21 June 2024 Military Aviation » Malta-based » Royal Navy  

Fleet Air Arm Squadrons

This page lists Fleet Air Arm squadrons based at Hal-Far airfield. (For a detailed history of this airfield, visit the Hal-Far page.

For the purposes of this page, the following quote from the Hal-Far page is sufficient.

On its commissioning as a naval air station, Hal Far housed two permanent flying units: an RAF squadron, N° 73 with Spitfire IXs, transferred from Brindisi, Italy, and which became a lodger unit at Hal Far in July 1945, and N° 765 NAS, which had moved with its Wellington Xs and XIs from Lee-on-Solent in October 1945. The latter disbanded that same April 1946, and its place at Hal Far was taken on 5 May by N° 728 NAS which had been operating first from Ta' Qali and then from Luqa, and was destined to remain at Hal Far until its disbandment in 1967. A Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU), N° 728 liaised closely with a newly formed Station Flight, and it appears that both units shared the same pilots. In addition to its FRU tasks, N° 728 had already in October 1945, whilst still at Ta' Qali, taken over radio calibration duties from N° 255 Squadron when this left for Gianaclis, Egypt, in January 1946. It was also at this period, in June 1946, that the Royal Navy acquired control of Kalafrana seaplane base from the RAF. For the next 21 years, 19 of which operating as HMS Falcon, Hal Far was to witness the sad decline of British military and naval aviation in general and in the Mediterranean in particular. The days of the Empire had ended with VJ Day and a New World order of collective responsibility under the UN did not leave space for continued imperialism. Thus, Britain's overseas commitments decreased rapidly, exacerbated no doubt by ever-decreasing defence budgets which made way for the soaring costs of domestic social changes. The deterioration was gradual, however, and the early post-war years represented perhaps the most interesting and varied period in Hal Far's life.

Additional details about 728 Squadron from the web site.

Formed at North Front, Gibraltar on 1 May 1943 with fixed wing target tugs and moved around bases of the Mediterranean rim during WWII. Mosquitos were issued towards the end of 1945 and the Squadron also assumed the radar calibration duties from 255 Squadron, RAF. After 4 months at RAF Luqa, the unit moved to Hal Far (HMS Falcon) on 5 May 1946. From Dec 1952 the Squadron operated helicopters alongside its fixed wing types, when the first Dragonfly HR.3s arrived. Whirlwind HAR.3 operated between Jun 1957 and Nov 1958, and until Mar 1963 these were known as 728B (SAR) Flight. This was followed by the departure of the Dragonfly in Oct 1959 and the Whirlwind HAS.22 came into use between Mar 1963 and Aug 1965. 728 Squadron was disbanded at Hal Far on 31 May 1967, when it handed back its last Meteors.

There was a separate 728 B Squadron, formed at Ta Kali on 1 Jan 1945 but disbanded again in Jul 1945. It reformed in the UK in Jan 1958 with pilotless target drones moved to Malta towards the end of Feb 1958, becoming operational at Hal Far in Mar 1958. It flew various fixed wing target drones until it disbanded in Dec 1961 at Hal Far and its drones were returned to the UK by sea.

There was also an independent 728 C Squadron. Building on 845 NAS experience in Operation Musketeer, this was formed on 7 Jan 1958 at RNAS Lee-on-Solent, with 4 Whirlwind HAS.22 as an Amphibious Warfare Trials Unit with a mission to develop techniques to get the Royal Marines from ship to shore quickly and safely. This mission was similar to the Joint RAF-Army JEHU. They arrived at Hal Far in April 1958, embarked for Cyprus (Nicosia) by June 1958 and returned to Hal Far around the end of July 1958, before becoming the nucleus of 848 Naval Air Squadron on 13 October 1958.

Tom Lowrie writes: In the early 1960s, 728 Squadron were flying Meteor TT20s, Meteor Mk 7s and Sea Devons (latterly replaced by Sea Heron). 728 (B) had Firefly and Canberra pilotless drones.


