Sir Rhoderick Robert McGrigor DSO, RN

Born  12 Apr 1893York, England
Died  3 Dec 1959(66)Aberdeen, Scotland


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Ranks

15 Sep 1910 Mid.
15 Jan 1913 A/S.Lt.
15 Sep 1913 S.Lt.
15 Oct 1914 Lt.
15 Oct 1922 Lt.Cdr.
31 Dec 1927 Cdr.
31 Dec 1933 Capt.
8 Jul 1941 Rear Admiral
15 Apr 1945 Vice-Admiral
2 Sep 1948 Admiral
1 May 1953 Admiral of the fleet

Decorations

21 Dec 1943 DSO
1 Jan 1944 CB
30 Jan 1945 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
14 Jun 1945 KCB
1 Jan 1951 GCB

Warship Commands listed for Rhoderick Robert McGrigor, RN


ShipRankTypeFromTo
HMS Renown (72)Capt.Battlecruiser23 Jan 194126 Aug 1941

Career information

We currently have no career / biographical information on this officer.

Events related to this officer

Battlecruiser HMS Renown (72)


6 Feb 1941

Operation Grog.

Bombardment of Genoa.

6 February 1941.

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

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

Group 2 was made up of the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Foxhound (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN) and HMS Jersey (Lt.Cdr. A.F. Burnell-Nugent, DSC, RN).

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

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

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

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

7 February 1941.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 February 1941.

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

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

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

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

9 February 1941.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 February 1941.

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

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

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

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

11 February 1941.

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

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

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

'Force H' entered the harbour between 1430 and 1615 hours. (1)

25 Feb 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) and aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN) returned to Gibratar at 0945/25. They had been joined at sea at 0935/24 by the destroyers HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) which escorted them in. (2)

6 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 0830/6, HMS Renown (Capt R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) proceeded to sea for exercises off Gibraltar.

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

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

More exercises followed on the morning of the 7th.

At ships returned to Gibraltar at 1315/7. (3)

8 Mar 1941

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

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

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

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

Course was altered to 230° at 1900/9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HMS Renown arrived at Gibraltar around 0700/24. HMS Ark Royal escorted by HMS Fearless, HMS Forester, HMS Velox and HMS Wrestler entered the harbour around 0945/24 first having replacement aircraft being flown on from North Front. (3)

24 Mar 1941
At 2230/24, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) departed Gibraltar for a patrol off the Bay of Biscay. The whereabouts of the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were still not known although it was suspected that had arrived in Brest.

A course of 285° was maintained until 1930/25 when an alteration was made to the north-west. A/S patrol was maintained throughout the day. In the afternoon some flying exercises were carried out. At 2120/25 HMS Foresight and HMS Fortune parted company. In the evening flying exercises with dropping flares were carried out.

Durnig the night of 25/26 March a signal from the Admiralty was received. This stated that it was not considered shore-based air reconnaissance could be relied upon to detect the departure of the enemy in time. Submarine patrols were being established and it was hoped that this information would be received from that source. It was therefore considered desirble that ' Force H ' should operate generally in the vicinity of the convoy routes between the latitudes of Ushant and Lisbon, outside the area of enemy shore-based air reconnaissance.

Around 1000/26, HMS Forester was detached to Gibraltar after first having collected mail from HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal. Course was to the west to close the convoy routes as soon as possible.

During the forenoon of the 26th an all round reconnaissance to a depth of 60 miles from position 38°58'N, 15°18'W sighted nothing.

Some exercises were carried out during the forenoon. Fog was encountered at noon but it cleared later. A reconnaissance was flown off at 1640/26 from position 39°35'N, 17°12'W to search to a depth of 100 miles from south through north. Nothing was sighted.

In the late afternoon / early evening (dog watches) fighter training was carried out followed by shadowing and night flying exercises. The last aircraft landed on around 2100/26. At midnight course was altered to the north.

On 27 March flying was not possible throughout the day due to the weather conditions. ' Force H ' operated in the vicinity of 42°00'N, 19°40'W. At 2000/27 course was set to 170° for the night. This was to run parallel to convoy OG 36.

Information was receinved during the day that a reliable source had stated that the enemy battlecruisers had entered Brest.

