HMS Partridge (G 30)
Destroyer of the P class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Built by||Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland)|
|Ordered||20 Oct 1939|
|Laid down||3 Jun 1940|
|Launched||5 Aug 1941|
|Commissioned||22 Feb 1942|
|Lost||18 Dec 1942|
|Loss position||35° 50'N, 1° 35'W|
At 08.06 hours on 18 December 1942 HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. William Alan Frank Hawkins, DSO, DSC, OBE, RN), on an anti-submarine sweep, was hit by one torpedo from the German submarine U-565 and sank west of Oran, Algeria in position 35º50'N, 01º35'W.
Hit by U-boat
|U-boat Attack||See our U-boat attack entry for the HMS Partridge|
Commands listed for HMS Partridge (G 30)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Lt.Cdr. William Alan Frank Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN||17 Dec 1941||18 Dec 1942|
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Notable events involving Partridge include:
14 Apr 1942
Spitfire fighters to be flown off to Malta.
Around 0700/14, ' Force W ' made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Commodore C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier USS Wasp (Capt. J.W. Reeves, Jr., USN) and the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), USS Lang (Lt.Cdr. E.A. Seay, USN) and USS Madison (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Ammon, USN) departed the Clyde for a mission to fly off Spitfire fighters to Malta.
At 2020/15, ' Force W ' made a 90° emergency turn to port as HMS Partidge had obtained an A/S contact and attacked it with depth charges. The original course was resumed a little over 20 minutes later. At 2045/15, HMS Partridge dropped more depth charges. ' Force W ' then commenced zig-zagging. HMS Partridge rejoined the screen at 2305/15.
Around 1915/17 all destroyers were detached to refuel at Gibraltar after they had been relieved, temporary, by the destroyers HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN). These destroyers had departed Gibraltar around 0001/16.
HMS Inglefield, HMS Echo, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Partridge, USS Lang and USS Madison arrived at Gibraltar around 1500/18. After fuelling they departed to conduct an A/S patrol to the east of Gibraltar and then rejoin ' Force W '.
Around 0700/19 the original screen rejoined from Gibraltar as did the cruisers HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN) and HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN) also coming from Gibraltar. The cruisers had departed from Gibraltar at 0145/19 and joined with the destroyers that were on A/S patrol at 0230/19. HMS Antelope, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler were detached around 0630/19 to return to Gibraltar where they arrived at 1100/19. HMS Vidette for now remained with ' Force W '. She left the formation at 1900/19 and proceeded to Gibraltar independently.
After fuelling HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott departed Gibraltar to rejoin ' Force W ' at 1415/19 as did HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler at 1545/19. They rejoined ' Force W ' around 0900/20.
At 0500/20, in position 37°30'N, 03°20'E, USS Wasp commenced flying off 11 F4F Wildcat fighters to provide a combat air patrol whilst the Spitfires were launched. At 0545/20 the flying off of 47 Spitfires commenced. All were successfully launched and the combat air patrol landed on around 0715/20 when ' Force W ' reversed course and steered for Gibraltar.
At 1620/20, HMS Vidette arrived at Gibraltar to fuel. She sailed again to rejoin ' Force W ' at 0130/21.
At 0250/21, HMS Cairo, HMS Inglefield, HMS Echo, USS Lang and USS Madison arrived at Gibraltar. After fuelling they departed again at 0625/21 to rejoin the USS Wasp at sea.
At 1630/21, HMS Renown, HMS Charybdis, HMS Antelope, HMS Vidette, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart, HMS Wrestler, HMS Ithuriel and HMS Partridge arrived at Gibraltar after playing their part in Operation Calender.
USS Wasp now escorted by HMS Cairo, HMS Inglefield, HMS Echo, USS Lang and USS Madison set course for Scapa Flow.
Around 1645/25, the destroyers USS Plunkett (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Standley, Jr., USN) and USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN) joined. Shortly afterwards HMS Cairo parted company and proceeded to Bangor Bay near Belfast, Northern Ireland arriving there around 0800/26.
USS Wasp, HMS Inglefield, HMS Echo, USS Lang, USS Madison, USS Plunkett and USS Wainwright arrived at Scapa Flow around 1200/26. (1)
29 Apr 1942
Spitfire fighters to be flown off to Malta.
On 29 April 1942 the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (Capt. J.W. Reeves, Jr., USN), destroyers USS Lang (Lt.Cdr. E.A. Seay, USN), USS Sterett (T/Cdr. J.G. Coward, USN) and the escort destroyer HMS Blackmore (Lt. H.T. Harrel, RN) departed Scapa Flow for the Clyde.
On 30 April 1942, USS Wasp, USS Lang, USS Sterett and HMS Blackmore arrived at Greenock where USS Wasp embarked Spitfire fighters for Malta.
At 0001/5 the destroyers HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to make rendesvous with USS Wasp and her escorting detroyers. They joined around 1730/6. USS Lang, USS Sterett, HMS Echo and HMS Intrepid then parted company and proceeded to Gibraltar fuel. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1800/7.
