Allied Warships

HMS Fearless (H 67)

Destroyer of the F class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeDestroyer
ClassF 
PennantH 67 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered17 Mar 1933 
Laid down17 Mar 1933 
Launched12 May 1934 
Commissioned22 Dec 1934 
Lost23 Jul 1941 
Loss position37° 40'N, 8° 20'E
History

On 23 July 1941 HMS Fearless (Cdr. Anthony Follett Pugsley, RN) was torpedoed and heavily damaged by Italian aircraft while escorting a convoy in the central Mediterranean. She was scuttled by a torpedo from HMS Forester about 50 nautical miles north-north-east of Bone, Algeria in position 37º40'N, 08º20'E.

 

Commands listed for HMS Fearless (H 67)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Kenneth Lanyon Harkness, RN17 Aug 193815 Jul 1940
2Cdr. Ian Reddie Hamilton Black, RN15 Jul 194028 Dec 1940
3Cdr. Anthony Follett Pugsley, RN28 Dec 194023 Jul 1941

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Notable events involving Fearless include:


31 Aug 1939
Around 1800 hours, the Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow to patrol between Scotland, Iceland and Norway for returning German merchant vessels.

Ships that participated in this patrol were; battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), HMS Belfast (Capt. G.A. Scott, DSC, RN) (from the 18th Cruiser Squadron), HMS Effingham (Capt. J.M. Howson, RN), HMS Cardiff (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN), HMS Dunedin (Capt. C.E. Lambe, CVO, RN), HMS Emerald (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) (from the 12th Cruiser Squadron), HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clark, RN), HMS Calypso (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN), HMS Diomede (Capt. E.B.C. Dicken, RN), HMS Dragon (Capt. R.G. Bowes-Lyon, MVO, RN) (from the 7th Cruiser Squadron. These ships were escorted by destroyers from the 8th Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN).

To patrol off the Skagerrak was the battlecruiser squadron which was made up of the battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) which were escorted by destroyers from the 6th Destroyer Flotilla; HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN) and HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN). (1)

8 Sep 1939
The battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN), light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. G.A. Scott, DSC, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) sailed from Scapa Flow to patrol between Iceland and the Faroes as cover for the cruisers of the Northern Patrol. The destroyer HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) joined the force at sea later on the 8th.

11 Sep 1939
HMS Fearless (Cdr K.L. Harkness, RN) picks up 34 survivors from the British merchant Firby that was sunk by German U-boat U-48 about 270 miles west of the Hebrides in position 59°40'N, 13°50'W.

12 Sep 1939
The battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) returned to Scapa Flow.

The light cruisers HMS Belfast (Capt. G.A. Scott, DSC, RN) and HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) had in the meantime been detached for patrol duties. They refuelled at Sullom Voe on 15 September and then continued their patrol. They only returned to Scapa Flow on 20 September.

20 Sep 1939
Battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN) and HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN) departed Loch Ewe in the evening for Scapa Flow. They were joined by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, 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. P.H. Hadow, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow earlier to join the escort.

This force arrived at Scapa Flow on the 21st but not before four more destroyers; HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) had joined the escort.

22 Sep 1939
To conduct an operation against German shipping off the Norwegian coast the light cruiser HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN) and the destroyers HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN) and HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) departed Scapa Flow as well as the light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN) departed Rosyth. HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN), coming from the Chatham Dockyard, joined at sea.

To provide cover for this operation two forces were deployed from Scapa Flow. One force was made up of the battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) and HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN).

The other force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN). Later the destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN) and HMS Express (Cdr. J.G. Bickford, RN) joined at sea.

The raid was abandoned when HMS Javelin and HMS Jersey collided in position 57°09'N, 03°08'W at 2038/22.

All forces returned to their port of departure on 23 September but not before HMS Hood reported an explosion at 1330/23. The destroyers HMS Firedrake and HMS Fortune were detached to investigate but no contact was obtained. In fact this was indeed an attack by a German submarine; U-24 which reported to have made a failed torpedo attack at 1328/23 on HMS Hood and two escorting destroyers.

25 Sep 1939
At 0510/25 a radio message was received from the submarine HMS Spearfish (Lt. J.H. Eaden, RN) that she had been badly damaged by enemy warships and that she was unable to dive and was proceeding along the Danish coast try to make it back to the U.K.

Around 0730 hours the light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN) and HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) departed Rosyth and joined destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN) near May Island shortly after 0900 hours. They were to operate off the Norwegian coast at 60°N to closely cover the retreat of the damaged submarine. with the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) which were already on patrol in that area.

The light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN) and HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) which were already patrolling at sea were ordered to proceed well into the approaches of the Skagerrak with the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN) which had been on the Fare Island patrol. These ships were to try to make contact with HMS Spearfish.

To provide more distant cover for the whole operation the battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Newcastle (Capt. J. Figgins, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and the destroyers (Capt. A.G.B. Wilson, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) departed Scapa Flow.

Also from Scapa Flow sailed yet another cover force made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Tartar (Capt. G.H. Warner, DSC, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN).

Around 0100/26 the destroyers HMS Somali and HMS Eskimo made contact with HMS Spearfish which was then safely escorted to Rosyth despite German air attacks during which HMS Ark Royal was near missed and HMS Hood struck by a bomb which did not explode.

All ships were back in port on 27 September minus HMS Norfolk which was detached earlier to join the Northern Patrol.

8 Oct 1939
A force of German warships departed Kiel to operate off the south coast of Norway. They were to sink Allied shipping and lure the British Home Fleet into the range of Luftwaffe aircraft. This force was made up of the battlecruiser Gneisenau, light cruiser Köln and the destroyers Z 3 / Max Schultz, Z 5 / Paul Jacobi, Z 11 / Bernd von Arnim, Z/14 Friedrich Ihn, Z 15 / Erich Steinbrinck, Z 16 / Friedrich Eckholdt, Z 17 / Diether von Roeder, Z 20 / Karl Galster, Z 21 / Wilhelm Heidkamp. In addition, four submarines were deployed in a patrol line to attack the Home Fleet, these were U-10, U-18, U-20 and U-23.

The Admiralty took the bait and around 1600/8 the battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN) and HMS Sheffield (Capt. E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, RN) and HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN) departed Scapa Flow for a position about 50 miles to the north-west of Stadlandet, Norway.

Around 1900 hours the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt. J. Figgins, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN) and HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN) departed Scapa Flow for a position north of Muckle Flugga. Both forces were to reach their positions by dawn the following day and then steam towards each other in a pincer movement to cut off the German ships from their home ports.

The light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral G.F.B. Edward-Collins, CB, KCVO, RN), HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Wyburd, RN). They were joined at sea by the destroyers HMS Jackal (Cdr. T.M. Napier, RN) and HMS Janus (Lt.Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN) which came from Grimsby. This force was ordered to operate off the western end of the Skagerrak and then sweep northwards.

At 0600/9 HMS Jaguar was ordered to return to Rosyth to refuel. En-route there she was attacked by German aircraft but she was not hit.

HMS Jervis and HMS Jupiter were ordered to search for the small Danish merchant vessel Teddy (503 GRT, built 1907) which had reported that she had picked up the crew of a German flying boat whih was shot down on the 8th. They were attacked by German aircraft at 1518/9, but neither destroyer was damaged. However, about 1.5 hours laters HMS Jupiter broke down and had to be taken in tow by her sister ship.

HMS Jaguar meanwhile had completed refuelling at Rosyth. She left that port together with HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) which just finished repairs to the damage sustained in her collision of 22 September.

The were ordered to screen the withdrawal of HMS Jervis and HMS Jupiter. But it was not to be as shorty after departing Rosyth, Jaguar struck a small islet above the Forth bridge and damaged her starboard propeller shaft and HMS Jersey struck the Rosyth boom defence. Both destroyers proceeded to Leith for repairs.

Between 1120 and 1645/9 the Luftwaffe heavily bombed the 'Humber force' made up at that time of HMS Southampton, HMS Glasgow, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Jackal and HMS Janus which had arrived off the western entrance to the Skagerrak by that time. HMS Southampton and HMS Glasgow were near missed but were not damaged.

The German force returned to Kiel shortlyafter midnight during the night of 9/10 October. This news reached the C-in-C, Home Fleet in the afternoon of the 10th after which all ships were ordered to return to port.

HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney, HMS Hood, HMS Faulknor, HMS Firedrake, HMS Forester, HMS Fury, HMS Bedouin and HMS Punjabi proceeded to Loch Ewe arriving on the 11th.

HMS Repulse, HMS Furious, HMS Aurora, HMS Newcastle, HMS Southampton, HMS Glasgow, HMS Somali, HMS Mashona, HMS Eskimo, HMS Ashanti, HMS Fame, HMS Foresight, HMS Jervis, HMS Jackal, HMS Janus and HMS Jupiter (which by now as able to proceed under her own power) arrived at Scapa Flow on the 11th. They had been joined at sea before arrival by two more destroyers which came from Scapa Flow; HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN).

HMS Edinburgh had been detached and proceeded to Rosyth.

HMS Sheffield had already been detached on the 9th with orders to patrol in the Denmark Strait.

15 Oct 1939
The battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Aurora (Capt. G.B. Middleton, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, RN), HMS Belfast (Capt. G.A. Scott, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN).

They were to patrol north of Iceland as it was thought the German pocket battleship Deutschland was proceeding into the Atlantic. From this position they were able to support the Northern Patrol.

More destroyers later joined at sea; HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN and HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN) departed Scapa Flow on the 15th. They were followed on the 16th by HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN).

On the 18th the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), which had completed boiler cleaning, departed Rosyth escorted by the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, RN), HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN), HMS Cossack (Capt. D. de Pass, RN) and HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN). HMS Cossack and HMS Maori returned to Rosyth on the 19th. HMS Repulse, HMS Jervis and HMS Jersey joined the fleet at sea on the 20th but HMS Jervis and HMS Jersey were detached to Sullum Voe shortly afterwards.

HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney, HMS Hood, HMS Repulse, HMS Furious, HMS Aurora, HMS Belfast, HMS Bedouin, HMS Mashona, HMS Matabele, HMS Punjabi, HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake, HMS Forester, HMS Foxhound and HMS Fury arrived at Loch Ewe on 22 October.

26 Oct 1939
Around 0430/26, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) departed the Clyde to provide cover for convoys in the North Atlantic.

The destroyers parted company around dawn on the 27th.

HMS Repulse and HMS Furious arrived at Halifax on 3 November.

29 Oct 1939

Search for the American merchant vessel City of Flint.

The destroyers HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) departed Sullom Voe to search of the coast of Norway for the seized US merchant vessel City of Flint (4963 GRT, built 1920) that was on passage to Germany. HMS Fearless and HMS Foxhound were later detached to join the main cover force.

This vessel had been seized on 9 October by the German pocket battleship Deutschland in the North Atlantic while en-route from New York to the U.K. A german prize crew was to take the ship to Germany as it was carrying contraband. The ship was refused entrance into Norwegian waters and was taken to Murmansk where it arrived on 23 October. The German prize crew was interned by the Soviet authorities the next day. On 27 October, the City of Flint was returned to German control and she left the following day and set course to Germany.

Close cover for this destroyer force was provided by the light cruisers HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN) and HMS Newcastle (Capt J. Figgins, RN) which departed Rosyth on 1 November.

A larger cover force for the entire operation as well as convoy ON 1 (Methil-Norway) sailed from the Clyde in the morning of November 2nd. It was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. B. Jones, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN).

The captured merchnant ship was however not sighted.

4 Nov 1939
The destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the force of Admiral Forbes (made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. E.N. Syfret, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN), HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. B. Jones, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, RN)) at sea which they did the following day.

8 Nov 1939
At 1548/8, HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), parted company with the force of the C-in-C, Home Fleet. She was to proceed to the Devonport Dockyard at Plymouth for repairs. She was escorted by the destroyer HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) which joined her at 0010/9. (2)

11 Nov 1939
HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and her escort, the destroyer HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) arrived at Plymouth. (2)

10 Dec 1939

Convoy TC 1.

This convoy of troopships departed Halifax at 0510 hours on 10 December 1939 for the Clyde where it arrived on 17 December 1939.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / liners; Aquitania (British, 44786 GRT, built 1914, carrying 2638 troops), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928, carrying 1312 troops), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914, carrying 1235 troops), Empress of Britain (British, 42348 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1303 troops) and Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931, carrying 961 troops),

Close escort was provided on leaving Halifax by the battleship HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN) and the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.N. Creery, RCN), HMCS Ottawa (Capt. G.C. Jones, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. W.B.L. Holms, RCN) and HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. de Wolf, RCN). These Canadian destroyers remained with the convoy until 12 December 1939 when they set course to return to Halifax.

Cover for the convoy was provided by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Emerald (Capt. A.W.S. Agar, VC, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN) and HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN). At dusk on the 10th both destroyers were detached to join the local escort. They returned to Halifax with the Canadian destroyers.

Early on the 15th, HMS Emerald was detached, HMS Newcastle (Capt. J. Figgins, RN) had joined the cover force in the afternoon of the 14th to take her place.

When the convoy approached the British isles, the destroyers HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. P.V. McLaughlin, RN), HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSC, RN), HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Khartoum (Cdr. D.T. Dowler, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) departed the Clyde on the 12th to sweep ahead of the convoy. HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) was also to have sailed but was unable to join. HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) was sailed in her place and later joined the other destroyers at sea.

After German warships had been reported in the North Sea, and concerned for the safety of convoy TC.1, Admiral Forbes, departed the Clyde on the 13th to provide additional cover with the battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. H.T.C. Walker, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Imogen (Cdr. E.B.K. Stevens, RN), HMS Imperial, HMS Isis (Cdr. J.C. Clouston, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN). The destroyers HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, RN) sailed from Loch Ewe and later joined this force at sea. Three cruisers from the Northern Patrol were ordered to patrol in position 53°55’N, 25°00’W to provide cover for the convoy. These were the heavy cruisers HMS Berwick (Capt. I.M. Palmer, DSC, RN), HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Glasgow (Capt. F.H. Pegram, RN).

The light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. F.C. Bradley, RN) departed Rosyth to patrol between the Shetlands and the Faroes.

The destroyers HMS Afridi (Capt. G.H. Creswell, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN) and HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN) departed Rosyth and proceeded north at high speed to try to cut of the enemy warhips if they were to enter the Atlantic.

The light cruisers HMS Cardiff (Capt. P.K. Enright, RN), HMS Ceres (Capt. E.G. Abbott, AM, RN), HMS Delhi (Capt L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN), HMS Diomede (Capt. E.B.C. Dicken, RN) which were on the Northern Patrol were to concentrate near the Faroes where they were joined by HMS Colombo (Capt. R.J.R. Scott, RN) and HMS Dragon (Capt. R.G. Bowes-Lyon, MVO, RN) which were on passage to their patrol stations.

Nothing happened and the convoy arrived safely in the Clyde on 17 December 1939. (3)

17 Dec 1939
Around noon the battleship HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. M.L. Clarke, DSC, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN), HMS Khartoum (Cdr. D.T. Dowler, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) arrived at Greenock.

22 Dec 1939

Convoy TC 2.

This convoy of troopships departed Halifax on 22 December 1939 for the Clyde where it arrived on 30 December 1939.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / liners; Almanzora (British, 15551 GRT, built 1914, carrying 1284 troops), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1358 troops), Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936, carrying 806 troops), Chrobry (Polish, 11442 GRT, built 1939, carrying 1045 troops) Orama (British, 19840 GRT, built 1924, carrying 935 troops), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917, carrying 1269 troops) and Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1455 troops).

A/S escort was provided on leaving Halifax the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.N. Creery, RCN), HMCS Ottawa (Capt. G.C. Jones, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. W.B.L. Holms, RCN), HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. de Wolf, RCN) and the British destroyer HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. De Villiers, RN). These destroyers remained with the convoy until 24 December 1939 when they set course to return to Halifax.

Ocean Escort was provided by the British battleship HMS Revenge (Capt. E.R. Archer, RN), French battlecruiser Dunkerque (Capt. M.J.M. Seguin and the French light cruiser Gloire (Capt. F.H.R. de Belot).

When the convoy approached the British isles, the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. R.S.G. Nicholson, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St.J.A. Micklethwait, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN) and HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) departed Greenock on the 25th to join the convoy on the 28th. On the 26th two more destroyers departed Greenock, these were HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN). These destroyers also joined the convoy on the 28th.

On the 29th the French battlecruiser Dunkerque and the light cruiser Gloire parted company with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake and HMS Fury until they were relieved by the French large destroyers Mogador (Cdr. P. Maerte), Volta (Cdr. C.V.E. Jacquinet), Le Triomphant (Cdr. M.M.P.L. Pothuau), Le Fantasque (Capt. P.A.B. Still), and Le Terrible (Cdr. A.E.R. Bonneau).

Four more escorts joined the convoy on the 29th. These were the minesweepers HMS Jason (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Fryer, RN), HMS Gleaner (Lt.Cdr. H.P. Price, RN).and the patrol vessels HMS Puffin (Lt.Cdr. Hon. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) and HMS Shearwater (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN).

The convoy arrived safely in the Clyde area in the morning of 30 December 1939. (3)

15 Jan 1940
The battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) departed the Clyde to take up a patrol position near the Faroes.

24 Jan 1940
The battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) returned to the Clyde from patrol.

27 Jan 1940
Battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, DSO, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) departed Greenock to patrol near the Shetland Islands to provide distant cover for the Northern Patrol and convoys to and from Norway.

30 Jan 1940

Convoy TC 3.

This convoy of troopships departed Halifax on 30 January 1940 for the Clyde where it arrived on 7 February 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / liners; Aquitania (British, 44786 GRT, built 1914, carrying 2733 troops), Chobry (Polish, 11442 GRT, built 1939, number of troops unknown), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914, carrying 1577 troops), Empress of Britain (British, 42348 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1588 troops) and Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931, carrying 1334 troops),

Close escort was provided on leaving Halifax by the battleships HMS Malaya (Capt. I.B.B. Tower, DSC, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), light cruiser HMS Enterprise (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN) and the destroyers HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN), HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.N. Creery, RCN), HMCS Ottawa (Capt. G.C. Jones, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN) and HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. de Wolf, RCN). These Canadian destroyers remained with the convoy until the afternoon of February 1st when they set course to return to Halifax. HMS Enterprise remained with the convoy until about 25°W when she parted company with the convoy in the afternoon 4 February to return to Halifax.

When the convoy approached the British isles, the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Daring (Cdr. S.A. Cooper, RN) and HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) departed the Clyde on 2 February. HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliot, RN) departed Portsmouth on the 3rd also to join the convoy. They joined the convoy in the morning of the 5th with the exception of HMS Delight which had been detached as she was unable to join on time. She was replaced by the destroyers HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Machin, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN).

The convoy arrived in the Clyde on the 7th. (3)

31 Jan 1940
Battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. C.S. Daniel, DSO, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) returned to Greenock from patrol.

2 Feb 1940
HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fame (Cdr. P.N. Walter, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN), HMS Daring (Cdr. S.A. Cooper, RN) and HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) departed the Clyde for convoy escort duty.

Later the same day the destroyers HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Machin, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN) also sailed.

[See the event ' Convoy TC 3 ' for 30 January 1940 for more information on this convoy.]

19 Feb 1940
A group of German warships departed Wilhelmshaven to attack allied shipping between the Shetland Isands and Bergen (Operation 'Nordmark'). This force was made up of the battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Z 9 / Wolfgang Zenker, Z 20 / Karl Galster and Z 21 / Wilhelm Heidkamp. Wolfgang Zenker however had to return shortly after sailing due to ice damage.

In response the Admiralty sailed the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) from the Clyde. HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN) departed from the Clyde later the same day to overtake while HMS Khartoum (Cdr. D.T. Dowler, RN) sailed from Scapa Flow. On the 20th two more destroyers sailed from Scapa Flow to join the force at sea, these were; HMS Tartar (Cdr. L.P. Skipwith, RN) and HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN).

The German C-in-C was forced to abandon his mission as his seaplanes were unable to be operated in the bad weather and course was set to return to Germany where they arrived back on the 20th. (4)

24 Feb 1940
The battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) and HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN) arrived in the Clyde.

19 Mar 1940
Ships from the Home Fleet departed Scapa Flow in the afternoon in two groups to cover (convoy) operations.

These groups were;
Battleships HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) and HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN). These were escorted by the destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN), HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN), HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, RN), HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN).

Battlecruisers HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN). These were escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliot, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) and HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN).

22 Mar 1940
Around 1630/22, HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliot, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN) and HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN) arrived at Sullum Voe to refuel.

They departed to rejoin the Home Fleet at sea shortly before 0800/23.

