INDEX OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT
Fleet Air Arm Swordfish K8357 '4H'
By the end of production in 1944, a total production was 2396 aircraft
had been built, including 989 Mk.Is, 1080 Mk.IIs, and 327 Mk.IIIs.
86 Swordfish Mk I Ordered under Contract No 402278/35
to spec 38/34
Serial Numbers K5926-K6011.
A Total of 51 on charge 9.1939
First to RN: 7.1936 to 825 sqdn K5936 “978” HMS Glorious.
104 Swordfish Mk I (Serial Numbers K8346-K8449).
Total of 78 on charge 9.1939
First to RN: 11.1936 (till
1940) 812 sqdn HMS Glorious (K8360 “G3C”), 10.36 to 812
sqdn K8361 (825 sqdn in 1937-38)
27 Swordfish Mk I (Serial Numbers: K8860-K8886).
Total of 20 on charge 9.1939
First to RN 4.37 TTU Gosport K8873
150 Swordfish Mk I Ordered under contrcat No 534297/36
to spec 38/34.
Serial Numbers: L2717-L2866.
Total 150 on charge 9.1939
Total of 130 on charge 9.1939
First to RN: 11.1937 mks Heathrow (L2717)
62 Swordfish Mk I Ordered under contrcat No 6712134/37
to spec 38/34.
Serial numbers: L7632-L7701
Total 52 on charge 9.1939
First deld: 3.38 L7651 to TTU Gosport
Swordfish Mk I Ordered under contrcat No 743308/38
to spec 38/34.
Serial Numbers: L9714-L9785
Total 52 on charge 9.1939
First to RN: L9767 to 701 sqdn HMS Warspite floats 12.38.
200 Swordfish Mk I ordered under contract No
963679/38 to spec 38/34.
Serial Numbers: P3991-P4279.
Total 176 on charge 9.1939
From 6.39 810 sqdn ‘A6A P4010. 8.39 810 sqdn 'A2G' P4009, 9.39 825
sqdn 'G5H' HMS Glorious P3992
300 Swordfish Mk I ordered from Blackburn Aircraft Limited under contract No B31192/39 (V4288-V4719) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 1940 onwards
First to RN 1.12.40
(V4288), V4289 deld 29.12.40 rest in 1941
First sqdn V4289 700 sqdn HMS Repulse 2.41 floats,.
100 Swordfish Mk I ordered from blackburn Aircraft limited under contract No B31192/39 (W5836-W5995) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 1941 onwards
First to RN: 27 deld on 10.41 to 82 MU.
100 Swordfish Mk II ordered from Blackburn Aircraft Limited under contract No B31192/39 (DK679-DK792) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 11.1941 onwards
First to RN: 11.41-4.42
First sqdn: 786 sqdn 2.42 (DK674),
Op sqdn 2.42 823 sqdn (eg DK696), 5.42 833 sqdn (DK673), 811 sqdn from 6.42 (eg DK670)
400 Swordfish Mk II ordered from Blackburn Aircraft Limited under contract No B31192/39 (HS154-HS678) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 5.1942 onwards
First sqdn: First 20 or so to 9.42 to RNARY Nairobi and on to 810 sqdn (eg
HS164), in 9.42 to 811 sqdn (HS161), 11.42 to 833 sqdn at Gibraltar (eg
Last: Many survived to 1945. At RNARY Swordfish HS255 was scrapped in
1952 and HS255 was at Youngsfield Airport, Cape Town in 1953. Many
sent to RCAF at Yarmouth till 1946
250 Swordfish Mk II ordered from blackburn Aircraft limited under contract No B31192/39 (LS151-LS461) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 5.1943 onwards
5.43. Most to escort carriers and MAC ships
First sqdn: 6.43 819 sqdn (eg LS153)
350 Swordfish Mk II and Mk III ordered from blackburn Aircraft limited under contract No B31192/39 (NE858-NF414) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 10.1943 onwards
First sqdn: 12.43 to 735 sqdn (NE861)
First op sdqn: 1.44 to 835 sqdn (NE858), 811 sqdn from 1.44 (NE863).
First to RCAF: NF338- NF413 to RCAF 1944-3.45 (28 a/c esp to 119 sqdn and 415 sqdns)
Remaining aircraft mostly to MAC ships and escort carriers
Swordfish Mk III , 400 – ordered from Blackburn Aircraft Limited under contract No B31192/39 (numbered NR857-NS484 but cancelled after NS204) built at Sherburn-in-Elmet of which all deld 5.1944 onwards
Total 100 deld
First sqdn : 835 sqdn 7.44 Worthy Down (NR859)
400 Swordfish Mk II ordered from blackburn Aircraft
limited under contract No B31192/39 (RL435-rl 933) to be built at Sherburn-in-Elmet.
