HMS Rodney (Maritime Quest,
click to enlarge)
RODNEY was ordered from Cammell Laird, Birkenhead on
11 December 1922 and laid down on 28th December 1922. She was launched on 17th December 1925
The Princess Royal, as the 8th RN ship to carry this name,
introduced in 1759. It had previously
been used for an 1884 battleship, sold in 1909. This ship was fully
commissioned at Devonport
7th December 1927 for service in the Atlantic Fleet. During pre-war service she
was refitted periodically but the planned full modernisation was not carried out
because of the outbreak
WW2. She was the first RN battleship to be fitted with any radar and the
second installation in
the Fleet. Type 79Y for detection of aircraft was installed in 1938 and had
been intended to
in her sister ship HMS NELSON. However this was changed because the chosen site
radar aerial would have required the Admiral's flag to occupy an inferior
a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings Campaign in March
1942 this ship was
adopted by the staff of Glynn Mills Bank in the City of
B a t t l
e H o n o u r s
1759 - SYRIA 1840
1854 - NORWAY 1940 - ATLANTIC
1940-41 - BISMARCK Action 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS
1941-42 - NORTH AFRICA
1942-43 - SICILY
1943 - SALERNO 1943 - MEDITERRANEAN
1943 - NORMANDY 1944 - ENGLISH
CHANNEL 1944 - ARCTIC 1944
H e r a l d i
c D a t a
Badge: On a Field White, out of a ducal coronet Gold, an eagle
Purple with beak
and claws, Gold.
M o t t o
Non Genarant Aquilae Columbas:
'Eagles do not breed doves'
D e t a i 1 s
o f W a r S e r v i c e
(for more ship
to Naval History Homepage
and type name in Site Search
1 9 3 9
31st – At 1800 hours the Home Fleet, comprising
(Flag CinC Home Fleet Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes), RODNEY
( Captain E N Syfret), ROYAL OAK
and ROYAL SOVEREIGN,
aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL
(Flag Vice Admiral L V Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), light cruisers
(Flying the broad pendant of Commodore E B C Dicken) and
of the 7CS, EFFINGHAM
(Flag Vice Admiral Sir M K Horton, VA Northern Patrol), CARDIFF,
of the 12CS and AURORA(Flag
Rear Admiral R H C Halifax, Rear Admiral D Home Fleet), BELFAST
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 1900hours 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.
1st – At 1209 hours 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.
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 51656
tons grt, 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 the
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 destroyer FAME was detached to go to
the assistance of the liner the SS ATHENA that had been torpedoed in position
5th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet entered the Fair
At 0800 hours the Fleet was in position – 59- 42N,
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
7th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet comprising
(Flag) and RODNEY,
aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL,
light cruisers AURORA,
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 63¼N to intercept any German shipping returning
to Germany and exercise contraband control.
ASHANTI detached with turbine problems and went to
(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 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)
10th – At 1815 hours the Home Fleet arrived back at
14th – At 2030 hours RODNEY,
and destroyers TARTAR, ESKIMO, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI departed Scapa Flow for Loch
Ewe (the small port of Aultbrea on Loch Ewe, designated Port A for security
En route TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI detached to join
the aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL.
15th – At 0700 hours RODNEY,
and destroyer ESKIMO arrived at Loch Ewe.
At 0845 hours SOMALI arrived at Loch Ewe and FEARLESS,
FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FURY sailed from Loch Ewe.
17th – At Loch Ewe where she was visited by the First
Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
At 0700 hours NELSON and ARK ROYAL arrived at Loch
At 0955 hours BEDOUIN and TARTAR sailed from Loch Ewe.
At 1440 hours ARK ROYAL sailed from Loch Ewe.
20th – At 1915 hours the Home Fleet comprising the
aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL,
and destroyers FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, TARTAR and PUNJABI sailed from Loch Ewe for
At 2000 hours the Fleet was in position 57-56N, 05¡-
21st – Early in the morning off Cape Wrath the Fleet
was joined by the destroyers FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FURY, FEARLESS, FORESTER and
FORESIGHT from Scapa Flow.
At 1000 hours the Fleet arrived at Scapa Flow.
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 the
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, MASHONA and MATABELE were detached to investigate.
1910 hours the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow.
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
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)
(On 24/9/39 the submarine SPEARFISH whilst
operating in the German Bight,
25th – At 0830 hours the Home Fleet comprising
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
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 285¼, with Swordfish from the ARK ROYAL patrolling
above the Fleet. When 3 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 in
coming 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
1st – At 1700 hours the Home Fleet comprising NELSON
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
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.
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 and the cruiser KOLN and 9
destroyers off Lister lighthouse (Lindesnes 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 what was 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, Force F and the Humber Force from Rosyth, 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 to happen since the German
force reversed course and arrived back at Kiel at 0100/10/10/39)
8th – At 1840 hours the battleships NELSON,
aircraft carrier FURIOUS,
light cruisers AURORA,
and destroyers SOMALI, MASHONA, ASHANTI, ESKIMO, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, FAULKNOR,
FURY, FORESTER, FAME, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE. Sailed from Scapa Flow
for position 61N, 00E. Heavy weather damaged FORTUNE as the force entered the
Pentland Firth and she detached to the Clyde for repairs.
11th – At 1200 hours when in the Minches, FAULKNOR
detached for the Clyde to repair weather damage.
At 1300 hours battleships NELSON
and destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, FURY and FORESTER and FIREDRAKE arrived at Loch
13th – At 1025 hours the aircraft carrier FURIOUS and
destroyers FEARLESS and FOXHOUND arrived at Loch Ewe.
14th – At 1500 hours the light cruisers AURORA (Flag
CS18) and BELFAST arrived at Loch Ewe.
15th – At 1730 hours the Home Fleet comprising the
battleships NELSON and RODNEY,
aircraft carrier FURIOUS,
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,
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,
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
At 1830 hours the Home Fleet comprising battleships
NELSON and RODNEY,
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 68¼N.
(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,
24th – At 0715 hours the Fleet was in position 60-12N,
25th - At 0700 hours the Fleet was in position 64-08N,
26th – At 0712 hours the Fleet was in position 67-27N,
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,
30th – At 0800 hours the Fleet was in approximate
position 59-41N, 5-01W.
At approximately 1000 hours when west of the Orkneys
returning to the Clyde, the Home Fleet comprising NELSON,
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
(On 31st October, whilst in the Clyde, the CinC HF
received a visit from the first Lord of the Admiralty, the First Sea Lord and
the Deputy Chief of air Staff, to discuss the question of Bases and their
protection against aircraft and Submarines. The Admiralty’s proposal was to make
the Clyde the main 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. The Deputy Chief of the Air staff was of opinion that the
defence of the Clyde against air attack was much better then that of Rosyth
because of the greater chance of Interception by fighters. The first Sea Lord
advocated using the Clyde as the main base with the main fleet working in two
watches - one at sea, the other in harbour. The CinC said that he preferred
Rosyth to the Clyde, but if the Admiralty considered the risk of using Rosyth
was not worth taking, he must work with the main fleet in two watches and would
require five flotillas of destroyers. He also pointed out that a submarine could
get under the net on the Clyde, and it was decided to lay a deep minefield out
aide the net)
2nd – At 0930 hours battleships NELSON
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 DEUTSCHLAND. She was carrying general cargo to the UK including
lubricating oil. The lubricating oil was declared contraband and the CITY OF
FLINT 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 the CITY OF FLINT 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
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 the 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
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
8th – Destroyers FORESIGHT and IVANHOE rejoined the
At 1545 hours east of the Copinsay lighthouse HOOD
detached with FEARLESS and they proceeded through the Pentland Firth.
9th – At 0810 hours NELSON,
destroyers FAULKNOR, FAME, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, FORESIGHT, FEARLESS and IMPERIAL
arrived at Rosyth.
who had arrived on 6/11/39 to strengthen the air defences at Rosyth while the
Home Fleet was refuelling there.
At Rosyth were the AA cruisers CAIRO
12th – At 1400 hours NELSON,
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
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 he cut short the patrol due to the weather which was so bad that 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
The CinC decided to refuel in Loch Ewe.
17th – At 0600 hours the Force arrived in Loch Ewe to
20th – At 0730 hours NELSON,
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.
Whilst in the Clyde Captain Frederick Hew George
Dalrymple-Hamilton RN took over command of RODNEY.
23rd - At 1551 hours the CinC Home Fleet received a
signal from HM Armed Merchant Cruiser 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 Home Fleet ships in the Clyde to raise steam.
At 1920 hours NELSON, RODNEY, the heavy cruiser
DEVONSHIRE and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, FAME,
FORESIGHT and FURY sailed from the Clyde.
the 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
At 1600 hours in the Pentland Firth FORTUNE detached
to take over the patrol of the Pentland Firth from BEDOUIN, who then joined the
25th – At 0800 hours the cruiser DEVONSHIRE was
detached on Admiralty orders to join the cruiser patrol line at 61- 35N.
At 1600 hours the fleet arrived at their interception
position at 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 intention of CinC Home Fleet 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
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 so as to sweep out just north of latitude 65N, by
29th – At 0800 hours the CinC HF ordered all forces to
sweep to the northward.
At 2200 hours during the sweep to the north off the
Norwegian coast 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)
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.
1st – At 1200 hours in approximate position 56-48N,
08-03W, RODNEY escorted by destroyers GURKHA and KANDAHAR, RVed with HOOD and
her escort of destroyers SOMALI, ASHANTI and PUNJABI.
2nd – At 0200 hours off Holy Island PUNJABI was in
collision with the SS LAIRDCREST 789grt.
At 0400 hours RODNEY arrived off Greenock. Examination
of her rudder found that about one third had been torn away.
escorted by the destroyers IMPERIAL, IMPULSIVE and GURKHA and three more
destroyers and two tugs departed the Clyde for Liverpool. She steered using her
engines as the rudder was now ineffective.
9th – RODNEY by destroyers ECLIPSE, GURKHA and
FEARLESS, arrived at Liverpool for repairs. The ships followed convoy SLF 10B
into port. On arrival RODNEY entered the Gladstone dock for repairs.
(On 4/12/39 the NELSON was mined this put pressure
on the repairers to release RODNEY as soon as possible. This led to the repairs
being rushed and not carried out to the best quality)
30th – At 1230 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
ICARUS and IMOGEN sailed from Liverpool for the Clyde.
31st – At 0140 hours RODNEY arrived off Greenock and
rejoined the Home Fleet.
1 9 4 0
1st – In the Clyde off Greenock where the CinC Home
Fleet Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes hoisted his flag.
4th – The Home Fleet comprising battleship RODNEY
Flag, REPULSE and destroyers INGLEFIELD, IMOGEN, ICARUS, MOHAWK, BEDOUIN,
KINGSTON, FIREDRAKE and MATABELE sailed from Greenock to patrol in the vicinity
of the Shetland Islands to provide distant cover for the Northern Patrol and the
10th – RODNEY, REPULSE and destroyers INGLEFIELD,
IMOGEN, ICARUS, MOHAWK, BEDOUIN, KINGSTON and MATABELE arrived back at Greenock.
27th – At 1030 hours The Home Fleet comprising
battleship RODNEY (Flag CinC HF), REPULSE and destroyers FAULKNOR, FAME,
FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND and FURY sailed from Greenock to patrol
in the vicinity of the Shetland Islands to provide distant cover for the
Northern Patrol and the Norwegian convoys.
31st – At 1500 hours RODNEY, REPULSE and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FAME, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND and FURY arrived back at
(In his report on the first 6 months of the war at
sea the CinC HF stated that ‘the weather experienced in Northern Waters from
October could only be described as foul; one gale had followed another with
monotonous frequency’. The effect of the bad weather on RODNEY had already
exposed the design weakness of her rudder and by the end of February she was
experiencing problems with ‘panting’ of her hull plating. The term ‘panting’
when used in the context of a ships hull applies to out-of-plane movement
causing the formation of secondary bending stresses which are produced when a
deformed panel is subjected to in-plane edge loads. This action causes fatigue
which leads to cracking. RODNEY had to have work carried out to rectify the
4th – Off Greenock church parties from RODNEY and
REPULSE attended divisions on HOOD.
(At 2400/17/2/1940 the German battlecruisers
SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER and destroyers Z20 KARL
GALSTER, Z21 WILHELM HEIDKAMP and Z9 WOLFGANG ZENKER sailed from Wilhelmshaven
on Operation NORDMARK [Operation NORDMARK was an operation to intercept
British convoys between Bergen and the UK] Almost immediately the
WOLFGANG ZENKER was damaged by ice and forced to abort the mission. North Of
Heligoland the force was joined by the destroyers Z5 PAUL JACOBI, Z6 THEODOR
RIEDEL, Z7 HERMANN SCHOEMANN, Z1 LEBERECHT MAAS and the torpedo boats LUCHS and
SEEADLER. At 0055/18/2/1940 [GMT] the German Force was sighted by
a RAF reconnaissance flight, but this information didn’t reach the CinC HF until
0930 hours. The German Force proceeded to approximate position 60-30N, 3-20E,
which they gained at 1130/19/2/1940, and having failed to sight any shipping the
Force returned to Wilhelmshaven, where they arrived at 1400/20/2/1940.
At the time of the German sortie convoy ON 14 was at
sea. The convoy of 24 ships had sailed from Methil Roads at 1600/17/2/40
escorted by the destroyers ESCAPADE, ESCORT, ECLIPSE and
ELECTRA and the submarine NARWHAL. At 1200/19/2/1940 the Admiralty ordered the
convoy in to Kirkwall until the HF arrived in support. Convoy ON 14all arrived
at Kirkwall at 0200/20/2/1940 )
19th – At 1430 hours
(Flag CinC HF),
destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE
sailed from Greenock.
At 2000 hours the Force was in position 55-16N, 5-53W.
At 2100 hours having cleared the Clyde they set course
to pass through The Minches.
At 2300 hours in approximate position 55-45N, 6-45W
the destroyer HARDY joined the force from the Clyde.
20th – At 0800 hours the Force was in position 57-41N,
At 1200 hours off Cape Wrath the destroyer KHARTOUM
joined from Scapa.
At 1500 hours west of the Orkneys the destroyers
KANDAHAR and TARTAR joined from Scapa.
At 1650 hours the destroyer FORTUNE detached to
investigate a possible submarine contact.
At 2000 hours approximate position 60-13N, 4-35W was
(At 1400/20/2/1940 convoy ON 14 sailed from
Kirkwall for Bergen)
21st – At 0800 hours the Force was in approximate
position 61-56N, 00- 58W.
At 1620 hours the destroyer HARDY detached to
investigate a possible submarine contact.
At 2000 hours approximate position 62-06N, 2-20'E was
At 2100 hours the destroyer FIREDRAKE detached to
investigate a possible submarine contact.
22nd – At 0750 hours FIREDRAKE rejoined.
At 0800 hours the Force was in approximate position
At 2100 hours in approximate position 62N, 2-30W the
force turned west and then south, heading back to the Clyde.
23rd – At 0800 hours the Force was in position 59-47N,
At 0945 hours the destroyer HARDY rejoined.
At 1030 hours off the island of North Rona the RODNEY
and HOOD carried out a HA firing exercise.
24th – At 0620 hours when approaching the North
Channel RODNEY’s steering failed. HOOD and her destroyer screen of HARDY,
FIREDRAKE and FEARLESS detached and proceeded into the Clyde.
At 1300 hours RODNEY with destroyers FAULKNOR,
FORESIGHT and FORTUNE arrived at Greenock.
27th – Off Greenock the RODNEY was visited by the King
and Queen and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. The royal
party took tea on board with the CinC HF.
(The conference on 31/10/1939 had actioned
improvements to Scapa Flows defences. By the 1/3/1940 the improvements to Scapa
Flow’s anti-aircraft defences were substantially complete and with improvements
in the anti-submarine defences on-going. The CinC HF decided that the Home Fleet
could again be based in the Flow. The First heavy ships to arrive were HOOD and
VALIANT who arrived on 7/3.1940)
7th – At 1615 hours
(Flag C-in-C, HF and with the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill
with destroyers HARDY (D2), HOSTILE, INGLEFIELD (D3), IMOGEN, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE,
FIREDRAKE, PUNJABI and KIMBERLEY sailed from the Clyde for Scapa.
8th – At 1730 hours the Fleet was approaching the
entrance to Flow when the CinC was informed that the Hoxa gate was closed as it
was thought that a hostile aircraft (possibly a He 111 of KG 26) had dropped
mines in approximate position one mile 055¼ from the north east end of the Calf
Winston Churchill was transferred by rowing boat to the
destroyer KIMBERLEY who then took Churchill into Scapa via the Switha Sound
gate, thence to the HOOD, on which Churchill spent the night.
The remainder of the Fleet cruised off the west of the
Orkneys while the Flow was swept for mines, none were found.
9th – At 1045 hours RODNEY, RENOWN, REPULSE with
destroyers HARDY, HOSTILE, INGLEFIELD, IMOGEN, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE,
PUNJABI, FAULKNOR and FORESTER arrived in Scapa Flow.
(On the afternoon of 9/3/1940, a meeting was held
on the RODNEY to review the state of the Flows defences. Attending were the
First Lord and Civil Lord of the Admiralty, the CinC HF and his Chief of Staff,
The Vice Admiral Commanding Orkneys and Shetlands, the Rear Admiral Scapa, the
Adjutant General Royal Marines, the Director of Local Defence Division, the
Director of Naval Air Division and the Civil Engineer in Chief. The state of the
55 HAA guns mounted, 39 in action, remainder expected
to be in action within the week. A further 33 to be mounted. Ammunition
available 300 rounds per gun out of 1200 rounds per gun to be available.
14 LAA [single mark VIII 2lb pom-poms]
out of a total (of ?) to be provided.
30 A/A searchlights out of a total of 56.
9 barrage balloons deployed out of a total of 56.
The gun operations room at Kirkwall in action.
Netherbutton RDF [Chain Home Radar station]
operational but inefficient in all directions.
Three squadrons of Hurricanes at Wick, Nos. 43, 111
and 504, out of five to be stationed there.
The Sector Controller at Wick in action, but the extra
telephone lines required not yet working so there was a time lag.
At RNAS Hatson, HMS Sparrowhawk, one and half
squadrons of Skuas and Rocs, 800 and 803 squadrons and one squadron of
Gladiators, 804 squadron.
Booms; Hoxa and Switha, still only single lines of
nets. Hoy, six sections of the second line of nets completed. Boom depot at
Howton Bay barely started.
Nevi Skerry boom; some moorings in place, no nets.
Defence electric lights and 12-pdr. Guns at ends of
booms not in place.
Controlled mining; Hoxa and Switha complete, Hoy very
nearly so. Controlled mining base at St Margaret’s Hope barely started.
Indicator Loops between Switha Island and South
Ronaldsay completed. Harbour defence asdic [sonar] in Hoxa Sound
Blocking of the Eastern Sounds; Some blockships had
been put down since October 1939, but there were still passages in all four
Sounds through which a submarine could pass at slack water high tide. None of
the three defence electric lights or 12-pdr. Guns for the defence of the Sounds
were ready for action, but those on the mainland were to be ready in a day or
The CinC HF considered that the meeting served a
useful purpose in enabling the deficiencies to be brought to notice and doubtful
points to be cleared up. It was decided that work on all parts of the defences
must be pressed on, and steps should be taken to close the Eastern Sounds by
building a causeway across them, these causeways became the Churchill Barriers)
16th – At 1952 hours the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow came
under attack from 34 Luftwaffe bombers, 16 He 111 of 3./KG 26 and 18 Ju 88 of KG
30. The first formation of 3 bombers approached from the east at 7000 feet, when
over the Flow they split and their selected targets were the RODNEY, RENOWN, the
heavy cruiser NORFOLK.
