Hero Scots pilot who helped sink Bismarck dies at 97

Lt Cdr Jock Moffat alongside a Swordfish aircraft similar to the one he flew during WW2. Picture: PA/MOD
Lt Cdr Jock Moffat alongside a Swordfish aircraft similar to the one he flew during WW2. Picture: PA/MOD
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A Scottish pilot who played a key role in helping to sink the Bismarck during World War Two has died at the age of 97.

Lieutenant Commander John Moffat, known as Jock, is thought to have fired the torpedo that ultimately sunk the Germany warship in May 1941.

A fleet of Swordfish aircraft fly over HMS Ark Royal. Picture: Wiki Commons

A fleet of Swordfish aircraft fly over HMS Ark Royal. Picture: Wiki Commons

Biplanes from HMS Victorious and HMS Ark Royal carried out air strikes on the battleship on May 26 just two days after the Bismarck had destroyed HMS Hood during the Battle of Denmark Strait.

Born John William Charlton Moffat in Kelso in June 1919, Lt Cdr Moffat joined the Navy in 1938 - initially as a reservist - before being posted to HMS Ark Royal with the 759 Naval Air Squadron after qualifying as a pilot.

During May 1941, a 21-year-old Lt Cdr Moffat and his crew - Sub Lt J.D. ‘Dusty’ Miller and telegraphist and air gunner Albert Hayman - took off in a Swordfish L9726 aircraft from the deck of HMS Ark Royal, tasked with crippling the Bismarck.

Just after 9pm, he reportedly dropped the torpedo that damaged the Bismarck’s rudder, leaving it to sail in circles overnight.

A Swordfish aircraft touches down on Ark Royal. Picture: PA/MOD

A Swordfish aircraft touches down on Ark Royal. Picture: PA/MOD

Lt Cdr Moffat recalled: “When [Winston] Churchill gave the order to sink the Bismarck, we knew we just had to stop her trail of devastation at all costs.

“We dived in through the murk, into a lethal storm of shells and bullets.

“Bismarck’s guns erupted and in the hail of hot bullets and tracer, I couldn’t see any of the other Swordfish.

“I thought the closer we were to the water the better chance we had of surviving so we flew in bouncing off the tops of the waves – and it worked.

“The great thing about the Swordfish was that the bullets just went straight through. After all, it was only made of canvas. It was like David and Goliath.”

He served with four squadrons over eight years, and after the war entered the hospitality industry, becoming a hotel manager for several years.

He returned to flying in his 60s, and kept flying until he was well into his 90s.

An avid supporter of the Royal Navy Historic Flight, Lt Cdr Moffat raised £20,000 to keep one of the Swordfish aircraft airborne as a tribute to wartime airmen.

He continued to play an active role in politics, campaigning for a No vote alongside Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in 2014 based on defence arguments.

He is survived by his two daughters Pat and Jan.