Geoffrey Nigel Oliver DSO, RN
|Born||22 Jan 1898||Chelsea, London, U.K.|
|Died||26 May 1980||(82)||Batts, Henfield, Sussex, U.K.|
Retired: 1 Dec 1955
Warship Commands listed for Geoffrey Nigel Oliver, RN
|HMS Hermione (74)||Capt.||Light cruiser||30 Oct 1940||16 Jun 1942|
We currently have no career / biographical information on this officer.
Events related to this officer
Light cruiser HMS Hermione (74)
8 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) was commissioned for trials at Govan. She was still under control of her builders. (1)
16 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) ran trials near Greenock. (1)
22 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) ran trials in the Clyde area. (1)
23 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) ran trials in the Clyde area. (1)
25 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) ran trials in the Clyde area. (1)
26 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) was accepted for service and placed into full commission. (1)
31 Mar 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (1)
2 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) is docked at Govan for post trials repairs. (2)
9 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) is undocked at Govan. She then immediately shifted to Greenock. (2)
10 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (2)
11 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (2)
12 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed the Clyde for Scapa Flow. (2)
13 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow to commence a work-up period. (2)
15 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
22 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
23 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
25 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
29 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
30 Apr 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (2)
1 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (3)
5 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (3)
7 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (3)
9 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) conducted exercises at Scapa Flow. (3)
14 May 1941
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Scapa Flow around 2345/13 to provide cover for the auxiliary minelayers HMS Agamemnon (Capt. (Retd. ) F. Ratsey, RN), HMS Menestheus (Capt. J.S. Crawford, DSO, RN) and HMS Port Quebec (Capt. (Retd.) E.C. Watson, RN) that were to lay minefield SN 9B. They departed Port ZA around 1035/14 escorted by the destroyers HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN) and HMS St. Marys (Lt. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN).
HMS Antelope, HMS Anthony and HMS Electra had arrived at Port ZA around 0600/14.
HMS Hermione returned to Scapa Flow around 2000/17. The destroyers (minus HMS St. Marys) arrived at Scapa Flow around 0730/18 after having escorted the auxiliary minelayers back to Port ZA where they arrived around 2345/17. (4)
26 May 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived at Hvalfjord, Iceland to refuel. (5)
6 Jun 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived at Hvalfjord, Iceland from the Denmark Strait patrol. (6)
16 Jun 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived at Hvalfjord, Iceland from the Denmark Strait patrol. (7)
17 Jun 1941
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Hvalfjord, Iceland for Scapa Flow. (7)
18 Jun 1941
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from Hvalfjord, Iceland. (7)
21 Jun 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Scapa Flow for the Clyde. (7)
22 Jun 1941
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) arrived in the Clyde area from Scapa Flow where she joined the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) for an aircraft ferry trip to Gibraltar. The destroyers HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) joined as escorts. (7)
24 Jun 1941
While approaching Gibraltar HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) were joined by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN). They all arrived at Gibraltar the next day. (8)
26 Jun 1941
Operation Railway (phase 1).
Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.
Arpund 0400/26, the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) departed Gibraltar to proceed to the eastwards.
On board HMS Ark Royal there were 12 erected and10 unerected Hurricanes. The latter were erected during the day, the operation being completed and and all aircraft satisfactorily tested before dusk.
Speed was increased to 22 knots at 0630/26 and course was altered to 060° at 1245/26. One Catalina provided A/S patrol ahead of the fleet during the day and a second carried out RDF exercises with HMS Hermione.
Weather forecasts fom the Vice-Admiral Commanding, North Atlantic and Vice-Admiral, Malta, indicated that wind would probably be light but would be easterly at the lower altitudes in the vicinity of Malta and that the visibility would be moderate but not good for part of the passage. In view of this, HMS Ark Royal reported at 1420/26 that it would be desirable but not essential, to move the flying off position 30 miles further to the eastward than planned. Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to do this and speed was accordingly increased to 24.5 knots from 1800 to 2200/28 and then reduced to 22.5 knots for the night. A signal was passed to the Catalina to inform 200 Group at Gibraltar of the change of rendezvous.
As far as is known the force was not sighted by hostile aircraft during the day. No enemy reports were intercepthed and the only suspicious RDF contact was at 1730/26, 85 miles north of Oran, when an aircraft was detected 15 miles to the southward, waiting. After ten minutes it faded from the srceen. The visibility was moderate with a calm se and low lying haze and it is quite possible this aircraft did not sight the force.
Information was received at 0220/27 that the first pair of Bleneims was airborne at 0140/27 and was expected at the rendezvous at 0520/27.
At 0300/27, the force ran into variable patchy fog which persisted till shortly before the flying off position was reached. At 0456, HMS Hermione reported two aircraft bearing 230°, 21 miles. HMS Ark Royal was instructed to D/F these aircraft in and searchlights and black smoke were used as additional airds. The first pair of Blenheims was sighted at 0516/27 when course was altered to 300° and speed increased to 25 knots for flying off.
The first Hurricane took off at 0526/27, the 11th at 0531/27, and the flight took departure at 0537/27. One of these Hurricanes left with undercarriage down.
Course was altered to 090° at 0532/27 and to 285° at 0558/27. The second pair of Blenheims made contact at 0608/27 and course was altered to 320° for flying off. The 12th Hurricane took off at 0619/27, the 22nd at 0623/27 and the flight took departure at 0627/27.
The mean flying off position for the two flights was 37°34'Nm 04°55'W.
As soon as the last Hurricane had flown off course was altered to 271° and the force withdrew at 25 knots. A fighter patrol and an A/S patrol was flown off and maintained throughout the day. Course was altered to 250° at 0900/27.
At 0950/27, a signal was received from Vice-Admiral, Malta that the first flight was in touch, an hour later the second formation was reported in sight.
Shortly afterwards, at 1115/27, Vice-Admiral, Malta reported that the first formation was incomplete, ad asked if any of the Hurricanes had retuned. W/T silence was broken to reply in the negative.
As no further information was received i again broke W/T silence at 1430/278 to request a report from Malta.
Meanwhile at 1215/27, when 56 miles north-north-west of Algiers, HMS Hermione detected an aircraft bearing 040°, 48 miles. It closed to 38 miles before fading on bearing 135°, 58 miles. This aircraft was probably bound for Algiers.
Information was eventually received from the Vice-Admiral, Malta, at 1510/27 that all aircraft had arrived safely at Malta, but that one had crashed on landing, the pilot being safe.
Six Swordfish carried out flying exercises in the afternoon. At 1630/27, HMS Hermione opened out on the port beam for a range and inclination exercise.
At 1700/27, HMS Ark Royal reported that a Fulmar which was due to land on, had failed to return and that W/T communication could not be established on M/F. Attempts to D/F on R.T. failed owing to limitations of ship-intalled H/F - D/F. In order to clear the radar screen fighter and A/S patrols were ordered to circle over the fleet. HMS Hermione then located the lost aircraft 55 miles to the southwardd. The aircaft was given a course to ster and landed on successfully at 1820. It was then ascertained that the beacon was out of adjustement and the W/T set ha a defective valve.
The last fighter patol landed on at 1900/27 and the A/S patrol at 2034/27. There was a low haze and the surface visibility never exceeded five miles.
A speed of 25 knots was maintained till 0300/28 when speed was reduced to 18 knots. Eight fighters and eight Swordfish were flown off at 0600/28 for exercises. One Swordfish crashed after dropping its torpedo but the crew was picked up by HMS Lance who was acting as picking up destroyer.
' Force H' entered harbour at 0930/28. (9)
28 Jun 1941
Operation Railway (phase 2).
Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.
Around 1800/28 hours, ' Force A', made up of the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) departed Gibraltar to the west. This was a diversion and they turned to the east after dark.
Around 0130/29, ' Force B ', made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. R.R. McGrigor, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), and the escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN) departed at 0130/29th. HMS Wishart and HMS Avonvale were however soon detached to return to Gibraltar.
The two groups joined at 0700/29 in position 36°12'N, 03°33'W. Course was altered to 061° at 1105/29. Throughout the forenoon the weather was clear with maximum visibility but after noon visibility decreased considerably.
At 1240/29, in position 36°30'N, 01°40'W, HMS Foxhound, on the port side of the screen, investigated a contact. The force turned away and whilst doing so HMS Forester, on the starboard side of the screen, also investigated a contact and fired a pattern of depth charges. Neither these contacts was confirmed and it is probable that vlack fish were responsible, several of these being seen in the vicinity.
No suspicious RDF contacts were reported by HMS Hermione and it is improbable that ' Force H ' had been sighted.
Weather reports received from the Vice-Admiral Commanding, North Atlantic Station and Vice-Admiral, Malta, did not necessitate any alteration in the flying off position that had been arranged. Information was received at 0230/30 that the first formation of three Blenheims had left Gibraltar at 0220/30 and expected to arrive at the rendezvous at 0520/30.
Group II, consisting of HMS Furious, HMS Fearless, HMS Lance and HMS Legion, was detached at 0430/30 to take station 5 miles to the southward of Group I consisting of HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione and the remaining destroyers.
The first Blenheim was detected by HMS Hermione at 0515/30 bearing 247°, 54 miles. This aircraft was sighted at 0535/30 and Ark Royal's first flight of Hurricanes was started up.
The wind was light and sone delay ensued in finding the best course for flying off. The first Hurricane was flown off Ark Royal at 0557/30 and the 14th at 0604/30. The first flight took departure five minutes later.
The Blenheim detailed to lead the first flight from HMS Furious was sighted by that ship at 0605/30. Engines were at once warmed and flying off commenced. Almost immediately a large flash and cloud of black some was seen to rise from HMS Furious, who was now some 8 miles to the southward. Course was altered to close but 5 miles later the second flight of Blenheims was sighted and it became necessary for Group I to turn into the wind to fly off the remaining 12 Hurricanes from HMS Ark Royal.
The 15th Hurricane was flown off at 0633/30 ad the 25th at 0637/30, the formation taking departure at 0639/30.
The two flights from HMS Ark Royal were flown off from a mean position 38°43'N, 03°29'E. During the latter part of the operation a Vichy-French liner approached from the northward on a southerly course and probably observed the 2nd flight taking off and taking departure.
HMS Furious now reported flying completed, Groups I and II closed and withdrawal was made to the west-south-west at 25 knots. it was then ascertained that after the first Hurricane had taken off successfully from HMS Furious the second swerved when half way along the deck and hit the port navigating position. A long range tank was wrenched off and the aircraft crashed over the side. Burning petrol enveloped the port side of the bridge, the port navigating and signalling position and the look-out huts.
As the bridge was burning furiously the ship was turned out of the wind and the engines stopped. As soon as the fire was under control flying off was resumed and the fist flight was airborne by 0623/30. The formation of nine led by the Blenheim then proceeded to Malta.
Among the personnel in the positions which caught fire wee the Headquarters flying staf, all the RAF pilots of the second flight, the pilots of the Sea Hurricanes, communication ratings, submarine look-outs, port medical party and the port fire party.
HMS Fearless closed HMS Furious at once when the Hurricane crashed and picked up the pilot who as suffering from minor injuries, and also another pilot was had been seen to jump overboard in flames. This officer was severely burnt and later died on board HMS Fearless. Two officers and one rating died at once in Furious and by midnight the total casualty list was: 4 Naval Officers (FAA), 1 RAF Officer, 4 Naval ratings. Seriously injured were: 2 Naval Officers (1 FAA, both have since died), 3 RAF Officers, 7 Naval ratings (2 have since died), 4 RAF ratings (1 has since died). Also 1 Naval officer was injured as was 1 RAF rating.
As one of Furious' doctors was a casualty Ark Royal flew over two doctors to assist.
The seagoing efficiency of the ship is not affected except for the destruction of the communications to the port navigating position. The fighting efficiency is affected to the extent that various gun cummunication and control instruments are destroyed. The six Hurricanes of the second flight were not damaged but could not be flown off as all their pilots were casualties.
