HMS Badsworth (L 03)
Escort destroyer of the Hunt (Type II) class
|Navy||The Royal Navy|
|Class||Hunt (Type II)|
|Built by||Cammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.)|
|Ordered||20 Dec 1939|
|Laid down||15 May 1940|
|Launched||17 Mar 1941|
|Commissioned||18 Aug 1941|
|End service||16 Nov 1944|
Transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy on 16 November 1944 and renamed Arendal.
|Career notes||To the Royal Norwegian Navy as Arendal|
Commands listed for HMS Badsworth (L 03)
Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.
|1||Lt.Cdr. Michael Southcote Townsend, DSC, OBE, RN||10 Jun 1941||8 Jan 1942|
|2||Lt. Gordon Thomas Seccombe Gray, DSC, RN||8 Jan 1942||mid 1943|
|3||Lt. Gilbert Foster Davies, RN||mid 1943||mid 1943|
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Notable events involving Badsworth include:
25 Aug 1941
HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) conducted RD/F exercises to the west of Scapa Flow together with HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN).
During these exercises Prince of Wales was escorted by HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN), HMS Puckeridge (Lt. H.B. Acworth, RN) and HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN). (1)
29 Aug 1941
Around 1300 hours HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN) departed Scapa Flow for Greenock. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN).
Off Scapa Flow they were joined by HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) which also took passage to Greenock.
30 Aug 1941
Around 1000 hours, HMS Repulse (Capt. W.G. Tennant, CB, MVO, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMS Vivacious (Lt.Cdr. R. Alexander, RN) and HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) arrived at Greenock.
10 Sep 1941
HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) conducted exercises to the west of Scapa Flow together with HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN).
During these exerices Prince of Wales was escorted by HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, DSO, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN), HMS Puckeridge (Lt. H.B. Acworth, RN) and HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN).
They returned to harbour early on the 11th. (2)
11 Sep 1941
The damaged light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, DSO and 2 Bars, RN) departed Scapa Flow for the Tyne. She was being escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. H.C. Simms, RN) and HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN).
HMS Nigeria arrived at South Shields shortly after noon the following day. Rear-Admiral Vian then struck his flag and left the ship. (3)
22 Sep 1941
HrMs O 10 (Lt. Baron D.T. Mackay, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Scapa Flow with HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) and HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN). (4)
6 Nov 1941
Convoy SL 92.
This convoy departed Freetown for the U.K. on 6 November 1941.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Andreas (Greek, 6566 GRT, built 1919), Baron Herries (British, 4574 GRT, built 1940), Brika (British, 4412 GRT, built 1929), Calumet (British, 7268 GRT, built 1923), City of Worcester (British, 5469 GRT, built 1927), Clan MacWhirter (British, 5941 GRT, built 1918), Clan Ross (British, 5897 GRT, built 1914), Corabella (British, 5682 GRT, built 1937), Desirade (British, 9645 GRT, built 1921), Elmdale (British, 4872 GRT, built 1941), Empire Byron (British, 5894 GRT, built 1926), Euryades (British, 5801 GRT, built 1913), Gazcon (British, 4224 GRT, built 1932), Holmbury (British, 4566 GRT, built 1925), Imber (British, 1899 GRT, built 1920), Jeypore (British, 5318 GRT, built 1920), Lynhaug (Norwegian, 2829 GRT, built 1919), Maro (Greek, 3836 GRT, built 1924), Mary Slessor (British, 5027 GRT, built 1930), Meliskerk (Dutch, 6045 GRT, built 1919), Mokambo (British, 4996 GRT, built 1938), Nagpore (British, 5283 GRT, built 1920), New Brunswick (British, 6529 GRT, built 1919), Observer (British, 5881 GRT, built 1928), Penrose (British, 4393 GRT, built 1928), Pentridge Hill (British, 7579 GRT, built 1941), Richmond Hill (British, 7579 GRT, built 1940), Ripley (British, 4997 GRT, built 1936), San Francisco (Swedish, 4933 GRT, built 1915), Sandown Castle (British, 7607 GRT, built 1921), Savoia (British, 5490 GRT, built 1922), Skeldergate (British, 4251 GRT, built 1930), Sobo (British, 5353 GRT, built 19337), Tore Jarl (Norwegian, 1514 GRT, built 1920) and Zouave (British, 4256 GRT, built 1930).
The RFA tanker Rapidol (2648 GRT, built 1917) was also with the convoy to test the concept of an oiler for the escorts. She remained with the convoy until 12 November 1941.
On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. R.L.S. Gaisford, RN), HMS Velox (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Roper, DSC, RN) and the corvettes HMS Burdock (T/Lt. H.J. Fellows, SANF(V)), HMS Marguerite (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Blundell, RNR) and HMS Starwort (Lt.Cdr. N.W. Duck, RD, RNR).
HMS Velox returned to Freetown on 12 November 1941, presumably she had parted company with the convoy on 10 November.
On 11 November 1941 the sloop HMS Egret (A/Capt. E.M. Haes, RN) and cutters Banff (Lt.Cdr. P.S. Evans, RN) and Fishguard (Lt.Cdr. H.L. Pryse, RN) joined the convoy. They were then to fuel from the Rapidol but apparently only HMS Egret did so.
On 12 November 1941, HMS Vansittart,HMS Burdock, HMS Marguerite and HMS Starwort parted company to join convoy OS 10 coming from the U.K. taking the Rapidol.
On 24 November 1941, the destroyers HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN) joined.
On 25 November 1941, the destroyer HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN) joined.
Later on 25 November 1941, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Fury, escort destroyers HMS Badsworth and HMS Croome parted company with the convoy.
HMS Egret parted company with the convoy on 29 November 1941.
A/S trawler HMS Arab (T/Lt. C.A. Shillan, RNVR) was with the convoy on 1 December.
The convoy arrived in U.K. waters on 1 December 1941.
12 Nov 1941
HMS H 50 (Lt. E.T. Stanley, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN), HMS Scimitar (Lt. R.D. Franks, OBE, RN) and HMS Anemone (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Boys-Smith, DSO and Bar, RD, RNR). (5)
12 Nov 1941
Convoy WS 12Z.
[Part from the U.K. to Freetown.]
This convoy departed Liverpool and the Clyde on 12 November 1941 and arrived at Freetown on 24 November 1941.
The convoy assembled at sea on 13 November 1941 near Oversay.
The convoy was made up of the following troopships / transports; Abbekerk (Dutch, 7906 GRT, built 1939), Adrastus (British, 7905 GRT, built 1923), Aorangi (British, 17491 GRT, built 1924), Arundel Castle (British, 19118 GRT, built 1921), Capetown Castle (British, 27002 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (British, 7516 GRT, built 1930), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Empire Star (British, 13479 GRT, built 1935), Empress of Asia (British, 16909 GRT, built 1913), Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930), Mataroa (British, 12390 GRT, built 1922), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Narkunda (British, 16632 GRT, built 1920), Orduna (British, 15507 GRT, built 1914), Rimutaka (British, 16576 GRT, built 1923) and Sussex (British, 11062 GRT, built 1937).
Upon assembly off Oversay the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN) and HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN).
The battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) and destroyers 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) had departed the Clyde on the 12th to join the convoy. They were routed via Milford Haven where they were to fuel and then to the south of Ireland. On the 13th, the warships arrived at Milford Haven and departed later that day to join the convoy which they did in the early evening of the 16th in position 44°30'N, 23°30'W. The escort destroyers HMS Dulverton (Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN) and HMS Southwold (Cdr. C.T. Jellicoe, DSC, RN) also joined the convoy on the 16th.
Also on the 16th, HMS Vanquisher, HMS Whitehall, HMS Witch, HMS Badsworth and HMS Exmoor parted company with the convoy.
HMS Foresight, HMS Forester and HMS Fury parted company with the convoy while in position 34°05'N, 25°50'W. They were to refuel at sea from the oiler Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941) after which they were ordered to conduct a search for a reported suspected enemy merchant ship.
In the late afternoon of the 17th the destroyer HMS Maori was detached to Gibraltar while the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton and HMS Southwold parted company in the early evening to proceed to Ponta Delgada in the Azores to fuel there and then to rejoin the convoy.
In the morning of the 19th HMS Dulverton and HMS Southwold rejoined the convoy in position 34°05'N, 25°50'W. HMS Foresight, HMS Forester and HMS Fury then parted company with the convoy. They were to refuel at sea from the oiler Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941) after which they were ordered to conduct a search for a reported suspected enemy merchant ship.
In the moring of 22 November 1941 the corvette Clover (Lt.Cdr. F.A. Shaw, RNR) joined the convoy.
The convoy arrived safely at Freetown on 24 November 1941 escorted by HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Velox, HMS Vimy, HMS Dulverton, HMS Southwold and HMS Clover. Before it arrived the convoy had been split into two sections so as not to arrive in harbour all at once.
9 Dec 1941
Convoy WS 14.
This convoy was formed off Oversay on 9 December 1941.
On forming up the convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Abosso (British, 11330 GRT, built 1935), Andes (British, 25689 GRT, built 1939), Athlone Castle (British, 25564 GRT, built 1936), Cameronia (British, 16297 GRT, built 1920), City of Pretoria (British, 8049 GRT, built 1937), Clan Cameron (British, 7243 GRT, built 1937), Duchess of Atholl (British, 20119 GRT, built 1928), Durban Castle (British, 17388 GRT, built 1938), Empire Condor (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Curlew (British, 7101 GRT, built 1941), Empire Egret (British, 7169 GRT, built 1939), Empire Oriole (British, 6535 GRT, built 1941), Empire Peregrine (British, 6440 GRT, built 1941), Empire Pintail (British, 7773 GRT, built 1940), Empire Widgeon (British, 6737 GRT, built 1940), Empress of Australia (British, 21833 GRT, built 1914), Esperance Bay (British, 14204 GRT, built 1921), Highland Monarch (British, 14139 GRT, built 1928), Highland Princess (British, 14133 GRT, built 1930), Orcades (British, 23456 GRT, built 1937), Orestes (British, 7748 GRT, built 1926), Oronsay (British, 20043 GRT, built 1925), Reina del Pacifico (British, 17702 GRT, built 1931), Scythia (British, 19761 GRT, built 1920), Strathallan (British, 23722 GRT, built 1938), Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921) and Warwick Castle (British, 20107 GRT, built 1930).
The aircraft transport HMS Engadine (Cdr. W.T. Fitzgerald, RD, RNR) was also part of the convoy.
On forming up the convoy was escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Cilicia, AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the destroyers HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, RN), HMS Witherington (Lt. R. Horncastle, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), HMS Lancaster (A/Cdr. N.H. Whatley, RN), HMS Newark (Lt.Cdr. R.H.W. Atkins, RN), HMS Sherwood (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt.Cdr. M.S. Townsend, DSC and Bar, OBE, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Hayes, DSO, RN).
In the afternoon of the 11th, HMS Newark parted company with the convoy due to damaged fuel tanks.
Bad weather was experienced on the 11th, and late in the evening, the Empire Oriole had to heave to in order to secure tanks that were carried as deck cargo. She did not rejoin the convoy and proceeded independently to Freetown arriving there on 23 December.
At 0415N/12, HMS Ulster Queen parted company with the convoy in approximate position 49°08'N, 19°08'W.
Later that morning, HMS Lancaster parted company with the convoy in approximate position 47°50'N, 20°42'W.
Around midnight during the night of 12/13 December, Westcott, HMS Witherington, HMS Beverley, HMS Newark and HMS Sherwood parted company with the convoy in approximate position 41°46'N, 22°51'W.
Around 0940Z/13, the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. D.N.C. Tufnell, DSC, RN) and the destroyers HMS Vanquisher (Cdr. N.V. Dickinson, DSC, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN) and HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 44°00'N, 22°16'W coming from Milford Haven (HMS Gurkha came from Plymouth).
At the time of joining HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound, HMS Badsworth, HMS Beaufort and HMS Croome were supposed to be with the convoy but they had lost touch with the convoy in the heavy weather conditions. All were in touch trough V/S except for HMS Croome. HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound and HMS Gurkha were then ordered to proceed to Gibraltar. Vanquisher, Volunteer, Witch, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort remained with the convoy.
At 1800Z/13, in approximate position 42°38'N, 22°40'W HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.
Also on 13 December (around 0500 hours) the Scythia left the convoy due to ' not being under control '. She did not rejoin the convoy and arrived independently at Freetown on 23 December.
At 2200Z/14, in approximate position, 36°07'N, 23°24'W, HMS Vanquisher was detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores. She was detached earlier then intended due to condenser trouble.
At 0400Z/15, in approximate position 35°02'N, 23°23'W, HMS Volunteer and HMS Witch were detached to fuel at Ponta Delgada, Azores.
At 1030Z/15, HMS Badsworth and HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy in approximate position 34°03'N, 23°24'W.
The convoy arrived at Freetown on 21 December 1941.
The convoy departed Freetown on 25 December 1941 for South Africa.
The convoy sailed with the same ships as with it had arrived except for HMS Engadine
On departure from Freetown the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies, destroyers HMS Brilliant, HMS Vimy (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN), escort destroyers HMS Beaufort, HMS Hurworth and the sloop HMS Bridgewater (A/Cdr.(Retd.) H.F.G. Leftwich, RN).
At 1100Z/26, HMS Vimy developed engine trouble and fell behind. She rejoined the convoy at 0600Z/27.
At 1800Z/26, in approximate position 03°02'N, 12°25'W, HMS Brilliant parted company with the convoy, taking the troopship Abosso with her. They were to proceed to Takoradi.
At 0400Z/27, the Orestes fell out of line with engine trouble. As by noon she was not in sight HMS Vimy was ordered to search for her. She reported at 1800Z/27 that she had found the Orestes which was now able to proceed at 14 knots. HMS Vimy was then ordered to return to Freetown. The Orestes then proceeded to Capetown unescorted.
At 1900Z/27, HMS Bridgewater was detached to proceed ahead to fuel from the RFA tanker Rapidol (2648 GRT, built 1917).
At 0600Z/29, HMS Beaufort was detached to fuel from the Rapidol.
At 1100Z/30, HMS Hurworth was detached to fuel from the Rapidol but she could not find the tanker and rejoined the convoy at 1930Z/29. Fortunately the tanker was then sighted on the convoy's beam and she was able to fuel after all. On completion of fuelling she started a search for an unidentified ship that had been sighted earlier by the Rapidol.
At 1320/30, HMS Beaufort rejoined the convoy.
At 1700/30, HMS Bridgewater rejoined the convoy.
At 1845A/31, HMS Hurworth rejoined the convoy. The ship reported by the Rapidol had not been sighted.