27 Mar 1940
The two groups of the Home Fleet that had been covering operations returned to Scapa Flow around 1100 hours. These were;

Battleships HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral J.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) and HMS Warspite (Capt. V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, RN). Escorted by the destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN), HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN), HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, RN), HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN).

Battlecruisers HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN). Escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliot, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) and HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, RN).

5 Apr 1940

Operation Wilfed.

Minelaying in Norwegian territorial waters and subsequent movements leading up to the First Battle of Narvik.

Three British forces were to lay mines in Norwegian territorial waters, these were;
' Force WB ': destroyers HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, RN) and HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN). They were to simulate a minelay of Bud. This force departed Scapa Flow with HMS Renown at 1830/5 (see below).

' Force WS ': Auxiliary minelayer HMS Teviotbank (Cdr.(Retd.) R.D. King-Harman, DSC and Bar, RN) and 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 Isis (Cdr. J.C. Clouston, RN). This force was to lay mines in the Stadlandet area between Aalesund and Bergen.

' Force WV ': Minelaying destroyers: HMS Esk (Lt.Cdr. R.J.H. Couch, RN, with Capt. J.G. Bickford, DSC, RN, Capt. D.10 onboard), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, RN) and HMS Ivanhoe (Cdr. P.H. Hadow, RN) escorted by destroyers HMS Hardy (Capt. B.A. Warburton-Lee, RN), HMS Havock (Cdr. R.E. Courage, RN), HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H. Layman, RN) and HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. de Villiers, RN). This force was to lay mines in the entrance to the Vestfiord.

To cover ' Force WS ' it had been intended to sent out the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN) and the destroyers HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall-A'Deane, RN), HMS Glowworm (Lt.Cdr. G.B. Roope, RN) and the destroyers from ' Force WB '. As the Admiralty received information that all four Norwegian coast defence ships were at Narvik this was changed at the last moment and the Renown force was then ordered to cover ' Force WV ' instead. Renown and her escorting destroyers departed Scapa Flow around 1830/5.

' Force WS ' departed Scapa Flow around 1930/5. During the night the destroyers in company with HMS Renown had lost contact with her in the heavy weather. By dawn they were regaining contact when HMS Glowworm reported a man overboard at 0620/6. She was given permission shortly afterwards to search for her missing crewmember and doubled back.

' Force WV ' departed Sullom Voe around 0515/6. They were to rendezvous at sea with HMS Renown, her escorting destroyers and ' Force WB '. Rendezvous was effected at 0735/6.

HMS Hyperion and HMS Hero, were detached to refuel at Lerwick prior to their simulated minelay off Bud. They arrived at Sullom Voe around 1545/6.

When the Admiralty found out on the 7th that only HMS Greyhound was with HMS Renown the light cruiser HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, RN) were ordered to make rendezvous with HMS Renown off the Vestfiord.

In the evening of the 7th, HMS Renown signalled her intention to be in position 67°15'N, 10°40'E at 0500/8 to HMS Birmingham and HMS Glowworm. Due to the bad weather conditions HMS Birmingham and her escort failed to make the rendezvous in time.

Between 0430 and 0530/8 the' Force WS ' laid their minefield in Vestfiord. HMS Hardy, HMS Havock, HMS Hotspur and HMS Hunter then proceeded to make rendezvous with HMS Renown while HMS Esk, HMS Icarus, HMS Impulsive and HMS Ivanhoe patrolled near the minefield.

At 0759/8 HMS Glowworm, who was then in position 65°04'N, 06°04'E, and steering towards the rendezvous with HMS Renown, sighted the German destroyers Z 11 / Bernd von Arnim and Z 18 / Hans Ludemann. Immediately HMS Glowworm sent an enemy report and at then engaged Z 18 / Hans Ludemann.

At 0855/8, HMS Glowworm reported an unknown ship bearing 0°, steering 180° in position 65°06'N, 06°20'E. The German destroyers had called for assistance and drew HMS Glowworm towards the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper which then egaged the British destroyer. Mortally wounded by the enemy's gunfire, HMS Glowworm managed to ram the German cruiser, tearing away 130 feet of the cruiser's armour belt and wrenching the emey's starboard torpedo tubes from their mountings.

At 0904/8, HMS Glowworm sent her last signal before sinking in position 64°13'N, 06°28'E. After the war Lt.Cdr. Roope, Glowworm's Commanding Officer was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Immediately after the receipt of HMS Glowworm's enemy report, HMS Renown and HMS Greyhound, then in position 67°34'N, 10°00'E turned south steering for the reported position believing that the enemy force was heading for Vestfiord and expecting to meet them around 1330/8.

At 0915/8, the C-in-C Home Fleet, detached the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Penelope (Capt. G.D. Yates, RN) and 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) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. R.G.K. Knowling, RN) from his force to go to the aid of HMS Glowworm.

At 1045/8 the Admiralty ordered all destroyers of ' Force WV ' including those patrolling the minefield to join HMS Renown and HMS Greyhound.

At 1330/8 HMS Renown and HMS Greyhound, not having encountered the enemy, reversed course and steered to the north-east to make rendezvous with the destroyers of ' Force WV '.

At 1715/8 near the Skomvaer Lighthouse, about seventy miles west of Bodø, HMS Renown and HMS Greyhound made rendezvous with HMS Hardy, HMS Havock, HMS Hotspur, HMS Hunter, HMS Esk, HMS Icarus, HMS Impusive and HMS Ivanhoe. They then again turned to the south but sailing with gale force winds from the north-west the ships had great difficulty to keep formation and stay in company.

At 2100/8 the ' Renown ' force reversed course on to 280° to prevent the enemy from entering Narvik. This was on ordered from the Admiralty. They now had to proceed into a full north-west gale.

At 0100/ 9, the ' Renown ' force changed course to 180°.

At 0337/9, when in position 67°22'N, 09°36'E, and now steering 130°, HMS Renown, still with the destroyers in company, sighted two unknown ships, bearing 070°, distance 10 miles. They were sighted dispite a snow storm. The ships were thought to be a German battlecruiser and a heavy cruiser but were in fact the German battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.

At 0359/9, HMS Renown, having now positively identified the ships as German, turned on 305°, parallel to the German ships.

At 0405/9, HMS Renown fire with her main armament at a range a little over 18000 yards. Target was the Gneisenau. Renown's secondary armament, (4.5" DP) opened fire on the Scharnhorst. The destroyers also joined in with their 4.7" guns.

At 0416/8, HMS Renown received a 28cm shell hit on her foremast. Only HMS Hardy and HMS Hunter were able to keep up with HMS Renown in the gale conditions, but the other destroyers fell behind. Also at about this time HMS Renown sustained weather damage to her starboard anti torpedo bulge.

At 0417/8, HMS Renown hit Gneisenau's fire control system out of action so the German ship turned away on course 30°. The Scharnhorst then moven between her sister ship and HMS Renown to lay a smoke screen.

At 0419/9 HMS Renown scored a it on Gneisenau's 'A' turret. A further hit was also abtained. HMS Renown then shifted her main armament to the Scharnhorst but she was then hit herself in the stern. Damage was minor. The Germans then broke off the action and turned away to the north-east at best speed.

Renown tried to follew the German ships but could only do around 20 - 23 knots so as not to swamp 'A' turret in the bad weather. The German ships gradually managed to pull away.

At 0515/9, HMS Renown briefly reopened fire on the Scharnhorst as she came into range when the Germans also had to reduce speed temporarily.

At 0615/9, HMS Renown lost contact with the German ships. By now also no of her escorting destroyers was in touch with her. During the action 230 rounds of 15" and 1065 rounds of 4.5" had been fired.

At 0626/19, Vice-Admiral Whitworth ordered HMS Hardy to take all destroyers under her command and to patrol the entrance to Vestfiord.

At 0800/9, HMS Renown turned west. One hour later the Admiralty ordered HMS Renown and other units of the Home Fleet to concentrate off the Vestfiord.

Around 1400/9, HMS Renown made rendezvous with HMS Renown, HMS Penelope, HMS Bedouin, HMS Eskimo, HMS Punjabi, HMS Kimberley and HMS Hostile. HMS Penelope was then detached to patrol in the entrance to the Vestfiord while the remainder of the force moved to patrol 30 miles to the west of HMS Penelope. HMS Hostile however was apparently ordered to join the other 'H'-class destroyers under Capt. D 2 in HMS Hardy.

That leaves us with Forces ' WB ' and ' WS ', HMS Teviotbank with her destroyer escort of HMS Inglefield, HMS Ilex, HMS Imogen and HMS Isis was ordered, at 2251/7, to abort the minelay and proceed to Sullom Voe. The destroyers went ahead and arrived at 0830/9 followed by HMS Teviotbank at 1100/9. HMS Inglefield, HMS Ilex, HMS Imogen, HMS Isis, HMS Hyperion and HMS Hero departed Sullom Voe at 0300/10 to join Admiral Forbes force which they did around 1100/10.

11 Apr 1940

Convoy NP 1.

This troop convoy departed the Clyde on 11 April 1940 for Harstad, Norway. In the end the convoy was split up and one part arrived at Harstad on 15 April. The other part arrived off Namsos on 16 April.

It was made up of the troopships Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931) and Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931).

They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN).

Early in the afternoon of 12 April the troopships Batory (Polish, 14387 GRT, built 1936) and Chrobry (Polish, 11442 GRT, built 1939) departed Scapa Flow to join convoy NP 1 at sea.

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN), HMS Vanoc (Lt.Cdr. J.G.W. Deneys, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Whirlwind (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Rodgers, RN) and HMS Witherington (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN). The netlayer HMS Protector (Capt. W.Y la L. Beverley, RN) also departed Scapa Flow with these ships.

Around 1600/12, the light cruisers HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral G. Layton, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Birmingham (Capt. A.C.G. Madden, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the convoy at sea which they did around 1945/12.

Shortly afterwards the convoy was also joined by the AA cruiser HMS Cairo (Capt. P.V. McLaughlin, RN) and the destroyers HMS Brazen (Lt.Cdr. M. Culme-Seymour, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, RN) which had sailed from Sullom Voe around 1130/12.

Late in the evening of 12 April repair ship HMS Vindictive (Capt. A.R. Halfhide, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Codrington (Capt. G.E. Creasy, MVO, RN), HMS Acasta (Cdr. C.E. Glasfurd, RN) and HMS Ardent (Lt.Cdr. J.F. Barker, RN) departed Scapa Flow to join the convoy which they did late in the afternoon of the 13th.

Coming south from a patrol off the Vestfjord area were the battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. E.J. Spooner, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN). These ships made rendez-vous with the convoy in the afternoon of the 13th after which HMS Repulse with the three J-class destroyers continued on towards Scapa Flow while HMS Valiant joined the convoy.

On April 14th it was decided that some of the troops were to be sent to Namsos and the convoy split up;

Troopships Chrobry and Empress of Australia escorted by the light cruisers HMS Manchester and HMS Birmingham, AA cruiser HMS Cairo and the destroyers HMS Highlander, HMS Vanoc and HMS Whirlwind split off late in the afternoon. This convoy arrived off Namsos early in the morning of the 16th.

The remainder of the ships; troopships Batory, Monarch of Bermuda, Reina del Pacifico, repair ship HMS Vindictive and netlayer HMS Protector with their escort made up of the battleship HMS Valiant and the destroyers HMS Codrington, HMS Amazon, HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Brazen, HMS Fearless, HMS Griffin, HMS Volunteer and HMS Witherington arrived at Vaagsfjord late in the morning of the 15th. They had been escorted in by the light cruisers HMS Southampton (Capt. F.W.H. Jeans, CVO, RN) and HMS Aurora (Capt. L.H.K. Hamilton, DSO, RN).

15 Apr 1940
German U-boat U-49 was sunk near Narvik, Norway in position 68°53'N, 16°59'E, by depth charges from the British destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Brazen (Lt.Cdr. Sir M. Culme-Seymour, RN).

23 Apr 1940
Around 1230/23, the aircraft carriers, HMS Ark Royal (Capt. A.J. Power, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) and HMS Glorious (Capt. G. D’Oyly-Hughes, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) departed Scapa Flow for operations of central Norway. They were escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. I.M. Palmer, DSC, RN), AA cruiser HMS Curlew (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Fury (Cdr. E.W.B. Sim, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, RN) and HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN).

In the evening HMS Glorious flew off eighteen Gladiators to Norway which were to be used in the air defense of the Aandalsnes and Molde area.

On the 24th air operations were carried out flew missions over Aandalsnes. All aircraft returned safely to the aircraft carriers. Two Skuas crashed landed near the carriers on their return. Their crews were rescued by destroyers.

The carrier force then proceeded to an area between Namsos and Trondheim and at 0300/25 the carriers flew off aircraft to attack the Vaernes airfield and other enemy military targets in the Trondheim area. Both aircraft lost four aircraft, some of the crews were picked up by destroyers.

At 0725/26 the destroyer screen parted company to proceed to Sullom Voe to refuel. They arrived at Sullom Voe at 2130/26 and departed again to rejoin the force at 0400/27. They had been relieved at 0700/26 by a group of destroyers coming from the Narvik area, these were; HMS Grenade (Cdr. R.C. Boyle, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN), HMS Escort (Lt.Cdr. J. Bostock, RN), HMS Beagle (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Wright, RN) and HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN).

During flying operations on the 26th two aircraft were lost.

During flying operations on the 27th also two aircraft were lost.

At 2100/27, HMS Glorious parted company with the force and proceeded to Scapa Flow escorted by the destoyers HMS Hasty, HMS Grenade, HMS Fury, HMS Fortune, HMS Escort and HMS Encounter. They arrived at Scapa Flow at 1800/28.

On the 28th, aircraft from HMS Ark Royal carried out another air raid on the Trondheim area. One aircraft was lost. During this raid the force was now made up of HMS Ark Royal, HMS Berwick, HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) (joined around 1200/28), HMS Curlew (parted company around 1600/28), HMS Fearless, HMS Hereward, HMS Hyperion and HMS Juno.

At 2100/29, HMS Sheffield parted company.

At 0630/30, HMS Glorious departed Scapa Flow to rejoin HMS Ark Royal at sea. Shortly after departure replacement aircraft were flown on. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Beagle, HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, RN), HMS Acheron (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Volunteer. HMS Volunteer however developed defects and was soon detached to Sullom Voe arriving there at 2230/30. Defects proved to be of such nature that she had to return to Scapa Flow for repairs. HMS Glorious and her remaining escorting destroyers joined the Ark Royal group around 1030/1.

At 0400/30 HMS Juno was detached from the screen of HMS Ark Royal and proceeded to Sullum Voe with defects. At Sullom Voe ammunition was transferred to HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN) which then proceeded to take her place in the destroyer screen of HMS Ark Royal. HMS Juno then proceeded to Scapa Flow for repairs arriving there at 1800/1.

Around 1100/30, the battleship HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fury HMS Fortune HMS Escort and HMS Encounter joined coming from Scapa Flow which they had departed at 2100/29.

Around 1820/1, the force came under heavy German air attack but no damage was done.

At 2000/1, Capt. Holland assumed command of HMS Ark Royal from Capt. Power while the ship was at sea.

At 2100/1, HMS Hyperion and HMS Beagle were detached to Sullom Voe. HMS Hereward had already been detached around 1900/1. HMS Hereward arrived at Sullom Voe at 1240/2 followed aby HMS Hyperion at 2215/2. HMS Beagle proceeded to Scapa Flow arriving there at 0630/3.

HMS Ark Royal, HMS Glorious, HMS Valiant, HMS Berwick, HMS Acheron, HMS Antelope, HMS Encounter, HMS Escort, HMS Fearless, HMS Fortune, HMS Fury and HMS Kimberley arrived at Scapa Flow around 1030/3. (5)

4 May 1940
The troopships Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936), Lancastria (British, 16243 GRT, built 1922), Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939) and Ulster Monarch (British, 3791 GRT, built 1929) departed Scapa Flow at 0600 hours for the Clyde. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN).

5 May 1940
The troopships Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936), Lancastria (British, 16243 GRT, built 1922), Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939) and Ulster Monarch (British, 3791 GRT, built 1929) dand their escort, the destroyers HMS Delight (Cdr. M. Fogg-Elliott, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Fortune (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO, RN) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN) arrived at the Clyde shortly after noon this day.

9 Jun 1940
At 1245 hours, the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN, flying the flag of Admiral of the Fleet C.M. Forbes, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN) escorted by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN), HMS Escort (Lt.Cdr. J. Bostock, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. J.S. Crawford, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Lt.Cdr. J.L. Machin, RN) departed Scapa Flow to provide cover for convoys coming down from Norway and to search for the reported German capital ships. A sixth destroyer, HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), which had been en-route from the Clyde to Scapa Flow, apparently joined at sea.

At 1345/10, HMS Amazon was detached to fuel at Sullom Voe.

On June, 10th the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) was ordered to join this force which she did at 1525/10. She had the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN) and HMS Highlander (Cdr. W.A. Dallmeyer, RN) with her.

At 1925/10, HMS Mashona was detached to join the destroyer HMS Campbell (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Aubrey, RN) and escort this destroyer, which had to proceed at the most economical speed due to fuel shortage, to Sullom Voe where they arrived at 0745/12.

At 1020/11, HMS Ashanti and HMS Highlander were detached to Scapa Flow. They were ordered to proceed through positions 64'N, 05'W and 61'N, 05'W.

The destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, RN), and HMS Amazon departed Sullom Voe at 2230/11th to join the Home Fleet at sea which they did at 0830/12. [HMS Amazon did not join the Home Fleet so either she did not sail or returned.] At 2100/12, the destroyer HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) sailed from Scapa Flow to make rendez-vous with the Home Fleet in position 63'N, 04'W at 1300/13. The destroyers HMS Mashona, HMS Campbell and HMS Veteran (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN) departed Sullom Voe at 0400/13 to do the same. They joined the Home Fleet at 1725/14 with the exception of HMS Campbell which joined HMS Ark Royal's screen at 2230/13.

Between 0007 and 0015/13, HMS Ark Royal flew off fifteen Skuas to attack German warships at Trondheim. Seven of them returned around 0330 hours, eight had been lost.

Around 0430/13, HMS Electra collided with HMS Antelope in thick fog which the Fleet had just entered. HMS Inglefiel stood by HMS Antelope while HMS Zulu took HMS Electra in tow. All set course for Scapa Flow.

At 0600/13, HMS Ark Royal was detached to proceed to Scapa Flow escorted by HMS Escort and HMS Kelvin. HMS Campbell joined them at 2230/13. They arrived at Scapa Flow wit at 1545/14.

At 1130/13, the destroyers HMS Tartar (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN) and HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN) departed Scapa Flow to make rendez-vous with the Home Fleet in position 65'N, 04'W. They joined at 0840/14.

At 0950/14, HMS Escapade was detached from the screen of the Home Fleet to join HMS Electra that was being towed by HMS Zulu..

At 0100/15, HMS Forester and HMS Veteran were detatched from the Home Fleet to proceed to the Faroes for escort duty.

At 0330/15, HMS Antelope, escorted by HMS Inglefield arrived at Scapa Flow.

At 1715/15, HMS Rodney, HMS Renown, HMS Tartar, HMS Mashona, HMS Maori, HMS Bedouin, HMS Ashanti and HMS Fearless arrived at Scapa Flow.

At 1430/16, HMS Electra, in tow of the tug HMS Brigand and escorted by HMS Zulu and HMS Escapade arrived at Scapa Flow. (6)

16 Jun 1940

Dakar, the French battleship Richelieu
and the fall of France
Timespan; 16 June to 7 July 1940.

The fall of France, 16 June 1940.

On 16 June 1940, less then six weeks after the invasion of France and the low countries had started on May 10th, all military resitance in France came to an end. The question of control of the French fleet had thus become, almost overnight, one of vital importance, for if it passed into the hands of the enemy the whole balance of sea power would be most seriously disturbed. It was therefore policy of H.M. Government to prevent, at all costs, the French warships based on British and French harbours overseas from falling into the hands of Germany.

The bulk of the French fleet was at this time based in the Mediterranean. There drastic steps were taken to implement this policy. Elsewhere the most important units were the two new battleships completing, the Jean Bart at St. Nazaire and more importantly as she was almost complete, the Richelieu, at Brest.

Events during the Franco-German negotiations 17-25 June 1940 and politics.

