The pilots of fifteen canvas covered biplanes struggle to hold their Swordfish aircraft steady as they head straight toward the German battleship Bismarck. Two days previously Bismarck, the most powerful warship in service anywhere in the world had destroyed HMS Hood and damaged the battleship Prince of Wales, dealing two devastating blows to the Royal Navy.
The mighty Bismarck fired a lethal barrage of shells and machine gun fire at these approaching aircraft. The crews in their open cockpits were totally vulnerable. They heard the crack of exploding shells, the smell of cordite filed their nostrils. They flew on aiming their torpedoes. If they failed now, Bismarck would escape to safety, and a strategic and political defeat fro Britain would echo around the world.
Each torpedo dropped, and the pilots pulled their aircraft away. They flew as low and as fast as they could, desperate to escape the storm of gunfire that poured from the guns of the giant ship. Utterly exhausted they landed on the pitching and heaving flight deck of HMS Ark Royal, their carrier. They had no idea of the success of the mission, until, almost at midnight, word came down from the bridge that the Bismarck appeared damaged! She could no longer hold her course, and was steaming in a wide circle that would take her back to the guns of the pursuing Home Fleet. The next morning the Swordfish flew once more over the Bismarck, but this time the giant warship was a blackened and smoking hulk, slowly capsizing, all its guns silent and her crew dead or close to it.
I Sank The Bismarck is the story of John Moffat, the youngest pilot in 818 Squadron who took part in that valiant attack that crippled the Bismarck and sealed her fate. I co wrote the book with John, spending days with him at his house in Scotland, and utilising the other interviews that I had recorded for several Television documentaries.
The book is an informative account of life as a pilot in the wartime Fleet Air Arm, and, as well as the astounding first hand description of the attack on the Bismarck, follows John onto HMS Formidable and its cruises in the Indian Ocean, and the attack on Madagascar. I also got John to talk about his early life, growing up in Kelso in the Scottish borders, developing a love of horse riding and fishing, playing rugby, and being inspired to fly by a joyride in an old First World War fighter. He describes his struggle to earn a living in the depression and why he joined the Naval Air Service in 1938 to escape a series of dead end jobs. I Sank the Bismarck is a gripping, sometimes very funny account of a young lad trying to make his way in wartime, taking part in one of the most famous action of the war.
Related words/search terms: HMS Ark Royal, Fleet Air Arm, Swordfish aircraft, torpedo attack, deck landings, Bismarck, HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS King George V, HMS Victorious, HMS Sheffield, Gibraltar, Battle of the Atlantic, War in the Mediterranean, Taranto, Fascist Italy, Mussolini, Malta convoys, 818 Squadron, 810 Squadron, Battle of Britain, Blitz, wartime Belfast, Sardinia attack, shelling Genoa, attack on Tirso dam, Kelso, John Moffat, Borders, HMS Formidable, Madagascar, Indian Ocean, Fairey Albacore