(Maritime Quest, click
QUEEN ELIZABETH-Class battleship ordered from
Fairfield, Govan Glasgow after approval of design in June 1912. The ship
was laid down on 31st January 1913 and launched on 4th November 19l4. She was
sixth RN warship to bear this name which was introduced in 1759
for a 3rd Rate. It was last used
for an Armoured Ship in 1863 hulked in 1897 for use as an oil
terminal at Devonport until sold in
Build was completed in
February 1915 at a cost of £2,357,037. One source gives a date in 1916 for sea trials, which is difficult, to believe and
perhaps should be 1915. She then joined the Grand
was present at the Battle of Jutland. After WW1
remained in commission apart from her
refits until 1937
when she was taken in hand for reconstruction by HM Dockyard, Devonport. For details of original design and of the modernisation see
BRITISH BATTLESHIPS by A Raven and J Roberts. This ship is not included in the record of adoptions by a
civil community following
WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign during
1941-42. This may have been because she was
under repair as shown in the Chronology.
B a t t l e H o n o u r s
- USHANT 1778 -
1781 - THE SAINTES 1782
- GLORIOUS FIRST OF JUNE 1794 - GROIX 1795 -
BASQUE ROADS 1809 -
1916 - NORWAY 1940
1940-43 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941 - MATAPAN 1941 - CRETE 1941
- SICILY 1943 - SALERNO
- SABANG 1944
H e r a l d i c D a t a
Badge: On a Field Blue a
with steel spurs all proper.
M o t t
'Valiant and Vigilant'
D e t a i l 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
September and October
Under refit and reconstruction at Devonport.
Main armament elevation increased to 30¼ giving
her 15in battery a range of 32000 yards.
Casemated 6in guns removed and openings plated over.
20 x 4.5in high angle guns fitted amidships in 5 x 2 turrets on each beam.
Her close range AA capability was increased with 4 x eight barrelled 2
pounder and a number of 20mm Oerlikons.
An aircraft catapult and hanger for two Walrus aircraft was fitted
After torpedo tubes removed.
Deck armour increased in thickness.
Aircraft warning radar Type 79Z was fitted during the refit.
Under refit and reconstruction at Devonport.
25th - Refit completed.
30th – Re-commissioned. Captain Henry Bernard
Rawlings, OBE, RN. (Captain Rawlings appointed 26/08/40)
At Devonport undertaking harbour trials.
11th – VALIANT escorted by destroyers ACASTA and
ARDENT sailed from Plymouth to carry out working up exercises in the Channel.
Whilst VALIANT was at sea a U-boat was sighted in the vicinity of the Plymouth
indicator loops. All exercises were cancelled and VALIANT remained at sea with
ACASTA and ARDENT.
In the evening the destroyers ENCOUNTER and GRENADE joined VALIANT’s screen.
VALIANT, ACASTA, ARDENT, ENCOUNTER and GRENADE then sailed for Portland.
12th – At 0300 hours VALIANT, ACASTA, ARDENT,
ENCOUNTER and GRENADE arrived at Portland.
14th - VALIANT escorted by destroyers ACASTA and
ARDENT sailed from Portland for Bermuda.
16th – At longitude 20W destroyers ACASTA and ARDENT
detached and returned to Plymouth.
21st – In position 33-30N, 60-45W, approximately 250NM
and 18 hours steaming from Hamilton, Bermuda, VALIANT RVed with the destroyer
22nd – VALIANT and HYPERION arrived at Hamilton,
23rd – VALIANT screened by HYPERION commenced working
up exercises centred on Bermuda.
1 9 4 0
Based at Bermuda carrying out working up exercises.
23rd – VALIANT, light cruiser ENTERPRISE and
destroyers HUNTER and HEREWARD departed Bermuda for Halifax.
26th - VALIANT, ENTERPRISE and destroyers HUNTER and
HEREWARD arrived at Halifax.
30th – Battleships MALAYA and VALIANT, ENTERPRISE and
destroyers HUNTER and HMCS ST LAURENT, FRASER, OTTAWA and RESTIGOUCHE sailed
from Halifax escorting Canadian troop convoy TC 3; which comprised troopships
EMPRESS OF BRITAIN 42,348grt, 1588 troops embarked, MONARCH OF BERMUDA,
22,424grt, 1334 troops embarked, EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA 19,665grt, 1577 troops
embarked, AQUITANIA 45,647grt, 2733 troops embarked and Polish CHROBRY
11,442grt, 118 troops and civilian labour embarked.
31st – The destroyers ST LAURENT, FRASER, OTTAWA and
RESTIGOUCHE detached from convoy TC 3 and returned to Halifax.
2nd – In approximate position 49N, 48W the ENTERPRISE
detached from convoy TC 3 and returned to Halifax.
5th – At 0830 hours in approximate position 55-30N,
23W MALAYA, VALIANT and HUNTER escorting convoy TC 3 were joined by destroyers
FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FURY, FOXHOUND, FAME, FORTUNE, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE,
DARING and DIANA.
At 1030 hours HUNTER detached and headed for Plymouth.
7th – At 0700 hours, off Ailsa Craig the destroyers
FAME and KELVIN joined the escort.
At 1200 hours convoy TC 3 and escort arrived off Greenock.
27th – Whilst in the Clyde VALIANT was visited by King
George V1 and Queen Elizabeth.
28th - VALIANT was visited by the First Lord of the
Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
2nd – At 1600 hours VALIANT and battlecruiser HOOD
with destroyers KELLY (D5), KANDAHAR, SIKH, FAULKNOR (D8), FAME and FORESTER
sailed from Greenock to provide distant cover for the Northern Patrol and the
Norwegian convoys ON 17, ON 17A and HN 17.
3rd – At 1133 hours in position 58-27N, 5-46W the
destroyer FORESTER obtained a sonar contact which was believed to be a
submarine. FORESTER was joined by FAME and together they carried out DC attacks
at 1240, 1320, 1423 and 1500 hours without result.
At 2138 hours in position 61-06N, 3-58W, KELLY obtained a sonar contact which
was believed to be a submarine. KELLY made several DC attacks without result.
7th – At 1600 hours VALIANT, HOOD with destroyers
KELLY (D5), KANDAHAR, SIKH, FAULKNOR (D8), FAME and FORESTER arrived at Scapa.
(HOOD and VALIANT were the first capital ships to use Scapa Flow since the AA
defences had been improved)
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 March)
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.
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.
At 0915 hours in approximate position 61-07N, 1-00E the CinC detached the
REPULSE PENELOPE and destroyers BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY, PUNJABI and ESKIMO to
proceed at their best speed to go to the assistance of GLOWWORM.
At 1200 hours the CinC HF ordered the accompanying RAF Sunderland of 201 Sqd. to
proceed ahead of the Fleet and search for the enemy.
At 1429 hours the CinC received the Sunderland’s report timed at 1400 hours of
one battlecruiser, two cruisers and two destroyers in position 64-12N, 06-25E,
and course 270 ¼.
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 2000 hours the Fleet were in position 64-22N, 03-40E.
At 2010 hours the Fleet altered course to 195¼ and increased speed to 18 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 0620 hours the CinC detached the destroyer TARTAR to RV with the Polish
destroyers BLYSKAWICA, BURZA and GROM, the Polish destroyers were steaming north
with the light cruisers ARETHUSA and GALATEA, then to RV with convoy HN 25 and
escort it to Methil Roads.
At 0630 hours in position 61-23N, 03-06E course 180¼, speed 18 knots, the CinC
was joined by the cruisers GLASGOW and MANCHESTER of the 18th CS, these cruisers
had been covering convoy ON 25.
At 0940 hours in approximate position 60-28N, 03-00E The CinC was joined by the
heavy cruisers DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK and YORK of the 1st CS, light cruisers
ARETHUSA and GALATEA of the 2nd CS and SOUTHAMPTON of the 18th CS, French light
cruiser EMILE BERTIN, destroyers, GURKHA, SIKH, AFRIDI, MOHAWK, and French large
destroyers MAILLE BREZE and TARTU. The destroyers ELECTRA, CODRINGTON, GRIFFIN
and ESCAPADE rejoined after refuelling at Sullom Voe.
At 1130 hours the CinC HF detached SOUTHAMPTON, MANCHESTER (CS18), SHEFFIELD and
GLASGOW of the 18th CS with destroyers AFRIDI (D4), GURKHA, SIKH, MOHAWK, SOMALI
(D6), MATABELE and MASHONA for a raid on Bergen.
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.
Between 1430 and 1740 hours the Fleet consisting of the RODNEY, VALIANT,
DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK, YORK, SHEFFIELD, ARETHUSA, GALATEA and destroyers JUPITER,
CODRINGTON (D.1), GRIFFIN, BRAZEN, ESCAPADE and ELECTRA and the French EMILE
BERTIN and destroyers MAILLE BREZE and TARTU, was attacked by 47 Ju 88 bombers
from KG 30 and 41 He111 bombers from KG 26.
At 2030 hours in approximate position 61-50N, 3-00E the Fleet turned west to
place distance between it and the 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 from Lerwick.
At 0530 hours the destroyers HERO and HYPERION joined from Sullom Voe.
At 0730 hours in position 61-24N, 2-00W, RODNEY, VALIANT, DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK,
YORK, FAULKNOR (D.8), FOXHOUND and FORESTER were joined by the battleship
WARSPITE, the aircraft carrier FURIOUS and their destroyer screen of ASHANTI,
MAORI, ECLIPSE, ESCORT, ISIS, ILEX, IMOGEN, INGLEFIELD, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO.
At 0800 hours the Fleet changed course to north easterly to achieve a flying off
position for FURIOUS’s Swordfish to attack Trondheim.
At 2035 hours the CinC HF received Admiralty message timed at 1904 hours which
laid down future policy, viz; The capture of Narvik was to take priority over
operations against Bergen and Trondheim.
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
From 1540 to 1700 hours the Fleet was bombed by German aircraft, during the
attack, at 1700 hours, the ECLIPSE was hit and her engine room flooded.
The YORK, ESCORT and HYPERION were detached to stand by ECLIPSE. Eventually
ECLIPSE was taken in tow by ESCORT the tow was later handed over to YORK who
then towed ECLIPSE to Lerwick, screened by ESCORT and HYPERION.
At 1607 hours the Admiralty informed the CinC HF, that there was reason to
suspect that certain enemy units were going to affect a RV in latitude 67N
between longitude 4-30E and 6E, at sometime between 2000/11/4/40 and
At 1700 hours the Fleet was in position 64-48N, 7-52E.
At 1709 hours the CinC asked the Vice admiral Commanding the Battle Cruiser
Squadron when he could reach the position. He replied that he was in position
67-50N, 8-11E steering 235¼ at 24knots. He was therefore well placed to
intercept any enemy.
At 2000 hours the Fleet was in approximate position 65-40N, 8-15E, proceeding
north to attack Narvik. Following receipt of the message the Fleet changed
course to north easterly to close the position given in the 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
At 11220 hours the CinC HF received Admiralty message timed at 1033 hours,
stating; An operation to clean up enemy naval forces and destroy shore batteries
in Narvik is to be carried out using synchronized dive-bombing attacks from
FURIOUS in combination with attack by surface forces. It is considered that the
latter should consist of a battleship heavily escorted by destroyers. On
completion of the operation, FURIOUS is to remain in Narvik area to assist
coming land operation. Fuel for FURIOUS is being sent. Risk of U-Boat attack
should be alright if suitable anchorage is selected with destroyer patrol
At 1450 hours VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO were detached to make
contact with troop convoy NP 1.
13th - VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO RVed
with convoy NP 1.
VALIANT detached and joined the convoy NP 1 which was heading north for Narvik.
(Convoy NP 1 consisted of the troopships MONARCH of BERMUDA 22424grt, REINA DEL
PACIFICO 17702grt and the Polish ship BATORY 14287grt these ships were
carrying troops of the 24th Guards Brigade, EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA 21833grt, and
the Polish CHROBRY 11442grt who were carrying troops of the 146 Brigade. The
escort was the light cruisers MANCHESTER (Flag Vice Admiral G Layton CinC 18th
CS) and BIRMINGHAM, anti-aircraft cruiser CAIRO, the net layer PROTECTOR, repair
ship VINDICTIVE and destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT, CODRINGTON, VANOC, WITHERINGTON,
VOLUNTEER, WHIRLWIND, HIGHLANDER, FEARLESS, BRAZEN and GRIFFIN. The destroyers
FEARLESS, BRAZEN and GRIFFIN had only recently joined the convoy with the
specific task of screening VALIANT when she joined)
14th – At 1818 hours the Admiralty gave instructions
for the 146th Brigade, embarked in the EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA and CHROBRY, to be
landed at Namsos.
(This decision followed the British success in
the Second Battle of Narvik, when the German naval force was sunk or
neutralised. The success led Churchill to suppose that Narvik was as good as
captured and he therefore looked at other objectives in Norway that could be
secured by some of the force carried in convoy NP 1)
At 1900 hours the EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA and CHROBRY
escorted by MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, CAIRO and the destroyers VANOC, WHIRLWIND,
HIGHLANDER detached from convoy NP 1 and headed for Namsos.
(In an Admiralty message timed 2314/13/4/40
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cork and Orrery was nominated as the commander of
the naval side of the Narvik combined operations. The army commander of the
Narvik force was Major General MacKesy, who was embarked on the SOUTHAMPTON,
along with 350 Scots Guards. Lord Cork was already en route to the Narvik
area, having sailed at 1200/12/4/40 on the AURORA from Rosyth. When convoy
NP 1 sailed the intention was that the troops would be landed at Harstad.
When Vice Admiral Whitworth sent his signal reporting the successful outcome
of the Second Battle of Narvik, he included in the signal; 'I am convinced
that Narvik can now be taken by direct assault now without fear of meeting
serious opposition on landing. I consider that the main landing force need
only be small but that it must have the support of Force B or one of similar
composition'. On receipt of Whitworth’s signal on 13/4/40, Lord Cork
immediately signalled MacKesy in SOUTHAMPTON with the following signal;
'AURORA and SOUTHAMPTON are to arrived at Skjelfjord by 2000/13/4/40'. It
being Lord Cork’s intention that the troops on SOUTHAMPTON together with
marines from WARSPITE, SOUTHAMPTON, AURORA and PENELOPE and sailors from the
disabled destroyers would Immediately proceed to Narvik and land. However
due to difficult W/T conditions his signal failed to reach the SOUTHAMPTON.
So the chance of a quick victory at Narvik was lost and convoy NP 1
continued on to Harstad)
15th – Convoy NP 1 and escort was met by the light
cruisers AURORA and SOUTHAMPTON off the entrance to Andfjord and all vessels
then proceeded to Harstad arriving off the port in the morning.
FEARLESS and BRAZEN, patrolling ahead of the convoy, located and damaged U 49,
in Vaagsfjord in position 68-53.5N, 16-59.5E. U.49 surrendered after one depth
charge attack. Many documents were recovered before the scuttling charge fired.
The destroyers were able to pick up four officers and 37 of the submarine's
crew. One rating was missing. The crew was embarked on VALIANT for passage to
England. Four hours later, FEARLESS, screening VALIANT, made another attack on a
submarine contact in the same vicinity.
Since Harstad was not big enough to accommodate the liners, the troopships were
sent to Bygden and the troops, the 24th Guards Brigade (1st Battalion, Scots
Guards, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards and 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borders) were
ferried to Harstad in destroyers
At 1900 hours VALIANT escorted by FEARLESS, BRAZEN and GRIFFIN departed
Vaagsfjord for Scapa.
18th – At 1100 hours VALIANT, FEARLESS, BRAZEN and
GRIFFIN arrived at Scapa.
(At 0142/14/4/40 The Admiralty signalled the
CinC HF, the gist of the signal was a proposed landing in the Trondheim
area. This was a scheme that had been urged on the First Lord of the
Admiralty, Winston Churchill, by the MP and retired Admiral of the Fleet Sir
Roger Keyes. The CinC HF replied:-
Your 0142/14/4. Shore batteries could no doubt be
destroyed or dominated by battleship in daylight, suitably swept and
screened, if she had HE bombardment shell for main armament, but none of the
Home Fleet have. This, however, is only the minor part of the task. The main
- Surprise having been lost, to protect the troopships from a heavy
scale air attack for over 30 miles in narrow waters.
- Then to carry out an opposed landing, of which ample warning had
been given, under continuous air attack.
For the foregoing reasons, I do not consider the
operation feasible unless you are prepared to face very heavy losses in
troops and transports.
The Admiralty replied that they still think the
operation they described in 0142/14/4 should be further studied. Adding that
HE shells for 15in have been ordered to Rosyth)
19th – At 1630 hours VALIANT and battlecruiser RENOWN
with light cruisers GALATEA and ARETHUSA and destroyers VANSITTART, CAMPBELL,
WITCH, WOLVERINE and GREYHOUND, departed Scapa Flow for Rosyth, for VALIANT and
RENOWN to embark HE shells for their main armament.
20th – At 0330 hours off the Firth of Forth GREYHOUND
detached for Blackwall, London.
At 0700 hours VALIANT, RENOWN, GALATEA, ARETHUSA and destroyers VANSITTART,
CAMPBELL, WITCH and WOLVERINE arrived off Rosyth.
RENOWN was placed in dockyard hands so only VALIANT was to embark the 15in HE
(Late on the night of 19/4/40 the operation in
which VALIANT was required to carry out a shore bombardment with 15in HE
shells was cancelled)
21st – At 1900 hours VALIANT escorted by destroyers
GRAFTON, ARROW and ACHERON sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.
22nd – At 0830 hours VALIANT and destroyers GRAFTON,
ARROW and ACHERON arrived at Scapa.
29th – At 2100 hours VALIANT with destroyers FURY,
FORTUNE, ESCORT and ENCOUNTER sailed from Scapa to provide AA cover for the
aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL.
30th – At 1100 hours in approximate position 62N, 4E,
VALIANT and destroyers FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT and ENCOUNTER RVed with ARK ROYAL
(Flag Vice Admiral aircraft carriers), heavy cruiser BERWICK, light cruiser
SHEFFIELD and destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, FEARLESS and JUNO.
VALIANT joined ARK ROYAL to provide radar cover.
1st – At 1005 hours the ARK ROYAL/VALIANT force was
joined by the aircraft carrier GLORIOUS and destroyers ACHERON, ANTELOPE and
At 1200 hours the destroyers HYPERION and BEAGLE were detached for refuelling at
ARK ROYAL and GLORIOUS mounted fighter patrols over the ships evacuating troops
(At 1427/1/5/40 the CinC HF informed the
authorities that the VALIANT’s bombardment of Trondheim would not be carried
out. The operation had of course effectively been cancelled on 19/4/40)
At 1600 hours an aircraft that was unseen from the
ground dropped a heavy bomb that fell between ARK ROYAL and VALIANT, no damage
At 1827 hours the Force was attacked by 12 Ju 87’s and 5 He 111’s no damage was
At 2052 hours the CinC HF signalled the Vice Admiral aircraft carriers to return
2nd – At 0000 hours following the repeated air
attacks, which showed that British equipment and aircraft were inferior in every
department except radar, the Force sailed for Scapa.
3rd – At 1030 hours VALIANT, ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS,
BERWICK and destroyers FURY, ENCOUNTER, ESCORT, FEARLESS, ACHERON, ANTELOPE,
FORTUNE and KIMBERLEY arrived back at Scapa.
For the remainder of May VALIANT was at Scapa unable
to proceed to sea due the lack of screening destroyers.
19th – At 1220 hours the CinC HF ordered all capital
ships at Scapa to maintain one seaman rifle platoon at 45 minutes notice for
4th - VALIANT with destroyers ZULU, MAORI and FOXHOUND
departed Scapa Flow for firings west of the Orkneys.
At 1345 hours VALIANT arrived back at Scapa and the destroyers waited off Scapa
and joined heavy cruiser SUSSEX.
(At 1538/5/6/40 the CinC HF received a report
from the RFA PRUNELLA [actually HMS PRUNELLA] of sighting two
unknown ships at 1130 in position 64-40N, 00E steering 265¼ at 20 knots. The
CinC knew nothing of the PRUNELLA or that she was operating in the northern
area. The CinC contacted the Admiralty to clear up the identity of PRUNELLA,
and was informed that she was a special service vessel [anti-submarine
Q ship] ex the SS CAPE HOWE. This was confirmed by the destroyer
ELECTRA who at 1805/5/6/40 made contact with her off Noup Head. At
0705/5/6/40 the Admiralty signalled the CinC HF informing him the PRUNELLA
thought the ships were merchant ships)
6th – At 1645 hours further to PRUNELLA’s report the
CinC HF ordered VALIANT, in lieu of the battle cruiser squadron, to sail for
At 2130 hours VALIANT and destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN and ASHANTI
departed Scapa to be in position to off Norway to RV with the troopships of
Group 1 by early dawn on 8/6/40, to provide close cover for the ships evacuating
troops and equipment from Harstad; Operation ALPHABET.
