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SERVICE HISTORIES of ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS in WORLD WAR 2
by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2003

HMS NELSON  - Nelson-class 16in gun Battleship
including Convoy Escort Movements

Editing & Additional Material by Mike Simmonds

HMS Nelson (Maritime Quest,, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 
 

HMS NELSON was ordered from Armstrong, High Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1923 having been laid down on 28th December 1922. She was launched on 3rd September 1925 and was commissioned on 15th August 1927. This ship and her sister battleship HMS RODNEY had a most distinctive silhouette making them instantly recognisable. During pre war service she was given periodic refits but the planned full modernisation was not carried out because of the outbreak of war. After a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings Campaign in February 1942 this ship was adopted by the civil community of the city of Manchester in the county of Lancashire.

 

B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

 

MALTA CONVOYS 1941-42 - NORTH AFRICA 1942 -43 - MEDITERRANEAN 1943 - SICILY 1943 - SALERNO 1943 - NORMANDY 1944

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field White, a Lion rampant regardant

holding in his paw a palm branch all proper.

 

M o t t o

Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat:  'Let him bear the palm who deserves it'.

 

 

D e t a i l s o f W a r S e r v i c e

 

(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search

 

 

1 9 3 9

 

August

 

Home Fleet Flagship

 

(The NELSON was to have been fitted with a prototype aircraft warning radar, Type 79, in 1938 but as one of its two aerial units would have been sited in the position used for the Admiral's Flag, the equipment fit was transferred to the RODNEY)

 

31st – At 1800 hours the Home Fleet, comprising battleships NELSON (Captain Sir Geoffrey John Audley Miles), (Flag CinC Home Fleet Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes), RODNEY, ROYAL OAK and ROYAL SOVEREIGN, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral L V Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), light cruisers CALYPSO, CALEDON, DIOMEDE (Flying the broad pendant of Commodore E B C Dicken) and DRAGON of the 7CS, EFFINGHAM (Flag Vice Admiral Sir M K Horton, VA Northern Patrol),  CARDIFF, DUNEDIN and EMERALD of the 12CS and AURORA(Flag Rear Admiral R H C Halifax, Rear Admiral D Home Fleet), BELFAST and SHEFFIELD of the 18CS, and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FAME, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FURY of the 8DF sailed from Scapa. The Fleet deployed to their war station in the northern North Sea between the Orkneys and Norway.

 

(At 1900 hours the 1st BCS comprising HOOD (Flag Rear Admiral W J Whitworth, RA 1st BCS) and REPULSE escorted by the Tribal-class destroyers SOMALI (D6), ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, MASHONA, and TARTAR of the 6th DF departed Scapa Flow to patrol with the Home Fleet in the northern North Sea. The intention of the CinC Home Fleet being to detach the battlecruisers to shadow any German forces met.

BEDOUIN had mechanical defects and returned to Scapa Flow for repairs)

 

At 2300 hours west of the Orkneys the 1st BCS joined the Home Fleet.

 

September

 

1st –At 1209 hours in approximate position  the CinC Home fleet received a signal from the Admiralty to the effect that a German force of one battlecruiser, two pocket battleships, one 8in cruiser and one 6in cruiser might be in Icelandic waters waiting for hostilities to commence before attacking the trade routes. The Home Fleet was ordered to proceed to the westward to prevent this German force carrying out its threat. The Home Fleet then turned west at 18 knots and passed through the Fair Isle Channel into the Atlantic.

 

(The British plan for controlling the exit from, and entrance into, the northern part of the North Sea on the outbreak of hostilities was as follows. A continuous air patrol was to be carried out during daylight hours on a line Montrose to the Obrestad Light, Norway up to 60 miles off Obrestad. The last 60 miles was to be covered by five submarines on patrol 12 miles apart. Air searches at dawn were undertaken from the Shetlands to Norway and at dusk from Flamborough Head to the northern part of the Heligoland Bight. It had been the intention on hostilities breaking out to take the Home Fleet to patrol in the vicinity of the line Muckle Flugga to Fedje, Norway to bring to action any raiders breaking out and to capture any merchant ships returning to Germany. However these dispositions were altered on the outbreak of war.

Besides those submarines on the Obrestad patrol, six submarines were stationed in the Heligoland Bight from 31st August to 13th September. As the submarines on the Obrestad patrol line found it difficult to maintain their correct positions, which led to the torpedoing of the submarine OXLEY by the TRITON on 10th September, the distance between submarines was increased from 12 to 16 miles. On 20th September, Hudson aircraft replaced the Ansons on the air patrol line and were able to cover the whole 285 NM. The submarines were therefore withdrawn and patrols started in the Heligoland Bight, off Jutland, in the Skagerrak, off the Norwegian coast and to the west of the German declared minefield)

 

2nd – During the day the screening destroyers commenced detaching to refuel. The requirement to refuel meant that until the Fleet returned to Scapa Flow, destroyers were detaching and joining.

At 2000 hours the fleet was in position 58-42N, 14-06W

 

3rd - At 0700 hours in position 58-15N, 20W the Home Fleet reversed course.

At 1122 hours the CinC Home Fleet received a signal from the Admiralty to commence hostilities against Germany.

At 1200 hours in approx position 59-05N, 18-20W the Home Fleet turned northerly to search for the German liner the SS BREMEN 51656grt, that was known to be en route to Germany from New York. The destroyers were sent ahead in line abreast formation.

At 1500 hours in position 63-20N, 16-35W, 32 miles off the coast of Iceland the destroyer SOMALI captured the German merchant ship SS HANNAH BOGE 2372grt to become the first prize in the war at sea.

At 1840 hours the CinC received a signal from the Admiralty reporting the German Fleet leaving Schillig Roads.

At 1900 hours the Home Fleet turned eastward steering for the Fair Isle Channel

In the evening the destroyer ESKIMO experienced a turbine problem and detached to return to Scapa Flow

 

(At 2300 hours the CinC Home Fleet received news of the sinking of the SS ATHENIA. At 1940 hours the ATHENIA 13581grt had been torpedoed by U 30 in position 54-44N, 14-05W. ATHENIA was en route from Liverpool to New York; she had 1416 souls embarked, 1101 passengers and 315 crew)

 

At 2310 hours the destroyer FAME was detached to go to the assistance of the ATHENIA

 

5th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet entered the Fair Isle Channel.

At 0800 hours the Fleet was in position – 59-42N, 00-18W

After passing through the Fair Isle Channel the Home Fleet cruised to eastward of the Orkneys, most of the time in thick fog.

 

6th – At 0700 hours the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow.

 

7th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON (Flag) and RODNEY, battlecruiser REPULSE, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, light cruisers AURORA, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE, FURY, ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA, PUNJABI, SOMALI and TARTAR sailed from Scapa Flow to patrol off the Norwegian coast as far north as 63N to intercept any German shipping returning to Germany, and to exercise contraband control.

At 1730 hours the FORESIGHT carried out a DC attack on a suspected U-Boat contact and claimed a sinking. But no U-Boat was sunk at this time.

ASHANTI detached with turbine problems and went to Greenock.

 

(On 4/9/39 the Royal Air Force attacked Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuttel, claiming hits on a German battleship in Schillig Roads and one lying alongside the mole at Brunsbuttel. On 7/9/39 the CinC Home Fleet received a message [timed 1113 hours] from the Admiralty saying that the enemy had concentrated a force of 800 long-distance bombers in the North West of Germany[this turned out to be a greatly exaggerated estimate of the bomber strength available] and it was considered that these might be used against the fleet, and that, as Scapa was practically defenceless against air attack, it was considered advisable that a base on the west coast of Scotland should be prepared. Of the available anchorages the CinC selected Loch Ewe; and the netlayer GUARDIAN was sent to lay indicator nets there. From this date until March 1940 Loch Ewe was to be known as Port A)

 

8th - The FORESIGHT detached for Scapa with defects.

 

10th - At 1815 hours, the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow having failed to intercept any enemy vessels.

 

12th - At 1915 hours the NELSON (Flag CinC Home Fleet), battle cruiser REPULSE and destroyers SOMALI (D4), BEDOUIN, MASHONA, PUNJABI and TARTAR departed Scapa Flow for Loch Ewe.

At 2345 hours BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and TARTAR were detached on anti-submarine patrol.

 

13th - At 0730 hours the NELSON, REPULSE, SOMALI and MASHONA arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

15th - In the evening the NELSON escorted by the destroyers SOMALI, MASHONA and MATABELE sailed from Loch Ewe for Scapa.

 

16th - In the morning arrived at Scapa Flow.

In the afternoon the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, visited Scapa Flow and visited various ships in the Flow, including the NELSON and the base at Lyness.

At 2300 hours the NELSON, with Winston Churchill embarked, sailed from Scapa for Loch Ewe.

 

17th - At 0600 hours the NELSON arrived at Loch Ewe where Winston Churchill disembarked and visited various ships in the Loch before departing for London at 1200 hours.

 

18th - NELSON at Loch Ewe.

 

19th - NELSON at Loch Ewe.

 

(Between 0734 and 0800 hours the CinC received reports of trawlers being stopped and sunk off the Butt of Lewis by a U-Boat. The trawlers had actually been sunk off the coast of Ireland by the U 27. The trawler DAVARA 291grt from Fleetwood, sunk at 1455/13/9/39, was the first British trawler to be lost in the war.

The CinC ordered the destroyers SOMALI (D6), PUNJABI, FIREDRAKE, FAME, FOXHOUND, FEARLESS, FURY, FORTUNE and FORESTER to sail from Loch Ewe to search for the U-Boat. At 1130 hours the destroyer FAULKNOR (D8) sailed from Loch Ewe to take charge of the search.

After sinking the trawlers, U 27 steered north. At 2333 hours the U 27 was sighted on the surface by the FORTUNE. The submarine dived and eventually was located on asdic by FORTUNE and later by FORESTER, both of which carried out DC attacks. Eventually U 27 surfaced and the 38 crew abandoned her; she finally sank at 0315/20/9/39 in position 58-30N, 09-06W. All the 38 survivors were transferred to the FEARLESS and landed at Kirkwall. The other destroyers returned to Loch Ewe.

The rescued engineer of U 27 volunteered information about the torpedoes which were fitted with magnetic pistols designed to explode under a ship. He stated they were unreliable. The unreliability of the German torpedoes was to save NELSON on 29/10/39)

 

20th - At 1915 hours the battleships NELSON (Flag CinC Home Fleet), RODNEY, battlecruisers HOOD (Flag Rear Admiral William J Whitworth CinC Battle Cruiser Squadron) and REPULSE, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESTER, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, TARTAR and PUNJABI sailed from Loch Ewe for Scapa.

En route the FOXHOUND had problems with her depth charge thrower, which had been damaged during the U27 hunt and she detached to proceed ahead to Scapa to effect repairs.

En route the Fleet was joined by the destroyers ESKIMO, MATABELE, MASHONA and BEDOUIN.

 

21st - At 0915 hours off Dunnet Head the destroyers FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE detached from the screen to pursue a suspected submarine contact.

At 0945 hours the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa.

 

22nd – At 1100 hours the Home Fleet comprising NELSON (Flag), RODNEY, HOOD, REPULSE, ARK ROYAL and destroyers FAME, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FEARLESS, MATABELE, MASHONA and SOMALI sailed from Scapa Flow to provide cover for Operation SK.

 

Operation SK was an operation by the cruisers of the 2nd CS and destroyers to penetrate deep into the Skagerrak. The major objective was to draw out heavy German Fleet units and lead them towards the Home Fleet covering force. The secondary objectives were to investigate reports that a boom had been laid across the entrance to the Kattegat, to sink any German ships encountered and exercise contraband control.

 

(At 0400/22/9/39 the cruisers SOUTHAMPTON (Flag) and GLASGOW of 2nd CS, AURORA and SHEFFIELD of 18th CS escorted by destroyers TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and ESKIMO of 6th DF and JERVIS, JERSEY, JAVELIN and JUPITER of the 7th DF sailed from Rosyth.

At 1400 hours in position 57-09N, 03-08E, destroyer JERSEY collided with JAVELIN. 

At 2222/22/9/39 the VA commanding the 2nd CS abandoned the operation due to the collision between JERSEY and JAVELIN)

 

23rd – At 0617 hours the Home Fleet reversed course and steered for Scapa Flow.

At 1333 hours in position 58-11N, 00-26W an explosion was felt and observed approximately 4 miles distant. The destroyers FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, MASHONE and MATABELE were detached to investigate.

At 1910 hours the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow.

 

(On 24/9/39 the submarine SPEARFISH whilst operating in the German Bight, was heavily damaged by German warships off Horns Reef in the shallow water of the Heligoland Bight. The submarine's periscope had been blown away, the wireless was smashed, the engines disabled and seawater threatened to reach the batteries and start a release of chlorine gas. Knowing that if he surfaced he would be unable to dive again, her captain Lt. John Eaden RN surfaced and in the darkness made for Danish territorial waters and crept north on the submarine's one remaining electrical motor. At 1510/25/9/39, after making temporary repairs to the wireless Eaden was able to signal his plight. SPEARFISH estimated her position at 0630/25/9/39 would be 56-46N, 08-00E. The Admiralty then set in operation a rescue plan. At 0723/25/9/39 the Humber Force cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and GLASGOW departed Rosyth to assist SPEARFISH and the destroyers SOMALI, MATABELE, MASHONA, and ESKIMO, already off the Norwegian coast at 60N  proceeded to join the CinC HF)

 

25th – At 0830 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON and RODNEY, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL and destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, TARTAR, FURY sailed from Scapa Flow and steered westerly to provide cover; the Humber Force returning with the damaged submarine SPEARFISH. The destroyers FAME and FORESIGHT who were at sea joined the NELSON force at sea. The destroyers SOMALI, ESKIMO, MASHONA and MATABELE also later joined at sea.

FORESIGHT attacked a submarine contact north of the Orkneys.

At 1724, MATABELE was detached to investigate Danish steamer OVE TOFT (2135grt) and did not rejoin the Fleet until after dark.

At 1925, SOMALI and ESKIMO were detached to join SPEARFISH, reaching her in position 57‑04N, 06‑40E at 0100/26th

 

26th – At 1100 hours the Fleet were in position 57-36N, 03-18E, steering 285, with Swordfish from the ARK ROYAL patrolling above the Fleet. At this time three large aircraft were sighted, later identified as Luftwaffe Dornier 18D flying boats. The enemy aircraft were shot down or driven off by Skuas from ARK ROYAL, but not before they had sent off a sighting report.

At approximately 1345 hours RODNEY's Type 79Y radar reported two or three groups of aircraft, nine He 111 and four Ju 88 bombers, at approximately 80 miles and closing. RODNEY kept the CinC HF informed of the incoming attack by flag signals. Even so the Fleet was unprepared for the attack; RODNEY felt that her radar reports had not been taken seriously.

At 1420 hours the fleet was subjected to an air attack in which the ARK ROYAL was near missed by a 1000kg bomb dropped by a He 111.

During the attacks all the heavy ships opened fire with both long and close range weapons but their fire was ineffective.

 

27th – In the early morning the fleet arrived back at Scapa.

 

October

 

1st – At 1700 hours the Home Fleet comprising NELSON (Flag), RODNEY, HOOD, REPULSE, ARK ROYAL light cruiser NEWCASTLE and destroyers ASHANTI, MASHONA, MATABELE, SOMALI, FAME, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE sailed from Scapa Flow for Loch Ewe.

 

(This movement was in accordance with Admiralty instructions and in pursuance of the policy of evading air attack on Scapa Flow.)

 

2nd – At 0700 hours the Fleet arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

5th – At 2000 hours the Home Fleet comprising NELSON (Flag), RODNEY, HOOD, REPULSE, FURIOUS and escorting destroyers sailed from Loch Ewe for Scapa Flow.

 

6th – At 1000 hours the Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow.

In the late afternoon HM the King embarked in AURORA arrived in Scapa Flow and visited various ships of the Fleet.

The King spent the night on board the flagship.

 

7th - At Scapa Flow with the King embarked.

At 0900 hours the King disembarked from NELSON and visited HOOD and other fleet units, including some AMC's that had just arrived to work up prior to taking up duties with the Northern Patrol.

 

(During the night of 7/8 October, a RAF aircraft reported three enemy destroyers in position 61-44N, 01-23E course westerly. On receipt of this report the CinC ordered the battlecruisers, cruisers and four destroyers to one hours notice)

 

8th - Over night the CinC Home Fleet was made aware that the German navy was about to launch a sortie by heavy units.

At 1320 hours the CinC Home Fleet received firm information from the RAF when one of  Coastal Command's Hudson aircraft of 224 Sqd. sighted the German battlecruiser GNEISENAU, cruiser KOLN and 9 destroyers off Lister lighthouse (Lindesesnes LH southern Norway) steaming north at 20 knots.

                       

(The purpose of the Kriegsmarine sortie was to sink any allied shipping found and to entice out the Home Fleet onto four U-boats that were deployed in a line across the probable interception course of the Home Fleet and to bring the Home Fleet into range of Luftwaffe bombers)

 

(The CinC Home Fleets plan was to sail two forces, The Home Fleet from Scapa Flow as Force F and the Humber Force from Rosyth as Force E. The Home Fleet was divided into the battlecruisers and the battleships. Force F would go north of the assumed course of the enemy force then move south and Force E would sail north. The two Forces would then execute a pincer movement and trap the enemy force between them. This failed since the German force reversed course and arrived back at Kiel at 0100/10/10/39) 

 

(At 1530 hours, battlecruisers HOOD and REPULSE, light cruisers AURORA and SHEFFIELD and destroyers SOMALI, MASHONA, ESKIMO and ASHANTI sailed from Scapa for position 63N, 4E by 0600/9/10/39, then to sweep back towards Muckle Flugga)

 

At 1840 hours, battleships NELSON (Flag CinC HF) and RODNEY, aircraft carrier FURIOUS,  light cruiser NEWCASTLE and destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESTER, FAME, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE, sailed from Scapa Flow for position 61N, 00E and then swept towards the battlecruiser Force.

Heavy weather damaged FORTUNE as the force entered the Pentland Firth and she detached to the Clyde for repairs.

 

9th - At 1200 hours the Home Fleet RVed with the battlecruiser Force.

At 1225 hours the Home Fleet altered course to 295 to cover the Shetlands-Faroes gap and the Faroes-Iceland gap on the following day.

 

10th - At 1050 hours, at which time there was no news of the enemy, the CinC  altered course to close the Butt of Lewis.

At 1454 hours the CinC received a report from the Admiralty that one 'Deutschland' Class and one 'Konigsberg' Class and nine destroyers had passed south through the Great Belt early that morning.

At 1515 hours the CinC ordered REPULSE, FURIOUS, AURORA, NEWCASTLE and destroyers SOMALI, MASHONA, ESKIMO, ASHANTI, FAME and FORESIGHT to detach and proceed to Scapa.

The Home Fleet then set course for Loch Ewe.

 

11th – At 1200 hours, in the Minches, FAULKNOR detached for the Clyde to repair weather damage.

At 1300 hours, battleships NELSON and RODNEY, battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, FURY and FORESTER and FIREDRAKE arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

13th – At 1025 hours, aircraft carrier FURIOUS and destroyers FEARLESS and FOXHOUND arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

14th –

(At 0104 hours the battleship ROYAL OAK was at anchor in Scapa Flow off the north-east shore when she was torpedoed and sunk in Scapa Flow by the U 47;  833 of her crew were lost. As a result of the attack the light cruisers AURORA, BELFAST and CURLEW and most of the fleet auxiliaries were ordered to Loch Ewe. The 7th and 11th Cruiser Squadrons were ordered to use Sullom Voe as their base, although it was only protected by indicator nets against submarines. The AMC's working up at Scapa were ordered out on patrol)

 

At 1500 hours, light cruisers AURORA (Flag CS18) and BELFAST arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

15th – At 1730 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON and  RODNEY, battlecruiser HOOD, aircraft carrier FURIOUS, cruisers BELFAST and AURORA and destroyers BEDOUIN, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and FURY sailed from Loch Ewe to cover and assist the Northern Patrol in intercepting a large number of German merchant ships that were believed to be attempting to return to Germany.

 

16th – At 0715 hours the Fleet was in position 60-52N, 8-33W.

 

17th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 66-55N, 11-56W.

At 1030 hours the Fleet crossed the Arctic Circle.

In the latitude of the Arctic Circle, north east of Iceland, the destroyers were refuelled from the capital ships.

At 1415 hours FURIOUS flew off aircraft.

 

18th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in position 68-26N, 13-48W.

At 0853 hours FURIOUS flew off aircraft.

 

19th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 68-25N, 13-45W.

At 1200 hours REPULSE, JERVIS and JERSEY joined the Home Fleet in the Iceland-Faroes gap.

                       

22nd - At 0800 hours the Fleet arrived back at Loch Ewe.

At 1830 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON and RODNEY, battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers INTREPID, IVANHOE, ICARUS, KELLY and KINGSTON sailed from Loch Ewe to provide distant cover for convoy NV 1 of twelve British iron ore ships from Narvik. In this operation the Fleet cruised up to the Lofoten Islands and as far north as 68N.

 

(The ships of convoy NV1 had been waiting at Narvik until the Admiralty could provide an escort. The convoy sailed from Narvik on 26/9/39and was met at 1000/26/9/39 by their close escort of destroyers SOMALI, ASHANTI, TARTAR and FAME covered by cruisers AURORA and EDINBURGH. At 0005/31/10/39 SOMALI obtained a sub contact and carried out a DC attack without result; this was probably U 13.  Ten ships of the convoy arrived safely at Methil Roads on 31/10/39, the other two ships were escorted to Cape Wrath by FAME)  

 

23rd – At 2000 hours the Fleet was in position 58-20N, 5-34W.

 

24th – At 0715 hours the Fleet was in position 60-12N, 3-06W.

 

25th - At 0700 hours the Fleet was in position 64-08N, 2-59W.

 

26th – At 0712 hours the Fleet was in position 67-27N, 10-58W.

The destroyer IMPULSIVE joined the Home Fleet at sea.

 

27th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 66-01N, 2-00E.

 

28th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 62-04N, 1-47W.

 

29th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in position 59-51N, 4-22W.

 

30th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 59-41N, 5-01W.

At approximately 1000 hours when west of the Orkneys and returning to the Clyde, the Home Fleet comprising NELSON, RODNEY, HOOD and destroyers ICARUS, IMPULSIVE, IVANHOE, INTREPID and KELLY ran into a line of 4 U-boats. U 56 fired three torpedoes at NELSON and all three struck the target, two broke upon hitting and the other failed to exploded. The crew of NELSON and the other ships of the Fleet were unaware of the attack.

 

31st – At 0900 hours the Fleet arrived in the Clyde off Greenock.

Whilst off Greenock the CinC Home Fleet was visited by the First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse.

 

(The discussion that took place on board NELSON was about the provision of air defence and anti-submarine defences at the fleet bases. Pound wanted to make the Clyde the main Home Fleet base but the CinC strongly demurred as a whole day would be wasted in getting into the northern part of the North Sea as compared with Scapa or Rosyth. Peirse was of the opinion that the Clyde could be better defended against air attack as opposed to Rosyth because of the greater chance of interception by fighters. Pound advocated the use of the Fleet in two watches, one at sea and one in harbour. The CinC stated that he preferred Rosyth to the Clyde, but if the Admiralty considered the risk of using Rosyth too great and he must operate the Fleet in two watches, then he would require two further flotillas of destroyers. The CinC also pointed out that a submarine could get under the net on the Clyde. It was therefore agreed that:

1 - The work on making Scapa submarine proof and adequately defended against air attack should be pushed on with. Once the defences were in place, spring 1940 being set as the likely date, Scapa would then be the Home Fleet's permanent base.

2 - It would not be advisable or necessary to take heavy ships into the narrow waters of the southern North Sea. This point arose out of the 'invasion scare' that followed the termination of hostilities in Poland.

3 - The 3rd and 5th Destroyer Flotilla's were allocated to the Home Fleet; the last unit of the 5th did not join until 21/1/40)

 

November

 

2nd – At 0930 hours battleships NELSON (Flag CinC HF) and RODNEY, battlecruiser HOOD and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORTUNE, ICARUS, INTREPID, IVANHOE, IMPULSIVE, FORESIGHT and PUNJABI sailed from the Clyde and headed north and to the west of the Hebrides. Their mission was to provide distant cover for 3 operations:

1 - The search for the captured US freighter SS CITY OF FLINT 4963grt

2/3 - Cover for convoys ON 1 and HN 2.

