HMS Despatch (D 30)
Light cruiser of the D class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Built by||Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. (Govan, Scotland)|
|Laid down||Jul 1918|
|Launched||24 Sep 1919|
|Commissioned||2 Jun 1922|
HMS Despatch was completed by Chatham Dockyard.
HMS Despatch was not an active unit as of January 1945
Reduced to reserve in January 1945. Sold 5 April 1946 and arrived for scrapping at Arnott Young, Troon, Scotland on 5 May 1946.
Commands listed for HMS Despatch (D 30)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Capt. Allan Poland, DSO, RN||31 Jul 1939||19 Feb 1940|
|2||Capt. Cyril George Bucknill Coltart, RN||10 Dec 1939||26 Feb 1940|
|3||Capt. John Wentworth Farquhar, RN||26 Feb 1940||21 Jun 1940|
|4||Capt. Cyril Eustace Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN||25 Jun 1940||7 Apr 1942|
|5||Cdr. (retired) Cyril Appleton, RN||7 Apr 1942||28 Apr 1942|
|6||Cdr. (retired) Sir Herbert Maurice Huntington-Whiteley, RN||28 Apr 1942||23 Jun 1942|
|7||Capt. William Ronald Christopher Leggatt, RN||23 Jun 1942||25 Sep 1943|
|8||Cdr. Richard Taylor White, DSO, RN||Apr 1944||early 1945|
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Notable events involving Despatch include:
2 Sep 1939
Convoy AB 1/1.
This convoy departed Gibraltar on 2 September 1939 and arrived at Capetown on 29 September 1939.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; British Ardour (British (tanker), 7124 GRT, built 1928), British Loyalty (British (tanker), 6993 GRT, built 1928), British Motorist (British (tanker), 6891 GRT, built 1924), British Princess (British (tanker), 7019 GRT, built 1917), British Progress (British (tanker), 4581 GRT, built 1927), City of Hereford (British, 5101 GRT, built 1927), City of Shanghai (British, 5828 GRT, built 1917) and Rowanbank (British, 5159 GRT, built 1919).
On departure from Gibraltar the convoy was escorted by the light cruisers HMS Dauntless (Capt. G.D. Moore, RAN) and HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, RN). Shortly after sailing four destroyers joined for A/S escort. These were HMS Douglas ( Cdr. R.F.B. Swinley, RN), HMS Watchman (Cdr.(Retd.) V. Hammersley-Heenan, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, RN) and they remained with the convoy until 0800/3.
At 1300/11, HMS Dauntless parted company with the convoy and proceeded to Freetown where she arrived around 1100/13.
At 0830/13, HMS Despatch turned over the convoy to HMS Durban (Capt. A.H. Maxwell-Hyslop, RN) which had departed Freetown around 1900/12 to join the convoy. HMS Despatch arrived at Freetown around 0615/14.
At 1045/29, the convoy was dispersed near Capetown after which most of the ships proceeded into Capetown harbour. HMS Durban arrived at Simonstown around 1700/29. (1)
21 Sep 1939
Convoy SL 2.
This convoy departed Freetown on 21 September 1939. It was split into several sections at sea at dusk on 7 October 1939 and the ships then proceeded to several ports of arrival in the U.K.
This convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Apapa (British, 9332 GRT, built 1927), Athelduchess (British (tanker), 8940 GRT, built 1929), Athelprincess (British (tanker), 8882 GRT, built 1929), City of Karachi (British, 7140 GRT, built 1937), Clan Macindoe (British, 4635 GRT, built 1920), Clearton (British, 5219 GRT, built 1919), Forresbank (British, 5155 GRT, built 1925), Grangepark (British, 5132 GRT, built 1919), Leonian (British, 5424 GRT, built 1936), Nurtureton (British, 6272 GRT, built 1929), Port Hardy (British, 8705 GRT, built 1923), Shakespear (British, 5029 GRT, built 1926), Urbino (British, 5198 GRT, built 1918) and Warlaby (British, 4876 GRT, built 1927).
Escort was provided on leaving Freetown by the light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, DSO, RN) which remained with the convoy until 28 September. On 21 September A/S escort was provided near Freetown by the destroyer HMS Hunter (Lt.Cdr. L. De Villiers, RN).
When approaching the U.K. the destroyers HMS Kelly (Capt. L.F.A.V.N. Mountbatten, GCVO, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, RN) joined the convoy at dawn on 7 October 1940. They were reinforced by early in the evening by HMS Vanoc (Lt.Cdr. J.G.W. Deneys, RN) and HMS Whirlwind (Lt.Cdr. M.B. Ewart-Wentworth, RN). Shorly afterwards the convoy was split.
25 Oct 1939
The German tanker Emmy Friedrich (4372 GRT, built 1904) departed Tampico, Mexico to try to break out into the Atlantic.
The light cruisers HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, DSO, RN) and HMS Caradoc (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN) which had been en-route from Bermuda to Kingston, Jamaica were diverted to patrol north of Cuba to try to intercept.
At 2120R/24, HMS Despatch sighted an unknown ship and altered course to close to investigate.
At 2215R/24, HMS Despatch stopped to sent over a boarding party and armed guard to inspect the suspicious vessel which claimed to be the Belgian Ostende (4528 GRT, built 1903).
At 2251R/24, the boarding officer reported that the ship was the German Emmy Friederich and four minutes later the German ship started to sink having been scuttled by her crew which then started to abandon ship.
In the meantime HMS Caradoc, which had been nearby, had sighted the suspicious vessel at 2130R/24 and had also altered course to investigate. She now took the cutter with the boarding party and armed guard in tow while also rescuing the German crew.
At 0030R/25, HMS Caradoc sent over her own boarding party to try to salvage the German ship. They returned at 0115R/25 having been unable to stop the inflow of water.
At 0500R/25, the Emmy Friederich sank.
HMS Caradoc remained in the area to sink the German lifeboats while HMS Despatch left the area for Kingston followed later by HMS Caradoc. (3)
9 Nov 1939
HMS Caradoc (Capt. E.W.L. Longley-Cook, RN) fuelled from the RFA tanker Orangeleaf (5927 GRT, built 1917) off Cocos Island.
Meanwhile HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, DSO, RN) also arrived at the rendezvous. She fuelled after HMS Caradoc had completed doing so.
Both cruisers then resumed patrol. HMS Caradoc proceeded to the north-east towards San Diego. HMS Despatch proceeded to the south-west towards the coast of Equador. (4)
5 Dec 1939
The German merchant Dusseldorf (4930 GRT) was captured by HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, DSO, RN) off Punta Caldera in Chilean territorial waters.
1 Mar 1940
HMS Despatch (Capt. A. Poland, RN) intercepts the German merchant Troja (2390 GRT) off Aruba, Dutch West Indies. However before the German ship can be captured she is scuttled by her own crew.
