On this night in November 1940, the FAA launched the first all-aircraft naval attack in history, flying a small number of Swordfish(aka Stringbag) from the new carrier â€˜Illustriousâ€™ to attack the Italian fleet at Taranto. The task-force consisted of Illustrious, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and four destroyers. The attack aircraft came from 813, 815, 819, and 824 Naval Air Squadrons, with 806 for air cover.
Three Italian battleships were hit by torpedoes and so put out of service, while bombs damaged a cruiser in the inner harbor. The effect of the British raid led to predictions of the end of the "big gun" ship and the rise of naval air-power
Of the two aircraft lost, two crew were taken prisoner. The other two crew were lost.
Naval experts had previously thought that torpedo attacks against ships required deep water, at least 100 ft (30 m). Taranto had a water depth of only 40 ft (12 m). However the Royal Navy used modified torpedoes, and also dropped them from a very low height. This aspect of the raid, served as an important fact in the planning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941: Japanese planning staff studied it intensively.
(But for Taranto example, possibly would not have proceeded with Pearl Harbor attack.)
The Admiral in command, Andrew Cunningham, commented.
"Taranto, and the night of November 11th - 12th, 1940, should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon."
Apart from giving full credit to the skill and daring of the pilots and the boldness of the planners; credit should be given to the aircraft used, ideal for this task, the â€˜Stringbagâ€™.
Of all the miscellany of mediocre aircraft that the new FAA inherited, the â€˜Stringbagâ€™ was by far the best. Consider actions in which it participated in WW2 -
Hunt for the Bismarck; Suicidal attack on the Scharnhorst and Gneisnau, in which the whole Squadron was lost: Attack on Japanese fleet off Colombo, whole squadron lost:
Escort carriers relied on this aircraft as their main weapon against U-boats, right to the end of the war in 1945.
Those were the days.
--Anyone care to add to them?