The order was cancelled.
Over the next two weeks of the Norwegian Campaign, Swordfish conducted constant sorties in Norwegian waters, performing strikes, reconnaissance, and antisubmarine patrols under severe weather conditions. Disaster struck on 9 June 1940, when many Swordfish and all their crew were lost with HMS Glorious when she was sunk by the German Capital ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The loss could have been greater as most of the squadron had disembarked in the UK prior to the Carrier's loss.
Swordfish flying over HMS Ark Royal
In April-May 1940 the Swordfish operated in France, covering the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force and took part in the defence of the BEF during the Dunkirk evacuation on 31 May 1940, and was even involved in bombing advancing troops and tanks at Gravelines, and paratroops at Rotterdam aerodrome.
From May 1940 onwards into the succeeding months, Swordfish squadrons were loaned to RAF Coastal Command and conducted mine-laying operations and convoy patrols in the English Channel and North Sea against German, Dutch, Begian and French ports. The Nazi "Blitzkrieg" against the Low Countries and France forced the RAF and FAA to call on every resource they had to stave off complete disaster; four squadrons of Swordfish in all were attached to RAF Coastal Command operating out of RAF Thorney Island, RAF North Coates, RAF Detling, RAF Manston, and were put to every task for which they were capable: mine-laying, bombing of naval and ground targets, spotting, and reconnaissance often flying individually with pilot and observer alone throughout the night. With the threat of invasion from Europe these four squadrons were called upon to bomb the build up of invasion barges in enemy ports and to lay mines in the harbours. Their task went on into the Battle of Briatin period from July till October 1940.
This period was particularly difficult for the aircrews. On 26 May 1940 Swordfish '5H' of 825 squadron flown by Sub Lt JB Kiddle from Detling, after spotting for HMS Galatea off Calais in which two 4.7 field artillery believed destroyed, the Swordfish was attacked at 8000ft by two Bf109 NW of Songatte. During the violent evading action of diving and turning down at sea level, the observer Lt GN Beaumont was thrown out of the aircrfat and killed. The aircraft returned safely.
Throughout 1940, Swordfish also operated out of the south of France and took part in bombing raids against Italian targets in June, when Italy declared war against the French and British. A number of Swordfish from 767 squadron left France where they had been under training and eventually ended up on the island of Malta, where they would successfully harass Axis shipping during the battle for North Africa. The Malta based Swordfish flew anti-shipping strikes, usually at night, against Italian convoys to North Africa. They sank an average of 50,000 tons per month.
The night of 13-14 August 1940 saw 3 Royal Navy Swordfish torpedo bombers leave Malta for a raid on Augusta Harbour. The force accompanied by 6 bomb equipped aircraft met with intense flak and 2 of the 3 torpedo carrying aircraft were shot down. The third, (depicted above) although damaged struggled all the way back to its Hal Far base.In July 1940, when France finally fell and signed the Franco-German armistice, the Admiralty was asked to take action to prevent French military assets from being used against them. Swordfishes attacked French ships and demolished the French fleet at dock in the harbour of Oran, in Algeria. Twelve Swordfish from the carrier HMS Ark Royal launched a torpedo attack on the battle cruiser Dunkerque, putting it out of action. The next month, on 22 August, three Swordfish operating from land attacked Italian warships sitting in the port of Bomba Bay, in Libya, destroying two submarines, a submarine tender, and a destroyer -sinking four ships with only three torpedoes.
The success of these attacks on ships in harbour led the Admiralty to consider a much more aggressive operation against the Italian Navy, a torpedo-bomber attack against the Italian Fleet at Taranto, one of their main bases on the Italian mainland.
The plan specified a night attack to reduce losses among the attacking aircraft. The mission was scheduled for 21 October, 1940 but was delayed to 11 November 1940 due to other naval commitments. A few days before the operation, the carrier HMS Eagle ran into trouble with her fuel systems; several of her Swordfish were transferred to the carrier HMS Illustrious, which then sailed from Alexandria, Egypt. On the morning of 11 November 1940, five Italian battleships were in Taranto harbour, with three cruisers at dock protected by anti-submarine nets. The sixth battleship was seen to enter the harbour later that day. This represented the entire Italian Battle Fleet - two of the new Littorio class battleships and four of the recently rebuilt Cavour and Dulio class - plus five cruisers and twenty destroyers, all based at Taranto.