It was on the 17th of June 1940, when the newly-formed Pétain Cabinet asked the Germans to consider ‘honourable’ peace terms in order to stop the fighting in France. At 1516 (B.S.T.) hours that day the Admiralty issued orders that British ships were not to proceed to French ports. On receipt of these orders Vice-Admiral George D’Oyly Lyon, Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic, ordered the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes (Capt R.F.J. Onslow, DSC, MVO, RN) then on her way to Dakar after a patrol off the Canary Islands to proceed to Freetown instead at her best speed. At the same time he recalled the British SS Accra which had sailed from Freetown for Dakar at 1730 hours (zone +1) with 850 French troops on board. She returned to Freetown at 0800/18. The British transport City of Paris with 600 French troops on board from Cotonou was ordered to put into Takoradi. On the 18th the Commander-in-Chief was also informed by Commander Jermyn Rushbrooke, RN, the British Naval Liaison Officer at Dakar that the Commander-in-Chief of the French Navy, Admiral Darlan had ordered Admiral Plancon at Dakar to continue fighting and also that the shore batteries and AA personnel there had declared for the British. At 0245/18 Vice-Admiral Lyon passed this information to the Admiralty, cancelled his orders to HMS Hermes to proceed to Freetown and directed her with the armed merchant cruisers HMS Carnarvon Castle (Capt. M.J.C. de Meric, RN) and HMS Mooltan (Capt.(Retd.) G.E. Sutcliff, RN), which were on passage to Freetown from the Western Approaches, to proceed to Dakar at full speed in order to strengthen the French morale. That afternoon the Admiralty ordered HMS Delhi (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) to leave Gibraltar and proceed to Dakar and join the South Atlantic Station. She left Gibraltar on the 19th with an arrival date of the 23rd. In the morning of the 18th the French troopship Banfora reached Freetown, from Port Bouet, Ivory Coast with 1000 troops on board, and sailed for Dakar without delay. The French armed merchant cruiser Charles Plumier, which had been on patrol south of the Cape Verde Islands reached Dakar at 1015/18.

Meanwhile the British Naval Liaison Officer, Dakar’s signal had been followed by a report from the Naval Control Service Officer at Duala that an overwhelming spirit existed amongst the military and civilian population of the French Cameroons to continue fighting on the British side, but that they required lead, as the Governer was not a forceful character; but that morning the Governor of Nigeria informed the Commander-in-Chief that he considered steps to be taken to prevent a hostile move from Fernando Po (off the entrance to the Cameroon River). Accordingly, at 1845/18, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Bulolo (A/Capt. C.H. Petrie, RN) sailed from Freetown at 14 knots to show herself off San Carlos on the morning of the 23rd, and thence to anchor of Manoka in the Cameroon River the next day (her draught prevented her from reaching Duala). A/Capt. Petrie was then to proceed to Duala and call a conference.

It was difficult to arrive at a clear appreciation of the situation in French West-Africa but on the morning of the 19th June the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that, as the evidence pointed to an established resolve on the part of the West-African Colonies to join Great Britain whatever happened, he intended to allow French troop movements to continue. This he anticipated would avoid French exasperation and mistrust. During the early afternoon he heard from the Governors of Nigeria and the Gold Coast that French officers and non-commissioned officers were planning to leave the Cameroons and to join the British forces in Nigeria. At 1900/19 the Commander-in-Chief held a conference with the Governor of Sierra Leone at which it was decided that the Governor should cable home urging immediate action to persuade the French colonial troops and authorities to remain in their territories and hold their colonies against all attacks. In the evening the Commander-in-Chief reported to the Admiralty that French Guinea was determined to keep fighting on the British side. Meanwhile the Governor-General of French Equatorial Africa at Brazzaville was wavering and suggested leading his troops to the nearest British Colony. Late that night, still on the 19th, the Commander-in-Chief informed him that it was essential that he should remain at his post and that it was the expressed intention of French West Africa to fight on to victory.

Next morning, on the 20th, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief that the new French battleship Richelieu (about 95% complete) had departed Brest for Dakar on the 18th. Her sister ship, Jean Bart (about 77% complete) had left St. Nazaire for Casablanca on the 19th. During the afternoon of the 20th the British Liaison Officer at Dakar reported that according to the French Admiral at Dakar the French Government had refused the German armistice terms and would continue the fight in France. This was entirely misleading. For nearly two days the Commander-in-Chief had no definite information till at noon on 22 June when a BB C broadcast announced the signing of a armistice between France and Germany, which was to followed by one between France and Italy. Still there was much uncertainty, and the rest of the day was apparently spent in waiting for news. Early next morning, the 23rd June, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief that the French Bordeaux Government had signed an armistice with Germany. As the terms were not fully known the attitude of the French Navy remained uncertain. Shortly after 0200/23 the Admiralty gave orders that HMS Hermes was to remain at Dakar, and gave the Commander-in-Chief the text of the British Government’s appeal to the French Empire and to Frenchmen overseas to continue the war on the British side. The final collapse of France naturally exercised an important influence on the dispositions and movements of the South Atlantic forces. Also on the 23rd the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (Capt. B.C.S. Martin, RN) and the destroyer HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN) departed Gibraltar for Dakar and Casablanca respectively, and the same morning HMS Bulolo arrived off Fernando Po and showed herself of San Carlos and Santa Isabel. At noon she anchored off Manoka, in the Cameroon River, in the hope of restoring morale at Duala. Meanwhile HMS Mooltan had arrived at Freetown from Dakar and the United Kingdom, and during the afternoon (1500/23) the armed merchant cruiser HMS Maloja (A/Capt. V. Hammersley-Heenan, RN) reached Dakar from the Northern Patrol to join the Freetown escort force. Half an hour later the Richelieu and escorting destroyer Fleuret arrived at Dakar.

For a time the attitude of the French Governor-General at Dakar, the French North African colonies and the French Mediterranean Fleet, and the battleship Richelieu remained in doubt. Then owning to the anticipated difficulty of maintaining French salaries and supplies if the French did not accept the British offer, the situation at Dakar rapidly deteriorated, and by the evening of the 23rd reached a critical state. Early on the 24th, therefore, the Admiralty ordered the Commander-in-Chief to proceed there as soon as possible. The Commander-in-Chief replied that he intended to proceed there in the ex-Australian seaplane carrier HMS Albatross (Cdr. W.G. Brittain, RN), which was the only available ship, and expected to reach Dakar around noon on the 25th. At 1015/24 he left Freetown and reached Dakar around 1600/25. Meanwhile the Richelieu had put to sea. From then on the naval operations centred mainly on the battleship.

The problem of the Richelieu, 25-26 June 1940.

The Richelieu which had been landing cadets at Dakar, had sailed with the Fleuret at 1315/25 for an unknown destination. She was shadowed by an aircraft from HMS Hermes until 1700 hours. She was reported to be steering 320° at 18 knots. At 1700 hours the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to shadow her, and at 2200 hours HMS Dorsetshire reported herself as being in position 16°40’N, 18°35’W steering 225° at 25 knots, and that she expected to make contact with the Richelieu at midnight. At 2126 hours, the Admiralty ordered the Vice-Admiral aircraft carriers (Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN) in HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) to proceed with dispatch to the Canary Islands with HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN) and five destroyers (actually only four sailed with them; HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN)). They departed Gibraltar in the morning of the 26th.

Early on the 26th, the Admiralty informed the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, and the Vice-Admiral, aircraft carriers, that His Majesty’s Government had decided that the Richelieu was to be captured and taken into a British port. They were to take every step to avoid bloodshed and to use no more force then was absolutely necessary. It was understood that the French battleship had H.A. ammunition on board but no main armament ammunition, that forenoon however, the British Liaison Officer Brest reported that she had embarked 15” ammunition before leaving there. HMS Hood was to perform this task if possible but that there were a risk that the Richelieu might get away before her arrival, or if she tried to enter a neutral port such as La Luz in the Canaries, HMS Dorsetshire was to take action. After the capture she was to be taken to Gibraltar. The battleship HMS Resolution (Capt. O. Bevir, RN) was detailed to intercept the Jean Bart in case she would depart Casablanca and deal with her in the same way.

Vice-Admiral Wells reported that HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hood and their escorting destroyers would pass through position 36°00’N, 06°35’W at 0300/26, steering 225° at 20 knots. HMS Dorsetshire, meanwhile, having seen nothing of the Richelieu by 0015/26, had proceeded to the northwestward, and then at 0230/26 turned to course 030°. At 0530/26 she catapulted her Walrus aircraft to search to the northward, and at 0730 hours it sighted the Richelieu in position 19°27’N, 18°52’W on course 010°, speed 18.5 knots. Eleven minutes later she altered course to 195°. The aircraft proceeded to shadow, but missed HMS Dorsetshire when it tried to return and in the end was forced to land on the sea at 0930 hours about 50 nautical miles to the southward of her. The Dorsetshire which had turned to 190° at 0905 hours was then in position 18°55’N, 17°52’W. She turned to search for her aircraft. Around noon she abandoned the search and steered 245° at 25 knots to intercept the Richelieu, which she correctly assumed to be continuing to the southward. She made contact soon after 1430 hours and at 1456 hours reported that she was shadowing the battleship from astern.

In the meantime the French Admiral at Dakar had informed Vice-Admiral Lyon that the ‘Admiral Afrique’ had ordered the Richelieu and the Fleuret to return to Dakar. At 1512 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic asked the Admiralty whether, under these circumstances, HMS Dorsetshire was to attempt to capture the Richelieu. He was confident that any interference would antagonise all the local authorities and the French people in general. He also pointed out that His Majesty’s ships at Dakar would be placed in a most difficult position.

At 1630/26, HMS Dorsetshire, reported that she was in position 17°21’N, 18°22’W with the Richelieu within easy visual distance. Relations between the two ships remained cordial. The French ship had not trained her guns when she sighted the Dorsetshire, and she expressed regret that, having no aircraft embarked, she was unable to co-operate in the search for her missing Walrus aircraft but she signalled to Dakar for a French plane to assist. In view of her declared intention to return to Dakar, Capt. Martin took no steps to capture her and at 1700 hours he was ordered by the Admiralty to only shadow the Richelieu. At the same time HMS Hermes left Dakar to search for HMS Dorsetshire’s Walrus.

Shortly after 1900/26, the Admiralty ordered Ark Royal, HMS Hood and their four escorting destroyers to return to Gibraltar. At 2015 hours, the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to cease shadowing the Richelieu and to search for her missing Walrus. On receipt of these orders she parted company with the Richelieu and Fleuret at 2300/26, being then some 70 nautical miles from Dakar. HMS Dorsetshire then proceeded to the north-north-eastward at 23 knots.

At first light on the 27th, HMS Hermes, then some 30 nautical miles to the southward, flew off seven aircraft to assist in the search. It was however HMS Dorsetshire herself which eventually found and recovered her aircraft at 1107/27. Meanwhile the Richelieu had arrived off Dakar at 0900/27 but did not enter the port. Shortly afterwards she made off the the north yet again. HMS Hermes then steered to the northward to be in a position to intercept if needed. Nothing was seen of the Richelieu until she was again located off Dakar at 0500/28. HMS Hermes, by that time about 400 nautical miles north of Dakar, was ordered to proceed southwards and return to Dakar.

The Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, at Dakar 26-29 June 1940.

While these movements were going on at sea, the position at Dakar was steadily deteriorating. At about 1830/26, the Commander-in-Chief had reported to the Admiralty that the French Admiral at Dakar had informed him, on Admiral Darlan’s instructions, that the presence of British warships at Dakar was in contrary to the terms of the Franco-German armistice. At 1700/26 (zone -1) however, the Admiralty had signalled to the Commander-in-Chief that, as the French codes were compromised, that French authorities could no longer be sure that orders came from Admiral Darlan but Admiral Plancon refused to question the authenticity of any signal he received. During the night the appointment of the British Liaison Officer at Dakar was terminated.

At 0500/27 the Richelieu was seen approaching Dakar, but 25 minutes later she turned to seaward again and the Commander-in-Chief ordered a Walrus aircraft from HMS Albatros to shadow her. That afternoon he informed the Admiralty that the Richelieu had put to sea to escort five French armed merchant cruisers [according to another source these were the armed merchant cruisers (four in number and not five) El D’Jezair, El Kantara, El Mansour, Ville d’Oran and the large destroyers Milan and Epervier which came from Brest] to Dakar. The Admiralty was clearly anxious that the Richelieu should not escape and at 0021/28, they ordered Vice-Admiral Wells with HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hood escorted by four destroyers (HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Foxhound and HMS Vidette (Cdr.(Retd.) D.R. Brocklebank, RN) to proceed to the Canaries to intercept her if she continued to steam to the northward. These ships (with HMS Escapade instead of HMS Vidette) had only returned to Gibraltar late the previous evening from their first sortie to intercept the Richelieu. Now they left again around 0600/28 but were quickly ordered to return to Gibraltar and were back in port around noon.

Around 0500/28 HMS Dorsetshire, proceeding back towards Dakar after having picked up her lost aircraft encountered the Richelieu about 10 nautical miles north of Dakar. Admiral Wells was then ordered by the Admiralty to return to Gibraltar. The rapid deterioration of the situation in West Africa is clearly shown in a series of signals which passed between the Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic and the Admiralty on 28 June. At 1100 hours, the Commander-in-Chief signalled that the French had refused HMS Dorsetshire permission to enter Dakar and that she was therefore proceeding to Freetown with all dispatch to fuel and return to the Dakar area as soon as possible. HMS Dorsetshire arrived at Freetown at 0545/29. At 1415/28 the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that the French Admiral at Dakar had issued orders to prevent H.M. ships from communicating with, or receiving stores, from the shore. In reply he had told the French Admiral that HMS Hermes would enter Dakar on the 29th to embark aircraft stores and fuel, and that he himself would sail from there in HMS Albatros after seeing the commanding officer of HMS Hermes. At 1515/28 the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty of the steps he would take in case the Richelieu would proceed to sea again. The Admiralty then issued orders that Dakar was to be watched by an 8” cruiser within sight of the French port by dayand within three miles by night. HMS Hermes was to remain off Dakar until relieved by HMS Dorsetshire after this ship had returned from fueling at Freetown.

HMS Hermes arrived at Dakar at 0900/29. During the day she embarked Fleet Air Arm personnel and stores which had been landed there earlier. She then completed with fuel and sailed at 1800/29. She then patrolled off Dakar until she was relieved by HMS Dorsetshire at 1800/30. The Commander-in-Chief had sailed from Dakar in HMS Albatros at 1030/29. He arrived at Freetown at 1800/30 and transferred his flag to the accommodation ship Edinburgh Castle.

Deterioration of Franco-British relations, 1 – 3 July 1940.

The first few days of July saw a swift deterioration of Franco-British relations everywhere. The paramount importance of keeping the French fleet out of the hands of the enemy forced the British Government to take steps. According to the armistice terms the French fleet had to assemble at ports under German or Italian control and be demilitarized. To the Government it was clear that this would mean that the French ships would be brought into action against us. The Government therefore decided to offer the French naval commanders the following options; - to continue the fight against the Axis, to completely immobilization in certain ports or to demilitarize or sink their ships.

Already a powerful squadron, known as ‘Force H’ had been assembled at Gibraltar, in order to fill the strategic naval vacuum in the Western Mediterranean caused by the defection of the French fleet, and on 30 June Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville hoisted his flag in HMS Hood. His first task was to present the British alternatives to the Admiral commanding the French ships at Oran, failing the acceptance of one of them, he was to use force.

To return to West-Africa, HMS Hermes reached Freetown with the Fleet Air Arm passengers and stores from Dakar on 2 July. Early that afternoon the Commander-in-Chief asked the Consul General at Dakar to obtain, if possible, assurance from the French Admiral there that if British warships were not allowed to use Dakar, enemy men-of-war should also be forbidden to use it. At 1915/2, the ex-British Liaison Officer, who had not yet left Dakar, reported the arrival of a British merchant ship which had not been diverted. He also reported that the French ships Katiola and Potiers might be sailing for Casablanca, escorted by armed merchant cruisers and destroyers. The Admiralty however ordered HMS Dorsetshire, which was maintaining the watch on Dakar, to take no action. At 2310/2 the Commander-in-Chief asked the Consul-General whether there was any chance of the Polish and Belgian bullion which was in the armed merchant cruiser Victor Schoelcher being transferred to either the Katiola or Potiers. He received no reply, and the continued silence of the British Consul led him to believe that the Consul’s signals were either being held up or mutilated.

Next forenoon, 3 July, the Commander-in-Chief informed the Admiralty that he intended to divert all British shipping in the South Atlantic from all French ports. Early that morning Vice-Admiral Somerville’s Force H had arrived off Oran. For the next ten hours strenuous efforts were made to persuade the French Admiral to accept one of the British alternatives, but without success. At 1554 hours (zone -1) Force H sadly opened fire on the ships of their former ally at Mers-el-Kebir, inflicting heavy damage and grievous loss of life. None could predict the result of these measures on the Franco-British relations, but it was sure they would not be improved.

During the afternoon of July 3rd the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, on Admiralty instructions, directed all British Naval Control Officers and Consular Shipping Advisers to order all Biritsh and Allied ships to leave French ports as soon as possible, if necessary disregarding French instructions. All British warships in French ports were to remain at short notice and to prepared for every eventuality. The only warship in a French port within the limits of the South Atlantic Station at the time was HMS Bulolo, which was at Manoka in the Cameroons. At 2048 hours (B.S.T.) the Admiralty ordered all British warships in French ports to proceed to sea and at 2223 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic ordered HMS Bulolo to proceed to Lagos, where she was to remain with HMS Dragon (Capt. R.G. Bowes-Lyon, MVO, RN) until further orders.

HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar, 3-7 July 1940.

Meanwhile HMS Dorsetshire had continued her watch off Dakar. On 3 July 1940 there were sixteen French warships and seven auxiliaries in the harbour. This number included the battleship Richelieu, the large destroyers Fleuret, Milan, Epervier, the armed merchant cruisers El D’Jezair, El Kantara, El Mansour, Ville d’Oran, Ville d’Alger, Victor Schoelcher and Charles Plumier, the colonial sloop Bougainville, the submarines Le Heros and Le Glorieux. At 0917/3 the Admiralty asked the Commander-in-Chief for the Richelieu’s berth at Dakar. HMS Dorsetshire informed him that at 1125/3 she was in position 045°, Cape Manuel lighthouse, 2.6 nautical miles, ships head 230°. Captain Martin seems to have drawn his own conclusions from this question and at 1350 hours he signalled to the the Commander-in-Chief his opinion that the Richelieu’s propellers could be severely damaged by depth charges dropped from a fast motor dinghy, and he asked permission to carry out such an attack about 2300 hours that night. Vice-Admiral Lyon replied that he had no instructions from the Admiralty to take offensive action against the Richelieu. At 1625 hours, however, the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to get ready, but to await approval before actually carrying out an attack. This was followed at 1745 hours by a signal that the proposed attack was not approved as it was feared to be ineffective and for the time being the idea was ‘shelved’. [More on this idea later on.]

At 1904/3, the Admiralty ordered HMS Hermes to leave Freetown with all despatch to join HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar at 0500/5. At 2112/3 the Admiralty ordered HMS Dorsetshire to shadow the Richelieu if she sailed and proceeded northwards. If the vessel however made for the French West Indies, the Dorsetshire was to make every effort to destroy her by torpedo attack, and, if that failed, by ramming [ !!! ]. Late that evening the French Government decreed that all British ships and aircraft were forbidden, under penalty of being fired upon without warning, to approach within 20 nautical miles of French territory at home or overseas. Just before midnight the Admiralty gave orders that HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN), after refueling at Freetown, was to join HMS Dorsetshire off Dakar. At 0926/4, the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic ordered HMS Hermes and HMAS Australia to rendez-vous with HMS Dorsetshire 21 nautical miles from Dakar instead of the 15 nautical miles previously arranged and at 1037 hours he informed all three ships that as the French Air Force and submarines had orders to attack British ships off Casablanca and Dakar. He therefore issued orders that French aircraft and submarines were to be attacked and destroyed on sight. During that afternoon the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that, as an alternative to the German demands, French warships might proceed to the West Indies. At 2041 hours the Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic asked whether, in view of this, the Admiralty intended that the Richelieu should be attacked if she was to proceed to the West Indies. Before this message was received, a signal was sent at 2050 hours cancelling the orders for the Richelieu’s destruction and at about midnight the Admiralty directed that she should be shadowed only.

Early on the 5th the Consul-General at Dakar reported that the merchant vessel Argyll with Commander J. Rushbrooke, RN, the ex-British Naval Liaison Officer, Dakar and his staff onboard, had, in accordance with instructions from the French authorities left Dakar the previous day but that she was recalled on reaching the outer boom, an order which had led the Consul-General to make a protest. Soon after midnight 4/5 July orders were received from the Admiralty that the sloop HMS Milford (Capt. R.J. Shaw, MBE, RN) should be sent to join the patrol off Dakar to provide A/S protection. She left Freetown for Dakar at 1000/5.

At 0723/5, in view of the French order forbidding the approach of British vessels and aircraft within 20 nautical miles from French territory at home and overseas, the Commander-in-Chief ordered his ships off Dakar not to approach within 20 nautical miles of the shore and replied in the affirmative when HMS Dorsetshire asked whether this rule also applied by night. During the afternoon he informed his command that French warships was orders not to attack the British unless they were within these 20 nautical miles. He later added that also submarines had the same orders.

