Allied Warships

HMS Penelope (97)

Light cruiser of the Arethusa class


Photo from Imperial War Museum (IWM), FL-4822

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
ClassArethusa 
Pennant97 
Built byHarland & Wolff (Belfast, Northern Ireland) 
Ordered5 Feb 1934 
Laid down30 May 1934 
Launched15 Oct 1935 
Commissioned13 Nov 1936 
Lost18 Feb 1944 
Loss position40° 55'N, 13° 25'E
History

On 18 February 1944, HMS Penelope (Capt. George Devereux Belben, DSO, DSC, AM, RN) was leaving the Anzio area to return to Naples when she was torpedoed in position 40º55'N, 13º25'E, by the German submarine U-410.

The torpedo struck her in the after engine room and was followed, 16' later, by a second one which hit in the after boiler room, causing her immediate sinking.

The remarkable point of the attack by U-410 is that the cruisers was making 26 kn when hit. As far as can be ascertained, this is a unique case in the history of submarine attacks in all of WWII, no other ship running at such speed was ever successfully attacked.

415 of the crew, including the captain went down with the ship. There were 206 survivors.

 

Hit by U-boat
Sunk on 18 Feb 1944 by U-410 (Fenski).

U-boat AttackSee our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Penelope

Commands listed for HMS Penelope (97)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Gerald Douglas Yates, RN17 Aug 193912 Sep 1940
2Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Alan Moir Harris, RN12 Sep 194021 Feb 1941
3Lt.Cdr. William Thomas Warren Curtis, RN21 Feb 194115 Apr 1941
4Capt. Angus Dacres Nicholl, RN15 Apr 194115 Jun 1942
5Cdr. John William Grant, DSO, RN15 Jun 194210 Aug 1942
6Capt. George Devereux Belben, DSC, RN10 Aug 194218 Feb 1944 (+)

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Notable events involving Penelope include:


11 Sep 1939
Several ships from the Mediterranean Fleet conducted gunnery exercises off Alexandria; these were the battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN, flying the flag of A/Admiral A.B. Cunningham, KCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral G. Layton, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. I.B.B. Tower, DSC, RN), heavy cruisers HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.H.D. Cunningham, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Sussex (Capt. A.R. Hammick, RN) light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and four destroyers from the 4th Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Cresswell, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. F.R. Parham, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. R.F. Jolly, RN) and HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN).

On completion of these exercises these ships set course to take up a position to the west of Crete to provide cover for convoys passing from west to east through the Mediterranean.

HMS Barham and HMS Penelope however returned to Alexandria after the exercises had been completed while the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), and her attendant destroyer HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN), which had been conducting flying exercises off Alexandria, joined the other ships.

HMS Devonshire and HMS Sussex were detached for patrol as was HMS Arethusa later although HMS Arethusa rejoined on the 15th having patrolled the Kithera Channel.

The Fleet returned to Alexandria on 16 September. (1)

9 Oct 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria. This included a practice attack on HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN). (2)

9 Oct 1939
The battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN, flying the flag of A/Admiral A.B. Cunningham, KCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral G. Layton, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. I.B.B. Tower, DSC, RN), the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and the destroyers HMS Duncan (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN), HMS Daring (Cdr. S.A. Cooper, RN), HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN), HMS Grafton (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Gipsy (Lt.Cdr. N.J. Crossley, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

During the exercises HMS Malaya, HMS Glorious, HMS Daring and HMS Bulldog split off. They were to proceed to the Indian Ocean (Socotra area). They arrived at Port Said later the same day. (1)

24 Oct 1939
HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) conducted gunnery exercises off Alexandria. HMS Warspite and the destroyers returned to harbour in the evening. (1)

25 Oct 1939
HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria. (3)

27 Oct 1939
HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN) and HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

2 Dec 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Malta. This included a practice attack on HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN). (4)

23 Feb 1940

Convoy ON 15.