At 0100Z/3, the Andes was detached to proceed ahead of the convoy to Capetown where politicians were to be landed. She later joined the Durban section of the convoy.
In the morning of the 4th, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) C.C. Bell, DSO, RN) joined the convoy in approximate position 31°45'S, 14°00'E.
At 1600Z/4, in approximate position, 33°12'S, 15°45'E, HMS Derbyshire parted company with the convoy taking the Durban section of the convoy with her. The Durban section was made up of the Andes, Athlone Castle, Cameronia, Duchess of Atholl, Durban Castle, Esperance Bay, Highland Princess, Oronsay, Reina del Pacifico, Scythia and Strathallan.
The Capetown section of the convoy, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle arrived at Capetown early in the morning escorted by HMS Ramillies, HMS Beaufort and HMS Hurworth. The escort destroyers then proceeded to Simonstown. The Orestes arrived later in the morning.
The Durban section was joined in the morning of the 6th by the light cruiser HMS Ceres (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) H.W.V. Stephenson, RN) in approximate position 35°18'S, 23°32'E.
In the morning of the 8th the convoy arrived at Durban in three sections in order to avoid congestion in the swept channel. Each of the escorts, HMS Ceres, HMS Bridgewater and HMS Derbyshire took one section under their orders.
On 9 January 1942, the Capetown section, made up of the City of Pretoria, Clan Cameron, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Peregrine, Empire Pintail, Empire Widgeon, Empress of Australia, Highland Monarch, Orcades, Troilus and Warwick Castle. An additional transport, the Malancha (British, 8124 GRT, built 1937), joined the convoy.
The Orestes was also to have joined the convoy but she was delayed, probably due to repairs, and she sailed later with orders to overtake the convoy.
In the early morning of the 10th both corvettes parted company to return to Capetown.
On the 13th the convoy was joined by the Durban section made up of the transports City of Canterbury (British, 8331 GRT, built 1922), Dilwara (British, 11080 GRT, built 1936), Duchess of Atholl, Dunera (British, 11162 GRT, built 1937), Esperance Bay, Nova Scotia (British, 6796 GRT, built 1926) and Thysville (Belgian, 8351 GRT, built 1922). They were escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Corfu (Capt.(Retd.) J.P. Landon, RN).
Also the Orestes caught up with the convoy off Durban and joined.
The Orcades of the Capetown section parted company with the convoy and entered Durban.
The Duchess of Athol soon developed engine trouble and returned to Durban. Her troops were transferred to the Andes and this ship then departed Durban on 14 January 1942, escorted by HMS Ceres to overtake the convoy which Andes did early on the 16th. HMS Ceres then set course to return to Durban where she arrived on the 18th.
Early on the 19th, rendezvous was made with the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) which then took the ships of Singapore with her forming convoy DM 2. These were the City of Canterbury, City of Pretoria, Dunera, Empress of Australia, Malancha, Troilus and Warwick Castle. They then set course for Port T (Addu Atoll).
At 1000C/20, the convoy was joined by the light cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. C.C.A. Allen, RN) which had the transports Mendoza (British (former French), 8233 GRT, built 1919) and Salween (British, 7063 GRT, built 1937) with her. HMS Ramillies then parted company and proceeded to Mombasa arriving there on 21 January 1942.
The convoy then split into two more sections; convoy WS 14A was to proceed to the Gulf of Aden where it was to disperse. It was made up of the Empire Egret, Empire Oriole, Empire Pintail, Highland Morarch, Mendoza, Orestes and Salween. HMS Colombo was escorting these ships. The convoy was dispersed on 26 January 1942 in the Gulf of Aden. The Thysville proceeded independently to Aden as she had straddled from the convoy not long after it had departed Durban due to bad coal having been supplied.
HMS Corfu took the remainder of the ships with her towards Bombay. This convoy was then known as convoy WS 14B and was made up of the Andes, Clan Cameron, Dilwara, Empire Condor, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon, Esperance Bay and Nova Scotia.
At 1930E/25, the Clan Cameron, Empire Curlew, Empire Peregrine, Empire Widgeon parted company with the convoy to proceed to Basra independently.
The remainder of Convoy WS 14B arrived at Bombay on 28 January 1942. (6)
14 Mar 1942
HMS H 50 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), HMS Wanderer (Lt.Cdr. D.H.P. Gardiner, DSC, RN), HMS Leamington (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Bowerman, RN), HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) and aircraft. (7)
26 Apr 1942
Convoys PQ 15 and QP 11 and the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.
Convoy PQ 15 from Iceland to Northern Russia and Convoy QP 11 from Northern Russia to Iceland. Also includes an account on the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi.
On 26 April 1942 convoy PQ 15 departed Reykjavik for Murmansk where it arrived on 5 May 1942.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alcoa Cadet (American, 4823 GRT, built 1919), Alcoa Rambler (American, 5500 GRT, built 1919), Bayou Chico (American, 5401 GRT, built 1920), Botavon (British, 5858 GRT, built 1912), Cape Corso (British, 3807 GRT, built 1929), Cape Race (British, 3807 GRT, built 1930), Capira (Panamanian, 5625 GRT, built 1920), Deer Lodge (American, 6187 GRT, built 1919), Empire Bard (British, 3114 GRT, built 1942), Empire Morn (British, CAM ship, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Expositor (American, 4959 GRT, built 1919), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Jutland (British, 6153 GRT, built 1928), Lancaster (American, 7516 GRT, built 1918), Mormacrey (American, 5946 GRT, built 1919), Mormacrio (American, 5940 GRT, built 1919), Paul Luckenbach (American, 6606 GRT, built 1913), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926), Texas (American, 5638 GRT, built 1919) and Zebulon B. Vance (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942).
Two icebrakers were also part of the convoy, these were the Krassin (Russian, 4902 GRT, built 1917) and Montcalm (Canadian, 1432 GRT, built 1904, to be transferred to the Russians)
The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) was also with the convoy.
On departure from Reykjavik the convoy was escorted by the minesweepers HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, RN), HMS Leda (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR), HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.R. Cornish, RNR), HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR) and the A/P trawler Chiltern (Ch.Skr.(ret) P. Bevans, RNR).
Around 0300Z/28, ' Force Q ' a refuelling force for the convoy escorts, made up of the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) tanker Grey Ranger (3313 GRT, built 1941) departed Seidisfiord with her escort, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN). With them were the AA ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN) and the submarine HMS Sturgeon (Lt.Cdr. M.R.G. Wingfield, RN). They joined the convoy during the night of 28/29 April.
Around 0500Z/29, A close cover force made up of the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfiord to join the convoy which they did early on 30 April.
The heavy cruiser HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN) also joined the convoy (close cover force), she had departed Scapa Flow around 1645B/28.
around 0635B/1, the submarine HMS Sturgeon parted company with the convoy to take up a patrol position in the Artic Sea. ' Force Q ', the refuelling force made up of the tanker Grey Ranger and escort destroyer HMS Ledbury also parted company with the convoy on 1 May.
Around 2220B/1, Six German Ju.88 torpedo bombers attacked the convoy but no hits were obtained. One of the attackers was shot down by AA fire.
During the night of 1/2 May, HMS London was detached to provide close cover for convoy QP 11.'
At 1000B/2, HMS Nigeria also parted company with the convoy to join convoy QP 11. The Admiralty had decided that there was no need for the cruisers to proceed further to the east as the enemy destroyers operating in Northern Norway had been sunk or damaged in action with the cover force of convoy QP 11 (see below).
At 2009B/2, HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull attacked an A/S contact with depth charges in position 73°01'N, 17°32'E. The submarine was forced to the surface but turned out to be the Polish submarine ORP Jastrzab (Lt.Cdr. B. Romanowski). She was way out of position and in waters where German submarines were expected to be operating. No blame could possibly be taacked to HNoMS St. Albans and HMS Seagull. Five of the crew of the Polish submarine died while the others were picked up.
At 0120B/3, the convoy was again attacked by enemy torpedo bombers. Visibility was bad and the enemy planes were not sighted until it was too late. Also radar had not picked them up. The succeeded in sinking two merchant vessels, the Botavon (the ship of the Convoy Commodore) and the Cape Corso. A third merchant vessel, the Jutland was damaged and was abandoned by her crew. The drifting ship was shortly afterwards torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-251.
At 2230C/3, a final German air attack took place while the convoy was in position 73°00'N, 31°15'E. A bomb near missed the A/S trawler HMS Cape Palliser which sustained some slight damage. One German Ju.88 aircraft was shot down. Visibility deteriorated in the evening of the 4th and a south-easterly gale sprang up bringing heavy snow. This provided the convoy with excellent cover for the remainder of the passage. The convoy arrived in the Kola Inlet around 2100C/5.
On 28 April 1942 convoy QP 11 departed Murmansk for Reykjavik where it arrived on 7 May 1942.
The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels; Atheltemplar (British (tanker), 8992 GRT, built 1930), Ballot (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Briarwood (British, 4019 GRT, built 1930), Dan-Y-Bryn (British, 5117 GRT, built 1940), Dunboyne (American, 3515 GRT, built 1919), El Estero (Panamanian, 4219 GRT, built 1920), Eldena (American, 6900 GRT, built 1919), Gallant Fox (Panamanian, 5473 GRT, built 1918), Mormacmar (American, 5453 GRT, built 1920), Stone Street (Panamanian, 6131 GRT, built 1922), Trehata (British, 4817 GRT, built 1928), Tsiolkovsky (Russian, 2847 GRT, built 1935) and West Cheswald (American, 5711 GRT, built 1919).
On departure from Murmansk the convoy was escorted by the destroyers HMS Bulldog (Cdr. M. Richmond, OBE, DSO, RN), HMS Beagle (Cdr. R.C. Medley, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Roper, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, OBE, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. G.P. Huddart, RN), HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN), corvettes HMS Campanula (Lt.Cdr. W. Hine, RNR), HMS Oxlip (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Saxifage (T/A/Lt.Cdr. R.P. Chapman, RNR), HMS Snowflake (Lt. H.G. Chesterman, RNR) and the A/S trawlers HMS Lord Middleton (T/Lt. R.H. Jameson, RNR) and HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR). Cover was provided by the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral S.S. Bonham-Carter, CB, CVO, DSO, RN).
Besides these ships there was a local escort by the Russian destroyers Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy until at least 30°E and by the minesweepers HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN), HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN), HMS Hussar (Lt. R.C. Biggs, DSC, RN) and HMS Niger (Cdr.(ret.) A.J. Cubison, DSC and Bar, RN) until the evening of the 29th.
The convoy was sighted and reported by enemy aircraft and submarines on the 29th, but no attacks took place that day. The following afternoon (30 September), however, HMS Edinburgh, then zigzagging at high speed some 15 nautical miles ahead of the convoy, in approximate position 73°09'N, 32°45'E, was struck by two torpedoes from the German submarine U-456. Her stern was blown off and her steering gear was wrecked. She was able to steam at slow speed on two shafts. The explosion was seen from the convoy and the destroyers HMS Foresight and HMS Forester were detached to her assistance, followed shortly afterwards by the two Russian destroyers. Escorted by these destroyers HMS Edinburgh started in the 250 nautical mile return passage to Murmansk.
The presence of the destroyers prevented U-456 from finishing the cruiser off. She continued to shadown and report the Edinburgh's movements. These reported tempted the German Flag Officer, Northern Waters to sent three destroyers from Kirkenes to attack convoy QP 11 with its depleted escort and the destroyers Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann, Z 24 and Z 25 put to sea and steered to the north.
Convoy QP 11, meanwhile, continued its passage. At 0540/1, being then about 150 miles to the east-south-east of Bear Island it was unsuccesfully attacked by four torpedo aircraft. At the same time an enemy submarine was sighted and forced to dive by HMS Amazon. Frequent HF/DF bearings indicated that four enemy submarines were keeping pace with the convoy on different bearings, and at 0820/1, course was altered 40° to starboard (to 320°) in an endeavour to shake them off. Then ice was sighted in large quantities ahead. This was found to extend some 20 miles to the southward of the route, and course was again altered to the westward.
The forenoon passed without incident. The weather was moderate, wind north-north-east, force 3. Frequent snow squalls caused the visibility to vary between ten and two miles.
At 1345/1, the convoy was in course 275°, skirting heavy drift ice to starboard, when HMS Snowflake reported three radar contacts bearing 185°. At the some moment, HMS Beverley, screening on the port bow, reported enemy in sight, bearing 210°. The enemy proved to be three large destroyers. In the course of the next four hours they made five separate attempts to reach the convoy, each of which wass foiled by the aggressive tactics of the escorting destroyers desipite their great inferiority in gun power to the Germans.
On receipt of the Beverley's sighting report, Commander Richmond who was on the starboard bow of the convoy, moved across to the threatened flank and ordered the destroyers to concentrate on him. The convoy (with the corvettes and trawlers) at once carried out an emergency turn of 40° to starboard, the destroyers making smoke to cover it.
At 1400/1, HMS Bulldog turned towards the enemy on a south-westerly course, with the destroyers in line ahead in the order HMS Beagle, HMS Amazon and HMS Beverley. The Germans were at this time in line of bearing formation, about 10000 yards distant, heading towards the convoy. At 1407/1, both sides opened fire, the Germans turning together to starboard to open 'A' arcs, and the British destroyers to port to a similar course. Both sides fired torpedoes but none of them found its mark, but a track was seen to pass close astern of HMS Bulldog. After three minutes (1410/1), the Germans turned away asnd the British destroyers returned towards the convoy, making smoke. In this brief engagement HMS Amazon was hit. Her steering gear, telegraphs and one gun being put out of action, but she managed to keep control and was stationed at the rear of the line.
A quarter of an hour after this action ceased, the convoy suffered its only loss, when the Russian merchant vessel Tsiolkovsky, which was staggling from the convoy, was hit by torpedo and sink rapidly. The survivors were rescued by the Lord Middleton.
Commander Richmond, meanwhile, was keeping his destroyers between the convoy and the estimate position of the enemy. At 1433/1 they were again sighted, bearing 160° about 15000 yards off, and the second attack developed. The British destroyers again steered for them and at 1440/1 fire was opened at 12000 yards range. No hits were obtained by either side, but after five minutes the enemy turned away and the British once more retired on the convoy. By this time the convoy was well within the ice and ' in order to maintain touch the destroyers were led through lanes of open water as opportunity offered, bearing in mind that sufficient sea room to manoeuvre in action must be maintained. The presented a nice problem.'
About an hour elapsed before the enemy's next attempt. Then at 1558/1, he was sighted six miles away coming in from the eastward, bearing 115°. Commander Richmond repeated his tactics, and both sides opened fire at 1600/1. HMS Bulldog was straddled several times and slightly damaged, but after ten minutes the enemy turned away under smoke to the southward and the British again closed the convoy, by then spread out over a distance of some seven miles, as it picked its way through the heavy drift ice in single line formation.
