Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Naval aviators plan virtual celebration of their finest hour at Taranto

A painting depicting a Swordfish making a run on the Italian Fleet at anchor in Taranto Harbour
29 October 2020
Guardians of the Navy’s flying heritage are asking you to donate £10 to celebrate the Fleet Air Arm’s finest hour – and keep vintage aircraft airborne.

November 11 marks the 80th anniversary of the greatest feat of arms by British naval aviators – knocking out the core of the Italian Fleet in its wartime base with just 20 sluggish Swordfish bombers.

In a matter of minutes, three battleships and one heavy cruiser were knocked out of action for the loss of just two attacking aircraft.

Taranto was the most devastating demonstration of naval air power yet and served as the blueprint for the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 13 months later.

Two Swordfish (both later World War 2 models) form the core of the collection of airworthy vintage aircraft looked after at RNAS Yeovilton by the charity Navy Wings.

The charity has been starved of all its usual display fees this year with air shows across the UK falling victim to the pandemic.

The government has given Navy Wings £280,000 to help plug some of the gap – part of a £1.5bn rescue package for museums and cultural institutions.

In the Fleet Air Arm, the Navy has its most devastating weapon

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cunningham

But it still needs money to support its never-ending maintenance, repair and restoration work.

With Covid 19 hitting traditional Taranto Night celebrations – the Fleet Air Arm prefers to mark the date, rather than Trafalgar – the charity has hit upon a virtual event to mark the landmark.

A virtual ‘top table’ of leading RN aviators past and present including former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, Rear Admiral Tom Cunningham, the president and chairman of Navy Wings respectively, Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, chairman the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association and Rear Admiral Martin Connell, the present-day head of naval aviation will host a short celebration of Taranto 80 between 7pm and 7.30pm via Zoom.

Admirals Zambellas and Connell will give short speeches followed by a toast to ‘the Men of Taranto’ (sadly all the veterans of the raid have crossed the bar).

They will be dressed in mess kit or black tie with miniatures and Fleet Air Arm cummerbund. If you decided to join them virtually, you should dress appropriately for your situation.

To receive a link to the Zoom event and join in the celebrations, Navy Wings are asking for a £10 donation

Participants should submit photos or even videos of their celebrations. The host of the table who provides the most imaginative record which that captures the spirit of the evening will receive a special prize from the charity.

To learn more about the raid, see the special feature we produced for the 70th anniversary in 2010.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.