This convoy was formed off Methil on 23 February 1940. It arrived in Norwegian waters near Bergen on 27 February 1940.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Annfin (Norwegian, 729 GRT, built 1919), Bjerka (Norwegian, 1893 GRT, built 1916), Bjorkhaug (Norwegian, 2094 GRT, built 1919), Bjornvik (Norwegian, 812 GRT, built 1918), Bollsta (Norwegian, 1832 GRT, built 1934), Burgos (Norwegian, 3220 GRT, built 1920), Colombia (Norwegian, 794 GRT, built 1893), Delaware (Finnish, 2441 GRT, built 1902), Einvik (Norwegian, 2000 GRT, built 1918), Elgo (Swedish, 1888 GRT, built 1918), Frost (Swedish, 1573 GRT, built 1922), Gol (Norwegian, 985 GRT, built 1920), Gun (Norwegian, 670 GRT, built 1918), Gundborg Segrell (Swedish, 1435 GRT, built 1914), Inari (Finnish, 2116 GRT, built 1900), Inger Toft (British (former German), 2190 GRT, built 1920), Jaederen (Norwegian, 902 GRT, built 1918), Kadri (Estonian, 2775 GRT, built 1897), Kemi (Finnish, 2462 GRT, built 1900), Keri (Finnish, 1172 GRT, built 1913), Kis (Norwegian, 1249 GRT, built 1915), Lab (Norwegian, 1118 GRT, built 1912), Log (Norwegian, 1560 GRT, built 1931), Lotte (Danish, 1420 GRT, built 1906), Mertainen (Swedish, 4531 GRT, built 1907), Meteor (Norwegian, 3717 GRT, built 1904), Mira (Norwegian, 1152 GRT, built 1891), Nordia (Swedish, 1316 GRT, built 1921), North Devon (British, 3658 GRT, built 1924), Oddevold (Swedish, 1186 GRT, built 1883), Oscar Midling (Finnish, 2237 GRT, built 1889), Pollux (Estonian, 931 GRT, built 1890), Sarp (Norwegian, 1113 GRT, built 1916), Sitona (Norwegian, 1143 GRT, built 1920), Spes (Norwegian, 1142 GRT, built 1918), Thyra (Danish, 1023 GRT, built 1923), Vestland (Norwegian, 1934 GRT, built 1916), Wirpi (Finnish, 1227 GRT, built 1899) and Zilos (Finnish, 1711 GRT, built 1884).

Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN). On the 25th the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN) joined the escort having sailed from Sullom Voe on that day.

Cover was provided from the 24th by the light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) which sailed from Rosyth on that day.

On the 24th HMS Nubian attacked an A/S contact north-east of Kinnaird Head in position 58°00'N, 01°19'W. This appeared to be a non-sub contact.

On the 26th HMS Imperial collided with the Swedish merchant Nordia in position 61°12'N, 03°08'E. The merchant vessel sank while HMS Imperial proceeded with HMS Calcutta to Lerwick for emergency repairs.

31 Mar 1940

Convoy HN 23B.

This convoy was formed near Bergen, Norway on 31 March 1940. It arrived at Methill on 4 April 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alida Gorthon (Swedish, 2373 GRT, built 1902), Becheville (British, 4228 GRT, built 1924), Belgia (Swedish, 2023 GRT, built 1930), Belgien (British, 1979 GRT, built 1922), Bifrost (Swedish, 1781 GRT, built 1923), Cathrine (Estonian, 1885 GRT, built 1904), Ceres (Finnish, 996 GRT, built 1889), Convallaria (Swedish, 1996 GRT, built 1921), Dago (Danish, 1757 GRT, built 1902), Eikhaug (Norwegian, 1436 GRT, built 1903), Embla (Swedish, 1040 GRT, built 1908), Falkvik (Swedish, 1216 GRT, built 1899), Fano (Danish, 1889 GRT, built 1922), Foss Beck (British, 4876 GRT, built 1930), Harmonic (British, 4558 GRT, built 1930), Hirondelle (British, 893 GRT, built 1925), Kejserinde Dagmar (Danish, 1597 GRT, built 1905), Knud (British, 1944 GRT, built 1900), Knut (British, 1274 GRT, built 1924), Lab (Norwegian, 1118 GRT, built 1912), Leola (Estonian, 499 GRT, built 1884), Leonardia (Swedish, 1583 GRT, built 1906), Majorca (British, 1126 GRT, built 1921), Maria Toft (Danish, 1911 GRT, built 1928), N.C. Monberg (Danish, 2301 GRT, built 1928), Ophir (Norwegian, 1005 GRT, built 1906), Parnu (Estonian, 1578 GRT, built 1909), Pollux (Estonian, 931 GRT, built 1890), Ringholn (Norwegian, 1298 GRT, built 1919), Royksund (Norwegian, 695 GRT, built 1919), Saimaa (Finnish, 2001 GRT, built 1922), Tordenskjold (Norwegian, 921 GRT, built 1906), Vega I (Swedish, 1073 GRT, built 1913) and Veronica (Swedish, 1316 GRT, built 1919).

Apparently not all these ships sailed though.

Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. I.T. Clark, RN) and the submarine HMS Porpoise (Cdr. P.Q. Roberts, RN).

The AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) was also providing support for the convoy.

Distant cover was provided by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) and HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN) until 1 April 1940 when they were relieved by HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN). These cruisers had departed Rosyth earlier that day.

HMS Javelin, HMS Juno and HMS Eclipse parted company with the convoy shortly after dusk on 3 April and proceeded directly to Rosyth arriving there on the 4th.

The convoy and it's remaining escorts arrived of Methil on 4 April 1940 after which the destroyers went to Rosyth as did HMS Porpoise. HMS Penelope and HMS Sheffield arrived at Scapa Flow on 5 April 1940.

