Upcoming Meeting - Taranto, the sinking of the Italian fleet in WW2.

Speaker: Paul Beaver

Wed 9th September 2020; 7:30 pm

Woodcote Village Hall, Reading Road, Woodcote, RG8 0QY

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This month the British Modern Military History Society will be hosting a presentation given by acclaimed historian, broadcaster & author Paul Beaver on:
Taranto, the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two.

The Battle of Taranto

Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
The raid on Taranto as depicted by a Robert Taylor painting.
The Taranto Attack is the most celebrated Fleet Air Arm victory since the birth of Naval Aviation. On a single night, a small band of supposedly obsolete aircraft changed the face of the war in the Mediterranean, and proved once and for all the complete supremacy of the aircraft carrier. The iconic aircraft that flew that mission and many more throughout WWII was the Fairey Swordfish, affectionately known as ‘The Stringbag’.

Operation Judgement - a Blueprint for Pearl Harbour

Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
A Swordfish being loaded with a torpedo on the HMS Illustrious. Image courtesy of Fleet Air Arm Museum

On the night of 11 November 1940, Operation Judgment commenced when twenty-one Fairey Swordfish Biplanes from 813, 825, 819 and three from 824 Naval Air Squadrons launched a devastating attack from HMS Illustrious that changed the face of Naval Aviation and set a blueprint for the Japanese air strike on Pearl Harbour.

The Swordfish Attack

The Swordfish attacked in two waves from HMS Illustrious and each aircraft was fitted with an extra fuel tank for endurance and armed with either 18 inch torpedoes or 250 lbs armour piercing bombs and flares.

Approaching the harbour from the south west at 22:58 hours, the first wave of 12 Swordfish found six battleships, seven heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and eight destroyers at anchor.
Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
Swordfish landing at sunset. Image courtesy of Fleet Air Arm Museum
As they began their attack, the sky was illuminated by flares and intense anti-aircraft fire. At around midnight, the second wave of nine Swordfish arrived over the harbour from the North West.
Dropping their ordnance, they cleared the harbour and returned to their carrier.
Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two

Event Details and Entry Cost

Entry cost is just £8, payable on the door,  and will include the talk and a Q & A, drinks, light snacks (sandwiches etc.) and a contribution to a military charity. Car parking is available on site.
Do join us for what should be a fascinating talk.  To help us with catering and numbers, please let us know if you are coming either through info@bmmhs.org, or our Facebook Event page. 

Meeting Venue: Woodcote Village Hall RG8 0QY

Woodcote Village Hall
Woodcote Village Hall
Woodcote Village Hall

If you are unable to attend this meeting but would be interested in attending any of our future presentations or joining any organised trips please contact us on info@bmmhs.org so we can keep you updated.

We look forward to welcoming you to this meeting.

British Losses

Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
The raid on Taranto as depicted by a Robert Taylor painting.
Of the two Swordfish shot down, the two crew members of the first aircraft were taken prisoner, the other two died in their plane.
By 03:00 the striking force was back on-board HMS Illustrious.

The Fleet Air Arm Raid left the battleship Conte di Cavour sunk and the battleships Littorio and Caio Duilio heavily damaged and they also badly damaged a heavy cruiser.

Royal Navy Success

In one night, the Royal Navy succeeded in halving the Italian battleship fleet and gained a strategic advantage in the Mediterranean

Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
R.N. Conte di Cavour – Cavour after Taranto’ s air raid 12/11/1940. Image courtesy of Fleet Air Arm Museum

Biographical notes – Paul Beaver​

Paul Beaver is very much a hands-on historian with a pilot’s log book which includes the Spitfire, Harvard and Mustang. He regulars flies the family Cessna and coordinates the flying at the Chalke Valley History Festival as an authorised civilian and military flying display director. He is an acknowledged expert on the Spitfire, the Battle of Britain, the Dambuster raid, Naval Aviation and Cold War operations. He is a Vice-President of the Spitfire Society.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Paul launched a series of heritage posters and a Flypast Guidebook which led to him being the historical advisor to Channel 4’s presentation of the Battle of Britain at Goodwood. His latest book, SPITFIRE EVOLUTION was published on 5th March 2016 to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Type 300 which became the Spitfire.

Well qualified as a pilot and historian, Paul spent 15 years directly linked to Jane’s including Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Jane’s Defence Weekly. He made JDW into a household name in 1990 through his broadcasting during the Liberation of Kuwait and eventually became a freelance war correspondent for Sky News and a studio ‘expert’ for BBC News and CNN International, for whom he jointly presented the 50th Anniversary of D-Day (from Normandy), VE- Day (from Moscow) and the Hong Kong Handover. During this time, Paul wrote more than 50 books on naval and aviation history.

He is also Chairman of Trustees of the Barnes Wallis Foundation, a former Trustee of the International Bomber Command Centre, as well as member of the Air & Space Power Association, a member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society and the Battle of Britain Historical Society. In June 2014, he delivered a sell-out lecture at the Chalke Valley History Festival, taking the people, places and politics of the Spitfire as his theme, which led to Spitfire People published in June 2015 with a foreword by the late Captain Eric (Winkle) Brown CBE DSC AFC RN. Paul is writing Winkle’s biography for publication by Penguin-Random House in 2020. His latest book, Forgotten Few was published in April and details the 57 naval pilots of the Battle of Britain.
Paul is a Member of No 601 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force which traces its history back to before the Battle of Britain. Previously, he had been an army aviation reservist, retiring in 2013 with the rank of Colonel. From 2014-16, he was Chairman of No 1010 (City of Salisbury) Squadron of the Air Cadet Organisation and retains a strong interest in education, advising the Aviation Skills Partnership on armed forces-related STEM. He lectures regularly at the Army Flying Museum and for the Royal Aeronautical Society of which he is a fellow. He is a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

The Fairey Swordfish

Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
Pilot, Observer & TAG in Swordfish. Image courtesy of Fleet Air Arm Museum
Taranto the sinking of the Italian fleet in World war Two
Pilot, Observer & TAG. Image courtesy of Fleet Air Arm Museum

The Swordfish was one of the most successful aircraft in the history of naval air warfare. It sits at the heart of the nation’s naval aviation heritage and its importance to the Royal Navy and the nation is profound. Between 1939 and 1945, Swordfish saw active service worldwide, pursuing the enemy afloat and ashore in every theatre of the war, between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the Equator and the Arctic Circle. The success of the Swordfish came from its versatility, though it is best known for the major role it played in defeating the U-boat threat in the Battle of the Atlantic. Swordfish aircraft operated from escort carriers, patrolling in the mid-Atlantic gap, helping keep U-boats submerged and providing vital air cover for the convoys.

Source: Navy Wings

Battle of Taranto
Swordfish at The Battle of the Atlantic

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