 (The CITY OF FLINT, clearly marked as neutral, had been stopped on 9/10/39 in approximate position 41-30N, 46-30W, by the German panzerschiffe ('pocket battleship') DEUTSCHLAND. She was carrying general cargo to the UK including lubricating oil. The lubricating oil was declared contraband, she was seized, a prize crew was put on board and she was sailed to Murmansk, where she arrived on 23/10/39. The CITY OF FLINT sailed from Murmansk on 28/10/39 heading for Germany via the Indreled Norwegian territorial waters. On 3/11/39, she anchored off the port of Haugesund, where she was boarded by a Norwegian naval boarding party from the minelayer OLAV TRYGGVASON and returned to US ownership. From 29/10/39 the destroyers KELLY (D5), ESKIMO, MATABELE, BEDOUIN, FEARLESS and FOXHOUND were off the Norwegian coast searching for the CITY OF FLINT. From 1/11/39 the destroyers were covered by the cruisers GLASGOW and NEWCASTLE.

The search was called off on 3/11/39 and the searching forces dispersed. 5/11/39 destroyers KELLY, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO and MATABELE arrived at Scapa Flow)

 

3rd – At 0200 hours the Fleet was off the Flannan Islands.

At 0800 hours the Fleet was in position 59-30N, 8-06W.

At 1135 hours the destroyers IMPERIAL and PUNJABI were detached on a submarine hunt.

At 1930 hours when the Fleet reached position 61N, 3-40W, FAULKNOR, FORTUNE and INTREPID were detached to refuel at Sullom Voe.

 

4th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 62-15N, 00-25E.

Destroyer PUNJABI detached to refuel at Scapa Flow, then to join convoy ON 1.

 

(1700/4/11/39 - convoy ON 1, of 5 mercantiles, sailed from Methil Roads escorted by destroyers SOMALI, ASHANTI, TARTAR and FAME. At 0810/5/11/39, AA cruiser CURLEW joined ON 1. At 1700/5/11/39 FAME detached to refuel at Scapa and PUNJABI joined. At 0700/6/11/39 ASHANTI detached to Sullom Voe with an evaporator defect. At 0730/7/39 the convoy dispersed in Aspo Fjord)

 

5th – Destroyers FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, IMPERIAL and KANDAHAR joined the Force.

FAULKNOR, FORTUNE and INTREPID rejoined.

FORESIGHT and IVANHOE detached to refuel.

 

6th – Destroyer FAME joined the Force.

 

7th – Destroyers ICARUS and IMPULSIVE were detached to refuel at Kirkwall.

 

(1700/7/11/39 - convoy HN 1, of 8 mercantiles, sailed from Aspo Fjord escorted by destroyers SOMALI and TARTAR and AA cruiser CURLEW. At 1800/8/39 ASHANTI joined. At 0930/9/11/39 in position 59-02N, 01-50W destroyers MAORI and ZULU joined, then detached with 2 mercantiles westward via the Fair Isle Channel. At 1600/9/11/39 ASHANTI detached to escort a straggler. At 1700/9/11/39 CURLEW detached for Scapa. 10/11/39 convoy HN 1 arrived in Methil Roads)

 

8th – Destroyers FORESIGHT and IVANHOE rejoined the Force.

At 1545 hours east of the Copinsay lighthouse HOOD detached with FEARLESS and they proceeded west through the Pentland Firth.

 

9th – At 0810 hours the NELSON and RODNEY and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FAME, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FORESIGHT, FEARLESS and IMPERIAL arrived at Rosyth.

At Rosyth were the AA cruisers CAIRO and CALCUTTA who had arrived on 6/11/39 to strengthen the air defences at Rosyth while the Home Fleet was refuelling there.

 

12th – At 1400 hours, battleships NELSON (Flag CinC HF) and RODNEY and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORTUNE, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FAME departed Rosyth to carry out full calibre firings off Cape Wrath, then proceed on patrol between the Faroes and Norway to cover convoys ON.2 and HN.2

At sea the destroyer FAME joined the Force.

 

(12/11/39 convoy ON 2, of one freighter, sailed from Methil Roads escorted by the destroyer IMPERIAL. At 0730/14/11/39 the AA cruiser CAIRO joined the escort. At 1310/14/11/39 IMPERIAL detached from ON 2 for Sullom Voe. At 1600/14/11/39 the destroyers ICARUS and IMOGEN, from Sullom Voe joined convoy ON 2. 15/11/39 ON 2 arrived in Aspo Fjord)

 

13th – At 0830 hours in approximate position 58-40N, 3-30W, the Force was joined by the destroyers IMPULSIVE and IMOGEN from Scapa Flow.

At 0945 hours the destroyer ICARUS joined the Force from Scapa Flow.

At 1100 hours the Force arrived off Cape Wrath.

After carrying out a full calibre shoot the Force proceeded north to patrol off the Faroes.

At 2000 hours in approximate position 60-20N, 2-30W, ICARUS, IMPULSIVE and IMOGEN detached for Sullom Voe.

 

(0915/15/11/39 convoy HN 2, of 11 mercantiles, sailed from Aspo Fjord escorted by destroyers ICARUS, IMOGEN and IMPERIAL and the AA cruiser CAIRO. At 0800/18/11/39 convoy HN 2 arrived in Methil Roads)

 

16th – At 1000 hours at latitude 61N the CinC HF decided to return to the Clyde. He had intended to stay on patrol for a further two days but cut short the patrol due to the weather which was so bad, it was impossible to detach his destroyers to refuel at Sullom Voe.

En route to the Clyde the CinC HF received a signal stating that the Clyde was closed to shipping on account of the faulty laying of the new deep, anti-submarine minefield. This minefield was in the process of being swept.

The CinC decided to refuel in Loch Ewe.

 

17th – At 0600 hours the Force arrived in Loch Ewe to refuel.

 

20th – At 0730 hours NELSON and RODNEY and destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FAME, SOMALI and TARTAR sailed from Loch Ewe for the Clyde.

 

21st – At 0100 hours the Force arrived off Greenock.

 

23rd - At 1551 hours the CinC Home Fleet received a signal from the AMC RAWLPINDI, patrolling the Iceland-Faroes gap in position 63-38N, 11-55W, timed at 1545 hours stating she had sighted a German battlecruiser;  this was quickly changed identifying the vessel as the panzerschiffe DEUTSCHLAND (The first sighting report was in fact correct; what she had sighted was the SCHARNHORST with GNEISENAU in company). The CinC HF immediately ordered all available HF ships in the Clyde to raise steam.

At 1920 hours NELSON (Flag CinC HF), RODNEY, heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE (Flag CS1) and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, FAME, FORESIGHT and FURY sailed from the Clyde then north towards the Minches.

 

(At 1400/21/11/39 German battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU departed Wilhelmshaven and sailed north. Their mission was to disrupt the Northern Patrol and to make a feint into the North Atlantic to relieve the pressure off the panzerschiffe ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE who was operating in the South Atlantic. The first indication that the Admiralty had that the battlecruisers were at sea was the signal from RAWALPINDI. But this signal of course led the Admiralty to believe that the enemy was the panzerschiffe DEUTSCHLAND who, again unbeknown to the Admiralty had arrived back in Kiel on 15/11/39)

 

24th – At 0100 hours off the Mull of Kintyre the Fleet was joined by the destroyers SOMALI, ASHANTI, PUNJABI and MASHONA. Course was then set to proceed via the Minches and the Pentland Firth towards position 58-36N, 03-00E. On the way north the Fleet ran into a severe gale and FAME, FORESIGHT and FORTUNE suffered weather damage.

FAME and FORESIGHT detached and returned to the Clyde for repairs.

At 1600 hours in the Pentland Firth FORTUNE detached to take over the patrol of the Pentland Firth from BEDOUIN, who then joined the Fleet.

 

(At 1600, the CinC re-disposed his fleet off Utvaer, Norway, to intercept the German battlecruisers. The light cruisers CERES, CALYPSO, CARDIFF, CALEDON, COLOMBO, NEWCASTLE, SHEFFIELD, GLASGOW, EDINBURGH, SOUTHAMPTON and destroyer KINGSTON, which was deployed just off the Norwegian coast, were disposed in a patrol line respectively, west to east. Meanwhile light cruiser AURORA and destroyers AFRIDI, GURKHA, INGLEFIELD, BEDOUIN, ISIS, IMPERIAL and IMPULSIVE were stationed as a strike force to the south of the patrol line. The destroyer MAORI was detached to Scapa Flow to refuel and returned to patrol that day. KINGSTON patrolling just off shore was relieved by destroyers ZULU and IMOGEN.

The destroyers TARTAR, KANDAHAR, KASHMIR were ordered to join the AURORA group late on the 24th, but fears of mistaken identity caused their rendezvous to be delayed until daybreak on the 25th. En route TARTAR's rudder was damaged by weather and she was sent to Scapa Flow and then on to the Clyde for repair late on the 24th)

 

25th At 0800 hours DEVONSHIRE was detached on Admiralty orders to join the cruiser patrol line at 61- 35N.

At 1600 hours the Home Fleet arrived at their interception position of 62.30N approximately 120 miles off the Norwegian coast. For the next three days the Fleet patrolled in this area and the destroyers were refuelled in relays at Sullom Voe.

It was the CinC HF intention to remain on patrol until the DEUTSCHLAND (sic) made a bid for home.

 

(However due to poor weather with visibility reduced to 1 to 2 miles the German battlecruisers evaded the various patrol lines of the Home Fleet and returned to Wilhelmshaven at 1300/27/11/39 albeit with weather damage)

 

28th – At 1000 hours destroyers SOMALI, ASHANTI and PUNJABI detached to refuel at Sullom Voe then to join the HOOD.

 

(In the early morning of 29/11/39 the CinC HF received a message from the Admiralty, stating that they were against maintaining a patrol in U-Boat waters in approximately the same position for any considerable time, and suggesting abandoning the present patrol line and making a sweep to the northward  just north of latitude 65N, by daylight)

 

29th – At 0800 hours the CinC HF ordered all forces to sweep to the northward off the Norwegian coast. On reaching 65N, all forces turned on to course 000.

 

(This move was in response to the Admiralty signal, stating they were against maintaining a patrol line in U-Boat waters in approximately the same position for any considerable time)

 

At 2200 hours during the sweep to the north off the Norwegian coast the RODNEY suffered a serious rudder defect. She was ordered to detach and proceed to the Clyde.

 

(The rudder design of the NELSON class was poor. This was attributable to having twin screws and an inadequate single centre rudder which was out of the propeller race. The problem was recognised and the NELSON's rudder was reinforced but RODNEY's had not. In February 1940 the CinC in his report that it was evident that the design of the rudder was too weak to stand the strain of constant steaming in rough seas and zig-zagging)

 

The RODNEY escorted by destroyers GURKHA and KANDAHAR detached and set course for the Clyde. Because of her steering difficulties she went west of the Shetlands and the Isle of Lewis.

 

30th - At 0800 hours the cruiser line searching for the reported German ships off Norway, was in position 66‑10N; they then altered course to steer west until 1300 hours before heading south.

At this time the NELSON, AURORA and nine destroyers were 100 miles to the SW of the western end of the cruiser line.

At 2000 hours 250 miles NE of the Faeroes the NELSON in company with FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE FORESTER and FURY, turned south but remained in the area to cover the AMC's returning from the Northern Patrol.

 

December

 

1st - At 0820 hours the CinC called off the search for the German warships.

NELSON and her destroyers remained north of the Faroes to provide cover for the retiring search forces.

 

2nd - NELSON and destroyers remained north of the Faroes to provide cover for the retiring search forces.

 

3rd - At 1000 hours the fuel state of the NELSON's destroyers was down to 23% and with another gale forecast, the CinC decided he must go to Loch Ewe to refuel his destroyers. So course was set for Loch Ewe.

 

4th - At 0752 hours when entering the Loch at 13 Knots NELSON, when in position 5.4 cables 38 degrees from Rudha nan Sasan triangulation station, passed over and detonated a type TMB magnetic mine; although the massive explosion did not kill anyone 73 were injured, of whom 52 suffered lacerating injuries to delicate parts of their anatomies when ceramic toilet pans shattered in the blast. She took on a list to starboard and drew 39 ft forward. Before she could anchor in an appropriate position the light cruiser DRAGON who was fouling the berth had to be moved. At 1210 hours, with the destroyers VIMY and WARWICK secured to starboard and port she finally anchored.

 

(The mine was one of 18 laid by U 31on the night of 27/28 October, each one of which contained between 420 and 560kg of explosive. U-31 had been ordered to lay her mines within Loch Ewe but was unable to because of the effectiveness of the net between Lookout Point and Mellon Charles. Therefore U 31's captain Habecost laid 18 TMB mines across the narrow entrance instead)

 

The NELSON sustained serious structural damage and flooding. Within minutes she took on a 3 list to starboard caused by flooding between No. 23 and No. 80 bulkheads. Her bottom was also torn in several places, mainly to starboard; the outer bottom plating for a distance of 70 feet was forced inboard by about 4 feet, and flooding extended over a distance of 140 feet. Main armament equipment, mainly the ammunition supply machinery, was also damaged by shock. No boilers, engines, electrical, steering, or power machinery were affected.

Although seriously damaged she could not immediately be moved for repairs, due to the shortage of minesweepers.

The destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER and FURY reminded off the entrance to Loch Ewe carrying out A/S sweeps, as it was first thought that NELSON had been torpedoed.

 

(The Salvage tugs RANGER (409grt) on other duties, and DISPERSER (313grt) were diverted to Loch Ewe to assist. Destroyer ECHO escorted RANGER from Kilchattan Bay, Isle of Bute, arriving at Loc Ewe on the 5/12/39)

 

6th - The CinC Home Fleet struck his flag and travelled overland to the Clyde where he hoisted his flag in the WARSPITE.

 

7th - The anti-aircraft Cruiser CAIRO arrived at Loch Ewe to provide AA cover during temporary repairs.

 

15th - The old German steamer ILSENSTEIN (8216grt) escorted by the destroyers ESCORT and WOOLSTON arrived at Loch Ewe

 

23rd - Whilst Attempting to clear the mine field, the armed patrol drifters GLEN ALPYN (82grt) and PROMOTIVE (78grt) were mined and sunk.

 

 

1 9 4 0

 

January

 

4th - At 1430 hours preceded by the steamer ILSENSTEIN, acting as a mine detonator, the NELSON escorted by the destroyers FAULKNOR, FAME, FOXHOUND, FORESIGHT, ISIS and IMPULSIVE sailed from Loch Ewe for Portsmouth for repair,.

 

8th - At 1050 hours the NELSON secured alongside the South Railway Jetty in Portsmouth harbour.

 

14th - NELSON was taken in hand for repairs and refit

 

February to May

 

Under repair and refit at Portsmouth. During her refit she was fitted with:

Three additional multi Pom-Pom mounts.

Type 279 radar, long range air warning radar.

An armoured zareba was fitted round the 4.7in (actual bore diameter was 4.724", 120mm) gun deck.

On B and X turrets, four UP (Unrotated Projectile) mountings were installed.

 

June

 

(Because of the activities of the Luftwaffe aircraft both bombing and laying magnetic mines in the vicinity of Portsmouth the Admiralty decided to move the NELSON away from danger to complete her refit in the north. Further due to the situation in France the move became even more necessary)

 

6th - At 1700 hours the NELSON escorted by destroyers AMAZON, WARWICK and WITCH sailed from Portsmouth for the Clyde for completion of refit.                                     .

 

(On leaving Portsmouth Harbour, NELSON was preceded by two minesweepers. At 1900 hours when south of the Nab the minesweepers detonated two magnetic mines that were in NELSON's path)

 

8th - At 1115 hours NELSON and her escort arrived off Greenock.

 

9th - Went alongside at Greenock to complete her refit.

 

(Whilst completing her refit it was decided to fit experimental Type 282 radar for the control of the low angle main armament. This comprised a 10 foot wide pig-trough array [two parabolic cylinders] mounted on NELSON's main armament director. When the sea trials of this set took place, ranges of 18 miles were obtained on ships in convoy, and 11.5 miles on the destroyer AMBUSCADE. The results appeared to be so good, that an immediate decision was taken to initiate a programme of fitting all cruisers and above, and orders for the basic set were increased from 200 to 900. It was decided that the first prototype of the new set, to be known as a Type 284, would be fitted to the new battleship KING GEORGE V. After the trials the equipment was removed from NELSON.

In the event it was discovered that these results obtained were too optimistic, the ranges obtained during the trial were significantly greater than would be generally experienced because of anomalous propagation, known in later years as 'anoprop'. It was caused by the channelling of centimetre waves near the sea surface which often occurs during anticyclone conditions, a phenomenon similar to optical mirages)

 

29th - At 1015 hours the NELSON escorted by the destroyers FURY and FAME and HMCS ST LAURENT and SKEENA sailed from the Clyde for Gibraltar.

 

July

 

1st - At 0251 hours when the force was in approximate position 53N, 18W, the NELSON and her escort were ordered to Scapa Flow.

 

2nd - At approximately 0700 hours in approximate position 58-30N, 7W, destroyer ST LAURENT was detached to go to the aid of the torpedoed liner the SS ARANDORA STAR.

 

(The SS ARANDORA STAR 15501grt was en route from Liverpool to Canada she had a crew of 176. Embarked were German POW's, German, Austrian and Italian internees and a British military guard of 200. The actual numbers of POW's and internees differs. However, taking various sources the approximate numbers would appear to be POW's 86, internees 1213.

At 0615/2/7/40 in position 56-30N, 10 38W she was torpedoed by U 47 and sank about one hour later. In response to her SOS the ST LAURENT was detached to her aid.

At 0900 hours a RAF Sunderland arrived and homed the ST LAURENT to the scene.

At 1430 hours the ST LAURENT arrived on the scene and commenced picking up survivors. She searched the area and managed to pick up all of the survivors from the boats and rafts, together with all those that could be found in the sea, a total of 322 Germans, 243 Italians, 163 Military Guards and 119 crew. The survivors were landed at Greenock. The CO of ST LAURENT, Commander Harry De Wolf received a Mention in Dispatches for the rescue operation)

 

3rd - At 0530 hours the NELSON, FURY, FAME and SKEENA arrived at Scapa Flow.

NELSON then commenced working up exercises.

 

23rd - Completed working up exercises.

 

24th - At Scapa, where the CinC Home Fleet hoisted his flag.

 

August

 

1st to 31st - At Scapa.

 

September

 

1st to 5th - At Scapa.

 

6th - At 0900 hours the NELSON (Flag CinC HF), aircraft carrier FURIOUS, anti-aircraft cruisers NAIAD (Flag RA CS15) and BONAVENTURE and destroyers SOMALI, TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, ASHANTI, ESKIMO and MATABELE departed Scapa Flow on Operation DF.

 

(Operation DF was an attack by the FAA on enemy shipping off the Norwegian coast)

 

7th - At 0500 hours in position 62N, 00-50E, in westerly gale and heavy rain, FURIOUS flew off nine Skuas of 801 Squadron and twelve Swordfish of 816 and 825 Squadrons to attack enemy shipping between latitudes 61N and 62-50N. After launching the air strike the Force turned south to return to Scapa.

Two small ships of approximately 2000 and 1000grt were sighted and attacked. The larger one was claimed sunk, but this was never confirmed.

The aircraft returned to RNAS Hatson, some refueling en route at Sumburgh, Shetlands.

At 2000 hours the NELSON, FURIOUS, NAIAD, BONAVENTURE and destroyers SOMALI, TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, ASHANTI, ESKIMO and MATABELE arrived back at Scapa.

 

13th - At 0700 hours the NELSON (Flag CinC HF), battlecruiser HOOD, anti-aircraft cruisers NAIAD and BONAVENTURE and destroyers KASHMIR, KIPLING, ZULU, SIKH, SOMALI (D.6), and ESKIMO sailed from Scapa for Rosyth.

At sea, destroyers JACKAL and ELECTRA joined.

Off Noss Head, anti-aircraft cruiser CAIRO joined.

At 2000 hours the NELSON and escort arrived off Rosyth.

 

(This deployment was resultant of communications between the First Sea Lord and the CinC Home Fleet on 14/7/40. The NELSON and RODNEY were to be retained at Rosyth whilst the threat of invasion existed to be available to proceed to the southern part of the North Sea. The heavy deck protection of the NELSON and RODNEY made them the most suitable for operating in waters expected to be dominated by the Luftwaffe)

 

14th to 30th - At Rosyth.

 

October

 

1st to 31st - At Rosyth.

 

 

November

 

4th – At 1615 hours, battleships NELSON (Flag CinC HF) and RODNEY, anti-aircraft cruisers NAIAD (CS15) and BONAVENTURE and destroyers COSSACK (D4), MAORI, MATABELE, ELECTRA and BRILLIANT sailed from Rosyth.

At 1730 hours in the Firth of Forth the Fleet was joined by destroyer PUNJABI from Scapa.

The Fleet then set course for the west of the Orkneys to carry out a full calibre practice.

 

5th – At 1530 hours the Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow.

 

(At 1730/5/11/40 in position 52.41N, 32.17W the German Pocket Battleship ADMIRAL SCHEER attacked the armed merchant cruiser JERVIS BAY, the sole escort of convoy HX 84 of thirty seven ships. JERVIS BAY was sunk in 22 minutes)

 

6th - At 0700 hours NELSON (Flag CinC Home Fleet), RODNEY, light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON and destroyers COSSACK (D4), MAORI, BRILLIANT, DOUGLAS, KEPPEL and VIMY sailed from Scapa Flow to cover the Iceland-Faroes Channel against a possible return to Germany by the SCHEER.

The force proceeded between the Butt of Lewis and North Rona.

 

(The only hope of intercepting the raider with the Home Fleet forces available lay in it being a short raid.  The CinC therefore decided to send the battlecruisers to cover the approaches to Brest. The CinC then sailed to cover the Iceland-Faeroes channel with the NELSON and RODNEY, screened by what the CinC styled 'a heterogeneous collection of destroyers from four flotillas'. The VIMY had only two of her three boilers operational. Since the raider could not be in the Iceland-Faeroes channel until after 0800/7/11/40 the CinC delayed his sailing from Scapa to conserve the fuel of his destroyers)

 

At 1100 hours the force was sighted by a Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft and reported.

At 2000 hours on course 045 the force commenced a line abreast patrol about a datum line drawn 135 and 315 through latitude 63-30N, 12-25W

At 2320 hours in position 60-47N, 13W the RODNEY was detached, on the orders of the Admiralty, to proceed towards Halifax to escort homeward bound convoys to the UK.

 

8th - At 0800 hours the NELSON, SOUTHAMPTON and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, BRILLIANT, DOUGLAS, KEPPEL and VIMY were in approximate position 63N, 11W, covering the Iceland-Faroes channel.

At 0830 hours DOUGLAS and VIMY detached to refuel at Skaalefjord.

At 1000 hours the force was on course 225, speed 12 knots.

At 1330 hours SOUTHAMPTON was detached to refuel at Hvalfjord then proceed to patrol the Denmark Strait.

 

9th - At 0800 hours NELSON, SOUTHAMPTON and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, BRILLIANT and KEPPEL were in approximate position 63N, 11W, covering the Iceland-Faroes channel.

At 1200 hours in position 62-46N, 11-58W destroyers DOUGLAS, VIMY and BULLDOG RVed with the CinC after refueling at Skaalefjord.

At 1300 hours destroyers MAORI, KEPPEL and BRILLIANT detached to refuel at Skaalefjord.

At 1400 hours AMC WORCESTERSHIRE joined the CinC, then was ordered to patrol a line 10 miles north west of NELSON's line.

The trawlers on the Northern Patrol line were ordered to cover as far as possible the spaces between the big ships.

 

11th - At 1200 hours in position 62-46N, 11-58W destroyers MAORI, KEPPEL and BRILLIANT RVed with the CinC after refueling at Skaalefjord.

 

12th - NELSON force left the patrol line for Scapa.

 

13th - At 1630 hours NELSON with destroyers BEAGLE, MAORI, BULLDOG and KEPPEL arrived at Scapa Flow

 

28th - At 2310 hours NELSON escorted by the destroyers SOMALI, MASHONA, MAORI and DOUGLAS sailed from Scapa for Rosyth.

 

29th - At 1415 hours the NELSON, SOMALI, MASHONA, MAORI and DOUGLAS arrived off Rosyth.

 

30th - At Rosyth the CinC Home Fleet was visited by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr A V Alexander MP, on board the NELSON.

 

December

 

1st - At Rosyth.

 

2nd - At Rosyth where Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles M. Forbes GCB, DSO, RN hauled down his flag and went ashore.

Admiral John C. Tovey the new CinC Home Fleet raised his flag.

 

3rd - On the afternoon the NELSON (Flag CinC HF) escorted by the destroyers VIMY, DOUGLAS and KEPPEL sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.

 

4th - At 0600 hours NELSON, VIMY, DOUGLAS and KEPPEL arrived at Scapa.

 

18th - NELSON, battlecruiser REPULSE with destroyers COSSACK, SIKH, TARTAR, BRILLIANT, BULLDOG, BEAGLE, DOUGLAS, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and ECLIPSE departed Scapa Flow to carry out tactical exercises west of the Orkneys.

 

20th - At 0930 hours the force arrived back at Scapa.

 

28th - At 1415 hours the NELSON with destroyers BEDOUIN, TARTAR, SIKH and BEAGLE departed Scapa Flow to patrol eastward of the Iceland Faroes Channel.

