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THE CHANNEL DASH MEMORIAL - A Lasting Tribute to all those who participated in Operation Fuller, February 12th 1942. 2009 is the Centenary of Naval Aviation, Fly Navy 100. As part of the commemorations a memorial will be unveiled at Manston Airport in Kent to all those who participated in the operation to intercept the might of the German Fleet as they attempted to ‘Dash’ up the English Channel from Brest in France to the safety of ports in Germany. This was a truly Tri Service operation involving units of the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force, including service men from many parts of the Commonwealth. The significance to Fly Navy 100 is that at the spearhead of Operation Fuller were 6 Fairey Swordfish aircraft of 825 Naval Air Squadron based at RAF Manston. With the support of Shore Batteries and Motor Torpedo Boats from Coastal Command, and aircraft from RAF Fighter and Bomber Command, the Swordfish, although heavily outnumbered and outgunned, flew fearlessly towards their targets. Sadly all 6 aircraft were lost and only 5 of the 18 aircrew survived. The Commanding Officer received a posthumous Victoria Cross and collectively the crews were recognised with 4 Distinguished Service Orders, 1 Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and 12 Mentions in Despatches. This action prompted the Daily Mail to report thus: “This is an episode in the Battle of the Straits of which Britons can be rightly proud. In planes which, against the German protecting aircraft, were as slow as cart horses compared with a motor car, 18 men of the Fleet Air Arm flew over the channel. Crippled and ablaze they got within range, they kept on, delivered their attacks and – died!” ‘18 men we shall never forget’ The story is high drama from start to finish. The German fleet, in an audacious and highly organised move, slipped out of Brest harbour, France, where they were too exposed to British bombers. They then sailed, at full speed and in broad daylight, East through the English Channel to safety, under the umbrella of the largest German air force group ever assembled. The Army coastal defences at North Foreland attempted to bombard them, with no practical effect, as the mist and snow obscured their observer’s view of the fall of shot. The RAF sent fighters and bombers at them, and the Royal Navy attacked them with MTB’s and Destroyers. Of them, HMS Worcester, in particular, sustained much damage and loss of life. But it was the attack of the six Swordfish torpedo carrying bi-planes which really captures the imagination. As these slow lumbering relics of a bye-gone age, took off from Manston airfield, Kent, in driving snow, the Station CO Wing Commander Tom Gleave stood out in the snow, alone, and saluted them. He knew they were flying on to their inevitable destruction. Barely Twenty minutes later, shot to pieces by the overwhelming fire power from the German fleet and its Luftwaffe cover, all six planes had been blasted out of the sky. Of the eighteen crewmen, three in each aircraft, only five survived, and of them, just one was unwounded. The German Vice-Admiral Ciliax on board his flagship, the Scharnhorst, said afterwards, “The mothball attack of a hand full of ancient planes piloted by men whose bravery surpasses any other action by either side that day,……. must never be forgotten” “Such bravery was devoted and incredible. One was privileged to witness it.” Captain Hoffman of the Scharnhorst said during the attack; “Poor fellows, they are so very slow. It is nothing but suicide for them to fly against these big ships”. In fact, what at first appeared to be a tactical victory for the Germans was, in effect, very much a strategic defeat. The removal of such a powerful force from Brest to Germany also removed their threat to allied shipping in the Atlantic and the carnage those huge ships could have caused there, amongst the convoys. This meant that from that day on, the Allies could concentrate on the U boat threat, solely. This then, was not just a small forgettable defeat but a mighty and dramatic action resulting in the VC for the Swordfish attack commander, Irishman Lt. Commander Eugene Esmonde, and one which can justifiably claim to have altered the course of the whole war, not just at sea. In fact, so significant was this operation that Franklin D Roosevelt contacted Winston Churchill to congratulate him on what had occurred. The International standing of the Swordfish replica as the memorial to those who took part in the ‘channel dash,’ will therefore ensure that those sentiments expressed by the Daily Mail back in 1942, that these men should never be forgotten, will have be achieved. The Channel Dash Association ask that whether you are shopping in general, or for gifts on line in the run up to the festive season, you take a moment to reflect and think of those that gave their lives to protect this island nation. Please support the appeal to build a memorial at the former RAF Manston to all those that participated in Operation Fuller in 1942. Shop on line through http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/ pick up some great bargains from major retailers and support this very worthy cause. There is no additional cost to you, you have to do nothing other than shop in the normal way, just access your shopping sites through the link and they do the rest. A memorial is forever not just for Christmas. Please continue to shop at http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/ all year round to find great bargains on Insurance, Mobile Phones, Home Technology and much more. Thank you for supporting this most worthwhile appeal.


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