Operation Fuller- The British Plan
As the bombing intensified, The British assumed that the German ships would either make for the Atlantic or Mediterranean by going south from Brest or more likely, try and return home to North Germany via the English Channel.

They decided that the German ships would return home via the channel. Logically any large fleet would aim to be in the narrow Strait of Dover in darkness to avoid easy detection and attack.

The British commander and planner was Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay who prepared a simple but effective attack plan:

Fairey Swordfish and Bristol Beaufort torpedo bombers escorted by RAF fighters would attack as the Germans crossed the narrow Strait of Dover. The targets would be lit by dropped flares. Simultaneously fast motor torpedo boats would mount a surface attack as well.
Finally to mop up survivors the RAF would provide heavy bombers and more torpedo bombers and the Navy would have a small fleet of light destroyers to tackle any ships that made it to the North sea.

As they expected the Germans to be at Dover at early morning, the British forces were put on a night-time alert so as to be ready in a few minutes notice from midnight to early morning.

After this there would be 4 hour readiness alert as they would have very early warning of anything in the Channel in daylight.

The RAF also would fly day and night reconnaissance patrols along the predicted route from Brest to Dover.

However the British adopted a veil of secrecy and neither the navy, RAF or the army co-ordinated or rehearsed their plan to any degree.

Vice Admiral Ramsay (Click to enlarge)

Anticipated German plan

Operation Fuller- Swordfish Torpedo Bombers

Fairey Swordfish

Looking like a relic from World War 1, this was a dangerous and effective anti-shipping weapon. Designed in 1934., it could carry one 1500 lb torpedo and place it very accurately.

Its disadvantage was its slow speed and fabric construction which made it easy to destroy by other aircraft and anti-aircraft guns.

Escorted and protected properly, it was very effective and shown its capabilities in the destruction of the Italian fleet at Taranto and the in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck.

Crew: 3
Maximum speed: 95 mph (with Torpedo)
1 × fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun in engine cowling 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis or Vickers K machine gun in rear cockpit Bombs: 1 × 1,670 lb (760 kg) torpedo or 1,500 lb (700 kg) mine under fuselage or 1,500 lb bombs under fuselage and wings.

825 Royal Naval Air Squadron

Formed in 1934, they flew the Swordfish and were instrumental in the sinking of the Bismarck in 1941. They were led by Lt. Commander Eugene Esmonde an Irishman who had already been awarded the DSO for his part in the Bismarck actions.

Although very competent pilots, the squadron had only been recently reformed and was still in training when they were called on to relocate to Manston to prepare for their part in Operation Fuller.

A thoughtful and professional officer, Esmonde had made clear the dangers involved in the attack and the need for effective fighter cover.

Swordfish gallery (click to open)

825 RNAS (click to enlarge)

825 RNAS crest (click to enlarge)

Operation Fuller- Royal Navy motor torpedo boats
The Fairmile D motor torpedo boat was designed to counter the advantage of the new German Schnellboot or E-boat as the British called them.

It was 115 ft. long and armed with 21 inch torpedos, a fast and effective anti- shipping weapon.

For Operation Fuller, two groups of boats would be used :

A first flotilla led by Lt Pumphrey from Dover and second flotilla led by Lt Long from Ramsgate.
Length: 115 ft (35 m)

Speed: 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph)

2 × single 6 pounder guns 4 × 20mm Oerlikon (2 × single, 1 × twin) 2 × twin .303 Vickers K guns 2 x 21 inch torpedos

Fairmile D at Sea (click to enlarge)

Fairmile D plan (click to enlarge)

Operation Fuller- RAF bombers
To support the sea attack, the RAF would field medium bombers such as the Wellington and Avro Manchester as well the Beaufort torpedo bombers.

Although the Beaufort was a proven weapon, one having finally sunk the Bismarck, the Wellington and Manchester were not suited for the precision low level bombing that would be required of them.

Bristol Beaufort

Crew: 4
Maximum speed: 271.5 mph
1 x 1,605 lb (728 kg) 18 in Mk XII torpedo or
2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs or mines.

Vickers Wellington

Crew: 6
Length: 64 ft 7 in
Maximum speed: 235 mph
Bombs: 4,500 lb (2,041 kg) bombs

Avro Manchester

Crew: 7
ength: 70 ft (21.34 m)
Maximum speed: 265 mph
Bombs: 10,350 lb (4,695 kg) bomb load

Bristol Beaufort (click to enlarge)

Vickers Wellington (click to enlarge)

Avro Manchester (click to enlarge)

Operation Fuller- Royal Navy Destroyers
After the loss of ships at Taranto and Pearl Harbour, the Royal Navy decided not to commit any of its valuable capital ships to this operation.

As they were only there to mop up survivors of the Swordfish and torpedo boat attacks, only six elderly destroyers were assigned to this task. They were stationed at Harwich on the Thames Estuary

Commanded by Captain Charles Pizey they were;

HMS Campbell (his own ship) built 1917
HMS Worcester built 1919
HMS Vivacious built 1917
HMS Mackay built 1919
HMS Whitshed built 1919
HMS Walpole built 1919

These small and nearly obsolete ships would have been no match for the three German battleships and their escorting modern destroyers in a normal engagement.