An A/S patrol was maintained all day and a fighter patrol of four aircraft till 1700/30.
At 1425/30 information was received that all the six Blenheims and 35 Hurricanes had arrived safely at Malta.
During the afternoon (flying) exercises were carried out. Before dark six Swordfish of 818 Squadron were transferred from HMS Ark Royal to HMS Furious.
At 0600/1 when off Europa Point HMS Furious flew off three Sea Hurricanes to North Point and then screened by HMS Faulknor and HMS Fearless proceeded into harbour. The remainder of the force turned back to the eastward for exercises. HMS Hermione was detached to act as target. Both destroyers that had escorted Furious into harbour also rejoined.
On completion of the exercises ' Force H ' arrived in harbour at 1030/1. (9)
1 Jul 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar around 2330/1 to proceed into the Atlantic to patrol in position 40°00'N, 15°00'W (to the west of Portugal) to search for enemy raider or supply ships. (10)
4 Jul 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) returned to Gibraltar, from a patrol in the Atlantic, around 1715 hours. (10)
4 Jul 1941
The aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) and the troopships Cameronia (16297 GRT, built 1920) and Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920) departed Gibraltar for the Clyde.
They were escorted by the light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN).
On 5 July HMS Furious was bombed by three German Focke Wulf aircraft but no damage was caused.
Light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN) relieved HMS Hermione around 0800/6 after being detached from convoy WS.9B on 3 July. HMS Hermione then proceeded on patrol.
Destroyer HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN) was detached from convoy OG 66 on the 5 July to join the Furious group which she did on 8 July.
HMS Wishart departed the escort on the 8th with orders to proceed to Ponta Delgada, Azores to refuel and then return to Gibraltar.
HMS Edinburgh also parted company on the 8th.
HMS Edinburgh and HMS Hermione arrived at Gibraltar on the 10th. HMS Faulknor and HMS Fury arrived back at Gibraltar on the 14th.
HMS Furious, HMS Royal Sovereign with the troopships arrived in the Clyde on 12 July. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Legion, HMS Lance and ORP Piorun. (9)
11 Jul 1941
The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN, with Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN on board) departed Gibraltar at 0730/11 for exercises and flying training. She was being escorted by the destroyers HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN). The light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar at 1020/11 to join the exercises. The Admiral later returned to Gibraltar in an aircraft.
At 0815/12, HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN) sailed from Gibraltar to join the exercises. All ships returned to harbour around 1700/12. (9)
30 Jul 1941
Ferrying of troops and supplies to Malta and diversery attack on Sardinia.
' Force X ', made up of the light cruisers HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), fast minelayer HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN) and escorted by the destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN) and HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN) departed Gibraltar on the 31 July 1941 carrying the troops and supplies that had been on the troopship Leinster and the light cruiser HMS Manchester which had not reached Malta during Operation Substance.
To cover ' Force X ', ' Force H ' departed Gibraltar on 30 July 1940 and it was made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, now flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), battlecruiser HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN). They were 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), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN). They were also ordered to create a diversion for the operation.
An then these was also ' Force S ' which was made up of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph) escorted by the escort destroyer HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, RN). This force also departed Gibraltar on 30 July 1941.
At 1630/31, the destroyers HMS Cossack and HMS Maori were detached to bombard the harbours of Alghero and Port Conte on Sardinia and fire star shells for a night raid by aircraft from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. Also the seaplane base at Porte Conte was to be attacked.
The destroyers at first proceeded as of making for the Straits of Bonifacio altering course after dark.
At 0130/1, HMS Maori parted company with HMS Cossack and proceeded toward Porte Conte while Cossack went towards Maddalena Island where she switched on her searchlight at 0220/1 to search the bay and the harbour. Cossack also fired starshell on various bearings from north to south-east and moved right into Alghero Roads. They harbour and roads were completely emptry and no targets could be found. One starshell started a fire in a building about 2 miles north of the town.
Meanwhile Maori had opened fire with starshell at 0210/1 in the entrance to Port Conte and steamed up the bay at 12 knots. The whole bay was illuminated and seen to be empty. Buildings on the hill to the east of the harbour were illuminated by searchlight and the Customs house and one other official looking building were demolished by gunfire at a range decreasing from 4000 to 2000 yards. A church between these two targets was not fired at. Maori detected a large number of sharp asdic contacts ahead and thinking they might be possibly caused by a line of mines, stopped engines and turned round.
At 0235/1, Cossack sighted a plane flying up the coast from the south and passing over Alghero. As there were no targets to be engaged and as he considered a sufficient diversion had been caused in the vicinity, Capt. Berthon ordered both destroyers to withdraw which they then did to the south-west. When clear of the 50 fathom line speed was increased to 32 knots and course was shaped to rejoin ' Force H ' after daylight.
At 0310/1, ' Force H ' alterered course together and HMS Ark Royal flew off 9 Swordfish from position 40°43'N, 06°35'E, for a bombing attack on Alghero airodrome. On completion of flying off the fleet withdrew on course 255° at 20 knots.
The aircraft, which were armed with four 250lb G.P. bombs, 40lb G.P. bombs and 20lb H.E. bombs abd flares were ordered to attack aircraft on the ground and the aerodrome buildings and hangars.
When they attacked two direct hits were observed on the equipment shop where a fire broke out. The eastern and western hangars and the living quarters were also hit and fired were caused in the two latter targets.
As soon as the flares illuminated the aerodrome considerable light AA fire was experienced but no aircraft was hit. No enemy aircraft were observed. A fire was burning in a two storey building just to the north of the town of Alghero which was probably that started by the starshell from HMS Cossack.
All aircraft returned to the carrier. Landing on began at 0621/1. As the third aircraft landed a 40lb G.P. bomb exploded which had probably hung up on the racks, exploded setting the aircraft on fire, blowing a hole in the deck and killing four officers and three ratings. One rating was wounded. The remaining aircraft now could not be landed before the remains of the burnt aircraft had been hauled aft and the flight deck was repaired. Also the arrestor gear was damaged by the explosion and had to be repaired. Repairs were completed at 0715/1 after the remaining six aircraft landed on. Course was continued to the westward and HMS Cossack and HMS Maori rejoined at 0800/1.
At 0812/1, an Italian aircraft was sighted but the fighters could not intercept as it hid in the low cloud.
Another aircraft was reported to the southward at 0852/1 but again the fighters failed to make contact. The aircraft was however believed to be a Spanish flying boat.
All aircraft were landed on by noon owing to low visibility and approaching heavy rain.
Attempts to refuel destroyers in the afternoon from Brown Ranger did not succeed owing to the weather and the tanker with its escort were ordered to proceed further to the south. HMS Cossack and HMS Maori went with them as they were the first that had to refuel. They were ordered to try to refuel during the night if possible ad make rendezvous with ' Force H ' at 0630/2.
At 1807/1, HMS Renown reported that her port bulge wa coming away and that she would require docking on arrival at Gibraltar and that high speed was undesirable except in an emergency.
Meanwhile ' Force X ' had proceeded to the eastward some 35 nautical miles from the African coast. They streamed paravanes at 0700/1 and then proceeded at 25 knots increasing to 26 knots at noon. At 2000/1 speed was increased to 28 knots which was Arethusa's best speed with paravanes streamed.
While ' Force X ' was passing south of Sardinia, ' Force H ' proceeded down the western side of the Balearics to make rendezvous with Brown Ranger the following morning.
At 0025/2, ' Force X ' intercepted an enemy report which might have emanated from a submarine sighting the force while it passed the Cani Rocks. Cape Bon was passed 1.5 nautical miles abeam to starboard at 0145/2.
At 0510/2 the light cruiser Hermione rammed and sank Italian submarine Tembien between Pantelleria and Linosa in position 36°21'N, 12°40'E. The light cruiser sustained only light damage. HMS Lightning was then briefly detached to search the area but soon rejoined having sighted nothing.
' Force X ' arrived safely at Malta at 0900/2.
Meanwhile ' Force H ', having passed to the westward of the Balearics during the night, made rendezvous with the Brown Ranger at 0630 some 40 nautical miles south-east of Ibiza. HMS Cossack and HMS Avon Vale had topped off with fuel ad HMS Maori who made an unsuccesful attempt before dark was completing with fuel as ' Force H ' approached.
There was a north-westerly wind force 4 and a slight south-west swell. Brown Ranger steamed to and fro south of te islands on courses either directly with or against the prevailing south-westerly swell whilst ' Force H ' cruised within visibility distance changing destroyers as necessary for fuelling. Problems with the gear on board the Brown Ranger caused some delays. All destroyers were however able to refuel and at 1900/2 Brown Ranger was ordered to return to Gibraltar now escorted by HMS Eridge.
While oiling was tanking place and A/S patrol was kept up over the area while a fighter patrol was kept ready on the deck of HMS Ark Royal.
At 1900/2, after the last destroyers had just completed fuelling, ' Force H ' altered course to 102° at 18 knots. Speed was increased to 20 knots at 2200/2 to rendezvous with ' Force X ' about 0830/3 in position 38°05'N, 07°28'E.
While ' Force H ' had been spending the day south of the Balearics, ' Force X ' was unloading troops and stores and fuelling at Malta. ' Force X ' sailed at 1600/2 augumented by the escort destroyer HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) who had completed repairs at Malta. The force proceeded at 24 knots, this being HMS Farndale's best speed. When north of Gozo, HMS Farndale reported that she could not maintain a higher speed than 18 knots. She was then ordered by HMS Hermione to return to Malta.
' Force X ' then increased speed to 26 knots and returned by the same route which they had followed successfully on the eastward passage through Tunisian territorial waters. Owing to loss of paravanes HMS Hermione was stationed astern of the line, which was led by HMS Arethusa.
At 2215/2, RDF indicated a low flying aircraft 20 miles to the southward and up moon. The aircraft came straight in, unseen, and passing about 1000 feet overhead, opened 8 miles to the northward and faded. It was though the aircraft had failed to sight the force but a little later it returned and appeared to circle ahead.
At 2225/2 when in position 36°28'N, 12°00'E, the aircraft approached at right angles on HMS Hermione'sHermione's stern. The aircraft was engaged by pom-pom and seen to jink just before dropping it's torpedo which missed well astern. The speed of ' Force X ' was evidently considerably underestimated. The aircraft which did not appear to be hit was held by RDF as far as Pantellaria before it faded. Twenty minutes later a shore station was heard apparently homing an aircraft but no enemy report was intercepted.
At 0027/3, ' Force X ' was turning to starboard to approach Kelibia a small darkeneded vesel was sighted at about 5000 yards on the port beam. Guns and searchlights were trained on but as the vessel drew into the path of the moon it was identified as a small schooner. The order was passed to 'revert to normal' but Hermione's pom-pom opened fire at about 4000 yards. HMS Manxman and HMS Arethusa both joining in. Cease fire was immediately ordered by W/T. No hits were observed.
' Force X ' proceeded without further incident to rendezvous with ' Force H '. A low layer of misty cloud and reduced visibility probably accounted for the abence of enemy air reconnaissance.
At 0612/3, HMS Ark Royal, flew off a reconnaissance of three aircraft along tracks 080°, 093° and 106° to a depth of 80 miles to locate ' Force X ' and any enemy forces that might be to the northward and between forces ' X ' and ' H '.
At 0640/3, HMS Foresight sighted a floating mine and sank it with small arms fire. HMS Foresight was then stationed 3 miles 160° from HMS Nelson to asist in homing in the reconnaissance aircraft.
The first fighter patrol was flown off at 0700/3. An hour later the reconnaissance aircraft returned reporting ' Force X ' bearing 117°, 33 nautical miles from HMS Nelson. No enemy forces had been sighted. HMS Foresight was then ordered to rejoin the destroyer screen.
at 0835/3, when ' Force H ' was 75 nautical miles west-north-west of Galita, ' Force X ' was sighted 6 nautical miles to the eastward.
