820 Naval Air Squadron and the last fight of the war

Aircraft from the Royal Navy fought one of the last dog-fights of the Second World War – fending off attacking Japanese Zero fighters on the very day peace was declared.

The aircrews of 820 Naval Air Squadron were flying from a British carrier to attack airfields in mainland Japan, in preparation for a planned invasion.

This year is the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, which marked the end of the conflict against Imperial Japan during the Second World War, on August 15, 1945.

Nowadays, 820 Naval Air Squadron flies Merlin Mk2 helicopters and is the dedicated squadron to protect the navy’s new aircraft carriers.

Based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose at Helston, in Cornwall, the squadron still proudly remembers the part played by its air and ground crews in the bitter war against Japan.

Sailors of 820 Naval Air Squadron on HMS Indefatigable

In November 1944, the squadron joined the carrier HMS Indefatigable, flying Grumman TBF Avengers, which became part of the British Pacific Fleet.

The first significant action in the Pacific was the bombing of the Palembang oil refineries in Sumatra, which severely limiting the Japanese access to aviation fuel.

From there 820 squadron was involved in attacks on airfields during the fierce invasion of Okinawa by US land forces campaign. The squadron also flew missions to sink shipping in southern Hoikkado and made attacks in support of the planned invasion of Osaka.

The squadron was airborne on VJ day itself, tasked to attack an airfield on the Japanese mainland. During this sortie the Avengers were attacked by Japanese fighters and this was the last British air combat of the war.