Basil Fish, pilot of the Lancaster bomber that helped sink the Tirpitz – obituary

Basil Fish, who died at the age of 97, was one of the last survivors of No. 617 Squadron that attacked the German battleship Tirpitz. She bombed it twice, the second time on November 12, 1944, when “The Beast”, as Winston Churchill called the ship, was finally destroyed by Bomber Command.

Lancasters from Nos. 9 and 617 Squadrons deployed to airfields in the Moray Firth on 28 October. The next morning, 39 aircraft, armed with a 12,000-pound “Tallboy” bomb, headed for northern Norway, where the battleship was moored off Tromso. A cloud obscured the target, but most of the crews dropped their bombs.

Fish recalled AOC Air Vice Marshal Ralph Cochrane visiting Woodhall Spa after the attack and addressing the crews. He said the Lancasters would be sent back “repeatedly” until the job was done.

On November 11, the Lancasters flew north again to their bases in Scotland. The next day they went to Norway. As the forces approached Tirpitz, they were met with a volley of anti-aircraft fire, but to their surprise, the enemy fighters stationed nearby did not appear. The weather was clear and the bomb aimers could see the battleship. This time the concentrated bombardment had found its target.

Upon landing, Fish and his crew reported, “Our bomb went into smoke that covered the ship. There was one direct hit and two near misses.” As the Lancasters sailed away, the “Beast” capsized and capsized with great loss of life.

Charles Basil Renshaw Fish was born on 2 August 1922 in Bury, Lancashire, and was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Blackburn, and the University of Manchester, where he studied engineering.

He was drafted in 1942 and trained as a navigator in South Africa. He teamed up with New Zealand pilot Arthur Joplin and they joined No. 617 Squadron in August 1944 while the squadron was based at Woodhall Spa.

Their first raid was an attack on U-boat pens in Brest. They then attacked the Kembs Dam on the Rhine River near the Swiss border, a daring raid led by Squadron Leader Wing Commander “Willi” Tait.

On December 21, Fish and his crew were sent to bomb an oil refinery at Pölitz near Stettin (now Szczecin). On their return, their airfield was shrouded in fog and they headed for nearby Ludford Magna, which was equipped with a FIDO fog dispersing device to mark the runway.

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