At 1853/5, the Commander-in-Chief ordered HMS Dorsetshire, HMAS Australia, HMS Hermes and HMS Milford not to attack French submarines outside the 20 mile zone unless they were obviously hostile. An Admiralty report then came in the the Richelieu was reported to have put to sea but HMS Dorsetshire quickly contradicted that report.

Dispositions off Dakar at 0300 on 7 July 1940.

At 0300/7, two of the British warships off Dakar which were under the command of Capt. Martin (being the senior officer) were patrolling of Dakar (HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Hermes). The third ship (HMAS Australia) was patrolling about 35 to 40 nautical miles further to the north. The fourth ship HMS Milford was approaching Dakar from the south. At 0307 hours a signal from the Admiralty was received which gave a completely different complexion to their operations.

More on this in the event for 7 July 1940,
The attack on the Richelieu.
.
This event can be found on the pages of the ships involved; HMS Hermes, HMS Dorsetshire, HMAS Australia and HMS Milford. (7)

17 Jun 1940
HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) departed Scapa Flow at 0130/17 for the Clyde. They were however recalled.

At 1545/17 the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) departed Scapa Flow for the Clyde. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN). They were joined off Scapa Flow by HMS Foxhound. HMS Diana returned to Scapa Flow.

18 Jun 1940
Around 0400 hours HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN) departed the Clyde for Gibraltar. She was escorted by the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.B. Creery, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lay, RN), HMCS St. Laurent (Lt.Cdr. H.G. De Wolf, RCN), HMCS Skeena (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Hibbard, RCN) and the British destroyer HMS Wanderer (Cdr. J.H. Ruck-Keene, RN). HMS Wanderer was however replaced by the escort destroyer HMS Atherstone (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, RN) shortly after sailing.

Around 1500 hours rendez-vous was made with the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) which had departed Scapa Flow for Gibraltar the previous day.

The destroyers that had been escorting HMS Hood were then detached.

23 Jun 1940
HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) arrived at Gibraltar.

25 Jun 1940
HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) departed Gibraltar for operations.

[See the event ' Dakar, the French battleship Richelieu and the fall of France ' for 16 June 1940 for more information.]

27 Jun 1940
HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. H.R. Graham, RN) returned to Gibraltar.

28 Jun 1940
HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.V. Wells, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. K.L. Harkness, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN) departed Gibraltar for operations. They returned later the same day.

[See the event ' Dakar, the French battleship Richelieu and the fall of France ' for 16 June 1940 for more information.]

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. (8)

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.

24 Jul 1940
HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN) conducted exercises off Gibraltar together with HMS Fearless (Cdr. I.R.H. Black, RN) and HMS Velox (Cdr.(Retd.) J.C. Colvill, RN). (9)

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.

20 Oct 1940
With her refit completed, HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow around 1030 hours. She is being escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. I.R.H. Black, RN), HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN) and HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN).

At 1630 hours the destroyers were relieved off Rattray Head by the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN) and HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN).

HMS Repulse, HMS Somali, HMS Matabele and HMS Mashona arrived at Scapa Flow around 2030 hours. (10)

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 5X, 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.

31 Jan 1941

Operations Picket and Result.

Operations against the Lake Omodeo Dam in central Sardinia (Picket) and the bombardment of Genoa (Result).

31 January 1941.

'Force H' departed Gibraltar for these operations. It was diverted into four groups, these were;

Group 1 was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN).

Group 2 was made up of the destroyers 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 Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN).

Group 3 was made up of the destroyers HMS Duncan (A/Capt. A.D.B. James, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN), HMS Isis (Cdr. C.S.B. Swinley, DSC, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.P. Thew, RN).

And finally Group 4 was made up of the RFA tanker Orangeleaf (5927 GRT, built 1917) escorted by the auxiliary A/S trawlers HMS Arctic Ranger (Cdr.(Retd.) J.H. Young, RN) and HMS Haarlem (T/Lt. L.B. Merrick, RNR).

On leaving harbour HMS Ark Royal flew off one aircraft for A/S patrol. This patrol was maintained throughout the day.

At 1930/31, group 2 (six destroyers) were detached in position 36°25'N, 03°24'W and were ordered to proceed at economical speed to a position to the north of the Balearics where they were to rendez-vous with the remainder of the force (minus the tanker group) during the forenoon of 2 February.

1 February 1941.

At 0845/1, when in position 37°05'N, 00°32'E, groups 1 and 3 altered course to the north-east.

From 1130/1 onwards a section of fighters from HMS Ark Royal was maintained overhead until dusk.

At 1500/1 course was altered to 084°.

By 1810/1 all aircraft had returned to HMS Ark Royal.

At 1900/1, HMS Malaya escorted by HMS Encounter and HMS Jupiter were detached and ordered to rendez-vous with the remainder of 'Force H' at 0900/2 in position 40°55'N, 06°30'E. This was to economize fuel in HMS Malaya to enable to her to retreat after the bombardment of Genoa at a higher speed.

At 1910/1, HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Sheffield, HMS Duncan and HMS Isis, altered course to 062° and increased speed to 24 knots to arrive in the flying off position for Operation Picket.

2 February 1941.

At 0555/2, eight Swordfish were flown off from HMS Ark Royal in position 40°07'N, 06°54'E. They were armed with torpedoes to attack the dam.

At 0730/2, two more Swordfish were flown off to locate HMS Malaya and her two escorting destroyers and direct her to a rendez-vous position of 40°34'N, 06°38'E at 1000/2.

The first of seven Swordfish that returned from the raid on the dam landed on at 0830/2. The last aircraft landed on at 0848/2. One Swordfish failed to return.

The two Swordfish that had located HMS Malaya returned at 0900/2.

The striking force had encountered rain and hail showers over the land and severe icing conditions in a cloud level of 5000 feet. Ground defences were unduly alart and after the first five miles over the land, fire was encountered from Bofors and light automatic guns apparently posted along the roads leading to Tirso. throughout the final approach fire was heavy, becoming intense in the vicinity of the dam.

One aircaft becoming lost in the cloud, never located the target and finally returned to HMS Ark Royal with his torpedo. The remaining seven aircraft made individual approaches and all except one came under heavy fire. As a result of intense opposition and icing conditions in the clouds, two aircraft jettisoned their torpedoes. Of the remaining five, one was shot down, one made a high drop, nose down, two dropped approximately correctly, and one was able to take good, steady aim. No explosions were observed. The last pilot, after his attack, flew over the dam at a height of 60 feet, machine gunning the defences. He observed no damage on the south face of the dam. It is thought that if the torpedoes failed to reach the dam their run may have been stopped by a bank of silt. Information was later received from an Italian broadcast that the crew of the Swordfish that had been shot down had been taken prisoner.

The wind was by now force 6, with a rising sea, and HMS Duncan reported damage to the gun shield of 'A' gun. Visibility was moderate but improving.

At 1005/2 course was altered to 290° and eight minutes later HMS Malaya and her two escorting destroyers were sighted.

By 1115/2 HMS Malaya, HMS Encounter and HMS Jupiter had rejoined. At noon HMS Ark Royal reported that flying conditions were becoming hazardous so the A/S patrol was abandoned. Only a section of Fulmar fighters were maintained in the air as conditions were unsuitable for Skua's. At times HMS Ark Royal was dipping her flight deck into the sea. Speed had also to be reduced to 15 knots as this was the maximum speed the destroyers could proceed without sustaining damage.

At 1530/2 HMS Malaya requisted permission to turn down wind to make repairs as her cable lockers were flooding beyond the capacity of the pumps. Course was altered and speed was reduced to 10 knots at 1540/2. The original course and 15 knots speed were resumed at 1635/2.

Four Swordfish aircraft, which had been flown off to locate the six detached destroyers reported them as bearing 285°, distance 40 nautical miles at 1615/2. Course was altered to 000° at 1730/2 to ensure contact was made before dark and one hour later the destroyers joined the screen.

The northwesterly gale which had persisted all day had prevented 'Force H' from making the nesecssary ground to the west and north. Throughout the day various destroyers had reported damage at a speed of 15 knots and by the time the rendezvous with the six detached destroyers had been effected, Vice-Admiral Somerville was left with the choice of abanadoning operastion Result or making good a speed of 20 knots thoughout the night. This latter would have been impossible with the destroyers in company and problematical without them. Consideration was given to only attack Genoa with aircraft from HMS Ark Royal but in the end it was decided to abandon the operation.

3 February 1941.

At 0400/3 course was altered to 210°. The wind was still force 6, with a short sea. HMS Fearless reported at 0530/3 tht she was beginning to bump badly and speed was reduced to 13 knots.

HMS Ark Royal flew off three Swordfish at 0745/3 to seach for shipping between Cape Tortosa and Alicante up to fifty miles from the coast. A similar search was carried out in the afternoon between Cape San Antonio and Cape Palos. It was the intention to detach destroyers to close and investigate all ships reported by the aircraft but the only ship located was already in the approaches to Valencia and therefore could not be intercepted in time before it reached that port.

During the forenoon exercises were carried out during which HMS Jersey was serving as 'target'.

Course was altered to south at 1335/3 and speed was increased to 18 knots. The wind had veered to north-north-west and was still force 6. The wind eased a little towards the end of the afternoon but then increased to force 8 by 1700/3.

At 1715/3, dive bombing exercises were carried out on the fleet by four Skua's. After the first attack one aircraft force-landed in the sea on the starboard beam of the Fleet close to the destroyer screen. The crew was picked up by HMS Jupiter. The aircraft then sank.

All flying was completed by 1815/3. After dark course was reversed for twenty minutes in preparation for a night encounter exercises with HMS Jersey and HMS Jupiter which had been detached from the screen at dusk. These two destroyers, attacking from leeward, were sighted at long range. Evasion, counter-attack, star-shell and searchlights were exercised and the practice was completed by 2038/3.

4 February 1941.

A speed of 17 knots was maintained during the night and at 0100/4 course was altered to the westward. The wind remained a steady force 6 from the north-north-west.

At 0630/4, HMS Ark Royal screened by three of the destroyers hauled out of the line and they proceeded independently for flying off Swordfish aircraft for a dawn light torpedo attack on the Fleet. This attack was well delivered.

At 0800/4 speed was increased to 18 knots and HMS Sheffield took station eleven miles on the starboard beam to act as a target for gunnery exercises by HMS Renown and HMS Malaya. On completion HMS Sheffield then carried out an exercise with the leading destroyer of the screen. Finally HMS Fearless and HMS Foresight then carried out an exercise on HMS Sheffield.

By noon the sea had moderated and the wind had dropped to force 5. During the afternoon destroyers of the screen carried out exercises.

The ships of 'Force H' entered harbour at Gibraltar between 1715 and 2000 hours. (11)

6 Feb 1941

Operation Grog.

Bombardment of Genoa.

6 February 1941.

'Force H' departed Gibraltar for this operation. It was diverted into three groups, these were;

Group 1 was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN).

Group 2 was made up of the destroyers 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 Foxhound (Lt.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 HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN).

Group 3 was made up of the destroyers HMS Duncan (A/Capt. A.D.B. James, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Isis (Cdr. C.S.B. Swinley, DSC, RN) and HMS Jupiter (Lt.Cdr. N.V.J.P. Thew, RN).

Group 2 departed Gibraltar between 1200 and 1400 hours in pairs of two. They proceeded eastwards as to be on patrol or exerising. When out of sight from land they continued on to the eastwards at economical speed to rendez-vous with groups 1 and 3 later on.

Groups 1 and 3 were clear of the harbour by 1700 hours. They then proceeded westwards as to cover convoy HG 53 which was forming up in the Strait of Gibraltar at this time.

The force was cut up into small sections and one by one they passed the Strait of Gibraltar to the eastward.

7 February 1941.

At 0300/7 all ships of groups 1 and 3 had joined company again and continued their passage eastwards.

An A/S patrol was flown off by HMS Ark Royal at 0730/7 and maintained throughout the day. Visibility was good with wind force 3 from the west. Six Skua's were flown off at 0835/7 to carry out dummy dive bombing attacks on the Fleet. Opportunity was taken to exercises all forms of AA armament.

By 1100/7 the wind had dropped to light westerly airs and there was a slight haze over the horizon which limited visibility to 10/15 miles throughout the day.

At 1155/7, in position 36°37'N, 01°21'W, HMS Firedrake investigated a contact and fired two depth charges. This contact was most likely non-sub.

All flying was completed by 1815/7. No radar contacts had been obtained all day and it seems probable that the fleet was not detected.

At 1930/7 course was altered to 035° in order to pass between Ibiza and Majorca during the dark hours.

8 February 1941.

Course was altered to 340° at 0100/8 and to 035° at 0500/8 for the passage west of the Balearics. An A/S air patrol was flown off at 0730/8 and a fighter patrol at 0930/8. These were maintained throughout the day. The six destroyers of group 2 joined at 0830/8.

During the day six aircraft were sighted but none are thought to have been enemy, almost all could be identified as being French.

During the day, a Skua and a Fulmar crashed on the deck of HMS Ark Royal when landing but no one was injured. All flying was completed by 1800 hours and ten minutes later course was altered to 090° and speed to 18 knots. At 1900/8 speed was increased to 21 knots.

At 2330/8 course was altered to the final approach course towards Genoa.

9 February 1941.

At 0400/9 HMS Ark Royal parted company escorted by HMS Duncan, HMS Encounter and HMS Isis so as the carrier could act independently to carry out air attacks on Leghorn and La Spezia.

At 0505/9, when in position 43°19'N, 08°41'E, HMS Ark Royal flew off a striking force of 14 Swordfish, followed by four Swordfish carrying magnetic mines and later by three standby spotting aircraft with an escorting section of fighters.

At 0719/9 a section of Fulmars was flown off to patrol over HMS Ark Royal.

Meanwhile the bombardment force continued on towards Genoa. At 0635/9 some unidentifiable mountain tops were just visible above the haze, silhouetted against the sky to the north-east of Rapallo, but it was not until 0649 hours that the headland of Porto Fino could be identified. It was soon seen that the Fleet was almost exactly in the position they wanted to be in.

Between 0630 and 0707 hours, HMS Sheffield and HMS Malaya catapulted their aircraft for spotting duties. HMS Renown also launched her spotting aircraft [time is not noted in the report.]

Course was altered to 290° at 0655/9 and speed was reduced to 18 knots. 13 minutes later course was altered to 270° and at 0713 back to 290°.

At 0711/9 Renown's spotting aircraft reported that no battleships were present. By 0714 hours, when fire was opened, nothing could be seen of Genoa from the ships, so the firing was carried out under direction of the spotting aircraft.

The observers in the spotting aircraft were able to indentify their targets with the greatest ease as they had been trained by using a model that had been constructed by a Commissioned Gunner of HMS Renown.

The opening salvoes from HMS Renown fell as anicipated south of Malo Principe and were quickly spotted onto the Ansaldo Works, marshalling Yards and factories on both banks of the Torrente Polcevera. Numerous explosions and considerable fires were obsevered in this area. Target was then shifted to the vicinity of the commercial basin where a big fire was caused and a merchant ship was hit. A salvo in the vicinity of the power station caused a perticularly violent explosion and an oil tank was observed to be on fire. The smoke from this and various warehouses prevented the spotting of several salvoes but a little later rounds were observed to fall in the area west of Ponte Daglio Asscreto and Ponte Caracciolo. The last salvoes fired in this area fell on the latter causing an explosion followed by a considerable fire. Target was again shifted, and the electrical works appeared to recieve a direct hit. Fire was moved up the left bank of the Torrente Polcevera and having crossed it salvoes were spotted directly on to Ansaldo Works, but smoke by then rendered observation difficult. The secondary armament engaged the area along the water front.

HMS Malaya engaged the dry docks a d targets in their vicinity throughout. Big explosions were observed in the docks and among warehouses. Several salvoes could not be spotted owing to smoke, but the last four were seen to fall among houses just north-east of the docks.

Sheffield's opening salvoes were placed short in the sea and were readily spotted. Having found range, rapid salvoes were ordered and fire was directed at the industrial installations on the left bank at the mouth of the Torrente Polcevera. Many fires and two big explosions were caused in this area. Later, as smoke was obscuring the area, fire was shifted to a tanker under way off the port and although three salvoes straddled no actual hits were observed.

The only opposition encountered by the bombarding ships was from a shore battery mounting about two 6" guns, and by the spotting aircraft from long and close range AA weapons. In both cases the fire was quite inefficient. During the bombardment two of the destroyers were ordered to make smoke to hamper gun fire from the shore battery.

The following ammunition was expended; HMS Renown 125 rounds of 15" HE and 400 rounds of 4.5" HE, HMS Malaya 148 rounds of 15" CPC and HMS Sheffield 782 rounds of 6" HE.

Whilst the main force was approaching Genoa, HMS Ark Royal's striking force of fourteen Swordfish each armed with four 250lbs. G.P. bombs and sixteen incendiaries had proceeded to attack the Azienda Oil Refinery at Leghorn. Eleven aircraft dropped their bombs on the refinery but no clear estimate could be formed of the amount of damage inflicted except that one definite explosion was observed. Surprise was evidently achieved as only one or two HA guns opened fire when the attack started. About six minutes later however, the HA fire became severe.

Two of the striking force, having mistaken their landfall, attacked alternative targets, one attacks Pisa aerodrome and the other Pisa railway junction.

One of the aircraft that attacked the refinery failed to return.

Three of the minelaying Swordfishmade a gliding approach over the town of Spezzia, two laying in the western entrance of the harbour and one in the eastern entrance. The fourth aircraft approached from the opposite direction and laid in the western entrance. There was only a partial black out of the town. Short range AA weapons of the Bofors type engaged the aircraft during their final approach and these was also some AA fire from guns round the town, but these appeared to be firing blind into the air.

Balloon barrages were noticed at Leghorn over the town and west of the Azienda Refinery along the coast and also at Genoa by the Torrente Polcevera.

By 0848 all spotting, minelaying and striking force aircraft had landed on (with the exception of the one reported missing) and HMS Ark Royal proceeded to rendez-vous with the rest of 'Force H' in position 43°48'N, 08°50'E at 0900/9. By 0919/9 the whole force was steering 180° at 22 knots.

It was evident that both the ship and air bombardment had effected complete surprise, and that no precautions had been taken by the enemy to guard against an invasion into the Gulf by 'Force H'.

Throughout the day six fighters were kept patrolling over the Fleet. At 0934/9 two aircraft were detected by RD/F bearing 060° waiting at 27 miles. Ten minutes later a Cant. flying boat was sighted low down to the north-north-east. The aircraft withdrew before the fighters could get in touch. The other aircraft also withdrew on a bearing 070°. The visibility at this time was six miles at 3000 feet and 15 miles at 15000 feet. After this the RD/F sreen remained clear until 1047 hours when a raid was detected at 40 miles closing from 070°. This turned out to be a shadower, a Cant. 506B, which was located and shot down by fighters to the north of the fleet. Course was altered to 200° at 0955/9 and to 244° at 1035/9.

At 1120/9 a raid was detected at 30 miles closing on a bearing of 350°. This raid consisted of two aircraft which appeared to be Fiat BR.20 bombers. Four bombs were dropped well astern of HMS Ark Royal and the aircraft then retired to the northward. Fighters were unable to make contact with the enemy who were at about 12000 feet.

A convoy of seven merchant vessels was encountered at noon in position 43°07'N, 08°08'E, steering 090° and HMS Foresight was detached to investigate. The convoy consisted of six French and one Turkish merchant vessels outward bound and was allowed to proceed.

A formation of aircraft was detected at 1210/9 on a bearing of 160° but it dit not close and eventually faded.

At 1300/9 the weather became very favourable to a succesful withdrawal, the visibility having decreased and the sky overcast with low cloud. A shadower was detected at 1325/9 astern of the fleet. it was located by the fighters and proved to be a Cant. Z.1007B, it was shot down at 1355/9.

Several formations were detected by RD/F to the eastward at 1412/9 but they did not close to less than about 30 miles and finally faded. At 1500/9 the fighters chased a shadower but lost him in the clouds.

Between 1615 and 1700 hours several raids were again detected to the eastward but none materialised. Thereafter the RD/F screen remained clear until 'Force H' arrived at Gibraltar.

Two aircraft were launched at 1651/9 to search for the destroyers HMS Firedrake and HMS Jupiter which had been detached to carry out a W/T diversion east of Minorca at 2345/8 to cover the approach of the force to Genoa.

Course 232°, speed 17 knots was maintained during the night.

10 February 1941.

At 0740/10 HMS Ark Royal flew off two A/S patrols and five Swordfish to carry out a search for shipping in the area between lines joining Cape San Sebastian to Minorca and Cape San Antonio to Ibiza. Five French ships and the Spanish ships were reported.

