Why the 800NAS Project?

All my life, my father has regaled me with tales of his time in the Royal Navy, or more specifically the Fleet Air Arm. Whenever I see him these days, there is always a new story I haven’t heard before (in among the ones I had heard many times!). I was brought up to do two things – to eat proper pie and mash and to cheer for the FAA Field Gun Crew at the Royal Tournament (minnie minnie moo AIR!!!). One of the happiest days of my life was seeing FAA beat Portsmouth in the last ever running of the real Field Gun competition in 1999.

Dad served in 800 Naval Air Squadron, officially as an aircraft handler but in fact as a kind of extra body for various unspecified duties. Essentially the squadron’s odd-job man. Which, if you know him, you will agree suits him. He joined in the late 40’s and sailed on HMS Triumph and HMS Eagle before settling down at RNAS Ford. He saw the Malayan emergency and the Korean War at close quarters, he saw the ultimate Spitfire (FR.47) in action and saw the first British naval jets into service (Supermarine Attacker). He has flown laying on his front in the sharp end of the experimental Prone Meteor, he has been the subject for a very early helicopter air sea rescue, he has been shot up the Martin-Baker ejection seat tower, he has stood guard at the funeral of King George VI and at the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth, he has been shouted at by HRH Prince Philip. He has seen and done things about which he still won’t talk. He is my hero.

I used to build Airfix kits. I fell in love with aeroplanes. Dad and I used to go to air shows all over the place. But then I got older, other things came into my life, I got married, got a job in the photography business and that was pretty much it for many, many years.

Then the Daily Mail, of all companies, did me a favour.

They had an offer for a free Airfix kit of a Spitfire. My wife Maria picked one up. Would we give to our granddaughters to make? Would we hell! I made it, painted it, and remembered how much I liked making kits.

IMG_3503

The first of the several – the Spitfire kit that made me want to build more…

The result is the 800 Squadron Project. To honour my father and the brave souls who served with his squadron before, during and after his service, I will build a collection of 1/72nd scale models of everything the squadron has flown since its formation in the 1930s.

I hope he likes it!

11 thoughts on “Why the 800NAS Project?

  1. Great to see this blog Gary and looking forward to more updates and anecdotes from you (and about your father). How about a suggested future build list of kits (with desired markings, serial #, etc) …i’d be happy to join in and build one myself to add to the collection for your father.

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    1. Thanks David. I will collate all the info I have about what is to come. A lot of the fun is in the research. I have already found out lots of stuff about the squadron in Korea, for example, and when I ask Dad he just says “oh, yes, didn’t I tell you about that?” Thanks also for the offer on the construction front, but I feel my catharsis needs me to do the whole thing…!

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  2. Gary – you know, I am really envious. My father was in the artillery in Burma during WW2, and refused to talk about it, other than one day when a vulture-like bird kept stealing his lunch. I know he commanded a 25lb gun, so was deaf in his right ear because no one wore ear protectors, but that’s it. I never asked for information, because his resistance to volunteering information was utterly discouraging. (Plus, I’m heavily self-centered, so I likely never thought to ask.) And, as you know, he died young, at 55, the age I am now, when we were 15. I never had the kind of relationship with my father that you had with yours, and for that I am honestly, madly jealous. Just writing this, sitting in a bar when I should be dealing with accumulated emails, is making me cry. I love the way you can honor your father and his contributions with his project, in a way that I cannot. good on you, mate. Matthew

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    1. My dear friend – you honour your father every day by being who you are and by devoting your time to teaching future generations. Not just to be historians, or cartographers, or both but to be curious and to act on their curiosity. Your father would be enormously proud of you, and rightly so. But thank you for your very kind and very moving words. Gary

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  3. This is a very interesting idea and a great way to honer your father. Mine was in the Middle East around the same time 1946-56 (RAF though) and I am sure that I have somewhere a photo he took of HMS Triumph sailing through the Suez Canal. It might be your dad was on it! Good luck with the project it’ll be interesting to see it develop.

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    1. Dad was certainly on Triumph when it went through the Suez Canal. He was out on deck and got sunburn. 50 years later he got skin cancer (happily not malignant) and the MoD paid him compensation! He didn’t want to do it, said it would take guns and ammo away from the front line, but the MoD confirmed it was a completely ring fenced budget and he deserved it!

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      1. It’s a small world! My father sadly passed away at the end of June, also developed skin cancer but that was just another ailment added to the many others he had. He spent a fair bit of time on the banks of the Suez photographing passing ships. These must be in his album at home – which we are trying to sell. I will endeavour to dig them out and send you a picture of it next time I’m there.

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    1. HI again, I have found the picture of HMS Triumph, the entire crew appear to be on deck, too small/blurred to recognise anyone, but you are welcome to have a copy. If you would like to give me an email address, I’ll send it over. I can’t seem to add photos here. Andy

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