HMS Vansittart (D 64)
Destroyer of the Admiralty Modified W class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Class||Admiralty Modified W|
|Mod||Long range escort|
|Built by||William Beardmore & Co. (Dalmuir, Scotland)|
|Laid down||1 Jul 1918|
|Launched||17 Apr 1919|
|Commissioned||5 Nov 1919|
Reconstruction to Long Range Escort finished in June 1943.
Sold to be broken up for scrap on 25 February 1946.
Commands listed for HMS Vansittart (D 64)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Lt.Cdr. Richard George Kirby Knowling, RN||31 Jul 1939||1 Oct 1939|
|2||Lt.Cdr. Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, RN||1 Oct 1939||6 Nov 1939|
|3||Lt.Cdr. William Charles Bushell, RN||6 Nov 1939||17 Jan 1940|
|4||Lt.Cdr. Walter Evershed, RN||17 Jan 1940||30 Aug 1940|
|5||Lt.Cdr. Richard Lindsay Stephen Gaisford, RN||30 Aug 1940||28 Apr 1942|
|6||Lt.Cdr. Thomas Johnston, RN||28 Apr 1942||13 Dec 1943|
|7||Lt.Cdr. John Douglas Hayes, DSO, RN||13 Dec 1943||20 Mar 1944|
|8||Lt. Harry Edgecombe, RN||30 May 1944||mid 1944|
|9||T/Lt. Walter James Parker, RNR||mid 1944||15 Jul 1945|
|10||T/A/Lt.Cdr. Kennedy Blair Sylvester Brown, OBE, RNVR||15 Jul 1945||late 1945|
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Notable events involving Vansittart include:
9 Mar 1940
Convoy HX 26.
This convoy departed Halifax on 9 March 1940 for Liverpool where it arrived on 26 March 1940.
Some of the merchant vessels had other destinations though.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Ahamo (British (tanker), 8621 GRT, built 1926), Amberton (British, 5377 GRT, built 1928), Antonio (British, 5225 GRT, built 1918), Appledore (British, 5218 GRT, built 1929), Argos Hill (British, 7178 GRT, built 1939), Argyll (British, 4897 GRT, built 1939), Arinia (British (tanker), 8024 GRT, built 1936), Athelviking (British (tanker), 8779 GRT, built 1926), Atland (Swedish, 5203 GRT, built 1910), Beaverdale (British, 9957 GRT, built 1928), British Courage (British (tanker), 6952 GRT, built 1928), City of Baghdad (British, 7506 GRT, built 1919), Delphinula (British (tanker), 8120 GRT, built 1939), Diplomat (British, 8240 GRT, built 1921), Fowberry Tower (British, 4484 GRT, built 1929), Hertford (British, 11785 GRT, built 1917), Kenbane Head (British, 5225 GRT, built 1919), Kurdistan (British, 5844 GRT, built 1928), Llanishen (British, 5053 GRT, built 1929), Loreto (British, 6682 GRT, built 1913), Marstenen (Norwegian, 1832 GRT, built 1915), Montreal City (British, 3066 GRT, built 1920), Nailsea Manor (British, 4926 GRT, built 1937), Nova Scotia (British, 6796 GRT, built 1926), Persephone (Panamanian (tanker), 8426 GRT, built 1925), Port Fairy (British, 10243 GRT, built 1928), Ripley (British, 4997 GRT, built 1936), Rossington Court (British, 6922 GRT, built 1928), San Fabian (British (tanker), 13031 GRT, built 1922), San Tiburcio (British (tanker), 5995 GRT, built 1921), San Zotico (British (tanker), 5582 GRT, built 1919), Siris (British, 5242 GRT, built 1919), Solstad (Norwegian (tanker), 5952 GRT, built 1927), Statesman (British, 7939 GRT, built 1923), Stylianos Chandris (British, 6059 GRT, built 1919), Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921), Victoria City (British, 4739 GRT, built 1929) and Voco (British (tanker), 5090 GRT, built 1925).
They parted company on 11 March 1939 and the convoy was from then on escorted by the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. I.B.B. Tower, DSC, RN) which had departed Halifax on 10 March 1940.
HMS Malaya remained with the convoy until 22 March 1940 when she parted company with the convoy and set course to return to Halifax.
The convoy was joined on 24 March 1940 by the destroyers HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. W. Evershed, RN), HMS Venetia (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN), HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. C.G.W. Donald, RN) and HMS Wolverine (Cdr. R.H. Craske, RN) which remained with the convoy until it arrived at Liverpool.
19 Apr 1940
Around 1700A/19, HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Campbell (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Aubrey, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. W. Evershed, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN), HMS Wolverine (Cdr. R.H. Craske, RN) and HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall-A'Deane, RN).
They arrived at Rosyth around 0745A/20 except for HMS Greyhound which continued on southwards Sheerness. (1)
22 Apr 1940
Around 0700A/22, the light cruisers HMS Galatea (Capt. B.B. Schofield, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) and the destroyers HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Campbell (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Aubrey, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. W. Evershed, RN) and HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN) which had embarked around 2200 troops from the 15th Brigade, stores and three trucks at Rosyth on the 21st. They arrived at Åndalsnes and Molde during the night of 23/24 April 1940.
HMS Sheffield, HMS Campbell and HMS Vansittart landed their troops at Molde and the remainder at Åndalsnes.