' Force H ' altered course to 270° as ' Force X ' joined and the whole fleet withdrew to the westward at 20 knots. Visibility gradually improved.
At 0927/3, while the visibility was still low, an enemy aircraft was sighted and one section of fighters was sent to investigate. The enemy only entered the visibility circle to the north-west for a very short period before making off at high speed on a course of 250°. The fighters were not able to intercept the enemy.
At 1006/3, a shadower was detected by RDF and four fighters in the air were sent to intercept. The enemy was engaged by one of the Fulmars but was able to take cover in the clouds and disappeared to the north-east.
An emeny report was intercepted at 1045/3 indicating that this aircraft reported the position of the fleet at 1010/3. No further enemy aircraft were sighted.
Course was altered to 260° at 1515/3 and speed was reduced to 18 knots as by this time HMS Repulse's port bulge had started to fold back. At 1917/3 course was altered to 250°.
Low visibility probably persised in the vicinity of Cagliari during the forenoon and early afternoon may have been partly responsible for the enemy's lack of enterprise.
At 0400 when in position 37°22'N, 01°01'E, look-outs in HMS Avon Vale heard shouts and after investigating picked up an RAF sergeant pilot from a rubber dinghy. He was the sole survivor of a Wellington aircraft whichhad force landed on the night of 31 July when en-route from Gibraltar to Malta.
At daylight the fleetwas divided into three groups to facilitate berthing arrangements at Gibraltar. Group one comprising HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione, HMS Lightning, HMS Sikh, HMS Encounter and HMS Forester proceeded ahead at 27 knots and entered harbour at 2030/4.
Group two, comprising HMS Nelson, HMS Arethusa, HMS Manxman, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Foxhound and HMS Fury proceeded at 20 knots and entered harbour at 2230 hours.
And finally, Group three, comprising HMS Renown, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMAS Nestor and HMS Avon Vale proceeded at 18 knots and entered harbour at midnight. (9)
9 Aug 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
A commercial aircraft reported sighting a suspicious merchant vessel in position 46°37'N, 09°22'W.
Following this report the destroyer HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), which had been detached from convoy HG 34 on the 8th, was ordered to investigate.
Also the light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar around 2330/9 to intercepted this reported merchant vessel.
Then on the 10th, the heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN), detached from convoy WS 10, also proceeded to try to intercept the reported merchant vessel.
No contact was howefver made by these warships and on the 11th, HMS Hermione was ordered to return to Gibraltar, arriving around 0630/13.
14 Aug 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 2230/14 the following ships departed Gibraltar for exercises; battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN) and HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN).
At 0930/16, HMS Nelson and HMS Vimy returned to harbour. HMS Hermione returned at 1610/16.
HMS Ark Royal returned to harbour at 1130/17 after having completed flying training. The destroyers HMS Nestor, HMS Fury, HMS Forester, HMS Foresight and HMS Encounter which had been screening the carrier only returned at 1400/17 after having conducted torpedo firings. (9)
21 Aug 1941
Air attacks on Sardinia and minelaying in the Gulf of Genoa.
At 2200/21, ' Force H ', departed Gibraltar and set course to the eastward. It was made up of the battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, now flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) and light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN).
The fast minelayer HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN) departed Gibraltar at 0210/22 and also set course to the eastward.
' Force H ' passed 9 miles south of Alboran Island at 0530/22 and shaped course 080° at 17 knots altering course to 065° at 1400/22 when 28 miles north of Oran.
An east-north-east wind persisted all day, rising to force 6 by 1800/22 after which it fell to a light breeze. The visibility throughout the day was approximately 10 miles from 1000 feet and there is no reason to suppose that the force was sighted by enemy aircraft.
Several exercises had been carried out during the day. At 2200/22, ' Force H ' was in position 37°00'N, 01°32'E, steering 070°.
At 0600/23, when ' Force H ' was in position 37°48'N, 04°07'E course was altered to 300° to avoid being too far to the eastward before dark.
The first RDF report was at 0810/23 when the fleet was 80 nautical miles north-north-east of Algiers. An aircraft was detected bearing 020°, 30 miles. It pased from east to west some 25 miles north of the fleet. A section of fighters was then flown off from HMS Ark Royal.
An aircraft was sighted by HMS Ark Royal at 0850/23 and the fighters were directed on. The shadower, a Cant 506B, was attacked nine times fom astern before all ammunition was expended. The rear gunner was put out of action and one wing was damaged, but the aircraft escaped. Whilst returning to the carrier the fighters reported a second enemy aircraft ten miles to the southward and a relief section of fighters was flown off at 0915/23 and made contact ten minutes later with another Cant 506B. Seven attacks were carried out before all ammunition was expended. Although some of these attacks were made from close range, the enemy escaped with his rear gunner out of action. It appears that the pilots and engines in these aircraft are now well armoured.
At 1230/23, ' Force H ' altered course to 055° when in position 38°23'N, 02°45'E. Speed was increased to 18.5 knots to reach the required position for flying off the night striking force.
During the afternoon there were various RDF reports but the aircraft were all considered to be civil machines bound to or from North Africa. At 1722/23 when in position 38°58'N, 04°17'E an aircraft was sighted low down bearing 300° passing from North to South. The fighters were vectored on and shortly afterwards reported they had shot down a Ju.52 with swastika markings on the tail.
Speed was increased to 19 knots at 2000/23 and forty minutes later course was altered to 047° to reach the flying off position about 80 miles west of Port Conte.
At 0250/24, ' Force H ' altered course to 115° into the wind and increased speed to 23 knots. Ten Swordfish were flown off from position 40°50'N, 06°59'E to attack the cork woods in the vicinity of Tempio. Immediately all aircraft had flown off course was altered to 235° and withdrawal was made at 20 knots.
Flying conditions were good and navigation was aided by a clear starlight night and a poor black out at Tempio. Woods to the west and south-east of the town were attacked with incendiaries and many large fires were started. A warehouse on the south-west outskirts of the town was also left well alight. It was unfortunate there was only a slight breeze in the target area or the conflagration might have been considerably assisted. Only light AA fire was encountered. All aircraft returned safely at 0615/24 and all were landed on at 0645/24.
At 0735/24 an unknown aircraft was detected by RDF bearing 170° 32 miles and the fighter patrol was sent in to intercept. On reaching a position 28 miles from the fleet the unknown aircraft turned away and faded from the screen. The fighters were recalled.
At 0920/24 two signals were intercepted from an aircraft from Malta reporting units of the Italian Fleet about 30 miles south of Cagliari at 0810/24 steering 240° at 15 knots. The total enemy force at this time was reported as two battleships, four cruisers and nineteen destroyers.
At 1251/24 a signal was intercepted from HMS Upholder (Lt.Cdr. M.D. Wanklyn, DSO, RN) reporting one battleship, two cruisers and six destroyers in position 38°30'N, 12°00'E, steering 215° at 25 knots at 1030/24. This brought the total strenght of the enemy up to three battleships, six cruisers and twenty-five destroyers.
It was clear that ' Force H ' alone could not engage this concentration, but it hoped it might prove possible to launch a torpedo-bomber attack at dusk, provided the enemy were sufficiently far to the westward to reduce to a reasonable extent the chances of the torpedo-bombers being intercepted by enemy shore-based fighters. ' Force H ' steered 235° until 1340/24, when ' Force H ' was 67 miles south-east of Palma when course was chenged to 170°.
Vice-Admiral Somerville however received no further information on the enemy and at 1420/24 he broke W/T silence to ask the Vice-Admiral Malta if he could shadow then enemy between 1600/24 and 2100/24, providing they were west of Cagliari. At 1520/24 when in position 38°28'N, 04°05'E, ' Force H ' altered course to 090°.
By 1600/24 there was still no information on the enemy's whereabouts. As it was thought possible that the enemy was within 40 to 50 miles of ' Force H ' if he had continued a westerly course at high speed, ' Force H ' turned to the westward flying off an air reconnaissance from position 38°25'N, 04°14'E to search to a depth of 110 miles.
At 1705/24 te RDF detected a hadower approaching from the eastward and the fighters were vectored on. Contact was made at 1720/24 and the shadower, although engaged until all ammunition was expended after sixteen attacks, escaped with his rear gunner silenced. Some fourty minutes later an enemy report was intercepted from an Italian aircraft.
The reconnaissance, which had sighted nothing, was landed on at 1945/24 when course was altered to 230° and speed reduced to 17 knots.
At 2012/24 a signal was received from the Vice-Admiral, Malta stating the air reconnaisance had sighted two battleships and fourteen destroyers in position 38°38'N, 09°31'E, steering 140°, speed 15 knots at 1655/24, and four cruisers and five destroyers in position 38°35'N, 09°25'E at 1700/24 steering 070° at 15 knots. The signal added that ethe enemy were not being shadowed. This report indicated that an attack on the enemy was not feasable and it was clearly his intention to refuse action except under close cover of his shore-based air forces.
At 2230/24, ' Force H ' altered course to pass between Ibiza and Majorca during the night.
At 0330/25, course was altered to 290° to steer for Valencia, where it was intended ' Force H ' should make a demonstration with a large number of aircraft in the air. Paravanes were streamed at 0645/25 before entering coastal waters.
At 0930/25, HMS Ark Royal started flying off aircraft and ' Force H ' steamed down the coast from Sugunto to Valencia seven miles off shore. Fourteen Fulmars and seventeen Swordfish circling overhead. During this demonstration a Spanish submarine surfaced about four miles on the port bow and displayed two large Spanish ensigns. Several small craft were passed at close quarters.
All aircraft were landed on by 1200/25 and the force proceeded to the southward at 17 knots. Various exercises were carried out during the afternoon and evening. One Swordfish, taking part in a navigation exercise, force landed due to oil-failure. HMS Hermione was despatched ahead at full speed and recovered the crw uninjured.
After dark a night-encounter exercise was carried out with HMS Hermione, star-shell and searchlights being used.
Various practices were carried out. Including an attack by aircraft during which nine torpedoes were dropped.
' Force H ' retuned to Gibraltar at 1430/26. (9)
2 Sep 1941
In the morning the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) departed Gibraltar for exercises. HMS Hermione returned at 1630/2 while HMS Ark Royal and the destroyers only returned at 1515/3. (9)
7 Sep 1941
Operation Status (phase 1).
Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.
At 1700/7, HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded to the west with a view of promoting the idea that no operation was intended and that the subequent movements of HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN) were connected with local exercises. HMS Hermione was instructed to return through the Straits after dark and rendezvous with HMS Ark Royal to to east and out of sight of Gibraltar and Ceuta after daylight.
After dark, HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) was warped close up to HMS Ark Royal and 26 Hurricanes and 1 Swordfish were transferred by means of the ramp.
At 2300 hours Vice-Admiral Somerville embarked onboard HMS Ark Royal with certain members of his staff.
HMS Ark Royal slipped at 0540/8 but owing to a westerly wind of 18 miles an hour and HMS Furious occupying the berth immediately astern, the three tugs available experienced great difficulty in hauling off and the harbour entrance was not passed until 0705/8.
After flying off 1 Swordfish and 1 Fulmar to North Front course was shaped to the eastward with the destroyers HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) as A/S screen. One Catalina was patrolling overhead.
During the day all Hurricanes were W/T tested, engines run up and then ranged aft. The pilots were also given full instructions for the take off and passage to Malta.
So far as can be ascertained the force was not sighted during this day.
After leaving Gibraltar a moderate westerly wind was experienced until reaching the vicinity of Alboran Island when the wind fell to light airs and subsequently changed to moderate and at times freh north-easterly.
At dawn on the 9th, the weather was clear with some cloud and a light north-easterly wind.
