804 Sqn. scrambled to intercept raid over Scapa Flow

Shetland radar picks up a raid approaching Orkney from the east. Ten minutes later they arrive in two groups, one over Hatston and the other over Scapa Flow. Estimates put the number of aircraft at 35 He 111 (KG 26?) but the twilight makes identification difficult.

One hundred high explosive and incendiary bombs fell on land, half in error at Brig of Waithe in the parish of Stenness where James Isbister becomes one of the first civilian to be killed by bombing in the war. Most of the other bombs fall near Hatston creating eight foot wide craters and narrowly missing the bomb dump. The only casualty is one of 800 Sqn. ground crew hit by shrapnel whilst taking a walk a mile from the airfield.

The attack on Scapa Flow is more successful with the cruiser HMS Norfolk hit and holed with the loss of three of her officers and six ratings injured.

The whole of 804 squadron is scrambled from Hatston. They fail to make contact with any enemy aircraft and have difficulty returning to their own base.

Both the Royal Navy and the RAF blame inadequate radar coverage from Nethebutton on Orkney which is poorly situated.

Major R T Partridge recalls in his book Operation Skua:

The whole squadron (804) got airborne but, in the gathering darkness, no contacts were made and we all had a hell of a job landing back at the airfield as there were no flares or runway lighting.

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney
One of these cottages was hit by a bomb during the raid on 16 March 1940 killing its occupant James Isbister

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020
Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020

804 and 605 Sqn. scrambled to intercept aircraft over Orkney

804 Sqn. (Gladiators) patrolling Copinsay intercept Do 17 at 16:40.

804 Sqn's diary, quoted in Sky over Scapa, reads:

A tremendous day for HMS Sparrowhawk, the first and we hope by no means the last. 804 Squadron began their fun at 16.05 hours when Yellow Section flew off to Copinsay. There were a great many plots on the board, the weather fine with layers of cloud varying in density up to about 10,000 feet. about 16.40 hours P/O Sabey saw a Do17 and the section gave chase. Sub.Lt. Fell got in a burst at about 500 yds. as the Do17 disappeared into the cloud but followed him in.P/O Peacock went in above the cloud and as he came out so did the Do17, 400 yds. away. Peackock got in a burst before the enemy aircraft dived away back into the clouds. We were later informed that Do17 was crying SOS with a leaking petrol tank and did not reach his base.

804 and 43 Sqn intercept He 111 over Orkney

Red Section of 804 Sqn. (Gladiators from Hatston) are patrolling between Copinsay and Burray when they see an He 111K ten miles east which is being chased by 43 Sqn. Hurricanes from Wick.

804 Sqn's diary, quoted in Sky over Scapa, reads:

At 16.45 hours Red Section was sent to patrol between Copinsay and Burray. As soon as it got there, Carver saw a Heinkel 111K about ten miles east going north-east. Hot pursuit was begun and as the Section followed, Hurricanes could be seen on the cloud dodging Heinkel's tail. After a few minutes the enemy aircraft began climbing, twisting and diving. By the time Red Section arrived and got within range, 43 Squadron had done their job. The enemy aircraft's motors were idling and he dived down to 20 feet over the sea. For two or three miles, he held at 20 feet with a dark oil streak trailing behind him on the sea and finally flopped, port wing first. Six Hurricanes and Red Section few around the wreck as three of the crew swam for it.

Ju 88 Shot down over Orkney

Grumman Martlet, piloted by Lt. L.V. Carver and Sub/Lt. T.R.V. Park, from 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, based at RNAS Skeabrae, shoots down a Ju 88 which crash lands near the farm of Flotterston in Sandwick, on the West Mainland of Orkney. Lt. K. Schipp, Fw. H. Schreiber, Uffz. J. Spoertl and Oberfefr. K. Rotter all taken prisoner. This is the first kill of the war by a UK pilot in a US aircraft. Aircraft salvage complete by 15/3/41 and stored in a hanger at Skeabrae for some time.

Ju 88 crash landed at Flotterston, Sandwick, West Mainland, Orkney on Christmas day 1940