On 22 September 1959 Midshipman W (Bill) Walker, a new observer on No 849 ’B’ Flight Royal Naval Air Squadron, was a member of the crew of a Douglas Skyraider AD-4D Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft launched from HMS Victorious. Its task was to direct ground-attack Supermarine Scimitars on to a bombing range off the Norwegian coast. The sortie length was seven and a half hours and after many hours directing successive waves of Scimitars on to their target the pilot, Barry Hartwell, set course for ‘Mother’.
When the Skyraider reached the predicted position of Victorious, the Task Force could not be seen, even on radar. A search in the area proved futile and after half an hour, with little fuel remaining, the Skyraider was ditched in the sea alongside a Russian trawler. Bill and the other two crew members boarded the aircraft’s dinghies and the Skyraider quickly sank. To their dismay, the trawler left the scene (presumably to seek advice as to what to do) but then, to the crew’s relief, returned and picked them up. On deck they were questioned as to their nationality and after finding that they were not American, were invited to join the whole trawler crew to celebrate their rescue with vodka!
After being transferred to the trawler’s depot ship Atlantika, the Skyraider crew was reclaimed two days later by the frigate HMS Urchin.
The subsequent board of enquiry found that the Skyraider crew could not be blamed as they had not been updated on the change of plan on the movements of the task force.
THE SQUADRON BADGE AND GOLDLFISH CLUB SYMBOL WERE LATER WORN BY MIDSHIPMAN (LATER LIEUTENANT COMMANDER) W J V (BILL) WALKER ON HIS FLYING OVERALLS AND ARE DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S MIDDLE HALL.