Canadian Warplanes 3: Grumman Martlet, RN

Grumman Martlets flown by RCN and RCNVR pilots in service with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy

(RN Photo)

Grumman Martlet flown by RCN and RCNVR pilots in service with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy.

Grumman Wildcats ordered by the French government in 1939, but when France fell to the Germans in 1940, the contract for 8 1 aircraft was taken over by the British government.  These model G-36A aircraft designated the Martlet Mk. I by the UK, were powered by a nine-cylinder, single-row Wright R-1820-G205A radial engine, of 1,200 hp (890 kW) and with a single-stage two-speed supercharger.  The Martlet Mk. I was armed with four 0.50 in (12.7-mm) guns mounted in the wings.  The Martlets were modified for British use by Blackburn, with British gunsights, catapult spools and other items but the superior American equipment radio equipment was retained.

The first Martlets entered British service in August 1940, with No. 804 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), stationed at Hatson in the Orkney Islands.  The Martlet Mk. I did not have a wing folding mechanism and was therefore used primarily from land bases, with the notable exception of six aircraft of No. 882 Squadron on board HMS Illustrious from March 1942.   In April 1942, HMS Illustrious transferred two Martlet Mk. I aircraft to HMS Archer while in port at Freetown.  One of her four retained Martlet Mk. I aircraft were subsequently fitted with folding wings by ship's staff during passage to Durban.  In 1940, Belgium also placed an order for at least 10 Martlet Mk 1s. These were to be modified with the removal of the tailhook.  Belgium surrendered before any aircraft were delivered and by 10 May 1940, the aircraft order was transferred to the Royal Navy.

Before the Fleet Air Arm took the Martlet Mk. Is on charge, it had already ordered 100 model G-36B fighters.  The British chose the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G engine to power this aircraft; this too had a single-stage, two-speed supercharger.  The FAA decided to accept a delay in delivery to get Martlets fitted out with the Grumman-designed and patented Sto-Wing folding wing system first fitted onto U.S. Navy F4F-4 Wildcats, which were vitally important if the Martlet was to be used from the first three Illustrious class carriers which had elevators that were too narrow to accommodate non-folding wing aircraft.  Nevertheless, the first 10 received had fixed wings.  The first Martlet with folding wings was not delivered until August 1941.

In contrast to the USN F4F-3, the British aircraft were fitted with armour and self-sealing fuel tanks.  The Mk. II also had a larger tailwheel.  For carrier operations, the "sting" tail hook and attachment point for the American single-point catapult launch system were considered important advantages.  Nevertheless, the Martlets were modified to have British-style catapult spools.  Deliveries of the folding-wing model G-36Bs began in August 1941, with 36 shipped to the UK and 54 shipped to the Far East; they were designated Martlet Mk. II.  Testing of these Martlets showed a maximum speed of 293 mph at 5,400 ft and 13,800 ft, a maximum climb rate of 1940 fpm at 7,600 ft at 7,790 lb weight, and a time to climb to 20,000 ft of 12.5 minutes. The service ceiling at 7,790 lb was 31,000 ft.

The majority of the Martlet Mk. IIs were sent to the Far East.  The first shipboard operations of the type in British service were in September 1941, on board  HMS Audacity, a small escort carrier with a carrier deck of 420 ft (130 m) by 59 ft (18 m), no elevators and no hangar deck.  The six Wildcats were parked on the deck at all times.  On its first voyage, it served as escort carrier for a convoy to Gibraltar.  On 20 September, a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 was shot down.  On the next voyage, four Fw 200 Condors fell to the guns of the Martlets, and of the combined total, two of these five Condors were shot down by Eric Brown during his time on board.  Operations from HMS Audacity also demonstrated that the fighter cover was useful against U-boats.  HMS Audacity was sunk by a U-boat on 21 December 1941, with only Brown and one other pilot surviving, but it had already proved the usefulness of escort carriers.

In May 1942, Nos. 881 and 882 Squadrons on HMS Illustrious participated in operations against Madagascar.  In August 1942, No. 806 NAS on board HMS Indomitable provided fighter cover for a convoy to Malta. Later in that year they participated in the landings in French North Africa.

