INDEX OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT

 

  Fairey Swordfish
 
Photograph courtesy of the Swordfish HeritageTrust

History

 
The Fairey Swordfish, the legendary ‘Stringbag’, was a Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance biplane dive-bomber which went into service with the Fleet Air Arm pre-war in 1936. Initially, Swordfishes operated from the large fleet carriers. Later Swordfishes operated from escort carriers, and were very effective against U-boats. The nickname Stringbag indicated the versatility of the Swordfish, which could carry an unlikely combination of loads, but also referred to its jungle of bracing wires, which belonged to a past age. The Swordfish remained operational until the end of the war, gaining the distinction of being the last biplane to see active service.
The precursor of the Swordfish, the Fairey PV, was designed by Marcel Lobelle as a private venture to meet an order from the Greek Navy. The prototype PV made its first flight on 21 March 1933. The PV met Air Ministry requirement S.9/30 for an unarmed spotter - reconnaissance aircraft, but had an Armstrong Siddeley Panther radial engine instead of a liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Kestrel. After modifications and replacement of the engine by a Bristol Pegasus IIM radial, it was renamed the TSR 1 (Torpedo - Spotter - Reconnaissance 1). It flew in this form in July 1933, but was lost in September 1933.
The TSR II met the requirements of Air Ministry specification S.15/33, which superseded S.9/30, which called for a two-seat torpedo-bomber and three-seat reconnaissance aircraft. The TSR II flew on 17 April 1934, and exactly on year later on 23 April 1935, the TSRII was submitted to the Air Ministry fotr which Fairey subsequently received a production order.
The production Swordfish Mk I entered service in February 1936, and had an entirely metallic structure. The first front-line squadron to be equipped with the Fairey Swordfish was 825 squadron in July 1936, with aircraft K5936 “978” on HMS Glorious. At the outbreak of war, the Fleet Air Arm had 13 squadrons equipped with Swordfishes, most of them based on the six fleet carriers, and three flights of Swordfishes with floats, that operated from catapult-equipped warships.
In 1939 the RAF also trialed the Fairey Swordfish Mk I. Swordfish I L9770 was at Gibraltar dett 3 AACU from March 1939 thence sent to B Flight 202 squadron also at Gibraltar 27 October 1940. Five Mk I aircraft, P4026-P4030, were also delivered to Seletar in August 1939, they became part of B Flight Spotter Unit at RAF Seletar from 1 October 1939 and thence 4 AACU Seletar until March 1941.
After 1942 the Swordfish was replaced in its torpedo-bombing role by the Fairey Albacore, Fairey Barracuda and Grumman Avenger, and was employed in anti-submarine missions and was provided with a radar (Mk.III) and with air-surface rockets. However, even though the Fairey Albacore went into service early in the war, it proved little better than the Swordfish, which it was intended to replace. By this time, production of the Swordfish was moved to Blackburn Aircraft Limited, Sherburn-in-Elmet. The Swordfish was now equipped with ASV radar and rocket projectiles for anti-submarine operations. The Swordfish Mk II had wings with metal-skinned undersides and launching rails for eight 60lb rockets. The provision for a float undercarriage was deleted, and the more powerful Pegasus 30 engine installed. The Mk.III had ASV Mk.XI radar in a radome between the landing gear legs. This radar had a range of about 40km against ships, and in good conditions also against U-boats; but it would detect a Schnorkel only in very calm seas and at distances below 8km. Some Mk IIs and many Mk IIIs became Mk IVs when a cockpit canopy was installed.
After this time, Swordfishes operated from 14 escort carriers and 18 MAC (Merchant Aircraft Carrier) ships. MAC ships were converted oil tankers or grain ships, with a flight deck but minimal maintenance facilities, and the aircraft were continuously exposed to the often Arctic weather conditions. For operations from small flight decks with heavy loads, rocket-assisted take-offs were necessary.


Fleet Air Arm Swordfish K8357 '4H'

 
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.
The final Swordfish was delivered in August, 1944 and the last front-line Swordfish Fleet Air Arm unit was 836 squadron, which disbanded on 21 May 1945. However, the Swordfish continued in second-line training duties until Summer 1946. The very last two Swordfish, retired at RNARY with Swordfish HS255 which was scrapped as late as in 1952,  and HS255 which was at Youngsfield Airport, Cape Town until 1953.
 
During its career the Fairey Swordfish saw service primarily with the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force, briefly with the RAF, and in Australia and New Zealand. In Canada, Swordfish operated from the Naval Gunnery School in Yarmouth and the Royal Navy Station at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where their open cockpits were fitted with sliding hoods for more comfortable winter operations. In 1946, Fleet Requirement Unit 743 (RCN) was equipped with Swordfish.

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.
 