Dive bombing attacks were carried out on RODNEY,
RENOWN and NORFOLK; two 250Kg bombs were dropped by each dive bomber. No hits
were scored on RODNEY or RENOWN but NORFOLK was hit on the quarter deck port
side abaft Y turret. The old battleship IRON DUKE was also damaged by 3 near
(The first warning of the air attack came from the
destroyer KASHMIR, escorting convoy ON 20; she reported the approach of German
aircraft toward Scapa Flow. A warning was also received from the Sumburgh RDF
station on Shetland, but the raid had not been picked up by Netherbutton RDF
station, confirming its inefficiency. Shortly after the attack on the fleet
attacks were made on Hatson and Bridge of Wraith. In the attack Bridge of Wraith
the first British civilian to be killed in the war was killed. The returning
German pilots reported having hit 3 battleships and a cruiser)
19th – At 1445 hours RODNEY, WARSPITE and VALIANT
escorted by destroyers HARDY (D2), HERO, HUNTER, HASTY, HOTSPUR, HYPERION and
HOSTILE sailed from Scapa Flow.
(This sailing was on Admiralty instructions, following
the Luftwaffe attack on the 16/3/40, that the Fleet should be at sea during the
moonlight period between 19th and 26th March, because it was thought that the
German air force might try to drive the Fleet out of Scapa Flow)
During the period of maximum moonlight the Fleet
cruised to the north of the Shetlands and provided heavy cover for the Norwegian
convoy HN 20 and ON 21 and the Operation DU activities.
Operation DU was a sweep by 4 cruisers of the 2nd CS
and 8 supporting destroyers into the Skagerrak that was carried out on the 21/22
27th – At 1100 hours RODNEY,
WARSPITE and VALIANT escorted by destroyers FEARLESS, FORESTER, HUNTER, HASTY,
HERO, HOTSPUR, HARDY, HOSTILE and HYPERION arrived back at Scapa Flow.
(For various reasons strategic reasons Hitler
decided to invade Norway. Operation Weserubung and was a combined operation to
land German troops at various points in Norway timed to commence at 0415/9/4/40.
The Germans achieved complete surprise even though various ‘intelligence’ was
available but was ignored.
The Y service that monitored German radio traffic
detected an increase in German naval radio traffic in the Baltic and this
traffic was analysed by Harry Hinsley at GC and CS who informed the Admiralty
that a possible invasion was under way. The Admiralty dismissed Hinsley’s
analyst out of hand.
At 0800/7/4/40, 24 miles west of Horns Reef a RAF
Hudson of 220 Sqd. sighted a cruiser and six destroyers steering
north. Report received by CinC Home Fleet at 1120 hours. This report set the
Home Fleet in motion.
The 23 Wellingtons of 9 and 115 Sqd. and 12 Blenheims
of 107 Sqd. sent to attack this force failed to locate them. However at 1415
hours 7 Blenheims of 21 Sqd located and attacked another force comprising a
battlecruiser, pocket battleship, 3 cruisers and 12 destroyers 78 miles NNW of
Horns Reef steering 335¼.
Report received by CinC Home Fleet at 1727 hours.
This report was subsequently amended in Admiralty
message at 2057 hours stating that photographs confirmed that one of the ships
was GNEISENAU class.
Following this last report the CinC Home Fleet decided
that a German assault on Norway was in progress and all ships in Scapa Flow were
ordered to raise steam. The Admiralty at first judged that the German fleet
movements were to cover the breakout of heavy fleet units into the Atlantic)
(At 0000/7/4/40 Group 1 of Operation Weserubung,
the Narvik attack force, sailed from Bremerhaven, the Group consisted of
battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST and destroyers WILHELM HEIDKAMP, GEORG
THIELE, WOLFGANG ZENKER, BERND VON ARNIM, ERICH GIESE, ERICH KOELLNER, DIETHER
VON ROEDER, HANS LUDEMANN, HERMANN KUNNE and ANTON SCHMIDT carrying 2000
troops of the 139th Gebirgsjager Regiment, 3rd Mountain Division.
At 0000/7/4/40 Group 2 of Operation Weserubung, the
Trondheim attack force, sailed from Cuxhaven, the Group consisted of cruiser
ADMIRAL HIPPER and destroyers PAUL JACOBI, THEODOR RIEDEL, BRUNO HEINEMANN and
FRIEDRICH ECKHOLDT carrying 1700 troops of the 138th Gebirgsjager Regiment, 3rd
At 0200 hours SW of Heligoland the two groups joined
up and steered in a north easterly direction.)
7th – At 2015 hours the Home Fleet comprising RODNEY
(Flag CinC HF), VALIANT, battlecruiser REPULSE, light cruisers SHEFFIELD,
PENELOPE and the French EMILE BERTIN, destroyers ESKIMO, PUNJABI, BEDOUIN,
KIMBERLEY, JUPITER, CODRINGTON (D.1), GRIFFIN, BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA
sailed from Scapa Flow and steered easterly. After clearing the Pentland Firth
course was set for 61-00N, 01-00E.
8th – At 0200 hours the EMILE BERTIN having lost
contact with the Fleet turned back to Scapa Flow.
Between 0759 hours and 0904 hours the CinC Home Fleet
received signals from the destroyer GLOWWORM stating that she was engaging an
enemy force in approximate position 65 06N, 6-20E. After GLOWWORM’s last signal,
which faded out, the CinC thought it probable that she had been sunk.
(In fact the GLOWWORM had been sunk by the German
heavy cruiser HIPPER in position 64-13N, 06-28E)
At 0915 hours in approximate position 61-07N, 1-00E
the CinC detached the REPULSE, PENELOPE and destroyers BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY,
PUNJABI and ESKIMO to proceed at their best speed to go to the assistance of
At 1200 hours the CinC HF ordered the accompanying RAF
Sunderland of 201 Sqd. to proceed ahead of the Fleet and search for the enemy.
At 1429 hours the CinC received the Sunderland’s
report timed at 1400 hours of one battlecruiser, two cruisers and two destroyers
in position 64-12N, 06-25E, course 270¼.
through clouds of rain, the Trondheim invasion group headed by the heavy
cruiser HIPPER. When sighted the group were sailing westerly to kill time so as
to arrived at Trondheim at their appointed hour. The westerly course of this
group therefore had no significance, but to the CinC HF it was most significant
and he determined to intercept)
(The Sunderland had momentarily sighted,
At 1600 hours when in approximate position 63-06N,
04-30E the Fleet altered course to the north.
At 1615 hours course was altered north westerly.
At 1845 hours RODNEY launched her two Walrus aircraft
to attempt to make contact with the enemy force. By this time it was blowing
hard from the NNW and speed had to be reduced for the destroyers.
(At 1930 hours, by which time the Fleet should have
intercepted the enemy, the CinC HF took stock of the situation. He had had
reports from various sources of enemy forces to the north, to the west and of
heavy units in the Skaw proceeding westward. The CinC decided to send REPULSE
and her screen to reinforce RENOWN off Vestfjord and to turn south to try to
bring the heavy enemy units reported in the south to action and support the
cruisers of CS1 who were sweeping north toward the reported heavy units)
At 2000 hours the Fleet were in position 64-22N,
At 2010 hours the Fleet altered course to 195¼ and
increased speed to 18 knots.
9th – In the early hours the CinC was joined by the
destroyers SOMALI, MATABELE, MASHONA and TARTAR who had sailed from Rosyth at
(At 0446 hours the CinC HF received Admiralty
message timed at 0424 hours, indicating that four German warships were reported
entering Oslo Fjord at 0235/9/4/40, five ships were approaching Bergen, at least
one at Stavanger and two were at Trondheim. From these reports the Admiralty
conclude that the Germans were invading Norway)
At 0620 hours the CinC detached the destroyer TARTAR
to RV with the Polish destroyers BLYSKAWICA, BURZA and GROM, the Polish
destroyers were steaming north with the light cruisers ARETHUSA and GALATEA,
then to RV with convoy HN 25 and escort it to Methil Roads.
(At this time the CinC HF signalled the Admiralty
to ask whether there was any intelligence of enemy forces in Bergen, as it was
desired to send MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON and six destroyers there. At 0830
hours the CinC HF received the Admiralty reply stating; no intelligence, but air
reconnaissance being carried out. Bergen reported to be in the hands of the
enemy and area mined. Submarines ordered to attack enemy forces in Stavanger.
The CinC was also instructed by the Admiralty to prepare a plan for attacking
German warships and transports in Bergen and for controlling the approaches
assuming that the defences were still in Norwegian hands. A similar plan was to
be prepared for Trondheim if sufficient forces were available; and Narvik was to
be watched to prevent German forces landing)
At 0630 hours in position 61-23N, 03-06E course 180¼,
speed 18 knots, the CinC was joined by the cruisers GLASGOW and MANCHESTER of
the 18th CS, these cruisers had been covering convoy ON 25.
At 0940 hours in approximate position 60-28N, 03-00E
The CinC was joined by the heavy cruisers DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK and YORK of the
1st CS, light cruisers ARETHUSA and GALATEA of the 2nd CS and SOUTHAMPTON of the
18th CS, French light cruiser EMILE BERTIN, destroyers, GURKHA, SIKH, AFRIDI,
MOHAWK, and French large destroyers MAILLE BREZE and TARTU. The destroyers
ELECTRA, CODRINGTON, GRIFFIN and ESCAPADE rejoined after refuelling at Sullom
(Four of the destroyers that had been with the 2nd
CS had detached at 0400/9/4/40, when KELVIN and KASHMIR were in collision and
COSSACK and ZULU were ordered to stand by)
(At 1015 hours The Admiralty gave approval to the
CinC HF to carry out the operation against enemy forces at Bergen)
At 1130 hours the CinC HF detached SOUTHAMPTON,
MANCHESTER (CS18), SHEFFIELD and GLASGOW of the 18th CS with destroyers AFRIDI
(D4), GURKHA, SIKH, MOHAWK, SOMALI (D6), MATABELE and MASHONA for a raid on
At 1200 hours in position 59-44N, 2-57E the Home Fleet
At 1357 hours the Admiralty ordered the Bergen attack
force to set course to return to the Main Fleet which by then had turned north
to open the distance between the Fleet and the German land based aircraft.
He 115 seaplanes to
cover the gap between Bergen and the Orkneys searching for British ships.
Without being scene by the British forces they successfully located two of the
British forces;: The first one was the Home Fleet to the north west of Bergen,
and the second one, was the cruisers and destroyers that had been detached to
Also 0920 hours U 56 sighted the battleships RODNEY and VALIANT
southwest of Stadlandet steering south. With this intelligence the Luftwaffe
were able to mount an attack against the Home Fleet.
(From early morning the Luftwaffe had deployed a
At 1425 hours when the Bergen attack force was in
approximate position 60-00N, 4-10E, sailing north easterly, into heavy weather
blowing from the NE, the force was attacked by
the leading formation of Ju 88s from KG 30 [these aircraft were part
of a large force sent to attack the main Fleet}.
The cruisers SOUTHAMPTON and GLASGOW were
damaged by near misses. At 1507 hours the commander of the GURKHA became so
frustrated by his ships inability, due to the heavy weather, to achieve accurate
anti-aircraft fire, that he turned GURKHA so that the wind and sea was astern to
give his gunners a more stable platform. In doing so he became isolated and the
attacking bombers concentrated on GURHKA and eventually disabled her and she
sank at 2045 hours)
Between 1430 and 1740 hours the Fleet consisting of
the RODNEY, VALIANT, DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK, YORK, SHEFFIELD, ARETHUSA, GALATEA and
destroyers JUPITER, CODRINGTON (D.1), GRIFFIN, BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA and
the French EMILE BERTIN and destroyers MAILLE BREZE and TARTU, was attacked by
47 Ju 88 bombers from KG 30 and 41 He111 bombers from KG 26.
In the attack the RODNEY was hit by a 500Kg AP bomb
dropped by a Ju 88 dive bomber from 400ft. The bomb struck on the port side
abaft the funnel a ready use ammunition locker deflected the bomb and split the
fuse from the explosive. The body then passed through the boat deck hitting a
table at which two midshipman were sitting, they had been sent below for safety.
The bomb then continued down into an engineering store where it broke up on the
4' thick armoured deck, where its explosive charge caused a fire. Apart from the
structural damage and a small fire, the only injuries caused were to Paymaster
Midshipman W. R. H. Lapper, Commissioned Gunner F. G. Roper, Midshipman J. C. S.
Wright, and seven ratings. The damage to the armoured deck and other structural
damage was repaired by the ships staff who welded steel plates over the holes
and RODNEY remained in action with the Fleet
In this attack the Fleet fired off 40% of their AA
ammunition and only managed to shoot down four of the attacking Ju 88’s.
(This air attack made such an impression on Admiral
Forbes that he decided the fleet could not operate without air superiority.
Consequently, he proposed to the Admiralty an important change of plans: He
would attack the Germans in the northern part of Norway with surface ships and
military assistance, but the area to the south would have to be left to British
submarines on account of the German air superiority in that area)
At 2030 hours in approximate position 61-50N, 3-00E
the Fleet turned west to place distance between it and the Luftwaffe.
10th – Between 0000hours and 0315 hours, when the
Fleet was in approximate position 61 50N, 01-00W the CinC HF detached SHEFFIELD,
ARETHUSA, GALATEA and destroyers AFRIDI, SIKH, MOHAWK, SOMALI, MATABELE and
MASHONA, JUPITER, CODRINGTON, GRIFFIN, BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA and French
destroyers MAILLE BREZE and TARTU to refuel either at Sullom Voe or Scapa Flow.
At 0215 hours the CinC was joined by the destroyers
FAULKNOR (D.8), FOXHOUND and FORESTER from Scapa Flow.
At 0500 hours the destroyers COSSACK and ZULU joined
At 0530 hours the destroyers HERO and HYPERION joined
from Sullom Voe.
At 0730 hours in position 61-24N, 2-00W, RODNEY,
VALIANT, DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK, YORK, FAULKNOR (D.8), FOXHOUND and FORESTER were
joined by the battleship WARSPITE, the aircraft carrier FURIOUS and their
destroyer screen of ASHANTI, MAORI, ECLIPSE, ESCORT, ISIS, ILEX, IMOGEN,
INGLEFIELD, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO.
At 0800 hours the Fleet changed course to north
easterly to achieve a flying off position for FURIOUS’s Swordfish to attack
At 2035 hours the CinC HF received Admiralty message
timed at 1904 hours which laid down future policy, viz; The capture of Narvik
was to take priority over operations against Bergen and Trondheim.
11th - At
0400 hours in position 64-24N, 7-55E off Trondheim FURIOUS launched 18 torpedo
carrying Swordfish, 9 from 816 and 9 from 818 squadrons, against shipping in the
harbour. No hits were obtained. All the aircraft returned between 0630 and 0700 hours.
The Fleet then set course for the Lofoten Islands.
At 1448 hours ASHANTI and MAORI were detached to
Sullom Voe for refuelling.
At 1500 hours DEVONSHIRE,
BERWICK, INGLEFIELD, ISIS, ILEX and IMOGEN were detached to carry out a search
of the Inner Leads from Trondheim to latitude 66-17N.
From 1540 to 1700 hours the Fleet was bombed by German
aircraft, during the attack, at 1700 hours, the ECLIPSE was hit and her engine
The YORK, ESCORT and HYPERION were detached to stand
by ECLIPSE. Eventually ECLIPSE was taken in tow by ESCORT the tow was later
handed over to YORK who then towed ECLIPSE to Lerwick, screened by ESCORT and
At 1607 hours the Admiralty informed the CinC HF, that
there was reason to suspect that certain enemy units were going to affect a RV
in latitude 67N between longitude 4-30E and 6E, at sometime between 2000/11/4/40
At 1700 hours the Fleet was in position 64-48N, 7-52E.
At 1709 hours the CinC asked the Vice admiral
Commanding the Battle Cruiser Squadron when he could reach the position. He
replied that he was in position 67-50N, 8-11E steering 235¼ at 24knots. He was
therefore well placed to intercept any enemy.
At 2000 hours the Fleet was in approximate position
65-40N, 8-15E, proceeding north to attack Narvik. Following receipt of the
message the Fleet changed course to north easterly to close the position given
in the Admiralty message.
12th – At 0730 hours in position 66-27N, 6-00E the
Home Fleet and the Battle Cruiser Squadron RVed with the Flag, without either
force having intercepted any enemy. The Home Fleet now comprised battleships RODNEY (Flag
CinC HF), VALIANT and WARSPITE, battlecruisers
RENOWN (Flag CinC BCS) and REPULSE aircraft carrier
FURIOUS and destroyers ASHANTI, COSSACK, ZULU, MAORI, HERO,
JANUS, JAVELIN, JUNO, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FAULKNOR (D8). The Fleet then
steered in a north easterly direction.
At 11220 hours the CinC HF received Admiralty message
timed at 1033 hours, stating; An operation to clean up enemy naval forces and
destroy shore batteries in Narvik is to be carried out using synchronized
dive-bombing attacks from FURIOUS in combination with attack by surface forces.
It is considered that the latter should consist of a battleship heavily escorted
by destroyers. On completion of the operation, FURIOUS is to remain in Narvik
area to assist coming land operation. Fuel for FURIOUS is being sent. Risk of
U-Boat attack should be alright if suitable anchorage is selected with destroyer
patrol outside.2205 hours one of the
last aircraft of 816 Sqd. returning in pitch darkness, missed the arrestor
wires, catapulted overboard, and landed upside down in the freezing Arctic
waters. After 45 minutes the three man crew were rescued by HERO.
At 1450 hours VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS, JAVELIN and
JUNO were detached to make contact with troop convoy NP 1.
Between 1615 and 1655 hours FURIOUS flew off 17
Swordfish, 9 from 816 squadron and 8 from 818 squadron armed with bombs to
attack enemy shipping in Narvik.
At 2000 hours Vice Admiral Whitworth transferred his
flag from RENOWN to WARSPITE. This was in preparation for Operation DW, the
attack on Narvik.
At 2300 hours the cruisers
DEVONSHIRE and BERWICK rejoined the CinC.
(DEVONSHIRE and BERWICK’s escorting destroyers
INGLEFIELD, ISIS, ILEX and IMOGEN had detached in Vestfjord and proceeded to
Skjelfjord to refuel from the oiler BRITISH LADY)
13th – At 0330 hours in approximate position 68N,
11-30E WARSPITE with destroyers COSSACK, HERO, FORESTER and FOXHOUND detached
from the Home Fleet and steered for position 67-44N, 13-22E to RV with
destroyers BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, ICARUS, KIMBERLEY and PUNJABI, then to proceed on
Operation DW.RENOWN, FURIOUS,
DEVONSHIRE and BERWICK and destroyers HAVOCK and ESK patrolled off the Lofoten
At 0400 hours destroyers HOSTILE and IVANHOE detached
and followed WARSPITE and her destroyers into Vestfjord.
At 1058 hours off Tranoy Lighthouse ESKIMO sighted U
48 on the surface and drove her under and carried out a depth charge attack.
At 1115 hours the destroyers HAVOCK and ESK were
detached to join HOSTILE and IVANHOE to
hunt U 48.
