June 13, 2009

"Oh..that was ME!?"

John Moffat fought a hard war. He served on 4 carriers in the Second World War, saw action in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific and survived the sinking of the HMS Ark Royal and the terrible fire aboard HMS Formidable. However, his most famous action took place early in the war.The target was the Nazi battleship Bismark, which was had sent the Home fleet flagship to the bottom of the Denmark Straits and was at extreme range. Churchill himself  ordered ordered the carrier Ark Royal to launch an attack....weather be damned....At the time HMS Ark Royal was  caught in hurricane force winds and taking green water over her flight deck.

"The ship was pitching 60ft, water was running over the decks and the wind was blowing at 70 or 80mph... And nobody mentions the deck hands who had to bring the planes up from the hangars  -  they did something special. After they brought them up they had to open
the wings which took ten men for each wing. And then they had to wind a handle to get the starters working."

 Only 3 pilots were able to get their machines into the air under those hellish conditions and those machines were Fairy Swordfish....utterly obsolete biplane Torpedo bombers.
3 Stringbags against a battleship.
3 torpedoed dropped in the face of a hellstorm of flack.
One of those torpedoes struck.
It jammed the Bismark's rudder.
That hit allowed the remnants of the home fleet to get within range.  
KMS Bismark died as a result.

Nearly 60 years later, John Moffat was informed by the Royal Navy that it had been his torpedo that landed what turned out to be a fatal blow. His response?
It gave me a sort of satisfaction.'


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 09:11 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 For what it's worth, I've always wondered just why the Stringbag was considered obsolete, considering how perfectly it fit the role of torpedo bomber.

Yes, it was slow, and no, it couldn't fly very high.  But a successful torpedo attack (at the time) required that the weapon be dropped at a slow speed and a low altitude... and nothing could fly slower or lower than a Swordfish.

Yeah, it was a biplane, and yes there were torpedo bombers than could go faster and farther, but think about where the Swordfish was primarily used: the European theatre.  Shorter range was the norm, rather than the exception.  MANY good planes failed when they were used in the Pacific (where the Swordfish was butchered).  The Spitfire and Hurricane, stars of the Battle of Britain, just couldn't hack Pacific duty.  That doesn't make them bad.

I'd surely rather have a Stringbag than a Devastator, that's for sure.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sun Jun 14 00:48:27 2009 (hlGBx)

2 You've answered your own question in mentioning the Devastator. It was faster better armored and against modern planes died to no effect.

The Swordfish WAS very good at asw off small carriers. And its STOL and loiter capabilities meant it was useful, but as a TB it was obsolete.
Of course obsolete is relative. A Mauser 98 is obsolete...it will still kill you dead.

 The Swordfish was used to some good effect against axis shipping, but this is more a testament to its crews than its design.

Posted by: Brickmuppet at Sun Jun 14 01:19:16 2009 (YOPeE)

3 We had this argument off-blog, but to reiterate for the public:

The Swordfish was slower, yes.  It also had a better rate of climb, a longer range, and carried a heavier torpedo.

When carrying a torpedo, a Devastator couldn't even take on a full load of fuel, shortening it's range even more. 

Considering that a TBD had to drop its torp at 100mph and 100feet altitude, and the Swordfish didn't, I'll continue to argue that it was the better plane.  The Stringbag would have failed just as badly against Zeros, but I'd take it over the TBD any day.

Of course, both paled when put up against a Kate, which in turn looked bad against the Avenger... which was not actually the best torpedo bomber of the war.

That would have been the Aichi B7A (aka "Grace").  Fortunately, only 100 or so were built, and they had no carriers to fly from.

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sun Jun 14 23:30:41 2009 (hlGBx)

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