HMS Renown (Maritime Quest, click
The battle cruisers REPULSE and RENOWN were to have
been battleships of the R class. In December 1914 following his recall to First
Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Lord John Arbuthnot ‘Jackie’ Fisher ordered that
they should be re-designed as battle cruisers. As such they constituted
everything Fisher loved, heavy guns and very high speed, but at the expense of
RENOWN-Class battle cruiser ordered on 29th
December 1914 with sister ship REPULSE and laid down by Fairfield at Govan on
25th January 1915. This battlecruiser was launched on 4th March 1916 as her
sister ship RENOWN. She was the 9th RN ship to bear this name, introduced in
1651 for a 20 gun ship and last carried by a battleship built in 1859 and sold
in 1913. Build was completed on 20 September 1916. Following a successful
WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in February 1942 she was adopted by the
City of Leicester.
a t t l e H o
n o u r s
GABBARD 1653 - SCHEVENINGEN
1653 - USHANT 1781 -
1940 - ATLANTIC 1940 - SPARTIVENTO 1940 - MEDITERRANEAN 1941 - BISMARCK Action 1941
CONVOYS 1941-42 - ARCTIC 1942 -
AFRICA 1942 - SABANG
e r a l d i c
D a t a
On a field Blue a Torch surrounded by a Wreath all Gold.
o t t o
Antiquae Famae Custos -
'Guardian of ancient renown'
u m m a r y o
f P r e-W a r S e r v i c e
1 9 1 6
20th - Build completion and commenced Acceptance
(Note: During speed trials over the measured mile with a displacement of 27,900
tons she achieved 32.69 knots with 126,300 shp)
On completion carried out work-up with ships of Grand
Fleet at Scapa Flow
November to December
(LOG BOOKS for
Grand Fleet deployment in continuation.
(Note: A large Fleet was maintained at Scapa Flow to deal with any attempt by
major German warships to break-out into the North Sea)
Following the failure of the British battle cruisers
at Jutland RENOWN was fitted with an additional 550 tons of armour plate.
1 9 1 7
Deployment at Scapa Flow in continuation.
(Note: During this period a Fleet operation to attack German minesweeping
operations off Heligoland was covered by battlecruisers of the Grand Fleet in
order to tempt a German force into action. This was unsuccessful although a
brief engagement with a German cruiser was inconclusive.)
1 9 1 8
January to October
Grand Fleet duties at Scapa Flow in continuation.
A raid by major warships in the Kattegat was carried
out but no German major ships sailed to force an engagement
Flying Off Platforms for launch of aircraft from B and
Y 15in Turrets fitted.
(Note: Trials were carried out.)
Took part in escort of surrendered German Warships
during passage to Scapa Flow for formal surrender ceremony.
(Note: Some of these ships sank in Scapa Flow after being scuttled by their
Joined Atlantic Fleet.
Nominated for refit.
1 9 1 9
(LOG BOOKS for
August 1919 to November 1920)
Under refit at Portsmouth during which anti-torpedo
Bulges were extended to improve protection. Armour protection was improved by
installation of 9in belt taken from a Brazilian ship being converted for RN use
as an aircraft carrier.
Nominated for further special duties.
(Note: Flying Off Platforms were removed and a triple 4in mounting to provide
accommodation for Royal party)
On relief resumed Grand Fleet service in Home waters.
1 9 2 0
Embarked Prince of Wales for Royal Tour in Australia
and New Zealand.
1 9 2 1
Embarked Prince of Wales for Royal visits to India,
China and Japan.
1 9 2 2
On return from Royal Tour resumed service in Home
waters with Atlantic Fleet.
1 9 2 3 t o 1 9 2 6
Under refit by HM Dockyard, Portsmouth from May 1923
to August 1926.
Work undertaken included, extension of anti-torpedo Bulges to improve
protection, addition of belt of 9in armour to improve hull protection.
Nominated for detached service for Royal visit.
1 9 2 7
Detached for further Royal Tour duties.
Embarked HRH The Duke of York for Royal visit to Canada.
1 9 2 8 t o 1 9 3 1
Resumed Atlantic Fleet duties and later transferred to
Took part in Fleet Exercises and visits programmes during this period.
Nominated for major refit and modernisation including
significant improvement to anti-aircraft defence.
1 9 3 1
Under refit at Portsmouth during which a new high
angle fire control director was fitted and AA armament improved by installation
of multi-barrelled Pom-Pom guns.
1 9 3 2
Resumed Fleet service in June.
1 9 3 3
During refit aircraft catapult was fitted for use by
Resumed Fleet service on completion.
1 9 3 4 t o 1 9 3 5
Fleet service in continuation.
Nominated for major refit and modernisation.
1 9 3 6
January to August
Fleet service in continuation.
De-stored and Paid-off into Dockyard Control at
Taken in hand for modernisation by HM Dockyard,
October to December
1 9 3 7 t o 1 9 3 8
Refit work included :
15in Turrets were modified to increase the
elevation from 20¼ to 30¼.
Bridge structure redesigned similar to that fitted in NELSON and RODNEY.
Entire secondary armament replaced by ten twin 4.5in HA mountings for air
Three 8 barrelled 2 pounder Pom-Poms were fitted to improve her close range
New gunnery control systems were fitted AFCC Mk VII for the main battery and
HACS Mk IV for the 4.5in HA.
Two quadruple, deck mounted torpedo tubes fitted in place of the two
Limited improvement of armour protection, 4in over the magazines and 2in
over the engine rooms.
The 42 Babcock and Wilcox boilers in 6 boiler rooms with 285 psi working
pressure were replaced by 8 Admiralty 3 drum type with 400 psi working
pressure in 4 boiler rooms. This saved 2500 tons in weight.
The two Brown Curtis direct drive turbines were replaced by two Parsons
single reduction geared turbines supplied by Cammell Laird.
These changes increased SHP from 112,000 to 120,000.
Some of the space saved by reducing the number of boilers was used to
increase fuel storage and thus increase her range.
Aircraft catapult replaced with Hangar for stowage and maintenance.
1 9 3 9
January to April
Refit work in continuance. Work substantially
completed at the end of April following which harbour trials were carried out.
15th - Commissioned for trials her new CO was Captain
Charles Edward Barrington Simeon
June to July
Carried out sea trials.
Over the measured mile with a displacement of 32,800 tons she achieved a speed
of 29.9 knots with 120,560 shp.
War Station allocated.
28th –Re-commissioned at Portsmouth with mainly
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
2nd – Sailed from Portsmouth escorted by the destroyer
Off Plymouth SARDONYX detached and destroyers ELECTRA and ESCORT from Plymouth
took over the escort of RENOWN.
3rd – At 1900 hours when the force was 50 miles north
of Malin Head when ESCORT fell astern with engine problems and ELECTRA detached
to assist ESCORT. RENOWN proceeded independently to Scapa.
(ELECTRA and ESCORT never rejoined RENOWN
because at 2330 hours ELECTRA received a signal that the liner the SS
ATHENIA, 13581 tons had been torpedoed in position 56-42N, 14-05W and was
sinking. Both destroyers then closed the sinking liner at an economical 25
knots to render assistance arriving at 0600/4/9/39)
4th – At 1100 hours RENOWN arrived at Scapa and joined
the Home Fleet as part of the Battle Cruiser Squadron which also included HOOD
At Scapa RENOWN commenced working up exercises which were carried out both
inside and outside the Flow.
8th - At 0600 hours sailed from Scapa Flow in company
with battlecruiser HOOD, cruisers BELFAST
and destroyers FAME, FEARLESS and FORESTER to patrol between Iceland and the
Faeroes to reinforce the blockade.
At sea destroyer FURY joined the Force.
10th - FEARLESS was detached from the screen to
investigate a merchant ship which proved to be Swedish.
12th - BELFAST and EDINBURGH detached for Sullom Voe.
At 1200 hours the Force less BELFAST and EDINBURGH arrived back at Scapa Flow.
Working up exercises resumed both inside and outside the Flow.
(On the 21/8/39 undetected by the Admiralty,
the panzerschiffe ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE sailed from Wilhelmshaven for the
Atlantic. On 3/9/39 she was in position 21N, 35W sailing south. She
continued southward keeping away from the shipping lanes until 26/9/39 when
she was instructed to commence hostilities against British shipping only.