The first pair of Blenheims were due at the rendezvous, 40 miles north-east of Algiers at 0620/9 (sunrise), whilst the second pair were due at 0635/9.
At 0550/9, Hermione's RDF reported aircraft bearing 250° distant 35 miles. At 0551/9 an aircraft of the first pair asked for a course. This was signalled and courses continued to be passed throughout the approach of this aircraft.
Owing to poor W/T conditions at this time and interference from a beam station at Algiers, communications were slow and unreliable.
At 0621/9, requists for courses were received from other aircraft. Owing to the conditions referred to above, the first pair of Blenheims appeared to have passes to west and north of ' Force H ' without sighting and continued on a north easterly course as the result of confusion arising in the identifying the various Blenheims that were in the vicinity and unreliable communications.
At 0628/9, a Blenheim was sighted and proved to be the standby aircraft of the second pair. This Blenheim failed to answer V/S signals and proceeded to a waiting position to the northward. It was subeqently acertained that the Aldis lamp of the aircraft had developed defects.
At 0637/9, a second Blenheim was sighted to the southward. This proved to be the leader of the second pair ad as it crossed ahead of Ark Royal the first Hurricanes took off. Before the Blenheim had completed two circuits of the ship, the first flight of 14 Hurricanes had taken off and when formed on the Blenheim was given the order to proceed to Malta. The Hurricanes and their Bleinheims arrived at Malta at 1115/9.
With the figures then available concerning the endurance of the Blenheims and the time occupied flying off owing to the light winds, Vice-Admiral Somerville did not consider it was advisable to retain the standby Blenheim until the second range of Hurricanes could be ranged up and flown off. This Blenheim wa therefore ordered to return to Gibraltar.
No contact either by RDF of W/T was obtained with the fouth Blenheim who returned to Gibraltar in due course.
The failure of the first pair of Blenheims to locate ' Force H ' is regrettable but was due to a considerable extent to the poor W/T conditions and the fact that these aircraft were not flying in company.
When it was clear that there could be no hope of either of the first pair of Blenheims making the rendezvous, the Force was turned to the west and proceeded at 19 knots.
A section of Fulmars was ranged on deck ahead of the remaining Hurricanes to deal with shadowers.
The RDF plot during the forenoon showed that a number of aircraft, possibly French, were in the vicinity and that in particular there were two shodowers waiting some 20 miles to the eastward.
In addition to these two shadowers, a Boston aircraft with French markings continued to circle the force just outside gun range. Two Fulmars were flown off to deal with the shadowers. One of the eastward shadowers was sighted for a few seconds by the Fulmars before disappearing in the clouds. The Fulmars were then vectored on the French Boston who waggled his wings when approached by the Fulmars but did not appear to be particularly disturbed by their presence.
As the Boston then made off to the north, the Fulmars were landed on at 1115/9 with the Hurricanes ranged before the barrier. Shortly after the Fulmars were landed on, the Boston again appeared for a few minutes and finally disappeared in the direction of Algiers.
At 2000/9, HMS Hermione was ordered to proceed at 26 knots and pas through the Straits during the dark hours returning to the eastward after daylight in ordered to maintain the impression that she had not proceeded to the east. From information subsequently available it does not appear that this rusa achieved its purpose.
HMS Ark Royal and the destroyers entered harbour at 0915/10. Vice-Admiral Somerville then returned to HMS Nelson. HMS Hermione had returned shortly before HMS Ark Royal. (9)
10 Sep 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Operation Status (phase 2).
Fighter aircraft to be flown off to Malta.
At 1900/10, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious departed Gibraltar to the westward. She was being escorted by the destroyers HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN) and HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN).
The remainder of ' Force H ', battleship HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, now flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN) sailed to the eastward at 2130/10. HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC, RN) was also to have sailed with them but was unable to do so due to defects.
At 0632/11, HMS Furious and her three escorting destroyers was sighted. She had passed through the Straits during the night. By 0700/11 when 30 miles north-east of Alboran Island all ships were formed on HMS Nelson and ' Force H ' was proceeding east at 17 knots.
HMS Hermione left the screen during the forenoon to act as target for a range and inclination exercise. It was also learnt from the Vice-Admiral North Atlantic Station that the departure of ' Force H ' had probably been reported to the enemy.
A Catalina was provided by 200 Group as A/S patrol throughout the day. This aircraft left the fleet at 2000/11. On it return flight to Gibraltar the Catalina experienced very bad weather conditions with frequent thunderstorm fromm Cape de Gata to Gibraltar.
During the night ' Force H ' proceeded eastward to reach approximate position 38°N, 04°E, at 0530/12 preparatory to flying off Hurricanes.
At 0530/12, HMS Furious screened by three destroyers proceeded 5 miles south of HMS Nelson. W/T communication with Gibraltar which commenced to be unreliable at midnight failed from 0100 to 0600 hours. No messages concerning the departure of the Blenheims an no weather forecast were received.
At 0625/12 a Catalina was sighted. This aircraft should have been 60 miles further eastward carrying out a reconnaissance as a precaution against interference by enemy surface forces.
The flying off position 38°N, 04°E was reached at 0530/12 but no Blenheims arrived and no information was available till 0730/12 when communication with Gibraltar was established and a message received which stated that these aircraft had been delayed 24 hours on account of weather. The signal giving this information was timed 0320/12 and the delay in its receiption was due to improvised arrangements whilst the main Gibraltar W/T transmitter was being shifted underground.
This postponement of the operation was disappointing as the weather conditions between ' Force H ' and Malta appeared to be ideal. It was subsequently learnt that the 24 hours delay was imposed as a result of the weather experienced by the Catalina referred to earlier.
At 0740/12 course was altered to the westward at 19 knots. Between 0900 and 0935 hours when in position 77 miles 017° from Algiers two unidentified aircraft were detected by RDF in the vicinity of the Fleet, and one float plane was sighted. Later an enemy report was intercepted timed 0930/12 which presumably originated from one of these aircraft. HMS Furious struck down her land Hurricanes and ranged three sea Hurricanes on deck to deal with any shadowers that offered a reasonable chance of interception.
A Catalina sent out from Gibraltar A/S patrol was detected by RDF at 0944/12 and sighted ten minutes later.
Speed was reduced to 17 knots at noon. At 1500/12 Vice-Admiral Somerville learnt that the force had been reported at 1010/12 as well as at 0930/12. There had been no indication of the presence of a shadowing aircraft at that time. Presumably the aircraft came in low below the RDF beam and was not sighted by lookouts. Again at 1655/12 an enemy report was intercepted without any sighting or RDF indication of shadowing aircraft.
A range and inclination exercise was carried out with HMS Hermione from 1700 to 1730 hours. At 1900/12 course was altered to 060°, speed 18 knots and a further alteration to 090° was made at 2200/12 to reach the flying off position at 0530/13.
A signal was received at 0450/13 stating that the first three Blenheims had left Gibraltar at 0310/13 and were expected to arrive over the fleet at 0635/13. Weather reports were favourable and inicated moderate westerly winds.
At 0410/13, when in position 38°04'N, 03°30'E, a merchant vesel northbound from Algiers passed about 4 miles from the fleet. HMS Furious screened by three destroyers was detached at 0550/13 to operate 5 miles to the southward of HMS Nelson.
The Catalina carrying out the dawn security patrol to the eastward of the fleet was detected by RF bearing 315° at 45 miles at 0547/13. A formation of friendly aircaft was detected at 0623/13 bearing 210°, 68 miles and closing. Courses to steer were passed to these aircraft by HMS Ark Royal and they were sighted at 0649/13.
The course for flying off was 050°. The extermely light wind rendered it necessary for Ark Royal to work up to 26 knots. Whilst in order to have sufficient deck space for taking off under these conditions HMS Furious was anly able to range a maximum of 7 Hurricanes instead of the required 10. This resulter in her flights being flown off in batches of 7 and 3. The figures for the first flight were as follows; HMS Furious, 1st off 0657/13, 10th off 0709/13, departure 0713/13. HMS Ark Royal, 1st off 0706/13, 14th off 0712/13, departure 0717/13 from position 38°04'N, 04°13'E.
The 3rd Hurricane to take off from HMS Furious crashed into the port bridge and was lost overboard together with its pilot (Sergeant W.R. Findlay, RCAF).
After the 7th aircraft took off there was a slight delay in ranging the remaining 3 of that flight due to the jambing of the fire curtains which had been lowered when the aircraft crashed.
At 0707/13 the second formation of 4 Blenheims was detected by RDF bearing 205°, 71 miles. These aircraft were sighted at 0730/13. Hurricanes were started up and flown off when ready, the figures being as follows; HMS Furious 11th off 0750/13, 20th off 0803/13, departure 0812/13. HMS Ark Royal 15th off 0745/13, 26th off 0750/13, departure 0755/13 from position 38°10'N, 04°20'E.
The homing of the Blenheims was greatly facilitated owing the flying in formation on this occasion. Hitherto objection has been raised to flying in formation on the grounds that this would entail some additional ependiture of fuel and that as the Blenheims have to fly at 5000 feet for maximum ful economy cloud condition might render formation flying impracticable.
Immeddiately on completion of flying off all ships formed on HMS Nelson and course was shaped to the westward at 20 knots. At 0826/13 HMS Ark Royal flew off an A/S patrol and one section of fighters. Before the fighters could take off HMS Hermione sighted an unidentified aircraft which faded from the RDF screen at a range of 16 miles at 0830/13. HMS Hermione again obtained a fleeting glimpse of an aircraft low down at 0910/13 but the fighters were unable to intecept. Later signals were recieved that the force had been reported at 0825 and 0843 hours.
It is clear that the enemy reconnaissance aircraft are taking full anti-RDF precautions. If the enemy aircraft do not attempt to gain height until out of RDF range they will enjoy a fair degree of immunity from fighter interception providing they restrict their obervation to a short sighting and then withdraw below the horizon.
At 1105/13 an unidentified aircraft was detected bearing 128° 33 miles. It closed to 23 miles and then opened on a bearing 160°. Fighters were directed but failed to make contact and were recalled at 35 miles.
News was recieved at 1130 and 1218 hours that the 1st and 2nd flights respectively had arrived at Malta. Confirmation that seven Blenheims and 45 Hurricanes had arrived was recieved at 1428/13. During the afternoon the fighter patrol was increased to give more pilots training. HMS Furious also exercised her Sea Hurricanes.
At 1615/13, HMS Hermione reported an aircraft in sight low down and later a signal was intercepted showing that this shadower had reported the force. Again lack of RDF results rendered fighter direction impossible.
The passage back to Gibraltar was uneventful and the 14th was devoted to various practices. One Fulmar crashed in the sea when attempting to land on buth both crewmembers were saved.
At 1310/14, HMS Nelson, HMS Furious, HMS Hermione with four destroyers (HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Lively and HMS Gurkha) proceeded ahead and entered harbour at 1630/14.
HMS Ark Royal and the remaining three destroyers (HMS Zulu, HMS Lance and HMS Legion) remained out for exercises upon completion of which no. 812 Squadron was landed on coming from North Front. They entered harbour at 1915/14. (9)
7 Oct 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar at 0630 hours. Upon completion of the exercises they returned to harbour at 1915 hours. (9)
16 Oct 1941
Aircraft to be flown off to Malta and the transfer of ' Force K ' to Malta.
At 1100/16, ' Force H ' made up of the battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC, RN), HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN) HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) departed Gibraltar and proceeded eastwards.
Some exercises were carried out during the afternoon and early evening.
At 0640/17, two Swordfish were flown off from HMS Ark Royal for A/S patrol. These patrols were maintained throughout the day. A section of fighers was kept ranged until 0850/17 when they were flown off. During daylight always one section of fighters was kept in the air.
At 0710/17 the fleet made an emergeny turn after HMS Legion had obtained an A/S contact. The contact turned out to be non-sub.
