Warspite, 1944, Normandy (Maritime
a t t l e H
o n o u r s
1596 - ORFORDNESS 1666 - SOLEBAY 1672 -
SCHOONVELDT 1673 - TEXEL
HEAD 1690 - BARFLEUR 1692 - VELEZ MALAGA 1704
1759 - QUIBERON 1759 -
1916 - NARVIK 1940 - NORWAY
1940 - CALABRIA
1940-43 - MATAPAN 1941 - CRETE 1941 - MALTA
CONVOYS 1941 - SICILY 1943 - SALERNO
- WALCHEREN 1944 - ENGLISH CHANNEL 1944 -
e r a l d i c D a t a
On a Field Green, a Ship’s Gun
(circa 1660) Gold.
o t t o
dura despicio: ‘I despise the
hard knocks of war’
e t a i l s o f W a
S e r v i c e
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1 9 3 9
- At Alexandria (Capt. Victor
Alexander Charles Crutchley VC, DSC,
RN). Flying the Flag of CinC
Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Sir
Andrew Browne Cunningham. Deployed
with 1st Battle Squadron which also
included battleships BARHAM and
- Sailed from Alexandria in company
and destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA, MOHAWK
and SIKH for gunnery exercises.
In the evening BARHAM and PENELOPE
detached and returned to Alexandria,
SUSSEX detached for Malta and
joined the fleet from Alexandria.
The Fleet then proceeded to the west
of Crete to cover the passage of
convoys GC.1 and Green 1. Following
which they patrolled in the area
until the 16th.
- The Fleet arrived back at
- Sailed from Alexandria to carry out
exercises in company with battleships
MALAYA and BARHAM, aircraft
carrier GLORIOUS, cruiser PENELOPE and
destroyers BULLDOG, DAINTY, DARING,
DUNCAN, GALLANT, GIPSY and GRAFTON.
- At the end of the exercises en route
to Alexandria, MALAYA, GLORIOUS,
BULLDOG and DARING detached for Aden.
The Fleet arrived back at Alexandria.
Nominated for return to Home Waters
for duty with 2nd Battle Squadron,
Home Fleet. Took passage for Scapa
- Departed Alexandria escorted by
destroyers DAINTY and DIANA.
- Arrived at Malta, where she
underwent a brief docking.
- Sailed from Malta escorted by
destroyers DAINTY and DIANA.
En route to Gibraltar her deployment
was changed to cover the transit of
- Arrived at Gibraltar and refuelled.
Sailed from Gibraltar escorted by
destroyers DAINTY, DIANA, ILEX and
- DAINTY, DIANA, ILEX and ISIS
- Arrived at Halifax.
- Sailed from Halifax in company with
destroyers HMCS ASSINIBOINE and ST
LAURENT escorting convoy HX 9.
- ASSINIBOINE and ST LAURENT detached.
- (At 1551 hours the CinC Home Fleet
received a signal from HM Armed
Merchant Cruiser RAWALPINDI,
patrolling the Iceland - Faroes gap,
timed at 1545 hours stating she had
sighted a German Battle cruiser, this
was quickly changed identifying the
vessel as the Pocket Battleship
DEUTSCHLAND. The first sighting report
was in fact correct what she had
sighted were the SCHARNHORST with
GNEISENAU in company)
Following receipt the report from
RAWALPINDI, WARSPITE was ordered to
detach from HX 9 and proceed to the
Denmark Strait then to round Iceland
outside the 100 fathom line to a
position 20 miles due north of Kalso
Lighthouse, north Faeroes.
- At 0800 hours all search forces
commenced a sweep to the north
following the trend of the Norwegian
coast with battleships NELSON and
WARSPITE on the western flank.
- At 0800 hours on reaching 66-10N all
forces turned on to course 270¼.
At 1300 hours all forces turned on to
- At 0900 hours the search was called
off and WARSPITE was ordered to
proceed to Portsmouth.
(En route her destination was changed
to the Clyde. This change was made due
to RODNEY having incurred rudder
damage which put her out of action)
- Arrived in the Clyde escorted by HM
destroyers EXMOUTH, ECLIPSE and ECHO.
- In the Clyde where CinC Home Fleet
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles
Forbes hoisted his flag and WARSPITE
became Flagship of the Home Fleet.
(It had been intended the CinC Home
Fleet would shift his flag from RODNEY
to NELSON but on 4/12/39 NELSON was
mined in Loch Ewe and put out of
- At 1930 hours sailed from Greenock
in company with battleship BARHAM and
HM Battle cruiser HOOD screened by
destroyers INGLEFIELD, ICARUS, IMOGEN,
IMPERIAL, ISIS and FOXHOUND. Off the
Mull of Kintyre the Fleet was joined
by destroyers FORESTER and FIREDRAKE
from Loch Ewe. Course was then set
westward to take up an interception
position and to provide cover for the
first Canadian troop convoy TCI
carrying 7450 Canadian troops to the
deployment followed a report from
HM Submarine SALMON, received by
CinC HF at 1605/13/12/39,
reporting an attack on enemy
battle fleet and from course given
the indication was that the enemy
could be in the Fair Isle channel
by 2100/13/39, thereby posing a
threat to the troop convoy. It
later transpired that the enemy
force was 5 destroyers covered by
2 cruisers returning from a
minelaying operation, laying mines
off the entrance to the Tyne)
- The Fleet arrived at a position 300
miles west of Malin Head from where it
provided cover for the troop convoy
- At 0917 hours arrived back at
ISIS, ICARUS, IMPERIAL, FOXHOUND,
SOMALI, INGLEFIELD and IMOGEN.
(For details of naval activities in
Home waters during 1939 see ENGAGE THE
ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by Corelli Barnett
and Naval Staff History)
1 9 4 0
- Sailed from Greenock escorted by
destroyers FORESIGHT, FORESTER,
FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FEARLESS,
FIREDRAKE, FAME, and FURY of the 8th
DF to carry out a patrol of the NW
- The force arrived at Scapa Flow.
- Sailed from Scapa Flow in company
with HM Battle cruiser HOOD and
destroyers FURY, FAME, FORESTER,
FOXHOUND, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT,
FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE. To provide
distant cover for the Northern Patrol
and Norwegian convoys.
- The force arrived back in the Clyde.
- At 1130 hours sailed from Greenock
in company with Battle cruiser
escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR,
FAME, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FURY,
FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE and FORESTER of
the 8th DF. The Fleet sailed north
to cover the passage of Norwegian
convoys ON 11 and HN 11.
- At 1900 hours west of the Shetlands,
FAME and FORESTER were detached to
refuel at Sullom Voe. 11th On patrol
north west of the Shetlands.
- At 0600 hours north west of the
Shetlands FAME and FORESTER rejoined
the Fleet and FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND and
FORTUNE were detached to refuel at
At 1430 hours FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND and
FORTUNE rejoined the Fleet, following
which FURY, FORESIGHT and FIREDRAKE
detached to refuel at Sullom Voe.
- At 1750 hours north west of the
Shetlands FORESTER detached to refuel
at Sullom Voe.
- On patrol north west of the
- Early in the morning FURY, FORESIGHT
and FIREDRAKE rejoined the Fleet and
course was set for to return to the
- At 1900 hours the Fleet altered
course to close the Pentland Firth.
This was so the heavy units would be
available should the Germany Navy
react to the ALTMARK operation.
- At 0530 hours to the west of the
Pentland Firth, following the
conclusion of the ALTMARK operation,
the Fleet set course for the Clyde.
- At 0930 hours the Fleet arrived back
- Departed the Clyde at 1400 hours
escorted by destroyers HARDY, HOTSPUR,
HOSTILE and HUNTER.
- At 1600 hours arrived at Scapa Flow
- At 1445 hours sailed from Scapa Flow
in company with Battleships RODNEY and
VALIANT escorted by destroyers HARDY,
HERO, HUNTER, HASTY, HOTSPUR, HYPERION
and HOSTILE of the 2nd DF.
sailing was on Admiralty order
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
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.
- At 1100 hours arrived back at Scapa
Flow in company with Battleships
RODNEY and VALIANT escorted by
destroyers FEARLESS, FORESTER, HUNTER,
HASTY, HERO, HOTSPUR, HARDY, HOSTILE
to join the Mediterranean Fleet.
- At 0130 hours sailed from Scapa Flow
escorted by destroyers GRIFFIN,
MOHAWK, HERO and JUPITER for the
JUPITER was relieved by destroyer
DELIGHT later on the 4/4/40.
HM Destroyer ASHANTI relieved HERO
late on the 4/4/40.
- At 0600 hours arrived in the Clyde
escorted by ASHANTI, DELIGHT, GRIFFIN
On arrival in the Clyde GRIFFIN and
MOHAWK detached and returned to Scapa
- Sailed from Greenock escorted by
destroyers HESPERUS, HAVANT and MACKAY
for Gibraltar where she was due to
arrived on 12/4/40.
- Recalled on passage to Gibraltar to
rejoin Home Fleet at Scapa Flow.
PINK LIST of 9th April shows the
ship as part of Home Fleet and
ship may have been deployed in NW
Approaches when ordered to rejoin
Home Fleet ships in North Sea. See
Naval Staff History (HMSO – 2001))
- At 1445 hours arrived at Scapa Flow
escorted by destroyers HESPERUS and
HAVANT. MACKAY which had been in the
escort was detached at 1610/8/4/40 and
returned to Liverpool.
At 2130 hours sailed from Scapa Flow
escorted by destroyers ESCORT,
JAVELIN, JANUS, JUNO and ECLIPSE. The
force set course for a position 10
miles north of Muckle Flugga.
- At 0500 hours 10 miles north of
Muckle Flugga the WARSPITE force RVed
with aircraft carrier
FURIOUS and destroyers ASHANTI, MAORI,
DELIGHT and FORTUNE.
The combined force then proceeded on
course 115¼ at 16 knots to join the
CinC Home Fleet.
At 0730 hours the force joined the
Home Fleet in position 61-24N, 2W.
The Fleet now comprised battleships
RODNEY, VALIANT and WARSPITE,
aircraft carrier FURIOUS, cruisers
DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK and YORK and
destroyers ASHANTI, COSSACK, ZULU,
MAORI, ECLIPSE, ESCORT, ISIS, ILEX,
IMOGEN, INGLEFIELD, JANUS, JAVELIN,
JUNO, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FAULKNOR.
The fleet then steered north to a
flying off position for FURIOUS’s
Swordfish to attack Trondheim.
- At 0400 hours at 64-24N, 7-55E off
Trondheim FURIOUS launched 18 torpedo
carrying Swordfish against shipping in
the harbour. No hits were obtained.
All the aircraft returned between 0630
and 0700 hours.
From 1540 to 1700 hours the Fleet was
bombed by German aircraft, during the
attack the ECLIPSE was hit and
At 1700 hours the Fleet was in
position 64-48N, 7-52E.
- At 0730 hours in position 66-27N,
6-00E, off Vestfjord the Fleet was
joined by HM Battle cruisers RENOWN
At 1450 hours VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS,
JAVELIN and JUNO were detached to make
contact with convoy NP 1.
Between 1615 and 1655 hours FURIOUS
flew off 17 Swordfish armed with bombs
to attack enemy shipping in Narvik.
Plans were then made for destroying
the German naval forces at Narvik.
This was to be an attack by a
battleship heavily escorted by
destroyers in conjunction with an air
strike by aircraft carrier FURIOUS
- Took part in Operation DW, which
became known as the Second Battle of
At 0730 hours WARSPITE, flying the
flag of Vice Admiral W J 'Jock'
Whitworth, RVed with in position
67-44N, 13-22E with the Force B
comprising destroyers FORESTER,
FOXHOUND, HERO, COSSACK, BEDOUIN,
KIMBERLEY, ESKIMO and PUNJABI. The
force then proceeded to enter
At 1038 hours off Tranoy Light
destroyer ESKIMO joined the force.
At 1152 hours WARSPITE catapulted one
of her Swordfish floatplanes, L9767,
flown by PO F C Rice, Lt Cdr W L M
Brown and L/A M G Pacey,
duties and with orders to bomb any
suitable targets. (During her sortie
the Swordfish located U 64 at anchor
off Bjerkvik in
in position 68-29N, 17-30E. U 64 was
dive bombed and two 100lb ASW bombs
were dropped on U 64, one of which
hit her bow and sinking U 64. This
was the first U-boat sunk by the
At 1259 hours WARSPITE opened fire
with her forward 15in turrets.
At 1530 hours WARSPITE recovered her
At 1755 hours WARSPITE escorted by
destroyers FOXHOUND, BEDOUIN, HERO
and ICARUS retired from the area and
got as far as Vestfjord.
At 2050 hours she reversed course
and returned to Ofotfjord to assist
the damaged COSSACK.
- At 0250 hours WARSPITE arrived off
Narvik where she took on board wounded
from COSSACK and PUNJABI.
(The Second Battle of Narvik resulted
in the sinking of 8 German destroyers
and a U-Boat)
(For details see NARVIK by D
Macintyre, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY and Naval Staff History).
- Remained off Narvik screened by
HOSTILE, HAVOCK and FOXHOUND pending
arrival of other warships from UK.
- Covered aircraft carrier FURIOUS
during flying operations west of Lofoten
(Note: No fighter aircraft available on
board and role strictly limited. Warning
of approach of German aircraft from
shore by observers such as
- Sailed from Vestfjord for Rosyth
escorted by destroyers HAVOCK,
HOSTILE, HERO and FOXHOUND, was
attacked by U.47 from 900 yards with
two torpedoes with magnetic pistols,
one missed and the other exploded at
the end of its run. The escorting
destroyers subjected U.47 to a heavy
depth charge attack, and WARSPITE was
recalled to Narvik.
- Part of bombardment force comprising
WARSPITE, cruisers AURORA, EFFINGHAM
and ENTERPRISE and destroyer ZULU that
carried out a 3 hour bombardment of
Narvik. The bombarding force was
screened by destroyers ENCOUNTER,
ESCORT, FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, HAVOCK,
HERO, HOSTILE and Polish destroyers
BLYSKAWICA and GROM.
