Allied Warships

HMS St. Day (W 55)

Rescue Tug of the Saint class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeRescue Tug
ClassSaint 
PennantW 55 
Built byTaikoo Dockyard and Engineering Co. (Hongkong) 
Ordered 
Laid down 
Launched20 Nov 1918 
Commissioned14 May 1919 
End service 
History

 

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Notable events involving St. Day include:


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 0700A/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.

Around 0930A/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 1800A/5, 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. (1)

10 Nov 1941

Operation Perpetual and the sinking of HMS Ark Royal

Transfer of Hurrican fighters (from aircraft carriers) and Blenheim bombers (from Gibraltar) to Malta.

10 November 1941.

At 0235 hours (zone -1) on 10 November 1941, Force H departed Gibraltar for operation Perpetual. Force H was made up of the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. C. Coppinger, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, CBE, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN). They were escorted by seven destroyers; HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN).

At 0800 hours, HMS Argus flew off one aircraft for A/S patrol and a Catalina aircraft joined from Gibraltar at 0930 hours. The force passed to the north of Alboran Island. A French merchant vessel was sighted ahead at 1526 hours. She was north bound. During the afternoon AA firing exercises were carried out.

11 November 1941.

Force H continued to the eastward during the night. As the takeoff of the Blenheim bombers from Gibraltar was delayed due to unsuitable weather conditions it was decided that Force H would withdraw to the westward for a while, with the dual object of increasing the distance to the enemy air bases in Sardinia and to give the impression to possible enemy shadowers that the fly off of the Hurricanes had already taken place, and that Force H was already retiring.

At 0935 two aircraft were reported by RDF to the southward. Later the echo faded, but they were sighted flying very low over the Algerian coast. They were too far to be identified and were thought to be possibly French. However a report timed 0935 by an Italian reconnaissance aircraft was intercrypted shortly afterward and it became clear that the two aircraft were in fact Italian.

As hurricanes were range on Ark Royal’s flight deck, making it impossible for her to operate her own fighters. Argus had two Sea Hurricanes ranged, but the enemy aircraft disappeared before these could be launched.

Between 1835 and 1910 hours Vice-Admiral Somerville had a message transmitted that unless the Hurricanes could be flown off the following morning he intended to return to Gibraltar, as he did not consider it desirable to remain in this area without A/S air and fighter patrols.

At 2130 hours, Force H turned to the eastward again towards the flying off position.

12 November 1941.

Shortly after midnight a signal was received that it was intended that the carriers could launch their Hurricanes for Malta at 1000 hours.

At 0743 hours a signal was received that the firt group of Blenheim bombers was airborn at that they would be near the takeoff position of the Hurricanes shortly after 1000 hours.

Between this time and the completion of flying off of all the land Hurricanes, no fighters were available for the interception of enemy aircraft.

Two aircraft, presumed hostile, were detected by RDF to the north-eastward at 0907 hours, but they were not sighted. Later a report from an Italian reconnaissance aircraft time 0907 hours was intercripted, and this no doubt originated from one of these two aircraft.

At 1004 hours four Blenheim bombers were sighted and by 1021 hours 13 Hurricanes had been launched by Ark Royal and 6 by Argus. One of the Hurricanes that was to be launched from Ark Royal had troubles with the engine and was, after repairs, included in the second batch that was to be launched.

At 1048 hours, two more Blenheims were sighted, and within five minutes Ark Royal had flown off the first of the Hurricanes for her second batch. By 1112 hours all Hurricanes had been launched by the carriers and they made off with the Blenheims for Malta.

By 1130 hours all ships were back in position after the flying off operations and course was set to the west. From Ark Royal one Swordfish was flown off for A/S duties and four Fulmars for fighter patrol. These patrols were maintained until dusk.

At 1425 hours HMS Ark Royal reported an aircraft in sight low down to the southward. The four Fulmar fighters were vectored but a section of two Fulmars only sighted the enemy until on the return trip from the chase. One of the Fulmars was able to fire one good burst of gunfire from 300 yards before the enemy aircraft escaped into the clouds. Both wings of this Fulmar were damaged by enemy gunfire. Two sighting reports from this aircraft were intercepted.

Between 1500 and 1515 hours RDF reported that enemy aircraft were shadowing the fleet but by now weather had deteriorated and there was much low rain cloud. Although fighters were vectored no interceptions were made.

