It was noisy, smelly, and claustrophobic, and the radio operator was only connected to the pilot by an electrical intercom [Chance 40]. If that connection broke, the radio operator was cut off [Chance 40]. In front of the radio operator were several panels [Chance] for the radio, radar, navigation, and weapons arming. On many missions, the radio operator used the radar to direct the pilot to targets [Chance].
The radio operator basically ran a rudimentary combat information center [Chance 40]. For level bombing, the third crew member had a Norden bombsight. He could take over the aircraft for the attack. This required a view forward and down. When the bomb bay doors opened, this vantage point was provided by a glass window with an unrestricted view if bombs were not directly in the center of the bay.
However, level bombing was rare. At sea, high-level bombing nearly always missed maneuvering ships. Consequently, the Avenger was normally used as a glide bomber [Tillman 53]. In glide bombing, the pilot aimed the aircraft and released the bombs. In torpedo attacks, he also advised the pilot about altitude and distance to the target [Thomas , various]. Glide bombing was similar to dive bombing, only not as vertical.
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Figure 7: Glide Bombing Attack. Even when high-level attacks were made against land targets, it was typical to only use real bombardier in the lead aircraft. When the lead aircraft released its bombs, so did every other Avenger in the raid [Thomas ]. Level bombing was often used with land targets because few merited risky glide bombing. However, quite a few did, such as enemy airfields. These had to be hit with glide-bombing attacks. The radio operator also had a defensive role.
Airfix - No. 1417 - 1:72
If an Avenger was attacked from the rear, he turned around and manned the. Compared to the. Near the end of the war, when the U. Navy was pounding heavily defended land targets, deaths among radio operators soared [Thomas ].
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There was no armor in the bottom of the tunnel as there was around the seats of the pilot and turret gunner, and of course, AA hit from below. In high level bombing, most Avengers had no need for the radio operator to use the Norden bombsight as the bombardier. Normally, Avengers doing level bombing had to fly in large gaggles, with a single lead plane containing the bombardier. All the pilots of the other planes simply dropped their bombs on cue when the lead plane released its payload. Many squadrons dropped the radio operator from their crews late in the war [Thomas ].
The information we have seen is all that is necessary to understand basic crew organization and seating. However, it leaves an obvious question unanswered.
It was taken out in later models to make more room for radio equipment. Eden and Moeng present a cutaway view of an Avenger beyond the first model. It shows no seat in the middle, and it shows a lot of radio gear that would be difficult for a human to share space with. One had to turn back because of a technical problem, but the other eight arrived at about midnight and repeated the performance of the first wave, slamming torpedoes into the sitting battleships under the glare of the flares. Another Swordfish was lost to flak. Post-strike reconnaissance conducted two days later indicated that:.
It was a brilliant action, inflicting massive damage on the Italian fleet with minimal losses to the British. The Italians withdrew their fleet to the north, effectively removing it from the Mediterranean game board. The Japanese had been thinking of more ambitious operations along similar lines as the Royal Navy; the following May, Japanese Admiral Koki Abe visited Taranto to assess the raid. Fortunately, another error balanced the first: the torpedoes of the aircraft had been armed with magnetic detonators, which were hopelessly unreliable, and the SHEFFIELD, maneuvering wildly in rough seas, escaped unscathed.
There was no time for recriminations and the fiasco proved valuable. Late in the day, fifteen Swordfish were launched in a storm, carrying torpedoes armed with much more reliable contact detonators. They scored two hits on the German battleship: one did no damage, but the other struck the vessel in her steering gear, forcing her to steam in circles.
None of the aircraft were lost in the attack, though a German officer said: "It was incredible to see such obsolete-looking planes having the nerve to attack a fire-spitting mountain like the BISMARCK. Of the 18 crewmen, only five survived. Lieutenant Commander Esmonde, who led the attack, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Six Swordfish flew out of Colombo to attack the Japanese strike force, with all shot down and only a few survivors.
The Stringbag was never again used as a torpedo bomber.