At 0200/28 an enemy unit was reported by D/F about 350 miles to the northward of Renown and Ark Royal but in view of the improbability of being able to operate aircraft Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to remain to the southward in the vicinity of the convoys.

Daylight on the 28th brought moderate but deteriorating visibility, and an A/S patrol only was flown off. The visibility soon became very bad with rain and squalls and by noon the A/S patrol was withdrawn.

Instructions were received that ' Force ' was going to be relieved p.m. on 30th March.

At 1800/28 course was altered to 090° to keep clear of the convoy route, and at 2000/28 again altered to 010° to reach at dawn a more favourable position for the interception of the enemy battlecruisers should a report of their departure be received from the submarines patrolling the Bay of Biscay. Information was received at 2130/28 that the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had been located by air reconnaissance to be in Brest.

At 0700/29, course was altered to 050° towards Brest so as to reach a suitable position should any further information be received concerning the enemy battlecruisers. The A/S patrol was flown off, but low visibility precluded long distance reconnaissance.

Bu 1000/29, no news regarding the enemy had been received. Course was altered to 300° with a view to standing to the westward till dusk. The visibility improved but wind and sea conditions prevented flying off a reconnaissance. The A/S patrol also had to be abandoned.

During the day QQQQ (raider) signals were intercepted from three merchant vessels but these were all cancelled. These signals wre made from the vicinity of 44°N, 30°W, where our Ocean Boarding Vessels were known to be patrolling.

By 1500/29 speed was reduced to 12 knots on account of the sea conditions, but by nightfall conditions had improved and when course was altered to 085° at 2230/29 speed was increased to 18 knots.

At 0800/30 course was altered to 160° and speed was increased to 19.5 knots to make for the rendezvous with the destroyer screen in position 37°35'N, 14°28'W.

The usual A/S patrol was maintained and an a.m. and p.m. reconnaissance both sighted nothing. Also some flying exercises were carried out.

At 1345/30 information was received that the enemy battlecruisers were still at Brest.

At 0845/31, the destroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, RN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, RAN) and HMS Fortune joined in position 37°34'N, 14°28'W. Course was then shaped for Gibraltar at 24 knots.

The usual A/S patrol was maintained and during the day some flying exercises were carried out.

HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMAS Napier, HMAS Nizam and HMS Fortune arrived at Gibraltar at 0630/1. (1)

2 Apr 1941

Operation Winch.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

Around 0300/2, the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded eastwards. HMS Ark Royal had on board 12 Hurricane fighters for Malta.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At 0700/4, HMS Ark Royal with HMS Faulknor and HMS Fortune went ahead at full speed to Gibraltar. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1115/4. The other ships arrived half-an-hour later. (1)

4 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)

Operation Tender.

Swapping of aircraft between HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious.

At 1915/4, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded to the eastward at 18 knots until 2200/4 when course was reversed and speed increased to 20 knots.

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

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

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

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

' Force H ' entered harbour at 2230/5. As HMS Renown was securing, a massage from the Admiralty was received ordering ' Force H ' and HMS Fiji to raise steam. HMS Ark Royal was at this time entering harbour. Pending further instructions, ships were ordered to complete with fuel with all despatch. (1)

2 May 1941
On 30 April 1941 the trawler HMS Loch Oskaig (Lt.Cdr. S. Darling, RANVR) had intercepted and captured the French merchant vessel Cap Cantin (3317 GRT, built 1933) off Cape Espichel, Portugal (just south of Lisbon). The Cape Cantin was en route from German occupied Bayonne to Marseilles. It was decided that the ship was to be taken to Gibraltar for inspection. The French master of the ship first refused to comply and as the French ship had also sent out an SOS it was feared that Vichy-French would try to re-capture the ship it was decided that ships from ' Force H ' would be sent to prevent this.

So at 0430/2, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) escorted by HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)) , HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded to the westward at 18 knots.

At 0750/2, HMS Loch Oskaig was ordered to report her position, course and speed. At 0900/2 she replied that her position was 36°29'N, 07°54'W , course 090°, speed 8 knots.