7 Apr 1940
In the evening, ships from the Home Fleet; battleships HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), Emile Bertin (Capt. R.M.J. Battet), with destroyers HMS Codrington (Capt. G.E. Creasy, MVO, RN), HMS Brazen (Lt.Cdr. M. Culme-Seymour, RN), HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN), HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Jupiter (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. R.G.K. Knowling, RN) departed from Scapa Flow to patrol in Norwegian waters near position 61°00'N, 01°00'E.

8 Apr 1940
At 0915/8, the C-in-C Home Fleet, detached HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. R.G.K. Knowling, RN) to proceed at high best speed to go to the assistance of the destroyer HMS Glowworm (Lt.Cdr. G.B. Roope, RN) which had reported being in action with enemy warships.

At 1956/8 HMS Repulse, HMS Penelope, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi and HMS Kimberley were ordered north to join the 'Renown' force off Vestfjord.

9 Apr 1940
Early in the morning of the 9th the 'Repulse' force was joined by the destroyer HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN).

At 1400/09 HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. R.G.K. Knowling, RN) and HMS Hostile made rendez-vous, off Vestfiord, with the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN). Her escorting destroyers were not with her at that moment, they had been unable to keep up with HMS Renown during the action with the German battlecruisers early in the morning and had been ordered to patrol the entance of the Vestfiord. The destroyers involved in this were the following; HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, RN), HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, RN), HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN), HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall-A'Deane, RN), HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) [the last four destroyers were in their minelaying configuartation].

HMS Penelope was then detached to patrol the entrance to Vestfiord to support the destroyers patrolling there and the remainder of the force moved to patrol about 30 nautical miles to the west of HMS Penelope.

In the evening the Admiralty ordered the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla, HMS Hardy, HMS Havock, HMS Hostile, HMS Hotspur and HMS Hunter to proceed up the Vestfjord and attack ships at Narvik.

Also on this day HMS Impulsive was ordered to proceed to Scapa Flow to repair a serious defect.

10 Apr 1940
In the evening the dispositions of the 'Renown' force was as follows;

Battlecruisers HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) were patrolling unescorted to the west of the Vestfiord.

The destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) and HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN) were patrolling south of Tjeldøya.

The destroyers HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. R.G.K. Knowling, RN) were patrolling north-east of Tranøy.

The light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) was nearby patrolling off the Tranøy Lighthouse.

The destroyers HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall-A'Deane, RN) and HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, RN) were conducting an A/S hunt off Røst.

The destroyers HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN) and HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) were patrolling in the Vestjord.

The destroyers HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN) and HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, RN) were anchored in the Skelfjord, Flakstadøya.

11 Apr 1940
HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) entered Vestfjord to support the attack of British destroyers against the German destroyer flotilla of Commodore Bonte at Narvik, but on the way in the cruiser ran aground on rocks off Fleinver and was badly damaged. She was towed clear by the British destroyer HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN).
While executing temporary repairs, she was attacked by German bombers, which obtained 4 near-misses to port, within 13 metres of the hull, exacerbating the damage already sustained by hitting the rocks. Penelope eventually reached the Tyne but was under repairs until 7 July 1941.

12 Sep 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. Baron D.T. Mackay, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN), HMS Ulster Queen (A/Capt. D.S. McGrath, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN) and HMS Castleton (Cdr.(Retd.) F.H.E. Skyrme, RN). (5)

13 Sep 1941
HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) conducted exercises to the west of Scapa Flow together with HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN).

During these exerices Prince of Wales was escorted by HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN). (6)

21 Oct 1941
HMS Penelope arrived at Malta to join Force "K".

23 Nov 1941

Operations against enemy convoy's / Sinking of HMS Barham.

23 November 1941.

'Force K', made up of the light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), departed Malta around 2330/23 to intercept reported enemy convoy's.

24 November 1941.

'Force B', made up of the light cuisers HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, RN), HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC, RN) departed Alexandria arond 0500/24 to also operate directly against the enemy convoy's.

A cover force, made up of the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. C.B. Barry, DSO, RN, Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, GCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. G.C. Cooke, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.D. Pridham-Whippell, KCB, CVO, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. C.E. Morgan, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN) and HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, RN) departed Alexandria around 1700 hours. They were joined at sea by the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN). Around 2245 hours these escort destroyers were relieved by the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN), HMS Jackal (Lt.Cdr. R.McC.P. Jonas, DSC, RN) and HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) which came from Alexandria but had not completed fuelling at the time the fleet sailed.

In the meantime the Italian submarine Luigi Settembrini had sighted and reported 'Force K' shortly after 0500/24. Enemy convoy's were then ordered to proceed to the nearest ports.