Only one ship was within range and the Spanish ship Maria (347 GRT, built 1907) was boarded (by HMS Foresight). She was bound from Barcelona to Cartagena with a general cargo and was therefore allowed to proceed.

HMS Firedrake and HMS Jupiter rejoined at 0915/10. At 1300/10 course was altered to 184°. In the afternoon four aircraft searched an area 50 miles from territorial waters between Valencia and Cartagena but only a French merchant vessel was sighted steering northwards very close to the Spanish territorial waters.

Course was altered to 222° at 1804/10 and a few minutes later HMS Ark Royal was detached with three destroyers to act independently for the remainder of the passage to Gibraltar in order to facilitate training flights. HMS Fearless and HMS Fury were detached at dusk in order to shadow the Fleet from the port quarter and to deliver a dummy attack at dawn.

11 February 1941.

Course was altered to the westward at 0230/11. At 0735/11 HMS Fearless and HMS Fury carried out an attack from the port bow, ships in the line and on the screen were using searchlights.

It had been intended to exercise dive bombing on the fleet and smoke burst target practice for destroyers but low cloud prevented this. At 1100/11 six Swordfish aircraft carried out light torpedo attacks and nine Swordfish runner attacks on the fleet. HMS Fearless and HMS Fury were again detached but now to pick up torpedoes.

On approaching the Rock a range and inclination exercise was carried out for the benefit of the shore defences, destroyers were screening the heavy ships with smoke.

'Force H' entered the harbour between 1430 and 1615 hours. (11)

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.

6 Mar 1941
At 0830/6, HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) proceeded to sea for exercises off Gibraltar.

They were joined at sea at 1330/6 by HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN).

They remained at sea during the night for night encounter exercises.

More exercises followed on the morning of the 7th.

At ships returned to Gibraltar at 1315/7. (12)

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. (12)

2 Apr 1941

Operation Winch.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

Around 0300/2, the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) and the destroyers 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 Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded eastwards. HMS Ark Royal had on board 12 Hurricane fighters for Malta.

Light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) was delayed in leaving the harbour and joined at sea at dawn.

The weather was very favouravle for the evasion of merchant vessels. Visibility was moderate at daylight but deteriorated steadily until at 1630/2 it was as low as 4000 yards. The wind, which had been light from the west, increased to force 4 by this this time. In order to avoid delays caused by turning back into the wind, with some risk to the Hurricanes parked on deck, no flying was carried out by HMS Ark Royal. No aircraft were sighted during the day.

A course of 060° was steered from 1220/2, to simulate a move to the north-eastward in the event of ' Force H ' being sighted and reported. At 2000/2 course was altered to 093° for the flying off position, and half-an-hour later ' Force H ' emerged from the area of low visibility and the wind dropped to light westerly airs.

At 0050/3 and 0430/3, Vice-Admiral Somerville received satisfactory weather reports from Malta. At 0450/3 a fix on the Bourgaronie light showed that ' Force H ' was further to the south then intended and course was altered to 060°.

At 0600/3, course was altered to 250° into a light breeze, and twelve Hurricanes and two Skua's were flown off for Malta from position 37°42'N, 06°52'E. The Hurricanes took off easily and in most cases were air-borne between the island and the bow of HMS Ark Royal. ' Force H ' then withdrew to the westward at 24 knots.

The weather at this time was fair with good visibility, and with wat little wind there was favourable to the aircraft on passage to Malta.

Speed was soon increased to 27 knots on a course of 285° and an A/S patrol was flown off at 0745/3.

At 0815/3, a Cant floatplane was sighted low down seven miles away on bearing 030°, steering east. This aircrft had not been detected by RDF until after it was spotted. Three Fulmars were flown off by HMS Ark Royal to intercept it.

At 0840/3, a second Cant floatplane was sighted at a range of about 10 miles, bearing 060° and very low. Position was 37°50'N, 05°37'E. Fire was opened by HMS Ark Royal to indicate this aircaft to the fighters. Also a second section of fighters was flown off.

This shadower, a Cant 506, was sighted and chased by the fighters. It was eventually caught just before entering a cloud bank 40 miles to the eastward of ' Force H ' and shot down by two Fulmars.

As the fighters were returning they sighted the first Cant. 506 and attacked and hit it before it finally managed to escape into the clouds.

During the forenoon the A/S patrol was dispensed with in order to reduce the delays caused by having to turn into the wind, and to leave HMS Ark Royal free to develop the maximum fighter effort should it be required. One Fulmar crashed into the safety barrier on landing. There were no casualties.

At 1050/3 an aircraft, which appeared to be a Heinkel was sighted by HMS Renown bearing 250°, distant 8 miles. Fire was opened on it to indicate it to the fighters. The latter, however, failed to locate the aircraft before it retired to the south-east in low cloud in position 37°40'N, 04°21'E. Later it was heard that a German reconnaissance plane had reported warships at this time in position 38°00'N, 05°00'E. This report cleary referred to ' Force H ' but the course given in the report was 180° in error.

By 1100/3, the sky was completely overcast and there was reduced visibility ahead. Information was received from Malta at 1106/3 that all aircraft had arrived safely.

By 1130/3, ' Force H ' had run into very poor visibility with heavy overcast sky and intermittent rain. At noon speed was reduced to 24 knots, all fighters landed on and an A/S patrol was established.

At 1400/3, a tanker, evidently in ballast, was sighted to the south-west. Immediately on sighting ' Force H ' she turned inshore and proceeded towards Algiers, distant some 30 miles.

Information was received that H.M.Government might decide to prevent the Vichy-French battlecruiser Dunkerque leaving Mers-El-Kebir the follwimg day by torpedoing her without warning, and that two submarines were being sailed to take up an intercepting position.

The weather cleared about 1600/3 and in view of a report received from the Captain on the Staff, Alexandria, at 1530/3, that at 1005 GMT a German aircraft had been ordered to make weather reports for the area between 01°30'E and 05°30'E in latitude 38°30'N, fighter patrols were resumed till dark.

At 1630/3, information was received from the Vice-Admiral Commanding North Atlantic Station, that the submarines referred to earlier had sailed from Gibraltar at 1400/3. HMS Olympus (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Dymott, RN) routed through 36°15'N, 03°00'W to patrol in position 37°00'N, 00°40'W and HMS Otus (Lt.Cdr. E.C.F. Nicolay, RN) routed through 35°45'N, 03°00'W to patrol in position 35°55'N, 00°40'W. Their speed of advance was 12 knots.

The course of ' Force H ' was adjusted, by altering to 250° at 1730/3, to give these submarines as wide a berth as possible and at 0330/4 they were approximately 20 miles north and south of ' Force H ' respectively when course was altered to 270° to pass north of Alboran Island.

At 0300/4, Admiralty message 0204/4 was received informing Vice-Admiral Somerville that operation Principal (attack on the Dunkerque was to be carried out. At this time, an subsequently, Vice-Admiral Somerville was not aware whether any specific warning had been issued to the Vichy-French Government that the departure of Dunkerque from Mers-el-Kebir would be opposed. If no warning had been given, it seemed probable that departure would not take place until after dark. On the other hand, if the Vichy-French had reason to believe that departure would be opposed, it was probable that the ship would sail as soon after news was received of the arrival of ' Force H ' at Gibraltar.

It appeared that in any case, if Dunkerque was torpedoed, the Vichy-French would assime at once that this had been done by a British submarine since their can be little doubt but that they would have advised the Italians of the intended movement.

If Dunkerque was torpedoed, an immediate and heavy air attack on Gibraltar must be expected, and having regard to the relatively low standard of AA defence at this base, it was imperative that the harbour should be cleared of as many ships as possible. Vice-Admiral Somerville informed the Admiralty to this effect in his message 0503/4. Speed was increased to 24 knots to arrive at Gibraltar as soon as possible.

At 0700/4, HMS Ark Royal with HMS Faulknor and HMS Fortune went ahead at full speed to Gibraltar. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1115/4. The other ships arrived half-an-hour later. (11)

4 Apr 1941

Operation Tender.

Swapping of aircraft between HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious.

At 1915/4, 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 Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, 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 Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded to the eastward at 18 knots until 2200/4 when course was reversed and speed increased to 20 knots.

During the night information was received that operation 'Principal' (attack on the Vichy-French battlecruiser Dunkerque) was cancelled until further orders.

An A/S patrol was flown off at 0700/5. HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious each screened by two destroyers, operated independently from 0830/4 and carried out operation 'Tender'. Four Swordfish (fitted with ASV) and ten Fulmars were transferred from HMS Furious to HMS Ark Royal while four Swordfish and nine Skuas were transferred from HMS Ark Royal to HMS Furious. Another Skua was unable to take off from HMS Ark Royal due to defects. One of the Fulmars broke its back on lading on HMS Ark Royal.

Operation 'Tender' was completed at 1045/5, at which time HMS Furious escorted by HMS Faulknor and HMS Fortune were detached to join the Repulse group which had departed Gibraltar earlier in the day.

' Force H ' then set course to return to Gibraltar at 24 knots in order to enter harbour late in the evening. HMS Ark Royal carried out deck landing training for the remaindr of the forenoon.

' Force H ' entered harbour at 2230/5. As HMS Renown was securing, a massage from the Admiralty was received ordering ' Force H ' and HMS Fiji to raise steam. HMS Ark Royal was at this time entering harbour. Pending further instructions, ships were ordered to complete with fuel with all despatch. (11)

6 Apr 1941

Shortly after midnight Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed that there were indications that the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau might leave Brest on the night of 6/7 April. He was instructed to leave Gibraltar with ' Force H ' as soon as possible and proceed westwards. ' Force H ' was placed under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.

At 0300 'Force H', made up of the following ships; battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Fiji (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, RN), destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), departed Gibraltar. They were ordered to patrol off the Bay of Biscay.

At 0650/6, an A/S patrol was flown off and at 0730/6 three Fulmars and five Swordfish were landed on coming from North Front (the airbase at Gibraltar). An additional A/S patrol was glown off in view of information received from th Vice-Admiral Commanding North Atlantic Station, that five Italian submarines might be passing through the Straits into the Atlantic. Speed was increased to 23 knots at 1000/6 to reach a position from which a reconnaissance from HMS Ark Royal on the evening of the 7th might locate the enemy should he leave Brest on the previous night and steer south-west.

In the late afternoon / early evening an exercise was carried out during which ranges and bearings were obtained by the new radar set in HMS Fiji and were passed on to HMS Renown. HMS Sheffield served as the 'target' during this exercise. This was to investigate the possibility of HMS Renown engaging the enemy at night or in low visibility. Results were promising, but not entirely satisfactory, largely owing to lack of experience in HMS Fiji in operating this new radar set.

At 2000/6, when in position 37°46'N, 11°04'W, course was altered to 328° and speed increased to 24 knots. Further instructions for all units taking part in the operation were received.

Shortly after midnight Vice-Admiral Somerville leant that reconnaissance at 1830/6 had located both enemy battlecruisers at Brest. He therefore decided to maintain the course and speed of ' Force H ' till 1000/7 asnd then if no report had been received if the enemy having left Brest during the night of 6/7 April to reduce speed and alter course to the westward. As it was anticipated that activity by Focke Wulf aircraft would probably accompany the departure of the battlecruisers from Brest, a section of fighters was ranged on deck of HMS Ark Royal after the usual A/S patrol had flown off at 0655/7.

During the forenoon the employment of HMS Fiji's radar set by HMS Renown was again exercises on HMS Sheffield. During the afternoon each destroyer proceeded alongside HMS Renown and received 105 tons of oil. The time taken averaged 1 hour 14 minutes. During this period HMS Renown maintained a steady course of 290° at 10 knots. HMS Ark Royal acted independently. Weather conditions for fuelling were moderate.

At 1420/7 the A/S patrol aircraft, which was then seven miles to the northward of HMS Renown, reported having sighted three miles to the north-west of his position what appreared to be a four-engine monoplane flying 090° at 1000 feet. Renown's position was then 43°05'N, 15°47'W, and the visibility from 1000 feet, 7 miles. The aircraft was at first presumed to be a Focke Wulf, and it was doubtful whether or not ' Force H ' had been sighted. Nothing however was picked up on HMS Fiji's radar and later the crew of the Swordfish reported it was possible that they had seen a section of Fulmars which was flying in formation at that time and mistaken it for the single large aircraft reported.

No report having been received y 1500/7 regarding the presence or otherwise of the enemy battlecruisers at Brest, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to send off a reconnaissance from HMS Ark Royal to search their furthest-on position assuming theyy had let Brest at nightfall on 6 April and passed between our submarine patrols and Cape Finisterre. Accordingly at 1625/7, nine aircraft were flown off from position 43°15'N, 16°15'W to search between 000° and 110°. Just after they had taken off a report was received that at 1145/6 the enemy was still in Brest harbour. The reconnaissance landed at 2010/7, having searched to a depth of 130 miles without sighting anything. Earlier receipt of the Brest report would have obviated the necessity for this reconnaissance.

Course was altered to the southward at 2130/7 amd to the eastward at 0200/8 to remain in the most favourable position for covering the south-west corner of the Bay of Biscay should the enemy leave Brest during the night.

At 0510/8 the result of the photographic reconnaissance of Brest on the afternoon of the 7th came in. This showed one battlecruiser had moved into dry dock. The other was in the harbour.

The A/S patrol was flown off at 0655/8 and at 0800/8 course was altered to 065° to reach a good position for an evening reconnaissance in the event of no information having been received that the enemy were still in Brest, and to enable a surface reconnaissance to be established the south-west of Cape Finisterre during the night if definite information wre received of the enemy's departure.

During the forenoon RDF trials were again carried out between HMS Fiji and HMS Renown, HMS Sheffield again acting as the 'target'. At the end of the exercise two rounds of 15" were fired with the object of HMS Fiji could range on the splashes but nothing was detacted on the screen. The exercises continued to show promise. A search and plotting exercise was also carried out during the forenoon.

The visibility was variable throughout the day and by 1120/8 the A/S patrol had to be abandoned. It was possible to restart it an hour later when one aircraft was flown off and instructed to investigate some flashes that had been reported by HMS Faulknor just above the horizon, on a bearing 130°. This observation could not be confirmed and nothing was seen by the aircraft.

Between 1600/8 and 1845/8 ' Force H' entered fog and at times the visibility was only a few hundred yards. The A/S patrol was fitted with ASV and by mean of this succeeded in landing on HMS Ark Royal down wind sustained some damage in the safety net. As any form of reconnaissance was clearly out of the question in this area, course was altered to the westward at 1700/8 and later the the southward in ordered to cover by air reconnaissance next moring, a possible enemy break out between our submarine patrols and Cape Finisterre.

At 2100/8 Vice-Admiral Somerville received instructions that the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet in HMS King George V was to return to Scapa Flow and that HMS Repulse was to proceed to Gibraltar and the command of the remaining forces in the Bay of Biscay area was now transferred to Vice-Admiral Somerville.

The position allocated to HMS Queen Elizabeth and to a less extent that allocated to HMS Hood appeared to Vice-Admiral Somerville to be too far to the westward to provide a reasonable prospect of making contact with the enemy before shadowing by shore base aircraft ceased owing to darkness or distance from their base. Vice-Admiral Somerville, however, cosidered that it was justigiable to break W/T silence at this stage.

At 0645/9, an A/S patrol was flown off, followed at 0800/9 by a reconnaissance of nine aircraft from position 42°03'N, 15°41'W. An all round search was flown with the object of locating the enemy battlecruisers should they had left Brest during the night of 7/8 April and passed south of our submarine patrol in the Bay of Biscay. The reconnaissance was limited by poor visibility and some aircraft had to return early. Nothing was sighted.

Soon after 1000/9 an immediate plain language signal was interepted from 19 Group, Headquartes, instructing RAF aircaft SQ8M to 'patrol to maximum prudent limit of endurance. Battlecruisers may have left 0830'. The time of origin of this signal was 1009/9. Vice-Admiral Somerville was surprised that a signal of this nature should have been made in plain language.

Course was altered to 320° at 0915/9 for oiling the destroyers and each of the three took 107 tons in an average of 67 minutes. On completion of oiling this course was maintained in order to close HMS Repulse, who was returning to Gibraltar in accordance with Admiralty signal 1859/8, as Vice-Admiral Somerville wanted to pass a cypher to her for transmission on the first occasion of breaking W/T silence.

At 1140/9, a signal was intercepted from the Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, informing HMS Dunedin, who was on passage to Gibraltar, that a large vessel, possibly a warship, escorted by three destroyers, was leaving Brest. This vessel eventually proved to be a merchant vessel. News of the enemy leaving Brest was eagerly awaited in HMS Renown as this was the anniversary of Renown's previous encounter with the battlecruisers of Norway.

A reconnaissance of eight aircraft flew off at 1600/9 from position 42°11'N, 16°04'W, to search between 220° and 000° with the object of locating HMS Repulse. She was sighted fine on the starboard bow, and passed at a distance of seven miles at 2000/9 in position 43°00'N, 16°53'W. The reconnaissance aircraft dropped onboard HMS Repulse a message to be transmitted to the Admiralty as soon as the breaking W/T silence was considered justified. This message requisted the Admiralty to move HMS Hood and HMS Queen Elizabeth further in towards Brest and to give earlier information concerning the results of air reconnaissance.

HMS Ark Royal's reconnaissance also sighted at 1635/9 a Bermuda rigged cutter in position 42°11'N, 16°52'W steering 240° and wearing no flag. This report was not received till shortly before dark and as the position was then some 45 miles on Renown's port quarted Vice-Admiral Somerville did not detach a destroyer to investigate. This cutter, which was probably a Portugese fruit boat, was heading for the Azores.

Course was altered to 215° at 2000/9 and continued throughout the night so as to be in position at 0800/10 to cover the enemy;s furthest on position had they left Brest on the night of 8/9 April and steered south-west. No news of the enemy was received all day.

At 0230/10 a signal was received stating that photographs taken at 1830/9 showed both battlecruisers still at Brest. An A/S patrol was flown off at 0700/10 and at 0740/10 speed was reduced to 14 knots on account of the sea and rising wind from north-east. Course was altered to 340° to bring the sea on the beam and thus improve conditions for the destroyers.

During the forenoon HMS Sheffield was stationed 12 miles on the port beam for an exercise. At 1300/10 course was altered to 120° to avoid getting too far to the north-west and to keep as much to windward as possible without punishing the destroyers.

At 2000/10 course was altered to 330° for the night. This took ' Force H ' about 60 miles north of its area by 0800/10 but it was considered desirable for A/S reasons to get clear of the area in which we have been operating fo the last 48 hours. There were no indications of early departure of the enemy and the weather reports suggested that the area to the north-west would in all probability be the least favourable for air reconnaissance.

At 2100/10, HMS Fiji was detached in position 41°56'N, 14°36'W, to return to Gibraltar to fuel and sail for Freetown in accordance with Admiralty's 1829/8. The wind and sea had risen considerably and a speed of 12 knots could not be exceeded without the destroyers bumping excessively.

At 0200/11, Vice-Admiral Somerville received the Commander-in-Chief. Home Fleet's intended dispositions for the patrol. These coincided very closely with his own but necessitated ships moving further eastward then Vice-Admiral Somerville had suggester in his signal sent 1330/9.

The usual A/S patrol flew off at 0720/11, and by 0830/11 the sea had moderated sufficiently to allow a speed of 16 knots. A reconnassance of 12 aircraft was flown off at 0904/11 in position 43°48'N, 16°10'W, for an all round search for the enemy battlecruisers in case they might be in the vicinity, no news having been received of them later than that spplied by photographs at 1830/9.

At 1000/11, signals were received which showed both battlecruisers at Brest at 1620/10. These signals from the Admiralty were in Naval Code with no indication of priority. They were originated at 2324/10 and 0234/11 but were not received in HMS Renown until 0845/11 and there was then a futher delay in decoding due to this lack of any indication of priority. As a result 12 aircraft had been flown off on a needless reconnaissance in conditions where there was considerable chance of damage on landing and ' Force H ' was committed to a definite course and speed till all aircraft returned.

Speed had to be reduced to 15 knots at 1130/11 as the destroyers had again started to bump.

The reconnaissance landed on at 1300/11 having sighted nothing. Course was then altered to the westward for two hours with the object of avoiding steaming through the same water when making ground to the north-west.

Course was altered to 330° at 1530/11. The decisiom to move north-west was based on several factors. HMS Queen Elizabeth was proceeding from her patrol position in the vicinity of 45°00'N, 23°00'W, to fuel at Gibraltar, and would therefore temporarily cover the sector previously patrolled by ' Force H ', whilst the latter Force would be moving towards Queen Elizabeth's former position. The centre sector of the Bay of Biscay was being uncovered by the removal of our submarines to the UK and Gibraltar. Weather reports indicated better prospects for efficient reconnaissance to the north-west and it was clearly advantageous from an A/S point of view to shift the area of operations.

