Operation Goodwood (naval)
Operation Goodwood was a series of unsuccessful British air raids conducted against the German battleship Tirpitz at her anchorage in Kaafjord, Norway, during late August 1944. The operation was the last of several major attacks the British Home Fleet undertook in an effort to badly damage or sink the Tirpitz. While each of the previous Fleet Air Arm raids on Kaafjord had involved only a single air strike, Operation Goodwood involved repeated attacks over a week. It was hoped that these raids would wear down the formidable German defences.
The British fleet departed its base on 18 August, and launched the first raid against Kaafjord on the morning of the 22nd. This major attack was unsuccessful, and a small raid that evening also inflicted little damage. Two further major strikes were conducted on 24 and 29 August, but without success. Tirpitz was struck by two bombs during the raid on 24 August, but neither caused significant damage. British losses during Operation Goodwood were 17 aircraft to all causes, and a frigate sunk by a submarine. An escort carrier was also badly damaged. German forces suffered the loss of 12 aircraft and damage to seven ships.
Following Operation Goodwood, responsibility for attacking Tirpitz was transferred to the Royal Air Force in late August 1944. In three heavy bomber raids conducted during September and October 1944, the battleship was first crippled and then sunk. Historians regard Operation Goodwood as a significant failure for the Fleet Air Arm, and attribute its results to shortcomings with the force's aircraft and their armament.
From early 1942, Tirpitz posed a significant threat to the Allied convoys transporting supplies through the Norwegian Sea to the Soviet Union. Stationed in fjords on the Norwegian coast, the battleship was capable of overwhelming the close-escort forces assigned to the Arctic convoys or breaking out into the North Atlantic. To counter this threat, the Allies needed to keep a powerful force of warships with the British Home Fleet, and capital ships accompanied most convoys part of the way to the Soviet Union.
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. Bombers from the Royal Air Force and Soviet Air Forces also attempted to strike Tirpitz in her anchorages several times in 1942 and 1943 but did not inflict any damage. On 23 September 1943, two British X-class midget submarines penetrated defences around the battleship at her main anchorage at Kaafjord in northern Norway during Operation Source, and placed explosive charges in the water beneath her. This attack caused extensive damage to Tirpitz, putting her out of service for six months.
Following Operation Source, the task of attacking Tirpitz was assigned to the Home Fleet's aircraft carriers. Following months of preparations, a successful attack (Operation Tungsten) involving two strike forces of 20 Fairey Barracuda dive bombers escorted by 40 fighters was conducted on 3 April 1944. While Tirpitz 's crew suffered heavy casualties during this operation, the battleship was not badly damaged. Nevertheless, she was placed out of action for several additional months while repairs were completed. Many of the Home Fleet's airmen were posted to other units following Operation Tungsten, hindering their squadrons' subsequent operations against German forces in Norway as the replacement aircrew were less experienced. Captain Wolf Junge took command of Tirpitz in May 1944, replacing Captain Hans Meyer who had been wounded during the attacks on 3 April.
The Home Fleet initiated a further four raids against Tirpitz between April and July 1944, though the battleship was only attacked during the last of these operations. The first attack (Operation Planet) was launched on 21 April but cancelled three days later when agents stationed near Kaafjord reported bad weather over the target area. The Home Fleet put to sea to attack Tirpitz again in mid-May in what was designated Operation Brawn. A strike force of 27 Barracudas escorted by Vought F4U Corsair and Supermarine Seafire fighters took off from the carriers HMS Furious and Victorious on 15 May, but returned to the ships without attacking after they encountered heavy cloud over Kaafjord. The next raid, Operation Tiger Claw, was launched in late May but cancelled due to bad weather on the 28th of the month. The subsequent attack (Operation Mascot) was timed for mid-July, ahead of the resumption of the Arctic convoys, which had been suspended since April 1944 to free up ships for the Normandy landings. The strike force of 44 Barracudas and 40 fighters dispatched on 17 July reached the target area, but found Tirpitz cloaked in a protective smokescreen and the attack did not inflict any damage on the battleship.