Another non-sub contact was obtained by HMS Cossack about an hour later and again the fleet made an emergency turn. Two whales were sighted shortly afterwards which were the source of the A/S contact.
During the forenoon two more Fulmars were flown off for exercises (heightfinding and plotting). Also trials were carried out with the close range weapons in all ships.
At 1120/17 an unidentified aircraft was detected by RDF. It passed about 12 miles ahead of the fleet, steering a southerly course. It was not sighted.
Half an hour later HMS Ark Royal reported severe interference with fighter R/T from RDF transmissions. The interference proved to be coming from HMS Hermione and she was stationed further away from HMS Ark Royal.
At noon on the 17th ' Force H ' was in position 38°01'N, 02°26'E.
At 1350/17, a low flying Cant. 506 enemy aircraft was seen by HMS Ark Royal. This aircraft had not been picked up on RDF. One section of fighters was vectored towards it. The enemy was shot down after a chase of about 20 miles.
Around an hour later the fighters were vectored against an aircraft first detected by RDF and subsequently sighted to the north-west of the fleet. It proved to be a four-engined flying boat with French markings.
As ' Force H ' was ahead of time for arrival at the flying off position course was reversed at 1600/17 for one hour.
At 0130/18, course was altered to 050° for flying off. The destroyers took station in a circular screen around HMS Rodney and HMS Ark Royal. 11 Albacores and 2 Swordfish aircraft wee flown off between 0135 and 0145/18. One Albacore had been unable to take off due to a defect. On completion of flying off, the fleet formed up again and set course to 270°.
At 0547/18 the fleet had to make an emergency turn when HMS Forester reported a contact but it was soon reported to be non-sub and the fleet resumed its mean course.
At daylight, 0650/18, a fighter patrol of two Fulmars was flown off by HMS Ark Royal. Also two Swordfish for A/S patrol were flown off.
Fighters were vectored towards an aircraft reported by RDF as 25 miles ahead of the fleet at 0825/18 but they did not intercept. The aircraft which was on a northerly course was probably French on passage from Algiers to Merseilles.
A signal reporting the arrival at Malta of 11 Albacores was received at 0849/18. Later a further signal announced that one Swordfish had arrived. No news of the second Swordfish was recieved. No reason is known why this second Swordfish failed to arrive at Malta.
An aircraft was sighted from HMS Sikh south-west of the fleet at 0958/18. Fighters were vectored towards and they soon sighted an Italian BR.20. After a chase of 45 miles to the south-east the enemy was shot down about 10 miles from Cape Bengut.
Later another aircraft was detected by HMS Hermione. It was seen to be a Cant.506 but the fighters failed to intercept it.
At noon ' Force H ' was in position 37°20'N, 02°49'E. At 1400/18 course was altered to 245° to pass south of Alboran Island.
At 1450/18, HMS Hermione sighted a floating mine in position 37°25'N, 01°46'E but failed to sink it. She was then stationed ahead of the fleet for execises.
A/S and fighter patrol were withdrawn at 1825/18 and then landed on HMS Ark Royal.
At 2323/18, HMS Forester obtained an A/S contact which was thought to be a submarine. A pattern of five depth charges was dropped. The fleet turned 90° to starboard on the first report but when contact was not regained after the depth charge attack the fleet resumed the mean course.
The fleet altered course to 280° at 0645/19 and a few minutes later an A/S patrol of 2 Swordfish aircraft were flown off. This patrol was maintained until 1315/19 when it was reduced to one aircraft.
During the day an exercises programme was carried out. At 1000/19 ' Force K ' was sighted by HMS Hermione and also by the aircraft from HMS Ark Royal.
Ten Swordfish aircraft landed on HMS Ark Royal at 1120/19. They had come from North Front aerordrome.
The fleet entered Gibraltar Bay at 1619/19 and then entered harbour.
Meanwhile the cruisers of ' Force K ', HMS Aurora (Capt. W.G. Agnew, RN) and HMS Penelope (Capt. A.D. Nicholl, RN) departed Gibraltar and joined up at 0800/19 some 40 miles from Europa Point with the destroyers HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) which had been already out for exercises since 1715/18.
' Force K ' arrived at Malta umolested at 0915/21. (9)
20 Oct 1941
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) departed Gibraltar around 1745/20 to search for an unidentified tanker that was reported by aircraft north-west of Cape Finisterre, Spain in position 44°07'N, 10°07'W.
She returned to Gibraltar around 0730/25 without having made contact with the tanker. On arriving at Gibraltar she was immediately docked for repairs, bottom cleaning and painting. (11)
7 Nov 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN) is undocked. (12)
8 Dec 1941
Around 1500/8, the light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), destroyer HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSC, RN) and HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) departed Gibraltar to intercept a reported convoy, most likely Vichy French, near Malaga, Spain.
At sea they were to join the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN) that were already to the east of Gibraltar on an A/S hunt.
All ships were ordered to return to Gibraltar at 0800/9. The reported convoy had not been sighted. Soon afterwards however HMS Laforey, HMS Blankney and HMS Exmoor were ordered to proceed to position 36°35'N, 07°35'W (to the west-north-west of Gibraltar) where three submarines had been reported by an aircraft. (9)
11 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
After a report had been received from the Admiralty that a civil aircraft had sighted a merchant vessel in position 43°07'N, 10°00'W. HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) was ordered to raise steam. She was ready to sail at 1900/11 and was then ordered to do so.
Later a signal was received from the Admiralty that the ship was Spanish and HMS Hermione was ordered to return to Gibraltar.
She arrived back in harbour at 0800/13. (9)
20 Dec 1941
At 0900 hours, the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Hesperus (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Arrow (Cdr. A.M. McKillop, RN) and HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN) departed Gibraltar for exercies. They returned to harbour at 1800 hours. During the exercises one Fulmar aircraft, while making a simulated dive bomb attack on a destroyer, crashed into the sea. The pilot was killed. (9)
20 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 2130/20, HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar to the eastward. This was to cover the arrival of HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN) which was to proceed to Malta.
At 2300/20, HMS Hermione turned to the westward. She passed south of Europa Point at 0001/21.
HMS Dido arrived at Gibraltar at 2340/20.
HMS Hermione was ordered to return at 0630/22, by which time HMS Dido would have sailed for Malta. (9)
27 Dec 1941 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar at 1110 hours for gunnery exercises to the east of Gibraltar.
HMS Hermione returned to Gibraltar on completion. (9)
3 Jan 1942
At 1900 hours, HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for Plymouth. (13)
4 Jan 1942
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN) is ordered to adjust her course so as if to be in a better position to intercept a possible enemy supply vessel or blockade breaker. (14)
6 Jan 1942
At 1231 hours, HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), arrived at Plymouth from Gibraltar. (13)
9 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
The flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN was struck on board HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN). (13)
10 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
The flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN was hoisted on board HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN). (13)
11 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 1230 hours HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) departed Plymouth for Gibraltar. (13)
14 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 0830 hours HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) arrived at Gibraltar from Plymouth. At 0900 hours the flag of Rear-Admiral Syfret was transferred to HMS Malaya (Capt. C. Coppinger, DSC, RN). (13)
20 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
At 0900 hours the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. R.D.H.S. Pankhurst, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN) and at escort destroyers HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for exercises.
They retuned to harbour around 1800 hours. For the duration of the exercises Rear Admiral Syfret had been on board HMS Argus. (15)
22 Jan 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar to carry out a patrol in the area from 41°30'N to 43°00'N, 22°00'W to 25°00'W. (15)
27 Jan 1942
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) arrived at Ponta Delgada, Azores to fuel. After doing so she departed to resume her patrol later the same day. (15)
2 Feb 1942
At 1400 hours, HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), returned to Gibraltar from patrol. (15)
17 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN) and HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) conducted exercises off Gibraltar. They were escorted by (at least) HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) and HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN). (16)
23 Apr 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) is undocked at Simonstown. She then immediately left for Durban. (17)
25 Apr 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) arrived at Durban. (17)
28 Apr 1942
Operation Ironclad, the landing on Madagascar.
The main body of the assault forces sailed from South Africa in two convoys, these were;
Convoy Y, Slow convoy.
This convoy departed Durban on 25 April 1942.
This convoy was made up of the following troopships / transports; Empire Kingsley (British, 6996 GRT, built 1941), Mahout (British, 7921 GRT, built 1925), Martand (British, 7967 GRT, built 1925), Nairnbank (British, 5155 GRT, built 1925), Thalatta (Norwegian, 5671 GRT, built 1922) as well as the landing ship HMS Bachaquero (A/Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) A.W. McMullan, RNR) and the RFA tankers Derwentdale (8398 GRT, built 1941), Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942).
On departure from Durban the convoy was escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Duncan ( Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), corvettes HMS Auricula (fitted for mineweeping) (Lt.Cdr. S.L.B. Maybury, RN), HMS Freesia (T/Lt. R.A. Cherry, RNR), HMS Fritillary (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Barker, RD, RNR), HMS Jasmine (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) C.D.B. Coventry, RNR), HMS Nigella (fitted for minesweeping) (T/Lt. L.J. Simpson, RNR), HMS Thyme (Lt. H. Roach, RNR) and the minesweepers HMS Cromarty (Lt.Cdr. C.G. Palmer, DSC, RNZNVR), HMS Cromer (Cdr. R.H. Stephenson, DSC, RN), HMS Poole (Lt. W.L.G. Dutton, RNR) and HMS Romney (Cdr.(Retd.) R.H.V. Sivewright, RN).
The transport City of Hong Kong (British, 9678 GRT, built 1924) had been delayed and sailed on 26 April 1942 escorted by the corvettes HMS Cyclamen (Lt. A.G. Scott, RNR) and HMS Genista (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Pattinson, DSC, RNR).
Convoy Z, Fast convoy.
This convoy departed Durban on 28 April 1942.
This convoy was made up of the following troopships / transports; Duchess of Atholl (British, 20119 GRT, built 1928), Franconia (British, 20175 GRT, built 1923), HMS Karanja (British, 9891 GRT, built 1931), HMS Keren (British, 9890 GRT, built 1930), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925), HMS Royal Ulsterman (British, 3244 GRT, built 1936), Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939) and Winchester Castle (British, 19141 GRT, built 1922).
Upon departure from Durban the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) and the destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN), HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN) and HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN).
The convoys met around noon on 3 May. Earlier that day the aircaft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) had joined the 'Z' convoy.
Both convoys had a good passage so far thanks also to the favourable weather conditions. From the 'Y' convoy all escorts had been able to fuel from the RFA tanker Easedale. Also HMS Hermione and the destroyers from the 'Z'-convoy were now able to fuel.
By dusk on 3 May the fast convoy had closed to within about 4 miles from the slow convoy and it maintained this position until the final approach on the following afternoon.
At noon on the 4th of May, the flagship was some 95 mils west of Courrier Bay and at 1430/4, Group I, made of of HMS Ramillies, HMS Indomitable, HMS Illustrious, HMS Hermione and seven destroyers parted company with the convoys and steered for the covering position near Cape Amber. At 1500/4 the signal was made to proceed in execution with the orders and Groups II to V formed up for the final approach.
The composition of these groups was as follows; II; HMS Laforey, one corvette, two minesweeping corvettes and the four minesweepers.
III; HMS Devonshire, Winchester Castle, HMS Royal Ulsterman and one destroyer.
IV; HMS Keren, HMS Karanja Sobieski, Derwentdale, HMS Bachaquero and three corvettes.
V; HMS Pakenham, two corvettes, 10 transports, store ships and auxliaries.
Capt. Oliver of HMS Devonshire was the senior officer. It was his task of bringing the convoy of 34 ships safely to its anchorage. It had 88 miles to go, most of it in the dark.
