Operation Tungsten was one of a number of aerial attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz while she was in Norwegian waters (the Altenfjord) by the Fleet Air Arm (the air units of the Royal Navy).

Operation Tungsten was one of a number of aerial attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz while she was in Norwegian waters (the Altenfjord) by the Fleet Air Arm (the air units of the Royal Navy).

Tungsten was scheduled for April 1944. Tirpitz was two weeks into trials after the end of repairs resulting from the British X-craft attacks in September 1943.

The attack was to be two waves of dive bombers (Fairey Barracudas) protected by naval fighters and led by the Strike Leader Lt Cdr Roy Baker-Falkner DSC Royal Navy. The first planes took off on the morning of 3 April. The bombers and their escorts headed for the target, others to patrol around the carriers in case of German attack.

The first wave attacked while some of the fighters strafed the decks of the Tirpitz to suppress anti-aircraft fire. The bombers of the first wave were carrying general purpose bombs, which would prove effective against the lightly armoured AA positions and their crews, alongside heavier armour-piercing bombs. An hour later the second wave attacked. Again fighters strafed the Tirpitz from low level. By 08:30 the attacking aircraft had landed on their carriers and the task force was turning for home.

British losses were 2 Barracudas shot down and 1 damaged Hellcat that was ditched deliberately. Nine airmen were killed.

The Tirpitz had suffered flooding caused by near misses but the machinery was untouched - none of the bombs had penetrated the deck armour. The radio aerials had been reduced, the anti-aircraft armament had been damaged, 122 men had been killed, and a further 316 wounded. Tirpitz would be out of action for at least another month. The armour-piercing bombs may have been less effective because they were dropped at lower heights than intended.

 

RFA’s present supporting naval units – both sailed from Scapa Flow on 30 March 1944: -

 

RFA Blue Ranger

RFA Brown Ranger

 

 

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