Terror of UBoats Royal Navy Biplane Swordfish

FAMOUS BIPLANE SWORDFISH ENTERED OPERATIONAL SERVICE IN 1936 IT ISN’T FROM WORLD WAR ONE
A FAIREY SWORDFISH IN FLIGHT (TR 1138) Close-up of a Fairey Swordfish Mark II, HS 545 ‘B’, in flight as seen through the struts of another aircraft, probably while serving with No 824 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, 1943-1944. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205188676

 

HMS_Activity

Escort carrier HMS Activity in Firth of Forth 1942

Like a number of escort carriers, HMS Activity was a merchant ship converted to an aircraft carrier. After the war, the landing deck was removed and the ship returned to merchant service. Often these small carriers only carried a handful of Swordfish but aircraft patrolling over convoys proved critical in the Battle of the North Atlantic and the overall war against U-Boats.

While we think of U-boats being sunk by convoy escort ships, almost half of U-Boats sunk in the European Theatre were sunk by U-boats. (Doenitz deployed a handful of U-Boats in and around Singapore).

 

THE BATTLE OF ATLANTIC, 1939-1945 (A 19718) A batman uses signal bats to guide the landing of a rocket-firing Fairey Swordfish of No. 816 Squadron Fleet Air Arm on board HMS TRACKER in the North Atlantic, September-October 1943. Note the rocket projectiles under the wings. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186701

 

Swordfish were usually embarked aboard escort carriers on North Atlantic convoy duty. They made excellent U-Boat hunters once the proper type of radar was installed.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 24986) Three rocket projectile Fairey Swordfish during a training flight from St Merryn Royal Naval Air Station This operational squadron was ommanded by Lieutenant Commander P Snow RN. Note the invasion stripes carried for the Normandy landings on the wings and fuselage of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016147

 

While originally built as a prototype for the Greek Navy, they turned it down in the mid-30s and Fairey Brothers Aircraft offered it the Royal Navy primarily for use on aircraft carriers. After design changes the plane went into production as the famous Royal Navy Swordfish which served multiple roles: patrol and reconnaissance, torpedo bomber, tactical bomber to support infantry and U-boat hunter/killer. The plane was oddly effective in all of these roles and was used operationally for the entire war.

RAFCC1939-1945 IWMCL2277

Armourers unload 250-lb GP bombs in front of a line of Fairey Swordfish Mark IIIs of No. 119 Squadron RAF, undergoing maintenance at B83/Knokke le Zoute, Belgium. The Squadron flew anti-shipping patrols, principally against German midget submarines, in the North Sea, and off the Dutch coast.

(Photo CL 2277 IWM. Taken by Flt. Lt. B.J. Daventry, Royal Air Force Official Photographer. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

 

IWM 4090 Swordfish_on_HMS_Victorious_before_strike_on_Bismarck

Swordfish torpedo bombers on the after deck of HMS Victorious before the attack on the Bismarck. Date 24 May 1941. This is photograph A 4090 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums now in the public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Navy Aircraft Carriers Guarding Sea Lanes Worldwide

151129-N-QD363-840 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 29, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) approaches the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196) during a replenishment at sea. Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jameson E. Lynch/Released)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 29, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) approaches the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196) during a replenishment at sea. Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jameson E. Lynch/Released)

 

151203-N-NX690-639 MEDITERRANEAN Sea (Dec. 3, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin’ Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 begins a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN Sea (Dec. 3, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin’ Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 begins a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

 

151129-N-QD363-561 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 29, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Dusty Dogs of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7 delivers cargo to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a replenishment at sea with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196). Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jameson E. Lynch/Released)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 29, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Dusty Dogs of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7 delivers cargo to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a replenishment at sea with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196). Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jameson E. Lynch/Released)

 

151127-N-KK394-129 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 27, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anderson W. Branch/Released)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 27, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, with embarked Carrier Air Wing 3, is underway conducting the Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) as part of the basic phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anderson W. Branch/Released)

 

151123-N-OI810-217 WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 23, 2015) The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships for a photo exercise during Annual Exercise 16. The Ronald Reagan CSG is participating in Annual Exercise 16 to increase interoperability between Japanese and American forces through training in air and sea operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 23, 2015) The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships for a photo exercise during Annual Exercise 16. The Ronald Reagan CSG is participating in Annual Exercise 16 to increase interoperability between Japanese and American forces through training in air and sea operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

 

151121-N-NV908-133 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 21, 2015) – An F/A-18C Hornet, assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 251, launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The Thunderbolts, along with all Carrier Air Wing One aircraft, are on their way home after completing an eight-month deployment as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chad M. Trudeau/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 21, 2015) – An F/A-18C Hornet, assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 251, launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The Thunderbolts, along with all Carrier Air Wing One aircraft, are on their way home after completing an eight-month deployment as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chad M. Trudeau/Released)

 

151119-N-ZZ999-100 WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 19, 2015) Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits during Annual Exercise (AE) 16. Ronald Reagan is participating in AE16 to increase interoperability between Japanese and American forces through training in air and sea. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (Nov. 19, 2015) Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits during Annual Exercise (AE) 16. Ronald Reagan is participating in AE16 to increase interoperability between Japanese and American forces through training in air and sea. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

 

151111-N-KM939-021 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 11, 2015) - USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) travels behind the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a Missile Exercise (MSLEX). Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 11, 2015) – USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) travels behind the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a Missile Exercise (MSLEX). Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David A. Cox/Released)

 

 

US Navy Aircraft Carriers at Sea Around the World

 

