HMS Valiant (Maritime
ELIZABETH-Class battleship ordered from
Govan Glasgow after approval of design in
1912. The ship
was laid down on 31st
January 1913 and launched on 4th November 19l4. She was
RN warship to bear this name which was
introduced in 1759
for a 3rd Rate. It was last used
in 1863 hulked in 1897 for use as an oil
terminal at Devonport until
Build was completed in
1915 at a cost of £2,357,037.
One source gives a date in 1916
sea trials, which is difficult, to believe
perhaps should be 1915. She then joined
was present at the Battle of Jutland.
remained in commission apart from her
when she was taken in hand for
reconstruction by HM
design and of the modernisation
BRITISH BATTLESHIPS by
and J Roberts.
ship is not included in the record of
adoptions by a
civil community following
WEEK National Savings campaign during
1941-42. This may have been because she
as shown in the Chronology.
a t t l
e H o n o u r s
- USHANT 1778 -
- THE SAINTES 1782 - GLORIOUS FIRST
OF JUNE 1794 - GROIX 1795 -
CONVOYS 1941 - MATAPAN
1941 - CRETE
1941 - SICILY
1943 - SALERNO
- SABANG 1944
e r a l d i
c D a t a
On a Field Blue a
with steel spurs all proper.
M o t
e t a i l
s o f
W a r S e r v i
more ship information,
History Homepage and type name in
9 3 9
refit and reconstruction at Devonport.
armament elevation increased to 30¼
giving her 15in battery a range of
Casemated 6in guns removed and
openings plated over.
20 x 4.5in high angle guns fitted
amidships in 5 x 2 turrets on each
Her close range AA capability was
increased with 4 x eight barrelled 2
pounder and a number of 20mm
An aircraft catapult and hanger for
two Walrus aircraft was fitted
After torpedo tubes removed.
Deck armour increased in thickness.
Aircraft warning radar Type 79Z was
fitted during the refit.
refit and reconstruction at Devonport.
- Refit completed.
– Re-commissioned. Captain Henry
Bernard Rawlings, OBE, RN. (Captain
Rawlings appointed 26/08/40)
Devonport undertaking harbour trials.
– VALIANT escorted by destroyers
ACASTA and ARDENT sailed from Plymouth
to carry out working up exercises in
Whilst VALIANT was at sea a U-boat was
sighted in the vicinity of the
Plymouth indicator loops. All
exercises were cancelled and VALIANT
remained at sea with ACASTA and
In the evening the destroyers
ENCOUNTER and GRENADE joined VALIANT’s
VALIANT, ACASTA, ARDENT, ENCOUNTER and
GRENADE then sailed for Portland.
– At 0300 hours VALIANT, ACASTA,
ARDENT, ENCOUNTER and GRENADE arrived
- VALIANT escorted by destroyers
ACASTA and ARDENT sailed from Portland
– At longitude 20W destroyers ACASTA
and ARDENT detached and returned to
– In position 33-30N, 60-45W,
approximately 250NM and 18 hours
steaming from Hamilton, Bermuda,
VALIANT RVed with the destroyer
– VALIANT and HYPERION arrived at
– VALIANT screened by HYPERION
commenced working up exercises centred
9 4 0
at Bermuda carrying out working up
– VALIANT, light cruiser ENTERPRISE
and destroyers HUNTER and HEREWARD
departed Bermuda for Halifax.
- VALIANT, ENTERPRISE and destroyers
HUNTER and HEREWARD arrived at
– Battleships MALAYA and VALIANT,
ENTERPRISE and destroyers HUNTER and
HMCS ST LAURENT, FRASER, OTTAWA and
RESTIGOUCHE sailed from Halifax
escorting Canadian troop convoy TC 3;
which comprised troopships EMPRESS OF
BRITAIN 42,348grt, 1588 troops
embarked, MONARCH OF BERMUDA,
22,424grt, 1334 troops embarked,
EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA 19,665grt, 1577
troops embarked, AQUITANIA 45,647grt,
2733 troops embarked and Polish
CHROBRY 11,442grt, 118 troops and
civilian labour embarked.
– The destroyers ST LAURENT, FRASER,
OTTAWA and RESTIGOUCHE detached from
convoy TC 3 and returned to Halifax.
– In approximate position 49N, 48W the
ENTERPRISE detached from convoy TC 3
and returned to Halifax.
– At 0830 hours in approximate
position 55-30N, 23W MALAYA, VALIANT
and HUNTER escorting convoy TC 3 were
joined by destroyers FAULKNOR (D8),
FEARLESS, FURY, FOXHOUND, FAME,
FORTUNE, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE, DARING
At 1030 hours HUNTER detached and
headed for Plymouth.
– At 0700 hours, off Ailsa Craig the
destroyers FAME and KELVIN joined the
At 1200 hours convoy TC 3 and escort
arrived off Greenock.
– Whilst in the Clyde VALIANT was
visited by King George V1 and Queen
- VALIANT was visited by the First
Lord of the Admiralty, Winston
– At 1600 hours VALIANT and
battlecruiser HOOD with destroyers
KELLY (D5), KANDAHAR, SIKH, FAULKNOR
(D8), FAME and FORESTER sailed from
Greenock to provide distant cover for
the Northern Patrol and the Norwegian
convoys ON 17, ON 17A and HN 17.
– At 1133 hours in position 58-27N,
5-46W the destroyer FORESTER obtained
a sonar contact which was believed to
be a submarine. FORESTER was joined by
FAME and together they carried out DC
attacks at 1240, 1320, 1423 and 1500
hours without result.
At 2138 hours in position 61-06N,
3-58W, KELLY obtained a sonar contact
which was believed to be a submarine.
KELLY made several DC attacks without
– At 1600 hours VALIANT, HOOD with
destroyers KELLY (D5), KANDAHAR, SIKH,
FAULKNOR (D8), FAME and FORESTER
arrived at Scapa.
(HOOD and VALIANT were the first
capital ships to use Scapa Flow since
the AA defences had been improved)
– At 1445 hours RODNEY, WARSPITE and
VALIANT escorted by destroyers HARDY
(D2), HERO, HUNTER, HASTY, HOTSPUR,
HYPERION and HOSTILE sailed from Scapa
(This sailing was on Admiralty
instructions, following the Luftwaffe
attack on the 16/3/40, that the Fleet
should be at sea during the moonlight
period between 19th and 26th March,
because it was thought that the German
air force might try to drive the Fleet
out of Scapa Flow)
During the period of maximum moonlight
the Fleet cruised to the north of the
Shetlands and provided heavy cover for
the Norwegian convoy HN 20 and ON 21
and the Operation DU activities.
Operation DU was a sweep by 4 cruisers
of the 2nd CS and 8 supporting
destroyers into the Skagerrak that was
carried out on the 21/22 March)
– At 1100 hours RODNEY, WARSPITE and
VALIANT escorted by destroyers
FEARLESS, FORESTER, HUNTER, HASTY,
HERO, HOTSPUR, HARDY, HOSTILE and
HYPERION arrived back at Scapa Flow.
– At 2015 hours the Home Fleet
comprising RODNEY (Flag CinC HF),
VALIANT, battlecruiser REPULSE, light
cruisers SHEFFIELD, PENELOPE and the
French EMILE BERTIN, destroyers
ESKIMO, PUNJABI, BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY,
JUPITER, CODRINGTON (D.1), GRIFFIN,
BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA sailed
from Scapa Flow and steered easterly.
After clearing the Pentland Firth
course was set for 61-00N, 01-00E.
– At 0200 hours the EMILE BERTIN
having lost contact with the Fleet
turned back to Scapa Flow.
At 0915 hours in approximate position
61-07N, 1-00E the CinC detached the
REPULSE PENELOPE and destroyers
BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY, PUNJABI and ESKIMO
to proceed at their best speed to go
to the assistance of GLOWWORM.
At 1200 hours the CinC HF ordered the
accompanying RAF Sunderland of 201
Sqd. to proceed ahead of the Fleet and
search for the enemy.
At 1429 hours the CinC received the
Sunderland’s report timed at 1400
hours of one battlecruiser, two
cruisers and two destroyers in
position 64-12N, 06-25E, and course
At 1600 hours when in approximate
position 63-06N, 04-30E the Fleet
altered course to the north.
At 1615 hours course was altered north
At 1845 hours RODNEY launched her
two Walrus aircraft to attempt to make
contact with the enemy force. By this
time it was blowing hard from the NNW
and speed had to be reduced for the
At 2000 hours the Fleet were in
position 64-22N, 03-40E.
At 2010 hours the Fleet altered course
to 195¼ and increased speed to 18
– In the early hours the CinC was
joined by the destroyers SOMALI,
MATABELE, MASHONA and TARTAR who had
sailed from Rosyth at 2330/7/4/40.
At 0620 hours the CinC detached the
destroyer TARTAR to RV with the Polish
destroyers BLYSKAWICA, BURZA and GROM,
the Polish destroyers were steaming
north with the light cruisers ARETHUSA
and GALATEA, then to RV with convoy HN
25 and escort it to Methil Roads.
At 0630 hours in position 61-23N,
03-06E course 180¼, speed 18 knots,
the CinC was joined by the cruisers
GLASGOW and MANCHESTER of the 18th CS,
these cruisers had been covering
convoy ON 25.
At 0940 hours in approximate position
60-28N, 03-00E The CinC was joined by
the heavy cruisers DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK
and YORK of the 1st CS, light cruisers
ARETHUSA and GALATEA of the 2nd CS and
SOUTHAMPTON of the 18th CS, French
light cruiser EMILE BERTIN,
destroyers, GURKHA, SIKH, AFRIDI,
MOHAWK, and French large destroyers
MAILLE BREZE and TARTU. The destroyers
ELECTRA, CODRINGTON, GRIFFIN and
ESCAPADE rejoined after refuelling at
At 1130 hours the CinC HF detached
SOUTHAMPTON, MANCHESTER (CS18),
SHEFFIELD and GLASGOW of the 18th CS
with destroyers AFRIDI (D4), GURKHA,
SIKH, MOHAWK, SOMALI (D6), MATABELE
and MASHONA for a raid on Bergen.
1200 hours in position 59-44N, 2-57E
the Home Fleet turned north.
At 1357 hours the Admiralty ordered
the Bergen attack force to set course
to return to the Main Fleet which by
then had turned north to open the
distance between the Fleet and the
German land based aircraft.
Between 1430 and 1740 hours the Fleet
consisting of the RODNEY, VALIANT,
DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK, YORK, SHEFFIELD,
ARETHUSA, GALATEA and destroyers
JUPITER, CODRINGTON (D.1), GRIFFIN,
BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA and the
French EMILE BERTIN and destroyers
MAILLE BREZE and TARTU, was attacked
by 47 Ju 88 bombers from KG 30 and 41
He111 bombers from KG 26.
At 2030 hours in approximate position
61-50N, 3-00E the Fleet turned west to
place distance between it and the
– Between 0000hours and 0315 hours,
when the Fleet was in approximate
position 61 50N, 01-00W the CinC HF
detached SHEFFIELD, ARETHUSA, GALATEA
and destroyers AFRIDI, SIKH, MOHAWK,
SOMALI, MATABELE and MASHONA, JUPITER,
CODRINGTON, GRIFFIN, BRAZEN, ESCAPADE
and ELECTRA and French destroyers
MAILLE BREZE and TARTU to refuel
either at Sullom Voe or Scapa Flow.
At 0215 hours the CinC was joined by
the destroyers FAULKNOR (D.8),
FOXHOUND and FORESTER from Scapa Flow.
At 0500 hours the destroyers COSSACK
and ZULU joined from Lerwick.
At 0530 hours the destroyers HERO and
HYPERION joined from Sullom Voe.
At 0730 hours in position 61-24N,
2-00W, RODNEY, VALIANT, DEVONSHIRE,
BERWICK, YORK, FAULKNOR (D.8),
FOXHOUND and FORESTER were joined by
the battleship WARSPITE, the aircraft
carrier FURIOUS and their destroyer
screen of ASHANTI, MAORI, ECLIPSE,
ESCORT, ISIS, ILEX, IMOGEN,
INGLEFIELD, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO.
At 0800 hours the Fleet changed course
to north easterly to achieve a flying
off position for FURIOUS’s Swordfish
to attack Trondheim.
At 2035 hours the CinC HF received
Admiralty message timed at 1904 hours
which laid down future policy, viz;
The capture of Narvik was to take
priority over operations against
Bergen and Trondheim.
- At 0400 hours in position 64-24N,
7-55E off Trondheim FURIOUS launched
18 torpedo carrying Swordfish, 9 from
816 and 9 from 818 squadrons, against
shipping in the harbour. No hits were
All the aircraft returned between 0630
and 0700 hours.
The Fleet then set course for the
At 1448 hours ASHANTI and MAORI were
detached to Sullom Voe for refuelling.
At 1500 hours DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK,
INGLEFIELD, ISIS, ILEX and IMOGEN were
detached to carry out a search of the
Inner Leads from Trondheim to latitude
From 1540 to 1700 hours the Fleet was
bombed by German aircraft, during the
attack, at 1700 hours, the ECLIPSE was
hit and her engine room flooded.
The YORK, ESCORT and HYPERION were
detached to stand by ECLIPSE.
Eventually ECLIPSE was taken in tow by
ESCORT the tow was later handed over
to YORK who then towed ECLIPSE to
Lerwick, screened by ESCORT and
At 1607 hours the Admiralty informed
the CinC HF, that there was reason to
suspect that certain enemy units were
going to affect a RV in latitude 67N
between longitude 4-30E and 6E, at
sometime between 2000/11/4/40 and
At 1700 hours the Fleet was in
position 64-48N, 7-52E.
At 1709 hours the CinC asked the Vice
admiral Commanding the Battle Cruiser
Squadron when he could reach the
position. He replied that he was in
position 67-50N, 8-11E steering 235¼
at 24knots. He was therefore well
placed to intercept any enemy.
At 2000 hours the Fleet was in
approximate position 65-40N, 8-15E,
proceeding north to attack Narvik.
Following receipt of the message the
Fleet changed course to north easterly
to close the position given in the
– At 0730 hours in position 66-27N,
6-00E the Home Fleet and the Battle
Cruiser Squadron RVed with the Flag,
without either force having
intercepted any enemy.
The Home Fleet now comprised
battleships RODNEY (Flag CinC HF),
VALIANT and WARSPITE, battlecruisers
RENOWN (Flag CinC BCS) and REPULSE
aircraft carrier FURIOUS and
destroyers ASHANTI, COSSACK, ZULU,
MAORI, HERO, JANUS, JAVELIN, JUNO,
FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FAULKNOR (D8).
The Fleet then steered in a north
At 11220 hours the CinC HF received
Admiralty message timed at 1033 hours,
stating; An operation to clean up
enemy naval forces and destroy shore
batteries in Narvik is to be carried
out using synchronized dive-bombing
attacks from FURIOUS in combination
with attack by surface forces. It is
considered that the latter should
consist of a battleship heavily
escorted by destroyers. On completion
of the operation, FURIOUS is to remain
in Narvik area to assist coming land
operation. Fuel for FURIOUS is being
sent. Risk of U-Boat attack should be
alright if suitable anchorage is
selected with destroyer patrol
At 1450 hours VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS,
JAVELIN and JUNO were detached to make
contact with troop convoy NP 1.
- VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS, JAVELIN and
JUNO RVed with convoy NP 1.
VALIANT detached and joined the convoy
NP 1 which was heading north for
(Convoy NP 1 consisted of the
troopships MONARCH of BERMUDA
22424grt, REINA DEL PACIFICO 17702grt
and the Polish ship BATORY 14287grt
these ships were carrying troops of
the 24th Guards Brigade, EMPRESS of
AUSTRALIA 21833grt, and the Polish
CHROBRY 11442grt who were carrying
troops of the 146 Brigade. The escort
was the light cruisers MANCHESTER
(Flag Vice Admiral G Layton CinC 18th
CS) and BIRMINGHAM, anti-aircraft
cruiser CAIRO, the net layer
PROTECTOR, repair ship VINDICTIVE and
destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT, CODRINGTON,
VANOC, WITHERINGTON, VOLUNTEER,
WHIRLWIND, HIGHLANDER, FEARLESS,
BRAZEN and GRIFFIN. The destroyers
FEARLESS, BRAZEN and GRIFFIN had only
recently joined the convoy with the
specific task of screening VALIANT
when she joined)
– At 1818 hours the Admiralty gave
instructions for the 146th Brigade,
embarked in the EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA
and CHROBRY, to be landed at Namsos.
decision followed the British
success in the Second Battle of
Narvik, when the German naval
force was sunk or neutralised. The
success led Churchill to suppose
that Narvik was as good as
captured and he therefore looked
at other objectives in Norway that
could be secured by some of the
force carried in convoy NP 1)
1900 hours the EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA
and CHROBRY escorted by MANCHESTER,
BIRMINGHAM, CAIRO and the destroyers
VANOC, WHIRLWIND, HIGHLANDER detached
from convoy NP 1 and headed for
an Admiralty message timed
2314/13/4/40 Admiral of the Fleet
Lord Cork and Orrery was nominated
as the commander of the naval side
of the Narvik combined operations.
The army commander of the Narvik
force was Major General MacKesy,
who was embarked on the
SOUTHAMPTON, along with 350 Scots
Guards. Lord Cork was already en
route to the Narvik area, having
sailed at 1200/12/4/40 on the
AURORA from Rosyth. When convoy NP
1 sailed the intention was that
the troops would be landed at
Harstad. When Vice Admiral
Whitworth sent his signal
reporting the successful outcome
of the Second Battle of Narvik, he
included in the signal; 'I am
convinced that Narvik can now be
taken by direct assault now
without fear of meeting serious
opposition on landing. I consider
that the main landing force need
only be small but that it must
have the support of Force B or one
of similar composition'. On
receipt of Whitworth’s signal on
13/4/40, Lord Cork immediately
signalled MacKesy in SOUTHAMPTON
with the following signal; 'AURORA
and SOUTHAMPTON are to arrived at
Skjelfjord by 2000/13/4/40'. It
being Lord Cork’s intention that
the troops on SOUTHAMPTON together
with marines from WARSPITE,
SOUTHAMPTON, AURORA and PENELOPE
and sailors from the disabled
destroyers would Immediately
proceed to Narvik and land.
However due to difficult W/T
conditions his signal failed to
reach the SOUTHAMPTON. So the
chance of a quick victory at
Narvik was lost and convoy NP 1
continued on to Harstad)
– Convoy NP 1 and escort was met by
the light cruisers AURORA and
SOUTHAMPTON off the entrance to
Andfjord and all vessels then
proceeded to Harstad arriving off the
port in the morning.
FEARLESS and BRAZEN, patrolling ahead
of the convoy, located and damaged U
49, in Vaagsfjord in position
68-53.5N, 16-59.5E. U.49 surrendered
after one depth charge attack. Many
documents were recovered before the
scuttling charge fired. The destroyers
were able to pick up four officers and
37 of the submarine's crew. One rating
was missing. The crew was embarked on
VALIANT for passage to England. Four
hours later, FEARLESS, screening
VALIANT, made another attack on a
submarine contact in the same
Since Harstad was not big enough to
accommodate the liners, the troopships
were sent to Bygden and the troops,
the 24th Guards Brigade (1st
Battalion, Scots Guards, 1st
Battalion, Irish Guards and 2nd
Battalion, South Wales Borders) were
ferried to Harstad in destroyers
At 1900 hours VALIANT escorted by
FEARLESS, BRAZEN and GRIFFIN departed
Vaagsfjord for Scapa.
– At 1100 hours VALIANT, FEARLESS,
BRAZEN and GRIFFIN arrived at Scapa.
0142/14/4/40 The Admiralty
signalled the CinC HF, the gist of
the signal was a proposed landing
in the Trondheim area. This was a
scheme that had been urged on the
First Lord of the Admiralty,
Winston Churchill, by the MP and
retired Admiral of the Fleet Sir
Roger Keyes. The CinC HF replied:-
0142/14/4. Shore batteries could
no doubt be destroyed or dominated
by battleship in daylight,
suitably swept and screened, if
she had HE bombardment shell for
main armament, but none of the
Home Fleet have. This, however, is
only the minor part of the task.
The main difficulties are:-
having been lost, to protect the
troopships from a heavy scale
air attack for over 30 miles in
to carry out an opposed landing,
of which ample warning had been
given, under continuous air
the foregoing reasons, I do not
consider the operation feasible
unless you are prepared to face
very heavy losses in troops and
Admiralty replied that they still
think the operation they described
in 0142/14/4 should be further
studied. Adding that HE shells for
15in have been ordered to Rosyth)
– At 1630 hours VALIANT and
battlecruiser RENOWN with light
cruisers GALATEA and ARETHUSA and
destroyers VANSITTART, CAMPBELL,
WITCH, WOLVERINE and GREYHOUND,
departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth, for
VALIANT and RENOWN to embark HE shells
for their main armament.
– At 0330 hours off the Firth of Forth
GREYHOUND detached for Blackwall,
At 0700 hours VALIANT, RENOWN,
GALATEA, ARETHUSA and destroyers
VANSITTART, CAMPBELL, WITCH and
WOLVERINE arrived off Rosyth.
