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Monday 23 October 2017

A derring-do aviator and jet-age pioneer

'Spike' Joyce's squad of RAF Blackburn Rocs
'Spike' Joyce's squad of RAF Blackburn Rocs

Commander Tobias Joshua Aloysius King Joyce - or Spike, as he was more commonly known to his wartime colleagues - was born in Newhall in 1916.

He was a derring-do British forces naval aviator whose flying skills with experimental aircraft would become essential in the development of the new British jet-era fighter aircraft of the post-war era.

The energetic scion of the Newhall was typical of the adventurers that Ireland's big country houses produced for the British armed forces. During the WW2, he made his name flying sub-standard and cumbersome Blackburn Rocs off the decks of the Ark Royal aircraft carrier on dangerous cover duty for munitions destined for Malta. He survived the sinking of the carrier by a German U-boat 25 miles off Gibraltar but was soon back flying by the seat of his pants as a test pilot for top secret concept planes including those on the early British jet programme.

Spike King Joyce's luck ran out as he was test piloting the concept version of the British Navy's first ever jet fighter - the Supermarine Attacker. The tail collapsed causing him to crash and led to a complete redesign which enabled this fighter to be safely introduced to service the following month in time for the Cold War face-off with the Soviets.

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