The first 30 F4F-3As were to be sold to Greece, but after its defeat in April 1941 the aircraft had only reached Gibraltar, and they were taken over by the FAA as Martlet Mk. III(B).  As these aircraft did not have folding wings, they were only used from land bases. They served in a shore-based role in the Western Desert.

Ten fixed-wing model G-36Bs were flown by the FAA as Martlet Mk. III(A).

The Royal Navy purchased 220 F4F-4s adapted to British requirements.  The main difference was the use of a Wright R-1820-40B Cyclone in a distinctly more rounded and compact cowling, with a single double-wide flap on each side of the rear and no lip intake.  These machines were named Martlet Mk. IV.

Testing of Martlet Mk. IV showed a maximum speed of 278 mph at 3,400 ft and 298 mph at 14,600 ft, a maximum climb rate of 1580 fpm at 6,200 ft at 7,740 lb weight, and a time to climb to 20,000 ft of 14.6 minutes.  The service ceiling at 7,740 lb was 30,100 ft. The Fleet Air Arm purchased 312 FM-1s, originally with the designation of Martlet Mk. V.  In January 1944, a decision was made to retain the American names for US-supplied aircraft, redesignating the batch as the Wildcat V. The Wildcat Mk. VI was the Air Ministry name for the FM-2 Wildcat in FAA service. (Wikipedia)

Detailed records of all known RCAF and Canadian casualties in the RAF during the Second World War may be viewed on line in the Canadian Aircraft Serials Personnel Information Resource (CASPIR). The CASPIR website is researched, coded, and maintained entirely by Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) volunteers with one staff assisting periodically. This work has taken several years and is unlikely to be finished as continuing research leads to “new finds” and rediscovered Canadian aviation heritage and history.  The CWHM volunteer team looks forward to continuing to update and correct the record as additional information and photos arereceived. Check here for the Martlet.

Lt(A) Herbert Michael Little, RCNVR, ..No. 768 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Heron, RNAS Yeovilton, was lost when his Grumman Wildcat Mk. V (Serial No. JV 356) spun into the sea while practicing deck landings from off HMS Ravager, 6 June 1945. Lt(A) HM Little (RCNVR) was missing, presumed killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Halifax Memorial (www.fleetairarmarchive.netwww.naval-history.net)

(IWM Photo, A18728)

HMS Ravager, moored at Greenock.

(IWM Photo, A20383)

An aircraftsman on the chocks as a Grumman Martlet (Serial No. FN 144) is warmed up on board HMS Formidable.

(IWM Photo, A15112)

The Flight Deck Officer signals to the pilot of a Grumman Wildcat of No 881 Squadron Fleet Air Arm that he is cleared to take off from HMS Illustrious in the Indian Ocean.

(IWM Photo, A15113)

Grumman Martlet on board HMS Illustrious in the Indian Ocean, Dec 1942.

(IWM Photo, A11635)

Grumman Martlet, No. 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm with its wings folded being brought up in the lift for ranging on board HMS Formidable.

(RN Photo)

Grumman Martlet flown by RCN and RCNVR pilots in service with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy.

(IWM Photo, A24529)

Fleet Air Arm Grumman Grumman Martlet of No. 846 Naval Air Squadron based at Eglington, Northern Ireland (UK).  The aircraft displays the stripes carried by aircraft of the Allied Expeditionary Force during the Normandy landings in June 1944.

(RN Photo)

Royal Navy Grumman Marlet Mk. V and and Grumman Avengers, Fleet Air Arm (FAA) No. 846 NAS, on board HMS Tracker during supporting operations for the D-Day landings, June 1944.

(RN Photo)

Royal Navy Grumman Marlet Mk. II (Serial No. AM977), coded A, HMS Illustrious.

(RN Photo)

Royal Navy Grumman Marlet Mk. II (Serial No. AM977), coded A, HMS Illustrious.