At 1800/4, HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning and HMS Anthony were detached to make landfall of Nosi Amambo, and proceeded to the south-east. At 1950/4 a suspicious vessel was reported and the division was about to attack with torpeoes at 2021/4 when it was seen to be a distant island (sic !). Twenty minutes later shallow sounding raised doubts as to their position, but at 2100/4 a white light was seen on Noi Anambo and at 2122 the moon rose silhouetting a tower on the island. Half an hour later the first buoy was laid (ZA) and course was shaped for Nosi Fati shoal, which was found without difficulty, both land and beakers showing up well in the moonlight.
At 2310/4 No.1 main channel buoy was laid and HMS Lightning anchored off it. At 2340/4, she swithched on the prearranged lights (green, white, red) to seaward. HMS Anthony then went to inform the convoy that these buoy were in place, and the Laforey went on laying the remainder in the 15-mile channel to Nosi Hara.
This was an easy task, as the channel between Nosi Hari and Nosi Anjombavola could be seen clearly in the moonlight, and after dropping the last buoy, she turned back at 0003/5. The convoy could be seen just entering the channel. Its ships were clearly visible to the naked eye. HMS Laforey then stood to the westward. At 0026/5, HMS Laforey reported ' Channel OK, no corss set ' to the Devonshire and Keren, then turning, took station astern of the minesweepers.
HMS Devonshire, meanwhile, with group IV and V astern, had been groping her way in. It was quite dark at 184/4, but star sights showed that the north-easterly set allowed for had in effect been running the other way during the afternoon carrying her some 5 miles to the south-westward of her intended position. She altered coursev without signal at 1900/4 to correct this and her screen not immediately observing the alteration, got a long way out of station. At 2100/4 the high land on Cape Sebastian was sighted, and a reasonably good fix was obtained by visual bearing and RDF range. More land was sighted after moonrise, and at 2150/4 the jaged peak of Windsor Castle was identified 40 miles away and an accurate fix placed the Devonshire 298°, 18 miles from position ZB. Course was altered to 118° at 2200/4 and speed was reduced to 8.5 knots.
At 2312/4 another good fix showed that she had been set 2.5 miles to the northward, placing her 360°, 6 miles from position ZB, and course was altered to 138° at 2318/4. Twenty minutes later the lights displayed by HMS Lightning were sighted so navigation was no longer difficult. At 2342/4 HMS Anthony passed close alongside and reported there was no set though the outer dan buoy had drifted to the south-westward. Course was altered to follow the minesweepers which could be seen clearly ahead and HMS Lightning was passed 6 cables abeam to starboard at 0008/5. This showed that HMS Devonshire had passed position ZB 33 minutes ahead of time. The right hand edge of Nosi Hara selected as a leading mark was clearly visible, bearing 114°, but it was not easy to follow the passage as several of the dan buoys had broken adrift and it wa difficult to ee which minesweepers were sweeping. Actually their work had come to a sudden halt. Owing to the out dan buoy being to the south-west of it intended position, the mineweepers had gone too close to Nosi Fati shoal and all four had parted their sweepers. Nothing was known of this at the time, and it was supposed that the channel was being swept according to plan, though in fact it was not being swept at all. Fortunately no mines had been laid so far to seaward.
At 0130/5, the ships in group III passed between Nosi Hari and Nosi Anjombavola. Before them lay Ambararata Bay. At 0154/5 the Winchester Castle came noiselessly to an anchor, the Royal Ulsterman and HMS Lightning standing by to the north-eastward of her. The troops were all drawn up and her assault craft were lowered and manned. HMS Devonshire anchored some 3.5 cables to the eastward of Nosi Hara, ready to open fire on the enemy's batteries under Windsor Castle. She lay invisible against the background of the island. Through unlit and tortuous channels studded with rocks and shoals the ships had been brought safely to their anchorage. Silently, Groups IV and V entered and took up their berths, anchoring some 10 minutes earlier than planned.
Assault landing, 5 May 1942.
While the assault craft were being manned, HMS Romney and HMS Cromarty accurately and steadfastly led by HMS Freesia commened to sweep the 8-mile channel from the Winchester Castle's berth to position JJ. They were closely followed by HMS Laforey leading the Winchester Castle's flotilla with HMS Lightning and HMS Royal Ulsterman some distance astern. During this passage about 17 mines were cut. At 0300/5 one detonated in the Romney's sweep, but no sign of life came from the French garrison ashore. A quarter of an hour later another mine exploded. All waited for the expected fusillade, but to their surprise the quiet of the summer night remained undisturbed. The garrison was evidently sleeping soundly, and at 0330/5 the dispersal point (JJ) was reached and the flotilla moved off towards the 'Red' beaches, while HMS Royal Ulsterman silently anchored and commenced landing her cobles. Meanwhile the flotillas from the Keren and Karanja had left at 0253/5 and 0319/5 for the 'Green' and 'White' beaches respectively.
The navigation of the landing craft was as good as that of their parent ships. All made accurate landings and the assault was carried out exactly as planned. Despite the explosions of the mines, complete surprise was achieved, and all three beaches and No.7 battery were carried without loss. 'Blue' beach was then assaulted. Here opposition was experienced, but it was overcome by troops which had landed at 'White' beach, who crossed the peninsula and took the defenders in the rear.
Simultaneously with these landings, HMS Hermione was carrying out her diversion on the east coast, consisting of a demonstration with delay action smoke floats, rockets, and the firing of star shell to burst over the beach at the head of Ambodi Vahibe Bay. She then established a patrol of the entrance to Diego Saurez Bay which she maintained for the rest of the day without incident, except for a short engagement (0643 to 0655/5) with No.1 coast defence batterey, Oranjiia, which she outranged at 18000 yards.
Half an hour after the initial landing, air attacks by the FAA developed on the Vichy-French shipping in Diego Saurez harbour and on Antsirane aerodrome. The former, carried out by 18 Swordfish from HMS Illustrious armed with torpedoes, bombs and depth charges, proved very effective. The armed merchant cruiser Bougainville was hit by a torpedo, the submarine Beveziers was sunk by depth charges and the sloop D'Entrecasteaux, another submarine and AA batteries were narrowly missed by bombs. Fighter protection was provided by 8 Martlets, which demonstrated ovr the town during the attack. One Swordfish was shot down during the attack.
At the same time six Albacores from HMS Indomitable carried out a low level bombing attack on Antsirane airport. Here, again, the surprise was complete and the hangars, which were full of aircraft, were left burning. This was followed by an attack with incendiary bullets by eight sea Hurricanes.
After these main air attacks, three Swordfish dropped dummy parachutists in a valley 6 mines west-south-west of Ambodi Vahibe Bay, to strengthen the effect of the diversion by HMS Hermione. Fighter patrols were then established over the town, beaches and transports, and an A/S patol off the entrance to Diego Saurez harbour.
At 0545/5 the ' success ' signal from No.7 battery was received and Keren, Karanja, Sobieski, Winchester Castle and Bachaquero proceeded to shift to the main anchorage off Ambararata Bay. The three former were still loading their second flight of landing craft but Winchester Castle and Bachaquero at once got under way. By that time it was broad daylight and they were seen by HMS Devonshire advancing up the swept channel. Just at that moment Capt. Oliver received a signal from HMS Romney that she had exploded two mines just north of the anchorage. Capt. Oliver therefore ordered the two ships to stop and the ordered to move was then cancelled until the new anchorage was swept.
By 0620/5, about 2000 troops had been landed but the turn round for the landing craft was very long. Reports of a successful advance and the capture of prisoners began to come in.
At 0750/5, group IV, followed by the remainder of the convoy, shifted berth to the main anchoragem which by that time had been swept by HMS Cromer, HMS Poole, HMS Auricula and HMS Nigella. No mines had been found in the actual anchorage, but about a mile to the north-west, HMS Cromer and HMS Auricula cut seven in quick succession and cut six more and detonated one in the same position shortly afterwards.
Conditions in the anchorage by this time were far from pleasant. The south-easterly wind had increased to force 8 and was raising a heavy sea. Ships were dropping second anchors and the handling and loading of landing craft was difficult but non the less disembarkation continued at full speed.
Sweeping was still continuing in the vicinity of position HH, when at 1138/5, HMS Auricula struck a mine and broke her back. As she had no casualties and was in no immediate danger of sinking, she remained where she was, anchored by her sweep. By this time the minesweepers had swept up no less than 35 mines but half of them were now out of action with defects to their gear. As it was imperative to have sufficient minesweepers with the fleet to proceed into Diego Saurez after its capture it was decided to cease further minesweeping for the moment.
Landing continued throughout the day. Two or three machine-gun attacks were made on the beaches by enemy fighter aircraft, but FAA patrols provided effective protection and, thanks to the initial blow to the aerodrome no attacks were made on the transports.
At 1354/5, an enemy post on Windsor Castle, becoming a nuisance was engaged by HMS Laforey. Shortly afterwards a white flag and signals of surrender were observed and fire was ceased. However, on advancing, the British troop wee bombed by the French with hand granades.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in finding a suitable beach for the Bachaquero but a spot close to 'Red' beach was eventually found. She had to approach it through the minefield but was swept in by HMS Cromarty who cut two mines adrift, and she landed her cargo in 14 minutes.
At sunset landing operations were suspended till sunrise, in order to avoid damage to the landing craft. Before dark destroyers and corvettes took up their stations as A/S patrols of the entrances to the harbour, and orders were given to abandon HMS Auricula for the night.
Operations of Group I, 4 to 6 May 1942.
Meanwhile, outside the harbour the night had passed without incident. Group I, made up of HMS Ramillies, HMS Indomitable, HMS Illustrious, HMS Hermione, HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Lookout, HMS Javelin, HMS Inconstant, HMS Duncan and HMS Active, after the assault landing force parted company (4th May), had continued to the north-eastwar, HMS Hermione being detached at 1700/4 to the east coast to carry out her diversion next morning. The remainder patrolled up and down in the vicinity of position 'AA' till 2200/4, when course was shaped towards Nosi Fati and towards midnight the ships in Group V could be seen bearing 070°, distant 11 miles, steering for position 'ZC'. At 0015/5, land loomed up ahead and it was clear that the force was further to the south-eastward than had been aniticipated, course was altered the the north-east under the stern of the convoy at 0020/5.
Shortly before 0300/5, HMS Anthony was sighted. She reported that the channel had been buoyed without difficulty, that at 0015/15 Winchester Castle was approaching position 'ZC' with the remainder of the ships closed up, and that conditions for landing were very good.
The time had come for the carriers to get to work, and at 0300/5 they, with HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Javelin and HMS Inconstant were detached to operate independently under Rear-Admiral Boyd, some 35 miles were of Cape Amber, while HMS Ramilles with HMS Lookout, HMS Duncan and HMS Active kept within visual supporting distance.
THe carrier had barely moved off when the first news was received by the Admiral from the ships inshore. It was a signal time 0318/5 from HMS Laforey reporting that mines had been cut near position 'JJ'. A long pause then followed. About 0440/5 star shell was seen, which were taken to be from HMS Hermione.
At 0540/5 another signal came in from HMS Laforey reported no sign of oppostion on the shore. Further signals from her reported No.7 battery captured with negligible opposition, native troops surrendering, and the advance continuing. No.8 battery could not be found and was apparently non-existent, and the situation was under complete control. Later it was reported that mines were delaying the move to the main anchorage.
Signals were also received from HMS Hermione and the carriers, reporting the progress of their activities. At 0836/5, HMS Illustrious reported that there were no submarines remaining in Diego Saurez harbour and all ships were then warned that most likely two of them would be at sea in the area.
At 0719/5, a reply on the ultimatum was received from the French stain that they would defend to the last.
By 0720/5, the Combined Commander-in-Chief felt that the assault had made a very good start. Troops were advancing, prisoners taken, HMS Hermione diversion had proceeded satisfacorily, air attacks had been successful both on the aerodrome and on ship. On the debit side it was clear that unswept mines in Courrier Bay were causing delays in disembarkation, and the rejection of the ultimatum showed that opposition might be expected to stiffen.