One convoy, en-route from the Aegean to Benghazi, however did not receive this order and was attacked by 'Force K' in the afternoon. Both transports in the convoy, the Maritza (German, 2910 GRT, built 1936) and Procida (German, 1842 GRT, built 1927), were sunk but the two escorts, the Italian torpedo boats Cassiopea and Lupo managed to escape although Cassiopea was damaged by splinters.

25 November 1941.

'Force K' returned to Malta around 0745/25.

'Force B' meanwhile had set course to conduct a sweep alongt the coast of Cyrenaica during the night of 25/26 November but they sighted nothing.

At 1629/25, the fleet (cover force) was attacked north-north-east of Sidi Barrani, Egypt in position 32°34'N, 26°24'E by the German uboat U-331 and HMS Barham was hit on the port side by three torpedoes. She quickly rolled over and then a magazine exploded. She quickly sank. The destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Jackal and HMAS Nizam were left behind to pick up survivors while the fleet continued on to the westward.

26 November 1941.

The fleet (cover force) returned to Alexandria around 1000/26. The three detached destroyers returned at 1400/26. A total of 449 survivors had been picked up from HMS Barham.

'Force B' returned to Alexandria around 1800/26. (7)

1 Dec 1941
Acting on an ULTRA intercept, a British force sailed from Malta in the evening of 30 November with the British light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D. McCarthy, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).
At 0330 hrs of 1/12 the British intercept and sink the Italian transport Adriatico (1976 GRT) then proceed towards the Libyan coast.
At a point 60 nautical miles north-north-west of Tripoli, Libya, Penelope, Aurora and Lively intercept a small convoy consisting of the Italian oiler Iridio Mantovani (10540 GRT) escorted by the Italian destroyer Alvise da Mosto (2125 tons) and sink both.

15 Dec 1941

Operation MF 1 and the resulting first Battle of Sirte.

Operation MF 1, passage of the British supply ship HMS Breconshire to Malta.

At 2200 hours on 15 December 1941 the British supply ship HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939) departed Alexandria being escorted by HMS Naiad (Capt. M.A.H. Kelsey, DSC, RN flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Carlisle (Capt. D.M.L. Neame, DSO, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Kimberley (Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN), HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) and HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, RN). This last destroyer was also to proceed to Malta for repairs to her bow that had been damaged in a collision at Alexandria on 4 December. HMS Breconshire was carrying oil fuel for Malta.

At 1100/16 the Allied destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) departed Malta. They joined up with the convoy at daylight on the 17th. During the day the convoy was attacked by enemy high level and torpedo bombers

These were followed at 1800/16 by ‘Force K’; HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, CB, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).

At dark on the 16th HMS Carlisle, HMS Havock and HMS Kingston were detached to make a W/T diversion to the eastward at midnight of the night of 16/17 and then to proceed to Alexandria. They were later joined by HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN).

Enemy heavy forces were reported at sea at 2230/16 by the submarines HMS Unbeaten (Lt. Cdr. E.A. Woodward, RN) and HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) in the Gulf of Taranto area. Neither submarine was able to attack. The Italians were at sea to cover an imported Axis convoy to North Africa.

From Taranto had departed the transports Monginevro (5324 GRT, built 1940), Napoli (6142 GRT, built 1941) and Vettor Pisani (6339 GRT, built 1939). They had a close escort of the destroyers Ugolino Vivaldi, Antonio Da Noli, Nicoloso da Recco, Lanzerotto Malocello, Emanuelle Pessagno, Nicolò Zeno. From Naples the German transport Ankara (4768 GRT, built 1937) departed on the same day. She had a close escort made up of the destroyer Saetta and the torpedo-boat Pegaso.

Cover was provided by two groups of warships. One group was made up of the battleship Caio Dulio, the light cruisers Emanuele Filiberto Duca D’Aosta, Muzio Attendolo, Raimondo Montecuccoli and the destroyers Aviere, Ascari and Camicia Nera. The other, and larger group, was made up of the battleships Littorio, Andrea Doria, Guilio Cesare, heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trento and the destroyers Granatiere, Bersagliere, Fuciliere, Alpino, Corazziere, Carabiniere, Antoniotto Usodimare, Maestrale, Alfredo Oriani and Vincenzo Gioberti.

The enemy heavy forces were reported by reconnaissance aircraft at 0825/17 and again at 1525/17 when they were with their convoy and only about 60 nautical miles from the Allied convoy. Very few Allied aircraft were available for reconnaissance and shadowing was therefore not carried out at all. At 1745/17 the Allied convoy unexpectedly ran into the larger of the Italian cover forces. The Italian battleships opened fire but drew off to the northward when the Allied convoy escorts closed to attack. Contact was lost in the dark. When both forces made contact HMS Breconshire was detached with HMS Havock and HMS Decoy as escorts. They later made rendez-vous with ‘Force K’.

To reinforce the convoy HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O’Coner, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, DSC, RN) were sailed from Malta.