At 1700/11, information was received that both enemy battlecruisers were still in Brest at 1400/11. This early receipt of the results of reconnaissance was of great value.

HMS Fearless investigated an A/S contact at 2130/11 in position 44°24'N, 17°02'W, and HMS Faulknor assisted, but the echo was not good and was considered to be non-sub. After dropping a pattern of depth charges the destroyers rejoined.

Having made enough ground tp the north-ward course was altered to 270° at 0100/12 to avoid approaching the position where HMS Fearless had obtained a contact. HMS Sheffield was detached at 0500/12 on receipt of instructions that she was to return to Gibraltar.

Course was altered to the eastward at 0650/12 to aoid moving too far from Brest, and as weather conditions were then favourable for oiling destroyers, course was altered to 140° at 1030/12 and speed reduced to 10 knots for this purpose. Each destroyers received approximately 77 tons.

A short search and plotting exercise was carried out during the forenoon and HMS Ark Royal exercised fighters. Further fighter training and a dummy torpedo bombing attack was carried out p.m.

At 1800/12, in position 44°08'N, 16°50'W, a life saving raft marked Bianca was sighted. This position was 110 miles 274° from where the Bianca had been scuttled on March 20th when intercepted by HMS Renown. During the morning watch an empty lifeboat had been investigated and it is probable this also belonged to either the Bianca or San Casimiro, who had been scuttled some 60 miles north-west of the Bianca on the same day.

On completion of oiling, course was altered to 090° to make ground to windward and towards Brest in case any report should be received of the enemy leaving harbour. At 1700/12 information was received that up to 1300/12 reconnaissance of Brest had been unsuccessful. No reconnaissance was flown as he position of ' Force H ' and visibility did not suggest that any useful results would be otained. Course was maintained to the eastward.

At 0019/13, a signal was received stating that the ASV patrol off Brest was not being flown and since there had been no reconnaissance of the port the previous day it was decided to turn to, the north-eastward to take up the best position for an air reconnaissance from HMS Ark Royal in the evening to cover the possible position of the enemy if they had left during the night of 12/13 April. Course was accordingly altered to 060° at 0400/13. By noon it was apparent that the visibility was unlikely to improve and as it was low enough to reduce the risk of our own force being detected, course was once more altered to 060° in order to fly a reasonably effective reconnaissance before dark.

HMS Faulknor dropped depth charge on a contact in position 44°48'N, 14°06'W at 1400/13 but resumed station at once as the contact was considered doubtful and a large fish was seen to break surface near the depth charge explosions.

At 1530/13, course was altered to 150°. information was received at 1625/13 (Admiralty message 1456/13) that up to 1300/13 no reconnaissance of Brest had been possible. Twelve aircraft were flown off at 1630/13 from position 44°43'N, 13°33'W, to cover the enemy's possible position had he sailed during the first half of last night and steered between 220° and 255° between 20 and 24 knots. These aircraft landed on at 2000/13 having sight nothing except a 3-masted brigantine 120 miles north of HMS Renown heading to the westward. No steps were taken to investigate this craft as it would have been dark before a destroyer could reach the position.

Course was altered to 210° for the night to enable a morning reconnaissance to cover the enemy's possible position if he had avoided detection by, or passed to the south-east of the area covered by, the days search. News was received at 2125/13 that no reconnaissance of Brest had been carried out up to 1800/13 and that a report hat stated that Gneisenau had been seriously hit aft by two bombs.

An A/S and security patrol was flown off at 0650/14. At 0800/14 course was altered to 320° to maintain the same distance from Brest, and a reconnaissance of eight aircraft was flown off from position 41°30'N, 14°50'W, to carry out a search to the north-eastward to a depth of 120 miles. Nothing was sighted. Course was altered to 065° at noon so that the evening reconnaissance from HMS Ark Royal could cover the enemy's furthest on position should the reconnaissance of Brest indicate that the battlecruisers had sailed.

During the day HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal carried out 4.5" gunnery exercises at a target towed by one of the destroyers. Dummy dive bombing practices were carried out on the destroyers by Fulmars.

Information was received at 1245/14 that one battlecruiser had been seen at Brest at 0730/14 but owing to low visibility the dry dock had not been seen.

At 1630/14, a signal (C-in-C, Home Fleet, 1435/14) was received directing the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, to assume command of all the units operating in the Bay of Biscay area from 1600/14.

Failing further news of the enemy Vice-Admiral Somerville did not consider it desirable to carry out an evening reconnaissance, as to reach his possible position it would have been nesccessary for the aircraft to fly off very late and to carry out a very deep search. As nothing more was heard by 1800/14 course was altered to the westward for two hours and then to 150° to return to Gibraltar. It was etimated that HMS Repulse, northbound to start her patrol, would cross the latitude of ' Force H ', southbound, a.m. on the 15th.

At dawn on the 15th the usual A/S patrols were flown off. Speed was increased to 19 knots at 1000/19. During the forenoon fighters carried out dummy dive bombing attacks on HMS Renown for the training of the close range AA personnel.

Information was received at 1300/15 that both the enemy battlecruisers had been seen at Brest at 0845/15.

At 1345/15, when in position 39°05'N, 11°24'W, a signal was received that a German Focke Wulf aircraft had been operating near 38°00'N, 12°00'W at 1135/15. In the afternoon two sections of fighters were therefore flown off to maintain a high and low patrol. These patrols landed at 1610/15, nothing had been sighted.

There were signs of considerable U-boat activity in the Gibraltar area. Three definite reports of sightings were made in the past twenty-four hours, one 53 miles east of Gibraltar, one 100 miles were of Tarifa, and one 28 miles of Lisbon. Course was accordingly altered to 180° at 2000/15 in case ' Force H ' had been sighted and reported by U-boat or aircraft.

At 2255/15, a raider signal was received from an unknown ship in position 37°09'N, 18°43'W, some 400 miles due west of ' Force H '. With the fuel remaining only one search over a relatively small area was possible and the destroyers could not accompany the force. In view of the reported presence of U-boats in the vicinity and the very small prospects of effecting contact coupled with the necessity for ships and destroyers of ' Force H ' to make good defects in preparation for forthcoming operations, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided that it was undisirable to investigate this report. The ocean boarding vessel HMS Camito was known to be in the vicinity of the position or the raider report.

Course was altered to the eastward at 2330/15 and speed was increased to 24 knots at midnight.

A double A/S patrol was flown off at 0625/16 and later five aircraft were flown off to land at North Front landing ground to be available for various training exercises while the ships would be in harbour.

' Force H ' entered harbour at 1245/16. (11)

19 Apr 1941
HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) departed Gibraltar to rendez-vous with the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) and then escort her to Gibraltar.

20 Apr 1941
Around 1000 hours (zone -1), HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), made rendez-vous with her escorting destroyers; HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN).

21 Apr 1941
HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN) arrived at Gibraltar around 0800 hours.

After fuelling, HMS Repulse, departed Gibraltar around 1900 hours to proceed to the Clyde.

24 Apr 1941

Operations Dunlop and Salient.


Transfer of fighter aircraft to Malta and reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet.

Timespan: 24 to 28 April 1941.

24 April 1941.

At 2200/25, ‘Force S’, made up of the light cruiser HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN, Senior Officer), fast minelayer HMS Abdiel (Capt. Hon. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, MVO, RN), destroyers HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, DSO, RN), HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St. Clair-Ford, RN), HMS Jackal (Lt.Cdr. R.McC.P. Jonas, DSC, RN) and HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar westwards but they soon turned eastwards again to pass Gibraltar eastwards after dark. The ships also had on board stores for Malta. Most of these on HMS Dido and HMS Abdiel.

They were followed one hour later, at 2300/25, by ‘Force H’. They departed Gibraltar and immediately turned eastwards. ‘Force H’ for this occasion was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN).

25 April 1941.

On 26 April 1941 both forces proceeded to the east independently. At 2050 hours ‘Force H’ altered course and increased speed to reach the flying off position for the Hurricanes for Malta. They were to reach approximate position 37°40’N, 06°10’E at dawn the next day.

At 2120 hours a signal was received from Malta reporting that the weather was unsuitable and that the flying off had to be postponed for 24 hours. Speed was then reduced and at 2300 hours ‘Force H’ altered course to the westwards for an area to the south-west of Ibiza.

26 April 1941.

In the morning weather reports came in from Malta which were favourable. ‘Force H’ then altered course to 220° and at 1100 hours course was altered to the north-east. The object was to remain unsighted throughout the day. This was successful due to the poor visibility. Two more favourable weather reports came from Malta throughout the day.

In the evening a signal was received from HMS Dido stating that ‘Force S’ had also postponed their passage to Malta by 24 hours.

At 2100 hours ‘Force H’ was in position 38°35’N, 02°14’E. They then altered course to 106° and increased speed to 24 knots to again reach the flying off position for the Hurricanes at dawn.

27 April 1941.

Two more favourable weather reports were received during the early hours of the night. Weather in ‘Force H’ position was however not so good and at 0445 hours, in position 37°40’N, 05°55’E the destroyers had to be detached as they had difficulty keeping up with the other ships in the rising sea.

Flying off started at 0515 hours and was completed at 0613 hours. A total of 23 Hurricanes were flown off in two batches of eight and one of seven. These were all led by a Fulmar. On completion of flying off the Hurricanes an A/S patrol was launched as well as some Fulmars for fighter protection while the ships retired to the northwest on course 300° at 27 knots.

Though visibility was poor, a lone Heinkel appeared from the clouds over HMS Renown at 0850 hours and fire was opened on it. The enemy aircraft then made off the north-east with some of the Fulmars chasing it. The enemy was able to get back in the clouds before the Fulmars could overtake it. This aircraft reported the position, course and speed of the formation.

At 1000 hours a new section of Fulmars was flown off to relieve the others and at 1036 hours a signal was received from Malta that all the Hurricanes and their escorting Fulmars had landed safely.

At noon the destroyers rejoined and formed an A/S screen. Speed was reduced to 18 knots. ‘Force H’ remained in a position to support ‘Force S’ if needed. Aircraft for A/S and fighter protection were flown off during the day.

By 2000 hours all aircraft had returned to HMS Ark Royal and course was set to return to Gibraltar.

28 April 1941.

At dawn nine Swordfish were flown off for a practice attack on ‘Force H’. However one of the Swordfish hit the bridge of HMS Ark Royal and crashed into the sea. HMS Sheffield was able to pick up two of the three crew members. There was now sign of the air gunner and he was missing, presumed killed in the crash.

More air exercises were carried out during the day.

At 1130 hours, HMS Sheffield was detached to proceed to Gibraltar for a docking.

All ships of ‘Force H’ arrived at Gibraltar later on the day.

The ships of ‘Force S’ arrived safely at Malta on the 28th. (11)

5 May 1941

Operation Tiger, supply convoy from Gibraltar to Alexandria and reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet and Operation MD 4, supply convoy from Alexandria to Malta and taking up the reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet.


Timespan: 5 to 12 May 1941.

5 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

Part of Convoy WS 8A was approaching Gibraltar from the west. This part of convoy WS 8A was to proceed to Malta during operation ‘Tiger’.

It was made up of five transports; Clan Campbell (7255 GRT, built 1937), Clan Chattan (7262 GRT, built 1937), Clan Lamont (7250 GRT, built 1939), Empire Song (9228 GRT, built 1940) and New Zealand Star (10740 GRT, built 1935). During the passage from the U.K. it had been escorted by the battlecruiser HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruiser HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Havelock (Cdr. E.H. Thomas, DSC, RN) and HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) (with the additional local escorts when still close to the U.K.)

Around 0700/5, HMS Repulse, HMS Harvester, HMS Havelock and HMS Hesperus were relieved from the escort by the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. C.B. Barry, DSO, RN) and 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 Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN). The Repulse and the three H-class destroyers then proceeded to Gibraltar to refuel where they arrived shortly before 1800 hours. It had originally been intended to include Repulse in the upcoming operation but she was left at Gibraltar due to her inadequate anti-aircraft armament.

HMS Naiad had already arrived at Gibraltar around 0900/4, having been relieved shortly after noon on the 2nd of May by HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN). Around the same time HMS Naiad arrived at Gibraltar the cruiser HMS Fiji (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, RN) arrived, she had been part of the escort of convoy SL 72.

Shortly before 1000/5, the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Fiji and the destroyers HMS Kashmir (Cdr. H.A. King, RN), HMS Kipling (Cdr. A. St. Clair-Ford, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN). Kashmir and Kipling had departed a little earlier and carried out an A/S sweep in Gibraltar Bay first.

For the upcoming operation two groups were formed; The cover force which was formed on Renown was group I, the close escort, which was to remain with the transports was group II. When they arrived near the convoy at 1800/5 the group I was formed and was made up of Renown, Queen Elizabeth, Ark Royal, Sheffield, Fiji, Kashmir and Kipling. Group II remained with the convoy and was (for the moment) made up of Fearless, Foresight, Fortune, Velox and Wrestler. Group II and the convoy proceeded towards the Straits of Gibraltar at 13 knots while Group I proceeded to the south until 2130 hours when course was changed to 074°. At 1930 hours, Group I, had been joined by HMS Naiad. This cruiser had sailed from Gibraltar at 1300 hours.

Eastern Mediterranean.

Convoy MW 7B departed Alexandria for Malta this day. It was made up of the Norwegian tankers Hoegh Hood (9351 GRT, built 1936) and Svenor (7616 GRT, built 1931). These tankers were able to proceed at 10 knots. Escort was provided by the AA-cruisers HMS Carlisle (Capt. T.C. Hampton, RN), HMS Coventry (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN), destroyers HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, RN), HMS HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.A. Marshall-A’Deane, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN). Also part of the escort of this convoy was the corvette HMS Gloxinia (Lt.Cdr. A.J.C. Pomeroy, RNVR) which was to serve as minesweeper at Malta and the whaler HMS Swona which was to be outfitted as minesweeper (LL-sweep) at the Malta Dockyard.

6 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

The convoy with Group II passed through the Straits of Gibraltar between 0130 and 0330 hours followed by Group I between 0300 and 0430 hours. Although the moon did not set until 0314 hours the sky was completely overcast and visibility was low.

At 0330 hours, HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Harvester, HMS Havelock and HMS Hesperus departed Gibraltar followed at 0420 hours by HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN) which had completed her repairs and undocking shortly before.

By 0550 hours, Group I was about 32 miles to the east of Gibraltar with the convoy and Group II 10 miles to the north. At this time Faulknor, Forester and Fury joined Group I. At 0615 hours Queen Elizabeth with Kashmir and Kelvin was detached to join Group II, followed thirty minutes later by Naiad.

At 0625 hours, Gloucester joined Group I and speed was then increased to 24 knots to draw well ahead of the convoy. During the day Group I steered 060°. Group II was steering parallel to the Spanish coast at 13 knots. Velox and Wrestler were detached from Group II to arrive at Gibraltar after dark to avoid being sighted returning from the East.

At 1740 hours Renown, in position 37°05’N, 00°21’W sighted a French merchant ship most likely en-route to Oran. On sighting the British ships she immediately steered clear to the westward. Shorty afterwards Group I reduced speed to 17 knots as to not get too far ahead of Group II and the convoy.

By midnight Group I was about 150 nautical miles east-north-east of Group II.

Eastern Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean Fleet departed Alexandria in the forenoon, it was made up of the battleships HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, GCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Barham (Capt. G.C. Cooke, RN), HMS Valiant (Capt. C.E. Morgan, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (Capt. A.W.la T. Bisset, RN), light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral H.D. Pridham-Whippell, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Ajax (Capt. E.D.B. McCarthy, RN), HMAS Perth (Capt. P.W. Bowyer-Smith, RN), destroyers (D.14) HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. St. J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, DSO, RN), HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, DSO, RN), HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, DSC, RN), (D.7) HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Havock (Lt. G.R.G. Watkins, RN), HMS Hotspur (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC, RN) and HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO, RN). The fast minesweeper HMS Abdiel (Capt. E. Pleydell-Bouverie, MVO, RN) and the naval transport HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939) also sailed with the Fleet. HMS Abdiel was to lay a minefield off Lampedusa. HMS Breconshire had on board oil and petrol for Malta as well as oil to supply this to destroyers at sea. Abdiel took station in the destroyer screen while Breconshire took station in the battleship line. After sailing the fleet proceeded to the northwest. No aircraft were flown off by HMS Formidable due to a dust storm and very limited visibility.

After the Fleet sailed, convoy MW 7A departed Alexandria. It was made up of four transport vessels; Amerika (10218 GRT, built 1930), Settler (6202 GRT, built 1939), Talabot (6798 GRT, built 1936) and Thermopylae (6655 GRT, built 1930). These were able to proceed at 14 knots. Escort was provided by the light cruisers HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN) and the destroyers (D.2) HMS Ilex (Capt. H.St.L. Nicholson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Isis (Cdr. C.S.B. Swinley, DSC, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt. W.J. Munn, RN) and HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN).

One of the destroyers from the escort of convoy MW 7B, HMS Defender, that had sailed on the 5th had to return to Alexandria due to condenser problems.

7 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

At 0400 hours, Group II, which was approximately 30 nautical miles east of Cape Palos, altered course to the south for about two hours before turning eastwards for the run to Malta.

Group I meanwhile had altered course to the northward at 0130 hours to pass between Ibiza and Majorca in order to carry out a diversion to the north of the Baleares during the day should this appear desirable.

By 0715 hours there was no indication that Group I had been sighted, and as visibility varied from poor to moderate, course was altered to pass again between Ibiza and Majorca to reach a position well ahead of Group II so as to divert any attention of any enemy aircraft from Group II and the convoy.

At 1000 hours, when 33 nautical miles south-west of Malta, Group I encountered a small Spanish fishing vessel which was seen to proceed towards Palma de Majorca.

At noon, Group I altered course to 140°. At 1630 hours course was altered to 100° to keep about 40 nautical miles to the eastward of Group II. Group I streamed paravanes at 1800 hours.

At 1945 hours, two Sunderland flying boats flying east passed north of the force and did not identify themselves till challenged. At the same time smoke was sighted astern and shortly afterwards a fighter aircraft reported that it was the convoy at a distance of 26 nautical miles.

At 2100 hours, Group I altered course to the north-east until dark in order to mislead any hostile aircraft. The sky had been overcast all day but towards the evening the visibility improved considerably and the convoy was clearly visible to the southwestward making a great deal of smoke.

At 2225 hours, RD/F in Fiji detected a group of aircraft bearing 170°, range 30 miles. The bearing changed to 154° and the range opened to 40 miles until the echo faded at 2230 hours. Group I altered course to 080° at 2300 hours.

Eastern Mediterranean.

All forces continued on their way during the day without incident. Destroyers were being fuelled from Breconshire one at a time.

The submarine HMS Triumph reported three transports proceeding towards Benghazi. Accordingly HMS Ajax, HMS Havock, HMS Hotspur and HMS Imperial were detached to attack Benghazi during the night of 7/8 May.

The Vice-Admiral Malta reported that the harbour had been mined and that the destroyers based at Malta were therefore unable to leave the harbour and participate in the convoy operations.

8 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

Soon after midnight Group I had to alter course to avoid being sighted by a lighted merchant ship steering a course of 110°.

At 0535 hours, HMS Ark Royal launched three reconnaissance A.S.V. aircraft in position 38°06’N, 06°26’E to search to the eastward south of Sardinia. At 0700 hours a fourth aircraft was flown off to search to the west of Sardinia. These aircraft returned at 0800 hours and had nothing to report. They had covered 140 miles to the eastward and 50 miles to the westward. Group I then proceeded to join the convoy. The first fighter patrol was flown off by Ark Royal at 0830 hours.

By 1000 hours, Group I had joined the convoy, which was proceeding on a course of 085° at 14 knots. This was the Clan Campbell’s best speed. Renown and Ark Royal took station on the starboard side of the convoy in order to facilitate flying operations and at the same time provide AA protection for the convoy. Queen Elizabeth took station astern of Ark Royal to provide AA protection for this vulnerable ship. Gloucester and Fiji formed on the transport ships.

At 1115 hours an enemy signal was intercepted that our forces had been sighted at 0800 hours. Naiad detected an enemy aircraft approaching at 1133 hours and three minutes later a large float-plane emerged from the clouds ahead of the convoy. Naiad opened fire and the aircraft retreated into the clouds. Fighters were sent in pursuit but failed to intercept. At noon a full and accurate report was made by this float-plane on the composition of our forces.

The sky cleared to some extent at noon, it had been overcast all morning. Visibility continued to improve all day although considerable cloud prevailed until the evening.

At 1345 hours, eight aircraft were seen approaching very low, fine on the starboard bow. These were engaged as they approached, but the AA fire appeared to be not very well directed. Torpedoes were dropped from outside the destroyer screen, which was roughly 3000 yards ahead of the convoy and extended to starboard to cover Renown, Ark Royal and Queen Elizabeth. The four Fulmar fighters on patrol at this time were engaging CR. 42 fighters that had accompanied these torpedo aircraft.

