Cansdale, Gordon

Gordon is an Associate member of the Spitfire Association. He did not serve in World War 11, however he came pretty close, as you can see from his story below, which bears retelling.

“That one only remembers the good times can be true, but there was one bad time I’ll never forget.

In 1945, I was conscripted into the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, a dream come true. Fighter aircraft, Rolls Royce Engines, a chance to see the world…and in the Rolls Royce School of Technical Training…learning about the mighty Merlin engine.

On completing the course, I was posted to HMS Blackcap, a shore establishment. From there, I was given a sea-going draft as a member of 812 Squadron (Fireflies) and joined the HMS Theseus in Ireland. From there I set off to see the world.

In Australia and New Zealand the welcome was just great. The street marches with the whole ship’s company through the main streets of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Wellington. The people were fantastic organising many activities including home visits and food parcels for our families back home.

Working on an aircraft carrier is not for the faint-hearted and I saw several disasters. I was the fitter of Lieutenat Commander Wynne-Robert’s aircraft, the Squadron’s Commanding Officer, and I would compete with my rigger mate, “Spiv” Daly, to be first up on to the plane to do the job. The winner would have pole position sitting on top of the cockpit to watch the remainder of the aircraft land.

My own worst disaster was to come. It was the 6th August 1947 and “Spiv” had won the race, and was seated on top of the cockpit. I had to settle for a seat on the wing. Two aircraft came in to land without incident. Then all hell broke loose! A third aircraft missed the arrestor wires and bounced over the crash barriers. To my horror, I realised it was heading straight for us so I dropped off the wing and ran for the ship’s side. It then clipped the second aircraft and dropped on top of ours. On impact, debris was showered everywhere and as I was dropping into the safety net, the batteries burst and I was splattered with acid. Minutes later, I was lifted from the safety net and rushed below deck to the sick-bay, washed down and treated for acid burns.

I asked about “Spiv”. Missing, presumed dead, I was told. I could not believe I was just with him a short time before, and the last person to see him alive. It could so easily have been me.

The Navy provided adventures, good times and bad, but best of all, great friends and a lot of memories.”

Gordon Cansdale
The Spitfire Association