RENOWN was placed in dockyard hands so
only VALIANT was to embark the 15in HE
on the night of 19/4/40 the
operation in which VALIANT was
required to carry out a shore
bombardment with 15in HE shells
– At 1900 hours VALIANT escorted by
destroyers GRAFTON, ARROW and ACHERON
sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.
– At 0830 hours VALIANT and destroyers
GRAFTON, ARROW and ACHERON arrived at
– At 2100 hours VALIANT with
destroyers FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT and
ENCOUNTER sailed from Scapa to provide
AA cover for the aircraft carrier ARK
– At 1100 hours in approximate
position 62N, 4E, VALIANT and
destroyers FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT and
ENCOUNTER RVed with ARK ROYAL (Flag
Vice Admiral aircraft carriers), heavy
cruiser BERWICK, light cruiser
SHEFFIELD and destroyers HYPERION,
HEREWARD, FEARLESS and JUNO.
joined ARK ROYAL to provide radar
– At 1005 hours the ARK ROYAL/VALIANT
force was joined by the aircraft
carrier GLORIOUS and destroyers
ACHERON, ANTELOPE and BEAGLE.
At 1200 hours the destroyers HYPERION
and BEAGLE were detached for
refuelling at Sullom Voe.
ARK ROYAL and GLORIOUS mounted fighter
patrols over the ships evacuating
troops from Andalsnes.
1427/1/5/40 the CinC HF informed
the authorities that the VALIANT’s
bombardment of Trondheim would not
be carried out. The operation had
of course effectively been
cancelled on 19/4/40)
1600 hours an aircraft that was unseen
from the ground dropped a heavy bomb
that fell between ARK ROYAL and
VALIANT, no damage was caused.
At 1827 hours the Force was attacked
by 12 Ju 87’s and 5 He 111’s no damage
At 2052 hours the CinC HF signalled
the Vice Admiral aircraft carriers to
return to Scapa.
– At 0000 hours following the repeated
air attacks, which showed that British
equipment and aircraft were inferior
in every department except radar, the
Force sailed for Scapa.
– At 1030 hours VALIANT, ARK ROYAL,
GLORIOUS, BERWICK and destroyers FURY,
ENCOUNTER, ESCORT, FEARLESS, ACHERON,
ANTELOPE, FORTUNE and KIMBERLEY
arrived back at Scapa.
the remainder of May VALIANT was at
Scapa unable to proceed to sea due the
lack of screening destroyers.
– At 1220 hours the CinC HF ordered
all capital ships at Scapa to maintain
one seaman rifle platoon at 45 minutes
notice for landing.
- VALIANT with destroyers ZULU, MAORI
and FOXHOUND departed Scapa Flow for
firings west of the Orkneys.
At 1345 hours VALIANT arrived back at
Scapa and the destroyers waited off
Scapa and joined heavy cruiser SUSSEX.
1538/5/6/40 the CinC HF received a
report from the RFA PRUNELLA [actually
HMS PRUNELLA] of sighting
two unknown ships at 1130 in
position 64-40N, 00E steering 265¼
at 20 knots. The CinC knew nothing
of the PRUNELLA or that she was
operating in the northern area.
The CinC contacted the Admiralty
to clear up the identity of
PRUNELLA, and was informed that
she was a special service vessel
[anti-submarine Q ship] ex
the SS CAPE HOWE. This was
confirmed by the destroyer ELECTRA
who at 1805/5/6/40 made contact
with her off Noup Head. At
0705/5/6/40 the Admiralty
signalled the CinC HF informing
him the PRUNELLA thought the ships
were merchant ships)
– At 1645 hours further to PRUNELLA’s
report the CinC HF ordered VALIANT, in
lieu of the battle cruiser squadron,
to sail for northern Norway.
At 2130 hours VALIANT and destroyers
MASHONA, TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN and
ASHANTI departed Scapa to be in
position to off Norway to RV with the
troopships of Group 1 by early dawn on
8/6/40, to provide close cover for the
ships evacuating troops and equipment
from Harstad; Operation ALPHABET.
– At 0100 hours in approximate
position 66N, 1W, VALIANT and
destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN
and ASHANTI RVed with Group 1
troopships; comprising, MONARCH OF
BERMUDA 22,424grt, BATORY 14,287grt,
SOBIESKI 11,030grt, FRANCONIA
20,175grt, LANCASTRIA 16,243grt and
GEORGIC 27,759grt escorted by repair
ship VINDICTIVE, destroyers VISCOUNT,
WITHERINGTON, WOLVERINE, ANTELOPE and
VALIANT then provided close cover for
the troopships on their voyage south.
0100/8/6/40 the CinC HF received
for remarks the Admiralty’s
proposed dispositions for the
Fleet. This followed events on the
continent. In the proposal VALIANT
and REPULSE were to be stationed
at Plymouth, destroyer escorts to
be provided by CinC Western
2100 hours in approximate position
61-30N, 5W, VALIANT and destroyers
MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI
detached from the convoy of Group 1
troopships and returned north to RV
with Group II troopships.
– At 1030 hours in approximate
position 65N, 5W, VALIANT sighted the
hospital ship ATLANTIS (ex Royal Mail
Lines SS ATLANTIS 15135grt). ATLANTIS
informed VALIANT of the sinking of the
troopship SS ORAMA 19840grt.
0800/4/6/40 the German
battlecruisers GNEISENAU [flag
Admiral Marschall], SCHARNHORST,
heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER, with
destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL
GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK and
HANS LODY sailed from Kiel on
Operation JUNO. The objective of
Operation JUNO was to relieve the
pressure on German forces in the
Narvik area by attacking the
Allies sea supply lines off
on 7/6/40 the loaded troopships of
Group 1 were sighted by German
recognisance aircraft on a south
westerly course 110 miles south
east of Marschall’s position, but
Marschall chose to ignore them as
he believed them to be empty and
returning to the UK, has he was
not aware that Operation ALPHABET
0900/8/6/40in position 67-44N,
03-52E the ADMIRAL HIPPER and HANS
LODY came upon two ships, the
empty troopship SS ORAMA and the
hospital ship ATLANTIS. The
ADMIRAL HIPPER sank the ORAMA
crew were lost and 280 rescued and
became POW’s] and
allowed the ATLANTIS to proceed on
her way. In accordance with the
Geneva Convention ATLANTIS
maintained radio silence.
troopship ORAMA had arrived at the
ocean RV off Andfjord to
participate in the troop
evacuation from Harstad. As ORAMA
was short of fuel and fresh water
and since sufficient capacity for
the first troop lift was already
at hand, ORAMA was ordered back to
the UK with the hospital ship
The first Allied vessel that
ATLANTIS sighted following her
witnessing the sinking of the
ORAMA was the VALIANT)
0938 hours VALIANT signalled the CinC
HF and passed on ATLANTIS’s report of
the sinking of the empty troopship SS
ORAMA 19840grt in position 67-44N,
03-52E at 0900/8/6/40 by Germany heavy
At 1955 hours VALIANT was in the
process of launching her aircraft when
she was sighted by a He 115
reconnaissance aircraft that had taken
off from Trondheim, three hours
previously. Patrolling above VALIANT
is a Skua of 800 Sqd from ARK ROYAL.
At 2000 hours the Skua sighted the He
115 shadowing the ship; the Skua
closed and opened fire on the He 115,
driving off the shadower.
At 2250 hours VALIANT and destroyers
MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI
RVed with the Group II troopships;
comprising troopships ORONSAY
20,043grt, ORMONDE 14,982grt, ARANDORA
STAR 15,501grt, DUCHESS OF YORK
20,021grt, ROYAL ULSTERMAN 3244grt,
ULSTER PRINCE 3791grt and ULSTER
MONARCH 3791grt, escorted by light
cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Lord Cork's
Flagship), anti-aircraft cruiser
COVENTRY and destroyers FIREDRAKE,
HAVELOCK, FAME, BEAGLE, CAMPBELL,
DELIGHT and ECHO.
From 2345 hours to 0100/10 the convoy
was under German air attack by six
aircraft in 67-55N, 2-10E. There was
– At 0930 hours in approximate
position 63N, 4W, REPULSE joined the
escort of convoy Group II.
At 1400 hours MAORI and FORESTER
joined the escort of convoy Group II.
1645/10/6/40, the Italian Minister
for Foreign Affairs informed the
British Ambassador in Rome that at
one minute past midnight on the
11/6/40, a state of war would
exist between Italy and the United
– At 1200 hours in position 59-40N,
05-38W VALIANT and REPULSE with
destroyers TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN,
MAORI, DIANA, ACHERON and FORESTER
detached from convoy Group II for
At 2240 hours VALIANT and REPULSE with
destroyers TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN,
MAORI, DIANA, ACHERON and FORESTER
arrived at Scapa Flow.
the French signed an armistice
with Germany. At a stroke the
strategic situation in the
Mediterranean changed. The British
Government now faced some
difficult decisions. From the
Admiralty’s point of view the
first requirement was to stabilise
he situation in the western
Mediterranean by replacing the
lost French naval units.
25/6/40 the Flag Officer North
Atlantic, Admiral Sir Dudley
North, pointed out there were no
forces between Gibraltar and the
Italian Fleet base. He further
stated that the aircraft at
Gibraltar, 6 RAF London flying
boats and 3 FAA Swordfish, were
inadequate for the reconnaissance
necessary to give warning of the
approach of an enemy force from
the east. The largest naval units
available at Gibraltar were
destroyers, and never more than
eight; these were too few to
provide for patrol and convoy
escort. He requested urgent
reinforcements. On 28/6/40 the
Admiralty constituted a detached
squadron to be based at Gibraltar
and to be known as Force H under
the command of Vice Admiral Sir
James Somerville, who was to
directly to the First Sea Lord.
the afternoon of
29/6/40, Somerville was briefed
at the Admiralty on his task. He
was to endeavour to secure the
transfer, surrender, or
destruction of the French warships
at Oran and Mers-el-Kebir by any
means possible, and no concessions
were to be given to the French.
They were either to accept the
British terms or face the
– At 1900 hours VALIANT and destroyers
FORESTER, FORESIGHT and ESCORT
departed Scapa Flow for Gibraltar.
– At 1745 hours the cruiser ARETHUSA
arrived at Gibraltar with Vice Admiral
Sir James F Somerville embarked. Vice
Admiral Somerville then transferred
his flag to the HOOD as CinC Force H.
Later VALIANT and destroyers FORESTER,
FORESIGHT and ESCORT arrived at
Gibraltar to join Force H.
Also at Gibraltar were the other Units
of Force H; battlecruiser HOOD,
battleship RESOLUTION and aircraft
carrier ARK ROYAL.
Admiralty terms of reference for
Force H were; a) Prevent units of
the Italian Fleet breaking out of
the Mediterranean; b) To carry out
offensive operations against the
Italian Fleet and the Italian
- At 1500 hours Force H destroyers,
ACTIVE, ESCORT, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS,
FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, KEPPEL,
VORTIGERN, WATCHMAN and WISHART sailed
from Gibraltar to carry out an
anti-submarine sweep in advance of the
main force leaving harbour.
At 1700 hours Force H comprising HOOD
(Flag VA Force H), RESOLUTION,
VALIANT, ARK ROYAL, ARETHUSA and
ENTERPRISE sailed from Gibraltar to
carry out Operation CATAPULT.
CATAPULT was resultant from the
French surrender which took place
on 25/6/40 and the wording of the
surrender document relating to the
French naval forces which stated,
'The French fleet was to be
assembled at ports under Italian
or German control and
demilitarised'. This statement
caused great concern to the UK
Government and they determined to
ensure that the French fleet would
not be allowed to fall into enemy
hands. Force H sailed to enforce
the UK Governments demands or sink
the French warships at
- At 0300 hours FOXHOUND was detached
to proceed ahead with Captain Holland
who was to communicate the UK
Government’s message to Admiral
Gensoul on his Flag Ship the
At 0910 hours Force H arrived off
At 1200 hours FOXHOUND proceeded out
of the entrance of Mers-el-Kebir
harbour but remained in visual touch
with HOOD and DUNKERQUE.
At 1725 hours Captain Holland left the
DUNKERQUE his mission having failed.
At 1754 hours at a range of 17500
yards Force H opened fire on the
At 1800 hours a full salvo from
RESOLUTION hit the French Battleship
BRETAGNE with at least one shell
penetrating her magazine.
At 1804 hours after 36 salvoes of
15inch Force H checked fire. This
after the BRETAGNE had blown up
killing over 1000 of her crew, and the
At 1820 hours the French Battleship
STRASBOURG and Destroyers KERSAINT,
LYNX, TERRIBLE, TIGRE and LYNX sailed
from Mers-el-Kebir. (This force was
later joined by 6 destroyers from
At 1825 hours ARK ROYAL launched a
strike of 6 Swordfish to attack
STRASBOURG without effect. The
STRASBOURG force then made off at
speed towards the east, with Force H
At 1914 hours FORESTER picked up
Captain Holland and proceeded after
the main force.
At 2020 hours the hot pursuit was
abandoned, STRASBOURG at the time was
about 25 miles ahead of HOOD, and
RESOLUTION and VALIANT were falling
At 2055 hours Swordfish from ARK ROYAL
made a torpedo attack on STRASBOURG
without slowing her down.
Force H then chased after STRASBOURG
at a speed of 18 knots, the speed was
governed by RESOLUTION’s best speed.
- At 0400 hours Force H ran into fog
and the planned strike at 0430 hours
by 12 Swordfish from ARK ROYAL was
Force H destroyers were now running
low on fuel and in consequence of this
and the message received at
2250/3/7/40 to Flag Officer, Force H
had received from Admiral Gensoul
stating that 'his ships were hors de
combat and that their personnel
had been ordered to evacuate them',
Force H set course for Gibraltar.
At 1900 hours Force H arrived back at
- At 0700 hours Force H comprising
HOOD, RESOLUTION, VALIANT, ARK ROYAL,
cruisers ARETHUSA, DELHI, and
ENTERPRISE escorted by destroyers
FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ESCORT,
FEARLESS, ACTIVE, DOUGLAS, VELOX,
VORTIGERN, and WRESTLER to cover the
Mediterranean Fleet. As a diversion
for the convoys leaving Malta. ARK
ROYAL was to launch an air raid
En route Force H was detected by
Italian reconnaissance aircraft. Force
H had also been seen leaving Gibraltar
and reported by Italian agents in
Between 1545 hours and 1840 hours
Force H was attacked by 40 high level
Savoia SM 79 aircraft that dropped
over 100 bombs. No hits were achieved
but there were several near misses.
(The SM 79’s had flown from the
airfield at Villacidro, near
The loss of surprise and the
possibility of serious damage to the
ARK ROYAL on an operation that was
only a diversion, led to Somerville
abandoning the operation.
At 2215 hours Force H reversed course
and set course for Gibraltar.
– At 1100 hours when Force H was
steaming westward at 18 knots
VALIANT’s radar picked up a number of
aircraft approaching from the north.
These aircraft came within 10 miles of
the Force then turned away no doubt
being unable to locate the Force due
to the poor visibility.
At 0215 hours ESCORT was torpedoed in
her forward boiler room by the Italian
submarine GUGLIELMO MARCONI in
position 36-11N, 03-37E, there were no
causalities. The FORESTER had
witnessed the attack a made an
unsuccessful attempt to ram the
submarine. Attempts were made to
salvage ESCORT by FORESTER towing her
stern first and FAULKNOR providing an
escort. But she was too badly damaged
and her list increased.
At 1115 hours the ESCORT sank.
FAULKNOR and FORESTER, having taken
off all ESCORT’s crew, then set course
At 0800 hours Force H arrived back at
- At 0800 hours Force H comprising
HOOD, RESOLUTION, VALIANT, aircraft
carriers ARK ROYAL and ARGUS,
ARETHUSA, ENTERPRISE, escorted by
destroyers ENCOUNTER, FAULKNOR,
FORESTER, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND,
FEARLESS, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, HOTSPUR
and VELOX. Sailed from Gibraltar to
carry out Operation HURRY.
HURRY was an operation to deliver
12 Hurricanes to Malta. These were
carried by ARGUS who had arrived
at Gibraltar on 30/7/40)
- At 2045 hours, 100 miles south west
of Majorca, Force H divided into two
groups, Group 1 and Group 2.
RESOLUTION, VALIANT, ARGUS,
ARETHUSA, ENCOUNTER, FEARLESS,
GALLANT, GREYHOUND, HOTSPUR and
continued towards southern
Sardinia to fly off the
1 then proceeded to a flying off
position for aircraft from ARK ROYAL
to carry out Operation CRUSH, a
diversionary air attack against
– Between 0515 and 0600 hours in
position 112 miles south west of Cape
Spartivento light house the 12 RAF
Hurricanes with two Fleet Air Arm
Skuas as escort, were flown off to
Malta. All Hurricanes arrived safely
but one crashed on landing.
At 0530 hours Group 1 rejoined Group
At 0700 hours, following the recovery
of ARK ROYAL’s aircraft, returning
from Operation CRUSH, Force H reversed
direction and set course for
– At 0600 hours Force H arrived back
decision was taken to reorganise
Force H, with HOOD being replaced
by RENOWN, the change was to take
place in the UK)
1915 hours Force H, comprising HOOD
(Flag VA Force H), VALIANT, ARGUS,
light cruiser ARETHUSA escorted by
destroyers ESCAPADE, FAULKNOR,
FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FOXHOUND
sailed from Gibraltar for the UK.
ARK ROYAL, light cruiser ENTERPRISE
and destroyers GREYHOUND, GALLANT,
ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR also sailed with
route Force H was instructed to
search for neutral mercantiles
thought to be breaking the
blockade. To increase the
effectiveness of the search Force
H was initially accompanied by ARK
ROYAL and her escort)
– The destroyer FEARLESS joined Force
- At 1050 hours ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE,
GREYHOUND, GALLANT, ENCOUNTER and
HOTSPUR detached and returned to
HOOD carried out a 15 inch practice
- HOOD carried out a 15 inch full
charge practice shoot. The result of
these practice shoots revealed that
the rifling of one of the guns was
- At 0700 hours west of Ireland Force
H was joined by HM Destroyers PUNJABI,
TARTAR and BEDOUIN.
Following which VALIANT, ARGUS,
FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT and
FORESTER detached for Liverpool.
– At 1530 hours VALIANT, ARGUS and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT and
FORESTER arrived Liverpool.
(VALIANT was nominated to serve with
the Mediterranean Fleet .Whilst at
Liverpool VALIANT loaded armaments for
Malta which she would discharge at
Malta en route to Alexandra)
– At 1500 hours VALIANT,
light cruiser AJAX and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and
FURY sailed from Liverpool and
steered for the North Channel.
– 0330 hours in the North Channel
VALIANT, AJAX and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FURY were
joined by the anti-aircraft cruisers
CALCUTTA and COVENTRY and destroyer
FORTUNE who had departed the Clyde at
At 2000 hours in approximate position
55N, 15W, VALIANT, AJAX, CALCUTTA,
COVENTRY and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FORTUNE and FURY
RVed with aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS
(Flag Rear Admiral Lumley Lyster, RA
Carriers, Mediterranean), heavy
cruiser YORK, light cruiser SHEFFIELD
and destroyers FIREDRAKE, ASHANTI,
TARTAR and BEDOUIN; who had sailed
from Scapa at 1045/22/8/40.
– The destroyers ASHANTI, TARTAR and
BEDOUIN detached and joined the AMC
SALOPIAN who was en route to
– At 2000 hours in approximate
position 35-45N, 14-15W, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK AJAX, SHEFFIELD,
CALCUTTA, COVENTRY and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT,
FORESTER, FORTUNE and FURY, RVed with
Force H comprising battlecruiser
RENOWN (Flag CinC Force H), aircraft
carrier ARK ROYAL, light cruiser
ENTERPRISE, and destroyers GALLANT,
HOTSPUR, GRIFFIN, VELOX, ENCOUNTER,
GREYHOUND and VIDETTE.
The combined force then set course for
– At 1830 hours to the west of the
Straits of Gibraltar Force H was
joined by the destroyers WRESTLER and
WISHART from Gibraltar.
At 2030 hours Force H arrived at
– At 0845 hours Force H comprising
RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE,
FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE,
ENCOUNTER, VELOX and WISHART. Force F
comprising VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS,
COVENTRY, CALCUTTA and destroyers
GALLANT, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and
HOTSPUR. Force A comprising destroyers
JANUS, HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN sailed
from Gibraltar on Operation HATS.
objectives of Operation HATS for
Force H were;
To cover the passage of Force F to
the Sicilian Channel. The ships of
Force F were
for the Mediterranean Fleet that
en route were to call into Malta
to offload military supplies.
Force A had been detached from
the Mediterranean Fleet to
provide additional escorts for
To carry out air strikes on
– The fleet steered towards the south
of the Balearic Islands. During the
day Skuas from the ARK ROYAL shot down
two shadowing Italian seaplanes a Cant
Z 506B and a Cant Z 501.
At 2150 hours south east of the
Balearic Islands, Force W, VELOX and
WISHART were detached to carry out
Operation SQUAWK and steered for the
north of the Island of Minorca.
At 22.00 Forces F and H turned to the
south east and headed for southern
SQUAWK required the two destroyers
to proceed to the north of the
Balearic Islands and then to make
extensive wireless signals as if
they were the entire fleet, in the
hope that any Italian radio
monitoring service would report
that Force H was heading for
Genoa. This attempt at deception
may well have succeeded, for on
the morning of 1 September
Somerville reported that his fleet
was not being shadowed)
– At 0330 hours ARK ROYAL launched a
strike force of 9 Swordfish, each
armed with 4 x 250lb HE bombs and 8 x
25lb incendiaries, to attack the
airfield at Elmas, Cagliari.