(For details of disastrous naval
operations off Norway see above
NARVIK by D Macintyre).
Immediately after the bombardment
WARSPITE departed Narvik for Scapa
Flow escorted by destroyers HAVOCK,
HOSTILE, HERO and FOXHOUND.
- At 1615 hours arrived at Scapa Flow
in company with HAVOCK, HOSTILE, HERO
- At 1100 hours sailed from Scapa Flow
for Greenock escorted by destroyers
INGLEFIELD, HERO and FOXHOUND. (Prior
to sailing Captain Crutchley handed
over command to Captain Douglas Blake
Fisher OBE RN)
- At 1100 hours arrived at Greenock.
- At 2020 hours sailed from Greenock
escorted by destroyers HERO, FOXHOUND,
FIREDRAKE for Gibraltar and duty with
the Mediterranean Fleet.
- The destroyers detached and returned
to the Clyde.
- Off Cape St Vincent WARSPITE was met
by destroyers DOUGLAS and WRESTLER who
escorted her into the Mediterranean.
- Off Alboran Island DOUGLAS and
WRESTLER detached and destroyers
KEPPEL, VELOX and VORTIGERN took over
- Arrived at Malta with KEPPLE, VELOX
After refuelling sailed from Malta
escorted by Australian destroyers
HMAS's VENDETTA, VOYAGER and WATERHEN.
- Arrived at Alexandria and joined the
1st Battle Squadron, Mediterranean
- At Alexandria where Admiral Sir
Andrew Cunningham hoisted his flag on
WARSPITE and she became the flagship
of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Following her arrival she was deployed
with Fleet units for extensive
exercises in anticipation of the
Italian entry into the war.
- (Italy declared war at 0001hours on
- At 0230 hours sailed from Alexandria
in company with battleship
MALAYA, aircraft carrier EAGLE
screened by destroyers DAINTY, HASTY,
ILEX, JANUS, JUNO, NUBIAN and HMAS
STUART, VAMPIRE and VOYAGER to carry
out a sweep west along the African
At 0840 hours cruiser CALEDON joined
the fleet at sea.
At 1325 hours cruiser CALYPSO joined
the fleet at sea and destroyer MOHAWK
At 1840 hours destroyers HAVOCK,
HEREWARD, HERO, HOSTILE, HYPERION and
IMPERIAL joined the fleet.
At 1953 hours HMAS STUART, VAMPIRE and
VOYAGER detached from the fleet.
Later destroyer DIAMOND joined the
- The Fleet returned to Alexandria.
Cunningham had stated before this
sweep 'I expected to spend most of
the daylight hours beating off
bombing attacks'. In fact the
Fleet never saw a plane. This
Cunningham concluded was most
- Took part in negotiations with
French Fleet after capitulation of
(Operation CATAPULT. See RELUCTANT
ENEMIES by W Tute).
- The Mediterranean Fleet sailed from
Alexandria to cover passage of Convoys
MF1 (Fast 13 knots) and MS1 (Slow 9
knots) from Malta. (Operation MA 5).
The Fleet was divided into three
sections, forces A, B & C - Force
B comprised WARSPITE, and destroyers
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HERO, HEREWARD, and
Later that night, Italian submarine
BEILUL sighted and attacked the
Mediterranean Fleet without success
32-40N, 28-10W. Later, she was able to
report her sighting to the
- At 0800 hours 200 miles east of Malta
HM Submarine PHOENIX sighted and
reported the Italian Fleet. Resultant of
this report a Sunderland of 228 Sqd. was
dispatched from Malta to locate and
shadow the Italians.
WARSPITE and the Fleet proceeded in a
generally NW direction and during the
day the fleet was under air attacks from
a total of 126 high level bombers.
WARSPITE and EAGLE were generally
selected as the main targets, but no
hits were achieved on either ship.
At 1515 hours the Sunderland reported an
Italian Fleet of 2 battleships, 6
cruisers and 7 destroyers, 100 miles
north west of Benghazi, sailing north.
At 1600 hours the cruiser GLOUCESTER
received a direct hit on her bridge.
receipt of the report the
Mediterranean Fleet altered course in
an attempt to cut off the Italians
from their base at Taranto.
- At daylight WARSPITE was 60 miles
west of Sapientza LH, SW Greece, with
4 light cruisers of Vice Admiral
Tovey’s 7th CS ahead and air
reconnaissance placed the Italian
Fleet 145 miles ahead.
At 1200 hours, when 90 miles east of
the Italian Fleet, Cunningham in
WARSPITE decided to proceed at
WARSPITE’s best speed of 24 knots,
leaving MALAYA and ROYAL SOVEREIGN
At 1448 hours off Punta Stilo ORION
sighted the Italian Fleet, but the
first sighting report was made by
WARSPITE catapulted off one of her
Walrus aircraft which acted as
At 1517 hours the Italian Fleet opened
fire at 23500 yards, concentrating on
the 4 cruisers of the 7th CS, thus
commenced what became know as the
Battle of Punta Stilo or the Action
At 1526 hours WARSPITE opened fire on
4 Italian Heavy cruisers that were
attacking the 4 light cruisers of the
7th CS, causing the Italian cruisers
to turn away under smoke.
At 1552 hours 30 miles west of Punta
Stilo WARSPITE and the Italian
Battleship GIULIO CESARE opened fire
on each other at 26,000 yards.
At 1559 hours two 15in shells from
GIULIO CESARE overshot WARSPITE and
landed 400 yards over causing slight
damage to DECOY and HEREWARD.
At 1600 hours a 15in shell from
WARSPITE hit GIULIO CESARE amidships,
near the funnel, causing damage on the
upper deck, putting 4 out of 8 boilers
out of action, reducing her speed to
18 knots and causing 115 casualties of
which at least 24 were killed. The
tactical result of this hit was
immediate, the Italian Fleet turned
away under smoke covered by their
destroyers and headed for the Strait
Twice during the action the WARSPITE
changed course to allow the slower
MALAYA to catch up, but MALAYA never
got within range.
By 1700 hours the enemy was no longer
in sight and WARSPITE was within 25
miles of the Calabrian coast. The
Fleet turned south for Malta under
high level bombing attacks from
Italian SM 79’s. No hits were scored
but there were several near misses.
(Note: Enemy ships could not be closed
owing to lack of speed.)
(For details of operations during
1940-43 see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE
CLOSELY by C. Barnett, THE BATTLE FOR
THE MEDITERRANEAN by D. MacIntyre, THE
NAVAL WAR IN THE MEDITERRANEAN by J
Greene and A Massignani and the Naval
Staff History (HMSO-2001)
- At 0830 hours EAGLE flew off a
strike force against shipping in
At 2030 hours off Malta ROYAL
SOVEREIGN and attendant destroyers
detached to refuel at Malta. WARSPITE,
MALAYA, EAGLE and attendant destroyers
proceeded to the south of Malta to
await ROYAL SOVEREIGN.
- At 1000 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN and
attendant destroyers rejoined.
Following which the combined Fleet
consisting of WARSPITE, MALAYA, ROYAL
SOVEREIGN, EAGLE, GLOUCESTER, DAINTY,
DEFENDER, HASTY, HEREWARD, HERO,
HOSTILE, HYPERION and ILEX set course
for Alexandria covering convoy MS1
(MS1 had sailed from Malta early on
- Between 0850 and 1150 hours,
WARSPITE was attacked by high level
bombers but sustained no damage.
- At 0600 hours arrived at Alexandria.
- At 1100 hours WARSPITE and
destroyers departed Alexandria and
swept to the northwest.
sailing followed the report of
HMAS SYDNEY and her destroyers
being in action with 2 Italian
cruisers, the BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI
and GIOVANNI DELLE BANDE NERE, the
former was sunk in the action off
- At 1000 hours arrived back at
Later in the day the Mediterranean
Fleet sailed from Alexandria to
carryout an attack on Tobruk where it
was thought the Italian cruiser
GIOVANNI DELLE BANDE NERE had taken
- Arrived back at Alexandria.
- At 0300 hours sailed from Alexandria
in company with battleships MALAYA and
RAMILLIES, aircraft carrier
EAGLE escorted by destroyers DECOY,
HEREWARD, HERO, HYPERION, ILEX,
IMPERIAL, JERVIS, JUNO, NUBIAN and
MOHAWK to cover the passage of convoy
South of Crete the fleet was joined by
cruisers NEPTUNE and HMAS SYDNEY.
- The fleet divided. South of the
WARSPITE, ILEX, IMPERIAL and HYPERION
proceeded ahead of the Fleet and were
joined by destroyers HOSTILE and JANUS
- The ships arrived at Alexandria at
refit at Alexandria.
- At 1030 hours the Mediterranean
Fleet comprising battleships WARSPITE,
MALAYA, RAMILLIES, cruiser KENT and
destroyers HOSTILE, HEREWARD, STUART,
WATERHEN, VENDETTA, DIAMOND, NUBIAN
and MOHAWK sailed from Alexandria on
Operation MB 2.
(Operation MB 2 was the bombardment of
- Between 0658 and 0720 hours the
Fleet bombarded Bardia
- The Fleet arrived back at
- At 0445 hours the Mediterranean
Fleet comprising in company with
battleship MALAYA, aircraft
carrier EAGLE, cruisers ORION and HMAS
SYDNEY escorted by destroyers DECOY,
DEFENDER, HEREWARD, IMPERIAL, HMAS
STUART, VAMPIRE, VENDETTA and VOYAGER
and Polish ORP GARLAND sailed from
Alexandria on Operation HATS/MB 3. The
Fleet sailed towards the Gulf of
objective of Operation HATS was to
cover the passage of
reinforcements for the
Mediterranean Fleet and convoy MF
2 for Malta. Convoy MF 2 was
weakly escorted by 4 destroyers to
act as bait to invite an attack by
the Italian Fleet).
- Early in the morning the Fleet was
joined by cruisers KENT, GLOUCESTER
and LIVERPOOL and destroyers HASTY,
HYPERION and ILEX, returning from a
sweep of the southern Aegean.
On reaching a point approximately 100
miles west of Cape Matapan the Fleet
At 1554 hours KENT, GLOUCESTER and
LIVERPOOL detached from the Fleet to
join convoy MF2.
At 1700 hours when the Mediterranean
Fleet was approximately 150 miles west
of Crete the Italian Fleet (comprising
4 battleships, 14 cruisers and 39
destroyers that had sailed from
Taranto at 0600/31/8/40) was only 120
miles north west of their position
making a Fleet action very likely.
However at that point the Italian high
command, who knew of the convoy but
not the presence of the Mediterranean
Fleet, ordered the Italian Fleet to
return to base.
At 1815 hours the Fleet turned west
heading for towards Malta and DECOY
was detached to join convoy MF2.
- At 0900 hours west of Malta the
Mediterranean Fleet RVed with Force F
from Gibraltar, and turned with Force
F towards Malta. Force F
comprised aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, battleship VALIANT,
cruiser ORION and destroyers WRYNECK,
GALLANT, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, and
At 1010 hours VALIANT, HYPERION,
DECOY, HASTY, and WRYNECK were
detached to Malta.
1504 hours HM AA Cruiser COVENTRY and
destroyers JANUS, JUNO, NUBIAN, and
MOHAWK joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1657 hours east of Malta the Fleet
divided into three forces for
Operation MB 3.
A comprised KENT, GLOUCESTER,
LIVERPOOL, NUBIAN and MOHAWK.
E comprising MALAYA, EAGLE,
COVENTRY, JANUS, JUNO, DAINTY,
DIAMOND, VAMPIRE, and VENDETTA.
I comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, CALCUTTA, STUART,
VOYAGER, DECOY, DEFENDER, HEREWARD,
IMPERIAL, HYPERION, ILEX, HASTY, and
MB 3 was an operation to attack
Italian installations in the
2200 hours on passage from Malta
STUART suffered a broken steam pipe
and was ordered to join convoy AS 3.
At 2330 hours VALIANT, HYPERION,
IMPERIAL and JANUS joined Force I from
Malta. Following which JANUS joined
- Carrying out operation MB 3.
- Carrying out operation MB 3.
- At 0700 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, HYPERION, HERO, HASTY,
HEREWARD, IMPERIAL, JANUS, and
DEFENDER arrived at Alexandria.
(Operation HATS - See ENGAGE THE ENEMY
MORE CLOSELY and THE BATTLE FOR THE
MEDITERRANEAN by D Macintyre).
- Sailed from Alexandria in company
with battleship VALIANT,
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and
cruisers YORK, 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 GLOUCESTER and
Off Alexandria 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 cruisers GLOUCESTER and
LIVERPOOL with 1200 troops embarked.
STUART suffered a broken steam main
and was ordered to return to
The Fleet was under air attack for
most of the day and in the evening
WARSPITE was straddled and three crew
were wounded by splinters.
- 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 were stationed twenty miles 350
degrees and forty miles 340 degrees
from the Main Fleet.
- At 1245 hours destroyer HMAS VOYAGER
joined the Fleet from Malta.
At 1700 hours ORION and SYDNEY were
detached to carry out a sweep of the
Gulf of Athens.
At 1745 hours GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL
rejoined the Fleet.
- The Fleet arrived back at
- The British Mediterranean Fleet
comprising battleships WARSPITE,
VALIANT, MALAYA and RAMILLIES,
aircraft carriers EAGLE and
ILLUSTRIOUS, cruisers YORK, LIVERPOOL
and GLOUCESTER of the 3 CS, ORION,
AJAX and HMAS SYDNEY of the 7 CS and
destroyers HYPERION, HAVOCK, HERO,
HEREWARD, HASTY, ILEX and IMPERIAL of
the 2 DF, DAINTY, DECOY, DEFENDER and
HMAS VAMPIRE and VENDETTA of the 10DF,
JERVIS, NUBIAN, JUNO, and JANUS of the
14 DF departed Alexandria on Operation
(Operation MB 6 was an operation to
cover Malta bound convoy MF 3 and
return convoy MF 4. Convoy ME 4
included HM Gunboat APHIS)
- Convoy MF 3 sailed from Alexandria.
