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Westland Wyvern




       Westland Wyvern S4 WN328 / J371 830 Sqn HMS Eagle
       with Lt. Cdr. "Smokey" Cowling about to eject

Can anyone provide information on Commander Russell who lost his life when his Scimitar went off the carrier and he was unable to eject. His photograph was taken whilst trapped by the press and shown in many newspapers. He went down with his aircraft and was recovered several weeks later?

Date Air Force A'cft Unit - Serial


crashed crew seat photo
30th October 1949 Three lives were lost when a Westland Wyvern airserew turbine fighter prototype aircraft crashed on two semi-detached council houses near the Westland airfield at Yeovil, Somerset, vesterda\. The dead are the Westland Company's assistant chief test pilot. Squadron Leader Micnael Graves. elder son of Sir Cecil Graves: a child. Ann Wilkins, aged six, of Westland Road. who was riding her pedal cycle in the rord at the time of the crash : and Mrs. W. Birown, of Westland Road. whose house was severely damaged. Another woman, Mrs. lHockey, was taken to hospital with serious burns. One eye-vitness said that there was i a trail of burning fuel " about 20ft. to 30ft. long behind the aircraft as it crashed. It is' under- stood that it had been up for about half an hour on a routine test flight and, as it was coming down--in the words of another observer-it plunged ' into the council houses, which are close to the airfield.


WE record with regret that an accident to a Westland

Wyvern on Monday last, October 31st, caused the death

of its pilot, S/L. M. Graves, a woman householder and a sixyear-

old girl. Information as to the possible cause and precise

circumstances are not available at the time of going to press,

but preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft struck two

houses while landing at the Westland Company's airfield at


S/L. Michael Graves, D.F.C., was 28 and had been assistant

to Harold Penrose, chief test pilot of Westland Aircraft, Ltd., for two years. He leaves a widow and 17-month-old son.

FLIGHT 3rd November 1949 p.575

8th June 1951
Westland Wyvern TF Mk 2 VW869 A&AEE (Graduate  no 9 Course )C Sqn   Lt  CDR  (e) D. K. Hanson ejected at about 1500ft at high speed but caught his left thigh and leg on the control column. He did not operate the manual ejection sequence and was killed   Martin-Baker  Mk  1B
7th April 1954
Westland Wyvern    

fire in air near Stretton.

Lt. Newman ejected at 7,000ft., 200kts   [Martin-Baker Mk.1B
FLIGHT 28th May 1954 p.686

Edward Griffiths

ALL who knew him, at Armstrong Siddeley Motors and else where, will be grieved to learn of the death of Eddie Griffiths, the company's chief test pilot. He was flying a Wyvern from Biteswell on May 18th and crashed in a field a few miles from the aerodrome, the aircraft being burned out. Formerly a Naval pilot, with the rank of lieutenant, Griffiths had received his flying training in America during the war, and had later flown Spitfires in the Middle East. Later he was on Fulmars and Fireflies, and much

of his Naval flying experience was in connection with the development of night flying from carriers; he performed such duties on Fireflies in No. 1790 Squadron. After leaving the Service he joined A.S.M. as a technical assistant in November 1949 and became a test pilot in January 1951. In April last year he was appointed chief test pilot in succession to S/L. Devine, with three other pilots under him.

His total of rather over 2,000 hours had been accumulated on 39 different types, 17 of which he had flown since joining the Coventry firm. Griffiths, who was 31 years of age, was particularly well liked by his colleagues. He leaves a widow and three children, with whom wide sympathy will be expressed.

Items found on the surface of crash site for Wyvern VZ747.. which crashed killing Armstrong Siddeley chief test pilot Eddie Griffiths on 18/5/54.


13th October 1954
Wyvern TF1 VZ783/X 813 Sqn H.M.S. Albion, Mediterranean

into the sea following catapult launch

Lt. B. D. Macfarlane ejected under the water suffering slight injuries
[personal testimony]
Martin-Baker Mk.2B
12th August 1955
Westland Wyvern WL877 813 Sqn HMS Eagle Engine problems. Crashed near Naples Sub. Lt. Steers ejected   Martin-Baker
14th November 1955
Westland Wyvern VZ778 813 Sqn HMS Eagle Missed wire on HMS Eagle Lt. Bushe ejected   Martin-Baker
5th December 1955
Westland Wyvern VZ791 830 Sqn HMS Eagle Engine problems. Crashed near Winchester  while carrying out dummy dives Lt. John P. "Jake" Smith ejected

[22nd May 1956 ejected a second time but killed]

photo via Smith Family
17th May 1956
Westland Wyvern VZ785 830 Sqn Crashed on approach to Hal Far  Lt. King ejected Martin-Baker
Tuesday 22nd May 1956
Westland Wyvern VZ791 830 Sqn
HMS Eagle
 He joined "Eagle's" carrier circuit, and downwind at about 400ft he ejected for some unknown reason; there was no radio call. Lt. John P. "Jake" Smith,  RN ejected but was killed

[previously ejected on 5th December 1955]

photo via Smith Family
4th September 1956
Westland Wyvern S4 WN327  
Crashed during a re-familiarisation flight. A/c crashed on the South Downs near Sutton.
Lt Robert E.Sandison
ejected but was killed

I've recently been concentrating on RNAS Ford (HMS Peregrine) which is only a few miles from where I live. I discovered some information on Lt Sandison which might help fill in the details on your Wyvern page.