At 1220 hours FURIOUS launched a striking force of ten
Swordfish, 6 from 816 and 4 from 818 Sqds to assist operation DW by bombing the
coast defences on Baroy Island and at Ramnes Point. When no defences were found
at these locations bombing attacks were carried out on enemy destroyers without
result. Two aircraft from 818 Sqd were lost.
At 2300 hours DEVONSHIRE and BERWICK detached from the CinC and proceeded north
to sweep for German shipping.
14th - RODNEY,
RENOWN and FURIOUS patrolled off the Lofoten Islands.
Aircraft from FURIOUS carried out a reconnaissance of the area from Narvik to
15th – At 0400 hours destroyers ILEX and ISIS joined
the CinC off the Lofoten Islands. Following which FURIOUS detached with ILEX and
ISIS and proceeded north for operations off Tromso.RODNEY, RENOWN and destroyers
ESK, ICARUS and IVANHOE, RVed with WARSPITE and destroyers GREYHOUND, HAVOCK,
HOSTILE, HERO, FORESTER and KIMBERLEY.
At 1700 hours in approximate position 67-30N, 11E,
After redistributing the destroyer screens,
RODNEY, RENOWN and destroyers ESK,
ICARUS, IVANHOE, GREYHOUND, FORESTER and KIMBERLEY set course for Scapa.
17th – At 1000 hours when in approximate position 59N,
4W, the CinC HF received a signal informing him the heavy cruiser SUFFOLK was
under attack from the Luftwaffe off the Norwegian coast.RODNEY
and destroyers ESK, ICARUS, IVANHOE and GREYHOUND, who had
been damaged by heavy weather and sustained structural damage en route, arrived
back at Scapa Flow.
RENOWN with the destroyers FORESTER and KIMBERLEY were
immediately detached and preceded through the Fair Isle Channel to SUFFOLK’s
At 1200 hours
RODNEY remained at Scapa Flow for the remainder of
RODNEY (Flag CinC Home Fleet) at Scapa Flow for the
2nd – At 2100 hours the cruiser SHEFFIELD arrived at
Scapa Flow with the survivors of the 1/5 Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment
who she had evacuated from Aandalsnes. Following SHEFFIELD’s arrival the
survivors were transferred to RODNEY for the night.
3rd – In the morning the survivors were transferred
from RODNEY to the Polish liner MV SOBIESKI.
17th – At 0014 hours the CinC Home Fleet received the
following message from the Admiralty:
(Reference Admiralty’s 1857/16. The chance of
attack on Shetlands by parachute troops and troop-carrying aircraft with
possibly subsequent landing by surface craft is sufficiently real to justify
increased precautions. You should make such adjustments as you consider to he
necessary for the development of land and air forces at your disposal to guard
against this eventuality, the necessity for denying Lerwick and the aerodrome to
the enemy ships being most important. Three naval 4-inch QF guns mounted on
baulk platforms and two 3.7-inch howitzers are being despatched at very earliest
opportunity. Military reinforcements are also being sent)
The reinforcements and guns were sent up during
the next few days, hut in the interim the Vice-Admiral Commanding Orkneys and
Shetland stationed the destroyer ATHERSTONE, when not at sea, at Lerwick
as a precautionary measure)
18th – Because of concerns about invasion the
Admiralty felt the CinC Home Fleet must ensure that the heavy ships did not
become immobilised through lack destroyers.
At 1000 hours the CinC Home Fleet instructed the Rear
Admiral (D) as follows:
(A screen of nine destroyers is to be provided for
the heavy ships. This is from now on to take priority over all other destroyer
commitments except by my special permission)
5th – At 0645 hours RODNEY with destroyers ZULU, MAORI
and FOXHOUND sailed from Scapa Flow to carry out heavy calibre firing practice
off Cape Wrath.
At 1800 hours RODNEY, ZULU, MAORI and FOXHOUND arrived
back at Scapa Flow.
9th - (At 0938 hours the CinC Home Fleet received a
report from the VALIANT to the effect that she had met the hospital ship
ATLANTIS and that the latter had reported sighting an attack by enemy pocket
battleship [ it was actually the cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER operating with
the battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU and engaged on Operation Juno]
on the empty troop transport SS ORAMA 19840grt in position 67-44N, 03-52E at
At 1250 hours RODNEY (Flag CinC Home Fleet), RENOWN
and destroyers ZULU, KELVIN, INGLEFIELD (D.3), ELECTRA and ESCORT sailed from
Scapa Flow steering for position 66N, 00E to cover all slow convoys returning
(At the time of the CinC Home Fleet sailing the
German battlecruisers were safely in harbour at Trondheim having, unbeknown at
the time to the Admiralty, sunk the aircraft carrier GLORIOUS and destroyers
ACASTA and ARDENT. The SCHARNHORST having been damaged by a torpedo hit on her
port bow fired by ACASTA. The Admiralty became aware of the sinkings from a
German broadcast at 1615/9/6/40 )
10th - (At 0846 hours a RAF Blenheim of 254 Sqd from
Sumburgh on reconnaissance over Trondheim reported sighting 4 enemy cruisers;
this was subsequently amended to a battlecruiser and a large transport and 7
destroyers patrolling off the fiord entrance)
At 1525 hours in position 66-40N, 2-30W the CinC’s
force RVed with ARK ROYAL and her escorting destroyers ASHANTI, HIGHLANDER and
MASHONA. The Home Fleet then steered in a generally eastward direction until
11th – At 0000 hours the Home Fleet turned on to a
north westerly course.
At 0900 hours the Home Fleet turned on to a southerly
course covering the last of the convoys.
(RAF Blenheims from 254 Sqd maintained
reconnaissance over Trondheim keeping the CinC informed of the situation in the
port. The RAF also carried out a bombing attack with 12 Hudsons of 269 Sqd from
Wick 36 x 250lb AP bombs were dropped but no hits were scored)
12th – At 0630 hours the destroyers AMAZON, ANTELOPE,
ESCAPADE and FEARLESS joined the CinC. The destroyers ACHERON, DIANA and
HIGHLANDER detached for Scapa.
At 0935 hours the Home Fleet turned on to course 080¼
to close the Norwegian coast to launch an air strike against enemy shipping at
13th – At 0000 hours the Home Fleet reached position
At 0030 hours the ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of
15 Skuas, 6 from 800 Sqd and 9 from 803 Sqd, each armed with one 500lb SAP bomb.
(The dive bombing attack by the Skuas was to be
supported by an attack on Vaernes airfield by 4 RAF Beauforts of 22 Sqd.
Unfortunately the Beaufort attack, instead of suppressing the Luftwaffe, alerted them, causing the launch of Me 109 and 110 fighters. Also the plan called
for RAF Blenheim fighters to provide cover over the target.
At 0145 hours the 15 Skuas arrived over the
SCHARNHORST, who was ready and waiting having been alerted when the Skuas
crossed the coast 20 minutes earlier. 800 Sqd attacked stern to bow and 803 Sqd
attacked bow to stern. One hit was achieved, which failed to explode, returning
pilots reported two hits. In the attack 8 Skuas were shot down. The RAF
Blenheims arrived late and played no part in the operation.
At 0345 hours in thick fog the 7 remaining Skuas had
been recovered and the Home Fleet steered west away from the coast to avoid the
expected Luftwaffe counter attack which failed to materialise)
At 1000 hours in thick fog destroyers ELECTRA and
ANTELOPE collided while escorting ARK ROYAL. ZULU took ELECTRA in tow and
INGLEFIELD stood by ANTELOPE.
At 1800 hours destroyers ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MAORI and
TARTAR joined the CinC.
14th - The retirement of the two damaged destroyers
was covered by RODNEY, RENOWN, TARTAR, FEARLESS, ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA and
15th – At 1640 hours RODNEY, RENOWN, TARTAR, FEARLESS,
ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA and MAORI arrived at Scapa Flow.
(19/6/40 the Swedish destroyers PUKE Commodore T.
Hagman RSN, ex-Italian GIOVANNI NICOTERA and PSILANDER, ex-Italian BETTINO
RICASOLI and torpedo boats ROMULUS, ex-Italian SPICA and REMUS, ex-Italian
ASTORE, en route to Sweden from Italy, arrived at Skaalefjord in the Faroes.
They were accompanied by the depot ship PATRICA, ex-Italian PATRIS II.
1930/19/40 destroyers TARTAR [D.6],
MASHONA, MAORI, departed Scapa Flow and arrived at Skaalefjord in the Faroes
early morning on the 20th to requisition the Swedish warships. Finally on
30/6/40 the destroyers were returned to the control of their crews)
22nd – Steaming parties drawn from the crews of the
battleships RODNEY and VALIANT were embarked on the accommodation ship ST MAGNUS
(1312grt) and escorted by anti-submarine whalers BUTTERMERE and WINDERMERE,
sailed from Kirkwall for Skaalefjord, the Faeroes. The steaming parties were to
man the requisitioned Swedish destroyers PSILANDER and ROMOLUS.
3rd – At 2200 hours RODNEY,
heavy cruiser NORFOLK, light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON, anti-aircraft cruiser
COVENTRY, and all available destroyers at Scapa Flow were put at two hours
notice for steam until 0500/3/7/40.
4th – On board RODNEY in Scapa Flow a conference was
held to discuss the re-routing of convoys from the Western Approaches to the
North Western Approaches, his following the German occupation of France.
Minelaying strategy was also discussed.
RODNEY remained at Scapa Flow for the remainder of
23rd – At 0640 hours RODNEY
departed Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ESCAPADE and
JAVELIN. At 2110 hours RODNEY and escort arrived at Rosyth. RODNEY to dock for a
refit and to give leave.
RODNEY was at Rosyth for the remainder of the month.
During the docking a Radar Type 79Z was fitted in
place of prototype Type79Y that had been fitted in 1938.
At Rosyth under going refit.
11th – On this day RODNEY was due to leave Rosyth, but
was ordered by the Admiralty to remain there.
(In the early morning of 13/9/40 the CinC Home
Fleet, was informed by the Admiralty that all evidence pointed to an attempted
invasion on a large scale being imminent, and that the SCHARNHORST, GNEISENAU
and BISMARCK, and the two old battleships and one pocket battleship might be
used by the enemy. In consequence the NELSON, Flag CinC HF, and HOOD were
ordered to Rosyth to join the RODNEY)
For the remainder of September RODNEY was held at
Rosyth for the interception of any attempt by major German warships attempting
to enter English Channel or take passage for attacks on Atlantic shipping.
During October RODNEY continued to be stationed at
Rosyth in readiness for the interception of any attempt by major German warships
attempting to enter English Channel or take passage for attacks on Atlantic
4th – At 1615 hours the
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 the 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 which was 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
7th - RODNEY detached to join
the escort of convoy SC 11.
At 1511 hours in approximate position 59-30N, 18-30W a
U-Boat transmitted a W/T signal and probably reported the RODNEY who at that
time was in the vicinity.
12th – In approximate position 48N, 50W the RODNEY
joined the escort of convoy SC 11.
15th – In approximate position 52-30N, 43W RODNEY
detached from convoy SC 11 and set course to provide cover for convoys HX 85/1
and HX 86.
21st – At 1830 hours In position 61N, 25W RODNEY set
course for Scapa Flow.
22nd – At 1030 hours in position 60N, 17W RODNEY was
met by destroyers BRILLIANT, BEAGLE, BULLDOG and ELECTRA who then escorted her
to Scapa Flow. Shortly after making the RV destroyer BULLDOG lost contact and
proceeded independently to Scapa Flow.
23rd - At 1400 hours RODNEY arrived at Scapa Flow.
(At 0122/5/12/40 the Admiralty signalled the CinC
Home Fleet, to send a capital ship as soon as practicable to cover the incoming
Halifax convoys. The RODNEY was chosen for this duty)
5th – At 0830 hours RODNEY with destroyers ESCAPADE,
SIKH, BRILLIANT and BEAGLE departed Scapa Flow and headed west for position 60N,
6th – At 0300 hours in approximate position 60N, 12W
the destroyer BEAGLE suffered a failure of her steering gear and had to detach
and return to Scapa Flow. The SIKH also detached and escorted BEAGLE back to
7th – At 1500 hours arrived at position 60N, 25W,
ESCAPADE and BRILLIANT detached and returned to Scapa Flow. RODNEY continued in
a westerly direction searching for convoy HX 92.
major structural damage forward
causing fractured frames and stringers and splitting of her outer bottom plates.
Flooding of compartments due to panting of plates was
also experienced making necessary extempore pumping which affected the
watertight integrity of her forward structure.
During the day the weather worsened until it became a
full westerly gale. In the severe weather RODNEY suffered
9th – At 1050 hours in approximate position 59-20N,
27W RODNEY made a RV with the AMC MONTCLARE who was the ocean escort of convoy
HX 92, at this time the convoy had been scattered due to the severe weather and
MONTCLARE was in the process of re-assembling the convoy.
At 1030 hours MONTCLARE detached and returned west.
11th – At 1300 hours in position
57-27N, 33- 49W RODNEY joined convoy HX 93 and took over as
ocean escort. When handing over to RODNEY, visibility was poor and only 19 ships
could be seen, but 25 ships had been in company at sunset the previous day.
Following the hand over the AMC AURANIA detached and set course south westerly
to search for the destroyer HMCS ST CROIX.
13th – At 1030 hours RODNEY detached from HX 93 and
was joined by the destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and
BULLDOG from Scapa.
RODNEY, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and
BULLDOG then set course to return to Scapa.
14th – In the early hours the destroyer MATABELE
joined the force.
destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA
and BULLDOG. But at 2130/11/12/40 in approximate position
59-12N. 8-17W she had detached to go
the aid the SS TOWA 5,419 grt. TOWA had been in convoy
HX 92 but at 2052 hours she had been torpedoed by U 96 stopped. MATABELE picked
up 19 survivors from the crew of 37)
(MATABELE had sailed from Scapa in company with
15th – At 1300 hours RODNEY and
destroyers MATABELE, ESCAPADE, ELECTRA, BULLDOG arrived at Scapa Flow.
16th – At 2130 hours RODNEY and destroyers ESCAPADE,
ELECTRA and ECLIPSE sailed from Scapa Flow for Rosyth.
17th – At 1145 hours RODNEY and destroyers ESCAPADE,
ELECTRA and ECLIPSE arrived at Rosyth.
18th - RODNEY was docked for repair of her weather
damage. Additional stiffening was fitted in the
1 9 4 1
Under repair at Rosyth.
14th - RODNEY, with destroyers ECHO, ELECTRA and
KEPPEL, arrived back at Scapa Flow after repairing weather damage at Rosyth.
25th – At 2320 hours battleships NELSON (Flag CinC
Home Fleet) and RODNEY, battle cruiser REPULSE, light cruisers ARETHUSA,
GALATEA, AURORA of the 2nd CS, MAURITIUS, NAIAD, PHOEBE of the 15th CS,
EDINBURGH and BIRMINGHAM of the 18th CS, with destroyers BEDOUIN (T/D.6)
MATABELE, TARTAR, PUNJABI, ESCAPADE, ECHO, ELECTRA, BEAGLE, BRILLIANT, KEPPEL
and ORP PIORUN sailed from Scapa Flow for position 61-30N, 17-30W to cover the
Denmark Strait and the Iceland-Faeroes passage.
(This deployment resulted from an Admiralty
message at 1152/25/1/41 giving information of a D/F bearing of an enemy unit
between Rockall and the Hebrides. Followed by an Admiralty message at
1751/25/1/41 giving information from the British Naval Attache at Stockholm that
two heavy ships believed to be the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU had passed through
the Great Belt northwards during the forenoon of 23/1/41.
The vessels sighted were indeed the SCHARNHORST and
GNEISENAU, commencing Operation BERLIN, and they passed Utsira Island, 59-18N,
4-53E, northbound at 0300/26/1/41intending to breakout into the Atlantic through
the Iceland-Faeroes passage)
27th – At 1200 hours the Fleet was in position 62N,
21-30W, there having been no further news of the enemy the CinC Home Fleet
ordered the EDINBURGH (Flag VA 18thCS) to take the RODNEY, BIRMINGHAM,
MAURITIUS, BEAGLE, BRILLIANT, KEPPEL and PIORUN under command and return to
The CinC Home Fleet with the remainder of the Fleet
patrolled in the vicinity of the above position.
28th – At 2345 hours RODNEY, EDINBURGH, BIRMINGHAM,
MAURITIUS, BEAGLE and BRILLIANT arrived back at Scapa Flow.
4th – At 2105 hours RODNEY and destroyers INGLEFIELD,
ELECTRA, ECHO and BRILLIANT sailed from Scapa Flow and set course west then
(The deployment was to provide heavy cover for the
1st Minelaying Squadron, comprising the minelayers SOUTHERN PRINCE, AGAMEMNON,
MENESTHEUS and PORT QUEBEC escorted by the cruiser NIGERIA and destroyers
BRIGHTON, LANCASTER, ST ALBANS, CHARLESTOWN who were to lay minefield SN 7A in
the Iceland, Faeroes gap. The lay of 1110 mines was completed early on 6/2/41)
7th – At 1530 hours RODNEY, light cruiser NIGERIA and
destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ELECTRA and BRILLIANT arrived at Scapa Flow.
(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 the battleship 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, 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¡. 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
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
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 – During the forenoon the battleships RODNEY and
KING GEORGE V and destroyers INGLEFIELD (D3), BEDOUIN, MAORI, ZULU, BRILLIANT
and BOREAS sailed from Scapa Flow for position 65N, 8-30W.
10th – At 1100 hours in position 64-15N, 9W the light
cruiser EDINBURGH (CS18) RVed the RODNEY force.
At 1640 hours, there having been no further
developments, EDINBURGH and the RODNEY force were ordered to return to Scapa.
11th – At 2045 hours RODNEY, KING GEORGE V with
destroyers INGLEFIELD, BEDOUIN, ZULU, MAORI, and BRILLIANT arrived at Scapa
Oberkommando der Marine [OKM] was reluctant to release the ADMIRAL
HIPPER, but at 1140/10/2/41 when in approximate position 45N, 30W, ADMIRAL
HIPPER was ordered to attack HG53. The ADMIRAL HIPPER missed HG53 but found the
19 unescorted ships of convoy SLS64. At 0925/12/2/41 in position
37-10N, 21 20W, ADMIRAL HIPPER opened fire on the ships of
SLS 64 and in 80 minutes she sank 7 and damaged 3.
[250 seamen from convoy SLS64 were lost. Their deaths have
not been acknowledged in convoy loss statistics as the Admiralty regarded these
ships as independents] In the engagement the ADMIRAL HIPPER expended a
large amount of ammunition and she set course to return to Brest, arriving on
15/2/41. The Admiralty were aware of HIPPER’s arrival at 1115/15/2/41.
(On the morning of 1/2/41the German cruiser ADMIRAL
HIPPER sailed from Brest on her second raiding mission with orders to join up
with the battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST. At 0440/9/2/41 in position
35-53N, 13-13W the 21 ship convoy HG53, with only the sloop DARTFORD as escort,
was attacked by U 37, following the attack U 37 made a sighting report. On
receipt of the report Dšnitz sensed an opportunity to mount a combined U boat,
air and surface attack on the convoy. Dšnitz ordered U 37 to shadow the convoy
and transmit beacon signals. At 1600/9/2/41 in 35 54N, 14 41W 5 FW 200’s made a
low level bombing attack on HG53 sinking 5 ships. At first the
A RRR raider report that was picked up at 0930 hours
by the SS EGYPTIAN PRINCE in convoy HG 53.
