Allied Warships

HMS Arethusa (26)

Light cruiser of the Arethusa class


HMS Arethusa in 1945

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeLight cruiser
ClassArethusa 
Pennant26 
Built byChatham Dockyard (Chatham, U.K.) : Parsons 
Ordered1 Sep 1932 
Laid down25 Jan 1933 
Launched6 Mar 1934 
Commissioned23 May 1935 
End service 
History

Sold to J. Cashmore in 1950, arrived at Newport on 9 May 1950 for scrapping.

 

Commands listed for HMS Arethusa (26)

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

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Quintin Dick Graham, RN30 Jun 193914 May 1941
2Capt. Alex Colin Chapman, RN14 May 194117 Nov 1942
3A/Cdr. Mark Taylor Collier, RN17 Nov 194221 Nov 1942
4A/Rear-Admiral George Hector Creswell, DSO, DSC, RN21 Nov 1942Dec 1942
5A/Cdr. Mark Taylor Collier, RNDec 194230 Jun 1943
6Cdr. Hugh Forbes Robertson-Aikman, RN30 Jun 431 Dec 1943
7Capt. Hugh Dalrymple-Smith, RN1 Dec 1943Jun 1945
8Capt. Caspar Silas Balfour Swinley, DSO, DSC, RNJun 1945late 1945

You can help improve our commands section
Click here to Submit events/comments/updates for this vessel.
Please use this if you spot mistakes or want to improve this ships page.

Notable events involving Arethusa include:


4 Sep 1939
The heavy cruiser HMS Sussex (Capt. A.R. Hammick, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. D. de Pass, RN) and HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN) departed Alexandria to make rendez-vous off Cape Matapan with HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN) HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. C.F. Tower, MVO, RN), HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN) and take over the patrol in that area. (1)

6 Sep 1939
HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN), HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN) HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. C.F. Tower, MVO, RN), HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN) arrived at Alexandria from patrol off Crete. (1)

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 Penelope returned to Alexandria though.

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 patrol for HMS Sussex was apparently later cancelled and she proceeded to Malta for a docking.

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

20 Sep 1939
HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) departed Alexandria to patrol south of the Otranto Straits. Before proceeding on patrol they first carried out exercises. (2)

25 Sep 1939
HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) arrived at Malta from patrol. (2)

26 Sep 1939
HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) departed Malta to patrol off the Kithera Channel. (2)

30 Sep 1939
HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.R. Moore, CB, DSO, CVO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) arrived at Alexandria from patrol. (2)

24 Oct 1939
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 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), 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. The cruisers remained at sea for night exercises. (1)

25 Oct 1939
HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN), 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), 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)

19 Dec 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Malta together with HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Grahan, RN), HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Cant, RAN) and HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN). (4)

20 Dec 1939
HMS Otway (Cdr. H.R. Conway, RN) conducted exercises off Malta together with HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Grahan, RN), HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Cant, RAN) and HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN). (4)

12 Feb 1940

Convoy HN 11.

This convoy was formed near Bergen, Norway on 12 February 1940. It arrived at Methil on 15 February 1940

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Balder (Norwegian, 1129 GRT, built 1901), Bjornvik (Norwegian, 812 GRT, built 1918), Convallaria (Swedish, 1996 GRT, built 1921), Dahlia (Swedish, 1057 GRT, built 1907), Drabant (Swedish, 1767 GRT, built 1897), Eros (Norwegian, 974 GRT, built 1922), Frisco (Norwegian, 1582 GRT, built 1939), Gol (Norwegian, 985 GRT, built 1920), Jacob Christensen (Norwegian, 3594 GRT, built 1920), Jaederen (Norwegian, 902 GRT, built 1918), La France (Norwegian, 617 GRT, built 1909), Listo (Norwegian, 1998 GRT, built 1918), Lyng (Norwegian, 953 GRT, built 1920), Lysland (Norwegian, 1335 GRT, built 1907), Majorca (British, 1126 GRT, built 1921), Mari (Norwegian, 563 GRT, built 1920), Maria Gorthon (Swedish, 1572 GRT, built 1930), Northumbria (Swedish, 1396 GRT, built 1898), Omberg (Swedish, 1284 GRT, built 1920), Orania (Norwegian, 1182 GRT, built 1919), Orland (Norwegian, 1899 GRT, built 1917), Oscar (Swedish, 1394 GRT, built 1914), Otto (Finnish, 1343 GRT, built 1907), Sando (Swedish, 1334 GRT, built 1902), Sigrid (Norwegian, 965 GRT, built 1920), Sixten (Norwegian, 2171 GRT, built 1912), Spero (Norwegian, 3619 GRT, built 1919), Storfors (Norwegian, 545 GRT, built 1918) and Vestland (Norwegian, 1934 GRT, built 1916).

Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN). Cover for the convoy was provided by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN). Destroyer HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) sailed from Rosyth on the 13th and joined the convoy escort. The movements of each induvial escort is not clear to us at the moment but it appears all escorts were back in harbour before the convoy arrived at Methil.

14 Feb 1940

Operation DT.

Interception of German merchant vessels off Norway.

The light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN), HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. R.C. Gordon, RN) and HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) departed Rosyth for operationed off the Norwegian coast. They were to intercept German merchant vessels in the vicinity off Kristiansand and then sweep northwards.

On departure from Rosyth, HMS Penelope fouled the boom and damaged her propellers. She was therefore unable to sail and the other ships departed without her.

On the 16th the ships on operation DT were ordered to pintecept the German supply vessel (tanker) Altmark which had British prisoners on board from ships which had been intercepted by the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.

At 1424/16, HMS Arethusa sighted the Altmark and HMS Intrepid and HMS Ivanhoe were ordered to intercept the Altmark inside Norwegian territorial waters. This was however prevented by the Norwegian escort of the German ship which then entered the Josing Fiord.

HMS Cossack then also entered the fiord and negociations with the Norwegians started. Captain Vian demanded the release of the English prisoners. This was signalled to the Admiralty in Cossack's signal timed 1616/16. HMS Cossack was at that time in position 58°19'N, 06°20'E.

At 1632/16, HMS Cossack reported that the Altmark was being examined by a Norwegian 'gunboat' and that another 'gunboat' had a torpedo tube aimed at the Cossack. [The two 'gunboats' were in fact the old Norwegian torpedo boats Kjell and Skarv.]

At 1757/16, HMS Cossack reported to the Admiralty that the Commanding Officer of the Norwegian torpedo boat Kjell reported that the Altmark had been examined at Bergen on the 15th and that the ship was not armed and no British prisoners had been encountered on the ship. HMS Cossack had now retired from the fiord and was outside territorial waters and was awaiting instructions.

At 2007/16, HMS Cossack reported to the Admiralty that the German tanker Baldur (5805 GRT, built 1929) [actually this was not a tanker but a merchant vessel with a cargo of iron ore] had been intercepted by HMS Ivanhoe off the fiord and that the German merchant vessel was being scuttled by her own crew.

HMS Cossack entered the fiord around 2100/16. The Norwegians were told it was the British intention to board the Altmark and the Norwegians were invented to join them in doing so but they refused. At 2215/16, HMS Cossack went alongside the Altmark which grounded during the action. A boarding party of three officers and thirty ratings then boarded the German ship. A fight then erupted with the German crew and seven Germans were killed. The boarding party then found and released the English prisoners on board the Altmark. After they had boarded the Cossack she returned to sea to join the rest of the squadron.

The destroyers then proceeded to return to Rosyth where they arrived on the 17th. HMS Cossack had first landed the British prisoners from the Altmark at Leith.

HMS Aretusa proceeded to join the cover force for convoy HN 12. (5)

16 Feb 1940

Convoy HN 12

This convoy departed from Norway, near Bergen on 16 February 1940. The bulk of the convoy arrived at Methil on 19 February 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Activ (Norwegian , 507 GRT, built 1903), Amsterdam (Dutch, 7329 GRT, built 1922), Arnold Bratt (Swedish, 1430 GRT, built 1925), Bera (Swedish, 11286 GRT, built 1939), Columba (Norwegian, 1118 GRT, built 1929), Consul Bratt (Swedish, 1117 GRT, built 1913), Frode (Norwegian, 697 GRT, built 1917), Gottfrid (Finnish, 1592 GRT, built 1899), Hundvaag (Norwegian, 690 GRT, built 1908), Iberia (Swedish, 1399 GRT, built 1903), Kongshavn (Norwegian, 751 GRT, built 1906), Liv (Norwegian, 3068 GRT, built 1906), Maria Toft (Danish, 1911 GRT, built 1928), Meteor (Norwegian, 3717 GRT, built 1904), Mimer (Norwegian, 1143 GRT, built 1905), Rex (Swedish, 1013 GRT, built 1877), Rosten (Norwegian, 737 GRT, built 1920), Roy (Norwegian, 1768 GRT, built 1921), Sekstant (Norwegian, 1626 GRT, built 1919), Skarv (Norwegian, 852 GRT, built 1923), Stig Gorthon (Swedish, 2241 GRT, built 1924), Svanholm (British, 1321 GRT, built 1922), Vaga (Norwegian, 1612 GRT, built 1924), Viiu (Estonian, 1908 GRT, built 1917), Vim (Norwegian, 1114 GRT, built 1913) and Wipunen (Finnish, 4103 GRT, built 1913).

Escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Imogen (Cdr. C.L. Firth, MVO, RN) and HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN). Anti-Aircraft protection was provided until the afternoon of the 17th by the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN) which then proceeded to Sullom Voe. The submarine HMS Thistle (Cdr. R.W. Stirling-Hamilton, RN) was also part of the convoy escort.

The destroyer HMS Daring (Cdr. S.A. Cooper, RN) joined the convoy at sea on the 16th having departed Rosyth on the 15th.

Cover for the convoy was provided until 17 February by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN).

HMS Edinburgh and HMS Aurora were detached on the 17th to Scapa Flow where they arrived the next day. They were escorted by HMS Inglefield and HMS Imogen.

On the 18th the convoy was joined by three merchant ships from the Orkneys and by their escort, the destroyer HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN).

Shortly before 0400 hours, on the 18th, HMS Daring was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-23 about 40 nautical miles east of the Pentland Firth in position 58°40'N, 01°35'W. HMS Thistle sights the sinking destroyer and directs the other destroyers to the rescue. HMS Inglefield (appartenly returned) picked up one officer and three ratings from a Carley float and HMS Ilex another rating from wreckage, they are the only survivors. 156 of the crew are lost. HMS Ilex also hunted the U-boat without success.

Following the sinking of HMS Daring the destroyers HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) were sent out from Rosyth to join the convoy and escort the merchant vessels to Methil so that the original destroyer escort could hunt the submarine. [It remains unclear to us though if HMS Jaguar actually joined the convoy as she also departed Methil as escort for an east coast convoy on the 18th.] (6)

3 Mar 1940

Convoy ON 17.

This convoy was formed off Methil on 3 March 1940. It arrived in Norwegian waters near Bergen on 7 March 1940.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Aina (British, 1698 GRT, built 1904), Aspen (Swedish, 1305 GRT, built 1908), Becheville (British, 4228 GRT, built 1924), Borgund (Norwegian, 303 GRT, built 1917), Brita (Swedish, 1252 GRT, built 1908), Carbonia (Swedish, 1918 GRT, built 1916), Drabant (Swedish, 1767 GRT, built 1897), Edle (Norwegian, 654 GRT, built 1916), Falken (Swedish, 1308 GRT, built 1893), Finlandia (Finnish, 1464 GRT, built 1920), Flimston (British, 4674 GRT, built 1925), Frans (Swedish, 1169 GRT, built 1924), Frode (Norwegian, 697 GRT, built 1917), Greenawn (British, 784 GRT, built 1924), Helfrid (Swedish, 719 GRT, built 1922), Iron Baron (Norwegian, 3231 GRT, built 1911), Jacob Christensen (Norwegian, 3594 GRT, built 1920), Karen (Danish, 1194 GRT, built 1917), Knud Villemoes (Danish, 1582 GRT, built 1905), Kongshavn (Norwegian, 751 GRT, built 1906), Kul (Norwegian, 1310 GRT, built 1907), Lily (Danish, 1281 GRT, built 1920), Marianne (Danish, 1239 GRT, built 1924), Marita (Finnish, 1869 GRT, built 1923), Merkur (Estonian, 1291 GRT, built 1913), Minona (Norwegian, 1147 GRT, built 1919), Nicke (Swedish, 1170 GRT, built 1918), Nurgis (Norwegian, 700 GRT, built 1919), Regin (Norwegian, 1386 GRT, built 1917), Rolf (Swedish, 1120 GRT, built 1919), Roy (Norwegian, 1768 GRT, built 1921), Sirius (Swedish, 1832 GRT, built 1889), Sixten (Swedish, 2171 GRT, built 1912), Skarv (Norwegian, 852 GRT, built 1923), Sophie (Danish, 945 GRT, built 1920), Svanholm (Norwegian, 696 GRT, built 1917), Thore Hafte (Norwegian, 626 GRT, built 1896), Torafire (Norwegian, 823 GRT, built 1920), Trewellard (British, 5201 GRT, built 1936), Varanges (Norwegian, 2214 GRT, built 1908) and Vim (Norwegian, 1114 GRT, built 1913).

Escort was provided by the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN), the destroyers HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. A.W. Buzzard, RN) and HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) and the submarine HMS Narwhal (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Burch, RN).

The light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) departed Rosyth on the 3rd to provide cover.

On the 4th the merchant vessel Greenawn was detached to Scapa Flow escorted by HMS Diana. HMS Narwhal was also detached with orders to proceed to Scapa Flow.

4 Mar 1940

Convoy ON 17A.

This convoy was formed off Methil on 4 March 1940. It arrived in Norwegian waters near Bergen on 8 March 1940.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Almora (Norwegian, 2433 GRT, built 1905), Ardanbhan (British, 4980 GRT, built 1929), Ardun (Norwegian, 1304 GRT, built 1925), Balticia (Swedish, 1966 GRT, built 1905), Banian (Norwegian, 1581 GRT, built 1912), Bolette (Norwegian, 1167 GRT, built 1920), Bore (Swedish, 1216 GRT, built 1910), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Brisk (Norwegian, 1594 GRT, built 1923), Dagmar Bratt (Swedish, 1421 GRT, built 1920), Dahlia (Swedish, 1057 GRT, built 1907), Ena de Larrinaga (British, 5200 GRT, built 1925), Erica (Norwegian, 1592 GRT, built 1919), Eros (Norwegian, 974 GRT, built 1922), Frisia (Swedish, 1059 GRT, built 1909), Gottfird (Finnish, 1592 GRT, built 1899), Heilo (Norwegian, 989 GRT, built 1921), Helny (Finnish, 1506 GRT, built 1886), Julia (Estonian, 1892 GRT, built 1906), Kare (Swedish, 1202 GRT, built 1902), Karen (Norwegian, 750 GRT, built 1900), King Alfred (British, 5272 GRT, built 1919), Komet (Norwegian, 1147 GRT, built 1912), Margareta (British, 3103 GRT, built 1904), Margareta (Finnish, 1860 GRT, built 1919), Nina (Norwegian, 1371 GRT, built 1917), Oinas (Finnish, 1423 GRT, built 1910), Ostrobotnia (Finnish, 2335 GRT, built 1921), Otto (Estonian, 1959 GRT, built 1918), Rex (Swedish, 1013 GRT, built 1877), Rigel (Norwegian, 3828 GRT, built 1924), Sedgepool (British, 5556 GRT, built 1918), Sjofna (Norwegian, 619 GRT, built 1918), Stargard (Norwegian, 1113 GRT, built 1915), Tautra (Norwegian, 1749 GRT, built 1920), Tilda (Finnish, 2768 GRT, built 1903), Tora (Norwegian, 851 GRT, built 1918), Toran (Norwegian, 3318 GRT, built 1918), Tyra Bratt (Swedish, 1301 GRT, built 1923), Uranus (Estonian, 1329 GRT, built 1906) and Vaga (Norwegian, 1612 GRT, built 1924).

Escort was provided by HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN). HMS Juno later had to be detached to return to Rosyth with defects.

Later, at sea, the convoy was joined by the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN).

Cover for the convoy was provided by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN).

13 Mar 1940
Around 1100/13, HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow and the Clyde.

Around 1945/13, HMS Aretusa and HMS Penelope parted company with the other ships and proceeded to Scapa Flow where they arrived around 2330/13.

HMS Aurora and HMS Galatea arrived in the Clyde around 1830/14. (7)

20 Mar 1940

Operation DU.

Anti-shipping raid into the Skagerrak and the Northern part of the Bight.

Around 2330/20, the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN) and HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Operation DU, an anti-shipping raid into the Skagerrak and the Northern part of Bight.

At 1000/21, the force was in position 59°28'N, 01°54'E and at 1800/21 in position 58°06'N, 05°15'E. During the afternoon the wind was strong from the south-east and the sea moderate to rough but by 2200/21 both had decreased and the visibility was maximum.

By 1930/21, two groups had been formed.
'Force B' was made up of the Galatea, Arethusa, Firedrake, Foxhound, Sikh and Somali. while 'Force C' was made up of the Aurora (SO), Penelope, Fame, Foresight, Mashona and Matabele.
Force C was stationed two miles astern of Force B and each force took up the night cruising formation that had been ordered. Force C had been ordered to act independently from 2000/21, when the whole force arrived in position 270°, Lister lighthouse, 12 miles, and was seen overtaking Force B at 2038/21 steering 143° steering for Thyborøn, Denmark.

Force B set course 143° at 17 knots for 26 miles to pass 16 miles off Lindesnes in order to avoid being sighted by any patrol or shipping close inshore.

At 2127/21, Force C was observed to the south-westward examining by searchlight a vessel showing its navigation lights.

At 2145/21, Force B altered course to 108° towards position 'T' which was 57°30'N, 08°23'E. The light of several steamers steering to the westwards were seen to the northward between 2230 and 2300/21. It was however Vice-Admiral Tovy's plan to proceed to position 'T' unobserved so no destroyers were detached to investigate them.

At 2223/21, HMS Arethusa intercepted a message from the German merchant vessel Heddernheim (4947 GRT, built 1921) and reported her bearing to be 034° first class. From the latest information (Admiralty's signal 1227/21), it seemed probable that this ship was the only large ship laden with iron ore which was south of Haugesund this night. It was possible she might steer for the Skaw. Vice-Admiral Tovey therefore changed the operations plan and altered course to 040° and increased speed to 20 knots at 2327/21 so as to intercept this merchant vessel off Oksøy about 0030/22.

Oskøy lighthouse was sighted at 0024/22 bearing 026° and at 0031/22 a ship, showing dimmed navigation lights was sighted but it proved to be the Danish merchant vessel Viborg (2028 GRT, built 1919). At 0044/22, course was altered to 245° to search westwards at 15 knots. It was not until 0059/22 that the Admiralty signal 2317/21 was received which stated that the Heddernheim had been stopped by the submarine HMS Ursula 8 miles east of the Skaw. No cause for the large error in the D/F bearing of HMS Arethusa has been found.

During the rest of the night Force B patrolled off Ryvingen and searched westwards along the coast. HMS Firedrake and HMS FoxhoundHMS Somali and HMS Sikh parted company at 0223/22 to search close inshore. They did not rejoin until daylight. At 0501/22, HMS Firedrake and HMS Foxhound were again detached to investigate ships and at 0545/22, HMS Firedrake reported that she sighted Force C bearing 135° returning to make rendezvous with Force B. They came back from the area of Hantsholm.

At daybreak the weather was overcast, wind was east force 4, visibility was good. Force B encountered a few merchant vessels which were examined.