Around 0130/8, ' Force W ' made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Commodore C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN) and the destroyers USS Lang, USS Sterret, HMS Echo, HMS Intrepid, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, RN), HMS Georgetown (Lt.Cdr. P.G. MacIver, RNR) and HMS Salisbury (Lt.Cdr. M.H.R. Crichton, RN) departed Gibraltar to join USS Wasp and her escorting destroyers. They joined around 0800/8 after which HMS Antelope, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler were detached to fuel at Gibraltar. They arrived at Gibraltar at 1250/8 except HMS Wrestler which only arrived at 1425/8. After fuelling the departed as follows, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott at 1720/8, HMS Wishart at 1800/8 and finally HMS Wrestler at 2205/8. They were to rejoin ' Force W '.
Around 0945/8, HMS Georgetown was detached to return to Gibraltar with defects (excessive vibration). She arrived at Gibraltar at 1630/8.
Between 0630/9 and 0800/9 a total of 17 Spitfires were launched from HMS Eagle and 47 from HMS Wasp. Course was then set to the westwards. One aircraft had crashed on taking off, one returned to USS Wasp, one landed in North-Africa and one landed on the sea near Malta.
At 1030/9, HMS Antelope, HMS Westcott and HMS Wishart rejoined ' Force W '. HMS Wrestler presumably joined later.
At 1130/9, HMS Intepid, HMS Echo and HMS Salisbury parted company with ' Force W ' to proceed to Gibraltar.
At 1300/9, USS Lang and USS Sterret parted company with ' Force W '.
Between 0015/10 and 0100/10, HMS Intrepid, HMS Echo, HMS Salisbury, USS Lang and USS Sterett arrived at Gibraltar to fuel. En-route to Gibraltar HMS Salisbury had attacked an A/S contact with depth charges.
At 0120/10, HMS Ithuriel was detached to Gibraltar.
Around 0330/10, HMS Eagle and HMS Wrestler parted company. They arrived at Gibraltar around 0500/10.
Around 5000/10, HMS Intepid, HMS Echo, HMS Salisbury and USS Lang departed Gibraltar to rejoin ' Force W '. USS Sterett was unable to sail with them due to defects. She departed at 1100/10. HMS Intrepid, HMS Echo and USS Lang rejoined ' Force W ' around 0815/10 followed one hour later by HMS Salisbury. Around 0815/10, HMS Vidette was detached to Gibraltar followed by HMS Partridge, HMS Antelope, HMS Westcott and HMS Wishart around 0945/10. Around 1200/10, HMS Charybdis was detached to Gibraltar.
At 0645/11, USS Sterett rejoined.
At 0915/12, HMS Salisbury was detached to proceed independently. She was unable to keep up with ' Force W ' in the current weather conditions without sustaining more damage then she had already did up to that point.
' Force W ', HMS Renown, USS Wasp, HMS Echo, HMS Intrepid, USS Lang and USS Sterett arrived at Scapa Flow around 0700/15. (1)
13 May 1942
At 0750 hours HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN) was joined by the destroyers HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN) and HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN). HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN) were then detached. (2)
15 May 1942
HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN) and HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN) arrived at Gibraltar in the evening. (2)
12 Jun 1942
Operation Harpoon. Supply convoy to Malta from Gibraltar.
Timespan: 12 to 18 June 1942.
During March and April 1942 Malta had been attacked very heavily by the German and Italian air forces and was in much need of supplies. It was therefore decided that two convoy’s were to be sent, one from the west (Harpoon) and one from the east (Vigorous). This was to increase the chance of success as the enemy would have to split force if they want to attack both convoys. Also a group of minesweepers were to be sent to Malta.
Below we will give the events regarding the Harpoon convoy in chronological order.
12 June 1942.
Western Mediterranean (Harpoon convoy)
During the night convoy WS 19 Z passed the Straits of Gibraltar. This convoy had departed the Clyde on June 6th. It was made up of five merchant vessels; Burwan (British , 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).
Off Gibraltar the tanker Kentucky (American , 9308 GRT, built 1942) joined the convoy.
Close escort was provided by ‘Force X’ which was made up of the AA-cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), ORP Kujawiak (Lt. L. Lichodziejewski), minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. G. Mowatt, RD, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, RN), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RN), HMS Hythe (Lt.Cdr. L.B. Miller, RN) and the motor launches (ML’s) ML 121 (group commander Lt.Cdr. E.J. Strowlger, RNVR), ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462.
Also operating with ‘Force X’ was the fast minelayer HMS Welshman (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN).
Distant cover was provided by ‘Force W’ which was made up of the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN). This force was to cover the convoy until off the Skerki Channel, the entrance to the Sicily-Tunis Narrows. The cover forces for this convoy were however rather weak. For instance the aircraft carriers were rather old and had hardly enough fighters available to provide a decent air patrol.
Then there was also a tanker force to fuel the escorts ‘Force Y’. It was made up of the RFA oiler Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941), escorted by two corvettes; HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Besides these forces four submarines were on patrol in the western Mediterranean. They were stationed between Sardinia and Sicily. These were HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 43 (Lt. A.C. Halliday, RN) and HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN).
By 0800 hours on the 12th force was in full strength and proceeded eastwards at 12 to 13 knots.
