Fairey Swordfish

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by SamPZLP.7, Feb 2, 2012.

  1. SamPZLP.7

    SamPZLP.7 Member

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    The Fairey Swordfish did many missions for the Royal Navy. Two of its well known achievements are the sinking of the Bismark and the battle of Taranto. Post all Fairey Swordfish things here!
    Thanks, Sam
     
  2. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The Swordfish didn't sink the Bismarck, but it did damage it's steering to where it couldn't get away.

    The Swordfish was one very obsolete aircraft, I think the men that flew it deserve much more credit for it's success, than the aircraft.
     
  3. Rick65

    Rick65 Member

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    The Swordfish's role in the breakout was one of tragedy, incompetence by the higher ups and suicidal (pointless?) bravery by Esmonde and his crews.
    They should never have been put in that position against fighter opposition in their outdated bi-planes.
    The Swordfish's future role was as an anti submarine aircraft in which it was survivableand successful.
     
  4. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #4 nuuumannn, Feb 3, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
    Nice idea for a thread about one of the great aircraft of the war.

    Some brief text I wrote for an airshow brochure a few years back on Operation Judgement:

    Taranto and Matapan; Torpedoplanes Triumphant

    With a keen sense of history, C-in-C Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet Admiral Andrew Cunningham, better known as ‘ABC’ to his subordinates, originally chose the 21st of October – the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar as the date on which the Fleet Air Arm would strike at the Italian naval base of Taranto, but due to a fire aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, an attack on Trafalgar Day was ruled out. So, at 8:35 pm on the night of the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the First World War, the first wave of twelve Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers took off from Illustrious and made their way toward the Italian coast.

    ‘Operation Judgement’ as the epoch marking attack was officially called was a complete success; two waves of 21 Swordfish biplanes successfully sank naval vessels and badly damaged dockyard facilities in the first aerial torpedo attack against enemy ships in their own harbour. Eleven of the Swordfish carried torpedoes and the rest were armed with 250 lb semi armour piercing bombs. The bombers also carried marker flares, dropping them on the oil storage depot a quarter of a mile from the harbour and the seaplane hangars on the shore of the Mar Piccolo (Small Harbour), before dive bombing each target just before the torpedo aircraft went in, to confuse the Italians into believing a bombing raid was taking place. Then, the torpedo carriers unleashed their ‘tin fish’.

    The results were devastating for the Italian Navy. Reconnaissance prior to the raid showed that six battleships were moored in the Mar Grande (Great Harbour); of these three of them, the Conte di Cavour, Caio Duilio and Littorio were sunk. A number of other naval vessels were also torpedoed, including the large cruiser Trento. Two torpedoes were fired at the flagship of the Italian Fleet, the battleship Vittorio Veneto, but both missed. Of the 21 Swordfish launched, only two were lost during the raid.

    Although two of the three battleships were eventually raised and repaired, the deterrent value of the raid was enormous; the Italian fleet outnumbered the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet and was equipped with more modern vessels, but these were moved north out of harm’s way after the attack. A few months later in March 1941, units of the Royal Navy, including the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable and the battleship HMS Warspite encountered an Italian squadron off Cape Matapan in Greece.

    Once again, the Fairey Swordfish went into action alongside its stablemate the Albacore, torpedoeing the Vittorio Veneto, missed at Taranto, and the cruiser Pola, one of the unfortunate Zara Class, which lost three of its number during the fighting. Zara and her sister Fiume were dispatched by Warspite’s 15-inch gunfire after turning back to rescue survivors from the sinking Pola.

    The actions at Taranto and Matapan demonstrated the value of the aircraft carrier as a major unit of the modern battle fleet, and the effectiveness of torpedo aircraft in naval engagements. After the Battles of Matapan and Taranto the Italian Navy never again ventured out to threaten the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean.

    Photos to come, if I may...
     