8th – At 0100 hours in approximate position 66N, 1W,
VALIANT and destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI RVed with Group 1
troopships; comprising, MONARCH OF BERMUDA 22,424grt, BATORY 14,287grt, SOBIESKI
11,030grt, FRANCONIA 20,175grt, LANCASTRIA 16,243grt and GEORGIC 27,759grt
escorted by repair ship VINDICTIVE, destroyers VISCOUNT, WITHERINGTON,
WOLVERINE, ANTELOPE and ATHERSTONE.
VALIANT then provided close cover for the troopships on their voyage south.
(At 0100/8/6/40 the CinC HF received for
remarks the Admiralty’s proposed dispositions for the Fleet. This followed
events on the continent. In the proposal VALIANT and REPULSE were to be
stationed at Plymouth, destroyer escorts to be provided by CinC Western
At 2100 hours in approximate position 61-30N, 5W,
VALIANT and destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI detached from the
convoy of Group 1 troopships and returned north to RV with Group II troopships.
9th – At 1030 hours in approximate position 65N, 5W,
VALIANT sighted the hospital ship ATLANTIS (ex Royal Mail Lines SS ATLANTIS
15135grt). ATLANTIS informed VALIANT of the sinking of the troopship SS ORAMA
(At 0800/4/6/40 the German battlecruisers
GNEISENAU [flag Admiral Marschall], SCHARNHORST, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL
HIPPER, with destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK
and HANS LODY sailed from Kiel on Operation JUNO. The objective of Operation
JUNO was to relieve the pressure on German forces in the Narvik area by
attacking the Allies sea supply lines off northern Norway.
Early on 7/6/40 the loaded troopships of Group 1
were sighted by German recognisance aircraft on a south westerly course 110
miles south east of Marschall’s position, but Marschall chose to ignore them
as he believed them to be empty and returning to the UK, has he was not
aware that Operation ALPHABET had commenced.
At 0900/8/6/40in position 67-44N, 03-52E the
ADMIRAL HIPPER and HANS LODY came upon two ships, the empty troopship SS
ORAMA and the hospital ship ATLANTIS. The ADMIRAL HIPPER sank the ORAMA
[19 crew were lost and 280 rescued and became POW’s]
the ATLANTIS to proceed on her way. In accordance with the Geneva Convention
ATLANTIS maintained radio silence.
[The troopship ORAMA had arrived at the ocean
RV off Andfjord to participate in the troop evacuation from Harstad. As
ORAMA was short of fuel and fresh water and since sufficient capacity for
the first troop lift was already at hand, ORAMA was ordered back to the UK
with the hospital ship ATLANTIS] .
The first Allied vessel that
ATLANTIS sighted following her witnessing the sinking of the ORAMA was the
At 0938 hours VALIANT signalled the CinC HF and passed
on ATLANTIS’s report of the sinking of the empty troopship SS ORAMA 19840grt in
position 67-44N, 03-52E at 0900/8/6/40 by Germany heavy units.
At 1955 hours VALIANT was in the process of launching her aircraft when she was
sighted by a He 115 reconnaissance aircraft that had taken off from Trondheim,
three hours previously. Patrolling above VALIANT is a Skua of 800 Sqd from ARK
At 2000 hours the Skua sighted the He 115 shadowing the ship; the Skua closed
and opened fire on the He 115, driving off the shadower.
At 2250 hours VALIANT and destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI RVed
with the Group II troopships; comprising troopships ORONSAY 20,043grt, ORMONDE
14,982grt, ARANDORA STAR 15,501grt, DUCHESS OF YORK 20,021grt, ROYAL ULSTERMAN
3244grt, ULSTER PRINCE 3791grt and ULSTER MONARCH 3791grt, escorted by light
cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Lord Cork's Flagship), anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY and
destroyers FIREDRAKE, HAVELOCK, FAME, BEAGLE, CAMPBELL, DELIGHT and ECHO.
From 2345 hours to 0100/10 the convoy was under German air attack by six
aircraft in 67-55N, 2-10E. There was no damage.
10th – At 0930 hours in approximate position 63N, 4W,
REPULSE joined the escort of convoy Group II.
At 1400 hours MAORI and FORESTER joined the escort of convoy Group II.
(At 1645/10/6/40, the Italian Minister for
Foreign Affairs informed the British Ambassador in Rome that at one minute
past midnight on the 11/6/40, a state of war would exist between Italy and
the United Kingdom)
11th – At 1200 hours in position 59-40N, 05-38W
VALIANT and REPULSE with destroyers TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN, MAORI, DIANA, ACHERON
and FORESTER detached from convoy Group II for Scapa Flow.
At 2240 hours VALIANT and REPULSE with destroyers TARTAR (D.6), BEDOUIN, MAORI,
DIANA, ACHERON and FORESTER arrived at Scapa Flow.
directly to the First Sea Lord.
(22/6/40 the French signed an armistice with
Germany. At a stroke the strategic situation in the Mediterranean changed.
The British Government now faced some difficult decisions. From the
Admiralty’s point of view the first requirement was to stabilise he
situation in the western Mediterranean by replacing the lost French naval
On 25/6/40 the Flag Officer North Atlantic,
Admiral Sir Dudley North, pointed out there were no forces between Gibraltar
and the Italian Fleet base. He further stated that the aircraft at
Gibraltar, 6 RAF London flying boats and 3 FAA Swordfish, were inadequate
for the reconnaissance necessary to give warning of the approach of an enemy
force from the east. The largest naval units available at Gibraltar were
destroyers, and never more than eight; these were too few to provide for
patrol and convoy escort. He requested urgent reinforcements. On 28/6/40 the
Admiralty constituted a detached squadron to be based at Gibraltar and to be
known as Force H under the command of Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville, who
was to report
On the afternoon of 29/6/40, Somerville was
briefed at the Admiralty on his task. He was to endeavour to secure the
transfer, surrender, or destruction of the French warships at Oran and
Mers-el-Kebir by any means possible, and no concessions were to be given to
the French. They were either to accept the British terms or face the
26th – At 1900 hours VALIANT and destroyers FORESTER,
FORESIGHT and ESCORT departed Scapa Flow for Gibraltar.
30th – At 1745 hours the cruiser ARETHUSA arrived at
Gibraltar with Vice Admiral Sir James F Somerville embarked. Vice Admiral
Somerville then transferred his flag to the HOOD as CinC Force H.
Later VALIANT and destroyers FORESTER, FORESIGHT and ESCORT arrived at Gibraltar
to join Force H.
Also at Gibraltar were the other Units of Force H; battlecruiser HOOD,
battleship RESOLUTION and aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL.
(The Admiralty terms of reference for Force H
were; a) Prevent units of the Italian Fleet breaking out of the
Mediterranean; b) To carry out offensive operations against the Italian
Fleet and the Italian coast)
2nd - At 1500 hours Force H destroyers, ACTIVE,
ESCORT, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, KEPPEL, VORTIGERN, WATCHMAN and
WISHART sailed from Gibraltar to carry out an anti-submarine sweep in advance of
the main force leaving harbour.
At 1700 hours Force H comprising HOOD (Flag VA Force H), RESOLUTION, VALIANT,
ARK ROYAL, ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE sailed from Gibraltar to carry out Operation
(Operation CATAPULT was resultant from the
French surrender which took place on 25/6/40 and the wording of the
surrender document relating to the French naval forces which stated, 'The
French fleet was to be assembled at ports under Italian or German control
and demilitarised'. This statement caused great concern to the UK Government
and they determined to ensure that the French fleet would not be allowed to
fall into enemy hands. Force H sailed to enforce the UK Governments demands
or sink the French warships at Mers-el-Kebir)
3rd - At 0300 hours FOXHOUND was detached to proceed
ahead with Captain Holland who was to communicate the UK Government’s message to
Admiral Gensoul on his Flag Ship the Battleship DUNKERQUE.
At 0910 hours Force H arrived off Oran.
At 1200 hours FOXHOUND proceeded out of the entrance of Mers-el-Kebir harbour
but remained in visual touch with HOOD and DUNKERQUE.
At 1725 hours Captain Holland left the DUNKERQUE his mission having failed.
At 1754 hours at a range of 17500 yards Force H opened fire on the French
At 1800 hours a full salvo from RESOLUTION hit the French Battleship BRETAGNE
with at least one shell penetrating her magazine.
At 1804 hours after 36 salvoes of 15inch Force H checked fire. This after the
BRETAGNE had blown up killing over 1000 of her crew, and the DUNKERQUE damaged.
At 1820 hours the French Battleship STRASBOURG and Destroyers KERSAINT, LYNX,
TERRIBLE, TIGRE and LYNX sailed from Mers-el-Kebir. (This force was later joined
by 6 destroyers from Oran).
At 1825 hours ARK ROYAL launched a strike of 6 Swordfish to attack STRASBOURG
without effect. The STRASBOURG force then made off at speed towards the east,
with Force H in pursuit.
At 1914 hours FORESTER picked up Captain Holland and proceeded after the main
At 2020 hours the hot pursuit was abandoned, STRASBOURG at the time was about 25
miles ahead of HOOD, and RESOLUTION and VALIANT were falling behind.
At 2055 hours Swordfish from ARK ROYAL made a torpedo attack on STRASBOURG
without slowing her down.
Force H then chased after STRASBOURG at a speed of 18 knots, the speed was
governed by RESOLUTION’s best speed.
4th - At 0400 hours Force H ran into fog and the
planned strike at 0430 hours by 12 Swordfish from ARK ROYAL was abandoned.
Force H destroyers were now running low on fuel and in consequence of this and
the message received at 2250/3/7/40 to Flag Officer, Force H had received from
Admiral Gensoul stating that 'his ships were hors de combat and that
their personnel had been ordered to evacuate them', Force H set course for
At 1900 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
8th - At 0700 hours Force H comprising HOOD,
RESOLUTION, VALIANT, ARK ROYAL, cruisers ARETHUSA, DELHI, and ENTERPRISE
escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ESCORT, FEARLESS, ACTIVE,
DOUGLAS, VELOX, VORTIGERN, and WRESTLER to cover the Mediterranean Fleet. As a
diversion for the convoys leaving Malta. ARK ROYAL was to launch an air raid
En route Force H was detected by Italian reconnaissance aircraft. Force H had
also been seen leaving Gibraltar and reported by Italian agents in Spain.
Between 1545 hours and 1840 hours Force H was attacked by 40 high level Savoia
SM 79 aircraft that dropped over 100 bombs. No hits were achieved but there were
several near misses. (The SM 79’s had flown from the airfield at Villacidro,
The loss of surprise and the possibility of serious damage to the ARK ROYAL on
an operation that was only a diversion, led to Somerville abandoning the
At 2215 hours Force H reversed course and set course for Gibraltar.
9th – At 1100 hours when Force H was steaming westward
at 18 knots VALIANT’s radar picked up a number of aircraft approaching from the
north. These aircraft came within 10 miles of the Force then turned away no
doubt being unable to locate the Force due to the poor visibility.
At 0215 hours ESCORT was torpedoed in her forward boiler room by the Italian
submarine GUGLIELMO MARCONI in position 36-11N, 03-37E, there were no
causalities. The FORESTER had witnessed the attack a made an unsuccessful
attempt to ram the submarine. Attempts were made to salvage ESCORT by FORESTER
towing her stern first and FAULKNOR providing an escort. But she was too badly
damaged and her list increased.
At 1115 hours the ESCORT sank. FAULKNOR and FORESTER, having taken off all
ESCORT’s crew, then set course for Gibraltar.
At 0800 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
31st - At 0800 hours Force H comprising HOOD,
RESOLUTION, VALIANT, aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL and ARGUS, ARETHUSA,
ENTERPRISE, escorted by destroyers ENCOUNTER, FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FORESIGHT,
FOXHOUND, FEARLESS, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, HOTSPUR and VELOX. Sailed from Gibraltar
to carry out Operation HURRY.
(Operation HURRY was an operation to deliver 12
Hurricanes to Malta. These were carried by ARGUS who had arrived at
Gibraltar on 30/7/40)
1st - At 2045 hours, 100 miles south west of Majorca,
Force H divided into two groups, Group 1 and Group 2.
RESOLUTION, VALIANT, ARGUS, ARETHUSA, ENCOUNTER, FEARLESS, GALLANT,
GREYHOUND, HOTSPUR and VELOX.
Group 2 continued
towards southern Sardinia to fly off the Hurricanes.
Group 2 comprised
Group 1 then proceeded to a flying off position
for aircraft from ARK ROYAL to carry out Operation CRUSH, a diversionary air
attack against Cagliari.
2nd – Between 0515 and 0600 hours in position 112
miles south west of Cape Spartivento light house the 12 RAF Hurricanes with two
Fleet Air Arm Skuas as escort, were flown off to Malta. All Hurricanes arrived
safely but one crashed on landing.
At 0530 hours Group 1 rejoined Group 2.
At 0700 hours, following the recovery of ARK ROYAL’s aircraft, returning from
Operation CRUSH, Force H reversed direction and set course for Gibraltar.
4th – At 0600 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
(The decision was taken to reorganise Force H,
with HOOD being replaced by RENOWN, the change was to take place in the UK)
At 1915 hours Force H, comprising HOOD (Flag VA Force
H), VALIANT, ARGUS, light cruiser ARETHUSA escorted by destroyers ESCAPADE,
FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FOXHOUND sailed from Gibraltar for the UK.
ARK ROYAL, light cruiser ENTERPRISE and destroyers GREYHOUND, GALLANT, ENCOUNTER
and HOTSPUR also sailed with Force H.
(En route Force H was instructed to search for
neutral mercantiles thought to be breaking the blockade. To increase the
effectiveness of the search Force H was initially accompanied by ARK ROYAL
and her escort)
5th – The destroyer FEARLESS joined Force H.
6th - At 1050 hours ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE, GREYHOUND,
GALLANT, ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR detached and returned to Gibraltar.
HOOD carried out a 15 inch practice shoot.
7th - HOOD carried out a 15 inch full charge practice
shoot. The result of these practice shoots revealed that the rifling of one of
the guns was defective.
9th - At 0700 hours west of Ireland Force H was joined
by HM Destroyers PUNJABI, TARTAR and BEDOUIN.
Following which VALIANT, ARGUS, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT and FORESTER
detached for Liverpool.
10th – At 1530 hours VALIANT, ARGUS and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT and FORESTER arrived Liverpool.
(VALIANT was nominated to serve with the Mediterranean Fleet .Whilst at
Liverpool VALIANT loaded armaments for Malta which she would discharge at Malta
en route to Alexandra)
22nd – At 1500 hours
light cruiser AJAX and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FURY sailed
from Liverpool and steered for the North Channel.
23rd – 0330 hours in the North Channel VALIANT, AJAX
and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FURY were joined by the
anti-aircraft cruisers CALCUTTA and COVENTRY and destroyer FORTUNE who had
departed the Clyde at 2030/22/8/40.
At 2000 hours in approximate position 55N, 15W, VALIANT, AJAX, CALCUTTA,
COVENTRY and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FORTUNE and FURY RVed
with aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag Rear Admiral Lumley Lyster, RA Carriers,
Mediterranean), heavy cruiser YORK, light cruiser SHEFFIELD and destroyers
FIREDRAKE, ASHANTI, TARTAR and BEDOUIN; who had sailed from Scapa at
24th – The destroyers ASHANTI, TARTAR and BEDOUIN
detached and joined the AMC SALOPIAN who was en route to Liverpool.
28th – At 2000 hours in approximate position 35-45N,
14-15W, VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK AJAX, SHEFFIELD, CALCUTTA, COVENTRY and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FORTUNE and FURY, RVed with
Force H comprising battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag CinC Force H), aircraft carrier
ARK ROYAL, light cruiser ENTERPRISE, and destroyers GALLANT, HOTSPUR, GRIFFIN,
VELOX, ENCOUNTER, GREYHOUND and VIDETTE.
The combined force then set course for Gibraltar.
29th – At 1830 hours to the west of the Straits of
Gibraltar Force H was joined by the destroyers WRESTLER and WISHART from
At 2030 hours Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
30th – At 0845 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY,
FORTUNE, ENCOUNTER, VELOX and WISHART. Force F comprising VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS,
COVENTRY, CALCUTTA and destroyers GALLANT, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR. Force
A comprising destroyers JANUS, HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN sailed from Gibraltar on
reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet that en route were to call into
Malta to offload military supplies. Force A had been detached from the
Mediterranean Fleet to provide additional escorts for Force F.
(The objectives of Operation HATS for Force H
1. To cover the passage of Force F to the Sicilian
Channel. The ships of Force F were
2. To carry out air strikes on Cagliari, Sardinia)
31st – The fleet steered towards the south of the
Balearic Islands. During the day Skuas from the ARK ROYAL shot down two
shadowing Italian seaplanes a Cant Z 506B and a Cant Z 501.
At 2150 hours south east of the Balearic Islands, Force W, VELOX and WISHART
were detached to carry out Operation SQUAWK and steered for the north of the
Island of Minorca.
At 22.00 Forces F and H turned to the south east and headed for southern
(Operation SQUAWK required the two destroyers
to proceed to the north of the Balearic Islands and then to make extensive
wireless signals as if they were the entire fleet, in the hope that any
Italian radio monitoring service would report that Force H was heading for
Genoa. This attempt at deception may well have succeeded, for on the morning
of 1 September Somerville reported that his fleet was not being shadowed)
1st – At 0330 hours ARK ROYAL launched a strike force
of 9 Swordfish, each armed with 4 x 250lb HE bombs and 8 x 25lb incendiaries, to
attack the airfield at Elmas, Cagliari. (Operation SMASH) Following the launch
the fleet continued towards the Sicilian Channel.
At 0600 hours the Swordfish attacked the airfield and seaplanes in the adjacent
At 0800 hours all the Swordfish were recovered.
At 2200 hours in position 38-06N, 10-51E, approximately half way between the
south-eastern tip of Sardinia and the western tip of Sicily, Force H detached
and turned to the north.
At 2200 hours Force F comprising
COVENTRY, CALCUTTA and destroyers GALLANT, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR.
Together with Force A comprising destroyers JANUS, HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN
preceded on a south easterly course for Malta and a RV with the Mediterranean
2nd – At 0500 hours in approximate position 36-30N,
12-45E, COVENTRY and CALCUTTA with destroyers NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JANUS and JUNO
were detached to Malta. eight 3.7in anti-aircraft
guns, predictors and height finders to support the AA guns, replacement gun
barrels for the anti-aircraft guns, 10,000 rounds of 40mm Bofors ammunition, 100
Bren guns and ammunition etc. The off-loading was interrupted by an air raid
carried out by Ju 87’s of the Italian Airforce)
At 0700 hours Force F was joined by the light cruiser ORION and destroyer
At 0900 hours in approximate position 35-40N, 13-33E Force F RVed with the
Mediterranean Fleet from Alexandra. Force F and the Mediterranean Fleet then
proceeded on an easterly course.
At 0930 hours destroyers VAMPIRE and VENDETTA joined and destroyers HEREWARD and
ILEX were detached to Malta to refuel.
At 1010 hours in approximate position 35-30N, 14E, VALIANT with destroyers
HYPERION, DECOY, HASTY, and WRYNECK were detached to Malta.
Off Valletta VALIANT and her destroyers were subjected to an air attack which
delayed their entrance into harbour.
At 1430 hours VALIANT with destroyers HYPERION, DECOY, HASTY, and WRYNECK
arrived at Valletta.
(On arrival at Valletta VALIANT, COVENTRY and CALCUTTA off-loaded military
supplies which included
At 1900 hours VALIANT with destroyers
HYPERION, IMPERIAL and JANUS sailed from Valletta to RV with the WARSPITE and
At 2330 hours VALIANT, HYPERION, IMPERIAL and JANUS joined WARSPITE and her
escort. As VALIANT joined the light cruisers ORION and SYDNEY with destroyers
ILEX and DECOY were detached for a dawn bombardment of the airfield on the
Island of Scarpanto.
The combined force was designated Force I and comprised; battleship WARSPITE
(Flag CinC Mediterranean Fleet Admiral Cunningham), VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS,
CALCUTTA, STUART, VOYAGER, DECOY, DEFENDER, HEREWARD, IMPERIAL, HYPERION, ILEX,
HASTY, and WRYNECK. Force I then set course east to pass north of Crete, to
carry out Admiral Cunningham’s plan to attack the Italian airfields on Rhodes.
naval and air bases. From June 1940 aircraft flying from the
Rhodes airfields had caused the Mediterranean Fleet and the Aegean convoys
some problems. Admiral Cunningham had informed the
First Sea Lord of his intention to carry out an air attack on the Rhodes
airfields with aircraft from his two carriers)
(The Italians had been in procession of the
Island of Rhodes since 1912, during which time they built
3rd - At 0700 hours the destroyer DEFENDER, which had
been delayed at Malta with a damaged Asdic dome, rejoined the fleet.