At 1625 hours hours Malta reported the arrival of 34 Hurricanes and 7 Blenheims. One Blenheim had returned to Gibraltar with engine trouble. Also a report on U-boat sightings in the Western Mediterranean was received.

Late in the evening speed had to be reduced in the bad weather to avoid weather damage to the escorting destroyers.

13 November 1941

At 0140 hours, weather had improved at bit and speed was increased by one knot to 17 knots but by 0500 hous weather had worsened even further then earlier and speed was reduced to 15 knots. This was only temporary though and at 0630 hours speed was increased to 17 knots and by 0800 hours (daylight) even to 19 knots.

An underwater explosion was observed by HMS Legion in her wake at 0413 hours. This was also heard be several of the other ships. Legion at that time was the starboard wing destroyer. This was thought to be a torpedo exploding at the end of its run.

This might well be correct as according to German sources the German submarine U-205, at 0506 hours (Berlin time), made a torpedo attack on a force of enemy warships but no hits were obtained.

At 0645 hours, Ark Royal flew of an AS patrol of six Swordfish for a dawn A/S patrol. They sighted nothing. They returned at 0850 hours. More A/S patrol were maintained throughout the day.

At 0817 hours a report was received that submarine were to be expected to be in the area. Course was now altered to approach Gibraltar directly from the east and not as was usually the case along the Spanish or Maroccan coast.

Later in the morning HMS Laforey and later HMS Lightning both reports A/S contacts and the fleet evaded these.

The fleet conducted exercises in the afternoon. HMS Laforey reported another A/S contact and the fleet once again made an emergency turn. The contact was however soon classified as ‘non sub’ and the main course was promptly resumed.

At 1541 hours, while in position 36°03’N, 04°40’W HMS Ark Royal was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side. Following this HMS Malaya immediately altered course to port and increased speed. HMS Legion and HMS Gurkha, the rear destroyers on the starboard wing at once turned outwards and started an A/S search to the north and east of the Ark Royal, the most probable area where the attacker must have been.

At this time HMS Ark Royal was still going ahead at considerable speed, listing to starboard and apparently under port wheel. A number of her aircraft were still circling overhead as she had been conducting aircraft operations when she was hit.

At 1549 hours, HMS Laforey and HMS Lightning were ordered to join HMS Ark Royal who appeared to be loosing speed. Signals were also made to require tugs to be sent out from Gibraltar and all available A/S craft to be sent out to patrol the area. HMS Hermione was ordered to stand by HMS Ark Royal The remaining three destroyers, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu and HrMs Isaac Sweers were ordered to screen HMS Malaya.

By 1610 hours, HMS Ark Royal was laying stopped and listing heavily to starboard but she reported she had steam on her port engine. HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning and HMS Gurkha had closed her and were circling Ark Royal. HMS Legion was alongside Ark Royal. HMS Hermione was still closing. HMS Malaya and her three escorting destroyers were about 5 miles off and proceeding to Gibraltar at 18 knots as was HMS Argus who was some distance astern of her but catching up on Malaya. At 1615 hours Argus flew off two Swordfish aircraft for A/S patrol.

At 1710 hours, when 8 nautical miles eastwards of Europa Point, HMS Malaya was passed by units coming out of Gibraltar to assist. These were the destroyer HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN), motor launches ML 121, ML 130, ML 132, ML 135, ML 170, ML 172, ML 176 and the tugs St. Omar and Thames. Shortly before the tug St. Day had also been sighted proceeding eastwards. Besides these ships the destroyer HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, RN) had also been ordered to proceed to the east.

HMS Malaya and HMS Argus entered harbour around 1820 hours and before she was berthed Vice-Admiral Somerville had transferred to HMS Sikh and went out again to proceed to HMS Ark Royal. Shortly before Sikh left the harbour the destroyer HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN) had also left the harbour to assist. Sikh, Zulu, Isaac Sweers and Wishart joined the patrol near Ark Royal for the night.

At 1900 hours, three corvettes departed Gibaltar to assist. These were; HMS Rhododendron (Lt. H.I. Davis, RNVR), HMS Marigold (T/Lt. J. Renwick, RNR), HMS Pentstemon (Lt.Cdr. J. Byron, RNR). This last corvette had a large 6” portable pump on board

The trawlers HMS St. Nectan (T/Lt.Cdr. H.B. Phillips, RNR) and HMS Lady Shirley (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Callaway, RANVR) had also been sailed around 1715 hours to patrol the area. They had not been very near to Ark Royal during the coming night.

