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Thread: Wyvern vs MiG-17 Suez 1956

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    Wyvern vs MiG-17 Suez 1956

    On 3 Nov 1956 a Wyvern S.4 WN330 flown by Lt. McCarthy was hit by flak during a bombing run by 830 sqdn HMS Eagle on Gamil bridge. The pilot subsequently managed to glide out to sea and eject successfully before being picked up by the ships SAR Whirlwind... or at least thats what history says.!

    I have just read a report that states the following;
    "Only recently it became known that this formation of Royal Navy fighters was actually intercepted by two Soviet flown MiG-17F's, lead by advisor-pilot Sincov Sergeiy Anatolievich, which were underway on a patrol north of the Suez canal. The Soviets found the solitary Wyvern and attacked, with Sincov scoring several hits. As his gun-camera was not working he was never credited with this air-to-air victory".

    This is completely new to me.. but i have several questions. Is this actually factual; And if yes has anyone else read or heard this before; And again if yes was the Wyvern hit by the MiG' before or after it was apparently damaged by flak and flying alone.???

    I have always been led to believe that no air to air action took place between the Royal Navy and Egyptian airforce during the conflict. Maybe someone on here knows a bit more about this incident, or has in the past spoken to Denis McCarthy..?.

    Rob.
    Last edited by Wyvernfan; 22nd June 2009 at 11:56.

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    Wings over Suez by Brian Cull gives an account of the loss of the aircraft that states it was due to flak.

    McCarthy flew for three miles out to sea before ejecting and was picked up by a Whirlwind helicopter.

    He was one of 6 aircraft attacking Gamil Bridge.

    I think the book is pretty authorative
    Dave Charles
    Historian 607 (County of Durham) Squadron
    Chair North East Land Sea Air Museums (NELSAM)

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    Interesting story, and while conspiracy theories are two a penny these days, I can see that neither side would want to have it made known that Russian pilots had engaged the RN. It may well have had an impact on the US viewpoint for a start, so the same way as the "claims" about C-130 being shot down by an RAF Javellin in the 1960's off Indonesia are debated now, it may well have not be publicised at all?

    Nasser as well was not in truth as cozy with the Soviets at the time as is generally believed, he was locking up members of the local Communist party don't forget and his Nationalist viewpoint would not have been best served by foreign pilots defending Egypt.
    You can teach monkies to fly better than that....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thunderbird167 View Post
    Wings over Suez by Brian Cull gives an account of the loss of the aircraft that states it was due to flak.

    McCarthy flew for three miles out to sea before ejecting and was picked up by a Whirlwind helicopter.

    He was one of 6 aircraft attacking Gamil Bridge.

    I think the book is pretty authorative
    Dave, that is the account that i have read time and time again.. and always assumed that it was fact. So you can imagine my surprise, as well as scepticism, to read something like this involving a possible aerial combat.. that could in fact be re-writing history.

    We did after all accept that it was Hoagy Carmichael that shot down the first MiG by an FAA Seafury during Korea, until that was contested fairly recently by another pilot of at the time lower rank.

    At the time of Suez the whole political situation was nothing short of an unstable minefield, and after all these years it is i think quite conceivable that a confrontation such as this did take place and was indeed 'covered up', but for what reasons remains unknown... unless?

    For those interested i am quoteing from the publication of the Air Combat Information Group, Middle East Database and is part of the Allied Losses section http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_256.shtml

    Rob.
    Last edited by Wyvernfan; 22nd June 2009 at 19:02.

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    Fascinating thread here, Wyvernfan. I've read Wings Over Suez a few times myself and to hear about this possiblity is really interesting. Acig.org is usually pretty authorative as well- it'd be worth doing some more research on this. The question that comes to mind is - what would have been the worth of covering this up at the time? Considering the success of air operations and the very low casualties, would it have been such a crime to admit a few MiGs have slipped through the net to claim one of ours?

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    I will have a word with Brian Cull during the week to see if he has any views.

    I note that McCarthy is not in the acknowledgements of the book and may not therefore have given a first hand account to Brian.
    Dave Charles
    Historian 607 (County of Durham) Squadron
    Chair North East Land Sea Air Museums (NELSAM)

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    I've also read the "Wings" account and heard the Soviet pilot's claim, which from all I know is a personal claim, not one for which he provided any documentation.

    I don't see any reason to believe the account in Cull's book was the product of any 'cover up'. For one thing any MiG sighted would probably have been assumed to be Egyptian, like the other opposing airborne a/c which were fleetingly sighted during that operation. I also don't see any reason or evidence the British force would set itself up as 'invincible' and deny incidents of air combat or losses.