In the period following Operation Mascot, Tirpitz continued to prepare for potential combat operations. After trials in the sheltered waters of Altafjord, she put to sea on 31 July and 1 August to train with her protective destroyers. Additional smoke generators were also installed around Kaafjord to improve the area's already strong defences. These activities were reported by spies, and the British Admiralty interpreted them to mean that Tirpitz was being readied for a raid against Allied shipping. To defend against this threat, it was decided to continue to sortie Allied capital ships to protect convoys travelling through the Norwegian Sea. In reality, the German Navy was not planning to conduct such an operation, as the Operation Tungsten attack had demonstrated that Allied naval superiority meant that Tirpitz could no longer feasibly operate in open seas. Instead, the battleship was being maintained in active service to tie down Allied naval resources.
The failure of Operation Mascot convinced the commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Henry Moore, that the Fleet Air Arm's main strike aircraft, the Fairey Barracuda dive bomber, was not suited to operations against Kaafjord. As the dive bombers' slow speed gave the defenders of Kaafjord enough time to cover Tirpitz in a smoke screen between the time incoming raids were detected and their arrival over the target area, Moore concluded that further attacks using these aircraft would be futile. However, the Admiralty judged that repeatedly striking Kaafjord with Barracudas over a 48-hour period might wear down the German defences and exhaust the supply of fuel for Tirpitz 's protective smoke generators. Consideration was also given to flying fast and long-ranged de Havilland Mosquito bombers off the carriers in an attempt to achieve surprise, but none of these land-based aircraft could be spared from supporting the Allied bombing of Germany. Despite his misgivings, Moore agreed to make another attempt to strike Tirpitz.
As proposed by the Admiralty, Moore's plans for the new attack on Kaafjord involved the Home Fleet striking the region over several days. While the fighter aircraft involved in the previous raids had used only their machine guns to strafe German defences, it was decided to use some of these aircraft to make dive-bombing attacks during Operation Goodwood. In preparation, the two squadrons of Corsairs and single squadron of Grumman F6F Hellcats selected to participate in the attack received training in dive-bombing tactics between Operations Mascot and Goodwood. As a further change to the tactics used to strike Kaafjord, it was also decided to use Fleet Air Arm aircraft to drop mines near Tirpitz and the entrance to Kaafjord. The mines dropped near the battleship were to be fitted with time-delay fuses, and it was hoped that the explosions of these devices would cause Tirpitz 's captain to try to move the warship into safer waters and pass through the minefield at the fjord's entrance.
The force assigned to Operation Goodwood was divided into three groups. Admiral Moore embarked on board the battleship HMS Duke of York, which sailed with the fleet aircraft carriers HMS Indefatigable (the flagship of Rear Admiral Rhoderick McGrigor, commander of the 1st Cruiser Squadron), Formidable and Furious as well as two cruisers and fourteen destroyers. The second force comprised the escort carriers HMS Nabob and Trumpeter, cruiser HMS Kent and a group of frigates. A pair of fleet oilers escorted by four corvettes sailed separately to support the two attack groups.
The force embarked on the aircraft carriers was the largest group of Fleet Air Arm aircraft assembled up to that point in the war. The main striking element was the 35 Barracudas assigned to 820, 826, 827, and 828 Naval Air Squadrons which operated from the three fleet carriers. The two units of 6 Naval Fighter Wing, 1841 and 1842 Naval Air Squadrons, flew 30 Corsairs from Formidable. A total of 48 Seafires were assigned to 801, 880, 887 and 894 Naval Air Squadons on board Indefatigable and Furious. In addition, 1770 and 1840 Naval Air Squadrons operated 12 Fairey Fireflies and 12 Hellcat fighters respectively from Indefatigable. The two escort carriers embarked a total of 20 Grumman TBF Avengers (which had responsibility for the mine-dropping element of Operation Goodwood) and 8 Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters; these aircraft were split between 846 Naval Air Squadron on board Trumpeter and 852 Naval Air Squadron on Nabob.
Tirpitz 's anchorage at Kaafjord was heavily defended. Prior to Operation Tungsten, eleven batteries of anti-aircraft guns, several anti-aircraft warships and a system of smoke generators capable of hiding Tirpitz from aircraft were located around the fjord. After the attack, additional radar stations and observation posts were established and the number of smoke generators was increased. Tirpitz 's air defences were strengthened by fitting her with additional 20-millimetre (0.79 in) cannons, modifying the 150 mm guns so they could be used to attack aircraft, and supplying anti-aircraft shells for her 380-millimetre (15 in) main guns. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) had few fighters stationed at airfields near Kaafjord, and their operations were constrained by a lack of fuel.
