Return to Menu

The Attack on Taranto
Operation Judgement

PRU photo of Taranto Harbour prior to the attack.
Warby (Warburton), Frank Bastard and Pax Moren were chosen to do the photos as they were "surposed to be the best" !

Blown up section showing Italian ships berthed.
Photo courtesy of Keith Bastard

This was a much needed moral booster at a time when all the news was bad news on all fronts. The carriers HMS Illustrious & HMS Eagle were planned for this attack but HMS Eagle had to be withdrawn due to damaage from many near misses from high level bombing attacks in earlier convoy duty.
An attack on Taranto was important as the modern Italian navy was (on paper) the superior naval force in the Mediterranean. This strike was later to be the model for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
The Italian fleet could not be drawn out for a stand up fight with the Royal Navy. They were under orders not to take on any warships unless they had a good chance of winning. The Italian fleet were a formidable force & could have inflicted serious damage to Malta convoy operations if left to the naval commanders. Itt was felt that if they wouldn't come out & fight an attack should be mounted on them.
The harbour at Taranto was heavily defended but was thought by the Italians to be too far outside the range of any attacking aircraft. Long range fuel tanks were packed in the holds of HMS Illustrious as she sailed from the UK.
The intelligence was gathered by Maryland aircraft from Malta who monitored the Italian fleet disposition & found most of the fleet to be concentrated at Taranto.

21 Swordfish were used to carry out this attack & were flown off HMS Illustrious off the Greek island of Cephalonia on the 11th of November 1940. The result being that 3 battleships ( Littorio, Duilio out of action for months & the Cavour beached & out of the war for good. Those missed were the Vittorio Veneto & the Cesare.

The result of this attack meant a withdrawal of the fleet out of the range of allied air attack to Naples.

Photos above & below courtesy of Keith Bastard.

PRU photos of Taranto Harbour. Light areas around the battleship are probably silt disturbed from the bottom of the harbour.
It was a common practice to move ships across the harbour when a convoy was starting out from Gibraltar or Alexandria to
make the allies think the fleet was being made ready to sail.


Logbook of Taranto PRU flights.
Courtesy of Keith Bastard.

Please click the links below which contain loads of photos, maps & information.