Page last updated 30 January 2024


From John Keenan (FAABA) - Good afternoon all.
As some of you know, over the past year I have been interviewed for several hours by Mr Bond with regard to my Fleet Air Arm Service - on my five Aircraft Carriers and of course Shore stations. He rang me the other day to check on a few statements, highlighted in the proof reading as the book is about to be published.
I have been invited to attend the June opening at Duxford, to sign the book for purchasers. It will be a two day event at the expense of the publishers. (Lots of beer then, as I shall not be the only FAA chap signing). Has the making of a 'fine party' - when us old and decrepit 'Waffoo's' start spinning 'dits' over a beer or several. Meeting many long lost faces. In the days when the 'Crabs' could not 'hack it'!
So get your wallets out, a percentage goes to the RN charity, and the FAA Historic Flight. ( I Know, I known, I was far to young to work on the Swordfish.)
Cheers, John.

Click on the image to see where you can Pre-order the book if you can't attend the book signing at Duxford. There may be other book-sellers with better deals so shop around. Produced by Grub Street Publishing

This first volume looks chronologically at every aircraft type flown in an air defence role since 1945. Involvement in conflicts including Korea, Suez, the Falklands, Bosnia and elsewhere is included, and perforce the cost in human lives, even in everyday operations, frequently emerges. Balancing this are the everyday grind, the good times, the humour, the 'runs ashore' and the sense of pride in a job well done. All delivered in the words of the men themselves.


We don't normally advertise books but we think some members will be interested in purchasing this updated book if they missed buying it in 1984 or 1994. Air Britain are offering this book at Members prices to current and former members of the FAA.

The book is now available to order online at

From Air-Britain, news has just reached us of the arrival at Tonbridge of our latest 'heavyweight': The Squadrons and Units of the Fleet Air Arm. Based on the earlier 1984 and 1994 works, this fully updated 512 page book now includes the miscellaneous support and training units and schools that have hitherto gone unrecorded. It also, for the first time, is colour throughout, including the unit badges, and is illustrated with over 800 photographs. Aircraft-capable ships and shore bases are also dealt with, along with comprehensive Battle Honours, Trophies and Awards, helicopter Flights and codes lists not to be found anywhere else, bringing the intervening 22 years since the last book to print for the first time. A must for any military historian or current/former member of the Fleet Air Arm and surely a most welcome stocking filler this Christmas! Cover price £47.50; Air-Britain Member (and current/former FAA on proof of ID) price £35. Current and former members select the "Members" price, on the order form (at the bottom) state 'Non-Member', this will get you the book at the discounted price. (Air-Britain may email you to confirm proof of ID)

Every effort will be made to distribute orders to arrive before Xmas but please get your orders in early.

The Buccaneer Boys

A new book is being published on the 30th September, it's called 'The Buccaneer Boys' and made up of true tales by those who flew the 'last all-British bomber', [Hardcover], Graham Pitchfork (Author), Price: £20.00
Twenty-four aircrew who flew the iconic aircraft with the Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force (SAAF) relate their experiences and affection for the Blackburn Buccaneer. Arranged in chronological order, the book traces the history of the aircraft and the tasks it fulfilled. In addition to describing events and activities, it provides an insight into the lifestyle of a Buccaneer squadron and the fun and enjoyment of being a 'Buccaneer Boy' in addition to being part of a highly professional and dedicated force. The introduction into service is fully described before further chapters cover the development of the air force's maritime tactics and the deployment of two squadrons to Germany in the overland strike role. Two chapters cover the aircraft's stunning successes at the Red Flag and Maple Flag exercises flown in North America which took the USAF hierarchy by storm. A further chapter is devoted to the intensive but little known Bush War operations by 24 SAAF Squadron on the borders of Angola. Two USAF exchange officers who flew Buccaneers relate their experiences and the aircraft's deployment for the Lebanon crisis and the reinforcement exercise to the Falkland Islands is examined. The introduction of new air-to-surface anti-ship missiles is covered before the Buccaneer left to go to war in the Gulf where it distinguished itself providing precision laser marking for the Tornado force in addition to carrying out its own precision bombing attacks. This lavishly-illustrated book concludes with accounts of the aircraft's final days in RAF service and some reflections on its impact on maritime and overland air power.

Note: I believe Air Commodore Pitchfork was a Flt Lt on 800 Squadron 1965-66

More information can be found at



This new 128 page softback book written by FAABA Member George McDonald was released on the 1st October 2019 and is available to purchase direct from him by emailing your details to,  The price is £6 + postage.

