On this day 9 June 1940
Lt Robert Kearsley RN flying a Skua of 800NAS from HMS ARK ROYAL attacked a Heinkel 115 off Norway.
HMS ARK ROYAL was part of a large fleet of ships, including the battleship HMS VALIANT, involved in Operation Alphabet evacuating all British and Allied forces from Norway. The following is an account of one of the dozens of patrols flown that day.
At 17.07 VALIANT reported being shadowed by an aircraft. 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Walrus 701 NAS and six Swordfish of 810 and 820 NAS for a reconnaissance. This reconnaissance sighted the VALIANT and passed the position, course, and speed of the convoy to her.
ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 800 NAS with orders to pass a message to VALIANT and attack an enemy aircraft shadowing her. When the Skuas arrived over the VALIANT they found that she was being shadowed by a Heinkel 115 which they attacked and drove off, but were unable to close due to the float plane disappearing into low cloud.
Lt Kearsley wrote in his logbook:
Skua a/c no. L 3024, 6Q, 800 Sqdn patrolling "Valiant" at 2000 discovered Heinkel 115 shadowing the ship, opened fire at 300 yards, saw panel fall off, tailgunner ceasing fire, total time airborne 4 hours.
Unbeknown to Kearsley, the radio operator in the He115 was shot and the starboard engine badly damaged. It limped back towards Trondheim but was forced to make an emergency landing in the sea. The three crew were picked up by another Heinkel 115. The pilot of which sank the ditched plane with gunfire.
We may never have learnt any of this except that in 1985, a North Sea rig was involved in an explosion and fire. During the follow-up, a mini submarine driver discovered the wreck of the Heinkel 115, EH-S4. Halvor Sperbund researched the wreck and how it came to be there. His colourful, illustrated account can be read here. It is based on the testimony of Kearsley , the injured German radio operator, Willi Schönfelder and the pilot of the rescuing He 115, Rembert van Deldon. As a result of the research, Kearsley and van Deldon, subsequently met every year for a sailing trip together.