1 Oct 1940
During the night of 1/2 October 1940 the light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. C.E. Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. A. Doroszkowski, ORP) and Blyskawica (Lt.Cdr. W. Franki) conducted a sweep from Ushant towards Plateau des Roches Douvres (a reef to the west of Jersey). On completion of the sweep they returned to Plymouth. [Orders were to departed from Plymouth at 2000/1 and return at 0800/2.] (5)
5 Nov 1940
Hunt for the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer after the attack on convoy HX 84.
Timespan: 5 October to 23 October 1940.
In response to the attack on convoy HX 84 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer the Admiralty acted quickly.
The battlecruisers HMS Hood (Capt. I.G. Glennie, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral W.J. Whitworth, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Naiad (Capt. M.H.A. Kelsey, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.L.S. King, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Phoebe (Capt. G. Grantham, RN), HMS Bonaventure (Capt. H.J. Egerton, RN) and the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. St. J.A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Mashona (Cdr. W.H. Selby, RN), HMS Matabele (Cdr. R.St.V. Sherbrooke, DSO, RN), HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN) and HMS Electra (Lt.Cdr. S.A. Buss, MVO, RN) departed Scapa Flow at 2330/5 to proceed to the last reported position of the German pocket battleship 52°50'N, 32°15'W at 2003/5.
At 1050/6 the force split up; HMS Hood, HMS Naiad, HMS Phoebe, HMS Somali, HMS Eskimo and HMS Punjabi proceeded to patrol off the Bay of Biscay to cover the approaches to Brest and Lorient.
HMS Repulse, HMS Bonaventure, HMS Mashona, HMS Matabele and HMS Electra towards the Admiral Scheer's last known position.
At 0700/6 the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. G.J.A. Miles, RN, flying the flag of Admiral of the Fleet C.M. Forbes, GCB, DSO, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. F.H.G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, RN), light cruiser HMS Southampton (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and the destroyers HMS Cossack (Capt. P.L. Vian, DSO, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. H.T. Armstrong, RN), HMS Brilliant (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Douglas (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G. Crossley, RN), HMS Keppel (Lt. R.J. Hanson, RN) and HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. D.J.B. Jewitt, RN) departed Scapa Flow to cover the patrols in the Iceland-Faroes Channel.
Shortly before midnight during the night of 6/7 November HMS Rodney was detached to escort to escort convoy HX 83 and once this convoy was safe, HX 85 from Halifax.
Three armed merchant cruisers, which were on patrol were recalled to port on the 8th. These were HMS Chitral (Capt.(Retd.) G. Hamilton, RN), which was to the northwest of Iceland and HMS California (Capt. C.J. Pope, RAN) and HMS Worcestershire (A/Capt. J. Creswell, RN), which were to the south of Iceland. The light cruiser HMS Southampton was ordered to take over the place of HMS Chitral. She split off from HMS Nelson at 1600/8. HMS Worcestershire joined HMS Nelson and her escorting destroyers around 1500/9.
There were also the destroyers HMS Churchill (Cdr.(Retd.) G.R. Cousins, RN), HMS Lewes (Lt.Cdr. J.N.K. Knight, RN), HMS Lincoln (Cdr. A.M. Sheffield, RN) and HMS Ludlow (Cdr. G.B. Sayer, RN). They were en-route to the U.K. and had departed Halifax on 31 October and refuelled at St. Johns on 3 November. After receiving distress signals from ships in convoy HX 84 they rushed to the reported location. The only thing they found was an empty lifeboat. They then continued their Atlantic crossing and arrived at Londonderry on 9 November.
The destroyer HMS Stanley (A/Lt.Cdr. R.B. Stannard, VC, RNR) had departed Halifax on 1 November and St. Johns on 5 November. Now she and the Canadian destroyer HMCS St.Francis (Lt.Cdr. H.F. Pullen, RCN) escorted convoy HX 85, which had been recalled, back to Nova Scotia.
On 8 November, after machinery defects had been repaired, the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN) departed the Clyde to protect convoys.
The battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt C.E.B. Simeon, RN) and the destroyers HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN) departed Gibraltar at 0500/6 to provide cover for convoys HG 46 and SL 53.
At 1225/6, off Cape St Vincent, the submarine HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) was identified as enemy by HMS Encounter which then rammed the submarine which was en-route to Gibraltar. HMS Encounter was escorted to Gibraltar by HMS Forester. They arrived at 0800/7.
On 11 November, HMAS Australia relieved Renown from covering convoy HG 46 and Renown arrived back at Gibraltar around 1515/12. Renown had been joined at 0807/12 by the destroyers HMS Duncan (Cdr. A.D.B. James, RN) and HMS Forester.
Aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Despatch (Capt. C.E. Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Verity (Cdr. R.H. Mills, RN), HMS Vesper (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) and HMS Windsor (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN) departed the Clyde on 7 November for Gibraltar and were also ordered to keep a look out for the German pocket battleship. The destroyers were later detached; HMS Windsor around 0100/9 and HMS Verity and HMS Vesper around 0600/9. HMS Despatch was detached at 1000/13 and proceeded to Gibraltar where she arrived at the next day. Shortly before HMS Despatch was detached the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN) and HMS Wrestler (Lt. E.L. Jones, DSC, RN) had joined followed later in the day by HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN). HMS Argus, HMS Vidette, HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler arrived at Gibraltar very late on the 14th.
Battlecruiser HMS Repulse escorted by the destroyers HMS Matabele and HMS Electra arrived at Scapa Flow for refuelling around 1100/11.
Light cruiser HMS Bonaventure and destroyer HMS Mashona arrived at Scapa Flow around 1130/11 for refuelling.
Battlecruiser HMS Hood, light cruisers HMS Naiad, HMS Phoebe and the destroyers HMS Somali, HMS Eskimo and HMS Punjabi returned to Scapa Flow around 1400/11 for refuelling. HMS Eskimo had suffered weather damage to her asdic dome and had some forecastle deck plates buckled. She was docked for repairs in the floating drydock at Scapa Flow from 13 to 16 November.
After fuelling HMS Bonaventure departed Scapa Flow at 2300/11 to continue to search for survivors from convoy HX 84. Armed merchant cruiser HMS Chitral was also back at sea to search for survivors. She had departed from Reykjavik, Iceland around 2330/10.
HMS Bonaventure returned to Scapa Flow on the 19th with weather damage.
The armed merchant cruiser HMS Letitia (A/Capt. E.H. Longsdon, RN) departed the Clyde around 1300/11 for the Northern Patrol.
HMS Repulse, HMS Naiad departed Scapa Flow around 1330/12 for patrol and also to provide cover for ships of the Northern Patrol. They were escorted by the destoyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, RN), HMS Mashona, HMS Matabele and HMS Punjabi.
HMS Naiad parted company on the 13th to proceed to Jan Mayen Island where a German weather / wireless station in Jameson Bay was to be raided.
HMS Repulse returned to Scapa Flow at 0015/19 being escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN), HMS Mashona and HMS Matabele. They had provided cover for HMS Naiad during her raid on Jan Mayen Island.