(Operation SMASH) Following the launch
the fleet continued towards the
At 0600 hours the Swordfish attacked
the airfield and seaplanes in the
hours all the Swordfish were
At 2200 hours in position 38-06N,
10-51E, approximately half way
between the south-eastern tip of
Sardinia and the western tip of
Sicily, Force H detached and turned
to the north.
At 2200 hours Force F comprising
ILLUSTRIOUS, COVENTRY, CALCUTTA and
destroyers GALLANT, GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR. Together with
Force A comprising destroyers JANUS,
HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN preceded on
a south easterly course for Malta
and a RV with the Mediterranean
– At 0500 hours in approximate
position 36-30N, 12-45E, COVENTRY and
CALCUTTA with destroyers NUBIAN,
MOHAWK, JANUS and JUNO were detached
At 0700 hours Force F was joined by
the light cruiser ORION and destroyer
At 0900 hours in approximate position
35-40N, 13-33E Force F RVed with the
Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandra.
Force F and the Mediterranean Fleet
then proceeded on an easterly course.
At 0930 hours destroyers VAMPIRE and
VENDETTA joined and destroyers
HEREWARD and ILEX were detached to
Malta to refuel.
At 1010 hours in approximate position
35-30N, 14E, VALIANT with destroyers
HYPERION, DECOY, HASTY, and WRYNECK
were detached to Malta.
Off Valletta VALIANT and her
destroyers were subjected to an air
attack which delayed their entrance
At 1430 hours VALIANT with destroyers
HYPERION, DECOY, HASTY, and WRYNECK
arrived at Valletta.
(On arrival at Valletta VALIANT,
COVENTRY and CALCUTTA off-loaded
military supplies which included
3.7in anti-aircraft guns, predictors
and height finders to support the AA
guns, replacement gun barrels for
the anti-aircraft guns, 10,000
rounds of 40mm Bofors ammunition,
100 Bren guns and ammunition etc.
The off-loading was interrupted by
an air raid carried out by Ju 87’s
of the Italian Airforce)
At 1900 hours VALIANT with
STUART, HYPERION, IMPERIAL and JANUS
sailed from Valletta to RV with the
WARSPITE and her escort.
At 2330 hours VALIANT, HYPERION,
IMPERIAL and JANUS joined WARSPITE
and her escort. As VALIANT joined
the light cruisers ORION and SYDNEY
with destroyers ILEX and DECOY were
detached for a dawn bombardment of
the airfield on the Island of
The combined force was designated
Force I and comprised; battleship
WARSPITE (Flag CinC Mediterranean
Fleet Admiral Cunningham), VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, CALCUTTA, STUART,
VOYAGER, DECOY, DEFENDER, HEREWARD,
IMPERIAL, HYPERION, ILEX, HASTY, and
WRYNECK. Force I then set course
east to pass north of Crete, to
carry out Admiral Cunningham’s plan
to attack the Italian airfields on
Italians had been in procession of
the Island of Rhodes since 1912,
during which time they built
naval and air bases.
From June 1940 aircraft flying
from the Rhodes airfields had
caused the Mediterranean Fleet
and the Aegean convoys some
Cunningham had informed the
First Sea Lord of his intention
to carry out an air attack on
the Rhodes airfields with
aircraft from his two carriers)
- At 0700 hours the destroyer
DEFENDER, which had been delayed at
Malta with a damaged Asdic dome,
rejoined the fleet.
– The carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and EAGLE
were ordered to fly off every
available Swordfish armed for dive
bombing to attack the airfields of
Maritza and Callato. In addition
ILLUSTRIOUS was to provide 12 Fulmars
for fighter cover over the two
At 0345 hours in position 35-38N,
26-07E ILLUSTRIOUS launched a strike
force of 12 Swordfish, unfortunately
due to an accident with the ninth
aircraft, only 8 Swordfish were
actually flown off.
At 0315 EAGLE, who was part of Force
D, and was to the south east of Crete
launched a strike force of 12
(The raid destroyed or damaged 13
Italian aircraft for the lost of 4 of
At 0830 hours, ILLUSTRIOUS having
recovered her aircraft, Force I set
course for Alexandria.
- At 0700 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, HYPERION, HERO, HASTY,
HEREWARD, IMPERIAL, JANUS, and
DEFENDER arrived at Alexandria.
(On arrival at Alexandria VALIANT
off-loaded 250 tons of military stores
including 28 x 2 pounder anti-tank
– VALIANT and ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag RA
Carriers, Mediterranean), light
cruiser ORION, and destroyers
HYPERION, HERO, HASTY, MOHAWK, NUBIAN,
DAINTY, and DECOY departed Alexandria
and steered for the west of Crete, to
carry out Operation MBD 1.
(Since the beginning of July 1940
Mussolini had been urging Marshal
Graziani, the commander of the Italian
Army in Cyrenaica,
to attack the British position in
Egypt. On 13/9/40 the
Italian Tenth Army commenced their
attack on Egypt and advanced as far
as Sidi Barrani. Operation MBD
1 was designed to support British
land forces in Egypt; by an air
attack on the enemies supply base,
Benghazi harbour and a bombardment
of his forward base at Bardia)
– Off the west coast of Crete VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, ORION, and destroyers
HYPERION, HERO, HASTY, MOHAWK, NUBIAN,
DAINTY, and DECOY RVed with heavy
cruiser KENT, light cruisers LIVERPOOL
and GLOUCESTER, and destroyers JERVIS
and HEREWARD who had departed
Alexandria on the 13/9/40 to carry out
an offensive sweep into the Aegean.
For Operation MBD 1 the Fleet was
divided into three Forces:
A was light cruiser ORION, aircraft
carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, and destroyers
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HERO, and HASTY.
B was battleship VALIANT and
destroyers HYPERION, DECOY, and HMAS
C was heavy cruiser KENT, light
cruisers LIVERPOOL and GLOUCESTER,
and destroyers JERVIS and HEREWARD.
Forces then proceeded to a position
approximately 100 miles north of
– At 0001 hours, from a position
approximately 100 miles north of
Benghazi, ILLUSTRIOUS launched a
strike force of Swordfish to attack
Benghazi harbour; Nine aircraft from
the 815 Squadron attacked shipping in
the harbour and six aircraft from the
819 Squadron laid mines off the
attack resulted in the destroyer
BOREA being torpedoed and sunk, the
destroyer AQUILONE was mined and
sank. The merchant ships SS GLORIA
STELLA 5490grt and the SS MARIA
EUGENA 4702grt were torpedoed and
At 0245 hours, after ILLUSTRIOUS
recovered her strike aircraft, the
Force set course for Alexandra.
At 1400 hours KENT and destroyers
destroyers MOHAWK and NUBIAN
detached to carry out a bombardment
of Bardia. However this was not
carried out after KENT was
- VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, LIVERPOOL,
GLOUCESTER and destroyers HASTY, HERO,
HYPERION, DECOY and HEREWARD arrived
back at Alexandria.
– Battleship WARSPITE (Flag CinC
Mediterranean Fleet), VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK,
light cruisers ORION and HMAS SYDNEY
to carry out Operation MB 5.
(Operation MB 5 was an operation
covering the transport of 1200 troops
to Malta in the light cruisers
GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL).
Off Alexandria HM Destroyers HYPERION,
HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX, IMPERIAL,
JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK,
and HMAS STUART joined the Fleet.
- Early in the morning the Fleet was
joined by GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL
with 1200 troops embarked for Malta.
STUART suffered a broken steam main
and was ordered to return to
The Fleet was under air attack for
most of the day.
- At 1126 hours a Fulmar from
ILLUSTRIOUS reported sighting an
Italian force of 7 cruisers and 7
destroyers in position 34-04N, 18-25E.
On receipt of this report Cunningham
altered course towards the Italian
At 1245 hours another aircraft
reported sighting 4 battleships and 10
destroyers in position 37-45N, 18-15E,
this was 116 miles from the
Mediterranean Fleet. On receipt of
this report Cunningham altered course
away from the Italian Fleet. (The
actual Italian Fleet at sea was 5
battleships, 11 cruisers and 20
At 1450 hours GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL
were detached to Malta. YORK and
MOHAWK also detached and were
stationed twenty miles 350 degrees and
forty miles 340 degrees from the Main
–At 1245 hours destroyer VOYAGER
rejoined the Fleet from Malta.
At 1545 hours the anti-cruiser
CALCUTTA joined the Fleet after
detaching from convoy AN 4.
At 1745 hours GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL
rejoined the Fleet from Malta.
– At 1900 hours the Fleet arrived back
– Battleships WARSPITE (Flag CinC
Mediterranean Fleet), VALIANT, MALAYA
and RAMILLIES, aircraft carriers
ILLUSTRIOUS and EAGLE, heavy cruiser
YORK, light cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER,
ORION, YORK and HMAS SYDNEY screened
by destroyers HASTY, HAVOCK, HEREWARD,
HERO, HYPERION, ILEX, IMPERIAL, JANUS,
JERVIS, JUNO and NUBIAN sailed from
Alexandria to provide Distant Cover
for the passage of Malta convoy MF 3
from Egypt, convoy ME 4 from Malta,
convoy AS 4 from Greece, and an air
attack on Leros (Operation MB 6).
- At 0254 hours the fleet was joined
at sea by cruiser LIVERPOOL and
- At 1715 hours RAMILLIES, HASTY,
HEREWARD, HERO, HYPERION, ILEX and
NUBIAN detached from the Fleet to
refuel at Malta. At intervals through
the day and during the 11th the
various units of the Fleet detached to
refuel in Malta.
- At 1105 hours IMPERIAL was mined and
badly damaged (the mines had been laid
during the nights of 7 and 10/10/40 by
Italian destroyers). She was towed
into Malta by DECOY.
At 1600 hours convoy MF 3 arrived at
Malta in company with ORION, STUART
and VENDETTA. At this time the main
body of the Mediterranean Fleet was
100 miles south east of Malta, where
it was sighted and reported by an
Italian civil airliner.
At 2245 hours convoy ME 4, which
included River Gunboat APHIS, sailed
from Malta escorted by cruisers
CALCUTTA and COVENTRY and destroyers
WRYNECK and HMAS WATERHEN. Late in the
evening following the return of all
the refuelled units, the Fleet turned
(To the north east of Malta positioned
in anticipation that a convoy would be
sailing from Malta were 4 Italian
destroyers, 3 torpedo boats and 4 MAS
- During return passage to Alexandria,
at 0200 hours, 125 miles west of
Malta, and about 70 miles north of the
convoy, the 3 Italian torpedo boats
launched torpedo attacks on the
northernmost unit of the Fleet, which
was AJAX, all of which missed. However
AJAX, after initial confusion, opened
fire on the attackers at 4000 yards
sinking ARIEL and ARIONE. In return
AJAX received 3 hits from AIRONE.
(AJAX was equipped with type 279 radar
which was a long range air search set
and of little use in a surface
engagement). Immediately the 4 Italian
destroyers came to the aid of the
torpedo boats and at 0230 hours
ARTIGLIERE launched a torpedo attack
which AJAX avoided. AJAX managed to
damage the AVIERE and severely damage
the ARTIGLIERE. In return ARTIGLIERE
hit AJAX 4 times, putting her radar
out of action and damaging a twin 4in
mount. At the time of the second
engagement the moon had set and the
lack of flashless powder caused
problems for AJAX’s gunners.
At 0235 hours when the Italian
destroyers withdrew behind a smoke
screen AJAX broke off the action since
Capt. McCarthy believed that he had
been in action against 4 destroyers
and 2 cruisers. (This action is known
by the Italians as the Battle of Cape
Passero) The gunfire drew other
cruisers of the Mediterranean Fleet to
the scene, but they arrived too late
to see action.
- At dawn the damaged ARTIGLIERE under
tow by the destroyer CAMICIA NERE, was
sighted 107 miles west of Malta by a
Sunderland. The Sunderland’s sighting
report resulted in an air strike by
Swordfish from ILLUSTRIOUS, without
result. Also YORK, AJAX and 4
destroyers were despatched from the
fleet and arrived at the position at
0900 hours. CAMICIA NERE slipped the
tow a made off and YORK finished off
Commencing at dawn the Italian
Airforce carried out several attacks
on the Mediterranean Fleet. In the
attacks they employed a total of 84
bombers and 38 fighters. The Italian
losses were three S 79’s and one Z
501; the Fleet suffered several near
misses including EAGLE.
At 1100 hours south east of Gavdos
Island, convoy ME 4 was joined by
convoy AS 4 that had sailed from
Piraeus. In the evening the Fleet
divided and ILLUSTRIOUS, GLOUCESTER,
LIVERPOOL, HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO and
NUBIAN headed into the Aegean.
The main units of the Fleet steered
south of Crete to wait off the south
east coast of Crete.
- Early in the morning Swordfish from
ILLUSTRIOUS carried out an air strike
on the airfield on the Island of
At 0840 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS Force
rejoined the main body of the Fleet,
off the south east of Crete, and the
combined Fleet then set course for
Alexandria. In the evening the Fleet
came under air attack, and at 1845
hours 70 miles SE of Crete, LIVERPOOL
sustained an aerial torpedo hit in the
starboard bow, delivered by an Italian
At 1920 hours the petrol storage
compartment exploded, blowing the roof
off A turret roof, the port gun fell
into the sea and a fire was started.
DECOY and HEREWARD stood by.
At 2230 hours ORION took her in tow,
towing her backwards at 9.5 knots
towards Alexandria escorted by DAINTY,
DECOY, DIAMOND and VAMPIRE.
- At 0100 hours the Mediterranean
Fleet arrived back at Alexandria.
0300 hours on 28/10/40 the Italian
ambassador in Athens issued an
ultimatum to the Greek Government
to allow Italy to occupy the
dictator Ioannis Metaxas
immediately rejected the
Italian ultimatum with the
c'est la guerre".
waiting for the ultimatum to
expire, at 0530 hours the
Italians attacked Greece across
the Albanian border.
Intelligence, through Sigint, had
been expecting the attack from
mid-October. On 22/10/40 the
Chiefs of Staff had instructed,
General Wavell, the CinC Middle
East, in the event of Italy
invading Greece, he was to be
ready to help Greece by
transferring troops to Crete. The
British move into Crete was coded
Operation BN: as part of the
operation the Mediterranean Fleet
was to set up a refuelling base at
– Whilst at Alexandria VALIANT had a
new CO, Captain Charles Eric Morgan,
0130 hours battleships WARSPITE
(Flag CinC Mediterranean Fleet),
VALIANT, MALAYA and RAMILLIES,
aircraft carriers EAGLE and
ILLUSTRIOUS, destroyers HYPERION,
HAVOCK, HERO, HASTY, HEREWARD, ILEX,
DAINTY, DECOY, DEFENDER, DIAMOND,
JERVIS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO and
JANUS sailed from Alexandria on
Operation BN. The Fleet sailed for
the west of south west Greece to
cover shipping movements to Crete.
– South of Gavdos Island the Fleet was
joined by heavy cruiser YORK and light
cruisers SYDNEY, ORION and GLOUCESTER.
The Fleet continued to sail north west
and at 2000 hours the
Fleet was 126 miles west of Cape
– In the morning destroyers JUNO and
DEFENDER detached from the Fleet to
refuel at Suda Bay.
Later in the morning destroyers MOHAWK
and NUBIAN, detached from the Fleet to
carry out an examination of Navarin
Bay. In the afternoon destroyers
MOHAWK and NUBIAN rejoined the Fleet.
Later destroyers JUNO and HMAS VOYAGER
joined the Fleet from Suda Bay.
VOYAGER was a replacement for the
destroyer DEFENDER, which had fouled
the nets at Suda Bay.
At 1630 hours 75 miles west south west
of Cape Matapan, WARSPITE,
ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK, GLOUCESTER and
destroyers JERVIS, HERO, HEREWARD,
HASTY and ILEX left the patrol area to
return to Alexandria.
At 2030 hours VALIANT, MALAYA,
RAMILLIES, EAGLE, ORION and HMAS
SYDNEY and destroyers HYPERION,
HAVOCK, DAINTY, DECOY, DIAMOND,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO, JANUS and HMAS
VOYAGER departed from the patrol area
to return to Alexandria.
– At 2100 hours destroyers HYPERION,
HAVOCK, DAINTY, DECOY, DIAMOND,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO, JANUS and HMAS
VOYAGER detached to carry out an
anti-submarine sweep off Alexandria.
At 2330 hours VALIANT, MALAYA,
RAMILLIES, EAGLE, ORION and HMAS
SYDNEY arrived back at Alexandria.
– Battleships WARSPITE, VALIANT,
RAMILLIES and MALAYA, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK and
light cruiser GLOUCESTER and
destroyers DECOY, DEFENDER, HASTY,
HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO, HYPERION,
ILEX, JANUS, JERVIS, JUNO and MOHAWK
sailed from Alexandria on Operation MB
8 and Operation COAT.
Later the Fleet was joined by the
light cruisers AJAX and HMAS SYDNEY
from Suda Bay.
(Operation MB 8 was to provide cover
for the passage of Convoy MW 3 [sailed
from Alexandria on 5/11/40] to Malta
and Convoy AN 6 [sailed from Port Said
on 4/11/40] to the Aegean. Operation
COAT was the passage of
reinforcements, Force F, for the
– The Fleet covered the passage of
convoy AN 6 and MW 3. The two convoys
proceeded together from off Alexandria
towards west Crete. (Operation MB 8).
- In the evening RAMILLIES, HAVOCK,
HYPERION and ILEX detached for Malta
- The Mediterranean Fleet cruised to
the south east of Malta.
At 1015 hours Force F, comprising
battleship BARHAM, heavy cruiser
BERWICK and GLASGOW and destroyers
GALLANT, GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN and
preceded by the destroyers FAULKNOR,
FORTUNE and FURY acting as
minesweepers, RVed with the
Force F (The reinforcements for the
Mediterranean Fleet, Operation COAT)
entered Valletta harbour to disembark
2150 troops and supplies and the 3 F’s
At 1330 hours convoy ME 3, which
included the monitor TERROR, sailed
from Malta, escorted by RAMILLIES,
COVENTRY, DECOY, DEFENDER and HMAS
After disembarking their troops and
supplies BARHAM, BERWICK, GLASGOW,
GALLANT, GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN sailed
from Malta and joined the
Mediterranean Fleet sailing east.
– The Fleet covered passage of convoy
ME 3 from Malta to Alexandria.
At 0600 hours the monitor TERROR and
destroyer VENDETTA detached for Suda
At 1310 hours AJAX, ORION, HMAS
SYDNEY, MOHAWK and NUBIAN detached
from the Fleet to carry out a raid on
Italian military convoys in the
At 1800 hours ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK,
BERWICK, GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER, HASTY,
HAVOCK, HYPERION and ILEX detached
from the Fleet to carry out Operation
(Note: The successful air attack on
Taranto (Operation JUDGMENT) by
aircraft from ILLUSTRIOUS during the
night of 11/12th November was also
covered as part of Operation COAT).
- At dawn ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK, BERWICK,
GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER, HASTY, HAVOCK,
HYPERION and ILEX rejoined the Fleet.
– The Mediterranean Fleet arrived back
– Early in the morning battleships
VALIANT, BARHAM, aircraft carrier
EAGLE and destroyers HYPERION,
VENDETTA, DAINTY, DIAMOND, JERVIS,
GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN sailed
from Alexandria and set course for the
west of Crete. Their mission was to
provide cover for various convoys from
Egypt to Greece.
– At 1200 hours the covering force put
into Suda Bay for the destroyers to
In the evening BARHAM developed engine
problems so the whole force set course
- VALIANT, BARHAM, EAGLE and
destroyers HYPERION, VENDETTA, DAINTY,
DIAMOND, JERVIS, GREYHOUND, GALLANT
and GRIFFIN arrived back at
- At 0325 hours battleships WARSPITE
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers DECOY (for
repairs at Malta), JERVIS, JANUS,
JUNO, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GRIFFIN, WRYNECK
and HMAS WATERHEN sailed from
Alexandria and set course for Suda
Bay. They were designated the
Mediterranean Fleet for Operation MB 9
and Force A for Operation COLLAR.
At 1200 hours the troopship ULSTER
PRINCE joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1600 hours HM Cruisers YORK,
GLASGOW and GLOUCESTER of 3rd CS
joined the Fleet at sea.
At 2330 hours off south east Crete
ILLUSTRIOUS, GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER
JANUS, JUNO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN
detached from the Fleet and proceeded
ahead to a flying off position 60
miles north east of Suda Bay to carry
out Operation MB 9.
(Operation MB 9 was an air strike on
the Italian seaplane base at Port Laki
on the Island of Leros)
- The Fleet followed astern of the
ILLUSTRIOUS force to provide distant
At 0300 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off 15
Swordfish on Operation MB 9.
At 0600 hours ILLUSTRIOUS recovered 14
All Fleet units then proceeded to Suda
Bay to refuel arriving between 0700
hours and 0830 hours.
At 0800 hours HM Destroyers HERO and
HEREWARD arrived at Suda Bay to join
At 1030 hours Force A sailed from Suda
Bay to carry out Operation COLLAR.