Actions with enemy warships were to be avoided, so as to not risk his ship.
He was also to conduct warfare within the rules of the International Prize
Law. ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE remained undetected until 1600/30/9/39 when in
position 09-05S, 34-05W off Pernambuco, Brazil she [at the time of
the attack she was showing the name ADMIRAL SCHEER] captured and sank
her first vessel, the British freighter the SS CLEMENT 5051 tons. Before
being seized the CLEMENT managed to get off a raider signal. This was the
first indication for the Admiralty that a raider was active in the South
Atlantic. In response the Admiralty organised a number of hunting groups to
seek out and destroy the raider. Until the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE was encountered
by Force off the River Plate the Admiralty continued to believe that the
raider was the ADMIRAL SHEER)
2nd – At 1810 hours RENOWN sailed from Scapa escorted
by destroyers BEDOUIN and TARTAR and headed for the Butt of Lewis.
3rd – At 0010 hours off the Butt of Lewis RENOWN,
BEDOUIN and TARTAR RVed with the aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL flying the flag of
Vice Admiral Lionel Victor Wells and the destroyers ASHANTI and FORESIGHT. The
force then headed out into the Atlantic before turning south for Freetown.
4th – ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, FORESIGHT and TARTAR detached
and returned to Scapa.
9th – When ARK ROYAL and RENOWN were passing east of
the Cape Verde Islands a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL sighted the German supply
tanker ALTMARK to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. When the ALTMARK was
challenged she gave her identity as the US tanker the SS DELMAR. Vice Admiral
Wells decided not to investigate as he had no destroyers with him and he was
keen to press on to Freetown. Later it was learned that the DELMAR was in New
11th – At 0430 hours in position 11-50N, 21W ARK ROYAL
and RENOWN were joined by destroyers HARDY, HASTY and HOSTILE from Gibraltar.
12th – At 0900 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, HARDY, HASTY
and HOSTILE arrived at Freetown.
14th – At 1800 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN the cruiser
NEPTUNE, HARDY, HERO and HEREWARD, now known as Force K, sailed from Freetown to
patrol towards St Paul’s Rocks.
24th – Force K arrived back at Freetown.
28th – At 2000 hours Force K comprising ARK ROYAL,
RENOWN, NEPTUNE, HARDY, HASTY, HERO, HEREWARD and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown
and patrolled to the south as far as Ascension Island.
1st – HERO detached for escort duties.
5th - In 6N, 17 W, 300 miles WSW of Freetown Swordfish
from ARK ROYAL sighted the German freighter SS UHENFELS, (7603grt) which had
departed Lourenco Marques on 13/10/39 with a cargo of opium, cotton and hides.
HEREWARD was detached from the screen to investigate, the UHENFELS attempted to
scuttle herself, however, she was captured by a boarding party from HEREWARD.
6th – Force K less HEREWARD arrived back at Freetown.
7th – HEREWARD arrived at Freetown with the UHENFELS.
She was taken for British service and renamed SS EMPIRE ABILITY.
14th – At 1800 hours Force K comprising RENOWN, flying
the flag of Vice Admiral Wells (ARK ROYAL had sailed to join the French
battlecruiser STRASBOURG) HARDY, HASTY, HERO and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown to
patrol to the south.
16th – Force K returned to Freetown.
(The early return of Force K to Freetown and
the recall of ARK ROYAL back to Freetown followed the raider report made by
the tanker SS AFRICA SHELL 706grt. The tanker was sunk by the ADMIRAL GRAF
SPEE off Lourenco Marques on 15/11/39. On receipt of this signal the
Admiralty changed the disposition of 3 hunting groups. Force K was ordered
back to Freetown, refuel, then proceed to the Indian Ocean)
18th – Force K comprising ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, NEPTUNE,
HARDY, HASTY, HERO and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown heading south for the Cape
of Good Hope.
Two hours after leaving Freetown HARDY, HASTY, HERO and HOSTILE detached to
patrol between Freetown and Pernambuco.
21st – At 0842 hours when Force K were 150 miles north
east of Ascension Island when they picked up a signal from the freighter MV
WAIMARAMA 12843grt stating that she had sighted the German blockade runner the
SS ADOLF WOERMANN 8577grt in position 250 miles north of St Helena Island.
Force K altered course and NEPTUNE was detached and sent ahead at full speed to
close the position given by the WAIMARAMA, who was continuing to shadow the
22nd – At 0800 hours 366 miles north of St Helena
Island the NEPTUNE intercepted the ADOLF WOERMANN. On sighting
the cruiser the German ship was evacuated and the sea cocks opened and despite
strenuous efforts to save her, the German ship was scuttled and the NEPTUNE
returned to FREETOWN 162 prisoners.
The search for the German ship had taken Force K nearly 200 miles to the
eastward and, to save fuel, it proceeded towards the Cape by the route east of
subsequently expressed the view that this might have been the reason for
Force K missing the ALTMARK which was awaiting for the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE
away from the Cape shipping routes through which Force ‘K’ would otherwise
(The Commander-in-Chief South
28th – RENOWN and ARK ROYAL arrived at Simonstown.
On 27 November the Admiralty
ordered Force K with Force H (cruisers
) to form a patrol south of the Cape of Good Hope on
the meridian of 20 degrees East)
29th – RENOWN and ARK ROYAL sailed from Simonstown to
commence their patrol along the 20 degree meridian between longitude 38 and 40
south. The weather conditions were too adverse for ARK ROYAL to operate
1st – Early in the morning Force K and H RVed in the
patrol area. The weather continued to be unsuitable for flying such that only
once in the five day patrol was flying possible. This precluded the patrol being
extended far enough to the south to intercept a raider bent on evasion. In any
case, the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE had returned to the Atlantic on 21/11/39 a week
before the patrol commenced.
2nd – At 1030 hours Force K received a sighting report
from a Junkers Ju 86 (one of 3 ex SAA aircraft taken over by the SAAF) of 15 Sqd.
SAAF of a suspicious vessel in the area south of Cape
Agulhas, 74 miles 167 degrees from Cape of Good Hope. Force K and Force H, who
were returning to the patrol area after refuelling at Simonstown and were
closest to the position reported, made for the sighting position.
Force H with SUSSEX leading were first to arrive and found the German passenger
ship SS WATUSSI 9522grt, which had departed Mozambique on 23/11/39. On the
approach of SUSSEX, the WATUSSI was abandoned, set on fire and scuttling
commenced, the 155crew and 42 passengers were picked up by SUSSEX.
When Force K arrived on the scene the WATUSSI was well on fire but still afloat.
RENOWN then sank the hulk with gunfire from her B turret.
3rd – Force K arrived back at Cape Town.
When the CinC South
received the DORIC STAR’s raider signal he at once decided to abandon the
patrol south of the Cape. Force K was ordered to sweep direct from the Cape
(At 1300/2/12/39 the SS DORIC STAR 10086grt was
attacked by the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, Captain Langsdorff opened fire with his
main armament from long range, which allowed the DORIC STAR to send a
distress call before being overwhelmed, giving her position as 650 miles
east south east of St Helena.
4th – At 0800 hours Force K sailed from Cape Town to
carry out their assigned patrol.
12th – Force K off Pernambuco.
13th – At 0700 hours Force K was off Pernambuco when
they received the news of the battle off the River Plate where Force G was in
action with the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE. On receipt of the news Force K immediately
changed course for Rio de Janeiro to refuel.
17th – At 1400 hours Force K arrived at Rio de Janeiro
and immediately commenced refuelling.
(At 0756/17/12/39 the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE blew
herself up in the River Plate estuary off Montevideo. Part of the reason for
the decision was because Captain Langsdorff thought that RENOWN and ARK
ROYAL were off the Plate)
18th – At 0500 hours RENOWN sailed from Rio de Janeiro
and RVed with ARK ROYAL, NEPTUNE, HARDY, HASTY, HEREWARD AND HOSTILE off the
port. Force K then set course for Freetown.
27th – At 0900 hours Force K arrived at Freetown.
1st – At Freetown carrying out a boiler clean.
