Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 1: The Biplane Era, Fairey Swordfish

Canadian Warplanes of the Biplane Era,

Fairey Swordfish

Data current to 1 April 2019.

The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane torpedo bomber originating in the early 1930s.  The Swordfish was nicknamed the "Stringbag", and was operated by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, the RCAF and the Royal Netherlands Navy.  It initially served as a fleet attack aircraft, and then during its later years, the Swordfish became increasingly used as an anti-submarine and training aircraft.  The Swordfish was in frontline service throughout the Second World War, even though it was considered obsolete at the outbreak of the conflict in 1939.

The Swordfish achieved some spectacular successes during the war; notable events included sinking one battleship and damaging two others of the Regia Marina (Italian Navy) during the Battle of Taranto, as well as the famous attack on the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) battleship Bismark, which contributed to her eventual demise.  By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft.  The Swordfish remained in front-line service until VE-Day, having outlived multiple aircraft that had been intended to replace it in service.  (Wikipedia)

When HMS Seaborn, a Royal Naval Air Section tenant unit at RCAF Station Dartmouth Nova Scotia, was decommissioned on 28 January 1946, the Royal Navy donated the 22 Swordfish then serving at HMS Seaborn to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The newly acquired Swordfish were used to form Fleet Requirements Unit 743 where they were used for general purpose duties.  With approval to form a RCN air arm reserve, some of the veteran Swordfish were ferried to 11 Naval Reserve Divisions across Canada for ground crew instructional purposes.

(Serial Nos. W5856, DK698, DK699, DK752, DK774, HS168, HS171, HS196, HS209, HS220, HS260, HS261, HS263- HS266, HS268, HS275, HS288, HS320, HS322- HS325, HS335- HS337, HS339, HS343, HS381, HS383, HS396-HS405, HS455, HS464- HS471, HS484-HS501, HS503, HS507, HS509- HS515, HS517- HS519, HS533, HS534, HS553- HS555, HS560, HS582, HS663, LS193, LS229, NE926, NE927, NE929, NE937, NE938, NE940, NE952, NE953, NF136, NF161), Mk. III (6), (Serial Nos. NR944, NR948, NR953, NS122, NS129, NS171), for a total of 105 aircraft.  The RCAF and the RCN flew the Swordfish Mk. IV with an enclosed cabin.


Fairey Fairey Swordfish IV in flight, Royal Navy.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3650801)

Ground crew unfolding the wings of the Fairey Swordfish used for the meteorological flight from HMS Sparrowhawk, Royal Naval Air Station, Hatston, The Orkneys.  (IWM Photo, A8581)

Fairey Swordfish in flight.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3650431)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. I on a training flight from Royal Naval Air Station Crail.  (IWM Photo, A3536)

Fairey Swordfish floatplane being hoisted aboard HMS Malaya, 1 Oct 1941.  (IWM Photo, A5694)

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (91) photographed circa 1939.  A Fairey Swordfish aircraft is taking off as another approaches from astern.  Two more are visible in the background.  (USN Photo)

Fairey Swordfish, Royal Navy, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 29 Sep 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo,  MIKAN No. 3306095)

 (Author Photos)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. 4 (Serial No. NS 122).  The exact identity of this Swordfish is unknown, but it was probably manufactured by Blackburn Aircraft Company Limited in Great Britain for the Royal Navy, and shipped to Canada.  It was purchased in the early postwar years by Tillsonburg, Ontario farmer Ernest V. Simmons, who bought a considerable amount of surplus war material, including around eight Fairey Swordfish.  Simmons kept the aircraft on his farm and few were sold during his lifetime.  He did, however, sell one Swordfish to the Canadian War Museum on 22 March 1965.  The aircraft was restored in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia by Fairey Aviation of Canada Limited and the Royal Canadian Navy.  It was purchased by the Museum in 1965 and assigned a fictitious serial number corresponding to that of a Swordfish flown in Canada during the Second World War.  (CA&SM)

 (Photo courtesy of Armchair Aviators)

 (Author Photo)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. III, RCN (Serial No. HS554), C-GEVS.  Vintage Wings of Canada, Gatineau, Quebec.

Fairey Swordfish in flight ca. 1941.  (Photo courtesy of the Shearwater Aviation Museum)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. IV (Serial No. HS325), Q, Naval Air Gunnery School.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 365094)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. IV (Serial No. HS268), Royal Navy, Yarmouth, NS, 29 Sep 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3650797)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. IV, RN (Serial No. HS275), J, No. 1 Naval Air Gunnery School, 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo,  MIKAN No. 3650796)


Fairey Swordfish, (Serial No. HS323), Royal Navy, Yarmouth, NS, 29 Sep 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo,  MIKAN No. 3390387)

 (Author Photos)

Fairey Swordfish Mk. II (Serial No. HS469), FB 3S 126A, C-GRCN, 1943.  Shearwater Aviation Museum, Nova Scotia.