The original convoy escorts meanwhile retired to the eastward and then proceeded to the north of Benghazi to try to intercept the enemy convoy but as it was bound for Tripoli they made no contact. They therefore retired eastwards and arrived at Alexandria during the night of 18/19 December. HMS Kipling had been damaged by a near miss on the 17th. One rating had been killed during this attack.

HMS Breconshire and her escorts arrived safely at Malta during the night of 17/18 December 1941. (7)

19 Dec 1941
While on their way to intercept an Italian convoy bound for Tripoli the British Force K (light cruisers HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) ran into an newly laid Italian minefield. HMS Neptune and HMS Kandahar sank while HMS Aurora was badly and HMS Penelope was slightly damaged. HMS Aurora was patched up at Malta before returning home for repairs at Liverpool from April to June 1942. HMS Penelope was repaired at Malta until January 1942.

16 Jan 1942

Operation MF 3.

Two convoy’s (MW 8A and MW 8B) departed Alexandria on 16 January 1942 for Malta where they arrived on 19 January 1942.

Convoy MW 8A was made up of the transports Ajax (7540 GRT, built 1931) and Thermopylae (Norwegian, 6655 GRT, built 1930). Escort was provided by the light (AA) cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. D.M.L. Neame, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt. N.H.G. Austen, RN) and HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN). This convoy departed Alexandria at 0830/16.

Convoy MW 8B was made up of the transports City of Calcutta (8063 GRT, built 1940) and Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938). Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN). This convoy, which had a higher speed, 14 instead of 12 knots, then convoy MW 8A, departed Alexandria at 1530/16.

Both convoys were to converge later but they were delayed by heavy weather.

Cover for the convoy was provided by ‘Force B’ made up of the light cruisers HMS Naiad (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Alliston, DSO, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC, RN) and HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN). This force was due to sail at 2359/16. However when they left the harbour Alexandria was struck suddenly by very bad weather resulting in HMS Kingston and HMS Foxhound colliding with each other causing serious damage to both ships and they were unable to proceed. HMS Hotspur then fouled a propeller and was also unable to proceed. HMS Dido was delayed for a few hours and sailed only at 0545/17 while the remaining ships had departed at 0240/17.

HMS Gurkha, escorting convoy MW 8B, was torpedoed at 0740/17 by the German U-boat U-133 in position 31°50'N, 26°15'E. She was towed clear of the burning oil by HrMs Isaac Sweers which managed to rescue 240 survivors. Only 9 of the crew of the Gurkha lost their lives. While rescueing the crew of the Gurkha, HMS Maori screened them and hunted the attacker but she was unable to obtain contact. HMS Gurkha sank at 0917/17. HrMs Isaac Sweers and HMS Maori then rejoined convoy MW 8B at 1125 hours. HrMs Isaac Sweers was detached at 1540/17 to land the survivors at Tobruk where she arrived at 1745/17 and already left again at 1830/17. She rejoined the convoy the following day at 0200/18.

’Force K’, made up of the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSO, DSC, RN), left Malta at 1900/17 to make rendez-vous with the convoy on the morning of the 18th.

Both convoy and ’Force B’ eventually joined up at 1100/18. ‘Force K’ made contact at 1315/18 and the convoy then proceeded westwards. There were a number of attacks by single German Ju-88 aircraft during the day but without damage to any of the ships.

Before ‘Force K ‘had joined the transport Thermopylae was detached at 1130/18 due to engine defects and was ordered to proceed to Benghazi escorted by HMS Carlisle, HMS Arrow and HMS Havock. She was later able to make 13 knots and was then ordered to return to Alexandria.

At 1930 hours on the 18th, air reconnaissance had not sighted any enemy warships so HMS Naiad, HMS Euryalus, HMS Dido, HMS Griffin, Kelvin, HMS Kipling, HMS Hero, HMS Hasty, HrMs Isaac Sweers and HMS Jaguar set course to return to Alexandria. HMS Maori joined ‘Force K’ vice HMS Jaguar and HMS Legion also proceeded to Malta as she was to dock there. At daylight on the 19th HMS Hero and HMS Hasty were detached to join the ships escorting the Thermopylae.

However at 0945/19 the Thermopylae was hit by two bombs in the engine room during a bombing attack by a single German JU-88 pressed right home. The ship caught fire and could not be saved. She was eventually scuttled at 1153/19 in position 33°02'N, 24°16'E by a torpedo from HMS Havock.

The remaining ships of the convoy arrived safely at Malta at 1530/19. Heavy enemy air attacks having been held off by effective fighter protection.

’Force B’ had also been attacked on the way back to Alexandria by single German JU-88’s. The only damage done was to HMS Naiad by a near-miss. In the afternoon of the 19th, HMS Kelvin was detached and ordered to proceed to Tobruk to pick up the survivors from HMS Gurkha and take them to Alexandria.