Battleship HMS Rodney arrived at Scapa Flow around 1500/23rd. She had been joined at dawn the previous day by the destroyers HMS Beagle, HMS Brilliant, HMS Bulldog and HMS Electra. (6)
15 Nov 1940
Transfer of aircraft to Malta.
At 0400/15, ' Force H ', made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Despatch (Capt. Cyril Eustace Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fortune (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Duncan (Cdr. A.D.B. James, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN) departed Gibraltar in bright moonlight. Course was shaped at 16 knots to pass to the south of Alboran Island.
A/S patrols were flown off at dawn. The wind was westerly, force 4 throughout the day. For flying operations course had to be reversed. During the day some training exercises were carried out.
At 1130/15, an aircraft, most probably a Spanish air liner from Tetuan to Melilla, passed down the starboard side of the Fleet on a westerly course, in position 35°50'N, 03°56'W at a range of about 12 miles. At 1315/15, in position 35°35'N, 03°43'W a similar machine was seen passing the Fleet in the reverse direction. By this time however, the course of the Fleet was to the eastward. It is probable that these air lines report British units whenever sighted.
All aircraft were landed on by 1800/15. At 1900/15 course was altered to the north-eastward.
At 2101/15 a signal was received from the Air Officer Commanding, Mediterranean that arrangements had been made for meeting the Hurricanes. These were that a Sunderland from Malta would be in the rendezvous position of Galita Island to meet the first range of Hurricanes flying off at 0615/17, and a Glenn Martin from Malta to meet the second range flying off at 0710/17.
After dawn on the 16th, course was altered to the south-eastward and shortly afterwards, fighter and A/S patrols were flown off. The westerly wind had increased to force 6 and remained at that strenght throughout the day.
By noon the sea had increased and the conditions for operating aircrft had become severe. As visibility from the air was low and as the RDF screen remained clear, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided to cancel flying operations and maintain a fighter section at readiness in the carrier.
As there appeared to be every chance of avoiding detection and since bad weather conditions appeared likely to persist, Vice-Admiral Somerville decided at 1430/16 not to carry out the intended bombing attack on Alghero aerodrome.
Italian naval units were then reported to be at sea to the south of Naples and it was decided, in view of this, to launch the aircraft for Malta from as far west as the weather conditions would admit. HMS Argus reported that in te present weather the aircraft could be flown off from longtitude 06°40'E.
At 1500/16 the course of the fleet was therefore reversed for an hour to reduce the chances of detection before dark and in order to maintain a speed of not less then 16 knots during the night.
By 0200/17 the strong westerly wind had backed sightly and dropped considerably. Visibility had improved and was maximum at dawn.
At 0545/17 the force was split into two groups, HMS Argus, HMS Despatch and three of the destroyers were to fly off the Hurricanes for Malta. HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Sheffield and the remaining five destroyers were to fly off A/S patrols, a fighter section and a reconnaissance to the eastward.
At the time of flying off, the wind at 2000 feet in the flying off position was 220°, 20 knots, and the latest forecast received from Malta, which was timed 1130/16, reported the wind in the Malta chennel as south-west. As no further report was received it was presumed there was no change.
Te first flight took off at 0615/17 in position 37°29'N, 06°43'E and the second flight at 0715/17 in position 37°24'N, 06°52'E.
Arrangements had been made for a Sunderland to meet the first flight five miles to the northward of Galita Island, and for a Glen Martin to meet the second flight in the same position. From signals intercepted, it was apparent that the Sunderlandhad effected a rendezvous but that the Glen Martin had failed to do so.
On completion of flying off, the two groups joined company and ' Force H ' withdrew to the westward at 18.5 knots.
Reconnaissance aircraft returned at 0945/17 and reported nothing in sight within 100 miles to the east of ' Force H '. Two fighter sections were maintained in the air until 1400/17 but no enemy aircraft appeared.
From signals it was learnt that only one Skua and four Hurricanes had arrived at Malta. It is suspected that easterly winds had been encountered resullting in the loss of many aircraft and their pilots.
At 1530/17, the wind had increased to Force 6 so speed had to be reduced t 15 knots to avoid damage to the destroyers. A/S and fighter patrols were landed on and flying was cancelled for the day.
At 1550/17, HMS Sheffield was sent on ahead in order that she might fuel and obtain a night in harbour befor proceeding to the westward to rendezvous with the transport ships of operation Collar.
Speed had to be further reduced to 12 knots at 1635/17, and to 10 knots at 1655/17 to allow HMS Firedrake, which had dropped behind to effect some repairs, to regain station.
At 1800/17, Admiralty's message 1727/27 was received ordering ' Force H ' to return to Gibraltar at maximum speed. Vice-Admiral Somerville therefore reported position, course and speed (37°34'N, 03°31'E, 265°, 9 knots) and added that all ships were steaming into a full westerly gale.
Shortly afterwards Admiralty's message 1800/27 was received stating that the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was thought to be in the vicinity of the Azores and ordering HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal and other units to proceed to Gibraltar at maximum speed, refuel and than proceed to the Azores. In reply Vice-Admiral Somerville stated that by proceeding without a destroyer screen HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal could proceed at a somewhat hight speed, provided that the situation justified additional submarine risks.
At 2006/17, speed was increased to 12 knots and to 13 knots at 2035/17. At 2100/17, Admiralty's message timed 2025/17 was received ordering Vice-Admiral Somerville to retain the destroyers.
A small fire was observed in HMS Argus at 2140/17. At 2310/17, HMS Fury reported that damage was being sustained and speed was reduced to 12 knots.
At 0417/18, speed was increased to 13 knots and at 0454/18 to 14 knots. At 0600/18 the Admiralty was informed of the speed and position of ' Force H ' (37°24'N, 00°57'E). A further increase of speed to 18 knots was possible at 0837/18.
At 1110/18, speed was increased to 19 knots. HMS Argus, HMS Despatch, HMS Wishart, HMS Duncan and HMS Fury were then detached while HMS Renown, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Faulknor, HMS Firedrake, HMS Forester, HMS Fortune and HMS Foxhound proceeded ahead. They increased speed to 20 knots but at 1335/18 speed had to be reduced to 18 knots and at 1435/18 to 15 knots.
From this time onwards speed was varied between 15 and 20 knots in accordance with conditions prevailing. Arrangements were made with Admiral Commanding North Atlantic Station for HMS Renown and HMS Ark Royal to oil in Gibraltar Bay, destroyers and A/S trawlers meanwhile carrying out an A/S patrol in the vicinity.
At 0230/19, as the Renown group was about to enter Gibraltar Bay, Admiralty's message 0140/19 was received cancelling the deployment of ships proceeding to the Azores. Renown and Ark Royal therefore proceeded into harbour. HMS Renown entered harbour at 0350/19. HMS Argus and her group at 0850/19. (7)
25 Nov 1940
Operation Collar and the resulting Battle of Cape Spartivento.