 

(The reason for this deployment was two reports:

1- Early in the morning of 26/12/40, the trawler NORTHERN GIFT, in the Northern Patrol trawler lines some 300 miles to the south-westward of the Vice-admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron, reported an unidentified ship passing through his area to the north-eastward at eighteen knots, and the patrol was adjusted to try to intercept this ship. She was not intercepted, though it is possible that she may have been the Swedish MV GULLMAREN 3397grt, cleared later through Skopen Fiord for Gothenburg.

2- The following day, 27/12/40, a report was received from a coast watcher on the east coast of Iceland of a battleship proceeding south down the coast. Until this report was disproved [the ship turned out to be the Danish ship MV NORDKAP 4553grt from Reykjavik], the NELSON the Second Cruiser Squadron and a screen of four destroyers were kept at shortened notice for steam)

 

29th - At 1200 hours in position 63N, 3-55W the light cruiser EDINBURGH joined the force.

 

31st - At 1100 hours the force arrived back at Scapa.

 

 

1 9 4 1

 

January

 

1st to 14th - At Scapa.

 

15th - At Scapa.

 

(On 15/1/41 the Prime Minister, the Right Hon, Winston S, Churchill, MP, honoured the Fleet at Scapa with a visit, when he came to see Lord Halifax off to America in the KING GEORGE V on his way to take up his appointment as His Majesty's ambassador at Washington. The party, who had travelled to Thurso over night, transferred to the NAPIER (D7) at Scrabster, and were brought alongside the KING GEORGE V at about 1300 hours. The minesweepers SHARPSHOOTER and SPEEDY bought some of the staff accompanying Lord Halifax, and the luggage.

After luncheon in the KING GEORGE V, the Prime Minister visited the canteen and buildings at Flotta and watched the KING GEORGE V proceed out of harbour en route to the USA.

The Prime Minster was accompanied during this visit by Major General Sir Hastings Ismay and Mr Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt's personal representative in Great Britain. They all stayed overnight with the CinC Home Fleet, on board the fleet flagship NELSON.

The Flag Officers and Captains in the fleet were able to meet the Prime Minister at dinner in the NELSON that evening, but it was a great disappointment to everybody that the weather the next morning prevented the programme of visits to the ships being carried out.

The NAPIER took the party back to Scrabster in the afternoon, when a severe blizzard attended their departure)

 

25th - At 2320 hours NELSON (Flag CinC HF), RODNEY, battlecruiser REPULSE, light cruisers ARETHUSA, GALATEA (Flag RA CS2), AURORA, MAURITIUS, NAIAD (Flag RA CS15), PHOEBE, EDINBURGH (Flag VA CS18) and BIRMINGHAM escorted by destroyers BEDOUIN (D6), MATABELE, TARTAR, PUNJABI, ESCAPADE, ECHO, ELECTRA, BEAGLE, BRILLIANT, KEPPEL and the Polish ORP PIORUN sailed from Scapa for position 61-30N, 17-30W, south of Iceland to cover the Denmark Strait and Iceland-Faroes gap.

 

(The reason for this deployment was a report from the Admiralty during the afternoon of 25/1/41.  Admiralty message 1152 was received reporting a D/F fix of an unknown enemy unit between Rockall and the Hebrides, and this was followed later by Admiralty message 1751 giving information of an A2 report from the British Naval Attache at Stockholm that two heavy ships, believed to have been the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU had passed through the Great Belt northwards during the forenoon of 23/1/41)

 

26th - Patrolling south of Iceland.

 

27th - Patrolling in vicinity of position 62N, 21-30W, south of Iceland.

At 1200 hours, with no further news having been received of the enemy, RODNEY, EDINBURGH, BIRMINGHAM, MAURITIUS and destroyers BEAGLE, BRILLIANT, KEPPEL and PIORUN detached and returned to Scapa.

At 1354 hours the CinC made general signal, 'intend to cruise in this area with objective of covering convoys and acting on reports. HX 103 may be sighted at about 1630 hours'.

 

28th - At 0640 hours, two hours before daylight, the Fleet was on course 090, speed 15 knots, with the cruisers ARETHUSA, GALATEA, AURORA, NAIAD and PHOEBE disposed 30 on each bow, 60 on each quarter and one astern at visibility distance of seven miles. At this time the NAIAD, on the port bow, saw what were thought to be two large vessels bearing 120 at a distance of about seven miles and steering a converging course. The NAIAD made an immediate report timed 0649 hours, of two unknown vessels bearing 110, and she turned towards them and increased speed. The bearing continued to draw ahead, and NAIAD consequently hauled round to port reporting at 0658 hours their course estimated to be 040.

At 0700 hours the NELSON was in position 62-38N, 18W.

At 0712 hours the NAIAD had worked up to 30 knots but had lost sight of the two unknown vessels.

At 0738 hours REPULSE, BEDOUIN, TARTAR, MATABELE and PUNJABI were detached with orders join NAIAD.

At 0800 hours the NELSON had worked up to 21 knots and all cruisers in company were directed to proceed on a course of 70 at best speed.

At 0830 hours the NAIAD reported that at 0800 hours she had been detected and held by radar, but the echo had later faded; and that she intended to maintain his present course of 55 at 31 knots until daylight and then to search to the south east. The receipt of NAIAD's report tended to strengthen the conviction of the CinC Home Fleet that original sighting was false.

At 0930 hours the NELSON sighted the trawler NORTHERN REWARD which the CinC believed could have been in the position in which smoke was reported by NAIAD at 0715 hours.

 

(The vessels that the NAIAD sighted were indeed the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU (Flag Admiral Luetjens). The German ships had sailed from Kiel at 0600/23/1/41 on Operation BERLIN and had proceeded through the Great Belt [where they had been sighted and reported]. On leaving the Skagerrak they had steered west the northerly. At 0400/27/1/41 they turned on to course 214. At 0618/28/1/41 the SCHARNHORST detected a radar contact on the bearing 230, range 15700 yards; the ship was thought to be a Tribal class destroyer. But it was the NAIAD, who had been detected by the enemy 22 minutes before she made her sighting. Luetjens reversed course and his ships worked up to 30 knots and lost their adversary)

 

At 1010 hours the AURORA was detached to search the passage between the east coat of Iceland and the northern end of the Iceland-Faeroes minefield.

At 1100 hours the NELSON was in position 63-14N, 15-54W.

At 1420 hours the NELSON reduced speed to 17 knots.

At 1630 hours, having received no further reports of the supposed enemy, the Fleet concentrated and steered south towards convoy HX 103 in case the enemy had broken through.

 

29th - In the north west approaches the NELSON, REPULSE, BEDOUIN, MATABELE, TARTAR, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA, ECHO and PUNJABI provided distant cover for convoy HX 103.

 

30th - At 1500 hours the NELSON, REPULSE, BEDOUIN, MATABELE, TARTAR, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA, ECHO and PUNJABI arrived back at Scapa.

 

31st - At Scapa Flow.

 

(At 0027 hours the CinC signalled the Admiralty, 'Investigation of C.S.15's [NAIAD] report of sighting unknown ships produces evidence that is far from conclusive.  Snow squalls made visibility and radar conditions patchy and liable to be misleading. There is small possibility that if a fast enemy vessel was present she could have worked round to northward and then to westward without being detected. I consider it unlikely that an enemy ship was present')

 

February

 

1st - At Scapa.

 

8th - At 1900 hours the NELSON (Flag CinC HF), light cruisers MAURITIUS and DIDO escorted by the destroyers ELECTRA, ECLIPSE and TARTAR sailed from Scapa for position 61-43N, 14-38W which was seventy miles 140 degrees from 62.30N, 16.00W. (This was the position that the force comprising battlecruiser REPULSE, light cruisers GALATEA, NIGERIA, ARETHUSA and AURORA and the destroyers MATABELE, PUNJABI and ESKIMO, that had sailed from Scapa Flow at 1830 hours, were also making for) The objective was to set up a blocking position south of Iceland and provide distant cover for the North Atlantic convoys.

 

(At 0618/8/2/41 hours the German battlecruiser SCHARNHORST, who was in company with the GNEISENAU, made radar contact at 17200 metres with convoy HX 106. On closing the convoy SCHARNHORST, at 0947 hours, sighted a battleship, which was the RAMILLIES. On sighting her the Germans broke off.

At 1150Z/8/2/41, the Admiralty received a report from the RAMILLIES, escorting convoy HX 106 in position 52-55N, 34-00W, some 900 miles west of Slyne Head, that she had had a brief glimpse of the mast and top of a ship which was possibly a German Hipper-class cruiser estimated to be steering a course of 030 degrees. Following the encounter the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU headed for refuelling point blue in approximate position 53-55N, 57W, arriving on 14/2/41 and refuelled from the German tankers SCHLETTSTADT (8028grt) and ESSO HAMBURG (9847grt).

The Admiralty appreciation was that the  Hipper class cruiser seen in dock at Brest between 2nd January and 1st February had not been located there on 4th February, and if she was the ship seen by the RAMILLIES she might well hare been attempting to return to Germany by the northern passages. At twenty-five knots she could have reached a position by dusk on 9th February to the westward of the Iceland-Faeroes channel appropriate for a night passage through the gap which would have taken her well clear to the eastward by dawn the following day. At twenty knots she would have been too far to the westward before dusk to give a reasonable chance of interception if she attempted a night passage, but she might conveniently be caught to the eastward at daylight. Ships at Scapa were accordingly sailed and disposed to meet either of these contingencies.

At 1947/8/2/41 the Admiralty ordered the cruiser EDINBURGH (CS 18), who was in the Clyde ready to sail with convoy WS 6A, and the destroyers KELLY (D5), KIPLING, KASHMIR and JACKAL from Plymouth, to proceed to Scapa for orders. At 2331/8/2/41 the CinC HF requested that EDINBURGH and the destroyers RV with RODNEY at 1100/10/2/41 in position 64-15N, 9W)

 

9th - At 1800 hours NELSON, MAURITIUS, DIDO and destroyers ELECTRA, ECLIPSE and TARTAR arrived in position 61-43N, 14-38W.

 

10th - Patrolling about position 61-43N, 14-38W.

At 1730 hours the NELSON was in position 61-32N, 14-26W, course 126, speed 17½ knots.

At 2000 hours as there had been no developments during the day the CinC decided that all forces, except the REPULSE force, would return to base.

At 2050 hours the NELSON in position 60-59N, 12-44W, reported a submarine bearing 120, three miles. The KELLY (D5) was ordered to search for the submarine.

At 2200 hours MAURITIUS and DIDO detached to cover D5.

 

11th - At 0530 hours the NELSON was in position 59-11N, 09-59W, course 110, speed 20 knots.

At 1825 hours the NELSON and the destroyers ELECTRA, ECLIPSE and TARTAR arrived at Scapa Flow.

 

12th to 28th - At Scapa.

 

March

 

1st - At Scapa.

 

2nd - At 1425 hours battleships NELSON (Flag CinC Home Fleet) and KING GEORGE V, light cruisers EDINBURGH (Flag CS18) and NIGERIA and destroyers INGLEFIELD (D3), ECHO, ECLIPSE, MAORI and PUNJABI sailed from Scapa for position 65-40N, 05-00E, approx 200 south west of the entrance to Vestfjord to provide cover for ships carrying out Operation CLAYMORE.

 

(Operation CLAYMORE was a Commando Raid on the Lofoten Islands. The objectives were the destruction of fish oil factories that produced glycerine that the Germans used in the manufacture of explosives as well as a morale boost for the home front. There was also a top secret mission to be carried out by the RN, which was called a 'pinch' by Bletchley Park; this was to attempt to seize an ENIGMA machine.

The landing force comprised the LSI (M)'s QUEEN EMMA [with No 4 Commando embarked] and PRINCESS BEATRIX [with No 3 Commando] they also carried 52 Norwegians of the Norwegian Independent Company and demolition teams from the 55th Field Squadron Royal Engineers. The escort was the destroyers SOMALI (D6 Captain Caslon), BEDOUIN, TARTAR, ESKIMO and LEGION. The submarine SUNFISH was positioned in approximate position 67-37N, 12-45E as a beacon at the entrance to Vestfjord)

 

3rd - At 0900 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 62-59N, 3-15W

At 1045 hours the Battle Fleet was sighted by German reconnaissance aircraft and reported as two heavy cruisers and five destroyers, course north.

At 1200 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 63-38N, 3-00W.

At 1700 hours the EDINBURGH and NIGERIA were detached to stand off the entrance to Vestfjord and to RV with the returning Landing Force to provide close cover for the return passage.

At 1900 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 64-00N, 3-00W and sailing northerly for position 65-40N, 5-00E.

 

4th - At 0001 hours the Battle Fleet was south westerly of Vestfjord.

 

(At 0001hours, under ideal weather conditions, the Landing Force entered Vestfjord. At 0445 hours the Force split in two groups, for the attack on the two most important targets. The QUEEN EMMA, SOMALI, BEDOUIN and TARTAR made for Svolvaer; PRINCESS BEATRIX, ESKIMO and LEGION made for Stamsund. At 0500 hours the first attacks took place; in total 4 targets were attacked, Stamsund, Svolvaer, Henningsvaer and Brettesnes)

 

At 1200 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 66-24N, 7-16E and steering 048.

At 1230 hours the EDINBURGH and NIGERIA were sighted ahead.

 

(At 1300 hours the Commandoes re-embarked, the Landing Force sailed down Vestfjord and course was set to RV with the EDINBURGH and NIGERIA. The raiding force had destroyed 11 factories, 800,000 gallons of oil and five ships had been sunk (including the fish factory ship SS HAMBURG 5470grt). A party from the SOMALI had boarded the German trawler KREBS and sized Enigma paraphernalia. The Force returned with 314 volunteers (including 8 women) for the Norwegian forces, 60 Quislings, 225 German prisoners and the English manager of Messrs Allen & Hanbury, chemists, who had been caught there in the war; all for the cost of one accidental self-inflicted wound to an officer's thigh)

 

At 1356 hours in position 66-45N, 8-18E the Battle Fleet altered course to 260.

At 1414 hours the KING GEORGE V, DFed a radio station bearing 162 that appeared to be vectoring aircraft.

At 1620 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 67-22N, 12-38E steering 225, speed 20 knots, when it was located by enemy aircraft.

 

5th - At 0900 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 65-28N, 2-08W steering 210.

At 0913 hours course was altered to 140 to return to Scapa.

At 1047 hours enemy aircraft in sight.

At 1050 hours AA fire was opened on the enemy aircraft. This was first use of her AA armament in anger.

At 1301 hours the CinC Home Fleet ordered KING GEORGE V to attempt to bluff the enemy aircraft by calling up 'non existent fighter' to attack the enemy aircraft.

Between 1450 and 1541 hours AA fire was opened on the enemy aircraft.

At 1800 hours Battle Fleet was in position 63-35N, 4-51W.

 

(At 1800 hours the Landing Force was in position 64-25N, 3-04W, course 190, speed 20 knots)

 

6th - At 0800 hours the Battle Fleet was in position 59-57N, 4-29W.

At 1015 hours a RAF Hudson was sighted on the port beam.

At 1400 hours battleships NELSON and KING GEORGE V, light cruisers EDINBURGH and NIGERIA, LSI (M) QUEEN EMMA and PRINCESS BEATRIX and destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ECLIPSE, MAORI, PUNJABI, SOMALI, BEDOUIN, TARTAR, ESKIMO and LEGION arrived at Scapa.

 

14th - At 1903 the NELSON (Flag CinC HF), light cruiser NIGERIA and destroyers BOADICEA, ESCAPADE and ACTIVE departed Scapa Flow to operate south of Iceland in support of North Atlantic convoys.

 

(The reason for this deployment was SIGINT based on D/F bearings at 2034/13/3/41 that indicated a surface unit [possibly SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU] might be in the North Atlantic between latitude 54N and 58N, no evidence of longitude. Possibly attempting to return to Germany)

 

15th - At 1200 hours the NELSON was in position 60-50N, 10-06W, course 320, speed 16 knots.

At 1641 hours the CinC received a raider distress signal, timed at 1636N hours, from the tanker MV SAN CASIMIRO 8046grt, in position 39-58N, 43-19W, before the signal was finished it was jammed.

 

(After being sighted by MALAYA, the battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU moved into the mid-Atlantic and joined up with their supply ships the MV UCKERMARK 7021grt and the SS ERMLAND 7100grt. On the evening of 12/3/41 all four ships commenced sailing in a north westerly direction towards the HX convoy routes. They were spread out in line abreast, in formation from the east, UCKERMARK, GNEISENAU, SCHARNHORST and ERMLAND, spaced so as to cover a path 120 miles wide. On the morning of the 15/3/41, UCKERMARK sighted a ship and when GNEISENAU closed the ship it proved to be the Norwegian tanker MV BIANCA 5684grt. The BIANCA and the next ship sighted the MV SAN CASIMIRO 8046grt were from the dispersed convoy OB 294, which had dispersed on 9/3/41 in position 51-29N, 20-30W. The SAN CASIMIRO attempted to escape at 13 knots at the same time transmitting a RRR signal, but was eventually overtaken and captured by the GNEISENAU. The SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU then proceeded to capture 3 and sink 12 ships from the dispersed convoy)

 

16th - At 0800 hours the NELSON was in position 62-47N, 21-07W, course 285, speed 17 knots.

At 0948 hours the CinC signalled the Admiralty, 'NELSON and NIGERIA will be operating to the SW of Iceland until 0900/17 and will then patrol to south of Iceland to cover SN 69'

At 1559 hours the NIGERIA detached to investigate merchant vessel. This turned out to be the AMC ALAUNIA en route to Reykjavik.

At 1934 hours sighted the AMC MONTCLARE bearing 047, 5½ miles.

 

17th - At 0237 hours the NIGERIA was ordered to take station four miles down moon from NELSON.

At 0800 hours the NELSON was in position 62-54N, 21-38W.

At 0800 hours the destroyers COSSACK (D4), MAORI and ZULU joined after refuelling at Reykjavik.

At 0900 hours BOADICEA, ACTIVE and ESCAPADE were detached to Reykjavik to refuel.

 

18th - At 0800 hours the NELSON was in position 62-45N, 24-24W.

At 1450 hours BOADICEA, ACTIVE and ESCAPADE rejoined from Reykjavik.

 

19th - At 0700 hours the NELSON was in position 63-54N, 13-50W.

At 1700 hours the NELSON was in position 63-45N, 13-55W.

At 1730 hours the NELSON sighted the minelayers SOUTHERN PRINCE (Flag RAML), MENESTHEUS, AGAMEMNON and PORT QUEBEC escorted by the light cruisers AURORA and GALATEA, carrying out minelaying Operation SN 69.

 

20th - At 1030 hours in position 62-50N, 14-40W the NELSON, NIGERIA, COSSACK, MAORI, ZULU, BOADICEA, ACTIVE and ESCAPADE were joined by battlecruiser HOOD (Flag VA BC1), battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH, heavy cruiser LONDON, and destroyers INGLEFIELD, ELECTRA, ARROW, ECHO, ECLIPSE, and ESKIMO.

 

(The ECHO had embarked 21 survivors from the Norwegian merchant ship SS LEO 1367grt that had been bombed and sunk at 1420/19/3/41 in position 59-12N, 7-29W. ECHO had picked up the survivors in position 59N, 7-20W, four and half hours after the sinking)

 

At 1034 hours the HOOD force were instructed to operate 30 miles to the southward of the NELSON force

At 1400 hours the NELSON was in position 63-29N, 14-36W, course 230, speed 15 knots.

At 1921 hours the CinC received a signal from Force H: 'At 1730 hours one of ARK ROYAL's Swordfish had sighted two Scharnhorst class battlecruisers in position 46-50N, 21-25W, course 000, speed 20 knots'.

At 1930 hours the CinC ordered all ships in company to proceed to Scapa with all despatch to refuel.

 

21st - En route to Scapa.

 

(At 2021 hours a RAF Hudson aircraft X/220 from St Eval sighted the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. The sighting report stated two large battleships accompanied by a destroyer in position 47-17N, 7-13W, steering 090, speed 20 knots. Actually the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU were at the time being escorted by the torpedo boats JAGUAR and ILTIS. Luetjens B Dienst team immediately deciphered the sighting report, which decided Luetjens to make direct for Brest where SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU arrived at 0746/22/3/41)

 

22nd - En route to Scapa.

At 0107/22/3/41 the CinC received Admiralty message 0043: 'If the HOOD has sufficient fuel, then she plus any available cruisers should proceed now to patrol to the westward of the Bay of Biscay and remain until the arrival of Force H'.

At 0431 hours the CinC signalled the Admiralty: 'Consider HOOD should complete with fuel. She has had no opportunity to work up after long refit and many changes in personnel. Consider 48 hours most desirable'.

At 0600 hours the NELSON was in position 58-30N, 14W, course 088, speed 19 knots.

At 1337 hours the CinC received Admiralty message1224: 'WS 7 is timed to sail so as to RV off Orsay Island at 0800/25. Request you arrange to sail NELSON from Scapa to RV at that time off Orsay and inform Admiralty of earliest date on which NELSON can arrive there. On receipt of this information convoy WS 7 will be sailed accordingly'.

At 1450 hours the CinC signalled the Admiralty: 'Your 1224, NELSON can arrive Orsay Island at 0800/25, but 26th would be preferable'.

At 1640 hours the CinC received Admiralty message 1557 repeating the sighting report of RAF Hudson X/220. 

At 2041 hours the CinC received Admiralty message 2023: 'Your 1450, very large percentage of troops to be carried in this convoy are now embarked waiting at ports vulnerable to air attack. Other ships who have sailed will have strictly limited water supply seriously reduced before leaving the UK. The troops are urgently required in Middle East. For these reasons it is necessary for NELSON to sail as soon as possible and it is requested you will arrange for her to RV with convoy on 25th'.

 

23rd - At 0031 hours the NELSON, ACTIVE, BOADICEA and ESCAPADE arrived at Scapa.

At 0837 hours the CinC Home Fleet signalled to NELSON, R.A (D), CinC Rosyth: 'NELSON, screened by three destroyers, is to proceed passing Hoxa boom at 1200/24th March to RV with WS 7 in position 270 degrees Orsay six miles at 0800/25th March, and is to provide additional ocean escort to Freetown.   After making the RV destroyers are to provide additional A/S escort for convoy, parting company as ordered by CinC Western Approaches and returning to Scapa'.

 

24th - The CinC Home Fleet struck his flag in NELSON and transferred it to battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH.

At 1202 hours NELSON escorted by the destroyers ARROW, ESKIMO and ECLIPSE sailed from Scapa to RV with convoy WS 7 off Orsay Island.

 

25th - En route to join convoy WS 7.

 

(At 0700 hours 6 miles west of Orsay Light, convoy WS 7 formed up. It consisted of 20 troopships, with 52800 troops embarked, and two MT freighters. Included with the troopships was the MV GEORGIC 27,759 grt, with 3000 troops embarked for Halifax.

At the forming up point the escort for WS 7 was battleship REVENGE,  light cruisers EDINBURGH and CAIRO and destroyers BROADWATER, BEDOUIN, MASHONA, MATABELE, SOMALI, LEGION and ORP PIORUN)

 

At 1200 hours NELSON with destroyers ARROW, ESKIMO and ECLIPSE joined WS 7.

At 1330 hours destroyers ST CLAIR, VICEROY and WINCHELSEA joined WS 7 from Londonderry.

At 1830 hours destroyers ROCKINGHAM and the FS LEOPARD joined WS 7 from Londonderry.

 

26th – At 1330 hours 400 miles west of Eagle Island Light destroyers LEGION, PIORUN, ROCKINGHAM, VICEROY, WINCHELSEA and the FS LEOPARD detached from WS 7.

At 2300 hours CAIRO detached from WS 7.

 

27th – At 1700 hours destroyers ARROW, ESKIMO and ECLIPSE detached from WS 7.

At 1830 hours the destroyers ST CLAIRE and BROADWATER detached from WS 7.

 

28th – At 1200 hours destroyers BEDOUIN, MASHON, MATABELE and SOMALI detached from WS 7.

At 1230 hours 480 miles north of the Azores, REVENGE and the MV GEORGIC detached from WS 7 and headed for Halifax.

 

29th - At 2200 hours in approximate position 37N, 31W, EDINBURGH detached from WS 7 for Gibraltar.

When EDINBURGH detached, this left the NELSON as the only escort so Captain Sir Geoffrey J A Miles became the senior officer of the escort.

 

30th & 31st - Convoy WS 7 escorted by the NELSON continued on a southerly course.

 

April

 

1st - At 1000 hours in approximate position 24N, 24W the convoy was joined by destroyers DUNCAN and FOXHOUND from Freetown.

 

2nd - At 1300 hours in approximate position 16N, 21W the convoy was joined by destroyers VIDETTE and WISHART from Freetown.

 

3rd - At 0300 hours WS 7 arrived at position F which was in approximate position 12N, 19W.