When the Admiralty received the raider report part of
their response was the decision to provide close escort for all ocean convoys as
far as possible. This would require detachments from the Home Fleet)
12th – At 1830 hours RODNEY and destroyers
ECLIPSE, ELECTRA and BRILLIANT
sailed from Scapa Flow with orders to proceed at best speed through position
59N, 25W and thence down meridian 25W to join the troop convoy WS 6A.
14th – At 1135 hours RODNEY was signalled by CinC Home
Fleet to release her destroyers.destroyers
ECLIPSE, ELECTRA and BRILLIANT
detached and proceeded to Skaalefjord to refuel.
At 1145 hours
15th - At 0700 hours in
approximate position 45-30N, 23W, RODNEY RVed with convoy
WS 6A. Convoy WS 6A comprised 17 troop transports with
almost 23000 troops embarked and 12 MT ships. The convoy was weakly escorted by
the cruisers BIRMINGHAM and PHOEBE and the AMC CATHAY.
On joining the convoy RODNEY took station 3 miles
ahead of the port column.
Following which PHOEBE detached to refuel at
17th – At 0830 hours in approximate position 38-30N,
23W, convoy WS 6A and its escort of RODNEY, BIRMINGHAM and CATHAY was joined by
the battle cruiser RENOWN and aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL At 0900 hours RODNEY,
ECLIPSE and ELECTRA detached from WS 6A.
18th – RODNEY joined the escort of convoy HX 108 which
was a convoy of 50 mercantiles escorted by the corvettes MAYFLOWER and
SNOWBERRY. The convoy had sailed from Halifax on 9/2/41.
20th – In position 61-40N, 25W RODNEY detached from HX
108 escorted by destroyers ESKIMO, MATABELE and TARTAR. The destroyers had
sailed from Scapa to escort RODNEY back to Scapa.
23rd – At 0300 hours RODNEY and destroyers ESKIMO,
MATABELE and TARTAR arrived at Scapa Flow.
9th – At 0058 hours the Admiralty signalled the CinC
Home Fleet, 'Request you sail 2 battleships in company to Halifax. These ships
should be routed so as to afford NORFOLK with HX 112 as much support as
(This followed the receipt of a signal from the
MALAYA stating,' two German ships, probably the battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and
GNEISENAU, sighted at 1600Z/8/3/41 in position 21-37N, 20-21W'. Following their
sighting the German ships moved off in a north westerly direction)
At 0740 hours battleships RODNEY and KING GEORGE V
escorted by destroyers SOMALI, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, TARTAR, MATABELE and ESKIMO
departed Scapa Flow. They were routed through 59N, 07-30W, 62N, 11W, 62N, 25W,
58N, 30W, and thence to Halifax. RODNEY and KING GEORGE V to provide ocean
escort for convoys HX 115 and 116.
10th – At 1946 hours the Admiralty signalled the RA
Halifax and RODNEY , 'as RAMILLIES will not be available for HX 114 or 115,
RODNEY is to join and escort convoy HX 114 from approximately 49W, joining about
11th – At 1130Z hours in position 62N, 25W destroyers
SOMALI, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, TARTAR, MATABELE and ESKIMO detached and returned to
12th – At 1945Z hours RODNEY signalled the Admiralty,
'that owing to high speed necessary on outward voyage will not have sufficient
fuel to return to Scapa without refuelling at Reykjavik'.
13th – At 0200Z hours KING GEORGE V was detached, in
accordance with Admiralty instructions, to proceed with despatch towards Halifax
or estimated position of warship raider should any further information be
(This signal followed the receipt by Canso Radio,
Nova Scotia, of weak signals from two unknown ships being attacked by a warship
15th – At 1000Z-3 hours in position 42-55N, 49W,
RODNEY joined the AMC CHITRAL escorting the 27 ships in convoy HX 114.
At 1636 hours a raider distress signal was received
from the tanker MV SAN CASIMIRO 8046grt, in position 39-58N, 43-19W.
At 1737 hours the Admiralty signalled RODNEY,
'reference SAN CASIMIRO distress signal. Detach one AMC and submarine
THUNDERBOLT to search area and protect independently routed ships'. The
Admiralty then informed RODNEY that 14 ships of which 10 are tankers are
reckoned to be within 150 miles of position of attack.
(After being sighted by the MALAYA, the
battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU moved into the mid Atlantic and joined
up with their supply ships the UCKERMARK and the ERMLAND. 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 were from the
dispersed convoy OB 294, which had dispersed on 9/3/41 in position 51-29N,
20-30W. The SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU then proceeded to capture 3 and sink 12
ships from the dispersed convoy)
16th – At 1800Z-3 hours the battleship ROYAL SOVEREIGN
joined the escort of convoy HX 114.
At 2010Z-3 the Danish ship the MV CHILEAN REEFER
1831grt, in position 46-11N, 44-51W transmitted a RRRR raider signal. At the
time RODNEY was about 25 miles north east of the attack position, almost
immediately the raider opened fire and hit the CHILEAN REEFER setting her on
RODNEY steered 150¼ towards the scene and at 2030
hours, in position 46-16N, 45-08W, she sighted an unknown ship, this was the
UCKERMARK, which immediately made off to the west and was soon lost in the poor
At about 2037 hours RODNEY sighted, off her port bow,
what she took to be a warship and signalled what ship? The vessel sighted was
the GNEISENAU, who replied HMS EMERALD and then made off at speed, working up to
32 knots, to the west. RODNEY attempted to follow but the speed differential was
too great and with poor visibility she soon gave up. She then turned back to
pick up the 27 survivors of the CHILEAN REEFER.
(At 1710Z-3/16/3/41 the MV CHILEAN REEFER, on
passage from Newcastle to St John, New Brunswick, with general cargo, was
sailing on a south westerly course, when the masthead lookout sighted a vessel
on the port bow, about 12 miles away. The ship was immediately turned away to
starboard to bring the unknown vessel astern, and speed increased to the maximum
of 14 knots, 13.5 knots was her rated top speed. It was clear that the unknown
vessel was endeavouring to intercept, so the distress signal QQQQ to be made by
W/T. As soon as W/T silence was broken the unknown vessel opened fire, it was in
fact the GNEISENAU, the CHILEAN REEFER signalled RRRR and gave her position.
GNEISENAU’s first salvo landed 100 yards off the port beam, evasive action was
taken and two smoke floats were dropped, one on the port side and one on the
At about 1720 hours when the raider seemed within
4in gun range, CHILEAN REEFER opened fire with her poop gun. At about the same
time a shell entered the accommodation under the bridge and probably one of the
same salvos entered Number two hold causing a fire to break out. It was soon
evident that the ship could not be saved and to prevent unnecessary loss of
life, fire was ceased and the boats lowered. All the survivors cleared the
doomed vessel by 1745 hours. The CHILEAN REEFER now with her forward half well
alight but refusing to sink, so the GNEISENAU, now almost stopped, continued to
fire at the blazing wreck.
GNEISENAU ordered the lifeboat to lay alongside, which
was ignored until the rescue work was incomplete and only after picking up all
visible men, six in all, did the survivors comply. Failing light compelled the
abandonment of the search for survivors, and the lifeboat then made for the lee
side of the GNEISENAU. But to do so it was necessary to cross her bow and when
practically ahead of her she got under way, and the lifeboat was swept along at
her side. No attention, however, was paid to the survivors by GNEISENAU’s crew,
as she rapidly increased speed and steered westerly. This was when the RODNEY
had been sighted and recognised.
After giving up the chase RODNEY returned at 1945
hours and picked up the 27 survivors. When RODNEY steamed away the CHILEAN
REEFER was still burning fiercely)
17th – In the morning the ROYAL SOVEREIGN detached from
convoy HX 114.
23rd – At 2200Z-2 hours in position 60N, 27W,
destroyers COSSACK (D4), ZULU and MAORI RVed with convoy HX 114. Following which
RODNEY escorted by destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI detached from convoy HX
114 and proceeded to Hvalfjord to refuel.
24th - At 1345Z-2 hours RODNEY and destroyers COSSACK,
ZULU and MAORI arrived at Hvalfjord.
25th – At 1030Z-2 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI sailed from Hvalfjord for Halifax.
26th – At 0630Z-2 hours in approximate position
61-16N, 30W, destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and MAORI detached from RODNEY and
returned to Hvalfjord to refuel.
31st – RODNEY arrived at Halifax.
RODNEY at Halifax at fours hours notice until 4/4/41,
making good defects.
7th – Nominated for ocean escort of troop convoy TC
10th – RODNEY and destroyer HMCS ST CROIX, sailed from
Halifax escorting troop convoy TC 10. The convoy comprised the liners MV GEORGIC
27759grt, with 2059 troops embarked and the Polish MV BATORY 14287grt, with 1795
agreement with the British Government.
RODNEY had embarked Rear Admiral R L Ghormley USN, Mr
James Forrestal, Under Secretary of the USN and 13 American Air Corps Officers.
Secretary Forrestal was en route to negotiate the
11th – The ST CROIX detached and returned to Halifax.
15th – In approximate position 58-50N, 33W, the
destroyers HESPERUS, LEGION and the FS LEOPARD joined convoy TC 10 from Iceland.
16th – The FS LEOPARD detached from convoy TC 10.
RODNEY, HESPERUS and LEGION were joined by the
destroyers ACTIVE, ECHO and ORP GARLAND and PIORUN, from Iceland, escorting
convoy TC 10.
18th – At 0500 hours the destroyers ACTIVE and ECHO
detached from convoy TC 10 for Scapa Flow.
(Late on the 18/4/41 the Admiralty received a
report that the German battleship BISMARCK, two cruisers, cruiser Leipzig class
and three destroyers passed the Skaw early morning of 18/4/41 steering north
west. This report was false, has at the time the BISMARCK was in the Baltic)
19th – At 0030 hours the Admiralty signalled the
RODNEY; ‘On arrival in the Clyde refuel with all despatch and prepare to leave
At 1130 hours RODNEY and destroyers HESPERUS, LEGION,
GARLAND and PIORUN with convoy TC 10 arrived off Greenock.
On arrival RODNEY immediately commenced refuelling.
She also required an estimated 12 hours work on urgent engine defects.
At 2358 hours RODNEY and destroyers ORP PIORUN and
GARLAND and SALADIN departed the Clyde to reach position 60-45N, 14-45W by
0900/21/4/41, so as to be in a blocking position south of the Iceland/Faeroes
gap should the BISMARCK attempt breakout via the Iceland/Faeroes passage. The
cruiser KENYA was to be stationed to the north of RODNEY in position
20th – In darkness off the mouth of the Clyde RODNEY
was in collision with the ASW trawler TOPAZE 608grt. The TOPAZE was sunk with
the loss of all 18crew.
At 0700 hours RODNEY was in position 55-40N, 6-45W,
course then set at 320¼, 15½ knots.
(At 1130/20/4/41 the Admiralty amended the date on
which the German force was reported to have passed the Skaw from the 18th to the
At 1530 hours with RODNEY in position 57-20N, 9-24W,
the Admiralty ordered RODNEY to return to the Clyde.
21st – At 2229 hours the Admiralty ordered RODNEY to
return to the Clyde forthwith.
22nd – At 1105 hours the Admiralty ordered RODNEY to
proceed to Scapa with despatch.
23rd – At 0115 hours RODNEY and destroyers ORP PIORUN
and GARLAND and SALADIN arrived at Scapa Flow.
RODNEY at Scapa Flow. She was suffering from various
machinery and boiler defects that were necessary to repair before she could sail
to the USA for a refit. One of her engine turbines had recently broken down
twice, leaving her with power on only one propeller.
17th – RODNEY escorted by destroyers SOMALI (D6),
BEDOUIN and ESKIMO sailed from Scapa Flow for the Clyde.
18th - RODNEY and destroyers SOMALI (D6), BEDOUIN and
ESKIMO arrived off Greenock.
On arrival RODNEY took on board the extensive spares
and equipment that would be required for her refit in the USA. This included
4000 boiler tubes and 3 x eight-barrelled pompoms which were stowed on top of B
gun. There were also crates of spares stowed on the deck. Also stowed below were
some of the Elgin Marbles and gold bullion. She also embarked over 500
passengers, including US naval personnel.
21st – The auxiliary minelayer SOUTHERN PRINCE
11447grt escorted by the destroyers BEDOUIN and IMPULSIVE sailed from the Kyle
of Lochalsh. The SOUTHERN PRINCE carried equipment for RODNEY's refitting and
specialist naval ratings en route to Canada.
22nd – At 1315 hours (Zulu +2 hours) RODNEY and
destroyers SOMALI (D6), ESKIMO, TARTAR and MASHONA escorting the HMT BRITANNIC
26943grt sailed from the Clyde. RODNEY and ESKIMO were bound for Boston Navy
yard for refits. The BRITANNIC, with military and civilian personal embarked,
including 550 RAF pilot trainees en route to the USA to be trained under the
then secret Arnold Scheme, was bound for Halifax.
23rd – At 1200 hours RODNEY, SOMALI (D6), ESKIMO,
TARTAR, MASHONA and the HMT BRITANNIC were in approximate position 56-30N, 10W.
(At 1922/23/5/41 AB Alfred Newell the starboard
lookout of the heavy cruiser SUFFOLK sighted the BISMARCK at a distance of 7
miles NNE, of SUFFOLK and shortly afterwards, astern of BISMARCK, the PRINZ
EUGEN. SUFFOLK’s approximate position was 66-44N, 26-45W, BISMARCK’s 66 51N, 26
38W. At 1923 hours SUFFOLK made a sighting report, but because of icing of her
aerials this was only picked up by the NORFOLK. At 2032 hours the heavy cruiser
NORFOLK, who was in company with the SUFFOLK, sent a sighting report, one
Battleship, one cruiser in sight’ which was picked up by the CinC Home Fleet,
Admiral Holland and Admiralty )
When NORFOLK’s sighting report was received on board.
RODNEY’s CO, Captain Frederick H. G. Dalrymple-Hamilton, formed a small
committee, consisting of himself, the Commander John Grindle RN, the navigator
Lt. Cdr. George Gatacre RAN, the Torpedo Officer Lt. Cdr. Roger Lewis RN and two
U.S. military personnel a Captain Coppinger and Lieutenant Commander Joseph H.
Wellings USN. They met in the charthouse to discuss the latest signals and
events and put forward scenarios based on events as they unfolded. Early on the
committee agreed that BISMARCK would head for France.
24th – At 0600 hours RODNEY, SOMALI (D6), ESKIMO,
TARTAR, MASHONA and the HMT BRITANNIC were in approximate position 56-30N, 16W.
BISMARCK was hit on her port side by three 14" shells from the PRINCE OF WALES.
One amidships under the armoured belt, a second in her bows [this hit
caused her to take on water forward and caused a
9-degree port list and a trim down by the bow of 2 meters.
Also since the manifolds for the fuel distribution
system were located in one of the flooded compartments, BISMARCK was immediately
deprived of the use of more than 1,000 tons of fuel oil that
was in the forward oil tank] and the third which passed
through a boat. Because
of the list BISMARCK’s starboard propeller was coming out of the water,
BISMARCK’s CO, Captain Lindemann ordered counter flooding aft to restore the
trim, causing maximum speed to be reduced to 28 knots.
After the action the cruiser SUFFOLK reported that BISMARCK had been hit by
three shells, but of course this could not be confirmed. BISMARCK was also
(At 0601/24/5/41 in approximate position 63-22N,
32-17W the battlecruiser HOOD was sunk by the German battleship BISMARCK. Just
before the HOOD blew up and sank
At 0801/24/5/41 BISMARCK reported to Group North:-[BISMARCK took on board 2000 tons of water]
1. Loss of Electric plant No. 4.
2. Port Boiler Room No. 2 is taking water, but can be held. Water in forecastle
3. Maximum speed 28 knots.
4. Denmark Strait 50 miles of floating mines. Enemy has radar instruments.
5. Intention is to put into St. Nazaire. No losses of personnel.
However because Bletchley Park at this time was not
able to read the naval Enigma none of the above signal was read)
24th – At 1036 hours RODNEY
was in approximate position 56-30N, 18W when she received the following signal
from the Admiralty: - RODNEY to operate against BISMARCK. If BRITANNIC cannot
keep up, leave her behind with 1 destroyer.
The Admiralty ordered RODNEY to steer a course that
the Admiralty believed would enable RODNEY to close the BISMARCK. However
Dalrymple-Hamilton ignored the order as he believed it to be incorrect as it
didn’t agree with his decision that BISMARCK was heading for France. Because he
wished to maintain radio silence, Dalrymple-Hamilton didn’t inform the Admiralty
or CinC Home Fleet of his decision.
At 1200 hours RODNEY, SOMALI, TARTAR and MASHONA
detached and proceeded on a generally south western course in accordance with
the assumption that BISMARCK was heading for France.
After detaching RODNEY worked up to speeds that she
had not achieved for many years. Which considering RODNEY had not received any
significant mechanical repairs/refurbishment for three years, all recent repairs
had been carried out solely to keep her in service. Her boilers were defective
and leaking steam and her turbines and prop shafts were worn. RODNEY ploughed on
through heavy seas and gradually her three escorting destroyers fell behind.
(At 1840/24/5/41 the BISMARCK emerged from mist on
SUFFOLK’s starboard beam at a range of 10 miles and heading straight for
SUFFOLK. BISMARCK immediately opened fire on SUFFOLK, and fired 7 salvoes. This
manoeuvre was to allow the PRINZ EUGEN to detach to the south, which she did at
1814 hours. SUFFOLK replied with 9 broadsides, most of which fell short. PRINCE
OF WALES came up from astern and fired 12 salvos from 15 miles, following which
two of her guns were put out of action.
At 1856 hours BISMARCK broke off the action and turned
west then south.
At 1914 hours BISMARCK reported to Seekriegsleitung: -
brief fight with King George without results. PRINZ EUGEN released for oiling.
Opponent keeps up surveillance.
At 2056 hours BISMARCK reported to Group West and
Seekriegsleitung: - shaking off contacts impossible due to enemy radar. Due to
fuel shortage will proceed direct to St. Nazaire.
At 2400/24/5/41 BISMARCK was attacked by
nine Swordfish of 825 Squadron from the VICTORIOUS armed with
18" torpedoes. Three Fulmars of 800Z Flight followed the Swordfish with orders
to observe the attack and then maintain contact at all costs. One torpedo hit
was achieved on the starboard side, no significant structural damage was caused,
however the shock of the impact caused one casualty. Also the
increase in speed and manoeuvring had dislodged the collision mats that had been put over the two shell holes in the bows and
she again started to take on water again. BISMARCK
had to slow down to 16 knots to reposition the collision mats
(Following BISMARCK’s 2056 signal, to Group West.
GC and CS reported to Admiralty OIC that the operational control of BISMARCK had
been transferred from Wilhelmshaven to Paris and this was a good sign that she
was moving south. OIC didn’t pass on this information until late on the 25/5/41)
25th – RODNEY continued on he south westerly course,
acting on the intuition of Dalrymple-Hamilton and his
committee, with her escorting destroyers trailing some way
BISMARCK’s CO, Captain Lindemann having decided that there was a chance that
BISMARCK’s shadowers could be shaken off, turned to starboard and described a
huge arc, passing astern of SUFFOLK.
At 0500 hours BISMARCK settled on a course of 130¼.