The remainder of the day was uneventful except for the sighting of a Spanish merchant vessel in the evening.
13 June 1942.
On this day the convoy was shadowed continuously by German and Italian aircraft. Also it was thought an Italian submarine might have spotted the convoy but was not the case as of yet.
HMS Cairo and almost all the destroyers and escort destroyers oiled from Brown Ranger and HMS Liverpool. This was completed late in the evening.
Italian warships reported to be at sea.
Two Italian cruisers and five destroyers had been reported at daybreak (actually six detroyers were present). These were the light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and the destroyers Alfredo Oriani, Vincenzo Gioberti, Ascari, Ugolino Vivaldi, Nicolò Zeno and Premuda. They had sailed on the 13th from Cagliari, Sardinia. The most western British submarine on patrol HMS P 43 had attacked them at 1931 hours on the 13th. She claimed to have hit a cruiser but this was obviously not the case. Two hours later the next submarine on the patrol line HMS P 211 also sighted this Italian force but was too far off to attack.
14 June 1942.
During the night the force was spotted and reported by an Italian submarine. In fact two Italian submarines made attacks on the convoy during the night. These were the Uarsciek at 0152 hours (zone -2) which fired two torpedoes at a destroyer in position 38°02'N, 05°06'E. Both torpedoes missed. Then at 0505 hours, the Giada fired four torpedoes at an aircraft carrier (probably HMS Eagle although this carrier did not report hearing torpedo explosions and HMS Argus did) and a cruiser or battleship in position 37°55'N, 06°12'E. She claimed two hits but in fact all torpedoes missed.
At dawn enemy shadowing aircraft appeared once more. The convoy was approaching the danger area for air attacks coming from Sardinia. At 1000 hours the first radar warning came and at about the same time fighters from Eagle shot down an Italian torpedo aircraft. More of these aircraft were seen gathering about 20 miles from the convoy and form up for attack.
It was a bright and clear morning with hardly a cloud in the sky. There was little wind but such as there was came from the west and this made it difficult for the British fighter crews, especially for those from the 25-year old Argus with her small margin of speed, unless she would turn into the wind and leave the destroyer screen.
The convoy was steering east in two columns in line ahead. HMS Kenya was leading the port column while HMS Liverpool was leading the starboard one. Astern of the convoy was HMS Malaya with HMS Welshman astern of her. The aircraft carriers were operating independently to port of the convoy. Each carrier had an AA cruiser and a destroyer as escort. HMS Eagle was with HMS Cairo and HMS Wishart while HMS Argus was with HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette.
The remaining fifteen destroyers and four minesweepers formed an all-round screen spread from three to three and a half miles from the convoy. This was done on purpose so that all ships could fire outward but also inward with a freedom that would have been impossible with a closer screen.
The air attacks began at 1030 hours. The first was a shallow dive-bombing attack by two groups, each of four or five Italian fighter-bombers (CR. 42). One group approached from astern at 12000 feet and diving to 6000 feet. The other group came from ahead at 6000 feet and dropped their bombs from 3000 to 4000 feet. Their target was HMS Argus and her consorts on the port beam of HMS Malaya. No damage was done, only one bomb fell close to HMS Charybdis. Two of the enemy planes were shot down after their attack by Fulmar’s from Eagle which were controlled by the Argus and afterwards landed aboard her. It was the policy to employ the Hurricanes from Eagle as high fighter force and the Fulmar’s from Argus as low fighter force.
A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The firstwave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turing to meet the attack. Also the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.
The second wave attacked the port column dropped their torpedoes at longer range. All torpedoes missed. The Cant. bombers also came in two formations, coming from ahead out of the sun at a height of about 10000 feet. Their targets seemed to be Eagle and Argus but none of their bombs hit.
A little before 1200 hours several torpedo planes made harmless attacks from long range. They were probably stragglers turned back by gunfire during the earlier attacks and anxious to get rid of their torpedoes before turning back to base.
Upon the whole the Italians seem to have attacked gallantly. The British fighters claimed to have shot down three enemy fighters and three torpedo aircraft. Three British fighters were lost ofwhich one was shot down in error by a ship in the screen. The convoy and escort claim to have shot down seven enemy aircraft, all Savoia SM 79’s.
HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and badly damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by HMS Antelope and screened by HMS Westcott. A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air. At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.
At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.
At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to loose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.
The fruitless attacks on the damaged Liverpool in the afternoon and evening of the 14th evidently occupied the remaining aircraft available to the enemy in Sardinia for as the convoy was able to continue without being attacked. It was however still being shadowed and came within range of the Sicilian air bases in the evening.
HMS Welshman had replaced HMS Liverpool at the head of the starboard column of the convoy. She however parted company with the convoy around 2000 hours to continue the passage to Malta on her own at high speed.
At 1820 hours German bombers appeared, about ten Ju. 88’s approached the convoy from astern at 10000 feet and then dived to 6000 feet to make the attack. Both carriers had narrow escapes, Argus in particular. A bomb pitched fine on her port bow, dived under the ship and exploded on the starboard bow. No ship was damaged however. No enemy aircraft were shot down. Six British fighters however harassed the enemy and forced several of them to release their bombs prematurely. One Fulmar was lost.