At 0646/22, HMS Sikh and HMS Somali were sighted bearing 080°, 6 miles. Force C rejoined at 0658/22. At 0730/22, the combined force in the agreed rendezvous position and was steering 321°, speed 19 knots.

Both HMS Sikh and HMS Somali had sighted several merchant vessels. Some might have been German but they could not be closed in time and and could not be inspected as they were also in territorial waters.

At 0805/22, it was snowing heavily, and the visibility was reduced at times to two miles. Windwas east-south-east, force 2. The combined force was sweeping up the coast of Norway at 19 knots.

At 0915/22, HMS Galatea sighted a torpedo track but investigation left little doubt that it had not been a torpedo but a fish as a large school of black fish was seen.

At 0922/22, HMS Somali reported a German vessel ahead and was ordered to capture her but not to enter territorial waters. HMS Somali fired a gun to bring the ship to, but was not able to stop her before she reached territorial waters. When the ship was one mile off the shore, the crew were seen to take to the boats. It is not known whether they had scuttled their ship. At 0932/22, HMS Somali was ordered to rejoin the force. On her return HMS Somali reported that the German vessel was the Butt (800 GRT, built 1909), homeport Bremen.

At 0948/22, HMS Firedrake was detached to examine a merchant vessel making a lot of smoke. At 0955/22, HMS Firedrake reported that it was a Danish merchant vessel.

At 1020/22, HMS Somali reported two merchant vessels ahead. HMS Somali then proceeded ahead to investigate. She rejoined at 1048 and reported that both vessels were also Danish.

At noon, HMS Somali spoke two more Danish vessels. Weather was now overcast, wind south, force 2, visibility maximum.

At 1203/22, a small warship very close inshore was sighted by HMS Galatea. It was identified as a Norwegian torpedo boat.

At 1212/22, in position 197°, 8 miles, Utsire lighthouse, course was altered to 263° in ordered tht it should appear from shore that the force was returning to Scapa Flow.

At 1315/22, course was altered to 240° and to 162° at 1340/22 and speed was adjusted to pass trough the following positions, 58°25'N, 04°28'E at 1600/22 and 58°06'N, 05°15'E. During the afternoon the wind freshened from the south-eastward, to force 6, and the sea became rather rough.

Vice-Admiral Tovey's intentions for the night were that the two forces were to be stationed 15 miles apart to avoud sight one another during the night. Both forces were to move 30 miles westward at 0130/23 so that whatever delay had occurred owing to investigations and boardings, they would still be at least 15 miles apart.

At 1810/22, Force C was ordered to take station 15 miles 270° from HMS Galatea.

At 1915/22, Force B took up night cruising formation, HMS Somali and HMS Sikh on the port quarter, HMS Foxhound and HMS Firedrake on the starboard quarter.

At 2050/22, the sky was overcast, visibility good, wind south-east, force 5, sea rough but decreasing.

About 2200/22, when 5 miles south of Lindesnes, HMS Galatea sighted a merchant vessel which turned out to be Danish and HMS Foxhound sighted a Norwegian merchant vessel.

The sweep was continued troughout the night according to plan and without incident. The wind at 0200 was east-southeast force 4, sky clear, slight east-south-east swell, visibility good. Around 0500/3, the force ran into rather rough water.

At 0610/23, when south of the approach to Farsund, HMS Foxhound was detached to investigate a large merchant ship which was found out to be Swedish.

At 0713/23, Force B sighted Force C and at 0740/23 the whole force was in formation again. Course was set to 272°, speed 22 knots.

The weather deteriorated rapidly. There were heavy snow showers and a south-easterly gale blowing by 0900/23.

At 1143/23, HMS Aurora and all destroyers were detached to Scapa Flow. Visibility was then about 1.5 miles. The three remaining cruisers altered course and proceeded to Rosyth where they arrived around 0030/24.

HMS Aurora and the destroyers arrived at Scapa Flow around 1130/24. (8)

27 Mar 1940

Convoy ON 23.

This convoy was formed off Methil on 27 March 1940. It arrived in Norwegian waters near Bergen on 31 March 1940.

This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Blythmoor (British, 6582 GRT, built 1922), Bothnia (Swedish, 1343 GRT, built 1918), Elie (Danish, 1873 GRT, built 1921), Ferm (Swedish, 1026 GRT, built 1936), Grana (Norwegian, 1297 GRT, built 1920), Hagfors (Swedish, 654 GRT, built 1917), Leena (Finnish, 1133 GRT, built 1905), Lise (Danish, 1247 GRT, built 1920), Marvi (Estonian, 1429 GRT, built 1883), Mersington Courst (British, 5141 GRT, built 1920), Motto (Norwegian, 1171 GRT, built 1903), North Cornwall (British, 4303 GRT, built 1924), Rapid II (Norwegian, 714 GRT, built 1916), Salerno (British, 870 GRT, built 1924), Salmonpool (British, 4803 GRT, built 1924), Stensaas (Norwegian, 1359 GRT, built 1918), Svanefjell (Norwegian, 1371 GRT, built 1936), Svanholm (Danish, 1321 GRT, built 1922), Themis (Norwegian, 706 GRT, built 1919), Transport (Norwegian, 1998 GRT, built 1921), Vesla (Norwegian, 1107 GRT, built 1913), Vim (Norwegian, 1114 GRT, built 1913) and Walborg (Swedish, 1488 GRT, built 1896).

On the 29th they were joined at sea by four merchant ships which came from Kirkwall, these were; Astrid (Danish, 1733 GRT, built 1924), Erling Lindoe (Norwegian, 1281 GRT, built 1917), Graziella (Norwegian, 2137 GRT, built 1917) and Gudrid (Norwegian, 1305 GRT, built 1922).

Escort was provided by destroyers HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, 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).

They were joined on the 29th by the AA cruisers HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) which came from Sullom Voe.

Also on the 29th the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN) departed Kirkwall with the four merchant ships which sailed from there. When they joined the convoy the destroyer HMS Janus parted company and proceeded to Scapa for repairs and boiler cleaning.

Distant cover for the convoy was provided by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) and HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN) which had departed Rosyth on 28 March.

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 6 April 1940.

4 Apr 1940
The Polish destroyers Burza, Grom and Blyskawica reached their new home base Rosyth. In the afternoon they left the harbour with the British light cruisers HMS Arethusa, HMS Galatea and three British destroyers. These ships were ordered to conduct a patrol at North Sea and were later ordered to intercept German invasion groups heading for Norway. (9)

7 Apr 1940
The light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), the British destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. P.L. Vian, RN), HMS Cossack (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. A.W. Buzzard, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. J.A. Giffard, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN), HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Machin, RN), the Polish destroyers Burza (Lt.Cdr. W. Francki), ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. S.M. Nahorski, ORP) and ORP Grom (Lt.Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) departed Rosyth in the evening for operations of Norway. They were to proceed to a position west of Stavanger and then were to sweep northwards.

27 Apr 1940
HMS Jackal (Cdr. T.M. Napier, RN) conducted gunnery exercises at Scapa Flow after whichshe departed to make rendez-vous at sea with the light cruiser HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) which she joined around 1830 hours. They then both arrived at Scapa Flow the following day. (10)

2 Jul 1940

Operations Catapult and Lever.

Operations agains the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir.

Timespan: 2 to 6 July 1940.

Polical situation June / July 1940.

The situation created by the collapse of French military resistance in June 1940 brought to the forefront the question of the disposal of the powerful modern French Fleet. With France eliminated from the contest, Great Britain would stand virtually alone, separated only by the English Channel from the triumphant German Army and threatened by the largest Air Force in the World. On her command of the sea depended her very existence. Suddenly to lose the co-operation of the French Fleet would be a severe blow, but it was a matter of life and death that it should not be added to those of her opponents and used against her.

In circumstances of increasing chaos the marsh of events was swift. On 11 June 1940 the French Prime Minister and the French Government retired to Tours, and three days later moved on to Bordeaux. On the same day the Germans entered Paris.

It was the French Prime Minister who had declared ‘We shall fight before Paris, we shall fight behind Paris. We shall shut ourselves up in one of our provinces and if they drive us out we shall go to north Africa and, if need be, to our American possessions. It was the French Prime Minister who asked the British Government on 16 June to release France from her treaty obligations. The Cabinet refused to do so asked for French warships to be despatched to British ports and offered an Act of Union. The offer fell on deaf ears. The French Prime Minister (Mr. M Reynaud) was no longer in power. He had been displaced in the night of 16/17 June by a defeatist group headed by Marshal Pétain, General Weygand, Admiral Darlan, Mr. Laval, Mr. Baudouin and other politicians.

Negotiations with Germany were opened on 17 June, when Marshal Pétain, in a letter to Hitler, asked if he was ready to sign with him, as between soldiers after the fight and in honour, terms that would put an end to the hostilities.

The British Government, receiving the news ‘with grief and amazement’ refused to release France from her treaty obligations, and announced its intention to continue the fight. Every effort was made to persuade the French Government to order the French Fleet to British ports, or to sink itself before armistice terms were discussed. But the situation was very confusing and no guarantees could be obtained. At the same time it was determined that, if all other courses failed, action should be taken to prevent any important French ships falling into the enemy’s hands. British offers of assistance to the French authorities in arranging for an evacuation from Marseilles to North African ports were declined.

The terms of the armistice signed by France were not made public until 25 June, the day on which the hostilities ended. The clauses effecting the French sea forces stated that the French Fleet was to be assembled in ports under German or Italian control and demilitarized.

It seemed clear to the British Government that in these clauses the enemy had merely provided themselves with a pretext for keeping the whole French Fleet in a state of readiness for action against us when an opportunity accurred. The British Government had evidence, too, that from 20 June the Germans were in possession of, and were using, French naval codes.

The first reactions to the armistice terms of the French naval, military and colonial authorities indicated a determination to fight on. This attitude, however, in face of instructions was however soon abandoned. The British Government consequently decided to offer the French Naval Commanders the following alternatives: to continue the fight; complete immobilisation in certain ports; to demilitarise or sink their ships. By no other means could the French Fleet be prevented from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Reports received from various sources indicated that, the senior French Naval Officers had elected to obey their central government, most junior Officers desired to continue the struggle. The men, divided in their loyalties and lacking firm leadership, were chiefly influenced by the fear of reprisals to their families.

The French Fleet at Oran, coast defences, etc.

The bulk of the French Fleet was distributed between Toulon and the French North African ports in the Western Mediterranean. A squadron of one battleship, four cruisers and a few destroyers was at Alexandria; operating with Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet. The new battleships Richelieu and Jean Bart which had been completing at Brest had sailed a few days before respectively for Dakar and Casablanca. But by far the most important concentration of French warships was at Mers-el-Kebir, under Vice-Admiral Gensoul.

The shore defences of Mers-el-Kebir cosisted of a battery of two 7.5” guns on top of a hill to the west of the harbour. The harbour entrance was protected by an anti-torpedo boom and anti-submarine booms. A mine net stretched from Cape Falcon to a point one mile north of Cape Canastel. The breakwater (30 feet high) and Fort Mers-el-Kebir (100 feet high) afforded a certain amount of protection to the side armour of the ships inside the harbour from short range gunfire. Also in the vicinity of Oran there was a battery of two 9.2” guns at Cape Canastel.

Assembly of ‘Force H’ at Gibraltar.

In order to fill the Allied vacuum in the Western Mediterranean, caused by the defection of the French Fleet, the Admiralty decided to assemble a strong force, to be known as Force H, at Gibraltar. On 27 June Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville was ordered to hoist his flag in the light cruiser HMS Aretusa and to proceed there to take command of ‘Force H’. His immediate task was to secure the transfer, surrender or destruction of the French ships at Mers-el-Kebir and Oran, so as to ensure that they could not fall into German or Italian hands. It was hoped that the employment of force would be unnecessary, but every preparation to use it was to be made. This was explained to him in an interview with the First Lord and the First Sea Lord.

The Vice-Admiral sailed from Spithead in HMS Arethusa on 28 June. During his passage to Gibraltar he was in constant communication with the Admiralty. On the 29th he received Admiralty message 0435/29, stating certain alternatives which it was proposed to offer the French. (a) to steam their ships to a British port. (b) to sink their ships. (c) to have their ships sunk by gunfire. Later in the day the Admiralty directed the submarines HMS Pandora and HMS Proteus to patrol off Algiers and Oran respectively in order to report any French movements, but not to attack. On the 30th they ordered the Vice-Admiral, Aircraft carriers (Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells) to establish a destroyer patrol 30 nautical miles to the west of Oran and that should the French battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg proceed to the westward, they were to be captured and taken to the United Kingdom.

Vice-Admiral Somerville arrived at Gibraltar on 30 June where he transferred his flag to the battlecruiser HMS Hood. He lost no time with discussing the matter with the Vice-Admiral North Atlantic (Vice-Admiral Sir D.B.N. North) and later with Vice-Admiral Wells, his senior officers and with two officers who had recently been attached to the French as liaison officers. All were strongly opposed to the use of force, believing that this would alienate the French completely and turn them from a defeated ally into an active enemy. So impressed was Vice-Admiral Somerville by these views that he communicated them to the Admiralty at 1230 hours on 1 July together with certain alternative proposals. He received a reply that evening that it was the firm intention of His Majesty’s Government that if the French would not accept (any of) the alternatives then being sent to him, their ships must be destroyed.

Meanwhile a plan of operation had been drawn up, and the Admiralty was informed that the earliest date for it’s execution would be A.M. 3 July. The operation was named ‘Catapult’.

Admiralty instructions to Vice-Admiral Somerville.

At 0426, 2 July, Vice-Admiral Somerville received his final instructions from the Admiralty in dealing with the French Fleet at Mers-el-Keber. These may be summarised as follows:
A) Four alternatives were to be offered to the French:
(1) To sail their ships to a British port to continue the fight with us.
(2) To sail their ships with reduced crews to a British port from which the crews would be repatriated whenever desired.
(3) To sail their ships with reduced crews to a French port in the West Indies. After arrival there they would either be demilitarised to our satisfaction, if so desired or to be entrusted to U.S.A. jurisdiction for the remainder of the war. The crews would be repatriated.
(4) To sink their ships.

In case of alternatives 1 or 2 being adopted the ships were to be restrored to France at the conclusion of the war, or full ompensation would be paid if they were damaged meanwhile. If the French Admiral accepted alternative 2 but asked that the ships would not be used during the war, we would accept this condition for so long Germany and Italy observed the armistice terms. We particularly did not want to raise this point ourselves.

B) If the French Admiral refused to observe all the above alternatives and suggested demilitarisation of his ships to our satisfaction at their present berths acceptance of this further alternative was authorised, provided that the Flag Officer, ‘Force H’ was satisfied that the measures for demilitarization could be carried out under his supervision within six hours, so as to prevent the ships being brought to service for at least one year, even at a fully equipped dockyard port.

C) If none of the alternatives were accepted by the French, the Flag Officer ‘Force H’ was to endeavour to destroy the ships in Mers-el-Kebir, particularly the Dunkerque and Strasbourg, using all means at his disposal. Ships at Oran should also be destroyed, if this did not entail any considerable loss of civilian life.

As it was undesirable to have to deal with the French Fleet at sea, the Flag Officer ‘Force H’ was instructed to arrive in the vicinity of Oran at his selected time, to send emissaries ashore, and to take such action as he considered fit in the period before the given time limit expired.

A further signal timed 0108 contained the terms in which these demands were to delivered to Admiral Gensoul.

Plan for ‘Operation Catapult’.

A meeting of Flag and Commanding Officers was held during the forenoon of 2nd July, at which the orders for ‘Operation Catapult’ were explained and discussed.

Capt. C.S. Holland, of the Ark Royal, who had recently been Naval Attaché at Paris, had been selected to act as emissary assisted by Lt.Cdr’s A.Y. Spearman and G.P.S. Davies, lately employed as liaison officers. The destroyer HMS Foxhound was detailed to embark these officers. Captain Holland was instructed, if necessity arose, to question the French concerning their plan for demilitarisation at two hours’ notice which had been mentioned to Vice-Admiral North at Gibraltar, and to enquire whether the proposed measures would render the ships ‘ineffective for service during 12 months, even with dockyard assistance.’

The intention of the Flag Officer ‘Force H’, if he was obliged to use force was: a) To destroy morale, damage AA equipment and induce the French crews to abandon their ships by means of long range gunfire with the main armaments of his capital ships, assisted by aircraft spotting.
b) Bombing by the aircraft of HMS Ark Royal with the same object.
c) Torpedo attack by aircraft from HMS Ark Royal in order to cripple those ships exposed to torpedo fire.
d) Sinking of ships still afloat by demolition parties from destroyers.
e) The cruisers were to engage light craft or shore batteries as ordered.

The orders drawn up did not propose the laying of magnetic mines by aircraft from HMS Ark Royal, which was held to interference with the first two alternatives offered to the French but if needed this measure could be resorted to.

Attempts to Communicate with Admiral Gensoul.

At 1500 hours, 2nd July, destroyers sailed to carry out an A/S sweep in Gibraltar Bay and approaches and ‘Force H’ cleared harbour at 1700/2.

The composition of ‘Force H’ was as follows; battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleships HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) [as Capt. Holland had been embarked on the destroyer HMS Foxhound, it was probably Cdr. R.M.T. Taylor, RN who was temporary in command], light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C. Annesley, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Escort (Lt.Cdr. J. Bostock, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Turner, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) E.G. Heywood-Lonsdale, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, RN), HMS Vortigern (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Howlett, RN) and HMS Vidette (Cdr.(Retd.) D.R. Brocklebank, RN).

The submarines HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) and HMS Proteus (Lt.Cdr. R.T. Gordon-Duff, RN) were then nearing their patrol areas.

The operations orders referred to the possibility of interference but the only evidence of them being even remotely on the alert was that at 2247/2 in position 36°12’N, 03°05’W HMS Vortigern reported a torpedo exploding ahead of her. This was indeed an attack by an Italian submarine, the Marconi. HMS Vortigern and HMS Vidette hunted the submarine for a little over an hour but without success.

At 0300/3, HMS Foxhound was sent ahead and arrived of Cape Falcon at 0545/3. Communication was established with the Port War Signal Station and at 0620 hours the following message was passed. ‘To Admiral Gensoul, The British Admiralty had sent Captain Holland to confer with you. The British Navy hopes that their proposals will enable you and the valiant and glorious French Navy to be by our side. In these circumstances your ships would remain yours and no one need to have anxiety for the future. A British fleet is at sea off Oran waiting to welcome you.’

Permission for HMS Foxhound to enter the port of Mers-el-Kebir was received at 0742 hours. She anchored at 0805/3, outside the net defence, in a position 1.6 nautical miles, 115° from Mers-el-Kebir lighthouse. Five minutes later the French Flag Lieutenant came alongside and informed Capt. Holland that Admiral Gensoul was unable to see him, but would sent his Chief of Staff.

Admiral’s Gensoul refusal to confer with Capt. Holland was emphasized when at 0847 hours HMS Foxhound received a signal from him requisting her to sail immediately. She weighted accordingly, leaving Capt. Holland and Lt.Cdr’s Spearman and Davies behind in her motor boat. Meeting the French Flag Lieutenant off the entrance, Capt. Holland handed him the written British proposals to be given to Admiral Gensoul, saying that he would await a reply. It was around 0935 hours when they reached Admiral Gensoul. The French ships were reported by air reconnaissance to be raising steam. At 1000 hours the Flag Lieutenant returned and handed over a written reply from Admiral Gensoul. It stated the same that had earlier been said to Vice-Admiral North that the French Fleet would never be surrendered and that force would be met by force.

Then followed a further exchange of written statements and a discussion with the French Chief of Staff who came out at 1109 hours. As it was evident that Admiral Gensoul was resolved not to see Capt. Holland, the latter returned on board HMS Foxhound to communicate with Vice-Admiral Somerville.