Around 2040 hours the situation was as follows. Ark Royal was being towed by Thames and St. Day. The tow was proceeding at 2 knots. It was hoped that Ark Royal was able to raise steam shortly.

At 2224 hours, the Capt. (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla on board Laforey reported that Ark Royal had her own steam and power and that flooding was apparently under contral and that no more tugs would be required until off the harbour. Shortly afterwards Vice-Admiral Somerville therefore ordered the three corvettes to establish A/S patrol astern of the Ark Royal and to close her only by daylight.

At 2355 hours, HMS Legion arrived at Gibraltar packed with crew of HMS Ark Royal which were not needed in the rescue effort. After landing these she proceeded back to sea.

14 November 1941

At 0221 hours, the Capt. (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla reported that Ark Royal had lost steam (and power) and that a powerful pump would be required. Another signal at 0242 hours stated that another tug would be required. This indicated that the situation was deteriorating. Vice-Admiral Somerville therefore ordered HMS Sikh to close. HMS Pentstemon, the corvette with the portable pump on board, was also ordered to close. From Gibraltar the tug Rollicker was also sent out to assist.

On approaching HMS Laforey, which was alongside Ark Royal together with St. Day, signaled to Sikh that Vice-Admiral Somerville could better transfer to an ML which he did. At 0430 hours Vice-Admiral Somerville boarded Laforey to find she was on the point of casting off from HMS Ark Royal. Capt. Maund was also on board Laforey with the last of the steaming party. Ark Royal now had a list of 35° and was listing still further judging by the straining and parting of wires securing the ships alongside her. The situation was reported by signal to the Admiralty at 0446 hours.

After getting clear in HMS Laforey, Vice-Admiral Somerville, ordered St. Day to go ahead of Thames but at 0600 hours Thames reported that she had cast off the tow as Ark Royal was sinking. The carrier turned over at 0613 hours and remained bottom up for a few minutes after which she disappeared from sight. This was reported by signal to the Admiralty at 0623 hours.

Vice-Admiral Somerville then ordered the Capt. (D) 19th Destroyer Flotilla to take all destroyers in the area under his command and to commence an A/S sweep to the eastward. He was instructed to return to Gibraltar by dark. In the end HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Gurkha, HMS Legion and HMS Zulu returned to Gibraltar at 1535/14 followed about 15 minutes later by HMS Wild Swan.

Vice-Admiral Somerville himself returned to Gibraltar in HMS Sikh arriving at 0830 hours as did HrMs Isaac Sweers at 0900 hours. (2)

22 Oct 1942

Convoys KMS 1, KMF 1 for the landings at Algiers and Oran during Operation Torch.

Convoy KMS 1.

This convoy was assembled off Oversay on 23 October 1942.

It was made up of the following transports; Alcinous (Dutch, 6189 GRT, built 1925), Alphard (British, 5483 GRT, built 1937), Ardeola (British, 2609 GRT, built 1912), Benalbanach (British, 7153 GRT, built 1940), Charles H. Cramp (American, 6220 GRT, built 1920), Chattanooga City (American, 5687 GRT, built 1921), City of Worcester (British, 5469 GRT, built 1927), Clan MacTaggart (British, 7622 GRT, built 1920), Delilian (British, 6423 GRT, built 1923), Edward Ruthledge (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Empire Confidence (British, 5023 GRT, built 1925), Empire Mordred (British, 7024 GRT, built 1942), Fort McLoughlin (British, 7129 GRT, built 1942), Glenfinlas (British, 7479 GRT, built 1917), Havildar (British, 5401 GRT, built 1940), Hopecrown (British, 5180 GRT, built 1937), Jean Jadot (Belgian, 5859 GRT, built 1929), Lalande (British, 7453 GRT, built 1920), Lochmonar (British, 9412 GRT, built 1924), Lycaon (British, 7350 GRT, built 1913), Macharda (British, 7998 GRT, built 1938), Manchester Port (British, 7071 GRT, built 1935), Mark Twain (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Maron (British, 6487 GRT, built 1930), Mary Slessor (British, 5027 GRT, built 1930), Ocean Rider (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Viceroy (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Volga (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Wanderer (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Pacific Exporter (British, 6734 GRT, built 1928), Recorder (British, 5981 GRT, built 1930), Salacia (British, 5495 GRT, built 1937), Sobo (British, 5353 GRT, built 1937), St. Essylt (British, 5634 GRT, built 1941), Stanhill (British, 5969 GRT, built 1942), Tadorna (British, 1947 GRT, built 1928), Theseus (British, 6527 GRT, built 1908), Tiba (Dutch, 5239 GRT, built 1942), Urlana (British, 6852 GRT, built 1941), Walt Whitman (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), William M. Floyd (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), William M. Wirt (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942) and Zebulon B. Vance (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942).