4th – The carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and EAGLE were ordered
to fly off every available Swordfish armed for dive bombing to attack the
airfields of Maritza and Callato. In addition ILLUSTRIOUS was to provide 12
Fulmars for fighter cover over the two targets.
At 0345 hours in position 35-38N, 26-07E ILLUSTRIOUS launched a strike force of
12 Swordfish, unfortunately due to an accident with the ninth aircraft, only 8
Swordfish were actually flown off.
At 0315 EAGLE, who was part of Force D, and was to the south east of Crete
launched a strike force of 12 Swordfish.
(The raid destroyed or damaged 13 Italian aircraft for the lost of 4 of EAGLE’s
At 0830 hours, ILLUSTRIOUS having recovered her aircraft, Force I set course for
5th - At 0700 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS,
HYPERION, HERO, HASTY, HEREWARD, IMPERIAL, JANUS, and DEFENDER arrived at
(On arrival at Alexandria VALIANT off-loaded 250 tons of military stores
including 28 x 2 pounder anti-tank guns)
15th – VALIANT and ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag RA Carriers,
Mediterranean), light cruiser ORION, and destroyers HYPERION, HERO, HASTY,
MOHAWK, NUBIAN, DAINTY, and DECOY departed Alexandria and steered for the west
of Crete, to carry out Operation MBD 1.
attack the British position in Egypt. On 13/9/40 the Italian
Tenth Army commenced their attack on Egypt and advanced as far as Sidi Barrani.
Operation MBD 1 was designed to support British land
forces in Egypt; by an air attack on the enemies supply base, Benghazi harbour
and a bombardment of his forward base at Bardia)
(Since the beginning of July 1940 Mussolini had been urging Marshal Graziani,
the commander of the Italian Army in
16th – Off the west coast of Crete VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, ORION, and destroyers HYPERION, HERO, HASTY, MOHAWK, NUBIAN,
DAINTY, and DECOY RVed with heavy cruiser KENT, light cruisers LIVERPOOL and
GLOUCESTER, and destroyers JERVIS and HEREWARD who had departed Alexandria on
the 13/9/40 to carry out an offensive sweep into the Aegean. For Operation MBD 1
the Fleet was divided into three Forces:
Force A was light cruiser ORION, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, and destroyers NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HERO, and HASTY.
Force B was battleship VALIANT and destroyers
HYPERION, DECOY, and HMAS WATERHEN.
Force C was heavy cruiser KENT, light cruisers
LIVERPOOL and GLOUCESTER, and destroyers JERVIS and HEREWARD.
The Forces then proceeded to a position approximately
100 miles north of Benghazi.
17th – At 0001 hours, from a position approximately
100 miles north of Benghazi, ILLUSTRIOUS launched a strike force of Swordfish to
attack Benghazi harbour; Nine aircraft from the 815 Squadron attacked shipping
in the harbour and six aircraft from the 819 Squadron laid mines off the
harbour. The attack resulted in the destroyer BOREA being torpedoed
and sunk, the destroyer AQUILONE was mined and sank. The merchant ships SS
GLORIA STELLA 5490grt and the SS MARIA EUGENA 4702grt were torpedoed and sunk)
At 0245 hours, after ILLUSTRIOUS recovered her strike aircraft, the Force set
course for Alexandra.
At 1400 hours KENT and destroyers
and destroyers MOHAWK
and NUBIAN detached to carry out a bombardment of Bardia. However this was not
carried out after KENT was torpedoed.
18th - VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, LIVERPOOL, GLOUCESTER and
destroyers HASTY, HERO, HYPERION, DECOY and HEREWARD arrived back at Alexandria.
28th – Battleship WARSPITE (Flag CinC Mediterranean
Fleet), VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK, light cruisers ORION and HMAS
SYDNEY to carry out Operation MB 5.
(Operation MB 5 was an operation covering the transport of 1200 troops to Malta
in the light cruisers GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL).
Off Alexandria HM Destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX, IMPERIAL, JERVIS,
JUNO, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, and HMAS STUART joined the Fleet.
29th - Early in the morning the Fleet was joined by
GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL with 1200 troops embarked for Malta.
STUART suffered a broken steam main and was ordered to return to Alexandria
The Fleet was under air attack for most of the day.
30th - At 1126 hours a Fulmar from ILLUSTRIOUS
reported sighting an Italian force of 7 cruisers and 7 destroyers in position
34-04N, 18-25E. On receipt of this report Cunningham altered course towards the
At 1245 hours another aircraft reported sighting 4 battleships and 10 destroyers
in position 37-45N, 18-15E, this was 116 miles from the Mediterranean Fleet. On
receipt of this report Cunningham altered course away from the Italian Fleet.
(The actual Italian Fleet at sea was 5 battleships, 11 cruisers and 20
At 1450 hours GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL were detached to Malta. YORK and MOHAWK
also detached and were stationed twenty miles 350 degrees and forty miles 340
degrees from the Main Fleet.
1st –At 1245 hours destroyer VOYAGER rejoined the
Fleet from Malta.
At 1545 hours the anti-cruiser CALCUTTA joined the Fleet after detaching from
convoy AN 4.
At 1745 hours GLOUCESTER and LIVERPOOL rejoined the Fleet from Malta.
2nd – At 1900 hours the Fleet arrived back at
8th – Battleships WARSPITE (Flag CinC Mediterranean
Fleet), VALIANT, MALAYA and RAMILLIES, aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and EAGLE,
heavy cruiser YORK, light cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER, ORION, YORK and HMAS SYDNEY
screened by destroyers HASTY, HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO, HYPERION, ILEX, IMPERIAL,
JANUS, JERVIS, JUNO and NUBIAN sailed from Alexandria to provide Distant Cover
for the passage of Malta convoy MF 3 from Egypt, convoy ME 4 from Malta, convoy
AS 4 from Greece, and an air attack on Leros (Operation MB 6).
9th - At 0254 hours the fleet was joined at sea by
cruiser LIVERPOOL and destroyer DIAMOND.
10th - At 1715 hours RAMILLIES, HASTY, HEREWARD, HERO,
HYPERION, ILEX and NUBIAN detached from the Fleet to refuel at Malta. At
intervals through the day and during the 11th the various units of the Fleet
detached to refuel in Malta.
11th - At 1105 hours IMPERIAL was mined and badly
damaged (the mines had been laid during the nights of 7 and 10/10/40 by Italian
destroyers). She was towed into Malta by DECOY.
At 1600 hours convoy MF 3 arrived at Malta in company with ORION, STUART and
VENDETTA. At this time the main body of the Mediterranean Fleet was 100 miles
south east of Malta, where it was sighted and reported by an Italian civil
At 2245 hours convoy ME 4, which included River Gunboat APHIS, sailed from Malta
escorted by cruisers CALCUTTA and COVENTRY and destroyers WRYNECK and HMAS
WATERHEN. Late in the evening following the return of all the refuelled units,
the Fleet turned for Alexandria.
(To the north east of Malta positioned in anticipation that a convoy would be
sailing from Malta were 4 Italian destroyers, 3 torpedo boats and 4 MAS boats)
12th - During return passage to Alexandria, at 0200
hours, 125 miles west of Malta, and about 70 miles north of the convoy, the 3
Italian torpedo boats launched torpedo attacks on the northernmost unit of the
Fleet, which was AJAX, all of which missed. However AJAX, after initial
confusion, opened fire on the attackers at 4000 yards sinking ARIEL and ARIONE.
In return AJAX received 3 hits from AIRONE. (AJAX was equipped with type 279
radar which was a long range air search set and of little use in a surface
engagement). Immediately the 4 Italian destroyers came to the aid of the torpedo
boats and at 0230 hours ARTIGLIERE launched a torpedo attack which AJAX avoided.
AJAX managed to damage the AVIERE and severely damage the ARTIGLIERE. In return
ARTIGLIERE hit AJAX 4 times, putting her radar out of action and damaging a twin
4in mount. At the time of the second engagement the moon had set and the lack of
flashless powder caused problems for AJAX’s gunners.
At 0235 hours when the Italian destroyers withdrew behind a smoke screen AJAX
broke off the action since Capt. McCarthy believed that he had been in action
against 4 destroyers and 2 cruisers. (This action is known by the Italians as
the Battle of Cape Passero) The gunfire drew other cruisers of the Mediterranean
Fleet to the scene, but they arrived too late to see action.
13th - At dawn the damaged ARTIGLIERE under tow by the
destroyer CAMICIA NERE, was sighted 107 miles west of Malta by a Sunderland. The
Sunderland’s sighting report resulted in an air strike by Swordfish from
ILLUSTRIOUS, without result. Also YORK, AJAX and 4 destroyers were despatched
from the fleet and arrived at the position at 0900 hours. CAMICIA NERE slipped
the tow a made off and YORK finished off the ARTIGLIERE.
Commencing at dawn the Italian Airforce carried out several attacks on the
Mediterranean Fleet. In the attacks they employed a total of 84 bombers and 38
fighters. The Italian losses were three S 79’s and one Z 501; the Fleet suffered
several near misses including EAGLE.
At 1100 hours south east of Gavdos Island, convoy ME 4 was joined by convoy AS 4
that had sailed from Piraeus. In the evening the Fleet divided and ILLUSTRIOUS,
GLOUCESTER, LIVERPOOL, HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO and NUBIAN headed into the Aegean.
The main units of the Fleet steered south of Crete to wait off the south east
coast of Crete.
14th - Early in the morning Swordfish from ILLUSTRIOUS
carried out an air strike on the airfield on the Island of Leros.
At 0840 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS Force rejoined the main body of the Fleet, off the
south east of Crete, and the combined Fleet then set course for Alexandria. In
the evening the Fleet came under air attack, and at 1845 hours 70 miles SE of
Crete, LIVERPOOL sustained an aerial torpedo hit in the starboard bow, delivered
by an Italian torpedo aircraft.
At 1920 hours the petrol storage compartment exploded, blowing the roof off A
turret roof, the port gun fell into the sea and a fire was started. DECOY and
HEREWARD stood by.
At 2230 hours ORION took her in tow, towing her backwards at 9.5 knots towards
Alexandria escorted by DAINTY, DECOY, DIAMOND and VAMPIRE.
15th - At 0100 hours the Mediterranean Fleet arrived
back at Alexandria.
Ioannis Metaxas immediately rejected the Italian
ultimatum with the words "Alors,
c'est la guerre".
waiting for the ultimatum to expire, at 0530 hours the Italians attacked
Greece across the Albanian border.
(At 0300 hours on 28/10/40 the Italian
ambassador in Athens issued an ultimatum to the Greek Government to allow
Italy to occupy the country. The
British Intelligence, through Sigint, had been
expecting the attack from mid-October. On 22/10/40 the Chiefs of Staff had
instructed, General Wavell, the CinC Middle East, in the event of Italy
invading Greece, he was to be ready to help Greece by transferring troops to
Crete. The British move into Crete was coded Operation BN: as part of the
operation the Mediterranean Fleet was to set up a refuelling base at Suda
29th – Whilst at Alexandria VALIANT had a new CO,
Captain Charles Eric Morgan, DSO RN.At 0130 hours battleships WARSPITE (Flag CinC
Mediterranean Fleet), VALIANT, MALAYA and RAMILLIES, aircraft carriers EAGLE and
ILLUSTRIOUS, destroyers HYPERION, HAVOCK, HERO, HASTY, HEREWARD, ILEX, DAINTY,
DECOY, DEFENDER, DIAMOND, JERVIS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO and JANUS sailed from
Alexandria on Operation BN. The Fleet sailed for the west of south west Greece
to cover shipping movements to Crete.
30th – South of Gavdos Island the Fleet was joined by
heavy cruiser YORK and light cruisers SYDNEY, ORION and GLOUCESTER.
the Fleet was 126 miles west of Cape Matapan.
The Fleet continued to sail north west and at 2000 hours
31st – In the morning destroyers JUNO and DEFENDER
detached from the Fleet to refuel at Suda Bay.
Later in the morning destroyers MOHAWK and NUBIAN, detached from the Fleet to
carry out an examination of Navarin Bay. In the afternoon destroyers MOHAWK and
NUBIAN rejoined the Fleet.
Later destroyers JUNO and HMAS VOYAGER joined the Fleet from Suda Bay. VOYAGER
was a replacement for the destroyer DEFENDER, which had fouled the nets at Suda
At 1630 hours 75 miles west south west of Cape Matapan, WARSPITE, ILLUSTRIOUS,
YORK, GLOUCESTER and destroyers JERVIS, HERO, HEREWARD, HASTY and ILEX left the
patrol area to return to Alexandria.
At 2030 hours VALIANT, MALAYA, RAMILLIES, EAGLE, ORION and HMAS SYDNEY and
destroyers HYPERION, HAVOCK, DAINTY, DECOY, DIAMOND, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO, JANUS
and HMAS VOYAGER departed from the patrol area to return to Alexandria.
2nd – At 2100 hours destroyers HYPERION, HAVOCK,
DAINTY, DECOY, DIAMOND, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, JUNO, JANUS and HMAS VOYAGER detached to
carry out an anti-submarine sweep off Alexandria.
At 2330 hours VALIANT, MALAYA, RAMILLIES, EAGLE, ORION and HMAS SYDNEY arrived
back at Alexandria.
6th – Battleships WARSPITE, VALIANT, RAMILLIES and
MALAYA, aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK and light cruiser
GLOUCESTER and destroyers DECOY, DEFENDER, HASTY, HAVOCK, HEREWARD, HERO,
HYPERION, ILEX, JANUS, JERVIS, JUNO and MOHAWK sailed from Alexandria on
Operation MB 8 and Operation COAT.
Later the Fleet was joined by the light cruisers AJAX and HMAS SYDNEY from Suda
(Operation MB 8 was to provide cover for the passage of Convoy MW 3 [sailed from
Alexandria on 5/11/40] to Malta and Convoy AN 6 [sailed from Port Said on
4/11/40] to the Aegean. Operation COAT was the passage of reinforcements, Force
F, for the Mediterranean Fleet).
7th – The Fleet covered the passage of convoy AN 6 and
MW 3. The two convoys proceeded together from off Alexandria towards west Crete.
(Operation MB 8).
9th - In the evening RAMILLIES, HAVOCK, HYPERION and
ILEX detached for Malta to refuel.
10th - The Mediterranean Fleet cruised to the south
east of Malta.
At 1015 hours Force F, comprising battleship BARHAM, heavy cruiser BERWICK and
GLASGOW and destroyers GALLANT, GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN and preceded by the
destroyers FAULKNOR, FORTUNE and FURY acting as minesweepers, RVed with the
Force F (The reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet, Operation COAT) entered
Valletta harbour to disembark 2150 troops and supplies and the 3 F’s to refuel.
At 1330 hours convoy ME 3, which included the monitor TERROR, sailed from Malta,
escorted by RAMILLIES, COVENTRY, DECOY, DEFENDER and HMAS VENDETTA.
After disembarking their troops and supplies BARHAM, BERWICK, GLASGOW, GALLANT,
GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN sailed from Malta and joined the Mediterranean Fleet
11th – The Fleet covered passage of convoy ME 3 from
Malta to Alexandria.
At 0600 hours the monitor TERROR and destroyer VENDETTA detached for Suda Bay.
At 1310 hours AJAX, ORION, HMAS SYDNEY, MOHAWK and NUBIAN detached from the
Fleet to carry out a raid on Italian military convoys in the southern Adriatic.
At 1800 hours ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK, BERWICK, GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER, HASTY, HAVOCK,
HYPERION and ILEX detached from the Fleet to carry out Operation JUDGMENT.
(Note: The successful air attack on Taranto (Operation JUDGMENT) by aircraft
from ILLUSTRIOUS during the night of 11/12th November was also covered as part
of Operation COAT).
12th - At dawn ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK, BERWICK, GLASGOW,
GLOUCESTER, HASTY, HAVOCK, HYPERION and ILEX rejoined the Fleet.
13th – The Mediterranean Fleet arrived back at
16th – Early in the morning battleships VALIANT,
BARHAM, aircraft carrier EAGLE and destroyers HYPERION, VENDETTA, DAINTY,
DIAMOND, JERVIS, GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN sailed from Alexandria and set
course for the west of Crete. Their mission was to provide cover for various
convoys from Egypt to Greece.
17th – At 1200 hours the covering force put into Suda
Bay for the destroyers to refuel.
In the evening BARHAM developed engine problems so the whole force set course
19th - VALIANT, BARHAM, EAGLE and destroyers HYPERION,
VENDETTA, DAINTY, DIAMOND, JERVIS, GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN arrived back
25th - At 0325 hours battleships WARSPITE and VALIANT,
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers DECOY (for repairs at Malta),
JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GRIFFIN, WRYNECK and HMAS WATERHEN sailed
from Alexandria and set course for Suda Bay. They were designated the
Mediterranean Fleet for Operation MB 9 and Force A for Operation COLLAR.
At 1200 hours the troopship ULSTER PRINCE joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1600 hours HM Cruisers YORK, GLASGOW and GLOUCESTER of 3rd CS joined the
Fleet at sea.
At 2330 hours off south east Crete ILLUSTRIOUS, GLASGOW, GLOUCESTER JANUS, JUNO,
MOHAWK and NUBIAN detached from the Fleet and proceeded ahead to a flying off
position 60 miles north east of Suda Bay to carry out Operation MB 9.
(Operation MB 9 was an air strike on the Italian seaplane base at Port Laki on
the Island of Leros)
26th - The Fleet followed astern of the ILLUSTRIOUS
force to provide distant cover.
At 0300 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off 15 Swordfish on Operation MB 9.
At 0600 hours ILLUSTRIOUS recovered 14 Swordfish.
All Fleet units then proceeded to Suda Bay to refuel arriving between 0700 hours
and 0830 hours.
At 0800 hours HM Destroyers HERO and HEREWARD arrived at Suda Bay to join the
At 1030 hours Force A sailed from Suda Bay to carry out Operation COLLAR.
(Operation COLLAR was the passage of 1400 troops embarked on MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON, designated Force F, from Gibraltar to Alexandria. To pass three
freighters from Gibraltar, two for Malta and one for Suda Bay. To sail
reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet from Gibraltar to Alexandria).
The 3rd CS comprising YORK, GLASGOW and GLOUCESTER detached to patrol to the
north of Force A.
27th - Force A proceeded towards Malta.
28th - Force A patrolled north of the MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON Force F, sailing for Alexandria.
30th - At 1800 hours arrived back at Alexandria.
3rd - Battleships VALIANT and BARHAM departed
Alexandria for gunnery practices. As the battleships were setting out VALIANT
was in collision with one of he escorts, the destroyer HAVOCK. The HAVOCK
sustained damage forward. HAVOCK went to Malta for repairs.
Lt Gen Richard O'Conner
launched Operation COMPASS; with the objectives of expelling the Italian
forces from Egypt and advancing as far as Tobruk. The Italians had heavily
fortified Bardia and Tobruk, with Bardia having an almost continuous
antitank ditch around the perimeter and a double line of underground posts
linked with barbed wire, each of which was protected by its own antitank
ditch, antitank guns and machineguns. The Navy assisted in the offensive by
bombarding the Italian positions)
(On 9/12/40 the 30,000 strong Western Desert
Force commanded by
10th – In the evening Force C comprising battleships
VALIANT and BARHAM, anti-aircraft ship COVENTRY and destroyers GALLANT, HMAS
VAMPIRE, HMAS VENDETTA, HMAS VOYAGER, WRYNECK, DAINTY and JUNO departed
Alexandria to bombard the HQ of the Italian XXIII Corps and the 2nd Blackshirt
Division at Sollum.
11th - Destroyers HYPERION, MOHAWK and DIAMOND joined
Force C at sea.
but were unable to shell the Italian positions due bad weather which
also stopped a projected attack on El Adam airfield by aircraft from ILLUSTRIOUS.
Night of 11/12, Force C was off Sollum to carry out the bombardment
13th – Early in the morning Force C arrived back at
16th - At 0100 hours the Mediterranean Fleet
comprising battleships WARSPITE (Flag), and VALIANT, aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers YORK, light cruisers AJAX, GLOUCESTER, ORION and
HMAS SYDNEY and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, DAINTY,
HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD sailed from Alexandria on Operation MC
(Operation MC 2 was a complex operation involving distant cover for convoys to
and from Suda Bay to Piraeus, AS 9 and AN 10. Convoy from Malta to Alexandria,
ME 5A. An air strike against Rhodes and Stampalia. Forming part of the operation
was Operation HIDE which was the passage of the MALAYA through the Mediterranean
to Gibraltar and distant cover for convoys to Malta, MW 5A and MW 5B).
