Commander Nigel Matthews, who has died aged 89, survived being run over by an aircraft carrier and flew again the same day.
Nigel Matthews died on December 19. His first wife died in 1977; he married, secondly, Annette Pask (née Pinhey) in 1979 and she predeceased him in 2008. He is survived by four children of his first marriage and a stepdaughter.
On June 14 1945 Matthews was the senior observer of 828 Naval Air Squadron. Sitting in the rear cockpit of Avenger fighter-bomber JZ 547, flown by the squadron CO, Lieutenant Commander Alan Swanton, Matthews was about to lead a raid on the Japanese-held island of Truk. JZ 547 was at the front of the crowded flight deck of the fleet carrier Implacable and had the shortest length of deck for a running take-off.
As Swanton charged along at full throttle, he realised he had insufficient power for take-off on the wet, oily deck and – too late – aborted. The aircraft “trickled” into the sea just 200 yards directly ahead of the carrier; as she was streaming full speed at 30 knots it was impossible to take evasive action.
Matthews looked up briefly to see the Implacable’s sharp bows strike his aircraft at the wing-root and cut it “like butter”. The next few minutes were filled with darkness and noise as violent eddies tossed and tumbled him in the sea. He swallowed a great deal of salt water, but as he was swept into the wake he met Ward, who helped him climb into his life raft. Moments later, from the other side of the ship, up bobbed Swanton.
Thanks to Alaric Bond for passing the article along.