Meanwhile ‘Force H’ had arrived off Mers-el-Kebir at 0910/3 and by means of projectors transferred the following message (in French) ‘To Admiral Gensoul from Admiral Somerville. We hope most sincerely that the proposals will be acceptable and hat we shall ave you by our side.’

’Force H’ then proceeded to steam to and from across the bay while HMS Ark Royal, with a destroyer screen, was acting independently for flying off aircraft.

At 1140/3 Lt.Cdr. Spearman was sent in with a message from the Flag Officer ‘Force H’ that the French ships would not be allowed to leave harbour unless the terms were accepted. It was at this time that Capt. Holland signalled to the French Admiral, from HMS Foxhound, information of the action taken by Admiral Godfroy at Alexandria to demilitarise his ships. HMS Foxhound then proceeded outside the outer boom to a position inside visual signalling range.

British delegate received and terms refused.

Admiral Gensoul’s reply reached HMS Hood at 1227/3 and Vice-Admiral Somerville considering that it was unsatisfactory and indicated an intention to put to sea and fight, gave the order to mine the harbour entrance. Five mines were accordingly laid by aircraft inside the booms guarding the entrance to Mers-el-Kebir harbour.

It was Vice-Admiral Somerville’s first intention to open fire at 1330 hours but the time for a final answer was extended to 1500 hours on the strength of air reports that there was no immediate indication of the French ships proceeding to sea. In order to ensure the least possible delay, a signal was passed to Admiral Gensoul requisting him to hoist a large square flag at the masthead if he accepted the British terms.

These measures appeared to be effective, for at 1440 hours Admiral Gensoul signalled that he would receive a delegate for honourable discussion. This message forstalled, only by a few minutes, the despatch of a signal from Vice-Admiral Somerville notifying that he would proceed to destroy the French ships at 1530 hours. Despite Vice-Admiral Somerville’s suspicion that the French Admiral was temporizing, he authorised Capt. Holland to proceed, and the latter, in the motor boat from HMS Foxhound and accompanied by Lt.Cdr. Davies, reached the Dunkerque at 1615/3.

Captain Holland’s reception on board the Dunkerque was coldly formal. Admiral Gensoul was extremely indignant and angry. A lengthy discussion ensued, in which he emphasised that the use of force would range the whole French Navy against the British, and that in effect he rejected all conditions proposed stating that he would only obey orders from his Government and Admiral Darlan. It was evident to Captain Holland that it was only during this discussion that Admiral Gensoul began to realise that force might actually be used.

Whilst the discussion was proceeding an Admiralty message was received at 1646 hours by HMS Hood instructing Vice-Admiral Somerville to settle matters quickly or he would have reinforcements to deal with. A signal accordingly passed by visual and wireless at 1715 hours to Admiral Gensoul informing him that if one of the alternatives was not accepted by 1730 hours his ships would be sunk. At the same time action stations was sounded in the ships of the British Fleet.

A summary of Admiral Gensoul’s final statement was passed by signal from Capt. Holland to Vice-Admiral Somerville. It read ‘Admiral Gensoul says crews being reduced and if threatened by enemy would go Martinique or U.S.A. but this is not quite our proposition. Can get no nearer.’

This signal was received on board HMS Hood at 1729 hours. As it did not comply with any of the alternatives laid down, the air striking force from HMS Ark Royal was ordered to fly off and the battleships stood in towards the coast.

Captain Holland left the Dunkerque at 1725 hours. As he left ‘Action stations’ was being sounded in the French ships, all of which were by that time in an advanced state of readiness for sea, with tugs standing by and control positions manned.

Meanwhile signs of movement of French ships in adjacent harbour of Oran having been reported by air reconnaissance, two mines were laid in it’s entrance, and the destroyer HMS Wrestler was ordered to relieve HMS Vortigern on patrol there.

Action against the French ships at Mers-el-Kebir.

At 1754/3 fire was opened at 17500 yards. Aircraft were spotting. The line of fire was from the north-west, so that fire from the French ships was blanked to some extent by Mers-el-Kebir Fort, and risk of damage to civilian life and property reduced.

The four French capital ships and aviation transport were moored stern-on to the mole in the following order, from north-west to south-east; Dunkerque, Provence, Strasbourg, Bretagne and Commandant Teste while the remaining ships were moored on the west side of the harbour. The destroyers, according to an aircraft report, were underway inside the booms.

The effect of the opening salvoes was observed from the Foxhound’s motor boat. The first salvo fell short. The second hit the breakwater, sending large fragments of concrete flying through the air, which probably caused casualties amongst the crews of the ships. The third salvo fell amongst the ships and the battleship Bretagne blew up, a column of orange flame leaping into the sky, followed by an immense column of smoke several hundred feet high. Another smaller explosion indicated that a destroyer had blown up (Mogador). By this time the harbour was shrouded in smoke from explosions and fires. Direct spotting was almost impossible and air spotting most difficult. The French shore batteries and Dunkerque and Strasbourg opened fire about a minute after the first British salvo. The shore batteries were promptly engaged by HMS Arethusa, the older guns of HMS Enterprise being outranged. Heavy projectiles were soon falling near the British battleships as the French fire, at first very short, began to improve in accuracy. The observers in Foxhound’s motor boat recorded several direct hits on the French ships, another explosion with a sheet of orange flame from a battleship, and a direct hit on a large destroyer as she was leaving harbour.

None of the French projectiles hit, though a number of them fell close to – and in some cases straddled – the British ships. Some splinters caused some minor superficial damage in HMS Hood and injured one officer and a rating. After thirty-six salvoes of 15” the fire of the French ships died down, but hat of the forts became increasingly accurate. To avoid damage from the latter, course was altered 180° to port together and the ships were ordered to make smoke.

At 1803/3 as the French ships were no longer firing, ‘cease fire’ was ordered. Vice-Admiral Somerville considered that this would give them an opportunity to abandon their vessels and as the entrance to the harbour had been mined they would make no attempts to put to sea. Repeated signals were being receive in HMS Hood from the shore visual and wireless stations requisting fire to be discontinued, to which the reply was made: ‘unless I see your ships sinking, I shall open fire again’. Vice-Admiral Somerville then proceeded to the westward to take up a position from which, if necessary, the bombardment could be renewed without causing casualties to men in boats or exposing the British ships to unduly fire from the forts. He also deemed it prudent to stand out to sea to avoid the possibility of a surprise attack by aircraft under cover of the clouds of smoke then laying between his ships and the shore.

When the pall of smoke over Mers-el-Kebir harbour cleared away, the scene viewed from HMS Foxhound’s boat showed the Dunkerque, which had slipped from the mole, lying stopped in the harbour. The Provence appeared to have been hit, fires were burning in the Commandant Teste, while nothing could be seen of the Bretagne. Clear of the harbour and gathering speed fast were the Strasbourg and two destroyers (thought to be Mogador-class), steering eastward close under the land.

Chase of, and F.A.A. attacks on, the Strasbourg.

Vice-Admiral Somerville received an air report at 1820/3 that one of the Dunkerque-class battlecruisers had put to sea and was steering east. This report was confirmed 10 minutes later. An air striking force of six Swordfish aircraft of no. 818 Squadron armed with 250-lb. bombs and escorted by Skua’s was flow off by HMS Ark Royal at 1825 hours to attack the ships in Mers-el-Kebir but they were then diverted to attack the fleeing ship which was accompanied by eight destroyers. ‘Force H’ altered course to the eastward at 1838 hours and commenced a chase.

During this period, HMS Wrestler, which was patrolling of Oran, was heavily engaged by shore batteries. At least 100 shells fell near her before she withdrew in accordance with orders.

At 1843 hours the cruisers and destroyers with HMS Hood were ordered to proceed ahead. Both battleships following behind at their best speed without a destroyer screen. Every ships worked up to full speed.

The bombing attack on the Strasbourg was well pressed home, and, although it was met with heavy opposition, was believed to have obtained at least one hit. Two Swordfish aircraft failed to return, but the crews were picked up by HMS Wrestler.

At 1914/3 HMS Wrestler picked up Capt. Holland and Lt.Cdr.’s Spearman, Davies and the crew from the motor boat of HMS Foxhound. The motor boat was then abandoned.

Between 1933 and 1945 hours a French destroyer, steering west close inshore, was engaged at ranges of 12000 and 18000 yards by the Arethusa and Enterprise. Later the Hood and Valiant fired a few 15” salvoes at her. At least three hits were observed before the destroyer turned back to Oran. The British ships were obliged to alter course to avoid torpedoes.

at 1950/3 six Swordfish aircraft of no. 820 Squadron, armed with torpedoes were flown off from HMS Ark Royal, with orders to press home their attack, making use of the failing light. They attacked at 2055 hours, twenty minutes after sunset. Approaching from the land, with their target silhouetted against the afterglow, they were able to deliver the attack unseen, only the last two attacking aircraft encountered some machine gun fire from the screening destroyers. The observation of results was rendered difficult by darkness and funnel smoke, but an explosion was seen under the Strasbourg’s stern and there was some evidence of a hit amidships. All the aircraft returned safely, through one came under machine gun fire from a group of destroyers seven miles astern of the target.

Chase abandoned and return to Gibraltar.

Meanwhile Vice-Admiral Somerville had abandoned the chase about half-an-hour before the torpedo attack took place. At 2020/3 the Strasbourg with her attendant destroyers, was some 25 nautical miles ahead of him. By that time the French Algiers force with several 8” and 6” cruisers was known to be at sea and was calculated to be able to join the Strasbourg shortly after 2100 hours.

Vice-Admiral Somerville considered that a night contact and engagement was not justified. His destroyers had not had recent experience of shadowing, and the French would be numerically superior. Besides that there were more reasons to disengage.

Accordingly at 2025/3 course was altered to the westwards and the Admiralty was informed that ‘Force H’ would remain to the west of Oran during the night with the intention to carry out air attacks on the ships at Mers-el-Kebir at dawn.

Between 1930 and 2100 hours French reconnaissance and bomber aircraft were fired on. These dropped a few bombs which all fell wide except for four bombs which fell close to HMS Wrestler. The attacks were not pressed home.

At 2150/3 the submarine HMS Proteus, which had been ordered to keep clear of ‘Force H’ to the northward during the day, was ordered to patrol north of 35°55’N off Cape de l’Aiguille or Abuja Point (15 nautical miles east of Oran). At the same time she and HMS Pandora (off Algiers) were ordered to sink any French ships encountered. The latter, which had reported six cruisers and four destroyers making to the westward at 1745/3, was warned that the Strasbourg might arrive off Algiers at 2300/3.

During the night of 3 / 4 July. ‘Force H’ steered to reach position 36°12’N, 01°48‘W (about 60 nautical miles west-north-west of Mers-el-Kebir) at 0430/4. It was intended to then fly off 12 Swordfish and 9 Skua aircraft to finish off the ships remaining in the harbour. Shortly after 0400/4, however dense fog was encountered. This rendered flying impossible. As Vice-Admiral Somerville had received a message from Admiral Gensoul the evening before (2250/3) stating that his ships were ‘hors de combat’ (‘out of action’) and that he had ordered the crews to evacuate them, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to return to Gibraltar where ‘Force H’ arrived at 1900/4.

Review of the operation by Vice-Admiral Somerville.

Reviewing the operation, Vice-Admiral Somerville remarked that it was clear he committed an error of judgement in proceeding so far to the westward after ceasing fire, and gave his reasons for his decision.

He considered that the mines laid in the harbour entrance were sufficient to prevent any French ships from leaving and also he was under the impression that the French crews were abandoning their ships due to the signals to ‘cease shelling’ and the heavy explosions observed. The though uppermost in his mind was how to complete his task without causing further loss of life to the very gallant but ill-advised Frenchmen, and without exposing his fleet to damage by the shore batteries or to submarine attack. He was also under the impression that a torpedo flight, to complete the destruction of ships afloat, had either taken off or was about to do so. In fact, however, the repeated postponement of the attack by gunfire had, unknown to him, seriously upset the Ark Royal’s flying on and off programme.

Vice-Admiral Somerville went into question whether the use of force might have been avoided had Admiral Gensoul agreed at once to receive Capt. Holland. The French Admiral’s final offer differed, unfortunately, from the British proposals in the single proviso that the disablement of ships would only be carried into effect if there was a danger of the French ships falling into enemy hands. Admiral Gensoul maintained that this danger was not imminent, whereas we maintained that it was. Had more time been available Capt. Holland might possibly have converted Admiral Gensoul to the British point of view, but when he made his offer it was already too late, for the discussion could not be continued beyond 1720 hours as French reinforcements were approaching and the ordered of His Majesty’s Government were explicit that a decision had to be reached before dark.

’ I consider ‘ wrote Vice-Admiral Somerville, ‘ that Capt. Holland carried out his most difficult task with the greatest tact, courage and perseverance. That he failed in his mission was not his fault – that he nearly succeeded is greatly to his credit ‘.

Preparations to renew the attack on the Dunkerque.

After the arrival of ‘Force H’ at Gibraltar the ships were immediately completed with fuel and ammunition so to be able to carry out operations against the French battleship Richelieu at Dakar if required.

Vice-Admiral Somerville informed the Admiralty that it was not possible from aircraft observation positively to assess the damage done to the battlecruiser Dunkerque, but that she was aground. Consequently the Admiralty directed that unless Vice-Admiral Somerville was certain that the Dunkerque could not be refloated and repaired in less then a year, she was to be subjected to further destruction by bombardment. This was to precede any operation against the Richelieu.

To put this decision into effect, plans were drawn up for another operation (Operation Lever), and the Admiralty was informed that a further bombardment would be carried out at 0900/6 by ‘Force H’.

At 2005/4 a signal was received from the Admiralty. It contained instructions with regard to the attitude to be adopted towards French warships, which stated that ‘ships must be prepared for attack, but should not fire the first shot’. After confirmation at 2045/5 that this applied to the submarines operating of Oran and Algiers, the instructions were passed on to HMS Pandora and HMS Proteus. It was however already too late.

Proceeding by British submarines 4-6 July 1940.

When ‘Force H’ returned to Gibraltar on 4 July, the submarines HMS Pandora and HMS Proteus remained on patrol off the North African coast.

At 1126/4, HMS Pandora, off Algiers, sighted three destroyers 065° about 1 nautical mile from the shore, but she was unable to get within range. Three and a half hours later (1458/4), however, she sighted a French cruiser thought at that time to be of the La Galissoniere class. In fact it was the sloop Rigault de Genouilly. HMS Pandora turned immediately to a firing course and at 1507/4 HMS Pandora fired four torpedoes from about 3800 yards. Two certain and one probable hits were obtained. The French ship stopped at once and soon after she was observed to be on fire. Closing in HMS Pandora saw that there was no chance this ship could be saved. At 1632/4 she was seen to sink by the stern and a few seconds later an extremely heavy explosion occurred, probably her magines blowing up.

For some time from 1718/4 HMS Pandora was hunted by aircraft and a destroyer or patrol craft, explosions of bombs and or death charges were heard at intervals.

The Admiralty expressed deep regret to the French Ambassy for the tragic happening, which was ascribed to the fact that on completion of the operation at Mers-el-Kebir on 3 July, the instructions that French ships were no longer to be attacked did not reach one submarine.

The seaplane carrier Commandant Teste was more fortunate. She was sighted by HMS Proteus at 1447/4. The weather was foggy and before an attack could be started the French ship altered course to the eastward and was soon lost out of sight.

At 2200/5, in obedience to instructions, HMS Proteus proceeded to patrol off Cape Khamis, about 65 nautical miles east of Oran. At 0243/6 a signal from the Flag Officer Commanding North Atlantic (F.O.C.N.A.) was received that French ships were not to be attacked unless they attacked first.

The Commandant Teste was again sighted at 1734/6. This time she was accompanied by two destroyers. Shorty afterwards HMS Proteus was ordered to proceed to Gibraltar.

HMS Pandora remained on patrol until July 7th when she too was ordered to proceed to Gibraltar.

F.A.A. attack on the Dunkerque, 6 July 1940.

Meanwhile ‘Force H’ sailed from Gibraltar at 2000/5. They first proceeded westwards but turned to the east at 2200 hours and proceeded at 22 knots towards Oran.

’Force H’ was now made up of the battlecruiser HMS Hood, battleship HMS Valiant, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, light cruisers HMS Aurora, HMS Enterprise and the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foxhound, HMS Escort, HMS Active, HMS Velox (Cdr.(Retd.) J.C. Colvill, RN), HMS Vidette, HMS Vortigern and HMS Wrestler.

At 0250/6, Vice-Admiral Somerville received a signal from the Admiralty which instructed him to cancel the bombardment. He was ordered to attack the Dunkerque from the air until she was sufficiently damaged.

In position 36°19’N, 02°23’W (about 90 nautical miles from Oran) at 0515/6, the first striking force was flown off. The attack on the Dunkerque was made in three waves. The aircraft taking part were armed with torpedoes, carrying Duplex pistols, set for depth 12 feet, speed 27 knots.

The first wave of six Swordfish of no. 820 Squadron took of from the Ark Royal at 0515 hours. It made landfall at Habibas Island (about 20 nautical miles west of Mers-el-Kebir) and then shaped course at 7000 feet to keep 15 miles from the coast in order to gain up-sun position from the target as the sun rose. The attack achieved complete surprise, only one aircraftbeing fired upon during the get-away. As the first rays of the sun, rising above thick haze, struck the Dunkerque, the flight commenced a shallow dive in line ahead down the path of the sun. Coming in low over the breakwater, the aircraft attacked in succession. The first torpedo hit the Dunkerque amidships, glanced off without exploding and continued it’s run. It had probably been released inside pistol safety range. The second was thought at the time to have hit and exploded under the bridge on the starboard side. The third torpedo to have missed and exploded ashore and the remaining three torpedoes to have hit and exploded near ‘B’ turret. In the light of later information, it seems that no torpedo in this or subsequent attacks actually hit and damaged her. The first (as noticed by the British) glanced off without exploding. The second exploded underneath the stern of a trawler, the Terre Neuve, which – apparently unnoticed by the aircraft – was about 30 yards to starboard of the battlecruiser and sank the trawler. Of the remainder three torpedoes may have hit without exploding or run into shallow water, and one missed. One torpedo exploded ashore against a jetty.

The second attack was made by three Swordfish of no. 810 Squadron with a fighter escort of six Skua’s. They took off at 0545 hours. This sub-flight manoeuvred to a position up-sun at 2000 feet. At 0647 hours they tuned to attack in line astern. They came under heavy AA fire and had to take avoiding action during their approach and they made their attack from over the breakwater. The torpedo of the first aircraft was not released. The second and third torpedoes are thought to have hit the starboard side of the Dunkerque. During the get-away a large explosion was observed, smoke and spray rising in a great column over 600 feet high which was thought to have possibly been a magazine explosion in the Dunkerque. Actually, one torpedo hit the wreck of the Terre Neuve, detonating about 24 to 28 depth charges with which she was loaded, and thereby causing considerable damage to the Dunkerque. The other torpedo missed astern and exploded ashore. No enemy aircraft were encountered, but the 6” and 4” batteries from the east of Oran to Mers-el-Kebir Point kept up continuous fire throughout the attack.

The third wave was also made up of three Swordfish from no. 810 Squadron. These too were escorted by six Skua’s. They wre flown off at 0620 hours. They made landfall at a height of 4000 feet at 0650 hours over Cape Falcon. In line astern the sub-flight made a shallow dive with avoiding action as the Provence and shore batteries opened fire. This sub-flight then came in low over the town of Mers-el-Kebir for its attack. The first torpedo is reported to have struck the Dunkerque amidships on her port side but it did not explode. The second, which would have hit the ship, exploded under a tug close to her which blew the tug into the air. The third torpedo was dropped too close and did therefore not explode, although it appeared to be going to hit. While making its get-away this sub-flight was engaged by French fighter aircraft. The Skua escorts had many dog fights with the French fighters which easily out-manoeuvred our aircraft but they did not press home their attacks. One Skua, damaged in combat, had to make a forced landing on the water on its return. The crew was rescued by a destroyer. There were no casualties although several aircraft were damaged by gunfire.

