You are on page 1of 17

The forgotten aircraft of 1940

These Battle of Britain names trip off your tongue Spitfire, Hurricane, Messerschmitt and if you are an aficionado you may even be able to throw in Heinkel, Stuka, Dornier or even Zerstorer. But in 1940 the war in the skies over the Channel was fought not just by these aircraft, but by dozens, and their contribution is often forgotten by historys love affair with the Spitfire and Messerschmitt. For example, what is the aircraft to the left? Dozens of RAF pilots reported shooting it down, but German records show not a single aircraft of this type lost. What was the most heavily armed fighter of the Battle? What was the only biplane which saw combat in the conflict? And which lone aircraft took on 8 Ju88 heavy fighters and downed six of them?

The Spitfire story galvanised a nation and became a symbol of hope at a time of despair. The Hurricane accounted for more British air victories than the Spitfire and came to represent the British Bulldog spirit. But thanks to far sighted officials at the Air Ministry, 1940 was a time of incredible advances in air to air combat, not only in Fighter Command but also in Coastal Command. The flagship of the Coastal Command fleet was the elegant but deadly S25 Short Sunderland.

The S25 Short Sunderland was a British flying boat patrol bomber developed for the Royal Air Force by Short Brothers, first flown on 16 October 1937 by Shorts' Chief Test Pilot, John Lankester Parker. Based in part upon the S.23 Empire flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways, the S25 was extensively re-engineered for military service. It was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout the Second World War, and was involved in countering the threat posed by German Uboats in the Battle of the Atlantic. It was surprisingly in air-air combat it earned its nickname "Fliegendes Stachelschwein" (Flying Porcupine). On 3 April 1940, a Sunderland operating off Norway was attacked by six German Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers and managed to shoot one down, damage another enough to send it off to a forced landing, and drove off the rest. Believing it to be armed with a 20mm cannon, the Germans are reported to have nicknamed the Sunderland Porcupine due to its defensive firepower and to the several prominent antennas protruding from it. But it was later in the war the Sunderland proved both its ability to take, and dish out punishment, as a lone RAAF Sunderland took on 8 Ju88s in a dogfight that became known as The Battle of the Bay

Time 1815 hours. The crew changed watch, which they did every hour. The pilots moved over, Amiss out of the flying seat and Walker into it. Dowling in to the right hand seat. Another wireless operator sat down at the set and plugged in; the engineers changed and the relief gunners moved into the turrets. The reports, as always, came over the intercom. Tail to Control. Goode in position. Midships to Control. Fuller in position. Nose to Control. Watson in position. Control to all positions, understood! Simpson had left his charts and now stood in the astrodome. He looked out over the glaring sea and into the cloudless sky. Keep a

sharp lookout, he said deliberately, Were in Tiger Country. We are approaching the position where the airliner was shot down yesterday. Its on our course, dont forget the dinghy. 1900 hours. Goode, swinging his tail turret to the right, suddenly stopped. His eyes widened and his heart missed a beat. Tail to Control, he barked, Eight aircraft. Thirty degrees on the port quarter. Six miles. Up 1,000 feet. Pause, electric silence. A moment or two of shock. Simpson suddenly jumped to the astrodome. Walker rammed his throttles wide and sounded the alarm. Dowling hauled on the pitch levers and the engines howled at 2600 revolutions a minute. Control to tail, can you identify those aircraft? Twin engined, said Goode, Probably Junkers 88s. They were. They came sweeping in at high speed.

Captain to wireless operator, Walkers voice was sharp and urgent, Message to Group, o/a priority. Attacked by eight Ju88shows that inner engine, engineer? No worse, Captain, no better. Captain to Galley, have you got the bombracks out? Ready Captain. Right, bombs gone. Youve got to work fast. Run in the racks, close the doors, and get cracking with the galley guns. Whos down there to man them? Miles on starboard, sir. Lane on the port. Thanks. Control to all positions, Simpson again. Theyve spread all around us. Hold your fire until theyre in range. Dont shoot before six hundred yards. Three on the starboard beam, three port beam; one on each quarter. Range 1500 yards, 1500 feet up.

