LS326 is one of the last remaining Swordfish in the world. The story of her survival is incredible and few who have seen her fly can begin to appreciate the luck, care and perseverance that have been expended keeping her in the air. All who have contributed to maintaining her airworthiness over the last sixty plus years have had to face every difficulty – virtually rebuilding the aircraft in 1955, and the engine in 1967, searching the world for spares.
The aircraft was even a movie star at one point, when she had a part in the film “Sink the Bismarck!”, demonstrating the pivotal role that the then near-obsolete Fairey Swordfish played in World War II when they dropped torpedoes on the mighty German battlecruiser, disabling the ship so it could be overtaken and targeted by the surface fleet.
LS 326 is a “Blackfish” built in 1943 by Blackburn Aircraft at Sherburn-in-Elmet. She served with ‘L’ and ‘K’ Flights of 836 Squadron (the largest ever Fleet Air Arm Squadron) on board the Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC) ships Rapana and Empire MacCallum, on North Atlantic Convoy protection duties. Following her active service she was used for training and communications duties from the Royal Naval Air Station Culham near Oxford and Worthy Down near Winchester.
In 1947 Fairey Aviation bought LS326 and displayed her at various RAeS Garden party displays. The following year she was sent to White Waltham for storage and remained there gradually deteriorating until Sir Richard Fairey gave orders for the aircraft to be rebuilt. The restoration was completed in October 1955 and thereafter she was kept in flying condition at White Waltham registered as G-AJVH and painted Fairey Blue and silver.
In 1959 LS326 was repainted for a starring role in the film “Sink the Bismarck!”, playing a pivotal role for which the aircraft became famous for in WWII.
In October 1960 LS326 was presented to the Royal Navy by the Westland Aircraft Company and was delivered to Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton and has been operated from there ever since.
In 1962 she made her final flight from an aircraft carrier deck when she was flown off HMS Hermes in the English Channel in November, having earlier been winched on board for the annual Taranto Night dinner.
For many years she retained her “Bismarck” colour scheme and in 1984 D-Day invasion stripes were also added for the 40th Anniversary celebrations, when she overflew the beaches of Normandy. Since 1987 LS326 has worn her original wartime colour scheme for North Atlantic convoys with ‘L’ Flight of 836 Squadron.
Between 1999-2008 she underwent extensive work by BAE Systems Brough to her wings. She has being flying since 2008.
LS326 was adopted by the City of Liverpool, the name she proudly wears on her port side.