In the RAF there was considerable jubilation at the destruction of the German Navy's last remaining modern Battleship by air attack. This triumph was in no way muted by a senior Royal Navy officer, trying to denigrate the junior services success by pointing out that the literal but irrelevant fact that Tirpitz had not sunk because part of her hull was still protruding from the water.


However at a later date, whilst at Staff College in Haifa (at that time part of Palestine), the course was being lectured by Admiral Sir James Somerville of Taranto fame. At Question time Willie Tait stood up and said:


"Sir, we on this course, in keeping with others on former courses, are coming to the view that our present formation of Army, Navy and air Force organisations could be improved by having one integrated defence staff. What are your views?"


The Admiral who had been prowling the stage as if on the bridge of a Flagship, stopped as if struck by a cannon ball, glared down at Tait and said: "Sir, if we ever have a single integrated Command you will all wear Navy Blue."

Tait Stood his ground and said very quietly said:


"Sir, in view of the entirely unsatisfactory reply to my first question, what are your views of about the simple fact that airborne devices-Rockets, Bombs and Aerial mines etc. sank more surface tonnage than the combined weights of the Allied Navies?"


On this occasion the Admiral stared at Tait and replied, "What bloody fool said that?"


And looked for support from his assistant who retorted, "I fear it was you in volume 20 of the War at Sea."


At this point the incumbents half Air Force and half Army collapsed with glee.

The Sinking Of The Battleship "Tirpitz"




copyright: Kevin Walford, 2002


Updated: January 2008