(Operation COLLAR was the passage of
1400 troops embarked on MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON, designated Force F, from
Gibraltar to Alexandria. To pass three
freighters from Gibraltar, two for
Malta and one for Suda Bay. To sail
reinforcements for the Mediterranean
Fleet from Gibraltar to Alexandria).
The 3rd CS comprising YORK, GLASGOW
and GLOUCESTER detached to patrol to
the north of Force A.
- Force A proceeded towards Malta.
- Force A patrolled north of the
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON Force F,
sailing for Alexandria.
- At 1800 hours arrived back at
- Battleships VALIANT and BARHAM
departed Alexandria for gunnery
practices. As the battleships were
setting out VALIANT was in collision
with one of he escorts, the destroyer
HAVOCK. The HAVOCK sustained
damage forward. HAVOCK went to Malta
9/12/40 the 30,000 strong Western
Desert Force commanded by
Gen Richard O'Conner launched
Operation COMPASS; with the
objectives of expelling the
Italian forces from Egypt and
advancing as far as Tobruk. The
Italians had heavily fortified
Bardia and Tobruk, with Bardia
having an almost continuous
antitank ditch around the
perimeter and a double line of
underground posts linked with
barbed wire, each of which was
protected by its own antitank
ditch, antitank guns and
machineguns. The Navy assisted
in the offensive by bombarding
the Italian positions)
– In the evening Force C comprising battleships
VALIANT and BARHAM, anti-aircraft
ship COVENTRY and destroyers
GALLANT, HMAS VAMPIRE, HMAS
VENDETTA, HMAS VOYAGER, WRYNECK,
DAINTY and JUNO departed Alexandria
to bombard the HQ of the Italian
XXIII Corps and the 2nd Blackshirt
Division at Sollum.
- Destroyers HYPERION, MOHAWK and
DIAMOND joined Force C at sea.
Night of 11/12, Force C was off Sollum
to carry out the bombardment
but were unable to shell
the Italian positions due bad weather
which also stopped a projected attack
on El Adam airfield by aircraft from
– Early in the morning Force C arrived
back at Alexandria.
- At 0100 hours the Mediterranean Fleet
comprising battleships WARSPITE (Flag),
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK, light
cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER, ORION and
HMAS SYDNEY and destroyers JERVIS,
JANUS, JUNO, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, DAINTY,
HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD
sailed from Alexandria on Operation MC
(Operation MC 2 was a complex operation
involving distant cover for convoys to
and from Suda Bay to Piraeus, AS 9 and
AN 10. Convoy from Malta to Alexandria,
ME 5A. An air strike against Rhodes and
Stampalia. Forming part of the operation
was Operation HIDE which was the passage
of the MALAYA through the Mediterranean
to Gibraltar and distant cover for
convoys to Malta, MW 5A and MW 5B).
At 0745 hours YORK, GLOUCESTER, DAINTY
and GREYHOUND detached and proceeded to
Suda Bay to refuel.
- At 0352 hours in position 35-49N,
25-24E ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a strike
force of 6 Swordfish against Rhodes.
At 0435 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a
strike force of 5 Swordfish against
At 0600 hours with all aircraft
recovered the Fleet headed for Suda Bay.
At 0830 hours the Fleet entered Suda Bay
At 1130 hours VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS,
JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS and MOHAWK departed
Suda Bay sailing west.
At 1415 hours WARSPITE escorted by
HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD
departed from Suda Bay sailing west.
- At 0130 hours south of Cape Matapan
the WARSPITE and VALIANT forces RVed and
the Fleet then proceeded toward the
Strait of Otranto to carry out Operation
(Operation MC 3 was an anti-shipping
sweep into the Adriatic and a
bombardment and air strike against the
port of Valona. In the event because of
the weather conditions the air strike
At 1600 hours south west of the Island
of Zante ORION, AJAX, SYDNEY, JERVIS,
JUNO and MOHAWK detached and proceeded
ahead into the Adriatic to carry out the
anti-shipping sweep. (This force went as
far north as 41-08N without sighting any
At 1800 hours north west of the Island
of Cephalonia ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK,
GLOUCESTER, DAINTY, GREYHOUND, GALLANT
and GRIFFIN detached and proceeded to
position 39N, 20E to fly off the air
strike, but due to the weather the
strike was abandoned.
- At 0115 hours off Valona WARSPITE and
VALIANT opened fire with a indirect area
bombardment, spotting not possible as
weather conditions prevented the launch
of aircraft, on the port area and
At 0120 hours after the firing of 96
rounds of 15in the bombardment was
checked and WARSPITE, VALIANT, HYPERION,
ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD proceeded
south west for Malta.
At 0630 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS force and
the ORION force rejoined.
At 1200 hours YORK, GLOUCESTER, ORION,
AJAX, SYDNEY, DAINTY, GALLANT,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and HASTY detached to
cover the Malta convoys MW 5A and MW 5B
-At 1440 hours WARSPITE, JANUS, JERVIS
and JUNO arrived at Malta.
- Early in the morning WARSPITE sailed
– The Fleet arrived back at Alexandria.
9 4 1
At Alexandria, where Midshipman Prince
Philip of Greece joined VALIANT.
1830 hours the Mediterranean Fleet
comprising battleships WARSPITE
(Flag), VALIANT, BARHAM, heavy cruiser
YORK, light cruiser GLOUCESTER, AA
cruiser CALCUTTA and destroyers JANUS,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, WRYNECK, DIAMOND,
GALLANT and HMAS VENDETTA sailed from
Alexandria on Operation MC 5.
(Operation MC 5 was the bombardment of
Bardia in support of Operation COMPASS
the Western Desert Force offensive
against Italian ground forces).
At 2100 hours the Fleet was joined by
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and
destroyers GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, ILEX
- At 0600 hours ILLUSTRIOUS, GLOUCESTER,
YORK, WRYNECK, DIAMOND, GALLANT and
VENDETTA detached from the Fleet for
ILLUSTRIOUS to operate aircraft as
necessary and to provide fighter cover
over the bombarding force.
Anti-aircraft protection was provided by
CALCUTTA, escorted by NUBIAN and MOHAWK
and DAINTY and VOYAGER after being
detached from Force W.
(Force W was the monitor TERROR and
gunboats LADYBIRD and APHIS. Force W
carried out bombardments before and
after the bombardment by the Fleet
At 0810 off Bardia WARSPITE, VALIANT and
BARHAM screened by ILEX, GREYHOUND,
JUNO, JANUS and GRIFFIN commenced the
bombardment of Bardia. Ground troops,
who surrounded Bardia provided
observation of fall of shot.
At 0900 hours the bombardment was
At 1000 hours GLOUCESTER, YORK, CALCUTTA
were detached to Alexandria, and WRYNECK
and VENDETTA were detached to Sollum.
- WARSPITE, VALIANT, BARHAM,
ILLUSTRIOUS, ILEX, JANUS, JUNO,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, DIAMOND, GALLANT,
VOYAGER and DAINTY arrived at
- At 0500 hours battleships WARSPITE
(Flag), VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers JERVIS,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, DAINTY, GREYHOUND,
GALLANT and GRIFFIN sailed from
Alexandria as Force A to carry out
Operation MC 4.
(Operation MC 4 was an operation to
provide cover for Alexandria to Malta MW
5½, Malta to Alexandria convoys ME 5½
and ME 6 and the EXCESS convoy).
At 1640 hours Force A was sighted and
reported by an Italian reconnaissance
- At 1230 hours Force A arrived at Suda
Bay where the destroyers were refuelled.
At 1400 hours Force A departed Suda Bay
- At 0730 hours Force A was in position
36-05N, 19-17E and ILLUSTRIOUS launched
Swordfish to search a sector 280¼ to
At 1030 hours 200 miles west of Malta
Force D, light cruisers AJAX and HMAS
PERTH from Suda Bay and HMAS SYDNEY and
destroyer HMAS STUART from Malta joined
At 1130 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a
strike force of 6 Swordfish to search
for enemy shipping off the Libyan coast.
At 1140 hours Force A was reported by an
At 1240 hours in position 35-30N,
17-30E, SYDNEY and STUART detached from
Force A for Alexandria.
At 1330 hours Force D, AJAX and PERTH
detached to support convoy ME 6.
Force A now comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, DAINTY,
GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN
- At 0430 hours in position 35-56N,
13-20E Force A altered course to RV with
the EXCESS convoy.
At 0815 hours Force A, RVed with the
EXCESS convoy in position 36-28N,
12-11E, and south east of Pantelleria.
The convoy escort was BONAVENTURE,
GLOUCESTER, SOUTHAMPTON, HASTY,
HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX and JAGUAR. Force A
took up position astern of the convoy.
At 0834 hours GALLANT was mined and was
taken in tow by MOHAWK and BONAVENTURE
and GRIFFIN were detached to stand by
At 1223 hours two Italian SM 79’s
dropped 2 torpedoes; the torpedoes were
dropped 1½ miles from their targets, the
battleships, all missed, those aimed at
VALIANT passing astern.
At 1235 hours a large formation of
German aircraft, 40 Ju 87’s plus Ju 88’s
were sighted approaching from the north.
At 1238 hours the attack commenced, in
the 10 minute attack 30 Ju 87’s attacked
ILLUSTRIOUS who was hit by 6 bombs which
caused serious damage.
The other 10 Ju 87’s divided their
attack between WARSPITE and VALIANT.
was near missed by several bombs. One
rating was killed and two were wounded
was unaware that Fliegerkorps X
dive-bombers, 77 long-range
bombers, 12 long-range
and 22 twin-engined fighters]
recently moved into bases in
Sicily from Norway. Their role
was to cover the movement of the
first elements of the Afrika
Korps to North Africa, by
establishing the aerial command
over the central Mediterranean
which the Italians had failed to
do. Their first operation was a
small raid on Malta on 9 January
1941. They followed this up with
the attack on the EXCESS convoy)
1320 hours VALIANT’s radar picked up
another wave of aircraft approaching
from the north. There was now no air
borne air defence so the CinC ordered
the Fleet to close ILLUSTRIOUS to
provide AA cover. Seven SM 79’s came
in at 14000 feet but failed to score
Force A manoeuvred to maintain support
for ILLUSTRIOUS whilst efforts were
made to bring her under control.
At 1530 hours ILLUSTRIOUS was got
under control and course was set for
Malta at 17 knots. HASTY and JAGUAR
were detached to screen ILLUSTRIOUS.
Between 1600 and 1700 hours further
air attacks by 15 Ju 87’s were made on
ILLUSTRIOUS and Force A.
At 1700 hours JANUS joined Force A
At 2145 hours ILLUSTRIOUS arrived at
Malta and Force A proceeded to the
At 2200 hours Force A now comprising
WARSPITE, VALIANT, DAINTY, GREYHOUND,
JANUS and NUBIAN was in position
35-40N, 14-10E steering 090¼.
At 2400 hours in position 35-20N,
15-26E, JARVIS joined Force A from
- Force A remained close to the course
of the EXCESS convoy.
At 1200 hours Force A was in position
At 1630 hours Force A altered course
to close SOUTHAMPTON who was reported
stopped in position 34-54N, 18-24E
following an attack by 12 Ju 87’s.
At 1645 hours ORION, PERTH, JERVIS and
JANUS were detached from Force A to
stand by SOUTHAMPTON. JUNO and NUBIAN
detached from Force A to join the
escort of EXCESS convoy and HERO
detached from the convoy to join Force
- At 0800 hours in position 34-40N,
23-10E all forces RVed. Following
which the forces split and Force A
comprising WARSPITE, VALIANT,
GLOUCESTER, JERVIS, JANUS, GREYHOUND,
DIAMOND, VOYAGER, HERO and DEFENDER
proceeded to Alexandria.
- At 0600 hours Force A arrived back
– From this day VALIANT and other
units of the Mediterranean Fleet were
on short notice to proceed to sea on
Operation MBD 2, also known as
(Operation MBD 2 was
extraction of damaged aircraft
carrier ILLUSTRIOUS from Malta and
cover for her onward passage to
Alexandria. ILLUSTRIOUS finally
sailed from Malta at 1800/23/1/41)
– At 2300 hours
VALIANT and BARHAM, light cruiser
HMAS PERTH and destroyers HEREWARD,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HASTY, DIAMOND and
GRIFFIN sailed from Alexandria as
Force C for Operation MBD 2. Force C
set course to RV with ILLUSTRIOUS
approximately 120 miles west of
– At 1200 hours, approximately 50
miles south west of Crete, the RV was
earlier than anticipated because
ILLUSTRIOUS had been able to make 25
knots, Force C RVed with ILLUSTRIOUS
escorted by destroyers JERVIS, JUNO,
JANUS and GREYHOUND.
Later in the day Force B, comprising,
heavy cruiser YORK and light cruisers
ORION, AJAX and BONAVENTURE and
destroyers ILEX and HERO joined.
– At 1300 hours Force B and C and the
ILLUSTRIOUS group arrived at
– At 1630 hours, Force A was composed
of battleships BARHAM and VALIANT and
destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR,
ILEX, HEREWARD, HERO, HASTY, DAINTY
and DECOY sailed from Alexandria and
steered north west to cover Operation
The aircraft carrier EAGLE joined
Force A at sea.
(Operation MC 8 was an operation to
transport 1441 troops and stores,
including seventeen Bren carriers and
other vehicles, sixty motor cycles, a
large quantity of Italian and other
guns and ammunition to Malta in Force
B, comprising the light cruisers
ORION, GLOUCESTER and AJAX and
destroyers NUBIAN, MOHAWK and DIAMOND.
Force B departed Alexandria at
1730/19/2/41 and arrived at Malta at
0630/21st. After unloading the force
departed at 1900 hours. The DIAMOND
remained at Malta for refitting. The
operation also included the passage of
the supply ship HMS BRECONSHIRE, the
SS CLAN MACAULEY and destroyers
HOTSPUR and HAVOCK. These ships
departed Malta at dusk on the 20/2/41.
Anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY joined
this force en route to Alexandria)
– At 1830 hours Force A arrived back
– At 0700 hours battleships BARHAM and
VALIANT and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS,
JAGUAR, HOTSPUR, HMAS VOYAGER, and
HMAS WATERHEN departed Alexandria to
carry out gunnery exercises. The
force, designated Force A, then set
course for the west of Crete to
operate from Suda Bay in support of
the LUSTRE operations.
(In April 1939 the British and
French Governments issued a
guarantee to Romania and Greece
guaranteeing support for their
independence. On 22/2/41 at a
meeting between British and Greek
representatives it was agreed that a
Commonwealth expeditionary force
would be sent to Greece. The
movement of troops to Greece was
given the code name Operation
– At 1600 hours Force A arrived at
– Force A comprising battleships
BARHAM and VALIANT and destroyers
JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, HOTSPUR,
VOYAGER, and WATERHEN departed Suda
Bay to cover movements of convoys
through Kithira Straits.
– Force A arrived back at Suda Bay.
A comprising battleships
BARHAM and VALIANT and destroyers
JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, HOTSPUR,
VOYAGER, and WATERHEN departed Suda
Bay to cover movements of convoy AG
5. (Convoy AG 5 comprised six
merchant ships and sailed from
Alexandria on 12/3/41 and arrived at
Piraeus on 15/3/41)
– At 0530 hours battleships BARHAM and
VALIANT and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, and HAVOCK
arrived at Alexandria.
- Battleships WARSPITE (Flag CinC Med
Fleet), BARHAM, and VALIANT, aircraft
carrier FORMIDABLE, and destroyers
JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO, JAGUAR, NUBIAN,
MOHAWK, ILEX, HERO, and HAVOCK
departed Alexandria as Force A and
steered west on Operation MC 9.
MC 9 was the passage of Alexandria
to Malta convoy MW 6 which was
escorted by a force designated Force
-At 1600 hours Force A was joined at
sea by Force B that comprised cruisers
YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and HMAS
PERTH and destroyers HEREWARD, HASTY,
HEREWARD and HMAS STUART.
YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and HMAS
PERTH then detached to provide close
cover for convoy MW 6.
- At 0740 hours YORK, ORION, AJAX,
GLOUCESTER and HMAS PERTH rejoined
At 2000 hours the Fleet parted company
with convoy MW 6 in order to stay out
of range of German bombers and
reversed course. MOHAWK and NUBIAN
detached from Force A and proceed to a
position north of convoy MW 6.
- Force B detached from Force A to
cover the withdrawal of Force C from
Force A then set course for
- At 2230 hours Force A arrived back
decided that German forces were
needed to rescue Italian forces
in Albania and had ordered an
invasion of Greece and
Yugoslavia to begin in April.
To facilitate their forthcoming
operation, the Germans put
pressure on the Italians to
interrupt British shipping
between Egypt and Greece. On
17/3/41 two Luftwaffe He 111’s
reported that they had each
torpedoed a British battleship.
Following this report and with
the knowledge that ILLUSTRIOUS
was ‘out of the game’,
Supermarina planned Operation
GAUDO the attack on British
shipping. Supermarina only
agreed to the operation on the
basis of the reduced capability
of the Royal Navy and the
promise of air support from both
the Regia Aeronautica and
Luftwaffe. Operation GAUDO
commenced at 0830/26/3/41 when
the battleship VITTORIO VENETO
sailed from Naples)
- At 1220 hours a RAF Sunderland of
from Skaramangas, Greece sighted
three Italian Cruisers and a
position 36-54N, 17-10E, steering
headed towards Crete. This was
the Italian 3rd Cruiser Division
under Vice Admiral Sansonetti and
consisted of the three heavy
cruisers TRIESTE, TRENTO and
meant the Sunderland could not
On the basis of this report,
(together with ULTRA decrypts, at
this time Bletchley Park were
reading Luftwaffe and Italian
signals, which disclosed that the
Germans were pressing the Italians
to attack the British convoys that
were transporting troops and
supplies to Greece), Cunningham
decided to take the battle fleet to
sea to protect the convoy route to
Greece. The one convoy at sea at the
time was the troop convoy AG 9 that
was ordered to return to Alexandria.
At 1900 hours the battleships
WARSPITE (Flag), BARHAM and VALIANT,
aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and
destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, NUBIAN,
MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, HAVOCK,
HOTSPUR and HMAS STUART sailed from
Alexandria as Force A. On departing
Alexandria course was set 300¼ at 20
-At 0739 hours an aircraft from
FORMIDABLE reported 4 cruisers and 6
destroyers 30 miles south of Gavdos
Island. This was at first thought to
be Force B.
At 0800 hours ORION
sighted two 8in and two 6in Italian
cruisers screened by three
destroyers, some 70 miles south of
At 0814 hours the Italians opened
fire at about 26,000 yards with 8in
salvos and for the next 45 minutes
Force B was engaged in a running
fight, neither side suffering any
At 0827 hours a
sighting report was received from
Force B confirming that the aircraft
sighting report was of an Italian
force, that at that time was 18
miles north of Force B. Force A set
course to intercept the Italian
At 0900 hours VALIANT, MOHAWK and
NUBIAN were detached to proceed
ahead of Force A at a speed of 24
knots to make contact with Force B.
(At the time WARSPITE was having
condenser trouble and could only
make 22 knots)
At 0905 hours a report from one of
FORMIDABLE’s aircraft reported an
enemy force north of the cruisers
which included battleships.
At 0938 hours the strike force from
FORMIDABLE was ordered to attack the
enemy force sighted by Force B. At
this time BARHAM who was having
difficulty in maintaining 22 knots
was ordered to follow astern of the
screen. HMAS VENDETTA was sighted
having been detached from Force B
due to engine trouble. Cunningham
immediately ordered VENDETTA to
At 1000 hours a strike force of six
Albacores of 826 Sqd. Escorted by
two Fulmars of 803 Sqd. took off
from FORMIDABLE to attack the ships
sighted by Force B.
At 1058 hours the cruiser ORION of
Force B confirmed the presence of
the second enemy force of 2
battleships. (There was only one
opened fire on Force B, firing
ninety four 15in shells in 29 salvos
over 23 minutes. However because the
spread of shots was too wide, only
splinter damage was caused to PERTH
1100 hours Cunningham intercepted 3
signals from Force B.
('Make smoke by all means available'
- 'Turn together to 180¼' - 'Proceed
at your utmost speed'. From these
signals Cunningham concluded that
Force B had run into the Italian
battle fleet. Cunningham then
ordered FORMIDABLE to change the air
strike target to the Italian battle
fleet. This attack was carried out
by 6 Albacores of 826 Sqd. The air
strike failed to achieve any hits
but at 1127 hours the air strike
caused the Italian battleship
VITTORIO VENETO to turn away and
thus saved Force B)
1200 hours FORMIDABLE was detached
with 2 destroyers to act
At 1235 hours FORMIDABLE launched a
strike force of 3 Albacores of 829 Sqd
and 2 Fulmars of 803 Sqd.
At 1245 hours Force B comprising
cruisers GLOUCESTER, ORION, AJAX and
HMAS PERTH and destroyers HASTY,
HEREWARD and ILEX joined Force A.
At 1250 hours following loss of
contact with the enemy Cunningham
concluded that the Italian battle
fleet had reversed course.
At 1325 hours WARSPITE reduced speed
to 21 knots to enable FORMIDABLE and
BARHAM to catch up.
At 1350 hours FORMIDABLE launched a
strike force of 3 Albacores and 2
Swordfish armed with torpedoes and
escorted by 2 Fulmars.