    Re: Carmichael, that's a rather different situation of press release-type version of events repeated ever since. The more complicated view of credit for the claim was not just expressed by personal claim of somebody else much later, but is strongly implied by the original combat report, see John P. Landsdowne, "With the Carriers in Korea" which reproduces it. It was probably just considered a simpler story for publicity purposes to credit one pilot, and 'Hoagy', what a cool nickname. It also wasn't emphasized, if mentioned at all, that a Sea Fury was also (basically) lost to a MiG that day, hit and belly landed on a UN held island off NK coast. But that's also quite plain in the combat report. Anyway the most interesting question about that incident wrt latter day info is whether the other side really lost a MiG. Chinese accounts of apparently the same combat claim several Sea Furies and don't mention any MiG losses.

    Also Korea is instructive in that a number of personal accounts by Soviet pilots there are not supported in Soviet records. For example the claim by Boris Abakumov to have downed an F-86 piloted by a Major Crown, who was captured, is repeated in a number of English language of books (like Yefim Gordon's book[s] about the MiG-15), and sometimes used to introduce the concept of the USAF 'covering up' air combat losses in Korea to the extent of wiping out the existence of pilots lost there, since there was no Major Crown lost in Korea per the USAF. But it's clear from Soviet and US records and other Soviet first hand accounts that that was a 'sea story' by Abakumov, combining two separate incidents, loss of an F-86 to fuel exhaustion April 3 '51 (Abakumov's claim against 'Crown' was April 6) where the wreck was found by the NK's or Chinese (not inspected by the Soviets, and no firm evidence it was anything but fuel exhaustion); plus the loss of Capt William Crone June 18, 1951. Crone was downed off the coast by Soviet MiG's, though not by Abakumov, almost surely killed though officially MIA. Another Soviet pilot told a story of having met a US pilot downed at that time, and being told by the pilot that he flew for the Luftwaffe in WWII! But several other pilots gave the less exciting version that they were simply shown Crone's ID card which had been recovered from the water or washed ashore.

    I would be more inclined to doubt the "Wings" account of the Wyvern loss, and give credence to the air combat loss theory, if somebody produced an official Soviet report dealing with it. If it happened, or the Soviets believed at an official level that it had happened, then such a report surely exists.

    Joe
    Last edited by JoeB; 23rd June 2009 at 02:32.

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    Thanks for your input Joe.
    Another possible reason perhaps for the 'damaged by flak' claim could also be down to pilot McCarthy not realising he had infact been engaged by another aircraft, and not the outcome of a cover up. If he had'nt seen the MiG (possibly attacked from below).. had been advised of a limited chance of encountering enemy a/c, and after finding himself in an emergency situation was concentrating more on saving himself (quite rightly) rather than wasteing time figureing out what had happened, then maybe the shoot down claim from one side and not the other does hold more credence.
    I for one also fail to see why a Russian pilot would make up a story claiming to of shot down what was a relatively slow aircraft.. in what would have been a very one sided confrontation at the best of times.

    But again the ifs, buts, and why's are just heresay without something more official to back things up.

    Incidentally i wonder if the two pilots are both still around.. that could make for an interesting conversation... and a wonderful new painting.!


    Rob.
    Last edited by Wyvernfan; 23rd June 2009 at 08:36.

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    I was wondering the same thing myself about the pilots, wouldn't that be great to hear from them or better yet, arrange some kind of chat or webcam session for them. Rob, I think your theory about McCarthy possibly not knowing the source of his damage is interesting. Never having experienced air combat I couldn't say if there is a different sensation between flak and gunfire hitting your plane.

    Definitely agree on the painting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyvernfan View Post
    Thanks for your input Joe.
    Another possible reason perhaps for the 'damaged by flak' claim could also be down to pilot McCarthy not realising he had infact been engaged by another aircraft, and not the outcome of a cover up.
    I agree that possibility couldn't be ruled out while 'cover up' should only be used IMO as a working theory when there's real evidence of it, and it's assumed or claimed too often. There are hardly any documented cases of any AF falsely recording its own losses in its own records. Press release type statements made during a war have sometimes been shown to have downplayed losses (clearly shown in the then-secret records) but it's again rare AFAIK for them to mention a loss then make up a phoney cause for it.

    In case of Korea (Sincov, or Sintsov, also flew combat and made claims in Korea, it so happens) it's also often alleged that Soviet overclaims are, if not explained by US 'cover ups', then similarly explained by a/c whose pilots believed they were downed by flak, engine failures, etc but who were really downed by MiG's. This *very* seldom pans out if you compare the actual records. The times or places or circumstances of attempted matches of Soviet air combat claims to US AA or operational losses are almost always different; and the claims almost always match a combat recorded in US records at similar time, place and circumstances, where the Soviets just over claimed.