Also part of the convoy were the landing ships Derwentdale (8390 GRT, built 1941), Dewdale (8265 GRT, built 1941) and Ennerdale (8280 GRT, built 1941).

On assembly the convoy was escorted by the escort carrier HMS Avenger (Cdr. A.P. Colthurst, RN), AA ship HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(Retd.) H.F. Nash, RN), destroyer HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN), sloops HMS Deptford (Lt.Cdr. H.R. White, RN), HMS Stork (Cdr. G.N. Brewer, RN), corvettes HMS Convolvulus (A/Lt.Cdr. R.F.R. Yarde-Buller, RNVR), HMS Gardenia (T/Lt. M.M. Firth, RNVR), HMS Marigold (Lt. J.A.S. Halcrow, RD, RNR), HMS Pentstemon (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J. Byron, DSC, RNR), HMS Rhododendron (Lt.Cdr. L.A. Sayers, RNR), HMS Samphire (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Renny, DSC, RNR), HMS Vetch (T/A/Lt.Cdr. H.J. Beverley, DSO, DSC, RNR), HMS Violet (Lt. C.N. Stewart, RNR) and the minesweepers HMS Acute (Lt.Cdr. D. Lampen, DSO, RN), HMS Alarm (T/Lt.Cdr. R. Patterson, SANF(V)), HMS Albacore (Lt.Cdr. J.D.L. Williams, RN) and HMS Cadmus (Lt.Cdr. J.B.G. Temple, DSC, RN).

Around 1000A/4, the convoy was split up into two sections KMS A1 and KMS O1. KMS A1 was destined for Algiers and KMS O1 was destined for Oran. KMS O1 then proceeded to the westwards so as to pass the Straits of Gibraltar later.

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Convoy KMS A 1.

Convoy KMS A 1 was to pass the Strait of Gibraltar around 2345A/5; it was made up of the transports; City of Worcester, Glenfinlas, Jean Jadot, Lalande, Lochmonar, Macharda, Manchester Port, Maron, Ocean Rider, Ocean Viceroy, Ocean Volga, Ocean Wanderer, Sobo, Stanhill, Tiba and Urlana.

The landing ships Dewdale and Ennerdale were also part of the convoy.

The convoy was escorted by the sloop HMS Stork, corvettes HMS Convolvulus, HMS Marigold, HMS Pentstemon, HMS Samphire [this corvette might have already parted company though, see below] and the minesweepers HMS Acute, HMS Alarm, HMS Albacore and HMS Cadmus.

Around 0700A/5, the corvette HMS Samphire arrived at Gibraltar with defects from convoy KMS A1.

Around 0800A/5, the minesweepers HMS Algerine (Lt.Cdr. W.A. Cooke, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Speedwell (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Williams, RNR) departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMS A1.

Around 1830A/5, the M/S trawlers HMS Cava (T/Lt. R.L. Petty-Major, RNVR), HMS Juliet (Lt. L.B. Moffatt, RNR), HMS Othello (T/Lt. S.C. Dickinson, RNVR), HMS Stroma (Skr. J.S. Harper, RNR), HMS Hoy (T/Lt. G.H. McNair, MBE, RNVR), HMS Inchcolm (Skr. A.C. Whitcombe, RNR), HMS Mull (Lt. J. Plomer, RCNVR), HMS Rysa (T/Lt. J.H. Cooper, RNVR) and the motor launches ML 238, ML 273, ML 283, ML 295, ML 307, ML 336, ML 338, ML 444 departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMS A1.