Simpson paused and they all waited. Suddenly his voice was there again, precise, calm, yet underlaid with urgency. Okay. Theyre coming. One peeling off from each beam. Prepare to corkscrew. 1200 yards. 1000 yards. Theyre firing. Prepare to corkscrew to starboard. 800 yards. Corkscrew starboard. Go! Walker jammed over the wheel with a violent thrust of strength. The Sunderland screwed steeply down. Shell and tracer blasted right through it. Corkscrew port. Go! Walker savagely reversed controls. The boat shuddered with shock and spun to the left. The port outer engine burst into flames. Smoke and fire scattered over the wing. Incendiary bullets ripped up the cockpit. Walkers compass blew up and sprayed him with blazing, alcohol. Liquid fire splashed across the bridge and poured down the companionway into the bow compartment. Through a confusion of sound and vibration and choking smoke, Walker heard Simpson urging him to straighten up. But two more 88s were on the way in. They had blooded. They had scored in the first attack and they were screaming in for the kill. Walker yelled at Dowling, Take over! Fly it! Weve got to get these fires out!

Amiss wrenched the extinguisher from its bracket on the bulkhead and turned it full onto the captain, because Walker was burning. Simpsons calm voice was still coming through the earphones. Eight hundred yards, he was saying, Corkscrew portCorkscrew port. And Walker was hearing it, but seeing nothing, only smelling the smoke and the extinguishing fluid and now the Sunderland was plunging down again and Dowling was fighting the controls. Amiss, hanging on his extinguisher and clinging for support to anything he could hold, was chasing the fires. Walker pressed the Graviner switch to extinguish the blazing engine. The fire snuffed out into clouds of white smoke which the aircraft left

behind it as a billowing trail. The engine was finished. The airscrew windmilled and dragged and Dowling was up against it. Walker swung on Amiss again. Give the wireless operator a message for Group. On Fire. The 88s were still coming in, again and again. They pressed their attacks with fury and reckless courage and Dowling could scarcely hold his aircraft. It was pulling like a made thing to port on the dead engine. He wound the trimming tabs over as fast as his hand could fly, but it still didnt take up the pressure, he still had his full weight jammed against the rudder pedal to hold control. Simpsons voice suddenly dropped in pitch, Theyre reforming, theyve returned to quarters and beamsTheyre coming, one from port and one from starboard, firing from 1,000 yards. 800 yards. Turn and dive to starboard. Now! Tighter captain! Now port, Port! Corkscrew port. Hes coming right in, tight as you can make it Col. Shells and bullets crashed into the Sutherland. Tail had a go at the rapidly nearing fighter on the port, but midships didnt. Fullers guns lay fully depressed with his turret turned starboard. He rested over his guns, eyes slitted. Little Fuller, no more than a boy, sat on his guns, barrels down, and watched the 88 on the starboard side hurtle at him, watched as the bullet holes spattered all round him, yet didnt waver. He watched until that thundering 88 filled up the sky, head on, and was fifty yards off the wing tip. Fuller flashed his guns up, sighted and shot. Hundreds of rounds slaughtered the Ju88 as it broke away. Fuller poured them into it and suddenly it was a cloud of flame and black smoke and bits and pieces. It screamed vertically into the sea.