    I think the original published source of the MiG-17 v Wyvern case is an article in the Russian language magazine Aviamaster, No. 1 2002 "Red Falcons v the Musketeers" (see link). It says that this incident occurred at noon 3 Nov v lone Wyvern, Sintsov and another unnamed pilot, admitting there is no documentation. McCarthy's a/c was lost on a mission with launch time 0720 (all details per "Wings Over Suez" pp.273-4). The book doesn't say what timezone but it seems at most it would differ from 2 hours from Cairo time (if 0720 is time Zulu). The Wyvern wasn't by itself when hit on its bomb run, and the other members of the flight circled McCarthy after he landed in the water, so apparently the a/c was never alone. I'm not ruling it out: it's possible Sintsov mis-recalled the details and they actually match better if recalled correctly, but I remain skeptical for now.

    Joe
    http://www.dorogavnebo.ru/st/st.php?n=010
    Last edited by JoeB; 23rd June 2009 at 23:39.

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    'AIR WARS and AIRCRAFT' by VICTOR FLINTHAM page 52 covering the Suez affair says ' During the day the paras made excellent progress, though not without casualties. FAA units flew continuous 'cab-rank' patrols and were called on to specific targets by liaison team dropped with the first wave of troops. During one such attack on the Coastguard barracks between Gamil and Port Said proper, Wyvern WN328 was seriously damaged and was ditched in the sea, the pilot being rescued unharmed. The author then mentions two Wyverns were lost in total but no further details given. Is WN330 the other Wyvern?
    Last edited by super sioux; 27th June 2009 at 21:51. Reason: words cojoined

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    Quote Originally Posted by super sioux View Post
    'AIR WARS and AIRCRAFT' by VICTOR FLINTHAM page 52 covering the Suez affair says ' During the day the paras made excellent progress, though not without casualties. FAA units flew continuous 'cab-rank' patrols and were called on to specific targets by liaison team dropped with the first wave of troops. During one such attack on the Coastguard barracks between Gamil and Port Said proper, Wyvern WN328 was seriously damaged and was ditched in the sea, the pilot being rescued unharmed. The author then mentions two Wyverns were lost in total but no further details given. Is WN330 the other Wyvern?
    WN328 was flown by 830 senior pilot Lt. Cdr. Cowling and was shot down on the 5/11/56. WN330 is the aircraft flown by Lt. McCarthy on the 3/11/56 when it was reputedly downed by either flak or a soviet flown MiG.17F. Both Wyvern pilots ejected successfully and were subsequently rescued and returned to ship.!
    These are the only two Wyvern's lost during actual operational sorties. WN336 was ditched over HMS Eagles bows after being hit by the inadvertant firing of a Sea Venoms 20mm canon down below decks, and becoming burnt out and damaged beyond repair.!

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    There's a cracking photo of Bill Cowling ejecting from his Wyvern in Brian Cull's book if I remember correctly. Talk about cool nerve having his wingman fly in take a snap as he did it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by nazca_steve View Post
    There's a cracking photo of Bill Cowling ejecting from his Wyvern in Brian Cull's book if I remember correctly. Talk about cool nerve having his wingman fly in take a snap as he did it!
    This one possibly.. canopy already jetisoned and engine produceing very little power by the looks of it. Pic taken from the excellent "Wyvern from the Cockpit" book by Michael J Doust, who himself had reason to eject from a Wyvern in 1957.

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    I'll try again..
    Last edited by Wyvernfan; 5th June 2011 at 15:33.

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    While the pic isn't the best, I can't see any upper-surface damage on WN328, so the damage (from whatever source) appears to be to the underside.

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    That was indeed the pic, a brilliant shot. I have to agree with Badger; you can scour away at the pic, but there's no sign of visible damage. The plot thickens.

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    I agree, although there is what appears to be a hole/dent/black mark on the top surface of the engine cowling near the front edge. Why there would be damage to the top surface is anyone's guess.. except possibly for an entry/exit point of ground fire perhaps?

    Another possible explanation is that it was'nt infact shot down. Could it be that after the attack and subsequent pull out something just "let go", and because of the relevant flak and small arms fire over the target it was assumed to have been hit?!

    Sadly we won't get to ask "smokey Cowling" of his version, as i understand he passed away just a few years ago.!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyvernfan View Post
    I agree, although there is what appears to be a hole/dent/black mark on the top surface of the engine cowling near the front edge. Why there would be damage to the top surface is anyone's guess.. except possibly for an entry/exit point of ground fire perhaps?

    Another possible explanation is that it was'nt infact shot down. Could it be that after the attack and subsequent pull out something just "let go", and because of the relevant flak and small arms fire over the target it was assumed to have been hit?!