Around 2230A/5, the monitor HMS Roberts (Capt. J.G.Y. Loveband, RN), escort destroyers HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, DSO, RN), HMS Cowdray (Lt.Cdr. C.W. North, RN), HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN) and the corvette HMS Samphire (with her repairs completed) departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMS A1.

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Convoy KMS O 1.

Convoy KMS O 1 was to pass the Strait of Gibraltar around 1630A/6; it was made up of the transports; Alcinous, Alphard, Benalbanach, Charles H. Cramp, Chattanooga City, Clan Mactaggart, Delinlian, Edward Rutledge, Empire Confidence, Empire Mordred, Havildar, Lycaon, Mark Twain, Mary Slessor, Pacific Exporter, Recorder, Salacia, St. Essylt, Thesues, Walt Whitman, William Floyd, William Wirt and Zebulon B. Vance.

The landing ship Derwentdale was also part of this convoy.

The convoy was escorted by the AA ship HMS Alynbank, sloop HMS Deptford, corvettes HMS Gardenia, HMS Rhododendron, HMS Vetch and HMS Violet.

Around 1500A/6, the minesweepers HMS Brixham (Lt. G.A. Simmers, RNR), HMS Bude (Lt. F.A.J. Andrew, RN), HMS Clacton (A/Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) L.S. Shaw, RNR) and HMS Felixstowe (T/Lt. C.G. Powney, RNVR) departed Gibraltar to join the convoy KMS O1.

After dark on the 6th, the M/S trawlers HMS Coriolanus (T/Lt. N. Hunt, RNVR), HMS Eday (T/Lt. W.Y. Surtees, RNR), HMS Inchmarnock (T/Lt. C.G.V. Corneby, RNR), HMS Kerrera (Skr. R.W. Slater, RNR) and the motor launches ML 280, ML 458, ML 463, ML 469, ML 471, ML 480, ML 483 and HDML 1127, HDML 1128 and HDML 1139 departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMS O1.

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Operation Crupper.

Two ships from Convoy KMS 1, the Ardeola and Tadorna formed part of Convoy KMS 1A after the convoy had split up. They were to proceed to Malta unescorted. The Admiralty had decided to make use of the expected confusion of the landings in North Africa to run two 'small' merchant ships with important cargo to Malta. These ships were considered expendable. They parted company with convoy KMS 1A on 8 November. They did not reach Malta however. When off Cape Bon on 9 November, they were taken under fire by Vichy French coastal batteries, despite the darkness, and then captured by motor torpedo boats. They were brought into Bizerta where their cargo was unloaded. The ships were later taken over by the Italians.

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Convoy KMF 1.

This convoy was assembled off Oversay on 26 October 1942.

It was made up of the following (troop) transports; Awatea (British, 13482 GRT, built 1936), Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936), Cathay (British, 15225 GRT, built 1925), Dempo (Dutch, 17024 GRT, built 1931), Derbyshire (British, 11660 GRT, built 1935), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Ettrick (British, 11279 GRT, built 1938), Exceller (American, 6597 GRT, built 1941), Leinster (British, 4302 GRT, built 1937) Letitia (British, 13595 GRT, built 1925), Llangibby Castle (British, 11951 GRT, built 1929), Marnix van St. Aldegonde (Dutch, 19355 GRT, built 1930), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Mooltan (British, 20952 GRT, built 1923), Nieuw Zeeland (British, 11069 GRT, built 1928), Orbita (British, 15495 GRT, built 1915), Otranto (British, 20026 GRT, built 1925), Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931), Sobieski (British, 11030 GRT, built 1939), Strathnaver (British, 22283 GRT, built 1931), Tegelberg (British, 1415 GRT, built 1937), Viceroy of India (British, 19627 GRT, built 1929), Warwick Castle (British, 20107 GRT, built 1930) and Winchester Castle (British, 20012 GRT, built 1930).

The headquarters ships HMS Bulolo (Capt.(Retd.) R.L. Hamer, RN), HMS Largs (Cdr. E.A. Divers, RNR), the landing ships HMS Glengyle (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN), HMS Karanja (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) D.S. Hore-Lacy, RN), HMS Keren (A/Cdr. S.E. Crewe-Read, RN), HMS Princess Beatrix (Cdr.(Retd.) T.B. Brunton, DSC, RN), HMS Queen Emma (Capt.(Retd.) G.L.D. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Royal Scotsman (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Armstrong, DSC, RD, RNR), HMS Royal Ulsterman (A/Lt.Cdr. W.R.K. Clark, DSC, RD RNR) and HMS Ulster Monarch (Lt.Cdr. N.A.F. Kingscote, RNR) and the attack transports USS Almaack (T/Capt. C.L. Nichols, USN), USS Leedstown (Cdr. D. Cook, USNR), USS Samuel Chase (Capt. R.C. Heimer, USCG) and USS Thomas Stone (Capt. O.R. Bennehoff, USN) were also part of the convoy.