See also the event for 23 November 1940 called ‘Operation MB 9’ for the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Departure of the convoy from Gibraltar / passage through the Straits of Gibraltar and plan of the operation.
During the night of 24/25 November 1940 the three merchants / troop transports, Clan Forbes (7529 GRT, built 1938), Clan Fraser (7529 GRT, built 1939) and New Zealand Star (10740 GRT, built 1935), passed the Straits of Gibraltar. To the eastward of Gibraltar they were joined by the four corvettes (HMS Peony (Lt.Cdr. (rtd.) M.B. Sherwood, DSO, RN), (HMS Salvia (Lt.Cdr. J.I. Miller, DSO, RD, RNR), HMS Gloxinia (Lt.Cdr. A.J.C. Pomeroy, RNVR) and HMS Hyacinth (T/Lt. F.C. Hopkins, RNR) that were part of Force ‘F’, which was the close support force of the convoy. The other ships of Force ‘F’ were the light cruisers HMS Manchester (Capt. H.A. Packer, RN) and HMS Southampton (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN) and the destroyer HMS Hotspur (Cdr. H.F.H Layman, DSO, RN), which was in a damaged state and was to proceed to Malta for full repairs. These last three ships sailed at 0800/25. The cruisers had each about 700 RAF and other military personnel onboard that were to be transported to Alexandria.
The cover force for this convoy, force ‘B’ also left Gibraltar at 0800/25. This force was made up of the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), the light cruisers HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN) and HMS Despatch (Capt. Cyril Eustace Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN). They were escorted by destroyers from the 8th and 13th Destroyer Flotillas; HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN, Capt. D.8), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), HMS Duncan (Capt. A.D.B. James, RN, Capt. D.13), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), HMS Vidette (Lt. E.N. Walmsley, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN) and HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN).
Force ‘F’ and the merchant ship New Zealand Star were to proceed to Alexandria except for HMS Hotspur which was to detach to Malta as mentioned earlier as well as the other two merchant ships. Force ‘B’ was to cover Force ‘F’ and the merchant ships during the passage of the Western Mediterranean. To the south of Sardinia these forces were to be joined around noon on 27 November 1940 by Force ‘D’ which came from the Eastern Mediterranean and was made up of the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. A.D. Reid, RN), the heavy cruiser HMS Berwick (Capt. G.L. Warren, RN), the light cruiser HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN) and the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. D. Gilmour, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. G.L. Farnfield, RN), HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN), HMS Gallant (Lt.Cdr. C.P.F. Brown, RN), HMS Greyhound (Cdr. W.R. Marshall A'Deane, DSC, RN) and HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN). [actually HMS Diamond however did not join Force 'D'] All forces were then to proceed towards the Sicilian narrows for a position between Sicily and Cape Bon which was to be reached at dusk. After dark Force ’F’, reinforced by HMS Coventry and the destroyers from Force ‘D’ were then to proceed through the narrows to the Eastern Mediterranean where they would be met the next day by ships of the Mediterranean Fleet. Force ‘B’ with HMS Ramillies, HMS Berwick and HMS Newcastle from Force ‘D’ were then to return to Gibraltar.
Disposition of British forces at 0800 hours, 27 November 1940.
At 0800/27, about half an hour before sunrise, the situation was as follows. Vice-Admiral Somerville in HMS Renown, with HMS Ark Royal, HMS Sheffield and four destroyers were in position 37°48’N, 07°24’E (about 95 nautical miles south-west of Cape Spartivento, Sardinia) steering 083° at 16 knots.
Some 25 nautical miles to the south-west of him, the Vice-Admiral 18th cruiser squadron in HMS Manchester, with HMS Southampton, HMS Despatch and five destroyers were in company with the convoy in position 37°37’N, 06°54’E. The four corvettes had been unable to keep up with the convoy and were about 10 nautical miles to the westward of it. The visibility was excellent, the wind south-easterly, force 3 to 4 and the sea was calm.
At this time HMS Ark Royal flew off a section of fighters, one A/S patrol, one meteorological machine and seven reconnaissance aircraft. Vice-Admiral Somerville continued on his easterly course to concentrate with Force ‘D’ which was approaching from the Skerki Bank. At 0900 hours he changed course to the south-west to join the convoy to provide additional AA defence for the convoy for expected air attacks from Sardinian aerodromes.
Reconnaissance aircraft report enemy forces at sea.
Shortly before the course change, at 0852/27 one of Ark Royal’s aicraft sighted a group of enemy warships about 25 nautical miles to the southward of Cape Spartivento and while closing to investigate at 0906 hours sent an alarm report of four cruisers and six destroyers, which, however was not received by any ship of the British forces. On sighting the convoy at 0920 hours, HMS Renown maneuvered to pass astern of it and take station to the southward and up sun, in the probable direction of any air attack. At 0956 hours, while still on the port quarter of the convoy, Vice-Admiral Somerville received from HMS Ark Royal an aircraft report timed 0920/27, of five cruisers and five destroyers some 65 nautical miles to the north-eastward of him.
Steam was at once ordered for full speed and screens of two destroyers each were arranged for both HMS Ark Royal and the merchant ships. Further reports from aircraft, confirmed by HMS Ark Royal, established by 1015/27 the presence of enemy battleships and cruisers and HMS Renown altered course to 075° to join HMS Ramillies increasing speed as rapidly as possible to 28 knots.
Measures to safeguard the convoy and to join Force ‘D’.
At 1035/27 the plot showed enemy forces to the north-east but their composition and relative position were still in doubt. In these circumstances Vice-Admiral Somerville decided that the convoy should continue to its destination steering a south-easterly course (120°) in order to keep clear of any action which might develop. It was given an escort of two cruisers, HMS Despatch and HMS Coventry and the destroyers HMS Duncan and HMS Wishart. The remaining two cruisers and three destroyers of Force ‘F’ were ordered to join Force ‘B’ which steered to make contact with Force ‘D’ which was approaching from the east and then to attack the enemy together. HMS Ark Royal was ordered to prepare and fly off a torpedo bomber striking force. She was to act independently escorted by HMS Kelvin and HMS Jaguar and under cover from the battlefleet.
At 1058/27 a Sunderland flying boat closed HMS Renown and reported Force ‘D’ bearing 070°, range 34 nautical miles. As the junction of the two forces seemed to be assured, the speed was reduced to 24 knots, in order to maintain a position between the convoy and the enemy force which estimated position was bearing 025°, range 50 nautical miles. The Sunderland flying boat was ordered to shadow and report its composition.
The cruisers HMS Manchester, HMS Southampton and HMS Sheffield had meanwhile concentrated with the destroyers in the van, bearing 5 nautical miles from HMS Renown in the direction of the enemy.