8th – RENOWN, HARDY and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown.
West of Freetown they RVed with ARK ROYAL, HASTY and HERO, who had sailed from
Dakar. HARDY and HOSTILE then detached and returned to Freetown. ARK ROYAL,
RENOWN, HASTY and HERO then commenced patrolling hoping to sight the ALTMARK.
9th – The destroyer DAINTY from Gibraltar RVed with
the force to transfer mail to RENOWN before proceeding to Freetown.
10th - HASTY and HERO detached for refuelling.
15th – In mid Atlantic ARK ROYAL and RENOWN RVed with
the cruiser AJAX and escorted her to Freetown.
19th - ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and AJAX arrived at Freetown.
24th – ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and destroyers DAINTY and
DIAMOND sailed from Freetown towards Pernambuco to RV with the cruiser EXETER,
who having completed emergency repairs at Port Stanley, was sailing northward
escorted by the cruisers DORSETSHIRE and SHROPSHIRE.
29th – In position 17S, 25-06W, 200 miles east of
Pernambuco the ARK ROYAL force RVed with the EXETER force. DORSETSHIRE and
SHROPSHIRE then detached
Buenos Aires and Montevideo, respectively. The ARK ROYAL force
escorting the EXETER set course for Freetown.
ARK ROYAL, RENOWN,
EXETER, DAINTY and DIAMOND arrived at Freetown. Awaiting EXETER was the heavy
repair ship RESOURCE and further repairs were carried out to EXETER.
6th – At 1800 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, EXETER, DAINTY
and DIAMOND sailed from Freetown and set course for Plymouth.
8th - DAINTY and DIAMOND detached to refuel at Dakar.
10th - ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and EXETER came under the
command of the CinC Western Approaches for Operation VO. Operation VO was the
interception of six German merchant ships which had departed Vigo on the night
of the 9th/10th February.
11th – ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and EXETER were joined by
destroyers HASTY and HERO.
ARK ROYAL’s Swordfish were involved in searching for the her aircraft sighted
several of the German steamers, leading to the capture of the SS ROSTOCK 2542grt
by the French sloop ELAN and the SS MOREA 3292grt by the destroyer HASTY.
12th – At 0900 hours in position 45N, 15W ARK ROYAL,
RENOWN and EXETER were joined by destroyers ACASTA, WHITSHED and VESPER
(From information gained by German naval
intelligence, B-dienst, the Germans knew of the movements of the EXETER and
were determined to prevent her returning to Britain. Donitz was ordered to
use U 37 and U 48 and Donitz added U 13 to set up a patrol line across the
western end of the English Channel. However they failed to make contact with
the returning EXETER or any of her escort)
15th – RENOWN, EXETER, cruiser GALATEA and destroyers
ARDENT, HEARTY, WOLVERINE and WREN arrived at Plymouth.
RENOWN immediately entered dry dock for a short refit. During her stay in
Devonport she was fitted with a degaussing cable.
3rd – RENOWN sailed from Plymouth for the Clyde
escorted by destroyers ACASTA, KIMBERLEY and FIREDRAKE. Air support was provided
from the morning of the 4th.
4th – At 1230 hours RENOWN, ACASTA, KIMBERLEY and
FIREDRAKE arrived off Greenock and joined the Home Fleet.
7th – At 1615 hours the battleship
wearing the flag of CinC Home Fleet Admiral Sir C M Forbes, battlecruisers
and destroyers HARDY (D.2), HOSTILE, INGLEFIELD (D.3), IMOGEN, FOXHOUND,
FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, PUNJABI and KIMBERLEY sailed from the Clyde for Scapa.
8th – At 1230 hours off Cape Wrath the force was
joined by destroyers FAULKNOR and FORESTER.
At 1730 hours the force arrived off the Hoxa entrance to Scapa Flow but was
unable to enter due to the possible threat from aerial mines. The force remained
in the Pentland Firth whilst minesweepers cleared the entrance.
9th – At 1000 hours the force entered Scapa.
11th – At Scapa the CinC Battlecruiser Squadron, Vice
Admiral Sir W J Whitworth CB, DSO, transferred his flag from HOOD to RENOWN.
16th – At 2000 hours the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow came
under attack from 34 Luftwaffe bombers, 16 He 111 of KG 26 and 18 Ju 88 of KG
30. The first formation of 3 bombers approached from the west at 7000 feet, when
over the Flow they split and their selected targets were the RODNEY, RENOWN and
NORFOLK. The RENOWN was undamaged but the cruiser NORFOLK and the old battleship
IRON DUKE were damaged.
(Shortly after the attack on the fleet attacks
were made on Hatson and Bridge of Wraith. In the attack Bridge of Wraith the
first British civilian to be killed in the war was killed. The returning
German pilots reported having hit 3 battleships and a cruiser)
19th – At 1500hours battlecruisers REPULSE and RENOWN
(Flagship Vice Admiral Whitworth) escorted by destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), ILEX,
DIANA, DELIGHT of the 3rd DF, BEDOUIN of the 6th DF, FORTUNE of the 8th DF
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 RENOWN, REPULSE and destroyers
INGLEFIELD, DELIGHT, DIANA, ILEX, FORTUNE and BEDOUIN arrived back at Scapa
30th – In Scapa Flow where she was visited by Clement
Attlee MP, the leader of the Labour Party
5th – At 1830 hours the RENOWN (Flagship Vice Admiral
Whitworth) and destroyers GREYHOUND and GLOWWORM plus Force WB, HYPERION and
HERO sailed from Scapa to provide cover for Operation WILFRED. The force set
course for the Norwegian coast into foul weather.
(Operation WILFRED was a product of Winston
Churchill’s fertile mind. It was a plan to mine the Norwegian Indreled, or
Inner Leads to force cargo ships out of Norwegian territorial waters and
into international waters, where the RN could seize ships heading to
Germany, thereby disrupt the German iron ore traffic. Following months of
discussion and concern over the reaction from neutral countries the British
War Cabinet gave its approval for the operation on 3/4/40. The minelaying
was to be carried out by three forces. Force WS was the minelayer TEVIOTBANK
and destroyers INGLEFIELD, ILEX, IMOGEN and ISIS. Force WV comprised
destroyers ESK, IMPULSIVE, ICARUS and IVANHOE escorted by destroyers HARDY,
HUNTER, HOTSPUR and HAVOCK. Force WB was destroyers HOSTILE and IVANHOE.
When intelligence reports were received that all four Norwegian coastal
defence ships were at Narvik. The Admiralty decided to send RENOWN to cover
Force WV which was to mine the entrance to Vestfiord)
6th – Overnight, due to the weather, the escorting
destroyers lost contact RENOWN.
Early in the morning the destroyers managed to regain contact with RENOWN.
At 0620 hours as GLOWWORM was regaining contact she lost a man overboard.
At 0645 hours GLOWWORM was given permission to detach and search for the missing
Later in the day HYPERION and HERO detached to refuel in the Shetland Islands.
(GLOWWORM failed to find her missing crew
member and having lost contact with RENOWN and without further orders she
turned south and headed for Scapa. In the evening of the 6th the CinC Home
Fleet learned that GLOWWORM had been detached and was out of contact with
RENOWN he ordered GLOWWORM to position 67N, 10E, through which he knew
RENOWN was due to pass)
7th – When the CinC Home Fleet learned that RENOWN’s
screen was down to one destroyer he ordered the cruiser BIRMINGHAM and her
escort destroyers FEARLESS and HOSTILE to join RENOWN off Vestfjord.
In the evening RENOWN and GREYHOUND arrived off Vestfjord.
At 2157 hours RENOWN signalled BIRMINGHAM and GLOWWORM
that she intended to be in position 67-15N, 10-40E at 0500/8/4/40 and will then
patrol west of a line from that position to 67-45N, 10-40E. Due to the weather
BIRMINGHAM and her escort failed to make the RV.
(For various strategic reasons Hitler decided
to invade Norway. Operation Weserubung and was a combined operation to land
German troops at various points in Norway timed to commence at 0415/9/4/40.
The Germans achieved complete surprise even though various ‘intelligence’
was available but was ignored.
