The Efficiency of the Dinghy…


While crawling through files at Kew I came across this communication between Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, AOC-in-C Fighter Command, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, CAS, during 1941 and 1942.[1] In amongst all the policy issues, such as the re-equipment of night fighter squadrons with the Bristol Beaufighter, there is this interesting exchange relating to a report on the saving of Squadron Leader J C Carver, Officer Commanding No. 118 Squadron. The report is not in the correspondence but may well be in the files of the CAS.

In his letter to Portal, Douglas added the following postscript:

You might like to see the attached report about Squadron Leader Carver…who was shot down near the Channel Islands on 13th March and was picked up last night by a destroyer having paddled his dinghy more than half way back to England.[2]

Portal’s reply was that:

He put up a magnificent performance, which also speaks well for the efficiency of the dinghy.[3]

In March 1942 No. 118 Squadron, having reformed as a fighter squadron in early 1941, was operating from RAF Ibsley conducting sweeps over the Channel and France. On 13 March the squadron were flying a ROADSTEAD operation against coastal shipping.[4] It was during this operation that Carver was shot down. For his bravery and survival he was awarded the DFC. Unfortunately, Carver was to lose his life while flying a RAMROD mission when he was engaged by two FW190’s over Cap de Levy.[5]

Efficiency of the dinghy indeed.

By Ross Mahoney, PhD Candidate, Centre for War Studies, University of Birmingham

[1] TNA, AIR 16/622, General Correspondence with the Chief of the Air Staff.

[2] TNA, AIR 16/622, Douglas to Portal, 16 March 1942.

[3] TNA, AIR 16/622, Portal to Douglas, 17 March 1942.

[4] Norman Franks, Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 2: Operational Losses, Aircraft and Crews, 1942-1943 (Midland Publishing, 1998) p. 16.

[5] Franks, Fighter Command Losses, p. 39.


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