As in the morning the shallow dive-bombing attack preluded a heavy combined torpedo and bombing attack but in the evening the lapse of time was greater and dive-bombers as well as high level-bombers took part in the massed attack. It was a combination of Italians and Germans. 16 Savoia 79 bombers heavily escorted by Macchi fighters with 10 Ju 88’s and 15 Ju 87’s. The first to appear were the Savoia’s which approached from the north-east to port at about 2000 hours. They were flying well above the water. Worked their way around the stern of the convoy outside gun range to glide down and attack on the starboard side. In the meantime, a few minutes after the Savoia’s had been sighted, two groups of Ju 88’s came in from ahead at 12000 feet and dropped their bombs without effect as they flew across the screen and along the columns of the convoy. Next the Ju 87’s arrived on the port bow and attacked the port wing of the screen, diving from 7000 to 1000 feet. They narrowly missed HMS Icarus and HMS Wrestler, though they had probably hoped to reach HMS Eagle. These dive bombers took most of the attention of the screen but then at 2020 hours the Italian torpedo-bombers came in. Most of them concentrated onHMS Malaya, HMS Argus, HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette. They managed to drop three torpedoes within 300 yards from the carrier but she still managed to avoid them.
Around the time of these attacks HMS Middleton sighted a periscope and dropped a depth charge. Two other destroyers then hauled out of the screen and dropped depth charges. The periscope was next sighted by HMS Malaya after which HMS Speedy obtained an Asdic contact and attacked with depth charges in position 37°39’N, 09°35’E, claiming to have destroyed the enemy submarine.
This was the last encounter with the enemy before ‘Force W’ would separate from the convoy which was then to continue on to Malta only escorted by ‘Force X’.
As the convoy reached the entrance of the Narrows at 2100 hours, four Beaufighters arrived from Malta to relieve the hard worked naval aviators of the carriers. Around this time the Italian submarine Alagi attacked an aircraft carrier with two stern torpedoes in position 37°36'N, 09°53'E which both missed. The attack was not reported by either of the carriers and was probably not observed. Half an hour later ‘Force W’ turned westwards. The convoy continued eastwards with A/Capt. Hardy of HMS Cairo in command. For the passage of the Tunisian coast the five remaining merchant vessels formed a single line ahead with ‘Force X’ screening them.
At 2205 hours, as it was getting dark, eight Ju 88’s made a shallow dive-bombing attack dropping down from 6000 to 3000 feet to release their bombs. No hits were obtained. They lost two aircraft, one was shot down by a Beaufighter and the ther by gunfire from the ships. This was the end of this day’s fighting.
The Italian ships that had been reported to be at sea the previous day.
On receiving the submarines reports Vice-Admiral Leatham at Malta arranged for a striking force of Wellington aircraft to attack the enemy. Aircraft again sighted the enemy north-west of Cape San Vito, Sicily at 0255/14. At 0525/14 the enemy was sighted off Palermo. At 1800/14 two cruisers were reported to be in the harbour there. At dusk, at 2125 hours, two cruisers and four destroyers were reported to be leaving Palermo harbour but their course was not reported. Vice-Admiral Leatham judged that they were proceeding to the east to join the main Italian battlefleet that had left Taranto that same evening to operate against the ‘Vigorous-convoy’ in the eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly he stationed a naval air patrol over the Strait of Messina, with a naval air striking force at Malta standing by to attack.
Vice-Admiral Curteis, who was taking ‘Force W’ westwards, also received the report of the enemy leaving Palermo and had to decide whether to strengthen ‘Force X’ with either one or both his cruisers, HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis. He was then, at 2315/24, in position 37°30’N, 09°30’E, over 50 nautical miles from the convoy, which would be a further 100 nautical miles further on to the east by dawn on the 15th. He also judged that the Italian ships would be unlikely to be danger to the convoy and that the escort would be strong enough ‘to deter them from doing any harm’ escpecially as it would be expected that the Italians would be attacked from the air by aircraft from Malta. Apart from this he was anxious for the safety of his aircraft carriers, which would need the cruisers support while within striking distance from the enemy air bases in Sardinia. Furthermore there was barely time to overtake the convoy before by the morning. With the force available a decision either way was a gamble this might have been different had Liverpool not been torpedoed. He therefore decided against sending any reinforcement to the convoy.
15 June 1942.
Action south of Pantellaria
A/Capt. Hardy, the convoy escort commander in HMS Cairo first knew of the presence of the enemy through the report of a Beaufighter which was on it’s way to patrol above the convoy and which at 0620 hours reported two cruisers and four destroyers to be 15 nautical miles on the port beam of the convoy. The convoy at that time was stearing at 12 knots to the south-east. The merchantmen were formed in two columns again, with HMS Cairo ahead, the five ‘Fleet’ destroyers in the screen to starboard and the four ‘Hunt’s’ to port. The minesweepers and the ML’s were astern of the convoy. A few minutes later the Italian ships were sighted hull down against the brightening sky to the eastward. They were broad on the port bow and drawing ahead of the convoy at high speed. It was now also seen that there were five destroyers present instead of the reported four. Commander Scurfield (in HMS Bedouin led out the ‘Fleet’ destroyers to attack while HMS Cairo and the remainder of the convoy escort started making smoke to cover the merchant ships, which were ordered to turn to starboard and to seek shelter in Tunisian waters. It was A/Capt. Hardy’s intention to gain as much time as possible to enable an air striking force from Malta to attack the enemy.