At 0254 hours cruiser LIVERPOOL and
destroyer DIAMOND joined the Fleet at
- 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, 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 for Alexandria. (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
northern most 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
At 1100 hours south east of Gavdos
Island convoy ME 4 was joined by
convoy AS 4 that had sailed from
In the evening the Fleet divided and
ILLUSTRIOUS, GLOUCESTER, LIVERPOOL,
HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO and NUBIAN
headed into the Aegean.
- 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
and the combined Fleet then set course
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 torpedo
aircraft. 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.
- At 0130 hours sailed from Alexandria
in company with battleships RAMILLIES,
VALIANT and MALAYA, aircraft
carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and EAGLE
escorted by destroyers DAINTY, DECOY,
DEFENDER, DIAMOND, HASTY, HAVOCK,
HEREWARD, HERO, HYPERION, ILEX, JANUS,
JERVIS, JUNO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN. The
Fleet sailed towards the west of Crete
on Operation CHURCH. (Following
Italy’s attack on Greece on 28/10/40
the Greek Government invited Britain
to set up a base at Suda Bay on the
north coast of Crete.
(Operation CHURCH was the operation
covering the military convoys carrying
personnel and stores to Suda Bay).
Late in the evening south of Crete
cruisers YORK, GLOUCESTER, ORION and
HMAS SYDNEY joined the Fleet.
- The Fleet continued to sail north
west and at 2000 hours the Fleet was
126 miles west of Cape Matapan.
- At 1630 hours 75 miles west south
west of Cape Matapan WARSPITE,
ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK, GLOUCESTER, HASTY,
HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX and JERVIS
detached from the Fleet and proceeded
towards Alexandria. The rest of the
Fleet remained cruising to the west of
- At 1900 hours WARSPITE, ILLUSTRIOUS,
YORK, GLOUCESTER, HASTY, HEREWARD,
HERO, ILEX and JERVIS arrived back at
- Sailed from Alexandria in company
with battleships RAMILLIES ,VALIANT
and MALAYA, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, cruisers YORK and
GLOUCESTER, destroyers DECOY,
DEFENDER, HASTY, HAVOCK, HEREWARD,
HERO, HYPERION, ILEX, JANUS, JERVIS,
JUNO and MOHAWK on Operation MB 8 and
Operation COAT. Later the Fleet was
joined by 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
for the Mediterranean 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, cruisers BERWICK
and GLASGOW and destroyers GALLANT,
GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN and proceeded by
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
their troops and supplies and the 3
F’s to refuel.
At 1330 hours convoy ME 3, which
included 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.
- Covered passage of convoy ME 3 from
Malta to Alexandria.
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 HMS 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 Fleet and convoy ME 3 arrived at
- At 0325 hours sailed from Alexandria
as part of Force A which comprised
battleships WARSPITE and
VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers DECOY (for
repairs at Malta), JERVIS, JANUS,
JUNO, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GRIFFIN, WRYNECK
and HMAS WATERHEN and set course for
At 1200 hours the troopship ULSTER
PRINCE joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1600 hours 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 destroyers HERO and
HEREWARD arrived at Suda Bay to join
At 1030 hours Force A sailed from Suda
Bay to carry out Operation COLLAR.
The 3rd CS comprising YORK, GLASGOW
and GLOUCESTER detached to patrol to
the north of Force A.
(Operation COLLAR was the passage of
1400 troops embarked on MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON, 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)
- Force A proceeded towards Malta.
- Force A patrolled north of the
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON force
sailing for Alexandria.
- At 1800 hours arrived back at
- At 0100 hours the Mediterranean
Fleet comprising battleships WARSPITE
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, cruisers AJAX,
GLOUCESTER, ORION, YORK and HMAS
SYDNEY and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS,
JUNO, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, DAINTY,
HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and
HEREWARD sailed from Alexandria on
Operation MC 2.
(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
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
At 0830 hours the Fleet entered Suda
Bay to refuel.
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
- At 0130 hours south of Cape Matapan
the WARSPITE, VALIANT forces RVed and
the Fleet then proceeded toward the
Strait of Otranto to carry out
Operation MC 3.
(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 was abandoned).
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 shipping)
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 on the port
area and airfield.
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
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
- At 1440 hours WARSPITE, JANUS,
JERVIS and JUNO arrived at Malta.
- Early in the morning WARSPITE sailed
- Arrived back at Alexandria.
1 9 4 1
- At 1830 hours the Mediterranean
Fleet comprising battleships WARSPITE,
BARHAM and VALIANT, cruisers
GLOUCESTER and YORK, HM AA Cruiser
CALCUTTA and destroyers JANUS, NUBIAN,
MOHAWK, WRYNECK, DIAMOND, VENDETTA and
GALLANT 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,
escorted by destroyers GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN, ILEX and JUNO.
- 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
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 monitor TERROR and HM
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
- WARSPITE, BARHAM, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, ILEX, JANUS, JUNO,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, DIAMOND, GALLANT,
VOYAGER and DAINTY arrived at
- At 0500 hours sailed from Alexandria
in company with battleships
VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers JERVIS,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, DAINTY, GREYHOUND,
GALLANT and GRIFFIN 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).
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
At 1400 hours Force A departed Suda
Bay heading west.
- At 0730 hours Force A was in
position 36-05N, 19-17E and
ILLUSTRIOUS launched Swordfish to
search a sector 280¼ to 310¼.
At 1030 hours 200 miles west of Malta
Force D, cruiser AJAX and HMAS PERTH
from Suda Bay and cruiser HMAS Sydney
and destroyer HMAS STUART from Malta
joined Force A.
At 1130 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a
strike force of 6 Swordfish to search
for enemy shipping off the Libyan
At 1140 hours Force A was reported by
an enemy aircraft.
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 Pantellaria.
The convoy escort was BONAVENTURE,
GLOUCESTER, SOUTHAMPTON, HASTY,
HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX and JAGUAR. Force
A took up position astern of the
At 0834 hours GALLANT was mined and
was taken in tow by MOHAWK and
BONAVENTURE and GRIFFIN were detached
to stand by her.
At 1223 hours two SM 79’s dropped 2
torpedoes which passed astern of
At 1235 hours a large formation of
German aircraft, 40 Ju 87’s plus Ju
88’s were sighted approaching from the
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.
WARSPITE was hit and sustained slight
damage to her starboard bower anchor
was unaware that Fleigerkorps X
had 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).
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
- At 2200 hours as destroyer GREYHOUND
was departing Alexandria she was in
collision with WARSPITE causing damage
to WARSPITE’s bulge.
(The log book noted that the damage
was 'dealt with by local action')
- Deployed with battleship
BARHAM, aircraft carrier EAGLE
and destroyers JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, DIAMOND, DEFENDER,
WRYNECK, HMAS's VENDETTA, VAMPIRE in
(This was a diversionary sweep during
Operation PICKET, Force H attack on
the Santa Chiara d’Ula dam on Lake
Omodeo, central Sardinia)
- WARSPITE, aircraft carrier
EAGLE, and five destroyers departed
Alexandria for gunnery and flying
- Sailed from Alexandria in company
with battleship BARHAM, and
VALIANT, aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, and destroyers JERVIS,
JANUS, JUNO, JAGUAR, NUBIAN, MOHAWK,
ILEX, HERO, and HAVOCK as Force A. to
carry out operation MC 9.
(Operation MC 9 was the passage of
Alexandria to Malta convoy MW 6 which
was escorted by a force designated
- At 1600 hours Force A was joined at
sea by Force B that comprised cruisers
YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER, HMAS
PERTH and destroyers 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
- At 1220 hours a RAF Sunderland of
230 Sqd. sighted and reported
Sansonetti's 3rd Cruiser Division of 3
cruisers and a destroyer in position
36-54N, 17-10E, steering 120¼.
Visibility was poor and the Sunderland
could not shadow.
On the basis of this report, (together
with ULTRA decrypts 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 sailed from Alexandria
in company with battleships BARHAM,
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, and destroyers JERVIS,
JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and HMAS
STUART as Force A, Course was set 300¼
at 20 knots.
- At 0739 hours an aircraft from
FORMIDABLE reported 4 cruisers and 6
destroyers 30 miles south of Gavdo
Island. This was at first thought to
be Force B.
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 force.
At 0900 hours VALIANT, MOHAWK and
NUBIAN were detached to proceed ahead
of Force A. (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 1058 hours Force B confirmed the
presence of the second enemy force of
2 battleships. (There was only one
At 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 caused the enemy 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 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 commenced their torpedo run
against the Italian battleship
VITTORIO VENETO and the Fulmars strafe
the battleship. The strike force
reported 3 hits on the battleship and
speed reduced to 8 knots. (There was
only one hit 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
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 1831 and 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 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 Cunningham.
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 reported a radar
contact 6 miles off her port bow.
(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 at 2900 yards
with 15in broadsides on FIUME and
ZARA. WARSPITE also fired two salvos
at HAVOCK who was not showing fighting
lights, fortunately these missed. In
the action WARSPITE fired 40 rounds of
15in AP and 44 rounds of 6in HE.
At 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 cruisers.
At 2330 hours the battle fleet altered
course to 070¼ speed 18knots.
- 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
(So ended what was the Battle of
By 0700 hours all units of the fleet
had joined Cunningham in WARSPITE.
Including 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 large
numbers of the survivors were picked
up by the destroyers.
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 S 79 shadower was
shot down by a Fulmar from FORMIDABLE.
At 1730 hours the Fleet arrived at
18th - At 0700 hours sailed from
Alexandria in company with battleships
VALIANT, and BARHAM, aircraft
carrier FORMIDABLE, cruiser PHOEBE, HM
Anti-Aircraft Cruiser CALCUTTA, and
destroyers JUNO, JAGUAR, KINGSTON,
KIMBERLEY, GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, HEREWARD,
and ENCOUNTER and set course for Suda
Bay to carry out Operations MD 2 and
(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 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 HM Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE escorted
by HMAS PERTH and destroyer HOTSPUR.
At 0800 hours cruisers ORION, AJAX,
GLOUCESTER and 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 convoy ME 7 which then
proceeded to Alexandria.
HM Destroyers JARVIS and JANUS
detached from convoy ME 7 and joined
The Fleet then re-organised into two
bombarding force of WARSPITE,
VALIANT, BARHAM, GLOUCESTER,
HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, HERO, HASTY,
HEREWARD, JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO and
covering force of FORMIDABLE, AJAX,
ORION, PERTH, ENCOUNTER,
GRIFFIN, 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
At 0502 hours the bombarding force
opened fire on Tripoli harbour at
ranges between 14000 and 11000
yards. FORMIDABLE provided 3
spotting (who were unable to spot
fall of shot due to dust) and 6
flare dropping Swordfish and RAF
Wellingtons from Malta bombed at the
At 0545 hours fire was checked,
after firing 478 x 15in and 1500 x
6in shells, of which WARSPITE fired
135 x 15in and 106 x 6in shells, and
the force withdrew without there
having been any reaction from the
enemy. Course was set for
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
- Sailed from Alexandria in company
with aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, battleships VALIANT and
BARHAM, cruisers AJAX, ORION, HMAS
PERTH, cruiser Minelayer ABDIEL
screened by destroyers of the 14thDF,
JERVIS, JUNO, JAGUAR, KANDAHAR,
KIMBERLEY and KINGSTON and 7thDF, HMAS
NIZAM and NAPIER, IMPERIAL, GRIFFIN,
HOTSPUR and HAVOCK. Also in company
was fast supply Ship BRECONSHIRE.
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
The Fleet sailed on Operations MD4,
MD6 and MD7, and to cover the passage
of the Tiger convoy.
(Operation MD 4 was covering the
passage of convoys MW7B, slow, and
MW7A, fast, from Alexandria to Malta.
MD6 & 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
refuelled by 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, destroyers KELLY, KELVIN and
JACKAL joined the Fleet.
At 1400 hours 40 miles south of Malta
the Mediterranean Fleet RVed with the
4 mercantiles of the Tiger convoy that
was escorted by battleship QUEEN
ELIZABETH, cruisers GLOUCESTER, FIJI,
NAIAD, DIDO and PHOEBE, anti-aircraft
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 MD7 a further
bombardment of Benghazi.
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
- Tiger convoy arrived at Alexandria.
At 1300 hours WARSPITE, BARHAM, QUEEN
ELIZABETH and VALIANT, FORMIDABLE,
NAIAD, PHOEBE, CARLISLE, and COVENTRY,
GLOUCESTER, FIJI, PERTH, JERVIS,
JAGUAR, JUNO, NAPIER, NIZAM,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, ILEX, HERO,
HAVOCK, HOTSPUR, HASTY, HEREWARD,
IMPERIAL, KANDAHAR, KINGSTON and
- At 2000 hours battleships WARSPITE,
wearing the flag of CS7, Rear Admiral
Rawlings, and VALIANT, cruiser AJAX,
and destroyers KIMBERLEY, JANUS, ISIS,
HEREWARD, DECOY, HERO, GRIFFIN and
HMAS NAPIER departed Alexandria as
Force A 1 to relieve Force A off
- Force A 1 arrived off Crete and
Force A and B were released to return
to Alexandria to refuel.
HM Destroyers HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL
detached from Force A and joined Force
- At 0530 hours Force A1 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 gliders
carrying the German assault forces.
At 2200 hours IMPERIAL and KIMBERLEY
detached to join Force D.
- At 0530 hours Force A 1 was 60 miles
west of the Anti Kithera Strait
steaming west to RV with Force D.
At 0800 west of the Kithera Strait
Force D, comprising 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 45 miles
south west of the Kithera channel
steaming north west.
