Fairey Swordfish

Fairey Swordfish

This lesson plan focuses on one of the lesser-known warplanes of WW2 and enables students to discover why it was successful. It looks at depictions of the war by two significant painters of twentieth century naval engagements. Finally it considers the significance of two battles of WW2 and why their present-day recognition is so markedly different. It gives students the opportunity to collect original research data and analyse the results.

Key Stage:

KS2 History


This lesson plan supports the requirement in the English National Curriculum History for KS2 pupils to study, ‘an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066’. One of the non-statutory examples the curriculum document gives is, a significant turning point in British history - the Battle of Britain. The short activities suggested below can be integrated into two lessons about the Battle of Britain.

<b>How much do you know?</b>

How much do you know?

Begin by asking students if they can name any World War II battles. You may find students who are aware of the ‘Battle of Britain’, but they are less likely to have heard of the ‘Battle of the Atlantic'.
 Explain that the battle lasted for most of the War and was about protecting ships bringing vital supplies to Britain and Russia from the USA and other friendly countries. These merchant ships were being destroyed by German submarines and warships. Had the battle been lost, the result of World War II may have been very different.

Allied planes of WW2

Play the first 37 seconds of the film, Battle of the Atlantic - up to the question mark.

Ask the pupils which of the three aeroplanes shown, the Spitfire, the Lancaster Bomber and the Fairey Swordfish, they think destroyed the greatest number of enemy ships during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Find out more

Some students might guess from the tone of the film that they are being deviously steered away from picking the Swordfish. If they do guess the correct answer, you could also ask if any had known about the Swordfish before viewing the film.

The Fairey Swordfish was manufactured in Yorkshire and there is a sculpture to commemorate the plane in one of the villages. Watch this short film to find out more.

Paintings of naval warfare, John Hamilton

Show the paintings by artist John Alan Hamilton.
Hamilton served in the army in World War II, winning the Military Cross for gallantry. After the war he became interested in painting the Battle of the Atlantic and interviewed survivors to ensure the accuracy of his paintings.

Download paintings Hamilton.pdf

Paintings of naval warfare, Charles Cobb

Show the paintings by Charles David Cobb. Cobb served in the Battle of the Atlantic in the early 1940s and commanded torpedo boats in the North Sea later in the war.

Download paintings Cobb.pdf
<b>How much do others know?</b>

How much do others know?

Discuss why the Swordfish and the Battle for the Atlantic are less well-known than the Spitfire and the Battle of Britain.
Discuss how the students could test the theory that maybe adults also have limited knowledge of the significance of the Battle of the Atlantic and the role of the Swordfish.

<b>How much do others know?</b>

How much do others know?

Task the class to work in groups to design a short questionnaire to find what adults know about the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of Britain, the Fairey Swordfish and the Spitfire. Compare their questionnaires and agree a common wording and format to use.
Print out copies and ask the class to interview at least three adult relatives or friends of the family. They should try to interview people from different age groups.
<b>Review, discuss, evaluate</b>

Review, discuss, evaluate

In a following lesson, compare the results and discuss the findings.

Should we know more about this period of history?

Was the Battle of Britain and the Spitfire more important than the Battle of the Atlantic and the Fairey Swordfish?

Development Activity:

Elsewhere on CultureStreet there is a lesson plan which compares two very different paintings of the sea by British artist Charles Napier Hemy and Japanese artist Hokusai, Two views of the Sea.

Learning Objectives:

Through using this lesson plan students should:
-Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.
-Learn about a crucial phase of World War II.
-Devise, conduct and analyse a questionnaire to investigate how well-known the Battle for the Atlantic is compared to the ‘Battle of Britain’.
-Develop theories about why the Battle for the Atlantic is not better-known.
-Collect original research data and analyse the results drawing their own conclusions.

Research, Notes and Links:

Download this lesson plan