Also at 0500 hours SUFFOLK, now to the south of
BISMARCK, signalled that she had lost radar contact)
(During the period that SUFFOLK had been in
contact, BISMARCK had made 22 signals to Germany. Although GC and CS were unable
to read any of BISMARCK’s signals until 28/5/41, the Admiralty OIC plotted the
bearings of her DFed signals against the positions reported by SUFFOLK. This
enabled any DF errors to be analysed which assisted in verifying the accuracy of
bearings DFed after SUFFOLK lost contact)
At 0800 hours RODNEY was approximately 350 miles south
east of BISMARCK and approximately on BISMARCK’s track, although of course
Dalrymple-Hamilton didn’t know this. Dalrymple-Hamilton now considered that
RODNEY was close to BISMARCK’s course for France so he slowed, this allowed the
destroyers SOMALI, TARTAR and MASHONA, who had dropped astern of RODNEY due to
the heavy weather, to close on her.
(Between 0852 and 0928 hours, BISMARCK reported to
Group West and Seekriegsleitung:-
Possession of radar equipment by opponent, effective
range at least 35,000 meters, adversely affects to the highest degree the
operations in the Atlantic. Ships were located in the Strait of Denmark in dense
fog and were continuously tracked. Disengagement failed even in favourable
weather conditions. Oil replenishment is generally no longer possible, if
disengagement of opponent cannot be accomplished with higher speed. Running
battle between 20,800 and 18,000 meters. Opponent HOOD concentrates fire on
BISMARCK. After five minutes, HOOD is destroyed by an explosion; thereafter,
change of target to King George who then turns away in black smoke caused by
definitively observed hits. He remains out of sight for several hours. Own
munitions expenditure: 93 rounds. Later, King George took on the fight only at
extreme distances. BISMARCK received two hits from King George; of those one hit
below the side armour belt at sections XIII-XIV. Hit in compartment XX-XXI
impaired speed and caused a 1¼ bow burying forward and destruction of oil cells.
Release of PRINZ EUGEN possible by engagement of cruisers and battleship by
BISMACK. Own EM-2 [radar] instrument prone to failures, especially during
This signal was DFed by various Y stations who feed
their bearings to the Admiralty OIC, who were then able to plot a fairly
accurate fix at 55-30N, 30 to 32W.
On the specific orders of the CinC Home Fleet the
Admiralty only supplied the bearings and not the fix calculated by the OIC. The
staff of the CinC Home Fleet then calculated BISMARCK’s position incorrectly at
At 1047 hours the CinC Home Fleet Admiral Tovey
advised all ships, including RODNEY, to search northwards of BISMARCK’s last
known position, this order was based on the error in plotting the DFed bearings.
Dalrymple-Hamilton realised the error and did not follow believing that the
error would be quickly corrected by the Admiralty.
At 1158 hours the Admiralty signalled RODNEY to act on
the assumption that BISMARCK was heading to a Bay of Biscay port and also
supplied the latest DFed bearing fixes. From these fixes Dalrymple-Hamilton
decided that RODNEY was now to the south of BISMARCK’s track, so he turned north
east and worked up to 21 knots.
At 1428 hours the Admiralty ordered RODNEY to act on
the assumption that BISMARCK was proceeding to Norway via the Iceland-Faeroes
passage and to conform to the movements of the CinC HF. Why the Admiralty sent
this signal remains a mystery since at the time the opinion of the OIC and the
Directors of the Plans and Operations Divisions at the Admiralty was that
BISMARCK was heading for France. Dalrymple-Hamilton ignored the order.
At 1810 hours Dalrymple-Hamilton decided that BISMARCK
was making for Brest.
At 1805 hours the Admiralty signalled RODNEY stating
that BISMARCK was making for the west coast of France.
At 1812 hours the Admiralty signalled all ships of the
Home Fleet to confirm their 1805 that BISMARCK was definitely heading for the
west coast of France (this signal was based on information from the GAF Enigma
that GC and CS had been reading for some time).
At 1930 hours RODNEY with the destroyers SOMALI,
TARTAR and MASHONA turned on to a south easterly course, conforming to, but
north of and astern of the BISMARCK. The CinC Home Fleet in the battleship KING
GEORGE V was some distance astern of RODNEY on the same heading.
RODNEY was now on the same approximate course as
BISMARCK who was some way ahead to the south east. However Dalrymple-Hamilton,
the CinC and the Admiralty were unaware of BISMARCK’s actual location.
At 2400 hours the destroyer SOMALI, whose fuel was
running low, detached to refuel.
26th - RODNEY with the destroyers TARTAR and MASHONA
continued on a south easterly course.
Castle Archdale on Lough Erne and flew
through the Donegal corridor to commence a search for the BISMARCK. Catalina WQ
Z209 was piloted by Flying Officer Dennis Briggs and his co-pilot was Ensign
Leonard ‘Tuck’ Smith USN. The
search pattern they were to fly had been selected, with Admiralty approval, by
the CinC Coastal Command Air Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill, who believed the
BISMARCK would be steering a more southerly course than that predicted by the
(At 0300 hours a RAF Coastal Command Catalina Mk. 1
[US PBY-5] of 209 squadron took off from
At about 1010 hours Smith who was piloting Z209 at the
time sighted the BISMARCK at a bearing of 345¼, definite recognition was not
immediately possible due to poor visibility, whilst closing the BISMARCK at 2000
feet to confirm contact, Z209 came under fire from BISMARCK. Biggs sent off the
following signal, one battleship bearing 240¼ 5 miles, course 150¼, my position
49-33N, 21-47W. Time of origin 1030/26. The position given for Z209 was 25 miles
When Z209’s signal was received by RODNEY it was found
that BISMARCK was 125 miles to the south west.
Swordfish 2H of 810 Sqd, flown by Sub Lieut. Hartley, from ARK ROYAL sighted
BISMARCK, but reported her as a cruiser.
(At 1051 hours the CinC HF signaled the Admiralty;
Request a check that contact was not RODNEY. The Admiralty confirmed that the
sighting was not RODNEY)
At 1122 hours Swordfish 2F of 810 Sqd, flown by Lieut.
Callander, from ARK ROYAL sighted the BISMARCK and reported her as battleship
and sent an accurate position)
At approximately 1515 hours the CinC in KING GEORGE V
caught up with RODNEY, TARTAR and MASHONA. The CinC signalled
Dalrymple-Hamilton, what is your maximum speed; Dalrymple-Hamilton replied, 22
knots. This suited the CinC as he wanted to reduce speed to conserve KING GEORGE
V fuel which was causing concern. So KING GEORGE V and destroyers TARTAR and
MASHONA set off at 22 knots. However despite the best endeavours’ of her engine
room staff, RODNEY started to fall behind.
At 1815 hours Dalrymple-Hamilton was forced to signal
the CinC; I am afraid that your 22 knots is a bit faster than ours.
both rudders at 12¼ to port, following which
she carried on turning to port.
(At 1821 hours the CinC signalled the Admiralty and
the CinC Force H; unless BISMARCK’s speed had been reduced by midnight he would
have to return to harbour for lack of fuel; RODNEY could continue until 0800/27)
(At 2050 hours a strike force of 15 torpedo armed
Swordfish from ARK ROYAL commenced their attack on the BISMARCK.
By 2100 hours the attack was over. Two possibly three
hits were achieved the significant one being the hit on the stern that jammed
At 2115 hours SHEFFIELD, who was in contact with
BISMARCK, reported BISMARCK’s change of course. When Tovey received the signal,
he uttered the deadly insult, ‘SHEFFIELD has joined the reciprocal club’ –
meaning of ships that have steered a course 180¡ off true. But SHEFFIELD hadn’t.
At 2105 hours Lutjens
reported to Group West; Square BE 6192. Have sustained torpedo hit
aft. [BE 6192 indicated approximate position 47-40N, 14-50W]
At 2115 hours Lutjens
reported to Group West; Torpedo hit amidships.
At 2140 hours
Lutjens reported to
Supreme Command of the Navy (O.K.M.) and Group West; Ship unable to manoeuvre.
We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Fuehrer)
When BISMARCK’s change of course was confirmed the
CinC Home Fleet with KING GEORGE V, RODNEY, TARTAR and
MASHONA changed course to the south to close BISMARCK and with a closing speed
of 30 knots, there was a chance of action before the light was lost.
At 2235 hours ARK ROYAL reported that a second hit had
most probably been obtained aft. Following this report the CinC took the
decision to postpone an attack until the morning, when KING GEORGE V and RODNEY
would open the engagement from the west. Having made his decision KING GEORGE V,
RODNEY, TARTAR and MASHONA turned on to a NNE course.
27th – Early in the morning Dalrymple-Hamilton
addressed the crew of RODNEY and informed them the BISMARCK was damaged and that
they and KING GEORGE V would engage her at dawn.
(Prior to the engagement the CinC issued orders for
RODNEY and KING GEORGE V to manoeuvre independently. Thus he would give the
BISMARCK two different targets to think about also he avoided Admiral Holland’s
error of maintaining too close formation between the HOOD and PRINCE of WALES)
At 0730 hours KING GEORGE V, RODNEY, TARTAR and
MASHONA commenced a long slow turn eastwards so as to be in position to open the
engagement from the west of BISMARCK. This manoeuvre would place BISMARCK to
their east where she would silhouetted against the rising sun.
Sunrise was at 0722 hours and when it came the wind
was blowing force 8 to 9 from the north west with a rising sea and swell,
visibility was 12 to 13 miles with rain squalls and the cloud base was about
At 0755 hours Rear Admiral Wake-Walker in NORFOLK
sighted KING GEORGE V and RODNEY whilst in sight of BISMARCK and signalled;
Enemy bears 130¼ 16 miles.
At 0843 hours RODNEY sighted the BISMARCK at a range
of about 24,700 yards.
At 0847 hours RODNEY, sailing at 16 knots, opened fire
on the BISMARCK at a range of 23,400 yards. KING GEORGE V opened fire one minute
RODNEY fired two types of salvo, the outer guns of A
and X plus the inner gun of B in a five gun salvo followed by the inner guns of
A and Y and the outer guns of B in a four gun salvo and this is how she
initially engaged the German ship. The reason for this pattern of firing was an
attempt to limit self inflicted damage form the blast of her own guns.
RODNEY’s first two salvos were over, her third was a
At 0901 hours RODNEY fired her fourth salvo, two
shells missed and two were hits. At least one of the shells hit in the vicinity
of Bruno turret completely disabling it and partially disabling Anton; also the
explosion tore upwards through the bridge killing many on the bridge.
At 0849 hours BISMARCK returned fire from her Anton
and Bruno turrets, the only ones that could bear, on RODNEY. The first three
salvos were short, straddle and over. One of BISMARCK’s shells exploded in the
water off the port bow and the force of the explosion jammed her port torpedo
At 0854 hours the heavy cruiser NORFOLK opened fire on
BISMARCK at a range of 18,000 yards.
At 0916 hours RODNEY fired the first of twelve
torpedoes from her starboard tube at the BISMARCK, this was the first time a
battleship had fired a torpedo at another battleship. All the torpedoes except
possibly one missed.
At 0918 hours RODNEY closed to 8,000 yards.
At 0927 hours BISMARCK fired her last shells from her
At about 0930 hours a 16in shell from RODNEY penetrated
BISMARCK’s deck armour and exploded in the port engine room killing most of the
crew and putting the engine room out of action.
At 0930 hours RODNEY closed to 6,000 yards to
compensate for the failure of her fire control equipment.
At 0931 hours a 16in hit from RODNEY hit Dora turret,
which was then abandoned by its crew due to smoke and gas. At the same time
Caesar turret fired the last of her shells This hit and the exhausting of
ammunition for Caesar turret, ended fire from BISMARCK’s after turrets.
At 0940 hours the heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE opened
fire on BISMARCK at a range of 20,000 yards.
(Between 1000 and 1015 hours BISMARCK’s crew were
setting off scuttling charges that were pre-positioned at strategic locations
throughout the ship. Each scuttling charge was in a rectangular white box
labelled with a red "V" [abbreviation for "Versenken" = Scuttling].
The boxes contained six dynamite sticks, a timer, and a percussion fuse to be
placed on inlet sea valves and condenser inlets when the scuttling order [Measure
"V"] was given)
At 1000 hours one of RODNEY’s torpedoes was a probable
At 1003 hours RODNEY closed to 4,000 yards.
At 1014 hours RODNEY ceased fire and withdrew in
company with KING GEORGE V to the north east both battleships were dangerously
low on fuel. During the action the Admiralty had signalled all ships warning
that U-Boats were en route to the area, so this was a further reason for the
ships to withdraw.
In the action RODNEY fired 380 x 16in AP shells (the AP
shells weighed 2053 lbs and were 6 ft 4 inches long) and 716 x 6in shells. Most
of the shells had been fired from A and B turrets, as X turret was unable to
bear for most of the action. In the action the right hand gun of A turret failed
completely and the left and centre guns of B turret suffered intermittent
The blast effects from RODNEY’s main armament caused
the Douglas fir decking on the upper deck to be ripped up. Also the adoption of
aluminium alloys for most of the minor ships fittings, such as kit lockers, mess
racks, store cupboards and wash facilities caused all these fittings to be
shaken up and some dislodged when the main armament was fired. Cast iron water
mains were ruptured and in many instances broke, flooding compartments.
At 1015 hours according to the CinC’s Official
Dispatch included on ADM 234/509: the BISMARCK was a wreck, without a gun
firing, on fire fore and aft and wallowing more heavily every moment. Men could
be seen jumping overboard, preferring death by drowning in the stormy sea to the
appalling effects of our fire. I was confident that the BISMARCK, could never
get back to harbour and that it was only a matter of hours before she would
At 1021 hours KING GEORGE V fired her last salvo from
her Y turret.
At this time BISMARCK was a burning hulk, but still
(As he withdrew the CinC made a signal to ships in
company; Any ship with torpedoes to close the BISMARCK and torpedo her. The only
ship in contact with torpedoes was the DORSETSHIRE and she had anticipated the
CinC’s order and was closing BISMARCK to fire torpedoes.
At 1022 hours two 21 inch MK
VII torpedoes fired by DORSETSHIRE
from 3,280 yards hit BISMARCK’s starboard side.
At 1037 hours one 21 inch MK VII torpedoes fired by
DORSETSHIRE from 2,400 yards hit
BISMARCK’s port side, at the time BISMARCK had a heavy list to port.
At 1039 hours BISMARCK sank in approximate position
At 1041 hours DORSETSHIRE signalled the Admiralty that
BSMARCK had sunk.
The DORSETSHIRE and MAORI moved in to pick up
survivors. They sailed slowly into the mass of humanity in the water. Ropes were
thrown over the side for the survivors to climb up, with the assistance of the
British seamen. When the DORSETSHIRE had taken on board 86 German sailors, and
the MAORI had picked up a further 25 sailors, there was a submarine alert. The
DORSETSHIRE immediately got underway followed by MAORI, leaving hundreds of
survivors behind, some still clinging to the ropes along her side before they
30/5/41DORSETSHIRE landed her survivors at Newcastle
and the MAORI landed hers at Greenock.
At 2059/27/5/41 U74 rescued 3 survivors.
29/5/41 the trawler SACHSENWAL which was a German
weather ship rescued another 2 survivors.
Therefore out of BISMARCK’s total complement of 2221
men, there were 116 survivors)
KING GEORGE V, RODNEY and destroyers COSSACK, SIKH and
ZULU withdrew to the north.
At 1230 hours they were joined by DORSETSHIRE and
29th – At 0300 hours RODNEY with heavy cruiser NORFOLK
and destroyers MAORI, SIKH, LEGION and COLUMBIA arrived off Greenock. RODNEY’s
fuel tanks were virtually empty and she immediately commenced bunkering and
replenishing her ammunition and other stores.
3rd – At 2200 hours RODNEY with Air Vice Marshal
Harris the future head of RAF Bomber Command embarked, in company with the
troopship SS WINDSOR CASTLE 19141grt and escorted by the destroyers TARTAR,
PUNJABI, ESKIMO and ICARUS sailed from the Clyde for Halifax.
4th – The destroyer ICARUS detached to join the
6th – At approximately 1730 hours in position 35W the
destroyers TARTAR, PUNJABI and ESKIMO detached and returned to Scapa Flow.
11th – RODNEY and WINDSOR CASTLE arrived at Halifax.
Later in the day RODNEY sailed from Halifax.
12th – At 1100 hours RODNEY arrived at Boston Navy
Yard to commence a refit.
At Boston Navy yard under refit. Whilst at Boston she had a new commanding officer;
Captain James William Rivett-Carnac DSC, RN.
When HMS Rodney was being refitted in
Boston in mid-1941, members of the crew were entertained by local
families. This image includes Bill Patterson, Louie and Reggie Pope
staying with the great grandmother of Deb Cruse - with thanks to
Deb, 14 Feb 2012
to the many families across the world, including Australian,
Canadian, New Zealand, South African and American who shared their
homes with the men and women of Royal Navy throughout World War 2
At Boston Navy yard under refit.
12th – Refit completed she commenced harbour trials.
Followed by sea trials.
20th – RODNEY sailed from Boston for Newport, Rhode
Island. At Newport she was degaussed.
22nd – RODNEY sailed from Newport, Rhode Island for
24th – RODNEY arrived at Bermuda to carry out working
At Bermuda carrying out working up exercises.
15th – RODNEY sailed from Bermuda to RV with convoy WS
21st – In the morning in approximate position 43-30N,
16W RODNEY joined the escort of convoy WS 11X.
23rd – At approximately 1130 hours in approximate
position 36N, 12W RODNEY with destroyers HNethMS ISAAC SWEERS, ORP PIORUN and ORP
GARLAND detached from convoy WS 11X for Gibraltar.
24th – At 0900 hours RODNEY and destroyers ISAAC
SWEERS, PIORUN and GARLAND arrived at Gibraltar and commenced refuelling.
At 1800 hours Vice Admiral Somerville CinC Force H
transferred his flag to RODNEY from the battleship NELSON.
(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
At 1900 hours ZULU, GURKHA and LANCE arrived at
Gibraltar to refuel.
At 2030 hours the RFA oiler MV BROWN RANGER 3,400 grt
(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.
(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 10,733 grt, CITY OF LINCOLN 8,039grt, ROWALLAN CASTLE
7,798grt, DUNEDIN STAR 11,168grt, CITY OF CALCUTTA 8,063grt and 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)
(24/9/41 late in the evening the 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 the 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 the 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 operated 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 HEYTHROP as the close escort, Group 2, for
convoy GM2 (Operation HALBARD).
Force H, Group 1, comprising battleship NELSON flag
Vice Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville, 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 107¼.
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 150¼, 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 HALBARD
west of La Galite Island and sent off the following signal; "position 37-43N,
06-55E,course 90¼, 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 210¼,
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
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. Severn 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 flown by Tenente Piercarlo Amante of 257
Squadriglia. As the two torpedoes were approaching RODNEY made an emergency turn
of 60¼ to port and both torpedoes were avoided.
At 1303 hours two destroyers of the port screen were
targeted these were the LANCE and ISAAC SWEERS, however the destroyers 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
At 1330 hours two aircraft flown by Colonnello Seidl
and Tenente Tomasino targeted NELSON who was hit by a torpedo (probably Seidl's)
on the port bow, the second torpedo missed. As they pulled away both Seidl and
Tomasino were shot down by AA fire from the PRINCE OF WALES and SHEFFIELD. The
damage to NELSON caused her to immediately reduce speed to 18 knots.
