November 11th 1940 British Attack Taranto

The harbor in 1921
The British launched an air attack on the Italian harbor at Taranto from the aircraft carrier "Illustrious". On the night of November 11th, twenty-one British swordfish attacked the Italian fleet in the harbour and badly damaged three Italian battleships.


The Italian main battle fleet consisting of six battleships 16 cruisers and 13 destroyers was anchored at the Italian Naval base at Taranto. The British sent a task force commanded by Admiral Andrew Cunningham to attack the base. He had 1 aircraft carrier the HMS Illustrious from which to launch 21 obsolete biplane torpedo bombers against the fleet.

On the night of November 11th two groups of planes departed the Illustrious at 21:00. The first group reached the harbor at 22:58 . The first wave attacked the oil tanks in the base and then the battleship Conte di Cavour landing a torpedo below the waterline. All together before the night was over, three Italian battleships, half their capital fleet was not seaworthy.

The British attack on Taranto was the first time carrier based aircraft singlehandedly sunk an opposing fleet of warships. The Japanese paid heed to the attack and their later attack on Pearl Harbor was a larger version of the British attack on Taranto. Unfortunately the US navy did not draw the same lessons from the attack and paid the price on December 7, 1941