At 0700 hours Force D, comprising
DIDO, AJAX, ORION, HASTY, HEREWARD,
JANUS and KIMBERLEY rejoined Force A
At 0830 hours Force B, comprising
GLOUCESTER, FIJI, GREYHOUND and
GRIFFIN rejoined Force A 1.
Forces A1, B and C 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'.
At 0930 hours WARSPITE’s HA ammunition
was down to 66%.
By 0945 hours all the British naval
forces were under sustained attack
from 650 German aircraft.
1225 hours Admiral Rawlings received a
message from CS15, Rear Admiral King,
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 Aegean.
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. By
manoeuvring the first two bombs missed
but the third hit the starboard after
4in gun and penetrated the deck to
explode in the starboard quarter 6in
battery. 38 of ship's company were
killed and 31 injured causing
extensive damage, fires and the
temporary evacuation of one boiler
room. Her speed was reduced to 18
(The Messerschmitt Bf 109 Es were from
Luftwaffe unit 111/Jg 77 which was
based at Molai, in the Elos Peninsula,
about 60 miles from the position where
WARSPITE was hit. The bomb that hit
WARSPITE was dropped from a plane
flown by Wolf Dietrich Huy or Kurt
WARSPITE’s Executive Officer Commander
Charles Madden took charge of the
damage control and fire- fighting
parties, clearing up a gun battery
which looked and smelled like an
After putting out the fires and some
temporary repairs WARSPITE stayed with
At 2230 hours CS7 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
- At 0408 hours the CinC ordered all
warships to withdraw to Alexandria.
- In the early hours Forces A1, C and
E arrived at Alexandria.
On arrival in Alexandria, WARSPITE
berthed near the cruiser ORION which
had also just returned from Crete.
ORION too had been hit by a bomb that
penetrated to a crowded messdeck,
killing or wounding more than 400
soldiers. Commander Madden organised
working parties from WARSPITE to dig
out the corpses and conduct funerals.
The CinC Mediterranean Fleet hoisted
his flag in her and addressed the
Temporary repairs were commenced to
prepare her for an ocean journey.
temporary repairs remained at
Alexandria. Permanent repair arranged
in US Navy Dockyard at Puget Sound,
- Whilst at Alexandria a conference
was held on board to discuss actions
to be taken following the arrival of
German aircraft in Vichy Syria. The
outcome of the discussions was the
decision to invade Syria (Operation
- Sustained further damage after 'near
miss' by 500 Kg bomb falling alongside
her starboard side during a heavy air
raid. Bulge structure fracture caused
- Took passage to USA with calls at
Colombo, Singapore, Manila and
passage to the USA.
- Arrived at Esquimalt.
At Esquimalt a draft of 284 officers
and men were sent back to the UK.
In the evening she sailed for Seattle.
- Arrived at Puget Sound US Naval
Dockyard, Bremerton, Washington.
A further draft of 280 officers and
men were then sent back to the UK
leaving her with a skeleton crew of
600 who were kept on to assist with
the repairs and refit.
refit. WARSPITE’s Walrus aircraft were
overhauled at Sand Point US Naval Air
the refit 5 of her 8 x 15in gun
barrels were replaced with barrels
that were sent out from the UK.
Surface warning radar Type 271 and
aircraft warning Type 281 fitted. Fire
control radar for main armament (Type
284), HA armament (Type 285) and for
Close Range AA guns (Type 282)
(According to her newly appointed
radar officer Lt. Paddon, later Rear
Admiral Paddon, the British radar sets
that were to have been fitted were
lost when the ship carrying them was
torpedoed in the Atlantic. What she
was fitted with were American
improvised sets that he described 'as
a real bag of tricks'.)
refit harbour trials.
for service with Eastern Fleet at
- Re-commissioned at Puget Sound US
1 9 4 2
- Sailed from Puget Sound US Naval
Dockyard for Esquimalt on Vancouver
to 21st - Carried out working up
exercises off the Canadian coast.
- Sailed from Esquimalt for Sydney.
She sailed due south for the Pitcairn
Islands, keeping well away from the
Pacific war zone.
- Arrived at Henderson Island in the
Pitcairn Island Group where she RVed
with the 8406grt RFA BISHOPDALE.
- Crossed the International date line,
sailing west so missed Friday the
- Arrived at Sydney.
- Carried out main battery firing off
-Sailed from Sydney for Fremantle. En
route enemy submarines were reported
off Fremantle so she reversed course
and made for St Vincent Gulf,
Adelaide, where she refuelled and
waited until considered safe to
- Arrived at Trincomalee.
- At Trincomalee where Captain Fisher
was replaced by Captain F E P Hutton
and she was nominated as flag ship of
the Eastern Fleet by Admiral Sir James
Somerville who had taken command of
the Eastern Fleet the previous day.
(Admiral Somerville had arrived from
the UK on 24th March and took command
of a disparate fleet of 29 vessels. He
decided to divide his Fleet into a
fast division, Force A, and a slow
division, Force B.)
- Admiral Somerville received an
intelligent report from the
Eastern Combined Bureau (FECB),
who were reading the Japanese code
a Japanese Naval Force intended to
carry out an air attack on Ceylon
on or about 1st April.
believed the Japanese would
attack Colombo and Trincomalee,
simultaneously, and he estimated
that their launch point would be
about 5- 20N, 80-53E roughly 100
miles southeast of Ceylon, and
approximately 180 to 200 miles
from both ports.
searches by Catalina aircraft
were therefore organized to a
distance of 420 miles from
Colombo, between the bearings of
110 degrees and 154 degrees, the
direction from which the
Japanese were expected to
At 0030 hours WARSPITE
Trincomalee for Colombo.
2200 hours WARSPITE arrived at
- (In order to ensure that his fleet
was not in Colombo or Trincomalee
harbours Admiral Somerville decided to
sail his forces and concentrate them
to the south of Ceylon from where he
hoped to launch a night air strike on
the Japanese force).
At 1130 hours Admiral Somerville CinC
Eastern Fleet hoisted his flag in
- At 0400 hours WARSPITE,
CORNWALL, ENTERPRISE, DRAGON and
CALEDON and destroyers PALADIN,
PANTHER, EXPRESS, HOTSPUR and HMAS
from Trincomalee to RV with the
Fleet in position 4-40N, 81-00E.
At 1600 hours Force A from
Trincomalee and Colombo and Force B
from Addu Atoll RVed in position
4-40N, 81-00E, 80 miles 198¼ from
The reconstituted Force A now
comprised WARSPITE, aircraft
carriers INDOMITABLE and FORMIDABLE
(with a total of 36 fighters and 45
torpedo bombers embarked), cruisers
CORNWALL, EMERALD and ENTERPRISE and
destroyers FOXHOUND, HOTSPUR,
PALADIN, PANTHER and HMAS NAPIER and
HM Cruiser DORSETSHIRE joined Force
A later from Colombo having cut
short a refit.
The reconstituted Force B now
comprised battleships RESOLUTION,
RAMILLIES, ROYAL SOVEREIGN and
REVENGE, aircraft carrier
HERMES (with 12 torpedo bombers
embarked), cruisers CALEDON and
DRAGON and HMNethS JACOB VAN
HEEMSKERCK, destroyers ARROW, DECOY,
FORTUNE, GRIFFIN, SCOUT, HMAS's
NORMAN, VAMPIRE and HMNethS ISAAC
thought the Japanese aircraft
would probably attack in
moonlight, and there was a full
moon on 1 April, and arrive back
over their carriers at dawn, which
was at 0600 hours. To accomplish
this scenario the Japanese would
have to reach the launch point at
about 0200 hours. Admiral
Somerville decided to attempt an
ambush. If his radar-equipped
force found the radar-deficient
Japanese during the night, he
could launch an aircraft strike
with a reasonable prospect of
inflicting damage on the Japanese
Fleet. When making this assessment
Somerville was unaware of the
range of the Japanese naval
aircraft. Until last light on 31
March, he kept well to the west,
and out of range of Japanese
search aircraft, and then headed
straight for the anticipated
Japanese launch point).
Fleet operated off the south of Ceylon
from 3 days and 2 nights without any
sighting of the Japanese Force.
- At 0230 hours the Fleet arrived at
position 5-20N, 80-53E and cruiser
DORSETSHIRE joined Force A.
(This position was near where Admiral
Somerville expected to find the Japanese
Fleet. However the area was devoid of
the enemy. Between 0600 and 1000 hours
air searches were carried out to the
east and south east, without result).
At 1200 hours Force A commenced a sweep
to the north east.
- At 0630 hours Force A, having sighted
nothing during there sweep, returned
south westward and rejoined Force B.
the day, Forces A and B had manoeuvred
in an arc about 50 miles to the
westward of those waters in which they
steamed in daylight on the two
previous days in order to keep clear
of any enemy submarines that might
have sighted the Fleet. Opportunity
was taken to oil 5 of the destroyers,
3 from the RFA APPLELEAF, and 2 from
the CORNWALL and DORSETSHIRE).
2100 hours, with the R-class
battleships running short of fresh
water the Fleet set course for Addu
Atoll. CORNWALL and DORSETSHIRE
detached for Colombo and HERMES and
VAMPIRE detached for Trincomalee.
At 0520 hours FORTUNE was detached to
rescue survivors from S.S. GLEN SHEIL.
At 0940 hours CORNWALL and DORSETSHIRE
detached for Colombo and HERMES and
VAMPIRE for Trincomalee.
At 1820 hours Force A proceeded ahead
at 18 knots. Force A followed at 14
- At 1200 hours Force A arrived at
Addu Atoll and commenced refuelling.
At 1500 hours Force B arrived at Addu
(At 1630 hours a sighting report timed
at 1605 hours, was received from
Catalina L of 413 Sqd. RCAF, flown by
SL L. J. Birchall, of a large Japanese
force steering north-westward in
position 0-40N, 83-10E. Whilst making
the sighting report the Catalina was
attacked by 12 Zeros and shot down)
- At 0015 hours Force A sailed from Addu
Atoll on a course of 70¼ at 18 knots
towards the enemy position. (Sailing was
delayed until all units had refuelled)
At 0600 hours Force B sailed from Addu
Atoll following Force A.
(Admiral Somerville knew that
interception of the Japanese Fleet was
not possible unless a strike by 10
Blenheim bombers of 11 Sqd, from
Ratmalana airfield Colombo, could
inflict damage on the Japanese Fleet. In
the event the bombers failed to locate
At 0645 hours Albacores were launched
from INDOMITABLE and FORMIDABLE to carry
out an A/S search ahead of Force A. At
the same time 4 Fulmars were launched
from INDOMITABLE the
search covered the area between the
arcs 55 degrees to 105 degrees to a
depth of 215 miles. It proved negative
except for the sighting of one enemy
seaplane at 0855 hours, 76 degrees 150
miles from Force A.
hours reconnaissance aircraft placed
the Japanese Fleet in position 05-00N,
78-00E, and approximately 120 miles
020 ¼ from Force A. But this report
and subsequent reports failed to
inform Somerville of the size and
composition of the Japanese Fleet. (5
Aircraft Carriers, with 350 aircraft,
4 Battleships, 3 Cruisers and 9
hours WARSPITE's radar picked up
aircraft at a range of 84 miles, 30¼
from Force A These were the Aichi D3A1
(VAL) dive bombers that were attacking
and sinking CORNWALL and DORSETSHIRE,
although this was not known at the
At 1522 hours
wreckage was reported by a
reconnaissance aircraft from Force A
in position 2-08N, 78- 08E.
At 1530 hours a
destroyer was detached to proceed to the
reported position of the wreckage but
was recalled when at 1655 hours
following a report from a reconnaissance
aircraft from Force A reporting an enemy
force of 5 'unknowns' in position 3-38N,
78-18E at 1600 hours.
At 1700 hours CinC received a report
from Colombo that there were indications
of enemy aircraft carriers steering 230
degrees at 24 knots from an unknown
position at 1400 hours.
this report the CinC concluded that if
the enemy held on this course he would
be at 0400 hours in a position to
deliver a night air attack on Addu
Atoll. This seemed quite a possible
course of action. In any case it was
necessary for Force A to keep clear to
the southward and for Force B,
estimated to be 135 miles astern in
position 0-12N, 75-15E at 1700 hours,
to steer southward so that Forces A
and B could close for supporting
action at daylight the following
morning (6th April). It as also
necessary for Force B to steer to
southward to keep clear of the enemy
carrier force should it be proceeding
to attack Addu Atoll).
At 1726 hours Force A altered course
to 210 degrees at 18 knots and a
signal was made to Force B and to
DORSETSHIRE to steer south.
At 1800 hours CinC received a signal
from Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers,
stating that reconnaissance aircraft
reported the estimated enemy's
position 20¼, 120 miles from Force A
at 1710 hours. This position was very
close to the previously reported 1600
1817 hours CinC received a further signal
from Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers,
adjusting the 1600 hours position of the
enemy force, amplifying it to include 2
carriers and 3 unknown vessels and giving
the course as northwest. This was the
first indication the CinC had of an enemy
course to the northwest. Force A
immediately altered course to 315 degrees
and Force B was instructed to conform.
(These movements had the object of keeping
Force A within night air striking distance
of the enemy force, trusting to an A.S.V.
search to locate the enemy, and to being
Force B within supporting distance should
it be necessary to retire in that
direction. A dawn rendezvous was arranged
with Force B in approximate position 3N,
1830 hours, sunset, Force A was within
200 miles of the Japanese Fleet and
remained undetected by the enemy.
At 1930 hours
night search with A.S.V. equipped
aircraft commenced to cover the section
345¼ to 030¼ to a depth of 180 miles.
Nothing was located by this search.
hours report reporting the enemy as
steering northwest was incorrect the
Japanese Fleet was in fact steering
southeast. The CinC alteration of
course to the northwest to remain in
striking distance meant that Force A
- At 0400 hours ASV equipped
that Force B was 220 degrees 25 miles
away from Force A.
At 0615 Force A altered course to 135¼
and sighted Force B ten minutes later.