The Y service that monitored German radio traffic
detected an increase in German naval radio traffic in the Baltic and this
traffic was analysed by Harry Hinsley at GC and CS who informed the
Admiralty that a possible invasion was under way. The Admiralty dismissed
Hinsley’s analyst out of hand.
At 0800/7/4/40, 24 miles west of Horns Reef a RAF
Hudson of 220 Sqd. sighted a cruiser and six destroyers
steering north. Report received by CinC Home Fleet at 1120 hours.
The 23 Wellingtons of 9 and 115 Sqd. and 12
Blenheims of 107 Sqd. sent to attack this force failed to locate them.
However at 1415 hours 7 Blenheims of 21 Sqd located and attacked another
force comprising a battlecruiser, pocket battleship, 3 cruisers and 12
destroyers 78 miles NNW of Horns Reef steering 335¼. Report received by CinC
Home Fleet at 1727 hours.
Following this last report the CinC Home Fleet
decided that a German assault on Norway was in progress and at 2015/7/4/40
sailed from Scapa with the Home Fleet. The Admiralty judged that the German
fleet movements were to cover the breakout of heavy fleet units into the
(At 0000/7/4/40 Group 1 of Operation Weserubung,
the Narvik attack force, sailed from Bremerhaven, the Group consisted of
battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST and destroyers WILHELM HEIDKAMP,
GEORG THIELE, WOLFGANG ZENKER, BERND VON ARNIM, ERICH GIESE, ERICH KOELLNER,
DIETHER VON ROEDER, HANS LUDEMANN, HERMANN KUNNE and ANTON SCHMIDT
carrying 2000 troops of the 139th Gebirgsjager Regiment, 3rd Mountain
At 0000/7/4/40 Group 2 of Operation Weserubung,
the Trondheim attack force, sailed from Cuxhaven, the Group consisted of
cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER and destroyers PAUL JACOBI, THEODOR RIEDEL, BRUNO
HEINEMANN and FRIEDRICH ECKHOLDT carrying 1700 troops of the 138th
Gebirgsjager Regiment, 3rd Mountain Division.
At 0200 hours SW of Heligoland the two groups
joined up and steered in a north easterly direction.)
8th – Between 0430 and 0530 hours minelaying Force WS
laid their minefield in Vestfiord the minelaying force then RVed in position
65N, 2E. ESK, IMPULSIVE, ICARUS and IVANHOE remained to patrol the
(At 0759 hours GLOWWORM, who was in position
65-04N, 6-04E and steering north to RV with RENOWN, sighted the German
destroyers HANS LUDEMANN and BERND VON ARNIM. Immediately GLOWWORM sent off
a sighting signal and at 0801 hours she engaged HANS LUDEMANN in an
At 0855 hours GLOWWORM reported one unknown ship
bearing 000¼, steering 180¼ in position 65-06N, 06-20E. The German
destroyers called for assistance and drew GLOWWORM towards the HIPPER.
Mortally wounded by HIPPER's gunfire, GLOWWORM rammed her, tearing away 130
feet of the cruiser's armour belt and wrenching HIPPER's starboard torpedo
tubes from their mountings.
At 0904 hours GLOWWORM made her last signal
before sinking in position 64-13N, 06-28E)
At 0800 hours on receipt of GLOWWORM’s sighting signal
RENOWN and GREYHOUND then in position 67-34N, 10-00E turned south steering for
GLOWWORM’s position believing that the enemy force was heading for Vestfiord and
expecting to meet them at 1330 hours.
The cruiser PENELOPE and destroyers BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, PUNJABI and KIMBERLEY were
detached from the Home Fleet to assist GLOWWORM.
At 1045 hours the Admiralty ordered all destroyers of Force WV including those
patrolling the minefield to join RENOWN.
(At 1100 hours the Admiralty, having considered
the aircraft sighting reports of 7/4/40, signalled to CinC Home Fleet ‘It
seems possible that these reports may be true and German Forces are on their
way to Narvik’)
(At 1200 hours the German Groups 1 and 2
parted. Group 1 continued north towards Narvik and Group 2 headed west
before turning east towards Trondheim so as to co-ordinate the timing of
their attack with all the other forces.
At 1400 hours the German Trondheim Group was
sighted by a Sunderland flying boat of 201 Sqd. while Force 2 was steering
west to adjust their arrival time at Trondheim. They were identified as a
battlecruiser, two cruisers and two destroyers. The Admiralty decided that
this was a German squadron breaking out into the Atlantic)
At 1330 hours RENOWN and GREYHOUND reversed course and
steered to the north east to RV with the 8 destroyers that were sailing to RV
At 1715 hours off Skomvaer Light, about seventy miles west of Bodo RENOWN and
GREYHOUND RVed with the destroyers ESK, IMPULSIVE, ICARUS, IVANHOE, HARDY,
HUNTER, HOTSPUR and HAVOCK. The force then turned south but sailing with gale
force winds from the NW the force had great difficulty in staying in company.
(In the late evening of the 8/4/40 the German
Group 1 reached the entrance to Vestfiord and as the destroyers with the
troops embarked entered Narvik fjord to disembark their troops at Narvik the
battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST turned out to sea to draw the main
part of the Home Fleet away from the Norwegian coast)
At 2100 hours the RENOWN force reversed course on to
280¼ (this change of course was resultant from a signal from the Admiralty, who
had at last awoke to the true nature of the German naval activity and at 1956
hours ordered the CinC Battlecruiser Squadron to concentrate on preventing any
German force proceeding to Narvik) they were now steering into a full NW gale.
9th – At 0100 hours the RENOWN force changed course on
At 0337 hours in position 67-22N, 09-36E, when steering 130¼, RENOWN with
destroyers GREYHOUND, ICARUS, IVANHOE, ESK, IMPULSIVE, HARDY, HUNTER, HAVOCK and
HOTSPUR in company, sighted two unknown ships at a distance of 10 miles through
a snow storm, approaching from port, bearing 070¼. The ships were identified as
a battlecruiser and a heavy cruiser but were in fact the German battlecruisers
GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST (throughout the engagement RENOWN continued to believe
that she was in action against a battlecruiser and a heavy cruiser. The Germans
at first thought they were in contact with a NELSON class battleship).
At 0359 hours RENOWN, having now positively identified the ships as German,
turned on 305¼, parallel to the Germans.
At 0405 hours RENOWN opened fire with her main armament at a range of 18,600
yards against the GNEISENAU and her 4.5in AA battery opened fire against the
SCHARNHORST. The destroyers also joined in with their 4.7in guns.
At 0416 hours RENOWN had a 28cm shell hit on her foremast, probably fired by
GNEISENAU. HARDY and HUNTER were able to keep up with RENOWN for a time in the
heavy weather, but the other destroyers fell behind. Also at about this time
RENOWN suffered damage to her starboard anti torpedo bulge from a combination of
vibration and the weather.
At 0417 hours a hit from RENOWN sixteenth salvo put GNEISENAU’s fire control out
of action and GNEISENAU turned away on to 30¼. SCHARNHORST moved between her and
RENOWN and attempted to obscure GNEISENAU with smoke.
At 0419 hours RENOWN scored a hit on GNEISENAU’s A (Anton) turret and also hit
the after flak deck.
At 0420 hours RENOWN now shifted her main armament to SCHARNHORST. It was during
this phase that RENOWN received a further hit near the stern; it was superficial
but killed a crew member. Also at this point SCHARNHORST’s radar malfunctioned
and she could not track the target so both German ships turned away to the north
east and increased speed.
RENOWN followed but could only manage 20 to 23 knots
without swamping A turret; the wind was force 7 from the NNE. So the German
ships slowly pulled away. (The German ships were also forced to reduce speed but
not before SCHARNHORST’s A (Anton) turret had been damaged by the heavy seas
crashing over her bow. She also suffered damage to her starboard turbine which
reduced her speed to 25 knots).
At 0515 hours RENOWN briefly opened fire on SCHARNHORST as she came into range
due to her reduction in speed.
At 0615 hours RENOWN lost contact with the enemy ships and her escorting
destroyers. During the action RENOWN fired 230 rounds of 15in and 1065 rounds of
4.5in. (SCHARNHORST fired 195 rounds of 28cm and GNEISENAU fired 54 rounds of
At 0626 hours Vice Admiral Whitworth ordered Captain D2 in HARDY to proceed with
all the destroyers to patrol the entrance to Vestfiord.