Versions:
Swordfish I :     first production version, 992 built
Swordfish II :    partly metallic wings to provide capability to launch 127-mm, 27-kg rockets,
                                introduced in 1943, 1,080 built
Swordfish III :  equipped with a radar for night raids against submarines, 320 built
Swordfish IV :  Swordfish II with closed, heated cockpit for Royal Canadian Air Force, 110
                                converted from Mk.II

            Fleet Air Arm history
      Fairey Swordfish
      Total FAA 1939-1945             2,392 (from 1936)
      First delivered to RN:             1936
      First squadron 1939-1945:       825 sqdn 1936
      Operational squadron:             825 sqdn 1936
      Last served with RN              Summer 1946, later in Canada
 
Prototype. Ordered under Contract No 402278/35 to Specification 38/34. Only one of the three prototypes was on charge 9.1939
K5661 TDU Gosport 11.38 – 5.42

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

First:             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 deld         5.42.
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
                        HS154).
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

First RN:           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 RN:            10.43
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.

Aircraft Type:
Fairey Swordfish
Mark:
Fairey Swordfish Mk I (1940), II, III
Carrier borne, MAC and shore based torpedo bomber (Mk.II)
Primary Role:
Torpedo bomber/Maritime/Anti-submarine patrol aircraft 
First Flight: 
Prototype TSR II 17 April 1934
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
Entered Service: July 1936-operational after 1945
Manufacturer:
Fairey, 
Blackburn
Engine:
690 hp Bristol Pegasus IIIM (MK.I) or Pegasus XXX (MK.II) engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Mk I 
Wingspan: 13.87 m
Length: 10.87 m
Mk II 
Wingspan: 13.92m
Length: 11.22m
Wing Area: 56,39 m2
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight Mk I: 3505 kg
Mk II Max Wt: 3406 kg
Speed: 
Ceiling: 
Range:
Mk I 
Max. speed: 246 km/h 
Ceiling: 5900 m
Range: 1700 km
Mk II
Max Speed: 222 km/h 
Ceiling: 3260 m
Range: 1658 km
Armament:
Mk I 3x227kg bombs or 730kg torpedo 
2x7.69mm guns 
Mk II 2 7,7 mm mg. , up to 680 kg of bombs or 1 torpedo. 
One fixed Browing machine gun forward and one Lewis 'K' gun rear. One 18" 1,610 lb torpedo or one 1,500 lb mine below the fuselage. Two 250 lb bombs below the wings or two 500 lb bombs undeer the wings. MK.II could carry eight 60 lb rockets below the wings
Crew:
3
Squadrons:
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
Battle honours:
All Theatres
Additional references and notes:
-
 
Battle Honours


Squadrons
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


Surviving aircraft and relics


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 LS326 preserved and very much airworthy


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
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
Swordfish Heritage Trust and Royal Navy Historic Flight web site 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. Details include information about the flyiong aircraft, the trust, events, history, merchandise, the crew, TAGA, displays and corporate details.
THE EX-FRADU HUNTERS Home Page
Royal Navy Historic Flight Section 
This site complements the  RNHF Web-site and includes private photos and historic information about the Royal Nabvy Historic Flight from an enthusiast, Mark Russell
Fairy Swordfish Mk. I statistics in The Art of War Annual Statistics including Aircraft performance chart, fire Power chart, Power Versus Speed chart, gun attack factors.
Warbird Alley: the Fairey Swordfish Fairey Swordfish in Warbird Alley, an online reference source for information about privately-owned, ex-military aircraft. Includes details and specs and a summary total of airworthy aircraft.
 Archival Photograph Collection of the National Aviation Museum, Canada Archival and recent photographs of Fairey Swordfish, including of the Museum's preserved example. 
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale Details of the Swordfish [in french]
Fairey swordfish modelling and history page Fairey swordfish modelling and history page - has a series of good aircraft profiles
The attack on Taranto by Alex's Military History
THE FAIREY SWORDFISH IN PROFILE THE FAIREY SWORDFISH IN PROFILE by Bob Pearson in internet Modeller
Fairey Swordfish (PDF: 226KB) Downloadable pdf format research file about the Swordfish by the Canadian National Aviation Museum
Fairey Swordfish prepared by Emmauel Gustin in U-Boat net  Brief history, technical information, details of U-boats lost to Swordfish aircraft
Het oorlogsverleden van een Swordfish-vlieger by the Magazine Alle Hens Account of Merchant Aircraft Carriers and 860 Dutch Squadron with the FAA in WW2
THE ROYAL NAVY HISTORIC FLIGHT AIRCRAFT GALLERIES
Pages by Mark Russell
[Fairey Swordfish II LS326]
[Fairey Swordfish I W5856]
[Swordfish III NF389 & other RNHF]
[Fairey Firefly AS.5 WB271]
Fairey Swordfish model Review of the model swordfish and of the history of the swordfish in ww2
The Fairey Swordfish Mks. 
I-IV", by Ian G. Scott,PROFILE publications 
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000

 

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