The first ships to return to Alexandria were the ones from ‘Force B’. They arrived around 0830/20. HMS Carlisle, HMS Arrow, HMS Havock, HMS Hasty and HMS Hero arrived shortly afterwards as did HMS Kelvin later on the day with the survivors of HMS Gurkha. (8)

24 Jan 1942

Operation MF 4.

The passage of HMS Breconshire from Alexandria to Malta from 24 to 27 January and the passage of convoy ME 9 from Malta to Alexandria from 25 to 28 January 1942.

In the morning on of 24 January 1942, HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939) departed Alexandria with stores for Malta. Escort was provided by ‘Force B’ which was made up of the light cruisers HMS Naiad (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Carlisle (Capt. D.M.L. Neame, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A,M. McKillop, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt. N.H.G. Austen, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Alliston, DSO, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, RN), HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. W. Harmsen, RNN) and HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN). HMS Kingston was to proceed to Malta for docking and repairs.

In the morning of 25 January 1942, convoy ME 9 departed Malta for Alexandria. This convoy was made up of the transports HMS Glengyle (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.H. Petrie, DSO and Bar, RN) (9919 GRT, built 1939) and Rowallan Castle (7801 GRT, built 1939). Escort was provided by ‘Force K’ which was made up of the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).

On the 25th HMS Breconshire and ‘Force B’ were shadowed by enemy aircraft. They were attacked by eight German JU-88 bombers between 1445 and 1520 hours. No ships were seriously damaged. HrMs Isaac Sweers sustained six near misses causing the Asdic and Gyro compass to be out of action for a few hours. Two JU-88’s are thought to have been shot down during the attacks. The enemy aircraft are thought to have been damaged.

At noon on the 26h both forces made rendez-vous. ‘Force B’ then turned back with the ships of convoy ME 9 while ‘Force K’ took over HMS Breconshire. Also HMS Lance joined ‘Force B’ vice HMS Kingston.

’Force K’ was bombed during the afternoon and both ‘Force B’ and ‘Force K’ were attacked during the afternoon by enemy torpedo bombers. No ships were damaged although HrMs Isaac Sweers was missed by a few hundred yards by a torpedo down the starboard side.

’Force K’ and HMS Breconshire arrived at Malta around 1000/27.

’Force B’ and convoy ME 9 arrived at Alexandria around 1100/28. (8)

12 Feb 1942

Operation MF 5.

Passage convoy MW 9A and MW 9B from Alexandria to Malta and passage of convoy ME 10 from Malta to Alexandria / Port Said.

Timespan: 12 to 16 February 1942.

Convoy MW 9A made up of the transports Clan Campbell (British, 7255 GRT, built 1937) and Clan Chattan (British, 7262 GRT, built 1937) departed Alexandria at 1600/12. Close escort was provided by the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. D.M.L. Neame, DSO, RN), destroyer HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN) and HMS Heythrop (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN).

Convoy MW 9B made up of the transport Rowallan Castle (British, 7801 GRT, built 1939) and Clan Chattan (British, 7262 GRT, built 1937) departed Alexandria at 1700/12. Close escort was provided by the escort destroyers HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN), HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN) and HMS Southwold (Cdr. C.T. Jellicoe, DSC, RN).

A cover force (Force B) for these convoys departed Alexandria at 0200/13 and was made up of the light cruisers HMS Naiad (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, DSO, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Alliston, DSO, RN), HMS Griffin (Capt. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt. N.H.G. Austen, RN), HMS Havock (Lt.Cdr. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) and HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN).

At 1730/13, the transport Clan Campbell was damaged by bombing in position 32.22’N, 24.22’E and detached to Tobruk escorted by HMS Avon Vale and HMS Eridge. The escort destroyer were ordered to rejoin the convoy as soon as possible.

Convoy MB 9B was attacked from the air but no damage was sustained.

The cover force (Force B) was also attacked by enemy bombers at dusk but no damage was sustained by any of the ships.

After dark on 13 February, convoy ME 10, made up of the transports Ajax (British, 7540 GRT, built 1931), HMS Breconshire (British, GRT, built ), City of Calcutta (British, 8063 GRT, built 1940) and Clan Ferguson (British, 7347 GRT, built 1938) departed Malta for Alexandria / Port Said. Close cover was provided by Force K made up of the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN) and HMS Decoy (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, RN).

At 0700/14, convoy MW 9A, convoy MW 9B and Force B joined. They were shadowed throughout the day. High level and dive bombing attacks started at 1345 and continued until 1600 hours. The transport Clan Chatten was hit and badly damaged in position 35°01’N, 20°11’E. She was later scuttled by our own forces after all crew and passengers had been taken off.

Force K and convoy ME 10 was met at 1440/14 hours. HMS Lance then joined Force K while HMS Fortune and HMS Decoy from Force K, which had just completed repairs at Malta, joined Force B. Force K then turned back to Malta escorting Rowallan Castle.