At 0640 hours, the Italian cruisers opened fire at a range of over 20000 yards. Their second salvo straddled HMS Cairo and others fell near the convoy before the smoke screen could take effect. The British ships could not yet reply as the enemy was still out of range. As the ‘Fleet’ destroyers gathered way, they became strung out in a loose line of bearing, nearly line ahead, in the order HMS Bedouin, HMS Partridge, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless, though the last ship worked up to 32 knots in the endeavour to keep up. The first to destroyers opened fire on the enemy cruisers at 0645 hours with their guns at maximum elevation but in a quarter of an hour both Bedouin and Partridge were badly hit and stopped and the fight passed them by. Ithuriel held her fire till she got within 15000 yards, then she engaged a cruiser, which she eventually hit at a range of 8000 yards. Marne also engaged a cruiser, opening fire at over 18000 yards. In the meantime the Italian destroyers had fallen astern of the cruisers, three of them, in fact, soon left the line and disappeared to the northward. The last two enemy destroyers opened fire on the Marne from her port beam at around 0700 hours and she and Matchless, which was astern of her, replied. Both British destroyers soon found the range and hit one of the enemy (Ugolino Vivaldi) and drove them off. They then pressed on to engage the enemy cruisers which kept their distance and were zig-zagging and making smoke to upset the aim of the British ships.
As soon as the convoy was well behind the smoke screen and on it’s way to the westward. HMS Cairo and the four Hunt class escort destroyers were proceeding south and now also engaged the two enemy destroyers which had been engaged by Marne and Matchless. At about 0700 hours HMS Cairo came under fire from the enemy cruisers again. They were using two turrets each to engage the Cairo and two turrets to engage the ‘Fleet’ destroyers. HMS Cairo was hit by a 6” shell. She herself fired her 4” guns occasionally, though without much hope of doing real damage to the enemy.
At 0715 hours, A/Capt. Hardy decided to concentrate the remaining three ‘Fleet’ destroyers on HMS Cairo and ordered HMS Ithuriel to join him. HMS Marne and HMS Matchless continued to engage the enemy for about half an hour. Though fire from both sides was accurate no hits were obtained on either side. At 0745 hours the Italians turned to port on which A/Capt. Hardy turned north and ordered all destroyers to join him.
Meanwhile, the convoy, 15 nautical miles away to the north-west, steering westwards, now turned to the south-east again. At 0705 hours, now deprived of the support of HMS Cairo, all destroyers and escort destroyers, and without air support, the convoy was attacked by eight German JU 87 dive bombers. They sank the Chant and disabled the Kentucky. HMS Hebe took the Kentucky in tow. The convoy then went on until 0745 hours when course was changed to rejoin the escorts. The Italians however meanwhile where following the British escorts and kept them under fire.
At 0834 hours, A/Capt. Hardy, ordered the convoy to reverse course while Cairo and the destroyers laid a smokescreen across it’s track. This seems to have baffled the Italians which first turned to the south-west and then at 0840 hours hauled round to the north-eastward and stood away. A/Capt. Hardy then sent the ‘Hunt’-class escort destroyers to rejoin the convoy and then led the ‘Fleet’ destroyers after the enemy. At this time HMS Cairo was hit for the second time. For the present however the Italians had given up the game. By 0930 hours they were out of sight and the British ships then turned to rejoin the convoy.
At 1030 hours the merchant vessel were back on their proper course to Malta, with the escort at full strength except for HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge. Long-range Spitfires from Malta were patrolling overhead.
At 1040 hours a few German bombers appeared but these were driven off before they could drop their bombs. The fighters were able to shot one down. Unfortunately this exhausted fuel and ammunition of the Spitfires which were operating at their extreme range so when at 1120 hours another attack started they were not able to repel it. Their relief had not yet arrived.
It was a combination of high-level and dive bombing by Ju. 88’s and Ju. 87’s. Gunfire destroyed one of the German’s. One or two were shot down afterwards by the relieving Spitfires which had arrived during the attack. By then however the merchant vessel Burdwan was disabled. There was still 150 nautical miles to go, with the likelihood of further attacks from the air and with Italian ships nearby. A/Capt. Hardy therefore decided that he had no other choice then to sacrifice the damaged Kentucky and Burdwan as the best way to save the rest of the convoy whose speed would otherwise be reduced to six knots. He ordered HMS Hebe and HMS Badsworth to sink the cripples which enabled the remaining two merchant ships to continue at their best speed.
At 1315 hours, dive-bombers attacked yet again. And again there was no fighter cover present over the convoy. This time however the German’s were unsuccessful. One bomber out of twelve was shot down by the ships AA fire while the relief flight of Spitfires came in time to shoot down two more as the enemy retired. This was the last time the convoy was attacked from the air before it arrived at Malta under the protection from short-range Spitfires. The next threat of attack came from the Italian warships which closed the convoy once more.