 

(From point F the convoy Commodore was instructed by the Admiralty to steer 120, a course that would have taken the convoy directly to Freetown, 400 NM distant. But the Commodore would not carry out this instruction because it would take the convoy through waters shallow enough to be mined. He stated that since there was a warning of two U-Boats operating in the area he was not prepared to stop the convoy twice to deploy and recover paravanes. So he set a course of 140 until 135 NM west of Cape Sierra Leone, at which point the convoy turned east for Freetown. The Admiralty subsequently disagreed with the Commodore's decision, stating that their routing was to avoid the calculated positions of the U-Boats.

The Admiralty's routing was proved to be the correct course when at 2302/4/4/41 in position 8-15N, 14-19W, U-124 torpedoed and sank the SS MARLENE 6507grt, en route from Walvis Bay to Freetown. The attack had been carried out 15NM south of the track taken by WS 7 14½ hours earlier)

 

4th - At 1230 hours the convoy with NELSON at its head entered Freetown.

 

7th - At 1500 hours sailed from Freetown as Ocean Escort for WS.7 in company with local escort of destroyers DUNCAN, FOXHOUND, VIDETTE and WISHART.

 

(At 2130 hours in position 7-25N, 13-55W the FOXHOUND picked up three survivors from the SS UMONA 3767 grt, which had been torpedoed and sunk by U-124 at 2301/30/3/41)

 

8th - FOXHOUND and DUNCAN detached and returned to Freetown.

 

9th - VIDETTE and WISHART detached and returned to Freetown.

 

(At 0509/12/4/41 in position 7-50N, 14W, the U-124 torpedoed and sank the SS HELENA 4313grt, en route from Bahia to Freetown. The 41 survivors were picked up by WISHART and landed at Freetown. This attack was carried out about 20NM west of the course taken by WS 7 four days previously)

 

At 1250 hours NELSON and WS 7 crossed the Equator.

 

13th - At 1600 hours, NELSON sighted two north bound British merchant ships the SS CITY OF FLORENCE 6862grt and SS KIOTO 3297grt.

 

15th - At 1430 hours light cruiser NEWCASTLE joined WS 7

At 1445 hours, in approximate position 30-39S, 14-45E, 270 miles NW of Cape Town, NELSON detached from WS7 and proceeded to Cape Town.

 

16th - At 0845 hours, NELSON tied up alongside at Duncan Dock, Cape Town.

 

17th - At Cape Town where she was visited by the South African Prime Minster, Jan Smuts.

 

19th - At 0800 hours, NELSON sailed from Cape Town and set course to round the Cape of Good Hope.

At 1400 hours off Dyer Island, NELSON carried out a full calibre main armament shoot, following which she set course for Durban.

 

22nd - At 1030 hours NELSON arrived off Durban.

At 1330 hours, NELSON entered Durban dry dock for her annual maintenance.

 

May

 

1st - At Durban in dry dock.

 

3rd - At 1100 hours NELSON was un-docked.

 

10th - At 1430 hours, NELSON, aircraft carrier EAGLE, with Swordfish of 813 and 824 squadrons embarked, and  heavy cruiser HAWKINS sailed from Durban. As the three ships passed through the harbour entrance large crowds had gathered on the breakwaters to wave goodbye. On the northern breakwater was 'The Lady in White' who sang to the ships companies as they departed. Course was set for Cape Town.

 

(The Lady in White was Mrs Perla Siedle Gibson, who at the time was in her early 50's. She had been a Wagnerian soprano who during the course of the war sang to more than 5,000 ships, troopships and warships carrying over half a million Allied servicemen in & out of South Africa's busiest wartime port. Standing on Durban's quays in her invariable white dress and red hat, Perla Gibson amplified her vibrant soprano with a ship's megaphone)

 

12th - At 1900 hours, NELSON, EAGLE and HAWKINS arrived at Cape Town.

 

13th - At 0800 hours, NELSON and EAGLE sailed from Cape Town and set course for St Helena. En route they were to search for the German commerce raider, ATLANTIS (known to the Admiralty as raider C)

 

18th - At 0015 hours in position 19-07S, 4-42W, approximately 226 miles south of St Helena, ATLANTIS, which at the time was stationary drifting in the calm moonlit waters, with her engines shut down to conserve fuel, sighted two darkened vessels approaching at speed. ATLANTIS identified them as warships and moved slowly away to starboard out of their path. The vessels she sighted were NELSON and EAGLE, and they passed within 7000 metres of her without either vessel sighting the raider.

 

(Raider ATLANTIS, officially Handelsschuetzkreuzer 2 [HSK II, Schiff 16] was the ex German merchant ship MV GOLDENFELS 7862 grt. She was armed with 6 x 150mm, 1 x 75mm, 2 x 37mm, 2 x 20mm, 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes & two He 114B aircraft, she had a top speed of 17½ knots and a range of 60,000NM at 10 knots)

 

At 1100 hours arrived off St Helena to refuel from the Norwegian oiler MV NYHOLM 5843grt that was anchored off Jamestown Harbour. On arrival they found the AMC QUEEN of BERMUDA 22575grt, refuelling from the oiler. The NELSON and EAGLE commandeered the oiler, ordering the QUEEN of BERMUDA to disengage and stand off while they refuelled.

At 2345 hours following refuelling, NELSON and EAGLE departed St Helena to proceed to Freetown.

 

21st - At 1600 hours in position 03-55S, 10-20W the NELSON and EAGLE, RVed with destroyers DUNCAN and HIGHLANDER from Freetown.

 

22nd - NELSON and EAGLE received a signal from the CinC South Atlantic that an unidentified enemy unit was operating in the general area and they were ordered to carry out an air search of the area. In order to comply with the order the force turned westward.

 

(The enemy signals were probably associated with the ATLANTIS. However at this time the ATLANTIS was about 1500NM to the south. On 24/5/41, ATLANTIS sank the SS TRAFALGAR 4530grt in position 25S, 1E.

Also at this time news was received  of the sinking of the Egyptian liner the SS ZAMZAM 8059grt at 0545/17/4/41in position 27-41S, 8-08W, en route from New York to Cape Town with a cargo of lubricating oil, tin plate, ambulances, trucks, steel bars, radios, batteries, typewriters, cosmetics, girdles and Coca-Cola. She had embarked two hundred and two passengers made up of one hundred and thirty-eight Americans, twenty-six Canadians, twenty-five Britons, five South Africans, four Belgians, two Greeks, one Italian and one Norwegian. She had a crew of one hundred and twenty-nine men)

 

23rd - Destroyers DUNCAN and HIGHLANDER, because of their limited endurance, were forced to detach and return Freetown to refuel.

 

24th - At 0100 hours, NELSON and EAGLE were joined by the destroyers BOREAS and VELOX from Freetown.

 

(The BOREAS had embarked survivors from the SS RODNEY STAR 11803grt, torpedoed and sunk at 0930/16/5/41 by U-105 in position 5-08N, 19-15W. The survivors were picked up by BOREAS, en route to join the NELSON, on 22/5/41 in position 5-03N, 19-02W)

 

(At approximately 0700 hours, NELSON received a signal informing of the sinking of HOOD by the BISMARCK and ordering NELSON and EAGLE to proceed to Freetown with all speed)

 

At 1400 hours the destroyers DUNCAN and HIGHLANDER rejoined from Freetown.

 

25th - At 0900 hours, NELSON, EAGLE, BOREAS, DUNCAN, HIGHLANDER and VELOX arrived at Freetown.

 

26th - At 0600 hours, NELSON escorted by the destroyers DUNCAN and HIGHLANDER sailed from Freetown for Gibraltar.

 

 (This deployment was to close the Straits of Gibraltar to the BISMARCK; the NELSON was to proceed at her best speed and gave her ETA Gibraltar as 1600/31/5/41)

 

27th - At 1200 hours in approximate position 11-20N, 17-50W, NELSON received a signal informing of the sinking of the BISMARCK. Following the sinking, NELSON's orders were changed several times. However she carried on steering a northerly course. Finally NELSON was ordered to join convoy SL.75.

 

(The 23 ship convoy SL 75 had sailed from Freetown on 17/5/41 bound for Liverpool. On 27/5/41 the convoy was in approximate position 23-20N, 27W steering northerly at about six knots escorted by the AMC CATHAY with rescue ship TOWARD in company)

 

June

 

1st - At 0700 hours in approximate position 35N, 24W, NELSON joined AMC CATHAY escorting convoy SL 75.

 

4th  - At 1245 hours in approximate position 41-30N, 23-30W, NELSON detached from convoy SL 75 and increased speed making for a position west of 43N, 21W where the AMC ESPERANCE BAY had sighted an unidentified ship which when challenged had made off at 18 knots outrunning the ESPERANCE BAY.

 

(At 1200/3/6/41, AMC ESPERANCE BAY 14204grt, speed 14 knots, detached from convoy WS 8X and steered west of south for a RV with the OBV MALVERNIAN 3133grt, speed 14knots.

At 1200/4/6/41 the ESPERANCE BAY was steering southerly, when she sighted an unidentified ship in approximate position 43N, 21W. When challenged the unidentified ship, which was the German supply ship GONZENHEIM 7000grt, made off westerly at 18 knots and was soon lost to ESPERANCE BAY. The sighting report transmitted by ESPERANCE BAY bought a Swordfish of 825 Squadron from the VICTORIOUS, part of the escort to WS 8X, to the scene and she was able to home the NELSON and light cruiser NEPTUNE on to the GONZENHEIM.

The NEPTUNE had detached from convoy WS 8X at 1630/4/41 when in approximate position 42N, 23W)

 

At 2030 hours in position 43-32N, 23-56W, NELSON and NEPTUNE sighted the German supply ship GONZENHEIM and signalled her to heave to. She turned away and attempted to outrun the British ships. NELSON fired a single 6in round across her bows, which caused GONZENHEIM to slow and commence lowering her boats. Two further warning shots were fired by NELSON to stop the abandonment. NEPTUNE was ordered to close, but GONZENHEIM scuttled in position 43-29N, 24-04W before NEPTUNE arrived. NEPTUNE picked up the 63 survivors.

NELSON then returned to convoy SL 75.

 

6th - At 0015 hours in position 49N, 23W, NELSON was joined by destroyers ELECTRA, IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE from Londonderry. Course was then set for Scapa.

 

8th - At 0030 hours, NELSON escorted by ELECTRA, IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE arrived at Scapa and rejoined the Home Fleet.

 

14th - At Scapa, where her new CO, Captain Thomas Hope Troubridge RN took command.

 

July

 

11th - At 0830 hours, NELSON escorted by destroyers LIGHTNING and the ORP KRAKOWIAK and KUJAWIAK departed Scapa Flow for the Clyde.

 

12th - At 1054 hours, NELSON, LIGHTNING, KRAKOWIAK and KUJAWIAK arrived off Greenock.

At 2300 hours, NELSON, light cruisers MANCHESTER and ARETHUSA, cruiser minelayer MANXMAN and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, SIKH, LIGHTNING and HMAS NESTOR sailed from the Clyde to form up with convoy WS 9C off the Mull of Kintyre. This was the Operation SUBSTANCE convoy.

 

(Operation SUBSTANCE was an operation to pass a convoy, GM 1, consisting of 6 MT ships and a personnel ship, together with troops embarked in the escorting warships, to Malta. Also to cover the passage of convoy MG 1, 7 empty MT ships, from Malta to Gibraltar)

 

13th - At 0600 hours in the North Channel south of the Mull of Kintyre, convoy WS 9C formed up. The convoy consisted of two troop transports and seven merchant ships; these vessels had set out from the Bristol Channel, Liverpool and the Clyde. The Bristol Channel and Liverpool sections were escorted by light cruiser HNethMS HEEMSKERK and destroyers GURKHA, VANOC, WANDERER and ORP GARLAND.

On forming up, NELSON was positioned in the centre of the convoy, with MANCHESTER, ARETHUSA, MANXMAN and HEEMSKERK  positioned at the four corners. After forming up course was set for Gibraltar.

 

15th - HEEMSKERK and destroyers GURKHA, GARLAND, VANOC and WANDERER detached from WS 9C.

 

16th - Refrigerated passenger-cargo ship SS AVILA STAR 14443grt detached to proceed independently to South America.

The MANXMAN detached for Gibraltar.

 

17th - At 1900 hours in approximate position 40N, 21W, MANCHESTER, destroyers NESTOR and LIGHTNING and the liner PASTEUR, with 4200 troops for the Malta Garrison embarked, detached for Gibraltar.

At 1830 hours the destroyers COSSACK, SIKH and MAORI and personnel ship LEINSTER, with troops for the Malta Garrison embarked, detached for Gibraltar.

 

18th - Destroyers FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE and FORESTER joined convoy WS 9C from Gibraltar.

 

20th - At 1200 hours in approximate position 36N, 9-10W, light cruiser EDINBURGH (Flag Rear Admiral E.N. Syfret CS18), MANXMAN and destroyers NESTOR, LIGHTNING, FARNDALE, AVON VALE and ERIDGE joined convoy WS 9C from Gibraltar.

At 1215 hours, destroyers FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE and FORESTER detached from WS 9C and returned to Gibraltar.

At 1300 hours, destroyer NESTOR distributed sealed orders to each of the six MT ships.

At 2345 hours,  Convoy WS 9C comprising the MT ships DEUCALION, PORT CHALMERS, MELBOURNE STAR, DURHAM, SYDNEY STAR, and CITY OF PRETORIA escorted by EDINBURGH (Flag CS 18 and CinC close escort), NELSON, MANXMAN and destroyers NESTOR, LIGHTNING, FARNDALE, AVON VALE and ERIDGE entered the Strait of Gibraltar. There was thick fog in the Strait which caused problems with timings in the early part of Operation SUBSTANCE.

 

21st - At 0145 hours having passed through the Strait of Gibraltar the convoy number changed to GM1.

At 0200 hours, RFA oiler MV BROWN RANGER 3400grt escorted by destroyer BEVERLEY sailed from Gibraltar.

At 0320 hours, cruisers MANCHESTER and ARETHUSA sailed from Gibraltar to join convoy GM1.

 

(The personnel ship MV LIENSTER 4302grt, with 914 military personnel embarked including RAF maintenance personnel for Malta, sailed at the same time but in the fog, ran aground off Carnero Point, south of Algeciras, Spain. The troops were eventually taken off by tender and quartered on the PASTEUR)

 

At 0430 hours, Force H comprising battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag Vice Admiral Somerville CinC Force H), aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, light cruiser HERMIONE and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT and FORESTER sailed from Gibraltar. Owing to the fog all the units of Force H were ordered to proceed independently to the eastward until daylight.

At 0530 hours destroyers COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH sailed from Gibraltar; these should have been escorting LEINSTER.

At 0600 hours NELSON detached from convoy GM1 and joined Force H; all the ships of Force H now formed on the RENOWN.

At 0630 hours three Swordfish from Gibraltar airfield arrived over ARK ROYAL. They were ordered to search ahead for 40 miles to locate and report the position of all ships. These aircraft reported sighting LEINSTER, although at the time she was aground on the Spanish coast.

At 0630 hours Somerville signalled that the ships formed on RENOWN would be known as Group 4, and those formed on the MT ships as Group 5. (This was because Force H and X were mixed up and would not revert to H and X until the Skerki Channel was reached)

At 0815 hours COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH joined Group 4.

At 0915 hours Somerville was informed by VA North Atlantic that LEINSTER was aground.

 

(Because the RAF personnel were urgently required at Malta, Somerville did consider sending HERMIONE back to embark them, but rejected the move on several grounds)

 

At 1000 hours clocks were advanced by two hours.

At 1230 hours Group 4 now comprising RENOWN, NELSON, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and destroyers FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH, was abeam and to the north of Group 5.

At 1255 hours RENOWN in position 36-28N, 03-16W, sighted a merchant ship, probably Vichy, westbound, 15 miles north of her.

At 1500 hours Group 4 altered course to 060 to open out from Group 5.

At 1600 hours the two groups were 30 miles apart.

At 1900 hours RENOWN in position 37-02N, 00-41W, sighted a merchant ship, probably Vichy,  northbound, 10 miles E.S.E of her.

 

22nd – At 0400 hours with RENOWN in position 38-16N, 01-59E, Group 4 altered course to 070

At 0700 hours with RENOWN in position 38-41N, 03-03E, Group 4 altered course to 130

At 0715 hours ARK ROYAL flew off fighter and A/S patrols.

At 0850 hours an unidentified floatplane was sighted about 10 miles north of Group 4. A few minutes later an Italian signal was intercepted timed at 0850, which appeared to refer to Group 4.

At 1200 hours in position 37-41N, 04-32E, Group 4 reversed course to the westward to close the distance from Group 5.

At 1400 hours Group 4 turned east. At the same time aircraft were detected passing 25 miles north of RENOWN.

At 1453 hours a visual signal was passed to the escorting RAF Sunderland to locate Group 5 and inform RA 18th CS that group 4 would remain 20 miles to the eastward of Group 5 during the night and close during the day.

At 1732 hours the Sunderland returned to Group 4 and signalled Group 5 bearing 240, 25 miles from RENOWN.

At 1800 hours in position 37-49N, 05-04E Group 4 streamed paravanes.

At 2030 hours Group 4 turned west.

At 2315 hours in position 38-03N, 05-45E, proceeding at 15 knots on course 085, NESTOR, who was on the starboard wing of the destroyer screen reported a torpedo approaching from starboard. RENOWN carried out a drastic turn to port and shortly afterwards 4 explosions were felt, the closest about a cable ahead of RENOWN.

 

(Whilst on the surface on patrol off Bougie, Algeria, the Italian submarine DIASPRO fired four torpedoes against, what she reported was an aircraft carrier, but failed to hit it anything. NESTOR who had heard the torpedoes running, then launched an attack on the DIASPRO who then fired two torpedoes against the NESTOR, narrowly missing her.)

 

23rd – At 0648 hours ARK ROYAL flew off the first fighter patrol of the day, and Group 4 closed Group 5.

At 0657 hours RENOWN reported a shadowing aircraft in sight ahead of Group 4.

At 0729 hours a second shadowing aircraft was reported 10 miles to the north.

At 0745 hours Group 4 took up position on the port side of Group 5 in a flexible column with the objective of providing AA protection. RENOWN and HERMIONE remained in loose contact with ARK ROYAL to provide her with radar early warning and protective AA fire.

At 0910 hours a group of 8 enemy aircraft was detected at 60 miles bearing 055.

At 0942 hours in 37-40N, 8-20E the air attack commenced and developed into a synchronised high level bombing attack by  8 Savoia-Marchetti  SM.79's and a torpedo attack from ahead by 7 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79's.

By 0947 hours the attack was over.

In the attack the destroyer FEARLESS was torpedoed on the port side aft, 26 crew were killed, all electrical power was lost causing FEARLESS to be entirely disabled. Somerville ordered FORESTER to take off the crew and sink FEARLESS. This action was completed by 1055 hours.

Also torpedoed in the attack was the cruiser MANCHESTER, who was hit on the port side aft. MANCHESTER had 26 crew killed and 1 wounded, also 13 military personnel were killed and 4 wounded (MANCHESTER had embarked 750 military personnel, mostly the 8th Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment). She was severely damaged and only her starboard outer shaft was operational. Somerville ordered MANCHESTER back to Gibraltar escorted by AVON VALE.

At 1011 hours in position 37-47N, 08-22E, 5 high level bombers, probably Fiat BR.20's, attacked from 17,000 feet; bombs fell close to FOXHOUND and SIKH who were on the port bow of the screen.

At 1643 hours a group of aircraft was detected at 43 miles, flying at 5000 feet, bearing 338, closing the convoy.

At 1658 hours 5 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo bombers led by a Cant Z.506B floatplane were sighted low down on the port quarter being chased by FAA Fulmars. The Fulmars broke up the attack and no attack developed on the convoy.

At 1713 hours the entrance to the Skerki Channel was reached. HERMIONE was detached from Group 4 to take MANCHESTER's place in Force X.

Force H comprising RENOWN, NELSON, ARK ROYAL, DUNCAN, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and LIGHTNING remained to the west of the Skerki Channel.

At 1945 hours, north of Cape Bon, a the high level bombing attack took place on the convoy, in which FIREDRAKE was seriously damaged when she was narrowly missed by a 500kg bomb which exploded on her starboard side, close alongside No.1 boiler room, causing severe structural damage; the side plating which was blown inwards from upper deck to bilge keel over most of the length of No.1 boiler room, and over the fore end of No.2 boiler room; both boiler rooms were flooded and Nos.1 and 2 boilers actually shifted position as a result of the blast. Syfret ordered ERIDGE to stand by FIREDRAKE.

By 2038 hours ERIDGE had FIREDRAKE under tow heading west for Gibraltar.

 

24th – At 0100 hours in position 37-42N, 07-17E, ARK ROYAL flew off 6 Swordfish fitted with long range tanks for Malta. All arrived safely.

At 0230 hours the convoy passed through position K, 36-57N, 12E, 9½ miles north of the Island of Pantelleria.

At 0245 hours the COSSACK detected three unidentified objects on radar stationed 1000 yards ahead of the port column.

 

(The unidentified objects were Italian MAS [Motoscafo Armato Silurante] boats lying in wait to attack the convoy.

At 0255 hours, NESTOR [CO Cmdr. A. S. Rosenthal DSO, RAN] observed one of the convoy ships dropping astern and turned to investigate. NESTOR found the SYDNEY STAR [Captain Horn] had been torpedoed by a MAS boat, probably MAS 532. She had been hit on the port side in No. 3 hold, the hole turned out to be 40ft x 20ft, she was taking on water, sinking by the head and slowing down; the ship appeared lost. Captain Horn was starting to abandon ship as he was most concerned about the 467 officers and men of the 32nd Light AA Regiment RA who were embarked. NESTOR therefore decided to take off these troops and most of SYDNEY STAR's 231 crew, a process that took 50 minutes and was complete by 0405 hours. All the time the SYDNEY STAR and NESTOR [who now had 774 passengers embarked] were stopped and drifting towards Pantelleria; by 0405, only four miles away. A skeleton crew was left on board the SYDNEY STAR and Cmdr Rosenthal impressed upon Captain Horn the absolute necessity of getting his ship to Malta.

At 0410 hours SYDNEY STAR got under way at 12 knots and followed NESTOR steering for Malta.

At 0700 hours HERMIONE was sent back to assist NESTOR. During the 72 hours it took to reach Malta they beat off several air attacks)

 

At 0615 hours Force H was in position 37-35N, 05-15E. ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish to locate MANCHESTER.

At 0710 hours the Swordfish reported MANCHESTER in position 37-19N, 03-44E.

At 0816 hours a Cant Z.506B floatplane shadower was sighted 10 miles east of RENOWN and shot down by a Fulmar.

At 1000 hours Force H was in position 37-18N, 04-30E, steering 290 at 18 knots. Convoy MG 1, which had sailed from Malta commencing 0500/23/7/41, was in three groups ranging from 20 miles to 40 miles east of Galita Island, with one ship just having left Malta. ERIDGE and FIREDRAKE were south of Galita Island making 8 knots and AVON VALE and MANCHESTER were about 60 miles west of RENOWN making 11 knots.

At 1345 hours in approximate position 37-48N, 03-24E, Force H reversed course and steered eastward.

At 1445 hours in position 37-45N, 03-47E, ARK ROYAL flew off 5 Swordfish to search to a depth of 90 miles between bearings 000 and 100. Nothing was sighted.

 

25th – At 0100 hours in position 37-42N, 7-17E, ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish for Malta, all arrived safely.

At 0130 hours in approximate position 37-40N, 08-15E, Force H reversed course and steered westward.

At 0330 hours Force H reversed course and steered eastwards to RV with Force X.

At 0512 hours a flashing light was sighted to the north east of RENOWN, which turned out to be the Italian hospital ship SORRENTO.

At 0556 hours in position 37-37N, 07-32E, ARK ROYAL flew off 3 Swordfish to carry out a search for enemy forces between Force H and Force X. Nothing was sighted.

At 0615 hours, ARK ROYAL flew off a fighter patrol.

At 0815 hours in position 37-49N, 08-56E, Force H RVed with Force X, which was minus FARNDALE who had remained at Malta with condenser trouble. Course was then set for Gibraltar at NELSON's best speed.

At 1035 hours a large group of aircraft was detected bearing 080, 69 miles and closing. The attack was broken up by the Fulmars and the attackers jettisoned their bombs away on RENOWN's port quarter.

At 1720 hours FORESTER was detached to proceed at her best speed for Gibraltar to land the wounded and survivors from FEARLESS.

 

26th – During the day the units of Force H and X passed the ERIDGE and FIREDRAKE now escorted by AVON VALE. Somerville signalled all the ships of the Force to cheer the FIREDRAKE as they passed her, and every ship with all their crews on deck cheered as they sailed by.

At 0900 hours NELSON and the main body of Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

The supply ship BRECONSHIRE and the MV TALABOT, both part of convoy MG 1, escorted by destroyer ENCOUNTER arrived at Gibraltar.

