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Ferocious Luftwaffe attack on HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious under attack on the 10th January 1941. Courtesy MaritimeQuest.
HMS Illustrious attacked by dive bombers. 10 January 1941, in the mediterranean off the italian island of Pantelleria. in the first action by german bombers in the mediterranean, HMS Illustrious survived a ferocious attack including that of over 40 Ju-87's and Ju-88's, to make it to Malta. A bomb explodes on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS while another near miss lands next to her.
HMS Illustrious attacked by dive bombers. 10 January 1941, in the Mediterranean off the italian island of Pantelleria. In the first action by German bombers in the Mediterranean , HMS Illustrious survived a ferocious attack including that of over 40 Ju-87’s and Ju-88’s, to make it to Malta.
A bomb explodes on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS while another near miss lands next to her.

The Luftwaffe announced their arrival in the Mediterranean with a vengeance. The new aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, whose planes had so successfully attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto, was the subject of a sustained attack by Ju 87 dive-bombers as it escorted a convoy to Malta. MaritimeQuest has a series of images of the attack and the damage to the ship.

The main forces of the Mediterranean Fleet, consisting of H.M. Ships Warspite and Valiant with H.M.S. Illustrious and 7 destroyers, were operating in support in the Eastern Basin and covering the passage from Alexandria to Malta of a convoy which was escorted by H.M. Ships Perth, Orion, York and Ajax. On the 10th January the Fleet was attacked several times by various types of aircraft.

The first attack was by torpedo bombers on the Battle Fleet, in which torpedoes missed after avoiding action had been taken. The second, which occurred at about 1235, was carried out by 25 or more Ju 87 and 88 dive-bombers which attacked with great determination and skill, thus confirming the arrival in the Mediterranean of units of the German Air Force.

In this attack H.M.S Illustrious was severely damaged as a result of 6-direct bomb hits and several near misses, which caused fires and disabled her steering gear. Her casualties were 83 killed, 60 seriously and 40 slightly wounded, including several officers. H.M.S. Warspiie also sustained slight damage from a near miss. During this attack one Fulmar and one Swordfish were shot down, their crews being saved, and two enemy aircraft were shot down by gunfire.

At 1330 an unsuccessful attack was made on Illustrious by high level bombers and between 1600 and 1700 a second dive-bombing attack by about 30 aircraft was made on her and the Battle Fleet in which another hit was believed to have been made on Illustrious, and H.M.S. Valiant had one killed and 3 wounded from near misses.

During this attack Fulmars from Illustrious, which had refuelled at Malta, shot down 6 or 7 Ju 87 or 88’s and damaged several others. Heavy bombs of about 1,000 lb. were used in all these attacks. Illustrious, covered by the Battle Fleet, arrived at Malta at about 2100 after a final, but unsuccessful, attack had been made on her by torpedo bombers outside the entrance to Grand Harbour. Eleven of her Swordfish and 5 Fulmars were destroyed by fire.

From the weekly Naval Situation report see TNA CAB/66/14/33

Air Mechanic Rayburn was on board HMS Illustrious and somehow lived to tell his story:

My action station as with all maintenance crews, was in the hanger with the aircraft, which by the way were all heavily armed, and loaded with torpedoes ready for an attack on the Italian Fleet.

Illustrious was armed with 16 4.5 dual purpose guns, and 8 6 barrelled 2lb quick firing AA weapons.  The ship kept jumping and shaking.  Several large bombs hit the shop aft, and the after hanger was on fire.  The noise was indescribable.  In my baptism of fire, all that sticks in my mind are impressions. 
I was standing more or less in the centre of the hanger.  A chap came down from the flight deck; his rubber suit was full of holes with blood leaking from all of them.  I helped carry him down to the casualty station in the washroom flats.

The surgeons were busy.  Blood washed from side to side with the sway of the ship. 
I returned to my action station in the hangar.  The ship continued to rock and sway.

I looked up with fear and apprehension.  Then there was an almighty flash as a 1,000 lb bomb pierced the 4 inch armoured deck and exploded.  I was only aware of a great wind, and bits of aircraft, debris, all blowing out to the forward lift shaft of 300 tons, which was also blown out. 
There were dead and wounded all around.  My overalls were blown off and I had small wounds to the back of my head and shoulder.
I was probably 10-15 feet away from the bomb when it exploded.  Luck I survived?  I prefer the thought of someone looking out for me. 
The hanger by then was burning all over.  The ships commander came and said, ‘come on lads close the armoured doors.’  The overhead sprays then flooded the hanger.

The ship started to sink by the stern, and everyone had to blow up lifebelts.  Then came a spot of humour in all that chaos.  Poor old Corporal Gater came through a side door white as a sheet saying ‘I wish I hadn’t bloody joined.’ 
The battering carried on for six to seven hours. 
There were many wounded piled up.  The aft surgeons station had been destroyed, and the forward station was unable to cope quickly with so many casualties. 
Captain Boyd finally steered with the engines into Malta.  The ship was quiet at last.

See Acepilots for his full story and much more on HMS Illustrious.

A hole in the armoured flight deck of HMS Illustrious where a 1,250 pound bomb penetrated. Courtesy MaritimeQuest.

Some repairs were carried out at Malta (where there were further air attacks) before HMS Illustrious returned to Alexandria. There she was sufficiently patched up to make the journey, via the Suez Canal and round Africa, to U.S. shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia. She was out of the war for the remainder of the year.