728 Squadron

This is not, necessarily, a complete list of all the aircraft operated by 728, but it does include aircraft known to have been destroyed by ship-based radar-controlled guns and missiles.


Beech Expiditor

FT995 Ditched in the sea 80 miles NE of Malta due to engine failure, inbound from Istanbul. Crew rescued by 845 squadron Whirlwind.  
FT996 Joined squadron on 09.02.48.  
HD763 Departed for the UK on 12.02.48.  


De Havilland

DH Sea Devon XK895 d/d 17.04.56 to the Royal Navy, to Shawbury 18.12.69 for storage until sold on 09.03.90, to G-SDEV 29.03.90, Kemble Gloucesterhsire, then to Baginton, West Midlands, to Newquay Airport, Cornwall 13.02.13.  
DH Mosquito TT.39 PF482 Crashed off Castel Benito. Crew survived, reported severe rudder flutter before the crash, a defect reported by other Mosquito crews. This led to the aircraft being avoided as much as possible by crews. The following year, a Mosquito was stripped down, leading to the discovery that some of the wooden structure had turned “soft and spongy”, possibly as a result of the aircraft’s close proximity to the sea.  
DH Mosquito KA940 From storage 14.11.47.  
DH Mosquito KA949    
DH Mosquito KA967 In storage, 14.11.47.  
DH Mosquito KA974    
DH Mosquito TT.39 PF512 Aircraft crashed in sea after takeoff from Hal-Far. Pilot never recovered, presumed dead.  
DH Sea Hornet F.20 TT186/532/HF Seen at fire dump, 1957.  
DH Sea Hornet F.20 TT197/532/HF    
DH Sea Hornet F.20 VR848/532/HF   d/d 15.01.48, sold as scrap 08.04.57 at Lossiemouth.
DH Sea Hornet F.20 VR854/533/HF    
DH Sea Hornet F.20 VR856/534/HF    
DH Sea Hornet F.20 VR859 Practicing asymmetric approaches. Struck rocky ground, suffering an undercarriage collapse.  
DH Sea Hornet F.20 WE238/530/HF   f/f 06.02.51, d/d 19.03.51, s.o.c. 06.06.56 at Abbotsinch.
DH Sea Hornet F.20 WE240 Arr on 18.11.53 at Aircraft Handling Unit (AHU) Hal Far 728 sqdn, damaged by flight of birds, to AHU 01.55. Swung to s/board then port on take-off, raised u/c, but lost power, slid off runway into stone wall and caught fire, Cat ZZ 09.03.55 (Cat ZZ was the Fleet Air Arm description of an aircraft lost, not repairable, or damaged beyond economical repair).  
DH Sea Hornet F.20 WE242/530/HF Arr Hal Far 31.01.53, SOC for firefighting 19.01.56, survived until 1957. f/f 28.05.51 d/d 12.06.51, to Hal Far fire dump, Malta 19.01.56.

Fairy Firefly

U.9   Shot down off Malta by the guns of HMS Duchess. This was the last Firefly U9 loss in Navy service as the unit disbanded six days later.  
U.9 VH130 Lost arrestor hook when landing at Hal-Far.  
U.9 VX427 w/o on 21.07.59, cause unknown, remains perished Hal Far fire dump.  
AS.5 VX429 Converted to U.9 variant. w/o on 30.07.58, cause unknown, s.o.c. 10.12.58, scr. Hal-Far.  


