WHILE Barry Dunmore had a view from the water of the Hoverfly landing on HMS Vanguard, Dennis German of Portland remembers the build-up to the operation from the ground.

Dennis joined the Portland Flight of 771 Squadron two or three weeks after helicopter pilot Sub-Lieutenant Dick Beechener as an air photographer.

Like Beechener and Dunmore, he remembers the rendezvous landing on the Vanguard as the outstanding event for the Sikorsky R4 Hoverfly. “It was certainly the most memorable of the Portland Flight,” he says. “To get three aircraft into the air at once from limited hangar space was an achievement in itself.”

“When I look back to the actual day, I’m still amazed that the ground crew who maintained the aircraft and organised the operation consisted of five petty officers, a leading radio mechanic and seven air mechanics; two chief petty officers came later in the year.”

Dennis was involved in the week of preparation for the operation, which included a practice landing on to the quarterdeck of HMS Anson, a training battleship in Portland Harbour, which had a similar layout to the quarterdeck of Vanguard. But not everything went to plan for the trial run.

Dennis was to accompany the helicopter to the Anson in a small motorboat and take photographs as a record ‘should anything non-usual occur’.

Dennis explains: “At the appropriate time the motor-launch set off for Anson to lay off the stern-quarter to await the aircraft. We reached the end of the coaling pier and the launch engine spluttered to a halt, and no amount of coaxing could get it going again. We heard the aircraft take off and disappear while we slopped around in silence, and later we heard the aircraft return. Later a passing ship’s launch saw our plight and towed us back to the camber jetty.”

But on February 1, 1947, things went more smoothly.

“On the actual day itself, we all had our allocated duties fully rehearsed,” says Dennis. “Both sides of the slipway were used for the two aircraft fitted with floats, then the slipway was cleared for the aircraft fitted with land-wheels.

“Although it was not the best of weather, it certainly wasn’t stormy as claimed elsewhere, it was overcast, squally with light rain at times. “Having done our bit, and prepared for the returning aircraft, all we could do then was listen to the radio chatter until that broke up as the distance increased.”

Dennis shared two of his photographs (reproduced above) with Looking Back from his time with Portland Helicopter Flight in 1947.