Vice-Admiral Somerville was satisfied with the results as it appeared that the Dunkerque for sure would be out of action for more then a year. ‘Force H’, having completed its task returned to Gibraltar at 1830/6. After temporary repairs the Dunkerque arrived at Toulon only on 19 February 1942 having made the passage under her own power escorted by five destroyers. (11)

8 Jul 1940
The battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleships HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) [as Capt. Holland had been embarked on the destroyer HMS Foxhound, it was probably Cdr. R.M.T. Taylor, RN who was temporary in command], light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C. Annesley, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Escort (Lt.Cdr. J. Bostock, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Turner, RN), HMS Douglas (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Crossley, RN), HMS Velox (Cdr.(Retd.) J.C. Colvill, RN), HMS Vortigern (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Howlett, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, RN) departed Gibraltar as a diversion during operation in the central and eastern Mediterranean. They were also to conduct and air attack against Cagliary, Sardinia but this air attack was later cancelled.

In the late afternoon and early evening of the 9th Force H came under air attack by Italian aircraft. HMS Resolution and HMS Hood were near missed with bombs.

While on the way back to Gibraltar the destroyer HMS Escort was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Marconi at 0300/11 in position 36°20'N, 03°46'W. She was heavily damaged and was taken in tow by HMS Forester while being screened by HMS Faulknor.

Force H meanwhile had arrived at Gibraltar. The destroyers HMS Keppel (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) E.G. Heywood-Lonsdale, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Foxhound were then sent out to escort the damaged HMS Escort but she later foundered while under tow.

31 Jul 1940

Operation Hurry

Transfer of twelve Hurricane fighters and two Skua aircraft to Malta, air attack on Cagliari, minelaying in Cagliari Bay by Force H and diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean by the Mediterranean Fleet.

Operations of Force H.

At 0800 hours on 31 August 1940, Force H, consisting of the battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN), light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C.A. Annesley, DSO, RN) and escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H Layman, DSO, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A'Deane, DSC, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) and HMS Velox (Cdr.(Retd.) J.C. Colvill, RN). sailed from Gibraltar.

Passage eastward was uneventful until at 1749/1 eight Italian aircraft were seen coming in to attack in position 37.34’N, 04.10’E. The aircraft turned away before they reached a favourable attack position. A few minutes later a second wave of nine aircraft was seen coming in but this attack was also not pressed home with determination and no hits were obtained. Some 80 bombs in all were dropped and only a few near misses were obtained on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Forester.

At 2045/1 the attack force for Cagliari was detached. This force was made up of HMS Hood, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Enterprise, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester and HMS Foxhound. They proceeded at 20 knots towards position 38.30’N, 07.00’E where the striking force from HMS Ark Royal was to be flown off.

The remaining ships of Force H also proceeded eastwards to fly off the aircraft for Malta from HMS Argus at dawn. The position where the aircraft were to be launched depended on the latest weather reports coming in from Malta.

At 2130/1, HMS Enterprise, was detached by the attack force to create a diversion and intercept a Vichy-French ship en-route from Algiers to Marseilles.

At 0200/2, HMS Ark Royal and the destroyers proceeded ahead and aircraft were launched at 0230 hours. Twelve aircraft were launched, nine carried bombs and three carried mines. One of the aircraft crashed on taking off. Due to a misunderstanding the crew was not picked up and was lost.

In the air attacks direct hits were reported four hangars, two of which were reported to burn fiercely. At least four aircraft which were parked in the open were reported to have been destroyed in addition to those in the hangars. Many aerodrome buildings were destroyed or damaged. Three mines were laid inside Cagliari harbour. One Swordfish aircraft made a forced landing on an Italian airfield and the crew was made prisoner of war.

After flying of the air striking force the group of which HMS Ark Royal was part turned to the southward to rejoin the other ships of Force H which had in the meantime also proceeded eastwards and adjusted speed to be in position 37.40’N, 07.20’E at 0445/2. Two flights of one Skua and six Hurricane’s each were launched from HMS Argus at 0515/2 and 0600/2. The two groups of ships from Force H sighted each other at 0520/2 and then made rendez-vous which was effected at 0815/2. All aircraft launched by HMS Argus reached Malta but one of the Hurricane’s crashed on lading.

At 0930/3, HMS Arethusa, was detached to search for the Vichy French ship HMS Enterprise was also searching for. They both failed to intercept this ship. HMS Enterprise was to the north of Minorca and was in supporting distance from Force H and was therefore ordered to proceed to Gibraltar passing west of the Baleares. HMS Arethusa rejoined force H before dark on the 3rd.

HMS Ark Royal, escorted by HMS Hotspur, HMS Encounter and HMS Escapade, were detached as to arrive at Gibraltar before dark on the 3rd. The remainder of Force H arrived at Gibraltar around dawn on the 4th.

Diversions by the Mediterranean Fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. Operation MA 9.

At 0600/31, light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN), HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, CB, RAN) and destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN) and ORP Garland (Lt. A. Doroszkowski, ORP) departed Alexandria for an anti-shipping raid / contraband control in the Gulf of Athens area. They were to pass through the Kaso Strait and arrived off the Doro Channel at dawn on 1 August. They then exercises contraband control during the day in the Gulf of Athens area retiring to the westward between Cape Malea and Agria Grabusa at dusk. After dark they returned to the Aegean to exercise contraband control on 2 August. They returned to Alexandria in the evening of 3 August 1940.

A cover force went to sea around 1420 hours, this force was made up of the battleships HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.D. Pridham-Whippell, CB, CVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. A.R.M. Bridge, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Hostile (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN) and HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN) and HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN). They carried out exercises and then proceeded westwards towards Gavdos Island to the south of Crete. Due to engine problems in HMS Malaya the cover force returned to Alexandria late on the the morning of August 1st. (12)

4 Aug 1940
The battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN), light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C.A. Annesley, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A'Deane, DSC, RN) and HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H Layman, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar as part of Force H had to proceed to the U.K.

HMS Ark Royal, HMS Enterprise, HMS Encounter, HMS Gallant, HMS Greyhound and HMS Hotspur parted company with Force H at 1040/6 to return to Gibraltar where they arrived around 0900/6.

At 0735/9 the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN) joined.

At 0745/9 the battleship HMS Valiant, aircraft carrier HMS Argus and the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester parted company to proceed to Liverpool where they arrived around 1530/10.

HMS Hood, HMS Arethusa, HMS Escapade, HMS Foxhound, HMS Bedouin, HMS Punjabi and HMS Tartar arrived at Scapa Flow at 0600/10.

23 Oct 1940

Operations DN 2 and DNU

Anti shipping raids off the Norwegian coast.

The battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Isis (Cdr. C.S.B. Swinley, DSC, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN), HMS Douglas (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Crossley, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Lt.Cdr. F.J.G. Hewitt, RN) departed Scapa Flow for exercises in the Pentland Firth. Upon completion of these they took op a position off Obrestad to cover operations DN 2 and DNU.

Further cover was provided by the cruisers HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN), HMS Southampton (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) which proceeded to an area off Stadlandet.

For operation DN.2 the light cruisers HMS Bonaventure (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN) and HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN) went to sea from Rosyth.

The destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) had departed Sullom Voe on 22 October and were on patrol to the east of the Shetlands. They were ordered to intercept (operation DNU) a group of 20 'German' fishing vessels and a patrol vessel that were reported off Egersund.

These destroyers intercepted and sank the German weather ship WBS 5 / Adolf Vinnen (391 GRT, built 1929) west of Stadlandet in position 62°29'N, 04°23'E on 24 October 1940. This weather ship had been operating north of Iceland and was on the return trip back to Norway.

All ships arrived back at their bases on 24 October 1940. HMS Bonaventure had sustained some damage to her forecastle in the heavy weather conditions (13)

26 Oct 1940
HMS Southampton (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. (14)

5 Dec 1940

Laying of minefield SN 10A between Iceland and the Faroes.

Timespan: 5 to 10 December 1940.

At 1530/5 the axiliary minelayers Southern Prince (A/Capt. E.M.C. Barraclough, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.L. Burnett, OBE, RN), HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN) and HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd. ) F. Ratsey, RN) departed Port ZA (Loch Alsh) for minelaying operation SN 10A. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN), HMS Bath (Cdr.(Retd.) A.V. Hemming, RN) and HMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) S.G.C. Rawson, RN).

At 1730/5 a cover force departed Scapa Flow. It was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN).

Both groups made rendez-vous around 0130/6 in approximate position 60°00'N, 06°00'W.

In the evening of the 7th the minelayers commencing laying minefield SN 10A in Iceland-Faroes gap. Minelaying was completed on the 8th. At total of about 2030 mines had been laid.

The Repulse group was to the north-east of the minelaying to provide cover.

Both forces returned to their bases on December 10th. Weather had been bad and many of the destroyers had sustained some weather damage.

5 Jan 1941
HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN) departed Oban for the Clyde. She had been relieved on AA guard duties by HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN). (15)

25 Jan 1941
As the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were reported to have left Kiel, Germany for operations in the Atlantic the Home Fleet sailed late in the evening to intercept them.

The ships that sailed from Scapa Flow were the following, battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of A/Adm. J.C. Tovey, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Mauritius (Cdr. A.R. Pedder, RN), HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) and the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN), HMS Echo (Cdr. S.H.K. Spurgeon, DSO, RAN), HMS Electra (Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. R.E. Hyde-Smith, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN) and ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski).

On the 27th, HMS Rodney, HMS Birmingham, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Mauritius and the destroyers HMS Beagle, HMS Brilliant, HMS Keppel and which the did around 2345/28. HMS Keppel and ORP Piorun returned to Scapa Flow at 0700/29.

They were to remain at Scapa Flow until 30 January when they would sail to relieve units still on patrol to enable them to return to base.

On 30 January the light cruisers HMS Naiad and HMS Phoebe arrived at Scapa Flow at 1100 hours. They were followed about half an hour later by the light cruisers HMS Galatea and HMS Arethusa.

HMS Nelson, HMS Repulse, HMS Bedouin, HMS Matabele, HMS Punjabi, HMS Tartar, HMS Echo, HMS Electra and HMS Escapade arrived at Scapa Flow at 1700/30.

Light cruiser HMS Aurora also returned to Scapa Flow on 30 January.

8 Feb 1941
In response to the sighting of the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau by HMS Ramillies (Capt. A.D. Read, RN) the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) and the destroyers HMS Eskimo (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) departed Scapa Flow at 1830/8. They were ordered to proceed to position 62°30'N, 16°00'W.

At 1900/8 the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of A/Adm. J.C. Tovey, KCB, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN) and HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), destroyers HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. I.T. Clark, RN), HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN) and HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN) departed at 1900/8 to take up a position seventy miles to the south-south-east of the 'Repulse'-group.

In the morning of February, 9th, the battleships HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) and HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CVO, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN) and HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) departed Scapa Flow to proceed to position 65°00'N, 08°30'W.

HMS Arethusa and HMS Nigeria were sent to Reykjavik at 2100/12th to refuel prior after which they were to resume patrol.

HMS Mauritius and HMS Dido returned to Scapa Flow around 1700/11.

HMS Nelson, HMS Eclipse, HMS Electra and HMS Tartar returned to Scapa Flow around 1830/11.

Around 2045/11, HMS Rodney and HMS King George V, HMS Bedouin, HMS Maori, HMS Zulu, HMS Brilliant returned to Scapa Flow. The destroyer HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN) was with them apprently she had joined them at sea. HMS Boreas had been detached to participate in an A/S hunt.

HMS Galatea and HMS Aurora returned to Scapa Flow around 0145/13th.

HMS Repulse, HMS Eskimo, HMS Matabele and HMS Punjabi returned to Scapa Flow around 0315/13.

8 Mar 1941

At 2145/8, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar for the Canary Islands area. Speed was set to 27 knots. The German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had been reported in that area by HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN) trying to attack convoy convoy SL 67.

At 0015/9, the destroyers were detached being unable to keep up with the larger ships in the current weather conditions.

A reconnaissance of six aircraft was flow off by HMS Ark Royal at 1500/9 to search from 180° through west to 360° to a depth of 130 miles. The visibility was 30 miles. Two ships were sighted, one Ocean Boarding Vessel and a British tanker.

At 1030/9, Vice-Admiral Somerville received instructions from the Admiralty that HMS Arethusa was to return to Gibraltar and that HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to take over the escort of convoy SL 67 from HMS Malaya p.m. 10th March after which HMS Malaya was to return to Freetown. HMS Arethusa was then detached in position 32°42'N, 13°08'W.

Course was altered to 230° at 1900/9.

At 0830/10, course was altered to 220° to rendezvous with HMS Malaya and an A/S and security patrol were flown off in low visibility. A reconnaissance of six aircraft was flown off at 0950/10 to search from 180° through west to 360° to a relative depth of 70 miles but nothing was sighted. The visibility was 15 miles.

A further reconnaissance was of six aircraft was flown off at 1330/10 to search from 090° through south to 270° to a depth of 80 miles. The convoy having been located by the air search, course was altered to 160° and at 1720/10 HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal joined the convoy which was being escorted by HMS Malaya, HMS Cicilia (Capt.(Retd.) V.B. Cardwell, OBE, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), in position 26°12'N, 19°38'W. At 1730/10, HMS Malaya was detached to return to Freetown. [For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoy SL 67 ' for 1 March 1941.]

A dusk reconnaissance to a depth of 45 miles sighed nothing in a visibility of 8 to 15 miles.

A reconnaissance was flown off at a.m. and p.m. on the 11th but nothing was sighted. Two aircraft armed with depth charges and one without broke their undercarriages while landing on. There was a moderate swell and wind force 6. A/S bombs were therefore carried till conditions improved.

At 0700/12, A/S and security patrols were flown off followed an hour later by a reconnaissance of nine aircraft to carry out an all round search to a depth of 90 miles. Visibility was 10 - 15 miles. The only ships sighted were the ones that had been detached from the convoy earlier.

The p.m. reconnaissance carried out an all round search to a depth of 90 miles sighted nothing.

At 0700/13 the A/S patrol was flown off. Later a reconnaissance was flown off which conducted an all round search for a depth of 120 miles. Visibility was 10 miles but was deteriorating.

At 1000/13, HMS Faulknor and HMS Forester were detached for Gibraltar.

During the forenoon HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal conducted exercises with aircraft from Ark Royal which then also conducted practice attacks on ships in the convoy.

The evening reconnaissance on the 13th from position 32°12'N, 21°07'W, searched to a depth of 120 miles but sighted nothing except HMS Faulknor and HMS Forester returning to Gibraltar.

At 0650/14, an A/S patrol was flown off and an all round reconnaissance an hour later. They searched to a depth of 100 miles from position 33°27'N, 21°27'W but they sighted nothing of interest. During the forenoon some flying exercises were carried out.

The afternoon reconnaissance was flown off and searched for a depth of 1000 miles again sighted nothing of interest.

At 2200/14, a signal was received with instructions that HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to leave the convoy at dusk on 19 March.

At 0250/15, when in position 35°24'N, 22°18'W, a darkened ship was sighted crossing ahead of the convoy. HMS Cilicia was ordered to investigate and it turned out to be the merchant vessel St.Clair II (British, 3753 GRT, built 1929) bound for Freetown.

At 0650/15, the A/S patrol was flown off. Ten minutes later the merchant vessel New Westminster City (British, 4747 GRT, built 1929) was sighted in position 35°46'N, 22°09'W. On sighting HMS Renown she made a raider report but cancelled it 22 minutes later.

In the forenoon more flying exercises were carried out and HMS Cilicia was ordered to proceed to the tanker Roxane (British, 7813 GRT, built 1929) which had straggled from the convoy. The forenoon reconnaissance to a depth of 110 miles sighted noting.

The afternoon reconnaissance searched to a depth of 120 miles from position 36°50'N, 22°25'W. They sighted a Spanish tanker but nothing further of interest. One Swordfish aircraft failed to return and was considered lost with its crew.

Around dawn on the 16th the usual A/S patrol and reconnaissance aircraft were flown off. They searched to a depth of 100 miles but nothing was sighted.

The afternoon reconnaissance also searched to a depth of 100 miles (from position 39°30'N, 23°05'W) sighted five merchant vessels but nothing further.

At 2200/16, a signal was received from the Admiralty in which Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed of the fact that the German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper had departed Brest.

A darkened ship was sighted at 0140/17 which was found on investigatation by HMS Cilicia to be merchant vessel River Lugar (British, 5423 GRT, built 1937) bound for Freetown.

The A/S and security patrol flew off at dawn and at 0950/17 they reported they sighted the armed merchant cruiser HMS Bulolo (Capt.(Retd.) R.L. Hamer, RN) which was en-route to Freetown.

A full reconnaissance was carried out at 1100/17 to a depth of 130 miles with average visibility of 20 miles. The only ship sighted was the ocean boarding vessel HMS Hilary (Cdr. T.L. Owen, RD, RNR) in position 43°08'N, 24°38'W. She passed the convoy at 1800/17.

At 1700/17, a reconnaissance was flown off to the north and east to a depth of 100 miles but nothing was sighted.

At 0700/18, the A/S and security patrols were flown off. At 0800/18 the forenoon reconnaissance was flown off from position 43°25'N, 23°48'W to search to a depth of 140 miles. Only one merchant vessel was sighted.

The afternoon reconnaissance sighted nothing in a search to a depth of 140 miles between 325° and 045° and 135° and 225° from position 44°40'N, 23°40'W.

At 0700/19 an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0745/19 by a reconnaissance to a depth of 160 miles from position 45°40'N, 23°40'W. This reconnaissance informed HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN) of the position, course and speed of the convoy, which she joined at 1000/19. Also a merchant vessel was sighted which appeared somewhat suspicious and HMS Cilicia was ordered to investigate and then return to Freetown.

Meanwhile information had been received that the German tanker Antarktis (10711 GRT, built 1939) had sailed from Vigo during the night 17/18 March and it was Vice-Admiral Somervilles intention to search for this ship to the north-east and south-east of the Azores before returning to Gibraltar.

HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal parted company with the convoy at 1600/19. Also a reconnaissance was flown off to locate the suspicious merchant vessel. At 1906/19 a report was received that it had been sighted in position 45°15'N, 23°48'W at 1800/19 steering 280° at slow speed. This information was passed on to HMS Cilicia. Shortly afterwards a second merchant vessel was sighted which also fitted the discription of the suspicious merchent vessel (close observation was not possible, the aircraft had been ordered to remain out of sight). This too was passed on to HMS Cilicia.

The evening reconnaissance reported the Norwegian tanker Bianca (5688 GRT, built 1926) in position 45°22'N, 23°35'W at 1740/19, steering 090°, 12 knots, half laden. An Admiralty signal had been intercepted at 1800/15 containing the names of 14 outward bound tankers estimated to be within 150 miles from where raider signals had been received on that day. As Bianca was one of these ships mentioned, and as she was evidently in ballast and steering for Bordeaux, Vice-Admiral Somerville concluded that she must have a German price crew on board. He therefore decided to intercept in the morning before starting the search for the Antarktis.

At 0655/20 an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0740/20 by a reconnaissance to a depth of 120 miles from south through west to north. At 0857/20, the Bianca was reported to be in postion bearing 180°, 68 miles from HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal. HMS Renown then set course to intercept parting company with HMS Ark Royal which continued her flying operations.