After the engagement in the morning the Italian cruisers had gone back to join up with their destroyers, one of wich had been badly damaged by HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. While preparing to take this destroyer in tow the Italians were disrupted by British aircraft. Malta had been able to sent a small torpedo aircraft force to attack them. Four Albacores followed by two Beauforts attacked them about 12 nautical miles south of Pantelleria at 1030 hours. Unfortunately without success.
The two cruisers with two destroyers then went south again hoping to find stagglers from the convoy. They found HMS Hebe, which was on her way back to rejoin the convoy, having left the tanker Kentucky in a sinking condition astern. HMS Hebe sighted the enemy a long way to the north at 1255 hours. In the next half an hour the enemy was able to close as to open fire on the small minesweeper and eventually she was hit.
On receiving Hebe’s enemy report, A/Capt. Hardy, left the convoy in HMS Cairo taking the three remaining ‘Fleet’ destroyers with him; HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. Besides the Hebe to protect there were other ships coming back from the scuttled merchantmen and also HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge which, A/Capt. Hardy believed to be following the convoy.
At 1355 hours the Italians gave up the chase, presumably on sighting HMS Cairo and turned to engage a target to the westward. This could only be HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge but A/Capt. Hardy felt bound to return to the convoy, then nearly 15 nautical miles off, though it meant leaving the damaged destroyers to their fate.
These two ships had been had been striving to preserve themselves for the King’s service ever since they had been crippled in the morning. HMS Partridge was ready to steam again by 0745 hours, three-quarters of an hour after being put out of action. She prepared to take HMS Bedouin in tow as that ship was entirely disabled. These preparations were disrupted by two Italian destroyers which had to be driven away. By 1000 hours however Bedouin was being towed by Partridge and the two ships were proceeding slowly towards the convoy which they had orders to join. They met it at 1145 hours. There was still hope to get one engine going in HMS Bedouin but later on it became evident that this hope had to be abandoned. It was then thought best to try to make it to Gibraltar.
At 1320 hours, the Italian Squadron came into sight again and two destroyers were apparently closing the two British destroyers while there were also enemy dive-bombers flying around. HMS Partridge therefore had no choice then to slip the tow and to lay smoke around HMS Bedouin. As the enemy cruisers approached, after their chase of HMS Hebe, HMS Partridge stood away to draw their fire and in this she succeeded. She was straddled from long range at 1400 hours. It was the intention the return to HMS Bedouin later but the latter ship was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo bomber at 1425 hours and she sank within a few minutes but not before shooting down the attacker. Italian torpedo bombers also sank the derelict Kentucky and Burdwan around the same time.
A/Capt. Hardy rejoined the convoy at 1530 hours after the last encounter with the Italian squadron. At 1730 hours, HMS Welshman rejoined the convoy south of Linosa coming from Malta. She had arrived there in the morning and was sent out again by Vice-Admiral Leatham as soon as she had landed her cargo.
Then at 1910 hours, there was another air attack. Upon that time the enemy had been kept away by the strong fighter escort from Malta directed by the radar in HMS Cairo. Twelve German bombers managed to close and near misses were obtained on HMS Welshman, HMS Matchless and the merchant Troilus.
A last attempt was foiled at 2040 hours by the fighters from Malta and the ships guns. There was now only one danger to be overcome, enemy mines.
At 1420 hours, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia came also the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth (T/Lt. S.G. Barnes, RNR).
At 2345 hours the Italian submarine Bronzo sighted an enemy escort vessel of the 'Kingfisher-class' which opened fire on the submarine in position 36°50'N, 00°10'E. This was HMS Coltsfoot. The submarine was depth-charged and escaped by going down to 117 metres.
16 June 1942.
It had been intended that the minesweepers would be ahead of the convoy when approaching Malta but owning to mistakes the convoy arrived first. The result was that one of the two remaining merchant vessels, the Orari, the destroyer HMS Matchless, two escort destroyers HMS Badsworth, ORP Kujawiak and the minesweeper HMS Hebe hit mines. Fortunately damage was light except for ORP Kujawiak which unfortunately sank in three minutes.
After having taken on board ammunition at Malta, HMS Cairo, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne, HMS Middleton and HMS Blankney departed the island in the evening to return to Gibraltar.
Shortly after 0800 hours, the destroyer HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) joined the A/S screen of the disabled HMS Liverpool. Two more vessels came out from Gibraltar to join the A/S screen, these were the corvette HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) which joined around 0940 hours. At 1530 hours, the motor launch ML 458 joined.
17 June 1942.
As HMS Cairo and the two destroyers and two escort destroyers were skirting along the African coast they were shadowed from sunrise onward. They were however not attacked until midday, when they were passed the Galita bank. From then until 2030 hours that evening, German bombers pestered them continuously. The Germans came sometimes in flights of six, though generally in flights of two and three. Main target seems to have been HMS Ithuriel which had a tough time and sustained some minor damage due to leaks from near misses. During the attacks one enemy bomber was shot down by HMS Cairo.
