Operational History and Background
The squadron was formed at Lee-on-Solent in June 1941 as a Fleet Fighter squadron with 6 Martlet Is and IIs.

The squadron was destined for HMS Ark Royal, but when the ship was sunk on 13 November 1941 the squadron was allocated to HMS Illustrious, sailing for the Indian Ocean in March 1942.

In May 1942, the squadron, joining 882 squadron, supported the capture of Diego Suarez in Madagascar, jointly shooting down 7 enemy aircraft. In the middle of the month 882 was absorbed into 881, and the squadron returned to the UK in 1943.

In July 1943 a detachment of 7 aircraft from the squadron embarked on HMS Furious, for a mock invasion of Norway, and succeeded in shooting down 1 enemy aircraft. At the end of the month, the entire squadron embarked briefly on HMS Unicorn and subsequently was based at Hatston, Eglington and Stretton.

In November 1943 the squadron joined the 7th Naval Fighter Wing having re-equipped with 12 Wildcat Vs, and embarked on HMS Pursuer for Gibraltar convoys from November 1943 till February 1944, when it shot down 2 enemy aircraft and damaged another aircraft.

Successful attack in Operation Tungsten of 3 April 1944 on the Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, North Norway by 827 and 830 squadron Barracuda dive-bombers from HMS Furious and HMS Victorious and supported by the 7th Naval Fighter Wing including 800, 804, 881, 896, 882, and 898 fighter sqdns

Whilst still operating from HMS Pursuer, on 3 April 1944, the squadron provided fighter cover for Operation Tungsten attack against the German Battleship Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, northern Norway, and returned to Burscough in early May. Further brief operations were underataken from HMS Furious in the second half of the month.

In June whilst providing escort support from HMS Pursuer, squadron aircraft shot down 1 enemy aircraft, and later in the month it carried out further strikes off the coast of Norway.
The squadron embarked on HMS Pursuer in July 1944 for Ta Kali, Malta and subsequently to Dekheila, taking part in the landings in southern France in August 1944, and in September saw action in the Aegean, returning to Long Kesh in October 1944, and remaining at Grimsetter till November 1944.

Subsequent operations to Norway were carried out by squadron detachments from HMS Pursuer, HMS Puncher, HMS Trumpeter and HMS Premier till February 1945. In March 1945 the squadron embarked on HMS Pursuer for Capetown, where it was re-equipped with 30 Hellcat IIs at Wingfield.

GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT VI, JV715 "U-G", 881 Sqn RN, of HMS Puncher involved in escorting avengers in minelaying Skatesstrammen, 12 February 1945 [A0459]

The squadron was due to join the 12th Carrier Air Group with the British Pacific Fleet, but with VJ-Day the squadron was still at Wingfield and returned to the UK to disband in October 1945.

GENERAL MOTORS TBM-3W-2 AVENGER, 91537 "412", VS 881 RCN, HMCS Magnificent, 1955 [A0466]

The Canadian squadron was formed as the redesignation of 826 Squadron in May 1951, it was renamed VS 881 under the US system of numbering in November 1952. It continued service until it disbanded in July 1959 and amalgamated with VS 880.

Battle Honours

Commanding Officers and Squadron Personnel

  • L/C JC Cockburn, RN June 1941-March 1943
  • L/C RA Bird, RN March 1943-Nov 1943
  • L/C DRB Cosh, RCNVR Nov 1943-June 1944
  • L/C(A) LA Hordern, DSC, RNVR June 1944-Oct 1944
  • L/C(A) C Baillard, RNVR Oct 1944- end of WW2




  • Martlet I June 1941-Dec 1941
  • Martlet II June 1941-Aug 1943
  • Fulmar March 1942-April 1942
  • Martlet IV Oct 1942-Aug 1943
  • Wildcat V Aug 1943-June 1944
  • Wildcat VI June 1944-March 1945
  • Hellcat II April 1945-Aug 1945
  • Ships and Squadron bases
    To be listed
    The Squadron Today
    Link to current Fleet Air Arm squadron information

    Associations and Reunions
    No information

    881 Canadian sqdn - For later Canadian history of the squadron
    World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway American based World Aircraft Carrier Lists & Photo Gallery - one of the definitive online sources for British and world aircraft carrier & seaplane tender data, histories and images - over 1000 photos. 
    Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8  
    Robert Horsten's FAA
    An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS including GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk.V, 852 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Nabob, May 1944 , GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk. V, 846 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, Limavady, County Antrim, June 1944, GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk.VI, 881 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Puncher, March 1945 
            Last Modified: 23-2-2001


    Return to Home Page


    This page is published by Fleet Air Arm Archive and is updated regularly.
    © 2000-2001 All rights reserved for all information created for or on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm Archive
    Contact email: