The crippling of the Bismarck and the Battle of Taranto were two pivotal actions in which the Fleet Air Arm and the Fairey Swordfish played key roles.
The crippling (and subsequent sinking by the Royal Navy) of the powerful pocket battleship Bismarck removed an enormous threat to allied supply routes and also released vital resources to be used elsewhere. Swordfish crews showed incredible courage in pressing home their attacks in appalling weather and against a deadly quarry.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest and most complex battle of WWII. Often called the Battle FOR Britain (as opposed to the Battle OF Britain), it was the battle we had to win to avoid being strangled out of the conflict. The advent of Escort carriers and MAC ships (converted merchantmen) played a crucial role in the decline of successful attacks by U-Boats on the convoys and the Fairey Swordfish was at the forefront of that success.
The Battle of Taranto, on the night of November 11th/12th November, 1940 was an innovatory action and critical victory. It favourably altered the balance of power in the Mediterranean, supported the North African campaign, gave the Japanese the blueprint for the attack on Pearl Harbour and began the inexorable decline in importance of the capital ship in favour of the aircraft carrier.
Three remarkable successes both for the Fleet Air Arm and also the legendary aircraft that went on to serve us so well throughout the war, the Fairey Swordfish. Both actions rightly celebrated annually around the globe wherever Fleet Air Arm servicemen and women gather.
The Channel Dash was an action of extreme bravery and sacrifice that occurred on February 12th, 1942, when six Fairey Swordfish were pitted against an overwhelming force of the Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe.
In this doomed attempt to sink the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, all six Swordfish were shot down and only 5 of the 'Gallant Eighteen' aircrew survived. Their flight leader, Lt Cdr Eugene Esmonde, was posthumously awarded the Victoria cross.
A supreme example of courage, sacrifice and duty.