Both forces continued to be attacked by enemy aircraft and at 1515/14 Rowallan Castle was near missed in position 35°34’N, 19°40’E. Her engines were disabled and she was taken in tow by HMS Zulu but she could not make sufficient speed to reach Malta safely and the transport had to be sunk which was done at 1956/14.

HMS Penelope, HMS Lance and HMS Lively were ordered to continue to Malta where they arrived on the 15th, while HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu and HMS Legion were ordered to join Force B.

Meanwhile two ships of the close escort of convoy ME 10, HMS Carlisle and HMS Eridge had sustained some minor damage in enemy air attacks in the afternoon of the 14th.

Force B and convoy ME 10 were bombed throughout the day on the 15th by single aircraft but no damage was done to any of the ships.

During the day, HMS Beaufort, HMS Dulverton, HMS Hurworth and HMS Southwold were detached to Tobruk. They left there at 1830/15 escorting the damaged transport Clan Campbell back to Alexandria.

Light cruisers HMS Naiad, HMS Dido, HMS Euryalus, destroyers HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Legion, HMS Hasty, HMS Havock, Griffin, HMS Decoy, HMS Arrow and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale, HMS Eridge and HMS Heythrop arrived at Alexandria at 0130/16 with the transport HMS Breconshire.

The transports Ajax, City of Calcutta and Clan Ferguson continued on to Port Said escorted by the destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Jaguar, HMS Kelvin, HMS Kipling and HMS Fortune. They arrived at Port Said P.M. on the 16th. HMS Kelvin, HMS Jaguar and HMS Fortune then immediately proceeded to Alexandria (arriving on February, 17th), while HMS Jervis and HMS Kipling remained at Port Said.

The damaged transport Clan Campbell and the escort destroyers HMS Beaufort, HMS Dulverton, HMS Hurworth and HMS Southwold arrived at Alexandria P.M. on the 16th coming from Tobruk. (8)

19 Mar 1942
In the aftermath of the Battle of the Syrte, attempted towing the damaged Breconshire (9776 GRT) into port, but the freighter sank before reaching safe waters.

20 Mar 1942
In the period between 20-30 March 1942, Axis air attacks on Malta were extremely heavy. Ammunition expenditure by Penelope during the 10-day period amounted to 6.500 rounds of 102 mm (4") and over 75.000 rounds of small calibre. She sustained so much splinter damage to earn the nickname "Pepperpot.
Folowing a particularly heavy attack on 26 March, it was decided to send her to the US for repairs. She sailed from Malta on 8 April for New York Navy yard and was under repairs until 1 September. Returned to the Med in early 1943 and was assigned to Force "Q", operating out of Bone, Algeria.

20 Mar 1942

Operation MG 1 and the resulting second Battle of Sirte.

Operation MG 1, passage of convoy MW 10 to Malta.

At 0700/20 convoy MW 10 departed Alexandria for Malta. This convoy was made up of the transports HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939), Clan Campbell (British, 7255 GRT, built 1937), Pampas (British, 5415 GRT, built 1941) and Talabot (British, 6798 GRT, built 1936). Close escort was provided by the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. D.M.L. Neame, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, RN), HMS Havock (Lt.Cdr. G.R.G. Watkins, DSC, RN) and HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO and Bar, RN).

Cover for this convoy was provided by Force B, made up of the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Alliston, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St.Clair Ford, DSO, RN). This cover force departed Alexandria at 1800/20.

At daylight on 21 March the convoy escort was reinfored by the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN) and HMS Southwold (Cdr. C.T. Jellicoe, DSC, RN). These escort destroyers had departed Alexandria already on the 19th to proceed to Tobruk while conducting an A/S sweep and fuel there before joining the convoy. A sixth escort destroyer joined later as she had been delayed at Tobruk with a fouled propeller. This was HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and she sailed from Tobruk at 0945/21. Another escort destroyer, HMS Heythrop (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN), was torpedoed at 1100/20 in position 32°22'N, 25°28'E by the German submarine U-652 while the escort destroyers were conducting their A/S sweep. The stricken ship was taken in tow towards Tobruk by HMS Eridge but she sank at 1600/20 in position 32°13'N, 25°33'E.

Shortly after the escort destroyers had joined the convoy escort, Force B made contact with the convoy. The fleet destroyers that had been escorting the convoy the joined that force.

After dark on March 21st, the light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) and the destroyer HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN) departed Malta and joined Force B in the morning of March 22nd.

At 0130/22, the submarine HMS P 36 (Lt. H.N. Edmonds, DSC, RN) reported enemy heavy ships leaving Taranto.

In the forenoon light enemy air attacks commenced on the convoy. These developed into heavy air attacks in the afternoon. A total of about 150 enemy aircraft were counted attacking. They concentrated mainly on the convoy but no ships were hit.

