View Full Version : BPF & Eastern Fleet Carriers - deck ID?

February 21st, 2011, 06:59
Seeing as the British Pacific Fleet & East Indies Fleets had enough flightdecks (CV &/or CVE) to operate in groups as the norm, instead of for special operations (Pedestal/ Torch etc.), does anybody know how pilots identified their "homeplate".

The US groups had flightdeck numbers, & I know the Brits used letters postwar, but I can't find anything definite about during the war. I know the BPF carriers identified aircraft by assigning individual letters, just wondered if the decks were also marked up...

February 21st, 2011, 15:12
Not that I can find, though there were markings on the hull for the 'jeep' carriers which came in around late 44.

regards Collin:ernae:

February 22nd, 2011, 00:34

Do you know the precise date the letters were introduced?

See this photo...

... I'm sure that's "R" up on the bow - mid-October '45?

February 22nd, 2011, 03:31
This one is clearer, seems to be same POW voyage ...

both from hmsformidableDOTcom

Interestingly, the flightdeck letter is not there on the bow when pictured in drydock for refit in 1947 ...

February 22nd, 2011, 09:05
Its most probably there to stop the US Marine Corp shooting it up.:kilroy:

By this time most of the aircraft complement had been ditched ready for the ex POW's, and as the light fleet carriers had now arrived, the Illustrious class were turned into passenger liners.

regards Collin:ernae:

February 23rd, 2011, 09:22
RN Fleet carriers had letters on their flight deck before the war, but, during the war these were removed, presumably, so as not to give away information to the enemy of the ships identity.

R numbers began to appear on the port side of the island during the war and D numbers on the hull for the escort carriers.

regards Collin:ernae:

March 7th, 2011, 14:15
Hi Uncle,

just got some more information on the subject.....from a friend who is more knowledgeable then I.

Carrier ID letters in the RN are, of course designed to enable her aircraft to land on the correct deck. When the ships were painted in widely differing camo schemes,and did not often operate in company, this was of course not necessary. (But note that they all had differing centre line patterns, which changed quite frequently ).

Except for one single, unique, photo showing Victorious carrying a "V" on the port-side of her island when operating off Noumea with Saratoga, the first instance of ID letters I think occurs in the Indian Ocean in mid-late 1944. Of course the B.P.F carriers all carried them & this corresponds roughly with the end of the disruptive camo schemes & start of the final Admiralty pattern of a single colour with a blue-grey panel above the waterline amidships. David Hobbs has told me that the USN Command required at one point for the Letters to be changed monthly ( for security reasons?), but that this was quickly discontinued. More expert researchers than I refuse to accept this..........

regards Collin:ernae:

March 8th, 2011, 08:41
Cool info Collin :jawdrop:,
never heard about Victorious carrying a code letter on it's island during 1943 before...

Isn't it interesting to see people trying to put logic into the unexplainable ...

... so the US Navy wants RN carriers to change code letters monthly, in the name of "security", but their own flat tops get to keep the same flight deck numbers all the way through the late war period?

I think the small amount of photo evidence would lean towards this BPF use coinciding with the removal of the disruptive camo schemes, & up until then aircrews used camo & centre line patterns to differentiate carriers. Can't say I ever came across any wartime photos of carrier islands that show letters.

However, this would mean the flight deck letters (at the bow as per photo above) probably only saw combat use during the final tour of strikes off the japanese mainland I think ... anybody know when each of the carriers had their disruptive camo removed? I seem to remember a lot of "BPF" photos of Illustrious class carriers in disruptive camo, & that would rule out any use in the Indian ocean/ Sumatra raids period.

March 9th, 2011, 03:08
I hadn't heard of HMS Victorious carrying a letter on her island for the Noumea ops either, though I knew of her light patch of camo on her port stern.

Here's a 1945 photo of her showing the S on her deck while still in the Admiralty Camo for the BPF, think it might have been in taken while she was in Manus. She still has her aircraft aboard, these I believe were jettisoned later to provide room in the hangar for the repatriation of military personnel.


regards Collin:ernae:

April 2nd, 2011, 05:36

piccy from "Grave of a Dozen Schemes" by H.P. Wilmott.

Caption says:

Operation Banquet Aug 44. First time RN used 2 wave attack by 2 fleet carriers ... HMS Indomitable leading BB HMS Howe with HMS Victorious in the rear. (Fleet Air Arm museum Cars.I/186)

Clear as a bell, there's a code letter up on the bow. But that's "N", & if deck codes followed aircraft codes, "N" was always associated with HMS Implacable ... puzzling isn't it?

April 2nd, 2011, 10:38
Well Uncle I hope the book is a good read as I have just bought it on ebay.

Could there possibly be a mistake made in either the captioning of the photo in this book or the info made available for Implacable? This happens a lot more then people realise, and it can be a right pain. But, carriers changed their deck codes like a woman changes dresses so anything could be right for this time period.

regards Collin:ernae:

April 2nd, 2011, 11:20
Very dry reading, but gives great insight into the tortuous process of how the BPF came to be ...

Cheers UT