In 2014 Andrew Wilson wrote to me:

During 2000, some friends of mine moved into a house in Epsom, Surrey, where the previous owners had left a desk. Tucked away in the desk was a letter from HMS Illustrious, a personal letter, with references to the Malta convoy.

Attempts have been made to try to trace the identities of the addressee and the writer, so far without much progress. It is almost certainly one Royal Navy officer writing to another. It would appear that the letter was addressed to an officer who had formerly served on HMS Illustrious and was anxious for news of the casualties sustained in January 1941. There can be little doubt that the letter is authentic and refers to this action and the aftermath.

This is a raw and powerful document that deserves to be seen more widely, a vivid memorial of what these men went through:

HMS Illustrious
3 March 1941

My dear old E.J.,

Your very kind letter of 16th January has just arrived. I knew how you would feel it and longed to be able to assure you that all the team you knew were still alive. I not only could not but dared not say anything until we left Malta and got to Alex as our expectation of life was not very high. But, as you know, we all survived and live to fight again.

How the buzz about Bill started I have no idea as he was more full of life than anyone! My chief sorrows were Lt. Gregory whom you may remember was very sweet to Elizabeth. He was hit on the spine by a bomb splinter and fell down saying ‘I think something has hit me.’ He then turned very grey and asked for morphia knowing he was dying. Keevil gave him a shot and then he had to be moved as a fierce fire was raging under the quarter deck where he was lying. A marine picked him up and his back was heard to break. He was, I think, already dead.

Luddington, ex England and Navy rugger and our Master at Arms, was blown to bits in the hanger where a bomb exploded. He was a golden man.

Clifford, a Lieut. and pilot who had done very well at Taranto, was wounded in the first attack and then devoted himself to the other wounded. After the third attack he was never seen again. Either he was blown overboard or he disintegrated. He was a pattern of gallantry and gentility and one of the best three-quarters we have had for a long time.

Our young marine Manisty, whom Les knew, was killed by a bomb which did not wound him but just blasted him. The other officer casualties you would not know unless you remember Mr Anstis our gunner. He was blown to bits by a bomb which hit the pompom just in front of the bridge. He and all the crew were in an awful mess but were clearly killed instantly. I ordered them to be thrown overboard as they were dreadful sights. Arms, legs, heads and trunks going over the side were awful to see but were better there than lying about the deck where they chilled the stomachs of others.

Analysing one’s feelings afterwards I felt no sorrow at the time as my feelings were that the dead had perhaps the easiest job. Nor was I afraid, it was all so terrific and one’s responsibility so great that I had no uncomfortable feelings other than intense sorrow for the ship as I never expected her to be of any use again. I was on the wing bridge watching the bombs come down and I saw both lifts fly into the air like leaves. An amazing sight.

Fear came later when I realised we must have more attacks before reaching Malta. I then felt utterly sick for a while and trembled from head to foot. I went down to my sea cabin, took a good hold of myself, offered up a prayer that I’d do my stuff and then went back and was waggling the engines to steer her for the next 8 hours and through 2 more attacks without any particular feeling other than an unsatisfied desire for food. From breakfast until 10 pm, when we secured I only had cocoa and a biscuit which Lloyd the Padre brought me.

Our real strain came with the repeat attacks at Malta. On one occasion I was ashore not 20 yards from a cave shelter and the ship was 100 yards away. On the warning I walked to the gangway saying to myself after all there is nothing I can do and when I got to the gangway I stopped, feeling utterly cowardly and bloody nearly ran for the shelter. However I climbed slowly and reluctantly up the gangway and then felt alright. The others were the same I think. I allowed no one on board (there were wonderful shelters) except the gun crews and supply parties. Some of them failed to turn up and we manned the guns with 4 commandos, 6 Lt Cdrs, 2 Paymasters Seamen and Westmacott , 4 Po’s and 6 first class able seamen.

Rosey Barker and I went to the air defence position on the top bridge where we directed the guns on to the targets until the attack developed and then we just watched. However if you have seen Bill you will have heard as stirring a yarn as ever was spun. I sent Bill home because we did learn a lot and I wanted the powers that be to know what we learnt. To say I was indifferent to the fact that Bella had had a baby would be a ruddy lie, but Bill must never know that I thought of that first! He was splendid and deserved a little thought of that kind.

I think my worst job was to see people suffering from strain. It was horrible and some got it badly. Tamplin the Chief, a fat cheerful self indulgent bachelor went ashore and just couldn’t come back so I sent him to hospital. Duckworth, who was badly blasted, cried at the least excuse and yet stuck at it and was always there though I think useless. Men I thought tough were no good at all in fact the only really good ones were the team and a few sailors and engineers of the quiet nice type. Martin whose funny little wife vamped old N.R. was the senior engineer and was the supreme man of the whole show. His guts and skill were quite remarkable and he was quite delighted when owing to the chief cracking he was left with the whole responsibility.

The senior gunner went to the hospital to see the wounded and collapsed staying there! Others in varying degrees were looking like death but they stuck it well. I think I saved them all from going really potty by abandoning ship for 3 days after the Sunday attacks. It was a ghastly thing to do but I had to do it and as usual got away with it as during those 3 days we were not attacked. Had I not done so half of us would have been loonies and in any case we would not have saved the ship. On the Thursday they all came back gladly and were able to produce the goods for an awful passage to Alex. I have often had to bear responsibility but never anything to equal this. To them the 3 days were a rest, to us they were just hell but I knew it was right.