At 1515 hours the Italian force
steering 270¼ was sighted by an
aircraft from FORMIDABLE. The report
put the enemy in a position 290¼, 65
miles from WARSPITE.
At 1525 hours the strike force of 3
Albacores and 2 Swordfish commenced
their torpedo run against the Italian
battleship VITTORIO VENETO and the
Fulmars strafed the battleship. The
strike force reported 3 hits on the
battleship and speed reduced to 8
knots. (There was only one hit from an
Albacore in her stern near the port
prop shaft reducing her speed to 15
knots. The aircraft which achieved the
hit was shot down and the crew lost).
On receipt of the strike force report
WARSPITE altered course to 300¼.
At 1644 hours Force B cruisers with
MOHAWK and NUBIAN attached was ordered
to press on and gain contact with the
VITTORIO VENETO force. (MOHAWK and
NUBIAN were positioned between Force A
and Force B to provide visual
signaling between the two forces)
At 1745 hours WARSPITE catapulted off
one of her Swordfish. Reports from
this aircraft between 1831and 1915
hours established the position of the
1835 hours Cunningham ordered a
further air strike against the Italian
force. This strike force comprised 6
Albacores and 2 Swordfish of 826 and
829 Sqds flying from FORMIDABLE and 2
Swordfish of 815 Sqd from Maleme,
By 1915 hours it was clear to
Cunningham that VITTORIO VENETO was 45
miles from WARSPITE and steering 290¼
at 15 knots.
At 1925 hours Force B reported enemy
ships 9 miles to his north engaging
At 1935 hours the air striking force
reported 'probable hits'. In fact at
1958 hours one of the Swordfish of 815
Sqd flown by Lieut. Michael
Torrens-Spence had torpedoed the heavy
cruiser POLA which now lay stopped.
But at this time this was not known to
At 1940 hours Force B sighted the
By 2040 hours Cunningham had decided
on a night action. The destroyers of
the 2ndDF and 14thDF, comprising
JERVIS, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HASTY,
HEREWARD, ILEX and HOTSPUR were
ordered to carry out a torpedo attack.
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, STUART and HAVOCK
remained with the battle fleet.
2111 hours Force B reported a radar
contact on an unknown ship stopped 5
miles to port (This was the damaged
POLA). On receipt of this report
WARSPITE and the battle fleet altered
course to 280¼ to pass nearer the
position. (Force B continued on course
and took no further part in the
At 2210 hours VALIANT, using her Type
279 radar, reported radar contact 6
miles off her port bow, estimated to
be 600 feet long (This was the POLA).
Cunningham decided to investigate this
contact and the battle fleet altered
course together at 2213 hours on to
bearing 240¼ into line ahead.
At 2225 hours 2 heavy cruisers (ZARA
and FIUME) and 4 destroyers (ALFIERI,
CARDUCCI, GIOBERTI and ORIANI) were
sighted from WARSPITE on her starboard
bow. The battle fleet which comprised
WARSPITE, VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, BARHAM
in line ahead, with GREYHOUND and
GRIFFIN on their port side and STUART
and HAVOCK on their starboard side,
turned on to 280¼.
At 2228 hours with ZARA and FIUME now
on the port side of the battle fleet,
FORMIDABLE hauled out of line to
starboard and GREYHOUND illuminated
FIUME with her searchlight and the
battle fleet opened fire with 15in
broadsides on FIUME and ZARA, at the
same time the battleships switched on
Philip was mentioned in dispatches
for his command of a section of the
ship’s searchlight control).
(Part of VALIANT's Report on the
action reads:- "Shortly before this
action, telephonic communication
between the 15in transmitting
station and the radar office, and
also, range transmission from the
gunnery attachment RBL.10 to a range
receiver in the 15in transmitting
station had been fitted by ship's
staff. .After sighting the ZARA and
FIUME, the guns and radar were put
on the FIUME, the right hand ship,
and fire was opened, the AFC
(Admiralty Fire Control) Table being
tuned so that True Range was set to
RDF Range. The broadside was seen to
VALIANT hit the FIUME with one 15in
salvo of four shells and seven 4.5in
salvos totalling approximately 70
VALIANT then switched to the cruiser
ZARA and fired five 15in salvos, a
total of 35 shells and five
4.5insalvos totalling approximately
2235 hours fire was checked, leaving
FIUME, ZARA, ALFIERI and CARDUCCI
seriously damaged, and course was
set on to bearing 010¼, with
FORMIDABLE on the starboard side.
At 2238 hours the screening
destroyers GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN,
STUART and HAVOCK were released and
ordered to finish off the 2
At 2330 hours the battle fleet
altered course to 070¼ speed
- At 0006 hours Cunningham ordered the
Fleet to RV at 0700 hours in position
At 0036 hours STUART reported 3
cruisers and 2 destroyers stopped and
By 0330 hours the 3 damaged cruisers
and 2 destroyers had been sunk by
destroyers. The Italians lost 2303
dead and 1411 made prisoner.
(So ended what was the Battle of
By 0700 hours all units of the fleet
had joined Cunningham in WARSPITE.
Including light cruiser BONAVENTURE
and destroyers DECOY and HMAS WATERHEN
from Alexandria and destroyers JUNO,
JAGUAR and DEFENDER from Suda Bay.
At 0800 hours WARSPITE was in position
35-43N, 21-38E and course was altered
to 220¼ to sweep the area of the night
At 0920 hours STUART, GRIFFIN and
HEREWARD were detached to Piraeus.
Between 0950 and 1100 hours wreckage
and survivors were seen and 905
survivors were picked up by the
At 1100 hours course was set 120¼ for
At 1530 hours the fleet came under air
attack for 12 Ju 88’s dive bombers no
hits were achieved but FORMIDABLE was
narrowly missed by several bombs and
one JU 88 was shot down.
At 1930 hours AJAX, PERTH, DEFENDER
and HASTY were detached to Suda Bay.
BONAVENTURE to convoy GA 8. DECOY to
convoy AN 23.
- At 0834 hours an Italian S 79
shadower was shot down by a Fulmar
At 1730 hours the Fleet arrived at
– At 0700 hours battleships WARSPITE
(Flag), VALIANT and BARHAM, aircraft
carrier FORMIDABLE, light cruiser
PHOEBE, anti-aircraft cruiser CALCUTTA
and destroyers JUNO, JAGUAR, KINGSTON,
KIMBERLEY, GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, HEREWARD
and ENCOUNTER sailed from Alexandria
and set course for Suda Bay to carry
out Operations MD 2 and MD 3.
(Operation MD 2 was the movement of
the supply ship BRECONSHIRE from
Alexandria to Malta and the Malta to
Alexandria convoy ME 7. Operation MD 3
was the bombardment of Tripoli by the
En route to Suda Bay HM Destroyer
DEFENDER joined the Fleet at sea.
- At 1130 hours PHOEBE and CALCUTTA
detached for Piraeus.
At 1200 hours the Fleet arrived at
Suda Bay, where the destroyers
refuelled and WARSPITE off loaded air
compressors, timbers and equipment for
the repair of the damaged cruiser
At 1530 hours the Fleet sailed from
Suda Bay and set a westerly course.
- At 0730 hours south west of the
Island of Kithera the Fleet was joined
by supply Ship BRECONSHIRE escorted by
the light cruiser HMAS PERTH and
At 0800 hours HM Cruisers ORION, AJAX,
GLOUCESTER and HM Destroyers HERO and
HASTY joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1200 hours PHOEBE and CALCUTTA
rejoined the Fleet.
At 1230 hours the Fleet RVed with
convoy ME 7 from Malta. PHOEBE and
CALCUTTA detached and joined
destroyers DIAMOND and NUBIAN
escorting the four ship convoy ME 7
which then proceeded to Alexandria.
Destroyers JARVIS and JANUS detached
from convoy ME 7 and joined the Fleet.
The Fleet then re-organised into two
forces for Operation MD 3:
bombarding force of WARSPITE,
VALIANT, BARHAM, GLOUCESTER,
HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, HERO, HASTY,
HEREWARD, JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO and
The covering force of FORMIDABLE,
AJAX, ORION, PERTH, ENCOUNTER,
GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, KIMBERLEY and
2120 hours the bombarding force turned
on to course 235¼ and the covering
- At 0445 hours the bombarding force
arrived at the position of the marker
submarine TRUANT, who was positioned 4
miles off the entrance of Tripoli
At 0502 hours the bombarding force
opened fire on Tripoli harbour at
ranges between 14000 and 11000
yards. FORMIDABLE provided 3
Swordfish for spotting (who were
unable to spot fall of shot due to
dust). Also taking part were 6 flare
dropping Swordfish of 830 Sqd from
Malta and RAF Wellingtons of 148 Sqd
from Malta who bombed at the same
At 0545 hours fire was checked,
after firing 478 x 15in and 1500
shells of smaller calibres, about
530 tons of ordnance fell on the
port and harbour. The bombarding
force withdrew without there having
been any reaction from the enemy. (The
effects of the bombardment were
disappointing - Axis shipping
traffic to Tripoli was suspended for
a day and a single freighter was
sunk. But damage was caused to the
offloading and storage facilities).
was set for Alexandria.
At 0730 hours the FORMIDABLE force
rejoined and speed was increased to
At 2000 hours JARVIS, JANUS, JUNO
and JAGUAR detached for Malta.
- At 1030 hours the Fleet arrived back
25/4/41, Ultra provided explicit
details of the German plan for an
airborne invasion of Crete to take
place on 20/5/41. First objective
was to capture key airfields at
Maleme, Heraklion and Retimo, by
8,000 paratroops dropped from 520
Ju 52 aircraft, followed by 14,000
airborne troops in gliders)
– At 1500 hours the First Battle
Squadron comprising battleships
BARHAM (Flag, Rear Admiral Rawlings)
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE and destroyers GREYHOUND
and HMAS's STUART, VENDETTA,
VAMPIRE, WATERHEN and VOYAGER sailed
from Alexandria to support convoy GA
GA.15 departed Suda Bay at
1100/29/4/41 the Aegean with
troopships MV DELANE 6054grt, MV
THURLAND CASTLE 6372grt,MV
COMLIEBANK 5149grt, SS CORINTHIA
3701grt, SS ITRIA 6854grt, and SS
IONIA1936grt with a total of 10930
troops and personnel embarked and
the oiler RFA BRAMBLELEAF 5917grt.
The convoy was escorted by the
anti-aircraft cruiser CARLISLE,
destroyers KANDAHAR and KINGSTON,
and sloop AUCKLAND.
The light cruisers ORION (Flag
Vice Admiral Pridham-Wippell),
PHOEBE, AJAX and HMAS PERTH and
destroyers DECOY, DEFENDER, NUBIAN,
HASTY and HEREWARD joined the convoy
north of the Kasos Strait)
– At 0600 hours in approximate
position 34N, 27-30E the First Battle
Squadron RVed with Pridham-Wippell’s
Following the RV, PERTH, PHOEBE and
NUBIAN joined the First Battle
Squadron and the remainder of
Pridham-Wippell’s covering force made
The destroyer ILEX joined the First
Battle Squadron from Alexandria.
The destroyers JUNO and JAGUAR joined
the First Battle Squadron from Malta.
At 0700 hours the First Battle
Squadron RVed with convoy GA 15. The
First Battle Squadron then reversed
course and remained in touch with the
At 1900 hours in approximate position
32-30N, 29E, PERTH and NUBIAN detached
to join the close escort of the
convoy. Following which the First
Battle Squadron reversed course back
towards Crete to provide support for
the destroyers HAVOCK and HOTSPUR who
were withdrawing from Milos Island
with 700 troops and refugees embarked.
VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, PHOEBE
and destroyers GREYHOUND, ILEX,
and HMAS STUART, VENDETTA, VAMPIRE,
WATERHEN and VOYAGER arrived back at
– Battleships WARSPITE (Flag), BARHAM
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, light cruisers AJAX, ORION
and HMAS PERTH, cruiser minelayer
ABDIEL and destroyers of the 14thDF,
JERVIS, JUNO, JAGUAR, KANDAHAR,
KIMBERLEY and KINGSTON and 7thDF, HMAS
NIZAM and NAPIER, IMPERIAL, GRIFFIN,
HOTSPUR and HAVOCK and supply Ship
BRECONSHIRE sailed from Alexandria on
Operations MD 4, MD 6 and MD 7, and to
cover the passage of the Tiger convoy.
Because of the aerial mining of the
harbour entrance channel the previous
night each capital ship was
individually sweep out of the harbour
by minesweepers. This process took
(Operation MD 4 was covering the
passage of convoys MW 7B, slow, and MW
7A, fast, from Alexandria to Malta. MD
6 & 7 were bombardments of
- Early in the morning south of Crete
the Fleet came under attack from 5
enemy bombers, 4 of which were shot
down by Fulmars from FORMIDABLE.
During the day the destroyers were
refueled by the BRECONSHIRE.
At 1800 hours SW of Crete AJAX,
HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL detached
from the Fleet to carry out Operation
MD 6, a bombardment of Benghazi.
- At 1700 hours AJAX, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR
and IMPERIAL rejoined the Fleet.
ABDIEL and BRECONSHIRE escorted by
HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, and IMPERIAL detached
- At 1100 hours east of Malta,
following release from Valletta
harbour, the destroyers KELLY, KELVIN
and JACKAL joined the Fleet.
At 1400 hours 40 miles south of Malta
the Mediterranean Fleet RVed with the
4 merchant ships of the Tiger convoy
and its escort of the battleship QUEEN
ELIZABETH, light cruisers GLOUCESTER,
FIJI, NAIAD, DIDO and PHOEBE,
antiaircraft cruisers CALCUTTA,
CARLISLE and COVENTRY and destroyers
KASHMIR, KIPLING, GREYHOUND, HERO,
HEREWARD, ILEX, ISIS and HASTY. Course
was then set for Alexandria.
- At 1700 hours, 160 miles NNW of
Benghazi KELLY, KELVIN, KASHMIR,
KIPLING and JACKAL detached to carry
out Operation MD 7 a further
bombardment of Benghazi, sinking two
ships and causing damage to port
In the evening after the full moon had
risen the Fleet came under attack from
enemy bombers but due to the intensity
of the AA barrage on hits were
- DIDO and CALCUTTA and destroyers
JANUS and ISIS were detached from the
Fleet to proceed to Alexandria to
- The Tiger convoy arrived at
At 1300 hours WARSPITE, BARHAM,
VALIANT, QUEEN ELIZABETH, FORMIDABLE,
NAIAD, PHOEBE, CARLISLE, COVENTRY,
GLOUCESTER, FIJI, PERTH, JERVIS,
JAGUAR, JUNO, NAPIER, NIZAM,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, ILEX, HERO,
HAVOCK, HOTSPUR, HASTY, HEREWARD,
IMPERIAL, KANDAHAR, KINGSTON and
KIMBERLEY arrived at Alexandria.
- At 2000 hours Force A 1, comprising
the battleships WARSPITE (Flag of CS7,
Rear Admiral Rawlings) and VALIANT,
light cruiser AJAX and destroyers
KIMBERLEY, JANUS, ISIS, HEREWARD,
DECOY, HERO, GRIFFIN and HMAS NAPIER
departed Alexandria to relieve Force A
- Force A 1 arrived off south west
Crete and Force A and B were released
to return to Alexandria to refuel.
Destroyers HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL
detached from Force A and joined Force
objective of Force A 1 to
prevent the intervention of the
Italian Fleet in the invasion of
Crete. All other Forces were
tasked with preventing German
troop from reaching Crete by sea).
- At 0530 hours Force A 1 was 100
miles west of Crete covering the light
forces working inshore.
At 0800 hours the German airborne
attack on Crete began. From their
position the ships of Force A 1 could
see the Ju 52 transports and the DFS
230A gliders carrying the German first
wave of assault forces to attack
At 2200 hours IMPERIAL and KIMBERLEY
detached to join Force D.
- At 0530 hours Force A 1 was in
approximate position 35-42N, 22-12E,
60 miles west of the Antikythira
Strait steaming east to RV with Force
At 0800 west of the Kithera Strait
Force D, comprising light cruisers
DIDO, AJAX, ORION and destroyers ISIS,
IMPERIAL, JANUS and KIMBERLEY joined
Force A 1.
In the forenoon AJAX was damaged by a
During the day Force A 1 remained to
the south west of Kithera prepared to
prevent any attempt by the Italian
Fleet to support the attack on Crete.
At 1800 hours Force D comprising DIDO,
AJAX, ORION, HASTY, HEREWARD, JANUS
and KIMBERLEY detached from Force A 1
to attack enemy troop convoys.
At 2000 hours Force B comprising
GLOUCESTER, FIJI, GREYHOUND and
GRIFFIN detached to patrol off Cape
Throughout the day Force A 1 was under
heavy air attack.
- At 0530 hours Force A 1 was in
approximate position 35-24N, 22-45E,
45 miles south west of the Kythira
channel steaming north west.
At 0700 hours west of the Antikythira
Channel, Force D, comprising DIDO,
AJAX, ORION, HASTY, HEREWARD, JANUS
and KIMBERLEY rejoined Force A 1.
At 0830 hours, south west of Kythira,
Force B, comprising GLOUCESTER, FIJI,
GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN joined Force A
1, after having been under continuous
air attack since 0630 hours.
the 20th and 21st the Luftwaffe
forces were fully occupied
supporting the German paratroops
on Crete, so no attacks were made
on British ships. However the
Luftwaffe was fully aware of the
location of all British naval
forces. On the 22nd the Luftwaffe
was ready to throw all its weight
against the British ships. On the
morning of the 22nd Forces A1, B
and C were within 120 to 150 miles
of the airfields of the Luftwaffe
VIII Fliegerkorps who had up to
228 level bombers, Ju 88, He 111
& Do 17, 205 Ju 87 dive
bombers Ju 87 and 230 fighter
bombers Me 109 & Me 110,
available to attack the British
ships. The Luftwaffe took full
advantage of their complete air
superiority and the closeness of
the British ships to their bases.
At 0530 hours the first Ju 87’s
took off and headed south east for
the British ships)
A1, B and D now patrolled 20 to 30
miles west of the Kithera Channel as
Rear Admiral Rawlings stated in his
report 'serving a useful purpose by
attracting enemy aircraft'.
By 0945 hours all the British naval
forces were under sustained attack
from 650 German aircraft.
At 1045 hours Force A 1 was in
approximate position 36N, 23E when on
the CinC’s orders Force D was detached
to return to Alexandria. Also at this
time an audit of remaining high angle
ammunition revealed the VALIANT was
best placed with 80% remaining.
1225 hours Admiral Rawlings received a
message from CS15, Rear Admiral King,
and CinC Force C, stating that the
NAIAD had been badly damaged and he
was in need of support. On receipt of
the report Rawlings decided to go to
the assistance of King and course was
set westward at 23 knots into the
At 1320 hours the destroyer GREYHOUND
was detached to
sink a large caique spotted between
the islands of Pori and
At 1325 hours
Force C joined Forces A 1 and B and
course was set westwards. Rear
Admiral King, as senior officer, now
took command of the Fleet. However
Force C continued to operate remote
At 1332 hours just as the combined
force was entering the Kithera
Channel, WARSPITE was attacked by
three Me 109 fighter bombers, each
armed with a 250kg semi-armour
piercing bomb. She was hit by one
bomb which caused extensive
damage, reducing her speed to
18 knots. After putting out the
fires and some temporary repairs
WARSPITE stayed with the Fleet.
At 1351 hours, in sight of the
Fleet, the GREYHOUND having sunk the
caique was returning to the Fleet
when she was attacked by eight Ju
87’s, she was hit by three bombs in
succession and sank stern first at
1406 hours in position 36N, 23-10E.
At 1355 hours the
destroyers KANDAHAR and KINGSTON
were detached to go to GREYHOUND’s
aid, but ended up picking up
survivors whilst coming under heavy
air attack themselves.
At 1358 hours King called upon
Rawlings to go to GREYHOUND’s aid.
At 1400 hours King countermanded the
order and ordered Rawlings to
provide close support for Force C.
At 1402 hours, King ordered the
light cruiser FIJI to provide the
destroyers with anti aircraft
defence, and five minutes later King
ordered GLOUCESTER to also assist
ordering the cruisers to assist
the destroyers, Rear Admiral King,
made a huge blunder as he was not
aware of their much reduced high
angle ammunition state. At 1045
hours FIJI, 30%, GLOUCESTER, 18%
and by 1400 hours these
percentages were further reduced)
1413 hours King again ordered Rawlings
to provide Force C with close cover,
adding that Force C had practically no
high angle ammunition left. Rawlings
signalled King with concerns for FIJI
and GLOUCESTER and informing him of
their HA ammunition state. King then
signalled Captain Rowley, commander of
the GLOUCESTER, instructing GLOUCESTER
and FIJI to withdraw at his
At 1530 hours GLOUCESTER and FIJI were
sighted by the Fleet, under continuous
air attack from Ju 87’s and steaming
at full speed to regain the safety of
the Fleet. But with no HA ammunition
left the inevitable happened and
GLOUCESTER was hit and disabled. FIJI
stood by but could do little to help
as she too was out of HA ammunition.