The Operation Goodwood attack force sailed on 18 August. The timing of the operation was set to allow the Home Fleet to also protect Convoy JW 59, which had departed from Scotland on 15 August bound for the Soviet Union. After an uneventful journey north, the attack forces arrived off Norway on 20 August. While the first attack against Kaafjord had been planned to take place on 21 August, weather conditions that day were unsuitable for flying operations, and Moore decided upon a 24-hour postponement. The Germans were alerted to the presence of the British fleet on 21 August when radio messages from the carriers were detected.
The first strike against Kaafjord was launched on 22 August. At 11 AM that day a force comprising 32 Barracudas, 24 Corsairs, 11 Fireflies, 9 Hellcats and 8 Seafires was launched from the three fleet carriers. Avengers were not dispatched from the escort carriers as the cloudy weather conditions were not suitable for the execution of their task; few mines were available, and as the Avengers could not safely land while still carrying these weapons the mine-dropping element of the plan would fail if the aircraft were unable to locate Tirpitz and had to dump their loads into the sea.
As the strike force neared the coast, heavy cloud was sighted covering the hills near Kaafjord. As the cloud prevented accurate bombing, the Barracudas and Corsairs returned to the carriers without attacking. The Hellcat and Firefly fighters continued on, and approached the fjord below the cloud base. These aircraft achieved surprise, and Tirpitz was not obscured by smoke when they arrived over Kaafjord. The Fireflies initiated the attack at 12:49 PM by strafing German anti-aircraft guns on and around Tirpitz. Two minutes later nine Hellcats attacked the battleship with 500-pound (230 kg) bombs but did not achieve any hits. The eight Seafires made diversionary attacks during the raid on Kaafjord, destroying two of Tirpitz 's seaplanes in Bukta harbour and badly damaged the submarine U-965 at Hammerfest. Three British fighters were shot down during the attacks.
During the evening of 22 August, a force of eight Fireflies and six bomb-armed Hellcats from Indefatigable raided Kaafjord again. German forces did not detect the aircraft before they arrived over Kaafjord, and gunfire from the Fireflies killed one member of Tirpitz 's crew and wounded ten. However, the Hellcats' bombs did not inflict any damage on the battleship. The British fighters attacked German ships and radar stations on their flight back to the carriers, damaging two tankers, a supply ship and a patrol boat. None of the British aircraft were lost during this raid.
In the early afternoon of 22 August, Nabob was struck by a torpedo fired from U-354. The carrier suffered serious damage and 21 fatalities but was able to continue limited flight operations. Shortly afterwards U-354 torpedoed and sank the frigate HMS Bickerton as the latter searched for Nabob 's attacker. Nabob was forced to return to the Home Fleet's base at Scapa Flow that evening, escorted by Trumpeter, a cruiser and several destroyers. Formidable and Furious covered their withdrawal; during this period Furious also refuelled from the Home Fleet's tankers. The departure of both escort carriers meant that the mine-dropping component of Operation Goodwood had to be cancelled. Shortly after the attacks on Nabob and Bickerton, Seafires from 894 Naval Air Squadron shot down two German Blohm & Voss BV 138 reconnaissance aircraft.
Fog cancelled British flying operations on 23 August, including a planned diversionary attack against German shipping in Langfjord that was to have been conducted by Indefatigable 's air group. However, the weather cleared enough on the 24th to permit a strike against Kaafjord during the afternoon. The attacking force comprised 33 Barracudas carrying 1,600-pound (730 kg) armour-piecing bombs, 24 Corsairs (including 5 armed with a 1,000-pound (450 kg) bomb), 10 Hellcats, 10 Fireflies and 8 Seafires. In an attempt to achieve surprise, the aircraft flew off from the carriers from a point further to the south of those used in previous raids. The strike aircraft then flew parallel to the coast, before making landfall and approaching Kaafjord from the south. A German radar station detected the force at 3:41 PM, and immediately alerted Tirpitz.