At 0745 hours YORK, GLOUCESTER, DAINTY and GREYHOUND detached and proceeded to
Suda Bay to refuel.
17th - At 0352 hours in position 35-49N, 25-24E
ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a strike force of 6 Swordfish against Rhodes.
At 0435 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a strike force of 5 Swordfish against
At 0600 hours with all aircraft recovered the Fleet headed for Suda Bay.
At 0830 hours the Fleet entered Suda Bay to refuel.
At 1130 hours VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS and MOHAWK departed Suda
Bay sailing west.
At 1415 hours WARSPITE escorted by HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD
departed from Suda Bay sailing west.
18th - At 0130 hours south of Cape Matapan the
WARSPITE and VALIANT forces RVed and the Fleet then proceeded toward the Strait
of Otranto to carry out Operation MC 3.
(Operation MC 3 was an anti-shipping sweep into the Adriatic and a bombardment
and air strike against the port of Valona. In the event because of the weather
conditions the air strike was abandoned).
At 1600 hours south west of the Island of Zante ORION, AJAX, SYDNEY, JERVIS,
JUNO and MOHAWK detached and proceeded ahead into the Adriatic to carry out the
anti-shipping sweep. (This force went as far north as 41-08N without sighting
At 1800 hours north west of the Island of Cephalonia ILLUSTRIOUS, YORK,
GLOUCESTER, DAINTY, GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN detached and proceeded to
position 39N, 20E to fly off the air strike, but due to the weather the strike
19th - At 0115 hours off Valona WARSPITE and VALIANT
opened fire with a indirect area bombardment, spotting not possible as weather
conditions prevented the launch of aircraft, on the port area and airfield.
At 0120 hours after the firing of 96 rounds of 15in the bombardment was checked
and WARSPITE, VALIANT, HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, HASTY and HEREWARD proceeded south
west for Malta.
At 0630 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS force and the ORION force rejoined.
At 1200 hours YORK, GLOUCESTER, ORION, AJAX, SYDNEY, DAINTY, GALLANT, GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN and HASTY detached to cover the Malta convoys MW 5A and MW 5B
20th -At 1440 hours WARSPITE, JANUS, JERVIS and JUNO
arrived at Malta.
21st - Early in the morning WARSPITE sailed from
24th – The Fleet arrived back at Alexandria.
1 9 4 1
At Alexandria, where Midshipman Prince Philip of Greece joined VALIANT.
At 1830 hours the Mediterranean Fleet comprising
battleships WARSPITE (Flag), VALIANT, BARHAM, heavy cruiser YORK, light cruiser
GLOUCESTER, AA cruiser CALCUTTA and destroyers JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, WRYNECK,
DIAMOND, GALLANT and HMAS VENDETTA sailed from Alexandria on Operation MC 5.
(Operation MC 5 was the bombardment of Bardia in support of Operation COMPASS
the Western Desert Force offensive against Italian ground forces).
At 2100 hours the Fleet was joined by aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and
destroyers GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, ILEX and JUNO.
3rd - At 0600 hours ILLUSTRIOUS, GLOUCESTER, YORK,
WRYNECK, DIAMOND, GALLANT and VENDETTA detached from the Fleet for ILLUSTRIOUS
to operate aircraft as necessary and to provide fighter cover over the
Anti-aircraft protection was provided by CALCUTTA, escorted by NUBIAN and MOHAWK
and DAINTY and VOYAGER after being detached from Force W.
(Force W was the monitor TERROR and gunboats LADYBIRD and APHIS. Force W carried
out bombardments before and after the bombardment by the Fleet battleships).
At 0810 off Bardia WARSPITE, VALIANT and BARHAM screened by ILEX, GREYHOUND,
JUNO, JANUS and GRIFFIN commenced the bombardment of Bardia. Ground troops, who
surrounded Bardia provided observation of fall of shot.
At 0900 hours the bombardment was checked.
At 1000 hours GLOUCESTER, YORK, CALCUTTA were detached to Alexandria, and
WRYNECK and VENDETTA were detached to Sollum.
4th - WARSPITE, VALIANT, BARHAM, ILLUSTRIOUS, ILEX,
JANUS, JUNO, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, DIAMOND, GALLANT, VOYAGER and DAINTY arrived at
7th - At 0500 hours battleships WARSPITE (Flag),
VALIANT, aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers JERVIS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK,
DAINTY, GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN sailed from Alexandria as Force A to
carry out Operation MC 4.
(Operation MC 4 was an operation to provide cover for Alexandria to Malta MW 5½,
Malta to Alexandria convoys ME 5½ and ME 6 and the EXCESS convoy).
At 1640 hours Force A was sighted and reported by an Italian reconnaissance
8th - At 1230 hours Force A arrived at Suda Bay where
the destroyers were refuelled.
At 1400 hours Force A departed Suda Bay heading west.
9th - At 0730 hours Force A was in position 36-05N,
19-17E and ILLUSTRIOUS launched Swordfish to search a sector 280¼ to 310¼.
At 1030 hours 200 miles west of Malta Force D, light cruisers AJAX and HMAS
PERTH from Suda Bay and HMAS SYDNEY and destroyer HMAS STUART from Malta joined
At 1130 hours ILLUSTRIOUS flew off a strike force of 6 Swordfish to search for
enemy shipping off the Libyan coast.
At 1140 hours Force A was reported by an enemy aircraft.
At 1240 hours in position 35-30N, 17-30E, SYDNEY and STUART detached from Force
A for Alexandria.
At 1330 hours Force D, AJAX and PERTH detached to support convoy ME 6.
Force A now comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, DAINTY,
GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN
10th - At 0430 hours in position 35-56N, 13-20E Force
A altered course to RV with the EXCESS convoy.
VALIANT was near missed by several bombs. One rating was
killed and two were wounded by splinters.
At 0815 hours Force A, RVed with the EXCESS convoy in position 36-28N, 12-11E,
and south east of Pantelleria. The convoy escort was BONAVENTURE, GLOUCESTER,
SOUTHAMPTON, HASTY, HEREWARD, HERO, ILEX and JAGUAR. Force A took up position
astern of the convoy.
At 0834 hours GALLANT was mined and was taken in tow by MOHAWK and BONAVENTURE
and GRIFFIN were detached to stand by her.
At 1223 hours two Italian SM 79’s dropped 2 torpedoes; the torpedoes were
dropped 1½ miles from their targets, the battleships, all missed, those aimed at
VALIANT passing astern.
At 1235 hours a large formation of German aircraft, 40 Ju 87’s plus Ju 88’s were
sighted approaching from the north.
At 1238 hours the attack commenced, in the 10 minute attack 30 Ju 87’s attacked
ILLUSTRIOUS who was hit by 6 bombs which caused serious damage.
The other 10 Ju 87’s divided their attack between WARSPITE and VALIANT.
61 dive-bombers, 77 long-range bombers, 12
long-range reconnaissance aircraft, and 22 twin-engined fighters]
had recently moved into bases in Sicily from
Norway. Their role was to cover the movement of the first elements of the
Afrika Korps to North Africa, by establishing the aerial command over the
central Mediterranean which the Italians had failed to do. Their first
operation was a small raid on Malta on 9 January 1941. They followed this up
with the attack on the EXCESS convoy)
(Cunningham was unaware that Fliegerkorps X
At 1320 hours VALIANT’s radar picked up another wave
of aircraft approaching from the north. There was now no air borne air defence
so the CinC ordered the Fleet to close ILLUSTRIOUS to provide AA cover. Seven SM
79’s came in at 14000 feet but failed to score any hits.
Force A manoeuvred to maintain support for ILLUSTRIOUS whilst efforts were made
to bring her under control.
At 1530 hours ILLUSTRIOUS was got under control and course was set for Malta at
17 knots. HASTY and JAGUAR were detached to screen ILLUSTRIOUS.
Between 1600 and 1700 hours further air attacks by 15 Ju 87’s were made on
ILLUSTRIOUS and Force A.
At 1700 hours JANUS joined Force A from Malta.
At 2145 hours ILLUSTRIOUS arrived at Malta and Force A proceeded to the
At 2200 hours Force A now comprising WARSPITE, VALIANT, DAINTY, GREYHOUND, JANUS
and NUBIAN was in position 35-40N, 14-10E steering 090¼.
At 2400 hours in position 35-20N, 15-26E, JARVIS joined Force A from Malta.
11th - Force A remained close to the course of the
At 1200 hours Force A was in position 36-06N, 19-27E.
At 1630 hours Force A altered course to close SOUTHAMPTON who was reported
stopped in position 34-54N, 18-24E following an attack by 12 Ju 87’s.
At 1645 hours ORION, PERTH, JERVIS and JANUS were detached from Force A to stand
by SOUTHAMPTON. JUNO and NUBIAN detached from Force A to join the escort of
EXCESS convoy and HERO detached from the convoy to join Force A.
12th - At 0800 hours in position 34-40N, 23-10E all
forces RVed. Following which the forces split and Force A comprising WARSPITE,
VALIANT, GLOUCESTER, JERVIS, JANUS, GREYHOUND, DIAMOND, VOYAGER, HERO and
DEFENDER proceeded to Alexandria.
13th - At 0600 hours Force A arrived back at
20th – From this day VALIANT and other units of the
Mediterranean Fleet were on short notice to proceed to sea on Operation MBD 2,
also known as Operation INSPECTION.
the extraction of damaged
aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS from Malta and cover for her onward passage to
Alexandria. ILLUSTRIOUS finally sailed from Malta at 1800/23/1/41)
(Operation MBD 2 was
22nd – At 2300 hours
battleships VALIANT and BARHAM, light cruiser HMAS PERTH and destroyers HEREWARD,
NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HASTY, DIAMOND and GRIFFIN sailed from Alexandria as Force C for
Operation MBD 2. Force C set course to RV with ILLUSTRIOUS approximately 120
miles west of Crete.
24th – At 1200 hours, approximately 50 miles south
west of Crete, the RV was earlier than anticipated because ILLUSTRIOUS had been
able to make 25 knots, Force C RVed with ILLUSTRIOUS escorted by destroyers
JERVIS, JUNO, JANUS and GREYHOUND.
Later in the day Force B, comprising, heavy cruiser YORK and light cruisers
ORION, AJAX and BONAVENTURE and destroyers ILEX and HERO joined.
25th – At 1300 hours Force B and C and the ILLUSTRIOUS
group arrived at Alexandria.
19th – At 1630 hours, Force A was composed of
battleships BARHAM and VALIANT and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, ILEX,
HEREWARD, HERO, HASTY, DAINTY and DECOY sailed from Alexandria and steered north
west to cover Operation MC 8.
The aircraft carrier EAGLE joined Force A at sea.
(Operation MC 8 was an operation to transport 1441 troops and stores, including
seventeen Bren carriers and other vehicles, sixty motor cycles, a large quantity
of Italian and other guns and ammunition to Malta in Force B, comprising the
light cruisers ORION, GLOUCESTER and AJAX and destroyers NUBIAN, MOHAWK and
DIAMOND. Force B departed Alexandria at 1730/19/2/41 and arrived at Malta at
0630/21st. After unloading the force departed at 1900 hours. The DIAMOND
remained at Malta for refitting. The operation also included the passage of the
supply ship HMS BRECONSHIRE, the SS CLAN MACAULEY and destroyers HOTSPUR and
HAVOCK. These ships departed Malta at dusk on the 20/2/41. Anti-aircraft cruiser
COVENTRY joined this force en route to Alexandria)
23rd – At 1830 hours Force A arrived back at
6th – At 0700 hours battleships BARHAM and VALIANT and
destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, HOTSPUR, HMAS VOYAGER, and HMAS WATERHEN
departed Alexandria to carry out gunnery exercises. The force, designated Force
A, then set course for the west of Crete to operate from Suda Bay in support of
the LUSTRE operations. British Commonwealth expeditionary force would be sent to
Greece. The movement of troops to Greece was given the code name Operation
(In April 1939 the British and French Governments issued a guarantee to
Romania and Greece guaranteeing support for their independence. On 22/2/41 at a
meeting between British and Greek representatives it was agreed that a
7th – At 1600 hours Force A arrived at Suda Bay.
8th – Force A comprising battleships
BARHAM and VALIANT and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, HOTSPUR, VOYAGER, and
WATERHEN departed Suda Bay to cover movements of convoys through Kithira
10th – Force A arrived back at Suda Bay.
Force A comprising battleships
BARHAM and VALIANT and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, JAGUAR, HOTSPUR, VOYAGER, and
WATERHEN departed Suda Bay to cover movements of convoy AG 5. (Convoy AG 5
comprised six merchant ships and sailed from Alexandria on 12/3/41 and arrived
at Piraeus on 15/3/41)
18th – At 0530 hours battleships BARHAM and VALIANT
and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND, and HAVOCK arrived at
20th - Battleships WARSPITE (Flag CinC Med Fleet),
BARHAM, and VALIANT, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE, and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS,
JUNO, JAGUAR, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, ILEX, HERO, and HAVOCK departed Alexandria as
Force A and steered west on Operation MC 9.(Operation MC 9 was the passage of Alexandria to Malta
convoy MW 6 which was escorted by a force designated Force C)
21st -At 1600 hours Force A was joined at sea by Force
B that comprised cruisers YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and HMAS PERTH and
destroyers HEREWARD, HASTY, HEREWARD and HMAS STUART.
YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and HMAS PERTH then detached to provide close
cover for convoy MW 6.
22nd - At 0740 hours YORK, ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and
HMAS PERTH rejoined force A.
At 2000 hours the Fleet parted company with convoy MW 6 in order to stay out of
range of German bombers and reversed course. MOHAWK and NUBIAN detached from
Force A and proceed to a position north of convoy MW 6.
23rd - Force B detached from Force A to cover the
withdrawal of Force C from Malta.
Force A then set course for Alexandria.
24th - At 2230 hours Force A arrived back at
Hitler decided that German
forces were needed to rescue Italian forces in Albania and had ordered an
invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia to begin in April.
To facilitate their forthcoming operation, the Germans put pressure on the
Italians to interrupt British shipping between Egypt and Greece. On 17/3/41
two Luftwaffe He 111’s reported that they had each torpedoed a British
battleship. Following this report and with the knowledge that ILLUSTRIOUS
was ‘out of the game’, Supermarina planned Operation GAUDO the attack on
British shipping. Supermarina only agreed to the operation on the basis of
the reduced capability of the Royal Navy and the promise of air support from
both the Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe. Operation GAUDO commenced at
0830/26/3/41 when the battleship VITTORIO VENETO sailed from Naples)
27th - At 1220 hours a RAF Sunderland of 230 Sqd.
flying from Skaramangas, Greece sighted three Italian
Cruisers and a destroyer, in position 36-54N, 17-10E,
steering 120¼, headed towards Crete. This was
the Italian 3rd Cruiser Division under Vice Admiral Sansonetti and consisted of
the three heavy cruisers TRIESTE, TRENTO and BOLZANO. Poor
visibility meant the Sunderland could not shadow.
On the basis of this report, (together with ULTRA decrypts, at this time
Bletchley Park were reading Luftwaffe and Italian signals, which disclosed that
the Germans were pressing the Italians to attack the British convoys that were
transporting troops and supplies to Greece), Cunningham decided to take the
battle fleet to sea to protect the convoy route to Greece. The one convoy at sea
at the time was the troop convoy AG 9 that was ordered to return to Alexandria.
At 1900 hours the battleships WARSPITE (Flag), BARHAM and VALIANT, aircraft
carrier FORMIDABLE and destroyers JERVIS, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and HMAS STUART sailed from Alexandria as Force A. On
departing Alexandria course was set 300¼ at 20 knots.
28th -At 0739 hours an aircraft from FORMIDABLE
reported 4 cruisers and 6 destroyers 30 miles south of Gavdos Island. This was
at first thought to be Force B.ORION sighted two 8in and two 6in
Italian cruisers screened by three destroyers, some 70 miles south of Gavdos
At 0800 hours
At 0814 hours the Italians opened fire at about 26,000 yards with 8in salvos and
for the next 45 minutes Force B was engaged in a running fight, neither side
suffering any damage.
At 0827 hours a sighting report was received from Force B
confirming that the aircraft sighting report was of an Italian force, that at
that time was 18 miles north of Force B. Force A set course to intercept the
At 0900 hours VALIANT, MOHAWK and NUBIAN were detached to proceed ahead of Force
A at a speed of 24 knots to make contact with Force B. (At the time WARSPITE was
having condenser trouble and could only make 22 knots)
At 0905 hours a report from one of FORMIDABLE’s aircraft reported an enemy force
north of the cruisers which included battleships.
At 0938 hours the strike force from FORMIDABLE was ordered to attack the enemy
force sighted by Force B. At this time BARHAM who was having difficulty in
maintaining 22 knots was ordered to follow astern of the screen. HMAS VENDETTA
was sighted having been detached from Force B due to engine trouble. Cunningham
immediately ordered VENDETTA to Alexandria.
At 1000 hours a strike force of six Albacores of 826 Sqd. Escorted by two
Fulmars of 803 Sqd. took off from FORMIDABLE to attack the ships sighted by
At 1058 hours the cruiser ORION of Force B confirmed the presence of the second
enemy force of 2 battleships. (There was only one battleship) The
VITTORIO VENETO opened fire on Force B, firing ninety four
15in shells in 29 salvos over 23 minutes. However because the spread of shots
was too wide, only splinter damage was caused to PERTH and ORION.
At 1100 hours Cunningham intercepted 3 signals from
('Make smoke by all means available' - 'Turn together to 180¼' - 'Proceed at
your utmost speed'. From these signals Cunningham concluded that Force B had run
into the Italian battle fleet. Cunningham then ordered FORMIDABLE to change the
air strike target to the Italian battle fleet. This attack was carried out by 6
Albacores of 826 Sqd. The air strike failed to achieve any hits but at 1127
hours the air strike caused the Italian battleship VITTORIO VENETO to turn away
and thus saved Force B)
At 1200 hours FORMIDABLE was detached with 2
destroyers to act independently.
At 1235 hours FORMIDABLE launched a strike force of 3 Albacores of 829 Sqd and 2
Fulmars of 803 Sqd.
At 1245 hours Force B comprising cruisers GLOUCESTER, ORION, AJAX and HMAS PERTH
and destroyers HASTY, HEREWARD and ILEX joined Force A.
At 1250 hours following loss of contact with the enemy Cunningham concluded that
the Italian battle fleet had reversed course.
At 1325 hours WARSPITE reduced speed to 21 knots to enable FORMIDABLE and BARHAM
to catch up.
At 1350 hours FORMIDABLE launched a strike force of 3 Albacores and 2 Swordfish
armed with torpedoes and escorted by 2 Fulmars.
At 1515 hours the Italian force steering 270¼ was sighted by an aircraft from
FORMIDABLE. The report put the enemy in a position 290¼, 65 miles from WARSPITE.
At 1525 hours the strike force of 3 Albacores and 2 Swordfish commenced their
torpedo run against the Italian battleship VITTORIO VENETO and the Fulmars
strafed the battleship. The strike force reported 3 hits on the battleship and
speed reduced to 8 knots. (There was only one hit from an Albacore in her stern
near the port prop shaft reducing her speed to 15 knots. The aircraft which
achieved the hit was shot down and the crew lost).
On receipt of the strike force report WARSPITE altered course to 300¼.
At 1644 hours Force B cruisers with MOHAWK and NUBIAN attached was ordered to
press on and gain contact with the VITTORIO VENETO force. (MOHAWK and NUBIAN
were positioned between Force A and Force B to provide visual signaling between
the two forces)
At 1745 hours WARSPITE catapulted off one of her Swordfish. Reports from this
aircraft between 1831and 1915 hours established the position of the enemy
At 1835 hours Cunningham ordered a further air strike
against the Italian force. This strike force comprised 6 Albacores and 2
Swordfish of 826 and 829 Sqds flying from FORMIDABLE and 2 Swordfish of 815 Sqd
from Maleme, Crete.
By 1915 hours it was clear to Cunningham that VITTORIO VENETO was 45 miles from
WARSPITE and steering 290¼ at 15 knots.
At 1925 hours Force B reported enemy ships 9 miles to his north engaging
At 1935 hours the air striking force reported 'probable hits'. In fact at 1958
hours one of the Swordfish of 815 Sqd flown by Lieut. Michael Torrens-Spence had
torpedoed the heavy cruiser POLA which now lay stopped. But at this time this
was not known to Cunningham.
At 1940 hours Force B sighted the enemy force.
By 2040 hours Cunningham had decided on a night action. The destroyers of the
2ndDF and 14thDF, comprising JERVIS, JANUS, NUBIAN, MOHAWK, HASTY, HEREWARD,
ILEX and HOTSPUR were ordered to carry out a torpedo attack. GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN,
STUART and HAVOCK remained with the battle fleet.