HMS Worcester

Displacement: 1,550 tons full
Length: 300 ft.
Speed: 34 kts.
Complement: 127

3 × BL 4.7 in (120mm) Mk.I L/45 guns
1 × 3 in (76 mm) AA gun
2 × QF 2 pdr Mk.II "pom-pom" (40 mm L/39)
3 × 21-inch Torpedo Tubes (one triple mount)
2 × depth charge racks
twin 6 pounder army gun

Captain Pizey (click to enlarge)

HMS Campbell (click to enlarge)

HMS Worcester (click to enlarge)

Operation Cerberus
Named after the three headed dog from Greek mythology, the plan devised by Vice Admiral Otto Ciliax, was simple: The Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen would go east, through the English Channel at night, making most dangerous part of the crossing, the 21 mile narrow Strait of Dover in daylight.

Then they would hug the coast of France and Holland to return to north German port of Wilhelmslaven.

Exactly the opposite of what the British would expect, it would give his boats a chance to pass through the longest part of the Channel in darkness.

A large escort of more than 300 Luftwaffe fighters would provide air cover during the expected RAF and Royal Navy attacks

Ther would also be a further escort of destroyers and S-Boats, fast attack craft, to tie up Royal Navy ships.
Coastal radar jamming was started months early at infrequent and random intervals. This meant the British got used to their coastal radar being inoperative and thinking it was occasional interference from the weather.

Under Ciliax, the various parts of the German military carefully co-ordinated and all activities from air cover to radar jamming.

This was in stark contrast to the British forces who not only did not communicate with each other and adapt land, sea and air strategies to complement each other but also took no attempts to prepare their individual forces for the special needs of this operation.

Otto Ciliax, German Commander

The German Plan

Operation Cerberus: Air Cover
The commander of the Luftwaffe fighters Adolf Galland, an experienced combat pilot with nearly a 100 enemy kills, drilled and practised his experienced pilots thoroughly for this operation.

Aware that they would be attacking both slow moving airplanes like the Swordfish and Beauforts, he practised low speed flying and broke up their air cover into two sections:
Dogfighters, Messerschmitt BF109F Would engage the RAF fighter escorts at high and medium altitude which they performed best at.

Bf109F Specifications

Max speed: 375 MPH
Max altitude:36,000 FT
2 x MG17 7.92mm machine guns
1 x MG151 20mm cannon

Bomber and ship attack fighters Focke-Wulf FW 190A-2 Ideal for low speed and low altitude combat, to attack the surface ships and slow flying torpedo bombers

FW190A2 Specifications

Speed: 352 MPH
Max altitude:33,000 FT
2 x MG17 7.92mm machine guns
2 x MG131 7.92mm machine guns
2 x MGFF 20mm cannon

Bf109F (Click to enlarge)

FW190A (Click to enlarge)

S-Boats & destroyers

S boats

They were properly called Schnellboot or fast boat. Capable of speeds up to 50mph with a range of 700 miles, these were ideal escort vessels for the three heavy battleships.

They were heavily armed as well nimble so could do damage to both attacking ships and aircraft.


Length: 34.9 m (114 feet 6 inches)
Weight: up to 120 t
Speed: 43.8 kts
Engines: Three 20-cylinder 2000 hp Daimler-Benz MB501 diesels driving three shafts.
2 × 53.3 cm (21 inches) torpedo tubes, with room for 2 more torpedoes (for reloading). 1 × 20 mm gun, (20 mm single on early boats, twin and special bow version on later classes) 1 × 40 mm gun (40 mm Bofors) on some S-38 class boats


These small battle ships weighed up 3,600 tons and were capable of speeds up to 44 MPH. The entire German fleet of destroyers or Zerstörer were modern and well-armed..

They provided close support for the big battleships and additional anti-aircraft fire when needed..

Class & type: Zerstörer 1936A
Displacement: 3,605 long tons (3,663 t)
Length: 127 m (416 ft 8 in)
Speed: 37.5 knots (43.2 mph; 69.5 km/h)
Range: 2,180 nmi (4,040 km) at 19 kn (35 km/h)
Crew: 330.

4 or 5 × 150 mm (5.9 in) guns
4 (later 10) × 37 mm guns
8 (later 20) × 20 mm guns
8 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes 60 mines
4 × depth charge launchers

S boat (click to enlarge)

Typical German destroyer (click to enlarge)

The Channel Dash: The day approaches

As spring approached, the Germans and British were prepared for the attempt by the Germans to get their ships home. Their forces were massed and ready.

The Germans had decided to make the run for home on the 11th of February 1942.

United Kingdom

6 destroyers
3 destroyer escorts
32 motor torpedo boats
450 aircraft
(including bombers)


2 battleships
1 heavy cruiser
6 destroyers
14 torpedo boats
26 E-boats
32 bombers
252 fighters

Help & About

Thanks must go to those who gave support to this project and include;

Kent County Councillors
Eileen Rowbotham
Mike Eddy
Mr McKenna
Mr Neaves
Mr Birkby

and the Dover Harbour Board.

This site is owned by the Channel Dash association, registered charity number 1139128. www.channeldash.org

Copyrights are property of their respective owners . No part of this site may be copied or used with permission. E&OE.


Jim Williams

Jim Williams - Coordinator of the Memorials and Project Leader of Schools IT Project.

Peter Nixon

Peter Nixon - Chairman of Channel Dash Memorial Trust.

  Contact us

For teachers

This site covers the section "challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day" as defined by the History programmes of study:key stage 3 National curriculum in England (Reference: DFE-00194-2013).

The key area covered is the Second World War and the key historical event is the Battle of The Atlantic.

Study notes are based on understanding the individual events in the context of the consequence of these events to the Battle of The Atlantic.