- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

LONDON (AP) — The 86-year-old man hadn’t seen a Swordfish biplane since World War II, when he was a young pilot for the Royal Navy on a mission to sink the largest ship in the German fleet.

John Moffat visited the London Air Show at London’s Earl’s Court exhibition center to see what is now a vintage aircraft, reflecting on the attack that sank the Bismarck and killed all but 115 of its 2,200-man crew.

On May 26, 1941, 15 Swordfish biplanes were sent from the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious to attack the Bismarck. The torpedo-armed Swordfish were based on aircraft carriers and used to help protect convoys.

Mr. Moffat’s torpedo was one of two, possibly three, that hit the ship. He thinks it was his torpedo that jammed the ship’s rudder.

Reduced from a top speed of 29 knots to about 8 knots, the disabled ship was a sitting duck for two British battleships that sank her the following morning.

“I was terrified. All the one side of that ship was firing at me. It was a vision of Hell,” said Mr. Moffat, of Dunkeld in Scotland. “I dropped the torpedo then just got out of there. It was me who got the rudder.”

The pilots returned the next day for another attack.

“There was black smoke pouring out of the Bismarck,” he said while visiting the museum on Friday.

“We approached it, but just as we were about to drop our torpedo, from about 1,000 yards away, it turned over on its side.”

“There were hundreds and hundreds of Germans in the water, in raging seas, with no chance of survival.”

Between 1939 and 1946, Mr. Moffat served in the Fleet Air Arm, the air branch of the Royal Navy, seeing action over the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

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