Group Captain Willie ‘Tirpitz’ Tait, bomber commander – obituary
Group Captain Willie “Tirpitz” Tait, who died on August 31 2007 aged 90, had a brilliant wartime career as a bomber commander; he attacked some of the most demanding and difficult targets, the majority as the leader or master bomber, and will long be remembered for his three attacks against the German battleship Tirpitz.
By the end of the war he had flown more than 100 operations, in respect of which he had been awarded, uniquely, four DSOs and two DFCs.
The spectre of the Tirpitz emerging into the Atlantic to cause havoc amongst convoys carrying vital supplies and troops, particularly the crucial convoys to Russia, dominated naval strategy in the European theatre.
During 1942 RAF and Fleet Air Arm bombers had made several attempts to destroy the battleship in German ports and Norwegian fjords, but they had managed to immobilise her only temporarily.
Although the battleship made few forays to sea, her latent menace frequently caused major political difficulties with the Russians, while the prime minister, Winston Churchill, pressed incessantly for her destruction.
By 1944 the Tirpitz had been moved to northern Norway, and out of range of RAF bombers operating from British airfields. Carrier-borne Fleet Air Arm aircraft made a number of daring attacks as the battleship was moored in Kaa Fjord, but no decisive damage was inflicted.