Shortly before 1700/1 the Germans were again sighted, following a radar report from HMS Snowflake, this time bearing 146°, 20000 yards. HMS Bulldog led round towards them, fire was opened at 1658/1 and after seven minutes the enemy made smoke and turned away.
Half an hour later the Germans made their fifth and last attempt to break through. Fire was exchanged between 1736/1 and 1742/1, when they once more turned away. The British held on towards them for a few minutes till the rear destroyer disappeared into the smoke to the south-east. This was the last seen of them, shortly afterwards they were ordered to attack the damaged Edinburgh some 200 nautical miles to the eastward, and altered course accordingly. Commander Richmond of course could not know this, and for the next three hours he kept his force cruising between the supposed direction of the enemy and the convoy, while the latter was breaking its way through the ice. By 2155/1, the convoy was in open water and the destroyer resumed their screening stations.
The remainder of the passage was uneventful. Convoy PQ 15 was sighted proceeding to the eastward at 1000/2. QP 11 arrived at Reykjavik at 0700/7.
In the meantime, while convoy QP 11 was being subjected to the attacks by the German destroyers, the damaged HMS Edinburgh had been making the best of her way towards Murmansk. The first torpedo had hit the starboard side forward, causing considarable flooding. The second torpedo hit right aft and virtually blew her stern off. She had lost her rudder and the two inner shafts, but could steam at about 8 knots with the outer propellers.
HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, Sokrushitelny and Gremyashchiy arrived about an hour after she had been hit. An attempt by HMS Forester to take her in tow failed, with no stern and seven feet down by the bow, she came rapidly into the wind as soon as she gathered headway, and parted the tow. Further attempts to aid her were then delayed while the destroyers hunted a German submarine that was sighted on the surface four miles away.
During the night of 30 April / 1 May some progress at about three knots was made by the Edinburgh taking HMS Foresight in tow and using her to control the steering. At 0600/1, however, the Russian destroyers reported that they had to return to harbour for fuel and parted company. German submarines were known to be about and in these circumstances Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter deemed it essential that both the remaining destroyers should be used for screeing. So HMS Foresight was cast off and HMS Edinburgh struggled on, steering as best she could with her engines. Left to her own devices, a persitent swing to port could only be countered by gathering sternway every few minutes and the speed of advance fell to two knots. Thus she proceeded for about 23 hours. That no enemy submarine succeeded in attacking during this anxious period is the measure of alterness of HMS Forester and HMS Foresight.
That afternoon the Bulldog's report of the German destroyer attacks came in. The probability of their shifting their attentions to HMS Edinburgh was at once realised and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter and he gave the following instructions; ' In event of attack by German destroyers, HMS Forester and HMS Foresight are to act independently, taking every opportunity to defeat the enemy without taking undue risks to themselves in defending HMS Edinburgh. HMS Edinburgh is to proceed wherever the wind permits, probably straight into the wind. If minesweepers are present they will also be told to act independently retiring under smoke screen as necessary. HMS Edinburgh had no RDF or Director working.'
At 1800/1, the Russian escort vessel Rubin joined and six hours later the minesweepers Gossamer, Harrier, Hussar and Niger arrived with a Russian tug. Disappointingly, the tug was not powerful enough to tow. Eventually at 0530/2, HMS Edinburgh was again making three knots under her own power and holding a fairly steady course of 150°. She was steered by the tug fine on the starboard bow and HMS Gossamer acting as a drogue on the port quarter. HMS Niger had been detached during the night to make rendezvous with the Russian destroyers which would return after fuelling. However they did sail long after they were expected to do so and HMS Niger rejoined at 1020/2. HMS Harrier, HMS Hussar, Rubin, HMS Foresight and HMS Forester patrolled around the damaged cruiser in a circle.
The wind was north-north-east, force three. As usual there were frequent snow squalls and the visibility varied from ten to two miles. Despite the fact that enemy submarines were known to be taking up positions to intercept, and the probability of destroyer attack there seemed to be a chance of making port. But it was not to be.
At 0627/3 gunfire from HMS Hussar, then on the starboard quarter, heralded the approach of the enemy, which proved to be the three destroyers. HMS Hussar was almost immediately straddled, and fell back on HMS Edinburgh.
There ensued a series of individual actions, ships engaging whenever visibility permitted. The Germans kept about seven miles to the north-north-east of HMS Edinburgh making full use of snow squalls and smoke to get within torpedo range, and it was seldom that more than one of them was in sight at the same time.
At the first alarm HMS Edinburgh cast off the tows and went on to her maximum speed - about eight knots. Unable to steer, she circled round to port, sometimes rapidly, sometimes on a wider curve, firing with 'B' turret whenever it could be directed from the bridge on to a fleeting target. The minesweepers remained near her, engaging the enemy with their one gun salvoes whenever they appeared and looking out for enemy submarines. HMS Foresight at once steered for the gunflashes at 24 knots while HMS Forester, which was two or three miles to the westward, went on to 30 knots and steered to join her.
First blood on either side was drawn by HMS Edinburgh, which opened fire on the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann at 0636/2. Her first salvo fell within 100 yards. The German destroyer increased speed to 31 knots, made smike and turned away, but the second salvo scored a hit, which put both engines out of action and destroyed all control instruments. This fortunate hit had a marked effect on the events of the day. She came to a stop and remained virtually out of action, while from then onwards the efforts of her consorts were largely directed towards succouring and screening her.
Meanwhile HMS Foresight had sighted an enemy destroyer, Z 24, 10000 yards off, steering straight towards her, just as HMS Edinburgh opened fire at 0836/2. At 0640/2 the range was down to 8000 yards and Commander Salter opened fire on Z 24, altering course to the eastwards to open 'A' arcs. For the next eight minutes all three enemy destroyers were playing hide and seek in the snow and their own smoke screens. Targets were engaged as and when they came into vision, ranges varying between 6000 and 8000 yards.
HMS Forester was also fighting under much the same conditions, but shestood on to the northward when HMS Foresight turned to open her 'A' arcs. At 0650/1 she fired torpedoes. almost at the same moment she received three hits. One in No.1 boiler room brought her to a standstill. One put 'B' gun out of action and killed the Commanding Officer and one on 'X' gun shattered its breech mechanism. At 0653/2, torpedoes were seen passing underneath the ship in the direction of HMS Edinburgh which was then about five miles north-west of HMS Foresight which had just, at 0648/2, altered away from the enemy to the westward, in order to close HMS Edinburgh. Seeing HMS Forester stopped and on fire, Commander Salter steered to her assistance. HMS Forester with her sole remaining gun and her 1st Lieutenant now in Command, was engaging the stationary Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann some three miles to the northward, and shifted to the other destroyers whenever they appeared from the snow. HMS Foresight had closed to within half a mile by 0700/2, and then turned to an easterly course, so as not to foul the Forester's range, and engaged on of the destroyers which had been firing on her.
Just at this time, 0702/2, HMS Edinburgh was torpedoed. The torpedoes were seen breaking surface as they approached. These was nothing she could do to avoid them but it looked as if her eccentric gyrations would take her clear. However her 'luck' was out. One torpedo, which was running deep, struck her port side amidships at a point practically opposite one of the former hits. She immediately listed to port and gradually came to a standstill. The ship was 'open from side to side'. It was clear that she might break in two and sink at any moment, and Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter ordered HMS Gossamer alongside to take off the wounded and passanger. HMS Edinburgh nevertheless continued to engage the enemy whenever they appeared. Her shooting was described by the Z 24 as 'extra-ordinarily good' and twice deterred her from going to the assistance of the Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann. However the list was increasing and when it reached 17° her guns would no longer bear. The Rear-Admiral then directed Captain Faulkner to abandon ship.
Meanwhile HMS Foresight after engaging her opponent for five minutes again turned to the westward and seeing HMS Forester being heavily straddled, passed between her and the enemy, drawing their fire. At 0714/2, Commander Salter, altered course to close the range, and a few minutes later fired a salvo of torpedoes (which missed) at the Z 7 / Herman Schoemann. Just afterwards he came under a heavy concentration of fire from Z 24 and Z 25 at 4000 yards range. He increased to full speed and tried to get away under smoke, but received four hits, one of them in No.3 boiler, which brought the ship to a standstill at 0724/2 in welter of steam and smoke with only one gun still in action.
The Edinburgh, Foresight and Forester were thus all stopped with their gun power much reduced. There seemed nothing to prevent the two comparatively undamaged German destroyers from sinking each of them separately and afterwards dealing with the slow, lightly armed minesweepers at their leisure. But though they made repeated attacks on the destroyers with heavy but fortunate inaccurate fire, they did not press home their advantage. Their main concern was with the Hermann Schoemann. Already thee attempts by the Z 24 to go alongside and take off her ship's company had been foiled by British gunfire, and they let the opportunity pass.
Ten minutes after HMS Foresight stopped, HMS Forester managed to get underway (0735/2). At the same time Z 24 and Z 25 again opened fire on her but they soon disappeared into smoke, emerging a few minutes later to concentrate on HMS Foresight. This gave HMS Forester an opportunity to repay the debt she owned for the respite HMS Foresight had afforded her earlier in the day, and, zigzagging between her and the enemy, she covered her with a heavy efficient smoke screen. This was the close of the action. Shortly afterwards Z 24 finally managed to get alongside Z 7 / Hermann Schoemann and took off about 200 survivors. The latter - already in a sinking condition - was then scuttled, and the Z 24 and Z 25 (which had received a hit in her wireless room) withdrew at high speed to the north-west and were lost to view by the British around 0820/2.
Meanwhile HMS Foresight had effected temporary repairs and by 0815/2 was proceeding slowly on the port engine. HMS Edinburgh had been abandoned by 0800/15, HMS Gossamer taking about 440 men and HMS Harrier, in which Rear-Admiral Bonham-Carter hoisted his flag, about 350. Meanwhile HMS Hussar was screening them and laying a smoke screen. Attempts by HMS Harrier to sink the cruiser by gunfire and depth charges failed so HMS Foresight was ordered to finish her off with her last remaining torpedo. This she did and all ships then shaped course for the Kola Inlet where they arrived without further incident the next day.
To provide distant cover for these convoys a heavy cover force was deployed which departed Scapa Flow around 2200/28 and was made up of the battleships HMS King George V (Capt. W.R. Patterson, CB, CVO, RN, flying the flag of flying the flag of A/Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruisers USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN), USS Tuscaloosa (Capt. L.P. Johnson, USN), light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN), destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), USS Wilson (Lt.Cdr. R.G. Sturges, USN), USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN), USS Madison (Lt.Cdr. W.B. Ammon, USN), USS Plunkett (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Standley, Jr., USN) and the escort destroyers HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN) and HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN).
At 0600/30, they were joined by the destroyers HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Oribi (Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Punjabi (Lt.Cdr. J.M.G. Waldegrave, DSC, RN) which came from Seidisfiord. HMS Inglefield, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett then proceeded to Seidisfiord to refuel.
They rejoined the fleet in the afternoon. Another destroyer, HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), had come with them. The four escort destroyers were then detached to return to Scapa Flow.
At 1550/1, in very bad visibility, HMS Punjabi ended up in front of HMS King George V which could not avoid a collision and cut HMS Punjabi in half. The aft part sank immediately and there was no time to set the ready depth charges to safe which as a result exploded also causing damage to HMS King George V. The front part of HMS Punjabi took 40 minutes to sink during which time HMS Martin and HMS Marne managed to take off 5 officers and 201 ratings.
As a result of the damage to HMS King George V, the battleship HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN, second in command Home Fleet) departed from Hvalfiord, around 2045/1, to take her place in the cover force. HMS Duke of York was escorted by the destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN) and HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN). They made rendezvous with the cover force around 2330/2 after which HMS King George V parted company at 0006/3 and proceeded to Seidisfiord escorted by HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi. They arrived at Seidisfjord around 1100/3. HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi then rejoined the fleet, having also fuelled at Seidisfiord, around 0610/4.
At 1800/4, USS Washington, HMS Wichita, USS Tuscaloosa, USS Wilson, USS Wainwright, USS Madison and USS Plunkett were detached to Hvalfiord where they arrived around 0815/6.
Around 2100/5, HMS Duke of York, HMS Victorious, HMS Kenya, HMS Inglefield, HMS Faulknor, HMS Escapade, HMS Eskimo, HMS Martin, HMS Marne and HMS Oribi arrived at Scapa Flow. (8)
29 Apr 1942
Around 0500Z/29, A close cover force made up of the light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN), the destroyers HMS Somali (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) departed Seidisfiord to join convoy PQ 15 which they did early on 30 April.
[For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoys PQ 15 and QP 11 and the sinking of HMS Edinburgh and HMS Punjabi ' for 26 April 1942.] (9)
2 May 1942
On 2 May 1942 the British merchant Jutland in convoy PQ-15 was torpedoed and damaged by a German torpedo aircraft of I/KG 26 south of Bear Island. One passenger was lost. The master, 53 crew members and eight passengers abandoned ship and were picked up by the British destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN) and landed at Murmansk on 6 May. At 00.14 hours on 3 May 1942, the abandoned Jutland was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-251 in position 73°02'N, 19°46'E.
21 May 1942
Convoy operation to and from northern Russia, convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.
Convoy PQ 16 from Reykjavik to the Kola Inlet and convoy QP 12 from the Kola Inlet to Reykjavik.
Timespan: 21 May 1942 to 1 June 1942.
21 May 1942.
On this day convoy PQ 16 of 35 merchant vessels departed Reykjavik for northern Russia. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Alamar (American, 5689 GRT, built 1916), Alcoa Banner (American, 5035 GRT, built 1919), American Press (American, 5131 GRT, built 1920), American Robin (American, 5172 GRT, built 1919), Arcos (Russian, 2343 GRT, built 1918), Atlantic (British, 5414 GRT, built 1939), Carlton (American, 5127 GRT, built 1920), Chernyshevski (Russian, 3588 GRT, built 1919), City of Joliet (American, 6167 GRT, built 1920), City of Omaha (American, 6124 GRT, built 1920), Empire Baffin (British, 6978 GRT, built 1941), Empire Elgar (British, 2847 GRT, built 1942), Empire Lawrence (British, 7457 GRT, built 1941), Empire Purcell (British, 7049 GRT, built 1942), Empire Selwyn (British, 7167 GRT, built 1941), Exterminator (Panamanian, 6115 GRT, built 1924), Heffron (American, 7611 GRT, built 1919), Hybert (American, 6120 GRT, built 1920), John Randolph (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Lowther Castle (British, 5171 GRT, built 1937), Massmar (American, 5828 GRT, built 1920), Mauna Kea (American, 6064 GRT, built 1920), Michigan (Panamanian, 6419 GRT, built 1920), Minotaur (American, 4554 GRT, built 1918), Mormacsul (American, 5481 GRT, built 1920), Nemaha (American, 6501 GRT, built 1920), Ocean Voice (British, 7174 GRT, built 1941), Pieter de Hoogh (Dutch, 7168 GRT, built 1941), Revolutsioner (Russian, 2900 GRT, built 1936), Richard Henry Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Shchors (Russian, 3770 GRT, built 1921), Stary Bolshevik (Russian, 3974 GRT, built 1933), Steel Worker (American, 5685 GRT, built 1920), Syros (American, 6191 GRT, built 1920) and West Nilus (American, 5495 GRT, built 1920).
