Swordfish newspaper artical 1940

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Chief Master Sergeant
Dec 20, 2003
Ipswich, Suffolk
In spring of 1940 founding editor of The Airplane C G Grey wrote an article for the Sunday Express newspaper regarding the Swordfish mine laying activities in the Baltic prior too Dunkirk this is a small extract although over sixty years old and written with a certain amount of press propaganda the article gives an insight into flying in the Stringbags and the men who did it.

Just when the Blitzkrieg on Norway had started I was staying at a Coastal Command station of the RAF….. which was a regular aeronautical menagerie. The day I got there our newspapers had published maps of the new minefields blocking the German and Danish harbours in the Baltic, from which ships had to take troops to Norway.
Our people said how did our mine-layers or submarines get through the German minefields and past the German submarines and destroyers and air force to lay those mines
On the airfield was a squadron of Fairey Swordfish the machine was built for Fleet reconnaissance and as a torpedo dropper so it's a weight lifter and its best cruising speed is that of one of the trainers one sees floating overhead. These Swordfish where however different .
Where the navigator ought to sit was an enormous petrol tank which stuck up between the pilot and the aft cockpit. The navigator had to sit with his legs underneath a mass of petrol ready to drown him in flames if an incendiary bullet caught it.
Now figure to yourself that sort of courage.
The machine outrageously overloaded
Carrying a mine which would leave nothing to pick up if it exploded and carrying a truck load of fuel to give it the thousand mile range, it's speed such that the worst anti aircraft gunner or search light operator could hardly miss it. Its only protection against fighters the fact that it was too slow for them to stay with it and shoot at it.
'They had none of the excitement of the single seat fighter or his interval for refreshment after a three hour patrol ,and none of the companionship of an aircraft cabin just an open cockpit and a voice at the end of a pipe or the crewman ship of the big bombers or flying boats There was "solitude a deux" for most of ten hours at a stretch .
" they were the bravest men I have met. I have know a good many VC's and plenty of DSO's. none of these FAA lads had any decorations then . I hope they have got them since Nobody admires our bomber crews and coastal reconnaissance people, and our fighter pilots more than I do. But those couples in the Swordfish deserve to be recorded in history for they made so much history themselves'..........

The air station was Bircham Newton in Norfolk and the 29 nightly mine laying ops took place near the Frisian Islands.
There is a book called "War in a Stringbag" by Charles Lamb which deals with this subject, the Stringbag squadron he was asigned to took part in these operations. Charles Lamb was also the last pilot to land on HMS Couragous before it was topedoed.

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