0720 hours approximately 150 miles NNE
of Addu Atoll Force A and B combined.
Then sailed east.
(At this time Somerville didn't know
where the Japanese Fleet was. But
Somerville was concerned that the
Japanese might be heading for Addu
At 1115 hours the Fleet altered course
to the south east towards the position
of the wreckage reported the previous
1300 hours ENTERPRISE, PALADIN and
PANTHER were detached to search for
survivors in the vicinity of the
wreckage position. Air search was
provided to assist; further fighter
escort was sent to cover the
operation. These ships were successful
in picking up a total of 1122
survivors from CORNWALL and
about 50 miles from the wreckage
Fleet reversed course and retired
to the northwest. All round air
searches were carried out to a depth
of 200 miles; nothing was seen.
- At 0200 hours the Fleet altered course
to the west.
0428 hours A.S.V. equipped aircraft
located two submarines in positions
2-08N, 75-16E and 2-46N, 75-10E; i.e.
to the southward of the course of the
(Somerville considered that this
indicated the possibility of an enemy
submarine patrol having been
established to cover the eastern
approaches to Addu. He therefore
decided to pass through the Veimandu
Channel to the west of the Maldives
and make an unexpected approach to
Addu Atoll from the west) At 0700 the
course of the fleet was altered to 210
hours the Fleet was almost back at
the position it had been 24 hours
previously and course was altered to
the Veimandu Channel, ENTERPRISE,
PALADIN and PANTHER rejoined the Fleet
with the survivors from CORNWALL and
DORSETSHIRE. Medical stores were
transferred from WARSPITE to PALADIN
for treatment of the wounded.
ENTERPRISE and PALADIN were detached
to proceed direct to Addu Atoll.
At 2100 hours the Fleet altered course
At 0700 hours aircraft were flown
off from the carriers to carry out
an all round search to a depth of
175 miles. This proved negative.
1100 hours the Fleet arrived back at
commenced, Force B being refuelled
1517 hours an RAF Catalina made a
sighting report of Japanese
battleships and aircraft carrier
approximately 600 miles east of
(This report came in whilst
Somerville was in conference
deciding what action he should
pursue. He decided, with the
Admiralty's approval, that due to
the enemy's size and the
preponderance of numbers and quality
of his aircraft, the most important
duty was to keep his Fleet in being.
Force B was therefore to be sent to
Kilindini and Force A would go to
- At 0600 hours Force A sailed from
Addu Atoll for Bombay
course to pass to the westward of
- At 1000 hours PALADIN closed
WARSPITE to transfer Staff Officers
for passage to Colombo where they were
to inform the Deputy Commander in
Chief, Eastern Fleet of the CinC views
and make preliminary arrangements to
transfer the CinC administrative staff
and secretariat to Kilindini.
- At 0705 hours PALADIN
rejoined Force A from Colombo being
back the Staff Officers who had been
transferred to her on the 10th and
also Rear Admiral V H Danckwerts, CMG
(the CinC Chief of Staff ashore).
1040 hours Force A comprising WARSPITE
CinC, INDOMITABLE (Rear Admiral
Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet),
FORMIDABLE, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, JACOB
VAN HEEMSKERCK, NAPIER, NIZAM, NORMAN,
PALADIN, PANTHER, FOXHOUND, and DECOY
Bombay. Where cruiser NEWCASTLE
Commanding, 4th Cruiser Squadron),
awaiting their arrival.
the 13th and 14th whilst in
Bombay Admiral Somerville had
meetings with General Wavell in
which they discussed the defence
of India and Ceylon. Somerville
confirmed that with his present
force he was unable to do
anything to prevent the invasion
of southern India or Ceylon and
could not sent naval forces into
the Bay of Bengal to protect
shipping or the east coast of
India. Somerville also informed
Wavell of the coming operations
against Madagascar in which the
whole of the Eastern Fleet would
be involved and would not
therefore be available in Indian
- In Bombay harbour
dragged at half ebb and was brought
up by letting go a second anchor.
She weighed and anchored again at
slack water. It was probable that
the dragging was due to her deep
draft. WARSPITE was drawing 35 feet
forward and there was very little
water under her bottom.
were considerable delays in
fuelling the fleet. Oilers were
not allowed to move without
pilots, who were obtained with
difficulty and no movements took
place at night)
- The RFA BROOMDALE arrived at Bombay
and her arrival enabled the carriers
to complete with
Somerville appreciation was that
the Japanese were unlikely to
resume operations against Ceylon
in the near future. This
appreciation was drawn from
intelligence reports that the
Japanese fleet units had withdrawn
from the Indian Ocean for
operations in the Pacific. In the
light of this information he
considered it important that Force
A should visit Colombo)
embarked General Wavell for passage to
Colombo to confer with Admiral Layton.
- At 0100 hours Force A comprising
INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE,
EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, JACOB VAN
HEEMSKERCK, PALADIN, PANTHER, NORMAN,
FOXHOUND and DECOY sailed from Bombay.
During the day air training and
gunnery exercises were carried out and
a night encounter exercise. In case
Force A had been located during the
day, an alteration of course was made
to the southwest after dark.
- In the early morning when course was
altered to southeast, and at daylight
mean line of advance south was resumed.
- Fleet training continued and an
approach exercise was carried out with
the 4th CS.
At 1000 hours destroyer SCOUT joined
Force A from Cochin
- At 0830 hours Force A arrived at
WARSPITE landed 400 rifles and
bayonets for the use of the military
in Ceylon; this was at the personal
request of General Wavell.
- At 0700 hours Force A comprising
WARSPITE, INDOMITABLE, FORMIDABLE,
NEWCASTLE, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE,
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK, PALADIN,
PANTHER, NESTOR, NORMAN, FOXHOUND
sailed from Colombo
and shaped course for the south
west. In company with Force A was
the AMC HMS ALAUNIA. Embarked in
ALAUNIA were the
secretariat and administrative team
group of British code breakers who
were responsible for supplying
signal intelligence on Japanese
intentions to the CinC.
At a position approximately 150
miles south west of Colombo Force A
waited for replacement aircraft to
be flown on to the carriers from
during the forenoon the aircraft
failed to locate the carriers
owing to bad visibility and
heavy rain squalls. They
returned to the shore aerodromes
and another attempt was made
early in the afternoon, but
failed again. By this time the
shore aerodromes had apparently
become unserviceable due to the
very heavy rainfall. No further
flying was possible and all hope
of embarking aircraft on this
day was abandoned at 1800
hours ALAUNIA and EMERALD were
detached from Force A to proceed
independently at ALAUNIA's best speed
of 13.5 knots to the Seychelles.
- In the morning Force A returned to the
flying on position and all 25 aircraft
were flown on.
At 1300 hours course was
the southwest for the Veimandu Channel
at 18 knots.
- At 1300 hours Force A passed through
the Veimandu Channel and shaped course
for the Seychelles. An air search was
sent out to the southward to locate
EMERALD and ALAUNIA, estimated to have
passed through the One and a Half Degree
Channel during the forenoon. They were
located shortly before dark, 40 miles to
the southward. Force A's course was
adjusted to make an RV with EMERALD and
ALAUNIA at daylight.
At 1830 hours INDOMITABLE escorted by
PALADIN and PANTHER, was detached to
proceed in advance to the Seychelles to
- At 0900 hours Force A RVed with
EMERALD and ALAUNIA and speed was
reduced to 12.5 knots.
During the day aircraft from FORMIDABLE
carried training with the ships of Force
- During the day aircraft from
FORMIDABLE carried training with the
ships of Force A. At times there was
insufficient wind for FORMIDABLE to
operate owing to her limited speed, due
to damage to the starboard engine.
During the afternoon DECOY was refuelled
After dark special exercises were
carried out to investigate the best use
of parachute flares dropped from
aircraft to illuminate the target on a
bright moonlight night.
- Fleet and air training continued
throughout the day and in the afternoon
WARSPITE carried out a 15' throw off
firing at NEWCASTLE.
- At 0630 hours Force A arrived off
As it was not possible to refuel all
the ships in one day Force A was
split into two groups.
1 comprising WARSPITE, EMERALD,
ENTERPRISE, JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK,
NESTOR, NORMAN, FOXHOUND and DECOY
proceeded into Port Victoria to
2 comprising FORMIDABLE and
NEWCASTLE were detached to the
detached to proceed to Kilindini
- At 0530 hours refuelling completed
Group 1 sailed from Port Victoria.
At 0700 hours Group 1 and 2 RVed south
west of Port Victoria. Group 2 went
into Port Victoria to refuel and the 4
destroyers were detached to carry out
an A/S patrol off the harbour.
HEEMSKERCK, who had rudder problems,
was detached to proceed
independently to Durban.
WARSPITE, EMERALD and ENTERPRISE set
course south west and detoured
At 2100 hours off Port Victoria
WARSPITE, EMERALD and ENTERPRISE
RVed with FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE,
NESTOR, NORMAN, FOXHOUND and DECOY
and course was shaped for position
12- 00S, 59-50E to provide cover for
Operation IRONCLAD (The invasion of
- At 0900 hours Force A arrived at position
12-00S, 59-50E, 650 miles east of
During the forenoon of 3rd May an air
search to a depth of 190 miles was
carried out by aircraft from
FORMIDABLE over the sector East to
South from this position to search the
area between Saya de Mlaha Bank and
north of Nazareth Bank, for any
possible Japanese forces attempting
the capture or occupation of Diego
At 1300 hours all aircraft from
FORMIDABLE returned having sighted
day course was shaped to the
northwest. The four destroyers were
refuelled from WARSPITE and NEWCASTLE
At 1700 course was altered to
northwest to RV with Force B the
- At 0830 hours in position 11S, 56E
Force B comprising battleship
RESOLUTION, cruisers DRAGON and CALEDON
and destroyers GRIFFIN, HOTSPUR and
FORTUNE RVed with the CinC and Force A.
During the forenoon course was shaped to
the southeast. An air search was sent
out from FORMIDABLE to a maximum depth
to cover the sector North-East-South. In
the late afternoon, course was altered
to northwest, so as to reach a position
220 miles 070¼ from Diego Suarez by 0700
hours on 5th May (D1 for Operation
this time Somerville suffered from
an entire lack of information
concerning the plan on which
Operation IRONCLAD was to be
- At 0700 hours the Fleet passed through
the pre-arranged position on a southerly
An air search from FORMIDABLE covered
aircraft were ordered to keep outside
100 miles of the coast of Madagascar in
order to avoid appearing on the R.D.F.
screens of Force F (Force F was the
invasion force) this search found
At 1430 hours course was altered to the
1630 hours the CinC sent a signal to
Senior Officer, Force F, repeated to
Admiralty, stating his intention was
to be in position 090¼ Cape Amber
130 miles, 12S, 50 ½ E at
1100/6/5/42 and, after carrying out
an air search to the eastward,
proceed with the whole fleet to
Kilindini, provided Senior Officer F
had no further requirements for the
Fleet. However late at night a
report was intercepted which
indicated that the port would not be
open until 7th May. The CinC
therefore reconsidered his intention
to proceed with whole Fleet to
Kilindini a.m. on the 6th May.)
- At 0130 hours the Fleet's course was
altered so as to reach a position 110
miles 080¼ from Diego Suarez by 0630
the forenoon course was shaped to the
northwest. An air search was sent out from
FORMIDABLE to cover the section
northeast-southeast to a depth of 105
miles. This search found nothing.
(At noon the
CinC reviewed the situation regarding
the future operations of Force A and
B. The governing factors being fuel
states and RESOLUTION's fresh water
1230 hours Force B comprising
RESOLUTION, EMERALD, ENTERPRISE, DRAGON,
CALEDON, GRIFFIN, HOTSPUR and FORTUNE
were detached to proceed to Kilindini.
WARSPITE, FORMIDABLE, NEWCASTLE, NESTOR,
NORMAN, FOXHOUND and DECOY set course to
the south east but remaining in the
vicinity to reinforce Force F if
required and to continue air searched in
the directions of possible approach of
At 1700 hours course was reversed to the
- At 0230 hours course was reversed to
the south east.
At 0700 hours Force A was in position
10-50S, 50-20E, course south east. An
air search was sent out from FORMIDABLE
to cover the sector East to South to a
depth of 120 miles, but found nothing.
Force A remained in the vicinity of 11S,
51E until the position ashore was
At 1300 hours another air search was
sent out from FORMIDABLE to cover the
sector north east to south to search the
lines of approach of a possible Japanese
force from the northeast or east.
At 1700 hours the search aircraft
returned having seen nothing.
At 1700 hours, with the situation ashore
apparently satisfactory, Force A left
the area and proceeded to Kilindini.
- At 1300 hours Force A arrived at
Kilindini. Force A was to remain in
harbour for five days at 8 hours' notice
for steam in order to carry out
essential maintenance work.
- All available forces at Kilindini,
including WARSPITE, sailed from
Kilindini under the command of the Vice
Admiral Second in Command Eastern Fleet
to carry out a series of exercises.
Zanzibar and Manza were visited in the
course of these exercises.
- (The Admiralty informed that the
CinC that the CinC United States Fleet,
suggested the possibility of Japanese
attacks on the western bases, and
requested some diversion in the Eastern
Indian Ocean or the detachment of a
carrier to the southwest Pacific area.
The Admiralty in the meantime enquired
of the CinC whether he would have
sufficient screening destroyers to
proceed with part of the fleet to
Colombo. The CinC replied that a minimum
of five destroyers was required)
- The Fleet returned to Kilindini.
intention in basing the Fleet at
Kilindini was secure the convoy
route from the Cape to the Red Sea;
to give time for the AA defences of
Colombo and Trincomalee to be built
up and to maintain a Fleet in being)
- At 1230 hours Force A comprising
(CinC Eastern Fleet), ILLUSTRIOUS
(Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers,
Eastern Fleet), FORMIDABLE, GAMBIA,
DUNCAN and ACTIVE sailed from
Kilindini and proceeded eastward at 18
knots, so as to pass 100 miles north
of the Seychelles.