(IWM Photo, A11644)

Grumman Martlet Mk. II, No. 888 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, taxi-ing forward after landing on board HMS Formidable (67).

(IWM Photo, A 11640)

Grumman Martlet bring prepared for launch from the Royal Navy carrier HMS Formidable.

(IWM Photo, A23059)

Grumman Wildcat fighter of No 882 Squadron Fleet Air Arm being manoeuvred into position for takeoff from HMS Pursuer off the northern coast of Norway.

(IWM Photo, A14211)

Grumman Martlet fighter warming up on the flight deck of HMS Formidable, Dec 1942.

(IWM Photo, A 9716)

After landing a Grumman Martlet of No. 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm is seen taxi-ing along the flight deck of HMS Formidable to the forward hangar, 1942.

(IWM Photo, A 14217)

Grumman Martlet (Serial No. FN114), No. 888 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, taking off from the deck of HMS Formidable in the Mediterranean Sea.

(RN Photo)

Grumman Martlet flown by RCN and RCNVR pilots in service with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy.

Grumman Wildcats ordered by the French government in 1939, but when France fell to the Germans in 1940, the contract for 8 1 aircraft was taken over by the British government.  These model G-36A aircraft designated the Martlet Mk. I by the UK, were powered by a nine-cylinder, single-row Wright R-1820-G205A radial engine, of 1,200 hp (890 kW) and with a single-stage two-speed supercharger.  The Martlet Mk. I was armed with four 0.50 in (12.7-mm) guns mounted in the wings.  The Martlets were modified for British use by Blackburn, with British gunsights, catapult spools and other items but the superior American equipment radio equipment was retained.

The first Martlets entered British service in August 1940, with No. 804 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), stationed at Hatson in the Orkney Islands.  The Martlet Mk. I did not have a wing folding mechanism and was therefore used primarily from land bases, with the notable exception of six aircraft of No. 882 Squadron on board HMS Illustrious from March 1942.   In April 1942, HMS Illustrious transferred two Martlet Mk. I aircraft to HMS Archer while in port at Freetown.  One of her four retained Martlet Mk. I aircraft were subsequently fitted with folding wings by ship's staff during passage to Durban.  In 1940, Belgium also placed an order for at least 10 Martlet Mk 1s. These were to be modified with the removal of the tailhook.  Belgium surrendered before any aircraft were delivered and by 10 May 1940, the aircraft order was transferred to the Royal Navy.

Before the Fleet Air Arm took the Martlet Mk. Is on charge, it had already ordered 100 model G-36B fighters.  The British chose the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G engine to power this aircraft; this too had a single-stage, two-speed supercharger.  The FAA decided to accept a delay in delivery to get Martlets fitted out with the Grumman-designed and patented Sto-Wing folding wing system first fitted onto U.S. Navy F4F-4 Wildcats, which were vitally important if the Martlet was to be used from the first three Illustrious class carriers which had elevators that were too narrow to accommodate non-folding wing aircraft.  Nevertheless, the first 10 received had fixed wings.  The first Martlet with folding wings was not delivered until August 1941.

In contrast to the USN F4F-3, the British aircraft were fitted with armour and self-sealing fuel tanks.  The Mk. II also had a larger tailwheel.  For carrier operations, the "sting" tail hook and attachment point for the American single-point catapult launch system were considered important advantages.  Nevertheless, the Martlets were modified to have British-style catapult spools.  Deliveries of the folding-wing model G-36Bs began in August 1941, with 36 shipped to the UK and 54 shipped to the Far East; they were designated Martlet Mk. II.  Testing of these Martlets showed a maximum speed of 293 mph at 5,400 ft and 13,800 ft, a maximum climb rate of 1940 fpm at 7,600 ft at 7,790 lb weight, and a time to climb to 20,000 ft of 12.5 minutes. The service ceiling at 7,790 lb was 31,000 ft.

