This dinner was held in commemoration of the bravery of all Royal Navy personnel involved in Operation JUDGEMENT.
The raid was audacious and is credited as one of the most significant naval aviation achievements; it was the first all aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history. Two waves of Fairey Swordfish aircraft carrying torpedoes departed HMS Illustrious on the night of 11-12th November 1940. Their target was the battle fleet of the Regia Marina at anchor in the harbour of Taranto. The attack was a tremendous success. The Italian fleet lost half of its capital ships that night; the next day, the Regia Marina transferred its undamaged ships from Taranto to Naples to protect them from similar attacks. This allowed the Allied Fleet freedom of movement in the Mediterranean.
The Dinner was attended by members of all three Services as well as those of us from industry. What a night! It was fantastic to be part of such a humbling yet fun event. Whilst taking the form of a traditional dining in night it was adapted to suit the occasion. Some of the current trainee pilots regaled the words of those on the raid from their post raid, eye witness accounts. Alas, none of those Royal Navy heroes are alive today to tell the tale. It was poignant to hear these stories from some of the trainee pilots, many of whom were of a similar age to those who served in WWII. It was delivered respectfully and with humanity.
After the meal the current pilot course put on a fantastic show bringing the history to life, whilst adding a modern day twist to events. It was enthralling and hugely entertaining.
At, Inzpire the majority of us are ex-military, from all 3 Services. It was genuinely humbling to see the enthusiasm, effort and sense of humour brought to the party by the next generation. We were seated down the bottom end of the table. Those who are in the know realise that at a dining in night this is usually the ‘naughty’ end. We had the privilege to be sat amongst the very newest of pilot recruits including those waiting on the weather for their first solo opportunity as both graduated officers and also as University Air Squadron cadets. It was fun to sit with these future aviators – their enthusiasm was infectious and their humble yet determined spirit was entirely evident. They reminded us of the young aviators we all once were and it was heartening to see the spirit living on. We just wish that we could cope with the hangovers like the current generation!