At 1555 hours after King had consulted
with Rawlings over whether the Fleet
should assist GLOUCESTER, he ordered
FIJI to sink GLOUCESTER and the Fleet
withdrew to the south west. At 1900
hours the FIJI, after having survived
some 20 bombing attacks in four hours,
was hit by a bomb from a Me 109 that
scored a hit on the port side
amidships. The ship took up a heavy
list, but was able to steam at reduced
speed until 1930 hours, when a Ju 88
dropped three bombs which sank her.
At 1645 hours VALIANT was hit and
damaged by two bombs that landed
abreast X-turret and one near miss.
These caused some structural damage
and flooding of a bulge compartment.
The attack was made by high level
bombers and probably carried out by Ju
At 1655 hours the CinC Mediterranean
Fleet signalled the Fleet, 'Stick it
out. Keep in V/S touch. Must not let
down the Army in Crete. It is
essential no seaborne enemy force
lands on Crete'.
2230 hours CS7, Rawlings, sent a
most immediate signal to the CinC
Mediterranean Fleet reporting the
loss of GLOUCESTER and FIJI and
stating that the AA ammunition
situation in all vessels was very
low, the battleships had run out of
pom pom ammunition.
22/5/41 was a
day for the Royal Navy, two
cruisers and one destroyer were
sunk and two battleships, two
cruisers and a number of
destroyers damaged. In return
the navy had sunk a few caiques
in which had been lost 320
- At 0408 hours the CinC Mediterranean
Fleet ordered all warships to withdraw
24th - In the early hours all Forces
arrived back at Alexandria.
VALIANT now had to await her turn for
the repair to her bomb damage.
2035 hours, in reply to a request
from the Chiefs of Staff in
London, the CinC Mediterranean
Fleet said that the scale of air
attack now made it no longer
possible for the Navy to operate
in the Aegean or the vicinity of
Crete by day, or to prevent
seaborne landings, without
suffering losses which, added to
those already sustained, would
very seriously prejudice our
command of the Eastern
2132/25/5/41 the Chiefs of Staff
replied, that the Fleet and RAF
must accept whatever risk was
entailed in preventing any
considerable reinforcement from
reaching Crete. If enemy convoys
were reported north of the island,
the Fleet would have to operate
there by day; probably the losses
incurred in so doing would be
considerable, and only experience
would show for how many days this
situation could be maintained.
1334/26/5/41 the CinC
Mediterranean Fleet replied,
surely we have already sufficient
experience of what losses are
likely to be. In three days, two
cruisers and four destroyers were
sunk, one battleship out of action
for several months, and two other
cruisers and four destroyers
sustained considerable damage. We
cannot afford another such
experience and retain sea control
in the Eastern Mediterranean. He
added that supply by sea had not
come much into the picture, as
despite loss and turning back his
convoys the enemy were so prolific
in the air that for the moment he
was able to reinforce and keep his
troops supplied at will, unchecked
by air action on our part, and the
sight of a constant unhindered
procession of Ju 52’s flying into
Crete was among the factors likely
to affect the morale of our
a postscript to his last signal
the CinC Mediterranean Fleet,
added, that at 1330/26/5/41 the
FORMIDABLE had been attacked by 20
dive bombers and considerably
the evacuation of Crete commenced
and continued over four nights)
- At Alexandria awaiting repair of
– At 1000 hours battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Mediterranean
Fleet), WARSPITE, and VALIANT, light
cruiser AJAX, minelayer ABDIEL, and
destroyers KANDAHAR, GRIFFIN, HERO,
JAGUAR, DEFENDER, KIMBERLEY, and
HASTY sailed from Alexandria for
gunnery and other exercises between
Alexandria and Port Said.
At 1200 hours light cruiser PHOEBE
and minelayer LATONA joined the
At 1500 hours WARSPITE detached for
Port Said, escorted by destroyers
KANDAHAR, GRIFFIN, and KIMBERLEY.
– At 0500 hours the destroyer
KIMBERLEY rejoined the Fleet.
At 1500 hours QUEEN ELIZABETH,
VALIANT, AJAX, PHOEBE, ABDIEL, LATONA
and destroyers HERO, JAGUAR, DEFENDER,
KIMBERLEY, and HASTY arrived back at
– VALIANT in company with light
cruiser HMNZS LEANDER screened by
destroyers sailed from Alexandria for
a days exercise.
– Battleships VALIANT, QUEEN
ELIZABETH, light cruiser PHOEBE and
destroyers JACKAL, NIZAM, HASTY,
KIPLING, and HAVOCK departed
Alexandria for exercises.
Joined at sea by the minelaying
- VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH, light
cruiser PHOEBE, minelaying cruiser
LATONA, and destroyers JACKAL, NIZAM,
HASTY, KIPLING, and HAVOCK arrived
back at Alexandria after exercises.
- At 2100 hours battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH, VALIANT, light cruisers
HMAS HOBART, NAIAD, NEPTUNE and
PHOEBE, cruiser minelayers ABDIEL and
LATONA screened by HM Destroyers
GRIFFIN, HASTY, HAVOCK, JACKAL, NUBIAN
and HMAS NIZAM sailed from Alexandria.
- At 0600 hours off Alexandria the
Battle Fleet was joined by the light
cruisers AJAX and HMNZS LEANDER and
destroyers JAGUAR, JERVIS, KANDAHAR
and KINGSTON. The Fleet then sailed
for a diversionary cruise in the
eastern Mediterranean during the
passage of a relief convoy to Malta
from Gibraltar (Operation MD5 –cover
for Operation SUBSTANCE by Force H.)
At 2200 hours NEPTUNE, ABDIEL and
KIMBERLEY detached for the fleet.
- LEANDER and JAGUAR detached from the
- The Battle Fleet arrived back at
– At 0900 hours battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH, BARHAM, and VALIANT, light
cruisers AJAX, NEPTUNE and HOBART, and
destroyers JERVIS, JUPITER, KINGSTON,
KIPLING, HERO, HOTSPUR, DECOY and
VENDETTA sailed from Alexandria to act
as a diversion for operation HALBERD
being carried out by Force H.
At 1900 hours the destroyer NAPIER
joined the Fleet at sea from
– At 1400 hours the Fleet returned to
– At 0530 hours battleships BARHAM and
VALIANT, light cruisers AJAX and
HOBART, and destroyers JERVIS, JAGUAR,
JUPITER, KANDAHAR, GRIFFIN, HASTY,
HOTSPUR, DECOY, AVONVALE, and ERIDGE
departed Alexandria to sweep westward.
At 0730 hours in position 31-14N,
29-14E. The destroyer JERVIS attacked
a submarine contact.
At 1800, the Fleet turned back to the
– At 1130 hours the Fleet returned to
– At 0700 hours battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH and VALIANT, light cruisers
AJAX, HOBART and GALATEA and
destroyers JERVIS, JAGUAR, GRIFFIN,
JUPITER, KANDAHAR, HASTY, HOTSPUR,
DECOY, AVONVALE and ERIDGE departed
Alexandria and proceeded westward.
At 1800, the cruisers AJAX, HOBART,
and GALATEA and destroyers JERVIS,
JAGUAR, and JUPITER were detached to
pass through position 33-00N, 24-30E
at midnight and rejoin the Fleet at
– At 0500 hours the Fleet set course
At 1315 hours a report was received of
three Italian cruisers and six
destroyers approaching the North
light cruisers DUCA D'AOSTA,
EUGENIO DI SAVOIA, and
MONTECUCCOLI and destroyers
VIVALDI, MALOCELLO, PIGAFETTA, DE
VERAZZANO, AVIERE, and CAMICIA
NERA were to lay mines off
Benghazi during the night of 12/13
October. However, the operation
was cancelled when it was found
that the Mediterranean Fleet was
no contact was made with the enemy
force the Fleet set course for
– At 0530 hours the Fleet arrived back
- VALIANT, light cruiser HOBART, and
four destroyers were at sea from
Alexandria on exercises.
- Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, BARHAM
and VALIANT, light cruisers NAIAD,
GALATEA, and EURYALUS, and destroyers
JERVIS, KIMBERLEY, KINGSTON, NAPIER,
NIZAM, KIPLING, JACKAL, DECOY,
AVONVALE, and ERIDGE departed
Alexandria and sailed west in support
of Operation CHIEFTAIN, the dummy
convoy in the western Mediterranean;
and to divert attention from the
bombardment of Libyan coast positions
by 7th and 15th Cruiser Squadrons
(Operation ME.4) in support of
(Operation CRUSADER was the attack by
the 8th Army to lift the siege of
(Operation CHIEFTAIN was a decoy Malta
convoy that sailed from Gibraltar at
1800/16/11/41 and consisted of the
merchant vessels BLAIRATHOLL
(3319grt), BARON NEWLANDS (3386grt),
SHUNA (1575grt), CISNEROS (1886grt),
and OTTINGE (2870grt), and oiler BROWN
RANGER escorted by destroyer WILD
SWAN, sloop DEPTFORD, and corvettes
CONVOLVULUS, RHODODENDRON, and
MARIGOLD. The objective of the convoy
was to draw enemy aircraft away from
Operation CRUSADER. In the event it
failed in its objective and the only
positive outcome was the sinking of U
433 by the MARIGOLD).
At 1630 hours the Fleet reversed
course and steered east for
– At 1030 hours the Fleet arrived back
- Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, BARHAM
and VALIANT, light cruisers NAIAD,
EURYALUS, and GALATEA, and destroyers
JERVIS, KANDAHAR, KIMBERLEY, KINGSTON,
NAPIER, NIZAM, KIPLING, JACKAL, HASTY,
HOTSPUR, and DECOY departed Alexandria
to operate in coordination with
Operation CRUSADER to simulate an
attack on Tripoli to draw German and
Italian air strength away from Halfaya
At 1200 hours light cruisers AJAX,
NEPTUNE and HMAS HOBART joined the
At nightfall AJAX, NEPTUNE and HMAS
HOBART detached from the fleet.
- At daylight the Fleet returned to
– At 1600 hours battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH, VALIANT and BARHAM and
destroyers JERVIS, GRIFFIN, and DECOY
departed Alexandria to support
operations by Force K (Force K, light
cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE and
destroyers LANCE and LIVELY had
departed Malta on 23/11/41 to
intercept Italian convoys); and to
support Operation CRUSADER. Five other
destroyers were unable to sail with
the Fleet as they were still oiling
when the Fleet departed.
In the swept channel the Fleet was
joined by destroyers FARNDALE,
AVONVALE and ERIDGE and these
destroyers formed part of the Fleet
screen until relieved.
At 2245 hours destroyers KIPLING,
JACKAL, HASTY and HMAS NAPIER and
NIZAM joined from Alexandria having
Following which destroyers FARNDALE,
AVONVALE and ERIDGE detached and
returned to Alexandria.
– During the morning and afternoon the
Battle Fleet steamed alternately east
and west off the Gulf of Sollum
waiting for bombardment requests from
the 8th Army.
At 1625 hours the three battleships
were steaming in echelon on the
starboard leg of the zig-zag pattern,
QUEEN ELIZABETH, leading, BARHAM in
the centre and VALIANT astern. The
German submarine U-331 managed to
penetrate the destroyer screen and
from almost point blank range fired
four torpedoes, three of which hit the
BARHAM on her port side. The BARHAM
rolled over and sank in position
32-34N, 26-24E, four minutes after the
first torpedo hit, following the
detonation of a magazine.
On seeing the first torpedo hit,
VALIANT’s officer of the watch ordered
'Hard-a-port' and 15 seconds later as
the VALIANT started to turn to port,
U-331’s bow broke the surface about
eight degrees off the port how at a
distance of approximately 150 yards
ahead and moving from left to right.
By this time VALIANT had swung about
eight degrees to port.
firing of the torpedoes
compromised U-331’s buoyancy and
caused her bow, periscope and the
top of the conning tower of broach
sighting the submarine the OOW ordered
'Amidships', and then
'hard-a-starboard' in an endeavour to
ram the submarine. However the
manoeuvre was unsuccessful and the
submarine passed down VALIANT’s
starboard side, and after being
visible for 45 seconds, submerged when
abreast the bridge at a distance of
about fifty yards. As it appeared on
the starboard side the S1 pom-pom
fired 19 rounds at it with the maximum
depression, but all the rounds were
Aboard the VALIANT when BARHAM was hit
was the Gaumont News cameraman John
Turner who shot 2 minutes of movie
film, all he had left in the camera,
of the sinking. This film became one
of the most poignant shot in the whole
war and is frequently used in films
about WW2 naval actions.
- At 1000 hours the Fleet arrived back
– (At approximate1840 hours the
Italian submarine SCIRE arrived in a
position about a mile west of the
entrance to Alexandria harbour. At
2047 hours three SLC (Siluro
Lenta Corsa = Slow moving torpedo),
known as Maiale (Italian
word for pigs) with a top
speed of 2knots submerged and a
range of 15 miles, were launched
from SCIRE. Each Maiale carried
two commandos from the 10th
flotilla MAS, after launching they
headed for the harbour entrance.
When they arrived at the harbour
entrance they found the
anti-submarine boom open for the
passage of the cruisers and
destroyers returning from
escorting the BRECONSHIRE to
Malta. The three Maiales followed
the British forces into Alexandria
harbour and headed for their
targets the battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH, VALIANT and a fleet
oiler. The VALIANT was the target
of the Maiale, SLC 221, manned by
Durand De La Penne and Emilio
– At approximately 0230 hours Durand
De La Penne and Emilio Bianchi placed
the explosive warhead of the Maiale,
which was a standard 270 kg torpedo
warhead, filled with TNT, on the
harbour bottom underneath the VALIANT.
At 0325 hours Durand De La Penne and
Emilio Bianchi were sighted sitting on
VALIANT’s mooring buoy and were taken
aboard the VALIANT, where they were
questioned, but refused to answer any
questions. They were detained in a
compartment on board VALIANT until
0600 hours when De La Penne asked to
speak to VALIANT’s CO, Captain Morgan.
De La Penne informed Morgan that the
device they had planted was due to
explode imminently. De La Penne was
then returned to the compartment.
At 0547 hours an explosive device went
off under the stern of the oiler MV
SAGONA 7554grt, at the time of the
explosion the SAGONA had four
destroyers alongside refuelling, one
of which, the JERVIS, was also damaged
by the explosion.
At 0606 hours the explosive device
went off under VALIANT’s A turret,
causing flooding and serious damage to
At 0610 hours an explosive device went
off under the QUEEN ELIZABETH.
Both VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH
settled on the harbour bottom on an
even keel in a few feet of water.
other four commandos failed to
escape and were also captured. At
a stroke the six commandos had
knocked out the Royal Navy’s
Mediterranean Battle Fleet. When
Churchill received news of the
sinkings he said, 'Six
Italians, dressed in rather
unusual diving suits and equipped
with materials of laughably little
cost, have swung the military
balance of power in the
Mediterranean in favour of the
Axis'. Fortunately for the Allies
the enemy was not fully aware of
the precarious position of the
Mediterranean Fleet. One reason
the British allowed
photographs of the seemingly
undamaged battleships to appear
in the British press.)
work on VALIANT commenced immediately.
VALIANT pumped out her fuel into the
tanker CLYDEFIELD and the RFA oiler
– At 0950 hours VALIANT was towed into
the Admiralty floating dock AFD 5
which had a maximum lift of 31,500
tons, for temporary repairs.
9 4 2
repair at Alexandria. VALIANT’s Type
79Z radar was converted to Type 279
during this period.
repair at Alexandria.
– VALIANT sailed from Alexandria for
- Called at Aden en route to Durban.
– Arrived at Durban where she was
taken in hand for repair and refit.
May VALIANT had a change of commanding
officers her new CO was Captain Leslie
Haliburton Ashmore RN.
repair and refit. Aircraft warning
radar Type 279 replaced by Type 281.
– Battleships RESOLUTION (wearing
flag of Vice Admiral Sir
A U Wills RN
Second in Command, Eastern Fleet and
Battle Squadron), ROYAL SOVEREIGN
and VALIANT, light cruiser DAUNTLESS
FOXHOUND, DECOY, BLACKMORE and HMAS
NORMAN and NIZAM, known as Force B,
sailed from Kilindini to RV with
Force A of the Eastern Fleet to
carry out tactical exercises.
– Force B RVed with Force A that
comprised battleship WARSPITE (wearing
the flag of CinC Eastern Fleet),
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS (wearing
the flag of Rear Admiral Aircraft
Carriers, Eastern Fleet), light
cruisers MAURITIUS and HMNethS
VAN HEEMSKERK and destroyers HMAS
(Commodore (D)), INCONSTANT, ACTIVE
and FORTUNE. For these exercises
Force A was placed under the charge
of Rear Admiral Commanding Aircraft
carriers. Exercises were carried out
throughout the day.
At the end of the exercises
ILLUSTRIOUS with two destroyers
detached from the fleet and
proceeded to Tanga to disembark
aircraft. The remainder of the Fleet
headed for Kilindini.
– At 0900 hours, following the
completion of the exercises at sea
with Force B, the combined forces A
and B, comprising battleships WARSPITE
(Flag of Commander in Chief, Eastern
Fleet), VALIANT, RESOLUTION (Flag of
Vice Admiral, Second in Command,
Eastern Fleet, ROYAL SOVEREIGN,
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag of
Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers,
Eastern Fleet), light cruisers
MAURITIUS and HMNethS
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK
and destroyers GRIFFIN, DECOY,
INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND,
ACTIVE, BLACKMORE and HMAS NAPIER,
NORMAN and NIZAM, arrived at
WARSPITE (CinC Eastern Fleet),
RESOLUTION and VALIANT, light
cruisers GAMBIA, ENTERPRISE and
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK and destroyers
GRIFFIN, DECOY, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE,
FOXHOUND, HMAS NAPIER and NEPAL and
HMNethS VAN GALEN and TJERK HIDDES
sailed from Kilindini to carry out
TOUCHSTONE was an exercise to test
out the defences of East Africa
against a seaborne Japanese
invasion and, also, to provide
cover for the operation and a
dress rehearsal for the
forthcoming Madagascar operations
[STREAM, LINE and JANE]. Royal
Marines and naval landing parties
from the naval force were to make
landings at Tanga, Dar es Salaam,
and Zanzibar Island)
- Operating off the East African coast
in approximate position 6S, 41E.
Covering Operation TOUCHSTONE.
After nightfall the Fleet returned to
was very little opportunity for
exercises at sea in the vicinity of
Kilindini owing to the lack of
destroyer escorts. VALIANT was only
able to exercise once in this period.
– Battleships WARSPITE
(Vice Admiral Eastern Fleet) and
VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, light cruisers
BIRMINGHAM (CS 4) and GAMBIA, AMC
RANPURA and destroyers ROTHERHAM (D
11), NEPAL, HOTSPUR, BLACKMORE and
Kilindini as Force A to carry out
- RANPURA detached from Force A and
returned to Kilindini.
- Force A less GAMBIA arrived back at
9 4 3
for return to UK.
escorted by destroyers HOTSPUR and
BLACKMORE sailed from Kilindini for
– VALIANT and destroyers HOTSPUR and
BLACKMORE arrived at Durban.
January sailed for the UK.
to the UK
– Arrived at Devonport
– Taken in hand for refit.
refit at Devonport. Aircraft
facilities removed. Surface warning
Type 273 fitted and fire control
radars Types 284 for the 15in main
armament, Four Type 285 for secondary
armament and four Type 282 for Close
Range AA armament fitted. Single and
twin Oerlikons fitted to supplement AA
- Refit completed
– At 1300 hours VALIANT escorted by
destroyers ORP ORKAN and PIORUN and
one other sailed from Plymouth for
– Off the mouth of the Clyde
destroyers TUMULT, BRECON and BLANKNEY
joined from Greenock following which
destroyers ORP ORKAN and PIORUN
detached and retuned to Plymouth
– At 0600 hours VALIANT with
destroyers TUMULT, BRECON and BLANKNEY
arrived at Scapa to commence working
the remainder of the month at Scapa
– At Scapa where NELSON (Flag Vice
Admiral Algernon U Willis CinC Force
H), RODNEY, VALIANT and WARSPITE
commenced a series of bombardment and
preparatory exercises off Cape Wrath
in preparation for the planned allied
landings in Sicily, Operation HUSKY.
– At 1400 hours NELSON (Flag Force H),
RODNEY, VALIANT, WARSPITE, aircraft
carrier INDOMITABLE and destroyers
ECHO, FAULKNOR (D8), FURY, INGLEFIELD,
INTREPID, OFFA, PANTHER, PATHFINDER,
QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D4) and
ORP PIORUN sailed from Scapa for
– Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
to 27th - Carried out 4 days of AA
exercises with other units of Force H.
- At 1630 hours WARSPITE (2ic Force
FORMIDABLE, AURORA, PENELOPE
escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR (D
8), INTREPID, FURY, INGLEFIELD,
ECHO, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, ILEX,
RAIDER and HHellMS QUEEN
OLGA sailed from Gibraltar for
Arrived early at Algiers.
Sailed later for Alexandria less
AURORA and PENELOPE.
passage to Alexandria
- At 0630 hours the force anchored off
Ras-el-Tin Lighthouse, Alexandria Bay.