At 2111 hours Force B reported a radar contact on an
unknown ship stopped 5 miles to port (This was the damaged POLA). On receipt of
this report WARSPITE and the battle fleet altered course to 280¼ to pass nearer
the position. (Force B continued on course and took no further part in the
action).Prince Philip was mentioned in dispatches for his
command of a section of the ship’s searchlight control).
At 2210 hours VALIANT, using her Type 279 radar, reported radar contact 6 miles
off her port bow, estimated to be 600 feet long (This was the POLA).
Cunningham decided to investigate this contact and the battle fleet altered
course together at 2213 hours on to bearing 240¼ into line ahead.
At 2225 hours 2 heavy cruisers (ZARA and FIUME) and 4 destroyers (ALFIERI,
CARDUCCI, GIOBERTI and ORIANI) were sighted from WARSPITE on her starboard bow.
The battle fleet which comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, BARHAM in line
ahead, with GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN on their port side and STUART and HAVOCK on
their starboard side, turned on to 280¼.
At 2228 hours with ZARA and FIUME now on the port side of the battle fleet,
FORMIDABLE hauled out of line to starboard and GREYHOUND illuminated FIUME with
her searchlight and the battle fleet opened fire with 15in broadsides on FIUME
and ZARA, at the same time the battleships switched on their searchlights.
(Part of VALIANT's Report on the action reads:- "Shortly before this action,
telephonic communication between the 15in transmitting station and the radar
office, and also, range transmission from the gunnery attachment RBL.10 to a
range receiver in the 15in transmitting station had been fitted by ship's staff.
.After sighting the ZARA and FIUME, the guns and radar were put on the FIUME,
the right hand ship, and fire was opened, the AFC (Admiralty Fire Control) Table
being tuned so that True Range was set to RDF Range. The broadside was seen to
VALIANT hit the FIUME with one 15in salvo of four shells and seven 4.5in salvos
totalling approximately 70 shells.
VALIANT then switched to the cruiser ZARA and fired five 15in salvos, a total of
35 shells and five 4.5insalvos totalling approximately 50 shells.
At 2235 hours fire was checked, leaving FIUME, ZARA,
ALFIERI and CARDUCCI seriously damaged, and course was set on to bearing 010¼,
with FORMIDABLE on the starboard side.
At 2238 hours the screening destroyers GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, STUART and HAVOCK
were released and ordered to finish off the 2 cruisers.
At 2330 hours the battle fleet altered course to 070¼ speed 18knots.
29th - At 0006 hours Cunningham ordered the Fleet to
RV at 0700 hours in position 35-54N, 21-38E.
At 0036 hours STUART reported 3 cruisers and 2 destroyers stopped and on
By 0330 hours the 3 damaged cruisers and 2 destroyers had been sunk by
destroyers. The Italians lost 2303 dead and 1411 made prisoner.
(So ended what was the Battle of Matapan).
By 0700 hours all units of the fleet had joined Cunningham in WARSPITE.
Including light cruiser BONAVENTURE and destroyers DECOY and HMAS WATERHEN from
Alexandria and destroyers JUNO, JAGUAR and DEFENDER from Suda Bay.
At 0800 hours WARSPITE was in position 35-43N, 21-38E and course was altered to
220¼ to sweep the area of the night action.
At 0920 hours STUART, GRIFFIN and HEREWARD were detached to Piraeus.
Between 0950 and 1100 hours wreckage and survivors were seen and 905 survivors
were picked up by the destroyers.
At 1100 hours course was set 120¼ for Alexandria.
At 1530 hours the fleet came under air attack for 12 Ju 88’s dive bombers no
hits were achieved but FORMIDABLE was narrowly missed by several bombs and one
JU 88 was shot down.
At 1930 hours AJAX, PERTH, DEFENDER and HASTY were detached to Suda Bay.
BONAVENTURE to convoy GA 8. DECOY to convoy AN 23.
30th - At 0834 hours an Italian S 79 shadower was shot
down by a Fulmar from FORMIDABLE.
At 1730 hours the Fleet arrived at Alexandria.
18th – At 0700 hours battleships WARSPITE (Flag),
VALIANT and BARHAM, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE, light cruiser PHOEBE,
anti-aircraft cruiser CALCUTTA and destroyers JUNO, JAGUAR, KINGSTON, KIMBERLEY,
GRIFFIN, HAVOCK, HEREWARD and ENCOUNTER sailed from Alexandria and set course
for Suda Bay to carry out Operations MD 2 and MD 3.
(Operation MD 2 was the movement of the supply ship BRECONSHIRE from Alexandria
to Malta and the Malta to Alexandria convoy ME 7. Operation MD 3 was the
bombardment of Tripoli by the Fleet).
En route to Suda Bay HM Destroyer DEFENDER joined the Fleet at sea.
19th - At 1130 hours PHOEBE and CALCUTTA detached for
At 1200 hours the Fleet arrived at Suda Bay, where the destroyers refuelled and
WARSPITE off loaded air compressors, timbers and equipment for the repair of the
damaged cruiser YORK.
At 1530 hours the Fleet sailed from Suda Bay and set a westerly course.
20th - At 0730 hours south west of the Island of
Kithera the Fleet was joined by supply Ship BRECONSHIRE escorted by the light
cruiser HMAS PERTH and destroyer HOTSPUR.
At 0800 hours HM Cruisers ORION, AJAX, GLOUCESTER and HM Destroyers HERO and
HASTY joined the Fleet at sea.
At 1200 hours PHOEBE and CALCUTTA rejoined the Fleet.
At 1230 hours the Fleet RVed with convoy ME 7 from Malta. PHOEBE and CALCUTTA
detached and joined destroyers DIAMOND and NUBIAN escorting the four ship convoy
ME 7 which then proceeded to Alexandria.
Destroyers JARVIS and JANUS detached from convoy ME 7 and joined the Fleet.
The Fleet then re-organised into two forces for Operation MD 3:
The bombarding force of WARSPITE, VALIANT, BARHAM,
GLOUCESTER, HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, HERO, HASTY, HEREWARD, JERVIS, JANUS, JUNO and
The covering force of FORMIDABLE, AJAX, ORION, PERTH, ENCOUNTER, GRIFFIN,
HAVOCK, KIMBERLEY and KINGSTON.
At 2120 hours the bombarding force turned on to course
235¼ and the covering force detached.
21st - At 0445 hours the bombarding force arrived at
the position of the marker submarine TRUANT, who was positioned 4 miles off the
entrance of Tripoli harbour.
At 0502 hours the bombarding force opened fire on Tripoli harbour at ranges
between 14000 and 11000 yards. FORMIDABLE provided 3 Swordfish for spotting (who
were unable to spot fall of shot due to dust). Also taking part were 6 flare
dropping Swordfish of 830 Sqd from Malta and RAF Wellingtons of 148 Sqd from
Malta who bombed at the same time.
At 0545 hours fire was checked, after firing 478 x 15in and 1500 shells of
smaller calibres, about 530 tons of ordnance fell on the port and harbour. The
bombarding force withdrew without there having been any reaction from the enemy.
(The effects of the bombardment were disappointing -
Axis shipping traffic to Tripoli was suspended for a day and a single freighter
was sunk. But damage was caused to the offloading and storage facilities).
Course was set for Alexandria.
At 0730 hours the FORMIDABLE force rejoined and speed was increased to 21 knots.
At 2000 hours JARVIS, JANUS, JUNO and JAGUAR detached for Malta.
23rd - At 1030 hours the Fleet arrived back at
(On 25/4/41, Ultra provided explicit details of
the German plan for an airborne invasion of Crete to take place on 20/5/41.
First objective was to capture key airfields at Maleme, Heraklion and Retimo,
by 8,000 paratroops dropped from 520 Ju 52 aircraft, followed by 14,000
airborne troops in gliders)
29th – At 1500 hours the First Battle Squadron
comprising battleships BARHAM (Flag, Rear Admiral
Rawlings) and VALIANT, aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE and destroyers GREYHOUND and
HMAS's STUART, VENDETTA, VAMPIRE, WATERHEN and VOYAGER sailed from Alexandria to
support convoy GA 15.
The light cruisers ORION (Flag Vice Admiral
Pridham-Wippell), PHOEBE, AJAX and HMAS PERTH and destroyers DECOY,
DEFENDER, NUBIAN, HASTY and HEREWARD joined the convoy north of the Kasos
(Convoy GA.15 departed Suda Bay at 1100/29/4/41
the Aegean with troopships MV DELANE 6054grt, MV THURLAND CASTLE 6372grt,MV
COMLIEBANK 5149grt, SS CORINTHIA 3701grt, SS ITRIA 6854grt, and SS
IONIA1936grt with a total of 10930 troops and personnel embarked and the
oiler RFA BRAMBLELEAF 5917grt. The convoy was escorted by the anti-aircraft
cruiser CARLISLE, destroyers KANDAHAR and KINGSTON, and sloop AUCKLAND.
30th – At 0600 hours in approximate position 34N,
27-30E the First Battle Squadron RVed with Pridham-Wippell’s covering force.
Following the RV, PERTH, PHOEBE and NUBIAN joined the First Battle Squadron and
the remainder of Pridham-Wippell’s covering force made for Alexandria.
The destroyer ILEX joined the First Battle Squadron from Alexandria.
The destroyers JUNO and JAGUAR joined the First Battle Squadron from Malta.
At 0700 hours the First Battle Squadron RVed with convoy GA 15. The First Battle
Squadron then reversed course and remained in touch with the convoy.
At 1900 hours in approximate position 32-30N, 29E, PERTH and NUBIAN detached to
join the close escort of the convoy. Following which the First Battle Squadron
reversed course back towards Crete to provide support for the destroyers HAVOCK
and HOTSPUR who were withdrawing from Milos Island with 700 troops and refugees
FORMIDABLE, PHOEBE and
destroyers GREYHOUND, ILEX, JUNO, JAGUAR
and HMAS STUART, VENDETTA, VAMPIRE, WATERHEN and VOYAGER arrived back at
6th – Battleships WARSPITE (Flag), BARHAM and VALIANT,
aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE, light cruisers AJAX, ORION and HMAS PERTH, cruiser
minelayer ABDIEL and destroyers of the 14thDF, JERVIS, JUNO, JAGUAR, KANDAHAR,
KIMBERLEY and KINGSTON and 7thDF, HMAS NIZAM and NAPIER, IMPERIAL, GRIFFIN,
HOTSPUR and HAVOCK and supply Ship BRECONSHIRE sailed from Alexandria on
Operations MD 4, MD 6 and MD 7, and to cover the passage of the Tiger convoy.
Because of the aerial mining of the harbour entrance channel the previous night
each capital ship was individually sweep out of the harbour by minesweepers.
This process took many hours.
(Operation MD 4 was covering the passage of convoys MW 7B, slow, and MW 7A,
fast, from Alexandria to Malta. MD 6 & 7 were bombardments of Benghazi)
7th - Early in the morning south of Crete the Fleet
came under attack from 5 enemy bombers, 4 of which were shot down by Fulmars
from FORMIDABLE. During the day the destroyers were refueled by the BRECONSHIRE.
At 1800 hours SW of Crete AJAX, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL detached from the
Fleet to carry out Operation MD 6, a bombardment of Benghazi.
8th - At 1700 hours AJAX, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL
rejoined the Fleet.
ABDIEL and BRECONSHIRE escorted by HOTSPUR, HAVOCK, and IMPERIAL detached for
9th - At 1100 hours east of Malta, following release
from Valletta harbour, the destroyers KELLY, KELVIN and JACKAL joined the Fleet.
At 1400 hours 40 miles south of Malta the Mediterranean Fleet RVed with the 4
merchant ships of the Tiger convoy and its escort of the battleship QUEEN
ELIZABETH, light cruisers GLOUCESTER, FIJI, NAIAD, DIDO and PHOEBE, antiaircraft
cruisers CALCUTTA, CARLISLE and COVENTRY and destroyers KASHMIR, KIPLING,
GREYHOUND, HERO, HEREWARD, ILEX, ISIS and HASTY. Course was then set for
10th - At 1700 hours, 160 miles NNW of Benghazi KELLY,
KELVIN, KASHMIR, KIPLING and JACKAL detached to carry out Operation MD 7 a
further bombardment of Benghazi, sinking two ships and causing damage to port
In the evening after the full moon had risen the Fleet came under attack from
enemy bombers but due to the intensity of the AA barrage on hits were achieved.
11th - DIDO and CALCUTTA and destroyers JANUS and ISIS
were detached from the Fleet to proceed to Alexandria to refuel.
12th - The Tiger convoy arrived at Alexandria.
At 1300 hours WARSPITE, BARHAM, VALIANT, QUEEN ELIZABETH, FORMIDABLE, NAIAD,
PHOEBE, CARLISLE, COVENTRY, GLOUCESTER, FIJI, PERTH, JERVIS, JAGUAR, JUNO,
NAPIER, NIZAM, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, ILEX, HERO, HAVOCK, HOTSPUR, HASTY, HEREWARD,
IMPERIAL, KANDAHAR, KINGSTON and KIMBERLEY arrived at Alexandria.
18th - At 2000 hours Force A 1, comprising the
battleships WARSPITE (Flag of CS7, Rear Admiral Rawlings) and VALIANT, light
cruiser AJAX and destroyers KIMBERLEY, JANUS, ISIS, HEREWARD, DECOY, HERO,
GRIFFIN and HMAS NAPIER departed Alexandria to relieve Force A off Crete.
19th - Force A 1 arrived off south west Crete and
Force A and B were released to return to Alexandria to refuel.
Destroyers HOTSPUR and IMPERIAL detached from Force A and joined Force A1.
of Force A 1 to prevent the intervention of the Italian Fleet in the
invasion of Crete. All other Forces were tasked with preventing German troop
from reaching Crete by sea).
20th - At 0530 hours Force A 1 was 100 miles west of
Crete covering the light forces working inshore.
At 0800 hours the German airborne attack on Crete began. From their position the
ships of Force A 1 could see the Ju 52 transports and the DFS 230A gliders
carrying the German first wave of assault forces to attack
At 2200 hours IMPERIAL and KIMBERLEY detached to join Force D.
21st - At 0530 hours Force A 1 was in approximate
position 35-42N, 22-12E, 60 miles west of the Antikythira Strait steaming east
to RV with Force D.
At 0800 west of the Kithera Strait Force D, comprising light cruisers DIDO,
AJAX, ORION and destroyers ISIS, IMPERIAL, JANUS and KIMBERLEY joined Force A 1.
In the forenoon AJAX was damaged by a near miss.
During the day Force A 1 remained to the south west of Kithera prepared to
prevent any attempt by the Italian Fleet to support the attack on Crete.
At 1800 hours Force D comprising DIDO, AJAX, ORION, HASTY, HEREWARD, JANUS and
KIMBERLEY detached from Force A 1 to attack enemy troop convoys.
At 2000 hours Force B comprising GLOUCESTER, FIJI, GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN
detached to patrol off Cape Matapan.
Throughout the day Force A 1 was under heavy air attack.
22nd - At 0530 hours Force A 1 was in approximate
position 35-24N, 22-45E, 45 miles south west of the Kythira channel steaming
At 0700 hours west of the Antikythira Channel, Force D, comprising DIDO, AJAX,
ORION, HASTY, HEREWARD, JANUS and KIMBERLEY rejoined Force A 1.
At 0830 hours, south west of Kythira, Force B, comprising GLOUCESTER, FIJI,
GREYHOUND and GRIFFIN joined Force A 1, after having been under continuous air
attack since 0630 hours.
(During the 20th and 21st the Luftwaffe forces
were fully occupied supporting the German paratroops on Crete, so no attacks
were made on British ships. However the Luftwaffe was fully aware of the
location of all British naval forces. On the 22nd the Luftwaffe was ready to
throw all its weight against the British ships. On the morning of the 22nd
Forces A1, B and C were within 120 to 150 miles of the airfields of the
Luftwaffe VIII Fliegerkorps who had up to 228 level bombers, Ju 88, He 111 &
Do 17, 205 Ju 87 dive bombers Ju 87 and 230 fighter bombers Me 109 & Me 110,
available to attack the British ships. The Luftwaffe took full advantage of
their complete air superiority and the closeness of the British ships to
their bases. At 0530 hours the first Ju 87’s took off and headed south east
for the British ships)
Forces A1, B and D now patrolled 20 to 30 miles west
of the Kithera Channel as Rear Admiral Rawlings stated in his report 'serving a
useful purpose by attracting enemy aircraft'.
By 0945 hours all the British naval forces were under sustained attack from 650
At 1045 hours Force A 1 was in approximate position 36N, 23E when on the CinC’s
orders Force D was detached to return to Alexandria. Also at this time an audit
of remaining high angle ammunition revealed the VALIANT was best placed with 80%
At 1225 hours Admiral Rawlings received a message from
CS15, Rear Admiral King, and CinC Force C, stating that the NAIAD had been badly
damaged and he was in need of support. On receipt of the report Rawlings decided
to go to the assistance of King and course was set westward at 23 knots into the
sink a large caique spotted between the islands of Pori and Antikythira.
At 1320 hours the destroyer GREYHOUND was detached to
At 1325 hours Force C joined Forces A 1 and B and course
was set westwards. Rear Admiral King, as senior officer, now took command of the
Fleet. However Force C continued to operate remote from Rawlings.
At 1332 hours just as the combined force was entering the Kithera Channel,
WARSPITE was attacked by three Me 109 fighter bombers, each armed with a 250kg
semi-armour piercing bomb. She was hit by one bomb which caused extensive
damage, reducing her speed to 18 knots. After putting out the fires and
some temporary repairs WARSPITE stayed with the Fleet.
At 1351 hours, in sight of the Fleet, the GREYHOUND having sunk the caique was
returning to the Fleet when she was attacked by eight Ju 87’s, she was hit by
three bombs in succession and sank stern first at 1406 hours in position 36N,
At 1355 hours the destroyers KANDAHAR and KINGSTON
were detached to go to GREYHOUND’s aid, but ended up picking up survivors whilst
coming under heavy air attack themselves.
At 1358 hours King called upon Rawlings to go to GREYHOUND’s aid.
At 1400 hours King countermanded the order and ordered Rawlings to provide close
support for Force C.
At 1402 hours, King ordered the light cruiser FIJI to provide the destroyers
with anti aircraft defence, and five minutes later King ordered GLOUCESTER to
also assist the destroyers.
(In ordering the cruisers to assist the
destroyers, Rear Admiral King, made a huge blunder as he was not aware of
their much reduced high angle ammunition state. At 1045 hours FIJI, 30%,
GLOUCESTER, 18% and by 1400 hours these percentages were further reduced)
At 1413 hours King again ordered Rawlings to provide
Force C with close cover, adding that Force C had practically no high angle
ammunition left. Rawlings signalled King with concerns for FIJI and GLOUCESTER
and informing him of their HA ammunition state. King then signalled Captain
Rowley, commander of the GLOUCESTER, instructing GLOUCESTER and FIJI to withdraw
at his discretion.At 2230 hours CS7, Rawlings, sent a most immediate signal
to the CinC Mediterranean Fleet reporting the loss of GLOUCESTER and FIJI and
stating that the AA ammunition situation in all vessels was very low, the
battleships had run out of pom pom ammunition.
At 1530 hours GLOUCESTER and FIJI were sighted by the Fleet, under continuous
air attack from Ju 87’s and steaming at full speed to regain the safety of the
Fleet. But with no HA ammunition left the inevitable happened and GLOUCESTER was
hit and disabled. FIJI stood by but could do little to help as she too was out
of HA ammunition.
At 1555 hours after King had consulted with Rawlings over whether the Fleet
should assist GLOUCESTER, he ordered FIJI to sink GLOUCESTER and the Fleet
withdrew to the south west. At 1900 hours the FIJI, after having survived some
20 bombing attacks in four hours, was hit by a bomb from a Me 109 that scored a
hit on the port side amidships. The ship took up a heavy list, but was able to
steam at reduced speed until 1930 hours, when a Ju 88 dropped three bombs which
At 1645 hours VALIANT was hit and damaged by two bombs that landed abreast
X-turret and one near miss. These caused some structural damage and flooding of
a bulge compartment. The attack was made by high level bombers and probably
carried out by Ju 88’s.
At 1655 hours the CinC Mediterranean Fleet signalled the Fleet, 'Stick it out.
Keep in V/S touch. Must not let down the Army in Crete. It is essential no
seaborne enemy force lands on Crete'.
dreadful day for the Royal Navy, two cruisers and one
destroyer were sunk and two battleships, two cruisers and a number of
destroyers damaged. In return the navy had sunk a few caiques in which had
been lost 320 German troops)
(The 22/5/41 was a
23rd - At 0408 hours the CinC Mediterranean Fleet
ordered all warships to withdraw to Alexandria.
24th - In the early hours all Forces arrived back at Alexandria.
