MY FAVOURITE AEROPLANE IN 200 WORDS #18 Fairey Barracuda by Matt Willis


The Fairey Barracuda. Unloved – derided even. Unattractive, certainly. Subject of more derogatory songs than any other aircraft. “You must remember this… A Barra’s poor as piss…

But the Barracuda doesn’t need your sympathy. It may have looked like an accident that had just happened… early on, too many accidents did happen… but the Barracuda hit the enemy like few other types.

Historian Norman Polmar called the Barracuda ‘almost useless as an attack aircraft’. Yet this ‘almost useless’ aircraft sunk 40,000 tons of shipping in 10 months, crippled Germany’s most powerful battleship, and equipped 26 front-line squadrons over a 10-year career.

The Albacore and Swordfish were obsolete as strike aircraft by 1943, so the Barracuda became available none too soon. The Mediterranean war ended as the Barra arrived, but in Northern latitudes it was just the aircraft needed. Barracudas carried out devastating attacks on German convoys and put the Tirpitz out of the war for months by pinpoint dive bombing. In the Far East it was almost the right aircraft… asthmatic in the hot climate, it still achieved success against targets in the East Indies. It then served quietly, but well into the 1950s. The Barracuda deserves your respect.

Matt Willis, @navalairhistory

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter@Hush_kit




  1. Pieter Johnson

    Matt, great article on an aircraft that often misses the limelight. I hope to get to see the one being restored at Yeovilton someday. My Dad flew in these and had many funny stories. Apparently they were death traps because of metal fatigue in the folding wings. Pieter

    • Matt Willis

      Thanks for running the piece Joe, and thanks for the comment Pieter. There are two pieces on the Yeovilton Barra restoration on and I’m working on a book on the old beast, which I hope will be published sometime next year.

      • Pieter johnson

        Would like to talk about the Barra book as an interview for an aviation podcast. Are you interested?

        Regards, Pieter

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Pieter Johnson

        Can I use this email address and I’ll send some thoughts on to you? Best regards, Pieter

      • Pieter Johnson


        I’ll send some ideas and thoughts on a 7-8 min interview draft in the coming days. Let me know if you would rather I use another address as Twitter is too short a format to do this. Best regards, Pieter

      • Pieter Johnson


        What I would like to cover is the following:

        Why write a book about the Fairey Barracuda? What was the aircraft designed to do and did it fit that role? Even though the Barracuda played such an influential role in the Fleet Air Arm why is it not really recognised? What remains of the aircraft in existence today?

        This would be a 7-8 minute interview which we do over Skype and goes into the Airplane Geeks podcast where my Dad’s story as a TAG originally aired. It received international recognition from our listeners and I recently followed this up with a four part mini series recorded with the RN Historic Flight. Again this proved popular with our listeners so I think the Barracuda segment could also be an interesting one. I have also tried connecting with someone in the FAA Museum to get a segment on the restoration project that are starting there, which would nicely supplement your interview here.

        If we do this we would probably record in mid/late December or January time to air in mid/late January as the pipleine is a bit busy before this. What do you think? Would you like to be involved?

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