George was on HMS Hermes, the flagship of the Falkland War in 1982 and this is his personal account of his experiences throughout the campaign. From setting off from Portsmouth Royal Naval Dockyard in April 1982 and returning triumphantly in July 1982 to a magnificent welcome home, after a long period at sea.

Maybe if he gets enough orders he may write another about his experiences on 800 Squadron in the 1970's.


Frontline & Experimental Flying With The Fleet Air Arm

Commander G. R. (Geoff) Higgs AFC RN

The spectacle of Alan Cobham's Flying Circus and the Fleet at anchor in Weymouth inspired the author's lifelong passion for aeroplanes, flying and the Royal Navy. World War Two provided the opportunity to fulfil his ambition and at eighteen he volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot. Training in Canada began a Naval flying career that spanned thirty-years. Front line squadron service, embarked on aircraft carriers, was followed by qualification as a flying instructor. Selection for the Empire Test Pilots School at Farnborough and qualification as an experimental Test Pilot changed the direction of his naval career. In all Geoff Higgs flew nearly one hundred types of aircraft and carried out close to a thousand deck landings. Initial flight testing of a number of new naval aircraft, as well as research flying in support of the development of aircraft such as the English Electric Lightning and Concorde added to a unique career.

This book covers the author's flying career from the finish of World War 2 including his appointment as CO of the Naval Test Squadron at Boscombe Down replacing Mike Crosley (See book review below). In 1965 as CO of 'C' Squadron he also took 3 Buccaneer Mk 2 Aircraft to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, NAS Pensacola in Florida and the Carrier USS Lexington for Hot weather Trials.

Available from Amazon


Up in Harms Way



Commander R. M 'Mike' Crosley DSC & Bar RN

This book covers the author's flying career from the finish of World War 2 until his final appointment as CO of the Naval Test Squadron at Boscombe Down. Having had an outstanding wartime record 'Mike' Crosley became heavily involved with the introduction of Britain's first carrier-borne jet aircraft. The book explains how modern techniques, such as the angled flight deck, steam catapult and deck-landing mirror sights were developed and tested. At Boscombe Down he developed the 'hand's-off' launch technique for the Buccaneer which saved it from probable cancellation at a very difficult time for British naval aviation. There is ample technical detail in this book for those who wish to get deeper into the subject and he pulls no punches in his response to the cancellation of the CVA01 project in the 1960's

Available from Amazon

Mike Crosley crossed the bar in June 2010 - Link to details of his obituary





Lieutenant Commander John Moffat RN

'Ranks among the very finest moments of Fleet Air Arm and Royal Navy history' Navy News 

May1941, the pilots of fifteen canvas-covered biplanes struggled to hold their Swordfish aircraft steady as they aimed towards the German battleship Bismarck. They flew low over a wind-wracked ocean, aiming their torpedoes, totally vulnerable in their open cockpits. If they failed now Bismarck would escape to safety.


Among these brave flyers was a young Sub-Lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, John Moffat. Only years later was John told that it was his torpedo that had prevented the Bismarck from outrunning her Royal Navy pursuers.


I Sank the Bismarck is a personal story of a carefree young boy, raised in the Borders, growing up to join a fledgling Fleet Air Arm. It's the story of a young pilot, living for the moment, facing war, and taking part in one of the most important battles at sea ever fought by Britain and the Royal Navy.  


Available from Amazon



The untold story of how 22 Marines held off hundreds of Argentinians and disabled a warship on the eve of the Falklands War.


George Thomsen has written his story of how 22 Royal Marines, stranded on the frozen island of South Georgia faced a hostile Argentinian invasion force.

Naval Party 8901; Royal Marine George Thomsen is enjoying a drink at a farewell party after spending a 12 month tour of duty on the Falklands. But celebrations on 'going home' are cut short as he is hauled from the party to learn that his duties in the South Atlantic are very far from over. He is ordered to pick 8 men and to embark on the HMS Endurance the next morning, for the most dangerous mission of his career. 800 miles to the south East, scrap merchant Davidoff accompanied by Argentine troops masquerading as his employees, have raised the Argentine flag over the distant frozen island of South Georgia - British territory and the base of The British Antarctic Survey Team. Davidoff has held up one finger at The Empire and set the match to the touch paper that will escalate into all out war. Lightly armed and stranded by a departing HMS Endurance, the tiny besieged and outnumbered force make ready for a classic battle to protect the island and its scientists, against massive odds, from the air, land and sea.