At 0800 hours RENOWN turned west.
At 0900 hours the Admiralty ordered RENOWN and other units of the Home Fleet to
concentrate off Vestfiord.
At 1400 hours RENOWN RVed with the battlecruiser REPULSE, cruiser PENELOPE and
destroyers BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY, PUNJABI, ESKIMO and HOSTILE.
PENELOPE was then detached to patrol the entrance to Vestfiord and the rest of
the force moved to patrol 30 miles to the west of PENELOPE.
10th – At 0430 hours Captain D2 in HARDY with HUNTER,
HAVOCK, HOTSPUR and HOSTILE in company commenced what became known as the first
battle of Narvik.
At 0600 hours Vice Admiral Whitworth detached PENELOPE and BEDOUIN, KIMBERLEY,
PUNJABI and ESKIMO from his screen to proceed to the assistance of Captain D2.
RENOWN and REPULSE continued to patrol off the Lofoten Islands.
11th - RENOWN and REPULSE continued to patrol off the
12th - RENOWN and REPULSE continued to patrol off the
Lofoten Islands.Fleet that comprised battleships RODNEY, flying the
flag of Admiral Forbes, CinC Home Fleet, VALIANT and WARSPITE, aircraft carrier
FURIOUS, cruisers DEVONSHIRE, BERWICK and YORK and destroyers ASHANTI, COSSACK,
ZULU, MAORI, ECLIPSE, ESCORT, ISIS, ILEX, IMOGEN, INGLEFIELD, JANUS, JAVELIN,
JUNO, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FAULKNOR.
At 0730 hours in position 66-27N, 6-00E The RENOWN and REPULSE RVed with the
At 1450 hours VALIANT, REPULSE, JANUS, JAVELIN and JUNO were detached to make
contact with convoy NP 1.
Between 1615 and 1655 hours FURIOUS flew off 17 Swordfish of 816 and 818 Sqds.
armed with bombs to attack enemy shipping in Narvik.
At 2000 hours Vice Admiral Whitworth transferred his flag from RENOWN to
13th – RODNEY,
HAVOCK, HOSTILE, HERO, ESK, ICARUS and IVANHOE patrolled off the Lofoten
14th – Continued to patrol
off the Lofoten Islands.
Continued to patrol
off the Lofoten Islands.
In the evening the heavy units of the Home Fleet departed from off Norway for
16th – At 1000 hours news was received that the
cruiser SUFFOLK had sustained serious bomb damage off Stavanger and was
proceeding slowly towards Scapa. RENOWN and REPULSE were ordered to assist
RENOWN and REPULSE proceeded through Fair Isle Channel to join SUFFOLK.
Destroyers TARTAR, JAVELIN, GROM and BLYSKAWICA, which departed Scapa Flow at
1345/17th, anti-aircraft cruiser CALCUTTA and destroyer FURY, and destroyer
ECLIPSE from escort duty, joined the battlecruisers.
They were joined at sea by destroyers KIMBERLEY and FORESTER.
18th – At 0545 hours SUFFOLK and escort, including
RENOWN arrived at Scapa.
19th – At 1630 hours RENOWN and VALIANT sailed from
Scapa for Rosyth.
20th – Arrived at Rosyth,
21st – Docked at Rosyth for repairs caused by the
weather and enemy action.
At Rosyth under repair.
20th – Commenced post repair trials in Firth of Forth.
22nd - Battlecruiser RENOWN was on DG trials at
Rosyth, escorted by destroyers HIGHLANDER, ASHANTI, BULLDOG. Fog prevented
completion of trials and she re-entered harbour.
23rd – Sailed from Rosyth for Scapa arriving in the
3rd – RENOWN (flying the flag of CinC Battlecruiser
Squadron Vice Admiral Whitworth) at Scapa Flow with other units of the Home
Fleet, comprising battleships VALIANT and RODNEY, battlecruiser REPULSE, heavy
cruiser SUSSEX, light cruiser NEWCASTLE, destroyers TARTAR, MASHONA, BEDOUIN,
ASHANTI, MAORI, ZULU, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, KELVIN, INGLEFIELD, ELECTRA,
5th – At 2130 hours RENOWN, REPULSE, cruisers SUSSEX
and NEWCASTLE with destroyers MAORI, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ZULU and KELVIN sailed
from Scapa Flow to investigate a report from the special services ship CAPE
HOWE, disguised as RFA PRUNELLA, who reported a sighting at 1630 hours of two
unidentified warships northwest of Norway in 64-45N, 00-24W making for Iceland
on course 265¼ at 20 knots.
6th – At 0705 hours the CinC Battlecruiser Sqd
received an amplifying report from the Admiralty stating that PRUNELLA thought
the ships sighted were merchant ships, but they were hull down and difficult to
The RENOWN force continued towards the position first given by PRUNELLA. And
after a search found nothing.
7th – At 1300 hours the Admiralty informed the CinC
Home Fleet that the Brigadier at Reykjavik had reported rumours of an enemy
landing on the north east coast of Iceland at Seydisfjordour.
On receipt of the signal the RENOWN force immediately went to investigate.
On arrival off Seydisfjordour MAORI was detached to search the area and the
Walrus from SUSSEX searched up the fjord. No sign of an enemy landing was seen.
8th – At 0313 hours RENOWN and destroyers ZULU and
KELVIN departed Icelandic waters for refuelling at Scapa Flow.
(This movement followed an order from the
Admiralty who considered it desirable under present conditions to have not
less that two capital ships available at Scapa to proceed south in case of
9th – At 0515 hours arrived at Scapa.
(At 0938 hours the CinC Home Fleet received a
report from the VALIANT to the effect that she had met the hospital ship
ATLANTIS and that the latter had reported sighting an attack by enemy pocket
battleship [ it was actually the cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER operating
with the battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU and engaged on Operation
Juno] on the empty troop transport SS ORAMA 19840grt in position
67-44N, 03-52E at 0900/8/6/40)
At – 1250 hours battleship RODNEY flying the flag of
CinC Home Fleet, RENOWN and destroyers ZULU, KELVIN, INGLEFIELD (D.3), ELECTRA
and ESCORT sailed from Scapa Flow steering for position 66N, 00E to cover all
slow convoys returning from Norway.
(At the time of the CinC Home Fleet sailing the
German battlecruisers were safely in harbour at Trondheim having, unbeknown
at the time to the Admiralty, sunk the aircraft carrier GLOURIOUS and
destroyers ACASTA and ARDENT. The SCHARNHORST having been damaged by a
torpedo hit on her port bow fired by ACASTA. The Admiralty became aware of
the sinkings from a German broadcast at 1615/9/6/40 )
10th – (At 0846 hours a RAF Blenheim of 254 Sqd
from Sumburgh on reconnaissance over Trondheim reported sighting 4 enemy
cruisers; this was subsequently amended to a battlecruiser and a large transport
and 7 destroyers patrolling off the fiord entrance)
At 1525 hours in position 66-40N, 2-30W the CinC’s
force RVed with ARK ROYAL and her escorting destroyers ASHANTI, HIGHLANDER and
MASHONA. The Home Fleet then steered in a generally eastward direction until
11th – At 0000 hours the Home Fleet turned on to a
north westerly course.
At 0900 hours the Home Fleet turned on to a southerly course covering the last
of the convoys.
(RAF Blenheims from 254 Sqd maintained
reconnaissance over Trondheim keeping the CinC informed of the situation in
the port. The RAF also carried out a bombing attack with 12 Hudsons of 269
Sqd from Wick 36 x 250lb AP bombs were dropped but no hits were scored)
12th – At 0630 hours the destroyers AMAZON, ANTELOPE,
ESCAPDE and FEARLESS joined the CinC. The destroyers ACHERON, DIANA and
HIGHLANDER detached for Scapa.
At 0935 hours the Home Fleet turned on to course 080¼ to close the Norwegian
coast to launch an air strike against enemy shipping at Trondheim.