VALIANT now had to await her turn for the repair to her bomb damage.
(At 2035 hours, in reply to a request from the
Chiefs of Staff in London, the CinC Mediterranean Fleet said that the scale
of air attack now made it no longer possible for the Navy to operate in the
Aegean or the vicinity of Crete by day, or to prevent seaborne landings,
without suffering losses which, added to those already sustained, would very
seriously prejudice our command of the Eastern Mediterranean.
At 2132/25/5/41 the Chiefs of Staff replied, that
the Fleet and RAF must accept whatever risk was entailed in preventing any
considerable reinforcement from reaching Crete. If enemy convoys were
reported north of the island, the Fleet would have to operate there by day;
probably the losses incurred in so doing would be considerable, and only
experience would show for how many days this situation could be maintained.
At 1334/26/5/41 the CinC Mediterranean Fleet
replied, surely we have already sufficient experience of what losses are
likely to be. In three days, two cruisers and four destroyers were sunk, one
battleship out of action for several months, and two other cruisers and four
destroyers sustained considerable damage. We cannot afford another such
experience and retain sea control in the Eastern Mediterranean. He added
that supply by sea had not come much into the picture, as despite loss and
turning back his convoys the enemy were so prolific in the air that for the
moment he was able to reinforce and keep his troops supplied at will,
unchecked by air action on our part, and the sight of a constant unhindered
procession of Ju 52’s flying into Crete was among the factors likely to
affect the morale of our forces.
As a postscript to his last signal the CinC
Mediterranean Fleet, added, that at 1330/26/5/41 the FORMIDABLE had been
attacked by 20 dive bombers and considerably damaged)
(28/5/41 the evacuation of Crete commenced and
continued over four nights)
1st - At Alexandria awaiting repair of bomb damage.
26th – At 1000 hours battleships
QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Mediterranean Fleet), WARSPITE,
and VALIANT, light cruiser AJAX, minelayer ABDIEL, and destroyers KANDAHAR,
GRIFFIN, HERO, JAGUAR, DEFENDER, KIMBERLEY, and HASTY sailed from Alexandria for
gunnery and other exercises between Alexandria and Port Said.
At 1200 hours light cruiser PHOEBE and minelayer LATONA joined the Fleet
At 1500 hours WARSPITE detached for Port Said, escorted by destroyers KANDAHAR,
GRIFFIN, and KIMBERLEY.
27th – At 0500 hours the destroyer KIMBERLEY rejoined
At 1500 hours QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, AJAX, PHOEBE, ABDIEL, LATONA and
destroyers HERO, JAGUAR, DEFENDER, KIMBERLEY, and HASTY arrived back at
10th – VALIANT in company with light cruiser HMNZS
LEANDER screened by destroyers sailed from Alexandria for a days exercise.
18th – Battleships VALIANT, QUEEN ELIZABETH, light
cruiser PHOEBE and destroyers JACKAL, NIZAM, HASTY, KIPLING, and HAVOCK departed
Alexandria for exercises.
Joined at sea by the minelaying cruiser LATONA.
19th - VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH, light cruiser
PHOEBE, minelaying cruiser LATONA, and destroyers JACKAL, NIZAM, HASTY, KIPLING,
and HAVOCK arrived back at Alexandria after exercises.
22nd - At 2100 hours battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH,
VALIANT, light cruisers HMAS HOBART, NAIAD, NEPTUNE and PHOEBE, cruiser
minelayers ABDIEL and LATONA screened by HM Destroyers GRIFFIN, HASTY, HAVOCK,
JACKAL, NUBIAN and HMAS NIZAM sailed from Alexandria.
23rd - At 0600 hours off Alexandria the Battle Fleet
was joined by the light cruisers AJAX and HMNZS LEANDER and destroyers JAGUAR,
JERVIS, KANDAHAR and KINGSTON. The Fleet then sailed for a diversionary cruise
in the eastern Mediterranean during the passage of a relief convoy to Malta from
Gibraltar (Operation MD5 –cover for Operation SUBSTANCE by Force H.)
At 2200 hours NEPTUNE, ABDIEL and KIMBERLEY detached for the fleet.
24th - LEANDER and JAGUAR detached from the fleet.
25th - The Battle Fleet arrived back at Alexandria.
26th – At 0900 hours battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH,
BARHAM, and VALIANT, light cruisers AJAX, NEPTUNE and HOBART, and destroyers
JERVIS, JUPITER, KINGSTON, KIPLING, HERO, HOTSPUR, DECOY and VENDETTA sailed
from Alexandria to act as a diversion for operation HALBERD being carried out by
At 1900 hours the destroyer NAPIER joined the Fleet at sea from Alexandria.
27th – At 1400 hours the Fleet returned to Alexandria.
10th – At 0530 hours battleships BARHAM and VALIANT,
light cruisers AJAX and HOBART, and destroyers JERVIS, JAGUAR, JUPITER,
KANDAHAR, GRIFFIN, HASTY, HOTSPUR, DECOY, AVONVALE, and ERIDGE departed
Alexandria to sweep westward.
At 0730 hours in position 31-14N, 29-14E. The destroyer JERVIS attacked a
At 1800, the Fleet turned back to the eastward.
11th – At 1130 hours the Fleet returned to Alexandria.
12th – At 0700 hours battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT, light cruisers AJAX, HOBART and GALATEA and destroyers JERVIS, JAGUAR,
GRIFFIN, JUPITER, KANDAHAR, HASTY, HOTSPUR, DECOY, AVONVALE and ERIDGE departed
Alexandria and proceeded westward.
At 1800, the cruisers AJAX, HOBART, and GALATEA and destroyers JERVIS, JAGUAR,
and JUPITER were detached to pass through position 33-00N, 24-30E at midnight
and rejoin the Fleet at daylight.
13th – At 0500 hours the Fleet set course for
At 1315 hours a report was received of three Italian cruisers and six destroyers
approaching the North African coast.
(Italian light cruisers DUCA D'AOSTA, EUGENIO
DI SAVOIA, and MONTECUCCOLI and destroyers VIVALDI, MALOCELLO, PIGAFETTA, DE
VERAZZANO, AVIERE, and CAMICIA NERA were to lay mines off Benghazi during
the night of 12/13 October. However, the operation was cancelled when it was
found that the Mediterranean Fleet was at sea)
When no contact was made with the enemy force the
Fleet set course for Alexandria.
14th – At 0530 hours the Fleet arrived back at
11th - VALIANT, light cruiser HOBART, and four
destroyers were at sea from Alexandria on exercises.
18th - Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, BARHAM and
VALIANT, light cruisers NAIAD, GALATEA, and EURYALUS, and destroyers JERVIS,
KIMBERLEY, KINGSTON, NAPIER, NIZAM, KIPLING, JACKAL, DECOY, AVONVALE, and ERIDGE
departed Alexandria and sailed west in support of Operation CHIEFTAIN, the dummy
convoy in the western Mediterranean; and to divert attention from the
bombardment of Libyan coast positions by 7th and 15th Cruiser Squadrons
(Operation ME.4) in support of Operation CRUSADER.
(Operation CRUSADER was the attack by the 8th Army to lift the siege of Tobruk).
(Operation CHIEFTAIN was a decoy Malta convoy that sailed from Gibraltar at
1800/16/11/41 and consisted of the merchant vessels BLAIRATHOLL (3319grt), BARON
NEWLANDS (3386grt), SHUNA (1575grt), CISNEROS (1886grt), and OTTINGE (2870grt),
and oiler BROWN RANGER escorted by destroyer WILD SWAN, sloop DEPTFORD, and
corvettes CONVOLVULUS, RHODODENDRON, and MARIGOLD. The objective of the convoy
was to draw enemy aircraft away from Operation CRUSADER. In the event it failed
in its objective and the only positive outcome was the sinking of U 433 by the
At 1630 hours the Fleet reversed course and steered east for Alexandria.
19th – At 1030 hours the Fleet arrived back at
20th - Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, BARHAM and
VALIANT, light cruisers NAIAD, EURYALUS, and GALATEA, and destroyers JERVIS,
KANDAHAR, KIMBERLEY, KINGSTON, NAPIER, NIZAM, KIPLING, JACKAL, HASTY, HOTSPUR,
and DECOY departed Alexandria to operate in coordination with Operation CRUSADER
to simulate an attack on Tripoli to draw German and Italian air strength away
from Halfaya and Bardia.
At 1200 hours light cruisers AJAX, NEPTUNE and HMAS HOBART joined the fleet.
At nightfall AJAX, NEPTUNE and HMAS HOBART detached from the fleet.
22nd - At daylight the Fleet returned to Alexandria.
24th – At 1600 hours battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH,
VALIANT and BARHAM and destroyers JERVIS, GRIFFIN, and DECOY departed Alexandria
to support operations by Force K (Force K, light cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE
and destroyers LANCE and LIVELY had departed Malta on 23/11/41 to intercept
Italian convoys); and to support Operation CRUSADER. Five other destroyers were
unable to sail with the Fleet as they were still oiling when the Fleet departed.
In the swept channel the Fleet was joined by destroyers FARNDALE, AVONVALE and
ERIDGE and these destroyers formed part of the Fleet screen until relieved.
At 2245 hours destroyers KIPLING, JACKAL, HASTY and HMAS NAPIER and NIZAM joined
from Alexandria having completed fuelling.
Following which destroyers FARNDALE, AVONVALE and ERIDGE detached and returned
25th – During the morning and afternoon the Battle
Fleet steamed alternately east and west off the Gulf of Sollum waiting for
bombardment requests from the 8th Army.
At 1625 hours the three battleships were steaming in echelon on the starboard
leg of the zig-zag pattern, QUEEN ELIZABETH, leading, BARHAM in the centre and
VALIANT astern. The German submarine U-331 managed to penetrate the destroyer
screen and from almost point blank range fired four torpedoes, three of which
hit the BARHAM on her port side. The BARHAM rolled over and sank in position
32-34N, 26-24E, four minutes after the first torpedo hit, following the
detonation of a magazine.
On seeing the first torpedo hit, VALIANT’s officer of the watch ordered
'Hard-a-port' and 15 seconds later as the VALIANT started to turn to port,
U-331’s bow broke the surface about eight degrees off the port how at a distance
of approximately 150 yards ahead and moving from left to right. By this time
VALIANT had swung about eight degrees to port.
(The firing of the torpedoes compromised U-331’s
buoyancy and caused her bow, periscope and the top of the conning tower of
broach the surface)
On sighting the submarine the OOW ordered 'Amidships',
and then 'hard-a-starboard' in an endeavour to ram the submarine. However the
manoeuvre was unsuccessful and the submarine passed down VALIANT’s starboard
side, and after being visible for 45 seconds, submerged when abreast the bridge
at a distance of about fifty yards. As it appeared on the starboard side the S1
pom-pom fired 19 rounds at it with the maximum depression, but all the rounds
Aboard the VALIANT when BARHAM was hit was the Gaumont News cameraman John
Turner who shot 2 minutes of movie film, all he had left in the camera, of the
sinking. This film became one of the most poignant shot in the whole war and is
frequently used in films about WW2 naval actions.
26th - At 1000 hours the Fleet arrived back at
18th – (At approximate1840 hours the Italian
submarine SCIRE arrived in a position about a mile west of the entrance to
Alexandria harbour. At 2047 hours three SLC (Siluro
Lenta Corsa = Slow moving torpedo), known as
Maiale (Italian word for pigs) with a top speed of 2knots
submerged and a range of 15 miles, were launched from SCIRE. Each Maiale carried
two commandos from the 10th flotilla MAS, after launching they headed for the
harbour entrance. When they arrived at the harbour entrance they found the
anti-submarine boom open for the passage of the cruisers and destroyers
returning from escorting the BRECONSHIRE to Malta. The three Maiales followed
the British forces into Alexandria harbour and headed for their targets the
battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and a fleet oiler. The VALIANT was the
target of the Maiale, SLC 221, manned by Durand De La Penne and Emilio Bianchi.
19th – At approximately 0230 hours Durand De La Penne
and Emilio Bianchi placed the explosive warhead of the Maiale, which was a
standard 270 kg torpedo warhead, filled with TNT, on the harbour bottom
underneath the VALIANT.
At 0325 hours Durand De La Penne and Emilio Bianchi were sighted sitting on
VALIANT’s mooring buoy and were taken aboard the VALIANT, where they were
questioned, but refused to answer any questions. They were detained in a
compartment on board VALIANT until 0600 hours when De La Penne asked to speak to
VALIANT’s CO, Captain Morgan. De La Penne informed Morgan that the device they
had planted was due to explode imminently. De La Penne was then returned to the
At 0547 hours an explosive device went off under the stern of the oiler MV
SAGONA 7554grt, at the time of the explosion the SAGONA had four destroyers
alongside refuelling, one of which, the JERVIS, was also damaged by the
At 0606 hours the explosive device went off under VALIANT’s A turret, causing
flooding and serious damage to VALIANT.
At 0610 hours an explosive device went off under the QUEEN ELIZABETH.
Both VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH settled on the harbour bottom on an even keel
in a few feet of water.
the British allowed photographs of the seemingly undamaged
battleships to appear in the British press.)
(The other four commandos failed to escape and
were also captured. At a stroke the six commandos had knocked out the Royal
Navy’s Mediterranean Battle Fleet. When Churchill received news of the
sinkings he said, 'Six Italians, dressed in rather unusual diving
suits and equipped with materials of laughably little cost, have swung the
military balance of power in the Mediterranean in favour of the Axis'.
Fortunately for the Allies the enemy was not fully aware of the precarious
position of the Mediterranean Fleet. One reason being that
Salvage work on VALIANT commenced immediately.
VALIANT pumped out her fuel into the tanker CLYDEFIELD and the RFA oiler
21st – At 0950 hours VALIANT was towed into the
Admiralty floating dock AFD 5 which had a maximum lift of 31,500 tons, for
1 9 4 2
January to March
Under repair at Alexandria. VALIANT’s Type 79Z radar
was converted to Type 279 during this period.
Under repair at Alexandria.
8th – VALIANT sailed from Alexandria for Durban.
13th - Called at Aden en route to Durban.
21st – Arrived at Durban where she was taken in hand
for repair and refit.
May and June
7th May VALIANT had a change of commanding officers
her new CO was Captain Leslie Haliburton Ashmore RN.
Under repair and refit. Aircraft warning radar Type
279 replaced by Type 281.
Post refit trials
16th – Battleships RESOLUTION (wearing
flag of Vice Admiral Sir A U Wills RN
Second in Command, Eastern Fleet and CinC 3rd Battle
Squadron), ROYAL SOVEREIGN and VALIANT, light cruiser DAUNTLESS and destroyers
GRIFFIN, FOXHOUND, DECOY, BLACKMORE and HMAS NORMAN and
NIZAM, known as Force B, sailed from Kilindini to RV with Force A of the Eastern
Fleet to carry out tactical exercises.
17th – Force B RVed with Force A that comprised
battleship WARSPITE (wearing the flag of CinC Eastern Fleet), aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS (wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet),
light cruisers MAURITIUS and HMNethS
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERK and destroyers HMAS
NAPIER (Commodore (D)),
INCONSTANT, ACTIVE and FORTUNE. For these exercises Force A was placed under the
charge of Rear Admiral Commanding Aircraft carriers. Exercises were carried out
throughout the day.
At the end of the exercises ILLUSTRIOUS with two destroyers detached from the
fleet and proceeded to Tanga to disembark aircraft. The remainder of the Fleet
headed for Kilindini.
18th – At 0900 hours, following the completion of the
exercises at sea with Force B, the combined forces A and B, comprising
battleships WARSPITE (Flag of Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet), VALIANT,
RESOLUTION (Flag of Vice Admiral, Second in Command, Eastern Fleet, ROYAL
SOVEREIGN, aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag of Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers,
Eastern Fleet), light cruisers MAURITIUS and HMNethS
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK and destroyers GRIFFIN, DECOY,
INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND, ACTIVE, BLACKMORE and HMAS NAPIER, NORMAN and
NIZAM, arrived at Kilindini.
29th - Battleships WARSPITE (CinC
Eastern Fleet), RESOLUTION and VALIANT, light cruisers GAMBIA, ENTERPRISE and
JACOB VAN HEEMSKERCK and destroyers GRIFFIN, DECOY, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE,
FOXHOUND, HMAS NAPIER and NEPAL and HMNethS VAN GALEN and TJERK HIDDES sailed
from Kilindini to carry out Operation TOUCHSTONE.
(Operation TOUCHSTONE was an exercise to test
out the defences of East Africa against a seaborne Japanese invasion and,
also, to provide cover for the operation and a dress rehearsal for the
forthcoming Madagascar operations [STREAM, LINE and JANE]. Royal Marines and
naval landing parties from the naval force were to make landings at Tanga,
Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar Island)
30th - Operating off the East African coast in
approximate position 6S, 41E. Covering Operation TOUCHSTONE.
After nightfall the Fleet returned to Kilindini.
September to November
There was very little opportunity for exercises at sea
in the vicinity of Kilindini owing to the lack of destroyer escorts. VALIANT was
only able to exercise once in this period.
21st – Battleships
(Vice Admiral Eastern Fleet) and VALIANT, aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, light
cruisers BIRMINGHAM (CS 4) and GAMBIA, AMC RANPURA and destroyers ROTHERHAM (D
11), NEPAL, HOTSPUR, BLACKMORE and DERWENT sailed
Kilindini as Force A to carry out local exercises.
22nd - RANPURA detached from Force A and returned to
23rd - Force A less GAMBIA arrived back at Kilindini.
1 9 4 3
At Kilindini. VALIANT
nominated for return to UK.
VALIANT escorted by
destroyers HOTSPUR and BLACKMORE sailed from Kilindini for Durban.
12th – VALIANT and destroyers HOTSPUR and BLACKMORE
arrived at Durban.
Late January sailed for the UK.
Passage to the UK
5th – Arrived at Devonport
7th – Taken in hand for refit.
Under refit at Devonport. Aircraft facilities removed.
Surface warning Type 273 fitted and fire control radars Types 284 for the 15in
main armament, Four Type 285 for secondary armament and four Type 282 for Close
Range AA armament fitted. Single and twin Oerlikons fitted to supplement AA
28th - Refit completed
5th – At 1300 hours VALIANT escorted by destroyers ORP
ORKAN and PIORUN and one other sailed from Plymouth for Scapa.
6th – Off the mouth of the Clyde destroyers TUMULT,
BRECON and BLANKNEY joined from Greenock following which destroyers ORP ORKAN
and PIORUN detached and retuned to Plymouth
7th – At 0600 hours VALIANT with destroyers TUMULT,
BRECON and BLANKNEY arrived at Scapa to commence working up.
For the remainder of the month at Scapa working up
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.
23rd – Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
24th to 27th - Carried out 4 days of AA exercises with
other units of Force H.
28th - At 1630 hours WARSPITE (2ic Force H),
VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, AURORA, PENELOPE escorted by destroyers
FAULKNOR (D 8), INTREPID, FURY, INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, ILEX,
RAIDER and HHellMS QUEEN OLGA sailed from Gibraltar for Algiers.
30th Arrived early at Algiers.
Sailed later for Alexandria less AURORA and PENELOPE.
On passage to Alexandria
5th - At 0630 hours the force anchored off Ras-el-Tin
Lighthouse, Alexandria Bay.
7th - At 1045 hours
(2IC Force H) division of Force H, VALIANT, FORMIDABLE, escorted by destroyers
FAULKNOR (D 8), INTREPID, FURY, INGLEFIELD, ECHO, ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, ILEX,
RAIDER and HHellMS VASILISSA OLGA sailed from Alexandria Bay for the
Gulf of Sirte.
9th - At 0600 hours in the Gulf of Sirte, 240 miles
south east of Malta, the WARSPITE division of Force H RVed with the NELSON (CinC
Force H), RODNEY, INDOMITABLE
(FS Rear Admiral Lumley Lyster), light cruisers CLEOPATRA
and EURYALUS and destroyers OFFA, PANTHER, QUAIL, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D 4),
TROUBRIDGE, TUMULT, TYRIAN and ORP PIORUN.
Force H then provided distant cover for the combined
convoys, MWF 36 (Ex Port Said 5/7/43) and MWS 36 (Ex Alexandria 3/7/43), SBS 1,
SBM 1, SBF 1(Ex Sfax 8/7/43) and MWS 36X (Ex Tripoli 8/7/43) consisting of MT
freighters, tankers, landing ships and landing craft for the invasion of Sicily,
(Operation HUSKY 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
Division 1comprised NELSON
(Flag, Force H),
RODNEY and INDOMITABLE.
