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Blackburn Skuas of 801 NAS

Dunkirk Battle Honour

Published: 04 Jun 2013

Operation DYNAMO, evacuation of British Expeditionary Force, and other Allied forces, from France, 26 May to 4 June 1940.

As the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and its French and Belgian allies fell back on Dunkirk at the end of May 1940 units of the Fleet Air Arm were assigned to the control of RAF Coastal Command to provide support for Operation Dynamo. FAA aircraft played a most important role protecting the retreating troops by slowing the German advance. Most of the action took place far from the beaches and the retreating troops were largely unaware of this vital assistance. 

Ten Albacores and nine Skuas bombed German pontoon bridges over the Nieuport Canal, near the coast North East of Dunkirk. Direct hits were claimed. Returning home the Skuas were engaged by 12 Messerschmitt Bf 109s of I/JG20 and two Skuas of 801 Squadron (L2917 and L3005) were shot down. Another Skua crash landed back at Detling. The battle was not all one sided, the Skuas claimed one Bf109 shot down and another damaged. It seems the Messeschmitts may have broken off the chase to go after three Coastal Command Hudsons, who in turn escaped claiming another Bf109 shot down. The Skua that crash-landed back at Detling is described in Capt Eric Brown's "Wings of the Navy" and Alexander McKee's "Strike from the Sky", providing an example of the Skua's sturdiness, with nine bullet holes in one propeller blade alone, the top cylinder of the Perseus engine shot away, along with the pilot's windscreen and canopy. 

FAA Squadrons: 801,Skua; 806,Skua; 825,Swordfish; 826,Albacore


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