I seem to have run on a bit but your very kind thoughts in your letter and various inspired me to tell you a little, added to Audrey’s they all help to make a picture of which we are all, not without justification, very proud.

I went to a ship’s company dance the other night and jawed with some of them. We were a happy family and I did not realise quite how much they hung on what I said and did.

God bless you both your T.6 (not clearly decipherable)

D.B. [but looks like D.W.]

I thought this was possibly written by the Captain – but there was confusion over whether it was signed D.B. or D.W. . This account by Malta at War Museum suggests that he was Denis Boyd – and this has been confirmed by Alistair Horn (see comments below).

A near miss. HMS Illustrious attacked by dive bombers. 10 January 1941, in the mediterranean off the Italian island of Pantelleria. in the first action by German bombers in the mediterranean, HMS Illustrious survived a ferocious attack including that of over 40 ju-87's and ju-88's, to make it Malta.
A near miss. HMS Illustrious attacked by dive bombers. 10 January 1941, in the mediterranean off the Italian island of Pantelleria. in the first action by German bombers in the mediterranean, HMS Illustrious survived a ferocious attack including that of over 40 ju-87’s and ju-88’s, to make it Malta.

In November 2014 I was pleased to be able to add the following account by 92 year old Sydney Millen:

I remember that on the 9th January our escorts including “Warspite” did a practice air defensive exercise, and to all our eyes nothing could penetrate that barrage. How wrong could we be proved.

From first light the action started, HMS Gallant had her bows blown off after hitting a mine, and then towards noon action stations was sounded, and from then on all hell broke loose. I at the start was on duty in the after end of the hanger, but in what seemed a short space of time there was a terrific explosion for’ard and what I am sure was the forward lift was struck, luckily despite the debris etc I was unhurt and left the hanger.

After that the ship shudderred many times as she was hit and like many of my comrades I helped in the rescue of the many injured. One of the after gun turrets suffered a near direct hit and the carnage was awful. After a period owing to damage to our steering gear we were just going in circles, quite a target for the aircraft attacking, our escort had I presume decided to keep a fair distance as they were not conspicuous by their presence.

Anyway that’s as maybe , we eventually arrived at the entrance to Malta harbour, with what seemed to me crowds of people, cheering us in, I often wondered if they would have been so enthusiastic if they had realised that this day would have been the start of the terrible ordeal to which they would have to suffer in the coming years.

Anyway we eventually tied up and the following days were spent in the unenviable task of clearing up, not pleasant, the ship was in dock for I think several days, but as what was left of my sqdn. was ashore I left the ship and stayed at Hal Far aerodrome for I think several months doing what we could to defend Malta.

Not very specific I know, but a day I shall always remember, my first taste of action.

The view of the flight deck from the ship's bridge.
The view of the flight deck from the ship’s bridge.


Patrick Doherty is the 3rd person from the left seated with his hands in his lap on the upper gantry in front of the wing. I know no names associated with the rest of the men in the photo other the annotation in my fathers hand writing on the back of the photo "854 Squadton R.N. "Illustrious"aircraft carrier.
Patrick Doherty is the 3rd person from the left seated with his hands in his lap on the upper gantry in front of the wing.
I know no names associated with the rest of the men in the photo other the annotation in my fathers hand writing on the back of the photo
“854 Squadton R.N. “Illustrious”aircraft carrier. Courtesy James Doherty, see comments below.

103 thoughts on “Ferocious Luftwaffe attack on HMS Illustrious”

  1. My grandfather Lionel WC Clark was a gunner who was on temporary assignment from HMS Glasgow to Illustrious and was commended by Captain Harold Hickling* as ‘a first-class gunner’ and for ‘for courage and coolness’ ‘when the Illustrious was attacked and damaged in the Mediterranean’. I have the original commendation certificate which served also as his promotion to Lieutenant. Grandpa said he was in part of the ship which got hit by a missile – I think he said a torpedo – and wiped out a whole section of the crew. By shere luck, he had just vacated the area. Typical humility of a wartime survivor. He retired I think as a Lieutenant Commander

  2. My Father Sackville Frank Claydon(known as Frank) was on the HMS ILLUSTRIOUS he always told me when he joined he was with Andrew lamb Dad was a Radar technician and Andrew Lamb was an electrician I have always been led to believe Dad was the first Radar tech on the illustrious like so many he would never talk about his days during the war if anyone I know he Boxed for the ship if anyone has any photos or recollects any stories told I would be grateful to hear them
    Dad died 09/03/2009 after suffering with dementia for 5 years always called his room his cabin guessing some memory came back in his last few years

  3. My Father, Geoffrey Lawrence Fuggle was injured in the attack on the Illustrious on 10th Jan 1941. He was attached to the ship from the RAF.

  4. Hello and thank you for this website. My Dad, now passed, served on illustrious, He is David Griffith Emlyn Hopkins and was a Leading Signalman. I know that he was in Malta. I also have notes of his, written in an W/T Operator’s Log from April- June 1945 where the ship visits for example Simonstown, Capetown, Freetown, False Bay, South Atlantic. Any information would be fantastic and thank you for this website.

  5. Gary

    The best way of sharing such material is to create an account on a site like Flickr, free for basic use, where you can upload your images and specify the copyright, if any, that you wish to attach to them. I am sure a lot of people would be very interested to see them.