13th – At 0000 hours the Home Fleet reached position
At 0030 hours the ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 15 Skuas, 6 from 800 Sqd
and 9 from 803 Sqd, each armed with one 500lb SAP bomb.
(The dive bombing attack by the Skuas was to be supported by an attack on
Vaernes airfield by 4 RAF Beauforts of 22 Sqd. Unfortunately the Beaufort
attack; instead of suppressing the Luftwaffe it alerted them causing the launch
of Me 109 and 110 fighters. Also the plan called for RAF Blenheim fighters to
provide cover over the target).
At 0145 hours the 15 Skuas arrived over the SCHARNHORST, who was ready and
waiting having been alerted when the Skuas crossed the coast 20 minutes earlier.
800 Sqd attacked stern to bow and 803 Sqd attacked bow to stern. One hit was
achieved, which failed to explode, returning pilots reported two hits. In the
attack 8 Skuas were shot down. The RAF Blenheims arrived late and played no part
in the operation.
At 0345 hours in thick fog the 7 remaining Skuas had been recovered and the Home
Fleet steered west away from the coast to avoid the expected Luftwaffe counter
attack which failed to materialise.
At 1000 hours in thick fog destroyers ELECTRA and ANTELOPE collided while
escorting ARK ROYAL. ZULU took ELECTRA in tow and INGLEFIELD stood by ANTELOPE.
At 1800 hours destroyers ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MAORI and TARTAR joined the CinC.
14th - The retirement of the two damaged destroyers
was covered by RODNEY, RENOWN, TARTAR, FEARLESS, ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA and
15th – At 1640 hours RODNEY, RENOWN, TARTAR, FEARLESS,
ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, MASHONA and MAORI arrived at Scapa Flow.
19th - RENOWN with destroyers TARTAR, MAORI, MASHONA
were carrying out firing practices in Pentland Firth.
At 1304 and 1335 hours reports were received of eight unknown destroyers and
three escort vessels east of the Orkneys.
RENOWN and her destroyers were sent to intercept.
It was later determined these unknown ships were destroyer ZULU, proceeding
south from Lerwick and minesweepers BRAMBLE, SEAGULL, SPEEDY in the swept
At 1500 hours RENOWN and her destroyers returned to Scapa.
21st – At 1220 hours RENOWN (Flag VA Battlecruisers)
and REPULSE with destroyers FORESTER, ESCORT, ZULU, INGLEFIELD (D.3) and DIANA
sailed from Scapa Flow and steered north east towards the sighting position
given by the RAF Hudson, report received at 1120 hours.
At 2200 hours The RENOWN force was in position 60-30N,
02-00E and RENOWN was preparing to launch her aircraft when they were attacked
by three He 111. At the same time the Admiralty became aware that the
SCHARNHORST was entering harbour so the attempted interception by the
battlecruiser force was called off.
(This sailing was a result of a sighting report
timed 2234/20/6/40 from the submarine CLYDE who reported one battlecruiser,
one pocket battleship and one destroyer in position 64-43N, 09-53E, course
335¼. The sighting report was received by the CinC Home Fleet at
0245/21/6/40 [The enemy force was actually the GNEISENAU, HIPPER and
the destroyer KARL GALSTER. Their mission was to attack the northern patrol
south east of Iceland and to provide a diversion for the damaged SCHARNHORST
escorted by 4 destroyers and 3 torpedo boats to return to Germany]
2145 hours CLYDE had torpedoed the GNEISENAU hitting her in the starboard
bow and forcing the enemy to abandon their mission and return to Trondheim.
At 1104/21/6/40 in position 61N, 4-14E the
SCHARNHORST and her escort were sighted by an RAF Hudson steering south at
25 knots, the enemy force was shadowed for an hour by the Hudson then a RAF
Sunderland of 204 Sqd from Sullom Voe took over the shadowing.
At 1504 hours off Utsira Island 6 Swordfish of 821
and 823 Sqds FAA from Hatson attacked with torpedoes, no hits were achieved.
Two aircraft were lost one from each Sqd.
At 1515/21/6/40 the RAF attacked the SCHARNHORST
with 6 Hudsons of 224 & 233 Sqds from Leuchars, no hits were achieved in
part due to the escort of Me 109 and 110 fighters.
At 1530 hours 9 Beauforts of 42 Sqd RAF from Wick
attacked the SCHARNHORST. The attack was unsuccessful in part due to the
escort of Me 109 and 110 fighters.
At 1649 hours off Karm¿y Island 6 Hudsons of 269
Sqd RAF from Wick attacked the SCHARNHORST. The attack was unsuccessful in
part due to the escort of Me 109 and 110 fighters.
When the Germans became aware that the Home Fleet
was at sea searching for the SCHARNHORST, she was ordered into Stavanger Bay
where she anchored at 2110/21/6/40)
22nd – At 1120 hours RENOWN and REPULSE with
destroyers FORESTER, ESCORT, ZULU, INGLEFIELD and DIANA arrived back at Scapa
25th – RENOWN was nominated for service with Force H.
27th – At 1855 hours
comprising the RENOWN (Vice Admiral Battlecruisers) and REPULSE, heavy cruisers,
DEVONSHIRE (Vice Admiral J H D Cunningham, flag 1CS, commanding Force A) YORK
and AUSTRALIA of the 1st CS, light cruiser SHEFFIELD escorted by destroyers
ASHANTI, MASHONA, TARTAR (D6), PUNJABI, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, ARROW, ANTHONY, and
ACHATES sailed from Scapa Flow in response to reports that German battlecruiser
GNEISENAU was breaking back to Germany.
(This sailing was the result of a signal from
the Admiralty at 1212/27/7/40 resulting from a report of a reconnaissance of
Trondheim harbour by a RAF Blenheim stating the presence of a battlecruiser
and 3 cruisers or destroyers preparing to sail. The Admiralty took this to
be the GNEISENAU preparing to return to Germany. [The vessels sighted
by the Blenheim were in fact merchant ships] GNEISENAU and her escort
had sailed, undetected, on 25/7/40 and arrived at Kiel on 28/7/40. Further
reconnaissance of Trondheim to confirm the sailing was hampered by misty
At 2000 hours Force A passed the Pentland Skerries and
changed course to 062¼ speed 24 knots to pass through position 59N, 1E and
thence, if no information was available to position 62N, 3-30E.
At 2312 hours the CinC Home Fleet signalled CinC Force A, that if by
0800/28/7/40 there was no information of the enemy surface force then Force A
should be turned to the westward at the discretion of CinC Force A.
28th – At 0400 hours in 60-00N, 01-50E the destroyers
MAORI and ZULU joined Force A.
At 0800 hours with no information of enemy surface force course was altered to
At 1257 hours a report was received stating that air reconnaissance of Trondheim
had shown it to be clear of warships, following which course was shaped for
Scapa.At 1800 hours DEVONSHIRE detached from Force A and CinC battlecruiser
squadron in RENOWN took over command.
29th – At 0620 hours Force A arrived back at Scapa
10th – At Scapa Flow where at 1800 hours the flag of
Vice Admiral Battlecruisers was struck.
At 1900 hours the flag of Vice Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville KCB DSO, CinC
Force H was hoisted.
13th – At 1600 hours
escorted in the local approaches by destroyers TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and
MASHONA sailed from Scapa Flow and headed west.
14th – At 1015 hours TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and
En route south she was ordered to reverse course and proceed towards Iceland and
then to remain off the east coast of Iceland.
(This change of course was due to information
received by the Admiralty of German embarkation along the whole of the
Norwegian coast. The report was later modified to the north Norwegian coast.
There were no developments from these reports and at 0100/16/8/40 the Fleet
and the RENOWN reverted to their duties)
15th – Patrolling off the east coast of Iceland.
16th – At 0130 hours RENOWN resumed her journey south.
18th – 750 miles west of Ushant RENOWN RVed with
aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, cruiser ENTERPRISE and
destroyers HOTSPUR, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER and WRESTLER.
Force H then set course for Gibraltar.
En route ENTERPRISE detached to investigate a suspicious vessel.
19th – At 0215 hours Force H received a signal from
the independent sailing freighter ROWALLAN CASTLE
7798grt, stating that she was under attack from a raider.