By 8:00pm that evening, HMS Illustrious and her escorts were in position, about 170 miles (270 km) from the port. Of the first strike of 12 Swordfish, six carried torpedoes, four carried bombs, and two carried a combination of bombs and flares. The two flare-droppers put a line of flares over the harbour from 7,500 ft (2,300m) and then bombed an oil storage depot. The strike aircraft attacked in two groups; the Lt Cdr Williamson flight leader's plane was hit by flak and went down, but multiple hits were scored on several of the battleships. A second wave led by Lt.Cdr 'Ginger' Hale consisted of five aircraft armed with torpedoes, two armed with bombs, and two armed with flares and bombs repeated the performance of the first wave. All the aircraft, except two that had been shot down, were back on board HMS Illustrious before 3:00am that morning. Aerial reconnaissance indicated that one Cavour and one Dulio-class battleship were heavily damaged and beached; one Littorio battleship badly damaged; two cruisers and two destroyers badly damaged; and two auxiliary vessels sunk. It was a brilliant attack, 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 game board. The successful raid on Taranto suggested to Japanese planners that they might be able to imitate the same tactics for their own attack on Pearl Harbor.
On 3 April 1941 Swordfish 'E5C' flown by Sub Lt SH Suthers, Mid SS Laurie and A/G CPH Baldwin, of 824 squadron at Port Sudan bombed and sank Italian destroyer Danieli Manin.
Fleet Air Arm Fairey Swordfish '5A' which took part in the attack on the German Battleship Bismarck in 1941
In May 1941, Swordfish from HMS Ark Royal played a central role in sinking
the German battleship Bismarck. On 24 May, 1941 the new carrier HMS
Victorious launched nine Swordfish to intercept the Bismarck in the North
Atlantic Ocean, but with bad weather conditions the aircraft only scored
a single hit. On 26 May 1941, 15 Swordfish were launched by the carrier
HMS Ark Royal, but attacked the British cruiser Sheffield by mistake, but
later in the day 15 Swordfish were launched in a storm carrying torpedoes
armed with contact detonators, they scored two hits on the German battleship:
one did no damage, but the other struck the Bismarck's steering gear. 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." The Bismarck
was sunk gunfire from the Royal Navy Fleet the next day.
HMS Ark Royal flight deck being prepared for her 810 sqdn Swordfish to attack the German Battleship Bismarck in 1941
At the end of July 1941 HMS Furious and Victorious led a FAA strike of Fairey Albacore and Swordfish, with the Russian air force, against German forces at the harbours of Petsamo-Kirkenes. Many aircraft were shot down with inconclusive results.
The success of the TBR Swordfish was at an end in February 1942. After HMS Ark Royal herself had been sunk one of her squadrons, 825 squadron, flying from Manston in Kent, attacked the Battle cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen as they made their famous ‘Channel Dash’ from Brest towards German in bad weather on 12 February, 1942. All six Swordfish were lost and 13 of the 18 aircrew perished. For this action Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde was posthumously awarded the Fleet Air Arm’s first Victoria Cross of the Second World War.
The Swordfish was never again used as a torpedo bomber. However, it would continue to be employed in another role in the Battle of the Atlantic against the U-boat until the end of the war. In their anti-submarine role, the Swordfish were very successful. They usually flew patrols at night, patrolling between 145km and 40km ahead of the convoy. Targets were located with radar, and investigated by dropping flares. In total, Swordfishes claimed 22.5 U-boats.
Download Excel Spreadsheet of the table.
On 21 December 1941, Swordfish V4431 operating from North Front Gibraltar was the first aircraft to sink a submarine at night. The aircraft was flown by Sub Lt P McQ Wilkinson, Lt LC Plummer and L/A HJ Oppenheim of 812 squadron, and sank U-451 at night off Tangier, there was one survivor who was picked up 21/22.12.41.
On 5 May 1942 Swordfish '3Q' (Sub Lt RT White), "3G' (Sub Lt AG McWilliams) and V4712 (Sub Lt GP Bourke) attacked Vichy French submarine Bevezieres at Diego Suarez. The submarine was finished off by an 810 squadron aircraft flown by Sub Lt WH Newnham.
However it was not all success with the war against the U-Boat. Swordfish V4373 was one of the first and only aircraft to be shot down by a U-Boat. V4373 of 815 squadron was on night ops and thought to be shot down by a submarine. Sub Lt HV Day, Sub Lt GF Fenton-Livingstone and L/A FE Brown wre all killed 16/17 August 1942.
The following year, on 23 May, 1943, a Swordfish was the first aircraft to prove the effectiveness of rockets in anti-submarine warfare when one Swordfish sank the U-752 off the coast of Ireland.