  6. My uncle, Leonard Henshaw was killed in the attack on the Illustrious on 10th Jan 1941.
    Gary Day, would love to see the photo album. Are you able to share?

  7. Hi my Grandad Stanley Ernest day was on on HMS Illustrious April 1940 to August 1945 i have a photo album from the ship if anyone is interested thankyou gary day

  8. My late father Tony Arthur Johnson served on HMS Illustrious as a Stoker Mechanic from May 1940 until October 1945. He left the Andrew in 1953 and died in 1960. Would love to find out if anyone knew him or have any information about him.

  9. My Great Grandfather Leslie Stanley Served on HMS Illustrious during the WW2.

  10. My brother-in-law Sub.Lt AFX Mardel-Ferreira RNVR (Tony) took part as an observer in the Taranto raid of 11th Nov 1940 and was killed in the bombing two months later. I learnt some time ago (and other relatives might like to know) that after Illustrious limped into Grand Harbour the dead were transferred to a minesweeper, They were taken out again and buried at sea in the deepest water around the island, which is between Dingli Cliffs and the tiny island of Filfla. I put some of my husband’s (Tony’s brother’s) ashes in the sea around there as well so when I go to Malta I like to go up to Dingli Cliffs which overlook the area.

  11. I’m looking for anyone who knew my father Edward (Ted) Aurther Eames on board HMS ILLUSTRIOUS during 1939 / 45. I beleive he was an aircraft mechanic below / above deck.I would like to find out more about my father during his carrier on Lusty and the men he seved with. Is there any ‘shipmates’ out there that can help with pictures and information regarding my father Ted.
    Mick Eames (son)

  12. My uncle (for whom I’m named), Leading Seaman Michael Rice from Kilgarvan, County Kerry Ireland, was serving as a pompom gunner on the Illustrious during the attack on January 10th/41. He died of wounds on the 12th, aged 21. From the little information given to our family, I believe he was part of the forward starboard gun crew. Though he passed years before I was born, he and those who served with him on the Illustrious hold a very special place in my heart. His wristwatch, left for safekeeping with my Dad before Mick sailed away, has been worn proudly by members of my family through graduations and weddings.

    Michael Rice. Saanichton BC, Canada

  13. My grandfather served. Ive got all the photos. Ian john Mcneil is his name.

  14. My Grandfather Thomas Tibbott Davies was a surgeon on HMS Illustrious. I believe he saved many lives. He died on 9th July 2007 aged 92.

  15. My father served in 1833 squadron FAA, this was formed after the ship went to the USA for repairs, he was an armourer and served under Lt Cmdr Norman Hanson. He was on board as it joined the British Pacific Fleet that formed up in Trincomalee Ceylon. I have some photos of landing on crashes.

  16. My father John Sutherland was also on this ship, he served with the Aircraft Carriers and was attached to Nighthawk base Scotland as well as Illustrious and he was in Malta and Salerno..

  17. Hi,
    My uncle Robert Cockburn was killed during this attack he was only 21 he was on the pom-poms so to read the account above was heartbreaking. His sister my mum is still alive and she often talks about him, apparently he was a good pianist and footballer and had trials for Newcastle. Anyone with any memories of him?
    Thanks, Alan.

  18. Does anyone know what happened to the those that were killed, were they buried at sea or in Malta?

  19. My father was on the illustrious he was a gunner his name was Leslie Shaw from Sheffield he would have been 96 now so only young when on illustrious does any one remember him he had bright red hair and told me he got into trouble for getting sun burnt on his very freckly skin and later got skin cancer in these places through being in the tropic he went in navy in 1935 and was on numerous ships including the Hood he was unable to sail just before it was sunk all his mates were killed which my dad never ever forgot and talked about often he died in 1994 and he will always be loved and never forgotten Angela ambrosioni x

  20. The Luddington referenced in the letter as “a golden man” was my late Dad’s father Bill who had won 13 caps for England at rugby in 1923-26 while playing for Devonport Services and the RN.His own father Thomas was at Rorke’s Drift in January 1879(Army Medical Corps) so lots of interesting family history!

  21. I am look in to a incident on 9 february 1941. Members of HMS Illustrious crew killed by accidental explosion of mine on 9 Feb 1941 (on Shore) Can email at jab.brock@hotmail.com or phone on 01293 520352

  22. I am look in to a incident on 9 february 1941. Members of HMS Illustrious crew killed by accidental explosion of mine on 9 Feb 1941 (on Shore) Can email at jab.brock@hotmail.com or phone on 01293 520352

  23. I was very interested in reading this as I served in Navy Cadets on the Ilustrious in
    Weston Ont Canada back in the 60s

  24. My grandfather, NORMAN FOSTER served with the FAA on Lusty during WWII – although I know very little about his time on board. Would love to know more. He has been gone several years now, and is dearly missed.

  25. I was born on January 10, 1941 so have always felt an attachment to H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS. The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset has much on the ship and her crew, including her bell which was badly damaged in the attack. Well worth a visit.

  26. My uncle was a pilot on HMS Illustrious in 1944. He was Lt Comdr R J Cork. He died on 14 April 1944 in an accident when trying to land in China Bay, Trincomalee, Ceylon. If anyone has a relation who was on Illustrious at the time, I’d be interested to know.

