WW2 Veterans Reunited With Fairey Swordfish

Fourteen veterans who flew with the Fairey Swordfish in World War Two have been reunited with the bi-plane at RNAS Yeovilton.

Fourteen veterans who flew with the Fairey Swordfish in World War Two have been reunited with the canvas bi-plane at RNAS Yeovilton.

The Fairey Swordfish played a key role in the 'Battle of the Atlantic' as Allied forces struggled to secure shipping routes across the Atlantic.

The battle was the longest continuous military campaign of the War, running from 1939 until the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Lieutenant Commander Christopher Götke, Commanding Officer of the Royal Navy historic flight at RNAS Yeovilton, said:

"Simply put, if we'd lost the Battle of the Atlantic we'd have lost the war."


A flying Fairey Swordfish

The Swordfish entered service in 1936 and was already obsolete at the outbreak of the war. But it confounded everyone by remaining in operational service throughout the whole of WWII, becoming the last British bi-plane to see active service.

The secret of the Swordfish lay in its superb handling qualities which made it uniquely suitable for flight deck operations and the problems pilots faced when performing torpedo or dive bombing attacks.

Chief Engineer of the Royal Navy historic flight, Howard Read, said: "It was designed in 1934, so it was out-of-date and obsolute by the time the War came along.

"But it was such a stable platform with the big wing area that it was ideal for dropping torpedoes and that's what they wanted it for." 


The veterans of 14 Fleet Air Arm are now in their 90s but they were in their teens or early 20s when they flew the Swordfish against enemy U-boats. 

Peter Jinks, a Telegraphist Air Gunner, said: 

"We signed up to do a job and just like policemen -  when trouble comes you tackle it."



Fairey Swordfish at RNAS Yeovilton
Fairey Swordfish at RNAS Yeovilton.

70 years after Swordfish planes flew high in the skies, protecting ships that brought supplies to Britain and Arctic Convoys that exported food to the Soviet Union, only two planes remain air-worthy.

Described as having flown “in some of the worst conditions imaginable”, all the veterans are now in their nineties and hundreds.

Five are members of the Goldfish Club meaning they parachuted out of their aircraft into the usually  ice cold waters of the Atlantic – with only a life jacket, luck and the hope of being rescued keeping them from the watery grave.

Telegraphist Air Gunner Peter Jinks, crashed seven times in total. His first time happened when his Swordfish tumbled off the stern of HMS Battler into Gibraltar’s warmer Mediterranean waters.

“I was a bit twitchy after that,” he recalled.