A ditched Avenger

"A NAVAL STORY" - Pete Gething

I had a lengthy stay in Ceylon and on the Indian Ocean with 832 Squadron aboard HMS Begum, prior to joining 828 Squadron aboard HMS Implacable. Early in 1945 we left Scotland to join the Pacific Fleet for the final attack on Japan.

I had many heart-stopping moments on this venture and herewith present two of the more serious episodes.

When HMS Implacable was en-route to Oz, we were sent out on a Radar Calibration Exercise. We were instructed to go in any direction and at any altitude.

The ship`s radar had to locate our returning positions and, having done so, Seafires were scrambled to intercept us. One of the Seafires crashed into the sea and practically cut my Avenger in half.

My Observer, my T.A.G. and the Seafire pilot were all killed. I took to my parachute and made a lengthy descent into the Indian Ocean. After splashdown I was dismayed to find that the dinghy`s gas bottle was u/s and I started to use the small hand pump.

A fellow Avenger pilot found me and, as he dived over me, his T.A.G. – Gordon Passmore O.B.E. – slung his dinghy in my direction. To hold the rear hatch open against a 200 kt slipstream and throw the dinghy was a terrific feat of strength.

The drop was brilliant – almost too brilliant – the dinghy only just missed my head. Had it hit me, it would have killed me, however the dinghy inflated beautifully and I was more than relieved to climb aboard. There I was, on the Tropic of Capricorn, about 100 miles from the Cocos Islands, ALONE ! A comrade Avenger did a `Chase me Charlie` between me and a very distant ASR vessel which eventually homed in on me and took me in. Once aboard I was `dosed` with a very large measure of Pussers!

On return to the Implacable, I was put in the Sick Bay for a few days. The M.O. asked a pilot and friend of mine, Dig Swam of New Zealand, to see me and to ascertain whether or not I seemed `normal`. Dig`s verdict was, “As normal as he`ll ever be!` Another pilot and friend, Lash Williams, walked into my tiny ward in a white doctor`s coat and sporting a stethoscope. He gave me a huge whiskey, with the words, “This is your prescription for today”. Back to flying again.

Somewhere in the Pacific, we were sent off on an exercise and as I took off, I knew that we were seriously underpowered. I raised the undercart and rammed the throttle through the gate to maximise lift, to no effect. I throttled back to the gate and made a very smooth ditch.

The large A/C dinghy, which I carried amidships, was jammed solidly in its compartment, so I reached back into my cockpit and extracted my pilot`s dinghy. We walked along the port wing, which was then sinking, and jumped into the ocean. The small dinghy inflated well and we clung to its sides with considerable relief.

Meanwhile the speeding Implacable had completed a very effective `Slick Turn`. Can you imagine how insignificant and vulnerable we three little airmen felt as the Implacable, towering above us, slipped by ? We were recovered by the A.S.R. vessel and in my case treated to a repeat dose of Pussers. Back to the Implacable. Back to flying.

After each of these episodes I was welcomed back by our senior pilot, Lt Reg Elliott, a very experienced, distinguished and much decorated officer. He was a tower of strength.

Goldfish Pete Gething ex Lt RNVR