so Bell-Davies landed and picked Smylie up. Smylie squeezed into the fuselage between the engine and the cockpit and the laden aircraft took off just as the Bulgarians ...

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Lieutenant Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde VC DSC RN

Lieutenant Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde DSC RN
Lieutenant Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde DSC RN
Lieutenant Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde DSC RN

12 February 1942

Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde was told that the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, together with 30 escorts were entering the Straits of Dover. They had to be stopped. Esmonde, with six Swordfish set course for the enemy. They came under intense and ferocious fire but Esmonde demonstrated outstanding leadership and determination flying straight into ...

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Lieutenant Robert Hampton 'Hammy' Gray VC RCNVR

Lieutenant Robert Hampton 'Hammie' Gray RCNVR
Lieutenant Robert Hampton 'Hammie' Gray RCNVR
Hammie Gray in Africa Sep 1942
Hammy Gray Dekheila Christmas Day 1944

9 August 1945

Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray was a Canadian who became one of the Fleet Air Arm’s most popular and courageous pilots. On 9 August 1945 HMS Formidable was operating in the Pacific with the Corsairs of 1841 Squadron embarked. The squadron was tasked to carry out a coastal sweep, and ‘not take any chances as the Japanese might surrender at any time’. The flight saw ...

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Commander Nick Goodhart Royal Navy

Mirror Landing Sight
Rear Admiral Nick Goodhart

The Mirror Landing Sight

The Royal Navy has a long-standing reputation for ingenuity and innovation, leading the way in inventing revolutionary new technologies to improve safety and operational effectiveness. Among these, the mirror landing sight, which first came into use in 1954, made an enormous contribution to the safety of high-speed approaches.

The mirror landing sight was invented by ...

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Commander Colin C Mitchell OBE RNVR

Phantom at full power about to take off on bow catapult HMS Ark Royal

The Steam Catapult

In 1954 Commander CC Mitchell OBE RNVR suggested taking steam from the ship’s main boiler to power the catapult. The idea was developed by Brown Brothers and Company Ltd of Edinburgh and trials in HMS Perseus showed an aircraft weighing 30,000lbs could be launched with a speed of over 90 knots. This was a considerable improvement to that of hydraulic catapults already ...

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Rear Admiral Dennis Royle Farquharson Cambell CB DSC

Rear Admiral Dennis Cambell on board HMS Ark Royal
Angled Flight Deck of HMS Ark Royal IV
HMS Centaur after modification to an angled flight deck

Inventor of the Angled Flightdeck

The angled deck started as a ‘doodle’ by Captain, later Rear Admiral Denis Cambell in 1951. Aircraft were getting heavier and faster but they were still being landed on a straight deck along the fore and aft axis of the ship where, to miss the wires, meant certain entry into the barrier or landing in the deck park in the bows – a crash in either ...

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Lt Cdr Douglas Taylor

Sea Harrier on ski jump of HMS INvincible 1990

The Ski Jump

Lt Cdr Doug Taylor RN, the inventor of the ski jump, was a former deck officer aboard HMS Victorious in the sixties who was seeking an alternative to the Steam Catapult after witnessing the failure of the cats due to excessive heat in the far east. The runners either side of the cat slots had expanded due to the heat and the alert fighters could not be launched, so Taylor ordered ...

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Captain Eric Melrose Brown CBE, DSC, AFC, KCVSA, PhD Hon FRAeS, RN

Eric 'Winkle' Brown Getty Images
Eric Brown at the cockpit
Brown is second right in this photo, taken in 1944
Eric 'Winkle' Brown
Hermann Goering
HMS Audacity
Eric 'Winkle' Brown on Desert Island Discs

This article by Luke Jones, appeared in BBC News Magazine 14 November 2014. It coincided with his being a guest on Desert Island Discs.

Pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown holds two of the most startling records from the world of flying. And that's just a part of his extraordinary life.

Brown's exploits run through some of the most momentous events of world history. He was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, ...

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