Unsurpassed Gallantry We Must Never Forget


No single action in British Naval history sums up the Navy Wings aim to Inspire and Remember more significantly or relates more directly to the importance of keeping the Swordfish flying today – as a living memorial to all those who have given their lives in the service of naval aviation.

On 12th February 1942, six Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bombers from 825 Naval Air Squadron, set off from RAF Manston on what they knew to be a one-way trip. Lt Cdr Esmonde rallied his men and led from the front, showing a great display of Naval core values.

Esmonde flew as part of the first wave and was shot down before the torpedo could be dropped. The other two ditched after successfully releasing their payloads. The three remaining aircraft were seen to have disappeared into a cloud of smoke. All but five of the eighteen personnel sadly perished during the mission.

Oral History

Listen to Sub Lieutenant Kingsmill talk about his experience in the Swordfish.

Listen on the Imperial War Museum website

The late Lt Cdr Esmonde was awarded the Victoria Cross on behalf of all those who took part in this brave and courageous act. They well and truly lived up to the 825 motto.

“Nihil Obstat – Nothing Stops Us.”