Naval pilot who crippled the Bismarck dies aged 97

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm

2016 ends for Naval aviation as it began – with the loss of one of its greatest heroes.

After the passing of legendary test pilot Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown early in the year, the Fleet Air Arm community now mourns for Lt Cdr John ‘Jock’ Moffat – the man credited by some with decisively crippling the Bismarck.

Jock took part in the fateful attack by antiquated Swordfish bombers at dusk on May 26 1941, an attack which resulted in a lucky torpedo hit against Bismarck's rudder, jamming it. 

Despite every effort by its crew, the battleship steamed in circles until the guns of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet arrived the next morning to finish Bismarck off – and avenge the loss of the world-famous battle-cruiser Hood, which the German leviathan had blown up three days earlier.

The air strike carried out by the biplanes of HMS Victorious and Ark Royal at last light on May 26 had been Britain’s last hope of slowing or stopping the Bismarck before it reached the relative safety of waters off France.

With his crew of observer Sub Lt ‘Dusty’ Miller, and telegraphist/air gunner Albert Hayman, a 21-year-old Jock Moffat took off in Swordfish L9726 from the deck of Ark Royal and made for Bismarck, fighting against driving rain, low cloud and a Force 9 gale.

He flew in at 50 feet, barely skimming the surface of the waves, in a hail of bullets and shells, to get the best possible angle of attack on the ship and, at 9.05pm, dropped his torpedo.

When Churchill gave the order to sink the Bismarck, we knew we just had to stop her trail of devastation at all costs!

Lt Cdr John ‘Jock’ Moffat, WW2 Swordfish pilot