Close escort was initially provided by the western escort which was made up of the British minesweeper HMS Hazard (Lt.Cdr. J.R.A. Seymour, RN) and the A/S trawlers St. Elstan (Lt. R.M. Roberts, RNR), Lady Madeleine (T/Lt. W.G.Ogden, RNVR), HMS Northern Spray (T/Lt. G.T. Gilbert, RNVR) and (until 23 May) Retriever (Free French).
Also on this day convoy QP 12 of 15 merchant vessels departed northern Russia for Reykjavik. The convoy was made up of the following merchant vessels. Alcoa Rambler (American, 5500 GRT, built 1919), Bayou Chico (American, 5401 GRT, built 1920), Cape Race (British, 3807 GRT, built 1930), Empire Morn (British, 7092 GRT, built 1941), Expositor (American, 4959 GRT, built 1919), Francis Scott Key (American, 7191 GRT, built 1941), Hegira (American, 7588 GRT, built 1919), Ilmen (Russian, 2369 GRT, built 1923), Kuzbass (Russian, 3109 GRT, built 1914), Paul Luckenbach (American, 6606 GRT, built 1913), Scotish American (British, 6999 GRT, built 1920), Seattle Spirit (American, 5627 GRT, built 1919), Southgate (British, 4862 GRT, built 1926), Texas (American, 5638 GRT, built 1919) and Topa Topa (American, 5356 GRT, built 1920).
Close escort was provided by the destroyers HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, DSO, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Boadicea (Lt.Cdr. F.C. Brodrick, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Steward, RN), HNoMS St. Albans (Lt.Cdr. S.V. Storheill, RNorN), escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), AA-ship HMS Ulster Queen (Capt.(Retd.) D.S. McGrath, RN), minesweeper HMS Harrier (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO, RN) and the A/S trawlers HMS Cape Palliser (Lt. B.T. Wortley, RNR), HMS Northern Pride (T/Lt. A.R. Cornish, RNR), HMS Northern Wave (T/Lt. W.G. Pardoe-Matthews, RNR) and HMS Vizalma (T/Lt. J.R. Anglebeck, RNVR).
Furthermore a eastern local escort escorted the convoy as far as 30°E. This was made up of the Russian destroyers Grozniy, Sokrushitelny and the British minesweepers HMS Bramble (Capt. J.H.F. Crombie, RN), HMS Leda (Cdr. A.D.H. Jay, DSC, RN), HMS Seagull (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Pollock, RN), and HMS Gossamer (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Crease, RN).
22 May 1942.
The British heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk (Capt. E.G.H. Bellars, RN), HMS Kent (Capt. A.E.M.B. Cunninghame-Graham, RN) and light cruiser HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN) left Hvalfiord to make rendez-vous with Rear Admiral Commanding, Tenth Cruiser Squadron in position 66°00'N, 13°00'E the next day and then form the cruiser covering force for convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.
The US destroyers USS Wainwright (Lt.Cdr. R.H. Gibbs, USN), USS Mayrant (Cdr. C.C. Hartman, USN), USS Rhind (Lt.Cdr. H.T. Read, USN), and USS Rowan (Lt.Cdr. B.R. Harrison, Jr., USN) left Hvalfiord for Seidisfiord to fuel before joining the battlefleet at sea.
Force Q; RFA tanker Black Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and her escort, the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) as well as the close escort for convoy PQ 16 the AA ship HMS Alynbank (A/Capt.(rtd.) H.F. Nash, RN), corvettes HMS Honeysuckle (Lt. H.H.D. MacKillican, DSC, RNR), FFS Roselys, HMS Starwort (Lt.Cdr. N.W. Duck, RD, RNR), HMS Hyderabad (Lt. S.C.B. Hickman, RN)and the submarines HMS Seawolf (Lt. R.P. Raikes, RN)and HMS Trident (Lt. A.R. Hezlet, DSC, RN) left Seidisfiord to join convoy PQ 16 at sea.
23 May 1942.
The battlefleet, made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York (Capt. C.H.J. Harcourt, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.C. Tovey, KCB, KBE, DSO, RN, C-in-C Home Fleet), USS Washington (Capt. H.H.J. Benson, USN, with Rear-Admiral R.C. Griffen, USN on board), aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN), heavy cruiers USS Wichita (Capt. H.W. Hill, USN), HMS London (Capt. R.M. Servaes, CBE, RN), destroyers HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.K. Scott-Moncrieff, RN), HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A. de W. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Eclipse (Lt.Cdr. E. Mack, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, RN), HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), and HMS Wheatland (Lt.Cdr. R.de.L Brooke, RN) left Hvalfiord to provide distant cover for convoy's PQ 16 and QP 12.
Light cruiser HMS Nigeria (Capt. J.G.L. Dundas, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN) and the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, DSO, RN), HMS Martin (Cdr. C.R.P. Thomson, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt. A.S. Pomeroy, RN), and ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. H. Eibel, ORP) left Seidisfiord and joined the escort of PQ 16 P.M. heaving made rendez-vous with HMS Norfolk, HMS Kent and HMS Liverpool before joining the convoy.
Force Q (RFA Black Ranger and HMS Ledbury and the close escort HMS Alynbank, HMS Honeysuckle, FFS Roselys, HMS Starwort, HMS Hyderabad, HMS Seawolf and HMS Trident also joined convoy PQ 16 P.M.
The US destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan arrived at Seidisfiord to fuel before joining the battlefleet at sea sailing P.M.
24 May 1942.
The US destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan joined the battlefleet in position 65°50'N, 13°01'E.
British destroyers HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury, HMS Eclipse, HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus were detached from the battlefleet to fuel at Seidisfiord, arriving A.M. and rejoining the battlefleet at sea P.M. HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney were then detached from the Battlefleet to fuel at Seidisfiord, arriving P.M.
One merchant vessel of convoy QP 12 had to return with engine defects, this was the American Hegira.
25 May 1942.
Both convoy's were reported by enemy aircraft this day.
Also several German U-boats from the 'Greif-wolfpack' were able to make contact with convoy PQ 16 during the day.
First one was U-209 at 0620 hours (All times of the U-boats are Berlin time). She was however driven off with gunfire from HMS Martin a little over an hour later. She again made contact briefly around 1750 hours.
Then at 0645 hours, U-436 also made contact. She however lost contact around 0800 hours.
At 0655 hours, U-703 briefly made contact but was driven off.
At 0751 hours U-591 briefly made contact.
At 1200 hours U-703 again made contact but lost contact soon afterwards.
At 1500 hours U-591 was detected and engaged with gunfire by HMS Martin. She dived and was then depth charged but sustained no damage.
U-436 again made contact at 1522 hours but lost contact again soon afterwards.
At 1615 hours, U-586 made contact also to loose contact soon afterwards.
At 2005 hours U-591 briefly made contact with the convoy but lost it soon afterwards.
PQ 16 was also attacked by torpedo and dive bombers, many near misses were obtained, The American merchant ship Carlton had a fractured a steam pipe and proceeded to Seidisfiord in tow of the A/S trawler HMS Northern Spray.
26 May 1942.
Shortly before 0300 hours U-703 attacked convoy PQ 16 and managed to torpedo and sink the American merchant Syros in position 72°35'N, 05°30'E.
During the remainder of day enemy aircraft were in contact and were homing in U-boats.
At 0400 hours (All U-boat times are Berlin time) U-209 briefly made contact.
At the same time U-436 was also in contact and fired one torpedo which missed.
At 0427 hours U-436 fired two torpedoes at the A/S trawler HMS Lady Madeleine. Both missed and Lady Madeleine then counter attacked with depth charges causing damage to the German submarine forcing her to break off her patrol.
At 0846 hours U-591 attacked HMS Achates with three torpedoes which missed. Achates then counter attacked but the depth charges fell way off.
At 0930 hours U-586 was driven off with gunfire by HMS Martin.
At 1400 hours U-703 briefly made contact.
At 2212 hours U-703 was detected by HMS Martin and engaged with gunfire. On diving she was depth charged but sustained no damage.
27 May 1942.
During the day convoy PQ 16 was attacked many times by emeny aircraft. Three of the merchant vessels were sunk by bombs; Empire Lawrence, Empire Purcell and Mormacsul. The Alamar was heavily damaged by bombs and was scuttled by HMS Trident. Also the merchant vessel Lowther Castle was sunk by enemy torpedo aircraft.
The merchant vessels Stary Bolshevik, Ocean Voice (with the Convoi-Commodore Capt. Gale on board), Empire Baffin and City of Joliet were damaged during the air attacks.
The destroyer ORP Garland was also damaged and detached to Murmansk. It is possible the destroyer was damaged by her own depth charges while attacking U-703 shortly before noon.
The already damaged merchant vessel Carlton, in tow of HMS Northern Spray towards Seidisfiord is also attacked by enemy aircraft but no hits were obtained on her.
Also on this day Russian destroyers from the eastern local escort sailed from Murmansk to join convoy PQ 16. It was made up Grozniy, Sokrushitelny, Valerian Kyubishev. Also four British minesweepers sailed to join the escort as well, these were HMS Bramble, HMS Leda, HMS Seagull and HMS Gossamer. They all joined the convoy escort the next day.
Force Q (RFA tanker Black Ranger escorted by HMS Ledbury is detached to Scapa Flow.
HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney departed Seidisfiord to make rendez-vous with the battlefleet in position 66°50'N, 11°25'W.
The merchant vessels Cape Race, Empire Morn and Southgate split off from convoy QP 12 and set course for the Clyde escorted by HMS Ulster Queen, HMS Venomous and HMS Badsworth.
28 May 1942.
HMS Victorious was detached from the battlefleet to Hvalfiord escorted by HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse.
HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney joined the battlefleet at sea.
HMS Kent detached from the cruiser cover force and set course for Hvalfiord.
The damaged American merchant vessel City of Joliet had to be abandoned and was scuttled.
29 May 1942.
HMS Intrepid and HMS Icarus left the battlefleet for Skaalefiord to fuel, arriving A.M. and after fuelling sailed independently for Scapa Flow.
HMS Victorious end her escort HMS Faulknor, HMS Fury and HMS Eclipse arrived at Hvalfiord.
Force Q (RFA Black Ranger and HMS Ledbury) was ordered to proceed to Sullom Voe instead of Scapa Flow.
The cruiser cover force HMS Nigeria, HMS Liverpool, HMS Norfolk, HMS Onslow, HMS Oribi and HMS Marne arrived at Scapa Flow.
The battlefleet, which at that time was made up of the battleships HMS Duke of York, USS Washington, heavy cruisers HMS London, USS Wichita, destroyers USS Wainwright, USS Mayrant, USS Rhind and USS Rowan and the escort destroyers HMS Middleton, HMS Lamerton, HMS Wheatland and HMS Blankney also arrived at Scapa Flow.
HMS Kent arrived at Hvalfiord.
Convoy QP 12 (minus the three merchants and their escort that had been detached on the 27th) arrived at Reykjavik, Iceland.
30 May 1942.
The merchant vessels Cape Race, Empire Morn and Southgate (Ex QP 12) escorted by HMS Venomous and HMS Badsworth arrived at the Clyde. Ulster Queen had been ordered to proceed to Belfast where she arrived also on this day.
Convoy PQ 16 arrived at Murmansk. Six merchant ships continued on to Archangel where they arrived on 1 June. (10)
4 Jun 1942
Convoy WS 19 Z departed the Clyde for Gibraltar (Malta). This convoy was made up of the merchant vessels Burdwan (British, 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).
Escort was provided by HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), the destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN) and ORP Kujawiak (Lt. L. Lichodziejewski).
The convoy arrived off Gibraltar on 12 June 1942.
[For further proceedings of this convoy see the 'event', 'Operation Harpoon', for 12 June 1942.] (11)
12 Jun 1942
Operation Harpoon. Supply convoy to Malta from Gibraltar.
Timespan: 12 to 18 June 1942.
During March and April 1942 Malta had been attacked very heavily by the German and Italian air forces and was in much need of supplies. It was therefore decided that two convoy’s were to be sent, one from the west (Harpoon) and one from the east (Vigorous). This was to increase the chance of success as the enemy would have to split force if they want to attack both convoys. Also a group of minesweepers were to be sent to Malta.
Below we will give the events regarding the Harpoon convoy in chronological order.
12 June 1942.
Western Mediterranean (Harpoon convoy)
During the night convoy WS 19 Z passed the Straits of Gibraltar. This convoy had departed the Clyde on June 6th. It was made up of five merchant vessels; Burwan (British , 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).
Off Gibraltar the tanker Kentucky (American , 9308 GRT, built 1942) joined the convoy.
Close escort was provided by ‘Force X’ which was made up of the AA-cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), ORP Kujawiak (Lt. L. Lichodziejewski), minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. G. Mowatt, RD, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, RN), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RN), HMS Hythe (Lt.Cdr. L.B. Miller, RN) and the motor launches (ML’s) ML 121 (group commander Lt.Cdr. E.J. Strowlger, RNVR), ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462.
Also operating with ‘Force X’ was the fast minelayer HMS Welshman (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN).
Distant cover was provided by ‘Force W’ which was made up of the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN). This force was to cover the convoy until off the Skerki Channel, the entrance to the Sicily-Tunis Narrows. The cover forces for this convoy were however rather weak. For instance the aircraft carriers were rather old and had hardly enough fighters available to provide a decent air patrol.
Then there was also a tanker force to fuel the escorts ‘Force Y’. It was made up of the RFA oiler Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941), escorted by two corvettes; HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Besides these forces four submarines were on patrol in the western Mediterranean. They were stationed between Sardinia and Sicily. These were HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 43 (Lt. A.C. Halliday, RN) and HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN).
By 0800 hours on the 12th force was in full strength and proceeded eastwards at 12 to 13 knots.
The remainder of the day was uneventful except for the sighting of a Spanish merchant vessel in the evening.