HMS Renown altered course to close and the trawler and the Vichy-French ship were sighted at noon. HMS Foresight was then detached to take over from the trawler which was then ordered to resume her patrol and HMS Foresight escorted the Frenchman to Gibraltar being covered to the south by HMS Renown and her four remaining escorting destroyers.

After reconnaissance had sighted no Vichy-French warships in the area it was decided to recall ' Force H ' to Gibraltar.

' Force H ' returned to harbour at 1950/2. HMS Forester and Cap Cantin entered harbour at 0030/3. (4)

16 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Around 2000/16, HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar westwards for exercises.

They returned to Gibraltar between 1930 and 2045/17. (1)

5 Jun 1941

Operation Rocket.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

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

Around 1200/5, the remainder of ' Force H ', made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) also departed Gibraltar and proceeded eastwards where they were joined by HMS Sheffield. During the afternoon some exercises were carried out while on passage eastwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At 0730/7 an exercise was started with the shore defences at Gibraltar. ' Force H ' entered harbour at 0845/7. (5)

7 Jun 1941

At 2230/7, ' Force H ', made up of HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar to the westward to be clear of the harbour as Vichy-French reprisals (air attacks) were expected after the start of the Syrian campaign. The aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) was also with ' Force H '. Also rendezvous was to be made with the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN) coming from the UK.

A speed of 17 knots was maintained, with the object of economising fuel in the destroyers and of ensuring efficient Asdic operating.

HMS Victorious was ordered to remain outside the submarine danger area and to pass through position 37°05'N, 13°48'W, at 0700/9 steering 155° making good 16 knots.

Two outer and one inner A/S patrols were flown off at dawn on the 8th and maintained throughout the day. During the day a westerly wind enabled HMS Ark Royal to carry out deck landing training from inside the screen and full advantage was taken of this.

At 1800/8, when in position 35°10'N, 11°08'W, a signal was received from a Catalina that she had unsuccessfully attacked a submarine at 1615/8 in position 35°50'N, 13°00'W. Two relief A/S patrols were being ranged at tis time and these were flown off to search for and attack this submarine if she surfaced after the Catalina's attack. At 1845/8 the Catalina, who returned to base after the attack, signalled that the submarine dived in position 36°02'N, 11°50'W. This latter position was based on a fix obtained at 1800/8, presumably from the land and was some 60 miles further eastward then initially reported. The A/S striking force landed on at 1925 having sighted northing. The submarine attacked was the Italian Velella. The bombs were close but caused no damage.

At 2030/8, ' HMS Force H ' entered a patch of very low visibility which lased for about an hour. Course was altered to 330° at 2200/8 when in position 35°00'N, 12°21'W to make rendzvous with HMS Victorious at dawn.

Throughout the day HMS Sheffield kept RDF watch, and fighters were kept at short notice in both HMS Furious and HMS Ark Royal in case Vichy-French aircraft should take offensive action. No aircraft were seen or detected.

At 0600/9 HMS Ark Royal flew off two outer and one inner A/S patrol with instructions to locate HMS Victorious. At 0630/9 one of these aircraft reported HMS Victorious to the northward and course was altered to close. HMS Victorous, screened by HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Wild Swan (Lt.Cdr. C.E.L. Sclater, RN), HMS Wivern (Cdr. M.D.C. Meyrick, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) was sighted at 0650/9 and HMS Furious, HMS Sheffield and HMS Fury were detached to join her and form ' Group II '. The remaining ships of ' Force H ' formed ' Group I '.

HMS Victorious then transferred 5 Fulmars to HMS Ark Royal who flew off 6 Swordfish to ferry the Hurricane erecting personnel from HMS Furious to HMS Victorious.

HMS Wivern, who was short of fuel and had a leaking fuel tank was detached at 1030/9 to return to Gibraltar.

The transfer of 75 members of the Hurricane ercting party was completed by noon under somewhat unfavourable weather conditions. HMS Furious, escorted by HMS Sheffield, was detached to overtake and rendezvous with HMS Argus (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN) in position 47°00'N, 24°00'W, at 1200B/11. HMS Sheffield was ordered to part company from HMS Furious in latitude 45°N and patrol an area between that latitue and 44°N, and between longtitudes 23°W and 25°W, till dusk on the 14th with the object of intercepting enemy shipping. She was then to return to Gibraltar.