HMS Galatea embarked around 200 cases of gold at Åndalsnes to take with her to Rosyth where she arrived late in the morning of the 25th. She proceeded part of the way with the destroyers HMS Icarus, HMS Impulsive and HMS Ivanhoe which were to proceed to Immingham where they also arrived on the 25th.
HMS Sheffield, HMS Glasgow, HMS Campbell, HMS Vansittart and HMS Witch proceeded to Scapa Flow but they were diverted en-route to proceed to the aid of the damaged AA cruiser HMS Curacoa (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN). The destroyers however proved to be short of fuel and they had to be detached to proceed to Scapa Flow directly where they arrived on the 25th.
HMS Sheffield and HMS Glasgow arrived at Scapa Flow in the morning of the 26th. (2)
1 Jul 1940
German U-boat U-102 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Ireland, in position 48°33'N, 10°26'E, by depth charges from the British destroyer HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Knowling, RN).
HMS Vansittart also picks up 26 survivors from the British merchant Clearton that was U-102's last victim.
In the evening night exercises were carried out by HMS Newcastle, HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. W. Evershed, RN) and HMS Wolverine. (3)
18 Sep 1940
HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN), ORP Burza (Lt.Cdr. W. Francki), HMS Mackay (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) conducted exercises off Plymouth. In the evening the went to sea again for night exercises. (4)
7 Jan 1941
Convoy WS 5B
This convoy departed U.K. ports on 7 January 1941 for variuos ports in the Far East and Mediterranean (see below).
The convoy was made up of the following troop transports; Arundel Castle (British, 19118 GRT, built 1921), Athlone Castle (25564 GRT, built 1936), Britannic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), Capetown Castle (British, 27002 GRT, built 1938), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Duchess of Richmond (British, 20022 GRT, built 1928), Duchess of York (British, 20021 GRT, built 1929), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914), Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), Highland Chieftain (British, 14131 GRT, built 1929), Highland Princess (British, 14133 GRT, built 1930), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922), Orbita (British, 15495 GRT, built 1915), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Pennland (Dutch, 16082 GRT, built 1922), Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921), Winchester Castle (British, 20012 GRT, built 1930) and Windsor Castle (British, 19141 GRT, built 1922).
Four of these ships departed Avonmouth on 7 January and six sailed from Liverpool. These ships anchored in Moelfre Bay for several days as the eleven ships that were to be sailed from the Clyde could not do so due to thick fog.
The Avonmouth (Bristol Channel) section of the convoy had been escorted to Moelfre Bay by the destroyer HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN).
The Liverpool section was escorted to Moelfre Bay by the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN) and the destroyers HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, DSO, RN) and HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN).
The ships and their escorts anchored in Moelfre Bay from 8 to 11 January. The escorts remained there for A/S patrol and AA protection and were joined by the destroyer HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) which had departed Liverpool on the 8th and the light cruiser HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN) which came from the Clyde.
When it became clear that the ships from the Clyde were finally able to sail the ships in Moelfre Bay sailed for Lough Foyle (near Londonderry, Northern Ireland) to take on board additional water.
The ships from Lough Foyle and the Clyde made rendez-vous at sea on 12 January and course was then set to Freetown.
The convoy was now escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. A.D. Read, RN), heavy cruiser HMAS Australia, light cruisers HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN), HMS Naiad, destroyers HMS Jackal (Cdr. C.L. Firth, MVO, RN), HMS Harvester, HMS Highlander, HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN), HMS Witherington, HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN), HMS Vansittart, HMS Lincoln (Cdr. A.M. Sheffield, RN), HMS Leamington (Cdr. W.E. Banks, DSC, RN) and Léopard (Lt.Cdr. J. Evenou).
On 14 January the destroyers HMS Witherington and FFS Leopard parted company.
The light cruiser HMS Emerald (Capt. F.C. Flynn, RN) departed Plymouth on 12 January. She joined the convoy around noon on the 15th. Shortly afterwards HMS Naiad then parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Scapa Flow where she arrrived around 1430/17.
HMS Phoebe and HMS Fearless also parted company with the convoy escorting the Capetown Castle and Monarch of Bermuda to Gibraltar where they arrived in the afternoon of the 18th. On the 17th they were joined by the destroyer HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and on the 18th by two more destroyers; HMS Duncan (A/Capt. A.D.B. James, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN).
At Gibraltar the two troopships took on board troops from the damaged troopship Empire Trooper. They departed Gibraltar for Freetown on 19 January being escorted by the destroyers HMS Fury, HMS Fearless and HMS Duncan until 21 January when they parted company. Both troopships arrived at Freetown on 26 January escorted by HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN) and HMS Forester.
Meanwhile convoy WS 5B had coninued its passage southwards.
On the 16 January all remaining destroyers parted company.
HMS Ramillies parted company with the convoy on 17 January.
The troopship / liner Duchess of York was apparently detached at some point.
When approaching Freetown local A/S vessels started to join the convoy. On 21 January the corvettes HMS Asphodel (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) K.W. Stewart, RN) and HMS Calendula (Lt.Cdr. A.D. Bruford, RNVR) joined and the next day the destroyer HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) also joined the convoy. Finally on 24 January the destroyer HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN) also joined the convoy.
On 25 January 1941 the convoy arrived at Freetown escorted by HMAS Australia, HMS Emerald, HMS Velox, HMS Vidette, HMS Asphodel and HMS Calendula.