The destroyers HOTSPUR, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER and
WRESTLER were detached to Gibraltar to refuel and RENOWN and ARK ROYAL made for
ROWALLAN CASTLE position off Southern Portugal.
20th – At 1230 hours it was established that the
‘raider’ that had fired on the ROWALLAN CASTLE was the AMC CIRCASSIA. So RENOWN
and ARK ROYAL resumed their course for Gibraltar.
GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GRIFFIN and VELOX.
At 1100 hours they RVed with the destroyers
At 1900 hours Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
21st – At 0100 hours the Regia Aeronautica carried out
an air attack on Gibraltar. In the attack RENOWN shot down one of the two
Savoia-Marchetti SM 82 bombers that carried out the attack.
25th - At 0730 hours ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE and
destroyers GALLANT, HOTSPUR and GRIFFIN sailed from Gibraltar to carry out
flying exercises in the Atlantic.
At 2025 hours RENOWN, escorted by destroyers VELOX, ENCOUNTER, GREYHOUND and
VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar to join the ARK ROYAL force at sea.
26th – Early in the morning the RENOWN force and the
ARK ROYAL force RVed and all came under the command of CinC Force H in RENOWN.
The whole of Force H then carried out exercises together.
27th – At 0600 hours 250 miles west of Cape St Vincent
Force H RVed with the aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS, battleship VALIANT, light
cruiser SHEFFIELD, anti-aircraft ships COVENTRY and CALCUTTA and the destroyers
FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY and FORTUNE and the LSI ROYAL
ENTERPRISE, VELOX and VIDETTE detached and escorted ROYAL SCOTSMAN into
The combined force then carried out battle practice under the command of CinC
29th – At 0600 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE and
ENCOUNTER. Force F comprising VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, COVENTRY, CALCUTTA, GALLANT,
GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR arrived at Gibraltar.
Later in the day Force A the destroyers JANUS, HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN arrived
at Gibraltar from MALTA.
30th – At 0845 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE,
ENCOUNTER, VELOX and WISHART. Force F comprising VALIANT, ILLUSTRIOUS, COVENTRY,
CALCUTTA, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR. Force A comprising JANUS,
HERO, MOHAWK and NUBIAN sailed from Gibraltar on Operation HATS.
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. 2. To carry
out air strikes on Cagliari, Sardinia)
(The objectives of Operation HATS for Force H were: 1. To cover the passage of
Force F to the Sicilian Channel. The ships of Force F were
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 in position 38-06N, 10-51E ARK
ROYAL launched a strike force of 9 Swordfish, each armed with 4 x 250lb HE bombs
and 8 x 25lb incendiaries, to attack the airfield at Elmas, Cagliari. (Operation
SMASH) Following the launch the fleet continued towards the
At 0600 hours the Swordfish attacked the airfield and seaplanes in the adjacent
At 0800 hours all the Swordfish were recovered.
At 2200 hours half way between the south-eastern tip of Sardinia and the western
tip of Sicily Force H turned to the north, in preparation for a second attack on
Cagliari and Force F maintained a south easterly course heading for Malta and
the Mediterranean Fleet.
At 2300 hours Force H turned west and headed for the south of Sardinia.
2nd - At 0330 hours launched a further 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 power station. (Operation GRAB) Following
the launch the fleet continued towards Gibraltar. The
attacked had to be aborted due to low cloud and mist obscuring the targets,
3rd – At 1100 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
5th – The Force H destroyers GALLANT, GREYHOUND,
GRIFFIN and HOTSPUR, that had been loaned to Force F, arrived back at Gibraltar
11th - At 0512, destroyer HOTSPUR, which was on
anti-submarine patrol in company with destroyers GRIFFIN, and ENCOUNTER, sighted
the Vichy French Force Y.
received in due course the expression of their
Lordships displeasure. That is all he got, while Admiral North got the sack.
The First Sea Lord received the information about the Vichy force in the
morning during a Chiefs of Staff meeting and immediately ordered RENOWN and
the destroyers to raise steam)
(The French Force Y, comprised the Vichy light
cruisers GEORGES LEYGUES, MONTCALM and GLOIRE escorted by the large
destroyers L’ AUDACIEUX, LE FANTASQUE and LE MALIN. Force Y had departed
Toulon at 1600/ 9/9/40 for Libreville, Gabon. Because of Operation MENACE
the Admiralty wanted Force Y stopped from leaving the Mediterranean. The
Admiralty knew of the sailing but the information had not been communicated
to Admiral Sir Dudley North CinC North Atlantic station due to an oversight
by the duty officer at the Admiralty. The duty officer
At 0530 hours RENOWN and the destroyer VIDETTE were
bought to one hours notice for steam.
At 1200 hours RENOWN and VIDETTE reverted to two hours notice for steam.
At 1600 hours RENOWN with destroyers GRIFFIN and VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar
with orders to intercept French Force Y.
The destroyer VELOX joined at sea.
12th – At 0800 hours RENOWN, GRIFFIN, VELOX and
VIDETTE were joined by the destroyers HOTSPUR, ENCOUNTER, and WISHART. Gibraltar
now had no more warships available for service.
At 1620 hours RENOWN’s Walrus aircraft reported that there were no French
cruisers in Casablanca and later sighted French Force Y steaming south towards
Dakar at high speed.
13th - VELOX and VIDETTE were detached to Gibraltar
14th – En route back to Gibraltar ENCOUNTER was
detached to search for a RAF London flying boat that had been shot down by
At 2015 hours RENOWN, GRIFFIN, HOTSPUR and WISHART arrived back at Gibraltar.
17th – At 0345 hours RENOWN and destroyers GRIFFIN,
ENCOUNTER, WRESTLER, and VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar for a patrol in the
vicinity of the Canary Islands.
18th – The destroyers GALLANT and FIREDRAKE joined
RENOWN and relieved destroyers WRESTLER and VIDETTE which returned to Gibraltar.
20th – RENOWN, GALLANT and FIREDRAKE arrived back at
(Operation MENACE the attack on Dakar took
place on 23/9/40. The first that the CinC Force H knew of the attack was
from a BBC news bulletin! His being kept in the dark about the operation
caused Somerville much anger. In a letter to his wife he wrote ‘it’s all a
proper muddle and we simply don’t know where we are or whom we are supposed
to be fighting’)
24th – Between 1250 and 1439 hours the Vichy French
air force carried out a bombing attack on Gibraltar with Glenn Martin bombers,
150 bombs in total being dropped. The attack was made through thick cloud and
RENOWN was near missed by two bombs, but was not damaged.
At 1530 hours RENOWN got under way and at 1550 hours sortied from Gibraltar to
avoid further air attacks whilst alongside by giving herself sea room and
steered into the Mediterranean.
RENOWN was later joined by the destroyers HOTSPUR, FIREDRAKE, GRIFFIN, and
At 1900 hours RENOWN and her escort reversed course and sailed west into the
(Vichy French destroyers EPÉE,
FLEURET, FOUGUEUX, and FRONDEUR sailed from Casablanca on the 24th to carry
out a demonstration off Gibraltar to protest against Operation MENACE.
Following a contact report by the armed boarding vessel CHARLES MCIVER
(428grt), the destroyer WRESTLER made contact with the French destroyers at
0500/25/9/40. The EPEE opened fire at
0518/25/9/40 on WRESTLER off Gibraltar. EPÉE
fired fourteen rounds, FLEURET was unable to fire due to fire control
equipment defects, and FOUGUEUX and FRONDEUR fired six rounds between them.
WRESTLER sustained no damage and with WISHART pursued the withdrawing French
destroyers. All four French destroyers returned to Casablanca on the 25/9/40)
25th - RENOWN with her destroyers preceded in support
of WRESTLER, but made no contact with the Vichy force.
26th – Continued patrol in the Atlantic.
(The patrol was extended by 24 hours when a
signal was received stating that Pierre Laval, the pro Nazi Vichy deputy
President, had asked Germany to release the whole Toulon fleet to attack
Gibraltar and Force H. Fortunately the request came to nothing)
27th - Destroyers FIREDRAKE and WISHART joined
relieving HOTSPUR and GALLANT who returned to Gibraltar to refuel.
28th – En route back to Gibraltar WISHART was detached
to investigate a submarine contact.
