Another Giant Leap
By John Butterworth
The account of my part in the unfortunate incidents which took place on 6th August 1947 follows on from Bill Henley's detailed description of the first Great Barrier Leap.
I was told to land on but when Jimmy James had his prang the deck was obviously 'foul' so I was then told to circle the ship until it was cleared. It seemed to me to be an age, but as my log book records a time of 1 hour 40 minutes from take off to 'splash down'. It can't have been that long.
However, I eventually received the 'all clear', made my approach, and got the 'cut' but I was probably much too fast and bounced before clearing the barrier, landing on the starboard forward gun sponson, then falling nose first into the 'oggin'.
We (my crewman Charlie Taafe and I) went down with the aircraft quite a long way, but the instinct for survival enabled us to struggle free, and we broke surface simultaneously. After a short time in the water we were picked up by a boat from the attendant destroyer HMAS Arunta. They took us back to their ship where we were very well looked after and given dry clothing. A boat then came over from Theseus and transferred us to base. I spent the night in sick bay as a precaution, but fortunately only suffered a black eye.
I subsequently learned that Admiral Creasy and Captain Dickson were on the flying bridge when I passed them at eye level. They left their shadows behind them in haste to seek refuge in the island. However, Leslie Jones (Senior Pilot of 804 Squadron' was in the 'goofers' and stayed long enough to take a photograph.
As a result of these happenings, and other misfortunes in Glory, flying was suspended while we visited Brisbane, and Wellington, New Zealand before flying off to the RNZAF airfield at Whenuapai, just outside Auckland where we worked-up for a fortnight.
On 15th September the squadron returned to Theseus, but landing was delayed for over two hours, by which time I was running low on fuel. I was given permission to land on immediately after the AGC (Lt Cdr Callingham). My approach was not good and I got a 'wave-off'. It appeared that it had been decided to allow me just one pass at the deck. I was therefore instructed to return to Whenuapai. 'Knocker' Knight was flown out to collect me and my aircraft for return to Theseus. That was my final landing on a carrier.