- At 1045 hours WARSPITE
(2IC Force H) division of Force H,
VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, escorted by
destroyers FAULKNOR (D 8), INTREPID,
FURY, INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ECLIPSE,
INGLEFIELD, ILEX, RAIDER and
HHellMS VASILISSA OLGA sailed
from Alexandria Bay for the Gulf of
- At 0600 hours in the Gulf of Sirte,
240 miles south east of Malta, the
WARSPITE division of Force H RVed with
the NELSON (CinC Force H), RODNEY,
(FS Rear Admiral Lumley Lyster),
light cruisers CLEOPATRA and
EURYALUS and destroyers OFFA,
PANTHER, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH,
QUILLIAM (D 4), TROUBRIDGE, TUMULT,
TYRIAN and ORP PIORUN.
Force H then
provided distant cover for the
combined convoys, MWF 36 (Ex Port
Said 5/7/43) and MWS 36 (Ex
Alexandria 3/7/43), SBS 1, SBM 1,
SBF 1(Ex Sfax 8/7/43) and MWS 36X
(Ex Tripoli 8/7/43) consisting of MT
freighters, tankers, landing ships
and landing craft for the invasion
of Sicily, Operation HUSKY.
HUSKY was the allied invasion of
Sicily. The primary purpose of the
RN capital ships was to prevent
the Italian navy from intervening
in the operation. Their secondary
purpose was on D-1, FORCE H was to
move into the Ionian Sea so as to
appear to threaten the west coast
of Greece on D Day, thus serving
as a means to divert the enemy's
attention at the critical moment,
and it was to maintain this
position until D + 2. Their third
purpose was to provide bombardment
support if required by the army.
To carry out their functions they
were divided into three
1comprised NELSON (Flag,
RODNEY and INDOMITABLE.
2 comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT and
3 comprised KING GEORGE V
Vice Admiral Arthur John Power)
and HOWE. Division 3 was also
known as Force Z)
0700 hours AURORA and PENELOPE joined
0730 hours AURORA, PENELOPE,
INGLEFIELD and OFFA detached to
carry out Operation ARSENAL.
(Operation ARSENAL was a naval
bombardment of Catania)
the invasion on the night of 9/10
July Force H was deployed in Ionian
Sea as a covering Force for the
landing operations to prevent
possible interference from the
- AURORA, PENELOPE, INGLEFIELD and
OFFA rejoined Force H.
At daylight Force H was approximately
40 miles off Cape Passero.
During the day Force H continued to
patrol off Cape Passero.
- WARSPITE and VALIANT with escorting
destroyers detached from Force H and
proceeded to Malta for refueling.
Later in the day the WARSPITE division
sailed from Malta and rejoined Force H
- 25 miles SE of Cape Spartivento ECHO
and ILEX, who were part of Force H
screen, sank the Italian submarine
- Whilst patrolling the Ionian Sea
Force H was attacked by Italian
torpedo bombers, without result,
although CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS were
- At 0015 hours the
INDOMITABLE was torpedoed, port side
amidships, by a lone Ju 88.
INDOMITABLE returned to Malta
escorted by WARSPITE, VALIANT,
FAULKNOR, FURY, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD,
INTREPID, PETARD, RAIDER and
- Early in the day due to overcrowding
in Grand Harbour WARSPITE and VALIANT
moved round to Marsaxlokk Bay. En
route VALIANT fouled the
anti-submarine defences and was held
firm so WARSPITE proceeded alone,
whilst VALIANT was cut free and
checked for damage.
Malta on standby to support military
operations in Sicily.
- Battleships WARSPITE (2iC Force H)
and VALIANT, light cruisers MAURITIUS
and ORION escorted by destroyers
FAULKNOR (D 8), FURY, INGLEFIELD,
INTREPID, ECLIPSE and RAIDER sailed
from Grand Harbour on Operation SLEDGE
part of Operation BAYTOWN.
BAYTOWN was the assault across the
Straits of Messina, by X111 Corps
of the 8th Army, on the Italian
mainland province of Calabria, due
to commence at daylight on 3/9/43.
Operation SLEDGE was the softening
up bombardment prior to the
assault, carried out by the 2nd
division of Force H)
- At 1000 hours WARSPITE and VALIANT
opened fire on 155mm coastal batteries
south of Reggio. The bombardment was
also carried out by monitors
EREBUS, ROBERTS and ABERCROMBIE,
light cruisers MAURITIUS
and ORION and river
gunboats APHIS and SCARAB the
escorting destroyers also joined in.
Following the bombardment the force
remained in the area to provide
support for the invasion.
- In the early hours destroyer TARTAR
with CinC ANCXF Admiral Cunningham
embarked, joined the force. This was
to enable the CinC to observe the
At daylight the British X111 corps
Calabria and Villa San under cover
of gunfire from the off shore naval
force, artillery fire from Sicily
and aerial support.
(The landings were unopposed as the
German 29th Panzer Grenadier
Division had withdrawn from the
coast and the Italian forces
surrendered without a fight)
- Arrived back at Malta.
- At 1700 hours battleships WARSPITE
(2ic Force H) and VALIANT escorted by
destroyers FAULKNOR (D 8), FURY,
INGLEFIELD, INTREPID and RAIDER sailed
from Marsaxlokk Bay on Operation
At 1820 hours off Grand Harbour the
force was joined by aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, and destroyers ECHO, ILEX
and HHellMS VASILISSA
OLGA. The combined force formed the
2nd division of Force H and course was
set westward until midnight when
course was altered northwards towards
the west of Sicily.
AVALANCHE was the landing of the
British X Corps and US V1 Corps of
the 5th Army at Salerno Bay at
Bay which has a beach of 20
miles and was within aerial
striking range of Sicily. It was
the best possible landing site
in the area; as such, the
Germans fully anticipated the
landing and were fully prepared
for it. In order to achieve
surprise no preliminary naval
bombardment took place. As
a result of all these factors,
the landings at Salerno was
- At 0545 hours the force was
unsuccessfully attacked by torpedo
bombers. In this attack VALIANT’s
antiaircraft fire forced 15 aircraft
to abort their attack.
At 0700 hours the two divisions of
Force H combined.
At 1000 hours the combined Force H
arrived off Marettimo Island where
they cruised until 1730 hours.
At 1730 hours Force H set course for
the Salerno area. The course set was
designed to keep Force H end on to the
moon, thereby presenting the most
difficult target for air attack.
At 1830 hours Radio Algiers announced
that Italy had concluded an armistice
with the Allies.
At 1845 hours Marshal Badoglio
announced on radio "The
Italian Government, recognizing the
impossibility of continuing the
uneven struggle against the
overwhelming enemy power, with the
intent of saving further and more
serious calamities to the Nation,
has asked Gen. Eisenhower, CinC of
the Allies forces, for an armistice.
The request has been accepted.
Consequently every action of
hostility against the allied armed
forces must stop from the Italian
armed forces in every place. They
(the Italian forces), however, will
react to possible attacks of any
(The armistice had actually been
signed in Sicily on 3/9/43)
From 2100 hours the capital ships of
Force H were under air attack mainly
from single-engine fighter bombers.
- Air attacks continued.
At 0040 hours the air attacks ceased.
At 0300 hours the assault troops
started to land.
At 0500 hours the air attacks
At 1330 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT,
FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER
VASILISSA OLGA and FS Le TERRIBLE
detached from Force H and set course
south west for a position 360¼ Cape de
Garde (now Ras El Hamra) Algeria, 20
miles, to carry out Operation GIBBON.
GIBBON was the reception of the
surrendered Italian Fleet by units
of the Allied Navy. In accordance
with clause 4 of the surrender
document. At 0300/9/9/43 the
Italian Fleet of 3 Battleships, 3
Cruisers and 8 Destroyers sailed
from La Spezia with instructions
to sail south, westward of Corsica
and Sardinia, to a position north
of Bone. En route the Italian
Fleet was attacked by German
aircraft and in the attack the
Battleship ROMA was hit by two
FX-1400 missiles and at
1612/9/9/43 rolled over and sank
taking the Italian Fleet CinC,
Admiral Bergamini, with her)
2130 hours Le TERRIBLE detached and
returned to Force H.
- At 0832 hours the Italian Fleet hove
into sight from the north.
At 0916 hours the Italian Fleet was
ordered to follow astern of the Allied
ships, with WARSPITE leading, and
course was set east for Malta.
- North of Malta the force was met by
the destroyer HAMBLETON who had
embarked General Dwight D Eisenhower
the Allied CinC.
The Italian Fleet and the escorting
force of WARSPITE, VALIANT, FAULKNOR,
FURY, ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER,
VASILISSA OLGA and OFFA then entered
Grand Harbour and Marsaxlokk Bay.
- At 1700 hours Force H comprising
battleships NELSON (CinC Force H),
RODNEY, WARSPITE, and VALIANT,
aircraft carriers FORMIDABLE and
ILLUSTRIOUS escorted by destroyers
JERVIS (D 14), ILEX, PATHFINDER, PENN
and PETARD sailed from Malta for
Gibraltar. VALIANT was en route to the
UK to prepare for service with the
At 2000 hours the CinC Force H
received a signal recalling Force H
and instructing him to detach WARSPITE
and VALIANT with the escorting
destroyers to proceed with all
dispatch to Salerno Bay.
reason for this deployment was
because during the 12th-14th
September the Germans unleashed a
concerted counterattack by six
divisions against the Salerno
beachhead with the objective of
driving the allies into the sea
before it could link with the
Eighth Army. Heavy casualties were
inflicted and on 13th they drove a
salient between the two American
divisions, the 34th and 45th,
where the Sele and Calore Rivers
merged. The Allied troops were too
thinly spread to be able to resist
the concentrated attacks. The
heavy batteries of the battleships
were urgently needed to redress
- At 1100 hours VALIANT (Captain
Ashmore CO of VALIANT was in Command),
WARSPITE and destroyers JERVIS (D 14),
ILEX, PATHFINDER, PENN and PETARD
arrived off the beachhead in the
middle of an air attack by FW 190’s.
On arrival VALIANT’s gunnery officer
crossed to the HQ ship USS BISCAYNE to
obtain target information. The
briefing and target details took over
5 hours. VALIANT was allocated the
northern sector of the beachhead.
At 1630 hours on arrival at her
station VALIANT sent a forward
observation (FO) party ashore but
having set up the FO party were unable
to communicate with VALIANT. A
frustrated Captain Ashmore then
arranged with WARSPITE’s FO party to
engage targets at the end of
WARSPITE’s bombardment but was told
the no further targets were available.
Captain Ashmore then ordered both
battleships to move out to sea
– At 0800 hours VALIANT arrived back
at her bombardment position off the
northern beachhead. Again there were
communication problems with her FO
Finally at 1545 hours VALIANT opened
fire on the town of Nocera, and a
nearby road junction, firing 19 rounds
of 15in from a range of approximately
At 1400 hours VALIANT sailed for
– At 0300 hours arrived at Augusta,
where she remained until the Salerno
beachhead was secure.
– Released from Operation Avalanche
and sailed from Malta.
– Sailed from Malta for Gibraltar.
– Arrived at Gibraltar.
– At 1400 hours VALIANT, aircraft
carriers ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE and
UNICORN escorted by destroyers ONSLOW
(Captain (D) Seventeenth Destroyer
Flotilla), MAHRATTA, OBEDIENT,
MATCHLESS, VENUS, HARDY, INGLEFIELD
and HNorMS STORD, sailed from
Gibraltar for the United Kingdom.
– At 1820 hours ILLUSTRIOUS and
FORMIDABLE escorted by INGLEFIELD,
OBEDIENT, VENUS and HNorMS STORD
detached after being ordered to return
– In position 41-15N, 15-55W the
destroyer MATCHLESS broke down with
condenser trouble. MAHRATTA detached
and stood by MATCHLESS.
– At 0100 hours MAHRATTA reported
MATCHLESS completely recovered and
they were proceeding at 24 knots to
– At 1200 hours in approximate
position 48-30N, 13W VALIANT escorted
by MAHRATTA and MATCHLESS detached for
– At 1500 hours VALIANT escorted by
MAHRATTA and MATCHLESS arrived at
– At Devonport VALIANT exchanged crews
with the battleship MALAYA.
VALIANT was then taken in hand for a
refit to prepare her for service with
the Eastern Fleet.
– At Devonport VALIANT
had a change of commanding officers
her new CO was Captain George Eric
Maxia O’Donnell, DSO, RN.
Devonport under refit.
– In the morning sailed from
Plymouth under escort for Lamlash,
Isle of Arran to commence working
– Arrived off Lamlash.
– Sailed from Lamlash under escort
for Scapa to continue working up.
– Arrived at Scapa.
– At 1700 hours Group A of the First
Battle Squadron Eastern Fleet
comprising battle cruiser RENOWN
(Flag Vice Admiral A S Power)
battleships VALIANT and QUEEN
ELIZABETH, and destroyers
KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS, TERMAGANT and
TUSCAN sailed from Scapa.
30th - At
1700 hours Group A of the First Battle Squadron Eastern
Fleet comprising battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag of Vice
Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, as Vice Admiral Commanding
First Battle Squadron and Second in Command Eastern
Fleet) battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT and
destroyer TUSCAN and the frigates BLACKWOOD, DOMETT and
BERRY sailed from Scapa and proceeded through the
Minches to RV with the Carrier Force to the westward of
In a heavy sea in the Pentland Firth, the TUSCAN sustained damage
to her forecastle and breakwater. She continued with the
Squadron until off Skerryvore when she was detached to
the Clyde for repairs.
31st - At 1030 hours in approximate position 56-24N, 8-18W the
TUSCAN detached for the Clyde to repair her weather
At the same time Group A were joined by the aircraft carriers
ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag Rear Admiral C. Moody, Rear Admiral,
Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet) and UNICORN escorted
by the destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT
from the Clyde.
Also joining were the frigates DUCKWORTH, COOKE, ESSINGTON and
PARRETT from Londonderry. All the frigates of EG 3,
Western Approaches Command were now part of the escort.
The combined force then shaped course to the westward to make
good a speed of 16 knots along a route which had been
ordered by the Admiralty and which was expected to
enable the force to pass the Straits of Gibraltar on the
night of 5th – 6th January.
At 1200 hours the Force were in position 56-15N, 9-30W.
In the afternoon, a signal was received from the Admiralty
ordering a change of route, after passing the longitude
of 10 degrees west. This diverted the Squadron further
to the westward and added about 150 miles to the
distance to be covered. Course was altered accordingly.
1st - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 51-50N, 17-13W.
2nd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 46-57N, 22-47W.
3rd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 41-03N, 22-20W.
4th - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 36-41N, 16-50W
At 1700 the Force divided into two groups in order that the
capital ships that were to fuel at Gibraltar might go on
ahead at a greater speed of advance than the diesel
escort vessels could maintain.
The first group, consisting of the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT and the destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and
KEMPENFELT and the frigates DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON made
good 18 knots speed of advance, steering for Gibraltar.
The ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN escorted by the frigates COOKE,
BLACKWOOD, DOMETT, BERRY and PARRETT, followed at 16 ½
5th - At 0800 hours in position 35-41N, 10W the battleship group
RVed with the destroyers ANTHONY, ACTIVE, BRILLIANT,
INGLEFIELD, ISIS and URCHIN from Gibraltar. These
destroyers were ordered to join the carrier group so
that the diesel frigates and PARRETT could be released
At 1200 hours the battleship group were in position 35-30N,
At 2130 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT and
TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT arrived at Gibraltar
and commenced fuelling from tankers. Precautions were
taken to minimize the risk of the ships being sighted
from neutral Spain.
6th - At 0415 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT the
destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the
frigates DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON sailed from Gibraltar
and steered for a prearranged RV with the carriers 50
miles to the eastward of Europa Point.
At 0800 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT the
destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the
frigates DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON RV with the ILLUSTRIOUS
and UNICORN and the destroyers ANTHONY, ACTIVE,
BRILLIANT, INGLEFIELD, ISIS and URCHIN. The Force then
continued to the eastward at a speed of advance of 14
had been intended that four of the destroyers from
Gibraltar should be detached when the rendezvous was
made, but, as the frigates could not yet catch up, the
four destroyers were retained until the next morning.
the day fighter patrols and A/S air patrols were flown
from the carriers, but all the aircraft were landed on
before sunset. Shore based fighters provided for the
dusk period, and also a night A/S patrol ahead of the
force from dusk to daylight, and night fighters
patrolled to the north)
- At 0800 hours the frigates COOKE, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT
and BERRY rejoined the Force, relieving the destroyers
ISIS, BRILLIANT, ANTHONY and ACTIVE who then detached
and returned to Gibraltar.
after parting company, the destroyers were diverted to
hunt a U boat off Cape de Gata. This U boat had been
fixed by D/F bearings and was subsequently sighted by
aircraft during the night)
1200 hours the Force was in position 37-16N, 03-06E
2300 hours the destroyers KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and
TERMAGANT detached for Bizerte to refuel.
At 1200 hours the Force was in position 37-17N, 10-05E.
1400 hours the destroyers KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and
TERMAGANT rejoined from Bizerte.
1530 hours when passing north of Bizerta, the destroyer
INGLEFIELD was detached to Bizerta and took with her a
hospital case from the ESSINGTON.
2359 hours the destroyer URCHIN was detached to proceed
to Malta to refuel.
- The Force proceeded to the south of Malta on a
generally south easterly course.
the early morning there was a certain amount of enemy
air activity off Cyrenaica, some four hundred miles to
the east of the Force and a convoy off Apollonia,
Crete, reported at about 0100 hours that it was under
diversion was ordered in the forenoon to take effect
from 1200 hours. This diverted the Force into the Gulf
of Sidra, some 60 miles to the southward of the
original route. It kept them clear of the convoys
which were converging on the Benghazi Corner; and it
added some ninety miles to its distance from enemy
radar stations in Crete during the early hours of
darkness; and it enabled the force to make most of the
passage between Benghazi and Tobruk in daylight)
1200 hours the Force was in position 33-29N, 15-35E. At
this time the Squadron altered course to the southward
into the Gulf of Sidra.
- At 1200 hours the Force was in position 33-05N,
after 2000 hours a signal was received that the Force
and a slow eastbound convoy, [probably convoy
GUS 27] which was about 70 miles to the
westward, had probably been sighted by enemy aircraft
about 1730 hours)
11th - Between 0930 and 1100 hours
torpedo attacks on the Force were carried out by shore
based aircraft and interception by fighters from
ILLUSTRIOUS was exercised.
1200 hours the Force was in position 31-30N, 28-06E.
1615 hours an aircraft was sighted by RENOWN and
reported as a Ju 88. ILLUSTRIOUS flew off fighters to
intercept, but without success. One Corsair crashed on
taking off. A signal was later received that the Force
had been sighted by German aircraft at 1640 hours.
- At 0120 hours warning of enemy aircraft in the
vicinity was received from shore. Speed was increased to
elude a possible enemy air search. One enemy aircraft
approaching from the southwest was driven off by a RAF
Beaufighter, possibly from 272 Sqd.
0700 hours the Force arrived off Port Said. The frigates
DUCKWORTH, COOKE, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT, BERRY and ESSINGTON
detached to Port Said.
had been made for ships to enter the Canal in the order
of draught with the lighter ships first. QUEEN ELIZABETH
and VALIANT had to enter Port Said harbour to reduce
their draught by discharging fuel oil.
0900 hours the first ships of the Force entered the Suez
Canal, these were the destroyers KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS
and TERMAGANT followed by the UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and
1700 hours the KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS, TERMAGANT,
UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN arrived in the Great
Bitter Lake. At this point the KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and
TERMAGANT were recalled to Port Said. The UNICORN,
ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN anchored for the night.
2200 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT sailed from
Port Said and entered the canal.
- At 1000 hours The UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN
arrived at Suez.
1300 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT arrived at
was decided to devote the remaining part of the day and
the following day to fuelling all ships and to allow
time for making good essential defects. Meetings were
held with shore authorities in order to arrange for a programme
of exercises for the ships, and for cooperation with
R.A.F. shore based aircraft for exercises in the harbour
and at sea.
- The Force was at Suez.
- At 0800 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
sailed from Suez and carried out day and night exercised
in the Gulf of Suez.
- At 0200 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
returned to Suez.
0800 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET sailed
from Suez to carry out H.A. firings in the Gulf of Suez
before continuing the passage to the East.
1030 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
sailed from Suez and headed south.
1200 hours the battleship force was in position 29-34N,
carrier force under Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, was
acting independently of the battleship force, and was
ordered to overtake during the night and to be about 20
miles south of the battleships on the morning of
this way considerable progress in training was
possible without delaying the passage. Flying training
by the carriers, radar tracking by both forces during
the night, 15 inch full calibre firing range and
inclination exercises by the battleships, and dummy
torpedo attacks by aircraft was among the exercises
from which great benefit was obtained. The comparative
security of the northern half of the Red Sea from
enemy air and submarine activity made this training
possible by permitting a slight relaxation of
preparedness and by allowing a wider dispersion of
units than could have been accepted in any other
waters through which the force would pass)
- At 1200 hours the battleship force was in position
- At 1200 hours the Force was in position 18-08N,
1630 hours the RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS detached and
increased speed to 21 knots proceeded ahead of the other
ships in order to reach Aden before high water on the
afternoon of 19/1/44.
was not possible for all five heavy ships to be
berthed and fuelled simultaneously in Aden harbour,
and the draught of the QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
restricted their movement in the shallow harbour and
approaches to a short time either side of high water.
