Seafire SW904

Easterton Farm, Elgin, Moray













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A preserved Royal Navy Supermarine Seafire showing the wings folded for storage on aircraft carriers.


F XVII SX336 Kennet Aviation


RN Seafire with wings folded


Photo: 2006 'Kogo': Released by the author to the public domain





Aircraft Type and Background


RN FAA Supermarine Seafire XV / SW904



A military carrier-borne fighter aircraft operated by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy.

The Supermarine Seafire (official name, Sea Spitfire) was the Royal Navy's version of the Spitfire; later versions being specially adapted with folding wings and arrestor hook for use on aircraft carriers.

The first FAA Seafires were modified versions of the land-based Spitfire Marks Va and Vb, renamed as Seafire Mark II. These variants did not have folding wings. Unfortunately, the Spitfire was never really designed to be converted to a deck-landing Seafire. Modified Seafires found carrier approaches difficult and suffered often from landing gear collapses. Again, at times, the arrestor hooks failed to catch the deck wire and would recoil into the aircraft fuselage damaging the airframe.

The Seafires were equipped with two 20mm cannon and four .303in machine guns in the wings. The could also carry a 500lb bomb load. (Later post-war variants (Mk XVII) were equipped with rocket projectiles.)

In November 1943, the first Seafires with folding wings to enter service with the FAA was the Mark F III, soon to be replaced by the Mark L III. These types made possible below-deck storage. These variants were equipped with Merlin engines.

In May 1945, the first Seafires equipped with Griffon engines appeared. These were the Mark XVs--the type featured on this page. By this time, however, the war in Europe had been brought to a successful conclusion.

The Seafire continued in active service with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) until 1951, and served with the RNVR until the type was decommissioned in 1954.

Preserved versions of the Seafire can still be seen seen at air displays and in museums today.






Aircraft Accident Details


At the time of this accident, 'Seafire' SW826 of 766 Squadron FAA was taking part in formation flying with three other Seafires over the moors SW of Elgin.


While involved in a crossover manoeuvre at 1,000ft, two Seafires collided (SW904 and SW826). The collision destroyed the cockpit of Seafire SW826 and resulted in the death of Seafire SW904's pilot, F. J. Curtis, when his aircraft crashed into the ground near Easterton Farm.






Aircraft Pilot Casualty


The pilot who died in this accident was:

  • Francis Joseph Curtis (21) RNAS, HMS Fulmar.



BELOW: Francis J Curtis.



Photo courtesy, David Townson via Margaret Jeary.



Biography: Francis Joseph Curtis, 16th April 1927 - 5th July1948


Francis Joseph, known as Frank, was born in Liverpool on the 16th April 1927. He was the youngest of the family. According to David, his nephew, "He was the baby of the family, arriving eight years after the younger of my mum's two sisters. I remember his 21st birthday on 16 April as one of those occasions I loved, when the whole family gathered at my grandparents' home on Queens Drive. There was a silver key on the cake, the symbolic key to the door of life, yet he had only eleven weeks left to live."


David says Frank was quite a guy. As a teenager he had made the most exquisite model aeroplanes from scratch, without needing a kit. He was also a talented pianist; his favourite piece to play was Chopin's Military Polonaise. He collected Spike Jones records too, and wanted to be an architect. "He used to like to lift me by the feet and make me 'wheelbarrow' along on my hands, and would tease me by picking me up at the top of the stairs, pretending he was going to throw me down, or balancing me on the bottom of the banisters and threatening to let go, while I clung desperately to his black, brilliantined hair."


David used to be entertained by Frank's trick, when he was still a teenager, of blowing smoke through a bugle. He didn't smoke so the cigarette was borrowed, along with the bugle which would have come from the Air Cadets.


Frank had joined the Navy with his boyhood friend Barney Potts, who lived only a couple of blocks away, and who eventually became a captain with Dan-Air. Frank was awarded his wings on 10 March 1948 and went to join on the aircraft carrier Vengeance where he flew Fireflies and Barracudas, which were listed in his logbook. A letter written on the ship, dated March 1948, has been kept.


Frank's family and were devastated by his death and David says they never got over it. But he hasn't been forgotten; he lives on in the memory of those whose lives he touched.


"Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore."
Ecclesiasticus 44:14.



(The above biography was kindly provided by Margaret Jeary in co-operation with the pilot's nephew, David Townson (Canada)).




Memorial Photos


BELOW: The headstone and grave of the pilot, Francis J Curtis. This grave is at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool.


Headstone and grave of pilot, Francis J Curtis


The inscription on the headstone reads:


In loving memory of

 Francis Joseph [Curtis]

Pilot R.N.A.S

Beloved son of Francis & Angela Curtis,

Accidentally Killed

5th July 1948 Aged 21 Years.


Rest in Peace



BELOW: Another view of the grave at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. Margaret Jeary was an eyewitness to the accident that killed this young pilot in 1948.


Another view of the grave at Anfield Cemetery


Above photos kindly provided by Margaret Jeary

 (© 2011 All Rights Reserved)



Francis Curtis' name also appears on the Armed Forces Memorial (National Memorial Arboretum)  in Staffordshire, and on the Roll of Honour at St Martin in the Fields in London.






Crash Site Photos


At the moment, there are no crash site photos for this aircraft.
















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Crash Date / Site


Accident Date: 5 Jul 1948


Accident Site:

Easterton Farm (100m)


Region: Moray


Nearest town or village:

Glenlatterach [map] 


Nearest large town:

Elgin (N) [map]


OS Grid Refs:  

Seafire SW904: 28 /  50-56

Seafire SW826: 28 / 18-53


GPS Ref. N/A


Present Condition: Remaining wreckage status unknown.




Aircraft Details


Registration or Serial: SW904


Operator:  RN / FAA (766 Naval Air Squadron)


Operating Station: RNAS Lossiemouth / HMS Fulmar (or RAF Milltown); associated with RAF Lossiemouth.


Station Location: Lossiemouth [map], Scotland.


Current Station Status: Operational Military Air Base


Current Station Name: RAF Lossiemouth






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