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1. Name
Vernon Beauclerk George CHEESMAN
2. Date Commissioned
1 January 1936
3. Date retired
1950
4. Rank
Major RM
5. Awarded wings
August 1939
6. Flying schools
E.F.T.S. Rochester
S.F.T.S. RAF Peterborough
7. Aircraft types flown
Training types - Avro and Harts
Qualified on Float Planes
Converted to fighters at Yeovilton 1943
8. Squadrons
Walrus Flight HMS Cornwall (sunk) and HMS Albatross 1940-1942
788 Sqdn RNAS Eastleigh, Kenya (Temp CO) 1942
824 Sqdn. Hurricane Flight - Flight Cdr HMS Sriker
1770 Firefly Sqdn
1944 - HMS Indefatigable
766 Sqdn as CO and C.F.I. OFS. Lossiemouth.
9. Aircraft Carriers
HMS Cornwall and Albatross for Walrus Flight 1940-1942
HMS Striker- Hurricane Flight
HMS Indefatigable - Firefly Squadron
10. Senior Appointments
788 Sqdn Kenya - Temp CO
824 Sqdn Hurricane Flight - CO
1770 Firefly Sqdn - CO
766 Sqdn CO and C.F.I - OFS Lossiemouth.
11.Decorations
Decorations D.S.O. 16 January 1945. "For undaunted courage, skill and determination in carrying out daring attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz."
M.B.E. 13 May 1941. "For courage, skill and enterprise in taking a Walrus aircraft to the rescue of survivors of a merchant-man. (the "Fumaes" which had been torpedoed 100 miles off the west coast of Africa)."
D.S.C. 13 March 1945. "For courage, skill and daring whilst operating from HMS Indefategable. (Raid on Palembang)."
1939-45 War medals including Atlantic and Pacific.
12. General
Vernon (Cheese) Cheesman was seconded to the Fleet Air Arm in 1939 and soon became popularly known as the "Cheltenham Flyer" because of his home town. Initially he qualified as a Seaplane Pilot and was embarked in HMS Cornwall as her Walrus amphibian pilot when she was sunk in the Indian Ocean on 5 April 1942. He had earlier been based at Freetown aboard HMS Albatross when earned the MBE as above. At the same time as the Cornwall, the Hermes, Dorsetshire were also sunk by Japanese dive bombers.

In 1943 he converted to fighters and in 1944 was appointed to command the first "Firefly" squadron, 1770 Squadron for service in Indefatigable. He led this squadron in an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Altenfjord on 17 July 1944 (Operation Mascot). Furious, Formidable and Infatigable provided 44 Barracudas and 48 Corsairs, Hellcats and Fireflies, the latter in action for the first time as was the Indefatigable. For this operation Cheesman was awarded the D.S.O.

In December 1944, Indefatigable, together with the other Fleet Carriers, Victorious and Indomitable rendezvoused with the Illustrious at China Bay, Ceylon when Admiral Vian hoisted his flag in Indomitable as Flag Officer Commanding First Aircraft Carrier Squadron.

Pending agreement as to the role of the British Fleet in the Pacific, raids were carried out on the refinery and airfields in Sumatra. On arrival of Indefatigable a further attack on the refinery at Pangkalan Brandan was made on 4 January 1945 by the combined Air Groups, the task of 1770 Sqdn. being to strafe and rocket the town of Pangkalam Soe Soe. The raid was a complete success, heavy damage being inflicted on the refinery while 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed in air combat and another 20 of all types were destroyed on the ground. On returning to the Indefatigable Cheesman ran out of fuel and had to ditch nearby but he was quickly picked up by a destroyer and returned to the carrier.

The main striking force of the British Pacific Fleet left Trincomalee on 16 January 1945 for Sydney which was to be the main base. En route heavy strikes were made on the Sumatran oil refineries around Palembang. The first raid was made on 24 January on the Pladjoe refinery resulting in all oil in storage being burnt out and oil production being halved for three months. Fourteen enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air and a further 34 on the ground for the loss of seven FAA aircraft from all causes. The second raid was made on 29 January on the Soengi Gerong refinery also near Palembang. As a result all production stopped for two months and normal production never recovered. Over 30 enemy aircraft were shot down plus 38 destroyed on the ground for a loss of 16 FAA aircraft. In addition one of Japan's largest tankers was damaged beyond repair.

For these operations Cheesman was awarded the D.S.C

The next operation was to support the American invasion of Okinawa, Operation "Iceberg". The role of the B.P.F was to neutralise the airfields in the Sakishima Gunto group of islands. This commenced on 26 March and went on until 25 May. Cheesman's Flying Log Book rapidly filled with continuous action: "Fighter sweeps over Ishigaki", "Top cover to strikes on Hirara and Sukama", "Strike on Mivako", "CAP and strafe Ishigaki", "CAP and scramble over Fleet Train". "Fighter sweep over Nobara and Hirara", etc. This went on day after day for a very long time involving flying for eight hours out of twenty-four with alerts two or three times a day. It was only broken by a few days restoring at Leyte, and an almost welcome diversion when Indefatigable was a target for a Kamikaze suicide bomber on 6 April when one of these, a Zeke 55 dived into the base of the carrier's island. The ship was saved by its armoured flight deck which was only dented and she was back in action within two hours. Four officers and ten ratings were killed and sixteen wounded. The action had gone on for 62 days and the cost to the FAA was 160 planes and 41 aircrew.

The B.P.F. then retired to Sydney to re-arm the squadrons and rest the ships' companies and 1770 Sqdn. disembarked there. Before they could re-form, the war came to a close and the Squadron was disbanded on 30 September 1945.

On 24 January 1946 Cheesman was appointed as Chief Flying Instructor at RNAS Lossiemouth, and in the November was recommended for Air Group Commander. Then followed a tour at the RAF Central Fighter Establishment, West Raynham as Naval Representative.

Finally, in 1950 he preferred to retire rather than revert to the rigid unexciting life in the Corps as it was at that time.

Cheesman
Cheesman with family after receiving
his DSC