After dark further trials were carried
out to investigate the best method of
employing parachute flares for
illuminating ships sighted at night
outside starshell range on moonlight
nights. On completion of these
exercises, GAMBIA was stated five
miles ahead of the main force for the
- Air and gunnery practices were carried
out in the a.m., including a dawn A.L.T.
on the Fleet.
At 1200 hours ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE
detached and proceed to the northward
for independent air training and
exercises against WARSPITE and GAMBIA.
A night A.L.T. had been intended but the
air striking force failed to locate
WARSPITE or GAMBIA.
- At 0100 hours DUNCAN and ACTIVE were
detached to proceed to Diego Suarez.
(This deployment was a consequence of
the torpedoing of RAMILLIES).
the day gunnery and air exercises were
continued. The latter included: fighter
escorted air striking by 8 T.S.R.s which
carried out a day A.L.T. on WARSPITE and
GAMBIA. This was the first large scale air
exercise to be carried out by the Eastern
Fleet in which the air striking forces had
been escorted by fighters.
Night A.L.T. on WARSPITE.
hours a Walrus was catapulted from
WARSPITE to proceed to Seychelles with
important despatches for onward
0900 hours ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE
rejoined Force A, and destroyers LAFOREY
(D19), LIGHTNING, and LOOKOUT
rendezvoused with Force A.
During the afternoon GAMBIA opened out
to 60 miles to northward to act as a
target for air exercises.
air search was carried out p.m. ahead
of the fleet to a depth of 120 miles
over the sector 75 degrees to 130
degrees. Nothing was seen.
- At 0900 hours GAMBIA rejoined Force A
and course was altered to the northeast
of the Kardiya Channel.
- At daylight course was altered to
eastward and the force passed through
Kardiya Channel at noon.
At 1420 hours an RAF Catalina from Ceylon
sighted and reported Force A and was
subsequently engaged by fighters from
Force A and considered shot down.
- During the forenoon the fighter umbrella
of Force A was picked up on one of the
Ceylon R.D.F. screens when 60 miles away
and the approximate position of the Force
Apart from this Force A remained
un-located until proceeding down the swept
channel into Colombo harbour, when a
squadron of RAF Blenheims, after forming
up out of range, passed overhead in close
formation. It was not until after the CinC
arrived in harbour that he learned that
this fly (or as one of his staff put it a
'totter') past was intended to represent a
medium level bombing attack.
1530 hours Force A arrived at Colombo.
- At 0950 hours Force A comprising
WARSPITE CinC, ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE,
GAMBIA, LAFOREY, LOOKOUT, LIGHTNING and
HMNethS VAL GALEN sailed from Colombo to
search off the Chagos
enemy raiders and their supply ships.
deployment followed the shelling and
subsequent abandoning, of the
British cargo liner the SS ELYSIA
6757 grt in position 27-15S, 36-24E
by the Japanese auxiliary cruisers
AIKOKU MARU and HOKOKU MARU at
1200 hours when Force A was 35 miles
south west of Colombo three dummy
attacks were made on Force A by RAF
aircraft from Colombo, the first was a
low level attack by Hurricanes, followed
by a combined high level attack by
Blenheims and torpedo attack by
- At 0001 hours Force A was 90 miles
from Colombo and a planed interception
by a RAF Catalina failed to occur.
At 0645 hours three RAF
carried out independent searches and
two were successful in locating and
attacking Force A.
- At 0900 hours Force A was in a
position about 100 miles to the eastward
of Chagos, an air search was carried out
over the whole of the Chagos Archipelago
for possible enemy supply ships. No
ships were found. Course was then set
for Addu Atoll.
16th - At
0800 hours Force A arrived at Addu
Atoll to refuel.
At 1800 hours Force A sailed from Addu
Atoll to return to Colombo.
- At 1600 hours Force A arrived back at
- At 0900 hours Force A comprising
WARSPITE CinC, FORMIDABLE, GAMBIA,
LIGHTNING, and HMNethS VAN GALEN
sailed from Colombo for Kilindini.
1200 hours 40 miles west of Colombo
synchronized attack was carried out by
Ceylon air forces on Force A. Two pairs
of Beauforts attacked simultaneously,
one pair from each side, and at the same
time a squadron of Blenheims approached
unobserved and carried out a high level
1330 hours Force A turned towards
Colombo until 1600 hours when
ILLUSTRIOUS reported that she would
not be ready to sail until after 1700
hours at the earliest.
At 1615 hours Force A was then turned
to the southeast and course shaped for
the One and a Half Degree Channel.
- At 0700 hours ILLUSTRIOUS joined Force
A from Colombo.
At 1230 despatches were transferred by
LIGHTNING from WARSPITE to GAMBIA for
transmission on her return to Colombo.
At 1400 hours GAMBIA was detached and
opened out to 50 miles to the northward
to act as a target ship for night
shadowing air exercises and was
instructed to proceed at dawn on 26th
back to Colombo.
- At 1620 hours ILLUSTRIOUS and
FORMIDABLE under Rear Admiral Aircraft
Carriers, detached to the northward.
- At 1100 hours Force A comprising
WARSPITE, LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, and VAN
GALEN arrived at Port Victoria, the
Seychelles and commenced refuelling.
Throughout the visit two destroyers and a
Walrus aircraft maintained A/S patrols to
seaward. A Catalina aircraft also carried
out a long range patrol around the
At 1830 hours Force A comprising WARSPITE,
LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, FOXHOUND and VAN
from Port Victoria.
At 1900 hours in position 02-50S, 53E,
ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE rejoined
- At 1700 hours Force A arrived back
Nominated for duty with Eastern Fleet
units for deception operation STAB.
- At 0800 hours Sailed from Kilindini
with CinC Eastern Fleet embarked in
company with aircraft carriers
FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS, cruisers
BIRMINGHAM and MAURITIUS and
destroyers INCONSTANT, HMAS NIZAM and
NORMAN and HMNethS VAN GALEN on
STAB was a simulated attack on the
Andaman Islands. It was an
operation mounted in response to a
request from the CinC USN Admiral
King for a British diversion in
the Indian Ocean to cover the USN
Operation WATCHTOWER, the assault
on Guadalcanal, that commenced
- The Fleet was joined by HMAS NAPIER
- At 1200 hours the 4 destroyers
detached from Force A and entered Port
Victoria, the Seychelles to refuel.
The remainder of Force A stood off to
the north where the cruisers detached
and carried out a shadowing exercise
on the 3 main fleet units.
- At 0700 hours the 4 destroyers
carried out a mock torpedo attack on
Force A on rejoining from Port
Victoria. Course was then set for the
and a Half Degree Channel.
- At 1950 hours a Radar contact was
made with a shadowing Catalina and a
signal from her was intercepted
reporting the position, course, and
speed of Force A with reasonable
28th - From 0440 hours until full
daylight at 0630 hours two aircraft
formations approached Force A, but never
closer than about 14 miles and returned
to base without delivering any attack.
From 0440 until full daylight at 0630
two formations approached Force A, but
never closer than about 14 miles and
returned to base without delivering any
At 0650 hours a formation of six
Blenheims closed Force A and was sighted
but did not deliver any attack.
At 0725 hours a squadron of 12
Hurricanes, flying very low, approached
Force A and delivered a low level
bombing attack on the carriers.
At 0900 hours Force A arrived at
- At 1700 hours Force A comprising
FORMIDABLE, ILLUSTRIOUS, BIRMINGHAM
INCONSTANT, NAPIER, NIZAM, NORMAN and
VAN GALEN sailed from Colombo to
implement Operation STAB. Course was
set for Trincomalee.
- The dummy convoys for Operation STAB
sailed from Trincomalee (Force T),
Vizagapatam (Force V) and Madras
At 0900 hours Force A was 40 miles
north east of Trincomalee, proving
cover for Force T.
At 1040 hours when Force A was in
position 9N, 21-42E the force was
sighted by a Japanese reconnaissance
aircraft but no action was taken as it
was identified as a Catalina.
investigations and a warning of the
presence of British forces broadcast
from Tokyo established this was an
At 1500 hours an air search was sent
out to cover the sector from 000
degrees to 110¼ to a depth of 150
miles but nothing was seen.
From 2300 hours various units carried
out Operation SPARK.
SPARK was a wireless diversion
carried out to simulate the
imaginary collision to occur in
Convoy M. One of the damaged ships
to make in plain language W/T
signal reported she had been in
collision and is unable to proceed
on operation. One of the escort
vessels to order her to keep
silence and later to report to
Command in Chief that Force M was
unable to proceed. Commander in
Chief to postpone the operation
and order all forces to return to
- At 0100 hours Force A was in
position 11-30N, 82-15E and course was
reversed to the south-east.
At 0645 hours course was altered to
At 1030 hours despatches were
transferred by NORMAN from WARSPITE to
ILLUSTRIOUS and thence sent by
aircraft to Trincomalee for onward
At 1100 hours FORMIDABLE flew off two
Martlets as Fighter Umbrella.
At 1112 ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE
reported R.D.F. contact on an aircraft
bearing 055¼, 55 miles. FORMIDABLE
directed two Martlets onto this
aircraft. When the fighters sighted
the enemy flying boat at 10, 000 feet
they first thought it was a Catalina,
but on approaching closely identified
it as a
H6K, 'Mavis' Japanese reconnaissance
promptly shot it down in approximate
position 9-26N, 83-16E. There were
At 1215 hours Force A altered course
to the westward and speed increased
to reach Trincomalee before dark.
At 1915 hours Force A entered
Trincomalee and the refuelling of
destroyers commenced at once and was
completed at 2200 hours.
this point Operation Stab was
called of because the capital
ships were required for operations
- At 0600 hours
sailed from Trincomalee and shaped
course for Colombo keeping out of
sight of land.
At 1300 hours Force A was joined by
HM Minelayer MANXMAN.
- At 0900 hours Force A arrived at
- At 1000 hours
comprising WARSPITE CinC Eastern
Fleet, ILLUSTRIOUS (Rear Admiral
Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet),
MAURITIUS, NAPIER (Commodore (D)),
INCONSTANT, ACTIVE, and FORTUNE sailed
from Colombo. Force A had embarked 250
officers and men of the King's African
Rifles for passage to Kilindini, 100
of who were on WARSPITE.
During the day the opportunity was
again taken to use Force A as a target
for squadron training for Swordfish,
Blenheims, and Hurricane bombers from
the Ceylon Air Forces.
The Blenheims and Hurricanes carried
out a well executed and well
synchronized attack. The Beauforts did
not take part as they were engaged in
torpedo practices off Trincomalee.
Subsequently, Force A was shadowed by
a Catalina and though the technique of
the latter on occasion left something
to be desired.
- At daylight on 11th August an air
search was made of the Kardiya Channel
and adjacent atolls, and later that
forenoon Force A passed through the
channel. Course was then shaped for the
- At 0930 hours Force A arrived at Port
Victoria, Seychelles to refuel the
destroyers and JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK.
Throughout this operation AS surface and
air patrols were maintained to seaward.
At 1500 hours Force A sailed from Port
Victoria and shaped course to Kilindini
17th - Force A RVed
with Force B comprising battleships
RESOLUTION (Vice Admiral Commanding,
Third Battle Squadron), ROYAL
SOVEREIGN and VALIANT, cruiser
DAUNTLESS, and destroyers GRIFFIN,
FOXHOUND, DECOY, BLACKMORE, HMAS's
NORMAN and NIZAM.
Exercises were carried out throughout
- At 0900 hours the Fleet arrived at
- Sailed from Kilindini as part of a
force comprising battleships WARSPITE,
RESOLUTION (Flag of Vice Admiral Second
in Command, Eastern Fleet), VALIANT,
cruiser GAMBIA, ENTERPRISE, JACOB VAN
HEEMSKERCK, and destroyers GRIFFIN,
DECOY, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND,
HMAS NAPIER and NEPAL and HMNethS VAN
GALEN and TJERK HIDDES. 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 returned to Kilindini.
to operational area off east coast of
- Covered landings of 29th Infantry
Brigade, Operation STREAM, to complete
occupation of Madagascar in company
with HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, cruisers GAMBIA
and BIRMINGHAM, screened by destroyers
of 7th Flotilla.
(Operation STREAM was the
landings to capture Majunga)
- Sailed from Majunga to cover
landings at Tamatave, Operation JANE.
(Operation JANE was the landing and
- Took part in demonstration off
Tamatave in place of the planned
- Released from Operation JANE and
took passage to Diego Suarez.
- In the afternoon sailed
from Diego Suarez, WARSPITE CinC was
escorted by NEPAL and FORTUNE course
was set for Durban via the Mozambique
- At 1200 hours arrived at Durban.
- WARSPITE was docked.
warning radar Type 271 replaced by
31st - WARSPITE
from Durban WARSPITE CinC, with
cruiser BIRMINGHAM escorted by
destroyers HOTSPUR and HMAS NAPIER.
As soon as clear of the harbour, the
force proceeded at high speed close
inshore up the coast with outer and
inner air escort.
When clear of the Durban area,
course was altered away from land
and set for Kilindini through the
- During the forenoon the force passed
through the Pemba Channel where the
disembarked squadrons from ILLUSTRIOUS
at Tanga carried out A.R.T., dive
bombing, and fighter attacks on the
ships of the force.
At 1500 hours WARSPITE, HOTSPUR and
NAPIER arrived at Kilindini.
BIRMINGHAM arrived at 1730 hours.
the remainder of the month WARSPITE
was at Kilindini but there was very
little opportunity for exercises at
sea in the vicinity of Kilindini
owing to the lack of destroyer
escorts. WARSPITE, VALIANT and
REVENGE were able to exercise only
- Sailed from Kilindini as Force A to
carry out local exercises. Force A
WARSPITE (Vice Admiral Eastern
Fleet), battleship VALIANT,
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS,
cruisers BIRMINGHAM (CS 4) and
GAMBIA, AMC RANPURA and destroyers
ROTHERHAM (D 11), NEPAL, HOTSPUR,
BLACKMORE and DERWENT.