At 2017 hours, they joined with Vice-Admiral Curteis with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis in position 37°30’N, 04°30’E. After leaving the convoy in the evening of the 14th, the Vice-Admiral had taken ‘Force W’ some 400 nautical miles to the west of Sardinia in order to avoid observation and attack while waiting for the return of ‘Force X’. His ships had however been shadowed on the 15th and was then attacked by two small groups of torpedo aircraft. Hurricanes from HMS Eagle forced them to drop their torpedoes from long range. They were also able to shoot down one of the attackers.
From the morning of the 16th to noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, cruised with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis near the rendez-vous position. HMS Malaya both aircraft carriers and the remaining destroyers had been sent to Gibraltar around 0800/16. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1030/17.
Around noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, with his two cruisers proceeded eastwards to meet up with A/Capt. Hardy’s force after which they proceeded in company to Gibraltar where they arrived in the early evening of the 18th.
HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th. (4)
26 Aug 1942
Around 0600/26, HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), departed Scapa Flow for Greenock. She was escorted by HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN).
They arrived in the Clyde around 1000/27. (5)
30 Oct 1942
' Force H ' departed Scapa Flow to participate in the landings in North Africa (Operation Torch). This force was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Argonaut (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN) and HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN).
Around 1000/31, they made rendezvous with the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and their escort of the destroyers HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). These ships had departed the Clyde around 2300/30.
At 1600/2 the destroyers HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN), HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to make rendezvous with ' Force H '. They joined around 0730/4 after which HMS Argonaut, HMS Milne, HMS Martin, HMS Meteor, HMS Quality, HMS Quentin, HMAS Quiberon, HMS Pathfinder, HMS Partridge, HMS Ashanti, HMS Eskimo and HMS Tartar, parted company to proceed to Gibraltar to fuel. These ships arrived at Gibraltar around 1430/5. Of the original screen only HMS Porcupine remained with ' Force H ' at this moment.
Around 1730/4, the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) joined.
Around 0830/5, the destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Capt. W. Harmsen, RNN) joined from convoy KMF 1.
Around 1740/5, HMS Duke of York and HMS Renown parted company to fuel in the Bay of Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Panther, HMS Penn, HMS Opportune, HMS Lookout, HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog. The remaining ships remained to the west of the Straits of Gibraltar.
Around 2200/5, the remaining ships; HMS Nelson, HMS Victorious, HMS Formidable, HMS Bermuda, HMS Porcupine, HMS Boadicea, HMS Brilliant, HrMs Isaac Sweers, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge set course to the west to the Straits of Gibraltar.
On passing the Straits, HMS Nelson escorted by HMS Porcupine and HrMs Isaac Sweers parted company around 0420/6 and proceeded to Gibraltar. They passed through the gate around one hour later.
6 Nov 1942
On 6 November 1942, ' Force H ' was (re)assambled at sea to the east of Gibraltar to provide cover during the landings in North-Africa.
Around 0430/6, the aircraft carriers HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN), destroyers HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Poe, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN), HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) and HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) entered the Mediterranean.
They were then joined by ships coming from Gibraltar (Bay), these were the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. G.E. Creasy, DSO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Argonaut (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN), destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, DSO, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN), HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Opportune (Cdr. J. Lee-Barber, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, DSO, RN), HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN).
HMS Boadicea, HMS Brilliant, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge were then detached to Gibraltar where they arrived around 0615/6.
Around 0900/6, the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) joined.
The orders for ' Force H ' were to support the Eastern (Algiers) and Centre Task Forces (Oran) and their follow-up convoys (TE and TF) agains seaborne attack by Vichy-French or Italian Mediterranean Fleets. ' Force H ' was not to proceed eastwards of 04°30'E except to engage the enemy. Unless strong enemy forces were reported to be at sea, HMS Rodney, escorted by HMS Beagle, HMS Boreas, HMS Bulldog were to join the Centre Task Force at 0600/8. HMS Bermuda might also be detached but to join the Eastern Task Force. ' Force H ' was to refuel from ' Force R ' at sea if necessary, but if the military situation permitted, it would withdraw to the westward to refuel, possibly at Oran about 13 November, in immediate readiness for further operations. Force R ' was made up of the RFA tankders Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, master R.T. Duthie) and Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph). Escort was provided by the corvette HMS Coreopsis (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Davies, RNVR) and four A/S trawlers, HMS Arctic Ranger (Skr. J.F. Banks, RNR), HMS Imperialist (T/Lt. A.R.F. Pelling, RNR), HMS Loch Oskaig (T/Lt. G.T.S. Clampitt, RNR) and HMS St. Nectan (Lt. J.B. Osborne, RANVR).
Around 1730/7, ' Force H ' was attacked by enemy aircraft in position 37°46'N, 02°52'E. HMS Panther was near missed and sustained damage. She had to return to Gibraltar, first steaming only 6 knots but later this could be increased to 14 knots. En-route she sighted an enemy submarine in position 37°46'N, 02°12'E and forced it to dive. This was U-458 which fired two torpedoes but apparently these were not sighted by the British. HMS Panther arrived at Gibraltar in the afternoon of November 8th.