13 June 1942.
On this day the convoy was shadowed continuously by German and Italian aircraft. Also it was thought an Italian submarine might have spotted the convoy but was not the case as of yet.
HMS Cairo and almost all the destroyers and escort destroyers oiled from Brown Ranger and HMS Liverpool. This was completed late in the evening.
Italian warships reported to be at sea.
Two Italian cruisers and five destroyers had been reported at daybreak (actually six detroyers were present). These were the light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and the destroyers Alfredo Oriani, Vincenzo Gioberti, Ascari, Ugolino Vivaldi, Nicolò Zeno and Premuda. They had sailed on the 13th from Cagliari, Sardinia. The most western British submarine on patrol HMS P 43 had attacked them at 1931 hours on the 13th. She claimed to have hit a cruiser but this was obviously not the case. Two hours later the next submarine on the patrol line HMS P 211 also sighted this Italian force but was too far off to attack.
14 June 1942.
During the night the force was spotted and reported by an Italian submarine. In fact two Italian submarines made attacks on the convoy during the night. These were the Uarsciek at 0152 hours (zone -2) which fired two torpedoes at a destroyer in position 38°02'N, 05°06'E. Both torpedoes missed. Then at 0505 hours, the Giada fired four torpedoes at an aircraft carrier (probably HMS Eagle although this carrier did not report hearing torpedo explosions and HMS Argus did) and a cruiser or battleship in position 37°55'N, 06°12'E. She claimed two hits but in fact all torpedoes missed.
At dawn enemy shadowing aircraft appeared once more. The convoy was approaching the danger area for air attacks coming from Sardinia. At 1000 hours the first radar warning came and at about the same time fighters from Eagle shot down an Italian torpedo aircraft. More of these aircraft were seen gathering about 20 miles from the convoy and form up for attack.
It was a bright and clear morning with hardly a cloud in the sky. There was little wind but such as there was came from the west and this made it difficult for the British fighter crews, especially for those from the 25-year old Argus with her small margin of speed, unless she would turn into the wind and leave the destroyer screen.
The convoy was steering east in two columns in line ahead. HMS Kenya was leading the port column while HMS Liverpool was leading the starboard one. Astern of the convoy was HMS Malaya with HMS Welshman astern of her. The aircraft carriers were operating independently to port of the convoy. Each carrier had an AA cruiser and a destroyer as escort. HMS Eagle was with HMS Cairo and HMS Wishart while HMS Argus was with HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette.
The remaining fifteen destroyers and four minesweepers formed an all-round screen spread from three to three and a half miles from the convoy. This was done on purpose so that all ships could fire outward but also inward with a freedom that would have been impossible with a closer screen.
The air attacks began at 1030 hours. The first was a shallow dive-bombing attack by two groups, each of four or five Italian fighter-bombers (CR. 42). One group approached from astern at 12000 feet and diving to 6000 feet. The other group came from ahead at 6000 feet and dropped their bombs from 3000 to 4000 feet. Their target was HMS Argus and her consorts on the port beam of HMS Malaya. No damage was done, only one bomb fell close to HMS Charybdis. Two of the enemy planes were shot down after their attack by Fulmar’s from Eagle which were controlled by the Argus and afterwards landed aboard her. It was the policy to employ the Hurricanes from Eagle as high fighter force and the Fulmar’s from Argus as low fighter force.
A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110 hours and the second soon afterwards. The firstwave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turing to meet the attack. Also the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.
The second wave attacked the port column dropped their torpedoes at longer range. All torpedoes missed. The Cant. bombers also came in two formations, coming from ahead out of the sun at a height of about 10000 feet. Their targets seemed to be Eagle and Argus but none of their bombs hit.
A little before 1200 hours several torpedo planes made harmless attacks from long range. They were probably stragglers turned back by gunfire during the earlier attacks and anxious to get rid of their torpedoes before turning back to base.
Upon the whole the Italians seem to have attacked gallantly. The British fighters claimed to have shot down three enemy fighters and three torpedo aircraft. Three British fighters were lost ofwhich one was shot down in error by a ship in the screen. The convoy and escort claim to have shot down seven enemy aircraft, all Savoia SM 79’s.
HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and badly damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by HMS Antelope and screened by HMS Westcott. A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air. At 1640 hours, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800 hours, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.
At 2015 hours, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.
At 2230 hours, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to loose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.
The fruitless attacks on the damaged Liverpool in the afternoon and evening of the 14th evidently occupied the remaining aircraft available to the enemy in Sardinia for as the convoy was able to continue without being attacked. It was however still being shadowed and came within range of the Sicilian air bases in the evening.
HMS Welshman had replaced HMS Liverpool at the head of the starboard column of the convoy. She however parted company with the convoy around 2000 hours to continue the passage to Malta on her own at high speed.
At 1820 hours German bombers appeared, about ten Ju. 88’s approached the convoy from astern at 10000 feet and then dived to 6000 feet to make the attack. Both carriers had narrow escapes, Argus in particular. A bomb pitched fine on her port bow, dived under the ship and exploded on the starboard bow. No ship was damaged however. No enemy aircraft were shot down. Six British fighters however harassed the enemy and forced several of them to release their bombs prematurely. One Fulmar was lost.
As in the morning the shallow dive-bombing attack preluded a heavy combined torpedo and bombing attack but in the evening the lapse of time was greater and dive-bombers as well as high level-bombers took part in the massed attack. It was a combination of Italians and Germans. 16 Savoia 79 bombers heavily escorted by Macchi fighters with 10 Ju 88’s and 15 Ju 87’s. The first to appear were the Savoia’s which approached from the north-east to port at about 2000 hours. They were flying well above the water. Worked their way around the stern of the convoy outside gun range to glide down and attack on the starboard side. In the meantime, a few minutes after the Savoia’s had been sighted, two groups of Ju 88’s came in from ahead at 12000 feet and dropped their bombs without effect as they flew across the screen and along the columns of the convoy. Next the Ju 87’s arrived on the port bow and attacked the port wing of the screen, diving from 7000 to 1000 feet. They narrowly missed HMS Icarus and HMS Wrestler, though they had probably hoped to reach HMS Eagle. These dive bombers took most of the attention of the screen but then at 2020 hours the Italian torpedo-bombers came in. Most of them concentrated onHMS Malaya, HMS Argus, HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette. They managed to drop three torpedoes within 300 yards from the carrier but she still managed to avoid them.
Around the time of these attacks HMS Middleton sighted a periscope and dropped a depth charge. Two other destroyers then hauled out of the screen and dropped depth charges. The periscope was next sighted by HMS Malaya after which HMS Speedy obtained an Asdic contact and attacked with depth charges in position 37°39’N, 09°35’E, claiming to have destroyed the enemy submarine.
This was the last encounter with the enemy before ‘Force W’ would separate from the convoy which was then to continue on to Malta only escorted by ‘Force X’.
As the convoy reached the entrance of the Narrows at 2100 hours, four Beaufighters arrived from Malta to relieve the hard worked naval aviators of the carriers. Around this time the Italian submarine Alagi attacked an aircraft carrier with two stern torpedoes in position 37°36'N, 09°53'E which both missed. The attack was not reported by either of the carriers and was probably not observed. Half an hour later ‘Force W’ turned westwards. The convoy continued eastwards with A/Capt. Hardy of HMS Cairo in command. For the passage of the Tunisian coast the five remaining merchant vessels formed a single line ahead with ‘Force X’ screening them.
At 2205 hours, as it was getting dark, eight Ju 88’s made a shallow dive-bombing attack dropping down from 6000 to 3000 feet to release their bombs. No hits were obtained. They lost two aircraft, one was shot down by a Beaufighter and the ther by gunfire from the ships. This was the end of this day’s fighting.
The Italian ships that had been reported to be at sea the previous day.
On receiving the submarines reports Vice-Admiral Leatham at Malta arranged for a striking force of Wellington aircraft to attack the enemy. Aircraft again sighted the enemy north-west of Cape San Vito, Sicily at 0255/14. At 0525/14 the enemy was sighted off Palermo. At 1800/14 two cruisers were reported to be in the harbour there. At dusk, at 2125 hours, two cruisers and four destroyers were reported to be leaving Palermo harbour but their course was not reported. Vice-Admiral Leatham judged that they were proceeding to the east to join the main Italian battlefleet that had left Taranto that same evening to operate against the ‘Vigorous-convoy’ in the eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly he stationed a naval air patrol over the Strait of Messina, with a naval air striking force at Malta standing by to attack.
Vice-Admiral Curteis, who was taking ‘Force W’ westwards, also received the report of the enemy leaving Palermo and had to decide whether to strengthen ‘Force X’ with either one or both his cruisers, HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis. He was then, at 2315/24, in position 37°30’N, 09°30’E, over 50 nautical miles from the convoy, which would be a further 100 nautical miles further on to the east by dawn on the 15th. He also judged that the Italian ships would be unlikely to be danger to the convoy and that the escort would be strong enough ‘to deter them from doing any harm’ escpecially as it would be expected that the Italians would be attacked from the air by aircraft from Malta. Apart from this he was anxious for the safety of his aircraft carriers, which would need the cruisers support while within striking distance from the enemy air bases in Sardinia. Furthermore there was barely time to overtake the convoy before by the morning. With the force available a decision either way was a gamble this might have been different had Liverpool not been torpedoed. He therefore decided against sending any reinforcement to the convoy.
15 June 1942.
Action south of Pantellaria
A/Capt. Hardy, the convoy escort commander in HMS Cairo first knew of the presence of the enemy through the report of a Beaufighter which was on it’s way to patrol above the convoy and which at 0620 hours reported two cruisers and four destroyers to be 15 nautical miles on the port beam of the convoy. The convoy at that time was stearing at 12 knots to the south-east. The merchantmen were formed in two columns again, with HMS Cairo ahead, the five ‘Fleet’ destroyers in the screen to starboard and the four ‘Hunt’s’ to port. The minesweepers and the ML’s were astern of the convoy. A few minutes later the Italian ships were sighted hull down against the brightening sky to the eastward. They were broad on the port bow and drawing ahead of the convoy at high speed. It was now also seen that there were five destroyers present instead of the reported four. Commander Scurfield (in HMS Bedouin led out the ‘Fleet’ destroyers to attack while HMS Cairo and the remainder of the convoy escort started making smoke to cover the merchant ships, which were ordered to turn to starboard and to seek shelter in Tunisian waters. It was A/Capt. Hardy’s intention to gain as much time as possible to enable an air striking force from Malta to attack the enemy.
At 0640 hours, the Italian cruisers opened fire at a range of over 20000 yards. Their second salvo straddled HMS Cairo and others fell near the convoy before the smoke screen could take effect. The British ships could not yet reply as the enemy was still out of range. As the ‘Fleet’ destroyers gathered way, they became strung out in a loose line of bearing, nearly line ahead, in the order HMS Bedouin, HMS Partridge, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless, though the last ship worked up to 32 knots in the endeavour to keep up. The first to destroyers opened fire on the enemy cruisers at 0645 hours with their guns at maximum elevation but in a quarter of an hour both Bedouin and Partridge were badly hit and stopped and the fight passed them by. Ithuriel held her fire till she got within 15000 yards, then she engaged a cruiser, which she eventually hit at a range of 8000 yards. Marne also engaged a cruiser, opening fire at over 18000 yards. In the meantime the Italian destroyers had fallen astern of the cruisers, three of them, in fact, soon left the line and disappeared to the northward. The last two enemy destroyers opened fire on the Marne from her port beam at around 0700 hours and she and Matchless, which was astern of her, replied. Both British destroyers soon found the range and hit one of the enemy (Ugolino Vivaldi) and drove them off. They then pressed on to engage the enemy cruisers which kept their distance and were zig-zagging and making smoke to upset the aim of the British ships.
As soon as the convoy was well behind the smoke screen and on it’s way to the westward. HMS Cairo and the four Hunt class escort destroyers were proceeding south and now also engaged the two enemy destroyers which had been engaged by Marne and Matchless. At about 0700 hours HMS Cairo came under fire from the enemy cruisers again. They were using two turrets each to engage the Cairo and two turrets to engage the ‘Fleet’ destroyers. HMS Cairo was hit by a 6” shell. She herself fired her 4” guns occasionally, though without much hope of doing real damage to the enemy.
At 0715 hours, A/Capt. Hardy decided to concentrate the remaining three ‘Fleet’ destroyers on HMS Cairo and ordered HMS Ithuriel to join him. HMS Marne and HMS Matchless continued to engage the enemy for about half an hour. Though fire from both sides was accurate no hits were obtained on either side. At 0745 hours the Italians turned to port on which A/Capt. Hardy turned north and ordered all destroyers to join him.
Meanwhile, the convoy, 15 nautical miles away to the north-west, steering westwards, now turned to the south-east again. At 0705 hours, now deprived of the support of HMS Cairo, all destroyers and escort destroyers, and without air support, the convoy was attacked by eight German JU 87 dive bombers. They sank the Chant and disabled the Kentucky. HMS Hebe took the Kentucky in tow. The convoy then went on until 0745 hours when course was changed to rejoin the escorts. The Italians however meanwhile where following the British escorts and kept them under fire.
At 0834 hours, A/Capt. Hardy, ordered the convoy to reverse course while Cairo and the destroyers laid a smokescreen across it’s track. This seems to have baffled the Italians which first turned to the south-west and then at 0840 hours hauled round to the north-eastward and stood away. A/Capt. Hardy then sent the ‘Hunt’-class escort destroyers to rejoin the convoy and then led the ‘Fleet’ destroyers after the enemy. At this time HMS Cairo was hit for the second time. For the present however the Italians had given up the game. By 0930 hours they were out of sight and the British ships then turned to rejoin the convoy.
At 1030 hours the merchant vessel were back on their proper course to Malta, with the escort at full strength except for HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge. Long-range Spitfires from Malta were patrolling overhead.
At 1040 hours a few German bombers appeared but these were driven off before they could drop their bombs. The fighters were able to shot one down. Unfortunately this exhausted fuel and ammunition of the Spitfires which were operating at their extreme range so when at 1120 hours another attack started they were not able to repel it. Their relief had not yet arrived.
It was a combination of high-level and dive bombing by Ju. 88’s and Ju. 87’s. Gunfire destroyed one of the German’s. One or two were shot down afterwards by the relieving Spitfires which had arrived during the attack. By then however the merchant vessel Burdwan was disabled. There was still 150 nautical miles to go, with the likelihood of further attacks from the air and with Italian ships nearby. A/Capt. Hardy therefore decided that he had no other choice then to sacrifice the damaged Kentucky and Burdwan as the best way to save the rest of the convoy whose speed would otherwise be reduced to six knots. He ordered HMS Hebe and HMS Badsworth to sink the cripples which enabled the remaining two merchant ships to continue at their best speed.