Around noon, HMS Vansittart, HMS Wild Swan and HMS Wrestler were detached to return to Gibraltar.

HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Victorious screened by the six 'F'-class destroyers, steered to the south-west at 16 knots, to keep clear of the submarine concentration to the eastward. At 1500/9, HMS Ark Royal flew off a reconnaissance of six aircraft from position 37°06'N, 15°06'W, to search from 130° through south to 310° to a depth of 80 miles to locate enemy shipping and submarines. These aircraft landed on at 1730/9 having sighted nothing.

At 0100/10, Admiralty's instructions were received that the next ferry trip of fighter aircraft to Malta was to be carried out as soon as possible. Course was therefore altered to 090° and speed increased to 20 knots and an hour later to 26 knots. Two out and one inner A/S patrols were flown off at dawn.

At 0750/10 one of the outer A/S patrols flying at 800 feet sighted a submarine breaking surface heading south-west about 1500 yards distant. The aircraft attacked and dropped a stick of 6 100lb. A/S bombs from a height of 150 feet. All bombs missed over and failed to explode, the low height being insufficient for aiming. The submarine was submerged by the time the bombs were released. This incident occurred in position 35°31'N, 14°12'W. On receipt of the W/T report from the aircraft the course of the Fleet was altered to clear. This was probably the Italian submarine Veniero which was operating in the area but did not report being attacked though although she did report sighting an aircraft at 0850/10 (Rome time) an also at 1050/10 (Rome time) during which he dived.

At 1000/10, information was received that ' Force H ' had been sighted at 0038 by an enemy submarine.

At 1610/10, four corvettes were sighted in position 35°50'N, 10°30'W, carrying out an A/S sweep in conjunction with five ML's who were working 30 miles to the southward.

' Force H ' arrived in Gibraltar Bay at 0330/11 and then entered harbour. (5)

13 Jun 1941

Operation Tracer.

Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.

' Force H ', comprising HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), sailed from Gibraltar at 1130/13, shaping course to the eastward on co course 075° at 21 knots. In the afternoon some exercises were carried out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An A/S patrol was flown off at 0530/15, being relieved by a Catalina from Gibraltar at 0800/15. Four Fulmars were flown off to land at North Front. On approaching the Roch a range and inclination exercises was carried out for the benfit of the shore defences. Before entering harbour at 1030/15 both carriers ranges all available aircraft on deck with the object of suggesting to enemy observeers that no aircraft had been flown off. (5)

15 Jun 1941
At 1800/15, ' Force H ' departed Gibraltar to the eastward. ' Force H ' was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN (Capt. D.8)), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN). The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, RN) and the destroyer HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) sailed with ' Force H '. These two ships were to return to the UK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HMS Renown enterned harbour at 0600/21 and HMS Ark Royal, screened by the five destroyers, proceeded to the eastward to carry out exercises. They entered harbour at 1000/21. (5)

8 Aug 1941
The battlecruiser HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN) and the troopship Pasteur (30447 GRT, built 1939) departed Gibraltar around 0130/8 for Rosyth and the Clyde respectively. They are escorted by the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) and HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN).

At 2000/11, the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Impulsive (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Thomas, DSC, RN) and HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. I.T. Clark, RN) departed Scapa Flow at 2000/11 to meet HMS Renown at 1700/12 in 55°45'N, 13°00'W and escort her to Rosyth.

Rendezvous was effected at 2115/17 and HMS Renown with these destroyers then parted company with the Pasteur which proceeded to the Clyde with HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh and HMS Lightning.

HMS Renown, HMS Inglefield, HMS Impulsive and HMS Eclipse arrived at Rosyth at 1100/14.

16 Aug 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN) completed de-ammunitioning at Rosyth following which she was taken in hand for refit. (6)

Sources

  1. ADM 199/656
  2. ADM 53/114964 + ADM 199/656
  3. ADM 53/114965 + ADM 199/656
  4. ADM 199/656 + ADM 199/661
  5. ADM 199/657
  6. ADM 53/114970

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


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