801 Naval Air Squadron

801 Naval Air Squadron
Active 1933 - 9 March 2007
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  Royal Navy
Role Maritime Strike
Part of Fleet Air Arm
Motto(s) On Les Aura
(We'll have them).[1]
Battle honours
  • Dunkirk 1940
  • Atlantic 1940
  • Norway 1940 - 4
  • Malta Convoys 1942
  • North Africa 1942 - 3
  • Japan 1945
  • Falkland Islands 1982

801 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) was a Fleet Air Arm squadron of the Royal Navy formed in 1933 which fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Falklands War.

Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force

The squadron was formed on 3 April 1933 as part of the Fleet Air Arm, with the promotion of No. 401 Flight to squadron status. The squadron was equipped with the Fairey Flycatcher and Hawker Nimrod aboard HMS Hermes. The Flycatchers were replaced in 1934 by the Hawker Osprey and the Nimrods were retired in 1936. The squadron was re-equipped with the Blackburn Skua and Gloster Gladiator in 1939 just before the squadron was transferred to the Admiralty.

Second World War

In January 1940, 801 NAS was based at RNAS Donibristle with the Blackburn Skua, playing a key role in the early part of the war with operations in Norway while deploying from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. In September, 801 Squadron embarked on Furious for raids on the northerly parts of the Norwegian coast. Following an attack on Trondheim on 22 September, Skua L2942 piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Bernard Wigginton with Leading Aircraftman Kenneth King as his gunner, was unable to find their carrier and crash landed in neutral Sweden.

In 1943 880 Naval Air Squadron formed the 30 Naval Fighter Wing on HMS Implacable. In June 1945, naval fighter wings were reformed as carrier groups with 801 NAS, 828 NAS, 880 NAS and 1771 NAS becoming the 8th Carrier Air Group. In August 1941 they re-equipped with Sea Hurricanes at RNAS Yeovilton. The squadron deployed to the Mediterranean aboard Argus, then to Eagle. During this deployment 801 NAS claimed thirteen enemy aircraft of various types, for the loss of three Hurricanes and four Fulmars. Two of the Fulmars were brought down by friendly fire.

Korean War

In March 1951, 801 NAS received Hawker Sea Furys and the squadron saw active service during the Korean War flying from Glory. Glory was deployed in theatre from 3 April 1951 to 30 September 1951 and from 8 November 1952 to the Korean Armistice Agreement of 27 July 1953. 801 NAS was embarked on the second tour of duty.

Sea Furies could be armed with either two bombs or four rockets and drop tanks in both cases. The aircraft were mainly used in the ground attack role armed with bombs and rockets, but they were also engaged in air-to-air combat with the much faster MiG-15.

A Sea Fury FB.11 launches from HMS Glory in 1951

The squadron suffered seven casualties.[2]

1960s to 1980s

On 18 March 1962, 801 squadron was reformed at Lossiemouth in the strike role with Buccaneers. In July 1962 they embarked 10 aircraft in Victorious for the Far East. The squadron subsequently received the 1967 Boyd Trophy, an annual award for the best squadron in the Fleet Air Arm, for its efforts in bringing the Buccaneer into service.

801 transferred to Hermes with 7 aircraft in 1968 for a further spell in Eastern waters. In March 1969 the ship returned home to spend the next year in Home and Mediterranean waters. The squadron eventually disbanded at Lossiemouth on the 21 July 1970.

In January 1981 the squadron re-equipped with the Sea Harrier FRS.1 at RNAS Yeovilton.

Falklands War

The squadron operated the Sea Harrier equipped with Blue Fox radars aboard Invincible during the Falklands War.[3] The squadron was supplemented by five pilots from 899 NAS and was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nigel "Sharkey" Ward.

801 NAS Pilots
899 NAS Pilots

801 Squadron shot down 8 Argentine aircraft.[6]


801 NAS lost four aircraft and two pilots during the conflict.[9]

Gallantry Awards

Lieutenant Commander Ward and Lieutenant Thomas were each awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their conduct and leadership throughout the campaign.


Sea Harrier of 801 NAS

On Tuesday 28 March 2006 a ceremony was held at RNAS Yeovilton, with Commander A J W Rae as the last Sea Harrier squadron commanding officer, to mark the withdrawal from service of the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier FA2s. The final Sea Harrier was withdrawn from service on 31 March 2006 at RNAS Yeovilton and the squadron disbanded. Prior to decommissioning, all aircraft adopted the omega symbol on their tail-fin in recognition of 801 NAS being the last operators of an all-British fixed-wing fighter aircraft. This harks back to the use of this symbol by 892 Naval Air Squadron, whose McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1s were the last conventional fixed-wing aircraft used by the Fleet Air Arm.

801 NAS was due to recommission in March 2007, under the command of Commander K Seymour, to operate the Harrier GR7 and GR9 from RAF Cottesmore. However, due to lack of manpower all former 801 and 800 NAS (their sister squadron) personnel formed a "Naval Strike Wing" within RAF Cottesmore, thus severing all remaining ties to their former home at RNAS Yeovilton.[10] On 1 April 2010, Naval Strike Wing reverted to the identity of 800 Naval Air Squadron.[11]

Aircraft flown

During its lifespan, 801 Squadron has flown fourteen different aircraft types:[12]



  1. This was the rallying cry at Verdun 1916 by Marshal Petain.
  2. "Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy in 1953". Retrieved 2009-06-23.
  3. Norton-Taylor, Richard. Review: Few secrets in sea of Boy's Own prose, The Guardian 28 January 1997
  4. Lieutenant W. A. Curtis
  5. Lieutenant Commander J. E. Eyton-Jones
  6. "List of Destroyed Argentine Aircraft". Archived from the original on 29 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
  7. "Major Carlos Tomba's Pucara". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  8. "Lost Argentine Pucara found". Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  9. "801 NAS Squadron losses". Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  10. "Naval Strike Wing (NSW)". Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
  11. "800 Naval Air Squadron". Royal Navy. Archived from the original on 20 September 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  12. Sturtivant, Ballance 1994, p. 130.


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