On assembly off Oversay on the 27th the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN), escort carrier HMS Biter (Capt. E.M.C. Abel Smith, RN), destroyer HMS Clare (Lt.Cdr. L.H. Landman, RN), sloops HMS Aberdeen (Lt.Cdr. H. Day, RN), HMS Enchantress (Lt.Cdr. A.E.T. Christie, OBE, RN), HMS Ibis (Lt.Cdr. H.M. Darell-Brown, RN), cutters HMS Hartland (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Billot, RNR), HMS Walney (Lt.Cdr. P.C. Meyrick, RN), frigates HMS Exe (A/Cdr. M.A.O. Biddulph, DSC, RN), HMS Rother (Lt.Cdr. R.V.E. Case, DSC and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Spey (Cdr. H.G. Boys-Smith, DSO and Bar, RD, RNR), HMS Swale (Lt.Cdr. J. Jackson, RNR) and HMS Tay (Lt.Cdr. R.E. Sherwood, RNR).

Around 1120A/2, the destroyers HrMs Isaac Sweers (Capt. W. Harmsen, RNN) and HMS Escapade (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN) joined coming from the Azores.

Around 0200A/3, the AA ships HMS Palomares (A/Capt.(Retd.) J.H. Jauncey, RN), HMS Pozarica (Capt.(Retd.) L.B. Hill, DSO, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Velox (Lt. G.B. Barstow, RN), HMS Verity, (Lt.Cdr. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN) departed Gibraltar to join the convoy. At 1045A/3, the destroyer HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN) also departed to join the convoy. She had been unable to depart earlier due to defects.

Around 0800A/3, the destroyer HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSO, DSC, RN) joined the convoy coming from the Azores.

Around 1300A/3, the light cruiser HMS Jamaica (Capt. J.L. Storey, RN) also departed Gibraltar to join the convoy.

Around 1830Z/3, HMS Sheffield parted company with the convoy to proceed to Gibraltar where she arrived at 0815A/3, she was to fuel and then join ' Force O '.

Around noon on 4 November 1942, the convoy was split up into two sections KMF A1 and KMF O1. KMF A1 was destined for Algiers and KMF O1 was destined for Oran. KMF O1 then proceeded to the westwards so as to pass the Straits of Gibraltar later.

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Convoy KMF A 1.

Convoy KMF A 1 was to pass the Strait of Gibraltar around 0100A/6; it was made up of the (troop) transports; Almaack, Awatea, Cathay, Dempo, Ettrick, Exceller, Leedstown, Marnix van St. Aldegonde, Otranto, Sobieski, Strathnaver, Viceroy of India and Winchester Castle.

The headquarters ship HMS Bulolo and the landing ships HMS Karanja, HMS Keren, HMS Royal Scotsman, HMS Royal Ulsterman and Ulster Monarch and the attack transports USS Samuel Chase and USS Thomas Stone were also part of the convoy.

[exactly which ships of the escort went on with this part of the convoy will have to be researched further.]

In the morning of 5 November, HrMs Isaac Sweers parted company with the convoy to join ' Force H '. HMS Escapade and HMS Marne were apparently detached to Gibraltar on the convoy passing the Strait of Gibraltar.

Also on 5 November, the corvettes HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR) and HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMF A1.

Around 0200A/6, the destroyers HMS Broke (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Vanoc ( A/Cdr. C.F.H. Churchill, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMF A1 and relieve HMS Achates, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon and HMS Wivern. After having been relieved these destroyers arrived at Gibraltar around 0545A/6. Also arriving at Gibraltar were the Leinster, HMS Royal Scotsman, HMS Royal Ulsterman and Ulster Monarch.