The convoy departed Freetown on 29 January with the addition of troop transport Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920) still escorted by HMAS Australia and HMS Emerald. A local A/S force remained with the convoy until 1 February and was made up of the destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Forester, sloop HMS Milford (Capt.(Retd.) S.K. Smyth, RN) and the corvettes HMS Clematis (Cdr. Y.M. Cleeves, DSC, RD, RNR) and HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR).
HMS Emerald arrived at Capetown on 8 February escorting Arundel Castle, Athlone Castle, Capetown Castle, Duchess of Bedford, Durban Castle, Empress of Australia, Empress of Japan, Monarch of Bermuda and Winchester Castle. The light cruiser then went to Simonstown.
HMAS Australia arrived at Durban on 11 February with Britannic, Cameronia, Duchess of Richmond, Franconia, Highland Chieftain, Highland Princess, Nea Hellas, Ormonde, Pennland, Samaria and Windsor Castle.
The Capetown section departed that place on 12 February and the Durban section on 15 February after which a rendez-vous of Durban was effected.
On 21 February the troopships Empress of Australia, Empress of Japan, Ormonde and Windsor Castle were detached to Mombasa escorted by HMS Emerald. They arrived at Mombasa on 22 February. In the approaches to Mombasa the convoy was joined by the destroyer HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN).
The remainder of the convoy continued on Suez escorted by HMS Australia and HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN) which joined the convoy shortly before HMS Emerald and the four troopships for Mombasa were detached, arriving on 3 March. The sloop HMAS Parramatta (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Walker, MVO, RAN) provided A/S escort during the passage through the Red Sea. The convoy arrived at Suez on 3 March 1941.
The 'Mombasa section' meanwhile departed there on 24 February as convoy WS 5X now escorted by light cruiser HMS Enterprise (Capt. J.C. Annesley, DSO, RN). On 27 February light cruiser HMS Capetown (Capt. P.H.G. James, RN) joined this convoy as additional escort. The convoy arrived at Bombay on 3 March 1941.
Convoy WS 5BX, now made up of the troopship Aquitania (British, 44786 GRT, built 1914) and Empress of Japan, departed Bombay for Singapore on 5 March escorted by HMS Enterprise. The convoy was joined on 8 March by the light cruiser HMS Durban (Capt. J.A.S. Eccles, RN). HMS Enterprise left the convoy on 9 March. The convoy arrived at Singapore on 11 March. HMS Durban had parted company with the convoy the day before.
5 Mar 1941
The battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), armed merchant cruiser HMS Alcantara (Capt.(Retd.) J.G.P. Ingham, DSO, RN) and the troopships Strathmore (British, 23428 GRT, built 1935) departed Greenock for Gibraltar. They escorted by the destroyers HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Assiniboine (A/Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) and HMS Churchill (Cdr.(Retd.) G.R. Cousins, RN).
On the 6th HMS Alcantara was detached as were all the destroyers.
Around 2200/8, the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) joined HMS Repulse, HMS Furious and the Strathmore to escort them to Gibraltar.
HMS Repulse and HMS Furious were however ordered to proceed at high speed to Gibraltar which they did escorted by HMS Foxhound. The other destroyers escorted the Strathmore to Gibraltar.
31 May 1941
Convoy WS 8X.
This convoy departed the Clyde on 31 May 1941 and arrived off Aden on 11 July 1941 after which the convoy was dispersed and the ship proceeded to Aden independently.
The convoy departed from the Clyde around 2230B/31 and was made up of the following transports; Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Port Wyndham (British, 11005 GRT, built 1935) and Waiwera (British, 12435 GRT, built 1934).
On departure from the Clyde the convoy was escorted by the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.J.L. Phillips, RN), the light cruiser HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN) and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Esperance Bay (Capt.(Retd.) G.S. Holden, RN).
Around 0700B/1, the A/S escort joined the convoy. This was made up of the destroyers HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski), HMCS Saguenay (Lt. P.E. Haddon, RCN), HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN), HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Brighton (Cdr.(Retd.) C.W.V.T.S. Lepper, RN), HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and HMS Sherwood (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN).
Around 1445B/2, ORP Piorun obtained an A/S contact in position 53°30'N, 16°46'W at a range of 1200 yards. She immediately attacked with depth charges. A total of 18 depth charges was dropped in four attack runs after which the contact was lost and Piorun rejoined the convoy around an hour later.
Around 0700B/3, in position 50°22'N, 19°55'E, HMS Wivern, HMS Wild Swan and HMS Vansittart were detached to Gibraltar.
Around 0900B/3, in position 49°57'N, 20°05'E, HMS St. Marys and HMS Brighton were detached to return to the U.K.
Around 1200B/3, in position 49°20'N, 20°30'W, HMS Esperance Bay was detached to search for enemy supply vessels operating in the North Atlantic.
Around 1500B/3, in position 48°40'N, 20°59'E, HMS Legion was detached to make rendezvous with a transport.
Around 1845B/3, HMCS Sauguenay parted company to proceed to Canada.
Around 2000B/3, in position 46°50'N, 22°29'E, HMS Sherwood and ORP Piorun parted company to return to the U.K.
At 1825B/4, in position 42°25'N, 23°39'E, HMS Neptune was detached to intercept a vessel reported by the Esperance Bay as well as aircraft from HMS Victorious.
Around 2100B/4, HMS Victorious was also detached to aid in the search of this suspected enemy supply vessel.
Around 2100B/5, HMS Victorious and HMS Neptune rejoined the convoy. The enemy vessel had been intercepted but had been scuttled by her crew and salvage was not possible. HMS Neptune had picked up the German crew.