  5. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    I have a book here somewhere think it's "Illustrious the world over" and it recounts a sortie where a swordfish was returning from an anti submarine mission in the North Atlantic, the wind was up and the Swordfish was low on fuel, but the carrier was outrunning the swordfish because of the headwind and had to slow down, the Swordfish came over the fantail at walking pace and did according to the author the first vertical landing on a carrier, 30 years before the harrier!
     
  6. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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    Thought I'd offer up a few shots of one of the UK's airworthy 'Stringbags'. A very 'stately' performer that gives you loads of time to get your lenses sorted out before she comes around again :). A rather unusual shape in the circuit especially when loaded with a 'Tinfish' underneath.

    Its a pity we couldn't get the Fairy Albacore at RNAS Yeovilton in the air as well. Now that would be a very special sight indeed !!
     

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  7. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Great shots Gary!
     
  8. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    actually also the 3rd BB sank at Taranto was raised, and start work for repair and upgrade (new secondary 135 guns and 65 AA gun and fire control) that was never ended
     
  9. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Great photos Gary! I'm just doing an OOB Swordfish in that scheme!
     
  10. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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  11. cimmex

    cimmex Member

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    Somewhere I read that all attacking Swordfish were shot down during the Channel dash. Is this true?
    Regards
    Cimmex
     
  12. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    [Wikipedia]

    "... Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde — a veteran of the chase of the battleship Bismarck — was lost along with his entire detachment of torpedo bombers, and was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Only five crew survived out of eighteen. Ramsay later wrote: "In my opinion the gallant sortie of these six Swordfish aircraft constitutes one of the finest exhibitions of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty the war had ever witnessed", while Ciliax remarked on: "...the mothball attack of a handful of ancient planes, piloted by men whose bravery surpasses any other action by either side that day"

    More telling, RAF lost all the Westland Whirlwinds that they put up, IIRC. :)

    MM
     
  13. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Needs must when the devil drives Rick.
    Remember at the time it was just 'getting on with the job'.

    Cheers
    John
     
  14. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Channel Dash - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Is this true? That's twice as many aircraft as Japan employed to attack Pearl Harbor.
     
  15. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #15 nuuumannn, Feb 4, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
    Take a look at this link on Operation Fuller; very sobering reading:

    The Channel Dash Association

    Here are some photos of one of the airworthy Stringbags in the UK at a couple of different venues. They're scans of photos, so not great quality.

    [​IMG]

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    The Swordfish really is a big aeroplane when you get right up close. This is a sequence I took at North Weald of the same aircraft doing its display routine. A bit like watching a Galleon flying round in circles.

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    Finally, at a different display; this one's released its tin fish and is raising the salute.

    [​IMG]

    I recently found out why it was called the 'Stringbag'; "An old lady on a shopping spree couldn't carry more stores in her string bag..."

    They should put one next to Nelson's Victory at Portsmouth; under cover, of course.
     
  16. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... Take a look at this link on Operation Fuller; very sobering reading"

    It seems to me that the Channel Dash was one of the few German moves in the west, after the failure of the Luftwaffe to gain air superiority over GB in 1940, where German planning, execution and objectives were all in sync and came off brilliantly. Britain was caught on the wrong foot and stumbled badly.
    Did they under-estimate German naval and combined operations capabilities .....?

    MM
     
  17. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Michael,

    The Channel Dash Association

    Britain is a past master of getting caught with her trousers down but, somehow managing to save the day. Suicide or bravery? You decide...

    John
     
  18. blobs

    blobs Member

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    There is a good book from a stringbag pilot " JOHN WELLHAM" who flew the tarranto raid. he details much of the life of a fleet air arm pilot of ww2.
    "With Naval Wings" ISBN 0-8117-1866-7
    regards
    blobs
     
  19. SamPZLP.7

    SamPZLP.7 Member

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    It is a good book.
     
  20. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... Britain is a past master of getting caught with her trousers down but, somehow managing to save the day. Suicide or bravery? You decide..."

    Rum. :)

    MM
     
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