Division 2 comprised WARSPITE, VALIANT and
Division 3 comprised KING GEORGE V
Vice Admiral Arthur John Power) and HOWE. Division 3 was also known
as Force Z)
At 0700 hours AURORA and PENELOPE joined Force H.At 0730 hours AURORA, PENELOPE, INGLEFIELD and OFFA
detached to carry out Operation ARSENAL. (Operation ARSENAL was a naval
bombardment of Catania)
(Following the invasion on the night of 9/10 July Force H
was deployed in Ionian Sea as a covering Force for the landing operations to
prevent possible interference from the Italian Fleet)
10th - AURORA, PENELOPE, INGLEFIELD and OFFA rejoined
At daylight Force H was approximately 40 miles off Cape Passero.
During the day Force H continued to patrol off Cape Passero.
12th - WARSPITE and VALIANT with escorting destroyers
detached from Force H and proceeded to Malta for refueling.
Later in the day the WARSPITE division sailed from Malta and rejoined Force H at
13th - 25 miles SE of Cape Spartivento ECHO and ILEX,
who were part of Force H screen, sank the Italian submarine NEREIDE.
14th - Whilst patrolling the Ionian Sea Force H was
attacked by Italian torpedo bombers, without result, although CLEOPATRA and
EURYALUS were near missed.
16th - At 0015 hours
INDOMITABLE was torpedoed, port side amidships, by a lone Ju 88.
INDOMITABLE returned to Malta escorted by WARSPITE, VALIANT, FAULKNOR, FURY,
ECLIPSE, INGLEFIELD, INTREPID, PETARD, RAIDER and VASILISSA OLGA.
17th - Early in the day due to overcrowding in Grand
Harbour WARSPITE and VALIANT moved round to Marsaxlokk Bay. En route VALIANT
fouled the anti-submarine defences and was held firm so WARSPITE proceeded
alone, whilst VALIANT was cut free and checked for damage.
At Malta on standby to support military operations in
1st - Battleships WARSPITE (2iC Force H) and VALIANT,
light cruisers MAURITIUS and ORION escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR (D 8), FURY,
INGLEFIELD, INTREPID, ECLIPSE and RAIDER sailed from Grand Harbour on Operation
SLEDGE part of Operation BAYTOWN.
(Operation BAYTOWN was the assault across the
Straits of Messina, by X111 Corps of the 8th Army, on the Italian mainland
province of Calabria, due to commence at daylight on 3/9/43. Operation
SLEDGE was the softening up bombardment prior to the assault, carried out by
the 2nd division of Force H)
2nd - At 1000 hours WARSPITE and VALIANT opened fire
on 155mm coastal batteries south of Reggio. The bombardment was also carried out
by monitors EREBUS, ROBERTS and ABERCROMBIE, light
cruisers MAURITIUS and ORION and river
gunboats APHIS and SCARAB the escorting destroyers also joined in.
Following the bombardment the force remained in the area to provide support for
3rd - In the early hours destroyer TARTAR with CinC
ANCXF Admiral Cunningham embarked, joined the force. This was to enable the CinC
to observe the landings.
Calabria and Villa San under cover of gunfire from the off shore naval force,
artillery fire from Sicily and aerial support.
At daylight the British X111 corps landed at
(The landings were unopposed as the German 29th Panzer Grenadier Division had
withdrawn from the coast and the Italian forces surrendered without a fight)
4th - Arrived back at Malta.
7th - At 1700 hours battleships WARSPITE (2ic Force H)
and VALIANT escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR (D 8), FURY, INGLEFIELD, INTREPID
and RAIDER sailed from Marsaxlokk Bay on Operation AVALANCHE.
At 1820 hours off Grand Harbour the force was joined by aircraft carrier
FORMIDABLE, and destroyers ECHO, ILEX and HHellMS VASILISSA OLGA. The
combined force formed the 2nd division of Force H and course was set westward
until midnight when course was altered northwards towards the west of Sicily.
Salerno Bay which has a beach
of 20 miles and was within aerial striking range of Sicily. It was the best
possible landing site in the area; as such, the Germans fully anticipated
the landing and were fully prepared for it. In order to achieve surprise no
preliminary naval bombardment took place. As a result
of all these factors, the landings at Salerno was fiercely contested)
(Operation AVALANCHE was the landing of the
British X Corps and US V1 Corps of the 5th Army at Salerno Bay at
8th - At 0545 hours the force was unsuccessfully
attacked by torpedo bombers. In this attack VALIANT’s antiaircraft fire forced
15 aircraft to abort their attack.
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 0700 hours the two divisions of Force H combined.
At 1000 hours the combined Force H arrived off Marettimo Island where they
cruised until 1730 hours.
At 1730 hours Force H set course for the Salerno area. The course set was
designed to keep Force H end on to the moon, thereby presenting the most
difficult target for air attack.
At 1830 hours Radio Algiers announced that Italy had concluded an armistice with
At 1845 hours Marshal Badoglio announced on radio
From 2100 hours the capital ships of Force H were under air attack mainly from
single-engine fighter bombers.
9th - Air attacks continued.
At 0040 hours the air attacks ceased.
At 0300 hours the assault troops started to land.
At 0500 hours the air attacks re-commenced.
At 1330 hours WARSPITE, VALIANT, FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER
VASILISSA OLGA and FS Le TERRIBLE detached from Force H and set course south
west for a position 360¼ Cape de Garde (now Ras El Hamra) Algeria, 20 miles, to
carry out Operation GIBBON.
(Operation GIBBON was the reception of the
surrendered Italian Fleet by units of the Allied Navy. In accordance with
clause 4 of the surrender document. At 0300/9/9/43 the Italian Fleet of 3
Battleships, 3 Cruisers and 8 Destroyers sailed from La Spezia with
instructions to sail south, westward of Corsica and Sardinia, to a position
north of Bone. En route the Italian Fleet was attacked by German aircraft
and in the attack the Battleship ROMA was hit by two FX-1400 missiles and at
1612/9/9/43 rolled over and sank taking the Italian Fleet CinC, Admiral
Bergamini, with her)
At 2130 hours Le TERRIBLE detached and returned to
10th - At 0832 hours the Italian Fleet hove into sight
from the north.
At 0916 hours the Italian Fleet was ordered to follow astern of the Allied
ships, with WARSPITE leading, and course was set east for Malta.
11th - North of Malta the force was met by the
destroyer HAMBLETON who had embarked General Dwight D Eisenhower the Allied
The Italian Fleet and the escorting force of WARSPITE, VALIANT, FAULKNOR, FURY,
ECHO, INTREPID, RAIDER, VASILISSA OLGA and OFFA then entered Grand Harbour and
14th - At 1700 hours Force H comprising battleships
NELSON (CinC Force H), RODNEY, WARSPITE, and VALIANT, aircraft carriers
FORMIDABLE and ILLUSTRIOUS escorted by destroyers JERVIS (D 14), ILEX,
PATHFINDER, PENN and PETARD sailed from Malta for Gibraltar. VALIANT was en
route to the UK to prepare for service with the Eastern Fleet.
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.
(The reason for this deployment was because
during the 12th-14th September the Germans unleashed a concerted
counterattack by six divisions against the Salerno beachhead with the
objective of driving the allies into the sea before it could link with the
Eighth Army. Heavy casualties were inflicted and on 13th they drove a
salient between the two American divisions, the 34th and 45th, where the
Sele and Calore Rivers merged. The Allied troops were too thinly spread to
be able to resist the concentrated attacks. The heavy batteries of the
battleships were urgently needed to redress the situation)
15th - At 1100 hours VALIANT (Captain Ashmore CO of
VALIANT was in Command), WARSPITE and destroyers JERVIS (D 14), ILEX,
PATHFINDER, PENN and PETARD arrived off the beachhead in the middle of an air
attack by FW 190’s.
On arrival VALIANT’s gunnery officer crossed to the HQ ship USS BISCAYNE to
obtain target information. The briefing and target details took over 5 hours.
VALIANT was allocated the northern sector of the beachhead.
At 1630 hours on arrival at her station VALIANT sent a forward observation (FO)
party ashore but having set up the FO party were unable to communicate with
VALIANT. A frustrated Captain Ashmore then arranged with WARSPITE’s FO party to
engage targets at the end of WARSPITE’s bombardment but was told the no further
targets were available.
Captain Ashmore then ordered both battleships to move out to sea overnight.
16th – At 0800 hours VALIANT arrived back at her
bombardment position off the northern beachhead. Again there were communication
problems with her FO party.
Finally at 1545 hours VALIANT opened fire on the town of Nocera, and a nearby
road junction, firing 19 rounds of 15in from a range of approximately 28000
At 1400 hours VALIANT sailed for Augusta.
17th – At 0300 hours arrived at Augusta, where she
remained until the Salerno beachhead was secure.
23rd – Released from Operation Avalanche and sailed
30th – Sailed from Malta for Gibraltar.
3rd – Arrived at Gibraltar.
5th – At 1400 hours VALIANT, aircraft carriers
ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE and UNICORN escorted by destroyers ONSLOW (Captain (D)
Seventeenth Destroyer Flotilla), MAHRATTA, OBEDIENT, MATCHLESS, VENUS, HARDY,
INGLEFIELD and HNorMS STORD, sailed from Gibraltar for the United Kingdom.
6th – At 1820 hours ILLUSTRIOUS and FORMIDABLE
escorted by INGLEFIELD, OBEDIENT, VENUS and HNorMS STORD detached after being
ordered to return to Gibraltar.
7th – In position 41-15N, 15-55W the destroyer
MATCHLESS broke down with condenser trouble. MAHRATTA detached and stood by
8th – At 0100 hours MAHRATTA reported MATCHLESS
completely recovered and they were proceeding at 24 knots to rejoin.
9th – At 1200 hours in approximate position 48-30N,
13W VALIANT escorted by MAHRATTA and MATCHLESS detached for Plymouth.
10th – At 1500 hours VALIANT escorted by MAHRATTA and
MATCHLESS arrived at Plymouth.
11th – At Devonport VALIANT exchanged crews with the
VALIANT was then taken in hand for a refit to prepare her for service with the
15th – At Devonport VALIANT
had a change of commanding officers her new CO was Captain George Eric Maxia
O’Donnell, DSO, RN.
At Devonport under refit.
1st – In the morning sailed from Plymouth under escort
for Lamlash, Isle of Arran to commence working up.
2nd – Arrived off Lamlash.
10th – Sailed from Lamlash under escort for Scapa to
continue working up.
11th – Arrived at Scapa.
30th – At 1700 hours Group A of the First Battle
Squadron Eastern Fleet comprising battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag Vice Admiral A S
Power) battleships VALIANT and QUEEN ELIZABETH, and destroyers KEMPENFELT,
TENACIOUS, TERMAGANT and TUSCAN sailed from Scapa.
30th - At 1700 hours Group A of the
First Battle Squadron Eastern Fleet comprising battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag of
Vice Admiral A.J. Power, CB, CVO, as Vice Admiral Commanding First Battle
Squadron and Second in Command Eastern Fleet) battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT and destroyer TUSCAN and the frigates BLACKWOOD, DOMETT and BERRY sailed
from Scapa and proceeded through the Minches to RV with the Carrier Force to the
westward of Skerryvore lighthouse.
In a heavy sea in the Pentland Firth, the TUSCAN sustained damage to her
forecastle and breakwater. She continued with the Squadron until off Skerryvore
when she was detached to the Clyde for repairs.
31st - At 1030 hours in approximate position 56-24N, 8-18W the TUSCAN detached
for the Clyde to repair her weather damage and
At the same time Group A were joined by the aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS
(Flag Rear Admiral C. Moody, Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet) and
UNICORN escorted by the destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT from the
Also joining were the frigates DUCKWORTH, COOKE, ESSINGTON and PARRETT from
Londonderry. All the frigates of EG 3, Western Approaches Command were now part
of the escort.
The combined force then shaped course to the westward to make good a speed of
16 knots along a route which had been ordered by the Admiralty and which was
expected to enable the force to pass the Straits of Gibraltar on the night of 5th
– 6th January.
At 1200 hours the Force were in position 56-15N, 9-30W.
In the afternoon, a signal was received from the Admiralty ordering a change
of route, after passing the longitude of 10 degrees west. This diverted the
Squadron further to the westward and added about 150 miles to the distance to be
covered. Course was altered accordingly.
1st - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 51-50N, 17-13W.
2nd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 46-57N, 22-47W.
3rd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 41-03N, 22-20W.
4th - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 36-41N, 16-50W
At 1700 the Force divided into two groups in order that the capital ships that
were to fuel at Gibraltar might go on ahead at a greater speed of advance than
the diesel escort vessels could maintain.
The first group, consisting of the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT and the
destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the frigates DUCKWORTH and
ESSINGTON made good 18 knots speed of advance, steering for Gibraltar.
The ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN escorted by the frigates COOKE, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT,
BERRY and PARRETT, followed at 16 ½ knots.
5th - At 0800 hours in position 35-41N, 10W the battleship group RVed with the
destroyers ANTHONY, ACTIVE, BRILLIANT, INGLEFIELD, ISIS and URCHIN from
Gibraltar. These destroyers were ordered to join the carrier group so that the
diesel frigates and PARRETT could be released to refuel.
At 1200 hours the battleship group were in position 35-30N, 08-39W.
At 2130 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT and TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS
and KEMPENFELT arrived at Gibraltar and commenced fuelling from tankers.
Precautions were taken to minimize the risk of the ships being sighted from
6th - At 0415 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT the destroyers
TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the frigates DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON
sailed from Gibraltar and steered for a prearranged RV with the carriers 50
miles to the eastward of Europa Point.
At 0800 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT the destroyers
TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the frigates DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON RV
with the ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN and the destroyers ANTHONY, ACTIVE, BRILLIANT,
INGLEFIELD, ISIS and URCHIN. The Force then continued to the eastward at a speed
of advance of 14 knots.
(It had been intended that four of the
destroyers from Gibraltar should be detached when the rendezvous was made, but,
as the frigates could not yet catch up, the four destroyers were retained until
the next morning.
During the day fighter
patrols and A/S air patrols were flown from the carriers, but all the aircraft
were landed on before sunset. Shore based fighters provided for the dusk period,
and also a night A/S patrol ahead of the force from dusk to daylight, and night
fighters patrolled to the north)
7th - At 0800 hours the frigates COOKE,
BLACKWOOD, DOMETT and BERRY rejoined the Force, relieving the destroyers ISIS,
BRILLIANT, ANTHONY and ACTIVE who then detached and returned to Gibraltar.
(Shortly after parting company, the
destroyers were diverted to hunt a U boat off Cape de Gata. This U boat had been
fixed by D/F bearings and was subsequently sighted by aircraft during the night)
At 1200 hours the Force was in position
At 2300 hours the destroyers KEMPENFELT,
TENACIOUS and TERMAGANT detached for Bizerte to refuel.
At 1200 hours the Force was in position 37-17N, 10-05E.
At 1400 hours the destroyers KEMPENFELT,
TENACIOUS and TERMAGANT rejoined from Bizerte.
At 1530 hours when passing north of
Bizerta, the destroyer INGLEFIELD was detached to Bizerta and took with her a
hospital case from the ESSINGTON.
At 2359 hours the destroyer URCHIN was
detached to proceed to Malta to refuel.
9th - The Force proceeded to the south of
Malta on a generally south easterly course.
(In the early morning there was a
certain amount of enemy air activity off Cyrenaica, some four hundred miles to
the east of the Force and a convoy off Apollonia, Crete, reported at about 0100
hours that it was under air attack.
A diversion was ordered
in the forenoon to take effect from 1200 hours. This diverted the Force into the
Gulf of Sidra, some 60 miles to the southward of the original route. It kept
them clear of the convoys which were converging on the Benghazi Corner; and it
added some ninety miles to its distance from enemy radar stations in Crete
during the early hours of darkness; and it enabled the force to make most of the
passage between Benghazi and Tobruk in daylight)
At 1200 hours the Force was in position
33-29N, 15-35E. At this time the Squadron altered course to the southward into
the Gulf of Sidra.
10th - At 1200 hours the Force was in
position 33-05N, 22-05E.
(Shortly after 2000 hours a signal was
received that the Force and a slow eastbound convoy, [probably convoy GUS
27] which was about 70 miles to the westward, had probably been sighted
by enemy aircraft about 1730 hours)
11th - Between 0930 and 1100 hours
dummy torpedo attacks on the Force were
carried out by shore based aircraft and interception by fighters from
ILLUSTRIOUS was exercised.
At 1200 hours the Force was in position
At 1615 hours an aircraft was sighted by
RENOWN and reported as a Ju 88. ILLUSTRIOUS flew off fighters to intercept, but
without success. One Corsair crashed on taking off. A signal was later received
that the Force had been sighted by German aircraft at 1640 hours.
12th - At 0120 hours warning of enemy
aircraft in the vicinity was received from shore. Speed was increased to elude a
possible enemy air search. One enemy aircraft approaching from the southwest was
driven off by a RAF Beaufighter, possibly from 272 Sqd.
At 0700 hours the Force arrived off Port
Said. The frigates DUCKWORTH, COOKE, BLACKWOOD, DOMETT, BERRY and ESSINGTON
detached to Port Said.
Arrangements had been made for ships to
enter the Canal in the order of draught with the lighter ships first. QUEEN
ELIZABETH and VALIANT had to enter Port Said harbour to reduce their draught by
discharging fuel oil.
At 0900 hours the first ships of the Force
entered the Suez Canal, these were the destroyers KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and
TERMAGANT followed by the UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN.
At 1700 hours the KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS,
TERMAGANT, UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN arrived in the Great Bitter Lake. At
this point the KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and TERMAGANT were recalled to Port Said.
The UNICORN, ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN anchored for the night.
At 2200 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT sailed from Port Said and entered the canal.
13th - At 1000 hours The UNICORN,
ILLUSTRIOUS and RENOWN arrived at Suez.
At 1300 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT arrived at Suez.
It was decided to devote the remaining
part of the day and the following day to fuelling all ships and to allow time
for making good essential defects. Meetings were held with shore authorities in
order to arrange for a programme
of exercises for the ships, and for cooperation with R.A.F. shore based aircraft
for exercises in the harbour and at sea.
14th - The Force was at Suez.
15th - At 0800 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN
ELIZABETH and VALIANT sailed from Suez and carried out day and night exercised
in the Gulf of Suez.
16th - At 0200 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN
ELIZABETH and VALIANT returned to Suez.
At 0800 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN
and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET sailed from Suez to
carry out H.A. firings in the Gulf of Suez before continuing the passage to the
At 1030 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH
and VALIANT sailed from Suez and headed south.
At 1200 hours the battleship force was in
position 29-34N, 32-31E.
The carrier force under Rear Admiral
Aircraft Carriers, was acting independently of the battleship force, and was
ordered to overtake during the night and to be about 20 miles south of the
battleships on the morning of 17/1/44.
(In this way considerable progress in
training was possible without delaying the passage. Flying training by the
carriers, radar tracking by both forces during the night, 15 inch full calibre
firing range and inclination exercises by the battleships, and dummy torpedo
attacks by aircraft was among the exercises from which great benefit was
obtained. The comparative security of the northern half of the Red Sea from
enemy air and submarine activity made this training possible by permitting a
slight relaxation of preparedness and by allowing a wider dispersion of units
than could have been accepted in any other waters through which the force would
17th - At 1200 hours the battleship force
was in position 23-37N, 36-27E.
18th - At 1200 hours the Force was in
position 18-08N, 39-50E.
At 1630 hours the RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS
detached and increased speed to 21 knots proceeded ahead of the other ships in
order to reach Aden before high water on the afternoon of 19/1/44.
(It was not possible for all five heavy
ships to be berthed and fuelled simultaneously in Aden harbour, and the draught
of the QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT restricted their movement in the shallow
harbour and approaches to a short time either side of high water. It was
therefore arranged that RENOWN and the two carriers should fuel between the
daylight tides of the 19th and 20th January while the
battleships remained at sea, and vice versa on the 20th to 21st
19th - At 1000 hours the
RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS were in approximate position 12-26N,
44-02E, at which time they RVed with the destroyers ROTHERHAM (D11), ROEBUCK,
RACEHORSE and RAPID.
At 1100 hours the destroyers ROEBUCK,
RACEHORSE and RAPID detached to RV with the battleships.
At 1200 hours the
RENOWN and ILLUSTRIOUS were in position
At 1200 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH,
VALIANT, UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET were
in approximate position 12-21N, 43-45E.
At 1300 hours in approximate position
12-30N, 44-02E the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD,
PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET RVed with the destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and
At 1315 hours in approximate position the
UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET detached for
At 1530 hours the RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS and
the destroyer ROTHERHAM arrived at Aden and commenced to refuel.
At 1545 hours the UNICORN and the
destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET arrived at Aden and commenced
At 1800 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT
and the destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID arrived off Aden.
20th - During the morning the QUEEN
ELIZABETH, VALIANT and the destroyers ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID remained off
At 1300 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS followed by
the RENOWN, UNICORN and the destroyer ROTHERHAM got under way and departed Aden.