Available from Pickabook



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HMS Ark Royal, Britain’s Last Top Guns and the Untold Story of Their Most Dramatic Mission 

‘Completely riveting … as gripping as any Tom Clancy thriller’ JEREMY CLARKSON 

‘If only all military history was written like this …’ ANDY MCNAB 

‘A remarkable story told with skill and dedication  … I enjoyed it.  And I learned a lot.’ LEN DEIGHTON

‘A gutsy, you-are-there true story that throbs with the sound and fury of carrier operations.  Military history as it ought to be told.’  ROBERT GANDT 

‘Clearly states the case for naval aviation in our uncertain age.  An aircraft carrier loaded with fighter bombers is still the big stick …’ STEPHEN COONTS 

HMS Ark Royal was the most powerful warship the Royal Navy had ever put to sea, her Air Group of Phantoms, Buccaneers, Gannets and Sea Kings a match for anything else in the sky.  But, by the end of January 1972, she was also the last of her kind, the sole remaining British aircraft carrier, kept in service to help face down the threat from the powerful Soviet Navy. 

Then intelligence reached Whitehall that British Honduras – now Belize – was under threat of imminent invasion from neighbouring Guatemala.  The little colony was all but defenceless in the face of battle-hardened, US-trained Guatemalan soldiers and airmen.  Until Ark Royal was ordered to ‘Proceed with all despatch’ …  

Drawing on many hours of interviews with the participants and previously unseen, classified documents in the UK and overseas, Phoenix Squadron pieces together this remarkable episode for the first time.  And in doing so brings to life a unique, unfamiliar and fascinating period in British military history. 

Phoenix Squadron was published in hardback by Bantam Press on 9th April 2009, priced £18.99 and is available from


Hardcover: 349 pages
Publisher: Bantam Press (9 April 2009)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0593054504
ISBN-13: 978-0593054505


Link to


Those who will have noted the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, celebrated in September 2010, will have also observed that the celebrations studiously avoided any mention of the many Fleet Air Arm pilots who took part (one of whom was Douglas Badar's wingman), or of the Naval squadrons allocated specifically to the battle and whose participation is recorded on the Battle of Britain Memorial on the Embankment, London. 

Just as overlooked were members of the air forces of many allied nations that took part in what has now been termed the Battle of Britain. 

Maritime Books at Liskeard have kindly forwarded the following book review, printed in their publication Warship World (Volume 12 Number 2 November/December 2010).




This important new book from the Naval Institute Press was a pleasure to review and thoroughly deserves to be widely read and debated.  

In it, Anthony Cumming clearly drives home the point that Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force did not prevent the Germans from invading Britain in the autumn of 1940, nor could it have done so alone. The myth that it did has continued to grow, however, to the point where the majority of the British population believe that the gallant 'Few' in their Spitfires were responsible for defeating an immediate and credible threat of German invasion with little help from the other armed forces or the wider civilian population. 

The truth is that, whatever the air situation, any serious attempt at invasion would have to cross the English Channel in requisitioned canal barges towed slowly by tugs. The Royal Navy, at the time the world's most powerful fleet dominated the Channel and would have annihilated the defenceless German vessels.  

German air power did not stop the British Fleet from evacuating troops from Norway, Dunkirk, Greece and Crete; it could not have prevented the Home Fleet from destroying the motley collection of invasion shipping at whatever cost to itself from air attack.  

This fact was recognised by the German War Staff who saw the probability of defeat at sea all too clearly. These self-evident facts lacked sufficient propaganda appeal for Prime Minister Churchill, however, as he sought to manipulate American public opinion with the colourful image of Fighter Command pitched alone against heavy odds rather than the 'silent victory' of the Navy which was so vastly superior to the few German warships that survived the Norwegian Campaign that the enemy would not even contemplate fighting it.  

Without denigrating the achievements of the fighter pilots, some of which were lent to the RAF by the Royal Navy, Cumming examines the Battle of Britain from a number of aspects, including the technical capabilities of the forces involved and the characters of RN and RAF Commanders.  

Unlike previous works on the subject he has researched extensively into the way in which the PR organisation portrayed the conflict at the time, selecting its facts in an attempt to get the USA to join the war on Britain's side. A gallant fight against superior numbers was more likely to win support from 'grass-roots' Americans than a factual portrayal of an enemy held in check by the powerful British Fleet.  

The author explains the interpretation of public opinion in the USA through early polls by Mr Gallup; a system with which we are all now very familiar.  

Cumming is a graduate of Plymouth University and, in 2006, he won the Julian Corbett Prize for Research in Modern Naval History. He has produced an excellent, scholarly and well-researched work that draws our attention away from the 'Few' to focus on the 'Many', including all the armed forces and the civilian population. This is a fascinating study, not only of the crisis in 1940 but of the way in which facts were presented by politicians to manipulate international opinion. It provides us with the best analysis yet written of the whole complex situation in the autumn of 1940 and the difficulty experienced in initiating joint operations. It places the air battles over Southern England in the wider context of a global war and British attempts to rally American support.