  27. I saw the photo “A near miss” a few months ago on VE Day and thought “That’s my dad!” It was a strange feeling and then I thought I was just being silly. Just been trawling through dad’s old photos and found the identical photo. Can’t be sure if the photo was familiar because I’d seen it before or it is indeed my dad. He was Walter Dodd and was aboard the Illustrious at this time.
    Does anyone have any more info on the photo or my dad? He passed away in 1993 and rarely dwelt on the bad times but talked about the funny side of Naval life to mum and me. I have only recently heard stories tha the told to my husband In his later life.

  28. hi my father served on illustrious during the strike on the Italian fleet & the Anzio landings his name was George Scott he joined the royal navy when he was 16 years old ( he fibbed about his age ) and he lived to tell the tale he was a stoker . he also survived the sinking’s of three other ships during the war one was h.m.s. Spartan but I don’t know the others . thanks for reading.

  29. My Uncle George Scott served on the Illustrious as a stoker during the war – don’t know too much about it but no doubt my cousin Roger Scott (his son) will know much more.

  30. My father served on the Illustrious, during this awful time. He never spoke about this time in his life very much. I believe he was a Gunner / aircraft engineer. His name was George Alfred Young. If anybody knew him or had relatives that knew him please get in touch. wyrequalitycars@aol.com

  31. Hi My father was killed on the Illustious on the 10th Jan 1941.He was an armourer in the fleet air arm.His name was sgt Cyril Dare Swan Hyslop.I was born two weeks later,so never knew him.He came from Edinburgh. It seems weird but I miss him more the older I get.

  32. My farther Tom Hayes was on illustrious during the Malta blitz. He was a pompom gunner and spoke little of the experience. He was from Warley, west midlands and died in 1980

  33. My father, Jim Sellars, served on HMS Illustrious with Eric Watmaugh and I heard him speak of Eric on many occasions. Dad was a Royal Marine serving as a gunner I believe… He never spoke of the bad times, mostly of the good times. He suffered from Malaria as a result of service in Burma and various other injuries which led to his eventual passing ! His medals included the Italy Star, the Burma Star and Bar, The Atlantic Star, The Pacific Star and the 1939-45 Star.

  34. To Roger Anstis who commented also on this site: –

    This is regarding William Reginald Anstis or Reginald William Anstis, Gunner on HMS Illustrious killed 10th January 1941 whilst being attacked in Malta by the enemy. He is listed on the war memorial on Plymouth Hoe as you may know. I had come across your uncle whilst researching the Anstis name and in particular his father William Richard Anstis (My relative was also called this). Just wanted to comment.

  35. My Dad served on the Illustrious at this time.
    His name was Terry Finnegan and he was a signaller.
    He spoke with great fondness of his friends and colleagues.
    He was always grateful for his survival and saddened by the loss of his friends ‘ lives.
    How fortunate we were to have known and loved these wonderful men!

  36. I had the good fortune to meet a man,Sam,who had been an AB on the Illustrious. He showed me an official photograph album from the ship with pictures of the bombardment. It is only by reading the information on this site that I realise how very fortunate this man was to survive. I am sorry I do not have his surname but only know that he became a Barge Skipper in Hull and his son sails on the P&O Ferries out of Hull.

  37. My father George William Edwards was a gunner I believe on lusty during ww2 and served in all conflicts he was in the Far East and South Africa…if anyone has anymore info on him during that time it would be wonderful to hear from you as my father disappeared in 1971 and I know nearly nothing about his time served during the war on lusty! Tia…would be great if anyone knew of him or about him…Maria

  38. James Winton Might you have any photos of my dad John Grainger. He was in fleet air arm and maybe served with Sydney Allen your uncle. Does anyone have any photos from around 1943-45 please

  39. Hi all
    My Grandfather John Duggan was killed on the Illustrious on 10th January 1941 and he was just 44 years old. This information I have gleaned from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as my Dad died in 1981 and his brothers in the next decade. All I know is that my Dad and Granddad met up in Alexandria shortly before. I was always told that my Granddad was a Chief Petty Officer and his full name was John Patrick Duggan. However on the records he was Petty Officer Stoker John Duggan. His name is on Plymouth War Memorial and that is where my Dad was from. As for me I live in Doncaster but I would love to know more but all my Dads family are now long gone. neil.duggan@blueyonder.co.uk

  40. Hi all
    My Grandfather John Duggan was killed on the Illustrious on 10th January 1941 and he was just 44 years old. This information I have gleaned from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as my Dad died in 1981 and his brothers in the next decade. All I know is that my Dad and Granddad met up in Alexandria shortly before. I was always told that my Granddad was a Chief Petty Officer and his full name was John Patrick Duggan. However on the records he was Petty Officer Stoker John Duggan. His name is on Plymouth War Memorial and that is where my Dad was from. As for me I live in Doncaster but I would love to know more but all my Dads family are now long gone. neil.duggan@blueyonder.co.uk

  41. Regarding the letter supplied by Andrew Wilson signed DW.
    It is definitely Admiral Denis Boyd, his middle name was William. The letter is adressed to his brother Edgar Boyd (my great grandfather). In the letter he mentions “Our young marine Manisty, whom Les knew”. I assume he is referring to Leslie Boyd, Edgars son (my grandfather). In most of their correspondence they refer to each other as EJ or DW and in the photo albums I have most of the family is labelled as EJB, DWB, or LNB etc. I hope this helps.

