The man who sunk the Bismarck

The Kelso man who played a key role in sinking the Bismarck during the Second World War has died at his home in Perthshire, aged 97.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th December 2016, 10:22 am
Jock Moffat gets reacquainted with a Swordfish during a visit to the Royal Navy Historic Flight display.
Jock Moffat gets reacquainted with a Swordfish during a visit to the Royal Navy Historic Flight display.

Lieutenant Commander John Moffat, known as Jock, fired the torpedo that effectively paralysed the German warship.

Biplanes from HMS Victorious and HMS Ark Royal carried out air strikes on the battleship on May 26, 1941, just two days after the Bismarck had destroyed HMS Hood during the Battle of Denmark Strait.

Born John William Charlton Moffat in Kelso in June 1919, Lt Cdr Moffat joined the Navy in 1938 – initially as a reservist – before being posted to HMS Ark Royal with the 759 Naval Air Squadron after qualifying as a pilot.

During May 1941, a 21-year-old Lt Cdr Moffat and his crew - Sub Lt J.D. ‘Dusty’ Miller and telegraphist and air gunner Albert Hayman - took off in a Swordfish L9726 aircraft from the deck of HMS Ark Royal, tasked with crippling the Bismarck.

Just after 9pm, he reportedly dropped the torpedo that damaged the Bismarck’s rudder, leaving it to sail in circles overnight.

Speaking earlier this year, Lt Cdr Moffat recalled: “When [Winston] Churchill gave the order to sink the Bismarck, we knew we just had to stop her trail of devastation at all costs.

“We dived in through the murk, into a lethal storm of shells and bullets.

“Bismarck’s guns erupted and in the hail of hot bullets and tracer, I couldn’t see any of the other Swordfish.

“I thought the closer we were to the water the better chance we had of surviving so we flew in bouncing off the tops of the waves – and it worked.

“The great thing about the Swordfish was that the bullets just went straight through. After all, it was only made of canvas. It was like David and Goliath.”

He served with four squadrons over eight years, and after the war entered the hospitality industry, becoming a hotel manager for several years.

He returned to flying in his 60s, and kept flying until he was well into his 90s.

His memoirs of his time in the Navy was brought to book by Mike Rossiter in ‘I Sunk the Bismark’, published in 2010.

An avid supporter of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, Lt Cdr Moffat raised £20,000 to keep one of the Swordfish aircraft airborne as a tribute to wartime airmen.

He continued to play an active role in politics, campaigning for a No vote alongside Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in 2014, based on defence arguments.

He is survived by his two daughters, Pat and Jan.