I recommend it most highly.




Naval Institute Press.


Reviewed by CCT for Warship World.
Recommended retail price £19.99


Joint Force Harrier

Days after arriving in Kandahar, the Harriers of 800 Naval Air Squadron were in the thick of fierce fighting. Armed with rockets and bombs, the pilots were flying crucial danger-close attack missions in defence of troops engaged in the most intense battles seen by British forces since the Korean War. While facing the constant threat of surface-to-air missiles, the British Top Guns knew that any mistake would have fatal consequences for the soldiers who depended on their skill and determination. Written by the Commanding Officer of the first Royal Navy squadron to deploy to Afghanistan, Joint Force Harrier is a compelling insight into the exciting world of modern air warfare.




Joint Force Harrier by Commander Ade Orchard, RN

Format: Hardback
Published: 04/09/2008
ISBN: 0718153995


Link to


Rock Promoter Geoff Docherty

A Promoters Tale:

Rock at the Sharp End (Paperback)

by Geoff Docherty (Author)


Michael Wale records more episodes in the colourful life of one time Sunderland rock concert promoter Geoff Docherty.

Geoff Docherty spent six years in the Fleet Air Arm, before returning to civvy life in Sunderland where, because of his service training he always wore a suit and tie, and he retained his fitness, which was to lead him towards the job of rock promoter.


"I ended up in the forces. In fact, I was in all three forces at some time or another. Eventually I went into the Fleet Air Arm. I think I was looking for a lot of adventure. I was from a working class family in a working class town. I wanted more.

"I spent time on the Ark Royal," he says. I bought myself out after six and a half years. I was a qualified aircraft mechanic. I wanted to become a professional footballer, but that didn't happen. Although I did play for the Ark Royal football team against Western Australia. We lost.

Link to article in Journal Live

Format: Paperback
Published: 2002
Publisher: Omnibus Press
071199434X / 9780711994348


Link to



Pen & Sword books are delighted to inform members that the following title, in which we have previously expressed an interest, has now been published and is available to order via Don't forget to use the members discount code when ordering to obtain 25% off.

A Royal Navy Cold War Buccaneer Pilot (Hardback)


Update from SimonFrom Simon Kershaw
On 30th March 2023, Pen and Sword will publish 'A Royal Navy Cold War Buccaneer Pilot'.
I would like to offer FAABA a 'members only' discount of 25% off the retail price of copies ordered via the Pen and Sword website, by applying the discount code ***** (available from the Members Only section)
I have consulted the FAABA website several times to support the accounts of embarkations on Eagle, Hermes, and Ark Royal contained in my father's letters.

Thank you, and I hope your members will find it an interesting read.

Kind regards,

This is a vivid and powerful story of life on board the last of our great Second World War-era aircraft carriers, modernised to serve beyond their time. It is a story of the Cold War which conveys the trials and tribulations of flying one of the best-loved military aircraft in history.

Steve Kershaw joined the Royal Navy in 1963. He began flying training in 1968 and progressed to the Blackburn Buccaneer – a world-class naval strike jet that was designed to fly very fast at ultra-low altitudes. In 1970, Steve joined 800 Naval Air Squadron, which embarked on HMS Eagle on its epic final cruise.

The voyage to the Far East was far from trouble-free – an aircraft crashed into the sea, there was a devastating explosion on board the carrier, and then two sailors were arrested for murder in Auckland. New year 1972 saw HMS Eagle decommissioned and 800 NAS disbanded.

Steve was transferred to 845 Naval Air Squadron, on which he flew Wessex helicopters. Embarked on HMS Hermes, the squadron supported Royal Marines Commandos during their deployment to the mountains of Norway under NATO plans for a European war. During this time, helicopters were strangely sabotaged on board and one of them crashed into a fjord at night.

By 1974, HMS Ark Royal was the last remaining Royal Navy fixed-wing aircraft carrier to which Steve returned to fly Buccaneers on 809 Squadron. It was in this period that he participated in a NATO exercise in Norway and a Mediterranean cruise.

On return, the squadron prepared for a bombing competition between the RAF and Royal Navy Buccaneers. As part of this, Steve flew a low-level sortie off the Lincolnshire coast. The light was fading, and he was struggling to see the target ahead. He failed to see they were losing height. The aircraft hit the sea. Steve and his observer, David, were ejected into the water.

In this book, Steve’s story is revealed by his son, Simon, through the words of his father, drawn from a mass of letters sent by him, and the recollections of those who served alongside him