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|The Aircraft :|
|Swordfish||Torpedo bomber and reconnaissance biplane, crewed by three, with a top speed of 154mph, reduced to 136mph as a float plane. Maximum ceiling 19,000 feet, reduced as a float plane. Armed with a .303 Vickers machine gun fixed forward and one in the rear cockpit. One 1610lb torpedo or up to 1500lb bomb load. At the outbreak of world war two the fleet air arm had 13 operational squadrons. The Fairey Swordfish has earned its place in history for major contributions to naval warfare, during the Norwegian campaign, and especially during the raid on Taranto. In November1940, twenty Swordfish took off from HMS Illustrious to attack the Italian fleet in their Harbour of Taranto. At Least nine torpedoes hit their targets. Seven Italian ships were badly damaged including the battleships, Caio Duillio, Littorio and Conte De Cavour. This was followed in February 1942, by a heroic but suicidal attack on German battlecruisers in the English Channel by six Swordfish of 825 squadron from RAF Manston. All aircraft and crews were lost. This resulted in a Victoria Cross for the leader Lieutenant Commander E Esmonde. The next major event was the torpedo attack on the Bismarck by Swordfish from HMS Ark Royal, which badly damaged the steering gear of the Bismarck which helped in the final destruction of the German battleship by Royal Navy battleships. The Fairey Swordfish was also used in anti-submarine and anti-shipping roles. The Swordfish sunk more enemy ships (by tonnage) than any other aircraft acting in the same role. By the end of the war the Fleet Air Arm still had nine active squadrons, but these were finally disbanded in May 1945. A total of 2399 Swordfish were built.|
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