Today marks the 80th anniversary of a daring Second World War raid by Royal Navy bombers that went on to inspire the attack on Pearl Harbour - with members of a squadron that still exists in Helston today taking part.

It was on November 11, 1940, that 21 Fairey Swordfish biplanes flew from aircraft carriers to attack Italian battleships anchored in the port of Taranto, in southern Italy.

Such a daring raid had never been attempted before and, while the Italian fire was fierce and two aircraft were shot down, the raid was a huge success.

Taking part were aircrews from naval air squadrons 815, 819, 813 and 824 – of which two survive today: 815 squadron is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, while 824 squadron trains Merlin Mk2 helicopter air and ground crews at RNAS Culdrose at Helston.

Falmouth Packet:

A post-strike photo of Taranto shows the devastation wrought on the Italian fleet by Illustrious’s Swordfish on November 11, 1940. Picture: UtCon Collection/Alamy

Commander James Taylor, the current commanding officer of 824 Naval Air Squadron, said: “This audacious raid by the Fleet Air Arm set the benchmark for naval aviation and the ability to strike from the sea.

“Our aircraft and technology may have changed over the years but our squadron’s heritage and the traditions of the Fleet Air Arm remain as strong as ever.

“It’s especially fitting that the air and ground crews that we train on 824 squadron today will go on to serve on the navy’s new aircraft carriers. They may be serving on our fifth-generation carriers but the traditions of the first generation still ring true.

Falmouth Packet:

It is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Taranto. Picture: Sean Carney/Crown Copyright

“Any flying at sea, be it at night or in extreme weather conditions, demands expert dedication and skill. It makes us appreciate all the more the bravery of those Royal Navy aviators who took part in the attack on Taranto 80 years ago.”

Two Royal Navy aircrew were killed in the attack which sank one battleship and severely damaged two others. The result knocked the Italian ships out of the war for several months and significantly altered the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

What makes the battle significant is how it changed the way airpower was used against ships. The Royal Navy had innovated with new tactics and technology. This idea was directly developed by the Japanese for their later attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbour.

With thanks to Graeme Wilkinson at RNAS Culdrose