Straighten up, said Simpson, not unmoved. Straight and level. Get some height. Theyre coming again, two more of them in line astern on the port quarter. 1200 yards. Prepare to turn and dive to port. 1,000 yards and theyre firing cannon. 800. Hold your fire. Turn and dive to port. Go! They went over and down, a tight giddy turn towards the sea. The Sunderland didnt fire. No man fired except the 88s. Nose and tail and midships sat over their sights and waited. Shells and armour piercing bullets crashed into the hull, shot away the elevator and rudder trimming wires, severed the tail hydraulics, and slammed the turret violently against the stops. Goode collapsed over his guns. Still the enemy came in. Still the Sutherland held fire. All it did was scream around in its turn and didnt fire a shot. The first 88 broke away, and the second came on and in to two hundred yards. Open fire!! yelled Simpson. They fired, nose and midships together, Fuller and Watson as one man. Tracers spun their lazy arc toward the Junkers. It pulled up sharply and broke away. Fuller and Watson followed him with pause or mercy. A thin stream of smoke came from the fighters starboard engine, then a sudden burst of dark flame It dropped toward the water and struck the surface in a smother of foam. It bounced vertically, hung for a split second, then plunged into the sea. A column of oily smoke shot up like a rocket.

Superb, said Simpson, Two destroyed. Theres another coming in now on the starboard. Prepare to turn and dive to starboard. And now theyre coming up from below. Watch them Galley. One on each quarter. Fire as soon as you like. Tail, hes yours, too. Get onto him. Good shooting Galley, youve scared him off. 88 on the starboard still coming in. Dont hold your fire tail, get into him. Control to tail.Captain, tails bought it. A brief silence, then Walkers voice, Captain to second pilot. Get him out, put in a galley gunner. Be slick.

Then again it was Simpsons voice, An attack developing from the starboard, 1000 yards to the starboard bow. Two aircraft in line astern. Prepare to corkscrew starboard. 800. Corkscrew, go!! Suddenly the bridge was filled with smoke and flying shrapnel and broken glass. A cannon shell burst inside the aircraft against the radio bulkhead, shattered the petrol gauges and every instrument in sight, wrecked the wireless and wounded half the men on the bridge. The wireless operator was injured, the first pilot and the navigator. Simpson came down from his dome in a heap with a lump of steel in his leg. Miles, down below on the starboard galley gun, clasped his stomach and collapsed. There was a long moment of dreadful confusion. It was chaos. The bridge was a maze of twisted metal and broken glass. It reeked of cordite. The intercom had been shot away. The airspeed indicator had ceased to work. The flying controls were damaged. The airframe was warped. Walker looked out to port and actually saw the port outer propeller and reduction gear fall off the engine and tumble toward the sea. He saw another 88 coming in on that side, already at short range, so he turned toward it, shouting at Dowling to help him. They turned, and it took the strength of two men to control it.

Simpson stood in the dome, his voice silenced. Now they had to fight without coordinated control. What the pilots saw, they would be able to avoid. What they didnt see, would shoot them down. Simpson dropped from his dome and yelled desperately to Miller, the wireless operator (another man who had been silenced) Watch me, he shouted, and tell the Captain! Tell him what to do. Miller nodded and so they continued, Simpson up in the dome again, with his life blood oozing over his boots, flying the evasive actions with his hands and his screaming voice, and Miller passing it up to Walker. Amiss was still trying to get to the tail turret to get Goode out and put another man in, but in the Galley he found Miles, convulsed over his gun, dying fast. They laid Miles

down on the bomb-room floor and Turner came down from the engineers bench to take Miles place at the gun. The battle continued. Amiss was struggling towards the tail. He was down on all fours like an animal, fighting his way an inch at a time along the catwalk up to the turret. The hull was like a colander and it was swimming in oil and de-icing fluid from punctured tanks and hydraulic lines. He reached the turret. He couldnt stand up, just stayed on all fours, shaken and stunned. The rear of the aircraft was shot to ribbons. He could see out of it, into the sky and the sea, through the great rents of cannon explosions . The turret itself was jammed over hard to port, and if Goode were alive, it would be a miracle. Amiss raised his fist and thumped against the turret door and Goode looked down at Amiss and have him a weak grin and turned his thumbs up. Amiss tried to get him out, but Goode wasnt interested. Despite shock and concussion, he mastered himself and tried to move his turret with the pressure of his body alone. He elevated his guns, though he had only his fingers to fire them, and declared himself back in the fight. Pause again. Another breather. The six 88s withdrew to the beam and quarters to reform for the final assault. A single 88 opened the assault from the starboard quarter and Walker turned steeply into that attack saw another coming from port and changed his turn into a violent corkscrew. The fighter on the starboard side broke off his attack surrounded by Fullers tracer, but the one on the port kept coming in with a fierce and sustained approach. Goode took up the challenge, fighting to hold his turret steady. He sighted it and depressed the sears of his guns with his fingers. He got it. Tracers ripped through the great jutting engines and at point blank range, and no before, Fuller poured two hundred rounds into its belly. The 88 screamed away like a hurt bird in a crazy blazing arc, and smashed into the sea at 300 miles an hour.