At 1147/20 an aircraft dropped a message on board HMS Renown that the British tanker San Casimiro (8046 GRT, built 1936) had been sighted in position 44°50'N, 22°15'W, steering 076° at 11 knots. An hour later another aircraft reported having sighted the Norwegian tanker Polykarp (6405 GRT, built 1931) at 0920/20 in position 45°40'N, 23°26'W, steering east at 7 knots and that she had altered course to 010° on being sighted. Both these tankers were included in the Admiralty's signal referred to earlier so it was thought these tankers were also under German control. Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to try to intercept the Bianca and sSan Casimiro today and the Polykarp with the help of an air search the following morning.

The Bianca was sighted at 1210/20 in position 44°16'N, 19°21'W. HMS Renown closed and sent a boarding party. The weather was perfect for boarding . When Renown was still 6 miles from Bianca she was seen to be abandoning ship, and as the boats pulled clear scuttling charges exploded and fire broke out in the engine room aft and also on the bridge. The boarding party proceeded on board and the launch rounded up the Bianca's boats and ordered them to return to their ship. The fires were extinguished but the ship was low in the water with a considerable list to port and down by the stern. It soon became apparent that the ship could not be saved.

By 1500/20 Bianca's ship's company, the German prize crew and the boarding party had returned on board HMS Renown and a course of 340° was shaped at 24 knots to intercept the San Casimiro.

Vice-Admiral Somerville gave orders to HMS Ark Royal that when HMS Renown appeared in sight of the San Casimiro the shadowing aircraft was to close and deter the prise crew from scuttling the ship.

The San Casimiro was sighted at 1715/20 in position 45°12'N, 19°42'W. Immediately afterwards she abandoned ship and scuttling charges were fired. The bridge of the ship was soon engulfed in flames. By the time HMS Renown was near her she was low in the water and was listing to port.

The tankers boats were closing HMS Renown and the boarding party were in the act of transferring some of San Casimiro's officers from the boats to the launch in order to return to their ship and see if anything could be done to save the ship when an enemy report was received by V/S from a Fulmar at 1815/20 that two enemy battlecruisers had been sighted at 1730/20 in position 45°56'N, 21°36'W, steering north at 20 knots. This position was 110 miles north-west of HMS Renown. At this time HMS Ark Royal was in sight from Renown bearing 215°.

Boats were immediately recalled and clearedso at 1850/20 HMS Renown proceeded to close HMS Ark Royal. As it was obvious nothing could be done to save the San Casimiro a few rounds of 4.5" were fired into her when HMS Renown passed.

The W/T installation of the Fulmar had malfunctioned therefore she had to close HMS Renown to pass the enemy report. HMS Ark Royal was informed by the Fulmar at 1825/20. The distance of the enemy ships to HMS Ark Royal at this moment was estimated to be 147 miles. At 1844/20 HMS Ark Royal reported that she had shadowers ready on deck but they would be unable to make contact before dark.

At 1830/20, an enemy report was sent to the Admiralty together with the position, course and speed of HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal. By 1915/20, HMS Renown had closed HMS Ark Royal and a course of 340° was shaped at 25 knots to overhaul the enemy. A Fulmar to search for the enemy was flown off at 1930/20.

This Fulmar reported at 2040/20, 'thick weather, nothing sighted', having searched to a depth of 168 miles and having encountered thick cloud down to the sea level between bearing 320° and 070° with further cloud patches to the westward, and eventually returned soon after 2100/20 and made a perfect arrival without any aid. This was a most creditable piece of work on behalf of the pilot and his observer.

Although it seemed unlikely, owing to the poor visibility to the northward, that the enemy could have ben kept under observation Vice-Admiral Somerville consider that HMS Ark Royal should have flown off a fighter to shadow as soon as possible after the receipt of the enemy report.

At 2110/20, Vice-Admiral Somerville informed the Admiralty that night shadowing and to attack was impracticable due to low visibility and that he intended a dawn search in the direction of convoy SL 67 and to the westward of that convoy. If nothing was sighted he told the Admiralty it was his intention to return to Gibraltar.

His choices to search this sector were based on the following.
1) Shore based air and surface reconnaissance from the UK could cover to some extent the area to the eastward but not to the westward.
2) It was considered possible but unlikely that the enemy would make for Brest, France in view of its proximity to the UK.
3) A more probable course of action by the enemy appeared to be an attack on convoy SL 67 or, after starting off to the westward, a run to the south to be followed by an attack on the trade routes at prestent being used by convoys in this area.

Course was altered at 2200/20 to 003° to reach the best possible position for the dawn reconnaissance.

At 0345/21, Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed that HMS Malaya, escorting convoy SL 68 had been torpedoed.

At 0645/21, a reconnaissance of nine Swordfish flew off from position 49°25'N, 19°50'W, to search between 250° through north to 040°. The depth of the search was limited to appoximately 50 miles by a heavy fog bank extending to a height of 3000 feet and nothing was sighted.

All reconnaissance aircraft landed on at 1100/21 and course was then altered to 150° and speed reduced to 19 knots.

At 1630/21, A Swordfish armed with depth charges, cashed over the bows of HMS Ark Royal when being accelerated for an A/S patrol. The aircraft appeared to break in half across the rear cockpit and fell straight into the sea immediately ahead of the ship. The depth charges fired under 35 station and some damage was caused. The crew of the aircraft was killed.

The afternoon reconnaissance flew off from position 50°05'N, 18°50'W an searched from 110° through south to 230° to a depth of 160 miles without sighting anything.

At 0630/22, an A/S patrol was flown off followed at 0700/22 by a reconnaissance from position 45°52'N, 17°39'W. This covered the area between 280° and 050° to a depth of 70 miles and from 050° to 100° to a depth of 135 miles. Nothing was sighted.

The p.m. reconnaissance searched to a depth of 150 miles from position 44°10'N, 16°50'W from 100° through south to 280°. Nothing was sighted. Course was then set as to arrive at Gibraltar early on the 24th.

On 23 March the usual A/S patrol was maintained during the day. Instructions were received from the Admiralty that on return to Gibraltar, HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal were to fuel as soon as possible to return to the Atlantic and continue operations against the enemy battlecruisers.

At 1335/23, the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester, HMS Velox and HMS Wrestler made rendezvous.

HMS Renown arrived at Gibraltar around 0700/24. HMS Ark Royal escorted by HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Velox and HMS Wrestler entered the harbour around 0945/24 first having replacement aircraft being flown on from North Front. (16)

8 Apr 1941
In the early morning hours HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) and HMAS Nestor (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN). The cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) and HMS Exeter (Capt. O.L. Gordon, MVO, RN) also participated. (17)

19 Apr 1941

Intelligence reported the German battleship Bismarck proceeding to sea, British movements to intercept.

In the early morning hours of 19 April 1941 the Admiralty received reports that the German battleship Bismarck was reported to have passed the Skaw together with two cruisers and three destroyers.

The battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. R. Kerr, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) with the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) were already at sea (departed Scapa Flow around 1700/18) proceeding southwards to relieve HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CVO, RN) and HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN) on the Bay of Biscay patrol. They were now ordered to proceed northwards to provide cover for the cruiser patrol in the Island-Faroes passage. HMS King George V and HMS Nigeria initially turned north but soon returned to their patrol area off the Bay of Biscay. Their escorting destroyers, HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) had been detached to fuel at Londonderry on the morning of the 15th. They returned from fuelling on the morning of the 20th.

For these cruiser patrols the following ships were sailed.
From Iceland (Hvalfjord); heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN), light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. Q.D. Graham, RN) and HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN).
From Scapa Flow; heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk (Capt. R.M. Ellis, RN), HMS Exeter (Capt. O.L. Gordon, MVO, RN), light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. C.M. Blackman, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. C.H.deB. Newby, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN).

HMS Inglefield joined the force of HMS Hood around 1045/20.

The battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN) sailed from the Clyde escorted by ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. K.F. Namiesniowski) and HMS Saladin (Lt.Cdr. L.J. Dover, RN).

The reported German movements turned out to be false and all British forces were back in port by the early morning of 23 April 1941 at latest. (18)

9 Jul 1941
HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN), HMS Aurora (Capt. Sir W.G. Agnew, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Greenock. (19)

12 Jul 1941

Convoy WS 9C

This convoy was formed at sea and was initially made up of the British merchants/ troop transports Avila Star (14443 GRT, built 1927), City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Durham (10893 GRT, built 1934), Leinster (4302 GRT, built 1937), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Pasteur (30447 GRT, built 1939), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933) and Sydney Star (11095 GRT, built 1936).

They were escorted by the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN) (12-20 July), cruisers HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) (12-17 July), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), (12-17 July), AA cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Cdr. E.J. van Holthe, RNN) (12-15 July), cruiser-minelayer HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN), (15-16 July), destroyers HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN) (12 July), HMS Vanoc (Lt.Cdr. J.G.W. Deneys, DSO, RN) (12-15 July), HMS Wanderer (Cdr. A.F.St.G. Orpen, RN) (12-15 July), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. K.F. Namiesniowski, ORP) (12-15 July), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) (12-15 July), HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN) (12-17 July), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) (12-17 July), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) (12-17 July), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN) (12-17 July), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN) (12-17 July), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) (17-20 July), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN) (18-20 July), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN) (17-20 July), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) (17-20 July), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) (17-20 July), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) (17-20 July), escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, RN) (18-20 July), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN) (18-20 July), HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) (18-20 July) and sloop HMS Stork (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) (12-13 July).

The merchant ships from the convoy departed either Avonmouth, Liverpool, the Clyde area and Belfast. The convoy was finally formed up at sea early on the 13th in position 55°40'N, 06°55'W.

The passage of the convoy was uneventful.

HMS Gurkha and ORP Garland left the convoy around 0330/15 reaching the limit of their endurance. HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck, HMS Vanoc and HMS Wanderer did the same around 1830/15. Around 2000/15 HMS Manxman joined the convoy, she parted company at 1900/16 and set course for Gibraltar. The merchant Avila Star had meanwhile left the convoy at 1000/16.

At 0700/17 the 8th Destroyer Flotilla was to join the convoy coming from Gibraltar but due to thick for no contact was made. At 1000/17 the Pasteur left the convoy for Gibraltar escorted by HMS Manchester, HMS Maori, HMS Lightning and HMAS Nestor. Shortly afterwards the fog lifted and the 8th Destroyer Flottilla was sighted and joined the convoy. At 1200/17 the Leinster also left the convoy for Gibraltar escorted by HMS Arethusa, HMS Cossack and HMS Sikh.

At 1800/18 HMS Firedrake joined the convoy coming from Gibraltar.

At 0700/18 HMS Avon Vale, HMS Eridge and HMS Farndale joined the Pasteur, HMS Manchester, HMS Lightning and HMAS Nestor. HMS Maori then left that group and joined the group that was made up of the Leinster, HMS Arethusa, HMS Cossack and HMS Sikh. HMS Manchester departed the ‘Pasteur group’ at 1000/19 to join the ‘Leinster group’ which she did at 1500/19.

The ‘Pasteur group’ arrived at Gibraltar shortly after noon on the 19th and around 0330/20 the ‘Leinster group’ arrived at Gibraltar. Troops aboard these ships then disembarked.

Around 0200/20, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Manxman, HMS Lightning, HMAS Nestor, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Eridge and HMS Farndale departed Gibraltar to rendez-vous with the now incoming convoy WS 9C. They joined the convoy shortly before noon, the six F-class destroyers of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla then left to refuel at Gibraltar.

For the continuation of the events see the event for 21 July 1941 on Operation Substance. (20)

21 Jul 1941

Operation Substance, convoys to and from Malta

Passage through the Straits of Gibraltar of the eastbound convoy and sailing from Gibraltar of the remaining ships involved in the operation.

Around 0130/21 convoy WS 9C passed the Straits of Gibraltar. The convoy at that moment consisted of six merchant ships; City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Durham (10893 GRT, built 1934), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933) and Sydney Star (11095 GRT, built 1936).

At the time they passed through the Straits they were escorted by HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN), flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN), HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN).

HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) departed Gibraltar around 0200/21 escorting troopship Leinster (4302 GRT, built 1937) which was to join the convoy. However Leinster grounded while leaving Gibraltar and had to left behind. The small fleet tanker RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph) left Gibraltar around the same time escorted by the destroyer HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN).

About one hour later, around 0300/21, HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) departed Gibraltar to give convoy for the convoy during the passage to Malta.

At sea the forces were redistributed;
Force H, the cover force
HMS Renown, HMS Nelson, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Fury, HMS Lightning and HMS Duncan.

Force X, the close escort for the convoy
HMS Edinburgh, HMS Manchester, HMS Arethusa, HMS Manxman, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh, HMAS Nestor, HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake, HMS Foxhound, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Eridge and HMS Farndale.

Plan for the operation

Force H was to cover the convoy until it reached the narrows between Sicily and Tunisia. Force X was to escort the convoy all the way to Malta. Ships of Force X also had troops for Malta on board that had been taken to Gibraltar by troopship Pasteur. On 23 July 1941, the day the eastbound convoy would reach ‘the narrows’ five empty transports and two tankers would depart Malta for Gibraltar (Convoy MG 1) The seven empty transports were;
Group 1 (speed 17 knots)
HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939),
Talabot (6798 GRT, built 1936),

Group 2 (speed 14 knots)
Thermopylae (6655 GRT, built 1930),
Amerika (10218 GRT, built 1930),

Group 3 (speed 12 knots)
Settler (6202 GRT, built 1939),
Tanker Svenor (7616 GRT, built 1931) and
Tanker Hoegh Hood (9351 GRT, built 1936)
These were escorted by the destroyer HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN) which had been repairing and refitting at Malta.

Through intelligence it was known that the Italian Navy had five battleships operational (three of them at Taranto) and about ten cruisers divided between Taranto, Palermo and Messina. The Italian Air Force had about 50 torpedo planes and 150 bombers (30 of which were dive bombers) stationed in Sardinia and Sicily, roughly half of each type on both islands.

The Royal Air Force was able to be of more help than during the previous convoy trip from Gibraltar to Malta last January. Aircraft from Gibraltar conducted A/S patrols for the fleet during the first two days of the passage to the east. Also patrols were flown between Sardinia and the coast of Africa, while aircraft from Malta conducted reconnaissance between Sardinia and Sicily, besides watching the Italian ports. Malta would also provide fighter escort for Force X and the convoy after Force H would part with them and HMS Ark Royal could no longer provide fighter cover for them.

During the operation eight submarines (HMS Olympus (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Dymott, RN), HMS Unique (Lt. A.F. Collett, RN), HMS Upholder (Lt.Cdr. M.D. Wanklyn, DSO, RN), HMS Upright (Lt. J.S. Wraith, DSC, RN), HMS Urge (Lt. E.P. Tomkinson, RN), HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN), HMS P 32 (Lt. D.A.B. Abdy, RN) and HrMs O 21 (Lt.Cdr. J.F. van Dulm, RNN)) were on patrol to report and attack Italian warships that might be sailed to intercept the convoy.

The passage East, 22 July 1941

On 22 July the destroyers from Force X oiled from the Brown Ranger two at a time. A task that took about 10 hours. Having completed the oiling of the destroyers the Brown Ranger and her escort returned to Gibraltar. An Italian aircraft had reported Force H in the morning but the convoy and Force X, at that moment about 100 nautical miles to the south-westward, appeared not to have been sighed. At 2317/22 the Italian submarine Diaspro missed HMS Renown with torpedoes. HMAS Nestor sighted the torpedo tracks and was able to warn HMS Renown which was then able to avoid the torpedoes by doing an emergency turn to port.

The passage East and attacks by the Italian Air Force, 23 July 1941

Force H rejoined the convoy around 0800/23 as the British were now approaching the danger area. Shadowing aircraft had already reported the position of the fleet that morning and heavy air attacks soon followed.

The first came at 0945 hours, a well times combination of nine high level bombers and six or seven torpedo planes approaching from the north-east. HMS Ark Royal had eleven fighters up, which met the bombers about 20 miles from the fleet. They managed to down two of the nine bombers but unfortunately three Fulmars were shot down by the enemy. The other seven bombers came on working round the head of the screen of destroyers to attack the convoy from the starboard beam at a height of 10000 feet. Their bombs fell harmlessly amongst the leading ships as they altered course to avoid the attack. The torpedo planes however were more successful. They came from ahead out of the sun, flying low, and as the destroyers opened fire they divided into groups of two or three and to attack the convoy on both sides. Two aircraft attacked HMS Fearless, stationed ahead in the screen, dropping their torpedoes at ranges of 1500 and 800 yards from a height of 70 feet. The destroyer avoided the first torpedo, but was hit by the second, set on fire, and completely disabled. Other aircraft went to press on their attacks on the convoy itself. One of them, dropping its torpedo between two merchant vessels hit HMS Manchester as she was turning to regain her station after avoiding two torpedoes fired earlier. She reversed helm once more but to no avail. During the attacks three enemy torpedo bombers were shot down by AA fire from the ships.

HMS Manchester was badly damaged and could only use one engine out of four. At first she could steam only 8 knots. She was ordered to make for Gibraltar with HMS Avon Vale as escort. That evening, further to the westward, they were attacked again by three enemy torpedo planes but their AA gunfire kept the enemy at a distance. Both ships successfully reached Gibraltar on the 26th.

At 1010/23 five more bombers tried to attack the convoy crossing this time from north to south. Fighters from HMS Ark Royal forced them to drop their bombs from great height and mostly outside the screen.

At 1645/23 five more torpedo planes led by a seaplane came in from the northward. Three Fulmars caught them about 20 miles away. They managed to shoot down two planes and drove the remainder away.

Soon afterwards the fleet arrived off the entrance to the Skerki Channel. There HMS Hermione was transferred to Force X to take the place of HMS Manchester. Six destroyers were assigned to Force H and eight to Force X. At 1713 hours Vice-Admiral Somerville hauled round to the westward. HMS Ark Royal kept her Fulmars up until RAF Beaufighters had arrived from Malta to take over.

The convoy was attacked again around 1900/23. Four torpedo planes arrived from the eastward, flying low and and working round from ahead to the starboard side of the convoy. They approached in pairs in line abreast. They kept HMS Sikh (on the starboard bow of the screen) between them and their target until nearly the moment for attack, thereby hampering the AA fire from the other ships. They dropped their torpedoes from long range from a height of 50 feet and nearly hit HMS Hermione, sternmost ship in the starboard column. To avoid the attack each column of the convoy turned 90° outwards and all warships opened barrage fire from all guns that would bear. The barrage however fell short but it caused the Italians to drop their torpedoes early. Also one of the enemy was possibly shot down.

This attack scattered the convoy and it took some time to reform. At 1945/23 about seven bombers appeared from ahead at a height of about 14000 feet to attack the convoy from the port side. The convoy altered 40° to port together and the escort opened up a controlled fire with some hesitation as the Italian aircraft looked a lot like Beaufighters. The bombing was extremely accurate. Several bombs fell near HMS Edinburgh which was leading the port column, and a near miss abreast a boiler room disabled HMS Firedrake which had been sweeping ahead of the convoy. She could no longer steam so Rear-Admiral Syfret ordered her back to Gibraltar in tow of HMS Eridge. They had an anxious passage, being shadowed by aircraft continuously during daylight hours, but were not again attacked. On the 25th HMS Firedrake managed to lit one boiler so the tow was slipped. Both destroyers entered Gibraltar harbour on the 27th.

Soon after leaving the Skerki Channel in the evening of the 23th the convoy hauled up to the north-east towards the coast of Sicily. This was to lessen the danger of mines. The Italians did not shadow the convoy after the attack at 1945 hours and missed this alteration of course which they clearly did not expect. Around 2100 hours, as it was getting dark, enemy aircraft were seen searching along its old line of advance. During the evening the convoy sighted flares several times about 20 miles to the south.