Gl. Meteor

Gl. Meteor U.15 VT107/657 d/d 04.02.48 to Ministry of Supply 28.03.56 for U15 target drone program, to Royal Navy 22.09.60, w/o 04.10.61
Gl. Meteor T.7 VW446/570/HF    
Gl. Meteor T.7 VW447/571/HF   d/d 02.06.49, sold as scrap during 1966 at Brawdy to B A Tylor Ltd West Bromich.
Gl. Meteor T.7 WA600 Aircraft destroyed on 12.10.61 after aborted take-off, no fatalities.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WA600/573/HF   d/d 10/49, w/o 12.10.61.
Gl. Meteor T7 WA649 Crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off Delimara Point on 31.05.56, killing the pilot during a radar calibration exercise with HMS Jamaica. Possibly caused by anoxia after the pilot turned off his oxygen. The wreck was recovered by HMS Jamica.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WA650/HF-57 The pilot misjudged his approach to Hal Far, after an engine had failed. The aircraft rolled to port and crashed into a field killing the pilot.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WG115/574/HF Port wheel bay caught fire during start-up.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WL332/571   d/d 18.04.52, sold 12.02.69 to Ministry of Supply, sold to Moston College, Woodford 12.02.69, to Wales Aircraft Museum during 1977, then Long Marston, Warwickshire, during 03.90.
Gl. Meteor T.7 WL353/574   d/d 23.04.52, sold as scrap 21.11.69 at Brawdy to Texel Reclamation Ltd, Ascot.
Gl. Meteor TT.20 WM147/862    
Gl. Meteor TT.20 WM260/863    
Gl. Meteor TT.20 WD785/866   d/d 09/10/1952, s.o.c. 20/07/1970 at No.5 MU Kemble.
Gl. Meteor T.7 WS106 Aircraft lost after getting airborne from Hal-Far. Aeromilitaria gives the date as 6th Dec.
Gl. Meteor T.7 WS111/574/HF   d/d 10.06.52, sold as scrap 08.1966 at Brawdy to B A Taylor, West Bromwich.
Gl. Meteor T.7 WS112 Ran out of fuel in low cloud and crashed into sea 1½m SE of Hal Far. One fatality.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WS115 A fire broke out in the port wheel bay during engine startup.  
Gl. Meteor T.7 WS115/575/HF   d/d 18.06.52, w/o 30.06.61, broken up as spares 04.08.61.


Miles Martinet

MS566 In storage between 26.12.47 - 12.03.48.  
RH114 Listed as going in storage, 29.12.47.  
NR665 Returned from storage 22.05.48.  
RH118 Written off 28.11.47.  
RG995 Joined squadron 26.12.47.  
NR382 Joined squadron 27.01.48.  


NA Harvard

Mk. III EZ288 Written off (damaged beyond repair) when it crash landed at HMS Falcon, RNAS Hal Far, Malta 08.07.49. At the end of an instrument flying training sortie to and from Hal Far, aircraft overturned during violent braking on landing. Aircraft 'nosed over', tail rose, propeller struck the runway. Aircraft was written off as "damaged beyond repair", but the pilot was uninjured.

Airframe formally Struck Off Charge as Cat.ZZ on the same day.
c/n 88-16072. Previously 42-84291 with the USAAF, then transferred to the RAF as EZ288 but no known recorded RAF use. Transferred to Fleet Air Arm, with "C" Flight, 799 Squadron, HMS Siskin, RNAS Lee-on-Solent in April 1946. To RNARY Donibristle in January 1949 for crating prior to shipping to the Station Flight, HMS Falcon, RNAS Hal Far Malta 13 May 1949.
Mk. III EZ348/911/HF Written off (damaged beyond repair) on 22.05.48 when it ground looped on landing at Hal Far. Pilot was Commander James Sholto Douglas, Commanding Officer of HMS Falcon (RNAS Hal Far) at the time, who was not injured.

Struck Off Charge on 06.02.52. Damaged airframe finally destroyed in firefighting training demonstration at RNAS Hal Far 05.12.52.
c/n 88-16343. Previously a AT-16 Harvard T.2B USAAF 42-84562, transferred to the RAF.

Transferred to Royal Navy service with 798 Squadron, HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent in July 1944. Afterwards sent to 780 Squadron, HMS Godwit II, RNAS Peplow, Market Drayton on 18.03.46. Suffered damage on 25.03.46 when hit high intensity lamp at RNAS Peplow, pilot uninjured. Sent to HMS Fieldfare, RNAS Evanton, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland for repairs. Afterwards moved to HMS Jackdaw, RNAS Crail, Anstruther, Fife on 23.03.47, to be crated for shipment to Malta 31 March 1947.