Reports from the reconnaissance aircraft of HMS Ark Royal contained a number of discrepancies which made it impossible to obtain a clear picture of the situation. Two groups of cruisers had been reported, as well as two battleships. It seemed certain that five or six cruisers were present, but the number of battleships remained in doubt. But whatever the composition of the enemy force in order to get the convoy through Vice-Admiral Somerville wanted to attack as soon as possible. At 1115/27 the enemy was reported to be changing course to the eastward.
All this time Force ‘D’ had been coming westwards and at 1128/27 they were sighted from HMS Renown bearing 073°, range about 24 nautical miles. The aircraft reports now indicated that the enemy force was made up of two battleships, six or more cruisers and a considerable number of destroyers. The action seemed likely to develop into a chase, and HMS Ramillies was therefore ordered to steer 045°, so as not to lose ground due to her slow speed. Vice-Admiral Holland was put in command of all the cruisers in the van and HMS Berwick and HMS Newcastle from Force ‘D’ were ordered to join him. It was shortly after this that HMS Ark Royal flew off her first torpedo bombers striking force.
The approach on the enemy.
At 1134 hours, Vice-Admiral Somerville increased to 28 knots and at 1140 hours altered course to 050° to close the enemy. The position of the British forces was now as follows. Fine on the port bow of HMS Renown were HMS Manchester, HMS Southampton and HMS Sheffield in single line ahead. HMS Berwick and HMS Newcastle was coming from the eastward to join them. Two miles astern HMS Faulknor (Capt. D 8) was gradually collecting the other ships of his Flotilla and HMS Encounter some of which had been screening the convoy. The four destroyers of Force ‘D’, HMS Defender, HMS Gallant, HMS Greyhound and HMS Hereward were proceeding westwards to join and were eventually stationed bearing 270°, 3 nautical miles from her.
Ten nautical miles fine on the starboard bow of HMS Renown, HMS Ramillies was altering to a parallel course. HMS Ark Royal had dropped some distance astern. She was carrying out flying operations between the main force and the convoy, which was now about 22 nautical miles west-south-west of HMS Renown.
At 1154 hours, the Sunderland aircraft returned and reported six cruisers and eight destroyers bearing 330°, range 30 nautical miles from HMS Renown. Her report unfortunately did not give course and speed of the enemy and she disappeared from sight before these could be obtained. It appeared now that one of the enemy forces was further to the west than previously thought and might be in a position to outflank the main force and attack HMS Ark Royal and the convoy. Course was therefore altered to the north in order to avoid getting to far to the eastward.
Vice-Admiral Somerville’s appreciation of the situation at noon, 27 November 1940.
The prospects of bringing the enemy into action seemed favourable. The composition of the enemy force was still not definitely established but there did not appear to be more than two battleships with them. The British had effected their concentration of which the enemy seemed to be unaware, since no shadowing aircraft had been sighted or detected by RD/F. The speed of the enemy was reported as being 14 to 18 knots. The sun was immediately behind the British forces, giving them the advantage of light and if the nearest reported position of the enemy was correct there seemed every possibility of bringing off a simultaneous surface and torpedo bombers attack, providing that the enemy did not retire immediately at high speed. Vice-Admiral Somerville’s intentions were; To drive off the enemy from any position from which he could attack the convoy and to except some risk to the convoy providing there was a reasonable prospect of sinking one or more of the enemy battleships. To achieve the second of them he considered that the speed of the enemy would have to be reduced to 20 knots or less by torpedo bombers attacks and that the enemy battleships could be attacked by HMS Renown and HMS Ramillies in concert.
Contact with the enemy.
At 1207/27, HMS Renown developed a hot bearing on one shaft which limited her speed to 27.5 knots. At the same time puffs of smoke were observed on the horizon bearing 006°, and the cruisers of the van sighted masts between 006° and 346°. At 1213 hours a signal came in from HMS Ark Royal reporting the composition of the enemy as two battleships, six cruisers accompanied by destroyers. The British cruisers in the van by this time had formed a line of bearing 075° to 255° in the sequence from west to east, HMS Sheffield, HMS Southampton, HMS Newcastle, HMS Manchester, HMS Berwick.
The nine destroyers were stationed five miles bearing 040° from HMS Renown in order to be placed favourably to counter-attack any destroyers attempting a torpedo attack on HMS Renown or HMS Ramillies.
The situation as seen by the cruisers immediately before the action commenced was as follows. Between the bearings of 340° to 350° three enemy cruisers and some destroyers were visible at a range of about 11 nautical miles. These were steering a northerly course. This force will be referred to as ‘the Western Group’. A second group of cruisers, also accompanied by destroyers, which will be referred to as the ‘Eastern Group’ bore between 003° and 013°. This group was further away and steering approximately 100°.
At 1220/27 the enemy cruisers in the ‘Western Group’ opened fire, and the British advanced forces immediately replied. The enemy’s first salvo fell close to HMS Manchester. As soon as fire was opened by the British cruisers, the Italians made smoke and retired on courses varying between north-west and north-east. Behind their smoke screen they seemed to be making large and frequent alterations of course.
At 1224 hours HMS Renown opened fire at the right hand ship in the ‘Western Group’ which was identified as a Zara-class heavy cruiser. Range was 26500 yards. After six salvoes, the target was lost in smoke. HMS Ramillies also fired two salvoes at maximum elevation to test the range but both fell short. She then dropped astern in the wake of HMS Renown and tried to follow at her best speed, 20.7 knots, throughout the action.
Just before opening fire HMS Renown had sighted two ships which were not making smoke, bearing 020° at extreme visibility. These were thought at first to be the Italian battleships but later turned out to be cruisers of the ‘Eastern Group’. On losing her first target HMS Renown altered course to starboard to close these supposed battleships and to bring the cruisers of the ‘Western Group’ broader on the bow. She had hardly done so when the centre ship of the latter group appeared momentarily through the smoke and was given two salvoes. Again course was altered to open ‘A’ arcs on the left hand ship, at which eight salvoes were fired before she too disappeared in the smoke at 1245 hours. At this moment two large ships steering westward emerged from the smoke cloud but before fire was opened these ships were identified as French liners.
The enemy by this time was on the run and had passed outside the range of our capital ships although at 1311 hours, HMS Renown fired two ranging salvoes at two ships of the ‘Eastern Group’ but both fell short. Meanwhile the British cruisers had been hotly engaged at ranges varying between 23000 and 16000 yards. Many straddles were obtained, but smoke rendered spotting and observation very difficult.
HMS Manchester, HMS Sheffield and HMS Newcastle all opened fire on the right-hand ship of the ‘Western Group’. HMS Berwick engaged the left-hand ship of the same group and HMS Southampton engaged the left-hand ship of the ‘Eastern Group’. HMS Manchester and HMS Sheffield continued to fire at the same ship for about 20 minutes (until 1236 and 1240 hours respectively) but HMS Newcastle shifted target to the ship already engaged by HMS Berwick after 18 salvoes. HMS Southampton, after 5 salvoes shifted target to a destroyer which was seen to be hit. At least one other destroyer is believed to have been hit during this phase and two hits by a large caliber shell on a cruiser were observed by HMS Faulknor at 1227 and HMS Newcastle at 1233 hours.