At 1430/22 Force B sighted four enemy cruisers to the north-east in position 33°53'N, 17°47'E. These were then driven off.

At 1640/22 Force B sighted a Littorio class battleship, two heavy cruisers and some destroyers to the northward. A delaying action was then fought by the cruisers and destroyers of Force B making full use of smoke while the convoy continued on to the westward. Destroyers pressed home a torpedo attack to 6000 yards and reported a hit on the battleship (this was not the case). The battleship was also hit by gunfire and was seen to be on fire aft. One enemy cruiser was seriously damaged and the other was also hit. HMS Cleopatra was hit on the bridge but only sustained minor damage. HMS Kingston was hit in an engine room and HMS Havock in a boiler room. Both destroyers had their speed reduced to 15 knots. HMS Lively was hit forward but was not seriously damaged.

At 1900/22 (dusk) the enemy, who had never got within range of the convoy, withdrew to the northward while the convoy was dispersed to Malta with the escorts proceeding with the individual ships. HMS Penelope, HMS Havock, HMS Kingston and HMS Legion were also detached to Malta. Force B set course to Alexandria.

The Italian ships encountered were the following; battleship Vittorio Veneto, heavy cruisers Bolzano, Trento, light cruiser Giovanni Delle Bande Nere and the destroyers Alpino, Bersagliere, Fuciliere, Lanciere, Ascari, Aviere, Geniere, Grecale, Alfredo Oriani and Scirocco.

From daylight on March 23rd the ships of the convoy were again subjected to heavy air attacks as they were approaching Malta. At 1040/23 Clan Campbell was bombed and sunk in position 35°33'N, 14°35'E. HMS Eridge rescued 113 men. Breconshire was hit in the engine room at 1030/23 wen about eight miles from Grand Harbour. She was disabled and attempts by HMS Penelope to take her in tow failed. She drifted towards the shore and came to anchor. Owning to the gale and heavy swell attempts to tow her had to be abandoned.

Pampas and Talabot arrived in harbour safely. HMS Legion was hit but reached Marsaxlokk Harbour and anchored in shallow water.

HMS Carlisle and the Hunt class escort destroyers remained at Malta to provide AA protection for Breconshire. HMS Avon Vale was damaged when she collided with Breconshire and by a near miss. She was unseaworthy. The damaged HMS Kingston and HMS Havock were able to reach Malta safely.

Force B, on their passage east, were delayed by heavy weather. Some of the destroyers sustaining weather damage. The force was bombed during the day but no ship sustained any damage due to the bombing.

An aircraft search for the Italian fleet failed to find any enemy ships.

Shortly after noon on the 24th HMS Cleopatra, HMS Dido, HMS Euryalus, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Hasty, HMS Hero, HMS Jervis, HMS Kelvin and HMS Kipling entered harbour at Alexandria. All ships had sustained some form of weather damage. HMS Lively arrived later due to flooding forward. HMS Zulu and HMS Lively were out of action for some weeks.

Meanwhile at Malta weather was still unsuitable to tow Breconshire into the harbour. HMS Southwold was mined while operating near her. She sank while under tow to the harbour. Breconshire was finally towed into the harbour in the morning of the 25th. (8)

Jun 1943
During the first week of June bombarded Pantelleria and Lampedusa islands, in the Sicilian Channel, on 11 June supported the Pantelleria landings.

Aug 1943
Deployed in support of Operation "Husky", the Sicilian landings.

9 Sep 1943
Deployed in support of the Salerno landings, after the announcement of the Italian Armistice ferried troops to Taranto and in October moved to operate in the Aegean.

7 Oct 1943
The British light cruisers HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Belben, DSC, RN) and HMS Sirius (Capt. P.B.W. Brooking, DSO, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.F. Taylor, RN), north of Astipalea (Stampalia) in the Dodecanese, attacked a German convoy consisting of the auxiliary submarine chaser UJ 2111 (667 tons, former Italian Tramaglio), cargo Olympus (5216 GRT) and 5 MFPs. All were sunk.
On the return leg of the mission, the British were repeatedly attacked by German planes while transiting Karpathos Strait (Scarpanto).

Dec 1943
Left the Med for a short period of time to hunt down blockade runners in the Bay of Biscay.

Jan 1944
Deployed in support of the Anzio landings.

18 Feb 1944
My father William C. Moen was a member of PT Boat squadron 216 off the coast of Anzio. My father jumped in the water and helped save several of Penelopes crew just after the Penelope was sunk. He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for valor. (9)

Media links


U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor


amazon.co.uk
(£ 38.25)

Sources

  1. ADM 199/389
  2. ADM 173/15879
  3. ADM 53/108195
  4. ADM 173/15881
  5. File 2.12.03.6377 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  6. ADM 53/114892
  7. ADM 199/415
  8. ADM 199/650
  9. Personal communication

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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