Having qualified as a pilot in 1933, Alan Newson served a complete tour of 5 years in the FAA before returning to Corps Duty in 1937. After a spell at Chatham Division, and in the Barham, he returned to the FAA and by 29 February 1940 he was Senior Pilot in 820 Squadron in Ark Royal. The "Ark" was at that time in the Mediterranean for a period of Pilot Training but in April the ship left the Mediterranean for Norwegian waters and operated off Aandelsnes and Namsos in the Trondheim area, and on Vaernes airfield and moored floatplanes. These operations continued until June during which period the Glorious was sunk.
In July the Ark Royal was sent to Gibraltar to form the nucleus, with Hood, of Vice Admiral Somerville's Force "H" which came into being on 28 June 1940. The function of the Force was to take over the sea areas left unguarded by the immobilisation of the French Navy and to cover against any westward movement of the Italian Fleet. Ark Royal's aircraft took part in the attack on the French Fleet at Oran and in laying mines at Mers el Kebir on 3 October 1940. Bombing attacks, followed by torpedo strikes were unsuccessful due mainly to lack of practice in torpedo attacks.
On 6 July six aircraft of 810 Squadron attacked the Dunkerque which was hard aground in Oran Harbour. The only torpedo to hit failed to explode but the depth charges on an armed trawler alongside blew up causing severe superficial damage to Dunkerque. This attack was particularly galling to Alan Newson as he had manoeuvred into a good dropping position despite heavy flak when his torpedo failed to release as the result of trouble with the Master Switch. He explains that he had made the switch shortly after take-off in readiness for the attack but en-route to the target he had to drop a smoke float for his observer to check the wind. In so doing it is possible that the switch may have been unmade and inadvertently was not re-made in the concentration of the moment. At any rate the torpedo did not drop and one can imagine his frustration.
Newson then became Lt. Cdr. (Flying) of the ‘Ark’ which then carried out raids on Cagliari airfield in Sardinia and on Cagliari Harbour. A further raid was made on Sardinian targets on 1 September 1940 followed by a major attack on the Richelieu and other ships at Dakar. These took place between 23 and 29 September and proved to be a debacle with the loss of nine aircraft and severe damage to our own ships including Barham and Resolution.
Ark Royal then returned to UK for a short refit and Alan Newson went to Arbroath in command of 753 Squadron - Observer Training. After a few months at Lee-onSolent he was then appointed to RNAS Dekheila, Egypt in January 1942. On arrival in March he took over as Commanding Officer of 821 Squadron which he led for the next twelve months. For the first month the squadron was at Fayid where they worked up with HMS Roberts for night bombardments. These were subsequently carried out at Mersa Matruh by destroyers on 11 July, and at Rhodes on 12 August by cruisers of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Early in April the squadron moved back to Dekheila and from then until the end of November 1942 they operated in the Western Desert.
The squadron's work consisted mainly of finding and illuminating front line targets for the RAF Wellington Bombers and for its own dive bombing attacks. It was also employed in mine laying, attacks on ships at sea, and spotting for coastal bombardments made by the Mediterranean Fleet in support of the troops ashore. These operations were conducted from temporary landing grounds in the desert, advancing and retreating with the tide of battle and the fortunes of war. During this period the squadron made 471 operational sorties and dropped 235 tons of bombs and 1,250 flares.
On 11 July 1942, Major Newson was piloting one of three Albacores engaged in spotting for a night bombardment of Mersa Matruh Harbour by four Hunt Class destroyers of the Mediterranean Fleet. (Beaufort, Dulverton - sunk by glider bomb 1943, Eridge, and Hurworth - mined 1943). On his way to the target his engine started to overheat and to loose oil pressure. The bombardment was due to start in half an hour and if he had returned to base the entire operation would have had to be called off. Rather than go back he jettisoned his two long range fuel tanks and flares and was able to gain the required height to carry out the task in the face of heavy flak with a slowly failing engine. The ensuing bombardment was successful and for his part in the action Major Newson was awarded the DSC.
On 30 November 1942 the squadron moved to Malta where they operated from Hal Far against enemy shipping, harassing the lines of communication from Italy to Tripoli and Tunisia. On one night alone, four of the Albacores sank or seriously damaged two merchant ships and a destroyer with three torpedoes. Fun details of the operations from Malta by 821 Squadron have not come to light, although the operations by 830 Squadron are well covered since this squadron had been based in Malta from 1941 and had borne the brunt of all the Malta based air operations. However, the contribution of 821 Squadron must have been significant since Major Newson was awarded the DSO for his skilful and daring attacks on shipping.
He returned to UK in March 1'943 and was then appointed Cdr(F) of HMS'Trumpeter which he joined at Portland, Oregon on 4 August 1943. Arriving back in UK in December 1943 the Trumpeter was then involved in Atlantic and Russian convoys and operations off the coast of Norway. The ship saw more operational service than any other CVE and took part in thirteen offensive operations between August 1944 and May 1945. Newson was involved in most of these although he left the ship on 17 January 1945 (Relieved by Major Patch, RM).
His final FAA appointment was as Cdr(F) at RNAS Macrihanish from April 1945 to May 1946 when he returned to Corps Duty. In 1946 he was appointed
second in command of 45 Commando based in Malta and saw service in Libya, Suez, Jordan and in the evacuation from the British Mandate in Palestine. His final years with the corps included a staff course and administration until retirement in 1957.
He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel on 1 October 1957. He worked for the personnel department of Whitbreads until 1975 when upon his second retirement he was able to indulge his passion for foreign travel.
Alan died on December 17th 2007 at the age of 97.