The British attack began at 4:00 PM. It was initiated by the Hellcats and Fireflies, which were flying five minutes ahead of the Barracudas and Corsairs. Tirpitz 's protective smokescreen was not fully in place at the start of the raid, but by the time the Barracudas and Corsairs arrived she was completely covered by smoke. As a result, these aircraft had to blind bomb the ship, releasing their weapons from altitudes between 5,000 feet (1,500 m) and 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Only two bombs hit Tirpitz. The first was a 500-pound (230 kg) weapon dropped by a Hellcat that exploded on the roof of her "Bruno" main gun turret. The explosion destroyed the quadruple 20-millimetre (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun mount located on top of the turret, but did not cause any significant damage to the turret itself. The second bomb to strike the ship was a 1,600 armour-piercing weapon, which penetrated through five decks, killing a sailor in a radio room before lodging near an electrical switch room, where it failed to explode. Subsequent investigation by German bomb disposal experts found that the weapon was only partially filled with explosives. The German report on the attack judged that if the bomb had gone off it would have caused "immeasurable" damage. British fighters also attacked other German ships and facilities in the Kaafjord area, damaging two patrol boats, a minesweeper and a radar station, as well as destroying an ammunition dump and three guns of an anti-aircraft battery. Tirpitz 's last remaining Arado Ar 196 seaplane was attacked in Bukta harbour and damaged beyond repair. Four Corsairs and two Hellcats were shot down during the raid, and the battleship's crew suffered eight fatalities and 18 men wounded.
At 7:30 PM on 24 August, a pair of Fireflies conducted a photo-reconnaissance sortie over Kaafjord to gather intelligence on the results of the attack; their presence caused the Germans to generate a smoke screen over the fjord and fire an intensive anti-aircraft barrage. In a separate action that day, U-354 was sunk off Bear Island by Fairey Swordfish operating from the escort carrier HMS Vindex.
Gales and fog prevented the British from conducting further attacks between 25 and 28 August. Following the raid on 24 August it was judged that the elderly Furious was no longer capable of combat operations, and she returned to Scapa Flow after transferring two Barracudas and a pair of Hellcats to Indefatigable.
The final attack of Operation Goodwood was made on 29 August. The strike force comprised 26 Barracudas, 17 Corsairs (of which 2 were armed with 1,000 pound bombs), 10 Fireflies and 7 Hellcats. Seven Seafires were assigned to conduct a diversionary raid on Hammerfest. In an attempt to give the bombers accurate aiming points once the artificial smokescreen was generated around Tirpitz, four of the Hellcats were equipped with target indicator bombs. The aircraft began launching at 3:30 PM.
The British aircraft failed to achieve surprise. German radar stations had been tracking the Home Fleet's routine anti-submarine and fighter patrols, and the Seafires were detected at 4:40 PM when they were 54 miles (87 km) from Kaafjord. In response to this report, the smoke generators around Kaafjord were activated and the fjord's defenders went to their battle positions. The arrival of the main body of British aircraft over Kaafjord was delayed by stronger than expected winds and a navigational error, and they did not reach the target area until 5:25 PM. By this time Tirpitz was covered in a very thick smokescreen, and none of the British airmen sighted the ship. The Barracudas and Corsairs were forced to blind bomb Kaafjord, and while no hits were achieved on the battleship, six members of her crew were wounded by bomb fragments from near misses. German ships and gun positions were once again strafed by the fighters, but no significant damage was inflicted. Heavy anti-aircraft gunfire, which was directed by a party of observers stationed on a mountain near Kaafjord, shot down a Corsair and a Firefly.
The Home Fleet returned to base following the raid on 29 August, its ships arriving at Scapa Flow on 1 and 2 September. Overall, Fleet Air Arm casualties during Operation Goodwood were 40 airmen killed and 17 aircraft destroyed. Nabob was also judged to be beyond economical repair, and was withdrawn from service. On the German side, Tirpitz suffered only superficial damage. The most significant German losses of Operation Goodwood were the destruction of seven seaplanes during a Seafire attack on Banak.
Following the final raid, the British learned from Ultra signals intelligence that Tirpitz had not sustained any significant damage during Operation Goodwood. In public statements the Royal Navy claimed to have damaged or sunk 19 German warships during the attacks on Kaafjord, but did not report damage to Tirpitz.
