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Lt Cdr Steve Whitehead, Chris Langham, Bill Daniel, Katie Campbell and David Bradley
Lt Cdr Steve Whitehead, Bill Daniel and Katie Campbell with new Swordfish engine awaiting fitting
Lt Cdr Steve Whitehead, Bill Daniel and Katie Campbell
Bill Daniel aged 90 Arctic Veteran
Katie Campbell (FNHT) and Bill Daniel
Bill aged 19 in 1943
HMS Nairana, an Escort Carrier

Arctic armourer relives memories of Swordfish

Published: 19 Nov 2014

Russian Convoy Veteran who served in the Escort Carrier Nairana as an armourer on Swordfish has visited The Royal Naval Historic Flight (RNHF) at Royal Naval Air station (RNAS) Yeovilton.

90 year old Bill Daniel from Muchelney on the Somerset Levels has visited the Historic Flight at Yeovilton to remember his Naval Career in World War 2 on HMS Nairana, Escort Aircraft Carrier  

The visit was instigated by his neighbours Mr David Bradley and Mr Chris Langham who felt it would be a tonic following the flooding earlier this year in Muchelney.

This was an opportunity for Bill to recount some of his memories during the convoy and his role in conditions among the worst faced by any Sailors. As well as the Germans they faced extreme cold gales and pack ice. The loss rate for ships was higher than any other allied convoy.

Bill laughed as he recounted how he ended up on the Nairana, he said;

“When I went to join the Royal Navy aged 19 it was only the second time I had been on a train. When I was asked what draft I would like I said a foreign draft please and my friend asked for a sea going draft…………..he got the foreign draft and I got the sea! I had never been on a ship before!”

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Russia) on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leader, Stalin, demanded help, and the western Allies provided supplies. The most direct route was by sea, around northern Norway to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

As Bill walked amongst the 2 swordfish the Historic Flight currently being bought back to Flying condition its difficult to imagine the extreme conditions he endured as he fixed weapons to the underneath of the swordfish wings as the seas lashed the ship rolled and the temperatures plummeted. Bill said;

“We were ok we had our duffle coat and gloves plus a scramble net to hang onto when things got rough. Being young it was exciting!” We were one of the well armed convoys we lost more men to cold than battle”.

Over four million tons of supplies were delivered to the Russians. As well as tanks and aircraft, these included less sensational but still vital items like trucks, tractors, telephone wire, railway engines and boots

Katie Campbell the Display Manager at RNHF said; 

‘It was lovely to meet Mr Daniel and reintroduce him to the Swordfish, an aircraft he clearly remembered whilst serving on the escort carrier HMS Nairana, protecting Arctic Convoys from attack. Mr. Daniel was also able to help the RNHF Engineers with some top tips on how to load rockets under the wing of the Swordfish!’ 

Neighbour David Bradley said of the visit to RNHF 

 “It has been a wonderful visit today, thank you. It’s great to see that Bill has really enjoyed himself recounting his naval experiences, a memorable day for him, just the tonic.” 


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