Around 0100A/7, HMS Victorious and HMS Neptune parted company. They had been ordered to proceed to Gibraltar.
Around 1400Z/9, the destroyer HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) joined the convoy escort.
The corvette HMS Aster (Lt.Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR) was to have joined the convoy coming from Bathurst. She had arrived at Bathurst late and she did not manage to join the convoy.
The convoy arrived at Freetown on 11 June.
The convoy departed Freetown on 15 June 1941 escorted by HMS Neptune.
The convoy arrived at Capetown on 24 June 1941 after which HMS Neptune proceeded to Simonstown.
The convoy departed Capetown on 28 June 1941 still escorted by HMS Neptune.
The convoy arrived at Kilindini on 6 July 1941. It departed later the same day for Aden.
The convoy was dispersed on 11 July 1941. HMS Neptune then proceeded to Aden arriving later the same day. (6)
4 Jun 1941
Convoy WS 9A.
This convoy was assembled off Oversay on 4 June 1941.
On assembly the convoy was made up of the transports; Aagtekerk (Dutch, 6811 GRT, built 1934), Capetown Castle (British, 27000 GRT, built 1938), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Eastern Prince (British, 10926 GRT, built 1929), Empire Condor (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Curlew (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941), Empire Egret (British, 7169 GRT, built 1939), Empire Widgeon (British, 6737 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), Highland Brigade (British, 14134 GRT, built 1929), Llangibby Castle (British, 11951 GRT, built 1929), Mendoza (British, 8233 GRT, built 1919), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Orbita (British, 15495 GRT, built 1915) and Samaria (British, 19597 GRT, built 1921).
On assembly of the convoy it was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN), AA cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Ausonia (Capt.(Retd.) G.H. Freyberg, OBE, RN), HMS Dunnottar Castle (Capt.(Retd.) C.T.A. Bunbury, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN), HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Ramsey (Lt.Cdr. R.B. Stannard, VC, RNR) and HMS Richmond (Lt.Cdr. A.F.L. Evans, RN).
At 0130Z/7, HMS Vanquisher and HMS Winchelsea parted company with the convoy.
At 0700Z/7, HMS Ausonia, HMS Cairo and all remaining destroyer parted company with the convoy.
In the afternoon of the 14th the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. S. Boucher, RN), HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN) and HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) joined the convoy escort.
In the morning of the 15th the destroyer HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) joined the convoy escort.
The convoy arrived at Freetown on 16 June 1941.
The convoy departed Freetown for South Africa on 20 June 1941.
The composition of the convoy was the same in which it had arrived with the addition of the transports Bergensfjord (Norwegian, 11015 GRT, built 1913) and Christiaan Huygens (Dutch, 16287 GRT, built 1927).
On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Birmingham and the destroyers HMS Boreas, HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Velox and HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN).
At 0700ZA(-0.5)/23, the destroyers parted company with the convoy.
In the morning of July 1st, the transports Capetown Castle, Durban Castle, Eastern Prince, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Japan and Llangibby Castle parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Capetown.
At 1400AB(-1.5)/2, HMS Birmingham parted company with the convoy after the escort had been taken over by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins (Capt. H.P.K. Oram, RN). HMS Birmingham then proceeded to Simonstown.
The Eastern Prince departed Capetown on 2 July to proceeded independently to Durban.
The remainder of the convoy arrived at Durban on 4 July 1941.
On 5 July 1941, the ships of the Capetown section (minus Eastern Prince, see above) departed there escorted by HMS Birmingham which had come from Simonstown.
On 8 July 1941, the transports Aagtekerk, Aronda (British, 9031 GRT, built 1941), Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret and Thysville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922) and their escort HMS Hawkins departed Durban to make rendezvous with the Capetown section the following day.
On making rendezvous, HMS Birmingham was detached to return to Simonstown.
At 1415D, the transports Capetown Castle, Durban Castle and Empress of Japan parted company with the convoy to proceed to Durban. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Hector (Capt.(Retd.) F. Howard, DSC, RN) which had just made rendezvous with the convoy. They arrived at Bombay at 24 July.
The remainder of the ships continued on to the vicinity of Aden escorted by HMS Hawkins. The convoy was dispersed on 21 July 1941. (6)
7 Jun 1941
At 2230/7, ' Force H ', made up of HMS Renown (Capt. 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 Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, 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) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar to the westward to be clear of the harbour as Vichy-French reprisals (air attacks) were expected after the start of the Syrian campaign. The aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) was also with ' Force H '. Also rendezvous was to be made with the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN) coming from the UK.
A speed of 17 knots was maintained, with the object of economising fuel in the destroyers and of ensuring efficient Asdic operating.
HMS Victorious was ordered to remain outside the submarine danger area and to pass through position 37°05'N, 13°48'W, at 0700/9 steering 155° making good 16 knots.
Two outer and one inner A/S patrols were flown off at dawn on the 8th and maintained throughout the day. During the day a westerly wind enabled HMS Ark Royal to carry out deck landing training from inside the screen and full advantage was taken of this.
At 1800/8, when in position 35°10'N, 11°08'W, a signal was received from a Catalina that she had unsuccessfully attacked a submarine at 1615/8 in position 35°50'N, 13°00'W. Two relief A/S patrols were being ranged at tis time and these were flown off to search for and attack this submarine if she surfaced after the Catalina's attack. At 1845/8 the Catalina, who returned to base after the attack, signalled that the submarine dived in position 36°02'N, 11°50'W. This latter position was based on a fix obtained at 1800/8, presumably from the land and was some 60 miles further eastward then initially reported. The A/S striking force landed on at 1925 having sighted northing. The submarine attacked was the Italian Velella. The bombs were close but caused no damage.