  42. My late father George Henry Brockbank (born 28.12.17) also served on HMS Illustrious during the Battle of Taranto, He was in the RAF from 3/9/39 to 14/11/45 and his job was as an aircraft fitter rising to the rank of sgt. I have a few interesting pictures of him in Malta in Jan. 1941 and of going down the Hal-Far pass. Various others of comrades but unfortunately, no names added. My father never spoke much about this time in his life and so I am finding out more from these websites. I feel so proud of him and just wished I had been able to talk to him about this amazing attack on Taranto. I am visiting Malta for the first time this year in the hope that I can uncover more.

  43. My Fathers name was John Phelan He was a stoker on the Illustrious in 1941 does anyone remember him?

  44. Hello, I have tried to write before but no success.I was serving on “Illustrious” on that fateful day as an Air Fitter in 819 sqdn.A day never to forget,losing several of my mates.Naturally we left the ship and many of us transferred to 806 sqdn.then with Fulmars and stayed in Malta for a period at Halfar aerodrome.After that we served on “Formidable” and after she was damaged served in the western desert for several months. After that many ships,Atlantic & Russian convoys etc. are there any persons about that have similar stories. I am 92 and still have vivid memories.

    Are there any other mates with the same memories still around ??

  45. My uncle, Reginald William ANSTIS was a gunner on board Illustrious on 10 Jan 1941 when he lost his life. His dad was too old to fight, his brothers too young, I never met him but will not forget his sacrifice.

  46. My grandfather served as a chief gunner(I think) on HMS Illustrious when she was attacked in 1941. His name was William Henry AGGOTT. Known as Bill or Billy. He was badly wounded during this attack, and very nearly thrown overboard with the dead. He recovered from his wounds in Malta. when I was a child he used to show me his shrapnel wounds. The metal would travel around his body. My daughter is currently doing a project in school on him. He died in 1977, just wish he was still here to retell his experiences first hand.

  47. My late father in law served on the Illustrious, he told me all about the German air attack, also about Malta and going to USA for repairs. He lost a lot of good friends in the attack. He did not mention the war very often, a modest man, who after the war became a Fireman in Birmingham. Where he remained after the war with his loving family. His name was Sidney Jack Morbey.

  48. My dad was on hms illustrious in Malta &japan .he served as a stoker do not know his rank. He passed away in 1987

  49. My Dad was on the Illustrious during the Med bombing. He was Chief E.R.A. but may not have been at the time of the bombing. He was Bill Burnell (Lofty). At the time he was in charge of the catapult if I remember correctly? Many a story of wrecked wires. He left the Navy in 59. He was born in Dartmouth in 1913. I believe his old school friend Bruce Inder may have been onboard as well, but not sure.

  50. Hello Steven edwards, My uncle Tom was from Liverpool 8 close to stanhope street, I wonder were they mates? My Uncle Tom whitney died of cancer in 1984 .
    I loved to hear the stories when I was little about the war and the ships that were sunk etc.
    Best regards.

  51. My Uncle Tom served on the Illustrious, His name was Thomas Whitney married to Gladys, brother of Jack Whitney.
    I am trying to recreate the history I learned from my family as alittle girl, Does anyone know the name of the ship that was sunk, and only afew survivors were rescued by the illustrious, My Unckle Jack was in the water for days , his brothers ship the Illustrious rescued them.
    I would appreciate any feedback,Thanks
    Doreen formerly( doyle)Giambrone

  52. Hi. I think my grandad served on the Illustrious, but I’m not too sure. His name was Edward
    Byrne. He could have been known as Teddy, or Bob. If anybody knows anything about him, I would be really greatful to hear it. Many thanks , Dee.

  53. Hi my father served on HMS Aribis during ww2 . Does anyone have any photos of crew members. His name was Alan Oldham, sorry dont know his rank. But any info would be gratefully appreciated.

  54. My Grandmothers cousin, Petty Officer Steward Arthur John Kerby was on the Illustrious and killed 10th January 1941. His grave is listed at being the war memorial at Chatham so can only presume he was one of those buried at sea.

  55. My wife’s uncle THOMAS THOMPSON PARKIN.was on ILLUSTRIOUS when she done her tour of duty in the MED. We have a few letters that was sent to his Sister ,my wife’s mom. He tells of the bombing of LUSTY while at MALTA , MAKES VERY INTERESTING READING. He could not say where the ship was ( security reasons ) but following Lustys history it was obvious it was MALTA, THE DATES VERIFY THIS , unfortunately he was badly injured while plane crashed landed ,died of his wounds , buried at TRIMCOMILLY then CELON, now SRI LANKA.

  56. Hi , Re Norman Tallack .
    I have since found out that he was one of the boys on the lift trying to get on deck to help when the bomb hit ,the lift was blown apart. They were buried at sea. His name is on the memorial on Plymouth hoe. If I manage to find out any more I will post it here.
    Regard Amanda

  57. My father Geoffrey White served as a petty officer on HMS Illustrious during ww2.
    He was in the Atlantic, Malta, Ceylon, Australia and the Far East.
    He was in charge of one of the guns. He told me that on one occasion he was asked to go down onto the navigation room because he was able to reach charts. The ship went into action and when he emerged from the navigation room three days later his gun had received a direct hit and the gun and crew were lost.

