Late in the day on May 26 1941, in deteriorating weather, 15 Fairey Swordfish biplanes launched form the heavy deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. Each was armed with a single torpedo, its task to halt the escape of the battleship Bismarck. The navy pilots knew they must succeed before dark; the following morning the German battleship would reach the protection of Luftwaffe aircraft based in France.
Contending with turbulence and sea spray, one by one the Swordfish made their attack, running in just feet above the waves. The frail biplanes were met with a barrage of murderous gunfire, Bismarck bringing all possible armament to bear.
Attempting to avoid the incoming attack, the 42,000 ton battleship was in a high-speed turn when a torpedo from a Number 2 subflight Swordfish struck her steering gear. The explosion irreparably jammed her rudder over 12 degrees sealing the fate of the mighty warship. Unable to steer, all she could do was await the dawn and the arrival of the British Home Fleet.
Robert’s dramatic painting, which hangs in the Fleet Air Arm Museum, brings to like those perilous moments as a Swordfish struggles for height having just left the rolling deck of HMS Ark Royal.Signatures:
Joining artist Robert Taylor in signing each print are four Fleet Air Arm aircrew from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Victorious who flew Fairey Swordfish biplanes against the Bismarck in May 1941:Lieutenant (A) LESLIE ‘BILL’ BAILEY - Observer / 825 Squadron FAA / HMS Victorious
Lieutenant Commander JOHN WILLIAM ‘JOCK’ MOFFAT - Pilot Aircraft ‘5C’ / 815 Squadron FAA / HMS Ark Royal
Rear Admiral PHILIP DAVID ‘PERCY’ GLICK CBE OBE DSC - Pilot Aircraft ‘F’ / 825 Squadron FAA / HMS Victorious
Commander PATRICK BERNARD ‘PAT’ JACKSON - Pilot Aircraft ‘H’ / 825 Squadron FAA / HMS Victorious