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The Royal Navy took delivery of Seafires during WW2 with various improvements and upgrades undertaken during its career with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). Our latest Seafire the Mk III had manually-folding wings, with small folding tips enabling it to fit in the hangars of Royal Navy aircraft carriers; the engine was the Merlin 55, with the Merlin 55M in the L.III also giving better low-level performance. The III and the L III served side by side on carriers to give a greater spread of defensive cover, with the L.III intended particularly in the Eastern fleets as a counter to the very low level kamikaze attacks.
The British Pacific Fleet was established in November 1944, initially with three aircraft carriers (though three more would join later); its purpose was to serve alongside the U S Navy in the Central Pacific, working toward the assault on the Japanese homeland. In its initial form the forty Seafires of 887 and 894 Naval Air Squadrons formed more than a quarter of its air strength, tasked with the air defence of the fleet; heavier fighters, Hellcats and Corsairs, were to be used with their longer range for more directly offensive sorties.
The fleet sailed from Sydney on 10 March, 1945, becoming Task Force 57; it took part in Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa.
From 13 to 15 August the carrier groups air wing attacked targets in the Tokyo area; at 0400 on the 15th August the carrier’s Fireflies launched a Ramrod sweep, followed by Avengers and escorted by eight Seafires from 887 and 894 RNAS.
During the mission a dozen Zeros dived from three o’clock high, passing the Seafires and heading for the Avengers, managing to shoot down Sub Lt. Fred Hockley in his Seafire during their pass. Hockley bailed out and was captured by the Japanese on the ground below. ‘Spud’ Murphy an experience FAA Ace managed to destroy two of the Zeros during this encounter making these some of the last aerial kills of WW2.
As a footnote to this last WW2 mission by the Royal Navy FAA, the captured Hockley who was only 22 years old, was then secretly executed by his Japanese captors on the night of 15th August, despite the Japanese soldiers knowing that the Emperor had already ordered the surrender of Japan earlier that day. Hockleys fate came to light during interrogation by British forces after the war. The two Japanese officers responsible for the war crime were executed in Hong Kong by hanging in 1947.
Hockley was the last Royal Navy casualty of WW2, one of many needless deaths during WW2 but this one particularly pointless and rather sad.
Our 1/30 scale Seafire NN212 is the one flown by Naval Ace ‘Spud’ Murphy during that last mission of WW2, also included is the seated pilot figure as per the pictures on the site. The mat is not included please note.