Torpedoes were evidently aimed at Renown and Ark Royal but by very skilful handling by the Commanding Officers of these two ships all tracks were combed or avoided. Two torpedoes passed close to Renown. A third which was being successfully combed made a sudden alteration of 60° towards Renown and a hit forward seemed inevitable when the torpedo reached the end of it’s run and sank. Two torpedoes passed to port and two to starboard of Ark Royal.

Of the eight aircraft which attacked one was brought down during the approach, probably by AA fire from the destroyers. Two others were seen to fall from the sky during their retirement. The destroyers were disappointingly slow in opening fire on the approaching torpedo-bombers and a full barrage never developed. During the action between the Fulmar’s and the CR. 42’s one Fulmar was brought down and the crew of two was lost.

At 1400 hours a few bomb splashes were observed on the horizon to the northwestward.

At 1525 hours, two sections of Fulmar’s attacked and shot down in flames an S.79 shadower. On returning from this attack one Fulmar had to make a forced landing on the water about 9 nautical miles from the fleet. HMS Foresight closed the position and was able to pick up the crew of two. At this time the fleet was about 28 nautical miles north of Galita Island.

At 1600 hours, as the wind had backed from south of east to north of east. The starboard column; Renown, Ark Royal and Queen Elizabeth, was moved over to the port quarter of the convoy and the destroyer screen was readjusted accordingly. This allowed freedom of manoeuvre for flying operations and enabled the column to increase speed and snake the line whenever a bombing attack developed, in order to hamper the bombers and at the same time remain in a position to afford full AA support of the convoy.

The first high level bombing attack of the day developed at 1622 hours when three S.79’s approached from astern at about 5000 feet, i.e. just under the cloud level. One, diverted by AA fire, jettisoned his bombs and subsequently crashed astern of the Fleet. The other two dropped twelve bombs close ahead of Ark Royal and escaped into the clouds. It is probable that both of these were hit by the concentrated AA fire with which they were met. About 10 minutes later a single aircraft approached from astern and encountering heavy AA fire turned across the stern of the Fleet, dropping its bombs well clear.

At 1710 hours, another S.79 shadower was shot down in flames on the port quarter of the Fleet by a Fulmar fighter. Twenty minutes later five S.79’s attacked the fleet from south to north. Two broke formation under gunfire and the remainder delivered a poor attack, bombs falling near the destroyer screen. A similar attack by three S.79’s took place at 1800 hours, when bombs were again dropped near the destroyer screen.

The provision a adequate fighter protection for the Fleet was a difficult problem with the small numbers of fighters available. Aircraft returned to the carrier at various times with damage and failure of undercarriage, and every opportunity was taken, whenever the RD/F screen cleared to land on, refuel and rearm the Fulmars, sometimes singly and sometimes two or three at a time. There were occasions when no more then two fighters were in the air, but whenever an attack appeared to be impending every fighter that could be made serviceable was sent up.

At 1910 hours enemy aircraft were detected at a range of 70 miles approaching from Sicily. At this time only seven Fulmars remained serviceable of which only three were in the air. The other four were immediately flown off. The total number of hostile aircraft is uncertain, but the Fulmars sighted three separate formations of sixteen Ju.87’s, twelve Ju.87’s and six Me.110’s. One formation was seen from Renown for a short time at 1933 hours in a patch of clear sky. RD/F indicated several formations circling to the northwest of the Fleet for nearly one hour and several bomb splashes were seen well away to the northward and northwestward. During this period Fulmars intercepted the enemy and, although greatly outnumbered, fought several vigorous and gallant actions, resulting in the certain destruction of one Ju.87 and damage to several others, including at least one Me.110. These attacks disorganised the enemy and forced them to the northward with the result that they probably missed sighting the Fleet. They then entered thick cloud and it is possible that the groups became separated and all cohesion in the attack disappeared. Whatever the reason RD/F showed these groups retiring to the northward and no attack on the Fleet developed.

The Fleet reached the entrance to the Skerki Channel at 2015 hours. ‘Force B’ then turned westwards. It was made up of Renown, Ark Royal, Sheffield, Harvester, Havelock and Hesperus. Queen Elizabeth was ordered to join ‘Force F’.

The turn to the west was just being completed when ‘Force B’ was attacked at 2030 hours by three torpedo-bombers which came from right ahead. The destroyers were still manoeuvering to take up their screening positions and did not sight the enemy aircraft in time to put up a barrage of AA fire. This attack was pressed home by the enemy with great determination. All three aircraft were heavily engaged and two were seen to be hit. Renown combed the torpedo tracks, two passing close down the port side and one down the starboard side.

During this attack No. P (port) 3, 4.5” gun turret in Renown malfunctioned and fired two round into the back of No. P 2 gun turret. This resulted in five ratings killed, five seriously wounded of which one later died and one officer and twenty-five ratings wounded.

Speed was increased to 24 knots at 2038 hours and a westerly course was maintained throughout the night.

As a result of the day’s air attacks, seven enemy aircraft were destroyed, two probably destroyed and at least three, probably more, damaged. Of the seven destroyed AA fire accounted for four and feighters for three. No hits, either by bomb or torpedo were obtained on our ships, nor were there any casualties besides than caused by the accident in Renown. Two Fulmars were lost, the crew of one of them was saved.

Meanwhile the convoy continued eastwards escorted now by HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Naiad, HMS Gloucester, HMS Fiji, HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Fortune, HMS Fury, HMS Kashmir and HMS Kipling.

Eastern Mediterranean.

Visibility was still poor with patches of heavy rain. This helped the Fleet and convoy from being detected by the enemy and attacked by aircraft. On the other hand it resulted in the loss of two Albacore aircraft. One Fulmar was lost in combat with enemy aircraft.

HMS Ajax, HMS Havock, HMS Hotspur and HMS Imperial rejoined the Fleet at 1700 hours. Their attack on Benghazi had been successful although there was little shipping in the harbour two transports were intercepted after the bombardment. The largest blew up, and the other was ran aground and was left on fire after several explosions. These were the Italian Tenace (1142 GRT, built 1881) and Capitano A. Cecchi (2321 GRT, built 1933).

The Fleet remained with convoy MW 7A during the day and at dark moved to the southward. HMS Dido, HMS Phoebe, HMS Calcutta, HMS Carlisle and HMS Coventry were detached from their convoy’s to join the Tiger convoy coming from Gibraltar.

Both MW convoy’s made direct for Malta escorted by HMS Hotspur, HMS Havock and HMS Imperial. All other destroyers had been oiled from Breconshire during the past two days.

9 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

Further torpedo-bomber attacks were expected and a screen made up of Sheffield and the three destroyers was stationed ahead, astern and on either beam of Renown and Ark Royal at 5000 yards. The night was however uneventful and at 0800 hours speed was reduced to 20 knots and screening diagram no.4 was resumed by the escorts.

A shadower was detected, bearing 115°, range 12 nautical miles at 1027 hours. Two fighters were flown off but failed to intercept the enemy. An enemy sighting report was intercepted in Renown.

At 1100 hours a merchant vessel was sighted in position 37°54’N, 03°30’E about 8 nautical miles to the northward. At the same time Ark Royal reported that a periscope had been sighted about 4000 yards away. No further action was taken as detaching a single destroyer to search for the submarine was thought to be of little use and it was not thought wise to detach more then one destroyer as there were only three present.

At 1300 hours course was altered to 145° and speed reduced to 16 knots to conserve fuel in the destroyers.

At 1700 hours five search aircraft were flown off from position 37°27’N, 01°29’E to search between bearings 045° and 340° from Oran and south of parallel 38°45’N. Nothingwas sighted except for a merchant vessel. A Fulmar was also flown off to carry out a reconnaissance of Oran. This aircraft took photographs and reported the battlecruiser Dunkerque in her usual position at Mers-el-Kebir surrounded by nets, with lighters alongside and a pontoon gangway to the shore. One large and two small destroyers were sighted inside Oran harbour and probably six or seven submarines.

The six destroyers from the 8th Destroyer Flotilla which had taken part in getting the ‘Tiger’ convoy to as far as Malta sailed from there at 2000B/9 for their return passage to Gibraltar. HMS Foresight however had to return to Malta with an engine problem.

At 2200 hours ‘Force B’ altered course to the eastward as to be in a position to support the destroyers during their passage west at daylight the next day when they were passing south of Sardinia.

The Tiger convoy and it’s escort.

Shortly after midnight the transport Empire Song was mined and damaged. Initially she was able to remain with the convoy but around 0140 hours she was slowly sinking having also been on fire. The destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Fortune were detached to stand by her. In the end Empire Song blew up during which Foresight was damaged.

The transport New Zealand Star was also damaged but she was able to remain with the convoy as her speed was not affected.

The convoy was attacked by torpedo-bombers early in the night but no damage was done by them. One torpedo passed very close to HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Around 0700 hours the Tiger convoy was joined by HMS Dido and HMS Phoebe. An hour later HMS Calcutta, HMS Carlisle and HMS Coventry also joined.

At 1515 hours the Tiger convoy made rendez-vous with the Mediterreanean Fleet about 50 nautical miles south of Malta.

Eastern Mediterranean.

Convoy’s MW 7A and MW 7B both arrived safely at Malta. Both were swept in by HMS Gloxinia who succeeded in exploding a number of mines. The 5th Destroyer Flotilla was then also able to leave the harbour and they joined the Mediterranean Fleet; these were HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, DSO, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN) , HMS Jackal (Lt.Cdr. R.McC.P. Jonas, DSC, RN) and HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN)

Also Breconshire arrived at Malta where she fuelled HMS Hotspur, HMS Havock and HMS Imperial.

As said above, at 1515 hours the Tiger convoy made rendez-vous with the Mediterreanean Fleet about 50 nautical miles south of Malta. HMS Queen Elizabeth then joined the battleship column. The Fleet then turned eastward but remained near the convoy for the remainder of the day. During the night he Fleet covered the convoy from a position to the north-eastward of it.

10 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

At 0700 hours, when in position 37°35’N, 03°02’E, course was altered to the westward at 15 knots. This being the most comfortable speed for the destroyers in the rising westerly gale.

At 1000 hours, the Capt. (D) 8th Destroyer Flotilla, reported he was in position 37°18’N, 08°45’E steering 275° at 28 knots. He also reported hat his ships were being shadowed by enemy aircraft. The enemy aircraft report was intercepted at 1025 hours. Course was then altered by ‘Force B’ to the eastward to reduce the distance between the two forces.

At 1100 hours, the Capt. (D) 8th Destroyer Flotilla, reported he was in position 37°22’N, 07°54’E, still steering 275° at 28 knots. The destroyers were still being shadowed.

At noon ‘Force B’ altered course to the westward. The wind was by then force 8 with a rising sea. Ten minutes later the enemy aircraft was again heard to report the position of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla and it’s course and speed.

At 1300 hours, the Capt. (D) 8th Destroyer Flotilla, reported he was in position 37°25’N, 07°01’E, steering 270° at 28 knots and that his ships were still being shadowed. At this time ‘Force B’ was 134 nautical miles to the westward and they could only maintain 13 knots in the sea without suffering damage. In view of the weather conditions and the fact that HMS Ark Royal had now only four serviceable fighters available it was not possible to afford the 8th Destroyer Flotilla any fighter protection without hazarding Ark Royal unduly. It was hoped that if an attack would develop the destroyers were able to avoid damage by high speed manoeuvring.

At 1430 hours a signal was received that the 8th Destroyer Flotilla was being bombed in position 37°25’N, 06°18’E and that HMS Fortune had been hit and her speed had been reduced to 8 knots. ‘Force B’ immediately altered course to the eastward and ran before the sea at 24 knots the maximum safe speed for the destroyers in the prevailing weather conditions.

An unidentified aircraft that had been detected by RD/F overtook the force at 1530 hours and was fired at by HMS Sheffield. The aircraft retired to the northward before resuming it’s easterly course. A reconnaissance of three aircraft was flown off at 1600 hours to cover the area to the northward and eastward of the 8th Destroyer Flotilla to maximum depth, in case enemy surface units were out in pursuit. These aircraft reported having sighted nothing on their return.

At 1750 hours a signal was received that the 8th Destroyer Flotilla had been subjected to another bombing attack but that no damage had been done. ‘Force B’ continued eastwards to provide close support in case of more air attacks.

At 1820 hours rendes-vous was made with the 8th Destroyer Flotilla and all ships proceeded westwards steering 280° at 12 knots. This was the best course and speed HMS Fortune could maintain. By this time this destroyer was down by the stern with seas breaking continually over her quarterdeck.

Five search aircraft were flown off by Ark Royal to search to maximum depth between 025° and 090°. Nothing was sighted except for one enemy aircraft. By 2030 hours all aircraft had returned.

As a speed of 12 knots subjected Fortune’s bulkhead to undue strain, HMS Fury was ordered to escort Fortune and proceed at 8 knots for the night. The remainder of the force zig-zagged, clear of these two destroyers, at higher speed.

It became also clear that Fortune had not received a direct hit but that five near misses had bent one shaft and caused flooding in several compartments aft, and minor flooding in the engine room.

Eastern Mediterranean.

The Battlefleet remained near the convoy for the entire day. Visibility improved throughout the day although conditions were still difficult for the enemy to attack from the air. One Ju.88 aircraft was shot down and another one was damaged. One Fulmar was lost when taking off from Formidable.

No enemy air attacks developed until dark when a number of aircraft, probably torpedo bombers, endeavoured to attack the convoy and battlefleet. A very heavy blind barrage of AA fire however kept them off and no torpedoes were seen.

At 1700 hours, Capt. D.5 in HMS Kelly was detached with the ships of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla (besides Kelly these were Kashmir, Kelvin, Kipling and Jackal) to bombard Benghazi before returning to Malta. The bombardment was carried out successfully. Following the bombardment they were dive bombed by German aircraft and all but Kipling were near missed. The Flotilla reached Malta p.m. on the 11th.

11 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

At 0532 hours, Vice-Admiral Somerville sent a signal to the Vice-Admiral commanding the North Atlantic station at Gibraltar reporting the position, course and speed of his forces. He also requested a tug to be sent for the assistance of HMS Fortune.

The wind eased considerably during the morning and at daylight Fortune and Fury were sighted about 4 nautical miles in advance of the Fleet and making good about 10 knots.

A reconnaissance of six aircraft were flown off at 0700 hours. These searched for a depth of about 140 miles between 030° and 085°. Visibility was reported as being 10 to 20 miles. Also a search was conducted for a depth of about 100 miles between 085° and 110° with a visibility of 3 to 5 miles. Only a few French merchant vessels were sighted.

Nothing happened during the day.

At 1700 hours a reconnaissance was flown of from position 36°54’N, 01°11’E to a depth of 180 nautical miles between north and east and to a depth of 90 nautical miles between north and 290°. The visibility was reported as being 10 to 15 nautical miles. Nothing was sighted.

The Fleet turned to the eastward for an hour before dark to take up a position well astern of Fortune and Fury during the night.

Eastern Mediterranean.

The Tiger convoy and the Fleet continued eastwards. Enemy aircraft were in the vicinity all day but no attacks developed. One Ju.88 was shot down and another one was damaged, one Fulmar was lost. At dark the cruisers were detached to proceed to Alexandria and the Fleet went on ahead of the convoy.

12 May 1941.

Western Mediterranean.

Just before daylight contact was made by the Fleet with Fortune and Fury. At dawn the tug HMS St. Day and four ML’s arrived from Gibraltar.

HMS Sheffield, HMS Harvester, HMS Hesperus and the four ML’s then remained with HMS Fortune and HMS Fury. Fortune was now able to make 12 knots.

HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal, screened by HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foresight and HMS Havelock, then proceeded ahead to conduct flying exercises east of Gibraltar before entering harbour.

A reconnaissance was flown off at 0800 hours to search to the east but nothing was sighted. On their return these aircraft made a practice attack on Renown and Ark Royal. More exercises were carried out during the day.

The Fleet arrived at Gibraltar at 1800 hours. Renown berthed in no.1 dock to enable her damaged 4.5” gun turret to be hoised out.

HMS Sheffield entered harbour at 2030 hours followed shortly afterwards by the damaged Fortune and her escorts.

Eastern Mediterranean.

The bulk of the Fleet arrived at Alexandria around 1000 hours. The convoy arrived later, around 1300 hours. Some ships had been detached from the fleet to arrive early, fuel and then depart again for escort duties. (13)

16 May 1941
Around 2000/16, 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 Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar westwards for exercises.

They returned to Gibraltar between 1930 and 2045/17. (11)

22 May 1941

Convoy WS 8B

Convoy from the Clyde to Aden where it was dissolved.
Departure date: 22 May 1941.
Arrival date: 4 July 1941.

The following merchant ships (mostly troopships) were part of this convoy;
British:
Abosso (11330 GRT, built 1935), Almanzora (15551 GRT, built 1914), Duchess of Richmond (20022 GRT, built 1928), Georgic (27759 GRT, built 1932), Martand (7967 GRT, built 1925), Orduna (15507 GRT, built 1914).

Dutch
Christian Huygens (16287 GRT, built 1927).

The aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) was also part of the convoy. She was to proceed to Gibraltar to deliver replacement aircraft. She detached from the convoy on 27 May 1941. In the morning of 28 May 1941, she was joined by the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) which escorted her to Gibraltar.

Escort was initially provided by the following warships;
Heavy cruiser HMS Exeter (Capt. O.L. Gordon, MVO, RN), light (AA) cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. I.R.H. Black, RN), HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski), HMCS Ottawa (Cdr. E.R. Mainguy, RCN), HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN).

On 26 May 1941, all escorts were detached except HMS Exeter.

On 2 June 1941, while approaching Freetown, the destroyers HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill Crichton, DSC, RN) and HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) joined the convoy. The next day the corvette HMS Marguerite (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Blundell, RNR) also joined.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 4 June 1941.

The convoy, less Abosso and Christiaan Huygens, departed Freetown on 6 June. It was escorted by the Exeter and had a local escort of the destroyers HMS Duncan, HMS Boreas and HMS Highlander (Cdr. S. Boucher, RN). The destroyers were detached on 8 June.

The convoy arrived at Durban, South Africa on 20 June 1941.

The convoy departed Durban for Aden on 23 June. The Dutch Nieuw Zeeland (11069 GRT, built 1928) had joined the convoy at Durban. Escort was still provided by HMS Exeter.

The convoy was dissolved off Aden on 4 July 1941 and the ships proceeded to their destination independently.

5 Jun 1941

Operation Rocket.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

At 1030/5, the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) departed Gibraltar to the eastwards to serve as target for the defences of Gibraltar.

Around 1200/5, the remainder of ' Force H ', made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and the destroyers 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) also departed Gibraltar and proceeded eastwards where they were joined by HMS Sheffield. During the afternoon some exercises were carried out while on passage eastwards.

The weather was fine and calm, with fair visibility. At 1742/5 an aircraft was detected by RDF, bearing 190°, distant 11 miles. Eight minutes later it was sighted bearing 180°, apparently shadowing ' Force H '. The aircraft was thought to be Vichy-French.

At 1810/5, a Catalina, which was carrying out an A/S patrol ahead of ' Force H ' sighted an object which might have been the conning tower of a submarine some 15 miles to the southward. She closed to investigate but saw nothing further. Whilst rejoining she was followed in by an unidentified aircraft which shadowed ' Force H ' from 1915 to 1945/5. This aircraft was aloso thought to be Vichy-French. At 2115/5 a lighted merchant vessel was passed on opposite courses.

At dawn on 6 June the weather was fair, with a calm sea, clear sky, fair visibility, and a north-easterly wind, force 2. A favourable weather report was received from Malta at 0640/6, which indicated a northwesterly wind from 10 to 27 miles an hour in the Malta area. Information was received at 0855/6 that the first pair of Blenheim aircraft detailed to lead the Hurricanes to Malta had left Gibraltar at 0715/6 and should arrive at the flying off position at 1015/6.

At 0900/6, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Sheffield, HMS Fearless and HMS Fury were detached to act independently to the southward of the other ships.

At 0930/6, the first Blenheims was detected by RDF bearing 255°, distant 22 miles from HMS Sheffield. Eight minutes later it commenced to circle HMS Ark Royal. This was half an our earlier then expected. HMS Ark Royal at once started up her Hurricanes and worked up to speed for flying off.

The first Hurricane took off at 0958/6 and the whole flight of twelve was airborne by 1004/6. As this flight took its departure at 1013/6, second Blenheim of the first pair arrived and circled HMS Furious which then flew off her first Hurricane at 1024 and the last of the first flight of ten at 1028/6 at which time the second pair of Blenheims was seen approaching. Four minutes later the first flight of HMS Furious took its departure.