But the German airmen did not withdraw. They came again and again and again with some peculiar desperation which we cannot even begin to explain. Each attack was beaten back by a virtually impenetrable shield of tiny .303 bullets. Not one fighter escaped undamaged. Yet another aircraft closed in a suicidal onslaught across the starboard bow, and Watson in the nose emptied a pan of ammunition into its port wing. It vanished, engine ablaze, black smoke belching. Suddenly, so suddenly the revelation came as a shock, only two 88s remained in the skythe Sunderland prepared to meet the assault, but it petered out. They broke off at 800 yards without firing again and turned to the east and headed for France.

They werent wholly conscious. They couldnt believe it had happened. They couldnt believe this tattered shell remained in the air. They couldnt believe they had fired 7,000 rounds. They believed that they had destroyed 3 Ju88s, and damaged three others. But the major revelation was yet to come. The British naval listening station which maintained a constant watch on German frequencies listened in wonder to the repeated calls that were directed to the enemy aircraft. Only two replied. (Source: IVAN SOUTHALL in The War in the Air, 1939-1945.) Walker and his crew, all Australians, reached Britain, crash landed the riddled Sunderland near a beach and waded ashore, carrying the dead Sergeant Miles with them. Most of them died in a later operation.

Yes, Italy. It often comes as a surprise to learn that the Battle of Britain was not only fought between Germany and the Commonwealth of Great Britain. Axis ally Italy also contributed an airforce which admittedly was more significant for its political than its military impact. Among the combatants were some aircraft types better known (and perhaps suited) to the Mediterranean theatre of operations, including the only biplane which duelled with the RAF over the skies of SE England and the Channel. Fiat CR42 A biplane in the Battle of Britain? Italy joined late in the Battle, when in October 1940 as a gesture of political support they sent the Corpo Aereo Italia (CAI) to Belgium to join the Luftwaffe attack. Ironically one of their airfields was codenamed Icarus, after the Greek aviator who flew too close to the sun.

By the time the Gruppo was assembled and quartered the battle was nearly over but two major raids were recorded before the official end of the Battle of Britain, the most memorable being on 29 October - a daylight raid with a large fighter escort on Ramsgate Harbour. Fifteen bombers from 43o Stormo with Maggiore M. Tenti as leader with an escort of 39 Fiat CR.42s and 34 Fiat G.50bis plus a gruppe of Bf109E and Fs were briefed and took off. Three of the bombers were forced to abort due to engine troubles and two of them returned prematurely to Chivres while the third was forced to land at Ostend-Stene. The attack was performed at a relatively low level as if performing the Italian equivalent of the Hendon airshow, in formation wingtip to wingtip. All of the Italians