At 1315 hours, dive-bombers attacked yet again. And again there was no fighter cover present over the convoy. This time however the German’s were unsuccessful. One bomber out of twelve was shot down by the ships AA fire while the relief flight of Spitfires came in time to shoot down two more as the enemy retired. This was the last time the convoy was attacked from the air before it arrived at Malta under the protection from short-range Spitfires. The next threat of attack came from the Italian warships which closed the convoy once more.
After the engagement in the morning the Italian cruisers had gone back to join up with their destroyers, one of wich had been badly damaged by HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. While preparing to take this destroyer in tow the Italians were disrupted by British aircraft. Malta had been able to sent a small torpedo aircraft force to attack them. Four Albacores followed by two Beauforts attacked them about 12 nautical miles south of Pantelleria at 1030 hours. Unfortunately without success.
The two cruisers with two destroyers then went south again hoping to find stagglers from the convoy. They found HMS Hebe, which was on her way back to rejoin the convoy, having left the tanker Kentucky in a sinking condition astern. HMS Hebe sighted the enemy a long way to the north at 1255 hours. In the next half an hour the enemy was able to close as to open fire on the small minesweeper and eventually she was hit.
On receiving Hebe’s enemy report, A/Capt. Hardy, left the convoy in HMS Cairo taking the three remaining ‘Fleet’ destroyers with him; HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. Besides the Hebe to protect there were other ships coming back from the scuttled merchantmen and also HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge which, A/Capt. Hardy believed to be following the convoy.
At 1355 hours the Italians gave up the chase, presumably on sighting HMS Cairo and turned to engage a target to the westward. This could only be HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge but A/Capt. Hardy felt bound to return to the convoy, then nearly 15 nautical miles off, though it meant leaving the damaged destroyers to their fate.
These two ships had been had been striving to preserve themselves for the King’s service ever since they had been crippled in the morning. HMS Partridge was ready to steam again by 0745 hours, three-quarters of an hour after being put out of action. She prepared to take HMS Bedouin in tow as that ship was entirely disabled. These preparations were disrupted by two Italian destroyers which had to be driven away. By 1000 hours however Bedouin was being towed by Partridge and the two ships were proceeding slowly towards the convoy which they had orders to join. They met it at 1145 hours. There was still hope to get one engine going in HMS Bedouin but later on it became evident that this hope had to be abandoned. It was then thought best to try to make it to Gibraltar.
At 1320 hours, the Italian Squadron came into sight again and two destroyers were apparently closing the two British destroyers while there were also enemy dive-bombers flying around. HMS Partridge therefore had no choice then to slip the tow and to lay smoke around HMS Bedouin. As the enemy cruisers approached, after their chase of HMS Hebe, HMS Partridge stood away to draw their fire and in this she succeeded. She was straddled from long range at 1400 hours. It was the intention the return to HMS Bedouin later but the latter ship was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo bomber at 1425 hours and she sank within a few minutes but not before shooting down the attacker. The enemy surface ships also sank the derelict Kentucky and Burdwan around the same time. Kentucky was finished off by the Oriani while Burdwan was possibly sunk by the Ascari.
A/Capt. Hardy rejoined the convoy at 1530 hours after the last encounter with the Italian squadron. At 1730 hours, HMS Welshman rejoined the convoy south of Linosa coming from Malta. She had arrived there in the morning and was sent out again by Vice-Admiral Leatham as soon as she had landed her cargo.
Then at 1910 hours, there was another air attack. Upon that time the enemy had been kept away by the strong fighter escort from Malta directed by the radar in HMS Cairo. Twelve German bombers managed to close and near misses were obtained on HMS Welshman, HMS Matchless and the merchant Troilus.
A last attempt was foiled at 2040 hours by the fighters from Malta and the ships guns. There was now only one danger to be overcome, enemy mines.
At 1420 hours, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia came also the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth (T/Lt. S.G. Barnes, RNR).
At 2345 hours the Italian submarine Bronzo sighted an enemy escort vessel of the 'Kingfisher-class' which opened fire on the submarine in position 36°50'N, 00°10'E. This was HMS Coltsfoot. The submarine was depth-charged and escaped by going down to 117 metres.
16 June 1942.
It had been intended that the minesweepers would be ahead of the convoy when approaching Malta but owning to mistakes the convoy arrived first. The result was that one of the two remaining merchant vessels, the Orari, the destroyer HMS Matchless, two escort destroyers HMS Badsworth, ORP Kujawiak and the minesweeper HMS Hebe hit mines. Fortunately damage was light except for ORP Kujawiak which unfortunately sank in three minutes.
After having taken on board ammunition at Malta, HMS Cairo, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne, HMS Middleton and HMS Blankney departed the island in the evening to return to Gibraltar.
Shortly after 0800 hours, the destroyer HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) joined the A/S screen of the disabled HMS Liverpool. Two more vessels came out from Gibraltar to join the A/S screen, these were the corvette HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) which joined around 0940 hours. At 1530 hours, the motor launch ML 458 joined.
17 June 1942.
As HMS Cairo and the two destroyers and two escort destroyers were skirting along the African coast they were shadowed from sunrise onward. They were however not attacked until midday, when they were passed the Galita bank. From then until 2030 hours that evening, German bombers pestered them continuously. The Germans came sometimes in flights of six, though generally in flights of two and three. Main target seems to have been HMS Ithuriel which had a tough time and sustained some minor damage due to leaks from near misses. During the attacks one enemy bomber was shot down by HMS Cairo.
At 2017 hours, they joined with Vice-Admiral Curteis with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis in position 37°30’N, 04°30’E. After leaving the convoy in the evening of the 14th, the Vice-Admiral had taken ‘Force W’ some 400 nautical miles to the west of Sardinia in order to avoid observation and attack while waiting for the return of ‘Force X’. His ships had however been shadowed on the 15th and was then attacked by two small groups of torpedo aircraft. Hurricanes from HMS Eagle forced them to drop their torpedoes from long range. They were also able to shoot down one of the attackers.
From the morning of the 16th to noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, cruised with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis near the rendez-vous position. HMS Malaya both aircraft carriers and the remaining destroyers had been sent to Gibraltar around 0800/16. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1030/17.
Around noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, with his two cruisers proceeded eastwards to meet up with A/Capt. Hardy’s force after which they proceeded in company to Gibraltar where they arrived in the early evening of the 18th.
HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th. (12)
2 Aug 1942
Convoy WS 21S and Operation Pedestal.
Convoy WS 21S and the concentration of the escort forces
Convoy WS 21S departed the Clyde on 2 August 1942. The convoy was made up of the following ships; American freighters; Almeria Lykes (7773 GRT, built 1940), Santa Elisa (8379 GRT, built 1941), British freighters; Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Dorset (10624 GRT, built 1934), Empire Hope (12688 GRT, built 1941), Glenorchy (8982 GRT, built 1939), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933), Rochester Castle (7795 GRT, built 1937), Waimarama (12843 GRT, built 1938), Wairangi (12436 GRT, built 1935), and the American tanker; Ohio (9264 GRT, built 1940).
These ships were escorted by light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) and the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Stewart, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. P.W. Gretton, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN).
A cover force made up of departed Scapa Flow on the same day. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). They were to rendez-vous with convoy WS 21S at sea on 3 August. HMS Penn was delayed by a defect and after topping off with fuel at Moville, Northern Ireland overtook the force and joined at sea.
The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) meanwhile had already left Scapa Flow on 31 July 1941 to rendez-vous with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN). These ships were joined at sea on 1 August 1942 by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, RN), loaded with spare fighter aircraft for the operation, and her two escorts the destroyers HMS Buxton (Lt.Cdr. I.J. Tyson, RD, RNR) and HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR). HMS Argus and her two escorting destroyers had departed the Clyde on 31 July. HMS Buxton later split off and proceeded towards Canada and HMS Sardonyx proceeded to Londonderry.
The last ships to take part in the operation to depart the U.K. (Clyde around midnight during the night of 4/5 August) were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), loaded with Hurricane fighters for Malta, and her escorts, the light cruiser HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) and the Polish destroyer ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP). They were joined at sea, around dawn, by HMS Sardonyx coming from Londonderry. The destroyers parted company around midnight during the night of 5/6 August. They arrived at Londonderry on 7 August. HMS Furious and HMS Manchester then joined convoy WS 21S around midnight of the next night but HMS Manchester parted company shortly afterwards to proceed ahead of the convoy and fuel at Gibraltar.
On 1 August 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN) and HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to proceed to a rendez-vous position off the Azores.
On 5 August 1942, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) departed Gibraltar also to the rendez-vous position off the Azores.
The convoy conducted maneuvering and AA exercises with the escorts between the Azores and Gibraltar during the period of 6 to 9 August. (Operation Berserk). Also dummy air attacks were carried out by aircraft from the carriers.
Passage of the Straits of Gibraltar and organization of escort forces.
The convoy then passed the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of 9/10 August 1942 in dense fog but despite this the convoy was detected by German and Italian spies and reported.
After passing the Straits of Gibraltar the convoy was organized as follows; The actual convoy was protected a large force of warships until the whole force would split up before entering the Sicilian narrows after which ‘Force X’ under command of Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN was to accompany the convoy to the approaches to Malta where they would be met by the Malta Minesweeping Flotilla, which was then to sweep the convoy into the harbour. Force X was made up of the following ships: Licht cruisers: HMS Nigeria (flagship), HMS Kenya,, HMS Manchester. AA cruiser: HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN). Destroyers: HMS Ashanti, HMS Fury, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Penn. Escort destroyers: HMS Derwent, HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, RN). Also the rescue tug HMS Jaunty was to be part of this force.
After the escort was to be split up cover was provided by ‘Force Z’ under Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN. This force was made up of the following ships: Battleships: HMS Nelson (flagship) and HMS Rodney. Aircraft carriers: HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable and HMS Eagle. Light cruisers: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius and HMS Charybdis. Destroyers: HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Lookout, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Quentin, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair), HMS Wishart and HMS Vansittart. Escort destroyer: HMS Zetland. Also attached were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (for Operation Bellows, the launching of Hurricane fighters for Malta. HMS Furious only carried four Albacore aircraft for A/S searches after the Hurricanes had been launched) and the ‘spare’ destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Malcolm, HMS Venomous, HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott, HMS Wolverine, HMS Wrestler and HMS Amazon. These ‘spare’ destroyers were to take the place of destroyers in the screen ‘Force Z’ if needed, escort HMS Furious during her return passage to Gibraltar after she had completed Operation Bellows and / or strengthen the escort of ‘Force R’.
Then there was also ‘Force R’, the fuelling force. This force was made up of the following ships: Corvettes: HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR), HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR). Rescue tug: HMS Salvonia. RFA tankers: RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, Master D.B.C. Ralph) and RFA Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, Master R.T. Duthie).
Before we give an account of the passage of the main convoy we will now first describe the operations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean (Operations MG 3 and MG 4), the launching of the Hurricane fighters for Malta by HMS Furious (Operation Bellows) and the return convoy from Malta (Operation Ascendant) as well as on submarine operations / dispositions.
Diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As part of the plan for Operation Pedestal the Mediterranean Fleet had to carry out a diversion in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Before we go to the operations in the Western Mediterranean we will first give an account of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It was at this time not possible to sent any supplies from Egypt to Malta as all supplies and forces were much needed for the upcoming land battle at El Alamein it was agreed that ‘a dummy convoy’ would be sent towards Malta with the object of preventing the enemy to direct the full weight of their air and naval power towards the Western Mediterranean.
In the evening of 10 August 1942 a ‘convoy’ (MG 3) of three merchant ships departed Port Said escorted by three cruisers and ten destroyers. Next morning one more merchant ship departed Haifa escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. The two forces joined that day (the 11th) and then turned back dispersing during the night. The Italian fleet however did not go to sea to attack ‘the bait’.
The forces taking part in this operation were: From Port Said: Merchant vessels City of Edinburgh (8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral I.G. Glennie, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton(Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN).
From Haifa: Merchant vessel Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. G.E. Fardell, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN).
After dark on 11 August 1942 the force turned back and the City of Pretoria returned to Port Said escorted by HMS Eridge and HMS Hursley. The City of Edinburgh, escorted by HMS Beaufort and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa. The City of Lincoln escorted by HMS Dulverton and HMS Hurworth proceeded to Beirut and finally the Ajax, escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Croome returned to Haifa. HMS Dido had to return to Port Said with hull defects. She was escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin and HMS Jervis.
HMS Cleopatra, HMS Arethusa, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin then proceeded to carry out another diversion (Operation MG 4). They bombarded Rhodos harbour and the Alliotti Flour Mills during the night of 12/13 August but did little damage. On the way back HMS Javelin attacked a submarine contact in position 34°45’N, 31°04’E between 0654 and 0804 hours. She reported that there was no doubt that the submarine was sunk but no Axis submarines were operating in this area so the attack must have been bogus. This force returned to Haifa at 1900/13.
During operation Bellows, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, started 37 Spitfire which were to proceed to Malta, when south of the Balearic Islands. The Admiralty had decided to carry out this operation at the same time as Operation Pedestal.
HMS Furious remained with the convoy until 1200/11. She then launched the Spitfires for Malta in 5 batches between 1230 and 1515 hours. During these flying off operations she acted independently with the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Lightning. After having launched the last batch of Spitfires she briefly re-joined to convoy until around 1700 hours when she split off and set course for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm, HMS Wolverine and HMS Wrestler. These were joined shortly afterwards by HMS Keppel and HMS Venomous.
Around 0100/12, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur which was trying to attack HMS Furious. Around 0200 hours, HMS Wolverine reported that she was stopped due to the damage she had sustained in the ramming. HMS Malcolm was detached to assist her.
At 1530/12, the destroyer HMS Vidette joined the screen. The force then entered Gibraltar Bay around 1930/12. The damaged HMS Wolverine arrived at Gibraltar at 1230/13 followed by HMS Malcolm around 1530/13.
On 10 August 1942 the empty transports Troilus (7648 GRT, built 1921) and Orari (10107 GRT, built 1931) departed Malta after dark for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). They first proceeded to the south of Lampedusa, then hugged the Tunisian coast as far as Galita Island. Near Cape Bon they encountered the Italian destroyer Lanzerotto Malocello that was laying a minefield. They had a brief gunfight but this was soon ended as both sides were thinking the enemy was Vichy-French. The remained of the passage to Gibraltar was uneventful and the convoy arrived at Gibraltar shortly before noon on 14 August 1942.