Historians have judged Operation Goodwood a failure. Writing in 1961, the British official historian Stephen Roskill stated that the attacks marked the end of a "series of operations whose results can only be classed as intensely disappointing", and concluded that the possibility of sinking Tirpitz had been "remote" due to the shortcomings of the Barracudas and their armament. Naval historian Norman Polmar argued in 1969 that Operation Goodwood was "perhaps the most striking failure of the F.A.A. [Fleet Air Arm] during World War II and can be directly attributed to the lack of effective aircraft–the Barracudas were too slow and could not carry large enough bombs to make effective attacks". More recently, historian Mark Llewellyn Evans judged the results of Operation Goodwood to have been "pathetic", and Mark Bishop concluded that "the Fleet Air Arm's greatest operation of the war ... ended in failure".
During the final days of Operation Goodwood, Royal Navy planners decided that further Fleet Air Arm operations against Kaafjord should not be attempted as the Germans were now able to cover Tirpitz in smoke before Barracudas could reach the battleship, and these aircraft could not carry bombs large enough to inflict heavy damage. Further consideration was given to attacking Kaafjord using Mosquitos launched from aircraft carriers, but the light bombers continued to be in short supply and it was judged that they were not well suited to the task. Moreover, there was a growing need to redeploy the carriers to the Pacific to strengthen Britain's contribution to the war against Japan.
As Tirpitz was still considered a threat to shipping, it was decided in late August to conduct further attacks against her using Royal Air Force heavy bombers. On 15 September a force of Avro Lancasters attacked Kaafjord after refuelling at bases in northern Russia and inflicted irreparable damage on the battleship. Following this raid she was towed to an anchorage near Tromsø to be used as an immobile coastal defence battery. Another heavy bomber attack on 29 October caused only minor damage, and a third raid was mounted on 12 November in which Tirpitz was struck by several Tallboy bombs and capsized, sinking with heavy loss of life.
- Brown (2009), p. 27
- Ellis (1999), pp. 294–295
- Bennett (2012), p. 9
- Faulkner and Wilkinson (2012), p. 109
- Bennett (2012), p. 11
- Bishop (2012), pp. 78–83
- Woodman (2004), p. 340
- Bennett (2012), pp. 14–17
- Garzke and Dulin (1985), p. 267
- Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 283
- Williamson (2003), p. 40
- Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 280
- Bishop (2012), p. 310
- Brown (1977), p. 36
- Tarrant (1994), p. 129
- Bishop (2012), p. 311
- Roskill (1961), p. 157
- Roskill (1961), p. 156
- Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), pp. 282–283
- Brown (1977), p. 37
- Roskill (1961), p. 159
- Brown (2009), p. 24
- Tactical, Torpedo and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section) (2012), pp. 135, 151
- Bennett (2012), p. 14
- Tactical, Torpedo and Staff Duties Division (Historical Section) (2012), p. 135
- Hinsley et al. (1988), p. 277
- Brown (1977), p. 38
- Tarrant (1994), p. 134
- Polmar (1969), p. 310
- Roskill (1961), p. 171
- Brown (2009), p. 28
- Wragg (2005), p. 135
- Roskill (1961), p. 160
- Tarrant (1994), p. 135
- Garzke and Dulin (1985), p. 268
- Brown (1977), p. 39
- Bishop (2010), p. 313
- "WOODWARD, CLIVE EUSTACE". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- Bennett (2012), p. 19
- Roskill (1961), pp. 160–161
- Evans (1999), p. 132
- Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), p. 285
- Bishop (2010), p. 317
- Zetterling and Tamelander (2009), pp. 285–286
- Bennett (2012), pp. 19–21
- Works consulted
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Operation Goodwood (naval).|
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- 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.
- Evans, Mark Llewellyn (1999). Great World War II Battles in the Arctic. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313308926.
- 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.
- Polmar, Norman (1969). Aircraft Carriers: A Graphic History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events. London: Macdonald & Co. ISBN 1574886630.
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- Tarrant, V.E. (1994). The Last Year of the Kriegsmarine: May 1944 – May 1945. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 185409176X.
- 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.
- Williamson, Gordon (2003). German Battleships 1939-45. Botley, Oxfordshire: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1841764981.
- Wragg, David (2005). The Escort Carrier in World War II: Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable!. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Maritime. ISBN 1844152200.
- Zetterling, Niklas; Tamelander, Michael (2009). Tirpitz: The Life and Death of Germany's Last Super Battleship. Philadelphia: Casemate. ISBN 9781935149187.