OPERATION MASCOT was an unsuccessful British carrier air raid
conducted against the
German battleship Tirpitz
A force of 44 British dive bombers and 40 fighters took off from three aircraft carriers in the early hours of 17 July. German radar stations detected these aircraft while they were en route to Kaafjord, and Tirpitz was protected by a smoke screen by the time the strike force arrived. Few of the British airmen were able to spot the battleship, and their attacks did not inflict any significant damage. German losses were limited to a patrol craft, and three British aircraft were destroyed or damaged beyond repair by Kaafjord's defenders. A group of German submarines attempted to intercept the carrier force as it returned to base, without success. Two U-boats were sunk near the carriers by British patrol aircraft and several others were damaged.
In August 1944, the
* 1 Background * 2 Preparations * 3 Opposing forces * 4 Attack * 5 Submarine actions * 6 Aftermath
* 7 References
* 7.1 Citations * 7.2 Bibliography
From early 1942 Tirpitz posed a significant threat to the Allied
convoys transporting supplies through the
Several air and naval attacks were launched against Tirpitz in 1942
and 1943. On 6 March 1942, torpedo bombers flying from the aircraft
carrier HMS Victorious attacked the battleship while she was
attempting to intercept
Convoy PQ 12 but did not achieve any hits.
Land-based bombers from the
Royal Air Force
As Tirpitz was still considered a major threat to Allied shipping,
the British military sought to damage or destroy the battleship before
she could re-enter service. Another midget submarine attack was
considered impractical due to improvements to Kaafjord's defences, and
the commander of the RAF's Bomber Command refused to attempt heavy
bomber raids against the battleship as he believed that such
operations were unlikely to be successful and would result in heavy
casualties. As a result, the Home Fleet's aircraft carriers were
considered the best means of attacking Kaafjord, and the Admiralty
directed the fleet to begin planning such a raid in late 1943.
Following several months of preparations the Home Fleet's first attack
on Kaafjord, which was designated
British intelligence assessed that Tirpitz could be repaired within
six months, and the
Three raids against Tirpitz were cancelled after launch due to
unfavourable weather during April and May 1944. The first of these
attacks, Operation Planet, began when the
Home Fleet sailed from its
Kaafjord The location of Kaafjord in northern Norway
Despite the lack of success, the
As detected by the British, repairs to Tirpitz following Operation
Tungsten progressed quickly. Work on repairing the battleship began in
late April, and 157 shipyard workers and special equipment were
As Victorious had been redeployed to the Indian Ocean in June, the
carriers selected for
The composition of the striking force was broadly similar to that
used in the earlier operations targeting Tirpitz. Formidable embarked
No. 8 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Wing, whose 827 and 830 Naval Air
Squadrons each operated 12 Barracudas, as well as 1841 Naval Air
Squadron , which was equipped with 18 Corsairs. Indefatigable carried
No. 9 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Wing, which was also equipped with
24 Barracudas split between 820 and 826 Naval Air Squadrons , as well
as the Seafire-equipped
894 Naval Air Squadron and 1770 Naval Air
The defences of Kaafjord were improved following Operation Tungsten.
Prior to this raid they had comprised eleven batteries of
anti-aircraft guns, several anti-aircraft warships and a system of
smoke generators capable of hiding Tirpitz from aircraft. After the
attack, additional radar stations and observation posts were
established and the number of smoke generators located around the
battleship was increased. The improved defences in place by the time
As well as the German forces located near Kaafjord, a patrol line of
twelve submarines designated Group Trutz was also established around
the island of
Rear Admiral McGrigor issued an operational memo to the air units
The British fleet left
The carriers began launching their aircraft shortly after midnight on 17 July. The main striking force comprised 44 Barracudas, with the plan for the raid specifying that No. 8 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Wing's aircraft would attack before those of No. 9 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Wing. All but two of the dive bombers were armed with powerful 1,600-pound (730 kg) armour-piercing bombs; the other aircraft each carried three 500-pound (230 kg) bombs. 1841 Naval Air Squadron's 18 Corsairs were assigned to provide protection against German fighters, and the 20 Hellcats and 12 Fireflies operated by 1840 and 1770 Naval Air Squadrons respectively were given the task of suppressing anti-aircraft guns.
After forming up, the bombers and fighters began their flight to Kaafjord at 01:35. The aircraft flew 50 feet (15 m) above the sea to evade German radar until they reached a point ten minutes flying time from the Norwegian coast, at which time the Barracudas climbed to 9,000 feet (2,700 m) and the fighters to higher altitudes. The weather was fine throughout the flight, but clouds were sighted as the aircraft neared the target area.
