Scotland

Scottish pilot who helped sink the Bismarck dies

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Media captionJohn Moffat recalls dropping the torpedo that crippled the Bismarck

A Scottish veteran pilot who helped to sink the Bismarck during World War Two has died at the age of 97.

Lt Cdr John "Jock" Moffat was credited with launching the torpedo that crippled the German warship in 1941.

The air strike carried out by the biplanes from HMS Victorious and Ark Royal on 26 May 1941 was said to have been Britain's last hope of stopping the Bismarck.

Mr Moffat described flying through "a lethal storm of shells and bullets".

Born in Kelso in June 1919, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 1938 and was posted to Ark Royal with 759 Naval Air Squadron after qualifying as a pilot.

Image copyright MOD

In total, he served with four squadrons in a fleet air arm career spanning eight years.

After the war he trained as a hotel manager and remained with the profession for decades.

He took up flying again in his 60s and flew into his early 90s.

In recent years he campaigned for the No side in the Scottish independence referendum, appearing alongside Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in 2014 to make the defence case for the Union.

The air strike on the Bismarck was launched as the battleship headed to the relative safety of waters off the coast of France.

Image caption The order to sink the Bismarck was given as the powerful battleship tried to break out into the Atlantic
Image copyright MOD
Image caption John Moffat flew the Swordfish through a hail of shells and bullets

Mr Moffat and his crew took off in his Swordfish L9726 from the deck of Ark Royal and headed for the Bismarck, fighting against driving rain, low cloud and a gale.

Naval chiefs said he flew in at 50ft, nearly skimming the surface of the waves, in a hail of bullets and shells, to get the best possible angle of attack on the ship.

At 21:05 he dropped the torpedo which hit its target, jamming the rudder of Hitler's flagship.

Speaking to BBC Scotland earlier this year, he said: "The Bismarck turned on its side and all these sailors seemed to be in the water - it lived with me for a long time."

The battleship was forced to steam in circles until the guns of the Royal Navy's home fleet arrived the next morning.

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

"The great thing about the Swordfish was that the bullets just went straight through. After all, it was only made of canvas. It was like David and Goliath."

Mr Moffat's death was announced by the Royal Navy.

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