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15 October 2014
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Breakfast with a friend and then go to his funeral in the afternoon

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mr Gordon Dunning
Location of story: 
Solent, Hampshire, UK, Canada, Mediterranean, Far East
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 July 2005

Course members, crossed above those who lost their lives during the course of the war, and subsequently .Mr Dunning is front row second left.

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Jas from Global Information Centre Eastbourne and has been added to the website on behalf of Mr Dunning with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions

I joined up with many others on 2nd November 1942, for training as pilots in the Fleet Air Arm. At Lee on the Solent, Hampshire. The training took 18 months in the U.K. and in Canada. I finished my training in May 1944, and was on leave pending appointment when the D-Day Landings took place, I was posted to a front line squadron of Barracudas embarked in H.M.S.Victorious in Scapa Flow, together with another pilot who had been with me all through training by the name of Ian Foskett.

We thought we would be supporting the D-Day landings but instead found we were bound for the Far East to fight the Japanese.

Ian and I shared a cabin and we sailed as a fleet i.e.: - the Victorious, Indomitable, about 5 cruisers and several destroyers, we sailed through the straits of Gibraltar, into the Mediterranean, on the way we did exercises.

On the morning of the 21st June 1944, Ian and I got up washed, shaved and dressed and went together for breakfast, in the Ward room, after breakfast we were due to fly on exercise and went up to the flight deck, where our Barracudas had been ranged.

Unfortunately, my machine proved to be unserviceable and had to be pushed to one side, to allow the others to take off. Both the Barracudas and the Corsair fighters, escorting them were to carry out a simulated dive-bombing attack on one of the vessels in the fleet.

I went below had a bath and I believe wrote a letter then went back to the Ward room for lunch. It was only then that I heard that there had been some terrible accidents during the morning.

Two of the Barracudas and one of the Corsairs had crashed into the sea, killing all seven aircrew members. Then I heard that one of the Barracudas was flown by my friend Ian Foskett.

One of the Destroyers had recovered Ian's body and that of his Telegraphist Air Gunner, but none of the other bodies were found. We all had a very subdued lunch not feeling much like eating. In the after-noon there was a burial service on the flight deck for Ian and his T.A.G., whose bodies were committed to the deep, there was also a memorial service for the remaining casualties.

I remember reflecting at the time as indeed I still do to-day, that there are not many situations in life when you have breakfast with a friend and go to his funeral in the afternoon. I then had the job of packing up his kit, to send to his Mother.

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