Submarine operations / dispositions. Eight submarines took part in the operation; these were HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN), HMS P 31 (Lt. J.B.de B. Kershaw, DSO, RN), HMS P 34 (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 44 (Lt. T.E. Barlow, RN), HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 222 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. MacKenzie, RN). Two of these were to carry out normal dived patrol to the north of Sicily, one off Palermo, the other off Milazzo which is futher to the east. The other six submarines were given alternative patrol lines south of Pantelleria, one od which they were to take up at dawn on 13 August 1942, according to the movements of enemy surface ships that might threathen the convoy from the westward. When the convoy had passed the patrol line, which it should have done by that time, the submarines were to proceed on the surface parallel to the convoy as a screen and to dive away clear of the convoy at noon. It was expressly intended that they should be seen on the surface and reported by enemy aircraft in order to deter enemy warships from attacking the convoy.
Enemy warships did go to sea but as soon as it was clear that the enemy ships could not reach the convoy the sunmarines were ordered to dive and retire. These six sumarines had no contact with the enemy. One of the the two submarines off the north coast of Sicily, HMS P 42, managed to torpedo two Italian cruisers near Stromboli on the morning of 13 August 1942.
Now we return to the main convoy to Malta.
Passage eastwards after passing the Straits of Gibraltar.
10 and 11 August 1942.
After passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of 10 August 1942, in dense fog, the convoy was first sighted by an Italian passenger aircraft, which sighted the convoy in the afternoon of the same day. German reconnaissance aircraft started shadowing the convoy from dawn on the 11th, and thereafter they or Italian aircraft kept the convoy under continuous observation, despite the effort of the fighters from the carriers to shoot them down or drive them off. At 1315 hours, HMS Eagle, was hit an sunk by torpedoes from the German submarine U-73 which had penetrated the destroyer screen. At that moment there were thirteen destroyers in the screen, the remainder was away from the main convoy, escorting HMS Furious during the flying off operations of the Hurricane fighters for Malta or oiling from and screening ‘Force R’ which was several miles away. Between 1430/10 and and 2030/11 no less then three cruisers and twenty-four destroyers fuelled from the two oilers of ‘Force R’.
At the time of the torpedoing of HMS Eagle the convoy was in four columns, zigzagging at 13 knots, with the heavy ships stationed close round it and a destroyer screen ahead. HMS Eagle was on the starboard quarter of the convoy. She was hit on her starboard side by four torpedoes which had dived through the destroyer screen and the convoy columns undetected and then torpedoed and sank the Eagle in position 38°05’N, 03°02’E (Another source gives 03°12’E but this might be a typo). The carrier sank quickly in about 8 minutes, 926 of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the rescue tug HMS Jaunty. At the time of her sinking, HMS Eagle had four aircraft on patrol. These landed on the other carriers. All other aircraft were lost with the ship. The survivors picked up were later transferred to the destroyers HMS Keppel, HMS Malcolm and HMS Venomous that were to escort HMS Furious back to Gibraltar. The tug HMS Jaunty that had been involved in picking up survivors was never able to rejoin the convoy due to her slow speed.
Late in the afternoon air attacks were expected so Vice-Admiral Syfret ordered the destroyer to form an all-round screen. Indeed the air attacks started around sunset, 2045 hours. The last destroyers had just returned from oiling from ‘Force R’. The enemy aircraft that were attacking were 36 German bombers and torpedo aircraft, Ju 88’s and He 111’s, most of which attacked the convoy but a few attacked ‘Force R’ to the southward. The Junkers arrived first, diving down from 8000 feet to 2000 / 3000 feet to drop their bombs. They claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier and one of the merchant ships. Then the Heinkels attacked, they claimed to have torpedoed a cruiser but during the attacks no ship was hit. The British fighter cover was unable to attack / find the enemy in the failing light. Four enemy aircraft were claimed shot down by the ships AA fire but it appears only two JU 88’s were in fact shot down.
12 August 1942
At 0915/12 another wave of German aircraft attacked the convoy. Some twenty or more JU 88’s approached the convoy out of the sun ahead. They were intercepted by fighters about 25 miles from the convoy. About a dozen got through to the convoy, making high-level or shallow dive-bombing attacks individually but without any result. Eight German aircraft were claimed to be shot down by the fighters and two more by AA guns from the ships. The fighters meanwhile were also busy dealng with shadowers, three of which are claimed to have been shot down before the morning attack. Around this time destroyers were also busy with numerous submarine contact which were attacked by depth charges.
Around noon the enemy launched heavy air attacks from the Sardinian airfields. Seventy aircraft approached which were heavily escorted by fighters. They attacked in stages and employed new methods.
First ten Italian torpedo-bombers were each to drop some sort of circling torpedo or mine a few hundred yards ahead of the British force, while eight fighter bombers made dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks. The object at this stage was clearly to dislocate the formation of the force and to draw anti-aircraft fire, making the ships more vulnerable to a torpedo attack which soon followed with over forty aircraft. They attacked in two groups, one on either bow of the convoy. The next stage was a shallow dive-bombing attack by German aircraft, after which two Italian Reggiane 2001 fighters, each with a single heavy armour-piercing bomb were to dive bomb on one of the aircraft carriers, whilst yet another new form of attack was to be employed against the other carrier, but defects in the weapon prevented this attack from taking place.
The enemy attack went according to plan besides that the torpedo attack was only made half an our after the ‘mines’ were dropped instead of five minutes. British fighters met the minelaying aircraft, they shot down one of them as they approached. The remaining nine aircraft dropped their ‘mines’ at 1215 hours in the path of the force, which turned to avoid the danger. The mines were heard to explode several minutes later. Only three of the fighter-bombers of this stage of the attack appear to have reached as far the screen, but HMS Lightning had a narrow escape from their bombs.
The torpedo-aircraft appeared at 1245 hours. Their number were brought down a bit due to British fighters. The remaining aircraft, estimated at 25 to 30 machines, attacked from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter. They dropped their torpedoes well outside the screen some 8000 yards from the merchant ships which they had been ordered to attack. The force turned 45° to port and then back to starboard to avoid the attack.
In the next stage, around 1318 hours, the German bombing attack, the enemy scored their one success. These aircraft were also intercepted on their way in but about a dozen of about twenty aircraft came through. They crossed the convoy from starboard to port and then dived to 3000 feet. They managed to damage the transport Deucalion which was leading the port wing column. More bombs fell close to several other ships.
Finally, at 1345 hours, the two Reggiane fighters approached HMS Victorious as if to land on. They looked like Hurricanes and HMS Victorious was at that time engaged in landing her own fighters. They managed to drop their bombs and one hit the flight deck amidships. Fortunately the bomb broke up without exploding. By the time HMS Victorious could open fire both fighters were out of range.
The Deucalion could no longer keep up with the convoy and was ordered to follow the inshore route along the Tunisian coast escorted by HMS Bramham. Two bombers found these ships late in the afternoon, but their bombs missed. At 1940 hours, however, near the Cani Rocks, two torpedo aircraft attacked and a torpedo hit the Deucalion. She caught fire and eventually blew up.
The convoy passed some 20 miles north of Galita Island and spent the afternoon avoiding enemy submarines which were known to be concentrated in these waters. There were innumerable reports of sightings and Asdic contacts and at least two submarines proved dangerous. At 1616 hours, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Zetland attacked one on the port bow of the convoy and hunted her until the convoy was out of reach. HMS Ithuriel, stationed on the quarter, then attacked, forced the enemy to surface and finally rammed her. She proved to be the Italian submarine Cobalto. Meanwhile HMS Tartar, on the starboard quarter, saw six torpedoes fired at close range at 1640 hours, and the next destroyer in the screen, HMS Lookout sighted a periscope. Together they attacked the submarine, continuing until it was no longer dangerous. There was no evidence this submarine was sunk.
At 1750 hours, HMS Ithuriel, which was on her way back to the convoy after sinking the Italian submarine Cobalto was attacked by a few dive-bombers, when still a dozen miles astern of the convoy. At this time the convoy came under attack by aircraft stationed on Sicily. This force numbered nearly 100 aircraft. Ju.87 dive-bombers as well as Ju.88’s and SM-79’s all with a strong escort of fighters. The enemy started attacking at 1835 hours, the bombers attacking from both ahead and astern which last was the direction of the sun. The torpedo aircraft came from ahead to attack on the starboard bow and beam of the convoy.
The Italian SM-79’s torpedo bombers dropped their torpedoes from ranges of about 3000 yards outside the destroyer screen, and once again the convoy turned away to avoid them. However the destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by a torpedo and disabled. The bombers chose HMS Indomitable as their main target. She was astern of HMS Rodney at the time on the port quarter of the convoy. Four Ju.88’s and eight Ju.87’s came suddenly out of the sun and dived steeply towards HMS Indomitable from astern. Some of the Ju.87 came down to 1000 feet and the carrier received three hits and her flight deck was put out of action. Her airborne fighters eventually had to land on HMS Victorious. HMS Rodney meanwhile had a narrow escape when a bomber attacked from ahead. One enemy aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by AA fire from the ships while the fighters claimed nine more although there were about twice as much enemy fighters in the air then British.
HMS Tartar took the damaged HMS Foresight in tow and proceeded westward for Gibraltar. Next day, as they were shadowed by enemy aircraft, and enemy submarines were known to be in the area, it was decided to scuttle the cripple before both ships might be lost. HMS Tartar then torpedoed HMS Foresight a few miles from Galita Island.
Passage through the narrows, 12-13 August 1942, and the loss off HMS Manchester.
These last air attacks took place about 20 nautical miles west of the Skerki Channel and at 1900 hours, when the attacks were clearly over, Vice-Admiral Syfret turned away with ‘Force Z’. It was now up to Rear-Admiral Burrough with ‘Force X’ to take the convoy to Malta.
At 2000 hours, when the convoy was changing it’s formation from four to two columns, the convoy was attacked by Italian submarines. The submarine Dessiè attacked a freighter with four torpedoes and claimed three hits. The sound of the torpedo hits was however not caused by her attack but by an attack by the Axum which hit three ships, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and the tanker Ohio.
HMS Nigeria had to turn back to make for Gibraltar escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester. Rear-Admiral Burrough transferred his flag to the destroyer HMS Ashanti. The stern of HMS Cairo had been blown off and she had to be sunk as she was beyond salvage with both engines also out of action. She was scuttled by HMS Pathfinder. The Ohio meanwhile managed to struggle on.
At this time the convoy was still trying to form up the the submarine attacks messed things up and right at thus time the convoy was once more attacked from the air in the growing dusk at 2030 hours. About 20 German aircraft, Ju-88’s made dive bombing and torpedo attacks, hitting the Empire Hope with a bomb and the Clan Ferguson and Brisbane Star with torpedoes. The first of these ships had to be sunk (by HMS Bramham, the second blew up but the last eventually reached Malta. Soon after this attack, at 2111 hours, HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alagi. She was able to evade three of the four torpedoes but was hit in the bow by the fouth. She was however able to remain with the convoy.
The situation was then as follows. HMS Kenya and HMS Manchester with two merchant ships, and with the minesweeping destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Icarus and HMS Fury sweeping ahead, had passed the Skerki Channel and were steering to pass Zembra Island on the way to Cape Bon. HMS Ashanti, with Rear-Admiral Burrough on board was fast overhauling these ships. The other two destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury, were rounding up the remaining nine merchant ships. The escort destroyer HMS Bramham was also catching up after having escorted the single Deucalion until she sank.
On learing about the fate of HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, Vice-Admiral Syfret detached HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Rear-Admiral Burrough. It would take these ships several hourse to catch up with the convoy.
The main body of the convoy passed Cape Bon around midnight. Fourty minutes later enemy Motor Torpedo Boats appeared and started to attack. Their first victim was HMS Manchester which was torpedoed at 0120/13 by the Italian MS 16 or MS 22. She had to be scuttled by her own crew. Many of her ships company landed in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy-French but about 300 were picked up by destroyers (first by HMS Pathfinder, and later by HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. These last two destoyers then set off towards Gibraltar.)
Four and possibly five of the merchant ships were also hit by the Motor Torpedo Boats. These were the Wairangi, Rochester Castle, Almeria Lykes, Santa Elisa and probably the Glenorchy. They were attacked between 0315 and 0430 hours about 15 nautical miles south-east of Kelibia whilst taking a short cut to overhaul the main body of the convoy. Four were lost, only the Rochester Castle survived and she managed to catch up with the main body of the convoy at 0530 hours. The Glenorchy was sunk by the Italian MS 31, the other four, of which the Rochester Castle survived as mentioned earlier, were hit by the German S 30 and S 36 as well as the Italian MAS 554 and MAS 557.
Shortly before 0530 hours HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had joined the main body of the convoy making the force now two cruisers and seven destroyers with the transports Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The damaged tanker Ohio was slowly catching up. With her was the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury. Astern of the main body was the Port Chalmers escorted by the destroyer HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. The destroyers recued the crew of the Santa Elisa when the passed by the abandoned ship which was afterwards finished off by a German bomber. The Dorset was proceeding without escort and lastly the damaged Brisbane Star was still keeping close to the Tunisian coast independently, intending to steer towards Malta after nightfall.
At 0730 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, sent back HMS Tartar and HMS Somali to Kelibia to assist HMS Manchester and then go to Gibraltar. When they arrived they found out that the Manchester had been scuttled several hours earlier so they rescued those of her crew that had not reached the shore yet and then made off to Gibraltar as ordered. Besides crew of the Manchester they also picked up survivors from the Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.
The next encounter with the enemy was an air attack on the main body of the convoy at 0800 hours by German bombers. About 12 Ju.88’s made a shallow diving attack coming down from 6000 feet to 2000 feet to drop their bombs. Two dived on the Waimarama hitting her several times and she blew up immediately, one of the bombers was even destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury saved some of her crew out of the blazing sea. At 0925 hours, when the Ohio, Port Chalmers and Dorset where with the main body again, a few Ju.87’s escorted by Italian fighters attacked. They dived down to 1500 to 1000 feet. HMS Kenya leading the port column, and the Ohio last ship but one in the starboard column, had narrow escapes. One of the enemy aircraft crashed on board the Ohio just after having released it’s bomb after being damaged by gunfire from the Ohio and HMS Ashanti. Another aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by fighters from Malta that had been patrolling overhead since daybreak.
Arrivals at Malta 13-15 August 1942.
At 1050 hours, about 20 bombers, mostly Ju.88’s with a few Ju.87’s, came in to attack. Target was the Ohio and she received four or five near misses and her engines were disabled. At the same time the Rochester Castle in the port column was near-missed and set on fire but she continued with the convoy. The Dorset which was astern of her was hit and stopped. The convoy went on leaving the Dorset behind with the Ohio and two destroyers.