The enemy’s fire was accurate during the initial stages but when fully engaged it deteriorated rapidly and the spread became ragged. Their rate of fire was described as extremely slow. The only casualties on the British side occurred in HMS Berwick when at 1222 hours she received a hit from an 8” shell which put ‘Y’ turret out of action. HMS Manchester was straddled several times but despite being under continuous fire from 1221 to 1300 hours escaped unscatched. Her passengers were quite excited about having been in a sea battle.
At 1245 hours the cruisers altered course to 090° to prevent the enemy from working round ahead to attack the convoy. This brought the relative beating of the ‘Eastern Group’ to Red 40° and HMS Manchester once more engaged the left-hand ship. Five minutes later a further alteration of course to the southward was made to counter what appeared to be an attempt by the enemy to ‘cross the T’ of the cruisers. The enemy however at once resumed their north-easterly course and Vice-Admiral Holland led back to 070° at 1256 hours and 030° at 1258 hours. The rear ship of the enemy line was heavily on fire aft and she appeared to loose speed. But at 1259 hours picked up again and drew away with her consorts.
At 1301 hours the masts of a fresh enemy unit steering to the south-west were seen at extreme visibility right ahead of HMS Manchester. It bore 045° and two minutes later two battleships were identified in it. Their presence was quickly corroborated by large splashes which commenced to fall near HMS Manchester and HMS Berwick and these ships were reported to Vice-Admiral Somerville. The end on approach resulted in the range decreasing very rapidly and at 1305 hours Vice-Admiral Holland turned to cruisers to 120° with the dual purpose of working round the flank of the battleships and closing the gap to HMS Renown. The enemy battleships were not prepared to close and altered course to the north-eastward, presumably to join their 8” cruisers. Vice-Admiral Holland therefore altered course to 090° at 1308 hours and shortly afterwards to 050°. The enemy were by now rapidly running out of range and ten minutes later the action came to an end.
First attack by the torpedo bombers from HMS Ark Royal
Meanwhile a torpedo bomber striking force consisting of 11 Swordfish of no. 810 Squadron had been flown off from HMS Ark Royal at 1130 hours with orders to attack the Italian battleships. At 1216 hours they sighted two battleships and altered course as to approach them from the direction of the sun. The ships were identified as one Littorio-class and one Cavour-class. They were screened by seven destroyers. Enemy course was easterly at a speed of 18 knots. The leading battleship (Littorio-class) was selected as the target and all torpedoes were dropped inside the destroyer screen at ranges of 700 to 800 yards. One hit was observed abaft the after funnel and another explosion was seen just astern of the target. Yet another explosion was seen ahead of the Cavour-class. No other hits were seen. All aircraft returned safely to HMS Ark Royal.
Vice-Admiral Somerville’s Appreciation at 1315/27.
At 1315/27 firing had practically ceased owning to the enemy drawing out of range. The heavy smoke made by the Italians during the chase had prevented accurate fire, and so far as was known, no serious damage was inflicted on them. The torpedo bomber striking force from HMS Ark Royal had attacked but no report had been received yet but it seemed evident that the speed of the enemy had not been materially reduced.
The British forces were meanwhile rapidly closing the enemy coast. The main object of the whole operation was the safe passage of the convoy. The main enemy units had been driven off far enough that they could no longer interfere with it. It was also important to provide additional AA protection to the convoy against enemy air attack at dusk and in order to reach the convoy in time to do this course had to be set for it before 1400 hours so it was decided to break off the chase.
The chase broken off and further attacks by aircraft from HMS Ark Royal.
Around 1345/27, a damaged enemy cruiser was reported, Vice-Admiral Somerville considered sending HMS Berwick and HMS Newcastle north to finish this ship off. As these two cruisers also needed a cover/support force this idea was quickly abandoned. HMS Ark Royal was ordered to attack this cruiser with aircraft. A second torpedo bomber squadron was about to take off and Skua dive bombers were also being armed. Capt. Holland of the Ark Royal intended to attack the battleships again with the torpedo bombers and sent out the dive bombers to attack the damaged cruiser.
The torpedo bomber force of 9 Swordfish was flown off at 1415 hours. The Squadron Leader was given the enemy battleships as his objective, but with the full liberty to change it to his discretion, as he alone would be in a position to judge the possibility or otherwise achieving a successful attack.
The aircraft sighted three cruisers escorted by four destroyers about 12 nautical miles off the south-east coast of Sardinia, steering to the eastward at high speed. Some 8 nautical miles ahead of these cruisers were the two battleships escorted by about ten destroyers. There was a total absence of cloud cover, and it was considered essential to attack from the direction of the sun, if any degree of surprise were to be achieved. As any attempt, however, to gain such a position with regard to the battleships would inevitably have led to the striking force being sighted by the cruisers it was decided to attack the latter.
The attack was carried out at 1520/27 and was not sighted by the enemy until very late, only two salvoes being fired against the aircraft before the first torpedo was dropped. As the first aircraft reached the dropping position, the cruisers turned together to starboard causing several of the following Swordfish who had already committed to their drop to miss their targets. One hit was claimed on the rear cruiser and a possible one on the leading cruiser. Two Swordfish were hit by shrapnel from enemy AA fire but air aircraft returned safely to HMS Ark Royal.
A striking force of 7 Skua’s had meanwhile been flown off at 1500 hours. They failed to locate the reported damaged cruiser but reported to have carried out an attack on three light cruisers steering north of the south-west corner of Sardinia. Two near misses may have caused some damage to the rear ship. On the way back to HMS Ark Royal they encountered and shot down an Italian RO 43 reconnaissance aircraft from the battleship Vittorio Venoto.
Enemy air attacks on British Forces.
While these British flying operations were taking place Vice-Admiral Somerville had been steering to the southward in accordance with his decision to close the convoy. HMS Ark Royal had lost sight of HMS Renown to the north-eastward about 1250 hours, but since the receipt of the signal ordering the retirement of the British forces, Captain Holland had been making good a course of 090°, so far as his flying operations permitted, in order to rejoin the Flag. The first RD/F indications of the presence of enemy aircraft were received in HMS Renown at 1407 hours. Shortly afterwards bomb splashes were seen on the horizon when the Italian aircraft were attacked by Fulmars from the Ark Royal and several machines jettisoned their bombs. Ten enemy aircraft were then seen to be coming in and they eventually dropped their bombs well clear of the heavy ships but close to the screening destroyers.
Two further attacks were made around 1645/27 when two groups of five aircraft each concentrated on HMS Ark Royal, which by that time was in company with the Fleet, but owning to flying operations, not actually in the line. Apart from a few bombs being jettisoned again as a result of the interception by the Fulmar fighters, the high level bombing performed from a height of 13000 feet was most accurate. Some 30 bombs fell near HMS Ark Royal, two at least within 10 yards, and she was completely obscured by splashes.