were gaily painted pale green and bright blue, camouflage for a more exotic climate than Britains in late October, and it made them stand out like peacocks among the eagles. The anti-aircraft gunners were as puzzled as everyone else by this strange sight in the sky, and it was a few minutes before fire was opened. The Italian armada then turned right in one formation, content to have over-flown enemy soil in order to provide Milan newspapers with appropriate propaganda and departed over Ramsgate upon which 75 bombs were scattered at 17.45. Lack of heating equipment, open cockpits, primitive radio sets, in addition to an absolute lack of navigational training of the Italian pilots (specific training was undertaken only after 1942) explained the sorry statistics for the CR42 in the Battle of Britain, with 24/50 destroyed or damaged against no confirmed RAF losses, by the time they retired from the Channel Front in January 1941. Of the Italian participation in the Battle of Britain Churchill famously said, "They might have found better employment defending their fleet at Taranto." The CR42 is believed to be included in the upcoming BoB: Storm of War flight sim. General characteristics Crew: 1 Length: 8.25 m (27 ft 1 in) Wingspan: Top wing: 9.70 m (31 ft 10 in) Bottom wing: 6.50 m (21 ft 4 in) Height: 3.06 m (10 ft) Wing area: 22.4 m (241.0 ft) Empty weight: 1,782 kg (3,929 lb) Loaded weight: 2,295 kg (5,060 lb) Powerplant: 1 Fiat A.74 RIC38 radial air cooled, fourteen cylinders radial engine, 627 kW (840 hp at 2,400 r.p.m./12,500 ft) Performance Maximum speed: 441 km/h (238 kt, 274 mph) at 20,000 ft Cruise speed: 399 km/h (215 kt, 248 mph) Range: 780 km (420 nm, 485 mi) Service ceiling 10,210 m (33,500 ft) Rate of climb: 11.8 m/s (2,340 ft/min) Wing loading: 102 kg/m (21 lb/ft) Power/mass: 270 W/kg (0.17 hp/lb) Armament Guns: First series : Breda SAFAT 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Later 2 12.7 mm (0.500 in) Breda SAFAT machine guns, 400 rounds/gun each. Two additional 12.7 mm machine-guns in underwing fairing on some. Bombs: 200 kg (440 lb) on two wing hardpoints

As schoolboys we all became familiar with the Messerschmitt Bf109 Emil and the Bf 110 Zerstorer. These archetypal aircraft came to represent the might of the German fighter onslaught and technical achievements of the period. Armed with 20mm cannon, and fuel injected engines, they were the fastest, most dangerous aircraft in the skies until the advent of the Spitfire. And the workhorses of the Luftwaffe bomber fleets are also household names the Heinkel 111, Stuka, and Dornier 17. But what was the most heavily armed fighter of the Battle of Britain? And what was the ghost fighter which RAF pilots claimed to have fought with, but which German records show never joined combat? He-113 or He100 Perhaps the most interesting fighter to fly during the Battle of Britain was the ghost fighter, the He-113. In many reports filed between August and October 1940 reference was made to combats with, and sightings of, Heinkel 113s. Designated He-100D, the so-called He-113 was an attractive and very fast interceptor, first flown in January 1938. Seven prototypes, three preproduction and twelve production aircraft were built but not accepted by the Luftwaffe for operational use.

The He-113 was a propaganda creation. In 1940 Joseph Goebbels publicised the fact that a new fighter was entering service with the Luftwaffe. The plan involved taking pictures of Heinkel He 100D-1's at different air bases around Germany, each time sporting a new paint job for various fictional fighter groups. The pictures were then published in the press with the He 113 name, sometimes billed as nightfighters. The aircraft also appeared in a series of "action shot" photographs in various magazines like Der Adler, including claims that it had proven itself in combat in Denmark and Norway. One source claims that the aircraft were on loan to the one

Luftwaffe staffeln in Norway for a time, but this might be a case of the same misinformation working many years later. It's unclear even today exactly who this effort was intended to impress foreign air forces or Germany's public but it seems to have been a successful deception. British intelligence featured the aircraft in AIR 40/237, a report on the Luftwaffe that was completed in 1940. However the deception was enough to force false sightings, and the inclusion of the He113 in the official Observer Corp recognition manual.