The destroyer FORESTER with the MV AMERIKA and MV THERMOPYLAE, both part of convoy MG 1, arrived later in the day at Gibraltar.

 

27th – At 0300 hours ARETHUSA, HERMIONE and MANXMAN were detached to proceed to Gibraltar.

At 0600 hours ARK ROYAL, EDINBURGH and 4 destroyers were detached to proceed to Gibraltar.

On arrival off Gibraltar, Somerville carried out an exercise to test the Fortress Artillery. The result, Somerville stated, demonstrated the lamentable inefficiency of the Fortress Artillery.

At 0900 hours RENOWN and the remainder of the force entered Gibraltar.

Later in the day the SS SETTLER and MV HOEGH HOOD, both part of convoy MG 1, arrived at Gibraltar.

 

28th – The tanker MV SVENOR, part of convoy MG 1, who was damaged by bombing on 24/7/41, arrived at Gibraltar

 

(So ended Operation SUBSTANCE. All the ships of convoy GM 1 had arrived at Malta and delivered 65,000 tons of food, equipment, fuel and ammunition. The 7 MT ships of MG 1 had reached Gibraltar safety. Somerville was surprised to learn that a number of women and children had been embarked in the ships of MG 1. Had he have known before the vessels sailed he said he would have provided more destroyer escorts)

 

29th – At Gibraltar, where Vice Admiral Somerville hauled down his flag in RENOWN and hoisted it in NELSON.

 

(The next operation for Force H was Operation STYLE. This  was necessary to convey the military personnel and equipment that had been embarked in the LEINSTER and MANCHESTER to Malta. The forces involved were split into Force H and Force X. Force X carried the military personnel and equipment to Malta while Force H would create a diversion and provide cover)

 

30th – At 0030 hours in thick fog Force H comprising ARK ROYAL and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, NESTOR, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ENCOUNTER and ERIDGE sailed from Gibraltar on Operation STYLE.

At 0600 hours NELSON (Flag CinC Force H) and RENOWN sailed from Gibraltar on Operation STYLE, they should have sailed with the rest of Force H but were unable to leave due to the fog.

The combined Force H then steered eastwards.

Force S comprising the RFA oiler BROWN RANGER escorted by the destroyer AVON VALE sailed from Gibraltar.

 

31st – Force X comprising cruisers HERMIONE and ARETHUSA, and cruiser minelayer MANXMAN with destroyers SIKH and LIGHTNING sailed from Gibraltar with 1746 military personnel embarked for Malta.

At 1900 hours in position 40-23N, 04-05E, COSSACK and MAORI were detached from Force H and proceeded to Alghero, Sardinia.

 

August

 

1st – At 0200 hours COSSACK and MAORI entered Alghero harbour, using their searchlights and firing star shell they attempted to find targets of opportunity but the harbour was empty of shipping so they demolished the Custom House. Following which they withdrew to re-join Force H.

At 0310 hours in position 40-47N, 6-20E, ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 9 Swordfish to carry out a bombing attack on Alghero airfield.

 

(These two events were meant to make the Italian's believe that a landing was about to be made on the north Sardinian coast)

 

At 0600 hours in position 40-00N, 06-30 E, ARK ROYAL commenced recovery of the Swordfish. The third aircraft to land on had a 40lb GP bomb which 'had hung up', as the aircraft touched down the bomb fell off and exploded, killing the crew and two of the deck party. After carrying out temporary repairs the remaining aircraft landed.

Force H then steered south to provide cover for Force X.

During the day the Force H destroyers re-fuelled from BROWN RANGER.

 

2nd – At 0900 hours Force X arrived at Malta. They quickly unloaded the reinforcements and stores.

At 1600 hours Force X departed Malta with destroyer FARNDALE with her condenser problems repaired. However, FARNDALE  had further problems that reduced her speed to 18 knots, and returned to Malta for additional repair.

 

3rd – At 0600 hours in position 37-26N, 7-48E, Force H RVed with Force X. Course was then set for Gibraltar at RENOWN's best speed, which was much reduced due to damage to her port bulge.

 

4th – At 1900 hours Force H and Force X arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

14th - NELSON, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and the destroyers NESTOR, ENCOUNTER, FURY, FORESIGHT and FORESTER sailed from Gibraltar to carry out exercises in the western Mediterranean.

 

15th - NELSON, HERMIONE, and destroyer VIMY arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

21st - At 2200 hours Force H comprising NELSON (Flag CinC Force H), ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and the destroyers NESTOR, FORESTER, FURY, FORESIGHT and ENCOUNTER sailed from Gibraltar on Operation MINCEMEAT.

(With the fast minelayer MANXMAN available for operations in the western Mediterranean [the first two of the class, ABDIEL and LATONA, were with the Mediterranean Fleet]. Somerville conceived a plan to use the MANXMAN to lay mines in the Gulf of Genoa. The MANXMAN was to be disguised as a large French destroyer of the Chacal class, the LEOPARD, one of the class was in the UK and the class were similar in size and displacement. Force H would be used to lure the Italian Fleet south and to carry out a diversionary air attack on northern Sardinia. The Operation was code named MINCEMEAT.

As part of the deception, before Force H sailed a number of soldiers in uniform with full kit were embarked on warships at Gibraltar in full view of observers in Spain. The ruse worked, because when the intelligence was communicated to Supermarina in Rome it was assumed that a convoy was to run to Malta. So the Italian Fleet were sailed so as to meet an inferior British force south of Sardinia.

MANXMAN was disguised as the French destroyer using wood and canvas and loaded with 168 mines at Milford Haven, arrived at Gibraltar in darkness on 22/8/41. At 0200/23/8/41 MANXMAN sailed from Gibraltar heading for Toulon, then along the Rivera coast for the Gulf of Genoa where between 0208 and 0338/24/8/41 she completed the laying of her mines. MANXMAN then headed back to Gibraltar where she arrived at 1030/25/8/41)

22nd - Force H steered eastward simulating a Malta reinforcement operation.

 

23rd - At 2000 hours in approximate position 39-30N, 6E, Force H divided with NELSON and four destroyers proceeding to the approximate position 41-45N, 7-30E to provide distant cover. ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and one destroyer made for a position to the west of Alghero.

 

(The deception worked because on 23/8/41 the Italian Fleet of two battleships, four heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and 15 destroyers sailed to intercept Force H, believed en route to Malta)

 

24th - In the early hours of the morning in approximate position 40-30N, 8E, ARK ROYAL launched a strike of Swordfish. The aircraft dropped incendiary bombs in the cork woods west and southeast of Tempio, Sardinia

At approximately 0500 hours in position 41N, 6E Force H reformed and set course for Valencia, Spain.

At 1900 hours Force H were six miles off Valencia at which time ARK ROYAL had 15 Fulmars and 10 Swordfish flying over Force H in a show of force to counter Italian propaganda that Force H no longer existed.

 

25th - Force H en route to Gibraltar.

 

26th - At 0200 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

September

 

1st - NELSON was at Gibraltar.

 

10th - At 2100 hours Force H comprising NELSON, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE, and destroyers ZULU, GURKHA, LANCE and LIVELY sailed from Gibraltar on Operation STATUS II.

 

(Operation STATUS II was to fly off RAF Hurricanes from carriers ARK ROYAL and FURIOUS; these were the balance of the aircraft that FURIOUS had brought from the UK, the first tranche of which had been flown off during Operation STATUS)

 

At sea Force H was joined by aircraft carrier FURIOUS and destroyers LEGION, FORESIGHT and FORESTER that had sailed from Gibraltar at 1900/10/41.

 

12th - By 0800 hours ARK ROYAL had flown off twenty six Hurricanes and FURIOUS a further nineteen Hurricanes. The Force then turned for Gibraltar steaming at 20 knots, FURIOUS's best speed.

 

14th - At 0400 hours all forces arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

20th - At Gibraltar, where during the early hours of the morning an attack by 3 SLC Maiale (Italian human torpedoes) from the Decima Flottiglia MAS took place on vessels in the harbour. The main Italian targets were the NELSON, who was tried up alongside the south mole and the ARK ROYAL who was moored to buoy 27. However due to the patrolling ML's who randomly dropped explosives the Maiales were unable to attack their primary targets. But three merchant ships were attacked.

 

(The merchant ships were the RFA oiler DENBYDALE 8145grt, the oil lighter FIONA SHELL 2444grt. FIONA SHELL was tied up alongside DENBYDALE. FIONA SHELL was sunk and DENBYDALE was badly damaged. The third ship attacked was the MV DURHAM 10893grt which was also badly damaged. DURHAM was in ballast and already damaged after being mined on her return trip from Malta)

 

24th – At 0900 hours, battleship RODNEY and destroyers HNethMS ISAAC SWEERS, ORP PIORUN and ORP GARLAND arrived at Gibraltar, having detached from convoy WS 11X, and commenced refuelling.

At 1800 hours Vice Admiral Somerville CinC Force H transferred his flag from NELSON to RODNEY.

(This was part of a deception to make spies in Spain believe that Force H was remaining at Gibraltar. However although Somerville's flag continued to be flown by RODNEY, Somerville slipped back to the NELSON who then sailed with Somerville on board, but not flying his flag, into the Atlantic)

At 1815 hours the NELSON (Flag CinC Force H) departed Gibraltar in company with the destroyers ISAAC SWEERS, PIORUN and GARLAND and steered westwards on Operation HALBERD

 

(Operation HALBERD was an operation to pass a supply convoy to Malta. The convoy had formed off Orsay, as convoy WS 11X on 17/9/41 and consisted of CLAN MACDONALD 9,653grt, CLAN FERGUSON 7,347grt, AJAX 7,539grt, IMPERIAL STAR 10,733grt, CITY OF LINCOLN 8,039grt, ROWALLAN CASTLE 7,798grt, DUNEDIN STAR 11,168grt, CITY OF CALCUTTA 8,063grt, HM supply ship BRECONSHIRE and HM troopships PRINCESS BEATRIX, QUEEN EMMA, ROYAL SCOTSMAN, ULSTER MONARCH and LEINSTER. As the convoy passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, HM troopships PRINCESS BEATRIX, QUEEN EMMA, ROYAL SCOTSMAN, ULSTER MONARCH and LEINSTER detached to Gibraltar. At 0130/25/9/41 the convoy passed south of Europa Point and became convoy GM2)

 

At 1900 hours ZULU, GURKHA and LANCE arrived at Gibraltar to refuel.

At 2030 hours the RFA oiler MV BROWN RANGER 3,400grt (nominally capable of 14.5 knots but due to a fouled bottom her maximum speed was 11 knots) escorted by corvette FLEUR DE LYS sailed from Gibraltar to be in position to refuel the destroyers on day 2.

At 2330 hours RODNEY, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, light cruiser HERMIONE, and destroyers DUNCAN (D13), FORESIGHT, FORESTER, LIVELY, ZULU, GURKHA, LEGION and LANCE departed Gibraltar and sailed east to simulate a normal sortie by Force H but in reality to take part in Operation HALBERD.

 

(24/9/41 late in the evening, Italian battleships LITTORIO flag Admiral Iachino and VITTORIO VENETO with destroyers GRANATIERE, FUCLIERE, BERSAGLIERE, and GIOBERTI of the 13th Destroyer Division and DA RECCO, PESSAGNO, and FOLGORE of the 16th Destroyer Division sailed from Naples and steered south westward to intercept the RODNEY force.

26/9/41, heavy cruisers TRENTO, TRIESTE, and GORIZIA with destroyers CORAZZIERE, CARABINIERE, ASCARI, and LANCIERE of the 12th Destroyer Division sailed from Messina and steered north, then westward to RV with light cruisers ABRUZZI and ATTENDOLO with destroyers MAESTRALE, GRECALE, and SCIROCCO of the 10th Destroyer Division, who sailed from Palermo to intercept the convoy.

The two battleships and seven destroyers operated as one group. The five cruisers and seven destroyers as the second group. The remainder of the Italian Fleet could not sail due to fuel shortages)

 

25th – 0800 hours in approximate position 36-08N, 3-20W, RODNEY, and destroyers DUNCAN, GURKHA, LEGION and LANCE joined battleship PRINCE OF WALES (flag of CinC 2BS) and 2IC Home Fleet, Vice Admiral Alban Thomas Buckley Curteis, light cruisers KENYA flag CS10 Rear Admiral Harold Martin Burrough, CinC close escort, EDINBURGH (flag CS2 Rear Admiral Edward Neville Syfret), SHEFFIELD and EURYALUS and destroyers LIVELY, ORIBI, ISAAC SWEERS, PIORUN, GARLAND, FURY, FARNDALE and HEYTHORP as the close escort, Group 2, for convoy GM2 (Operation HALBERD).

Force H, Group 1, comprising NELSON, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and destroyers COSSACK D4, ZULU, FORESIGHT, LAFOREY (D19) and LIGHTNING, preceded ahead of convoy GM2; steering a course to the south of the convoy.

At 1000 hours clocks were advance by one hour.

During the day six Fulmars from ARK ROYAL flew around Groups 1 & 2 for recognition purposes.

 

26th – Convoy GM2 and escort proceeded north eastward.

At 0650 hours the first two destroyers were detached to refuel from BROWN RANGER. However because of BROWN RANGER's slower than expected speed she was 22 miles to the west of her expected position. This was to cause problems throughout the day and refuelling of Group 2's 12 destroyers was not completed until after dark.

At 0700 hours course was altered to eastward.

At 1200 hours in position 38-31N, 2-32E course was altered to 107.

At 2130 hours the destroyers FURY and HEYTHROP rejoined the convoy after refuelling. The ORIBI was the last destroyer to complete refuelling and failed to locate the convoy in the dark, so until morning she joined Group 1 screen.

 

(During the day, Group 1 was ahead to the south eastward and out of sight of the convoy. At 0932 hours lookouts on NELSON sighted a shadowing aircraft, bearing 150, 10 miles and flying very low; this aircraft was not detected by radar. At 1048 hours Group 1 sighted the Swiss merchant SS TUNISIAN. At 1537 hours Group 1was also sighted by two aircraft, though to be RAF Hudson's so they were not intercepted)

 

27th – At 0720 hours radar indicated that enemy reconnaissance aircraft were in the vicinity of the Force.

At 0800 hours ARK ROYAL flew off four Fulmars

 

(At 0810 hours an Italian Cant Z 506B reconnaissance aircraft of 287 Squadriglia sighted units of Operation HALBERD west of La Galite Island and sent off the following signal; 'position 37-43N, 06-55E,course 90, speed 12 nm per hour; 1 battleship, 1 carrier, 4 cruiser, unspecified number of destroyers and steamboats')

 

At 1000 hours, in expectation of air attacks, Force H, less ARK ROYAL, EURYALUS and HERMIONE who manoeuvred ahead of the convoy, joined the convoy escort.

At 1158 hours radar detected an aircraft bearing 210, at 14 miles. LEGION reported this aircraft as an Italian Fiat BR 20. ARK ROYAL's Fulmars failed to shoot it down and a sighting report was subsequently intercepted.

At 1255 hours radar reported two formations at 30 miles and closing, one from the north and one from the east. These were eleven Savoia-Marchetti S 84's torpedo bombers from Decimomannu airfield, north of Cagliari. Seven attacked from the north with top cover of five Fiat CR 42 fighters, and four from the east.

At 1259 hours 8 Fulmars of 808 Sqd. attacked the northern group of six S 84's, shooting down one.

The torpedo attack was made against the port wing of the force; this was where RODNEY was stationed.

At 1302 hours an S 84 flown by Capitano Rotolo was shot down either by RODNEY and PRINCE OF WALES; the damaged aircraft collided with his right wingman, Tenente Barro and both crashed into the sea.
At 1300 hours two S 84's targeted RODNEY, one flown by
Maggiore Arduino Buri of 256 Squadriglia and the other by Tenente Piercarlo Amante of 257 Squadriglia. As the two torpedoes were approaching, RODNEY made an emergency turn of 60 to port and avoided both.

At 1303 hours two destroyers of the port screen were targeted; these were LANCE and ISAAC SWEERS, which took evasive action and avoided the torpedoes.

At 1327 hours radar reported another wave of aircraft closing from the east. These were five S 84 torpedo bombers of 258 and 259 Squadriglia, from Decimomannu airfield and they attacked the Force from the starboard side.

At 1330 hours NW of La Galite Island two aircraft flown by Colonnello Seidl and Tenente Tomasino targeted NELSON who was hit by a torpedo (probably Seidl's and probably a Type W airborne torpedo 45cm diameter with a 200 kg warhead) on the port bow; the second torpedo missed. As they pulled away both Seidl and Tomasino were shot down by AA fire from PRINCE OF WALES and SHEFFIELD.

The NELSON had been hit on the port side just forward of A-turret in the torpedo room, which had only recently been evacuated; the damage, from the 40ft x 20ft hole in her hull caused her to immediately reduce speed to 18 knots, but she remained with the convoy.

During this action, a Fulmar was shot down by RODNEY, but luckily the crew, Sub-Lieutenant Percy Guy and Leading Airman Jones, were rescued by DUNCAN.

At 1345 hours the Force was attacked by twelve Savoia-Marchetti SM 79's torpedo bombers of 278, 280, 282 and 283 Squadriglia, from Decimomannu airfield, escorted by twelve CR 42's, from the north, south and west. They were met by the Fulmars and intense AA fire, which prevented them from attaining a dropping position.

At 1359 hours a CR 42 flown by Sergente Maggiore Luigi Valiotti of the 354a Squadriglia, in an attempt to divert the AA from the torpedo-bombers, began to perform aerobatic manoeuvres over the heads of the starboard wing destroyers, who after a while started to shoot at him. Valiotti avoided their shells for six minutes before being killed when his CR.42 crashed into the sea. However Valiotti's sacrifice was in vain as after several unsuccessful attempts, to penetrate the AA barrage the remaining SM 79's gave up and returned to base.

At 1404 hours the CinC Force H received an emergency report from aircraft B, a RAF Maryland of 69 Squadron on a reconnaissance flight from Malta, timed at 1340 hours. The signal read, '2 battleships and 8 destroyers in position 38-20N, 10-40E, steering 190, speed 20 knots'. At the time of receipt NELSON's position was 37-46N, 09-04E, the enemy was therefore 74 miles, bearing 076 from NELSON.

At 1408 hours the CinC Force H ordered ARK ROYAL to fly off two Swordfish to take over shadowing duties and to prepare an air strike force.

At 1417 hours the CinC Force H ordered RODNEY and PRINCE OF WALES to form up on NELSON ahead of the convoy.

At 1425 hours the CinC Force H received a further emergency report from aircraft B, timed at 1350 hours. The signal read '4 cruisers and 8 destroyers some 15 miles WSW of the enemy battlefleet and steering same course and speed'.

At 1430 hours NELSON was forced to reduce speed to 15 knots to reduce flooding; by now she had taken on board approximately 3700 tons of water, and further damage from her torpedo hit and  the CinC Force H ordered Vice Admiral Curteis in PRINCE OF WALES to proceed with PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, EDINBURGH, SHEFFIELD and 6 destroyers at best speed to close the enemy. At the same time NELSON took station astern of the convoy.

The surface strike force steered north at their best speed with the two cruisers ahead, working up to 30 knots and PRINCE OF WALES and RODNEY trailing behind.

At 1506 hours a signal was received from the RAF shadowing aircraft, timed at 1445 hours stating that the enemy had reversed course and was now steering 360.

At 1540 hours a strike force of 12 Swordfish of 816 and 825 Sqds, escorted by 4 Fulmars of 807 Sqd were launched from ARK ROYAL.

At 1543 hours a further signal was received from the RAF shadowing aircraft, timed at 1503 hours stating that the enemy was now steering 060.

At 1658 hours with no news from the Swordfish shadowing aircraft, the RAF Maryland which had departed, or the strike force; the CinC Force H ordered Vice Admiral Curteis to return to the convoy.

At 1830 hours PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, EDINBURGH, SHEFFIELD and the 6 destroyers rejoined the convoy.

At 1855 hours in approximate position 37-30N, 10-15E, Force A comprising NELSON, PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers DUNCAN, GARLAND, GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION, LIVELY and PIORUN detached from the convoy, turned on to 285 and proceeded at 14 knots, this being NELSON's best speed.

 

28th – Force A continued on a westerly course at NELSON's best speed of 14 knots.

At 0725 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish A/S patrol and 3 Fulmar fighters.

At 0958 hours the CinC Force H received a RAF reconnaissance report, timed at 0940 hours stating, '2 enemy battleships, 5 cruisers and 13 destroyers, 70 miles, 105 from Cagliari, steering 195'.

At 2000 hours, now dark, in approximate position 37-30N, 03-14E, the speed of Force A was reduced to 12 knots to reduce the strain on NELSON's bulkheads and decks.

At 2010 hours PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION and LIVELY detached and steered easterly to RV with Force X, the convoy escort, on their return from Malta.

NELSON, who was now experiencing steering difficulties and destroyers DUNCAN, GARLAND and PIORUN continued at 12 knots heading for Gibraltar.

 

29th - NELSON's escort was joined by the destroyer ROCKINGHAM and corvettes JONQUIL, FLEUR DE LYS, SAMPHIRE and ARBUTUS from Gibraltar

 

30th – At 1130 hours the NELSON force arrived at Gibraltar harbour. Her draft forwards was nearly 40 feet despite dragging all the heavy anchor cable aft to improve her trim.

 

 

October

 

1st – At Gibraltar where the CinC Force H transferred his flag from the damaged NELSON to RODNEY. 

 

2nd - NELSON was dry-docked to carry out temporary repairs to enable her to return to the UK for full repairs. An examination of the damage showed that it was worse than first thought. The hit had been on the torpedo body room and smashed torpedoes were scattered around the space.

 

15th - Whilst in dry dock at Gibraltar, NELSON was visited by the Duke of Gloucester.

 

November

 

 

1st - NELSON was in dry dock at Gibraltar undergoing repairs to enable her to steam to the UK.

 

5th - Following temporary repairs, NELSON was un-docked.

 

16th - At 1800 hours the NELSON escorted by the destroyers ZULU, SIKH and GURKHA. NELSON sailed with 970 survivors from aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL embarked, sailed from Gibraltar for Scapa Flow. Light cruiser HERMIONE, aircraft carrier ARGUS and destroyers LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, LEGION, and HNethMS ISAAC SWEERS sailed with the NELSON; the force feinted to the east to give watchers the impression of another Malta operation.

At 2130 hours the force reversed course and headed west for the Strait of Gibraltar.

 

17th - At 0200 hours the force passed through the Strait Of Gibraltar into the Atlantic.

At 1845 hours the groups parted company and NELSON and the destroyers ZULU, SIKH and GURKHA continued on course for Scapa Flow.

 

20th - At 2330 hours GURKHA detached for Londonderry.

 

21st - At 1030 hours in position 55N, 10W, NELSON and destroyers ZULU and SIKH were joined by the destroyer FAULKNOR (D8) from Londonderry.  

At 1700 hours, NELSON and destroyers FAULKNOR, ZULU and SIKH were joined by destroyers ICARUS and HMAS NORMAN from Scapa.

At 1800 hours destroyers ZULU and SIKH detached for Londonderry.

 

22nd - At 1030 hours off the entrance to Scapa Flow, NORMAN detached for the Clyde.

At 1100 hours NELSON, FAULKNOR and ICARUS arrived at Scapa Flow.

At 1830 hours NELSON, FAULKNOR and ICARUS sailed from Scapa Flow for Rosyth.

 

23rd - At 1100 hours NELSON, FAULKNOR and ICARUS arrived off Rosyth.

 

24th - NELSON was dry docked and taken in hand for repairs and refit.

 

December

 

1st to 31st - At Rosyth under repair and refit.

NELSON's under water torpedo tubes were removed.

Fire control radars Type 284, 285 and 283 fitted for main and secondary armament and barrage control fitted.

 

 

1 9 4 2

 

January

 

1st to 31st - At Rosyth under repair and refit.

Radar Type 273 for surface warning fitted.

 

February

 

1st to 28th - At Rosyth under repair and refit.

Fitted with additional 20mm Oerlikon AA guns.

All her UP mountings were removed.

 

March

 

1st to 31st - At Rosyth under repair and refit

 

April

 

1st to 19th - At Rosyth under repair and refit.

 

5th - NELSON's new CO Captain H B Jacomb took command.

On the same day she was visited by the Duke of Kent and the First Lord of the Admiralty.

 

20th - Refit completed, commenced harbour trials and prepared for operational service.

 

21st - At 0400 hours NELSON sailed from Rosyth to RV with her destroyer escort.

At 0630 hours In the Firth of Forth NELSON RVed with destroyers LAMERTON, MIDDLETON and HURSLEY and course was set for Scapa Flow.

At 1915 hours NELSON, LAMERTON, MIDDLETON and HURSLEY arrived at Scapa Flow.

 

22nd - NELSON rejoined the Home Fleet and commenced working up exercises.