About 1,5 minutes after this attack a stick of bombs dropped by four Caproni bombers, which had not been seen during the previous attack, missed HMS Ark Royal by a very narrow margin. HMS Ark Royal fortunately suffered no damage.
The British ships sighted the convoy at 1700/27 and proceeded to join it for passage to the Sicilian narrows.
The Battle of Cape Spartivento from the Italian side
At noon on 26 November 1940 the Italian had received reports that British forces had left Gibraltar and Alexandria the day before. The Italians then went to sea from Naples and Messina in three forces;
Battleships Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare, escorted by the 13th Destroyer Flotilla made up of the Granatiere, Fuciliere,
From Messina. Heavy cruisers from the 3rd Cruiser Division Trieste, Trento and Bolzano and the 12th Destroyer Flotilla made up of the Lanciere, Ascari, Carabiniere and Libeccio. This last destroyer had temporarily replaced the Carabinieri.
These forces were to intercept the British forces coming from Gibraltar.
From Trapani, Sicily, torpedo-boats from the 10th Torpedo-boat Flotilla, Vega, Sagittario, Alcione and Sirio, were ordered to patrol in the Sicily narrows to scout for possible British forces proceeding westwards from the Eastern Meditarranean. Sirio actually made an unobserved torpedo attack shortly after midnight (during the night of 26/27 November) on a group of seven enemy warships (Force ‘D’).
By 1015/27 the Italian forces were in the Sardinia-Sicily Channel. The only information available to the Italian Commander-in-Chief (Admiral Campioni in the Vittorio Veneto) up to that moment was that Force H had left Gibraltar westwards on the 25th and on the same day a force had also left Alexandria westwards. He assumed correctly that the force attacked by the torpedo-boat Sirio was en-route to rendez-vous with Force H.
Then at 1015 hours he received an aircraft report (from an aircraft catapulted by the heavy cruiser Bolzano) that at 0945/27 it had sighted a group of enemy warships comprising one battleship, two light cruisers and four destroyers 20 nautical miles north of Cape de Fer. Enemy course was 090°. These were also seven warships, the same number as reported by torpedo-boat Sirio the night before but these were too far to the West to be the same ships.
Then at 1144 hours he received another aircraft report (from an aircraft catapulted by the heavy cruiser Gorizia) that confirmed the position given at 1015 hours. It did not report the two cruisers however but by that time these had split from HMS Renown and had gone ahead.
Acting on the report of the aircraft of the Bolzano the Italian Admiral turned to course 135° at 1128/27. Both divisions of cruisers also turned round. He then thought to be making for an encounter with HMS Renown and two cruisers supported by a few destroyers. The 1144/27 report from the aircraft of the Gorizia confirmed him in this belief. The Italian admiral was unaware of the fact that by that time Force ‘D’ had already joined with the other British forces. He was also unaware that HMS Ark Royal was present although he was aware of the fact that she had left Gibraltar westwards with the other ships two days before.
The Italian admiral was very careful, after the attack on Taranto only two battleships were operational and he could not afford any further reduction in strength of the capital ships. He therefore decided that his forces were not to come in action but before he could sent out a signal regarding this his cruiser were already in action with the British. They were ordered to break off the action and retire at high speed.
The Italians were then attacked by aircraft from the Ark Royal but despite the claim by the British for hits none were actually obtained. The Italians claimed to have shot down two aircraft but this also was not the case.
At 1235/27, the destroyer Lanciere was hit by a 6” shell in the after engine room. This shell is thought to have been originated from HMS Southampton. She continued at 23 knots on her forward engines but at 1240 hours another shell struck her amidships on the port side, penetrating a petrol tank. Then a third shell struck her on the starboard side without exploding and without penetrating the hull. Around 1300 hours she came to a stop with no water in her boilers, and asked for a tow. Ater about one hour her boilers were relit (seawater being used to feed them) and her forward engines were restarted. At 1440 hours, the Ascari took her in tow and both made for Cagliari at 7 knots. The 3rd Cruiser Division was ordered to protect the retreat of these destroyers.
A force of 10 bombers and 5 fighters had taken off at 1330 hours. These were driven off but the Fulmars from HMS Ark Royal. Almost two hours later, at 1520 hours a second force of 20 bombers took off. It were these aircraft that attacked and almost hit HMS Ark Royal.
Convoy operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the subsequent movements of the ‘Collar’ convoy.
Before and during operation Collar there were also convoy movements in the Eastern Mediterranean going on. [See also the event for 23 November 1940 called ‘Operation MB 9’ for the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.]
After passing through the Sicilian narrows the Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser went to Malta escorted by HMS Hotspur and HMS Decoy. Both destroyers were to repair and refit at Malta. The New Zealand Star proceeded to Suda Bay escorted by HMS Defender and HMS Hereward and covered part of the way by HMS Manchester and HMS Southampton. (8)
29 Nov 1940
At 1430 hours HMS Renown (Capt. C.E.B. Simeon, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Berwick (Capt. G.L. Warren, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. C.A.A. Larcom, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSC, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) returned from Gibraltar from operation Collar. One hour later they were followed by Ramillies, HMS Ark Royal (Capt. C.S. Holland, RN), HMS Despatch (Capt. Cyril Eustace Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN), HMS Newcastle (Capt. E.A. Aylmer, DSC, RN), HMS Duncan (Capt. A.D.B. James, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. E.T. Cooper, RN), HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St.J. Morgan, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) and HMS Kelvin (Cdr. J.H. Allison, DSO, RN). (7)
17 Feb 1941
Around 0845R/17, HMS Caradoc (Capt. J.S. Bethell, RN) and HMS Despatch (Capt. C.E. Douglas-Pennant, DSC, RN) made rendezvous in approximate position 15°48'N, 73°54'E. Exercises were then commenced and continued on until the cruiser arrived at Kingston, Jamaica around 0800R/19. (9)
14 Sep 1942
During 14/15 September 1942, HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN) and HMS Durban (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. These included night exercises. (10)
22 Sep 1942
During 22/23 September 1942, HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN) and HMS Durban (Capt. P.G.L. Cazalet, DSC, RN), conducted exercises off Scapa Flow. These included night exercises. (10)
30 Sep 1942
HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN) and HMS Durban (Capt. G.F. Stevens-Guille, DSO, OBE, RN) departed Liverpool with part of convoy WS 23. The sailing of the convoy was however delayed and the ships anchored off Belfast the following day. (13)
4 Oct 1942
Convoy WS 23.
This convoy was formed off Oversay on 5 October 1942.
It consisted of the following transports / troopships; Capetown Castle (British, 27002 GRT, built 1938), Empress of Russia (British, 16810 GRT, built 1913), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928), Kina II (British, 9823 GRT, built 1939), Moreton Bay (British, 14193 GRT, built 1921), Port Jackson (British, 9687 GRT, built 1937), Silverandal (British, 6770 GRT, built 1930) and Straat Malakka (Dutch, 439 GRT, built 1939).