The majority of the Martlet Mk. IIs were sent to the Far East.  The first shipboard operations of the type in British service were in September 1941, on board  HMS Audacity, a small escort carrier with a carrier deck of 420 ft (130 m) by 59 ft (18 m), no elevators and no hangar deck.  The six Wildcats were parked on the deck at all times.  On its first voyage, it served as escort carrier for a convoy to Gibraltar.  On 20 September, a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 was shot down.  On the next voyage, four Fw 200 Condors fell to the guns of the Martlets, and of the combined total, two of these five Condors were shot down by Eric Brown during his time on board.  Operations from HMS Audacity also demonstrated that the fighter cover was useful against U-boats.  HMS Audacity was sunk by a U-boat on 21 December 1941, with only Brown and one other pilot surviving, but it had already proved the usefulness of escort carriers.

In May 1942, Nos. 881 and 882 Squadrons on HMS Illustrious participated in operations against Madagascar.  In August 1942, No. 806 NAS on board HMS Indomitable provided fighter cover for a convoy to Malta. Later in that year they participated in the landings in French North Africa.

The first 30 F4F-3As were to be sold to Greece, but after its defeat in April 1941 the aircraft had only reached Gibraltar, and they were taken over by the FAA as Martlet Mk. III(B).  As these aircraft did not have folding wings, they were only used from land bases. They served in a shore-based role in the Western Desert.

Ten fixed-wing model G-36Bs were flown by the FAA as Martlet Mk. III(A).

The Royal Navy purchased 220 F4F-4s adapted to British requirements.  The main difference was the use of a Wright R-1820-40B Cyclone in a distinctly more rounded and compact cowling, with a single double-wide flap on each side of the rear and no lip intake.  These machines were named Martlet Mk. IV.

Testing of Martlet Mk. IV showed a maximum speed of 278 mph at 3,400 ft and 298 mph at 14,600 ft, a maximum climb rate of 1580 fpm at 6,200 ft at 7,740 lb weight, and a time to climb to 20,000 ft of 14.6 minutes.  The service ceiling at 7,740 lb was 30,100 ft. The Fleet Air Arm purchased 312 FM-1s, originally with the designation of Martlet Mk. V.  In January 1944, a decision was made to retain the American names for US-supplied aircraft, redesignating the batch as the Wildcat V. The Wildcat Mk. VI was the Air Ministry name for the FM-2 Wildcat in FAA service. (Wikipedia)

(IWM Photo, A 13667)

Grumman Martlet aircraft from No. 881 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, warm up for take off at a dusty landing strip at McKinnon Road, East Africa. The Royal Naval Air Station was built deep in the African bush and was used as a base by squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm.

(SDASM Photo)

Grumman [Eastern] FM-1 Martlet Mk. V (Serial No. JV330).

(IWM Photo, A11648)

Four Grumman Martlets of No 888 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, based on HMS Formidable, shown in flight over the sea on active service.

(IWM Photo, A12553)

Grumman Marlet pilot climbing into his aircraft on board HMS Victorious, September 1942.

(RN Photo)

Royal Navy Grumman Marlet Mk. V (Serial No.), coded 8N, HMS Persuer.

(SDASM Photo)

Grumman F4F-4 Grumman Martlet Mk. I (Serial No. AL246), Fleet Air Air Museum Yeovilton.

(Alan Wilson Photo)

Grumman Martlet Mk. I, c/n 656 Built as a G-36A (F4F-3 Wildcat) for the French Navy, but diverted to the Royal Navy and renamed as a Martlet I. It was based in Scotland throughout the war and then transferred to Loughborough College in 1945 for use as an instructional airframe. In April 1961 it moved to Yeovilton for preservation and recently underwent considerable conservation and restoration. It is seen on display in Hall 2 as part of the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ exhibiton. Fleet Air Arm Museum RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset, UK.

(Ian Dunster Photo)

Grumman Martlet/Wildcat at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, UK.

(Gonzolito Photo)

Grumman Martlet/Wildcat at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, UK.

(USN Photo)

In the early 1940's, Grumman and the US Navy tested emergency flotation bags on Grumman F4F Wildcats. These bags were stowed in the wing. In the event of a ditching, they deployed upward through doors in the leading edge to prevent the aircraft from sinking.

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