  58. Hi,
    As with some of the others my cousin Sub Lt Edgar A Perkins (wave 2 in L4F during the Taranto raid) Was killed during the Luftwaffe attack when the 1,000 lb bomb came through the flight deck, he was knocked out by the concussion and unfortunately drowned in the sprinkler system flooding of the hangar deck

  59. My cousin was killed on HMS Illustrious on January 10th 1941. I was told that he was killed when the bomb came down the lift shaft. His name was Corporal Frederick Albert HARLEY (Bertie to most people). 815 squadron. His father Leonard Harley was killed at Gallipoli the year Bertie was born 1915, and is buried in Malta.
    I see Stephan Edwards takes care of an elderly ex-Illustrious crewman. I wonder whether he knew my cousin (If he is still alive of course). Thank you.

  60. Hi my son in laws Father served on the Illustrious in the forties as a ships cook but hard to get much info from him, I know he was all over the Pacific area, got bombed and planes crashing on the deck
    His name is Les Harding and comes from Chester, Cheshire, anybody remember him.
    cheers Keith ex RE’s

  61. Hi my father served on HMS Illustrious during the war, from 1941 I think to 1943, his name was John Harold Stowe. He served in the medical quarters, is there anyone who remembers him or knows of any where I can find official records of his services in the Navy, during and after the Second World War.

    Thank you for any help, regards Karin

  62. James Winton Might you have any photos of my dad John Grainger. He was in fleet air arm and maybe served with Sydney Allen your uncle. Do I need to put my e-mail on here?

  63. Hi my Grandfather Henry Sedgemore was a Gunnery on the Illustrious in ww2. If anyone knew him please let me know.
    Thanks Jeanette

  64. My father Patrick Doherty SFX528 was on the Illustrious from 1/1/44 till 31/12/44.
    He passed away on 5 October 1970.
    He was an Air Artificer 4. He was in charge of maintenance for the 854 squadron of Avengers on this ship.
    The ship was the first ship in the new dry dock in Sydney Harbour to repair a bent propeller shaft during this time.
    I used to know the name of the leader of the 854 squadron but what I do remember is that he flew effectively with 1 good arm having injured the other in battle.


  65. Hi all, my uncle Bob Nugent along with his friend Charlie Browne both from Co. Clare in Irl. were both on board during the attack and survived. Bob who lived until the mid 80s rarely spoke of the events but before he died told me of the bombardment in the Med. and the sailing to Alexandria and then onto the States. Both also served on HMS Repulse but were on ships leave when she was hit.

  66. my dad was on the illustrious he started as a boy sailor and stayed for 11 years as petty officer james sene sadly he died a few years ago

  67. My father John Brown L/FX76703 (aka Chick Brown) served on the Illustrious during WW2 as a Leading Air Fitter (aeroplane mechanic!) and was Mentioned in Despatches in 1941 for we think manning a pom pom gun during the “Illustrious Blitz” on Malta. He died in 2000 aged 79 but would not talk much about the war or how he survived when so many of his shipmates didn’t. Any info therefore gratefully received. My email address is ralphmudplugger@aol.com

  68. My late uncle Petty Officer Arthur Robert Cooper was on board HMS Illustrious during WW2 when she was attack on 10th January 1941 and was severley wounded. He was a Air Artisan in the Fleet Air Arm.

    If anyone had relatives who served with please can you contact me via email: rnkesterton@hotmail.co.uk

  69. I recently visited Malta, and went to the war musem in valetta
    Theres quite a few interesting artifacts from hms illustrious, including a replica of the ships bell, and also a local maltese persons account of the attacks (in italian).

  70. My Pop was on the Illustrious when it sank.
    Harry Pryor was his name.

  71. Dianne Pekama April 6, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Diane my Dad served on the Illustrious only for 1 month Nov 41 to Dec 41 I think that was a crossong from Norfolk VA back to the UK. Would your Dad be able to confirm that ??/ Tom Walsh, Stoker 2nd

    Tom Walsh

  72. My Dad served during WW2 on the HMS Illustrious he spoke about being in Malta. I would love more information on him if anyone remembers him. I am not sure what he did on board. His name Was George McKenzie and he was from Aberdeen. I would also appreciate any help you can give me on tracing crew lists and his service record. He died in 1991 and I am trying to gather information on him for his grandchildren. Thanks in advance for any help

  73. My Dad was in Y2 gun turret during Italian landings at Salerno and was a member of HO218 squad. His name is Eric Watmough and he would love to hear from anyone who was there. He now lives near Skipton.

  74. My husband’s father, Harold Stoddard-Howell was on board the Illustrious when it was struck by bombs on 10/1/1941. He was Chief Air Artificer No FX 75131 and was badly injured with burns to his head. He was on the aircraft shaft as the bomb came down. He saw many of his friends killed. Would love to know if anyone remembers him. He was taken to Malta to convalesce. We have a photo of him in his navy uniform. Also, would love to hear from anyone if they know were there diaries kept of the actual voyage and the damage etc. to Illustrious. Did they keep a record of the injuries sustained by people. Thanks
    Diane & Richard Stoddard-Howell

  75. My Father was aboard the Illustrious during her fight with the Luftwaffe, he was a PO Telecommunications, after the battle he was assigned to help remove the dead from the gun turrets, he never spoke of it to me but my mother told me of it, after he had a problem being around our BBQ in the summer. He had nightmare long after this event, I suppose now its called P.T.S.D, I was told that 2/3 of the crew perished in that fight. This is the first account I have read on that day.
    He died in 1984