At 2030/8, ' HMS Force H ' entered a patch of very low visibility which lased for about an hour. Course was altered to 330° at 2200/8 when in position 35°00'N, 12°21'W to make rendzvous with HMS Victorious at dawn.
Throughout the day HMS Sheffield kept RDF watch, and fighters were kept at short notice in both HMS Furious and HMS Ark Royal in case Vichy-French aircraft should take offensive action. No aircraft were seen or detected.
At 0600/9 HMS Ark Royal flew off two outer and one inner A/S patrol with instructions to locate HMS Victorious. At 0630/9 one of these aircraft reported HMS Victorious to the northward and course was altered to close. HMS Victorous, screened by HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN), HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) was sighted at 0650/9 and HMS Furious, HMS Sheffield and HMS Fury were detached to join her and form ' Group II '. The remaining ships of ' Force H ' formed ' Group I '.
HMS Victorious then transferred 5 Fulmars to HMS Ark Royal who flew off 6 Swordfish to ferry the Hurricane erecting personnel from HMS Furious to HMS Victorious.
HMS Wivern, who was short of fuel and had a leaking fuel tank was detached at 1030/9 to return to Gibraltar.
The transfer of 75 members of the Hurricane ercting party was completed by noon under somewhat unfavourable weather conditions. HMS Furious, escorted by HMS Sheffield, was detached to overtake and rendezvous with HMS Argus (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) in position 47°00'N, 24°00'W, at 1200B/11. HMS Sheffield was ordered to part company from HMS Furious in latitude 45°N and patrol an area between that latitue and 44°N, and between longtitudes 23°W and 25°W, till dusk on the 14th with the object of intercepting enemy shipping. She was then to return to Gibraltar.
Around noon, HMS Vansittart, HMS Wild Swan and HMS Wrestler were detached to return to Gibraltar.
HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Victorious screened by the six 'F'-class destroyers, steered to the south-west at 16 knots, to keep clear of the submarine concentration to the eastward. At 1500/9, HMS Ark Royal flew off a reconnaissance of six aircraft from position 37°06'N, 15°06'W, to search from 130° through south to 310° to a depth of 80 miles to locate enemy shipping and submarines. These aircraft landed on at 1730/9 having sighted nothing.
At 0100/10, Admiralty's instructions were received that the next ferry trip of fighter aircraft to Malta was to be carried out as soon as possible. Course was therefore altered to 090° and speed increased to 20 knots and an hour later to 26 knots. Two out and one inner A/S patrols were flown off at dawn.
At 0750/10 one of the outer A/S patrols flying at 800 feet sighted a submarine breaking surface heading south-west about 1500 yards distant. The aircraft attacked and dropped a stick of 6 100lb. A/S bombs from a height of 150 feet. All bombs missed over and failed to explode, the low height being insufficient for aiming. The submarine was submerged by the time the bombs were released. This incident occurred in position 35°31'N, 14°12'W. On receipt of the W/T report from the aircraft the course of the Fleet was altered to clear. This was probably the Italian submarine Veniero which was operating in the area but did not report being attacked though although she did report sighting an aircraft at 0850/10 (Rome time) an also at 1050/10 (Rome time) during which he dived.
At 1000/10, information was received that ' Force H ' had been sighted at 0038 by an enemy submarine.
At 1610/10, four corvettes were sighted in position 35°50'N, 10°30'W, carrying out an A/S sweep in conjunction with five ML's who were working 30 miles to the southward.
' Force H ' arrived in Gibraltar Bay at 0330/11 and then entered harbour. (7)
12 Jun 1941
HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Gibraltar together with the Dutch submarine O 23 (Lt.Cdr. G.B.M. van Erkel, RNN) and the British destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN). (8)
12 Jun 1941
HrMs O 23 (Lt.Cdr. G.B.M. van Erkel, RNN) carried out exercises off Gibraltar with the British submarine HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN)
30 Jun 1941
Convoy WS 9B.
This convoy was formed off Oversay on 30 June 1941. It arrived at Freetown on 13 July 1941.
On assembly it was made up of the following (troop)transports; Arundel Castle (British, 19118 GRT, built 1921), Athlone Castle (British, 25564 GRT, built 1936), Ceramic (British, 18713 GRT, built 1913), Clan Forbes (British, 7529 GRT, built 1938), Elizabeth Bakke (Norwegian, 5450 GRT, built 1937), Mataroa (British, 12390 GRT, built 1922), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925), Pampas (British, 6345 GRT, built 1941), Pulaski (Polish, 6345 GRT, built 1912), Rangitata (British, 16737 GRT, built 1929) and Tamaroa (British, 12405 GRT, built 1922).
The transport Anselm (British, 5954 GRT, built 1935) had been unable to keep the required speed up during the passage from Liverpool to the rendezvous point and was ordered to proceed to the Clyde. She was not allowed to join the convoy.