First the date of death on the Armed Forces Memorial Roll of Honour. 4th September 1956, not 1957. http://www.forcesmemorial.org.uk/roll-of-honour/N2898-SANDISON

By a process of elimination from the resources avalable to me I believe the aircraft has to be Wyvern S4 WN327 which was written off on the same date. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=WN

Hope this is some help.


Doug Attrell
in email 21st November 2008
[page amended 22nd November 2008]


Commander C. V. Howard Lt Dennis McCarthy Naval Airman Webster Leading Airman Gammar Lt. Cdr. P. E. Bailey Captain H. C. D. McClean
commanding HMS Eagle
Cdr C. B. H. Nation
Commander aAir

The following question was posed in 2006. Can anyone recognise the Wyvern Pilot who has just been rescued plus name any other person in the photograph ? Now at last 3 years on the mystery is solved.

. . . the second on the left-hand side of the photo is Lt Dennis McCarthy, RN who was on my flying course, who was rescued after his engined failed due to enemy AA/AAA during the Suez Crisis., and the person on the extreme right wearing white shoes, is I believe Surg.Lt or Surg.LtCdr Rawlings.
information via Michael Doust

Dear Sir,
Re the large group photo; the officer standing extreme left is none other than Commander C.V. Howard, CO of 898 Wyvern Sq (HMS Eagle). He is now living nr Banbury and we are still in touch.  My father was Lt Cdr W.H 'Smokey' Cowling. He passed away 1 Nov 2006

Kind regards, Jim Cowling

& recently discovered the same photo appeared in Flight 14th December 1956, page 945 with the following caption


3rd November 1956
[Suez Campaign]

Westland Wyvern S4  WN330/J379 830 Sqn HMS Eagle

Hit by anti-aircraft fire over Gamil Bridge, west of Port Said, Egypt. The pilot glided the aircraft for three miles out to sea and ejected safely near the carrier

Lt. Dennis McCarthy ejected

[see above]

5th November 1956 [Suez Campaign]
Westland Wyvern S4  WN328/J371
830 Sqn HMS Eagle

The engine exploded while on air support operations for paratroop landings on Gamil airfield, Egypt

 Lt. Cdr. "Smokey" Cowling ejected safely.
[personal testimony]
14th February 1957
Westland Wyvern ?? ?? ?? Lt. Barry B. Hartwell   Martin-Baker
17th September 1957
Wyvern VZ795 831 Sqn Collision with VZ798 near Littlehampton Sub. Lt. Edward
17th September 1957
Westland Wyvern VZ798 831 Sqn Collision with VZ795 near Littlehampton Sub. Lt. Smith

Smith had his tail chopped off by S/Lt Edward during a night formation change - both ejected safely , Edward landing in a nursery glasshouse while Smith landed on the edge of Littlehampton; he walked into a Police Station with his parachute under his arms and asked for transport back to Ford. The policeman told him to wait as he had an emergency on his hands - two a/c had crashed???????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Smith replied, "What the hell do you think this is, a bunch of girls skirts????????????!!!!!! 

Sadly, S/Lt Smith was killed in a chopper accident over Mombasa Harbour - he accidently flew into some high tension cables which he didn't see. Since that accident the Kenyan authorities have placed large orange balls on the cables so pilots can see them easily - TOO LATE!!  

Michael Doust
in email 20th February 2009

24th September 1957
Westland Wyvern VZ756 813 Sqn Crashed on sortie from HMS Eagle Lt. Michael J. Doust


Lt. B. D. Macfarlane (RN retd.)

Lt. Cdr. "Smokey" Cowling (RN retd.)

Surg. Cmdr. RN. John Rawlings

Dr. Davidson

Michael J. Doust, Commander, RN(Rtd)

(if I inadvertently omit your name from this listing PLEASE let me know to amend the listing)



Dear Mike,

Have just had reason to view your history on Westland Wyvern ejections. I flew the Wyvern some 50 years ago! Hence my interest.

You did not feature , Lt Robert Sandison RN's ejection, which was during September 1957, if my memory serves me correct. He lost control of the aircraft at low altitude not far north of Arundel, Sussex. Unfortunately he ejected too low and sideways I believe, and was killed. You can probably obtain more details from the FAA Flight Safety Centre at RNAS Yeovilton. His father Col. Sandison presented a solid silver trophy of the Wyvern to the FAA, to be presented annually to the FAA officer who made most progress both in officer like qualities and flying ability. It was awarded many times and eventually I would have the honour to be awarded it some ten or so years later. "Bobby" Sandison was trained in the States at Pensacola USNAS.

2.  Regarding my ejection from a Wyvern . . . - (see Biographical details of Cdr. Doust by following the name link]

Yours sincerely,

Michael J. Doust, Commander, RN(Rtd)
19th November 2005

Lt Sandison's ejection has now been added - can anyone add further details [Mike]