During the forenoon, though news was somewhat scanty it seemed that the disembarkation was proceeding steadily, and the assault was advancing to their objectives it was evident that resistance was increasing. Rear-Admiral Boyd, confirmed that there were no submarines in harbour and that a sloop was seen undeway. She was later attacked by Swordfish aircraft from HMS Illustrious. She was hit forward and was beached but she remained in action.
At noon on the 5th, Major-General Sturges, who was on board HMS Ramillies expressed a wish to disembark, so the flagship shaped course for position 'ZB'. At 1420/5 the General and hi staff were transferred to HMS Anthony for passage ashore. The information on board HMS Ramillies at that time was that Headquarter, No.5 Commando was east of Andrakaka village and that they were advancing with very little resistance.
HMS Ramillies then proceeded towards a position some 88 miles to the westward of Cape Amber, being joined by the carriers at sunset. A message was received that the attack on the Antsirane position was held up but that a fresh assault would be made at daylight. Air support was asked for and this was arranged.
During the night of 5/6 May 1942, Group I cruiser in the vicinity of position 12°S up to 100 miles from Cape Amber. At 0148/6, a situation report timed 2200/5 was received. It stated that the advance of troops had been delayed but that new attacks had been planned for the following day.
On receipt of this signal, HMS Devonshire was ordered to join HMS Hermione to the eastward of Diego Saurez to give supporting fire to upcoming assaults.
At 0400/6, the carriers and their escort were detached to carry out flying operations, and the bombing of enemy positions south of Antsirane started at 0500/6, followed up by machine-gun attacks by Martlets at 0530/6. A bombing attack was also launched on the aerodrome at first light. Enemy Potez 63 bombers were engaged over the town by fighters from HMS Illustrious, which shot down two for certain, and probably a third. Fighters from HMS Indomitable attacked the sloop D'Entrecasteaux, which was firing on out troops. The sloop was set on fire.
As it was uncertain when entry into the harbour of Diego Saurez would be possible, Rear-Admiral Syfret decided to refuel HMS Ramillies and her destroyer screen after detaching the carriers. The destroyers were then to swap places with the ones escorting the carriers so that these could also refuel. They accordingly proceeded to Ambararata Baym anchoring near position ZD at 0722/6. Twenty minutes later HMS Auricula broke in two and sank, while attempts were being made by HMS Freesia to tow her to shallow water. No life was lost.
The general situation at 0900/6 was as follows; HMS Devonshire and HMS Hermione were concentrated east of Diego Saurez, and the minesweepers HMS Cromer, HMS Cromarty, HMS Romney, HMS Nigella had also proceeded to this area. No report had been received of the progress of the land assault on Antsirane. At 0600/6, HMS Lightning had bombarded an enemy machine-gun nest which had been re-estalished on Windsor Castle. HMS Pakenham also fired a few rounds on this target. HMS Laforey from position 'JJ' was just opening fire on the D'Entrecasteaux, which had extinguished the fire caused by the air attack and was still flying her battle ensign.
At 1009/6, HMS Laforey reported the sloop again on fire with ammunition exploding. She then joined HMS Lightning near 'Red' beach and with her bombarded a position south of Antsirane.
During the forenoon, 6th May, no information was forthcoming as to the progress of the assault, and it was not until 1250/6 that the Admiral learnt that it had failed. Of the situation as it appeared that afternoon the Admiral says: At about 1400/6 the General arrived on board. He was hot, begrimed and unhappy. Things were not going well, he said. French resistance was heavier then expected and they appeared to be well organized and equipped.
The Admiral offered the General " any and all assistance " the fleet could give. The enemy's position was outside the range of the Ramillies and cruisers guns, but aircraft bombing was promised. Then came a suggestion which had a substantial effect. The General asked if it would be possible to put 20 or 30 seamen ashore on the Antsirane Peninsula to create a diversion in the enemy's rear. It was decided to try to land 50 marines there from a destroyer. Assistance might be forthcoming from No.5 Commano which was in control of Andrakaka Peninsula, but this would depend on their finding boats to cross Port Nievre.
At was then 1430/6and the party had to be collected, a destroyer told off and a passage of 100 miles to be accomplished. The Admiral recommended that the hour for the attack should be put off till 2030 hours. HMS Anthony was called alongside and instructions were given to her Commanding Officer, Lt.Cdr. Hodges and to Captain Price, Royal Marines who was to lead the landing party. The General then left the flagship in order to organise the night attack by the 17th Brigade. The 50 marines were embarked in HMS Anthony by 1530/6, one hour ater the decision to make the ettempt - and at 1545/6 she cast off. The Admiral then proceeded to sea in HMS Ramillies, keeping within 45 miles of position 'ZB' in order to facilitate wireless communication with the Army.
The impression left on Rear-Admiral Syfret after the General's visit was that the intended quick capture of Diego Saurez was a 90 per cent failure. The night attack, planned in a hurry, to be carried out by tired troops against very strong positions, had only a small chance of success. Prolonged operations, which we so much wished to avoil, was the unpleasant alternative. The Anthony' chance of success the Rear-Admiral assessed at about 50 per cent though his advisers thought only 15 per cent. They thought that the Royal Marines would not survive the night. The next few hours were not going to be happy ones they thought.
Meanwhile the landing on the beaches had continued throughout the day. By 1700/6, 10000 men were ashore.
The capture of Antsirane, 6 May 1942.
After leaving Ambararata Bay at high speed, HMS Anthony ran into a heavy sea. Most of the marines were sick - a sorry start for the task before them.
Cape Amber was abeam at 1805/6, course was altered to 170° a quarter of an hour later and speed was reduced to 13 knots. Thanks to echo sounding and RDF little difficulty was experienced in making the entrance to Diego Saurez Harbour, and speed was increased to 22 knots at 2001/6 when 1 mile from the entrance. The ship was apparently unobserved till she was through Oranjia Pass and half a mile to the westward, when fire was opened by Nos. 2, 4 and 5 batteries and later by No. 1 battery. About 25 rounds were fired. HMS Anthony replied briskly with her after 4.7" guns (the two foremost would not bear), the port pom-pom and Oerlikon, and the enemy ceased fire at 2018/6, when course was altered to 212° short of Nosi Langor.
It had been intended to go alongside the deep water quay, port side to, where it was hoped men from No.5 Commando would be waiting ti help berth the ship. They had failed, however, to find any boats to bring them across from Andrakaka, and in the darkness the jetty was overshot. HMS Anthony turned round and an attempt was made to go alongside starboard side to, but a strong off-shore wind prevented this so with supreme skill Lt.Cdr. Hodges held his stern against the jetty long enough for Captain Price to get his men ashore. Snipers were firing from the jetty and the wooded slopes from the eastward, but a constant stream of bright tracer from pom-pom, Oerlikon, Lewis and Bren guns evidently disconcerted them, and by the time the Marines disembarked the majority had ceased fire. HMS Anthony, having done her part, left at high speed. The barreries at Oronjia opened fire on her, but she was not hit, though some of the rounds fell rather close. She replied with rapid salvos from the whole gun armament. No.1 battery continued to fire till she was about 3 miles from the harbour entrance, when course was shaped to the northward to return to Ambararata Bay.
Meanwhile, Captain Price and his Marines - left entirely to their own devices, with no means of retreat - were groping their way south through the dockyard. In spite of fires still burning after the raids by FAA aircraft, it was very dark and they missed the turning to the eastward by which they had meant to enter the town. Progress was delayd by having to spread to avoid heavy casualties from rifle and machine-gun fire. For some time a high wall on their left forced them to parallel the town, but eventually they found a gap in it and Captain Price led them over a very high bank. It was a rough scramble which brought them to a wall and through a stiff wire fence into the compund of the artillery General's house. Captain Price occupied it with No.1 platoon while Lieutenant Powell, with the other platoon formed another strong point a few hundred yards down the road. Attempts to advertise the diversion by fires had little success as the houses seemed to be under construction and had nothing in them to burn.
Lieutenant Powell soon reached what proved to be the naval depot. A feeble fire was opened on his party, they replied with hand grenades, on which the defenders, headed by the Commandant of the barracks, proceeded to surrender. Lieutenant Powell had barely accepted the surrender when the drummer sounded off a call and was immediately 'overwhelmed' for his treachery by a posse of marines. The Commandant then explained that the call was the 'cease fire'. Apologies were made and accepted.
In the barracks were found three British Army officers with 50 other ranks, three FAA personnel, and a British agent who was awaiting execution next morning. Two or three thousand rifles and some heavy machine-guns were found in the artillery headquarters.
to Captain Price's astonishment crowds then appeared who wished to surrender, both from the naval headquarters as from the artillery depot. Rifle and machine-gun fire was opened on his party periodically from the right flank but this caused no appreciable inconvenience.
Meanwhile, the attack from the south by the 17th and 29th Brigades had commenced at 2030/6. The General had finally decided to use both brigades. Firing as sporadic until the success signal from the town showed that the Marines had landed. Then the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers pressed home their attac and by 0300/7, Brigadier Festing was able to report that he was in complete possession of the town and its defences, and had received the personal surrender of the naval and military commanders and staffs. Rear-Admiral Syfret was of opinion that, on hearing the firing in the town, the men in the trenches made for the town to look after their homes and belongings, thus simplifying the task of our troops. Be that as it may, the town was in British hands that night, a result largely due to the success of the hazardous enterprise launched suddenly at the enemy's back door, and to the splendid leadership of both Captain Price and Lieutenant Powell as well as the fine qualities displayed by the whole landing party.
By 0800/7, the work of sorting out the prisoners was in full swing.
Occupation of Diego Saurez, 7 May 1942.
Whilst affairs in Antsirane were taking this happy turn, Rear-Admiral Syfret was cruising to the south-west of a line 300° from Nosi Fati, while the aircraft carrier to the north-eastward were carrying out flying operations in support of the night attack. The first indication or a possible success reached the Admiral at 2129/6, a signal from HMS Anthony reporting that she had accomplished her task successfully.
No news from the Army came in until 0103/7, when a requist came in for ship and air support at 0900/7 for an attack on Oronjia Peninsula by the 29th Brigade. From this it was clear that the night attack had succeeded. HMS Ramillies then shaped course to join HMS Devonshire and HMS Hermione to the eastward of te Oronjia Peninsula, in readiness to bombard.
During the night these were two submarine alarms. At 2345/6, HMS Genista reported a contact, 285°, 4 miles from Nosi Hara, She attacked with a pattern of 10 depth-charges before losing it at 0111/7. A search by HMS Pakenham, HMS Laforey and corvettes failed to regain contact.
At early dawn, 0504/7, a Swordfish from HMS Illustrious sighted a submarine, which proved to be the Le Heros, on the surface off Voailava Point, the northern entrance to Courrier Bay and immediately sank her with depth charges. 6 Officers and 44 ratings were picked up by HMS Pakenham and HMS Jasmine three hours later some 4 miles west of the position of the attack.
Meanwhile HMS Ramillies had joined HMS Devonshire and HMS Hermione at 0625/7. The squadron formed line ahead in the order Ramillies, Devonshire and Hermione. They were screened by HMS Paladin, HMS Panther, HMS Lightning and HMS Active. They were ready to open fire at 0900/7.
Then a message came in from the Army stating that the reorganisation of units in Antsirande had necessitated a revised plan, and the 17th Brigade would commence the attack on Oranjia Peninsula at noon/7. Bombardment was requisted as soon as possible after 1000/7, unless and ultimatum to surrender was accepted by the French. Orders were therefore given to open fire at 1030/7m but at 1003/7 came a signal that the chances of surrender seemed good and requesting a further postponement of action. The Admiral, however, was averse to keeping the Fleet steaming up and down in dangerous waters, and decided to commence a 15 minute bombardment ' to encourage the enemy to surrender'.
