Mediterranean Mystery (Swordfish) oil on canvas 61.5 x 76.5cm (24 3/16 x 30 1/8in).
This picture depicts a Fairey Swordfish Torpedo bomber taking off from the flight deck of HMS "Illustrious", and is thought to commemorate the famous night raid by 21 Swordfish of the Fleet Air Arm on the Italian Naval base at Taranto, on November 11th 1940. This raid, the first mounted by aircraft against capital ships, resulted in the sinking or disabling of three Battleships and one Cruiser, with the loss of ony two aircraft. It radically changed attitudes towards airborne assault and was thought to have directly influenced the Japanese when planning Pearl Harbour.
The Fairey Swordfish, known as "Stringbags" by their aircrew because of their prodigious carrying capacity first entered operation in 1936, and were thought obsolete when war was declared in 1939. Originally planned as a spotter aircraft to detect the fall of shot for the big guns, they were converted to the role of bomber, loaded with either conventional high explosives or torpedoes. Although terrifyingly slow, they carried out several notable attacks including that on the "Bismark". They served with the Royal Navy right up until the end of the war.