    Sadly we won't get to ask "smokey Cowling" of his version, as i understand he passed away just a few years ago.!
    Also might depend on what manoevers the pilot was engaged in when hit...ie steep turn etc.
    Was a full account of the ejection ever published ?
    If McCarthy only flew 3 miles out before ejecting,his wingman may not have had enough time to 'look over' the a/c to check the extent of damage.
    Of course it only requires one lucky(or unlucky) hit even with small arms fire into fuel/oil or engine control systems.

    cheers baz

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    Rob
    Dont know if you have seen this post rescue pic before...

    http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/A...landWyvern.htm

    I know you probably have seen this painting Rob,but others may not have done,it does 'click to enlarge'

    http://www.marklittlejohn.com/galler...tails.asp?id=8
    Last edited by bazv; 30th June 2009 at 09:18.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bazv View Post
    Also might depend on what manoevers the pilot was engaged in when hit...ie steep turn etc.
    Was a full account of the ejection ever published ?
    If McCarthy only flew 3 miles out before ejecting,his wingman may not have had enough time to 'look over' the a/c to check the extent of damage.
    Of course it only requires one lucky(or unlucky) hit even with small arms fire into fuel/oil or engine control systems.

    cheers baz

    Just like you baz i'm clutching at straws as to what exactly happened. Cowling ejected after its quoted "the engine exploded", although again there appears to be very little external evidence of this.. although its possible that damage was contained in the engine/airframe. But in the pre-ejection photo the props don't appear to be feathered, and together with the visual lack of a steeper glide angle one can only assume that the engine was still produceing a modicum of power.. again not very likely if it had just "exploded".

    As for McCarthy i don't have any pics of his aircraft pre or post-ejection so i don't know what damage his aircraft took.
    But i do seem to remember reading a post Suez report stating that although happy with the Wyverns weapons delivery and pilot/aircraft performance, it was considered to be vulnerable to small arms fire particularly at low level. Its apparent lack of speed compared to contemporary jets obviously not helping much.

    ps.. yes i have already seen the links but thanks anyway. I hope others will take a look though..

    Rob.

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    Talking First RN turbo prop to be destroyed by RN jet!?

    These are the only two Wyvern's lost during actual operational sorties. WN336 was ditched over HMS Eagles bows after being hit by the inadvertant firing of a Sea Venoms 20mm canon down below decks, and becoming burnt out and damaged beyond repair.![/QUOTE]
    Did this event take place before the RAF Canberra PR7 was shot down over Syria by a Syrian Meteor? Will the record books have to be amended? Who can provide the answer to this mystery!

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    WN336 was lost on 18/11/56 the Canberra was shotdown on 6/11/56
    Dave Charles
    Historian 607 (County of Durham) Squadron
    Chair North East Land Sea Air Museums (NELSAM)

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    Quote Originally Posted by super sioux View Post
    These are the only two Wyvern's lost during actual operational sorties. WN336 was ditched over HMS Eagles bows after being hit by the inadvertant firing of a Sea Venoms 20mm canon down below decks, and becoming burnt out and damaged beyond repair.!
    Would of taken more than T-Cut to buff up this..
    Last edited by Wyvernfan; 7th May 2012 at 08:42.

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    Ooh messy! Not even a lot to salvage from it by the look of things. Was the Sea Venom credited with a kill?!
    Restoring Meteor NF.14 WS788, one rusty nail at a time...

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    Possibly. Sadly one navy rating lost his life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyvernfan View Post
    Sadly we won't get to ask "smokey Cowling" of his version, as i understand he passed away just a few years ago.!
    I am extremely grateful to of recently received the following email;

    "Dear Wyvernfan,
    I came across an old thread on the key publishing website forum as there was some discussion re my father, Cdr 'Smokey' Cowling, ejecting from a Wyvern during suez '56.

    Dad didn't talk much about his various escapades (I heard most stories from his colleagues) but he did tell me what happened on that occasion.
    An Egyptian contingent were well protected from above, being in a very solid concrete bunker-type coastguard building and they were holding up the marines, who were trying to get away from Gamil airfield to advance along the coast. Bombs were exploding on top of the building but not penetrating the concrete. Having previously been a Swordfish pilot, Dad decided to go in at street level and lob a 500 pounder through the window, torpedo fashion. As you can imagine, he came under a welter of small arms fire but he just concentrated on aiming the bomb. It worked and the marines were able to break out.

    When he was pulling away he became aware of metallic noises from his engine - he said it sounded like 'impellors breaking up and coming out of the exhaust'. The engine temp was rising well into the red, so he started to climb and to get away from land. He was only able to get to 1200 feet before a stall was imminent. He then throttled back, set up the photo-shoot and baled out.

    With my best regards,

    Jim Cowling".

    Many thanks to Jim for taking the time to get in touch, and for giving us his father's version of events.


    Rob

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