- RANPURA detached from Force A and
returned to Kilindini.
- Force A less GAMBIA arrived back at
9 4 3
- At Kilindini where Captain Herbert
Annesley Packer RN took over command
from Captain Douglas Blake Fisher RN.
was an interesting appointment for
an acting Sub-Lieutenant Herbert
Packer joined the new battleship
WARSPITE on February 22nd 1915
as Sub-Lieutenant of her
Gunroom. Then in 1926 he became
her gunnery officer)
- Sailed from Kilindini as part of
Force A comprised battleships
WARSPITE, REVENGE and RESOLUTION,
cruiser MAURITIUS, and destroyers
ROTHERHAM, QUILLIAM, NEPAL, ,
FOXHOUND and HMAS NIZAM for
operations in the Indian Ocean.
of the operation was to provide
distant cover for Operation
PAMPHLET. This was the code name
for the troop convoy that carried
the 9th AIF Division from the
Middle East back to Sydney,
Australia. The convoy sailed from
Suez on 4/2/43 and arrived at Addu
Atoll on 9/2/42 and sailed from
Addu Atoll on 10/2/42)
- At 0240 hours Force A comprising
RESOLUTION, REVENGE, MAURITIUS,
NEPAL, NORMAN, ROTHERHAM, and NIZAM
arrived at Addu Atoll.
At 0250 hours QUILLIAM and FOXHOUND
arrived at Addu Atoll having
provided local escort for PAMPHLET.
- Force A less MAURITIUS sailed from
Addu Atoll for Port Victoria,
- Force A arrived at Port Victoria to
refuel. After refuelling Force A
sailed for Kilindini.
-Force A comprising WARSPITE,
RESOLUTION, ROTHERHAM, FOXHOUND,
NIZAM, QUILLIAM, NORMAN and NEPAL
arrived at Kilindini.
- Sailed from Kilindini for Durban
destroyers FOXHOUND, QUILLIAM and
- Arrived at Durban escorted by
FOXHOUND, QUILLIAM and NEPAL.
- At Durban where she was taken in hand
for a short refit.
- Refit completed.
16th - Sailed
from Durban to return to the UK escorted
by destroyers QUILLIAM (D 4),
QUEENBOROUGH, QUALITY, and QUAIL.
passage to UK.
- Arrived in the Clyde escorted by
destroyers QUILLIAM (D 4),
QUEENBOROUGH, QUALITY, and QUAIL.
at Princes Dock, Govan, Glasgow, to
commence a refit.
- Refit completed.
- At 1500 hours WARSPITE sailed from
Greenock escorted by destroyers
SCORPION and ORWELL.
Off the Firth of Clyde destroyer QUAIL
joined the screen.
- At 1800 hours WARSPITE, SCORPION,
QUAIL, and ORWELL arrived at Scapa.
- WARSPITE commenced working up
exercises and bombardment practices
off Cape Wrath in preparation for
deployment in Operation HUSKY.
(Operation HUSKY was the invasion of
- At 1400 hours Force H comprising
battleships NELSON (CinC Force H),
RODNEY, VALIANT, and WARSPITE,
aircraft carrier INDOMITABLE escorted
by destroyers FAULKNOR (D 8),
INTREPID, FURY, INGLEFIELD, ECHO,
QUILLIAM (D 4), QUEENBOROUGH, QUAIL,
OFFA, PATHFINDER, PANTHER, and ORP
PIORUN sailed from Scapa for
- Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
Shortly after anchoring WARSPITE
hoisted the flag of Rear Admiral A. W.
La T Bissett 2inC Force H.
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 FAULKNOR (D 8),
INTREPID, FURY, INGLEFIELD, ECHO,
ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, ILEX, RAIDER
and GS QUEEN OLGA sailed from
Gibraltar for Algiers.
- 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
(2IC Force H) division of Force H,
VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, escorted by
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
battleships NELSON (CinC Force H) and
RODNEY, aircraft carrier
Rear Admiral Lumley Lyster),
cruisers CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS and
destroyers OFFA, PANTHER, QUAIL,
QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D 4),
TROUBRIDGE, TUMULT, TYRIAN and ORP
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.
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
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
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 to for refuelling.
WARSPITE was able to give leave to her
was the first visit by battleships
to Malta since WARSPITE in December
in the day the WARSPITE division
sailed from Malta and rejoined Force H
13th - 25 miles SE of
Cape Spartivento ECHO and ILEX, who
were part of Force H screen, sank the
Italian submarine NEREIDE.
Whilst patrolling the Ionian Sea Force
H was attacked by Italian torpedo
bombers, without result, although
CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS were near
- At 0015 hours
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 VASILISSA OLGA.
- 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
At 1300 hours WARSPITE sailed from
Marsaxlokk and off Grand Harbour picked
up her escort of destroyers FAULKNOR,
FURY, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, PETARD,
RAIDER and HHellMS VASILISSA OLGA and
course was set for Catania to carry out
a bombardment in support of the 8th Army
She was instructed to commence her
bombardment at 1830 hours. In order to
achieve the start time WARSPITE worked
up to 23½ knots. Then her steering
suddenly jammed and she turned a sharp
circle, this was a repeat of a
continuing problem that had first
occurred during the Battle of Jutland.
At 1842 hours WARSPITE arrived in
position 141¼ Sciara Biscari light15000
yards from which position she opened
fire on military targets. After a
ranging shot A and B turrets commenced
firing; each fired 8 x 2 gun salvoes she
changed position closing to 11200 yards
to allow X and Y turrets to fire 6 x 2
gun salvoes. During the bombardment she
was attacked by 3 FW 190s, without
At 1902 hours the bombardment was
checked, she had fired a total of 57 x
At the same time her escorting
destroyers fired at the coastal
Course was set south to return to Malta.
During the night several air attacks
were experienced without damage.
- At 0700 hours WARSPITE and back at
her return to Malta WARSPITE
received the following signal from
Admiral Cunningham CinC ANXF,
'Operation well carried out. There
is no question when the old lady
lifts her skirts she can run.')
- In Valetta Harbour when the harbour
came under air attack.
- Battleships WARSPITE (2iC Force H) and
VALIANT, 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 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
- At 1000 hours WARSPITE and VALIANT
opened fire on 155mm coastal batteries
south of Reggio. The bombardment was
also carried out by
EREBUS, ROBERTS and ABERCROMBIE, 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 landings.
At daylight the British X111 corps
di Calabria and Villa San under cover
of gunfire from the off shore naval
force, artillery fire from Sicily and
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
FAULKNOR (D 8), FURY, INGLEFIELD,
INTREPID and RAIDER sailed from
Marsaxlokk Bay on Operation AVALANCHE.
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
a result of all these factors, the
landings at Salerno was fiercely
- At 0545 hours the force was
unsuccessfully attacked by torpedo
At 0700 hours the two divisions of Force
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
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 other
(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.
9th - Air
attacks continued. In one attack
WARSPITE was singled out and a torpedo
bomber came within 800 yards before
dropping its torpedo. WARSPITE good work
on the helm enabled her to comb the
track and avoid the torpedo.
At 0040 hours the air attacks ceased.
At 0300 hours the assault troops started
At 0500 hours the air attacks
At 1330 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT,
FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER,
Greek VASILISSA OLGA and French 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
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)
hours Le TERRIBLE detached and returned
to Force H.
10th - At
0800 hours north of Bone ML 443 went
alongside WARSPITE and transferred
Captain T M Brownrigg RN and his staff.
Captain Brownrigg was the representative
of the CinC, ANCXF, he had also been the
navigating officer of WARSPITE between
7/39 and 2/41.
At 0832 hours the Italian Fleet hove
into sight from the north.
At 0900 hours Captain Brownrigg and his
staff transferred to the Italian
flagship the Cruiser EUGENIO di SAVOIA
wearing the flag of Admiral Oliva.
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.
At this point the ANCXF Admiral
Cunningham, who had sailed out from
Bizerta in HM destroyer OFFA, signaled
to WARSPITE his pleasure to see her in
her appointed station at the head of the
OFFA then took station ahead of the line
of the 8 Italian Destroyers.
- North of Malta the force was met by
destroyer HAMBLETON who had embarked
General Dwight D Eisenhower the Allied
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.
Admiral Cunningham then signalled The
pleased to inform Their Lordships that
the Italian battle fleet now lies at
anchor under the guns of the fortress
12th - At
Malta Rear Admiral A. W. La T Bissett
struck his flag.
WARSPITE then sailed to RV with the
Italian Battleship GIULIO CESARE in the
Gulf of Taranto and escort her into
harbour at Malta.
14th - 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. WARSPITE was en route to the
UK to prepare for the Normandy landings.
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
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
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
15th - At
1100 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT 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. WARSPITE’s gunnery
officers crossed to the HQ ship USS
BISCAYNE to obtain target information.
At 1320 hours the gunnery officers
returned and her captain of Marines
embarked on PETARD who landed him on the
beachhead to act as FOO for her
WARSPITE then moved to a position
approximately 1000 yards off the mouth
of the Sele River in the US assault
At 1752 hours WARSPITE opened fire with
her main armament on Altavilla, in
support of US troops, 9 out of her 12
salvos were right on the target.
WARSPITE’s target was also being
bombarded by cruisers AURORA, MAURITIUS
and PENELOPE and USS PHILADELPHIA.
As darkness closed in WARSPITE and
VALIANT withdrew to seaward.
During the night the assembled shipping
came under sustained air attack. The
destroyer escorts were positioned around
the two battleships approximately 4000
yards out. During one air attack a 6in
shell from WARSPITE hit PETARD and
exploded amongst the ammunition supply
party for A and B guns, killing 2 and
16th - At
0830 hours WARSPITE returned to her
previous days bombardment position, with
destroyers CLEVELAND, COTTESMORE and
GARTH as escort and resumed her
bombardment of enemy positions. One of
her targets was a German ammunition dump
behind Altavilla she fired 48 rounds of
15in at the target, 16 of which fell
right on the target and 8 were within
Mid morning the bombarding ships came
under heavy air attack. Due to the
nature of the mission and the
concentration of shipping the ability to
take avoiding action was limited.
During one air attack a 4in shell from
WARSPITE hit destroyer OFFA, exploding
on B gun deck, killing one and wounding
At 1400 hours she was moving away from
her bombardment position having
completed her mission. When she was
attacked, out of the Sun, by 12 FW 190
fighter bombers, these were fought off
without result. But in repelling this
attack all attention had been
concentrated on these 12 aircraft.
1427 hours, moving at 10 knots through
the congested shipping, with her
attention diverted and only a few
minutes after the fighter-bombers had
disappeared; the ship’s look-outs
sighted a group of high level high level
D0 217 K-2 bombers who released 3
FX-1400 (Fritz X) glider bombs. Of the
three glider bombs launched, two found
their target. The first bomb came
straight for the port side of the ship
and penetrated six decks to hit her
double bottom before exploding and
flooding No.4 boiler-room and eventually
causing the flooding of 4 of the other 5
boiler rooms. The second was a near-miss
amidships abreast the bulge on the
starboard side, where it burst under
water causing a long gash in her
starboard bulge. The third bomb was a
near-miss on the starboard side aft.
From the time of sighting to the time of
the bombs' arrival was some seven to ten
seconds. 9 men were killed and 14
injured. All steam was lost and the ship
could not steer. All communications were
temporarily out of action and some 5,000
tons of flood-water had increased her
draught by about five feet.
attacking aircraft were from the
Luftwaffe unit 111/KG100 based at
Marseilles. They released their air
to ship wireless glider bombs from
20000 feet. The FX-1400 was a radio
controlled gliding armour piercing
bomb, guided by a joystick from the
mother plane. It was 3.26 meters
long, weighed 1570 Kg and had 320 Kg
of explosive and emitted a smoke
trail for identification by the bomb
aimer; It reached a terminal
velocity of 600 miles/hour and could
pierce 130mm of armour. The bombs
aimed at WARSPITE were guided by
Corporal Huhn, Sergeant Meyer and
Warrant Officer Mrowitz. A
proficient bomb aimer could achieve
50% hits within a 15 meter radius)
was left drifting without power, Radar
out of action, unable to operate her
armament or steer. She had 4 destroyers
in company. Captain Parker issued orders
to prepare for a tow, changed over to
mechanical steering and called upon HM
AA Cruiser DELHI to provide AA
By 1615 hours the Fleet Tug USS HOPI had
a line on her. Two more Fleet Tugs, the
USS MORENO and USS NARRAGANSETT,
arrived soon afterwards and course was
set for the Straits of Messina at 4
At 1930 hours cruiser SCYLLA joined the
2300 hours cruiser EURYALUS arrived on
the scene. At which time WARSPITE was
drifting sideways, despite the best
efforts of the tugs. With the agreement
of Captain Parker, Admiral Vian ordered
EURYALUS abreast of the battleship’s
bulky bows to pick up her towing hawser.
As soon as this was secured, EURYALUS
went ahead dead slow. Unfortunately at
this point the tugs had cast off their
own tows and
WARSPITE had become a water-logged
dead-weight and the towing hawser
- At 0130 hours the tugs had secured
further towing hawsers and had her under
way again. A speed of 4 knots was
maintained through the night. But by
next morning WARSPITE’s list had
increased to 4.5 degrees. However she
was only 45 miles from the Salerno
beachhead and making very slow progress.
Her diesel dynamos were providing
electric power which enabled her pumps
to prevent the flood-water spreading.
Two more tugs, HM Tugs NIMBLE and ORIANA
joined and, although the towing hawsers
parted many times, the 5 tugs gradually
worked the speed up to 6 knots.
- In the Straits of Messina HM Ocean
Salvage Vessel SALVEDA joined the group.
But the southward current was so strong
that all towing wires except one parted,
and the water-logged ship went through
the Straits broadside on. Eventually she
emerged at the southern exit of Straits,
where the tow was resumed.