Position where the aircraft were launched was approximately 37°25'N, 03°26'E.

At 1041/6, a Blenheim was one again circling each carrier. At 1049/6 the first Hurricane of Ark Royal's second flight took off, followed two minutes later by the first one of the second flight of HMS Furious. The twelfth and last from Ark Royal's second flight took off at 1054/6 and the tenth and last from Furious at 1055/6. At 1100/6 both these flights took their departure.

At 1108/6, the two remaining Blenheims (spare) arrived and one Hurricane from Ark Royal's second flight returned with engine trouble. The Blenheims were ordered to proceed to Malta while the Hurricane landed on HMS Furious. HMS Ark Royal meanwhile flew of a fighter patrol of two Fulmars.

Course was altered to 260° at 1130/6 and withdrawal to the eastward was made at 24 knots. Each carrier kept a section of fighters ranged.

At 1255/6 RDF detected an aircraft bearing 070° distant 31 miles. Touch was lost at 1303/6. Two minutes later this aircraft was seen bearing 120° and was thought to be a Vichy-French aircraft bound for Algiers.

The fighter patrol was landed on at 1330/6 and an A/S patrol was flown off. Another aircraft was detected by RDF at 1455/6, 18 miles to the south-eastward. Contact was lost after ten minutes. At 1715/6, HMS Ark Royal was ordered to prepare an A/S striking force of six aircraft to investigate the area around 37°08'N, 00°34'W where a Catalina reported having bombed an oil patch at 1525/6. These Swordfish were flown off at 1825/6 and were landed on again at 1950/6, having seen nothing.

A signal was received from Malta at 1852/6 stating that 43 Hurricanes and 8 Blenheims had arrived safely at Malta.

At 1930/6, the A/S patrol reported a Vichy-French merchant vessel bearing 245° distant 30 miles from HMS Renown steering 020° at 8 knots. No action was taken in regard to this ship.

At 2030/6, information was received that the Vichy-French battlecruiser Dunkerque had left Mers-el-Kebir. At 2100/6, one aircraft was then flown off to carry out a reconnaissance of the port by moonlight. This aircraft returned at 2230/6 reporting the the Dunkerque was still in her usual berth at Mers-el-Kebir. This information was passed on to the Admiralty and the Vice-Admiral Commanding North Atlantic Station.

Having passed to the southward of Alboran Island, course was altered to 275° at 0200/7 and HMS Ark Royal flew off ten Fulmars to land at Gibraltar to afford protection to the Fortress in case of bombing attack.

At 0730/7 an exercise was started with the shore defences at Gibraltar. ' Force H ' entered harbour at 0845/7. (14)

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. (14)

13 Jun 1941

Operation Tracer.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

' Force H ', comprising 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 Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, 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), HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), sailed from Gibraltar at 1130/13, shaping course to the eastward on co course 075° at 21 knots. In the afternoon some exercises were carried out.

Before leaving harbour a favourable weather report was received from Vice-Admiral, Malta, indicating fair weather and westerly winds. A further report was received at 2030/13, indicating fair weather with a light south-easterly surfce wind but westerly above 5000 feet. As the weather forecast by HMS Renown indicated that easterly winds were anticipated in the vicinity of the flying off position, speed was increased to 23 knots at 1930/13 to allow the flying off position to be transferred to the eastward should this to be found necessary. Course 057° was shaped from 2000/13.

A weather report received from the Vice-Admiral Commanding, North Atlantic Station, at 0440/14 forcast thundery conditions and westerly winds in the vicinity of the Balearics and Sardinia with light variable winds along the North African coast. Vice-Admiral, Malta's report received at 0620/14 continued to forecast westerly winds in the vicinity of Malta. Vice-Admiral Somerville decided that it was not needed to proceed further to the east than had been planned and speed was accordingly reduced to 17 knots at 0620/14. At this time there was a light easterly wind and slight sea. The sky was completely overcast and the visibility moderate and variable.

HMS Ark Royal, screerned by three of the destroyers, was detached at 0900/14 to operate independently 5 miles to the southward of HMS Renown, HMS Victorious and the remaining destroyers. During the approach of the Hudsons, HMS Victorious obtained several rangs and bearings by RDF but these were inconsistent and very variable. It became evident during the operation that owing to the inexperience and possible defective apparatus the accuracy and reliability of Victorious' RDF fell far short of the standard of efficiency reached by HMS Sheffield.

The first three Hudsons left Gibraltar at 0652/14. They were detected by the RDF of HMS Victorious bearing 258°, range 80 miles at 0946/14. They were sighted at 1030/14. Course was then altered to 080° into the wind and speed was increased to 25 knots. The first Hurricane left HMS Victorious at 1045/14 followed two minutes later by the first one from HMS Ark Royal. The last one left each ship at 1050/14 and 1054/14 respectively taking final departure shortly afterwards (1056/14 and 1058/14). One of the Hurricanes from HMS Victorious left with its undercarriage down.

The second flight of Hudsons which left Gibraltar at 0723/14 was sighted at 1121/14. One Hurricane in HMS Victorious was defective and was not ranged. The first aircraft took off from HMS Victorious at 1131/14 and from HMS Ark Royal at 1133/14. The last aircraft of the second flight took off at 1134/14 and 1138/14 respectively. Both flights took their deparure at 1141/14. The two reserve Hudsons were ordered to return to Gibraltar.

The mean position for flying off was 38°56'N, 03°00'E appoximately 20 miles east of the position originally intended.

At 1140/14, course was altered to 220° HMS Ark Royal and her three escorting destroyers rejoined the other ships and speed was increased to 25 knots. HMS Ark Royal flew off a section of fighters and HMS Victorious and A/S patrol. Course was altered to 246° to pass north of Alboran Island. The fighters were landed on at 1815/14 and the A/S patrol at 2030/14.

Information was received from the Admiralty that ' Force H ' had been reported leaving Gibraltar, probably to supply aircraft to Malta. No enemy aircraft had so far been detected and no enemy reports were intercepted.

A signal was received from the Vice-Admiral, Malta, at 1542/14 that the first flight had arrived safely and the the second flight was in sight. No further information was received until 1742/14 when it was reported that a total of 35 Hurricanes and 3 Hudsons had arrived. Later this was amended to 43 Hurricanes and 4 Hudsons. One Hurricane was seen to make for the North African coast, one was seen to crash into the sea of Malta, the pilot being saved, and two which crashed on landing, the pilot of one being killed.

An A/S patrol was flown off at 0530/15, being relieved by a Catalina from Gibraltar at 0800/15. Four Fulmars were flown off to land at North Front. On approaching the Roch a range and inclination exercises was carried out for the benfit of the shore defences. Before entering harbour at 1030/15 both carriers ranges all available aircraft on deck with the object of suggesting to enemy observeers that no aircraft had been flown off. (14)

15 Jun 1941
At 1800/15, ' Force H ' departed Gibraltar to the eastward. ' Force H ' was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) and the destroyers 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 Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN). The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN) and the destroyer HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) sailed with ' Force H '. These two ships were to return to the UK.

On departure from Gibraltar all available aircraft were ranged on deck in both carriers to mislead enemy observers. Course was shaped to the eastward at 18 knots.

At 2010/15, HMS Victorious transferred two Fulmars to HMS Ark Royal and flew off to North Front five Fulmars and one Hurricane. This was the Hurricane that had been unable to fly to Malta during operation Tracer. Some AA gunnery exercises were carried out during the evening.

Course was altered to the westward at 2050/15 and the force passed through the Straits under cover of darkness.

At 0200/16, Vice-Admiral Somerville was informed that two unidentified ships had been sighted by aircaft leaving Brest at 2100/15. Shortly afterwards he was instructed to act on the assumption that these were warships. Course was about to be altered to reach a favourable position for a reconnaissance when information was received that photographs had identified the two ships as merchant vessels.

Course was adjusted to pass 25 miles to the northward of convoy OG 64 in order to provide A/S protection for the convoy which was probably being shadowed by an enemy submarine. Visibility from 1000 feet was only 6 miles and reconnaissances flown off at 1420/16 from position 35°50'N, 09°36'W and at 1740/16 from position 35°57'N, 10°24'W both failed to locate the convoy.

During the day the wind was easterly involving a reversal of course for all flying operations. An A/S patrol of three aircraft was maintained from dawn till dusk and HMS Victorious tansferred six Swordfish to HMS Ark Royal.

At 1905/16, the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) were sighted. They were on passage to Gibraltar.

Course was altered to 304° at 2230 for the rendezvous in position 49°00'N, 29°30'W.

Fog was encountered between 0400 and 0600/17 but cleared by sunrise when an A/S patrol of three aircraft was flown off. HMS Hesperus oiled from HMS Repulse during the forenoon taking 95 tons and thereby completing to full stowage. Whilst this was in progress HMS Faulknor obtained an A/S contact and attacked it but it was considered non-sub.

HMS Ark Royal flew off a reconnaissance of six aircraft from position 38°16'N, 15°32'W at 1130/17 to search to a depth of 70 miles from 215° through north to 035°. These aircraft sighted nothing more than a school of 13 whales. Visibility was reported as 8 miles.

The five 'F-class' destroyers were detached at 1140/16 in position 38°22'N, 15°22'W to return to Gibraltar.

A reconnassance of six aircraft took off at 1700/17 in position 39°20'N, 17°20'W and searched from 215° through north to 035° to a depth of 70 miles in visibility 17 miles. They sighted a Portugese ship who was circling round a large red buoy in position 40°30'N, 17°16'W at 1753/17.

Throughout the day there was a northerly wind force 3-4, and flying operations could be taken without large alterations fom the mean line of advance. All fighters and newly joined observers in HMS Ark Royal received training and 21 pilots made a total of 35 training flights.

At midnight speed was increased to 23.5 knots. The heavy ships were zig-zagging astern of HMS Hesperus who maintained a steady course at 22 knots.

At 0200/18, information was received that the latest intelligence of enemy submarines indicated the safest route for ' Force H ' lay through position 45°00'N, 18°00'W to 51°00'N, 20°00'W. Course was therefore altered to 025°.

At 0440 HMS Victorious reported reception of strong RDF transmissions from right ahead. Course was altered to 340° till daylight, when 035° was steered for the rendezvous. Subsequent investigation suggested that the transmissions heard by HMS Victorious was caused by the ASV gear in HMS Hesperus.

A very welcome signal was intercepted at 1130/18 stating that the five 'F-class' destroyers returning to Gibraltar had sunk a German submarine (this was U-138).

A reconnaissance of six aircraft was flown off at 0930/18 from position 43°31'N, 19°29'W. They returned at 1130/18 having searched to a depth of 65 miles from 305° trough north to 035°. The visibility had been around 17 miles. They had sighted nothing.

At 1510 the inner A/S patrol dropped depth charges on a coloured patch of water in position 45°15'N, 18°03'W. HMS Hesperus was ordered to investigate but no contact was obtained. On passing through the patch she fired a pattern of depth charges, mainly to provide an opportunity to exercise rapid reloading.

Throughout the day the wind was northerly, force 4. Some exercises were carried out throughout the day.

The evening reconnaissance was carried out by six Fulmars. They took off at 1735/18 in position 45°45'N, 18°15'W and searched to a depth of 65 miles from 257° through north to 077°. Visibility was reported as being 20 miles. They sighted nothing.

The final A/S patrol landed on at dusk just after midnight.

At 0710/19 six aircraft flew off in position 50°06'N, 19°47'W, to search from 257° through north to 077° wth instructions to inform Captain (D), 4th Destroyer Flotilla, of Renown's position, course and speed. The visibility from the air was only 8 miles and the reconnaissance flew to a depth of 75 miles. They sghte the destoyers of the 4th Destroyer Flottila and the corvettes Coreopsis and Fleur de Lys some 48 miles to the eastward returning to Gibraltar after escort duty with convoy SL 76.

HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN, (Capt. D.8)) and HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), joined at 0900/19 in position 50°04'N, 19°45'W. At 0937/19, HMS Victorious was detached for the UK, escorted by HMS Cossack, HMS Sikh and HMS Hesperus. HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal then turned to 155°, 24 knots, to return to Gibraltar.

The wind had now conveniently shifted to the south-south-west, force 4. Various flying practices were therefore carried out including close range aiming practice at fighters simulating dive bombing attacks.

At 1800/19, a reconnaissance of nine aircraft was flown off in position 47°52'N, 18°12'W, to search from 065° though south to 245° to a depth of 95 miles. Visibility was 35 miles decreasing to 10 miles to the southward. Nothing was sighted.

Speed was decreased to 23 knots at 2000/19 owing to boiler defects in HMS Renown. The last A/S patrol landed on at 2320/19.

At 0100/20, course was altered to south and the first A/S patrol flew off at 0655/20. The wind was north-north-west, force 3. A full flying training programme was carried out, which involved a loss of advance of some 50 miles during the day.

Six Fulmars flew off at 0915/20 in position 42°45'N, 16°46'W, so search from east through south to west to a depth of 115 miles. The visibility was 30 miles to the south-west but only 10 miles to the south and south-east. The reconnaissance only sighted a Spanish merchant vessel.

The evening reconnaissance of six Swordfish flew off at 1745/20 in position 40°14'N, 16°24'W, to carry out a similar search. The aircraft penetrated to a depth of 95 miles with visibility 20 miles. The only ship sighted was a Greek one, on Swiss charter.

Clocks were put back one hour at 1830/20 to zone -1. Course was altered at 1925/20 to 1925/20. The last A/S patrol was landed on at 2200/20.

An A/S and fighter patrol were flown off at daylight and maintained during the day, the latter in case German Focke Wulf aircraft should be sighted.

HMS Faulknor, HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Foxhound and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) joined at 0800/21 in position 36°05'N, 12°58'E. Course was then altered to 095° for Gibraltar. The wind was north-north-westerly, force 2, increasing to force 4 in the evening.

At 0930, 16 Swordfish aircraft armed with depth charges were flown off in position 36°02'N, 12°25'W, to carry out an A/S patrol sweep ahead of the fleet. Aircraft flew on tracks 8 miles apart to a depth of 115 miles but sighted nothing.

A similar sweep was flown of at 1630/21 with 14 Swordfish from position 35°57'N, 09°48'W, to a depth of 90 miles, but again nothing was sighted.

At 2005/21 speed was reduced to 18.5 knots to arrive at Gibraltar at daylight. The last A/S patrol was landed on at 2105/21.

HMS Renown enterned harbour at 0600/21 and HMS Ark Royal, screened by the five destroyers, proceeded to the eastward to carry out exercises. They entered harbour at 1000/21. (14)

24 Jun 1941
While approaching Gibraltar HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) were joined by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, 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). They all arrived at Gibraltar the next day. (15)

28 Jun 1941

Operation Railway (phase 2).

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

Around 1800/28 hours, ' Force A', made up of the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) departed Gibraltar to the west. This was a diversion and they turned to the east after dark.

Around 0130/29, ' Force B ', made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), and the escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) departed at 0130/29th. HMS Wishart and HMS Avonvale were however soon detached to return to Gibraltar.

The two groups joined at 0700/29 in position 36°12'N, 03°33'W. Course was altered to 061° at 1105/29. Throughout the forenoon the weather was clear with maximum visibility but after noon visibility decreased considerably.

At 1240/29, in position 36°30'N, 01°40'W, HMS Foxhound, on the port side of the screen, investigated a contact. The force turned away and whilst doing so HMS Forester, on the starboard side of the screen, also investigated a contact and fired a pattern of depth charges. Neither these contacts was confirmed and it is probable that vlack fish were responsible, several of these being seen in the vicinity.

No suspicious RDF contacts were reported by HMS Hermione and it is improbable that ' Force H ' had been sighted.

Weather reports received from the Vice-Admiral Commanding, North Atlantic Station and Vice-Admiral, Malta, did not necessitate any alteration in the flying off position that had been arranged. Information was received at 0230/30 that the first formation of three Blenheims had left Gibraltar at 0220/30 and expected to arrive at the rendezvous at 0520/30.

Group II, consisting of HMS Furious, HMS Fearless, HMS Lance and HMS Legion, was detached at 0430/30 to take station 5 miles to the southward of Group I consisting of HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione and the remaining destroyers.

The first Blenheim was detected by HMS Hermione at 0515/30 bearing 247°, 54 miles. This aircraft was sighted at 0535/30 and Ark Royal's first flight of Hurricanes was started up.

The wind was light and sone delay ensued in finding the best course for flying off. The first Hurricane was flown off Ark Royal at 0557/30 and the 14th at 0604/30. The first flight took departure five minutes later.

The Blenheim detailed to lead the first flight from HMS Furious was sighted by that ship at 0605/30. Engines were at once warmed and flying off commenced. Almost immediately a large flash and cloud of black some was seen to rise from HMS Furious, who was now some 8 miles to the southward. Course was altered to close but 5 miles later the second flight of Blenheims was sighted and it became necessary for Group I to turn into the wind to fly off the remaining 12 Hurricanes from HMS Ark Royal.

The 15th Hurricane was flown off at 0633/30 ad the 25th at 0637/30, the formation taking departure at 0639/30.

The two flights from HMS Ark Royal were flown off from a mean position 38°43'N, 03°29'E. During the latter part of the operation a Vichy-French liner approached from the northward on a southerly course and probably observed the 2nd flight taking off and taking departure.

HMS Furious now reported flying completed, Groups I and II closed and withdrawal was made to the west-south-west at 25 knots. it was then ascertained that after the first Hurricane had taken off successfully from HMS Furious the second swerved when half way along the deck and hit the port navigating position. A long range tank was wrenched off and the aircraft crashed over the side. Burning petrol enveloped the port side of the bridge, the port navigating and signalling position and the look-out huts.

As the bridge was burning furiously the ship was turned out of the wind and the engines stopped. As soon as the fire was under control flying off was resumed and the fist flight was airborne by 0623/30. The formation of nine led by the Blenheim then proceeded to Malta.

Among the personnel in the positions which caught fire wee the Headquarters flying staf, all the RAF pilots of the second flight, the pilots of the Sea Hurricanes, communication ratings, submarine look-outs, port medical party and the port fire party.

HMS Fearless closed HMS Furious at once when the Hurricane crashed and picked up the pilot who as suffering from minor injuries, and also another pilot was had been seen to jump overboard in flames. This officer was severely burnt and later died on board HMS Fearless. Two officers and one rating died at once in Furious and by midnight the total casualty list was: 4 Naval Officers (FAA), 1 RAF Officer, 4 Naval ratings. Seriously injured were: 2 Naval Officers (1 FAA, both have since died), 3 RAF Officers, 7 Naval ratings (2 have since died), 4 RAF ratings (1 has since died). Also 1 Naval officer was injured as was 1 RAF rating.

As one of Furious' doctors was a casualty Ark Royal flew over two doctors to assist.

The seagoing efficiency of the ship is not affected except for the destruction of the communications to the port navigating position. The fighting efficiency is affected to the extent that various gun cummunication and control instruments are destroyed. The six Hurricanes of the second flight were not damaged but could not be flown off as all their pilots were casualties.

An A/S patrol was maintained all day and a fighter patrol of four aircraft till 1700/30.

At 1425/30 information was received that all the six Blenheims and 35 Hurricanes had arrived safely at Malta.

During the afternoon (flying) exercises were carried out. Before dark six Swordfish of 818 Squadron were transferred from HMS Ark Royal to HMS Furious.

At 0600/1 when off Europa Point HMS Furious flew off three Sea Hurricanes to North Point and then screened by HMS Faulknor and HMS Fearless proceeded into harbour. The remainder of the force turned back to the eastward for exercises. HMS Hermione was detached to act as target. Both destroyers that had escorted Furious into harbour also rejoined.

On completion of the exercises ' Force H ' arrived in harbour at 1030/1. (14)

11 Jul 1941
The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN, with Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN on board) departed Gibraltar at 0730/11 for exercises and flying training. She was being escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN). The light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar at 1020/11 to join the exercises. The Admiral later returned to Gibraltar in an aircraft.

At 0815/12, HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN) sailed from Gibraltar to join the exercises. All ships returned to harbour around 1700/12. (14)

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. (16)

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. (17)

Media links


British destroyers & frigates

Norman Friedman


Destroyers of World War Two

Whitley, M. J.

Sources

  1. ADM 199/393
  2. ADM 53/109201
  3. ADM 199/367 + ADM 199/393
  4. ADM 199/362
  5. ADM 199/376 (+ ADM 53/111432 and ADM 53/111433)
  6. ADM 199/376
  7. ADM 234/318
  8. ADM 186/797
  9. ADM 173/16401
  10. ADM 53/113089
  11. ADM 199/656
  12. ADM 53/114965 + ADM 199/656
  13. ADM 199/414 + ADM 199/656
  14. ADM 199/657
  15. ADM 53/114417 + ADM 199/657
  16. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 53/114204 + ADM 199/1138
  17. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 234/335

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


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