Around 1000A/6, HMS Broke, HMS Malcolm, HMS Vanoc and HMS Wrestler joined ' Force O ' while the screen on ' Force O ' joined the convoy, the destroyers / escort destroyers involved were ORP Blyskawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN), HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R. de L. Brooke, DSC, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, DSC, RN). The AA ship HMS Tynwald (Capt.(Retd.) P.G. Wodehouse, DSO, RN) also joined the convoy from ' Force O ' at the same time.

Around 0535A/7, in position 37°34'N, 00°01'W, the attack transport USS Thomas Stone was torpedoed and damaged by an enemy aircraft. HMS Spey remained with the damaged ship. At 2040A/7, the destroyers HMS Wishart and HMS Velox joined and the ship was taken in tow by HMS Wishart. HMS Spey by that time had departed with the ships 24 landing craft in which the ships troops had embarked. She was to escort them to Algiers but all had to be scuttled and the troops were taken on board HMS Spey. At 0535A/8 the tug St. Day joined which also passed a tow. The damaged ship anchored off Algiers around 1030A/11 being towed there by HMS Wishart and HMS St. Day.

Around 0725Z/7, HMS Clare parted company to join ' Force O ' which she did around 0913Z/7.

Around 1815A/7, the section destined for ' C Sector ' (Charlie Sector) parted company with the convoy. It was made up of the USS Almaack, USS Leedstown, USS Samuel Chase, Exceller and Dempo. With them were also transports from convoy KMS A1. They were escorted by the AA ship HMS Tynwald, escort destroyers HMS Cowdray, HMS Zetland, sloop HMS Enchantress, minesweepers HMS Algerine, HMS Hussar, HMS Speedwell, corvettes HMS Pentstemon, HMS Samphire, MS trawlers HMS Cava, HMS Othello and the motor launches HMS ML 273 and HMS ML 295. At 2135A/7, the beacon submarine HMS P 45 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) made contact with the force and the ships were guided to their positions for the landings. From convoy KMS A1 the transports Macharda and Maron were destined for Charlie sector. They were escorted by the sloop HMS Stork and the corvettes HMS Pentstemon and HMS Samphire.

Around 1900A/7, The remainder of convoy KMF A1 split into two sections, one for ' A Sector ' (Apple Sector) and one for ' B Sector ' (Beer Sector).

The force for ' A Sector ' was made up of HMS Karanja and the Marnix van St. Aldegonde and Viceroy of India. With them were also transports from convoy KMS A1. They were escorted by the AA ship HMS Pozarica, escort destroyers HMS Bicester, HMS Bramham, frigate HMS Rother, minesweeper HMS Cadmus, MS trawlers HMS Juliet, HMS Rysa, HMS Stroma and the motor launches HMS ML 283, HMS ML 336 and HMS ML 338. At 2214A/7, the made contact with their beacon submarine HMS P 221 (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSC, RN). A few minutes later they stopped and the landings commenced. From convoy KMS A1 the following ships were assigned to ' A Sector '; Dewdale, Lalande, Manchester Port, Ocean Viceroy and Ocean Wanderer. They were escorted by the corvettes HMS Convolvulus and HMS Marigold.

The force for ' B Sector ' was made up of HMS Bulolo, HMS Keren and the Awatea, Cathay, Otranto, Sobieski, Strathnaver and Winchester Castle. With them were also transports from convoy KMS A1. They were escorted by the AA ship HMS Palomeres, destroyer ORP Blyskawica, escort destroyers HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland, HMS Wilton, minesweepers HMS Acute, HMS Alarm, HMS Albacore, MS trawlers HMS Hoy, HMS Incholm, HMS Mull and the motor launches HMS ML 238, HMS ML 307 and HMS ML 444. They made contact with their beacon submarine HMS P 48 (Lt. M.E. Faber, RN) around 2220A/7 hours and landing operation commenced shortly afterwards. From convoy KMS A1 the following ships were assigned to ' A Sector '; City of Worcester, Ennerdale, Glenfinlas, Jean Jadot, Lochmonar, Ocean Rider, Ocean Volga, Sobo, Stanhill, Tiba and Urlana. They were escorted by the sloop HMS Stork and the corvettes HMS Pentstemon and HMS Samphire which then went on with the ships for the ' Charlie sector '.

On 9 November the ships involved in the landings anchored in Algiers Bay.

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Convoy KMF O 1.