- At 0800 hours WARSPITE arrived back at
Malta. Temporary repairs were commenced.
Following her arrival at Malta her CO
Captain Parker left the ship and
Commander Hon. D Edwardes, the executive
officer, took command temporarily.
temporary repair at HM Dockyard, Malta.
- WARSPITE sailed from Malta for
Gibraltar, her displacement had risen to
39500 tons and was drawing nearly 40 Ft.
under tow by HM Ocean Salvage Tugs
JAUNTY, NIMBLE, ORIANA and RESTIVE,
escorted by destroyers ATHERSTONE,
BLANKNEY and HAYDON.
Docked at Gibraltar for repair to
allow ocean passage to UK.
repair at HM Dockyard Gibraltar.
- Whilst at Gibraltar she was inspected
by Admiral Cunningham.
9 4 4
repair at Gibraltar.
- Sailed from Gibraltar and joined
convoy MKF 29, this was a convoy of 22
merchant ships and troop transports
escorted by cruiser GLASGOW, HM Escort
Carriers ACTIVITY and NAIRANA, destroyer
WINCHELSEA and HM Sloops CRANE, CYGNET,
REDPOLE and WOODCOCK
- In position
55-13N, 9-05W, WARSPITE detached from
convoy MKF 29 and was joined by
destroyers ONSLOW (D 17) and HNorMS
STORD. Course was then set for Rosyth.
- Off Scapa destroyer SAVAGE joined and
ONSLOW detached for Scapa.
- WARSPITE, SAVAGE and STORD arrived at
Rosyth. Where work was undertaken to
repair her defective X and Y turrets.
Her damage was never fully repaired and
X turret remained permanently out of
Damage to No 4 Boiler
Room was not undertaken and caisson
fitted over the hole in ship’s bottom.
she left Rosyth her operational
armament was six 15in guns, eight 4in
AA guns and forty pom poms.
- At Rosyth Captain Marcel H A Kelsey RN
repair at Rosyth.
for support of allied landings in
Normandy with Bombarding Force. (HM
Battleship RAMILLIES, monitor ROBERTS,
cruisers MAURITIUS, ARETHUSA,
FROBISHER, DANAE and Polish ORP DRAGON
in Eastern Task Force (Operation
Target in Pre-arranged Fire Plan – Gun
Batteries at Villerville.
Carried out bombardment exercises with
Force ‘D’ in NW Approaches.
(For more details of naval activities
prior to and during landings see
LANDINGS IN NORMANDY JUNE 1944 (HMSO)
and OPERATION NEPTUNE by K Edwards).
- At 1900 hours sailed from Greenock
for the Normandy beachhead, on
Operation NEPTUNE, in company with
battleship RAMILLIES, monitor ROBERTS,
cruisers MAURITIUS, ARETHUSA,
FROBISHER, DANAE and ORP DRAGON
escorted by destroyers SAUMAREZ (D
23), SWIFT, SUCCESS and HNorMS STORD
and SVENNER. This group was designated
Bombarding Force D and was to have
sailed directly to their bombarding
stations off the beachhead, however
due the bad weather the operation was
postponed for 24 hours so they made
- Arrived off Portsmouth.
- Passage through swept channel to
Assault area with ships of Force S of
the Eastern Task Force in Convoy S6
escorted by destroyers SAUMAREZ,
SWIFT, SUCCESS, destroyers HNorMS
SVENNER and STORD and frigates
ROWLEY and HOLMES.
- At 0430 hours bombarding Force D was
in position on the eastern side Force
S, preparing to engage enemy shore
batteries east of Ouistreham.
At 0500 hours NE of Sword Beach,
approximately 11 miles west of Le
Havre (at this time Le Have was cut
off from the invasion fleet by a smoke
screen that had been laid by RAF
Boston’s of 88 Squadron) WARSPITE
opened fire on the Villerville Battery
at a range of 26000 yards.
German army battery at
Villerville, in the village of Les
Bruyeres, contained six 155-mm
guns. Its range-finding post was
located in a former farmhouse that
had been turned into a blockhouse)
0515 hours almost simultaneously with
opening fire the bombarding force was
attacked by the German 5th Torpedo
Boat flotilla of T28, FALKE, JAGUAR
and MÖWE who fired their 18 torpedoes
and made off. Torpedoes passed between
RAMILLIES and WARSPITE, narrowly
missing both, but one of them went on
to hit and sink the Norwegian
destroyer HNorMS SVENNER at 0535
hours. Another torpedo narrowly missed
LSH(L) LARGS that was 200 yards ahead
5th TB flotilla had sailed from Le
Havre at 0440 hours with orders to
attack landing craft that had been
sighted off Port en Bessin. But on
breaking through the smoke screen
they were confronted by the
bombardment line of battleships,
monitor and cruisers. On seeing
the overwhelming force they fired
their torpedoes and returned to Le
Havre at speed)
from the batteries east of the River
Orne was directed mainly against the
bombarding ships; with WARSPITE
being the main target. After being
straddled by shells from the
Benerville battery, which caused no
damage, she moved position.
the remainder of day she carried out
bombardments on shore batteries to
the east of the River Orne and at
targets of opportunity.
At 2305 hours having moved away from
the beachhead she anchored out in
the channel, about 4 miles off
- During the day she carried out
bombardments on shore batteries to the
east of the River Orne and at grid
references provided by FOO’s at enemy
troops, strong points, vehicles and
guns. One enemy strong-point was
destroyed with 20 rounds of 15in,
Between 1650 and 1715 hours one of her
bombardments was in support of 45 RM
Commando in their attempt to take
At the end of the second day she had
carried out 20 shoots and fired 334 x
15in shells, 181 rounds of HE and 133
rounds of AP.
At 1900 hours she sailed from the
beachhead for Portsmouth to replenish
- At 0330 hours arrived off Portsmouth
and moved into harbour in the
afternoon and commenced
- At 0800 hours sailed from Portsmouth
with orders to assist the Western Task
Force off the Cotentin Peninsula,
where she was to relieve the US
Battleship NEVADA who needed to
re-ammunition at Plymouth.
At 1600 hours she arrived off Utah
1615 and 1815 hours she fired 96 x
15in shells, without the aid of
aircraft spotters or FOO’s , at a
German artillery position located on
a narrow neck of foreshore. Her
shooting was highly praised in a
signal from American commanders.
- On standby most of the day. In the
afternoon carried out a shoot on an
In the evening NEVADA returned and
WARSPITE moved off east to anchor off
- On standby most of the day.
In the afternoon she fired 50 x 15in
shells rapid fire into a wood near
Cristot in front of the British
69 Brigade of the 50th
Division who were held up by
elements of the Panzer Lehr and 12
SS Panzer Divisions. The CinC 50th
Division, Major General Douglas
Alexander Henry Graham, signalled '
I want those concerned informed –
In the evening WARSPITE left the
beachhead for Portsmouth to
At 0430 hours arrived at
Portsmouth to re-ammunition. However
it was decided that her guns were so
worn that replacement was necessary
and since the nearest replacements
were at Rosyth she was ordered to
1800 hours she sailed east from
Portsmouth for Rosyth.
At 0400 hours she passed through the
Straits of Dover,
first capital ship to do so since
the German battlecruisers in
February 1942. The German coastal
batteries on the French coast opened
fire on her, but jamming of the
German radar was highly effective
and WARSPITE successfully ran the
gauntlet of the German fire.
0815 hours she was in the swept
channel 28 miles east of Harwich when
an influence mine detonated under her
stern on the port quarter. Her
steering jammed she veered off to
starboard, took a sharp list to port
and had all four shafts put out of
action. After a while the list was
rectified by counter flooding and with
both port shafts seized she was got a
starboard shaft working, followed by
the other starboard shaft, but she was
taking in water aft and her draft was
At 0920 hours she managed to get
underway at just 7 knots, initially
heading for the Tyne, but the River
Tyne authorities feared she might sink
in the Tyne, so she continued on to
- At 2100 hours she arrived at Rosyth
drawing 42 feet aft, as she sailed up
the Firth of Forth she passed the
battleships ANSON and HOWE, they and
all the other warships off Rosyth
cleared the lower decks and cheered
repair at Rosyth.
Desperate to get her back in service
the dockyard didn’t use the usual
repair method for bent propeller
shafts. Instead the shafts were heated
using a large number of oxy-acetylene
lamps and straightened with hydraulic
port outer shaft was beyond repair but
in view of future bombardment
requirements in support of military
operations WARSPITE was returned to
service with limited speed capability.
repair at Rosyth.
- Completed repairs and replacement of
worn gun barrels. Captain Kelsey
revealed her state on sailing - 'we
had one good shaft, one fairly good
shaft, one wobbly shaft and one, the
port outer, still seized solid'. So
WARSPITE was returned to service with
just three turrets and now three
shafts operational and a top speed of
- Sailed from Rosyth for Scapa
escorted by destroyers ZAMBESI and
- Arrived at Scapa and carried out
practice shoot to zero in her new
Sailed for the Clyde.
- Arrived in the Clyde.
- Sailed from the Clyde for Plymouth.
- Arrived off Ushant escorted by 5
Destroyers to carry out a bombardment
of strong points off the fortress of
had been invested by the US Army
V111 Corps since 17/8/44. The
fortress contained 40000 German
troops and was proving a
formidable 'nut to crack' and
didn’t surrender until 19/9/44)
of WARSPITE's main targets were the
coastal batteries at Le Conquet and St
Mathieu that contained guns up to 280
mm. She fired 213 rounds of 15in, 147
HE and 66 AP, return fire was accurate
but she was only hit by shell
- Arrived off Le Havre where she
EREBUS to provided gunfire support
for British 49th and 51st Divisions
during shore operations to occupy Le
Havre. During the bombardment
WARSPITE and EREBUS fired 300 x 15in
shells. The German garrison of Le
Havre surrendered on 12/9/44.
Havre had been invested since
2/9/44. The land assault on Le
Havre [Operation ASTONIA]
commenced on 10/9/44. For details
see CAMPAIGN IN NORTH WEST EUROPE,
JUNE 1944 (HMSO).)
(Note: It was on the 27/8/44 when
the 1st MSF of HM Minesweepers
HARRIER, BRITOMART, HUSSAR,
SALAMANDER, GLEANER and JASON, and
HM Trawlers COLSAY and LORD
ASHFIELD were clearing a passage
for the bombarding ships that the
worst incidence of attack and
sinking from 'friendly fire', in
WW2, occurred. Sixteen RAF
Typhoons, eight each from 263 and
266 (Rhodesia) Squadrons that had
taken off at 1305 hours from
landing strip B3, in Normandy,
attacked the minesweepers at 1330
hours. 86 were killed and 124
wounded, BRITOMART and HUSSAR were
sunk and SALAMANDER had her stern
- Returned to Portsmouth.
- Sailed from Portsmouth in company
with monitors EREBUS and ROBERTS as
bombardment Force T who were to
provide bombardment support for
Operation INFATUATE II. The commander
of Force T was WARSPITE’s captain.
port of Antwerp was captured
intact on 4/9/44 and although its
facilities were desperately
required by the allies the port
could not be used until the River
Scheldt estuary had been cleared
of the enemy. The clearing of the
north and south banks of the river
commenced on 2/10/44 by the First
Canadian Army. By the end of
October only the Island of
Walcheren remained to be cleared.
Walcheren was strongly held with
about 10000 defenders and
formidable coastal and artillery
batteries and strong-points.
the 31/10/44 Operation INFATUATE 1
commenced with the Canadians
attacking across the causeway and
from the south bank.
INFATUATE II was an amphibious
assault on Westkapelle in the
north west of the island by 4
Commando [was 4th Special Service
Brigade], consisting of Numbers
41, 47, and 48 RM Commandos
by specialized armored vehicles of
The NW corner of Walcheren
Island contained 28 artillery
pieces ranging in size from 88mm
to 220mm, most of which were set
the evening Force T anchored off Deal.
- In the evening Force T sailed from
- At 0445 hours off Ostende Force T
RVed with frigate KINGSMILL HQ ship,
the Landing Craft carrying the assault
forces and the 27 Landing Craft
Support craft. Course was set for
Westkapelle, following the
minesweepers who sweeping ahead of the
At 0700 hours the Germans attempted to
shroud the Westkapelle lighthouse in
At 0715 hours the battery at Domburg
(W17 4 x 220mm guns) opened fire on
the assault force that was attacking
in the south of the island at
At 0730 hours when Force T arrived at
its bombarding position WARSPITE
signalled to the minesweepers 'your
difficult task is done, my easy one is
hours Westkapelle Battery (W15, 4 x
94mm guns, ex British 3.7in AA guns)
At 0820 the heavy bombardment
Squadron, Force T opened fire. Their
main targets were batteries W 15 and
At 0825 hours the Landing Craft of
the support squadron opened fire on
the defences adjacent to the landing
By 1015 hours all assault forces
During the day WARSPITE engaged
targets of opportunity.
At the end of the day
of extensive wear to gun barrels it
was decided her task was finished and
she headed back to Deal.
Since 6/6/44 she had fired about 1500
rounds of 15in. After
Walcheren her guns never fired
again, her war was over.
- Arrived off Deal.
- Arrived at Portsmouth where she was
placed into category C reserve
- Commander George Fellowes Blaxland
RN took over as her new captain.
1 9 4 5
- A signal was received ordering her
to pay off into reserve.
- She was moored up to the reserve
fleet buoy off the Mother Bank off
Spithead were she lay until the last
day of March 1945.
On the 27th
September 1945 Admiral Andrew Cunningham
was installed as Knight of the Thistle in
St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, at this
time he handed over WARSPITE’s ensign to
the Cathedral for safe keeping. This was
ABC’s final tribute to his much loved
flagship and ensured at least one small
reminder of the Grand Old Lady remained.
ESCORT MOVEMENTS of HMS
convoy lists have not been cross-checked
with the text above