It was therefore arranged that RENOWN and the two
carriers should fuel between the daylight tides of the
19th and 20th January while the
battleships remained at sea, and vice versa on the 20th
19th - At 1000 hours the
RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS were in approximate
position 12-26N, 44-02E, at which time they RVed with
the destroyers ROTHERHAM (D11), ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and
1100 hours the destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID
detached to RV with the battleships.
1200 hours the
and ILLUSTRIOUS were in position 12-24N, 44-50E.
1200 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, UNICORN and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET were
in approximate position 12-21N, 43-45E.
1300 hours in approximate position 12-30N, 44-02E the
QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, UNICORN and the destroyers
PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET RVed with the
destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID.
1315 hours in approximate position the UNICORN and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET
detached for Aden.
1530 hours the RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS and the destroyer
ROTHERHAM arrived at Aden and commenced to refuel.
1545 hours the UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD,
PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET arrived at Aden and
commenced to refuel.
1800 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and the
destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID arrived off
- During the morning the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and
the destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID remained off
1300 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS followed by the RENOWN,
UNICORN and the destroyer ROTHERHAM got under way and
1430 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT entered Aden
RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN escorted by the
destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID then
stood to the southward until midnight, and then to the
north eastward until daylight.
- At 1200 hours the RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN and the
destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID were
in position 11-59N, 45-37E.
1700 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET and HMAS
NORMAN sailed from Aden.
1800 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET and
NORMAN RVed with the RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN and
the destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID
off Aden. The destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE
and RAPID then detached for Aden to refuel.
RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN
and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET
and NORMAN then headed east at 13 knots.
- At 1100 hours the destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK,
RACEHORSE and RAPID rejoined from Aden.
1200 hours the Force was in position 12-44N, 48-48E.
passage across the Indian Ocean was made without any
noteworthy incident. The weather continued to be fine
throughout and thus there were opportunities every day
for continuing the sea training of the ships and
squadron. Various new cruising orders were tried out,
with particular reference to the best position for the
carriers when cruising in company with capital ships)
- At 1200 hours the Force was in position 13-40N,
- At 0630 hours the Squadron was formed into a suitable
cruising order for the destroyers to fuel from the
battleships. NORMAN fuelled from QUEEN ELIZABETH,
PALADIN and PATHFINDER from VALIANT, and PETARD from
RENOWN. The other four destroyers carried more fuel and
were able to make the passage without oiling at sea.
the refueling operation NORMAN sustained slight damage
and fouled her propeller when a spring parted during
fuelling. She managed to complete the passage but as
there was considerable vibration at the speed of the
fleet she was stationed astern so that that she could
follow at her most suitable speed. On arrival at
Colombo, NORMAN was docked for repairs)
1200 hours the Force was in position 12-02N, 61-46E.
- At 1200 hours the Force was in position 12N, 68 08E.
- At 1200 hours the Force was in position 8-44N, 73-51E.
midday a long range aircraft from Ceylon made contact
with the Force to start air cooperation exercises which
continued until the RENOWN arrived at Colombo.
1800 hours in approximate position 8-24N, 74-42E, the
UNICORN escorted by the destroyers ROEBUCK and RAPID
detached and proceeded to Cochin, where she arrived a.m.
- RAF long range aircraft shadowed the Squadron through
the night and made reports on which a striking force of
torpedo bombers was led into a dummy torpedo attack on
the ships at first light.
0730 hours in approximate position 7N, 78-30E, the
destroyers HMAS NIZAM and NAPIER joined the Squadron
from the southward.
0830 hours the RENOWN escorted by the destroyers
ROTHERHAM and NORMAN, detached and proceeded to Colombo
where they arrived at 1400 hours and entered harbour.
1200 hours the remaining ships of the Force were in
position 6-38N, 79-23E.
- At 0730 hours ILLUSTRIOUS Flew off her aircraft to
RNAS China Bay.
At 1030 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS, QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT
and the destroyers RACEHORSE, PETARD, PALADIN,
PATHFINDER, ROCKET, NIZAM and NAPIER arrived at
- QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT, remained at Trincomalee
and started to clean their boilers; this work had been
deferred until the end of the passage. It was estimated
that boiler cleaning and repair of normal machinery
defects would be completed by 11/2/44.
to 16th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT were at
Trincomalee carrying out maintenance.
- QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT sailed from Trincomalee to
carry out exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
- QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT returned to Trincomalee.
to 28th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT were at
to the unfortunate lack of destroyers, the capital
ships were confined to
drills and exercises.
had been intended that RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, and a
destroyer screen should proceed to sea for exercises
on 29/2/44 but heavy rain reduced visibility to about
half a mile and practices had to be postponed)
to 5th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee.
5/3/44 Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville, Commander-in-Chief,
Eastern Fleet, visited Trincomalee and
held a meeting of flag and commanding officers in the
RENOWN concerning future operations)
- QUEEN ELIZABETH escorted by the destroyers HMAS NIZAM,
QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY sailed for Colombo to store to
full capacity there. Full calibre and other firing
practices were carried out on passage.
- QUEEN ELIZABETH and escort on passage to Colombo.
- South west of Colombo the destroyers NIZAM,
QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY detached and returned to
Trincomalee for Operation INITIAL
ELIZABETH arrived at Colombo to complete with stores.
to 12th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Colombo.
- At 1600 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH escorted by the
destroyers HMAS NORMAN, NEPAL and HNMS TJERK HIDDES
sailed from Colombo.
- At 1430 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and the destroyers
NORMAN, NEPAL and TJERK HIDDES arrived at Trincomalee.
to 20th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee.
– The Eastern Fleet comprising battleships QUEEN
ELIZABETH, VALIANT, battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag Vice
Admiral 2iC Eastern Fleet), aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers LONDON and CUMBERLAND, light
cruisers CELYLON and GAMBIA and the destroyers
PATHFINDER, QUALITY, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D4), HMAS
the broad pennant of Commodore S H T ARLISS RN Commander
D Eastern Fleet),
NEPAL, NORMAN and QUIBERON and HMNLS TJERK HIDDES and
VAN GALEN sailed from Trincomalee and Colombo on
ships from Trincomalee and Colombo RVed south of Ceylon
and then steered south carrying out exercises en route
to the refueling RV.
DIPLOMAT was an exercise with three objectives:-
- For the
various units to operate together as a fleet and to
see how well they had adapted to the climatic
- To practice refueling/replenishment at sea.
[This was an operation that up to this time the RN
had only carried out as a last resort. With the
naval war moving to the Indian and Pacific Oceans it
was an operation that the RN had to master. It was
stressful for the bridge and engine room staffs as
constant adjustments were necessary in direction and
speed. The engine
designers had not envisaged this type of fine speed
control being necessary, and the tachometers fitted
to the engines only gave rough readings, so fine
adjustments of the throttle valves had to be made
- To RV with US Task Group 58.5 which comprised
the aircraft carrier USS SARATOGA and her escort)
24th – In
position approximate 6-15S, 80-30E the Eastern Fleet
RVed with the refueling force of three RFA oilers
escorted by the cruiser HMNLS TROMP. The refueling
operation then commenced with the Fleet steering a
south easterly course.
25th - During the
daylight hours the Eastern Fleet continued the
26th – In
approximate position 12S, 86E the refueling was
completed and the Fleet steered to RV with US Task
27th – at 1200
hours SW of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands the Eastern
Fleet RVed with US Task Force 58.5 comprising the
aircraft carrier SARATOGA and the destroyers DUNLAP,
CUMMINGS and FANNING. TF 58.5 had sailed from
Freemantle on 24/3/44.
loan of the SARATOGA was a result of the agreement
between Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca
Conference in January 1943. At the meeting Roosevelt
had agreed that as soon as American resources would
allow, an American carrier would be dispatched to
aid the British Fleet operating in the Indian Ocean.
The objective would be to disrupt Japanese oil
supplies from the Dutch East Indies which were the
main source of Japanese oil supplies.
The SARATOGA had
embarked Air Group 12 which comprised squadrons:-
VF-12 equipped with 44 F6F-3 Grumman Hellcat
VB-12 equipped with 19 SBD-5 Douglas Dauntless scout
equipped with 17 TBF-1C Grumman Avenger torpedo
force then steered northwards towards Trincomalee
carrying out exercises en route.
(During the two
days of joint exercises air crew from the SARATOGA
gave the FAA pilots the benefit of their combat
experience against the Japanese. A
circular cruising formation designed for up to three
carriers was tried out. It was considered to have
many advantages and the CO of the SARATOGA favored
circular formations and circular screens.
circular screen favored by the USN was first tried
out at the Battle of Midway following which the
action report recommended; Òscreening
vessels must close the carrier to not less that 1500
yards and all available CAs and DDs should be on the
same circleÓ. Also the action report stated
that, Òthe 5" battery and close range weapons of
surface ships are only partially effective in
repelling a determined torpedo attack because of the
low rate of fire of the 5" battery and fuse
failures; short effective range of the 20mm guns;
and the failure of short range weapon gunners to
lead the target sufficiently)
31st - At 0845
hours ILLUSTRIOUS and SARATOGA flew off their aircraft
to RNAS China Bay, Trincomalee.
1000 hours the combined force arrived at Trincomalee.
report by Vice Admiral 2iC Eastern Fleet stated the
Operation DIPLOMAT had provided excellent
opportunities of improving the efficiency of all
ships and enabled the American Task Force to shake
down with the Eastern Fleet. The Task Force is a
very considerable addition to the strength of the
1st to 10th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee
carrying out boiler cleaning and minor maintenance
(3/4/44 Admiral Somerville, Commander in
Chief, Eastern Fleet, visited Trincomalee to
exchange calls with the Commanding Officers of
U.S.S. SARATOGA (Captain J.H. Cassidy, USN), and of
the U.S. destroyers CUMMINGS, DUNLAP and FANNING,
forming Task Group 58.5)
10/4/44 the Free French Battleship RICHELIEU arrived
at Trincomalee from the UK. Following an extensive
refit at the New York Navy Yard, the RICHELIEU had
served with the Home Fleet from 11/43 to 3/44.
The arrival of the RICHELIEU was also resultant of
the Casablanca Conference where Roosevelt and
Churchill had united the Free French General Henri-HonorŽ Giraud and Brigadier General Charles de
Gaulle, the two rivals for the leadership of French
forces opposed to the Vichy regime. The Generals
agreed that Free French forces would oppose Axis
forces in all theatres)
to 15th - All the Fleet units including Task Group 58.5
carried out exercises in the Bay of Bengal. This
included Night exercises to improve efficiency in night
fighting and bombardment firings, using the bombardment
range at Foul Point, [Foul Point is on the southern side
of the entrance to Trincomalee Harbour] also dawn and
night attacks were made on the Fleet by MTBs of the 16th
MTB Flotilla who simulated enemy E-Boats.
16th MTB Flotilla comprised MTBs numbered 275,
277, 278, 279, 280, 282, 291, 292, 293, 299 and 300.
These were 37 ton, 40-knot Vosper MTBs that were built
under licence in the USA and shipped from America to
India. They were manned by RIN crews with RNVR
officers; the CO of the Flotilla was Lieutenant Sir
Cradock-Hartopp RN. Their depot ship was the HMIS
BARRACUDA, which was the ex Danish merchant ship SS
HEINRICH JESSEN 3335grt, and was moored in Trincomalee
- The Fleet returned to Trincomalee.
15/4/44 the US Tenth Air Force with twelve B 24's
flying from India attacked
shipping and other targets at Port Blair
the Andaman Islands. This was a diversionary raid made
so that should the Japanese sight the Eastern Fleet
departing Trincomalee they would believe that the
Eastern Fleet were about to attack Port Blair)
- At Trincomalee where in the morning Admiral
Somerville, Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, hoisted
his flag in the QUEEN ELIZABETH.
1100 hours the Eastern Fleet which was divided into two
forces, Force 69 and 70, sailed from Trincomalee on
Force 69 comprised the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag CinC
Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and FS RICHELIEU, light cruisers NEWCASTLE (Flag C4), NIGERIA, CEYLON,
HMNZS GAMBIA and HMNLS TROMP, screened by the destroyers
PENN, PETARD, ROTHERHAM (D11), RACEHORSE, and HMAS
NAPIER (Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore D Eastern
Fleet), NEPAL, NIZAM and QUIBERON and HMNLS VAN GALEN.
Force 70 comprised the battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC
Eastern Fleet), the aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag
Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers Eastern Fleet), USS
SARATOGA, the heavy cruiser LONDON, screened by the
destroyers HMAS QUILLIAM (D4), QUEENBOROUGH and QUADRANT
and the USS CUMMINGS, DUNLAP and FANNING.
Course was set south easterly in an arc to reach the
approximate position 4-30N, 94-30E by sunrise on
COCKPIT was an air strike by FAA and USN aircraft
against the harbour installations, oil tanks,
shipping, aircraft and facilities at Lho
Nga airfield at Sabang on the island of Pulau Weh at
the northern tip of Sumatra. The operation was carried
out at the request of Admiral King, to put pressure on
the Japanese in South-East Asia, while the US Army
landings at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, Operation
RECKLESS, were carried out. The landings took place on
17th and 18th - The Eastern Fleet continued towards the flying off
position for Operation COCKPIT.
During the approach Fleet exercises were carried out.
These included 15" throw off firings by the battleships.
- At 0530 hours in approximate position 4-30N, 94-30E
the ILLUSTRIOUS and SARATOGA commenced flying off the
strike force for the attack on Sabang. The strike force
comprised 46 bombers,
(17 British and 29 American) and 37 fighters (13 British
and 24 American).
(The strike force arrived over the target at approximately 0620
hours attacking from different directions. The
Japanese were caught by surprise and only responded
with AA fire after the first bombs had landed. A total
of 30 tones of bombs were dropped damaging and/or
destroying dockside installations, shipping in the
harbour, the power station, wireless station and oil
storage tanks. Attacks on Lho Nga airfield damaged or
destroyed up to 30 aircraft. One US Hellcat was lost,
it crashed into the sea about one mile off Sabang and
the pilot was rescued by the submarine TACTICIAN.
raid was declared a success and Admiral Somerville
said that the Japanese Òhad been caught with their
kimonos upÓ. The destruction of the oil installations
and the damage to shipping made a positive
contribution to the stalling of the Japanese offensive
in the Arakan)
By 0800 hours all aircraft had been recovered and
the Fleet set course to return to Trincomalee.
During the retirement the Fleet came under air
attack from three Japanese Nakajima B5N (Kate) torpedo
bombers. All were shot down by the CAP and/or ships AA
20th - The Eastern Fleet continued towards Trincomalee.
the return Fleet exercises were carried out.
21st - At 0400 hours the Eastern Fleet commenced
to enter Trincomalee harbour.
In the afternoon the CinC Eastern Fleet held a
meeting on board the QUEEN ELIZABETH of all the
and Commanding Officers that took part in Operation
to 29th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee.
0900/23/4/44 the submarine TACTICIAN arrived at
Trincomalee with the pilot of the Hellcat aircraft
which had been shot down over Sabang)
- The destroyers that were in Trincomalee harbour went
alongside the battleships so that they could be assisted
in fitting the TBS (Talk Between Ships a V H/F Radio
US Navy had processed the TBS system for some years.
The system allowed direct voice communication between
all ships within a 10 mile radius. The system had the
advantage of immediately being able to contact any
ship within range, but the disadvantage was that if
too many callers tried to use the system
simultaneously chaos ensued)
next operation undertaken by the Eastern Fleet was
Operation TRANSOM. On 27/4/44 SARATOGA had been
recalled to the USA for a refit and Admiral
King CinC US Fleet, suggested that en route
back to Australia SARATOGA, supported by the Eastern
Fleet might launch an air strike against the port of
Surabaya on Java; as a diversion to the campaign in
New Guinea, Operation STRAIGHTLINE. Admiral
Mountbatten CinC SE Asia Command agreed and
Somerville commenced planning the operation)
6th – At 1500 hours the Eastern Fleet
sailed from Trincomalee on Operation TRANSOM.
TF 65 comprised the battleships
ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and FS
RICHELIEU, cruisers NEWCASTLE, NIGERIA and HMNLS TROMP
and destroyers PENN, RACEHORSE, ROTHERHAM, HMAS
NAPIER, NEPAL, QUIBERON and QUICKMATCH, and HMNLS VAN
66 comprised the battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag Vice
Admiral 2iC Eastern Fleet), aircraft carriers
ILLUSTRIOUS and USS SARATOGA cruisers CEYLON and HMNZS
GAMBIA and destroyers HMAS QUILLIAM, QUADRANT,
QUEENBOROUGH and USS
CUMMINGS and FANNING.
Fleet steered south easterly towards Exmouth Gulf,
– During the morning TF 65 and TF 66 arrived at
Exmouth Gulf and commenced refueling from TF 67.
1100/30/4/44 Task Force 67, consisting of the oilers
RFA EAGLESDALE, ECHODALE, ARNDALE, APPLELEAF,
PEARLEAF and the
RFA BACCHUS, escorted by the heavy cruiser LONDON
and SUFFOLK had sailed from Trincomalee Harbour on
Operation TRANSOM. Off the Harbour entrance the
frigate FINDHORN joined Task Force 67. Course had
then been set for Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.
TF 67 had arrived at Exmouth Gulf on 12/5/44)
1900 hours TF 65 and TF 66 with LONDON and SUFFOLK
attached, sailed from Exmouth Gulf and steered
northerly towards eastern Java.
cruiser HMAS ADELAIDE was left in Exmouth Gulf to
guard the tankers.
– At 0630 hours in position 9-48S, 113-00E,
approximately 180 miles south of Surabaya, the
carriers commenced launching the strike aircraft.
ILLUSTRIOUS launched 18 Avengers, 2 of which crashed
on take off, and 16 Corsairs, SARATOGA launched 12
Avengers and 18 Dauntlasses, one of which returned
with engine trouble, and 34 Hellcats.
0830 hours the strike force arrived
over the target and caught the Japanese by surprise.
Ten ships in the harbour were attacked, oil tanks were
destroyed, dock facilities destroyed and 14 aircraft
were destroyed on the ground. One US plane was lost
over the target.
The submarine TALLY-HO was positioned
as the rescue vessel but was not required.
At 0930 hours recovery of the strike
force commenced. Following which the Fleet set course
for Exmouth Gulf.
the evening Surabaya was attacked by seven B 24's of
the US 380th Bombardment Group who flew from Corunna
Downs airfield in Western Australia a round trip of
1860 nautical miles)
18th – At 1800 hours in approximate position 18S, 113E the Eastern
Fleet changed into line ahead and they manned ship
following which SARATOGA,
CUMMINGS and FANNING
sailed down the line and then with QUIBERON they
detached for Freemantle.
eastern Fleet then proceeded to Exmouth Gulf.
19th – At 0600 hours the Eastern Fleet
arrived at Exmouth Gulf and commenced refuelling.
At 1600 hours the Eastern Fleet sailed
from Exmouth Gulf and set course for Trincomalee.
27th – At 1500 hours the Eastern Fleet arrived back at
Trincomalee. Fuel remaining on return was less than 20%.
next operation that QUEEN ELIZABETH took part in was
Operation CRIMSON. This was an air strike and
bombardment of the harbour and oil installations of
Sabang. Admiral Somerville wanted to make use of his
three capital ships, also it was to be the last time
he was to lead a Fleet to sea for he was to shortly
hand over command to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser; and
he was to take up the post of Head of the Admiralty
delegation in Washington)
22nd – At 1600 hours TF 62 comprising the battleships
ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and
FS RICHELIEU, battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC Eastern
Fleet), aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS,
heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND, light cruisers CEYLON,
KEYNA, NIGERIA, PHOEBE, HMNZS GAMBIA and HMNLS TROMP
and destroyers QUALITY, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID,
the broad pennant of Commodore D Eastern Fleet), ROTHERHAM, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and
HMAS QUICKMATCH, sailed from Trincomalee on
Submarines TANTALUS and TEMPLAR were deployed off
Sabang for air sea rescue)
25th – At 0300 hours in approximate
position 6N, 94-10E TF 60 divided into:
The bombardment group comprising
ELIZABETH, VALIANT, RENOWN, RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND,
CEYLON, KEYNA, NIGERIA, GAMBIA, TROMP
QUICKMATCH, RACEHORSE, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROTHERHAM
The air group comprising
ILLUSTRIOUS, VICTORIOUS, PHOEBE and destroyers
RAIDER and ROEBUCK.
The bombardment group steered for
position 6N, 95-30E.
The air group steered for position
At 0535 hours in position 5-25N,
94-42E ILLUSTRIOUS commenced launching her aircraft.
Followed shortly afterwards by VICTORIOUS. The
strike force launched was 50 Corsairs and 9
Barracudas, 8 of the Corsairs were to act as spotters,
reporting fall of shot for the capital ships. To
assist in spotting each of the four capital ships
fired shells that burst with a different colour.
At 0630 hours in position 6N, 95-30E
the bombardment group opened fire.
At 0650 hours fire was checked, during
the 20 minutes the four capital ships fired 294 rounds
At 0700 hours the TROMP lead the
destroyers into the bay to attack targets of
At 0730 hours
VICTORIOUS recovered their strike aircraft.
1000 hours the two groups RVed and course was set for
the return the fleet was twice attacked by Japanese
aircraft, none of the attackers got passed the CAP and
of the 12 attackers 5 were shot down.
– At 1330 hours TF 62 arrived back at Trincomalee.