On assembly the convoy was escorted by the light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN), flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN), HMS Galatea (Capt. E.W.B. Sim, RN), AA cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN), armed merchant cruisers HMS Cathay (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.M. Merewether, RN), HMS Chitral (Capt.(Retd.) G. Hamilton, RN), HMS Moreton Bay (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, RN), armed boarding vessel HMS Corinthian (A/Cdr. E.J.R. Pollitt, RNR) and the destroyers HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Winchelsea (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Rowland, RN), HMS Castleton (Cdr. (Retd.) F.H.E. Skyrme, RN), HMS Reading (Lt.Cdr. D.V. Clift, RN), HMCS St.Francis (Lt.Cdr. H.F. Pullen, RCN), HMS Wells (Lt.Cdr. E.J. Lee, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. S. Hryniewiecki) and ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. K.F. Namiesniowski, ORP).
HMS Wolverine was detached with defects at 1324Z/31.
HMS Wells parted company with the convoy around 2200Z/1.
HMS Vanquisher, HMS Winchelsea, HMS Castleton and HMCS St. Francis parted company around 0400Z/2.
HMS Maori was detached at 1600Z/2.
HMS Cairo, ORP Piorun and ORP Garland parted company with the convoy around 1900Z/2 in position 49°20'N, 26°20'W.
HMS Reading was detached at 0400Z/3.
HMS Edinburgh parted company around 2315Z/3.
HMS Cathay parted company around 0630Z/4.
HMS Chitral and HMS Corinthian parted company around 0100Z/6.
Around 1115Z/10, in position 17.28'N, 20.50'W the destroyers HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN), HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN) and corvette HMS Asphodel (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) K.W. Stewart, RN) joined.
The convoy arrived at Freetown on 13 July 1941.
The convoy left Freetown in the same composition as in which it had arrived.
It was now escorted by the light cruiser HMS Galatea and the destroyers HMS Brilliant, HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) and HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN).
All destroyers parted company on the 18th, HMS Brilliant and HMS Velox at 1200/18 and HMS Boreas and HMS Vansittart at 1600/18.
At 0515/27, HMS Galatea parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Simonstown to fuel.
The transports Ceramic, Clan Forbes, Pampas, Elizabeth Bakke, Pulaski and Rangitata were detached to Capetown.
HMS Galatea departed Simonstown at 1530/27 and rejoined the remaining ships of the convoy at 0900/28.
The remaining ships and HMS Galatea arrived at Durban on 30 July 1941.
The Clan Forbes, Elisabeth Bakke, Pampas and Pulaski departed Capetown on 30 July 1941 escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Queen of Bermuda (Capt. A.T.G.C. Peachey, RN).
On 3 August 1941 the Arundel Castle, Athlone Castle, Monarch of Bermuda and Oronsay departed Durban escorted by HMS Galatea. The Capetown and Durban section then merged and set course for Aden. Both escorts remained with the convoy until it was dispersed off Aden on 14 August 1941.
On 13 August the Athlone Castle and Elizabeth Bakke parted company forming convoy WS 9BX. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Hector (Capt.(Retd.) F. Howard, DSC, RN) and arrived at Bombay on 16 August 1941. (6)
29 Sep 1941
Convoy WS 12
This convoy departed U.K. ports on 29 / 30 September 1941. Destination for the majority of the convoy was Aden where the convoy arrived on 20 November 1941. It was then dispersed and the remaining ships then proceeded to Suez independently.
The convoy assembled assembled at sea near Orsay Island on 1 October 1941.
The convoy was made up of the following troop transports / transports; Almanzora (15551 GRT, built 1914), City of Paris (10902 GRT, built 1922), Clan Campbell (7255 GRT, built 1937), Clan Lamont (7250 GRT, built 1939), Dominion Monarch (27155 GRT, built 1939), Duchess of Richmond (20022 GRT, built 1928), Empire Pride (9248 GRT, built 1941), Empire Trust (8143 GRT, built 1941), Empress of Canada (21517 GRT, built 1922), Empress of Russia (16810 GRT, built 1913), Franconia (20175 GRT, built 1923), Highland Brigade (14134 GRT, built 1929), Highland Princess (14133 GRT, built 1930), Prince Badouin (3219 GRT, built 1933), Leopoldville (11509 GRT, built 1929), Mendoza (8233 GRT, built 1919), Narkunda (16632 GRT, built 1920), Ormonde (14982 GRT, built 1917), Perseus (10272 GRT, built 1923), Perthshire (10496 GRT, built 1936), HMS Royal Ulsterman (T/Cdr. H.F. Jackson, RNR) (3244 GRT, built 1936), Samaria (19597 GRT, built 1921), Sarpedon (11321 GRT, built 1923) and Strathaird (22281 GRT, built 1932).
Escort was initially provided by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, DSC, RN) (from 30 September until 14 October. On 12 October HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) joined HMS Devonshire and escorted the convoy until 14 October when it arrived at Freetown.
The aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 5 October when she was detached to Gibraltar, escorted by three destroyers (see below).
The armed merchant cruiser ), HMS Cathay (A/Capt.(Retd.) C.M. Merewether, RN), auxiliary minelayer HMS Agamemnon (Capt.(Retd.) F. Ratsey, RN) and the Canadian destroyers HMCS Assiniboine (A/Lt.Cdr. J.H. Stubbs, RCN), HMCS Saguenay (Lt. P.E. Haddon, RCN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 4 October 1941 when they were detached and ordered to proceed with Halifax with the Highland Princess whih was then also detached from the convoy.
The destroyer HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) escorted the convoy from 30 September to 5 October when she was detached escorting HMS Argus to Gibraltar together with her sister ships HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) which were met at sea after they had escorted a convoy part of the way from Gibraltar to the U.K. HMS Argus and her three escorting destroyer arrived at Gibraltar on 8 October.