Continued passage to the east and enemy attacks, 24 July 1941

Between 0250 and 0315 hours the convoy was however attacked by the Italian MAS boats MAS 532 and MAS 533. The managed to torpedo and damaged the Sydney Star. HMAS Nestor went alongside and took off almost 500 soldiers. Sydney Star was however able to continue her passage as staggler escorted initially by HMAS Nestor. Admiral Syfret however sent back HMS Hermione. At 1000/24 eight German dive bombers and two high level bombers attacked. Their bombs fell close the escorting ships. HMS Hermione shot down one dive bomber. The three ships arrived at Malta early in the afternoon.

The main body of the convoy meanwhile continued on its way unhindered after the attacks of the motor torpedo boats except for an attempt by three torpedo planes around 0700 hours. They dropped their torpedoes at a safe distance when fired on by the destroyers in the screen ahead. According to the orders Rear-Admiral Syfret was to leave the convoy now, if there was no threat from Italian surface forces, and go on to Malta with the cruisers and some of the destroyers. They were to land the passengers and stores, complete with fuel and return to Force H as soon as possible. The remaining destroyers were to accompany the transports to Malta. They too were to join Force H as soon as possible. Rear-Admiral Syfret felt easy about the surface danger as all Italian ships were reported in harbour the day before, but he was anxious about the threat to the convoy from the air. He decided to go ahead with the cruiser but leave all destroyers with the convoy so at 0745/24, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Arethusa and HMS Manxman left the convoy and pressed ahead at high speed to Malta where they arrived at noon the same day. The transports and the destroyers arrived about four hours later. They had been attacked only once by a torpedo plane since the cruisers separated.

Return passage of the warships of force X to make rendez-vous with Force H.

In the evening HMS Edinburgh, HMS Arethusa, HMS Hermione and HMS Manxman sailed together followed by five destroyers; HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh, HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound, later the same evening. The destroyers overtook the cruisers in the morning of the 25th. The sixth destroyer, HMS Farndale, had to be left at Malta due to defects (condenser problems). All ships made rendez-vous with Force H to the north-west of Galita Island at 0800/25.

Movements of Force H after it parted from the convoy.

After parting with the convoy in the evening of the 23rd, Vice-Admiral Somerville had taken force H westward at 18 knots until the afternoon of the 24th going as far west as 03°30’E. He then turned back to meet Admiral Syfret, also sending from HMS Ark Royal six Swordfish aircraft which left her in position 37°42’N, 07°17’E at 1000/25. After their junction Forces H and X made the best of way towards Gibraltar. Fighter patrols of HMS Ark Royal shot down a shadowing aircraft soon after the fleet had shaped course to the westward, losing a Fulmar in doing so. However another aircraft had meanwhile reported the fleet.

High level bombers appeared from the east and torpedo bombers from the north at 1100 hours. HMS Ark Royal at that moment had four fighters in the air and sent up six more. They prevented the bombing attack shooting down three aircraft out of eight at a cost of two Fulmars, while the ships watched the enemy jettison their bombs 15 miles away. The torpedo attack came to nothing too for the enemy gave up the attempt and retired while still several miles from the fleet. Two days later, on the 27th, the fleet reached Gibraltar.

The movements of the seven empty ships coming from Malta.

Six of the transports / tankers left Malta for Gibraltar in the morning of the 23rd, escorted by HMS Encounter. The seventh ship, tanker Svenor grounded while leaving harbour and was held up for some hours. At dusk, when a few miles from Pantelleria, the six ships devided into pairs according to their speed. HMS Encounter initially escorted the middle pair but joined the leading ships in the evening of the 24th when past the Galita Bank.

Italian aircraft, both high level bombers and torpedo planes, attacked all these ships on the 24th to the southward of Sardinia. They made their first attempt on the second pair of transports and HMS Encounter. Four torpedo planes attacked at 1230/24 and four bombers at 1250/24. No ships were hit though the bombs fell close. Next came the turn for the leading pair, which were attacked further westwards by two bombers that came singly at 1330/24 and 1400/24. The second plane nearly hit HMS Breconshire. Finally when the third pair of ships reached about the same position in the evening they were attacked by torpedo planes and the Hoegh Hood was damaged but she managed to arrive at Gibraltar only a few hours after her consort on the 27th. The last ship, the one that had been delayed at Malta, arrived on the 28th. (21)

30 Jul 1941

Operation Style.

Ferrying of troops and supplies to Malta and diversery attack on Sardinia.

' Force X ', made up of the light cruisers HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), fast minelayer HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN) and escorted by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) and HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN) departed Gibraltar on the 31 July 1941 carrying the troops and supplies that had been on the troopship Leinster and the light cruiser HMS Manchester which had not reached Malta during Operation Substance.

To cover ' Force X ', ' Force H ' departed Gibraltar on 30 July 1940 and it was made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, now flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN). They were also ordered to create a diversion for the operation.

An then these was also ' Force S ' which was made up of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph) escorted by the escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, RN). This force also departed Gibraltar on 30 July 1941.

At 1630/31, the destroyers HMS Cossack and HMS Maori were detached to bombard the harbours of Alghero and Port Conte on Sardinia and fire star shells for a night raid by aircraft from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. Also the seaplane base at Porte Conte was to be attacked.

The destroyers at first proceeded as of making for the Straits of Bonifacio altering course after dark.

At 0130/1, HMS Maori parted company with HMS Cossack and proceeded toward Porte Conte while Cossack went towards Maddalena Island where she switched on her searchlight at 0220/1 to search the bay and the harbour. Cossack also fired starshell on various bearings from north to south-east and moved right into Alghero Roads. They harbour and roads were completely emptry and no targets could be found. One starshell started a fire in a building about 2 miles north of the town.

Meanwhile Maori had opened fire with starshell at 0210/1 in the entrance to Port Conte and steamed up the bay at 12 knots. The whole bay was illuminated and seen to be empty. Buildings on the hill to the east of the harbour were illuminated by searchlight and the Customs house and one other official looking building were demolished by gunfire at a range decreasing from 4000 to 2000 yards. A church between these two targets was not fired at. Maori detected a large number of sharp asdic contacts ahead and thinking they might be possibly caused by a line of mines, stopped engines and turned round.

At 0235/1, Cossack sighted a plane flying up the coast from the south and passing over Alghero. As there were no targets to be engaged and as he considered a sufficient diversion had been caused in the vicinity, Capt. Berthon ordered both destroyers to withdraw which they then did to the south-west. When clear of the 50 fathom line speed was increased to 32 knots and course was shaped to rejoin ' Force H ' after daylight.

At 0310/1, ' Force H ' alterered course together and HMS Ark Royal flew off 9 Swordfish from position 40°43'N, 06°35'E, for a bombing attack on Alghero airodrome. On completion of flying off the fleet withdrew on course 255° at 20 knots.

The aircraft, which were armed with four 250lb G.P. bombs, 40lb G.P. bombs and 20lb H.E. bombs abd flares were ordered to attack aircraft on the ground and the aerodrome buildings and hangars.

When they attacked two direct hits were observed on the equipment shop where a fire broke out. The eastern and western hangars and the living quarters were also hit and fired were caused in the two latter targets.

As soon as the flares illuminated the aerodrome considerable light AA fire was experienced but no aircraft was hit. No enemy aircraft were observed. A fire was burning in a two storey building just to the north of the town of Alghero which was probably that started by the starshell from HMS Cossack.

All aircraft returned to the carrier. Landing on began at 0621/1. As the third aircraft landed a 40lb G.P. bomb exploded which had probably hung up on the racks, exploded setting the aircraft on fire, blowing a hole in the deck and killing four officers and three ratings. One rating was wounded. The remaining aircraft now could not be landed before the remains of the burnt aircraft had been hauled aft and the flight deck was repaired. Also the arrestor gear was damaged by the explosion and had to be repaired. Repairs were completed at 0715/1 after the remaining six aircraft landed on. Course was continued to the westward and HMS Cossack and HMS Maori rejoined at 0800/1.

At 0812/1, an Italian aircraft was sighted but the fighters could not intercept as it hid in the low cloud.

Another aircraft was reported to the southward at 0852/1 but again the fighters failed to make contact. The aircraft was however believed to be a Spanish flying boat.

All aircraft were landed on by noon owing to low visibility and approaching heavy rain.

Attempts to refuel destroyers in the afternoon from Brown Ranger did not succeed owing to the weather and the tanker with its escort were ordered to proceed further to the south. HMS Cossack and HMS Maori went with them as they were the first that had to refuel. They were ordered to try to refuel during the night if possible ad make rendezvous with ' Force H ' at 0630/2.

At 1807/1, HMS Renown reported that her port bulge wa coming away and that she would require docking on arrival at Gibraltar and that high speed was undesirable except in an emergency.

Meanwhile ' Force X ' had proceeded to the eastward some 35 nautical miles from the African coast. They streamed paravanes at 0700/1 and then proceeded at 25 knots increasing to 26 knots at noon. At 2000/1 speed was increased to 28 knots which was Arethusa's best speed with paravanes streamed.

While ' Force X ' was passing south of Sardinia, ' Force H ' proceeded down the western side of the Balearics to make rendezvous with Brown Ranger the following morning.

At 0025/2, ' Force X ' intercepted an enemy report which might have emanated from a submarine sighting the force while it passed the Cani Rocks. Cape Bon was passed 1.5 nautical miles abeam to starboard at 0145/2.

At 0510/2 the light cruiser Hermione rammed and sank Italian submarine Tembien between Pantelleria and Linosa in position 36°21'N, 12°40'E. The light cruiser sustained only light damage. HMS Lightning was then briefly detached to search the area but soon rejoined having sighted nothing.

' Force X ' arrived safely at Malta at 0900/2.

Meanwhile ' Force H ', having passed to the westward of the Balearics during the night, made rendezvous with the Brown Ranger at 0630 some 40 nautical miles south-east of Ibiza. HMS Cossack and HMS Avon Vale had topped off with fuel ad HMS Maori who made an unsuccesful attempt before dark was completing with fuel as ' Force H ' approached.

There was a north-westerly wind force 4 and a slight south-west swell. Brown Ranger steamed to and fro south of te islands on courses either directly with or against the prevailing south-westerly swell whilst ' Force H ' cruised within visibility distance changing destroyers as necessary for fuelling. Problems with the gear on board the Brown Ranger caused some delays. All destroyers were however able to refuel and at 1900/2 Brown Ranger was ordered to return to Gibraltar now escorted by HMS Eridge.

While oiling was tanking place and A/S patrol was kept up over the area while a fighter patrol was kept ready on the deck of HMS Ark Royal.

At 1900/2, after the last destroyers had just completed fuelling, ' Force H ' altered course to 102° at 18 knots. Speed was increased to 20 knots at 2200/2 to rendezvous with ' Force X ' about 0830/3 in position 38°05'N, 07°28'E.

While ' Force H ' had been spending the day south of the Balearics, ' Force X ' was unloading troops and stores and fuelling at Malta. ' Force X ' sailed at 1600/2 augumented by the escort destroyer HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) who had completed repairs at Malta. The force proceeded at 24 knots, this being HMS Farndale's best speed. When north of Gozo, HMS Farndale reported that she could not maintain a higher speed than 18 knots. She was then ordered by HMS Hermione to return to Malta.

' Force X ' then increased speed to 26 knots and returned by the same route which they had followed successfully on the eastward passage through Tunisian territorial waters. Owing to loss of paravanes HMS Hermione was stationed astern of the line, which was led by HMS Arethusa.

At 2215/2, RDF indicated a low flying aircraft 20 miles to the southward and up moon. The aircraft came straight in, unseen, and passing about 1000 feet overhead, opened 8 miles to the northward and faded. It was though the aircraft had failed to sight the force but a little later it returned and appeared to circle ahead.

At 2225/2 when in position 36°28'N, 12°00'E, the aircraft approached at right angles on HMS Hermione'sHermione's stern. The aircraft was engaged by pom-pom and seen to jink just before dropping it's torpedo which missed well astern. The speed of ' Force X ' was evidently considerably underestimated. The aircraft which did not appear to be hit was held by RDF as far as Pantellaria before it faded. Twenty minutes later a shore station was heard apparently homing an aircraft but no enemy report was intercepted.

At 0027/3, ' Force X ' was turning to starboard to approach Kelibia a small darkeneded vesel was sighted at about 5000 yards on the port beam. Guns and searchlights were trained on but as the vessel drew into the path of the moon it was identified as a small schooner. The order was passed to 'revert to normal' but Hermione's pom-pom opened fire at about 4000 yards. HMS Manxman and HMS Arethusa both joining in. Cease fire was immediately ordered by W/T. No hits were observed.

' Force X ' proceeded without further incident to rendezvous with ' Force H '. A low layer of misty cloud and reduced visibility probably accounted for the abence of enemy air reconnaissance.

At 0612/3, HMS Ark Royal, flew off a reconnaissance of three aircraft along tracks 080°, 093° and 106° to a depth of 80 miles to locate ' Force X ' and any enemy forces that might be to the northward and between forces ' X ' and ' H '.

At 0640/3, HMS Foresight sighted a floating mine and sank it with small arms fire. HMS Foresight was then stationed 3 miles 160° from HMS Nelson to asist in homing in the reconnaissance aircraft.

The first fighter patrol was flown off at 0700/3. An hour later the reconnaissance aircraft returned reporting ' Force X ' bearing 117°, 33 nautical miles from HMS Nelson. No enemy forces had been sighted. HMS Foresight was then ordered to rejoin the destroyer screen.

at 0835/3, when ' Force H ' was 75 nautical miles west-north-west of Galita, ' Force X ' was sighted 6 nautical miles to the eastward.

' Force H ' altered course to 270° as ' Force X ' joined and the whole fleet withdrew to the westward at 20 knots. Visibility gradually improved.

At 0927/3, while the visibility was still low, an enemy aircraft was sighted and one section of fighters was sent to investigate. The enemy only entered the visibility circle to the north-west for a very short period before making off at high speed on a course of 250°. The fighters were not able to intercept the enemy.

At 1006/3, a shadower was detected by RDF and four fighters in the air were sent to intercept. The enemy was engaged by one of the Fulmars but was able to take cover in the clouds and disappeared to the north-east.

An emeny report was intercepted at 1045/3 indicating that this aircraft reported the position of the fleet at 1010/3. No further enemy aircraft were sighted.

Course was altered to 260° at 1515/3 and speed was reduced to 18 knots as by this time HMS Repulse's port bulge had started to fold back. At 1917/3 course was altered to 250°.

Low visibility probably persised in the vicinity of Cagliari during the forenoon and early afternoon may have been partly responsible for the enemy's lack of enterprise.

At 0400 when in position 37°22'N, 01°01'E, look-outs in HMS Avon Vale heard shouts and after investigating picked up an RAF sergeant pilot from a rubber dinghy. He was the sole survivor of a Wellington aircraft whichhad force landed on the night of 31 July when en-route from Gibraltar to Malta.

At daylight the fleetwas divided into three groups to facilitate berthing arrangements at Gibraltar. Group one comprising HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione, HMS Lightning, HMS Sikh, HMS Encounter and HMS Forester proceeded ahead at 27 knots and entered harbour at 2030/4.

Group two, comprising HMS Nelson, HMS Arethusa, HMS Manxman, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Foxhound and HMS Fury proceeded at 20 knots and entered harbour at 2230 hours.

And finally, Group three, comprising HMS Renown, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMAS Nestor and HMS Avon Vale proceeded at 18 knots and entered harbour at midnight. (22)

26 Nov 1941
In the late afternoon / early evening HMS Trinidad (Capt. L.S. Saunders, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) conducted RIX (rangefinding and inclination) exercises off Scapa Flow. (23)

27 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and ML's. (24)

29 Nov 1941
HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. G. Quint, RNN(R)) conducted A/S exercises at / off Scapa Flow with HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN). (24)

6 Jun 1942
The light cruisers HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN) passed the Suez Canal northbound and arrived off Port Said.

Off Port Said they were joined by the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN) which had departed Alexandria earlier this day.

Course was then set towards Alexandria. (25)

7 Jun 1942
The light cruisers HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMS Griffin (Lt. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN) arrived at Alexandria. (25)

11 Jun 1942

Operation Vigorous.

Convoy MW 11 from ports in the Eastern Mediterranean to Malta.

Operation Vigorous in the Eastern Mediterranean took place at the same time of Operation Harpoon in the Western Mediterranean.

11 June 1942.

On 11 June 1942, a diversionary convoy, MW 11C, departed Port Said for Malta. It was made up of the following transports; Aagtekerk (Dutch, 6811 GRT, built 1934), Bhutan (British, 6104 GRT, built 1929), City of Calcutta (British, 8063 GRT, built 1940) and Rembrandt (Dutch, 8126 GRT, built 1941).

The convoy was escorted by the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Airedale (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN), HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN), HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN) and HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN).

The four transports all had an MTB in tow. These were HMS MTB 259, HMS MTB 261, HMS MTB 262 and HMS MTB 264.

The convoy proceeded eastwards and on 12 June the convoy was joined while near Alexandria by the escort destroyer HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN).

12 June 1942.

On 12 June 1942, convoy MW 11A departed Haifa for Malta. It was made up of the following transports; Ajax (British, 7540 GRT, built 1931), City of Edinburgh (British, 8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), City of Pretoria (British, 8049 GRT, built 1937), Elizabeth Bakke (British, 5450 GRT, built 1937) and Princess Marguerite (Canadian, 5875 GRT, built 1925).

On depature from Haifa this part of the convoy was escorted by the detroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO and Bar, RAN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN).

Also on 12 June 1942, convoy MW 11B departed Port Said to join up with convoy MW 11A. It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Bulkoil (American (tanker), 8071 GRT, built 1942) and Potaro (British, 5410, built 1940).

It was escorted by the destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN).

13 June 1942.

Convoy MW 11C turned back eastward after dark on the 12th and joined convoys MW 11A and MW 11B near Alexandria on the 13th. The Hunt-class escort destroyers escorting convoy MW 11C were sent to Alexandria to fuel.

The transport City of Calcutta had been damaged by a near miss at 2100/12 while the convoy was still proceeding to the west. She had been detached and was now escorted to Tobruk by HMS Croome and HMS Exmoor. The four MTB's that were in tow of the four merchant ships of convoy MW 11C, were slipped and also sent to Tobruk due to the bad weather conditions. MTB 259 however was damaged and sunk.

The transport Elizabeth Bakke was unable to keep up with the convoy and was therefore detached from convoy MW 11A to return to Alexandria. The decoy ship Centurion joined the convoy from Alexandria. This ship was disguised as a battleship.

The destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, DSO, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, RN) and HMS Hero (Lt. W. Scott, RN) departed Alexandria in the afternoon to relieve all the fleet destroyers which were with the convoy at that time. The rescue ships Antwerp (British, 2957 GRT, built 1920) and Malines (British, 2969 GRT, built 1921) took passage to the convoy with these destroyers. The destroyers they were to relieve were then to proceed to Alexandria to fuel. The corvettes HMS Delphinium (Cdr.(Retd.) R.L. Spalding, RN), HMS Erica (Lt.Cdr. W.C. Riley, RNR), HMS Primula (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.H. Fuller, RNR) and HMS Snapdragon (T/Lt. P.H. Potter, RNR) also joined the convoy escort from Alexandria.

At 1730/13 the Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron, which was in overal command, sailed from Alexandria in HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN) with HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN, fling the flag of Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers: HMAS Napier, HMAS Nestor, HMAS Nizam, HMAS Norman, HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin, HMS Inconstant, HMS Fortune, HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN), HMS Hotspur and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton, HMS Airedale, HMS Aldenham, HMS Beaufort, HMS Eridge, HMS Hurworth and HMS Tetcott (Lt. R.H. Rycroft, RN).