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, attacked from the north,
south and west. The attackers 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 190¼, speed 20 knots. At the time of
receipt NELSON’s position was 37-46N, 09-04E, the enemy was therefore 74 miles,
bearing 076¼ 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
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 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 and 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 360¼.
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
At 1658 hours with no news from the Swordfish
shadowing aircraft, the RAF Maryland 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 and turned on to 285¼ and proceeded at 14 knots, this being
NELSON’s best speed.
28th – Force A continued on a westerly course at 14
At 0725 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish A/S
patrol and 3 Fulmar fighters.
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, 105¼ from Cagliari, steering 195¼.
At 2000 hours, it was 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.
29th – At 0555 hours in position 37-30N, 06-25E the
PRINCE OF WALES obtained a surface radar contact ahead. (The contact, though not
known at the time, was probably the Italian submarine DIASPRO which was on the
At 0609 hours PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and
destroyers GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE, LEGION and LIVELY made an emergency turn
of 40¼ to port on to course 050¼.
At 1612 hours the GURKHA sighted a torpedo track
approaching from a bearing of 330¼, followed by a second one a few seconds
later, both torpedoes passed under GURKHA and exploded at 0622 hours at the end
of their run.
GURKHA and ISAAC SWEERS detached to hunt the
submarine, without success, and at 0700 hours they rejoined the screen.
At 1030 hours in approximate position 37-35N, 08-00E
PRINCE OF WALES, RODNEY, ARK ROYAL and destroyers GURKHA, ISAAC SWEERS, LANCE,
LEGION and LIVELY, RVed with Force X returning from Malta. The combined force
then steered west for Gibraltar.
At 1930 hours the PRINCE OF WALES, KENYA, SHEFFIELD
and destroyers LAFOREY, LIGHTNING, ORIBI, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FURY detached
and proceeded ahead.
RODNEY, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE, EDINBURGH, EURYALUS
and destroyers FARNDALE, HEYTHROP, COSSACK, LEGION, LANCE, LIVELY, ZULU, ISAAC
SWEERS and GURKHA followed astern at a slower speed.
30th – At 0700 hours the RODNEY force commenced
entering Gibraltar harbour.
At 0928 hours in position 37-10N, 00-56E GURKHA
obtained an echo bearing 240¼, at 2000 yards, which she confirmed as a submarine
and at 0933 hours she made a DC attack. GURKHA was joined by LEGION and together
they made two further DC attacks. After the last attack at 1009 hours wreckage
indicated that a submarine had been sunk. This was the Italian submarine ADUA.
1st – At Gibraltar where, due to the damaged NELSON
being out of action, RODNEY became the flagship of Force H.
8th – The aircraft carrier ARGUS escorted by the
destroyers COSSACK, ZULU and SIKH arrived at Gibraltar with 12 Albacores of 828
Sqd. These aircraft were then transferred to ARK ROYAL in preparation for
16th – RODNEY Flag CinC Force H, aircraft carrier ARK
ROYAL, light cruiser HERMIONE, and destroyers COSSACK, FORESTER, FORESIGHT,
FURY, LEGION, SIKH and ZULU departed Gibraltar and headed east on Operation
(Operation CALLBOY was an operation to supply Malta
with a FAA strike force of Albacores and cover the passage of a surface strike
force to be known as Force K. This operation came about because in the Summer of
1941 GC&CS [Bletchley Park] had broken the Italian Naval cipher C 38. Therefore
full details of Axis convoys to North Africa became known and the strike forces
were to be employed to take advantage of this knowledge. Force K comprising the
light cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE and destroyers LANCE and LIVELY, departed
Gibraltar on 19/10/41 and arrived at Malta on 21/10/41)
18th - At 0140 hours ARK ROYAL flew off 11 ALBACORES of
828 Sqd. and 2 Swordfish to Hal Far airfield Malta.
19th – RODNEY, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE, and destroyers
COSSACK, FORESTER, FORESIGHT, FURY, LEGION, SIKH and ZULU arrived back at
30th – Whilst at Gibraltar RODNEY was a target of an
attack by Italian SLC’s (Siluro A Lenta Corsa, translated as low speed torpedo)
these were human torpedoes. Also known as Maiale, translated as pigs.
(On 21/10/41 the submarine SCIRE sailed from La
Spezia carrying three SLC’s and eight crewmen. On 30/10/41 the SCIRE broke
through the British patrols, and taking advantage of the strong current, entered
the Bay of Algeciras came to rest at a depth of about 45 feet near the estuary
of the river Guadarranque, about 3 miles from the northern entrance to Gibraltar
harbour. Six members of the 10th Light Flotilla manned the three SLC’s and left
the submarine, heading for Gibraltar harbour. Two of the SLC’s were sighted by
patrols and forced to abandon their attacks, the four crew members made it back
to Spain. The third team, of Birindelli and Paccagnini, experienced technical
problems with both the SLC and their breathing equipment. They almost reached
the battleship RODNEY when the SLC lost power. Birindelli attempted to drag the
heavy explosive near the target, but exhausted, he had to abandon the mission.
Both men were captured)
2nd – At 0700 hours RODNEY, with 29 survivors from the
COSSACK embarked, escorted by destroyers GURKHA, ZULU, LIGHTNING and ISAAC
SWEERS, departed Gibraltar and headed west to RV with aircraft carrier ARGUS and
aircraft transport ATHENE, who were escorted by destroyers LAFOREY, HIGHLANDER,
HAVELOCK and HARVESTER.
5th – At 1530 hours in position 42N, 20W the RODNEY
force RVed with the ARGUS force. The two groups exchanged escorts and RODNEY
steered for Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers HIGHLANDER, HAVELOCK and
(Whist on passage to Iceland, in the KING GEORGE V
the CinC Home Fleet received new intelligence from the Admiralty which indicated
that a heavy German unit had passed through the Belts late on 2nd November. The
indications were that this was the SCHEER and that she was bound the Atlantic,
but it was possible that it was the TIRPlTZ, or both of them If this
intelligence were true; it was possible for the enemy ships to pass through the
Denmark. Strait on 5th November, but the Commander in Chief, Home Fleet,
considered it most unlikely that she would attempt the passage in daylight: it
was also possible that she would use the Iceland-Faeroes passage, in spite of
our minefield., or pass through Skopen Fjord, in the Faeroes, and she might just
be early enough to make this passage on the night 4th/5th November. All these
times were 24 hours earlier than previous intelligence had indicated. The forces
at the disposal of the CinC Home Fleet, were insufficient to cover more than one
route; after full consideration he decided that the Denmark Strait was the most
attractive from the enemy point of view, and decided to concentrate his efforts
on this, leaving the Iceland-Faeroes passage to be watched by the trawler and
air patrols, covered by the KENYA (Flag CS10) and destroyers BEDOUIN and
At 2100/5/11/41, four hours after arriving at
Hvalfjord. Further intelligence was received from the Admiralty, indicating that
the SCHEER was still in the Baltic on 4th November. The CinC therefore ordered
his force and that of the Flag Officer Commanding 18th CS to return to harbour.
The CinC also asked the Admiralty to direct the RODNEY to Loch Ewe to refuel and
thence to approximate position 60¡ N, 22W, to cover the Iceland-Faeroes passage;
RODNEY was expected to reach this position during the night of 9th/10th November)
7th – At 1200 hours in position 55N, 12W RODNEY and
destroyers HIGHLANDER, HAVELOCK and HARVESTER RVed with destroyers ONSLOW,
IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE from Londonderry. Destroyers HIGHLANDER, HAVELOCK and
HARVESTER then detached for Scapa Flow.
RODNEY and destroyers ONSLOW, IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE
steered for Loch Ewe.
8th – At 0815 hours RODNEY and destroyers ONSLOW,
IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE arrived at Loch Ewe. On arrival they immediately
At 1600 hours RODNEY and destroyers ONSLOW, IMPULSIVE
and ANTELOPE sailed from Loch Ewe and steered for position 60N, 22W, thence to
patrol the Iceland-Faeroes passage.
11th – At 0144 hours RODNEY and destroyers ONSLOW,
IMPULSIVE and ANTELOPE were ordered to abandon their patrol and proceed to
12th - RODNEY and destroyers ONSLOW, IMPULSIVE and
ANTELOPE arrived at Hvalfjord.
(The entry of Japan into the war, on 7/12/41,
increased the importance of preventing a break-out. For the German Navy could do
no better service to their new allies than to send out their heavy ships
for an intense attack on our trade routes. The effects on our naval strategy of
such a move could not be exaggerated. The heavy American losses in the opening
attack, on Pearl Harbour led, on 9/12/41 to the withdrawal of the two US
battleships stationed at Hvalfjord, and were closely followed-by the loss of the
PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE.
The DUKE OF YORK, which had not yet finished working up, was withdrawn from the
Home Fleet on 11/12/41 together with a screen of three destroyers, to carry the
Prime Minister, Chief of the Naval Staff and other important passengers to the
United States of America.
The Home Fleet cruiser commitments were such that it
was possible only to maintain one on patrol in the Denmark Strait, and several
were overdue for refit or had suffered damage from heavy weather. The destroyers
had been reinforced, from other Home Commands to make possible certain
operations planned for the Norwegian coast.
The departure of the DUKE OF YORK’s screen left the
RODNEY at Hvalfjord with no screen at all.
In the opinion of the CinC Home Fleet the situation
was such that the danger of a break-out had become greater than the risk of
losses to U-boats. He asked the admiralty;-
- For an assurance that neither RENOWN or
VICTORIOUS would be withdrawn from the Home Fleet before the DUKE OF YORK
had returned and completed working up.
- For the loan of three destroyers to screen
the RODNEY and six corvettes to enable him to maintain three on patrol in
the Denmark Strait in co-operation with the cruiser.
These requests were agreed to, except that the number
of corvettes was reduced to four. The Flag officer 1st CS was instructed to
organise the patrols of these corvettes in the Denmark Strait, two being on
patrol at a time)
20th – RODNEY with destroyers WALKER, VERITY and
WITHERINGTON departed Hvalfjord for position 61-00N, 14-30W.
21st – At 1400 hours in position 61N, 14-30W RODNEY
with destroyers WALKER, VERITY and WITHERINGTON RVed with RENOWN and destroyers
MONTROSE, WORCESTER and FORESTER. RODNEY and RENOWN exchanged escorts.
RODNEY with destroyers MONTROSE, WORCESTER and
FORESTER steered for Scapa Flow.
22nd – At 1200 hours RODNEY with destroyers MONTROSE,
WORCESTER and FORESTER arrived at Scapa Flow.
1 9 4 2
RODNEY at Scapa Flow
(On 17/1/42 the CinC Home Fleet received
information that the TIRPITZ might be at sea. Though not entirely conclusive,
the indications pointed to some operation or movement other than a breakout into
the Atlantic. It was now, however, necessary to allow for this, and dispositions
were made to prevent a breakout. The TIRPITZ and destroyers BEITZEN, HEINEMANN,
JACOBI and Z.29,had sailed from Wilhelmshaven on the 14/1/42 for Trondheim )
17th – At 1600 hours battleships KING GEORGE V (Flag
CinC Home Fleet), RODNEY, aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS, heavy cruiser SUFFOLK,
light cruisers NIGERIA (Flag 10th CS), KENYA, SHEFFIELD (Flag 18th CS), and
destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), FAULKNOR (D.8), MARNE, PANTHER, BEDOUIN, ASHANTI,
ESKIMO, INTREPID, ECHO and ESCAPADE departed Scapa Flow for Hvalfjord.
19th – The Home Fleet arrived at Hvalfjord.
20th – At 1600 hours KING GEORGE V (Flag CinC Home
Fleet), RODNEY, VICTORIOUS, SUFFOLK, NIGERIA, KENYA, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers
INGLEFIELD, FAULKNOR, MARNE, PANTHER, BEDOUIN, ASHANTI, ESKIMO, INTREPID, ECHO
and ESCAPADE sailed from Hvalfjord for position 61N, 25W.
(On 23/1/42 the TIRPITZ was located and
photographed by the RAF. She was at anchor at the head of Aasfjord, 15 miles
east of Trondheim)
24th – The Home Fleet returned to Hvalfjord.
12th – At 1300 hours RODNEY, escorted by destroyers
SOMALI, ORIBI and OFFA sailed from Hvalfjord for the Clyde.
14th – At 0900 hours in the Minches destroyers SOMALI
detached for Loch Alsh.
15th – At 0015 hours RODNEY and destroyers ORIBI and
OFFA arrived in the Clyde off Gourock.
16th – RODNEY escorted by destroyer PIORUN sailed from
the Clyde for Liverpool.
En route, off Belfast the destroyer WATCHMAN joined
Later in the day RODNEY and destroyers PIORUN and
WATCHMAN arrived at Liverpool and was docked at Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead.
After five weeks she was moved across the Mersey by
tugs and dry docked in Gladstone Dock Liverpool.
During her refit she received attention to her hull,
boilers and steering. The 16in gun barrels were replaced and addition 20mm Oerlikons were fitted. Her radar fit was upgraded and Type 282, 283 and 285 sets
March and April,
4th – At 1700 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
NEWMARKET and BLEASDALE sailed from Liverpool for Scapa.
5th – At 2130 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
NEWMARKET and BLEASDALE arrived at Scapa Flow to commence working up.
3rd – At 0700 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
BLANKNEY, ESCAPADE, and MIDDLETON sailed from Scapa for Greenock.
4th – At 0700 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
BLANKNEY, ESCAPADE, and MIDDLETON arrived at Greenock.
5th – 0400 hours RODNEY escorted by PATHFINDER, PENN
and QUENTIN sailed from Greenock to catch up with troop convoy WS 19
detached as WS 19PQ and proceeded independently to Freetown. This deployment was
part of the Admiralty’s plan to reinforce the Eastern Fleet with NELSON and
(Troop convoy WS 19P of 19 troopships and 4
storeships, had formed up off Orsay at 0600/1/6/42 and headed for Freetown. At
15th - RODNEY escorted by
PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN arrived at Freetown.
19th – At 0930 hours convoy
WS 19P commenced leaving Freetown followed by the escort of RODNEY, NELSON and
destroyers DERWENT, PATHFINDER, PENN, QUENTIN and VELOX.
On leaving Freetown the convoy steered for the Cape.
21st – At 1400 hours in approximate position 2N,
10-15W the destroyer VELOX detached to RV with the repair ship VINDICTIVE.
24th – In the afternoon the destroyer DERWENT detached
to refuel at St Helena, which was approximately 850 miles to the south west.
25th – RODNEY and NELSON refuelled the destroyers
PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN.
26th – At 1100 hours in approximate position 12-19S,
8-39E the convoy RVed with the heavy cruiser SHROPSHIRE. Following which RODNEY,
NELSON and destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and QUENTIN detached to return north.
(The reason the battleships detached and returned
north was because the Admiralty decided that they were required for Operation
27th – RODNEY experienced problems with her steering
28th – RODNEY’s steering problems persisted.
RODNEY, NELSON and destroyers PATHFINDER, PENN and
QUENTIN were joined by the destroyer DERWENT from St Helena.
1st – At 0400 hours RODNEY,
NELSON and destroyers DERWENT, PATHFINDER, PENN and
QUENTIN arrived at Freetown.
Whilst at Freetown the ships staff carried out work on
her steering mechanism.
16th – RODNEY sailed from Freetown with DERWENT in
company to carry out steering trials, during which all appeared to be
17th – At 0630 hours RODNEY,
NELSON and destroyers DERWENT and PATHFINDER sailed from
21st – South of the Azores PATHFINDER detached and
picked up 23 survivors from the SS CORTONA 7093grt.
(The CORTONA had detached from convoy OS 33 had
been sunk on 12/7/42 by U 116 and U 201, PATHFINDER landed her survivors at
Londonderry on 26/7/42)
22nd – The destroyer DERWENT detached and destroyers
PENN and QUENTIN joined from Freetown.
23rd – RODNEY, NELSON, escorted by destroyers
PENN, and QUENTIN, RVed with destroyers SOMALI, ICARUS and
FORESIGHT from Londonderry.
26th – At 1100 hours RODNEY, NELSON,
escorted by destroyers SOMALI, ICARUS, FORESIGHT, PENN, and QUENTIN arrived
Scapa from Freetown.
RODNEY immediately commenced a boiler clean and
rectification work on her steering mechanism.
2nd - At 1545 the 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 Convoy W S 21S, comprising 13MT ships and one
tanker, left the Clyde with the light cruisers NIGERIA and KENYA, and destroyers
BICESTER and BRAMHAM for Operation PEDESTAL.
(Operation PEDESTAL was an operation to pass a
supply convoy MW 12, of 13 MT ships and a tanker, through the western
Mediterranean to Malta. The convoy was provided with the largest escort that the
Admiralty could assemble. The convoy sailed from the Clyde at 2000/2/8/42 under
the designation WS 21S)
3rd – At 0430 hours the destroyer PENN sailed from
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 of NELSON, RODNEY,
ASHANTI, TARTAR, SOMALI, PATHFINDER, QUENTIN, and ESKIMO.
At 1500 hours KEPPLE, MALCOLM, AMAZON, VENOMOUS and
WOLVERINE from Londonderry joined the convoy 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 on to 186¼.
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 morning the 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 155¼
5th - At 1100 a U-boat contact was made and the convoy
did a 45¼ turn to port.
In the morning the 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 the destroyers, ORP BLYSKAWICA and
WISHART joined the convoy.
Following which 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
At 1500 hours the convoy course was altered to 155¼
and FURIOUS and ORP BLYSKAWICA detached to take part in Operation BERSERK.
(Operation BERSERK [This was 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]. The operation 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 light cruiser PHOEBE.
EAGLE [801 Sqd - 12 Sea Hurricanes with 4 more
in reserve, 813 Sqd - 4 Sea Hurricanes] with her attendant light cruiser
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 light 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 the 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 092¼.
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. the
oilers DINGLEDALE and BROWN RANGER escorted by corvettes
JONQUIL, GERANIUM, SPIREA, COLTSFOOT and SALVONIA sailed from
At 0300 hours Force R comprising
At 0500 fog cleared.
At 0500 hours PENN sailed from Gibraltar to RV with
the 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 hadn’t 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, EAGLE,
CHARYBDIS, LAFOREY, LOOKOUT and LIGHTNING, rejoined the convoy after fuelling at
At 1600 hours EAGLE, CHARYBDIS, PENN, and PATHFINDER
joined the convoy from Gibraltar.ASHANTI, LEDBURY,
ZETLAND, WILTON, BRAMHAM, BICESTER, FORESIGHT and DERWENT detached to RV with
Up to 1600 hours the escorts that refuelled in
Gibraltar joined the convoy, except for WRESTLER who was replaced by AMAZON
At 2130 hours
11th - Between 0600 and 2030
the oilers DINGLEDALE and BROWN RANGER of Force R refueled
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
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, but 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 90¼ and
comprising 3 aircraft carriers, 3 battleships, 20 cruisers and destroyers and 20
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 200¼ 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 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, mean line of advance 090¼. 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
serious 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 the 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 and anti-submarine sweep.
At 1515 hours FURIOUS successfully completed Operation
BELLOWS. She then set course to return Gibraltar escorted by the 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
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, two by VICTORIOUS, were claimed to have been shot down by ships
gunfire. 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 were 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 out from the 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 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 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 0907 hours radar picked up a large number of
aircraft approaching from ahead, there turned out to be 19 Ju 88’s dive bombers,
6 of which were shot down; no damage was inflicted on the convoy.