At 1430 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT entered Aden to refuel.
The RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN
escorted by the destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID then stood to
the southward until midnight, and then to the north eastward until daylight.
21st - At 1200 hours the RENOWN,
ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN and the destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID
were in position 11-59N, 45-37E.
At 1700 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT
and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET and HMAS NORMAN sailed
At 1800 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT
and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET and NORMAN RVed with the
RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN and the destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE
and RAPID off Aden. The destroyers ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID then
detached for Aden to refuel.
The RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT,
ILLUSTRIOUS, UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET and
NORMAN then headed east at 13 knots.
22nd - At 1100 hours the destroyers
ROTHERHAM, ROEBUCK, RACEHORSE and RAPID rejoined from Aden.
At 1200 hours the Force was in position
(The passage across the Indian Ocean
was made without any noteworthy incident. The weather continued to be fine
throughout and thus there were opportunities every day for continuing the sea
training of the ships and squadron. Various new cruising orders were tried out,
with particular reference to the best position for the carriers when cruising in
company with capital ships)
23rd - At 1200 hours the Force was in
position 13-40N, 55-28E.
24th - At 0630 hours the Squadron was
formed into a suitable cruising order for the destroyers to fuel from the
battleships. NORMAN fuelled from QUEEN ELIZABETH, PALADIN and PATHFINDER from
VALIANT, and PETARD from RENOWN. The other four destroyers carried more fuel and
were able to make the passage without oiling at sea.
(In the refueling operation NORMAN
sustained slight damage and fouled her propeller when a spring parted during
fuelling. She managed to complete the passage but as there was considerable
vibration at the speed of the fleet she was stationed astern so that that she
could follow at her most suitable speed. On arrival at Colombo, NORMAN was
docked for repairs)
At 1200 hours the Force was in position
25th - At 1200 hours the Force was in
position 12N, 68 08E.
26th - At 1200 hours the Force was in
position 8-44N, 73-51E.
Around midday a long range aircraft from
Ceylon made contact with the Force to start air cooperation exercises which
continued until the RENOWN arrived at Colombo.
At 1800 hours in approximate position
8-24N, 74-42E, the UNICORN escorted by the destroyers ROEBUCK and RAPID detached
and proceeded to Cochin, where she arrived a.m. 27/1/44.
27th - RAF long range aircraft shadowed
the Squadron through the night and made reports on which a striking force of
torpedo bombers was led into a dummy torpedo attack on the ships at first light.
At 0730 hours in approximate position 7N,
78-30E, the destroyers HMAS NIZAM and NAPIER joined the Squadron from the
At 0830 hours the RENOWN escorted by the
destroyers ROTHERHAM and NORMAN, detached and proceeded to Colombo where they
arrived at 1400 hours and entered harbour.
At 1200 hours the remaining ships of the
Force were in position 6-38N, 79-23E.
28th - At 0730 hours ILLUSTRIOUS Flew off
her aircraft to RNAS China Bay.
At 1030 hours the ILLUSTRIOUS, QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT and the destroyers
RACEHORSE, PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER, ROCKET, NIZAM and NAPIER arrived at
29th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT,
remained at Trincomalee and started to clean their boilers; this work had been
deferred until the end of the passage. It was estimated that boiler cleaning and
repair of normal machinery defects would be completed by 11/2/44.
1st to 16th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
were at Trincomalee carrying out maintenance.
17th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT sailed
from Trincomalee to carry out exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
18th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
returned to Trincomalee.
19th to 28th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
were at Trincomalee.
(Owing to the unfortunate lack of
destroyers, the capital ships were confined to
harbour drills and
It had been intended that
RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH, and a destroyer screen should proceed to sea for
exercises on 29/2/44 but heavy rain reduced visibility to about half a mile and
practices had to be postponed)
1st to 5th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at
(On 5/3/44 Admiral Sir James Fownes
Somerville, Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet, visited
Trincomalee and held a meeting of flag and commanding
officers in the RENOWN concerning future operations)
6th - QUEEN ELIZABETH escorted by the
destroyers HMAS NIZAM, QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY sailed for Colombo to store to
full capacity there. Full calibre and other firing practices were carried out on
7th - QUEEN ELIZABETH and escort on
passage to Colombo.
8th - South west of Colombo the destroyers
NIZAM, QUICKMATCH, and QUALITY detached and returned to Trincomalee for
QUEEN ELIZABETH arrived at Colombo to
complete with stores.
9th to 12th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at
13th - At 1600 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH
escorted by the destroyers HMAS NORMAN, NEPAL and HNMS TJERK HIDDES sailed from
14th - At 1430 hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH
and the destroyers NORMAN, NEPAL and TJERK HIDDES arrived at Trincomalee.
15th to 20th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at
21st – The Eastern Fleet comprising
battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag Vice Admiral
2iC Eastern Fleet), aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, heavy cruisers LONDON and
CUMBERLAND, light cruisers CELYLON and GAMBIA and the destroyers PATHFINDER,
QUALITY, QUEENBOROUGH, QUILLIAM (D4), HMAS NAPIER (Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore S H
T ARLISS RN Commander D Eastern Fleet), NEPAL, NORMAN and QUIBERON and HMNLS
TJERK HIDDES and VAN GALEN sailed from Trincomalee and Colombo on Operation
The ships from Trincomalee and Colombo
RVed south of Ceylon and then steered south carrying out exercises en route to
the refueling RV.
(Operation DIPLOMAT was an exercise
with three objectives:-
- For the various units to operate
together as a fleet and to see how well they had adapted to the climatic
2 - To practice
refueling/replenishment at sea.
[This was an operation that up to this time the RN had only carried out as a
last resort. With the naval war moving to the Indian and Pacific Oceans it was
an operation that the RN had to master. It was stressful for the bridge and
engine room staffs as constant adjustments were necessary in direction and
speed. The engine
designers had not envisaged this type of fine speed control being necessary, and
the tachometers fitted to the engines only gave rough readings, so fine
adjustments of the throttle valves had to be made continuously]
- To RV with US Task Group 58.5 which comprised the aircraft carrier USS
SARATOGA and her escort)
24th – In position approximate
6-15S, 80-30E the Eastern Fleet RVed with the refueling force of three RFA
oilers escorted by the cruiser HMNLS TROMP. The refueling operation then
commenced with the Fleet steering a south easterly course.
25th - During the daylight
hours the Eastern Fleet continued the refueling operation.
26th – In approximate position
12S, 86E the refueling was completed and the Fleet steered to RV with US Task
27th – at 1200 hours SW of the
Cocos (Keeling) Islands the Eastern Fleet RVed with US Task Force 58.5
comprising the aircraft carrier SARATOGA and the destroyers DUNLAP, CUMMINGS and
FANNING. TF 58.5 had sailed from Freemantle on 24/3/44.
loan of the SARATOGA was a result of the agreement between Roosevelt and
Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. At the meeting Roosevelt
had agreed that as soon as American resources would allow, an American carrier
would be dispatched to aid the British Fleet operating in the Indian Ocean. The
objective would be to disrupt Japanese oil supplies from the Dutch East Indies
which were the main source of Japanese oil supplies.
The SARATOGA had embarked Air Group
12 which comprised squadrons:-
VF-12 equipped with 44 F6F-3 Grumman Hellcat fighters
VB-12 equipped with 19 SBD-5 Douglas Dauntless scout bombers
VT-12 equipped with 17 TBF-1C
Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers)
The combined force then
steered northwards towards Trincomalee carrying out exercises en route.
(During the two days of joint exercises air crew from the
SARATOGA gave the FAA pilots the benefit of their combat experience against the
Japanese. A circular
cruising formation designed for up to three carriers was tried out. It was
considered to have many advantages and the CO of the SARATOGA favored circular
formations and circular screens.
The circular screen favored by
the USN was first tried out at the Battle of Midway following which the action
report recommended; Òscreening
vessels must close the carrier to not less that 1500 yards and all available CAs
and DDs should be on the same circleÓ. Also the action report stated that,
Òthe 5" battery and close range weapons of surface ships are only partially
effective in repelling a determined torpedo attack because of the low rate of
fire of the 5" battery and fuse failures; short effective range of the 20mm
guns; and the failure of short range weapon gunners to lead the target
31st - At 0845 hours
ILLUSTRIOUS and SARATOGA flew off their aircraft to RNAS China Bay, Trincomalee.
1000 hours the combined force arrived at Trincomalee.
report by Vice Admiral 2iC Eastern Fleet stated the Operation DIPLOMAT had
provided excellent opportunities of improving the efficiency of all ships and
enabled the American Task Force to shake down with the Eastern Fleet. The Task
Force is a very considerable addition to the strength of the Fleet)
1st to 10th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee carrying out boiler cleaning
and minor maintenance
(3/4/44 Admiral Somerville, Commander in Chief, Eastern
Fleet, visited Trincomalee to exchange calls with the Commanding Officers of
U.S.S. SARATOGA (Captain J.H. Cassidy, USN), and of the U.S. destroyers
CUMMINGS, DUNLAP and FANNING, forming Task Group 58.5)
10/4/44 the Free French Battleship RICHELIEU arrived at Trincomalee from the UK.
Following an extensive refit at the New York Navy Yard, the RICHELIEU had served
with the Home Fleet from 11/43 to 3/44.
The arrival of the RICHELIEU was also resultant of the Casablanca
Conference where Roosevelt and Churchill had united the Free French General Henri-HonorŽ Giraud and Brigadier General Charles de
Gaulle, the two rivals for the leadership of French forces opposed to the Vichy
regime. The Generals agreed that Free French forces would oppose Axis forces in
11th to 15th - All the Fleet units
including Task Group 58.5 carried out exercises in the Bay of Bengal. This
included Night exercises to improve efficiency in night fighting and bombardment
firings, using the bombardment range at Foul Point, [Foul Point is on the
southern side of the entrance to Trincomalee Harbour] also dawn and night
attacks were made on the Fleet by MTBs of the 16th MTB Flotilla who simulated
(The 16th MTB Flotilla comprised MTBs
numbered 275, 277, 278, 279, 280, 282, 291, 292,
293, 299 and 300. These were 37 ton, 40-knot Vosper MTBs that were built under
licence in the USA and shipped from America to India. They were manned by RIN
crews with RNVR officers; the CO of the Flotilla was Lieutenant Sir
Kenneth Alston Cradock-Hartopp RN. Their depot ship was
the HMIS BARRACUDA, which was the ex Danish merchant ship SS HEINRICH JESSEN
3335grt, and was moored in Trincomalee harbour)
15th - The Fleet returned to Trincomalee.
(On 15/4/44 the US Tenth Air Force with
twelve B 24's flying from India attacked
shipping and other targets at Port Blair
in the Andaman Islands. This
was a diversionary raid made so that should the Japanese sight the Eastern Fleet
departing Trincomalee they would believe that the Eastern Fleet were about to
attack Port Blair)
16th - At Trincomalee where in the morning
Admiral Somerville, Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, hoisted his flag in the
At 1100 hours the Eastern Fleet which was
divided into two forces, Force 69 and 70, sailed from Trincomalee on Operation
Force 69 comprised the battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Eastern Fleet),
VALIANT and FS RICHELIEU, light cruisers NEWCASTLE (Flag C4), NIGERIA, CEYLON,
HMNZS GAMBIA and HMNLS TROMP, screened by the destroyers PENN, PETARD, ROTHERHAM
(D11), RACEHORSE, and HMAS NAPIER (Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore D
Eastern Fleet), NEPAL, NIZAM and QUIBERON and HMNLS VAN GALEN.
Force 70 comprised the battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC Eastern Fleet), the
aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers Eastern
Fleet), USS SARATOGA, the heavy cruiser LONDON, screened by the destroyers HMAS
QUILLIAM (D4), QUEENBOROUGH and QUADRANT and the USS CUMMINGS, DUNLAP and
Course was set south easterly in an arc to reach the approximate position 4-30N,
94-30E by sunrise on 19/4/44.
(Operation COCKPIT was an air strike by
FAA and USN aircraft against the harbour installations, oil tanks, shipping,
aircraft and facilities at Lho Nga airfield at Sabang on the island of
Pulau Weh at the northern tip of Sumatra. The operation was carried out at the
request of Admiral King, to put pressure on the Japanese in South-East Asia,
while the US Army landings at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, Operation RECKLESS,
were carried out. The landings took place on 22/4/44)
17th and 18th - The Eastern Fleet continued towards the flying off
position for Operation COCKPIT.
During the approach Fleet exercises were carried out. These
included 15" throw off firings by the battleships.
19th - At 0530 hours in approximate
position 4-30N, 94-30E the ILLUSTRIOUS and SARATOGA commenced flying off the
strike force for the attack on Sabang. The strike force comprised 46 bombers,
(17 British and 29 American) and 37 fighters (13 British and 24 American).
(The strike force arrived over the target at approximately 0620
hours attacking from different directions. The Japanese were caught by surprise
and only responded with AA fire after the first bombs had landed. A total of 30
tones of bombs were dropped damaging and/or destroying dockside installations,
shipping in the harbour, the power station, wireless station and oil storage
tanks. Attacks on Lho Nga airfield damaged or destroyed up to 30 aircraft. One
US Hellcat was lost, it crashed into the sea about one mile off Sabang and the
pilot was rescued by the submarine TACTICIAN.
The raid was declared a
success and Admiral Somerville said that the Japanese Òhad been caught with
their kimonos upÓ. The destruction of the oil installations and the damage to
shipping made a positive contribution to the stalling of the Japanese offensive
in the Arakan)
By 0800 hours all aircraft had been recovered and the Fleet
set course to return to Trincomalee.
During the retirement the Fleet came under air attack from
three Japanese Nakajima B5N (Kate) torpedo bombers. All were shot down by the
CAP and/or ships AA fire.
20th - The Eastern Fleet continued towards Trincomalee.
During the return Fleet
exercises were carried out.
21st - At 0400 hours the Eastern Fleet commenced to enter
In the afternoon the CinC Eastern Fleet held a meeting on
board the QUEEN ELIZABETH of all the
Flag and Commanding Officers
that took part in Operation COCKPIT.
22nd to 29th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at
(At 0900/23/4/44 the submarine
TACTICIAN arrived at Trincomalee with the pilot of the Hellcat aircraft which
had been shot down over Sabang)
30th - The destroyers that were in
Trincomalee harbour went alongside the battleships so that they could be
assisted in fitting the TBS (Talk Between Ships a V H/F Radio Telephone system).
(The US Navy had processed the TBS
system for some years. The system allowed direct voice communication between all
ships within a 10 mile radius. The system had the advantage of immediately being
able to contact any ship within range, but the disadvantage was that if too many
callers tried to use the system simultaneously chaos ensued)
operation undertaken by the Eastern Fleet was Operation TRANSOM. On 27/4/44
SARATOGA had been recalled to the USA for a refit and Admiral King CinC US
Fleet, suggested that en route back to Australia SARATOGA, supported by the
Eastern Fleet might launch an air strike against the port of Surabaya on Java;
as a diversion to the campaign in New Guinea, Operation STRAIGHTLINE. Admiral
Mountbatten CinC SE Asia Command agreed and Somerville commenced planning the
6th – At 1500 hours the Eastern Fleet
sailed from Trincomalee on Operation TRANSOM.
TF 65 comprised the battleships
ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and FS RICHELIEU, cruisers
NEWCASTLE, NIGERIA and HMNLS TROMP and destroyers PENN, RACEHORSE, ROTHERHAM,
HMAS NAPIER, NEPAL, QUIBERON and QUICKMATCH, and HMNLS VAN GALEN.
TF 66 comprised the battlecruiser RENOWN
(Flag Vice Admiral 2iC Eastern Fleet), aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and USS
SARATOGA cruisers CEYLON and HMNZS GAMBIA and destroyers HMAS QUILLIAM,
QUADRANT, QUEENBOROUGH and USS
DUNLAP, CUMMINGS and FANNING.
steered south easterly towards Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.
15th – During
the morning TF 65 and TF 66 arrived at Exmouth Gulf and commenced refueling from
(At 1100/30/4/44 Task Force
67, consisting of the oilers RFA EAGLESDALE, ECHODALE, ARNDALE, APPLELEAF,
PEARLEAF and the
distilling ship RFA BACCHUS, escorted by the heavy
cruiser LONDON and SUFFOLK had sailed from Trincomalee Harbour on Operation
TRANSOM. Off the Harbour entrance the frigate FINDHORN joined Task Force 67.
Course had then been set for Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia. TF 67 had arrived
at Exmouth Gulf on 12/5/44)
At 1900 hours
TF 65 and TF 66 with LONDON and SUFFOLK attached, sailed from Exmouth Gulf and
steered northerly towards eastern Java.
HMAS ADELAIDE was left in Exmouth Gulf to guard the tankers.
17th – At
0630 hours in position 9-48S, 113-00E, approximately 180 miles south of
Surabaya, the carriers commenced launching the strike aircraft. ILLUSTRIOUS
launched 18 Avengers, 2 of which crashed on take off, and 16 Corsairs, SARATOGA
launched 12 Avengers and 18 Dauntlasses, one of which returned with engine
trouble, and 34 Hellcats.
At 0830 hours the strike force arrived
over the target and caught the Japanese by surprise. Ten ships in the harbour
were attacked, oil tanks were destroyed, dock facilities destroyed and 14
aircraft were destroyed on the ground. One US plane was lost over the target.
The submarine TALLY-HO was positioned
as the rescue vessel but was not required.
At 0930 hours recovery of the strike
force commenced. Following which the Fleet set course for Exmouth Gulf.
evening Surabaya was attacked by seven B 24's of the US 380th Bombardment Group
who flew from Corunna Downs airfield in Western Australia a round trip of 1860
18th – At 1800 hours in approximate position 18S, 113E the Eastern
Fleet changed into line ahead and they manned ship following which SARATOGA,
DUNLAP, CUMMINGS and FANNING
sailed down the line and then with QUIBERON they detached for Freemantle.
Fleet then proceeded to Exmouth Gulf.
19th – At 0600 hours the Eastern Fleet
arrived at Exmouth Gulf and commenced refuelling.
At 1600 hours the Eastern Fleet sailed
from Exmouth Gulf and set course for Trincomalee.
27th – At 1500 hours the Eastern Fleet arrived back at Trincomalee. Fuel
remaining on return was less than 20%.
operation that QUEEN ELIZABETH took part in was Operation CRIMSON. This was an
air strike and bombardment of the harbour and oil installations of Sabang.
Admiral Somerville wanted to make use of his three capital ships, also it was to
be the last time he was to lead a Fleet to sea for he was to shortly hand over
command to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser; and he was to take up the post of Head of
the Admiralty delegation in Washington)
22nd – At 1600 hours TF 62 comprising the battleships
QUEEN ELIZABETH (Flag CinC
Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and FS RICHELIEU, battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC
Eastern Fleet), aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS, heavy cruiser
CUMBERLAND, light cruisers CEYLON, KEYNA, NIGERIA, PHOEBE, HMNZS GAMBIA and
HMNLS TROMP and destroyers QUALITY, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS (Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore D
Eastern Fleet), ROTHERHAM, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and HMAS
QUICKMATCH, sailed from Trincomalee on Operation CRIMSON.
Submarines TANTALUS and TEMPLAR were deployed off Sabang for air sea rescue)
25th – At 0300 hours in approximate
position 6N, 94-10E TF 60 divided into:
The bombardment group comprising
QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, RENOWN,
RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND, CEYLON, KEYNA, NIGERIA, GAMBIA, TROMP and destroyers
QUALITY, QUICKMATCH, RACEHORSE, RAPID,
RELENTLESS, ROTHERHAM and ROCKET.
The air group comprising
ILLUSTRIOUS, VICTORIOUS, PHOEBE and destroyers RAIDER and
The bombardment group steered for
position 6N, 95-30E.
The air group steered for position
At 0535 hours in position 5-25N,
94-42E ILLUSTRIOUS commenced launching her aircraft. Followed shortly afterwards
by VICTORIOUS. The strike force launched was 50 Corsairs and 9 Barracudas,
8 of the Corsairs were to act as spotters, reporting fall of shot for the
capital ships. To assist in spotting each of the four capital ships fired shells
that burst with a different colour.
At 0630 hours in position 6N, 95-30E
the bombardment group opened fire.
At 0650 hours fire was checked, during
the 20 minutes the four capital ships fired 294 rounds of 15".
At 0700 hours the TROMP lead the
destroyers into the bay to attack targets of opportunity.
At 0730 hours
ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS recovered
their strike aircraft.
At 1000 hours
the two groups RVed and course was set for Trincomalee.
return the fleet was twice attacked by Japanese aircraft, none of the attackers
got passed the CAP and of the 12 attackers 5 were shot down.
27th – At
1330 hours TF 62 arrived back at Trincomalee.