The Squadron was shore based in Ceylon for the next three months initially at Katukurunda and then moving across to Trincomalee at the beginning of July. On the 20th May 1946, 'Mush' Taylor's piloting skills were put to the test. Soon after take-off his C.S.U. (constant speed unit) packed up which meant that the propeller feathered causing the engine's power to have a braking effect rather than a pulling one! Switching everything off he turned himself into a grossly overweight 'glider' and pulled off a superb belly landing in the middle of the airfield. No damage to 'Mush' but one less Firefly to worry about. By this time almost all the old guard had departed leaving me as the only aircrew member from the original complement that had started out at Stretton in June 1944. 'Rob' Roseveare was the longest serving observer a survivor from the group that joined us at Burscough in the following September. I suppose it was about now that we learned that Lt. 'Toby' Tobias who had left us for demob back in Hong Kong was dead. Instead of waiting for passage home in a troopship he elected to 'hitch-hike' by whatever means he could. He had finally got to Paris by early January 1946 and arranged his final leg into England by an R.A.F. transport aircraft. Sadly it crashed en route and Toby never made it home. We mourned the loss of such a lovely laid back character.
Most of the replacement pilots were quite inexperienced having gained their 'wings' as the War ended and electing to take a four year commission rather than waste their newly acquired skills. I think a couple of the lads won their wings as R.A.F. pilots but that Service was 'over-stocked' so they were offered transfers to the Army as glider pilots or short service commissions with the Navy. I don't suppose they took too long in making up their minds but when they came to us they hardly knew port from starboard, for'ard from aft and Lord Nelson's traditions were a closed book! Never mind they applied themselves to their new environment, they practised their deck-landings and apart from one more sad event they coped well enough.
Nearly every day we continued with our dive bombing, rocket firing and cannon firing exercises. We flew nice formations in company with the corsairs and the observers pin-pointed 'targets' in the mountains which was not much fun when the clouds dropped below the highest ground! The climate was dreadful - hot, humid and sometimes very wet. On a dive bombing practice one day I elected to dive through a belt of cloud that had drifted across the target - surely a stupid thing to do. Thinking I would emerge in the clear, below cloud I was still waiting for a clear windscreen when I realised the sea was much to close! It was a very low pull out because I'd forgotten that the pressure change in the dive had kept the hood and windscreen misted over even though I had come through the cloud into clear air!.
It became obvious to the medics that I needed a break and the tropical climate did not suit me. At the end of May I was packed off to Diyatalawah where the temperate climate (log fires at night) and some intensive medical attention eventually sorted me out. In the process I discovered that penicillin the new wonder drug and I did not get on resulting in a nasty dose of penicillin fever. I'm still allergic to it.
Meanwhile back at base tragedy had struck again. S/L. Eric 'Smudger' Smith was killed when he stalled and spun into the sea when practising some of his first deck landings, as a newly qualified pilot he had come out to Ceylon and was awaiting a posting. Maurice Jones, one of 1850's corsair pilots and I had been school mates of 'Smudger' and being more familiar with British made aircraft he had asked to join 812 Squadron. We had looked forward to welcoming him into life on board. Around this time S/L. 'Lofty' Rouse, another of the corsair boys, tangled with the crane and barrier when landing on. He made rather a habit of unconventional arrivals but no one got hurt. He probably scratched his head and wandered off to compose another verse of the Squadron song. He was usually found in a quieter corner of the wardroom after dinner strumming his guitar well away from the noise around the bar.
By the end of June I was back in harness at Trincomalee where some of the Squadron were based. I flew again on the 3rd July first as a passenger in an Expediter of the communications squadron that used to fly daily 'milk runs' around the bases of Ceylon and Southern India. I was dropped off at Katukurunda had lunch and then flew one of our Fireflies back to Trinco. A few more ferry trips followed including a rather memorable one on the 6th July. I received a signal to fly across to Katukurunda to collect Captain Neame D.S.O. RN (our ship's captain) who was attending a conference in Colombo. I remembered to take a pair of overalls, parachute, 'mae west' and helmet and on arrival I had lunch and waited for the 'boss' to arrive. The weather was at its best when we got airborne in the late afternoon. The Captain seemed very relaxed and in no great hurry, so I showed him Kandy and the acres of tea plantations sweeping down the southern slopes of the mountains. I asked the Captain if he would like to view the ship from the air before we landed. She was at anchor in China Bay and the bar had just about opened on the quarterdeck. I enquired if he would like a 'close look' which he thought would be very nice, so a nice fast run and then a slow one up and down the port side level with the flight deck did the trick! The Captain was delighted and I think this trip must have influenced the kind remarks he made on my 'flimsy' at the end of the commission. I was most touched particularly having regard to events six months earlier.
Then we did some ADDL's and on the 11th July I was back on board and did a further four deck landings just to prove I hadn't lost my touch. S/L. Tom Stride with P.O. Casey in the back, managed to fly through both barriers and ended up on his belly on the foredeck scattering bits and pieces en route. Both stepped out with no damage to either. Casey said he wasn't even strapped in!. By the 15th July 1946 we were all back on board in reasonably good order and at last, 'Vengeance' sailed for home.
By the beginning of August we had reached the Western Mediterranean having enjoyed a brief run ashore for a cold beer in Suez. A couple of days were spent doing flight and section drills and attacking floating targets with our cannon. There followed a brief stop in Gibraltar with a run ashore to purchase some duty-free watches and other 'goodies' for the loved ones at home. Then North through the Bay of Biscay arriving in the Channel on the 12th August 1946.
And so the final take-off from 'HMS. Vengeance', a last look at our home for the last 18 months and a wave good-bye as we set course Eastwards up the Channel. It was a damp, overcast summer's day as we crossed the Isle of Wight and into Lee-on-Solent where I had joined the Navy nearly 44 months ago! NO SPEECHES WERE MADE, NO BANDS PLAYED, NO FLAGS WERE WAVED we just had lunch, said our 'goodbyes' and caught our trains home. 812 Naval Air Squadron was now disbanded!.