The British strike force was detected by German radar stations when it reached a point 43 miles (69 km) from Kaafjord at 02:00. It took four minutes to pass a warning to Tirpitz; her protective smoke generators were in action by 02:13 and quickly covered the vessel in an artificial cloud. The battleship and anti-aircraft batteries located on the shore began firing a barrage towards the British aircraft at 02:19. German forces also began jamming the British aircraft's radios once they came within 10 miles (16 km) of the Norwegian coastline. The smokescreen frustrated the British attack, as the crews of only two of the Barracudas and a pair of fighters managed to spot Tirpitz during the raid.
The Hellcats and Fireflies were first to attack, and strafed anti-aircraft positions as well as the destroyer Z33 and small patrol craft Vp 6307. The patrol craft was forced aground and later declared a total loss. Due to the thick smoke, the fighter pilots were only able to locate targets by aiming at the sources of tracer gunfire .
The Barracudas were targeted by heavy, but inaccurate, anti-aircraft gunfire as they arrived over Kaafjord. Aside from the two aircraft whose pilots sighted Tirpitz, the 35 other dive bombers attempting to attack the ship were forced to aim at her gun flashes. These bombing attacks took 25 minutes to complete; seven near misses were achieved but no damage was inflicted on Tirpitz. One of the other Barracudas attacked an anti-aircraft battery, another attempted to bomb a destroyer and a third scored a near miss on the tanker Nordmark . Three of the remaining four Barracudas did not find any targets and jettisoned their bombs into the sea; the fourth was unable to drop its bombs due to a faulty release mechanism.
Although German gunners fired a heavy anti-aircraft barrage throughout the attack, they achieved little success. Only one British aircraft, a Corsair, was shot down near Kaafjord; its pilot survived and was taken prisoner. A damaged Barracuda was also forced to ditch near Indefatigable and its crew were rescued by the destroyer HMS Verulam . Several other Barracudas and five Hellcats were damaged during the raid and returned to their carriers. One of the damaged Hellcats was later written off after being judged beyond repair.
A second British raid, which had been scheduled to take off from 08:00 on 17 July, was cancelled two minutes before the aircraft were to begin launching when fog began to build up near the carriers, and the British fleet turned south to return to Scapa Flow. Swordfish and Seafire aircraft flew protective patrols over the Home Fleet throughout the morning's operations.
While the attack on Kaafjord was being conducted, the commander of
the German submarines in the Norwegian sea ordered Group Trutz to take
up new positions to the south-east of
The British patrol aircraft prevented Group Trutz from attacking the
Home Fleet. At 21:48 on 17 July, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator
assigned to No. 86 Squadron detected and sank U-361; none of the
submarine's crew were rescued. Eight minutes later a No. 210 Squadron
Consolidated PBY Catalina piloted by Flying Officer John Cruickshank
spotted U-347 on the surface. The submarine's anti-aircraft guns
damaged the Catalina, killing the navigator and wounding Cruickshank
as well as three other crewmen, but the pilot continued his attack and
sank U-347 with depth charges. The Catalina managed to return to base,
and Cruickshank was awarded the
Attacks on the German submarines continued for the next six days. On
the morning of 18 July a German reconnaissance aircraft spotted the
Home Fleet, but the German Naval Command Norway assessed that it was
heading north-east to launch another attack. Accordingly, Group Trutz
was ordered to sail north, and four more submarines sortied from
Hellcats returning to HMS Furious following
Following the attack on 17 July, the British learned from intercepted
German radio transmissions and reports provided by Secret Intelligence
Service agents that Tirpitz had not suffered any significant damage.
Admiral Moore blamed the failure of
The next attack on Kaafjord took place in late August. During Operation Goodwood , aircraft flying from three fleet carriers and two escort carriers conducted four raids between 22 and 29 August. The attackers found Tirpitz covered in smoke on each occasion, and only managed to inflict light damage on the battleship. These unsuccessful attacks cost the British 17 aircraft and 40 airmen killed. The frigate HMS Bickerton was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine U-354 during the operation; the same submarine also inflicted heavy damage on the escort carrier Nabob before being destroyed by a British aircraft.