14 June 1942.

HMS Erica had to be detached to Mersa Matruh during night of 13th/14th due to defects.

The escort destroyers HMS Croome and HMS Exmoor rejoined the convoy at daylight coming from Tobruk.

The transport Aagtekerk was unable to keep up with the convoy and was ordered to proceed to Tobruk escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Primula. She was later attacked by aircraft, set on fire and had to be grounded near Tobruk. She was later declared a total loss.

The minesweepers HMS Boston (Lt. D.H.G. Coughlan, RNR) and HMS Seaham (Lt.Cdr. R.E. Brett, RNR) joined the convoy coming from Tobruk.

During the afternoon and evening the convoy and escort were heavily bombed. The transport Bhutan was hit and sank while the transport Potaro was damaged but she was able to remain with the convoy. The rescue ships picked up crew and passengers from the Bhutan following which they parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Tobruk.

In the early evening it was reported that Italian warships had left Taranto.

15 June 1942.

Rear-Admiral Vian ordered the convoy to turn back at 0145/15 so that an air attack could launched on the enemy fleet before contact could be made. During the night of the 14th/15th the convoy was constantly illuminated by aircraft flares and was also attacked by E-Boats and submarines. HMS Newcastle was hit forward by an E boat (S 56) torpedo around 0300/15, her speed being reduced to 24 knots and her forward turret was put out of action. HMS Hasty was torpedoed and damaged also byan E boat (S 55) at 0525/15 and later had to be scuttled by HMS Hotspur which also rescued her crew, only 12 of the crew of HMS Hasty were lost.

At 0630/15 the convoy turned west again, but had to turn back to the east at 0930/15 when the enemy was only 100 miles to the west and air attacks had not developed. At 1115/6 a Beaufort torpedo bomber striking force reported hits on the two Littorio battleships, and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean ordered the convoy to turn westward once again. However the enemy continued to proceed to the south-east, apparently not reduced in speed. Rear-Admiral Vian, therefore, maintained his course to the eastward.

There were heavy air attacks with mainly Ju-88's and Ju-87's throughout the day and torpedo bombers attacked at dusk. Both Centurion and HMS Birmingham were damaged, but were able to continue. HMS Airedale was hit and she was later scuttled by HMS Aldenham and HMS Hurworth, casualties were fortunately once again slight. HMAS Nestor was also hit and immobilized but she did not sink and taken in tow by HMS Javelin with HMS Beaufort and HMS Eridge escorting the tow.

By 1630/5 it had been reported that the enemy fleet had turned northward and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean again ordered the convoy to turn to the westward if in any way possible. Shortage of fuel and ammunition, however, did not permit this, and Rear-Admiral Vian was instructed to return to Alexandria with his whole force.

Submarines then intercepted the enemy fleet, but a simultaneous air attack caused the enemy to alter course and unfortunately the attacks could not be pressed home. The heavy cruiser Trento was damaged by the air attack and later sunk by HMS P 35 (Lt. S.L.C. Maydon, RN) while making her way back to Italy. HMS P 35 also reported one torpedo hit on a Littorio-class battleship but this was not the cast, she had missed the Vittorio Veneto.

16 June 1942.

At 0126/16 HMS Hermione was torpedoed by the German submarine U-205 and sank shortly afterwards taking 88 of her crew with her. HMS Aldenham, HMS Beaufort and HMS Exmoorrescued 498 of her crew.

The efforts to tow the damaged HMAS Nestor had to be abandoned at 0530/16 and she was scuttled by HMS Javelin who then proceeded to rejoin the 15th Cruiser Squadron and its escort.

During the day several attacks on A/S contacts were carried out by the convoy escort, but there was no evidence of damage or a submarine sunk.

In the early evening ships started to arrive back at Alexandria and all the remaining ships arrived there during the evening except the merchant vessels Bulkoil and Ajax which went on to Port Said escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Inconstant, HMS Griffin and HMS Fortune. (26)

5 Aug 1942
The light cruiser, HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), departed Haifa for Port Said. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN). (27)

6 Aug 1942
HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) arrived at Port Said from Haifa. (27)

10 Aug 1942

Convoy WS 21S, Operation Pedestal.

Convoy WS 21S and the concentration of the escort forces

Convoy WS 21S departed the Clyde on 2 August 1942. The convoy was made up of the following ships;
American freighters;
Almeria Lykes (7773 GRT, built 1940), Santa Elisa (8379 GRT, built 1941), British freighters;
Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Dorset (10624 GRT, built 1934), Empire Hope (12688 GRT, built 1941), Glenorchy (8982 GRT, built 1939), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933), Rochester Castle (7795 GRT, built 1937), Waimarama (12843 GRT, built 1938), Wairangi (12436 GRT, built 1935), and the American tanker;
Ohio (9264 GRT, built 1940).

These ships were escorted by light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) and the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Stewart, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. P.W. Gretton, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN).

A cover force made up of departed Scapa Flow on the same day. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). They were to rendez-vous with convoy WS 21S at sea on 3 August. HMS Penn was delayed by a defect and after topping off with fuel at Moville, Northern Ireland overtook the force and joined at sea.

The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) meanwhile had already left Scapa Flow on 31 July 1941 to rendez-vous with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN). These ships were joined at sea on 1 August 1942 by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, RN), loaded with spare fighter aircraft for the operation, and her two escorts the destroyers HMS Buxton (Lt.Cdr. I.J. Tyson, RD, RNR) and HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR). HMS Argus and her two escorting destroyers had departed the Clyde on 31 July. HMS Buxton later split off and proceeded towards Canada and HMS Sardonyx proceeded to Londonderry.

The last ships to take part in the operation to depart the U.K. (Clyde around midnight during the night of 4/5 August) were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), loaded with Hurricane fighters for Malta, and her escorts, the light cruiser HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) and the Polish destroyer ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP). They were joined at sea, around dawn, by HMS Sardonyx coming from Londonderry. The destroyers parted company around midnight during the night of 5/6 August. They arrived at Londonderry on 7 August. HMS Furious and HMS Manchester then joined convoy WS 21S around midnight of the next night but HMS Manchester parted company shortly afterwards to proceed ahead of the convoy and fuel at Gibraltar.

On 1 August 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN) and HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to proceed to a rendez-vous position off the Azores.

On 5 August 1942, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) departed Gibraltar also to the rendez-vous position off the Azores.

The convoy conducted maneuvering and AA exercises with the escorts between the Azores and Gibraltar during the period of 6 to 9 August. (Operation Berserk). Also dummy air attacks were carried out by aircraft from the carriers.

Passage of the Straits of Gibraltar and organization of escort forces.

The convoy then passed the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of 9/10 August 1942 in dense fog but despite this the convoy was detected by German and Italian spies and reported.

After passing the Straits of Gibraltar the convoy was organized as follows;
The actual convoy was protected a large force of warships until the whole force would split up before entering the Sicilian narrows after which ‘Force X’ under command of Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN was to accompany the convoy to the approaches to Malta where they would be met by the Malta Minesweeping Flotilla, which was then to sweep the convoy into the harbour. Force X was made up of the following ships:
Licht cruisers: HMS Nigeria (flagship), HMS Kenya,, HMS Manchester.
AA cruiser: HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN).
Destroyers: HMS Ashanti, HMS Fury, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Penn.
Escort destroyers: HMS Derwent, HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, RN). Also the rescue tug HMS Jaunty was to be part of this force.

After the escort was to be split up cover was provided by ‘Force Z’ under Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN. This force was made up of the following ships:
Battleships: HMS Nelson (flagship) and HMS Rodney.
Aircraft carriers: HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable and HMS Eagle.
Light cruisers: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius and HMS Charybdis.
Destroyers: HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Lookout, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Quentin, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN) HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair), HMS Wishart and HMS Vansittart. Escort destroyer: HMS Zetland. Also attached were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (for Operation Bellows, the launching of Hurricane fighters for Malta. HMS Furious only carried four Albacore aircraft for A/S searches after the Hurricanes had been launched) and the ‘spare’ destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Malcolm, HMS Venomous, HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott, HMS Wolverine, HMS Wrestler and HMS Amazon. These ‘spare’ destroyers were to take the place of destroyers in the screen ‘Force Z’ if needed, escort HMS Furious during her return passage to Gibraltar after she had completed Operation Bellows and / or strengthen the escort of ‘Force R’.

Then there was also ‘Force R’, the fuelling force. This force was made up of the following ships:
Corvettes: HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR), HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Rescue tug: HMS Salvonia.
RFA tankers: RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, Master D.B.C. Ralph) and RFA Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, Master R.T. Duthie).

Before we give an account of the passage of the main convoy we will now first describe the operations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean (Operations MG 3 and MG 4), the launching of the Hurricane fighters for Malta by HMS Furious (Operation Bellows) and the return convoy from Malta (Operation Ascendant) as well as on submarine operations / dispositions.

Diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As part of the plan for Operation Pedestal the Mediterranean Fleet had to carry out a diversion in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Before we go to the operations in the Western Mediterranean we will first give an account of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It was at this time not possible to sent any supplies from Egypt to Malta as all supplies and forces were much needed for the upcoming land battle at El Alamein it was agreed that ‘a dummy convoy’ would be sent towards Malta with the object of preventing the enemy to direct the full weight of their air and naval power towards the Western Mediterranean.

In the evening of 10 August 1942 a ‘convoy’ (MG 3) of three merchant ships departed Port Said escorted by three cruisers and ten destroyers. Next morning one more merchant ship departed Haifa escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. The two forces joined that day (the 11th) and then turned back dispersing during the night. The Italian fleet however did not go to sea to attack ‘the bait’.

The forces taking part in this operation were:
From Port Said:
Merchant vessels City of Edinburgh (8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton(Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN).

From Haifa:
Merchant vessel Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN).

After dark on 11 August 1942 the force turned back and the City of Pretoria returned to Port Said escorted by HMS Eridge and HMS Hursley. The City of Edinburgh, escorted by HMS Beaufort and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa. The City of Lincoln escorted by HMS Dulverton and HMS Hurworth proceeded to Beirut and finally the Ajax, escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Croome returned to Haifa. HMS Dido had to return to Port Said with hull defects. She was escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin and HMS Jervis.

HMS Cleopatra, HMS Arethusa, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin then proceeded to carry out another diversion (Operation MG 4). They bombarded Rhodos harbour and the Alliotti Flour Mills during the night of 12/13 August but did little damage. On the way back HMS Javelin attacked a submarine contact in position 34°45’N, 31°04’E between 0654 and 0804 hours. She reported that there was no doubt that the submarine was sunk but no Axis submarines were operating in this area so the attack must have been bogus. This force returned to Haifa at 1900/13.

Operation Bellows.

During operation Bellows, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, started 37 Spitfire which were to proceed to Malta, when south of the Balearic Islands. The Admiralty had decided to carry out this operation at the same time as Operation Pedestal.

HMS Furious remained with the convoy until 1200/11. She then launched the Spitfires for Malta in 5 batches between 1230 and 1515 hours. During these flying off operations she acted independently with the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Lightning. After having launched the last batch of Spitfires she briefly re-joined to convoy until around 1700 hours when she split off and set course for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm, HMS Wolverine and HMS Wrestler. These were joined shortly afterwards by HMS Keppel and HMS Venomous.

Around 0100/12, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur which was trying to attack HMS Furious. Around 0200 hours, HMS Wolverine reported that she was stopped due to the damage she had sustained in the ramming. HMS Malcolm was detached to assist her.

At 1530/12, the destroyer HMS Vidette joined the screen. The force then entered Gibraltar Bay around 1930/12. The damaged HMS Wolverine arrived at Gibraltar at 1230/13 followed by HMS Malcolm around 1530/13.

Operation Ascendant

On 10 August 1942 the empty transports Troilus (7648 GRT, built 1921) and Orari (10107 GRT, built 1931) departed Malta after dark for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). They first proceeded to the south of Lampedusa, then hugged the Tunisian coast as far as Galita Island. Near Cape Bon they encountered the Italian destroyer Lanzerotto Malocello that was laying a minefield. They had a brief gunfight but this was soon ended as both sides were thinking the enemy was Vichy-French. The remained of the passage to Gibraltar was uneventful and the convoy arrived at Gibraltar shortly before noon on 14 August 1942.

Submarine operations / dispositions.
Eight submarines took part in the operation; these were HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN), HMS P 31 (Lt. J.B.de B. Kershaw, DSO, RN), HMS P 34 (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 44 (Lt. T.E. Barlow, RN), HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 222 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. MacKenzie, RN). Two of these were to carry out normal dived patrol to the north of Sicily, one off Palermo, the other off Milazzo which is futher to the east. The other six submarines were given alternative patrol lines south of Pantelleria, one od which they were to take up at dawn on 13 August 1942, according to the movements of enemy surface ships that might threathen the convoy from the westward. When the convoy had passed the patrol line, which it should have done by that time, the submarines were to proceed on the surface parallel to the convoy as a screen and to dive away clear of the convoy at noon. It was expressly intended that they should be seen on the surface and reported by enemy aircraft in order to deter enemy warships from attacking the convoy.

Enemy warships did go to sea but as soon as it was clear that the enemy ships could not reach the convoy the sunmarines were ordered to dive and retire. These six sumarines had no contact with the enemy. One of the the two submarines off the north coast of Sicily, HMS P 42, managed to torpedo two Italian cruisers near Stromboli on the morning of 13 August 1942.

Now we return to the main convoy to Malta.

Passage eastwards after passing the Straits of Gibraltar.

10 and 11 August 1942.

After passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of 10 August 1942, in dense fog, the convoy was first sighted by an Italian passenger aircraft, which sighted the convoy in the afternoon of the same day. German reconnaissance aircraft started shadowing the convoy from dawn on the 11th, and thereafter they or Italian aircraft kept the convoy under continuous observation, despite the effort of the fighters from the carriers to shoot them down or drive them off. At 1315 hours, HMS Eagle, was hit an sunk by torpedoes from the German submarine U-73 which had penetrated the destroyer screen. At that moment there were thirteen destroyers in the screen, the remainder was away from the main convoy, escorting HMS Furious during the flying off operations of the Hurricane fighters for Malta or oiling from and screening ‘Force R’ which was several miles away. Between 1430/10 and and 2030/11 no less then three cruisers and twenty-four destroyers fuelled from the two oilers of ‘Force R’.

At the time of the torpedoing of HMS Eagle the convoy was in four columns, zigzagging at 13 knots, with the heavy ships stationed close round it and a destroyer screen ahead. HMS Eagle was on the starboard quarter of the convoy. She was hit on her starboard side by four torpedoes which had dived through the destroyer screen and the convoy columns undetected and then torpedoed and sank the Eagle in position 38°05’N, 03°02’E (Another source gives 03°12’E but this might be a typo). The carrier sank quickly in about 8 minutes, 926 of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the rescue tug HMS Jaunty. At the time of her sinking, HMS Eagle had four aircraft on patrol. These landed on the other carriers. All other aircraft were lost with the ship. The survivors picked up were later transferred to the destroyers HMS Keppel, HMS Malcolm and HMS Venomous that were to escort HMS Furious back to Gibraltar. The tug HMS Jaunty that had been involved in picking up survivors was never able to rejoin the convoy due to her slow speed.

Late in the afternoon air attacks were expected so Vice-Admiral Syfret ordered the destroyer to form an all-round screen. Indeed the air attacks started around sunset, 2045 hours. The last destroyers had just returned from oiling from ‘Force R’. The enemy aircraft that were attacking were 36 German bombers and torpedo aircraft, Ju 88’s and He 111’s, most of which attacked the convoy but a few attacked ‘Force R’ to the southward. The Junkers arrived first, diving down from 8000 feet to 2000 / 3000 feet to drop their bombs. They claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier and one of the merchant ships. Then the Heinkels attacked, they claimed to have torpedoed a cruiser but during the attacks no ship was hit. The British fighter cover was unable to attack / find the enemy in the failing light. Four enemy aircraft were claimed shot down by the ships AA fire but it appears only two JU 88’s were in fact shot down.

12 August 1942

At 0915/12 another wave of German aircraft attacked the convoy. Some twenty or more JU 88’s approached the convoy out of the sun ahead. They were intercepted by fighters about 25 miles from the convoy. About a dozen got through to the convoy, making high-level or shallow dive-bombing attacks individually but without any result. Eight German aircraft were claimed to be shot down by the fighters and two more by AA guns from the ships. The fighters meanwhile were also busy dealng with shadowers, three of which are claimed to have been shot down before the morning attack. Around this time destroyers were also busy with numerous submarine contact which were attacked by depth charges.

Around noon the enemy launched heavy air attacks from the Sardinian airfields. Seventy aircraft approached which were heavily escorted by fighters. They attacked in stages and employed new methods.

First ten Italian torpedo-bombers were each to drop some sort of circling torpedo or mine a few hundred yards ahead of the British force, while eight fighter bombers made dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks. The object at this stage was clearly to dislocate the formation of the force and to draw anti-aircraft fire, making the ships more vulnerable to a torpedo attack which soon followed with over forty aircraft. They attacked in two groups, one on either bow of the convoy. The next stage was a shallow dive-bombing attack by German aircraft, after which two Italian Reggiane 2001 fighters, each with a single heavy armour-piercing bomb were to dive bomb on one of the aircraft carriers, whilst yet another new form of attack was to be employed against the other carrier, but defects in the weapon prevented this attack from taking place.

The enemy attack went according to plan besides that the torpedo attack was only made half an our after the ‘mines’ were dropped instead of five minutes. British fighters met the minelaying aircraft, they shot down one of them as they approached. The remaining nine aircraft dropped their ‘mines’ at 1215 hours in the path of the force, which turned to avoid the danger. The mines were heard to explode several minutes later. Only three of the fighter-bombers of this stage of the attack appear to have reached as far the screen, but HMS Lightning had a narrow escape from their bombs.

The torpedo-aircraft appeared at 1245 hours. Their number were brought down a bit due to British fighters. The remaining aircraft, estimated at 25 to 30 machines, attacked from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter. They dropped their torpedoes well outside the screen some 8000 yards from the merchant ships which they had been ordered to attack. The force turned 45° to port and then back to starboard to avoid the attack.

In the next stage, around 1318 hours, the German bombing attack, the enemy scored their one success. These aircraft were also intercepted on their way in but about a dozen of about twenty aircraft came through. They crossed the convoy from starboard to port and then dived to 3000 feet. They managed to damage the transport Deucalion which was leading the port wing column. More bombs fell close to several other ships.

Finally, at 1345 hours, the two Reggiane fighters approached HMS Victorious as if to land on. They looked like Hurricanes and HMS Victorious was at that time engaged in landing her own fighters. They managed to drop their bombs and one hit the flight deck amidships. Fortunately the bomb broke up without exploding. By the time HMS Victorious could open fire both fighters were out of range.

The Deucalion could no longer keep up with the convoy and was ordered to follow the inshore route along the Tunisian coast escorted by HMS Bramham. Two bombers found these ships late in the afternoon, but their bombs missed. At 1940 hours, however, near the Cani Rocks, two torpedo aircraft attacked and a torpedo hit the Deucalion. She caught fire and eventually blew up.

The convoy passed some 20 miles north of Galita Island and spent the afternoon avoiding enemy submarines which were known to be concentrated in these waters. There were innumerable reports of sightings and Asdic contacts and at least two submarines proved dangerous. At 1616 hours, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Zetland attacked one on the port bow of the convoy and hunted her until the convoy was out of reach. HMS Ithuriel, stationed on the quarter, then attacked, forced the enemy to surface and finally rammed her. She proved to be the Italian submarine Cobalto. Meanwhile HMS Tartar, on the starboard quarter, saw six torpedoes fired at close range at 1640 hours, and the next destroyer in the screen, HMS Lookout sighted a periscope. Together they attacked the submarine, continuing until it was no longer dangerous. There was no evidence this submarine was sunk.

