Philip E. West
Approx. Overall print size 16” x 26” / 40cms x 66cms.
The Royal Navy's week long chase of the formidable German battleship
Bismarck culminated in the foul evening weather of 26th May 1941. Despite
the deck of HMS Ark Royal pitching through 55 feet, S/Lt John Moffat was
one of fifteen Swordfish pilots who took off to attack Bismarck. After 90
minutes of arduous and turbulent flying the Swordfish found their quarry
and dived through the intense anti-aircraft fire to drop their torpedoes.
One of these hit and jammed Bismarck's rudder and condemned the battleship
to sail in slow circles. The Royal Navy's own capital ships then closed in
and pounded Bismarck into a burning wreck.
This is only one example of heroic acts by the many Swordfish crew who flew and fought so valiantly for their Queen and country throughout WW2. Most of which has gone unrecognised.
Five Swordfish pilots, one of whom will be John Moffat - whose aircraft is depicted in the picture, will sign all Artist Proofs and Remarqued prints. Other pilots will have been involved in attacks on the “Scharnhorst”, “Gneisehau” and “Prinz Eugen, the Malta Campaign and one pilot who flew Swordfish from converted oil tankers in the North Atlantic on convoy protection duties against German U-Boats.
Sub. Lt. Stanley Brand RNVR (Pilot)
Lieut. Norman Gillis RNVR (Pilot)
Sub. Lt. John Moffat RNVR (Pilot)
Commander Sidney H. Suthers DSC, DFC (Pilot)
Lt. Cdr. Bruce Vibert (Pilot)
Very Restricted Edition. Early ordering
• signed by three pilots.
** signed by five pilots.
100 Primary Edition*: £125 (US$220)
25 Artist Proofs **: £150 (US$262)
25 Remarques **: £250 (US$482)
10 Double Remarques **: £350 (US$612)
Sub Lieut (A) Stanley T. Brand RNVR (Pilot). Although in a reserved occupation
volunteered on his 18th birthday to train as pilot in the Fleet Air Arm. He flew open
cockpit biplane Swordfish aircraft from Merchant Aircraft Carriers called
“Macships”. These were 8000 ton grain-ships or oil tankers fitted with a flight deck,
carrying their usual cargo and manned by a Merchant Navy Master and crew. They
sailed in convoy back and forth across the North Atlantic in all the extreme weather
conditions experienced on that ocean. The oil tankers lacked a hangar, so maintenance
was carried out on open deck exposing the aircraft, ground crew and aircrew to the
fury of the sea, ice and gales. By keeping U-boats submerged instead of allowing
them free range on the surface, in 24 months only two merchant ships were sunk by
the enemy in convoys protected by Macships. This was in spite of there being greater
numbers and more efficient U-boats at sea in this period than at the time of our
greatest losses in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Sub. Lt Cdr (A) John Moffat RNVR (Pilot) joined the Royal Navy in September
1939 and moved to flying school in December 1939 at Belfast then Netheravon. Then
to FAA fighters at Eastleigh on Skuas and Gladiators. Transferred to Torpedo
carrying Swordfish then to HMS Ark Royal 818 Squadron at Gibraltar. Convoy
Duties – captured supply ship in Bay of Biscay. Two attacks on Bismark accredited
with rudder strike. Served on carriers Argus and Furious and as Deck Officer on
Formidable. Became Officer Commanding flying at RNAS Coudray Park in 1943 and
was demobbed in 1946.
Commander Sidney Hal (Jim) Suthers DSC DFC RN (Pilot) joined the Air Branch
of the Royal Navy in January 1939 and gained his pilot’s wings in July 1940. Joined
824 Naval Air Squadron operating Swordfish from HMS Eagle in January 1941.
Operations in Red Sea, Indian Ocean, South Atlantic and Mediterranean until
September 1942. Instructional duties thereafter until the end of World War II.
Sub. Lieut. Bruce Vibert (Pilot) volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm in May 1941 and
helped to form 842 Squadron, the Royal Navy’s last to be formed with the Fairey
Swordfish in March 1943.
Working mainly from the escort carrier HMS Fencer during the squadron’s two-year
existence, the role was anti-submarine, ranging from the occupation of the Azores to
North Russia. Protection to the Home Fleet was also given during two operations
against “Tirpitz”, sheltering in Northern Norway. The Squadron finally came under
Coastal Command to work the Western Approaches and English Channel. It achieved
several successes against the U-Boats.
He later served in the Pacific as a deck landing control officer before, post war,
joining the RCN and there becoming a helicopter pilot. Today he supports the RNHF
as a speaker about the Swordfish.
Lieut (A) N C Gillis RNVR (Pilot) volunteered for training as a pilot in the Fleet Air
Arm in 1940. After training he was posted to join HMS Indominable and sent to the
Far East. The posting did not materialise and after some months in Sri Lanka (then
Ceylon) and Nairobi, Kenya, joined 810 Squadron in HMS Illustrious. 810 was a
Swordfish squadron and remained so until HMS Illustrious returned to UK.
The squadron then reformed with Barracuda aircraft and rejoined the Illustrious.
After a short spell with the Home Fleet the Illustrious was despatched to serve with
the Mediterranean Fleet, subsequently returning to the Home Fleet. 810 Squadron
served in the ship during this time and was retained in the ship when she returned to
the Eastern Fleet and was actively engaged in the Burma campaign. During joint
operations with the US Carrier Saratoga Lt Gillis was mentioned in Despatches during
the operation at Sabang in Malaysia.
Having overspent his time in an operational squadron he was returned to UK where he
served as Dive-Bombing Instructor at RNAS Crail, then converted onto twin-engine
aircraft and flew in a Mosquito squadron until demobilised in 1946.