On this day 21 June 1944
The lone carrier HMS ILLUSTRIOUS protected by HMS RENOWN, FS RICHELIEU, HMS NIGERIA, HMS KENYA and HMS CEYLON screened by HM Destroyers QUILLIAM, QUALITY, QUICKMATCH, ROTHERHAM, RACEHORSE, RELENTLESS, ROEBUCK and RAIDER as Force 60, carry out attack on Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, and was remarkable not least for ILLUSTRIOUS operating 57 aircraft from its decks, compared with around 33 generally carried in 1940.
On the 21st June, the strike was launched. The 15 Barracuda bombers, loaded with two 500lb MC bombs and two 250lb General Purpose bombs; and 42 Corsair fighters, providing escort cover, strafing Japanese airfields and air cover for the ships, were flown off from a distance of 95 miles from the target. Unfortunately, when the bombers arrived, cloud hung at 1,500ft and rain was falling. This made bombing difficult and assessment of the results all but impossible as many of the bombs were not seen once they had been dropped. The Barracudas returned to the task group, a distance of 130 miles as the ships had moved out somewhat since the launch.
The Barracudas were airborne for times between two hours ten minutes, and two hours thirty minutes. The 225 miles flown by the Barracudas was not far short of the operational maximum of around 250 miles with a heavy bomb load, so the loss of a single Barracuda was light under the circumstances. Given the crowding on ILLUSTRIOUS’ deck, a landing crash or fire could have had serious consequences as there was no other carrier to land on. The lack of any such incidents spoke volumes for the skill of the air and deck crews. Four officers and one radio mechanic were mentioned in despatches.