  76. My Dad served on the Illustrious in the Fleet Air Arm from around 1943-45. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago but I would love to know if anyone has photos with him on. He was John Grainger, as I’m putting together a package about his time during the war to pass on to my children. Thanks

  77. My grandad was on the illustrious during the malta attack,his name was Walter Pearson his rank was chief petty officer. Would really appreciate if anyone know any information

    Thank you

  78. Hi
    My uncle Syd Allen served on the Illustrious 1942-45 I believe in the Fleet Air Arm
    He is still alive and wondered if anyone alive would know him
    I do have some pictures with him and some of his mates if anyone is interested



  79. Hi there,my father Rex Marcroft was on the HMS Illustrious and the HMS Arabis,from 1941 to 1944..As my father is still leaving to this day he is 90 years of age…i love listen to his storys of his days in the navy…we had my dads 90th birthday in march,and just hearing about his days,it was so mine blowing….I would love to hear more info…I do have photos of the HMS Illustrious and the HMS Arabis…thank you Dianne

  80. Hi, Amanda my wife uncle was James Smyth he died on board, he was from[ Nobber] in Co . Meath Ireland

  81. Hi, my grandfather James Smyth died on board during the Malta convoy……we sadly don’t know a great deal about him other than he was born in County Meath in Ireland. My father was just 7 when he died. If anyone knew of him we would be most great full to hear from you. Amanda.

  82. My father was Hubert Samuel BEAVEN and was proud to have served on H.M.S. Illustrious. On the 10th.January, 1941 he was wounded whilst operating a gun turret during during the German attack on the convoy to Malta.

    He was a career Royal Marine attaining the rank of Company Sgt. Major and retired in 1953 being stationed in Lympstone, Devon.

    He passed away at the age of 75 in 1987. He was awarded the D.S.M. for his actions
    during the 1941 attack but never divulged the circumstances of those actions.

    Roger Beaven. Ontario, Canada.

  83. I’m looking for anyone who new my father Edward (Ted) Eames on Lusty 1940 /45 I belive he was an aircraft machanic below / above decks. I would like to find out more about his war time carrier along with the men he served with during the war. Is there any shipmate still alive who new him and can help with any information regarding Ted who has now pasted over in 1978 from a heart attack.
    Yours Truely
    Mick Eames. (son)

  84. My grandad Herbert Jackson was on the illustrious for all of ww2 as chief petty officier engineer. During malta he was mentioned in dispatches for operating pom pom guns.

  85. My grandad was on the illustrious at that time and other carriers, who’s name was ‘Leslie Stanley’ a stoker. I wish I was able to remember more of what he told me as a youngster.

    If anybody knows anything more information about my grandad, please post I would really appreciate it.

  86. My Grandad was on the Illustrious at this time, his name was Robert Bambrough and he was a wireless operator, if anyone has any info about him it would be much appreciated.

  87. My wife’s Uncle Hugh Cree was killed on 10th April 1941. He was a stoker and is buried in Haifa cemetery.

  88. Hi Amanda

    Thanks for getting in touch. I am sorry I have no further details myself. Hopefully someone may have something after reading this post.



  89. Hi, My uncle airman petty officer Norman e Tallack was killed on the Illustrious in this attack in 41. I wondered if you had any info on him on record. I keep his photo on my wall as he was a hero. I am the youngest and last in this family line. Unfortunatly all Norman’s medals and trophies were lost when the house in Plymouth was bombed. My father Fredrick Tallack and my mum petty officer Betty Gillian are now deceased. Yours sincerly Amanda Jane Tallack

  90. I take care of an elderly neighbour who was on the illustrious went it was hit. His name is Danny Patterson he is originally from Stanhope St. Liverpool 8 but he now lives in Widnes Cheshire..He was on his way to his action station at the hangar when he saw the plane lift going up towards the deck with about 15 crew but with no plane on. All he remembers from the point of the bombs impact is a blue flash and then waking up next to a Sworfish. He sufferered an injury to his right shoulder caused by debris from the explosion.

  91. My father was on the Illustious he was a range taker on the guns. He was on board when it was bombed. The rest of the fleet left them for dead and they made it back to Malta for a refit.

  92. my grandad was on HMS illustrious during the Malta convoy, and also did 5 other convoys on HMS illustrious too, all we know that he was a stoker (not sure of rank) he’s name was Leslie Stanley

  93. My Father, John Pearson of Birmingham, was on the Illustrious – he was a navigator and in the fleet air arm. He survived when the plane flew off the deck into a freak wind that cUsed the plane un to the ocean. The ship circled twice – against all rules – but they found my Dad and Nobbie the pilot – and they were rescued. He lived until he was 64years of age but when the war ended, he refused to fly again and never left the UK.

  94. Re ‘Billy’ Horton – his official names were Lancelot Harry.
    He was a Stoker 1st Class not Leading Stoker.

  95. My cousin ‘Billy’ Horton was also a leading stoker on Illustrious; ‘killed in action’
    10.Jan.1941. His home was in Bulawayo, S. Rhodesia.

  96. My uncle who was an aircraft mechanic 2nd class was killed in the attack 10th Jan 1941.
    His name was Phillip Kinslow.

  97. Hello my son in laws Father RON HARDING was on the Illustrius in the forties, I beleive, he was a cook
    came from Chester, Cheshire. ring any bells ?????

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