The Channel Dash, codenamed operation Cerberus by the Germans, was one of the most audacious naval operations of all time. In early 1942, three of the Kriegsmarine's most powerful warships were stranded in the French port of Brest, unable to easily recover to a German port and under repaet bombing attacks by the RAF.
The three German capital ships, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen had no choice but to run the British naval blockade around the port of Brest and break for home waters through the English Channel - a stretch of water in places only 30 miles wide - under the noses of the RAF, Royal Navy and shore batteries.
On the night of teh 11th of February, the German ships slipped through the blockade and made full speed into the Channel. Unfortunately for teh British, and luckily for the Germans, the ships were not spotted until the following morning by two Spitfires of the RAF, however, due to needing to maintain radio silence, they did not inform their superiors until landing.
While the RAF and Royal Navy had been expecting this operation their response was far from effective. Just six Swordfish bi-planes made up the intial strike force. Led by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, DSO, they circled their RAF Manston base for around five minutes, waiting for their allotted escort of RAF Spitfires, but it was just ten aircraft of number 72 Squadron that found the Swordfish and escorted them, against a force of up to 250 Luftwaffe fighters.
The attack was suicide. The Spitfires soon became embroiled in a whirling dogfight with the Luftwaffe fighters, leaving the six Swordfish to the mercy of any other fighers and the murderous flak. Esmonde pressed home his Torpedo run to the lowest level, even flying when his port wing was shot off and his aircraft aflame. All the aircraft were lost, with just five crewmen surviving. Esmonde was not one of the survivors.
All the ships escaped unharmed, the only damage to them during the whole operation was thanks to mines laid in the approach to their own harbours. Repeated attacks by bomber command and coastal command were ineffective, as were the shore batteries and destroyer assaults.
For his heroic attack, Esmonde was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The attack was made in the foulest of weather, against the most determined enemy who outclassed them in both numbers and equipment, but the bravery of the Swordfish crews cannot be questioned and was even commented on by the German captain of Scharnhost " What an heroic stage for them to meet their end on. Behind then, their homeland, which that had just left with their hearts steeled to their purpose still in view" abd spurred a Daily Mail Reporter to write:
"This is an episode in the Battle of the Straits of which Britons can be rightly proud. In planes which, against German protecting aircraft, were as slow as cart horses compared with a motor car, 18 men of the Fleet Air Arm flew over the Channel. Crippled and ablaze before they got within range, they kept on, delivered their attack - and died"
"18 Men We Shall Never Forget"
Paint Scheme - Fairy Swordfish Mk.1, W5984/H, flown by LT-Commander Eugene Esmonde VC, DSO, Operation 'Fuller' ('The Channel Dash'), No.825 Naval Air Squadron, Royal Air Force Manston, England, 12th February 1942; Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb, No.42 Squadron, Royal Airforce Gravesend, Operation 'Fuller' ('The Channel Dash'), 12th February 1942.
9 x Acrylic Paints
2 x Brushes
1 x Poly Cement
Fairy Swordfish Mk.1: L154 x W193 - Pieces 125
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb: L118 x W155 - Pieces 35
Airfix Gift Sets are ideal for more advanced modellers and include glue, acrylic paints and brushes
Flying Hours: 3
Dimensions (mm): Various
Number of Parts: 160