At 1750 hours, HMS Ithuriel, which was on her way back to the convoy after sinking the Italian submarine Cobalto was attacked by a few dive-bombers, when still a dozen miles astern of the convoy. At this time the convoy came under attack by aircraft stationed on Sicily. This force numbered nearly 100 aircraft. Ju.87 dive-bombers as well as Ju.88’s and SM-79’s all with a strong escort of fighters. The enemy started attacking at 1835 hours, the bombers attacking from both ahead and astern which last was the direction of the sun. The torpedo aircraft came from ahead to attack on the starboard bow and beam of the convoy.

The Italian SM-79’s torpedo bombers dropped their torpedoes from ranges of about 3000 yards outside the destroyer screen, and once again the convoy turned away to avoid them. However the destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by a torpedo and disabled. The bombers chose HMS Indomitable as their main target. She was astern of HMS Rodney at the time on the port quarter of the convoy. Four Ju.88’s and eight Ju.87’s came suddenly out of the sun and dived steeply towards HMS Indomitable from astern. Some of the Ju.87 came down to 1000 feet and the carrier received three hits and her flight deck was put out of action. Her airborne fighters eventually had to land on HMS Victorious. HMS Rodney meanwhile had a narrow escape when a bomber attacked from ahead. One enemy aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by AA fire from the ships while the fighters claimed nine more although there were about twice as much enemy fighters in the air then British.

HMS Tartar took the damaged HMS Foresight in tow and proceeded westward for Gibraltar. Next day, as they were shadowed by enemy aircraft, and enemy submarines were known to be in the area, it was decided to scuttle the cripple before both ships might be lost. HMS Tartar then torpedoed HMS Foresight a few miles from Galita Island.

Passage through the narrows, 12-13 August 1942, and the loss off HMS Manchester.

These last air attacks took place about 20 nautical miles west of the Skerki Channel and at 1900 hours, when the attacks were clearly over, Vice-Admiral Syfret turned away with ‘Force Z’. It was now up to Rear-Admiral Burrough with ‘Force X’ to take the convoy to Malta.

At 2000 hours, when the convoy was changing it’s formation from four to two columns, the convoy was attacked by Italian submarines. The submarine Dessiè attacked a freighter with four torpedoes and claimed three hits. The sound of the torpedo hits was however not caused by her attack but by an attack by the Axum which hit three ships, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and the tanker Ohio.

HMS Nigeria had to turn back to make for Gibraltar escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester. Rear-Admiral Burrough transferred his flag to the destroyer HMS Ashanti. The stern of HMS Cairo had been blown off and she had to be sunk as she was beyond salvage with both engines also out of action. She was scuttled by HMS Pathfinder. The Ohio meanwhile managed to struggle on.

At this time the convoy was still trying to form up the the submarine attacks messed things up and right at thus time the convoy was once more attacked from the air in the growing dusk at 2030 hours. About 20 German aircraft, Ju-88’s made dive bombing and torpedo attacks, hitting the Empire Hope with a bomb and the Clan Ferguson and Brisbane Star with torpedoes. The first of these ships had to be sunk (by HMS Bramham, the second blew up but the last eventually reached Malta. Soon after this attack, at 2111 hours, HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alagi. She was able to evade three of the four torpedoes but was hit in the bow by the fouth. She was however able to remain with the convoy.

The situation was then as follows. HMS Kenya and HMS Manchester with two merchant ships, and with the minesweeping destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Icarus and HMS Fury sweeping ahead, had passed the Skerki Channel and were steering to pass Zembra Island on the way to Cape Bon. HMS Ashanti, with Rear-Admiral Burrough on board was fast overhauling these ships. The other two destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury, were rounding up the remaining nine merchant ships. The escort destroyer HMS Bramham was also catching up after having escorted the single Deucalion until she sank.

On learing about the fate of HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, Vice-Admiral Syfret detached HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Rear-Admiral Burrough. It would take these ships several hourse to catch up with the convoy.

The main body of the convoy passed Cape Bon around midnight. Fourty minutes later enemy Motor Torpedo Boats appeared and started to attack. Their first victim was HMS Manchester which was torpedoed at 0120/13 by the Italian MS 16 or MS 22. She had to be scuttled by her own crew. Many of her ships company landed in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy-French but about 300 were picked up by destroyers (first by HMS Pathfinder, and later by HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. These last two destoyers then set off towards Gibraltar.)

Four and possibly five of the merchant ships were also hit by the Motor Torpedo Boats. These were the Wairangi, Rochester Castle, Almeria Lykes, Santa Elisa and probably the Glenorchy. They were attacked between 0315 and 0430 hours about 15 nautical miles south-east of Kelibia whilst taking a short cut to overhaul the main body of the convoy. Four were lost, only the Rochester Castle survived and she managed to catch up with the main body of the convoy at 0530 hours. The Glenorchy was sunk by the Italian MS 31, the other four, of which the Rochester Castle survived as mentioned earlier, were hit by the German S 30 and S 36 as well as the Italian MAS 554 and MAS 557.

Shortly before 0530 hours HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had joined the main body of the convoy making the force now two cruisers and seven destroyers with the transports Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The damaged tanker Ohio was slowly catching up. With her was the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury. Astern of the main body was the Port Chalmers escorted by the destroyer HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. The destroyers recued the crew of the Santa Elisa when the passed by the abandoned ship which was afterwards finished off by a German bomber. The Dorset was proceeding without escort and lastly the damaged Brisbane Star was still keeping close to the Tunisian coast independently, intending to steer towards Malta after nightfall.

At 0730 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, sent back HMS Tartar and HMS Somali to Kelibia to assist HMS Manchester and then go to Gibraltar. When they arrived they found out that the Manchester had been scuttled several hours earlier so they rescued those of her crew that had not reached the shore yet and then made off to Gibraltar as ordered. Besides crew of the Manchester they also picked up survivors from the Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.

The next encounter with the enemy was an air attack on the main body of the convoy at 0800 hours by German bombers. About 12 Ju.88’s made a shallow diving attack coming down from 6000 feet to 2000 feet to drop their bombs. Two dived on the Waimarama hitting her several times and she blew up immediately, one of the bombers was even destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury saved some of her crew out of the blazing sea. At 0925 hours, when the Ohio, Port Chalmers and Dorset where with the main body again, a few Ju.87’s escorted by Italian fighters attacked. They dived down to 1500 to 1000 feet. HMS Kenya leading the port column, and the Ohio last ship but one in the starboard column, had narrow escapes. One of the enemy aircraft crashed on board the Ohio just after having released it’s bomb after being damaged by gunfire from the Ohio and HMS Ashanti. Another aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by fighters from Malta that had been patrolling overhead since daybreak.

Arrivals at Malta 13-15 August 1942.

At 1050 hours, about 20 bombers, mostly Ju.88’s with a few Ju.87’s, came in to attack. Target was the Ohio and she received four or five near misses and her engines were disabled. At the same time the Rochester Castle in the port column was near-missed and set on fire but she continued with the convoy. The Dorset which was astern of her was hit and stopped. The convoy went on leaving the Dorset behind with the Ohio and two destroyers.

At 1125 hours the last air attack on the main body took place. Five Italian SM.79’s attacked with torpedoes and almost hit the Port Chalmers as the torpedo got stuck in the paravane. Further attacks on the main body were held of by fighters from Malta. At 1430 hours, four minesweepers from Malta joined the main body of the convoy, these were HMS Speedy (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Doran, RN, with the group’s commander A/Cdr. H.J.A.S. Jerome, RN on board), HMS Hebe, HMS Rye and HMS Heyte. Also with them were seven Motor Launches; ML 121, ML 126, ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462. HMS Rye and two of the ML’s were sent towards the damaged Ohio which was ‘vital for Malta’, according to A/Cdr. Jerome.

At 1600 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, set course to the west with his two cruisers and with five destroyers. The Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle arrived in Grand Harbour around 1800 hours with the force of A/Cdr. Jerome. The Rochester Castle was by that time very low in the water, she had just made it into port on time.

Out were still the Ohio, Dorset and the Brisbane Star. The valuable Ohio had been helpless with HMS Penn and HMS Bramham. When HMS Rye arrived at 1730 hours, HMS Penn took the Ohio in tow. Meanwhile HMS Bramham was sent to the Dorset but soon afterwards German bombers came again and the ships were attacked repeatedly until dark. Both merchantman were hit around 1900 hours and the Dorset sank.

At daylight on the 14th HMS Ledbury arrived to help bringing the Ohio to Malta. HMS Speedy also soon arrived on the scene with two ML’s. The rest of his force he had sent to search for the Brisbane Star. At 1045 hours, enemy aircraft made their last attempt, causing the parting of the tow. Fighter from Malta shot down two of the attackers. The tow was passed again and the slow procession went on and in the morning of the 15th the vital tanker finally reached Malta.

The Brisbane Star had by then also arrived. She left the Tunisian coast at dusk on the 13th. Aircraft had attacked her unsuccessfully and one of the attackers was shot down by a Beaufighter escort that had been sent from Malta. She arrived at Malta in the afternoon of the 14th.

Italian surface ships to operate against the convoy ?

The convoy had experienced the violence of the enemy in every shape except that of an attack by large surface ships. Yet Italian cruisers and destroyers had been at sea to intercept and attack it. Two light cruiser had left Cagliari in the evening of 11 August 1942 and the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano from Messina, and a light cruiser from Naples had sailed on the morning of the 12th. That evening reconnaissance aircraft reported one heavy and two light cruisers with eight destroyers about 80 nautical miles to the north of the western tip of Sicily and steering south. It would have been possible for this force to meet the convoy at dawn on the 13th so the shadowing aircraft was therefore ordered in plain language to illuminate and attack. This apparently influenced the Italians as they had limited air cover and they turned back at 0130/13 when near Cape San Vito. At 0140 hours the aircraft reported that it had dropped its bombs but no hits had been obtained. Similar orders were signalled, in plain language, to relief shadowers and to report the position of the enemy force to the benefit of imaginary Liberator bombers in case the Italians would change their minds and turn back. They however held on to the eastward.

The submarine HMS P 42 sighted them around 0800/13 off Stromboli and attacked with four torpedoes claiming two hits. She had in fact hit the heavy cruiser Bolzano which was able to proceed northwards and the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo which managed to reach Messina with her bows blown off. The other cruisers went to Naples. Following the attack P 42 was heavily depth charged by the destroyers but managed to escape.

In fact the following Italian ships had been at sea; heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trieste, Bolzano, light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo. They were escorted by eleven destroyers; Ascari, Aviere, Camicia Nera, Corsaro, Fuceliere, Geniere, Legionaro, Vincenzo Gioberti, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale and Maestrale.

The return to Gibraltar.

The British ships returning to Gibraltar had better fortune. Having left the convoy off Malta in the afternoon of the 13th, they rounded Cape Bon around 0130/14 and from that point until past Zembra Island they successful ran the gauntled of E-boats laying in wait.

at 0450/14, near the Fratelli Rocks, a submarine fired torpedoes at HMS Ashanti from the surface. She was nearly rammed by HMS Kenya, which was next astern of the ‘flagship’ (Rear-Admiral Burrough was still in HMS Ashanti). The inevitable shadowers arrived soon after daylight to herald their air attacks that began at 0730 hours. They lasted until around 1315 hours. German bombers came in first with three attemps by a few Ju.88’s. This was followed by a more severe attack with about 30 bombers, Ju-88’s and Ju-87’s between 1030 and 1050 hours. An hour later 15 Savoia high-level bombers attacked followed until 1315 hours by torpedo-carrying Savoia’s. Around 20 aircraft attacking single or in pairs. Also aircraft are though to be laying mines ahead. Several ships were near missed, but no further damage was sustained. After these attacks the British were left alone and in the evening they joined ‘Force Z’.

Vice-Admiral Syfret had gone as far west as 01’E where he ordered the damaged carrier HMS Indomitable to proceed to Malta with HMS Rodney and a destroyer screen (which). He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. They arrived at Gibraltar on the 15th.

A few hours before they arrived the damaged HMS Nigeria and her escort had also entered port, as had HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. On her way back HMS Nigeria had been attacked by torpedo-bombers and a submarine but she had not been hit.

Conclusion.

Out of the fourteen ships that had sailed only five arrived ‘safe’ at Malta. This was not a very high score also given the very heavy escort that had been provided also taken in mind that an aircraft carrier, a light cruiser, an AA cruiser an a destroyer had been lost and two heavy cruiser had been damaged. But the convoy had to meet very heavy air attacks by over 150 bombers and 80 torpedo aircraft, all in the space of two days. Also these aircraft were protected by fighter in much greater strength that the carriers and Malta could provide. And there were also the enemy submarines and E-boats.

The spirit in which to operation was carried out appears in Vice-Admiral Syfret’s report: ‘ Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s Ships, both the officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all attacks, answering every maneuvering order like a well trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight. Many of these fine men and their ships were lost. But the memory of their conduct will remain an inspiration to all who were privileged to sail with them. ‘ (28)

2 Sep 1942
At 2000/2 the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) departed Port Said. The were escorted by the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN).

From Haifa the light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN) sailed escorted by the destroyer HMS Hero (Lt. W. Scott, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) and HMS Tetcott (Lt.Cdr. H.R. Rycroft, RN).

Both forces then conducted night exercises on completion of which HMS Dido and HMS Euryalus swiched forces.

Both forces then returned to Port Said / Haifa arriving at their destinations on September, 3rd. (29)

9 Sep 1942
The light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN), destroyers from the 14th Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN) and destroyers from the 22nd Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) conducted exercises off Port Said.

On completion of the exercises HMS Orion proceeded to Haifa escorted by HMS Sikh and HMS Zulu. (29)

24 Sep 1942
At 2109/23 the radar station at Paphos, Cyprus reported surface craft moving at high speed about 30 nautical miles to the south-west of Paphos.

In response, light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, RN) escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) and HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN), HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN) sailed from Haifa early on the 24th, and light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), escorted by HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) were sailed from Port Said. Nothing was found and all forces returned to Haifa / Port Said without incident. (30)

25 Sep 1942
HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN) conducted exercises off Port Said. (31)

30 Sep 1942
THe light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, RN) escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) and HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN), HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN) departed Haifa.

The light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), escorted by the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN) departed Port Said.

When the forces met night exercises were carried out.

Op completion of the exercises HMS Arethusa, HMS Paladin, HMS Aldenham and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa arriving on October, 1st.

All other ships proceeded to Port Said also arriving on October, 1st.

HMS Exmoor transited the Suez Canal southwards and arrived at Suez for repairs and refit. (29)

7 Nov 1942
The light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. J.F. Stevens, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and the destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Hero (Lt. W. Scott, DSC, RN) departed Port Said for exercises. At sea they were joined by the escort destroyers HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN) and HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN). (32)

8 Nov 1942
The light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. J.F. Stevens, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and HMS Hero (Lt. W. Scott, DSC, RN) and the escort HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN) and HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN) returned to Port Said from exercises. (32)

16 Nov 1942

Convoy MW 13.

This convoy departed Port Said on 16 November 1942 and arrived at Malta on 20 November 1942.

The convoy was made up of the following transports; Bantan (Dutch, 9312 GRT, built 1939), Denbighshire (British, 8983 GRT, built 1938), Mormacmoon (American, 7939 GRT, built 1940) and Robin Locksley (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941).

The convoy was escorted on departure from Port Said by the light cruiser HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Nubian (Cdr. D.E. Holland-Martin, DSC, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN).

At 0700/17, while off Alexandria all destroyers parted company and the escort destroyers HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, DSO, RN), HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN), HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, DSO, OBE, RN), HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt.Cdr. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, DSO, RN), HMS Tetcott (Lt.Cdr. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and Pindos joined the convoy.

The seven fleet destroyers arrived at Alexanrdria at 0745/17.

Shortly after 1300/17 the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. J.F. Stevens, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) and HMS Orion (Capt. G.C.P. Menzies, RN) departed Alexandria to join the convoy at dawn the following morning. The were escorted by the seven fleet destroyers that had arrived at Alexandria a few hours before.

At 1110/18, air attacks commenced on the convoy but no damage was done.

At 1700/18, the cruisers (minus HMS Euryalus) and the fleet destroyers parted company with the convoy to take up a position to the north of the convoy during the night.

At 1805/18, in a dusk torpedo attack, when in position 33°36'N, 20°44'E, HMS Arethusa was hit abreast 'B' turret and took on heavy list to port. HMS Jervis, HMS Javelin and HMS Petard stood by the damaged cruiser. HMS Jervis and HMS Javelin however soon rejoined the cruiser force. HMS Arethusa and HMS Petard were to try to make it back to Alexandria.

Around 1400/19, HMS Cleopatra, HMS Dido, HMS Orion, HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin, HMS Nubian, HMS Jervis, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin set course to return to Alexandria.

At 2045/19, the corvette HMS Gloxinia (Lt. A.F. Harkness, DSC, OBE, RNR) joined HMS Arethusa and HMS Petard.

The convoy and the ramaining escort arrived safely at Malta in the early hours of November, 20th.

Around 0800/20, the destroyer HMS Janus (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Alliston, DSC, RN) joined HMS Arethusa and her escorts.

At 1340/20, HMS Arethusa was taken in tow, stern first, by HMS Petard. Shorty after 1805/20 the tugs HMS Brigand and HMS Roysterer took over the tow.

Around 0600/21, HMS Cleopatra, HMS Dido, HMS Orion, HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin, HMS Nubian, HMS Jervis, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin arrived at Alexandria.

HMS Arethusa, her escorts and the two tugs arrived at Alexandria in the late afteroon of 21 November. (33)

17 Nov 1942
17 November 1942 / 20 November 1942;
Operation Stone Age;

On 17 November 1942 a convoy of 4 merchants (MW-13) left Alexandria for Malta. This convoy was escorted by the British light cruisers HMS Arethusa, HMS Euryalus, HMS Dido and 10 destroyers.

On the 18th HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN) was hit by a aerial torpedo. She was heavily damaged and towed back to Alexandria. 156 men lost their lives during this attack. She was patched up and later went to the Charleston Navy Yard in the USA for full repairs. These repairs were not completed until December 1943. Capt. Chapman was severely burnt in this attack.

The convoy arrived safe at Malta on the 20th. This meant the end of the Malta siege.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/389
  2. ADM 53/107498 + ADM 53/110050 + ADM 199/389
  3. ADM 53/108195
  4. ADM 173/15881
  5. ADM 53/111408 + ADM 53/112956 + ADM 199/362
  6. ADM 199/373
  7. ADM 53/111409 + ADM 53/111495 + ADM 53/112279 + ADM 53/112957
  8. ADM 1/10582
  9. Personal communication
  10. ADM 199/376
  11. ADM 186/797
  12. ADM 199/386 + ADM 199/391
  13. ADM 199/379
  14. ADM 53/113257
  15. ADM 53/114746
  16. ADM 53/114965 + ADM 199/656
  17. ADM 53/114887
  18. ADM 199/396
  19. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 199/399
  20. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 53/114204 + ADM 199/1138
  21. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 234/335
  22. ADM 199/657
  23. ADM 53/115126
  24. File 2.12.03.6388 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  25. ADM 199/650
  26. ADM 199/650 + ADM 234/353
  27. ADM 53/115349
  28. ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
  29. ADM 199/651
  30. ADM 53/115913 + ADM 199/651
  31. ADM 53/115351 + ADM 187/21
  32. ADM 187/22
  33. ADM 53/ + ADM 187/22 + ADM 199/651

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


Return to the Allied Warships section