At 1040/7, fire was opened accordingly from a range of 20000 to 21000 yards, in order to keep outside the maximum range (18000 yards) of the 6.6" guns of No.1 battery, which was engaged by HMS Ramillies and HMS Lightning. Spotting aircraft failed to arrive and firing was carried out under very difficult condition, against targets seen only as the crests of a gently sloping ridge of hills, but despite this hanicap out of 23 15" shells fired, six fell in the immediate vicinity of the battery and quarters.
Great difficulty was experienced in spotting te fall of HMS Lightning's shot at this long range, and she fired only a few rounds. HMS Hermione fired half a dozen rounds at a battery which she had reported the previous day, but it was in thickly wooded country, and she was unable to identify it with certainty. HMS Devonshire did not fire at all, partly owing to the interpretation placed on signals received from the Army, and partly on accoint of the Admiral's instructions to conserve ammunition during the preliminary bombardment. Ten minutes after fire was opened, a message that Oronjia Peninsula had surrendered was reeived, and the bombardment ceased.
This ended the fighting. By 1620/7 the four minesweepers which had been standing by since the day before had swept the channel and harbour. At 1700/7, HMS Ramillies, HMS Hermione, HMS Paladin and HMS Lightning, entered Diego Saurez harbour. A bare 60 hours had elapsed since the initial landing in Courrier Bay.
The slow convoy had already sailed from Ambararata Bay at 1600/7 and the fast convoy followed the next morning. Both anchoring in Baie des Francais in the afternoon of the 8th. Rear-Admiral Boyd in HMS Indomitable also arrived on the morning of the 8th. When 7 miles to the eastward of Oranjia Pass she was attacked by a submarine - subsequently identified as the Monge - whose torpedo passed 50 yards ahead of the ship. HMS Active, joined later by HMS Panther, carried out two counter-attacks, which the wreckage and oil brought ti the surface proved to have been successful.
HMS Illustrious and HMS Devonshire remained at sea for a further 24 hours to provide fighter and A/S protection till 0800/9 when the joined the remainer of the force in Diego Saurez Bay.
19 May 1942
The following vessels departed Diego Saurez for Kilindini; aircraft carriers HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN), HMS Illustrious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN) and the minesweepers HMS Cromarty (Lt.Cdr. C.G. Palmer, DSC, RNZNVR), HMS Cromer (Cdr. R.H. Stephenson, DSC, RN), HMS Poole (Lt. W.L.G. Dutton, RNR) and HMS Romney (Cdr.(Retd.) R.H.V. Sivewright, RN).
22 May 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral D.W. Boyd, CBE, DSC, RN), HMS Illustrious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.D. Pugsley, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Active (Lt.Cdr. M.W. Tomkinson, RN), HMS Cromarty (Lt.Cdr. C.G. Palmer, DSC, RNZNVR), HMS Cromer (Cdr. R.H. Stephenson, DSC, RN), HMS Poole (Lt. W.L.G. Dutton, RNR) and HMS Romney (Cdr.(Retd.) R.H.V. Sivewright, RN) all arrived at Kilindini from Diego Saurez.
30 May 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) departed Mombasa for Aden.
She was to proceed to the Mediterranean to join the 15th Cruiser Squadron based at Alexandria.
30 May 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) arrived at Aden. After fuelling she departed for Port Said later the same day. (19)
7 Jun 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN) arrived at Port Said. She departed for Alexandria later the same day escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN). (20)
8 Jun 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN) arrived at Alexandria from Port Said. (21)
11 Jun 1942
Convoy MW 11 from ports in the Eastern Mediterranean to Malta.
Operation Vigorous in the Eastern Mediterranean took place at the same time of Operation Harpoon in the Western Mediterranean.
11 June 1942.
On 11 June 1942, a diversionary convoy, MW 11C, departed Port Said for Malta. It was made up of the following transports; Aagtekerk (Dutch, 6811 GRT, built 1934), Bhutan (British, 6104 GRT, built 1929), City of Calcutta (British, 8063 GRT, built 1940) and Rembrandt (Dutch, 8126 GRT, built 1941).
The convoy was escorted by the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Airedale (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN), HMS Aldenham (Lt. H.A. Stuart-Menteth, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN), HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN), HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN) and HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN).
The convoy proceeded eastwards and on 12 June the convoy was joined while near Alexandria by the escort destroyer HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN).
12 June 1942.
On 12 June 1942, convoy MW 11A departed Haifa for Malta. It was made up of the following transports; Ajax (British, 7540 GRT, built 1931), City of Edinburgh (British, 8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938), City of Pretoria (British, 8049 GRT, built 1937), Elizabeth Bakke (British, 5450 GRT, built 1937) and Princess Marguerite (Canadian, 5875 GRT, built 1925).
On depature from Haifa this part of the convoy was escorted by the detroyers HMAS Napier (Capt. S.H.T. Arliss, DSO, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, DSO and Bar, RAN), HMAS Nizam (Lt.Cdr. M.J. Clark, DSC, RAN), HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN), HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN) and HMS Hotspur (Lt. T.D. Herrick, DSC and Bar, RN).
Also on 12 June 1942, convoy MW 11B departed Port Said to join up with convoy MW 11A. It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Bulkoil (American (tanker), 8071 GRT, built 1942) and Potaro (British, 5410, built 1940).
13 June 1942.
Convoy MW 11C turned back eastward after dark on the 12th and joined convoys MW 11A and MW 11B near Alexandria on the 13th. The Hunt-class escort destroyers escorting convoy MW 11C were sent to Alexandria to fuel.
The transport City of Calcutta had been damaged by a near miss at 2100/12 while the convoy was still proceeding to the west. She had been detached and was now escorted to Tobruk by HMS Croome and HMS Exmoor. The four MTB's that were in tow of the four merchant ships of convoy MW 11C, were slipped and also sent to Tobruk due to the bad weather conditions. MTB 259 however was damaged and sunk.
The transport Elizabeth Bakke was unable to keep up with the convoy and was therefore detached from convoy MW 11A to return to Alexandria. The decoy ship Centurion joined the convoy from Alexandria. This ship was disguised as a battleship.
The destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, CB, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Javelin (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, DSO, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. N.H.G. Austen, RN) and HMS Hero (Lt. W. Scott, RN) departed Alexandria in the afternoon to relieve all the fleet destroyers which were with the convoy at that time. The rescue ships Antwerp (British, 2957 GRT, built 1920) and Malines (British, 2969 GRT, built 1921) took passage to the convoy with these destroyers. The destroyers they were to relieve were then to proceed to Alexandria to fuel. The corvettes HMS Delphinium (Cdr.(Retd.) R.L. Spalding, RN), HMS Erica (Lt.Cdr. W.C. Riley, RNR), HMS Primula (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) J.H. Fuller, RNR) and HMS Snapdragon (T/Lt. P.H. Potter, RNR) also joined the convoy escort from Alexandria.
At 1730/13 the Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron, which was in overal command, sailed from Alexandria in HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN) with HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, DSO, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN, fling the flag of Rear Admiral W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Birmingham (Capt. H.B. Crane, RN) and HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers: HMAS Napier, HMAS Nestor, HMAS Nizam, HMAS Norman, HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin, HMS Inconstant, HMS Fortune, HMS Griffin (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN), HMS Hotspur and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton, HMS Airedale, HMS Aldenham, HMS Beaufort, HMS Eridge, HMS Hurworth and HMS Tetcott (Lt. R.H. Rycroft, RN).
14 June 1942.
HMS Erica had to be detached to Mersa Matruh during night of 13th/14th due to defects.
The escort destroyers HMS Croome and HMS Exmoor rejoined the convoy at daylight coming from Tobruk.
The transport Aagtekerk was unable to keep up with the convoy and was ordered to proceed to Tobruk escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Primula. She was later attacked by aircraft, set on fire and had to be grounded near Tobruk. She was later declared a total loss.
During the afternoon and evening the convoy and escort were heavily bombed. The transport Bhutan was hit and sank while the transport Potaro was damaged but she was able to remain with the convoy. The rescue ships picked up crew and passengers from the Bhutan following which they parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Tobruk.
In the early evening it was reported that Italian warships had left Taranto.
15 June 1942.
Rear-Admiral Vian ordered the convoy to turn back at 0145/15 so that an air attack could launched on the enemy fleet before contact could be made. During the night of the 14th/15th the convoy was constantly illuminated by aircraft flares and was also attacked by E-Boats and submarines. HMS Newcastle was hit forward by an E boat (S 56) torpedo around 0300/15, her speed being reduced to 24 knots and her forward turret was put out of action. HMS Hasty was torpedoed and damaged also byan E boat (S 55) at 0525/15 and later had to be scuttled by HMS Hotspur which also rescued her crew, only 12 of the crew of HMS Hasty were lost.
At 0630/15 the convoy turned west again, but had to turn back to the east at 0930/15 when the enemy was only 100 miles to the west and air attacks had not developed. At 1115/6 a Beaufort torpedo bomber striking force reported hits on the two Littorio battleships, and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean ordered the convoy to turn westward once again. However the enemy continued to proceed to the south-east, apparently not reduced in speed. Rear-Admiral Vian, therefore, maintained his course to the eastward.
There were heavy air attacks with mainly Ju-88's and Ju-87's throughout the day and torpedo bombers attacked at dusk. Both Centurion and HMS Birmingham were damaged, but were able to continue. HMS Airedale was hit and she was later scuttled by HMS Aldenham and HMS Hurworth, casualties were fortunately once again slight. HMAS Nestor was also hit and immobilized but she did not sink and taken in tow by HMS Javelin with HMS Beaufort and HMS Eridge escorting the tow.
By 1630/5 it had been reported that the enemy fleet had turned northward and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean again ordered the convoy to turn to the westward if in any way possible. Shortage of fuel and ammunition, however, did not permit this, and Rear-Admiral Vian was instructed to return to Alexandria with his whole force.
Submarines then intercepted the enemy fleet, but a simultaneous air attack caused the enemy to alter course and unfortunately the attacks could not be pressed home. The heavy cruiser Trento was damaged by the air attack and later sunk by HMS P 35 (Lt. S.L.C. Maydon, RN) while making her way back to Italy. HMS P 35 also reported one torpedo hit on a Littorio-class battleship but this was not the cast, she had missed the Vittorio Veneto.
16 June 1942.
At 0126/16 HMS Hermione was torpedoed by the German submarine U-205 and sank shortly afterwards taking 88 of her crew with her. HMS Aldenham, HMS Beaufort and HMS Exmoorrescued 498 of her crew.
The efforts to tow the damaged HMAS Nestor had to be abandoned at 0530/16 and she was scuttled by HMS Javelin who then proceeded to rejoin the 15th Cruiser Squadron and its escort.
During the day several attacks on A/S contacts were carried out by the convoy escort, but there was no evidence of damage or a submarine sunk.
In the early evening ships started to arrive back at Alexandria and all the remaining ships arrived there during the evening except the merchant vessels Bulkoil and Ajax which went on to Port Said escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Inconstant, HMS Griffin and HMS Fortune. (22)
- ADM 53/114414
- ADM 53/114415
- ADM 53/114416
- ADM 53/114416 + ADM 199/411
- ADM 53/114416 + ADM 199/396
- ADM 53/114417
- ADM 53/114417 + ADM 199/396
- ADM 53/114417 + ADM 199/657
- ADM 199/657
- ADM 53/114418
- ADM 53/114421
- ADM 53/114422
- ADM 53/116059 + ADM 199/649
- ADM 199/649
- ADM 199/649
- ADM 53/116213 + ADM 53/116061
- ADM 53/116062
- ADM 234/331
- ADM 187/19
- ADM 199/650 + ADM 199/2556
- ADM 199/650
- ADM 199/650 + ADM 234/353
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.
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