Percival Sea Prince

T.1 WM735/666/HF   d/d 25.03.53, s.o.c. 16.09.80 at No. 5 MU Kemble, to G-RACA 02.09.80, on display, Long Marston, Warwickshire.
T.1 WM738/674/HF   d/d 31.10.52, broken up for spares 09.1977 at Belfast.
T.1 WP313/670/HF   d/d 29.01.53, stored FAAM store, Yeovilton.
T.1 WP320/669/HF   d/d 22.04.53, to Leuchars fire dump 11.09.80, perished 1989.


Short Sturgeon

TT.3 TS448/581/HF    
TT.3 TS477    
TT.3 TS478/589/HF    
TT.3 TS479    
TT.3 TS481/582/HF    
TT.3 TS483/585/HF    
TT.3 TS488 Suffered undercarriage collapse during taxying at Hal-Far.  
TT.3 TS492    
TT.3 TS493    
TT.3 TS495/583/HF    
TS496/582 Landing accident at Hal-Far.


S. Spitfire

XV PR495 XV Message “From Kala 13.03.48” crossed out. It would appear that this a/c was in storage on 29.05.48.  
XV SR575 Departed for the UK 12.03.48?  
XV SW868 In storage 29.05.48.  
XV SW906 Message “loaned 13.11.47” crossed out. It would appear that this a/c was in storage on 29.05.48.  
XVII SX224 From 805 sqdn 27.05.48  
XVII SX226 From 805 sqdn, 27.05.48.  
XVII SX271 From 805 squadron.  
XVII SX284 From 805 squadron.  


W. Dragonfly

HR.5 WG720 From October 1958 to October 1959.  
HR.5 WG750 From December 1956 to November 1958.  
HR.5 WN494/960/HF   w/o 26.04.60.


728B squadron

Also based at Hal-Far between Mar 1958-Dec 1961, this unit flew Firefly, Meteor and Canberra aircraft as remotely-controlled drones.

EE Canberra D.14 WH921/590 Shot down on 06.10.61 by a Seaslug surface-to-air missile fired from HMS Girdleness. This particular aircraft was the first to see FAA service, the first to be delivered to 728B, and also the first and last to be shot down by a Seaslug missile.  
Firefly U.9 VH134 Ditched in the sea shortly after take-off from Hal-Far on 31.10.58, cause unknown.  
F. Firefly U.9 VT364/593 Crashed during landing at Hal-Far on 26.08.60, after ship gunners failed to shoot it down.  
Firefly U.9 VT370 Crashed off Malta on 03.11.58, cause unknown.  
F. Firefly U.9 VT413 Shot down by a Scimitar from HMS Centaur on 23.11.61.  
F. Firefly U.9 VT430 Shot down by a Sea Vixen on 23.11.61 from HMS Ark Royal.  
Firefly U.9 VT441 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from HMS Duchess on 26.11.58.  
F. Firefly U.9 VT481/59_ Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship19.08.60.  
F. Firefly U.9 . WB245/592 Crashed during take-off from Hal-Far on 25.05.60.  
Firefly U.9 WB257 Shot down on 11.10.58 as part of a programme during the trails of the Seaslug surface-to-air missile.  
F. Firefly U.9 WB331 Written off on 26.09.60 whilst being landed at Hal-Far.  
F. Firefly U.9 WB365 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 06.10.60.
Firefly U.9 WB373 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from RN ship on 04.11.58.  
F. Firefly U.9 WB374 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 07.10.60.  
F. Firefly U.9 WB392 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 06.10.60.  
Firefly U.9 WB394 Shot down by radar-controlled gunnery from RN ship on 03.11.58.  
F. Firefly U.9 WB410/596 Crashed during landing at Hal-Far on 25.08.60, after ship gunners failed to shoot it down.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 RA387/658 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 09.08.60. gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT104 Shot down by Seaslug missile fired from HMS Girdleness on 23.03.60. First Meteor drone to be shot down.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT110/655 Shot down by radar-controlled gunfire from HMS Girdleness on 11.05.60. gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT243/65_ Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 11.05.60. gives the cause as “Crashed into the Mediterranean off Malta during a radio controlled flight.”  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT268 Shot down by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship on 07.03.61.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT282 Shot down on 08.09.60 during radio controlled target firing.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT310/657 Shot down on 12.05.60 by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VT417/65_ Shot down on 24.08.60 by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VW258 Shot down on 14.10.60 by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship.  
Gl. Meteor U.15 VZ415/65_ Shot down on 30.10.61 by radar-controlled gun fire from RN ship.  
Gl. Meteor U.16 WE932 The last aircraft to be shot down on 13.11.61 by a Seaslug missile from HMS Girdleness.  