Convoy KMF O 1 was to pass the Strait of Gibraltar around 2230A/6; it was made up of the (troop) transports; Batory, Duchess of Bedford, Durban Castle, Letitia, Llangibby Castle, Monarch of Bermuda, Mooltan, Nieuw Zeeland, Orbita, Reina del Pacifico, Tegelberg and Warwick Castle.

The headquarters ship HMS Largs and the landing ships HMS Glengyle, HMS Princess Beatrix and HMS Queen Emma were also part of the convoy.

Around 1950A/4, the light cruiser HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, CB, RN) departed Gibraltar to join convoy KMF O1.

For the landings at Oran three main beaches were selected. ' X ', ' Y ' and ' Z ' beach. There was also one subsidiary beach, ' R '.

The fast convoy, KMF O1, would, after passing through the Straits of Gibraltar make rendezvous with the slow convoy, KMS O1 in position 36°26'N, 01°15'W.

The convoys would then be diverted into nine groups, these were;
For ' X ' beach
Group I, 1st Division; Batory, HMS Princess Beatrix, Queen Emma, 2nd Division; Benalbenach, Mark Twain, Mary Slessor and Walt Whitman. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Aurora, destroyer HMS Wivern, corvettes HMS Gardenia, HMS Vetch and the motor launch HMS HDML 1139.
Group VIII, LST HMS Bachaquero (A/Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) A.W. McMullan, RNR) escorted by the M/S trawler HMS Horatio (T/Lt. C.A. Lemkey, RNR).

For ' Y ' beach
Group II; HMS Glengyle, Monarch of Bermuda, Llangibby Castle, Clan Mactaggart and Salacia. They were escorted by the destroyers Brilliant, HMS Verity, M/S trawlers HMS Coriolanus, HMS Eday, HMS Inchmarnock, HMS Kerrera and the motor launches HMS ML 458, HMS ML 463, HMS ML 469, HMS ML 471 and HMS HDML 1128.

For ' Z ' beach
Group III, 1st Division; Duchess of Bedford, Durban Castle, Ettrick, Warwick Castle. 2nd Division; Derwentdale, Reina del Pacifico and Tegelberg. They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Jamaica, escort destroyers HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN), HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN), minesweepers HMS Brixham, HMS Bude, HMS Clacton, HMS Felixtowe, HMS Polruan (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.S. Landers, RNR), HMS Rothesay (Cdr. A.A. Martin, DSC, RD, RNR), HMS Rhyl (Cdr. L.J.S. Ede, DSO, RN), HMS Stornoway (T/A/Lt.Cdr. C.R. Fraser, RNR) and the motor launches HMS ML 280, HMS HDML 1127.

Group V; Alcinous, Alphard, Charles H. Cramp, Chatanooga City, Delilian, Recorder and Zebulon B. Vance. They were escorted by the sloop HMS Deptford, cutters HMS Hartland, HMS Walney, corvettes HMS Rhododendron, HMS Violet and the motor launches HMS ML 480 and HMS ML 483.

Group VI, 1st division; Derbyshire, Letitia, Mooltan and Nieuw Zeeland. 2nd division, Empire Confidence, Lycaon and Theseus.

Group VII, 1st division, Empire Mordred, Havildar, Pacific Exporter and St. Essylt. 2nd division; Edward Rutledge, William Floyd and William Wirt. Groups VI and VII were escorted by the light (AA) cruiser HMS Delhi (Capt. A.T.G.C. Peachey, RN), destroyer HMS Vansittart, sloop HMS Aberdeen and the frigates HMS Exe and HMS Swale.

Group IX; LST's HMS Misoa (T/Lt. K.G. Graham, RNR) and HMS Tasajera (Lt.Cdr. W.E. Gelling, DSC, RD, RNR). They were escorted by the M/S trawlers HMS Fluellen (T/Lt. B.J. Hampson, RNR), HMS Ronaldsay (T/Lt. A. Stirling, RNR) and HMS Shiant (T/Lt. A.C. Elton, RNR).

For ' R ' beach
Group IV; HMS Royal Scotsman, HMS Royal Ulsterman and HMS Ulster Monarch. They had the same escort as Group III.

Two submarines were stationed off the beaches as beacons, these were HMS Ursula (Lt. R.B. Lakin, DSC, RN) and HMS P 54 (Lt. C.E. Oxborrow, DSC, RN).

Sources

  1. ADM 199/414 + ADM 199/656
  2. ADM 199/657

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


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