Fleet Air Arm attacks the Tirpitz

One of the escort cruisers, HMS BERWICK, "taking it green" as water crashes over her bows off the Norwegian coast. She had sailed with HMS KING GEORGE V, HMS VICTORIOUS, HM Destroyers ONSLOW ASHANTI, INTREPID, ICARUS, LOOKOUT and BEDOUIN to join HMS DUKE OF YORK, HMS RENOWN, HM Cruiser KENYA, HM Destroyers FAULKNOR, ESKIMO, PUNJABI ECHO and ECLIPSE to provide cover for passage of Russian convoy PQ12 and return Convoy QP8

In early 1942 it was realised that the Tirpitz had become operational and, based in Norway, would pose a threat to Arctic Convoys supplying Russia or could possibly even break out into the Atlantic, as her sister ship the Bismarck had done, and threaten Transatlantic convoys.

The destruction or even crippling of this ship is the greatest event at sea at the present time. No other target is comparable to it.

Winston Churchill, 25th January 1942

The Royal Navy’s Home Fleet based at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys had just put to sea when a German battleship was identified off Norway. A torpedo attack was quickly organised, the only occasion that the Tirpitz was targeted whilst at sea.

Home, Northern Waters and North Atlantic

On the 4th, the Home Fleet sailed to the northward from Scapa and on the 5th the Commander-in-Chief reported that an outward-bound convoy to Russia had been shadowed by Focke-Wulf aircraft when about 300 miles north-east of Iceland.

In the evening of the 6th H.M. Submarine Seawolf reported an enemy battleship or 8-inch cruiser about 55 miles north-east of Trondheim steering N.E..

Subsequently this ship was identified as the Tirpitz, which was located and attacked with torpedoes by aircraft of the Home Fleet at 0930 on the 9th, about 80 miles west of the Lofoten Islands. No hits were claimed and Tirpitz was last seen steering towards Vestfjord. The Home Fleet has returned to Scapa.

From the Naval Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/22/50

View from the search-light platform overlooking the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS, showing the strike force of twelve Fairey Albacores of 832 or 817 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm loaded with torpedoes to strike at the TIRPITZ when she was at sea off the coast of Norway. The attack obtained no hits on the German battleship and two aircraft were lost. In the background can be seen HMS RENOWN, HMS DUKE OF YORK, and HMS BERWICK in line ahead.

A Fleet Air Arm flight deck party on board HMS VICTORIOUS leaning against the island of the aircraft carrier whilst they are awaiting the return of aircraft from patrol. The photograph was taken whilst VICTORIOUS was helping to cover Russian convoys.

On board HMS VICTORIOUS a shadowing Fairey Albacore returns. One of the Fairey Albacores that shadowed the TIRPITZ from an early hour and guided the striking force to their objective off the coast of Norway. The attack obtained no hits on the German battleship and two aircraft were lost. The Observer, Sub Lieutenant G Dunworth, is being carried from the machine after being hit by gunfire, note the hatch in the side of the aircraft.

For more details on Royal Navy ships see Naval History Net.

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