The first air attack of the day proved to be
disastrous, with a merchant ship sunk and destroyer FORESIGHT damaged.
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 the Italian submarine BRIN.
At 0940 hours D19 ordered all the destroyers to rejoin
At 0955 hours FORESIGHT was sunk by TARTAR in position
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
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 90¼ 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. The BRAMHAM was ordered to stand by DEUCALION. Eventually DEUCALION was
got under way making 10 knots, later she 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 work up to her maximum speed of 16 knots, but
due to stresses on the damaged hull she had to reduce speed to 12.5 knots.
At 1305 hours RODNEY was under air attack.
At 1330 hours bombs fell off RODNEY’s starboard side.
NELSON and CAIRO were also suffered near misses.
At 1345 hours as VICTORIOUS was recovering her Sea
Hurricanes, 2 of the ‘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 and 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
At 1750 hours when ITHURIEL, who’s maximum speed was
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 121¼, 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 carried out by RODNEY had
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
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
At 1842 hours a bomb landed on RODNEY’s X turret, it
failed to penetrate the armour and it bounced off and landed in the sea on her
At 1848 hours an enemy aircraft crashed off RODNEY’s
At 1855 hours in approximate position 37-42N, 10E,
Force Z detached and withdrew westwards. The
withdrawal was brought forward by 20 minutes due to the
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 1956 hours when the convoy was in position 37-40N,
10-06E, the submarine AXUM fired 4 torpedoes and hit the CAIRO (was hit by two
torpedoes, port side aft, she immediately lost power and started to settle by
the stern), NIGERIA (was hit in the forward boiler room and lost all electrical
power, took on a list of 13¼ and started to circle to
starboard). Also as she and CAIRO were the fighter direction ships the support
of the RAF fighters from Malta was lost) and OHIO (the torpedo hit amidships,
created a hole, 24ft. x 27ft., wrecked the pump room and started a fire).
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
13th - Throughout the day Force Z proceeded westward.
At 2300 hours RODNEY, INDOMITABLE, ITHURIEL,
ANTELOPE, AMAZON, WESTCOTT, WISHART and ZETLAND
detached and proceeded to Gibraltar at RODNEY’s best speed. The
remainder of Force Z turned eastward to give cover to Force X should the Italian
navy decide to attack.
14th - At 1830 hours
RODNEY, INDOMITABLE, ITHURIEL, ANTELOPE,
AMAZON, WESTCOTT, WISHART and ZETLAND arrived at Gibraltar.
16th – At 0200 hours RODNEY, with survivors from CAIRO
embarked and VICTORIOUS escorted by the destroyers
ASHANTI, INTREPID, ICARUS, and MATCHLESS sailed from Gibraltar for the UK.
RODNEY’s steering was still causing problems.
19th – The force ran into a gale which necessitated
repeated helm movements. This caused further problems with her steering.
20th – RODNEY had further problems with her boilers.
At 1400 hours in approximate position 53N, 30W the
force was joined by the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECLIPSE, WORCESTER and WINDSOR.
Following which the destroyers INTREPID and ICARUS
detached from Greenock.
21st – At 2000 hours RODNEY and VICTORIOUS escorted by
destroyers ASHANTI, MATCHLESS, INGLEFIELD, ECLIPSE, WORCESTER and WINDSOR
arrived at Scapa Flow.
RODNEY disembarked Vice Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. Then
almost immediately she sailed for Rosyth escorted by INGLEFIELD, ECLIPSE and
22nd – At 1030 hours RODNEY arrived at Rosyth. Where
she was immediately taken in hand for essential repairs to her steering and
boilers. During her stay at Rosyth she also received further 20mm Oerlikons.
Under repair at Rosyth.
20th – At 1400 hours RODNEY and the aircraft carrier
VICTORIOUS escorted by the destroyers WHADDON and BLEAN sailed from Rosyth for
21st – At 0400 hours RODNEY and VICTORIOUS escorted by
the destroyers WHADDON and BLEAN arrived at Scapa Flow.
22nd – At 0600 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
TANATSIDE, PENYLAN and BLEAN sailed from Scapa Flow for Loch Cairnbawn (Loch a’
Chairn Bhain) which is an inlet at the head of Eddrachillis Bay in Sutherland.
At 1430 hours RODNEY arrived in Loch Cairnbawn she
anchored then proceeded to surrounded herself with anti-torpedo netting and
other underwater defence equipment.
RODNEY was there to provide a practice target for the charioteers)
(Located in Loch Cairnbawn was base HHZ, this was a
secret base where British charioteers were training with their mark 1 chariots
to attack the German battleship TIRPITZ at its anchorage in T
29th – At 1800 hours in Eddrachillis Bay RODNEY RVed
with the destroyers MONTROSE, HOLCOMBE and IMPULSIVE and course was then set for
At 2400 hours RODNEY, MONTROSE, HOLCOMBE and IMPULSIVE
arrived at Scapa Flow.
2nd to 9th – RODNEY carried out exercises in and
around Scapa Flow.
10th – Early in the morning RODNEY sailed from Scapa
Flow to carry out gunnery exercises. RODNEY returned to Scapa in the afternoon.
After picking up her moorings and securing from sea, the Prime Minster, Winston
Churchill came on board. The lower deck was cleared and Churchill addressed the
crew who were assembled on the quarterdeck.
(RODNEY had been nominated for support duties in
Operation TORCH, the allied landings in North Africa)
23rd – At 1700 hours RODNEY (with senior British and
US army embarked) escorted by the destroyers LOOKOUT, PANTHER and PENN sailed
from Scapa for Gibraltar.
26th – RODNEY was sighted by a U-Boat and reported as
an American battleship.
29th – RODNEY, LOOKOUT, PANTHER and PENN arrived at
1st – Early in the morning the cruiser SCYLLA (with
Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham embarked; Cunningham was to be the CinC of Allied
naval forces for Operation TORCH) and the destroyer OPPORTUNE arrived at
6th – At 1930 hours RODNEY sailed from Gibraltar and
steered east into the Mediterranean and joined Force H.
(The task of Force H was to patrol as far east as
3-30E, provide distant cover to prevent any attempt by the Italian or Vichy
French Fleets to interfere with the landings at Algiers or Oran. The assault
over the beaches was due at H hour, which was set for 0100/ 8/11/42 for the
landing at Oran)
7th – At 1645 hours Force H was attacked by Ju 88’s
who were driven off by the ships AA fire.
Late in the evening RODNEY with destroyers BEAGLE,
BOREAS and BULLDOG detached from Force H to provide support for the Central Task
Force off Oran.
8th – At 0500 hours RODNEY and the destroyers BEAGLE,
BOREAS and BULLDOG were in position 20 miles north of Oran. This was the general
area from where the carrier group of, FURIOUS, DASHER and BITER were operating.
At 0645 hours the cruiser AURORA and the destroyer
CAPEL, who were off the beaches X and Y to the west of Oran, in position 35-55N,
1-05W, was in action with the Vichy French destroyers TRAMONTANE, EPERVIER,
TYPHON and TORNADE.
The EPERVIER and TRAMONTANE were damaged by gunfire
and driven ashore.
During the course of the action the JAMAICA and the
destroyer FARNDALE arrived on the scene and joined the battle. JAMAICA fired 501
rounds of 6in but only managed to damage the TYPHON.
At 0730 hours the badly damaged TORNADE sank.
The TYPHON suffered damage but managed to make Oran
harbour, where she scuttled herself across the harbour entrance.
(The waters off Y Beach at Les Andalouses, west of
Oran were within range of the four 194 mm guns of the Fort du Santon, situated
1000 ft above Mers el Kebir harbour. At daylight intermittent shelling of the
transport area began. Shortly before 0900/8/11/42, the transports there came
under accurate fire, and at 0917 hours, the HMT LLANGIBBY CASTLE 11,951grt,
received the first of several damaging hits which obliged her to move farther
west and out of range. At 1050 hours the battery at Fort du Santon resumed
firing at Y Beach and achieved a hit on the HMT MONARCH of BERMUDA 22,424grt,
causing her to move out of range. The fort’s guns also targeted the AURORA who
was straddled but not hit. AURORA called on RODNEY to suppress the fort)
At 1250 hours RODNEY launched her Walrus to spot fall
At 1300 hours RODNEY opened fire on Fort du Santon at
a range of 30000 yards (the French 194mm/50 M1902 was thought to have a maximum
range of 28500 yards). Because the fort was surrounded by housing RODNEY had to
take great care not to cause civilian damage. After firing sixteen 16in shells
low cloud caused her to cease firing. Damage to fort was difficult to ascertain
as during the bombardment the guns of Fort du Stanton remained silent. During
the shoot RODNEY was forced to make an emergency turn to avoid a torpedo (the
torpedo had possibly been fired by a Vichy French submarine, either the ARGONAUTE or the ACTEON both had sailed from Oran earlier and both were sunk
later in the day by ACHATES and WESTCOTT).
At 1500 hours RODNEY again fired at Fort du Santon
with her main armament, again the fort didn’t reply.
At 2030 hours RODNEY was patrolling off shore,
notionally out of range of Fort du Santon’s guns, when the Fort’s guns open fire
on RODNEY and achieved several near misses. RODNEY immediately moved out of
At 2130 hours RODNEY carried out a main armament shoot
against Fort du Santon. The fort was silenced temporarily, but RODNEY couldn’t
knock it out.
9th – RODNEY remained off the Oran beachhead.
10th – RODNEY, AURORA and JAMAICA were off Oran ready
to support the American attack on Oran. Force H had also moved closer to Oran to
provide air support if required.
During the day RODNEY carried out a shoot against a
battery of three 240mm guns at Canastel, to the east of Oran.
Then she returned to bombarding Fort du Santon. In
this shoot she was assisted by Albacores from FURIOUS who carried out dive
At 1230 hours the French capitulated.
11th – RODNEY rejoined Force H, cruising south of the
16th – Late in the evening Force H returned to
Gibraltar. But the harbour was so crowded that RODNEY was unable to find a
17th – At 0300 hours RODNEY had to anchor outside the
At 0900 hours RODNEY with the rest of Force H, sailed
from Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir.
18th – At 1200 hours Force H arrived at Mers el Kebir.
Whilst at Mers El Kebir RODNEY’s ships staff carried
out maintenance on her troublesome boilers.
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 including RODNEY arrived at Gibraltar.
8th – At 0400 hours an Italian SLC, human torpedo, of
the Italian 10th Light Flotilla made an attack on Gibraltar harbour. The attack
was detected and the attackers apprehended, but not before ships in the harbour,
including RODNEY had raised steam and prepared to move out of the harbour.
(The attack had been made by three Italian SLC’s;
these had been launched from the modified tanker OLTERRA 4995grt, which had been
scuttled in the Spanish port of La Linea. The primary targets of the SLC’s were
the NELSON, FORMIDABLE and FURIOUS. Two of the SLC’s failed to penetrate into
the harbour and one of whom returned to the OLTERRA. The mission was a
debacle; thereof the attackers had died, two were prisoners and only one had
made it back. However the British, in a communique dated 8/12/42, indicated that
they thought that the attack had been mounted from the submarine AMBRA, so the
secret of the OLTERRA had not been revealed )
10th - Force H including RODNEY sailed from Gibraltar
for Mers el Kebir.
26th - Force H including RODNEY arrived at Gibraltar.
1 9 4 3
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 - Force H including NELSON, RODNEY and FORMIDABLE
arrived at Algiers escorting convoy KMF 6.
5th - Force H including RODNEY arrived at Gibraltar.
Movement between Gibraltar and Mers el Kebir continued
during the remainder of January.
Movement between Gibraltar and Mers el Kebir continued
during through February.
Movement between Gibraltar and Mers el Kebir continued
during through March.
23rd – RODNEY was at Mers el Kebir when the Italian
10th Light Flotilla made a frogman attack on the harbour. The attack was
detected before the frogmen entered the harbour.
Movement between Gibraltar and Mers el Kebir continued
during through April.
7th – The battleship KING GEORGE V escorted by the
destroyers METEOR, TROUBRIDGE and TUSCAN arrived at Gibraltar from Scapa.
RODNEY escorted by the destroyers METEOR, TROUBRIDGE
and TUSCAN sailed from Gibraltar for Plymouth.
12th – In the western approaches TUSCAN detached.
(13/5/43 off Hartland Point TUSCAN hit a floating mine, possibly from British
minefield HS1 laid in February 1943 by the cruiser minelayer ADVENTURE)
13th – RODNEY, METEOR and TROUBRIDGE arrived at
Plymouth. On arrival at Devonport RODNEY commenced a short refit.
During the refit she was fitted with addition 20mm
1st – RODNEY escorted by the destroyers INGLEFIELD,
ONSLOW and OPR PIORUN sailed from Plymouth for Scapa.
3rd - RODNEY escorted by the destroyers INGLEFIELD,
ONSLOW and OPR PIORUN arrived at Scapa.
9th – At Scapa where NELSON (Flag Vice Admiral
Algernon U Willis CinC Force H), RODNEY, VALIANT and WARSPITE commenced a series
of bombardment and preparatory exercises off Cape Wrath in preparation for the
planned allied landings in Sicily, Operation HUSKY.
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 the
destroyers ARROW, BLANKNEY, BLENCATHRA, BRECON, BRISSENDEN, HAMBLEDON, LEDBURY,
MENDIP (D21), PENN, VICEROY, WALLACE and WOOLSTON joined Force H, from
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 the battleships KING GEORGE V
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
30th – Force H arrived at Mers el Kebir.
5th – At 1500 hours Force H sailed from Mers el Kebir
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. Their secondary purpose was on D-1, FORCE H was to
move into the Ionian Sea so as to appear to threaten the west coast of Greece on
D Day, thus serving as a means to divert the enemy's attention at the critical
moment, and it was to maintain this position until D + 2. Their third purpose
was to provide bombardment support if required by the army. To carry out their
functions they were divided into three 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)
8th – The captain of RODNEY, appointed Rear Admiral.
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 HHellMS QUEEN OLGA from Alexandria.
The light cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE joined the
force after detaching from convoy KMS 18B.
Force H then steered a northerly course towards the
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. This was done to divert
the enemy's attention away from Sicily.
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
At daylight Force H was approximately 40 miles off
AURORA, PENELOPE, OFFA and INGLEFIELD rejoined Force
During the day Force H continued to patrol off Cape
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.
On arrival at Grand Harbour RODNEY became the first
battleship to Valetta harbour since WARSPITE in December 1940.
16th – RODNEY and destroyer escort sailed from Malta
to rejoin Force H.
Late on the night, Force H was subjected to a heavy
17th – At 0015 hours INDOMITABLE was hit by a torpedo
dropped by a Luftwaffe Ju 88 aircraft.
18th – RODNEY with destroyer escort detached from
Force H and returned to Malta.
Because of her poor mechanical condition RODNEY spent
the remainder of July at Malta.
5th – RODNEY sailed from Malta for gunnery exercises.
6th – Returned to Malta.
30th - At 1900 hours Force H, comprising NELSON 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 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.
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 and the French Destroyers FFS Le
FANTASQUE and Le TERRIBLE, sailed from Malta for Operation AVALANCHE. They
proceeded NW along the south coast of Sicily.
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, LIDDLESDALE, SILVERTON, ORP KRAKOWIAK and SLAZAK
(Operation AVALANCHE was the landing of the Fifth
US Army (6th US Corps and 10th British Corps) in the Gulf of
Salerno which took place in the
8th - At 0700 hours
in the Sicilian Channel, Division 1 was joined by Division 2
(Who had sailed from Malta at 1715 hours), comprising the battleships WARSPITE
and VALIANT, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and destroyers ECHO, FAULKNOR, FURY,
ILEX, INGLEFIELD, INTREPID, RAIDER and RHS 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.
"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)
(At 1845 hours Marshal Badoglio announced on radio
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.
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, RHS VASILISSA OLGA and FS Le TERRIBLE detached from Force H to
carry out Operation GIBBON.
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.
FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS
transferred all their serviceable Seafires to the carriers of Force V. Following
which Force H sailed for Malta.
In the evening the
12th – In the evening Force H arrived at Malta. Where
on arrival they found the surrendered Italian Fleet.
14th - At 1700 hours Force H comprising battleships
NELSON (CinC Force H), RODNEY, WARSPITE, and VALIANT, aircraft carriers
FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS escorted by destroyers JERVIS (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 the
escorting destroyers to proceed with all dispatch to Salerno Bay.
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)
(The reason for this change 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
15th – At 0345 hours RODNEY sailed from Malta for
Sicily. On her way out of Valletta RODNEY’s stern caught the anti-torpedo boom
and the net wrapped itself around her rudder, but the propellers ripped the net
to shreds and in the process the stern was swung around hitting the mole. Other
than a dent caused by hitting the mole little damage was caused. She then
proceeded to Augusta.
At 1100 hours RODNEY arrived at Augusta where she
17th – RODNEY arrived back at Malta.
25th – RODNEY
had a new commanding officer; Captain
Robert Oliver Fitzroy,
26th – RODNEY and NELSON escorted by the destroyer
OFFA sailed from Malta for the UK via Algiers.
29th - RODNEY and NELSON escorted by the destroyer
OFFA sailed from Algiers for the UK. En route RODNEY again encountered her old
steering problems she also had engine problems.
Off Gibraltar they were joined by the destroyers
OBEDIENT, TEAZER, ROCKET and TARTAR
4th – West of Ireland RODNEY with destroyers
TEAZER and ROCKET detached and steered for the Clyde.
5th – RODNEY with destroyers
TEAZER and ROCKET arrived in the Clyde.
RODNEY’s condition was now very poor and with the war
expected to continue for several more years, plans were draw up to modernise both
RODNEY and NELSON; but constraints on shipbuilding/ship repair facilities and
the need to concentrate on escort vessels meant the plan never
In the Clyde off Greenock.
7th - Embarked army officers for training as
bombardment liaison officers. She the proceeded to the Clyde bombardment range
and carried out a 6in shoot
17th – Arrived at Scapa from the Clyde.
29th – Sailed from Scapa to carry out exercises with
the French battleship FS RICHELIEU. (The RICHELIEU had joined the Home Fleet at
Scapa on 20/11/43)
1 9 4 4
At Scapa Flow.
8th – Due to lack of maintenance, leaks in RODNEY’s
hull plating were letting in 1000 tons of water per hour and her pumps were
struggling to keep up with the inflow. In an attempt to stop some of the leaks
RODNEY was careened to port so that her ships staff could work on some of the
11th – The work on the stopping the leaks had been
unsuccessful and this resulted in RODNEY being declared unseaworthy.
16th – At 2100 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
ONSLAUGHT and ORWELL sailed from Scapa for Rosyth
17th – At 0900 hours RODNEY arrived at No 23 buoy off
Rosyth for refit. ONSLAUGHT and ORWELL returned to Scapa.
The start of the refit was delayed, then it was
cancelled, as Churchill had written to the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet
Cunningham stating that he hoped that RODNEY would be part of the bombarding
fleet for the Normandy invasion. The decision was then taken to carry out the
minimum of work necessary to keep her in service.
Moored off Rosyth.
28th - Moved in to No 1 dry dock in Rosyth dockyard
where her leaks were attended to and her torpedo tubes, aircraft and aircraft
catapult etc removed.
At Rosyth undergoing repair.
31st – Sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.
1st – Arrived at Scapa to carry out working up
exercises, which included intensive bombardment practice.
