Dick Cork's logbook shows that he flew many of the Tiger Moths Gravesend in 1939, including N-5489 and N-5491.
Richard John (Dickie) Cork
DSO, DSC (right) was a fighter ace in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy
during the Second World War.
Cork, a naval officer, served in the Battle of Britain as the wingman for Douglas Bader in No. 242 Squadron Royal Air Force.
In October 1940, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, which at the insistence of the Admiralty was exchanged for a Distinguished Service Cross.
When he returned to the Fleet
Air Arm, Cork served with 880 Naval Air Squadron in the Arctic, Mediterranean
and Indian Ocean.
It was during Operation Pedestal in 1942 that he became the only Royal Navy pilot to shoot down five aircraft in one day,
and was the leading naval ace using the Hawker Hurricane. He was given command of the 15th Naval Fighter Wing aboard HMS Victorious
before being killed in a flying accident over Ceylon in 1944.
Cork in a 242 Sqn. Hurricane
Richard John Cork was
born in London on 4th April 1917 and attended the Royal Naval College,
He was awarded his pilot’s wings on 20th January 1940 and joined the Fleet Air Arm.
The RAF being very short
of pilots after the losses in France, Cork was one of the FAA airmen loaned
to the RAF,
in his case on 15th June 1940 and after converting to Spitfires at 7 OTU Hawarden he joined 242 Squadron at Coltishall on 1st July,
though they were equipped with Hurricanes. He claimed a Me110 destroyed and a He111 damaged on 30th August, a Do17 and a Me110
on 7th September and two Do17’s destroyed and three Me109’s damaged on the 15th.
Cork was promoted Sub-Lieutenant
in March 1940. A shortage of fighter pilots during the Battle of
Britain led to the Fleet Air Arm
asking for volunteers to serve with the RAF. On 1 July 1940, Cork and two other naval pilots joined the Hawker Hurricane equipped No. 242 Squadron
under the command of Squadron Leader Douglas Bader. Cork was assigned to become Bader's wingman.
On 30 August, he was involved in his first combat action with No. 242 Squadron. The unit claimed 12 aircraft destroyed,
and Cork was credited with a Messerschmitt Bf 110 destroyed and a share in a second. By 13 September he had shot down five aircraft
and became a fighter ace. For his exploits he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 18 October,
which at the insistence of the Admiralty was exchanged for a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Out of the 58 Fleet Air Arm pilots seconded
to the RAF during the Battle of Britain, 12 of them shot down at least one aircraft, five became aces, seven were killed and two wounded.
On 23rd November 1940 Cork
was posted to 252 Squadron, Coastal Command but soon afterwards he went
back to the FAA and joined 880 Squadron
in HMS 'Indomitable', operating in the Mediterranean. Cork served on the carrier in the operation in the Indian Ocean
to intercept the Japanese invasion force heading for Ceylon.
In early May 1942 he took
part in the attack on Vichy French forces in Madagascar, prior to its occupation
by a British force
forestalling a Japanese invasion. In attacks on Diego Suarez airfield Cork destroyed three Morane 406’s and three Potez 63’s on the ground.
He was still serving on the
carrier during Operation 'Pedestal', the re-supply of Malta in August 1942.
On the 11th Cork shared the destruction of a Ju88.
The following day he shot down a Ju88, shared another and destroyed a Me110 and two SM79’s in four sorties.
He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 10th November 1942).
In 1944 Cork was appointed
Wing Leader of 15 Fighter Wing, made up of two Corsair squadrons operating
from HMS 'Illustrious'.
On 14th April 1944 he was killed in a flying accident at China Bay airfield, Trincomalee. During night flying governed by light signals
in the absence of radio communications he crashed into another aircraft which was on the deck about to take off.
Cork is buried in the cemetery at Trincomalee War Cemetry.
242 (Canadian) Hurricane
squadron RAF under the celebrated
command of Sqn Ldr Douglas RS “Tinlegs” Bader (standing centre) which included
three Fleet Air Arm pilots: Sub Lt RJ Cork RN (Bader’s wingman),
Sub Lt RE Gardner RNVR and Mid PJ Patterson RN
Bader is flanked by his two flight commanders, Ft. Lt. Stan Turner
(Canadian, third from left) and Eric Ball (third from right).
Several names stand out among
the FAA contingent assigned to RAF Fighter Command. Three of these were
destined to operate
with the controversial ‘Duxford Wing’ whose charismatic Commander was S/Ldr. Douglas Bader. Sub-Lt. ‘Dickie’ Cork joined Bader’s No.242 Sqdn.
along with Sub-Lt Gardner and Midshipman Paterson, while Sub-Lt. ‘Admiral’ Blake was posted to No.19 Sqdn. based nearby at Fowlmere.
Cork was regular Royal Navy, while Gardner and Blake were Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) officers, but all three had recently
passed out of No.7 Operational Training Unit (OTU), Hawarden. Paterson’s operational career was short-lived as he was killed during a convoy patrol,
but two of his three more fortunate companions went on to achieve ‘ace’ status.
Cork in particular found
himself flying in Bader’s Section and opened his account on 30 August with
credit granted for a Bf no ‘kill’
as well as a He III ‘damaged’ when a Luftwaffe thrust at North weald was turned back. During the first full daylight raid on London
(7 September) he shared another Bf 110 with Bader. Cork provided a good account of the Wing’s involvement in the 15 September action,
forever commemorated as ‘Battle of Britain Day’. The morning incursion was met by an increasing number of RAF units,
and culminated over London in the appearance of the five Sqdns. within the Duxford Wing.
Cork recalled how Bf 109s
‘jumped’ his unit. While taking avoiding action, he ran across a Do 17,
which he engaged and ultimately claimed as shot down.
By the official conclusion of the Battle on 31 October he was credited with four full and two shared ‘kills’. This remarkable airman would continue
to make his mark upon the enemy over the next two years, but this time in his natural Naval environment.
He gained the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (an RAF medal) for his service during the Battle of Britain – this was later replaced
by the Royal Navy’s Distinguished Service Cross, at the insistence of the Admiralty.
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