However, it had already been and would continue to be employed in another role against Hitler's main weapon in the Battle of the Atlantic: the U-boat. Two months later, on 21 December , a Swordfish operating from Gibraltar was the first aircraft to sink a submarine at night. A year and a half later, on 23 May , a Swordfish was the first aircraft to prove the effectiveness of rockets in antisubmarine warfare when one Stringbag sunk the U off the coast of Ireland, even though the U-boat put up a determined defense with its quadruple millimeter flak guns. May was the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Swordfish was one of the many weapons that inflicted enough losses on the German submarine force to finally give the Allies the upper hand in the battle for the sea lanes. The Swordfish was relatively easy to fly off tiny escort carriers, and so could provide cover for convoys from start to finish. The Swordfish proved particularly effective in escorting the Murmansk convoys to Russia through frigid Arctic waters. One U-boat was sunk, another damaged; the defense was so energetic that none of the ships in the convoy was sunk. When the carriers escorted a return convoy back from Russia, no U-boats attempted to attack it.
The Swordfish would be credited with the sinking of 12 U-boats in all. The final Swordfish was delivered in August Fairey had built and Blackburn 1,, for a total of 2, The last operational squadron was disbanded on 21 May , shortly after the fall of Germany, and the last training squadron was disbanded in the summer of Despite its obsolescent appearance, the Stringbag had proven an excellent weapon, though its usefulness would have been far more limited if it had ever faced significant fighter opposition.
The Swordfish today is represented by a handful of museum pieces and a few flying examples. Those finding a derelict Swordfish airframe today would indeed have a prize on their hands. Fairey's proposal was accepted "off the drawing board", with the Air Ministry ordering two prototypes and 98 production items of the "Albacore", as it was named, on 12 December The first prototype performed its initial flight on 12 December , with the type going into production in The overall configuration of the Albacore was very close to that of the Swordfish.
It even resembled the Swordfish in adopting the same back-folding wing scheme. It differed, however, in being larger, with an empty weight over half again as great as that of the Swordfish, being powered by a more powerful Bristol Taurus cylinder two-row air-cooled radial engine driving a three-bladed variable-pitch propeller. Speed was incrementally better than that of the Swordfish, while ceiling and range were almost doubled. It also featured such niceties as an enclosed cockpit with cockpit heating, a windshield wiper, and an emergency dinghy that was deployed automatically on ditching.
Gun armament consisted of a single fixed 7. External stores consisted of a single kilogram 1,pound torpedo on the centerline; or six kilogram pound bombs under the wings; or four kilogram pound bombs under the wings.
Fairey Swordfish | This version of the 'Stringbag' on floats… | Flickr
Although one of the prototype Albacores was tested with floats in , the trials did not prove successful, and the Albacore never served operationally with floats. Despite the fact that the Albacore was clearly more modern in appearance than the Swordfish, it didn't prove to be that much of an advance. The initial service evaluation of the type reported that its controls were very heavy, and that its stall behavior left something to be desired -- though it was stable in a dive, and steady in torpedo drops. The enclosed cockpit also didn't prove as much a benefit as might be expected, since the front cockpit was a "hotbox" in even mildly sunny weather, while the rear cockpit was drafty and chilly.
It is still hard to believe that the enclosed cockpit wasn't superior to the open cockpit of the Swordfish, particularly for winter operations. In addition, some sources claim that in service pilots found it pleasant to fly, suggesting that the handling problems were worked out. Albacores were rolled off the production line anyway, with a total of built in all, including the two prototypes, all manufactured at the Fairey plant in Hayes. The type reached operational service in March and initially operated from ground bases.
Albacores performed their first combat action on 31 May , attacking German E-boats -- torpedo boats -- in the North Sea and hitting ground targets in Belgium. By the end of the year, the Albacore was flying off carriers, and performed its first torpedo-bombing attacks during the Battle of Cape Matapan, off the coast of Greece, on March , in which the Royal Navy got the jump on the Italian fleet and badly bloodied it. The Albacore reached its peak strength in mid, with the type equipping 15 FAA squadrons and service in all the war zones in which the Royal Navy was seriously involved.
Apparently some of them were given American markings for the operation. The type was generally phased out of service in , to be replaced by the more modern Fairey Barracuda and, to a lesser extent, the Grumman Avenger. Although modern sources tend to be unkind to the Albacore, its short service life might have simply been due to the fact that a biplane combat aircraft was an idea whose time was generally past, even though the Swordfish was able to continue on in combat since it had found an effective niche in convoy escort.
