Ju 87 Stuka vs Royal Navy Carriers – Mediterranean, Robert Forsyth

Ju 87 Stuka vs Royal Navy Carriers – Mediterranean, Robert Forsyth

In the late 1930s the Royal Navy designed a class of armoured aircraft carriers, expressly to deal with the threat from land based bombers. This book looks at three of those clashes, each involving the Ju 87 Stuka and carriers operating in the Mediterranean.

The normal technical chapters are different here, as the two weapon systems being examined were very different. However the armoured British aircraft carriers were designed with air attack in mind, and it was assumed that it wouldn’t be possible to stop all land based aircraft reaching aircraft carriers operating in the North Sea or Mediterranean. The defences fall into several areas – the design of the carriers themselves, anti-aircraft guns, and defensive fighters. For the Stuka the main features were payload, range and the special dive bombing mechanisms that made them accurate against stationary targets. For both sides we get interesting material on their training – the early Stuka pilots were very well trained, and indeed played a role in evolving dive bomber tactics, while the British gunners underwent equally impressive training.

The combat section begins with the attacks on HMS Illustrious in January 1941 and the attempts to sink her in Malta Harbour. This saw the Illustrious badly damaged and knocked out of the war for more than a year, but not sunk. On the German side the repeated attacks on Malta cost them many of their best Stuka crews – the highly trained crews that had spent months perfecting their art and who their commander described as an ‘irreparable loss’. We then look an attack on the Formidable during the battle for Crete, which again caused damage that needed repairs in the United States. The third attack came during Operation Pedestal, and here we see the balance of power shifting – the British started the operation with four carriers (losing Eagle to U-73), the Axis with fewer than forty Ju 87s. This time Indomitable was damaged, but this time carrier fighters were also involved.

The conclusions are interesting. The Stuka never sank a British armoured carrier, but did enough damage to two to keep them out of the war for most of 1941, and at relatively low cost. However the lack of a good British naval fighter played a significant role in that. In a way both sides were justified in their plans – the armoured carrier could indeed survive air attack, but the Stuka could do enough damage to knock a carrier out of action for some time.

Design and Development
Technical Specifications
The Strategic Situation
The Combatants
Statistics and Analysis

Author: Robert Forsyth
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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