* ^ Ellis (1999), pp. 294–295 * ^ Bennett (2012), p. 9 * ^ Faulkner and Wilkinson (2012), p. 109 * ^ A B Bennett (2012), p. 11 * ^ Bishop (2012), pp. 78–83 * ^ Woodman (2004), p. 340 * ^ Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 265 * ^ Bishop (2012), p. 294 * ^ Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), pp. 265–267 * ^ Bennett (2012), pp. 14–17 * ^ A B C D Garzke and Dulin (1985), p. 267 * ^ Roskill (1960), p. 278 * ^ A B C D Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 280 * ^ Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 283 * ^ A B Sweetman (2000), p. 72 * ^ Bishop (2012), p. 310 * ^ A B Brown (1977), p. 36 * ^ A B Sweetman (2000), p. 73 * ^ Levy (2003), p. 147 * ^ Roskill (1961), p. 155 * ^ Sweetman (2000), pp. 73–75 * ^ A B C Tarrant (1994), p. 129 * ^ Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 281 * ^ Williamson (2003), p. 40 * ^ A B C D E Sweetman (2000), p. 75 * ^ A B Roskill (1961), p. 156 * ^ Brown (2009), p. 24 * ^ Tactical, Torpedo and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section) (2012), pp. 135, 151 * ^ A B C D E F G Brown (1977), p. 37 * ^ Sweetman (2000), p. 74 * ^ Bennett (2012), p. 14 * ^ Tactical, Torpedo and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section) (2012), p. 135 * ^ A B Hinsley et al. (1988), p. 276 * ^ A B C Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 282 * ^ Brown (2009), p. 25 * ^ Sweetman (2000), pp. 75–76 * ^ A B Brown (1977), pp. 36–37 * ^ A B C D Sweetman (2000), p. 76 * ^ A B Brown (2009), p. 28 * ^ Sweetman (2000), pp. 76–77 * ^ A B C D E Sweetman (2000), p. 77 * ^ McCart (2000), p. 150 * ^ Tarrant (1994), p. 131 * ^ A B C Tarrant (1994), p. 132 * ^ Tarrant (1994), p. 133 * ^ Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), pp. 282–283 * ^ Bishop (2012), pp. 311–313 * ^ Sweetman (2000), p. 80 * ^ Roskill (1961), pp. 161–162 * ^ Bennett (2012), pp. 19–21
Wikimedia Commons has media related to OPERATION MASCOT .
* Bennett, G.H. (2012). "Introduction". In Bennett, G.H. Hunting Tirpitz: Naval Operations Against Bismarck's Sister Ship. Plymouth, United Kingdom: University of Plymouth Press. pp. 7–25. ISBN 9781841023106 . * Bishop, Patrick (2012). Target Tirpitz. London: Harper Press. ISBN 9780007431199 . * Brown, David (1977). Tirpitz: The Floating Fortress. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0853683417 . * Brown, David (2009). Hobbs, David, ed. Carrier Operations in World War II. Barnsley, Yorkshire: Frontline. ISBN 9781848320420 . * Ellis, John (1999). One Day in a Very Long War: Wednesday 25th October 1944 (Pimlico ed.). London: Pimlico. ISBN 0712674659 . * Faulkner, Marcus; Wilkinson, Peter (2012). War at Sea: A Naval Atlas, 1939–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9781591145608 . * Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O. (1985). Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 9780870211010 . * Hinsley, F.H. ; et al. (1984). British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations. Volume Three, Part I. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 0116309350 . * Levy, James P. (2003). The Royal Navy's Home Fleet in World War II. Houndmills, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403917736 . * McCart, Neil (2000). The Illustrious & Implacable Classes of Aircraft Carrier 1940–1969. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire: Fan Publications. ISBN 1901225046 . * Roskill, S.W. (1960). The War at Sea 1939–1945. Volume III: The Offensive Part I. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. OCLC 58588186 . * Roskill, S.W. (1961). The War at Sea 1939–1945. Volume III: The Offensive Part II. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. OCLC 59005418 . * Sweetman, John (2000). Tirpitz: Hunting the Beast: Air Attacks on the German Battleship, 1940–44. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1557508224 . * Tactical, Torpedo and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section) (2012) . "Naval Aircraft Attack on the Tirpitz (Operation 'Tungsten') 3 April 1944". In Bennett, G.H. Hunting Tirpitz: Naval Operations Against Bismarck's Sister Ship. Plymouth, United Kingdom: University of Plymouth Press. pp. 133–177. ISBN 9781841023106 . * Tarrant, V.E. (1994). The Last Year of the Kriegsmarine: May 1944 – May 1945. London: Arms and Armour. ISBN 185409176X . * Williamson, Gordon (2003). German Battleships 1939–45. Botley, Oxfordshire: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1841764981 . * Woodman, Richard (2004). The Arctic Convoys: 1941–1945 (Paperback ed.). London: John Murray. ISBN 0719566177 . * Zetterling, Niklas; Tamelander, Michael (2009). Tirpitz: The Life and Death of Germany's Last Super Battleship. Philadelphia: Casemate. ISBN 9781935149187 .
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