Pilot John Moffatt

"Like David And Goliath": Man Who Sank The Bismarck Dies At 97

Royal Navy Swordfish pilot Jock Moffat – credited with launching the torpedo which crippled the Bismarck in 1941 – has died at the age of 97...

Pilot John Moffatt

Royal Navy Swordfish pilot Jock Moffat – credited with launching the torpedo which crippled the Bismarck in 1941 – has died at the age of 97.

The lifelong champion of naval aviation and friend of the Fleet Air Arm was known for his modesty over his involvement in the attack.

But it was the torpedo dropped by Moffat’s Fairey Swordfish biplane on May 26, 1941, that jammed the rudder of Hitler's flagship, eventually destroying her.

The airstrike carried out by the biplanes of HMS Victorious and Ark Royal at last light on May 26 had been Britain’s last hope of slowing or stopping the Bismarck before it reached the relative safety of waters off France.

Mr Moffat and his crew took off in his Swordfish L9726 from the deck of Ark Royal and made for Bismarck, fighting against driving rain, low cloud and a Force 9 gale.

He flew in at 50 feet, barely skimming the surface of the waves, in a hail of bullets and shells, to get the best possible angle of attack on the ship before dropping the fateful torpedo.

"When Churchill gave the order to sink the Bismarck, we knew we just had to stop her trail of devastation at all costs! We dived in through the murk, into a lethal storm of shells and bullets. Bismarck’s guns erupted and in the hail of hot bullets and tracer, I couldn’t see any of the other Swordfish. I thought the closer we were to the water the better chance we had of surviving so we flew in bouncing off the tops of the waves – and it worked."


Despite every effort by its crew, the battleship steamed in circles until the guns of the Royal Navy's Home Fleet arrived the next morning to finish Bismarck off – and avenge the loss of the world-famous battle-cruiser Hood, which the German leviathan had blown up three days earlier.

John William Charlton Moffat was born in Kelso in June 1919, joining the Navy as a reservist in 1938.

After qualifying as a pilot, he was posted to Ark Royal with 759 Naval Air Squadron – one of four squadrons he served with in a Fleet Air Arm career spanning eight years.

Moffat left the Navy in 1946 and returned to his home in Glasgow, and although for a period he stopped flying altogether, he maintained his love for aviation, taking up flying again in his 60s, and eventually celebrating his 90th birthday by performing aerobatics in a light aircraft.


The avid supporter of the RN Historic Flight raised nearly £20,000 to keep one of its Swordfish airborne as a tribute to wartime fliers.

Sadly, his death comes just after that of legendary test pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown earlier in the year.

He leaves two daughters, Pat and Jan.

2016 ends for naval aviation as it began – with the loss of one of its greatest heroes.

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