Norman Hanson was a 26 year old Civil Servant at the beginning of the Second World War. As he was in a reserved occupation, he had great difficulty in joining the forces. However, in 1941, he was allowed to volunteer for the Fleet Air Arm and was selected to commence pilot training at the US Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Here he learned to fly the N3N-3 biplane trainer and the more advanced Brewster Buffalo and was still at Pensacola when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941.
Back in the UK in early 1942, after practising ADDLs (assisted dummy deck landings) at RNAS Yeovilton, Hanson made his first deck landing in a Fairey Fulmar on HMS Argus. After a period flying abroad, described in his book ‘Carrier Pilot’ as a “digression in Egypt”, he was posted to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, USA as Senior Pilot of No 1833 Squadron equipping with the Chance Vought Corsair (F4U) fighter bomber aircraft, known as ‘the bent-wing bastard from Connecticut’!
In October 1943, the squadron returned by sea in HMS Trumpeter to the UK to join with No 1830 Squadron to form the 15th Naval Fighter Wing with ‘Dickie’ Cork as its Wing Leader. This Wing was destined to join HMS Illustrious and deploy to the Far East. In March 1944, No 1833 Squadron’s CO was posted and ‘Hans’ was promoted Lieutenant Commander and appointed CO of the squadron.
Whilst serving on Illustrious, Hanson’s squadron took part in many operations against the Japanese, including the celebrated attack on the Palembang refineries and the air assault on the Sakishima group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. For his courage, skill and determination in the successful attack on the Japanese Naval base at Sabang in July 1944, Norman was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
He returned with Illustrious to Rosyth a few weeks before VJ Day and left the Royal Navy in 1946, working until he retired as a company secretary in the egg and poultry distribution industry. His book, entitled ‘Carrier Pilot’, is considered by many to be one of the best written about the Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War. Norman Hanson died in 1980, aged sixty six.
THE No 1833 NAVAL AIR SQUADRON BADGE AND PHOTOGRAPHS OF NORMAN HANSON’S WARTIME CAREER, COPIED FROM HIS ALBUM, ARE ON DISPLAY IN THE MUSEUM’S MIDDLE HALL