Six prototypes were sold to Russia and three pre-production aircraft to Japan (the subsequent similarities between the He-100 and the Japanese Ki-61 Tony which appeared in 1943, have often been remarked it was even based around the German DB601 engine). The twelve remaining He110Ds were used to form a special unit for the defence of the Heinkel factory and flown by company test pilots. Some aircraft were shown in propaganda leaflets in full camouflage and unit markings and given the spurious designation He113.

The He113s reported during the Battle of Britain resulted from faulty identification and were, in fact, Me109s.

Ju88C The Luftwaffe fighter mantle was not carried by Messerschmitt alone. The most heavily armed fighter to fly during 1940 was the Ju88 C heavy fighter. The Junkers Ju 88 first arose from a German Air Ministry requirement for a dedicated high-speed medium bomber. In a calculated move, Junkers temporarily recruited two engineers from America to help design the new aircraft. W.H. Evers and Alfred Grossner applied their considerable expertise in modern aircraft structural design to produce in the Ju 88 a remarkably efficient and adaptable design. The first prototype (D-AQEN) flew on 21 December 1936, and subsequent testing of additional prototypes confirmed its excellent performance. A production order followed and Luftwaffe service testing commenced early in 1939. The performance of the prototype had generated early interest in adapting the type for other roles, and one of the first roles considered was that of Zerstrer (heavy-fighter). The Luftwaffe concept of a twin-engined high-speed long-range day fighter was widely shared by other European air forces at the time. Accordingly, in early summer 1939, Junkers modified the Ju 88 V7 prototype to include a forward-firing armament of two 20 mm MG FF cannon and two 7.9 mm MG 17 machine-guns located in a modified nose section partially covered by metal plates. The under fuselage gondola was also removed and the crew reduced to three. Powered by two 1,200 hp Junkers Jumo 211B-1 engines, the unmodified Ju 88 V7 had first flown on 27 September 1938, and was soon back in the air testing the new armament. The new fighter offered a maximum speed similar to that of the much smaller Messerschmitt Bf 110, but with three times the range, and the type was ordered into limited production. A small batch of early production Ju 88A-1 bombers were converted into Ju 88C-0s during July and August 1939, and used operationally during the invasion of Poland by the Zerstrerstaffel of KG 30 for long-range ground-attack. It was initially planned that the subsequent production variants would be the the Ju 88C-1 with 1,600 hp BMW 801MA air-cooled radials, and the Ju 88C-2 with liquid-cooled 1,200 hp Jumo 211B-1 engines behind annular radiators. In the event, the BMW 801 engines were reserved for the new Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter and the C-1 and the proposed C-3 derivative were abandoned.

These aircraft were converted on the production line, and retained the ventral gondola. The C-2s were used for more than a year for coastal and anti-shipping patrol, before another role appeared. From May 1940, the RAF began to attack Germany regularly by night and it was quickly realised that anti-aircraft guns alone would not be able to defend Germany adequately. Accordingly, the Zerstrerstaffel of KG 30 was reinforced with additional Ju 88C-2s and redesignated II/NJG 1 in July, joining the newly established nightfighter force under General Kammhuber. It had a top speed of 307 mph and a typical range of 1040 km. It was armed with three 20 mm MG 151/20 fixed forward-firing cannons one in the nose and two in the ventral tray, three 7.92 mm MG 17 fixed forward-firing machine-guns in the nose, two 20 mm MG 151/20 obliquely upward and forward-firing cannons in the central fuselage and one 13 mm MG 131 trainable rearward-firing machine-gun in the rear of the cockpit. The Gruppe specialised in conducting night intruder operations - hunting RAF bombers over British aerodromes identified by radio intercepts. On 11 September 1940, the Gruppe was redesignated I/NJG 2. The small number of intruder aircraft available was hopelessly inadequate to counter the ever increasing threat from Bomber Command, and the perceived lack of results led to Hitler ordering the end of further intruder operations on 12 October 1941. I/NJG 2 was soon transferred to Sicily for intruder operations over Malta and the Mediterranean. Luftflotte 5 and the Heinkel 115 Luftflotte 5, based in Norway and Denmark, is not given much prominence in histories of the Battle of Britain, due to the limited impact that it had on the course of the conflict. The main problem with Luftflotte 5 was that because of the distance between its bases and the English coast, it was impossible for Me109 aircraft to provide any cover for the bombers because they were limited by the range of their fuel load. One of the more curious aircraft in the Luftflotte was the He115. While history has largely forgotten the He-115 and its role during the Battle of Britain, this may have been completely different if the Luftwaffe had succeeded in its quest to win air superiority to enable the launch of Operation Sealion. Faster than a PBY, Sunderland, or Do18, the He-115 was an effective mine-layer and torpedo bomber, and would have been crucial to mining and patrolling the sea lanes between Norway and Britain, to prevent the Royal Navy intercepting the invasion fleet.