At 1810/7, HMS Rodney, HMS Beagle, HMS Boreas and HMS Bulldog parted company with ' Force H ' to join the Centre Task Force. HMS Bermuda appeared to also have parted company around this time.
' Force H ' and the fuelling force, ' Force R ', cruised in the area of Algiers until 1830/8 when ' Force H ' turned north. It turned back at midnight when in position 39°00'N, 02°29'E and patrolled off Algiers again during the 9th. During the night of 9/10 November it steamed eastwards at 60 miles from the North-African coast, turning back 30 miles to the east of Bougie at midnight.
Shortly before 0300/10 (0252/10 according to German sources and 0258/10 according to British sources) the destroyer HMS Martin was torpedoed and sunk in position 37°53'N, 03°57'E by the German submarine U-431. 161 officers and ratings lost their lives. 4 Officers and 59 ratings were picked up by HMS Quentin.
By noon on 10 November ' Force H ' was in position 37°08'N, 01°36'E, between Algiers and Tenez, with ' Force R ' close at hand. From then onwards ' Force H ' patrolled 60 miles from the coast between Algiers and Cape Tenez.
' Force H ' was joined around 0630/12 by HMS Rodney and her destroyer screen now made of of the escort destroyersHMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge.
Late in the evening of the 11th the destroyers HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Capt. W. Harmsen, RNN) departed Gibaltar to join ' Force H '. Before joining they fuelled from ' Force R ' in the evening of the 12th. They had been ordered to remain with ' Force R ' during the night to reinforce its escort and then join ' Force H ' after dawn on the 13th. However before the joined, HrMs Isaac Sweers was torpedoed and sunk by U-431, so only HMS Porcupine joined ' Force H ' early on the 13th.
At 0615/14 ' Force H ' split up to return to Gibraltar; HMS Duke of York, HMS Formidable, HMS Bermuda, HMS Argonaut, HMS Sirius, HMS Eskimo, HMS Ashanti, HMS Tartar, HMS Opportune, HMS Partridge, HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and HMS Porcupine arrived at Gibraltar around 0130/15.
HMS Rodney, HMS Renown, HMS Victorious, HMS Milne, HMS Meteor, HMS Quality, HMS Quentin, HMS Quiberon, HMS Lookout, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale and HMS Puckeridge formed the other group. They were joined at 0630/15 by HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, RN) and HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN). They returned to Gibraltar around 1800/15 but HMS Rodney was not able to berth and had to steam up and down in Gibraltar Bay until late in the evening when she anchorded there. The destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn, HMS Opportune and HMS Tartar were sent out to patrol to the seaward of the Bay.
24 Nov 1942
Around 1700/24, ' Force H ' made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), destroyers HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN) and the escort destroyer HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) sailed from Gibraltar for Mers-el-Kebir.
Weather conditions were unfavourable to enter the harbour and ' Force H ' had to remain at sea as it was not possible to enter the harbour without rist of damage to the bigger ships.
By 1345/25 weather had improved considerably and HMS Formidable was detached to Mers-el-Kebir with two of the desroyers.
At 1440/25, HMS Furious was detached to Mers-el-Kebir, also taking two destroyers with her.
At 1500/25, HMS Lookout and HMS Partridge were detached with orders to make rendezvous with the light cruisers HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, RN) and HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN).
The remainder of ' Force H ' arrived at Mers-el-Kebir around 1700/25. (7)
26 Nov 1942
The Allied intelligence services had decrypted German signals stating that the French Fleet was going to be seized by German forces. The Allies were unsure of what the Vichy-French reaction would and were afraid the Vichy-French fleet would be captured intact by the Germans. In response ' Force H ' was ordered to sea as a precaution. However when the Germans moved against the Vichy-French fleet at Toulon in the early hours of the 27th the Vichy-French scuttled almost all their ships that were present at Toulon.
Around 1600/26, ' Force H ' made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) departed Mers-el-Kebir to patrol south of the Balearics / north of Algiers.
[Very little information is found on this sailing and the names of the destroyers present are unknown to us for the moment but these appeared to have been the following:]HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN) and the escort destroyer HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN).
They were joined at sea at 1700/27 by the light cruisers HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, RN) and HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the destroyer HMS Boreas (Lt.Cdr. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) that had sailed from Algiers at 1300/27.
4 Dec 1942
' Force H ', made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN), HMS Formidable (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN), destroyers HMS Milne (Capt. I.M.R. Campbell, RN), HMS Meteor (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN), HMS Porcupine (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), HMS Quality (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, DSO, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN) sailed from Mers-el-Kebir and proceeded to the north-east for a patrol during the night of 4/5 December and then to proceed to Gibraltar.
On departure from Mers-el-Kebir they were joined at sea around 0945/4 by the destroyer HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. H.W.S. Browning, OBE, RN) which came from Algiers having sailed from there around 2000/3.
They arrived at Gibraltar around 1130/6.
- ADM 199/662
- ADM 53/116215
- ADM 173/17400
- ADM 234/353
- ADM 53/116526
- ADM 173/17485
- ADM 199/904
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.
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