The AA (light) cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN) and the destroyers HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and ), HMS Verity (Cdr. R.H. Mills, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 4 October.
The destroyers HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Newark (Lt.Cdr. R.H.W. Atkins, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 3 October. HMS Bradford (Lt.Cdr. J.N.K. Knight, RN) was also to be part of this group. She did sail from Londonderry but had to return to that port soon after departure owning to defects.
The destroyer HMS Stanley (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) D.B. Shaw, OBE, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 7 October.
The escort destroyer HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSC, RN) escorted the convoy from 1 to 7 October.
The destroyer HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN) escorted to convoy from 2 to 5 October.
The destroyers HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) were to join the convoy on 7 October coming from Gibraltar. HrMs Isaac Sweers joined the convoy around noon but HMS Gurkha failed to find the convoy and only joined the following day.
On 11 October 1941, when approaching Freetown, the convoy was joined by the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN), HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) as well as the corvettes HMS Amaranthus (T/Lt. W.S. Thomson, RNR) and HMS Armeria (T/Lt. H.N. Russell, DSC, RNR).
The convoy, minus the Narkunda departed Freetown for South Africa on 19 October. Escort was provided by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire which joined the convoy early on 20 October after having patrolled south of Freetown since 16 October.
Local A/S escort out of Freetown was provided from 19 to 2 1 October 1941 and consisted of the destroyers HMS Velox, HMS Wrestler and the corvettes HMS Anchusa (Lt. J.E.L. Peters, RNR), HMS Calendula (Lt.Cdr. A.D. Bruford, RNVR) and HMS Mignonette (Lt. H.H. Brown, RNR).
On 21 October 1941, HMS Royal Ulsterman and Ulster Monarch were detached and proceeded to Takoradi. As did Prince Badouin which went on to St. Helena.
On 30 October 1941 the convoy was off Capetown and the following ships of the convoy then split off to proceed into that port; Clan Campbell, Dominion Monach, Empire Pride, Empire Trust, Empress of Canada, Leopoldville, Mendoza, Perthshire, Sarpedon and Strathaird as did HMS Devonshire which went to Simonstown.
The other ships of the convoy; Empress of Russia, Franconia, Highland Brigade, Ormonde, Perseus, Richmond and Samaria then proceeded to Durban where they arrived on 3 November escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) E.A.B. Stanley, DSO, MVO, RN) which had joined them off Capetown early on 31 October.
On 4 November 1941 the Strathaird departed Capetown for Durban where she arrived on 7 November.
On 5 November 1941 the following ships departed Capetown to continue their passage; Dominion Monarch, Empire Pride, Empire Trust, Empress of Canada, Leopoldville, Mendoza and Perthshire. They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Dunnottar Castle (Capt.(Retd.) C.T.A. Bunbury, RN).
On 8 November the following ships departed Durban and joined the Capetown group at sea; Almanzora, City of Paris, Clan Campbell, Clan Lamont, Duchess of Richmond, Empress of Russia, Franconia, Nieuw Amsterdam (36287 GRT, built 1938), Nova Scotia (6791 GRT, built 1926), Perseus, Samaria and Strathaird. The escort of the Capetown group HMS Dunnottar Castle was relieved by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) which escorted the convoy from then on to until 14 November 1941 when she was relieved by the battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) which then escorted the convoy until it arrived off Aden on 20 November. The convoy then dispersed and all ships proceeded to Suez independently.
On 14 November the convoy was joined by the Ascania (13900 GRT, built 1925) which came from Mombasa.
On 17 November 1941, HMS Glasgow (Capt. H. Hickling, DSO, RN) made rendez-vous with convoy WS 12. The Dominion Monarch, Duchess of Richmond, Empress of Canada and Perseus then split off from the convoy and continued on as convoy WS 12J towards Colombo, escorted by HMS Glasgow. This convoy arrived at Colombo on 23 November.
On 24 November the Dominion Monarch and Empress of Canada departed Colombo for Singapore as convoy WS 12V. They were escorted by HMS Glasgow until 26 November when HMS Dragon (Capt. R.W. Shaw, MBE, RN) took over the escort. The convoy arrived at Singapore on 28 November 1941. (6)
15 Oct 1941
Convoy SL 90
This convoy departed Freetown on 15 October 1941 for Liverpool where it arrived on 6 November 1941.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Abosso (11330 GRT, built 1935), Alphacca (Dutch, 5759 GRT, built 1928), City of Rangoon (6635 GRT, built 1914), Dahomian (5277 GRT, built 1929), Dalhanna (5571 GRT, built 1930), Director (5107 GRT, built 1926), Empire Success (5988 GRT, built 1921), Kalewa (4389 GRT, built 1940), Katha (4357 GRT, built 1938), Kattegat (Norwegian, 4245 GRT, built 1936), King Edwin (4536 GRT, built 1927), Kiruna (Swedish, 5484 GRT, built 1921), Kohistan (5884 GRT, built 1930), Langleetarn (4908 GRT, built 1929), Lieutenant St. Loubert Bie (6126 GRT, built 1911), Mafuta (Belgian, tanker, 6322 GRT, built 1920), Martaban (4161 GRT, built 1934), Moanda (Belgian, 4621 GRT, built 1937), Stad Haarlem (Dutch, 4518 GRT, built 1929), Temple Yard (5205 GRT, built 1937) and Warfield (6070 GRT, built 1917).