Initial escort consisted of the light cruisers HMS Despatch (Capt. W.R.C. Leggatt, RN), HMS Durban (Capt. G.F. Stevens-Guille, DSO and Bar, OBE, RN), armed merchant cruiser Queen of Bermuda (A/Capt.(Retd.) A.D. Cochrane, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Puckeridge (Lt. J.C. Cartwright, DSC, RN), HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN) and RHS Kanaris.
At 2200Z/6, HMS Durban parted company with the convoy to proceed to Ponta Delgada to fuel.
At 1850Z/8, HMS Beagle parted company with the convoy to return to the UK. HMS Zetland had a leaking Asdic dome and was apparently also detached on the 8th to return to the UK for a docking and repairs.
At 1000Z/9, HMS Puckeridge arrived at Ponta Delgada to refuel. She departed to rejoin the convoy at 1345Z/9. RHS Kanaris arrived at 1100Z/9 and departed again at 1430Z/9. [It is currently not known to us when they had left the convoy to proceed to Ponta Delgada.]
At 1545Z/9, HMS Durban rejoined the convoy. HMS Despatch was then detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada.
At 1900Z/9, HMS Puckeridge and RHS Kanaris rejoined the convoy.
At 0100Z/10, HMS Wrestler and HMS Bicester parted company with the convoy to fuel at Ponta Delgada after which they were to return to the UK.
On 16 October 1942 the convoy arrived at Freetown escorted by HMS Despatch, HMS Durban, HMS Queen of Bermuda, HMS Antelope, HMS Velox, HMS Puckeridge and RHS Kanaris.
The convoy departed Freetown for Durban on 20 October 1942.
The same ships made up the convoy plus the merchant vessels Hai Lee (Norwegian, 3616 GRT, built 1934) and Tamesis (Norwegian, 7256 GRT, built 1939).
On departure from Freetown the convoy escort was made up of the light cruiser HMS Durban, armed merchant cruiser HMS Carthage (A/Capt.(Retd.) W.V.H. Harris, DSC, MVO, RN), escort destroyers HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, DSO, RN), RHS Kanaris, sloop HMS Milford (Cdr.(Retd.) the Hon. V.M. Wyndham-Quin, RN) and the corvette HMS Tamarisk (Lt. S. Ayles, RNR).
At 1020A/23, HMS Avon Vale parted company. HMS Southern Gem (T/Lt. D.C. Hayes, RNVR) had joined just before. She had sailed from Takoradi on the 22nd.
At 1842A/23, HMS Durban parted company with the convoy to proceed to Takoradi to repair a defect. She arrived at Takoradi around 0745/24 and departed again around 0230A/25. She rejoined the convoy around 0945A/27.
Also detached on 23 October were the two Norwegian merchant vessels and the corvette HMS Tamarisk. These were also to proceed to Takoradi.
The corvette HMS Amaranthus (T/Lt. W.S. Thomson, RNR) joined on the 25th coming from Ponte Noire. After she joined HMS Southern Gem was detached to Ponte Noire due to engine trouble.
On the 26th, HMS Amaranthus parted company.
On 30 October the destroyer HMAS Norman (Cdr. H.M. Burrell, RAN) and the corvettes HMS Rockrose (Lt. E.J. Binfield, DSC, RNR) and HMS Thyme (Lt. H. Roach, RNR) joined the convoy. These ships had sailed from Walvis Bay, the corvettes at 0600Z/29 and HMAS Norman at 2000Z/29. HMAS Norman joined the convoy around 1300B/30 and the corvettes around 1530B/30.
At 2100B/30, HMS Durban, HMS Despatch and HMS Milford were detached to fuel at Walvis Bay where they arrived around 0840/30. HMS Durban departed Walvis Bay aroud 1845B/31 and she rejoined the convoy around 1800B/1
On 2 November the transport / troopship Rimutaka (British, 16576 GRT, built 1923) joined the convoy coming from Capetown.
Around 1545C/2, RHS Kanaris parted company to refuel at Simonstown. She rejoined the convoy around 0100C/3.
At 2215C/2, HMS Rockrose and HMS Thyme were detached to search for survivors from ships that had been torpedoed by German submarines.
At 1950C/4, HMS Express was detached to search for survivors from a ship that had been torpedoed by a German submarines.
At 0530C/5, the escort destroyer HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) joined.
The convoy arrived at Durban in the early afternoon of 5 November escorted by HMS Durban, HMS Carthage, HMAS Norman, HMS Catterick, HMS Derwent and RHS Kanaris.
The convoy departed Durban around noon on 9 November 1942, now made up of Capetown Castle, Empress of Russia, Highland Monarch, Kina II, Port Jackson, Silversandal and Straat Malakka.
On departure from Durban the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Dauntless (Cdr.(Retd.) N.G. Leeper, RN), armed merchant cruiser HMS Carthage, destroyers HMAS Norman, HMS Inconstant (Lt.Cdr. W.S. Clouston, RN), escort destroyers HMS Blackmore (Lt. H.T. Harrel, RN), RHS Kanaris and the corvettes HMS Genista (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Pattinson, DSC, RNR) and HMS Jasmine (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) C.D.B. Coventry, RNR).
At 1700C/10, HMS Insconstant, HMS Genista and HMS Jasmine were detached.
At 1500D/11, HMS Dauntless, HMS Norman, HMS Blackmore and RHS Kanaris were detached.
At 1830D/11, the cruiser HMS Hawkins (Capt. G.A. French, RN) joined.
At 1600E/16, HMS Mauritius (Capt. W.D. Stephens, RN) joined and at 1230E/16, HMS Hawkins parted company with the convoy to proceed to Kilindini taking the Empress of Russia with her. They arrived at Kilindini around 1700D/18.
At 1800E/17, the convoy was split up into the ' Aden section ' and the ' Bombay section '.
The ' Aden section ' was made up of the Highland Monarch, Kina II, Port Jackson and the Straat Malakka. They were escorted by HMS Carthage and arrived at Aden around 1300C/21. They had earlier been joined by the destroyer RHS Panther around 0615/20.
The ' Bombay section ' was made up of the other transports escorted by HMS Mauritius. They arrived at Bombay around 1000FG/24 except for the Silversandal which had been detached on November 22nd to proceed to Karachi where she also arrived on the 24th. (14)
- ADM 53/108215 + ADM 53/108289 + ADM 53/108429
- ADM 53/107952 + ADM 53/108290
- ADM 53/107952 + ADM 53/108290 + ADM 53/109988
- ADM 53/107953 + ADM 53/108291
- ADM 199/372
- ADM 199/379
- ADM 199/392
- ADM 234/325 + ADM 234/326
- ADM 53/113816 + ADM 53/114072
- ADM 53/115857
- ADM 53/11682
- ADM 53/115857 + ADM 199/632
- ADM 53/115858
- ADM 199/1211
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.