170906-N-LI810-1068
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 6, 2017) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean. John C. Stennis is underway conducting flight deck certifications, carrier qualifications and training for future operations after completing its planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph Miller/Released)

 

 

170906-N-AD724-0003
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 5, 2017) Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Brad Barbour, assigned to the “Night Dippers” of helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, scans the Atlantic Ocean for threats while standing plane guard. HSC-5 is assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) while underway conducting training after successful completion of its carrier incremental availability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Shane Bryan/Released)

 

170905-N-DA693-028
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 5, 2017) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean. John C. Stennis is underway conducting flight deck certifications, carrier qualifications and training for future operations after completing its planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Greenberg/Released)

 

 

 

Fleet Air Arm Protecting Convoys

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22308) Protection for convoys is one of the jobs of the Fleet Air Arm planes of the Royal Air Naval Station, Sierra Leone. Here a Boulton Paul Defiant from the station sweeps over a big convoy which is just leaving Freetown Harbour. The aircraft took off from from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Part of the wings and struts of the biplane from wh… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016128

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22306) Two of the station’s Boulton Paul Defiant aircraft in flight after taking off from HMS SPURWING, Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, once a stretch of untouchable bush. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016127

 

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7869) A Fairey Fulmar returns to HMS VICTORIOUS after doing patrol during a Home Fleet convoy to Russia. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185619

Escorting convoys to Russia was a brutal task given the terrible weather and constant attacks by German aircraft and U-boats out of Norway. Home Fleet provided “distant cover” since fleet carriers like HMS Victorious and battleships such as KGV were too valuable to risk anywhere close to German air attack. Home FLeet distant cover was laid on in the event the Tirpitz came out.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 22312) A Fairey Fulmar aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm about to take off from HMS SPURWING, a Royal Naval Air Station in Sierra Leone, on a coastal reconnaissance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205186969

The Royal Navy named all of its bases as if they were ships. Hence, HMS Spurwing was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm base providing cover for convoys forming up off Freetown, Sierra Leone, a major convoy destination point where escorts changed.

The Royal Navy did most of its accounting by ship so it was easier to keep track of everything if all bases were treated as ships. For instance, unassigned officers were carried on the books of HMS Victory although they were obviously not on the ship itself although it did have accommodation for a small number of officers in transit.

If you wrote someone in the Royal Navy in World War Two, you addressed the letter to that person followed by name of ship followed by GPO, London.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6123) A Fairey Fulmar being flagged off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. The carrier’s island can be seen in the background. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185487

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6120) A Fairey Fulmar taking off from the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Scapa Flow. Two more of the aircraft can be seen at the end of the flight deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185486

The two photographs above are unusual because they show planes both landing and taking off from the Royal Navy fleet carrier HMS Victorious while the carrier is at anchor in the Royal Navy Home Fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow.

Because of aerodynamic reasons, carriers in World War Two typically had to turn into the wind which gave added lift to planes taking off.  As an aircraft carrier neared its anchorage, the planes based on the carrier took off while the carrier was still at sea and could turn into the wind and flew to a Fleet Air Arm base on land.

They usually practiced landing on a carrier deck by landing on runways on land marked with the length of a carrier deck. Aircraft carrier pilots then and to this day often describe landing on a carrier as a “controlled crash.” It isn’t and wasn’t for the faint of heart.

In the last few years, the US Navy has started to fly drones from aircraft carriers which calls in question our naval strategy based around massive aircraft carrier battle groups. This is according to defense writer and expert Thomas Ricks, not me.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6955) A Fairey Fulmar warming up on the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the Donald Duck painted on the nose of the plane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185544

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7003) Sub Lieutenant (A) M Bennett, RNVR, in the cockpit of his Fairey Fulmar on board HMS VICTORIOUS. Note the art work on the nose of the aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185552

RNVR means Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Officers wore wavy stripes on their coat sleeves instead of regular stripes worn by professional “regular service” officers. Hence known as “wavy navy.” Nonetheless, RNVR officers came to vastly outnumber the regular service officers of whom there were only about 5,000 when the war began.

RNVR officers who were pilots assigned to the Fleet Air Arm wore a small insignia denoting this. The men claimed the small insignia was meant to inform all other RN personnel that they knew absolutely nothing about the navy.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7279) In the hangar deck of HMS VICTORIOUS at Hvalfjord, Iceland a row of Fairey Fulmars is flanked on either side by two rows of Fairey Albacores, all with their wings folded. The photograph was taken around the time of the search for the TIRPITZ. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185573

Hvalfjord was a treacherous anchorage because it was exposed to vicious winds. Ships at anchor normally dropped both bow and stern anchors which they usually didn’t do in more protected anchorages as well as keep steam on since they often had to make revolutions for two or three knots simply to stay where they were and not drag their anchors if a storm came up.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 5950) The forward part of the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS with Fairey Fulmars and Fairey Albacores on board during preparations for Norwegian operations. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185479

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 7540) A bearded Fleet Air Arm gunner, Leading Airman C H Clark, from Tadworth, Surrey, exits his Fairey Albacore aircraft carrying his flying kit, after his aircraft returned from a patrol to HMS VICTORIOUS off the coast of Iceland. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185586

 

Featured image shows: Fairey Albacores, the torpedo carrying plane of the Fleet Air Arm landing on the deck of HMS VICTORIOUS while the ship was en route to Hvalfjord, Iceland from Scapa Flow. The automatic Bat can be seen in the right of the picture, as can the arrestor wires running across the flight deck.