While largely developed for export, in 1940 4 Luftwaffe units in Luftflotte 5 were equipped with the He115. In April 1940, 1./706 converted from the He 60s to He 115s, and was transferred to lborg in Denmark. This unit then performed several missions from Denmark and Norway, until it withdrew to Germany in August 1941. The entire Kstenfliegergruppe 506 but the 1. staffel was withdrawn to its homebase at the island Norderney in October 1940. The 1. staffel, which was left behind in Norway, flew several sorties on the cost of Scotland and England, primarly attacking convoy shipping. The He115 was found to be too poorly armed to defend itself in areas patrolled by the RAF, so it restricted its operations to attacks on convoys with light/no AA escorts. Attack on the Valiant On 9 June 1940 the British fleet was in the process of withdrawing from Norway. In what is probably the best known incident of 1940 involving a He115, aircraft S4EH of Kustenfliegergruppe 506 came upon the British taskforce. As S4EH commander Leutnant See Rembert van Delden began a torpedo run on the Valiant, a Blackburn Skua from the Ark Royal damaged the He115 and forced it to crash land an hour out from Trondheim. The crew were rescued by a fellow He115, after scuttling their aircraft. The aircraft was rediscovered during North Sea survey operations in the 1980s, and its location marked, but it has never been recovered. It is tempting to imagine the impact the He115 might have had on the war in 1940 if it had succeeded in torpedoing, and sinking, the Valiant. The loss of this great Battleship in the lead up to the Battle would have been a large blow to British morale, and Valiant went on to play a major part in the eventual allied victory at sea. She was one of three capital ships to take part in the Destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-elKebir, and saw

action at the Battle of Cape Matapan; she participated in actions during the battle of Crete, and was struck by two bombs. Along with her sister ship Queen Elizabeth, Valiant was mined and sunk by Italian frogmen in Alexandria harbour in December 1941. She had in fact only sunk a few feet to the bottom of the harbour and her decks remained clear. Although immobilised she was able to give the impression of full battle readiness. She was raised, repaired in South Africa, and then returned to the Mediterranean to support the landings in Sicily (Operation Husky) and at Salerno (Operation Avalanche) in 1943.

General characteristics Crew: 3 Length: 56 ft 9 in (17.3 m) Wingspan: 72 ft 10 in (22.2 m) Height: 21 ft 7.75 in (6.60 m) Wing area: 942 ft (87.5 m) Empty weight: 11,670 lb (5,290 kg) Loaded weight: 20,020 lb (9,080 kg) Powerplant: 2 BMW 132K 9-cylinder radial engines, 845 hp (630 kW) each Performance Maximum speed: 217 mph (349 km/h) Combat radius: 1,305 mi (2,100 km) Service ceiling 21,400 ft (6,520 m) Wing loading: 21.3 lb/ft (103.8 kg/m) Power/mass: 0.084 hp/lb (139 W/kg) Armament 1 fixed 7.92mm MG 17 and one flexible MG 15 7.92 mm machine gun Up to 2,205 lb. (1,000 kg) torpedo, anti-shipping mines or bombs