 

May

 

1st - At Scapa Flow carrying out working up exercises.

 

6th - The Flag of Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet was transferred to NELSON from DUKE OF YORK.

 

27th - Flag of Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Home Fleet was transferred to RODNEY.

At 0830 hours, NELSON escorted by destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN left Scapa for the Clyde.

 

28th - At 1630 hours, NELSON, PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN arrived off Greenock. Whilst off Greenock, NELSON embarked 600 RAF personnel for passage to Freetown.

 

31st - At 2300 hours, NELSON, aircraft carrier ARGUS and destroyers BEAGLE and SALISBURY sailed from the Clyde to join convoy WS 19P.

 

June

 

1st - At 0600 hours off Orsay, the Liverpool and Clyde sections of convoy WS 19P, 19 troopships and four MT ships, formed up. NELSON and ARGUS were positioned in the centre of the convoy. The escort was destroyers KEPPEL (SO), BUXTON, MANSFIELD, SALISBURY, LEAMINGTON, WELLS, BEAGLE, DOUGLAS, BLACKMORE and DERWENT.

After forming up course was set westerly into the Atlantic.

At 2300 hours, BUXTON, MANSFIELD and SALISBURY detached for Londonderry.

 

2nd - At 0500 hours in approximate position 55-30N, 14 30W course was altered to south westerly.

 

3rd

(At 0700 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers BLANKNEY, ESCAPADE, and MIDDLETON sailed from Scapa for Greenock.)

4th - The KEPPEL, LEAMINGTON and WELLS detached from WS 19P for Londonderry.

(At 0700 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers BLANKNEY, ESCAPADE, and MIDDLETON arrived at Greenock.)

5th - At 0200 hours in approximate position 46-30N, 20W the NELSON obtained two radar contacts that were closing the port side of the convoy. The DERWENT was ordered to investigate and discovered two RN trawlers and an armed yacht.

At 0530 hours in approximate position 45-53N, 20-30W the destroyer WILD SWAN RVed with WS 19P from Ponta Delgada.

At 0545 hours, ARGUS (ferrying aircraft to Gibraltar then to join the HARPOON convoy) with the destroyers BEAGLE and WILD SWAN detached from WS 19P for Gibraltar.

At intervals BUXTON, DOUGLAS, BLACKMORE and DERWENT detached for the Azores to refuel. After refueling BLACKMORE and DERWENT rejoined.

 

5th

(0400 hours RODNEY escorted by PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN sailed from Greenock to catch up with troop convoy WS 19.) 

6th - At 1200 hours in approximate position 36N, 23-30W, destroyer WIVERN joined WS 19P.

 

7th - At 1200 hours the troopship AQUITANIA 44786grt, was detached unescorted to proceed at her best speed of 24 knots for Freetown.

 

8th - NELSON refueled WIVERN with 90 tons of fuel oil.

 

11th - Destroyer VELOX joined WS 19P from Freetown.

NELSON refueled BLACKMORE and DERWENT.

 

13th - In the morning the NELSON detached from WS 19P and entered Freetown ahead of the convoy.

15th -

(RODNEY escorted by PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN arrived at Freetown.)

19th - At 0930 hours convoy WS 19P, less the AQUITANIA but now including three US troopships, commenced to depart from Freetown.

At 1330 hours the convoy formed up, with NELSON and RODNEY taking up positions in the centre of the convoy. The escort was destroyers DERWENT, VELOX, PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN. Course was set south westerly.

 

20th - At 1200 hours in approximate position 5N, 15-30W, course was altered south easterly.

 

21st - At 2000 hours in approximate position 2N, 10-15W destroyer VELOX detached to RV with repair ship VINDICTIVE  and escort her to Freetown.

 

24th - At 1400 hours, 850 miles north east of St Helena, DERWENT detached from WS 19P to refuel at St Helena.

 

25th – RODNEY and NELSON refuelled destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN.

 

26th – At 1100 hours in approximate position 12-19S, 8-39E, heavy cruiser SHROPSHIRE RVed with WS 19P, following which  NELSON, RODNEY and destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN detached to return north to Freetown.

 

(The reason the battleships detached and returned north was because the Admiralty decided  they were required for Operation PEDESTAL. By this date the Admiralty knew that Operation HARPOON had not succeeded in its objective and another Malta convoy would be required)

 

27th – RODNEY experienced problems with her steering mechanism.

 

28th – RODNEY's steering problems persisted.

RODNEY, NELSON and destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN were joined by destroyer DERWENT from St Helena.

 

July

 

1st - At 0400 hours, NELSON, RODNEY and destroyers DERWENT, PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN arrived at Freetown.

 

17th – At 0630 hours RODNEY, NELSON and destroyers DERWENT and PATHFINDER sailed from Freetown.

 

19th - At 0130 hours, PATHFINDER reported a submarine contact.

At 0228 hours having caught the submarine on the surface, PATHFINDER rammed the submarine, believing her sunk, PATHFINDER searched for survivors but found none. This must not have been a submarine because no U-Boat was reported sunk or attacked at this time.

 

21st – At 0837 hours, NELSON sighted an object on the port bow

At 0900 hours the object was identified as a lifeboat containing survivors. PATHFINDER was detached to pick them up.

 

(The 23 survivors were from the SS CORTONA 7093grt. CORTONA had detached from convoy OS 33 and been sunk on 12/7/42 in position 32-45N, 24-45W by U 116 and U 201, PATHFINDER landed her survivors at Londonderry on 26/7/42)

 

22nd – Destroyer DERWENT detached and destroyers PENN and QUENTIN joined from Freetown.

 

23rd – NELSON and RODNEY escorted by destroyers PENN and QUENTIN, RVed with destroyers SOMALI, ICARUS and FORESIGHT from Londonderry.

 

26th – At 1100 hours, NELSON and RODNEY escorted by destroyers SOMALI, ICARUS, FORESIGHT, PENN and QUENTIN arrived at Scapa.

 

27th - The Flag of Vice Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, as Flag Officer Commanding Force F for Operation PEDESTAL, was transferred to the NELSON from light cruiser SIRIUS.

 

29th - At Scapa Flow, where Vice Admiral Syfret convened a conference on board the NELSON for Flag Officers and COs of the naval vessels that were at Scapa and nominated for Operation PEDESTAL, to discuss the operational orders for PEDESTAL.

 

(The Admiralty had commenced detailed planning for PEDESTAL in early July. The Admiralty knew that another convoy to Malta was vital to keep control of this important base and to continue offensive operations against the Axis supply routes. The decision to mount another convoy operation was difficult because of the high degree of risk, as the HARPOON convoy in June had shown. But Churchill overrode any doubts with his memo to the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, stating that the possession of Malta was of paramount importance to the defence of the Middle East. Churchill also knew that he and Roosevelt had on 24/7/42 agreed that operation GYMNAST should proceed, later to be known as Operation TORCH, the allied invasion of North Africa)

 

 

August

 

2nd - At 1545 hours, NELSON (Flag Vice-Admiral E N Syfret CinC Force F), RODNEY (embarked, travelling incognito was Vice Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, the deputy CinC HF) and destroyers ASHANTI, SOMALI, ESKIMO, TARTAR, PATHFINDER and QUENTIN sailed from Scapa for Operation PEDESTAL. (The destroyer PENN was delayed by defects)

At 2000 hours convoy WS 21S, comprising 13 MT ships and one tanker, left the Clyde with light cruisers NIGERIA and KENYA, and destroyers BICESTER and BRAMHAM for Operation PEDESTAL.

 

3rd – At 0430 hours, destroyer PENN sailed from Scapa

At 1400 hours in approximate position 55-30N, 9-30W with the convoy sailing west at 12 knots, the convoy escort of NIGERIA and  KENYA and destroyers BICESTER and BRAMHAM was joined by Force F, comprising NELSON, RODNEY, ASHANTI, TARTAR, SOMALI, PATHFINDER, QUENTIN, and ESKIMO.

At 1500 hours KEPPLE, MALCOLM, AMAZON, VENOMOUS and WOLVERINE from Londonderry joined following which the convoy turned on to a southerly course at 14 knots.

At 1630 hours PENN arrived at Londonderry to refuel.

At 2030 hours PENN sailed from Londonderry to catch up with the convoy WS 21S.

 

 4th - At 1034 hours the convoy changed course to 186

In the morning NIGERIA refuelled DERWENT, VENOMOUS, WISHART and WOLVERINE. KENYA refuelled AMAZON, MALCOLM and ZETLAND

NIGERIA and KENYA then detached to refuel at Gibraltar

In the afternoon, destroyer PENN joined the convoy

During the day the convoy carried out the manoeuvre of changing from 4 to 2 columns with destroyers ASHANTI and DERWENT taking the place of the column leaders.

At 1500 hours the convoy course changed to 155

 

5th - At 1100 a U-boat contact was made and the convoy did a 45 turn to port

In the morning,, light cruiser MANCHESTER and aircraft carrier FURIOUS [822 Sqd - 4 Albacores (detachment) and with 38 Spitfire VB's with modified propellers (because of problems with the hump in FURIOUS's deck) embarked for Malta, Operation BELLOWS] and destroyers, ORP BLYSKAWICA and WISHART joined the convoy.

Following this, MANCHESTER, ESKIMO, TARTAR, WISHART and DERWENT detached to refuel at Gibraltar.

During the day the ships of the convoy and escort practiced blind and umbrella barrages and emergency turns.

A FW 200 was spotted in the distance by a lookout from the MT ship SS EMPIRE HOPE.

In the evening the convoy ran into thick fog.

 

6th – During the night the convoy continued in thick fog

At 1500 hours the convoy course was altered to 155 and FURIOUS and ORP BLYSKAWICA detached to take part in Operation BERSERK.

 

(Operation BERSERK [an exercise involving five aircraft carriers to improve Fighter Direction and multi-carrier operating techniques in preparation for the defence of the Malta convoy, Operation PEDESTAL] was carried out in position 35N, 14W.

INDOMITABLE [with the most experienced fighters aboard, these were 800 Sqd -12 Sea Hurricanes, 880 Sqd - 12 Sea Hurricanes, 880 Sqd – 6 Martlet IIs, 827 Sqd - 12 Albacores and 831 Sqd - 12 Albacores] with her attendant AA cruiser PHOEBE.

EAGLE [801 Sqd - 12 Sea Hurricanes with 4 more in reserve, 813 Sqd - 4 Sea Hurricanes] with her attendant AA cruiser CHARYBDIS.

VICTORIOUS [809 Sqd - 12 Fulmars, 884 Sqd - 6 Fulmars, 885 Sqd - 6 Sea Hurricanes, 817 Sqd - 2 Albacores (9 detached), 832 Sqd - 12 Albacores] with her attendant AA cruiser SIRIUS.

ARGUS [804 Sqd – 6 Sea Hurricanes]

FURIOUS [822 Sqd - 4 Albacores (detachment) and 38 Spitfires embarked for Malta]

Escorted by destroyers INTREPID, ICARUS, FORESIGHT, FURY, ANTELOPE, ITHURIEL, WRESTLER LAFOREY (D19), LOOKOUT and LIGHTNING the operation lasted 2 days

RFA ABBEYDALE escorted by corvettes ARMERIA and BURDOCK known as Force W. [ABBEYDALE was in attendance to refuel the escorts but due to unsuitable equipment and inexperienced crew, refuelling was not completed]. This meant that additional vessels, above those planned for, had to be refuelled in Gibraltar on 7th and 8th August)

 

8th - At 1015 in approximate position 36N, 15W convoy WS 21S changed to course to 092

The FAA aircraft performed dummy air attacks during the afternoon, followed by a fly past. This was done to exercise the radar reporting and fighter direction organization and to give ships' gun crews an opportunity to recognize the markings of friendly aircraft.

At the end of BERSERK the five carriers joined the main force; there were then a total of 67 ships in company.

 

9th - Night of 9/10 (at midnight Cape Spartel was passed) the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar was uneventful. Fishing boats and one merchant vessel were passed at close quarters, but due to a moonless night and indifferent visibility, it was thought improbable that the force had been sighted from the shore. Reports received later, however, showed that the enemy was fully aware of the convoy's passage of the Straits.

 

(During early August the Germans and Italians received reports from their agents in Spain and Ceuta, concerning increased activity of British air and naval forces in the western Mediterranean; and off the Strait of Gibraltar. On the 5/8/42 this information convinced Kesselring that a large operation to supply Malta from the west was imminent. To meet the threat Kesselring ordered on 5/8/42 the redeployment of aircraft from Crete to Sardinia and Sicily. Kesselring also ordered the II Air Corps to prepare to accommodate reinforcements from X Air Corps that would be transferred for short-term employment and would, in cooperation with the IAF, strengthen the ground organization at Elmas, Sardinia. On the night of 8-9 August enemy agents reported intensive shipping traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar heading east, thus confirming Kesselring's assessment. Because of Kesselring's planning the axis had approximately 784 aircraft available, 456 German and 328 Italian to attack the convoy)

 

10th - At 0245 hours fog was encountered as the convoy entered the Mediterranean. On entering the Mediterranean the convoy designation became MW 12.

At 0300 hours Force R comprising oilers DINGLEDALE and BROWN RANGER escorted by corvettes JONQUIL, GERANIUM, SPIREA, COLTSFOOT and SALVONIA sailed from Gibraltar.

At 0500 fog cleared

At 0500 hours PENN sailed from Gibraltar to RV with carrier EAGLE, which with the other two carriers was stationed about 40 miles astern of the convoy.

At 0500 hours a Vichy French civil aircraft flying from France to Algeria reported the convoy as 2 battleships, 2 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers and 14 destroyers escorting 14 merchant ships.

At 0515 hours VICTORIOUS flew off 2 surplus Albacores and an unserviceable Fulmar to Gibraltar.

At 0525 hours VICTORIOUS scrambled 4 Sea Hurricanes to intercept an unidentified aircraft, which they failed to, do.

At 0645 hours VICTORIOUS again scrambled Sea Hurricanes to intercept an unidentified aircraft, which turned out to be a RAF Hudson which had not switched on its IFF.

At 0745 hours CAIRO, TARTAR, ESKIMO, QUENTIN, ITHURIEL and ANTELOPE joined the convoy.

At 0800 hours ASHANTI, SOMALI, LEDBURY and ZETLAND joined the convoy.

At 0840 hours the convoy proceeded east at 13½ knots

At 1130 hours MANCHESTER, INDOMITABLE, LAFOREY, LOOKOUT and LIGHTNING, rejoined the convoy after fuelling at Gibraltar.

At 1600 hours EAGLE, CHARYBDIS, PENN, and PATHFINDER joined the convoy from Gibraltar.

Up to 1600 hours the escorts that refuelled in Gibraltar joined the convoy, except for WRESTLER who was replaced by AMAZON

At 2130 hours ASHANTI, LEDBURY, ZETLAND, WILTON, BRAMHAM, BICESTER, FORESIGHT and DERWENT detached to RV with Force R

 

11th - Between 0600 and 2030 the oilers DINGLEDALE and BROWN RANGER of Force R refuelled CAIRO and the 24 destroyers of Force Z and X namely:

Force Z escorts LAFOREY (D19), LIGHTNING, LOOKOUT, ESKIMO, SOMALI, TARTAR, QUENTIN, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE, VANSITTART, WESTCOTT, ZETLAND and WILTON [WRESTLER was part of Force Z escorts but had been delayed at Gibraltar with a mechanical defect. She was later replaced by AMAZON from Gibraltar]

Force X escorts ASHANTI (D6), FORESIGHT, FURY, INTREPID, ICARUS, PATHFINDER, PENN, BICESTER, BRAMHAM, DERWENT and LEDBURY.

At 0815 the first radar contact with enemy Ju 88's was made; these were flying at 20000 feet and difficult for the FAA Fulmars and Hurricanes to intercept. However one was shot down but a Fulmar and Hurricane were lost. Their crews were picked up.

At 0845 SIRIUS, PHOEBE and JAUNTY joined the convoy after refuelling from Force R

At 0840 hours the Italian submarine UARSCIEK surfaced astern of the convoy and reported its speed, course and composition.

At 1010 hours a German Ju 88 reported the convoy as being in position 38-08N, 01-56E, which was slightly out, steering 90 and comprising 3 aircraft carriers, 3 battleships, 20 cruisers and destroyers and 20 merchant ships.

At 1055 hours the CinC in NELSON received VA North Atlantic's signal 0902A informing of an enemy sighting report of Force F at 0620Z (This was the signal made by UARSCIEK) 

At 1128 hours three distant disturbances, as if from torpedo discharges, were observed from NELSON and CHARYBDIS, bearing 200 at 3 miles.

At 1218 hours FURIOUS screened by LIGHTNING and LOOKOUT moved out to the port quarter to commence Operation BELLOWS.

At 1229 the first Spitfire flew off FURIOUS; 16 were flown off before emergency turns were made necessary by the torpedoing of EAGLE. By 1450 hours 38 had been flown off, one of which made an emergency landing on INDOMITABLE. The remaining 37 arrived at Malta. The flying distance between FURIOUS and Malta was 555 nautical miles (1,028 km) to 584 nautical miles (1,082 km).

At 1315 EAGLE was torpedoed by 4 torpedoes from U 73, in position 38-05N, 3-02E; she was positioned on the quarter of the starboard wing, convoy speed was 13 knots, and mean line of advance 090. LAFOREY and LOOKOUT were ordered to stand by EAGLE; JAUNTY also immediately proceeded towards EAGLE. The 927 survivors were picked up by the three vessels, 163 of her crew were lost. At the time of her sinking, EAGLE had 4 Sea Hurricanes in the air. One landed on INDOMITABLE and 3 on VICTORIOUS.

Following the sinking of Eagle, the convoy made a series of rapid emergency manoeuvres

At 1420 hours approaching aircraft were detected by radar at a great height.

At 1430 hours NELSON and RODNEY opened fire in barrage at the unseen aircraft, but checked fire after a few minutes.

At 1430 hours, destroyers KEPPEL, MALCOLM, VENOMOUS, WOLVERINE and WRESTLER from Gibraltar arrived on the scene of EAGLE's sinking. These destroyers had arrived to escort FURIOUS back to Gibraltar. However on there arrival Captain D19, ordered KEPPEL, MALCOLM and VENOMOUS to carry out an anti-submarine sweep.

At 1515 hours FURIOUS successfully completed Operation BELLOWS. She then set course to return Gibraltar escorted by destroyers WOLVERINE and WRESTLER

At 1545 hours KEPPEL, MALCOLM, VENOMOUS, WOLVERINE and WRESTLER having been unsuccessful in locating U 73, rejoined in the rescue effort. Captain Hutton ordered them to take on board EAGLE's survivors that had been picked up; KEPPEL embarked 194 survivors from LAFOREY, VENOMOUS embarked 535 survivors from LOOKOUT and MALCOLM embarked 198 survivors from JAUNTY.

AMAZON detached from the convoy when ordered to take JAUNTY under her orders.

At 1634 hours the CinC received the VA North Atlantic signal 1446A, warning that the enemy would probably make a Ju 88 attack at dusk.

At 1635 hours NELSON, RODNEY and the cruisers NIGERIA, KENYA and MANCHESTER streamed paravanes.

From 1700 hours the convoy was being shadowed by enemy aircraft.

At 1830 hours the transfer of EAGLE's survivors was complete and LAFOREY and LOOKOUT then proceeded to RV with Force R to refuel prior to rejoining the convoy.

At 1830 hours KEPPEL, MALCOLM, VENOMOUS, WOLVERINE and WRESTLER joined FURIOUS and escorted her back to Gibraltar. 

At 1854 hours the CinC ordered D6 in the absence of D19 to position the escorts in Cruising Disposition No 17 to repel an air attack expected at sunset.

At 2030 hours LAFOREY and LOOKOUT rejoined the convoy.

At 2056 hours, 15 minutes after sunset, an air attack by 30 Ju 88's and six 11/FG26s He 111 torpedo-bombers took place. The He 111's were put off their torpedo runs by the barrage. Two bombs were fell close astern of LAFOREY without causing any damage. The only casualty from this raid was MANCHESTER'S Walrus aircraft. The attack lasted until 2130 hours. Three aircraft were claimed to have been shot down by ship's gunfire, two by VICTORIOUS. Force R came under air attack at the same time. No damage was done to any ship in this attack.

At 2100 hours QUENTIN (position A) obtained a sonar contact and made a DC attack, without result.

 

(RAF medium and heavy bombers from Malta made small raids on Sardinian and Sicilian airfields in an attempt to take some of the pressure off the convoy. At Elmas the RAF bombers were spotted, and the enemy was able to get his planes away. But, at Decimomannu the RAF achieved complete surprise and destroyed six bombers, badly damaging several others. As the flight returned to Malta, it sighted Admiral da Zara's 7th Cruiser Squadron which had just sortied from harbour and was steering east. The Beaufighters shadowed the group for a while, but were low on fuel and broke off and returned to Malta. A Wellington was sent out to keep an eye on the Italians, 'O for Orange', the Wellington made an ASV contact at 2,500 feet and reported locating four cruisers and eight destroyers steering east, the ships were followed into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Wellington made an ineffectual bombing attack at 0130/12/8/42 before turning back to Malta)

 

(A further diversion, Operation WHYNOT, an attack on the Italian airfield of Catania, Sicily, was mounted by M section of the SBS. At 2100/11/8/42 the submarine UNA, from Malta, surfaced in approximate position 37-28N, 15-06E which was about 1400 yards from the beach and launched 3 Folboats, a fourth one was found to be holed, carrying the 6 man M section. Their mission was to destroy as many of the German Ju 88's, that were known to be on the airfield, as possible. Unfortunately they were surprised by a patrol and had to abort their mission. They attempted to return to UNA but without success and they were eventually captured)

 

12th - At 0630 hours a German Ju 88 sighted the convoy and reported 50 ships in position 37-50N, 06-50E, as did an Italian Cant Z1007

At 0630 hours INDOMITABLE and VICTORIOUS both flew off 2 Sea Hurricanes, but they lacked the speed to catch the shadowers.

At 0710 hours the carriers launched a standing patrol of 12 fighters.

At 0800 hours, based on information received about a possible submarine concentration north of Galita Island, the CinC ordered D19 to reduce the distance between the ahead and wing destroyers.

The submarines UARSCIEK, U 73 and U 205 were in contact astern of the convoy and were transmitting sighting reports.

At 0740 hours the KENYA sighted 3 torpedo tracks and turned to comb them. As KENYA was astern of the convoy in company with NELSON and RODNEY it was likely that the battleships were the target.

At 0907 hours radar picked up a large number of aircraft approaching from ahead; these turned out to be 19 Ju 88's dive bombers, 6 of which were shot down. No damage was inflicted on the convoy.

At 0923 hours LAFOREY (position B) made a DC attack on a possible submarine contact.

At 0935 hours lookouts on RODNEY observed torpedoes ahead crossing from port to starboard.

At 0935 hours FURY (on the starboard wing) confirmed a sonar contact, this was thought to be the same contact that LAFOREY had attacked, and made a DC attack; FORESIGHT joined her in the hunt. This turned out to be Italian submarine BRIN.

At 0940 hours D19 ordered all the destroyers to rejoin the screen.

At 1045 hours lookouts on RODNEY observed a torpedo passing astern.

At 1135 hours PATHFINDER (position C port bow) obtained a sonar contact and was joined in the attack by ZETLAND.

At 1150 hours PATHFINDER and ZETLAND called off the hunt and rejoined the screen.

At 1200 hours radar reported an air attack from ahead.

At 1211 hours the destroyers in the van opened fire on the attackers.

At 1215 hours the Italian air force attacked with 10 Sm 84's of 38 Gruppe's 32 Stormo each armed with 2 Motobomba FFF's, escorted by 14 Mc 202 fighters. In order to avoid what were thought to be mines the convoy made an emergency turn of 90 to port.

 

(The Motobomba FFF (Freri, Fiore, Filpa), was a torpedo developed by the Italians in 1939. The designation FFF was derived from the last names the three men involved with its original design: Lieutenant-Colonel Prospero Freri, Captain-Disegnatore Filpa, and Colonel Amedeo Fiore. The weapon was a 500 mm diameter electric torpedo which was dropped on a parachute, on entering the water it was designed to steer concentric spirals of between 500 and 4,000 m until it found a target. It weighed 350 kg had a 120 kg warhead, a speed of 40 knots and an endurance of 15–30 minutes)

 

At 1217 hours RODNEY shot down an Italian bomber.

Further air attacks were made on the convoy by 33 Sm 79's torpedo bombers and 10 Sm 84's torpedo bombers, escorted by 26 Re 2001's. The FAA fighters dealt effectively with the Sm 84's before they could reach the convoy. The Sm 79's, however pressed on, attacking from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter and all their attacks were beaten off mainly by the 16 inch guns of NELSON and RODNEY firing shells with a proximity fuse which burst in the air and shells with impact fuses which, when they hit the sea, created a splash barrage.