At 1125 hours the last air attack on the main body took place. Five Italian SM.79’s attacked with torpedoes and almost hit the Port Chalmers as the torpedo got stuck in the paravane. Further attacks on the main body were held of by fighters from Malta. At 1430 hours, four minesweepers from Malta joined the main body of the convoy, these were HMS Speedy (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Doran, RN, with the group’s commander A/Cdr. H.J.A.S. Jerome, RN on board), HMS Hebe, HMS Rye and HMS Heyte. Also with them were seven Motor Launches; ML 121, ML 126, ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462. HMS Rye and two of the ML’s were sent towards the damaged Ohio which was ‘vital for Malta’, according to A/Cdr. Jerome.
At 1600 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, set course to the west with his two cruisers and with five destroyers. The Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle arrived in Grand Harbour around 1800 hours with the force of A/Cdr. Jerome. The Rochester Castle was by that time very low in the water, she had just made it into port on time.
Out were still the Ohio, Dorset and the Brisbane Star. The valuable Ohio had been helpless with HMS Penn and HMS Bramham. When HMS Rye arrived at 1730 hours, HMS Penn took the Ohio in tow. Meanwhile HMS Bramham was sent to the Dorset but soon afterwards German bombers came again and the ships were attacked repeatedly until dark. Both merchantman were hit around 1900 hours and the Dorset sank.
At daylight on the 14th HMS Ledbury arrived to help bringing the Ohio to Malta. HMS Speedy also soon arrived on the scene with two ML’s. The rest of his force he had sent to search for the Brisbane Star. At 1045 hours, enemy aircraft made their last attempt, causing the parting of the tow. Fighter from Malta shot down two of the attackers. The tow was passed again and the slow procession went on and in the morning of the 15th the vital tanker finally reached Malta.
The Brisbane Star had by then also arrived. She left the Tunisian coast at dusk on the 13th. Aircraft had attacked her unsuccessfully and one of the attackers was shot down by a Beaufighter escort that had been sent from Malta. She arrived at Malta in the afternoon of the 14th.
Italian surface ships to operate against the convoy ?
The convoy had experienced the violence of the enemy in every shape except that of an attack by large surface ships. Yet Italian cruisers and destroyers had been at sea to intercept and attack it. Two light cruiser had left Cagliari in the evening of 11 August 1942 and the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano from Messina, and a light cruiser from Naples had sailed on the morning of the 12th. That evening reconnaissance aircraft reported one heavy and two light cruisers with eight destroyers about 80 nautical miles to the north of the western tip of Sicily and steering south. It would have been possible for this force to meet the convoy at dawn on the 13th so the shadowing aircraft was therefore ordered in plain language to illuminate and attack. This apparently influenced the Italians as they had limited air cover and they turned back at 0130/13 when near Cape San Vito. At 0140 hours the aircraft reported that it had dropped its bombs but no hits had been obtained. Similar orders were signalled, in plain language, to relief shadowers and to report the position of the enemy force to the benefit of imaginary Liberator bombers in case the Italians would change their minds and turn back. They however held on to the eastward.
The submarine HMS P 42 sighted them around 0800/13 off Stromboli and attacked with four torpedoes claiming two hits. She had in fact hit the heavy cruiser Bolzano which was able to proceed northwards and the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo which managed to reach Messina with her bows blown off. The other cruisers went to Naples. Following the attack P 42 was heavily depth charged by the destroyers but managed to escape.
In fact the following Italian ships had been at sea; heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trieste, Bolzano, light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo. They were escorted by eleven destroyers; Ascari, Aviere, Camicia Nera, Corsaro, Fuceliere, Geniere, Legionaro, Vincenzo Gioberti, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale and Maestrale.
The return to Gibraltar.
The British ships returning to Gibraltar had better fortune. Having left the convoy off Malta in the afternoon of the 13th, they rounded Cape Bon around 0130/14 and from that point until past Zembra Island they successful ran the gauntled of E-boats laying in wait.
at 0450/14, near the Fratelli Rocks, a submarine fired torpedoes at HMS Ashanti from the surface. She was nearly rammed by HMS Kenya, which was next astern of the ‘flagship’ (Rear-Admiral Burrough was still in HMS Ashanti). The inevitable shadowers arrived soon after daylight to herald their air attacks that began at 0730 hours. They lasted until around 1315 hours. German bombers came in first with three attemps by a few Ju.88’s. This was followed by a more severe attack with about 30 bombers, Ju-88’s and Ju-87’s between 1030 and 1050 hours. An hour later 15 Savoia high-level bombers attacked followed until 1315 hours by torpedo-carrying Savoia’s. Around 20 aircraft attacking single or in pairs. Also aircraft are though to be laying mines ahead. Several ships were near missed, but no further damage was sustained. After these attacks the British were left alone and in the evening they joined ‘Force Z’.
Vice-Admiral Syfret had gone as far west as 01’E where he ordered the damaged carrier HMS Indomitable to proceed to Malta with HMS Rodney and a destroyer screen made up of HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland. He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. HMS Rodney, HMS Indomitable, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Antelope, HMS Amazon, HMS Westcott, HMS Wishart and HMS Zetland arrived at Gibraltar in the evening of the 14th.
A few hours before they arrived the damaged HMS Nigeria and her escort had also entered port, as had HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. On her way back HMS Nigeria had been attacked by torpedo-bombers and a submarine but she had not been hit.
Out of the fourteen ships that had sailed only five arrived ‘safe’ at Malta. This was not a very high score also given the very heavy escort that had been provided also taken in mind that an aircraft carrier, a light cruiser, an AA cruiser an a destroyer had been lost and two heavy cruiser had been damaged. But the convoy had to meet very heavy air attacks by over 150 bombers and 80 torpedo aircraft, all in the space of two days. Also these aircraft were protected by fighter in much greater strength that the carriers and Malta could provide. And there were also the enemy submarines and E-boats.
The spirit in which to operation was carried out appears in Vice-Admiral Syfret’s report: ‘ Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s Ships, both the officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all attacks, answering every maneuvering order like a well trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight. Many of these fine men and their ships were lost. But the memory of their conduct will remain an inspiration to all who were privileged to sail with them. ‘ (13)
12 Mar 1943
HMS H 28 (Lt. K.H. Martin, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Ayrshire (T/Lt. R.W.H. Elsden, RNVR) and HMS Cape Mariato (T/Lt. N.J. Ivison, RNVR) and HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). (14)
16 Mar 1943
Combined convoy WS 28 / KMS 11.
This combined convoy was formed off Oversay on 16 March 1943. The convoy was divided into convoys WS 28 and KMS 11 at sea on 21 March 1943.
The combined convoy was made up of the following (troop) transports; Banfora (British, 9472 GRT, built 1914), Brittanic (British, 26943 GRT, built 1930), Cuba (British, 11420 GRT, built 1923), Duchess of Bedford (British, 20123 GRT, built 1928), Empire Might (British, 9209 GRT, built 1942), Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (Dutch, 19429 GRT, built 1930), Monarch of Bermuda (British, 22424 GRT, built 1931), Orion (British, 23371 GRT, built 1935), Ormonde (British, 14982 GRT, built 1917), Orontes (British, 20097 GRT, built 1925), Otranto (British, 20026 GRT, built 1925), Nea Hellas (British, 16991 GRT, built 1922), Perthshire (British, 10496 GRT, built 1936), Rangitata (British, 16737 GRT, built 1929), Reina del Pacifico (17702 GRT, built 1931), Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939), Strathnaver (British, 22283 GRT, built 1931), Tegelberg (British, 10496 GRT, built 1936), Waipawa (British, 12436 GRT, built 1934), Winchester Castle (British, 20012 GRT, built 1930) and Windsor Castle (British, 19141 GRT, built 1922).
Also the naval auxiliaries HMS Bulolo (Capt.(Retd.) R.L. Hamer, RN), HMS Keren (A/Cdr. S.E. Crewe-Read, RN), HMS Largs (Cdr. E.A. Divers, RNR) and HMS Ulster Monarch (Lt.Cdr. N.A.F. Kingscote, RNR) were part of the convoy.
On assembly off Oversay the following escorts were with the convoy; sloops HMS Wren (Lt.Cdr. R.M. Aubrey, RN, with the S.O. 2nd Escort Group on board, Capt. F.J. Walker, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Woodpecker (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) R.E.S. Hugonin, DSC, RN), destroyer HMS Douglas (Lt.Cdr. K.H.J.L. Phibbs, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Eggesford (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Austin, RN), HMS Whaddon (Lt.Cdr. J.B. Palmer, RN), HMS Goathland (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Pumphrey, RN, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN) and ORP Krakowiak (Lt.Cdr. W. Maracewicz, ORP).
On 21 March the convoy split up into two sections, KMF 11, made up of Banfora, Cuba, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Ormonde, Orion, Nea Hellas, Rangitata, Windsor Castle and HMS Ulster Monarch proceeded to Algiers where it arrived on 23 March 1943 escorted by the original escort minus HMS Douglas which put into Gibraltar on 22 March with damage to her port propeller. After inspection it was apparent that she was able to continue but she was not to exceed 22 knots so it was decided that she could rejoin the convoy. All five escort destroyers also put into Gibraltar to fuel but departed again later the same day to rejoin the convoy. HMS Ulster Monarch also put into Gibraltar.
At 0254/23, the Windsor Castle was torpedoed by a German He.111 from I/KG 26 in position 37°28'N, 01°10'E. The passengers (troops) were taken off by HMS Wren, HMS Eggesford and HMS Whaddon. The last two ships reported to be dangerously overloaded with survivors.
Also the destroyer HMS Loyal (Lt.Cdr. H.E.F. Tweedie, DSC, RN) and escort destroyer HMS Lamerton (Lt.Cdr. C.R. Purse, DSC and Bar, RN), which were on A/S patrol off Algiers were ordered to proceed to the convoy. Also the destroyer HMS Eskimo (Capt. J.W.M. Eaton, DSO, DSC, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Calpe (Lt.Cdr. H. Kirkwood, DSC, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. D.P. Trentham, RN) were ordered to do the same sailing from Oran.
At 1027/3, it was reported that Windsor Castle was abandoned and slowly sinking and the HMS Loyal had taken off the crew. HMS Whaddon and HMS Eggesford were proceeding to Algiers covered by HMS Douglas.
At 1621/3, Windsor Castle was still afloat and HMS Farndale was ettempting to take her in tow. The ship however sank suddenly at 1724/3. HMS Eskimo, HMS Loyal, HMS Calpe, HMS Farndale, Hengist and Restive then proceeded to Oran while HMS Lamerton and Salvestor proceeded to Algiers.
WS 28, made up of Brittanic, Duchess of Bedford, Empire Might, Monarch of Bermuda, Orontes, Otranto, Perthshire, Reina del Pacifico, Sobieski, Strathnaver, Tegelberg, Waipawa, Winchester Castle, HMS Bulolo, HMS Keren and HMS Largs.
To escort these ships the destroyers HMS Malcolm (Cdr. J.M. Money, RN) and HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. S.R.J. Woods, RNR) sailed from Casablanca on 20 March and the destroyers HMS Wolverine (Lt. I.M. Clegg, RN) and HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN) sailed from Gibraltar also on 20 March. They joined the convoy in the morning of March 21st after which the convoy split up.
Another destroyer, HMS Ashanti (Lt.Cdr. J.R. Barnes, RN), departed Gibraltar on 21 March and she joined the convoy later the same day.
On 22 March the transport Empire Might reported a fire in her stokehold rendering her immobile. She was then towed to Dakar by HMS Ashanti.
The remainder of convoy WS 28 arrived at Freetown on 27 March 1943.
Convoy WS 28 departed Freetown for South Africa on 30 March 1943.
The composition of the convoy was the same on departed as in which it had arrived at Freetown three days earlier.
Escort was provided on departure from Freetown by the light cruiser HMS Kenya (Capt. D.P. Evans, RN), destroyers HMS Redoubt (Lt.Cdr. N.E.G. Ropner, DSO, RN), HMS Quadrant, HMS Malcolm, HMS Witch and HMS Wolverine.
At 2359Z/30, HMS Ulster Monarch overtook and joined the convoy coming from Freetown.
At 0600A/4, HMS Redoubt and HMS Quadrant parted company with the convoy to refuel at Pointe Noire. They rejoined the convoy at 1212B/5.
At 1300B/5, HMS Malcolm, HMS Witch and HMS Wolverine were detached.
On the 11th the convoy split up, Britannic, Duchess of Bedford, Monarch of Bermuda, Tegelberg, Waipawa and Winchester Castle went to Capetown apparently escorted by HMS Redoubt and HMS Relentless. HMS Largs and HMS Ulster Monarch went to Simonstown, as did HMS Kenya and HMS Quadrant and HMS Racehorce.
The destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. S.H. Carlill, DSO, RN), HMS Rotherham (Lt. J.R.L. Moore, RN) and HMS Foxhound (Cdr. C.J. Wynne-Edwards, DSC and Bar, RN) joined the remainder of the convoy (Orontes, Otranto, Perthshire, Reina del Pacifico, Sobieski, Strathnaver, HMS Bulolo and HMS Keren) which arrived at Durban on 14 April 1943.
On 15 April the 'Capetown section' of the convoy departed from there, it was made up of the same ships as that had arrived at Capetown but apparently without the Britannic. HMS Largs joined the convoy off Simonstown. Escort was provided by HMS Kenya, HMS Quadrant, HMS Redoubt and HMS Relentless.
Around noon on the 18th the 'Capetown section' joined up with the 'Durban section' which had departed from there escorted by HMAS Napier (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Green, DSC, RAN) and HMS Raider (Lt.Cdr. K.W. Michell, RN) which also joined the convoy as escorts. HMS Quadrant parted company and proceeded to Durban.
At 2000C/20, the destroyers parted company to return to Aden.
At 1015D/24, the armed merchant cruisers HMS Canton ( A/Cdr.(Retd.) R.J.E. Daintree, RN) and HMS Chitral (A/Capt.(Retd.) G.W. Hoare-Smith, RN) joined the convoy to take over the escort. They had sailed from Kilindini on 22 April. HMS Kenya parted company with the convoy at noon and set course for Kilindini where she arrived on 25 April to join the Eastern Fleet.
At 2300D/27, HMS Chitral parted company with the convoy following which she proceeded to Bombay where she arrived on 1 May 1943.
On 30 April 1943 the convoy was dispersed off Aden. HMS Canton arrived at Aden later on the same day.
- ADM 53/114891
- ADM 53/114892
- ADM 53/114800
- File 2.12.03.6377 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
- ADM 173/16795
- ADM 199/1138
- ADM 173/17271
- ADM 234/359
- ADM 53/116366 + ADM 199/427 + ADM 199/429
- ADM 199/427 + ADM 234/369
- ADM 199/427
- ADM 234/353
- ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
- ADM 173/17756
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.