The Royal Navy’s aviation force, the Fleet Air Arm, has never really sought the glamour of their RAF compatriots. Compared to the RAF the aces of the Fleet Air Arm are almost unheard of and yet their story is every bit as exciting, frightening and tragic as the RAF in World War II.
The Fleet Air Arm pilot with the highest number of aircraft damaged or destroyed in World War II was Lieutenant-Commander Richard “Dickie” Cork whose final score was at least 22 aircraft destroyed in both the air and on the ground the bulk of which were achieved in the sturdy Hawker Sea Hurricane. As well as having this accolade awarded to him Cork, has one other claim that no other pilot in the Royal Navy can make; shooting down 5 aircraft in a single day.
On 12 August 1942, Cork was flying with No.880 Squadron from HMS Indomitable during Operation Pedestal (an armed convoy to get badly needed supplies to Malta). Flying a Sea Hurricane, his first success was at 1230hrs downing a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, an Italian torpedo bomber that was the scourge of the Mediterranean convoys. Later, flying off the coast of Tunisia, he shot down a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju88 and shared in the destruction of another. Later in the day he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin engined fighter bomber and another Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo bomber.
Sadly, he did not survive the war and was killed in the Pacific in August 1944 during a training accident. Nevertheless he has secured himself a place in Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm history that will probably never be surpassed.