750 Squadron

The following was taken from a Wikipedia article about this squadron.

The Royal Navy established HM Naval Seaplane Training School on 30 July 1917 at Lee-on-Solent; the unit was responsible for the training of seaplane pilots and observers. When the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps merged on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force, the school was renamed No. 209 Training Depot.

Throughout the early 1920s pilots and observers of seaplanes were trained at Lee-on-Solent under a variety of names; from 1921 the base was renamed the RAF Seaplane Training School, and from 1923, the RAF School of Naval Co-operation. Although the school now concentrated on observer training, from 1925 all naval aircrew were provided by the RAF, and training of naval officers as observers ceased. During this period the primary training aircraft was the Fairey IIID.

From 1932 Lee-on-Solent was provided with a full airfield and became the headquarters of the RAF's Coastal Command. Observer training continued apace and the airfield was home to a wide range of naval aircraft including Fairey Seals. Hawker Ospreys, Blackburn Sharks, Supermarine Walruses, and Fairey Swordfish. Telegraphist Air Gunners were also trained at Lee-on-Solent in the years leading up to the Second World War.

750 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Ford on 24 May 1939 from the Royal Navy Observer School, but after Ford was bombed early in the war, it moved to RNAS Yeovilton. Changing title from a school to a squadron did not change its basic purpose, which was the training of observers for the Fleet Air Arm. The squadron initially flew Hawker Ospreys and Blackburn Sharks but in November 1940 it moved to Piarco Savannah (HMS Goshawk) in Trinidad and at about the same time re-equipped with Fairey Albacores.

On 15 January 1941, 21 officers and 121 ratings from 749, 750 and 752 squadrons sailed from Liverpool on SS Almeda Star bound for Trinidad. Two days later the German submarine U-96 sank Almeda Star in heavy seas 35 miles (56 km) north of Rockall. There were no survivors.

The squadron operated in Trinidad for the duration of World War II and was disbanded on 10 October 1945. The squadron reformed on 17 April 1952 at RNAS St Merryn. At first it was equipped with twelve Fairey Barracudas and four Avro Ansons, but in 1953 the Fairey Firefly T7 and Percival Sea Prince T1 aircraft were introduced, and in the same year the squadron moved to RNAS Culdrose. In 1955 the squadron changed its name to the Observer and Air Signal School. After discontinuing the training of air telegraphists, it changed again to the Observer School in May 1959.

The squadron moved to Hal Far (HMS Falcon), Malta in October 1959, and in 1965 it was transferred again, this time to RNAS Lossiemouth. The last move came in 1972, back to RNAS Culdrose, still equipped with the Sea Prince T1. These were replaced by the Jetstream T2 in 1978 and in 1992 the squadron became the first Naval Air Squadron to achieve 50 unbroken years in commission.

P. Sea Prince T.1 WF118/667   f/f 28.06.51, d/d 13.08.51, sold 12.05.80 No. 5 MU Kemble, to G-DACA, preserved Gatwick Aviation Museum, Charlwood, Surrey, to St. Athan, 2013.
P. Sea Prince T.1 WF120/665/HF   f/f 28.06.51, d/d 22.11.51, broken up 09.1975 at Belfast as scrap.
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