Some Albacores were obtained by or passed on to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, and performed actions over the English Channel during the invasion of Normandy in the spring of Fairey won the award in July , receiving an order for two prototypes. The first prototype of the "Barracuda", as the type was named, performed its initial flight on 7 December , with the second flying on 29 June Although performance was much superior to the Swordfish and Albacore, the program moved along slowly, partly due to repeated changes in production priorities as forced by the pressures of war.
An order was placed in and the aircraft entered service in with the Fleet Air Arm then part of the RAF , replacing the Seal in the torpedo bomber role. The Swordfish was also capable of operating as a dive-bomber and in HMS Glorious used her Swordfish for a series of dive-bombing trials, during which practice bombs were dropped at dive angles of 60, 67 and 70 degrees, against the target ship HMS Centurion. There were also three flights of Swordfish equipped with floats, for use off aircraft catapult-equipped warships.
The Swordfish pioneered the use of air to surface vessel radar ASV by carrier-borne aircraft to locate surface ships at night and through clouds. Swordfish flew from merchant aircraft carriers "MAC ships" , twenty civilian cargo or tanker ships modified to carry three or four aircraft each, on anti-submarine duties with convoys. The others were manned by pilots and aircrew from Naval Air Squadron, at one time the largest squadron, with 91 aircraft.
When production ended on 18 August , almost 2, had been built, by Fairey and 1, in Sherburn by the Blackburn Aircraft Company. The most numerous version was the Mark II, of which 1, were made. The primary weapon was the aerial torpedo, but the low speed of the biplane and the need for a long straight approach made it difficult to deliver against well-defended targets.
In the aftermath, the Japanese naval attache from Berlin visited Taranto; he later briefed the staff who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. Swordfish also flew anti-shipping sorties from Malta. In May , Swordfish participated in the pursuit and sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The first failed to find Bismarck. This made Bismarck unmanoeuvrable, and unable to escape to France; it sank after intense Royal Navy attack within 13 hours.
The low speed of the attacking aircraft may have acted in their favour, as the planes were too slow for the fire-control predictors of the German gunners, whose shells exploded so far in front of the aircraft that the threat of shrapnel damage was greatly diminished. At least some of the Swordfish flew so low that most of Bismarck' s flak weapons could not depress enough to hit them. The problems with the aircraft were starkly demonstrated in February , during the Channel Dash.
Six Swordfish led by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde attacked the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau , resulting in the loss of all aircraft with no damage to the ships. Lack of fighter cover was a contributing factor; only ten of eighty-four promised fighters were available. Thirteen of the eighteen Swordfish crew were killed; Esmonde, who had also led an attack on Bismarck , was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. The courage of the Swordfish crews was noted by the commanders on both sides: British Vice-Admiral Bertram 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," and German Vice-Admiral Otto 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.
Its low stall speed and inherently tough design made it ideal for operation from the MAC carriers in the often severe mid-Atlantic weather. Indeed, its takeoff and landing speeds were so low that, unlike most carrier-based aircraft, it did not require the carrier to be steaming into the wind. On occasion, when the wind was right, Swordfish were flown from a carrier at anchor. Swordfish-equipped units accounted for 14 U-boats destroyed. The Swordfish was to be replaced by the Fairey Albacore, also a biplane, but outlived its intended successor, and was succeeded by the Fairey Barracuda monoplane torpedo bomber.
The last of 2, Swordfish aircraft were delivered in August Operational sorties continued into January with anti-shipping operations off Norway FAA Squadrons and , where the Swordfish's manoeuverability was essential. Towards the end of the war, No. Their main task was to hunt at night for German midget submarines in the North Sea and off the Dutch coast. One of the aircraft operated by Squadron in this role survives and is part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum.
The last operational squadron was disbanded on 21 May , after the fall of Germany, and the last training squadron was disbanded in the summer of US Shipping. International Shipping. FREE scheduling, supersized images and templates. Get Vendio Sales Manager. Over ,, served. Skip to main content. Email to friends Share on Facebook - opens in a new window or tab Share on Twitter - opens in a new window or tab Share on Pinterest - opens in a new window or tab.
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