|"No Uncertain Voice" the motto of HMS illustrious, as you can see goes with her crest.|
|HMS Valiant and Illustrious, albeit later in the war.|
|HMS Illustrious defends herself.|
HMS Illustrious was hit six times. One hit an AA gun position, and passed through to explode on the water below, killing several men. Another penetrated the ship starting a fire. Both of these were 1000 lb AP bombs, and the carrier's deck was only armoured to protect against 500 lb bombs. Oddly the worse damage of the first few seconds of action came from the 500 lb bombs the Stukas dropped.
The first hit the aft lift that had a Fulmar on it, destroying the plane, and killing its pilot. More importantly it stove in the lift, this allowed a second 500 lb to enter the hangar deck. A similar hit on the fore lift damaged the lift but failed to push it in. Then a final bomb this time of 1000 lbs penetrated the armoured deck and exploded in the hangar.
|Damage to Illustrious' deck from the bomb hits.|
Equally the Swordfish pilots on HMS Illustrious had trained with their Fulmars on their way across the Atlantic to the Med in ways to avoid aircraft with superior speed. They would perform a series of tight diving turns which would cause the attacker to overshoot repeatedly. As they got lower a misjudged dive would send the attacking plane slamming into the sea, this tactic was used successfully several times throughout the war.
Although it failed to work on the slow Stukas the Swordfish was still airborne after four attacks, although riddled with bullets. Lacking the ability to navigate (the rear two cockpits had flooded with fuel rendering the navigation boards unusable), and obviously losing fuel the Swordfish ditched near a friendly destroyer to be picked up.
|Illustrious' bell, damaged in the attack.|
Equally the hangar deck was the action station for anyone not otherwise employed on their normal role. When the two bombs hit it turned these shutters into shrapnel shards that scythed through a large part of the ship's company. The blasts also started numerous fires and disabled part of the sprinkler systems. 126 men were killed and 91 wounded in the battle, a large part of these injuries were in the hangars.
|Another near miss on Illustrious|
|Illustrious at Norfolk for repairs, you can easily see the scars from the near misses.|
"Lies!" The Historylisty edition.
One of the sources I used to write this article was a book I had on the incident. Turns out the writer may, or may not have been entirely thorough in his research. Or at least was a bit confused as to some of the information. My alarm should have been sounded by some of his comments about the Swordfish.
Luckily my proof reader, Scott Wichall, spotted the issue. He found the following website with the official report on the bomb damage to HMS Illustrious.
So for accurate detailed bomb damage reports use the stuff in the above link over the items in the narrative.