As the Italians withdrew the Germans arrived, it had been planned as a co-ordinated attack but the timings were out. The German force was 37 Ju 88 dive bombers; they were engaged by the FAA fighters, but 12 Ju 88's broke through to the convoy.

At 1300 hours the MV DEUCALION 7740grt, lead ship of the port column, was hit by a stick of bombs from a Ju 88. The bombs caused serious damage; she lost electrical power and stopped. At this point some of the crew, without orders, abandoned ship. However her captain thought she could be saved. BRAMHAM was ordered to stand by DEUCALION. Eventually she got under way making 10 knots, and later worked up to 12 knots. The two vessels made for the Tunisian coast with the intention of proceeding westward along the coast. Later DEUCALION managed to reach her maximum speed of 16 knots, but due to stresses on the damaged hull had to reduce speed to 12.5 knots.

At 1230 hours bombs fell off RODNEY's starboard side. NELSON and CAIRO were also suffered near misses.

At 1305 hours RODNEY was under air attack.

At 1345 hours as VICTORIOUS was recovering her Sea Hurricanes, 2 apparent 'Hurricanes' detached and dived onto the carriers flight deck, both releasing bombs; they were Italian Re2001's. The bombs were estimated to be about 50kg.

At 1400 hours RODNEY experienced steering problems and was forced to keep her speed below 15 knots.

At 1650 hours ITHURIEL (position I port quarter) DCed rammed and sank the Italian submarine COBALTO in position 37-39N, 10E, she picked up 41 survivors. Two of ITHURIEL's crew managed to get as far as the conning tower before the sub went down.

At 1750 hours when ITHURIEL, with a maximum speed of 20 knots due to her damaged bow, was returning to her place in the screen she was attacked by 4 Ju 88's and a Cr 42 fighter bombers. No damage was caused.

At 1800 hours the convoy course was altered in succession to 121, this being the course to pass through the Skerki Channel.

At 1800 hours further heavy air attacks developed on the convoy, estimated at 100 to 120 aircraft; their were 22 FAA fighters in the air at the time. In this attack RODNEY was singled out by an Italian Ju 87. The bomb landed in the sea just off the port side abreast X turret. Following this attack RODNEY engaged 10 Sm79 torpedo bombers approaching on her starboard side. In the middle of this attack the convoy made an emergency turn to port to avoid what was thought to be aircraft laying mines ahead.

The violent manoeuvring by RODNEY caused further problems, with her boilers reducing her speed to 18 knots.

In this attack FORESIGHT was torpedoed on her starboard side aft, breaking her back and wrecking her steering gear.

At 1820 hours VICTORIOUS managed to fly off 4 Fulmars.

At 1830 hours 12 Ju 87's of 1/Stg.3 singled out INDOMITABLE; she received two direct hits from 500kg bombs and three near misses. This attack finished INDOMITABLE as a fighting unit. CHARYBDIS, LOOKOUT LIGHTNING and SOMALI were detached to stand by INDOMITABLE who turned west away from the wind.

At 1836 hours RODNEY came under attack from Italian Ju 87's

At 1842 hours a bomb landed on RODNEY's X turret, it failed to penetrate the armour, bounced off and landed in the sea on her port side.

At 1848 hours an enemy aircraft crashed off RODNEY's port bow.

 

Force Z comprised NELSON, RODNEY (limited to 15 knots by boiler problems), VICTORIOUS, INDOMITABLE (severely damaged but eventually able to steam at 28 knots), CHARYBDIS, PHOEBE, SIRIUS, LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, LOOKOUT, QUENTIN, ESKIMO, SOMALI, TARTAR, ITHURIEL (damaged from ramming and limited to 20 knots), ANTELOPE, AMAZON, WESTCOTT, WISHART and ZETLAND.

At 1855 hours in approximate position 37-42N, 10E, Force Z detached from the convoy and withdrew westwards. The withdrawal was brought forward by 20 minutes due to the damaged INDOMITABLE.

(At 1956 hours when the convoy, with Force X, was in position 37-40N, 10-06E, Italian submarine AXUM fired 4 torpedoes. CAIRO was hit by two, port side aft, immediately lost power and started to settle by the stern.  NIGERIA was hit in the forward boiler room, lost all electrical power, took on a list of 13 and started to circle to starboard. Tanker OHIO was hit amidships, making a hole 24ft. x 27ft.,  the pump room was wrecked and a fire started As NIGERIA and CAIRO were the fighter direction ships, the support of the RAF fighters from Malta was lost)

At 2115 hours on hearing about the torpedoing of NIGERIA and CAIRO, the CinC of Force Z immediately ordered CHARYBDIS, SOMALI and ESKIMO to reinforce Force X.

 

13th - Throughout the day Force Z proceeded westward

(At 0955 hours FORESIGHT was sunk by TARTAR in position 37-40N, 10-00E.)

At 2300 hours. NELSON, VICTORIOUS, PHOEBE, SIRIUS, LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, LOOKOUT, QUENTIN and TARTAR turned eastwards to give cover to Force X should the Italian navy decide to attack. RODNEY, INDOMITABLE, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE, AMAZON, WESTCOTT, WISHART and ZETLAND detached and proceeded to Gibraltar at RODNEY's best speed.

 

14th - During the day Force Z cruised to the north of Algiers.

 

(It was not until 1500/14/8/42 that the CinC Force Z in the NELSON received a signal from Rear Admiral H M Burrough CS 10, now flying his flag in ASHANTI following the torpedoing of NIGERIA, giving his noon position as 37-21N, 6-27E, course 272, 20 knots. On receipt of this signal Force Z set course easterly to make contact. The VICTORIOUS flew off a search Albacore to locate Force X.)

 

At 1800/14/8/42 Force Z and Force X, comprising destroyer ASHANTI (Flag CinC CS 10), light cruisers KENYA, CHARYBDIS and destroyers PATHFINDER, ICARUS and FURY set course for Gibraltar.

 

15th - At 2000 hours, NELSON with Force Z and Force X arrived at Gibraltar.

 

20th - At 0300 hours, NELSON with survivors from the EAGLE and MANCHESTER and 40 Italian POW's embarked on aircraft carriers ARGUS and FURIOUS, the KENYA and destroyers KEPPEL, MALCOLM, VENOMOUS, TARTAR, FURY, ESKIMO, SOMALI, and BICESTER sailed from Gibraltar for the Clyde.

 

25th - At 0001 hours in approximate position 55-12N, 9-30W, KENYA detached for Scapa.

At 0500 hours in approximate position 55-30N, 7W, KEPPLE, BICESTER and VENOMOUS detached for Londonderry.

At 0800 hours off the Mull of Kintyre, MALCOLM detached for Liverpool.

At 1200 hours, NELSON, ARGUS, FURIOUS and the destroyers ESKIMO, SOMALI, TARTAR and FURY arrived off Greenock.

 

27th - Off Greenock, Vice Admiral E.N. Syfret, Flag Officer Force F struck his flag.

At 1200 hours, NELSON escorted by destroyers ESKIMO, PUCKERIDGE and FARNDALE sailed from the Clyde for Scapa

 

28th - At 1330 hours, NELSON, ESKIMO, PUCKERIDGE and FARNDALE arrived at Scapa

 

September

 

1st to 19th - NELSON at Scapa Flow.

 

20th - At 0400 hours, NELSON escorted by destroyers WHADDON and BLEAN sailed from Scapa.

At 0500 hours in the Pentland Firth, NELSON, WHADDON and BLEAN RVed with the aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and  destroyer ORP BLYSKAWICA; course was then set for Rosyth.

 

21st - At 0400 hours, NELSON, FORMIDABLE and WHADDON, BLYSKAWICA and BLEAN arrived off Rosyth.

Later in the day NELSON was docked for a short refit.

 

October

 

1st to 15th - At Rosyth undergoing refit.

 

16th - At 0200 hours, NELSON and FORMIDABLE escorted by destroyers PANTHER, FAULKNOR, MARNE, ESCAPADE and MIDDLETON left Rosyth for Scapa

At 2200 hours NELSON, FORMIDABLE, PANTHER, FAULKNOR, MARNE, ESCAPADE and MIDDLETON arrived at Scapa.

 

(The next operation that NELSON took part in was Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Vichy French North Africa. For this operation she became part of Force H)

 

29th - At Scapa Flow where the LSI LADY OF MANN 2029grt came alongside and the NELSON embarked 407 men of No. 9 Commando.

 

30th – At 1630 hours Force X comprising battleships DUKE OF YORK (Flag Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Neville Syfret CB RN CinC Force H) and NELSON, battlecruiser RENOWN, light cruiser ARGONAUT and destroyers MILNE, MARTIN, METEOR, ASHANTI, TARTAR, ESKIMO and HMAS QUIBERON sailed from Scapa to RV with carrier force from the Clyde.

 

31st – At approximately 1700 hours in position 55-30N, 10W, Force X RVed with the carrier force comprising carriers VICTORIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Home Fleet) and FORMIDABLE and destroyers PATHFINDER, PARTRIDGE, PORCUPINE, QUENTIN and QUALITY. The combined force became Force H which then set course for Gibraltar.

 

November

 

5th – At 1400 hours Force H arrived off the approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar. At this point Force H split, with DUKE OF YORK and RENOWN with a destroyer screen proceeding into Gibraltar to refuel.

As NELSON approached the Straits of Gibraltar she was joined by destroyer HNethMS ISAAC SWEERS, who had detached from convoy KMF 1F.

 

6th – In the early hours the remainder of Force H passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered Gibraltar to refuel.

Off Gibraltar NELSON was joined by destroyers AVONDALE, BRILLIANT, BOADICEA, CALPE, and PUCKERIDGE who had detached from aircraft carriers FORMIDABLE and VICTORIOUS.

At 0630 hours the NELSON in company with the destroyers AVONDALE, BRILLIANT, BOADICEA, CALPE, PORCUPINE, PUCKERIDGE and ISAAC SWEERS entered Gibraltar where she disembarked her passengers from No. 9 Commando and refuelled.

When taking up her berth NELSON was in collision with tanker SS EMPIRE GAWAIN 797grt and minesweepers BRIXHAM and BUDE, causing damage to their stanchions and guard rails.

 

 (Number 9 Commando under the command of Lt. Col. R Todd was landed at Gibraltar to reinforce the garrison. There was concern that when the Allied invasion of North Africa was announced,  Axis forces might move through Spain in retaliation)

 

When the Naval forces for Operation TORCH departed Gibraltar, NELSON remained in harbour.

 

8th - At 0800 hours the ANCXF, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, transferred his flag to NELSON from light cruiser SCYLLA.

(11th – Admiral Darlan surrendered all Vichy forces in North Africa to the Allies.)

13th - At Gibraltar, where the ANCXF, Admiral Cunningham hauled down his flag. General Eisenhower and Admiral Cunningham then flew to Algiers for negotiations with Admiral Darlan. 

 

16th – Force H returned to Gibraltar. The flag of Vice Admiral Syfret, Flag Officer commanding Force H was transferred to NELSON.

 

17th - At 0900 hours, NELSON and Force H sailed from Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir.

 

18th – At 1200 hours Force H arrived at Mers el Kebir.

 

21st – Force H comprising NELSON (Flag), RODNEY, aircraft carriers FORMIDABLE and FURIOUS and destroyers ASHANTI, ESKIMO, TARTAR, PENN, PARTRIDGE, PATHFINDER, PORCUPINE, LOOKOUT, METEOR, VANOC, PUCKERIDGE and CALPE sailed from Mers-el-Kebir for Gibraltar.

 

22nd - Force H arrived at Gibraltar.

 

24th - NELSON and Force H sailed from Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir.

 

25th - NELSON and Force H arrived at Mers el Kebir.

 

November and December

 

During these two months, NELSON and Force H continued to sail between Gibraltar and Mers el Kebir.

 

 

1 9 4 3

 

January

 

2nd – At 0200 hours Force H including NELSON, RODNEY and FORMIDABLE sailed from Gibraltar and steered west into the Atlantic to RV with troop convoy KMF 6, with 27500 troops embarked.

After making a RV, Force H joined KMF 6 escorting it into the Mediterranean.

Off Gibraltar the SS CITY OF EDINBURGH 8036grt and SS CITY OF PRETORIA 8049grt, both with stores for Malta and escorted by the destroyer VANOC joined the convoy.

 

3rd - NELSON and Force H arrived at Algiers with convoy KMF 6.

 

4th - NELSON and Force H sailed from Algiers for Gibraltar.

 

5th - NELSON and Force H arrived at Gibraltar.

 

8th - NELSON and Force H which included RODNEY and aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and 12 destroyers transferred to Mers-el-Kebir to support military operations in North Africa.

 

 22nd - NELSON at Mers-el-Kebir with destroyer ESKIMO alongside, when a fire broke out in one of ESKIMO'S boiler rooms. Damage was chiefly confined to the main electric cable runs.

 

27th - At Gibraltar where Rear Admiral Sir Harold Burrough raised his flag in the NELSON as CinC Force H.

 

February

 

Force H continued to be deployed in the western Mediterranean for support duties. Force H generally covered the large troop and supply convoys to prevent possible interference from the Italian Fleet.

 

(The Italian Fleet however never showed any sign of activity as it was seriously handicapped by shortage of fuel)

 

17th - At Gibraltar where her new CO, Captain the Honourable Guy Herbrand Edward Russell RN, took command.

 

March

 

1st - At Gibraltar where the new CinC Force H, Vice Admiral Algernon U Willis hoisted his flag.

 

7th - The Admiralty ordered Force H to remain at Gibraltar as it was known German battle cruiser SCHARNHORST was about to attempt a breakout from the Baltic.

 

14th - SCHARNHORST passed through the Kattegat but went north to join other German units in northern Norway. Force H was then released for continuation of support duties.

 

April

 

Force H continued to be deployed in the western Mediterranean for support duties.

 

May

 

Force H continued to be deployed in the western Mediterranean for support duties.

 

3rd - Force H sailed from Mers el Kebir for Algiers.

 

4th - Force H arrived at Algiers where NELSON was inspected by General Eisenhower and Admiral Cunningham.

 

5th - Force H sailed from Algiers for Gibraltar.

 

6th - Force H arrived at Gibraltar.

 

25th - NELSON escorted by destroyers ONSLOW, ORWELL and INGLEFIELD left Gibraltar for Plymouth. Embarked on NELSON was Lieut. General John Crocker returning to the UK after being wounded in Tunisia where he had commanded the British 1X Corps, and four captured German Generals who included General Major Kurt Von Liebenstein who had commanded the 164 Light African Division in Tunisia.

 

30th - NELSON, ONSLOW, ORWELL and INGLEFIELD arrived at Plymouth. Vice Admiral Willis hauled down his flag and disembarked her passengers.

 

31st - Entered dry dock in Devonport for a short refit.

During her time at Devonport she received a completely new radar outfit, the latest type 273, a 284 main gunnery range set, a type 285 set for AA direction on the HIACS (high angle control stations) and type 286. The AA armament was also improved by the addition of three 8 barrelled pom-poms, one on B gun and one either side of the mainmast, an additional 40 plus 20mm Oerlikons and two US pattern quadruple 40mm Bofors guns.

 

June

 

7th - At 1000 hours, NELSON and destroyer METEOR sailed from Plymouth for Scapa.

Off Plymouth destroyer PANTHER joined the escort.

 

8th - At 1300 hours off the mouth of the Clyde, NELSON, METEOR and PANTHER were joined by destroyer MATCHLESS from Scapa.

 

9th - At 1000 hours, NELSON, METEOR, MATCHLESS and PANTHER arrived at Scapa.

Flag Officer Force H, Vice Admiral Algernon U Willis again hoisted his flag.

 

Whilst at Scapa Flow battleships NELSON, RODNEY, VALIANT and WARSPITE (to be part of Force H) commenced a series of bombardment and other exercises off Cape Wrath in preparation for the planned allied landings in Sicily (Operation HUSKY). The new radars proved to be very effective by improving the accuracy of the gunnery.

 

17th – At 1400 hours NELSON (Flag Force H), RODNEY, VALIANT, WARSPITE, aircraft carrier INDOMITABLE and destroyers ECHO, FAULKNOR (D8), FURY, INGLEFIELD, INTREPID, OFFA, PANTHER, PATHFINDER, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D4) and ORP PIORUN sailed from Scapa for Gibraltar.

 

18th – In approximate position 54-30N, 15W, destroyers ARROW, BLANKNEY, BLENCATHRA, BRECON, BRISSENDEN, HAMBLEDON, LEDBURY, MENDIP (D21), PENN, VICEROY, WALLACE and WOOLSTON joined Force H, from Londonderry.

 

20th – At 2320 hours RAF Liberator V 'BXJ' of 86 Sqd. from Aldergrove, who had been providing anti-submarine patrol around Force H, was forced to ditch. The FAULKNOR picked up 6 survivors.

           

23rd – Force H arrived at Gibraltar.

Also at Gibraltar were battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE.

 

29th – Force H comprising NELSON (Flag, Force H), RODNEY, aircraft carrier INDOMITABLE and destroyers OFFA, PANTHER, PATHFINDER, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM and ORP PIORUN sailed from Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir.

 

30th – Force H arrived at Mers el Kebir.

 

July

 

5th – At 1500 hours Force H sailed from Mers el Kebir for Algiers.

 

6th – At 0600 hours Force H arrived at Algiers

At 1130 hours Force H (Division 1) comprising NELSON (Flag, Force H), RODNEY, aircraft carrier INDOMITABLE, light cruisers CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS and destroyers OFFA, PANTHER, PATHFINDER, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM and ORP PIORUN sailed from Algiers to take part in Operation HUSKY.

 

(Operation HUSKY was the allied invasion of Sicily. The primary purpose of the RN capital ships was to prevent the Italian Navy from intervening in the operation. A secondary purpose on D-1, was for Force H to move into the Ionian Sea and appear to threaten the west coast of Greece on D Day, thus serving to divert the enemy's attention away from Sicily at the critical moment. It was to maintain this position until D + 2.  The third purpose was to provide bombardment support if required by the army. To carry out their functions they were divided into three divisions:

Division 1comprised NELSON (Flag, Force H), RODNEY and INDOMITABLE.

Division 2 comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT and FORMIDABLE.

Division 3 comprised KING GEORGE V (Flag, Vice Admiral Arthur John Power) and HOWE. Division 3 was also known as Force Z)

 

9th – At 0600 hours in approximate position 33N, 18E, Force H (Division 1) RVed with Division 2 comprising, battleships WARSPITE and VALIANT, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, ILEX, RAIDER, and RHelNS QUEEN OLGA from Alexandria.

Light cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE joined the force after detaching from convoy KMS 18B.

Force H then steered a northerly course towards the Ionian Sea.

At 0730 hours AURORA, PENELOPE, OFFA and INGLEFIELD detached and proceeded towards the east of Sicily to carry out a bombardment of Catania. (Operation ARSENAL).

Force H then moved into the Ionian Sea and manoeuvred so as to appear to threaten the west coast of Greece.

They also 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.

 

10th – (D Day) Force H moved closer to Sicily and the invasion beaches.

At daylight Force H was approximately 40 miles off Cape Passero.

AURORA, PENELOPE, OFFA and INGLEFIELD rejoined Force H.

During the day Force H continued to patrol off Cape Passero.

 

11th – Force H cruised off eastern Sicily.

 

12th - Force H cruised off eastern Sicily.

WARSPITE and VALIANT with escorting destroyers detached from Force H and proceeded to Malta to for refuelling.

 

13th - 25 miles SE of Cape Spartivento destroyers ECHO and ILEX, who were part of Force H screen, sank the Italian submarine NEREIDE.

 

14th – RODNEY and destroyer escort detached from Force H for Malta.

Whilst patrolling the Ionian Sea, Force H was attacked by Italian torpedo bombers, without result, although CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS were near missed.

 

15th - NELSON put into Malta to refuel.

 

16th – RODNEY and destroyer escort rejoined Force H.

Late on the night, Force H was subjected to a heavy air attack.

 

17th – At 0015 hours INDOMITABLE was hit by a torpedo dropped by a Luftwaffe Ju 88 aircraft.

NELSON escorted her to Malta.

NELSON then returned to the Ionian Sea patrol, but later moved inshore to carry out a bombardment of Catania in support of  British VIII Corps.

 

20th - Whilst NELSON was at Malta the port came under air attack by 30 bombers.

Also whilst at Malta a major problem occurred when one of her evaporators failed. With a crew of 1,756 there was a severe shortage of fresh water.

 

For the remainder of the month NELSON was at Malta.

 

August

 

1st to 29th the NELSON was at Malta.

 

30th - At 1900 hours Force H, comprising NELSON (Flag Force H) and RODNEY, light cruiser ORION and destroyers OFFA, PETARD, QUAIL, QUILLIAM, QUEENBOROUGH, TARTAR, TROUBRIDGE, TUMULT and TYRIAN and ORP PIORUN sailed from Malta to carry out Operation HAMMER.

 

(Operation HAMMER was the naval bombardment of the coastal batteries, including two 203mm guns, on the Calabrian coast adjacent to the Straits of Messina. This was in preparation for landings on Italian mainland by the 8th Army, Operation BAYTOWN, which took place on 3/9/43)

 

31st - At 1000 hours in position 37-56N, 15-25E at the southern entrance of the Straits of Messina , NELSON commenced bombarding coastal batteries north east of Reggio di Calabria.

At 1030 hours RODNEY commenced her bombardment. One of RODNEY's early salvos landed in the middle of an ammunition dump which exploded making it clear they had hit their target.

The spotting Spitfires reported the targets were well covered and at least one 203mm gun was knocked out.

At 1100 hours the NELSON checked fire.

At 1200 hours the bombardment, which had silenced the shore batteries for good, was terminated and Force H set course for Malta.

At 2000 hours Force H arrived back at Malta.

 

September

 

(Whilst NELSON was at Malta Vice Admiral Wills the Flag Officer Force H hosted planning conferences on board for Operation AVALANCHE, the Allied landings at Salerno)

 

7th - At 1530 hours Division 1 of Force H, comprising NELSON (Flag Force H) and RODNEY (Flag Rear Admiral Force H), aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers PETARD, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH and QUILLIAM, OFFA, TROUBRIDGE, TUMULT, TYRIAN and ORP PIORUN as well as French destroyers FFS Le FANTASQUE and Le TERRIBLE, sailed from Malta for Operation AVALANCHE. They proceeded NW along the south coast of Sicily.

 

(Operation AVALANCHE was the landing of the Fifth Army (6th US Corps and 10th British Corps) in the Gulf of Salerno which took place in the early hours of 9/9/43. The primary purpose of Force H was to prevent the Italian navy from intervening in the operation. [Although not known at the time, the Italians had surrendered on 3/9/43]  The secondary purpose was to provide support and air cover for Force V. Force V, also known as TF 88, comprised the escort carriers UNICORN, ATTACKER, BATTLER, HUNTER and STALKER, [carrying a total of 78 Seafire11c to provide fighter cover over the beachhead] light cruisers EURYALUS (Flag Force V Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian), CHARYBDIS and SCYLLA and destroyers ATHERSTONE, CALPE, CLEVELAND, FARNDALE, HAYDON, HOLCOMBE, LIDDESDALE, SILVERTON, ORP KRAKOWIAK and SLAZAK)

 

8th - At 0700 hours in the Sicilian Channel, Division 1 was joined by Division 2 (who had sailed from Malta at 1715/7/43), comprising battleships WARSPITE and VALIANT, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and destroyers ECHO, FAULKNOR, FURY, ILEX, INGLEFIELD, INTREPID, RAIDER and RHelS VASILISSA OLGA.

At 1000 hours the combined Force H arrived off Marettimo Island where they cruised until 1730 hours.

At 1400 hours OFFA detached for Bizerta.

At 1730 hours Force H set course for the Salerno area. The course set was designed to keep Force H end on to the moon, thereby presenting the most difficult target for air attack.

At 1830 hours Radio Algiers announced that Italy had concluded an armistice with the Allies.

 

(At 1845 hours Marshal Badoglio announced on radio "The Italian Government, recognizing the impossibility of continuing the uneven struggle against the overwhelming enemy power, with the intent of saving further and more serious calamities to the Nation, has asked Gen. Eisenhower, CinC of the Allies forces, for an armistice. The request has been accepted. Consequently every action of hostility against the allied armed forces must stop from the Italian armed forces in every place. They [the Italian forces], however, will react to possible attacks of any other origin. The armistice had actually been signed in Sicily on 3/9/43)

 

From 2100 hours, when in position 40N, 13-30E, the capital ships of Force H were under air attack mainly from Luftwaffe single-engined fighter bombers.

 

9th – From early morning the air attacks continued. In one attack WARSPITE was singled out and a torpedo bomber came within 800 yards before dropping its torpedo. FORMIDABLE was also near missed. Several of the attackers were shot down.

At 0040 hours the air attacks ceased.

At 0300 hours the assault troops started to land.

At 0500 hours the air attacks re-commenced.