After the Battle of the Atlantic in May 1943, the Swordfish proved particularly effective in escorting the Murmansk convoys through Arctic waters. On 5/6 March 1944 Swordfish 'X' of 816 squadron of HMS Chaser and flown by Sub Lt EB Bennett, Sub Lt EW Horsfield and PO Vines sank U-973. In September 1944, Swordfishes from HMS Vindex sank four U-boats in one voyage.
The Swordfish in RCAF hands was also successful, Swordfish NF344 of RCAF 119 squadron in January 1945 sank biber midget submarine 51.52'N , 3.46'E and NF377 also of 119 squadron with swordfish 'NH-H' attacked biber midget submarine which disappeared 51.48'N, 3.31'E on 11 March 1945, and the following day NF377 sank biber midget submarine 51.48'N, 3.45'E.
The last operational mission of the Fleet Air Arm Swordfish was flown on 28 June 1945.
Also see the FAA Archive 1939-1945 pages on Swordfish captured and used by the Axis, German, Italian and Neutral countries in the war.
Front line: 810, 811, 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 818, 819, 820, 821, 822, 823, 824, 824, 825, 826, 828, 829, 830, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 838, 840, 841, 842, 860, 886
Second line: 700, 701,702,703, 705, 707, 710, 722, 726, 727, 728, 730, 73, 733, 735, 737, 739, 740, 741, 742, 743, 744, 745, 747, 753, 754, 756, 759, 763, 764, 765, 766, 767, 768, 769, 770, 771, 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777, 778, 779, 780, 781, 782, 783, 785, 786, 787, 788, 789, 791, 794, 796, 797, 1700
Preserved Swordfish "City of Leeds" W5856 of the Royal Navy Historic Flight
Photograph courtesy of Mark Russell THE EX-FRADU HUNTERS Home Page
There are at least 17 Swordfish airframes in existence around the world including 3-4 airworthy examples and one replica Swordfish. For a full list of extant air frames - see the FAA Archive 1939-1945 Surviving Fairey Swordfish airframes page.
One cannot talk about surviving Fairey Swordfish without introducing the Swordfish Heritage Trust and the Swordfish of the Royal Navy Historic Flight. The Royal Navy Historic Flight started in 1960 when Westland, who had taken over the interests of Fairey Aviation presented the Royal Navy with Swordfish LS326. A small band of enthusiasts of Heron Flight at RNAS Yeovilton scoured the world for spares and equipment to keep her flying. In the 1970s the term Historic Flight was first coined. By 1973 the Historic Flight had become a major attraction at Air Shows around Britain. The oldest surviving Swordfish W5856 was purchased in 1990, and was restored by British Aerospace at Brough it was presented to the Flight in 1993. In April 1995 the maintenance team became civilianised and financing the Flight now rests with the Swordfish Heritage Trust (SHT).
The SHT is an educational charity whose mission is to ensure the unique British Heritage collection of aircraft that is the Royal Navy Historic Flight, continue to fly long into the future. Amongst the Flight are three Swordfish, either airworthy or currently under restoration. They delight millions with their air displays nation-wide and as an education to future generations.The Trust was formed by Flag Officer Naval Aviation November 1990. It was on the anniversary of the attack by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish aircraft that disabled the Italian Fleet at Taranto. Each historic aircraft is refurbished to the highest standards by British Aerospace aided by Rolls Royce, and other generous SBAC companies. The aircraft are based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset and are piloted only by serving Royal Navy officers.
RNHF Swordfish preserved and airworthy W5856
For further information and a history of the above two aircraft see the Swordfish Heritage Trust web page on the Flight's airworthy Swordfish.
Fairey Swordfish/Albacore Auction - 1970. Auction of Fairey Swordfish held on Ernie Simmons field near Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada back on the Labor Day weekend in 1970. Swordfish No. HS554 flew for a grand total of 362 hours with the Eastern Air Command based in the Canadian Maritimes. It was sold at this auction for the sum of $1,630 to a Mr Bob Spence of Muirkirk, Ontario and his family. After a major restoration, this Swordfish took its next maiden flight on the Labor Day weekend, 1991. National Aviation Museum Canada - Museum Example Registration #: NS122 (RCN) original outdoor storage at a farm in Tillsonburg, Ontario.
Swordfish replica at the Museum of Transport and Technology (NZ)
Swordfish Dk791 825 hit rounddown, damaged fuselage hms avenger WO 3.8.42 Lt WD Winterbottom. Remains in Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, NZ 1986
Associations and reunions