14th - Whilst carrying out a 16inshoot her steering
19th - Sailed from Scapa in the evening to carry out a
16in& 6in shoot against stack Skerry
22nd – Sailed from Scapa for the Clyde.
23rd – Arrived off Greenock.
26th – In company with the battleship RAMILLIES,
Monitor EREBUS and US battleship TEXAS carried out a shore bombardment practice
on the Clyde bombardment range.
1st – In the Clyde where she was hit by an
experimental magnetic torpedo fired during development trials; no damage was
For the next four days carried out a shore bombardment
practice on the Clyde bombardment range.
3rd – Embarked 398 HE shells for her 16in guns, also
embarked proximity fused AA shells
6th – At 1300 hours sailed from Greenock for Scapa.
7th – At 1400 hours RODNEY arrived at Scapa to carry
out more exercises, including AA fire against glider bombs. A Miles Martinet
trainer aircraft was used to simulate a glider bomb.
9th – RODNEY was visited by General Montgomery.
20th – RODNEY escorted by the destroyer METEOR sailed
from Scapa to carry out exercises to test her defences against E-Boats.
At 2000 hours four more destroyers joined in the
At 2100 hours a simulated air attack was carried out
by FAA Barracudas and RAF Spitfires followed by simulated glider bomb attacks.
21st – At 0100 hours a night simulated E-Boat attack
was carried out on the Force.
Robert Oliver Fitzroy
RN, left the ship and proceeded south to be briefed on Operation
The Force then returned to Scapa.
Later in the day RODNEY’s CO, Captain
26th – RODNEY sailed from Scapa in company with
battleship HOWE escorted by the destroyers METEOR, WAKEFUL and WAGER for
exercises and a 6in shoot.
27th – Sailed from Scapa for the Clyde.
28th – Arrived in the Clyde.
29th – RODNEY in company with battleships RAMILLIES
and WARSPITE, cruisers FROBISHER, DANAE, DRAGON and MAURITIUS sailed for
invasion exercises. The exercises included air attacks by RAF Beaufighters and
simulated E-Boat attacks by motor launches.
30th – At 0400 hours a simulated invasion was carried
out, the ‘invasion force’ was led by the 40th M/S Squadron and on the way into
the beachhead further simulated air attacks were made on the force and barrage
practice was carried out.
31st – The Force returned to Greenock.
3rd – At 1600 hours RODNEY, the cruiser SIRIUS,
destroyer WESTCOTT and frigate RIOU sailed from Greenock and headed south to
take part in Operation NEPTUNE/OVERLORD.
At 1900 hours RODNEY’s CO addressed the ships company,
informing them of the operation and telling them that RODNEY was to be a standby
bombardment vessel for the Eastern Task Force.
4th – At 0800 hours RODNEY’s group were in the St
George’s Channel, west of the Smalls light, when they received the signal
postponing the invasion for 24 hours. The group turned around and steered north.
At 1500 hours when off Anglesey, they stopped their
northerly movement and cruised off the island to await the order to resume their
At 2200 hours they were ordered to resume their
5th – At 0700 hours when off Lands End, WESTCOTT
detached to refuel and the destroyer BLEASDALE joined.
At 2100 hours RODNEY’s group arrived in Spithead where
they anchored to await orders.
6th – At 0230 hours RODNEY, SIRIUS, RIOU and BLEASDALE
sailed for Sword Beach.
On arrival off the beachhead they were ordered to
return to Spithead.
7th – At 0245 hours RODNEY, SIRIUS, RIOU and BLEASDALE
sailed for the Normandy beachhead.
At 0930 hours they arrived off the American beachhead
where they joined the US battleships ARKANSAS, TEXAS and NEVADA and the heavy
There were no targets for RODNEY in the American
sector so the group sailed east to the British beaches.
At 1830 hours off Juno Beach RODNEY opened fire on the
12th SS Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" who were driving the 9th Brigade, 3rd
Canadian Division back from Authie, north west of Caen. RODNEY fired 132 rounds
of 16in and 99 rounds of 6in.
(After this bombardment a German officer stated that
the concentrated fire was such as had never been seen before on any European
battlefield and officers and men were totally demoralised)
8th – At 0900 hours carried out a 6in shoot in support
of the 3rd Canadian Division, against a fortified farm held by the 12th SS
Late in the evening the Luftwaffe attacked shipping
off the beachhead. In the attack RODNEY was near missed by 4 bombs.
9th – Between 0315 and 0335 hours RODNEY fired 78
rounds of 16in in support of the 185th Brigade of the British 3rd Division
against the 21st SS Panzer Division.
Later RODNEY fired 75 rounds of 16in against tanks of
the 21st SS Panzer Division near Caen. It should only have been 15 rounds, but
the telegraphist who took the radio message wrote his 'ones' in the continental
manner, ie like a seven, so an additional 60 rounds were fired.
At 0900 hours RODNEY carried out a 6in blind shoot
against a German troop assembly area.
At 1100 hours RODNEY carried out a 6in shoot against
German troops and vehicles near Caen. Followed by 7 rounds of 16in AP against the Benneville battery.
Later in the day RODNEY carried out a 6in shoot against
the Houlgate battery (4 ex French 155mm guns).
At 1600 hours RODNEY came under air attack from 12 Me
109 and Fw 190 fighter bombers all the bombs missed.
At 1700 hours RODNEY, the cruiser DRAGON escorted by
RIOU and BLEASDALE sailed from the beachhead for Milford Haven, where RODNEY was
10th – At 1500 hours RODNEY, RIOU and BLEASDALE
arrived at Milford Haven.
Re-ammunitioned with 260 HE and 610 AP 16in shells and
2400 HE 6in shells. The 16in shells were the last available in the UK.
11th – At 1400 hours RODNEY, RIOU and BLEASDALE sailed
from Milford Haven.
At 2100 hours RIOU attacked a sub contact and damaged
her engines. RIOU detached to Plymouth
12th – At 0730 hours RODNEY and BLEASDALE arrived in
On arrival BLEASDALE was withdrawn from operational
duty for the removal of wire from her propeller shafting.
18th – RODNEY escorted by the destroyers SCOURGE, FURY
and ALGONQUIN (ALGONQUIN had embarked General Crerar and 22 Staff Officers for
passage to Assault Area) sailed from Spithead for the beachhead.
On arrival at the beachhead RODNEY anchored off Juno
19th – At 0100 hours the weather off the beaches
started to deteriorate, the wind, blowing from the north easterly direction grew
in intensity from force 4.
At 1800 hours the wind speed was force 5 with waves of
6½ feet. (All storm data is for Omaha Beach)
20th – At 0700 hours the wind speed was force 5 with
waves of 7 feet.
At 1800 hours the wind speed was force 6 with waves of
21st – At 0700 hours the wind speed was force 6 with
waves of 7½ feet.
At 1800 hours the wind speed was force 5 with waves of
22nd – At 0700 hours the wind speed was force 4 with
waves of 5½ feet.
23rd – At 2330 hours RODNEY was subjected to an
attempted dive bombing attack by a Ju 88, but the attacker was driven off by
intensive AA fire.
24th – From 0015 hours through the hours of darkness
RODNEY was subjected to air attack. No hits were scored.
26th – At 0800 hours RODNEY in company with the
monitor ROBERTS and light cruisers ARGONAUT, BELFAST and DIADEM carried out a
shoot in support of Operation EPSOM, the British VIII Corps, 15th Scottish
Division leading, advance into the Odon Valley. Their target was the 1st, 9th
and 12th SS Panzer Divisions.
Immediately afterwards RODNEY fired 10 rounds of 16in
at Carpiquet airfield which was to east of the line of advance of VIII corps; the target was the 12th SS Panzer Division.
At 1230 hours RODNEY fired a further 10 rounds of 16in
at Carpiquet airfield.
29th - Intelligence reported that an E-Boat attack is
to be made on RODNEY. To counter the threat 37 LCT’s were positioned around
30th – At 1400 hours RODNEY was off Gold Beach when
she carried out a one hour shoot firing 16in shells into the village of Gavrus in
support of the 15th Scottish Division who had earlier been forced out of Gavrus
by 1st SS Panzer Division. RODNEY’s bombardment had a devastating effect on
3rd – At 0500 hours RODNEY carried out a 16in shoot on Carpiquet airfield in support of the Canadian 8th Brigade, Operation WINDSOR.
RODNEY’s target was the 12th SS Panzer Division.
4th – RODNEY was visited by General Montgomery, Vice
Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton and Rear Admiral Rivett-Carnac.
5th – RODNEY was visited by officers from the Guards
6th - Intelligence reported that an attack on shipping
off the invasion beaches was to be made by human torpedoes and midget
At 1900 hours RODNEY carried out a shoot on buildings
in Le Havre docks that were thought to be the base for the human torpedoes and
7th – RODNEY fired 46 rounds of 16in against Hill 112,
which is 6¼ miles south west of Caen. The barrage was to soften up the 9th SS
Panzer Division who held Hill 112 in preparation for Operation JUPITER the
attack by the 129th Brigade of the 43rd Wessex Division the following day to
seize Hill 112. (Hill 112 had changed hands several times during the past two
weeks and the Germans said; He who controls Hill 112 controls Normandy)
8th – At 0800 hours RODNEY carried out a 16in shoot
against the assembly areas of the 12th SS Panzer Division and the 16th Luftwaffe
Field Division in support of the British 1st Corps assault on Caen, Operation
9th – At 0200 hours the Luftwaffe mounted an attack by
150 aircraft on shipping off the beachhead.
At 0845 hours RODNEY fired 15 rounds of 16in at German
tanks of the 12th SS Panzer Division in support of Operation CHARNWOOD. One of RODNEY’s
16in shells destroyed the spire of the Church of Saint-Pierre in Caen.
At 1400 hours Sailed from the beachhead for Spithead.
During her period off the beachhead RODNEY had fired 519 x 16in, 454 x 6in and
1200 x 4.7in.
At 2200 hours arrived in Spithead.
RODNEY’s crew were heartened to hear a BBC news
bulletin attribute all their success to NELSON!
15th – At 0430 hours RODNEY escorted by a frigate and
two sloops sailed from Spithead for Plymouth.
At 1400 hours arrived in Plymouth Sound and then
proceeded to dock in Devonport.
10th - At 1300 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
FAULKNOR and the HNorMS STORD sailed from Plymouth for Portland.
At 1900 hours RODNEY, FAULKNOR and STORD arrived at
11th – At 0645 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
FAULKNOR, STORD and URANIA sailed from Portland to carry out a bombardment of
coastal gun emplacements on Alderney.
In the channel STORD and URANIA detached and the
destroyer SAUMAREZ from Portsmouth joined.
At 0910 hours on arrival off Cherbourg the weather was
unsuitable for the shoot so RODNEY, FAULKNOR and SAUMAREZ returned to Portland.
At 1200 hours RODNEY, FAULKNOR and SAUMAREZ arrived
back at Portland.
12th – At 0730 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
FAULKNOR and JERVIS sailed from Portland to carry out a bombardment of coastal
gun emplacements on Alderney.
At 1215 hours RODNEY arrived off Cherbourg and with
the assistance of a US tug from Cherbourg RODNEY was manoeuvred into position at
90¼ to the cost about 20 miles from and broadside to Alderney.
At 1410 hours RODNEY opened fire on the Blucher
Battery of four guns on Alderney, spotting was carried out by a RAF Spitfire
from 26 Sqd. Great accuracy was required due to the nearby British civilian
population. (This was the first time a battleship had fired on Crown territory).
At 1642 hours after firing 75 x 16in shells, 40 of
which fell very close to the battery, RODNEY ceased fire. The spotting aircraft
reported that the shoot had achieved the destruction of 3 of the 4 guns. However
subsequently this was found not to be so.
At 1700 hours RODNEY, FAULKNOR and JERVIS set sail for
At 2230 hours RODNEY escorted by the destroyers
FAULKNOR and JERVIS arrived at Portland.
27th – At 0545 hours RODNEY escorted by two destroyers
and a sloop sailed from Portland for Plymouth.
At 1330 hours arrived at Plymouth.
29th – Rodney moved into the No 5 basin of Devonport
dockyard for urgent maintenance.
Under repair at Devonport
12th – RODNEY sailed from Plymouth for Scapa.
14th – RODNEY arrived at Scapa and joined the Home
Fleet. On arrival at Scapa RODNEY embarked a quantity of AP 16in shells. These
were necessary as her next roll was to protect a Russian convoy against the
possible intervention by the German battleship TIRPITZ.
16th – At 1300 hours RODNEY, escort carriers CAMPANIA
(Flag C1, Rear Admiral McGrigor) and STRIKER light cruiser DIADEM and destroyers
MYNGS (D26), VERULAM, SAVAGE, ZAMBESI, HMCS ALGONQUIN and HNorMS STORD sailed
from Scapa for Operation RIGMAROLE. (Operation RIGMAROLE was the operational
name for the Russian convoy JW 60).
(What was not known at the time of sailing was that
the RAF had carried out Operation PARAVANE, a bomb attack on the TIRPITZ. At
0630 hours GMT on 15/9/44, 27 Lancasters, 10 from No 9 Sqd and 17 from 617 Sqd.
Took off from Yagodnik airfield in northern Russia to bomb the TIRPITZ lying in
Altenfjord. 21 aircraft carried the 12,000lb, Tallboy bomb, 4 carried the 500 lb JW ‘walking mine’ and 2 carried ‘special bombs’. The attack on TIRPITZ took
place at 1100 hours GMT, by the time the force arrived over the target TIRPITZ
was completely hidden by a smoke screen. However despite the smoke screen
was hit by one Tallboy bomb [explosive 5200 Lb of Torpex] on her
foredeck, the bomb passed through her hull and exploded off her starboard bow
almost blowing her bows off. The damage effectively put TIRPITZ out of action
for at least nine months. However naval intelligence did not learn of the true
extent of the damage for several weeks)
At 1800 hours RODNEY carried out a 16in shoot on the
Cape Wrath range.
At 2100 hours proceeded to RV with convoy JW 60. (JW
60 had sailed from Loch Ewe at 0800/15/9/44)
17th – At 0500 hours in approximate position 60N, 8W
RODNEY, CAMPANIA, STRIKER, DIADEM and destroyers MYNGS, VERULAM, SAVAGE,
ZAMBESI, ALGONQUIN and STORD, RVed with convoy JW 60. At same time The destroyer
HMCS SIOUX joined from Scapa.
The convoy comprised 30 merchant ships a rescue ship
with close escort of the 7th Escort Group comprising destroyers BULLDOG, KEPPEL
and WHITEHALL, the sloop CYGNET and the corvettes ALLINGTON CASTLE and
BAMBOROUGH CASTLE. The destroyers MILNE (D3), MUSKETEER, MARNE and METEOR who
had been with the convoy from Loch Ewe. Also with the convoy were the destroyers
SAUMAREZ (D23), SCORPION, VOLAGE and VENUS who had joined JW 60 in approximate
position 58-45N, 6W.
Following the RV with the convoy the destroyers MYNGS,
VERULAM, SAVAGE, ZAMBESI, ALGONQUIN and STORD detached and returned to Scapa.
At 0600 hours the convoy was joined by the destroyers
VIRAGO, VERULAM and HMCS ALGONQUIN from Loch Ewe.
At 0600 hours RODNEY took up station in the centre of
the convoy with a close escort of the destroyers MILNE, MARNE and METEOR and
MUSKETEER. The two escort carriers took up position astern of the convoy which
then proceed at 9.5 knots.
At 1540 hours RODNEY’s captain informed the crew that
their mission was to deter the TIRPITZ.
23rd - Convoy JW 60 arrived at Kola Inlet.
On arrival the flag of CS1 was transferred from the
CAMPANIA to RODNEY.
26th – RODNEY was visited by Russian admiral Golovko
28th - The flag of CS1 was transferred from RODNEY
back to the CAMPANIA.
Convoy RA 60 comprising 30 merchant ships a rescue
ship with close escort of the 7th Escort Group comprising destroyers BULLDOG,
KEPPLE and WHITEHALL, the sloop CYGNET and the corvettes ALLINGTON CASTLE and
BAMBOROUGH CASTLE sailed from Kola Inlet.
Off Kola Inlet convoy RA 60 was joined by the ocean
escort of RODNEY, CAMPANIA, STRIKER, DIADEM and destroyers MILNE (D3),
MUSKETEER, MARNE, METEOR, SAUMAREZ (D23), SCORPION, VOLAGE, VENUS, VIRAGO,
VERULAM and HMCS ALGONQUIN and SIOUX.
29th – At 1630 hours in approximate position 73N, 24E
the Liberty ships SS EDWARD H CROCKET 7,176 grt with 1659 tons of chrome ore as
ballast and SS SAMSUVA 7,219 grt with 3000 tons of pit props were torpedoed and
seriously damaged by submarine U 310.
The EDWARD H CROCKET was sunk by gunfire by the
The SAMSUVA was sunk by the destroyers BULLDOG and
4th – RODNEY, CAMPANIA, STRIKER, DIADEM and destroyers
MILNE (D3), MUSKETEER, MARNE, METEOR, SAUMAREZ (D23), SCORPION, VENUS, VERULAM,
VIRAGO, VOLAGE and HMCS ALGONQUIN and SIOUX arrived at Scapa.
5th – RODNEY hoisted the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry
Moore the CinC Home Fleet.
11th – The flag of CinC home Fleet transferred from
RODNEY to FURIOUS.
13th – At 1200 hours RODNEY escorted by destroyers
CAPRICE and VENUS sailed from Scapa for Rosyth.
14th – At 0100 hours RODNEY and destroyers CAPRICE and
VENUS arrived at Rosyth. The destroyers then returned to Scapa.
RODNEY was docked for maintenance.
27th – At 0500 hours RODNEY sailed from Rosyth.
Off May Island RODNEY RVed with the destroyer HMCS
IROQUOIS who then escorted her to Scapa.
At 1700 hours RODNEY and IROQUOIS arrived at Scapa.
30th - RODNEY hoisted the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry
Moore the CinC Home Fleet.
4th – RODNEY in company with light cruiser EURYALUS
sailed from Scapa for a practice shoot off Cape Wrath. RODNEY acted as a target
22nd – Flag of Admiral Sir Henry Moore the CinC Home
Fleet transferred to IMPLACABLE
29th - RODNEY hoisted the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry
Moore the CinC Home Fleet.
At Scapa flying the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry Moore
the CinC Home Fleet.
1 9 4 5
January to April
At Scapa flying the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry Moore
the CinC Home Fleet.
At Scapa flying the Flag of Admiral Sir Henry Moore
the CinC Home Fleet.
11th – At Scapa where she was visited by Mr A V
Alexander the first lord of the Admiralty.
22nd – Flag of Admiral Sir Henry Moore the CinC Home
Fleet was hauled down. RODNEY then sailed for Rosyth.
23rd – RODNEY arrived at Rosyth.
June to August
P o s t W a r N o t e s
HMS RODNEY was honoured by a Royal visit on 29th September
1945, before she paid off at Portsmouth on
30th November that year. The ship was laid-up in Reserve at Rosyth and placed
on the Disposal List in March 1948. Sold to BISCO for demolition by TW Ward she
arrived in tow at Inverkeithing to be broken-up
26th March 1948.
CONVOY ESCORT MOVEMENTS of
by Don Kindell
These convoy lists have not been
cross-checked with the text above
Date convoy sailed
Joined convoy as escort
(Note on Convoys)