At 1330 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT, FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER, HellS VASILISSA OLGA and FS Le TERRIBLE detached from Force H to carry out Operation GIBBON.

 

(Operation GIBBON was the surrender of the Italian Fleet)

 

In the evening the Fleet was subjected to a heavy air attack in which NELSON using radar control opened fire with every gun she had, including her main armament of 16in guns firing fused HE shells. During the night up to 300 rounds each were fired by her 4.7in heavy AA guns.

 

10th – Force H continued to cruise north west of the beachhead to provide air cover for Force V.

In afternoon OFFA rejoined.

 

11th - Force H continued to cruise north west of the beachhead to provide air cover for Force V.

In the evening, FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS transferred all their serviceable Seafires to the carriers of Force V; following which Force H sailed for Malta.

 

12th – In the evening Force H arrived at Malta. On arrival they found the surrendered Italian Fleet, including the battleships ANDREA DORIA and CAIO DULIO.

 

14th - At 1700 hours Force H comprising battleships NELSON (Flag Force H), RODNEY, WARSPITE, and VALIANT, aircraft carriers FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS escorted by destroyers JERVIS (D14), ILEX, PATHFINDER, PENN and PETARD sailed from Malta for Gibraltar.

At 2000 hours the CinC Force H received a signal recalling Force H and instructing him to detach WARSPITE and VALIANT with escorting destroyers to Salerno Bay with all dispatch.

 

(The reason for this was because during the 12th-14th September the Germans unleashed a concerted counterattack by six divisions against the Salerno beachhead with the objective of driving the allies into the sea before it could link with the Eighth Army. Heavy casualties were inflicted and on 13th they drove a salient between the two American divisions, the 34th and 45th, where the Sele and Calore Rivers merge. 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 the situation. When Admiral Hewitt asked whether heavier naval forces could be made available, Admiral Cunningham ordered the battleships WARSPITE and VALIANT to Salerno and informed Hewitt he would send the battleships NELSON and RODNEY to the Gulf of Salerno later if Hewitt wanted them. Cunningham also ordered three cruisers to sail at top speed to Tripoli to pick up British replacements and rush them to the beachhead)

 

15th – At 0345 hours, NELSON sailed from Malta for Augusta, Sicily. RODNEY followed NELSON out of Valetta but on her way out RODNEY's stern caught the anti-torpedo boom and the net wrapped itself around her rudder. The propellers ripped the net to shreds and in the process the stern swung around hitting the mole.

At 0930 hours NELSON arrived off Augusta.

At 1100 hours Nelson was joined by RODNEY at Augusta.

 

16th - At 2345 hours, NELSON and RODNEY sailed from Augusta for Malta.

 

17th - At 0700 hours, NELSON and RODNEY arrived back at Malta.

 

29th - NELSON was at anchor in Valetta harbour.

At 0915 hours a series of VIP's started to arrive.

At 1100 hours in the Admirals cabin the final Italian surrender document (the long terms) was signed. The document was signed by General Eisenhower for the Allies and by Marshall Badoglio for the Italians. Others in attendance were; for the Allies, Admiral Cunningham ANXFC, Vice Admiral Willis FO Force H, Field Marshal Lord Gort (Governor of Malta), Generals Alexander and Bedell- Smith US Army, Lt. Gen. Mason-MacFarlane (Governor of Gibraltar), Air Chief Marshal Tedder CinC Mediterranean Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Park, AOC Malta, Harold Macmillan (British political representative) and Robert Murphy (US political representative). For the Italians, Admiral De Courten (Minister and Chief of Staff, Navy), Generals Ambrosio (chief of Comando Supremo), Sandalli (Minister and Chief of Staff, Air Force), and Roatta (Army chief).

 

(So ended a surrender process that had commenced at Quebec on 26/8/43 when Churchill and Roosevelt had finally agreed on the long terms for Italy's surrender. Accordingly, on the morning of 27/8/43 in Lisbon the British Ambassador Sir Ronald Hugh Campbell, met the Italian General Zanussi and gave him a copy of the long terms. There then commenced a series of meetings between Allied and Italian emissaries in which the Italians tried and failed to achieve better terms and a 15 division Allied landing north of Rome.

At Cassibile, Syracuse, Scilly, at 1715/3/9/43 the Italian General Castellano signed the text of the short surrender terms on behalf of Marshal Badoglio, Head of the Italian Government. General Bedell-Smith signed for General Eisenhower.

At 1730/8/9/43 in a broadcast on Algiers radio General Eisenhower the CinC of Allied forces in the Mediterranean, stated that the Italian Government had agreed to end all hostilities with the United Nations.

On 13/10/43 the Italian Government declared war on Germany.

What did the Allies gain from the surrender of Italy:-

Fewer combatants to face in Operation AVALANCHE and subsequent operations in Italy.

A cobelligerent, from October, of doubtful value if judged in terms of material military resources, the Army was virtually ineffective; the Air Force was obsolete; only the Navy and merchant marine made substantial contributions to Allied power)

 

October

 

1st to 12th - NELSON was at Malta.

 

13th - NELSON was at Malta when the flag of Vice Admiral Wills was struck. The appointment of Flag Officer commanding Force H then lapsed. Rear Admiral A W La Bisset then moved his flag from RODNEY to NELSON.

 

18th - NELSON was at Malta when Rear Admiral A W La Bisset struck his flag and Force H was disbanded.  

 

(With the surrender of the Italian Fleet the raison d'etre for Force H had ceased)

 

26th – The NELSON and RODNEY escorted by the destroyer OFFA sailed from Malta for the UK via Algiers.

 

29th - NELSON and RODNEY escorted by destroyer OFFA sailed from Algiers for the UK. En route RODNEY again encountered her old steering problems as well as engine problems.

Off Gibraltar they were joined by the destroyers OBEDIENT, TEAZER, ROCKET and TARTAR from Gibraltar.

 

November

 

4th – West of Ireland RODNEY with destroyers TEAZER and ROCKET detached for the Clyde.

 

5th - At 2100 hours off Cape Wrath, NELSON, OBEDIENT, OFFA and TARTAR were joined by destroyers HARDY and HMCS HURON from Scapa.

 

6th - In the Pentland Firth, destroyers OBEDIENT, OFFA and TARTAR detached for Scapa Flow.

At 1100 hours off the Isle of May, destroyers HARDY and HURON detached and returned to Scapa.

At 1330 hours, NELSON arrived at Rosyth for maintenance and to give leave.

 

(Only absolutely essential work was carried out as she was required to counter the possible threat from the German ships SCHARNHORST and TIRPITZ)

 

7th to 30th - NELSON was in dry dock at Rosyth undergoing maintenance.

 

December

 

1st - NELSON was undocked and moved out of Rosyth.

 

2nd - At 1200 hours in the Firth of Forth, NELSON was joined by destroyers OPPORTUNE and METEOR, and course set for Scapa.

 

3rd - At 0800 hours, NELSON, OPPORTUNE and METEOR arrived at Scapa.

 

8th - NELSON was at Scapa Flow where she was joined by her new CO, Captain A H Maxwell-Hyslop RN.

 

9th to 31st - NELSON was at Scapa Flow.

 

 

1 9 4 4

 

January

 

1st - NELSON was at Scapa Flow.

 

(Following the sinking of the SCHARNHORST the need for NELSON was less acute. Her next deployment was to the Clyde, based in the Gareloch where she commenced three months of intensive training and exercises in preparation for the Normandy landings).

 

11th - NELSON sailed from Scapa for the Clyde.

 

12th - NELSON arrived off Greenock. On arrival she reduced to 60% complement.

 

13th to 31st - NELSON was moored in the Clyde.

 

February

 

1st to 29th - NELSON was moored in the Clyde.

 

March

 

1st to 29th - NELSON was moored in the Clyde.

 

30th - NELSON sailed from the Clyde for Rosyth.

 

April

 

1st - NELSON arrived at Rosyth for the fitting of replacement barrels to her main armament.

 

2nd to 30th - NELSON was at Rosyth.

 

May

 

1st to 7th - NELSON was at Rosyth.

 

8th - NELSON sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.

 

9th - NELSON arrived at Scapa.

 

17th - NELSON sailed from Scapa for the Clyde for bombardment exercises.

 

18th - NELSON arrived in the Clyde.

 

25th - NELSON sailed from the Clyde for Scapa.

 

26th - NELSON arrived at Scapa.

 

27th to 31st - NELSON was at Scapa.

 

June

 

2nd - NELSON sailed from Scapa for Milford Haven.

 

4th - NELSON arrived at Milford Haven and came under the command of the Allied Naval Commander, Expeditionary Forces. Available for bombardment duties off the Normandy beachhead.

 

6th - At 0530 hours, NELSON sailed from Milford Haven for Plymouth escorted by minesweepers.

At 1930 hours, NELSON arrived in Plymouth Sound.

 

8th - At 1415 hours, NELSON sailed from Plymouth escorted by frigates HOLMES, ROWLEY and FS LA SURPRISE for Spithead.

 

9th - At 0030 hours, NELSON arrived in Spithead.

 

11th - At 0600 hours, NELSON sailed from Spithead for the Baie de la Seine.

At 1430 hours, NELSON arrived off GOLD beach.

At 2347 hours commenced her first bombardment, the target being German positions around Caen.

 

(NELSON spent 7 days off the beachhead providing naval gunfire support against selected targets including the Houlgate Battery on the Tournebridge Plateau in Eastern Task Force Area. During her time off the beachhead NELSON fired nearly 1,000 x 16in shells)

 

(The Houlgate Battery originally consisted of 6 x 155mm guns, two of which were mounted in casements. The RAF knocked out 2 and on D-day the two in the casements were knocked out by the combined fire of monitor ROBERTS and  light cruiser ARETHUSA. The remaining two were mobile and these were knocked out by NELSON helped by the spotting aircraft which reported fall of shot.

On 12/6/44 the destroyer USS NELSON was torpedoed in the US assault area and this gave rise to the rumour that the battleship NELSON had been torpedoed)

 

18th - At 1630 hours the NELSON departed from off JUNO beach in the Baie de la Seine for Portsmouth to re-ammunition.

At 1930 hours during the passage to Portsmouth she detonated 2 acoustic mines.

 

(The two 1,500 lb charges detonated together one 50 yards to starboard and the other under the forward hull, causing serious damage to her double bottom, the bottom plating was buckled from A-turret to the forward engine room and flooding forward. There were no casualties)

 

At reduced speed she made for Stokes Bay, Gosport, with the USN Rescue Tug ATR 3 in attendance.

 

19th - At 0005 hours, NELSON anchored in Stokes Bay off Browndown Battery where an underwater inspection was carried out followed by temporary repairs.

 

(It was decided to send NELSON to the USA for repairs and a refit. She was patched up sufficiently to cross the Atlantic and her complement was reduced to little more than a steaming party)

 

22nd - At 1130 hours, NELSON escorted by the destroyers VERULAM, VIRAGO and ULYSSES sailed from Stokes Bay and headed for the North Channel.

 

23rd - At 0900 hours off the Smalls the destroyers VERULAM, VIRAGO and ULYSSES detached and returned to Portsmouth.

At 1900 hours in approximate position 54-15N, 5-15W, NELSON joined convoy UC 27 which was escorted by USN escort group CTG 21. The convoy was destined for New York.

 

24th to 30th - On passage crossing the Atlantic with convoy UC 27.

 

July

 

1st to 3rd - On passage crossing the Atlantic with convoy UC 27.

 

4th - At 0900 hours in approximate position 40-15N, 72-45W, NELSON detached from convoy UC 27 and headed for Delaware Bay.

At 1930 hours, NELSON anchored in Delaware Bay.

 

5th - NELSON arrived in the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was taken in hand for repair and refit.

On arrival at Philadelphia Captain Maxwell-Hyslop left the ship and Commander Matheson took over as temporary CO.

 

(NELSON was nominated for service in the India Ocean. Therefore the refit was quite extensive involving improved ventilation and crew facilities. Her turbines were given a major overhaul. Firing efficiency was improved by fitting type 273, 284, 285 and 286 Radars plus improved AA capacity by fitting increased numbers of small calibre weapons, mainly 20mm Oerlikons)

 

August to December

 

At Philadelphia Navy Yard under repair and refit.

On the 22/11/44 her new CO Captain C Caslon RN took command.

 

 

1 9 4 5

 

January

 

1st to 13th - At Philadelphia Navy Yard under repair and refit.

 

14th - NELSON sailed from Philadelphia and carried out two days of sea trials off Atlantic City.

 

16th - NELSON entered the Hudson River and tied up alongside Pier 88 in New York harbour.

 

18th - NELSON sailed from New York with convoy CU 55 escorted by a USN escort group.

 

27th - In approximate position 50N, 9W, NELSON detached from convoy CU 55 and headed for Portsmouth.

 

28th - NELSON arrived at Portsmouth, where she was taken in hand for completion of alterations not possible at the US Navy Yard.

 

February to March

 

At Portsmouth undergoing refit

 

April

 

1st to 13th - At Portsmouth undergoing refit

 

14th - NELSON sailed from Portsmouth for Spithead where she commenced storing and ammunitioning.

 

29th - At 0800 hours, NELSON sailed from Portsmouth for Gibraltar.

 

May

 

2nd - NELSON arrived at Gibraltar for a short visit.

NELSON sailed from Gibraltar for Malta.

 

5th - NELSON arrived at Malta.

Operating from Malta, NELSON now commenced an intensive programme of working up and preparing for action against the Japanese.

 

June

 

1st to 13th - At Malta carrying out working up exercises.

 

14th - At 1100 hours, NELSON sailed from Malta for Alexandria.

 

16th - NELSON arrived Alexandria.

 

21st - At 0530 hours the NELSON sailed from Alexandria for Port Said.

 

24th - NELSON passed through the Suez Canal.

 

27th - NELSON in company with heavy cruiser SUSSEX and light cruiser CLEOPATRA sailed from Suez for Colombo.

 

July

 

7th - At 1000 hours, NELSON arrived at Colombo and joined the East Indies Fleet.

 

9th - NELSON sailed from Colombo for Trincomalee.

 

10th - NELSON arrived at Trincomalee.

 

12th - At Trincomalee where Vice Admiral H.C.T. Walker, CB, Vice Admiral Commanding Third Battle Squadron transferred his flag to NELSON from battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH.

.

19th - At 1800 hours Force 63 comprising Force 63 Group 1 and 2 sailed from Trincomalee for Operation LIVERY.

Force 63 Group 1 comprised NELSON (Flag Vice Admiral H T C Walker), heavy cruiser SUSSEX, escort carriers EMPRESS (with 896 Squadron of Hellcats) and AMEER (with 804 Squadron of Hellcats) and destroyers ROTHERHAM (D11), RACEHORSE, RAIDER and PALADIN.

Force 63 Group 2 comprised Algerine fleet minesweepers PLUCKY (SO 7th Minesweeping Flotilla), SQUIRREL, PINCHER, VESTAL and RIFLEMAN, Bathurst fleet minesweeper HMIS PUNJAB and Bangor fleet minesweeper HMIS DECCAN as attached danlayers.

 

(Operation LIVERY was an operation to sweep mines off Phuket Island and carry out bombardments and air strikes against airfields and appropriate targets on the Kra Isthmus, Thailand. This was part of the deception plan to make the Japanese believe that an Allied landing would be made on the Kra Isthmus. However the invasion plan, code named Operation ZIPPER, was for the proposed landing to take place in Malaya at Port Swettenham or further south at Port Dickson)

 

23rd - At 0200 hours the two Forces passed through the Sombrero Channel, Nicobar Islands, heading east.

 

24th -  At 0800 hours, approximately 17 miles off the coast of Phuket Island the minesweepers commenced their sweeping operation.

At 1100 hours in approximate position 8N, 98-30E, SQUIRREL was mined forward killing seven crew.  She took on heavy list due to flooding and after two and a half hours, was abandoned and the 62 survivors were taken off by VESTAL. Destroyer ROTHERHAM sank the hulk by gunfire at 1430 hours.

During the day, Hellcats from AMEER and EMPRESS maintained a CAP over the minesweepers and carried out strikes against targets in Kra Isthmus.

At 1900 hours VESTAL transferred SQUIRREL's survivors to the NELSON, including three who were seriously wounded, one of whom later died on NELSON.

 

25th - Minesweeping operations continued.

During the day, the Hellcats from AMEER and EMPRESS maintained a CAP over the minesweepers and carried out strikes against targets in Kra Isthmus.

 

26th - Minesweeping operations continued.

At 0915 hours two Japanese Aichi D3A, VAL Kamikaze aircraft attacked the Fleet; both were shot down by AA fire from the Force but one crashed and exploded close to AMEER.

At 1830 hours Force 63 was attacked by Kamikaze aircraft. A Mitsubishi Ki-51 SONIA was shot down and near-missed AMEER. An Aichi D3A, VAL was shot down heading for SUSSEX but parts struck the SUSSEX without causing damage. Another Aichi D3A, VAL which headed for the PLUCKY, at the last minute turned and hit the VESTAL exploding amidships and setting the vessel on fire. She immediately heeled over and commence to sink. The crew abandoned ship following which VESTAL blew up and sank with the loss of 20 crew members. The survivors were picked up by RIFLEMAN, PLUCKY and PUNJAB. The wreck was sunk by gunfire from RACECOURSE. The survivors were transferred to the NELSON, two of whom later died.

At 2230 hours Force 63 departed from the operation area and set course to return to Trincomalee.

 

29th - At 2300 hours Force 63 arrived back at Trincomalee.

 

(Operation LIVERY was the last offensive action by the Eastern Fleet. Its achievements were twenty four mines swept for the loss of two minesweepers. In strikes, 150 sorties were flown, against targets on the Kra Isthmus, our aircraft achieved commendable results. Three small ships were destroyed and eleven others strafed in the Singora area, while fifteen locomotives were put out of action and rolling stock strafed on the railway system between Bandon and Dhungsong.  A camp at Huatsei was bombed.  On Songei Patani airfield six grounded aircraft were destroyed, three left burning and two others hit. In all these 30 aircraft were destroyed for the loss of one Hellcat)

 

August

 

1st to 15th - NELSON was at Trincomalee.

 

(At 0800/15/8/45 local time, President Truman announced that a cease fire was in effect between the Allies and Japan and that the war was over)

 

(On 15/8/45 Admiral Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Command, issued orders to suspend all land, sea and air operations within his command; he took over responsibility for the Netherlands East Indies and for all territories south of a line drawn from the coast of Indo-China in 160 North to the equator in Dutch New Guinea. Because of the uncertainty whether the widely scattered but still very numerous Japanese forces within the vast area for which he was now responsible would obey the surrender order, Mountbatten considered it essential to have sufficient strength at hand. He therefore decided that the assault which he had intended to launch against the west coast of Malaya on the 9/9/45 should take place substantially as planned. By the middle of August preparations were so far advanced that any major alterations to the plan would have been likely to cause confusion; and it was impossible to divert the expedition to Singapore until the approaches had been swept clear of mines.

Vice Admiral H.T.C. Walker, CB, Vice Admiral Commanding Third Battle Squadron, was ordered to carry out Operation JURIST, D Day being fixed as 21/8/45. The intention of Operation JURIST was the occupation of Penang and was a modification of Operation ZIPPER

 

17th - At 0930 hours the Eastern Fleet, divided into six Forces, sailed from Trincomalee for Operation JURIST and headed towards the Nicobar Islands, the Fleet comprised:

Force 11 comprised NELSON (Flag of CinC Third Battle Squadron), light cruiser NIGERIA and CEYLON, escort carriers HUNTER, STALKER, SHAH and ATTACKER, destroyers TARTAR (D10), PETARD and VOLAGE, and LSI's(M) PRINCESS BEATRIX and QUEEN EMMA.

Force 12 comprised destroyers VERULAM and VIGILANT and 8 BYMS minesweepers.

Force 13 comprised destroyer PENN and LST 383 (loaded with vehicles)

Force 14 comprised destroyer CALPE and oiler RFA EMPIRE SALVAGE (Ex German naval tanker LOTHRINGEN)

Force 68 comprised heavy cruiser LONDON (Broad Pendant of Commodore A.L. Poland, Commodore D) and destroyers RAIDER and ROCKET.

Force 157 comprised sloop HMIS GODAVARI, depot ship HMIS BARRACUDA, repair ship MULL OF GALLOWAY, gasoline tanker SS CROMWELL 1600grt, 26 ML's of the 34th, 38th, and 56th ML. Flotilla's, and 9 HDML of the 110th Flotilla.

 

20th - Whilst the politics of the surrender were finalised the Force anchored off Great Nicobar Island and provided cover for minesweeping operations in Nicobar Islands.

 

(The delay imposed by General MacArthur dislocated all the planned arrangements in South-East Asia, and produced acute supply problems in the fleet because the small vessels could not retrace their steps to Ceylon against the south-west monsoon, and it was plainly undesirable for the main body to return whence it had come with nothing accomplished. Admiral Walker finally took most of the fleet under the lee of Great Nicobar Island, where there was enough shelter to refuel his larger ships from tankers, and he could provision the small vessels from the larger ones. This uncomfortable state of affairs lasted until the 27/8/45, when the main body of the fleet set course for Penang)

 

24th - The NIGERIA, SHAR and STALKER detached and returned to Trincomalee.

 

27th - At 0900 hours the NELSON, CEYLON, ATTACKER, HUNTER, TARTAR, PETARD, VOLAGE, PRINCESS BEATRIX and QUEEN EMMA departed Great Nicobar Island for Penang.

 

(27/8/45 the Local Surrender Agreement was made by the Supreme Commander, Japanese Expeditionary Forces, Southern Regions, with the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia at Rangoon)

 

28th - At 1200 hours the NELSON, CEYLON, ATTACKER, HUNTER, TARTAR, PETARD, VOLAGE, PRINCESS BEATRIX and QUEEN EMMA arrived off George Town, Penang Island.

At 1600 hours the first emissaries of the Japanese forces came on board the NELSON and were made to board the flagship by rope ladder. On board Admiral Walker accepted the surrender of the local Japanese commanders who also signed an undertaking that no attack would be made on the Fleet.

Further meetings were held on board the NELSON on 29th, 30th, and 31st August.  The Japanese proved cooperative and provided the necessary information relative to their minefields, including those at Singapore and other areas.

 

 

September

 

1st - At 0730 hours the CinC Eastern Fleet Admiral Sir Arthur Power arrived on board NELSON from CLEOPATRA. On board, Admiral Power had meetings with Japanese envoys

2nd - NELSON was at George Town for the official surrender of Japanese forces. The Japanese commander Rear Admiral Uozomi was met by Captain Caslon and Vice Admiral Walker's Chief of staff, Captain Abbott, and lead below to the Vice Admiral Walker's cabin were the articles of surrender where signed.

 

8th - At 0500 hours, NELSON, light cruisers CEYLON and NIGERIA, escorted by destroyers NUBIAN, PALADIN and RELENTLESS sailed from George Town for Singapore, calling at Port Swettenham en route.

 

10th - At 0830 hours, NELSON arrived off Singapore.

 

12th - NELSON was at Singapore when the Japanese Forces in South East Asia officially surrendered.

 

(At 1141 hours the formal surrender document surrendering all Japanese forces in the region was signed by General Seishiro Itagaki and Admiral Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Command at a surrender ceremony held at the Municipal Building of Singapore)

 

30th - NELSON sailed from Singapore for Trincomalee.

 

 

P o s t    W a r   N o t e s

 

HMS NELSON returned to Trincomalee and sailed from Colombo on 11th October 1945 to return to UK . After calls at Kilindini, Malta and Gibraltar she arrived at Portsmouth on 17th November. She was then deployed as Flagship of the Training Battleship Squadron in place of HMS VALIANT and arrived at Portland on 27th December that year. The ship carried out training duties including the Home Fleet 1946 Spring cruise before being relieved by HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS on 22nd Sept 1947. Paid off and reduced to Reserve status this ship was placed on the Disposal List. During 1948 she was used as a bombing target during trials in the Firth of Forth. The relevance of these which were intend to establish the effectiveness of ship's armour  protection against  bombs is hard  to credit at a time when guided weapons and atomic warheads were being developed. She was sold to BISCO for demolition by TW Ward on 19th March 1948 and arrived at Inverkeithing in tow on 15th March 1949. The name was again carried forward for use in 1972 when it replaced that of HMS VICTORY for the Royal Navy Barracks at Portsmouth. HMS VICTORY remained in commission as nominal Flagship of Naval Home Command in Portsmouth Dockyard.

 

Special Note

 

Details of escorts for WS Series military convoys were provided by Donald L Kindell, Ohio, USA from an unpublished source. This is gratefully acknowledged.

 


 

Addendum

 

CONVOY ESCORT MOVEMENTS of  HMS NELSON

by Don Kindell

 

These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above

 

Date convoy sailed

 Joined convoy as escort

 Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived

 

 

 

 

 

17/05/41

01/06/41

SL 075

05/06/41

13/06/41

24/09/41

25/09/41

HALBERD

27/09/41

27/09/41

 

(Note on Convoys)

 

 

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