Reorganisation of the 7th Naval Fighter Wing
A change in policy as regards the structure of Naval Fighter Wings saw the two embarked squadrons on board each carrier being reduced to one of 24 aircraft, the aircraft of one being allocated to the other, the former squadron being disbanded.
Thus, 886 squadron was disbanded on board Pursuer on June 12th 1944, its aircraft going to 881 squadron.
Reallocated for operations with the Mediterranean Fleet
Between June 12th to July 15th, Pursuer conducted exercises and drills, prior to sailing to Malta to conduct operations in the Mediterranean.
The Escort Aircraft Carriers (known as CVEs) Pursue, Emperor, Khedive, and Searcher, Fighter Direction ship Ulster Queen, Anti-Aircraft sloop Stork and frigate Awe, sailed from the Clyde at 22:30 on July 15th 1944 to rendezvous at 05:07 in the Irish Sea with Task Group 120.8 (USS Texas and screen consisting of USS Jeffers, Butler, Herndon, Murphy, Shubrick, and Gherardi) for passage to the Mediterranean.
Entering the Mediterranean
The convoy passed Gibraltar in the early hours of July 22nd, and later in the morning at 09:39, the convoy split into two formations. the USS Texas, HM Ships Emperor, and Khedive, escorted by USS Jeffers, Shubrick, and Herndon, detached and preceded for Oran at 15 knots.
The remainder of the convoy consisting of HM Ships Searcher, Pursuer, Ulster Queen, Stork and Awe escorted by the USS Butler, Gherardi, and Larsh continued on for Malta. The destroyer USS Marsh joined at 21:45, and on the 23rd at 11:35 HMS Attacker joined the convoy. The entire formation arrived at Grand Harbour, Malta at 08:51 on July 25th.
Later that morning, 10 aircraft were flown off to RNAS Ta Kali (also known as HMS Goldfinch) for a weeks’ pilot training, 12 pilots as spotters and 12 as fighter bombers. Having received their tasking orders on arrival at Malta, a that week was less than ideal amount of time to spend practicing a technique not previously trained for by the squadron. As a result, None of the pilots could gain experience in both roles, which severely handicapped their effectiveness in the coming operations.
At Malta, Pursuer joined Carrier Force TF88 for Operation DRAGOON, the invasion of Southern France. The Carrier Force comprised of two Task Groups; TG 88.1 HM Ships Royalist (Rear Admiral Troubridge, CTF 88 and CTG 88.1), Colombo, Attacker (879 squadron with 28 Seafire), Emperor (800 squadron with 23 Hellcat), Khedive (899 squadron with - 26 Seafire), Pursuer (881 squadron with 24 Wildcat), Searcher (882 squadron with 28 Wildcat), with 7 destroyers, Tyrain, Teazer, Troubridge (Screen Commander), and US Ships Jeffers, H. P. Jones, Marsh, Nirlack and Murphy. TG 88.2 comprised of the CVEs USS Tulagi (Rear Admiral Durgin USN, CTG 88.2, VOF-1 with 24 Hellcat), USS Kazan Bay (VF-74 with 24 Hellcat), Hunter (807 squadron with 24 Seafire, plus 1 Swordfish) and Stalker (809 squadron with 23 Seafire), AA Cruisers Caledon and Colombo, 6 US destroyers.
Pursuer sailed for tactical exercises off Malta with TG88.1 on August 1st, sailing at 07:30. At 19:40 ships of the Task Group conducted a barrage fire exercise. The force continued to exercise off Malta until August 11th.
Task Force 88 sailed from Malta at 17:45 on Saturday August 12th. On the morning of the 14th Pursuer fuelled the Destroyer Tyrain. Prior to sailing to participate in DRAGOON, four spare Wildcats were embarked in addition to 881 squadron’s 24,; these aircraft were put ashore at an advance base at Casabianda aerodrome, Corsica later that day. It was later discovered that no survival or flying gear had been left in them; pilots returning to the ship after being downed had to fly back with no dinghy, parachute or flying helmets.