Escort was initially provided by the destroyers HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) (15-18 October), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN) (15-20 October), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) (15-22 October), HMS HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) (15-22 October), corvettes HMS Armeria (T/Lt. H.N. Russell, DSC, RNR) (15-20 October), HMS Aster (Lt.Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR) (15-18 October), HMS Clover (Lt.Cdr. F.A. Shaw, RNR) (15-18 October), HMS Crocus (Lt.Cdr. E. Wheeler, RNR) (15-18 October), HMS Cyclamen (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lawson, RNR) (15-18 October).
HMS Gurkha and HrMs Isaac Sweers both parted company with the convoy on 17 October to fuel at Barhurst. They rejoined the convoy on the 18th but left on the 22nd and then proceeded to Gibraltar where they arrived later the same day.
On 18 October three sloops joined, these were; HMS Folkestone (A/Cdr. D.E.G. Wemyss, RN) (18 October – 6 November), HMS Londonderry (Cdr. J.S. Dalison, RN) (18 – 29 October) and HMS Weston (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Sutton, RN) (18 October – 6 November).
No ships were lost from this convoy.
27 Oct 1941
HMS Severn (Lt.Cdr. A.N.G. Campbell, RN) departed Freetown for a few days of exercises together with the destroyer HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), the corvettes HMS Armeria (T/Lt. H.N. Russell, RNR), HMS Cyclamen (Lt. H.N. Lawson, RNR), HMS Aster (Lt.Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR), the A/S trawlers HMS Fandango (Lt. J.A.T. Maishman, RNR), HMS Morris Dance (Lt. A. Bruce, RCNVR) and several ML's. (9)
10 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) ended her 19th war patrol (16th in the Mediterranean) at Gibraltar. Before entering Gibraltar harbour she carried out A/S exercises with HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN). (10)
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.
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.
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 made up of HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland. He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. HMS Rodney, HMS Indomitable, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland arrived at Gibraltar in the evening of the 14th.
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.
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. ‘ (12)
23 Aug 1942
In the afternoon, the battleships HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN) and HMS Ramillies (Cdr. L.N. Brownfield, RN), departed Freetown for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN), HMS Velox (Lt. G.B. Barstow, RN) and HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN).
HMS Velox was detached on the 24th and returned to Freetown.
At 0900/25, they were joined by the destroyer HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN).
At 1620/26, the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) and HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN). Shortly afterwards HMS Brilliant, HMS Vansittart and HMS Wivern parted company.
At 0245/28, HMS Laforey was detached.
At 1600/28, the destroyer HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) joined.
Around 2030/28, the force arrived at Gibraltar. (13)
10 Jul 1943
HMS H 34 (T/Lt. R.L. Willoughby, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Hugh Walpole (T/Lt. J. Mackenzie, RNR), HMS Cape Portland (T/Lt. K.F. Rasmussen, RNR), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) and HMS Rother (Lt.Cdr. R.V.E. Case, DSC, RD, RNR). (14)
11 Jul 1943
HMS H 34 (T/Lt. R.L. Willoughby, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. J.A. Burnett, DSC, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Hugh Walpole (T/Lt. J. Mackenzie, RNR), HMS Cape Portland (T/Lt. K.F. Rasmussen, RNR), HMS Saxifrage (T/Lt. J. Renwick, DSO, RNR) and HMS Rother (Lt.Cdr. R.V.E. Case, DSC, RD, RNR). (14)
12 Jul 1943
HMS P 511 (Lt. C.W. Taylor, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Saxifage (T/Lt. J. Renwick, DSO, RNR), HMS Hugh Walpole (T/Lt. J. Mackenzie, RNR) and HMS Cape Portland (T/Lt. K.F. Rasmussen, RNR). (15)
21 Jul 1943
HMS P 511 (Lt. C.W. Taylor, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, DSC, RNR), HMS Loosestrife (Lt. H.A. Stonehouse, DSC, RNR), HMS Shikari (Lt.Cdr. D.A. Rayner, DSC, VRD, RNVR), HMS Scimitar (Lt.Cdr. C.G. Cuthbertson, DSC, RNR or Lt. G.C. Potter, DSC, RN), HMS Duncan (Cdr. Sir P.W Gretton, DSO and Bar, DSC, OBE, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN). (15)
21 Jul 1943
HMS H 34 (Lt. B. Charles, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Duncan (Cdr. Sir P.W Gretton, DSO and Bar, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, DSC, RNR), HMS Loosestrife (Lt. H.A. Stonehouse, DSC, RNR) and HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. R. Hart, DSC, RN). (14)
23 Jul 1943
HMS P 511 (Lt. C.W. Taylor, RNR) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. R. Hart, DSC, RN), HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), HMS Loosestrife (Lt. H.A. Stonehouse, DSC, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, DSC, RNR), HMCS Assiniboine (Cdr. K.F. Adams, RCN), HMS Deveron (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Sabre (T/A/Lt.Cdr. The Hon. G. Howard, RNVR) and HMS Wallflower (Lt. G.R. Greaves, RNR). (15)
- ADM 53/113071 + ADM 199/376
- ADM 53/112280 + ADM 53/112294 + ADM 53/113210 + ADM 199/361 + ADM 199/376 + ADM 199/379
- ADM 53/112887
- ADM 53/112888
- ADM 173/16291
- ADM 199/1138
- ADM 199/657
- ADM 173/16983
- ADM 173/16987
- ADM 199/1922
- ADM 173/17393
- ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
- ADM 53/116218 + ADM 199/647
- ADM 173/17796
- ADM 173/17926
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.
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