At 1745 hours RENOWN arrived back at Gibraltar. Off the harbour entrance GRIFFIN
was detached and returned to assist WISHART.
29th – At 0715 hours RENOWN and destroyers FIREDRAKE,
ENCOUNTER, HOTSPUR, and GALLANT sailed from Gibraltar to intercept the Vichy
French battleship RICHELIEU, reportedly en route to a Biscay port from Dakar.
On leaving harbour, the Vichy French destroyers EPEE
and FRONDEUR were sighted passing through the Gibraltar Straits into the
Mediterranean. The RENOWN force took no action against the Vichy destroyers.
Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff. From June 1940, various
Kriegsmarine studies called for the establishment of naval and air bases in
such far-flung outposts as Trondheim, Iceland, Madagascar, Dakar, and the
Spanish and Portuguese island groups off the coast of Northwest Africa.
Hitler rejected most of the Kriegsmarine studies, but retained an interest
in the Azores, Canaries, Cape Verde Islands, and French Morocco. The USA
believed that The execution of the German Gibraltar-Africa project in 1940
would have posed a very serious threat to the security of the United States
and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.
(The RICHELIEU in fact did not leave Dakar;
this soon became known to CinC Force H.
However RENOWN remained in the Atlantic patrolling
off the Azores following reports that he received of German troopships in
the Bay of Biscay that were thought to be heading for the Azores. This
report turned out to be false; however at the time the situation relating to
Spain, Gibraltar, North West Africa and the Eastern Atlantic Islands was of
great concern not only to Britain but also to the USA. The possibility of a
German takeover of the territories was discussed at a meeting on 31/8/40
between Admiral Ghormley USN, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound RN First
Sea Lord and General Sir John Dill
Following the aborting of Operation MENACE two RM
battalions were earmarked for possible action in the Azores. These were the
1st RM Battalion embarked in the troopship MV ETTRICK 11279grt and the 5th
RM Battalion embarked in the troopship SS KARAJA 9891grt)
1st - The RFA oiler ORANGELEAF, escorted by WISHART
joined Force H south of the Azores to refuel RENOWN and her destroyers.
7th - RENOWN and her four destroyers arrived back at
12th - Early in the morning RENOWN and destroyers
WISHART, GALLANT, GRIFFIN and VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar and steered into the
In position 35-34N, 10-35W the Italian submarine ENRICO TAZZOLI shelled then
torpedoed the Yugoslavian merchant ship SS ORAO 5135grt.
(On 11/10/40 the ORAO had been intercepted by the destroyer HOTSPUR and ordered
to Gibraltar. HOTSPUR had put an armed guard on board to ensure compliance)
WISHART, GALLANT, GRIFFIN, and VIDETTE were detached to search for survivors.
GALLANT and GRIFFIN picked up the 30 survivors. WISHART scuttled the steamer.
13th – At 0724 hours RENOWN, WISHART, GALLANT, GRIFFIN
and VIDETTE were joined by destroyer FIREDRAKE.
At 1300 hours Force H RVed with the troopships ETTRICK and KARANJA escorted by
VIDETTE detached and joined the transport convoy.
14th – Early in the morning WISHART detached and
joined the troopship convoy.
Cruiser SHEFFIELD arrived at Gibraltar and rejoined Force H.
At 1030 hours RENOWN, GALLANT, FIREDRAKE and GRIFFIN arrived at Gibraltar.
16th – Docked for repairs to weather damage.
31st – At 0815 hours Force H comprising RENOWN,
battleship BARHAM and destroyers FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, FURY and GREYHOUND sailed
(Force H following a sighting report of 5 Vichy
destroyers, BRESTOIS, BORDELAIS, SIMOUN, TEMPETE and L'ALCYON sailing on a
westerly course towards the Strait of Gibraltar)
GRIFFIN detached and followed the Vichy French
destroyers through the Straits of Gibraltar westward, with Force H covering,
when the Vichy ships turned south, Force H reversed course and returned to
En route they carried out battle exercises.
1st – At 1030 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
(At 1640/5/11/40 in position 52-45N, 32-13W the
panzerschiff ADMIRAL SCHEER opened fire on convoy HX84. The convoy was
escorted by the AMC JERVIS BAY and as soon Captain Fegen realized that the
convoy was threatened he sent off a raider sighting report, ordered the
convoy to scatter and made towards ADMIRAL SCHEER. By 2000 hours the ADMIRAL
SCHEER had sunk the JARVIS BAY and 5 ships of the 37 ship convoy before
making off the south east. Captain Fegen’s raider report was the first
indication that the Admiralty had that a panzerschiff was at large. On
receipt of the report the Admiralty signaled Admiral Somerville to transfer
his flag to ARK ROYAL, arriving Gibraltar 1315/6/11/40, and RENOWN was
ordered to join convoy HG46 that had sailed from Gibraltar on 31/10/40)
6th – At 0500 hours RENOWN and destroyers ENCOUNTER,
FORESTER, one other sailed from Gibraltar to escort convoys HG46 and SL53 in
40-00N, 20-30W at this time.
At 1225 hours off Cape St Vincent ENCOUNTER rammed submarine UTMOST, mistaking
her for a U-boat. UTMOST was only slightly damaged and continued on to
Gibraltar. ENCOUNTER was more seriously damaged and was escorted back to
Gibraltar by FORESTER.
8th – Joined convoy HG46. Convoy SL53 was within 100
miles of HG46 and slowly SL53 reduced the distance so that RENOWN could provide
protection to both.
The ocean boarding vessel CAMITO joined the convoy.
10th – RENOWN detached from HG46 and returned to
12th – At 1400 hours RENOWN arrived back at Gibraltar.
13th - Somerville transferred his flag back to RENOWN.
14th - Aircraft carrier ARGUS, with 12 Hurricanes
embarked for Malta, with destroyers WISHART, WRESTLER, VIDETTE arrived at
Gibraltar later for operation WHITE.
15th – At 0400 hours Force H comprising RENOWN,
aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL and ARGUS, light cruisers SHEFFIELD and DESPATCH,
destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, WISHART, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE and
DUNCAN sailed from Gibraltar on Operation WHITE.
The forces were divided into Force A comprised aircraft carrier ARGUS, light
cruiser DESPATCH, destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND and
Force B was RENOWN, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL, light cruiser SHEFFIELD,
destroyers FURY, WISHART and DUNCAN.
(Operation WHITE was an operation to deliver of 12 Hurricanes to Malta. The
Hurricanes were to be flown off the ARGUS)
17th – At 0500 hours Force A detached and went ahead
to a flying off position about 80 miles north of B™ne and 420 miles from Malta.
In still air the Hurricane had a range of 510 miles.
At 0615 hours the first flight of 6 Hurricanes lead by a FAA Skua took off from
ARGUS. Two Hurricanes crashed short of Malta; the pilot of one was rescued by a
Sunderland Flying Boat. The rest of this flight, the Skua and four Hurricanes
arrived safely at Malta.
At 0715 hours the second flight of 6 Hurricanes lead by a FAA Skua took off from
ARGUS. All 6 of the second flight were lost en route to Malta there were no
survivors from the Hurricanes. The Skua crashed landed on southwest coast of
Sicily. The pilot and observer were taken prisoner.
Force A rejoined Force B and course was set for Gibraltar.
19th – At 0300 hours Force H arrived back at
Operation COLLAR had
three main objectives:
(The next operation that involved Force H was
1. Six merchant ships
[two from Alexandria
and four from Gibraltar] were to take supplies to Malta.
2. Battleship RAMILLIES, too slow, and the
cruisers BERWICK, turbine problems, and NEWCASTLE, boiler problems, were
being transferred from the Mediterranean fleet because Admiral Cunningham
considered them liabilities.
3. Cruisers MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON
carrying some 700 RAF and Army personnel for Egypt]
corvettes fitted with LL sweeps for sweeping magnetic mines were to pass
through the Mediterranean and join the Mediterranean Fleet.
Somerville informed the Admiralty that because of
the possibility of the Italian Navy intervening in Operation COLLAR he
considered the inclusion of the battleship
ROYAL SOVEREIGN, which was repairing at Gibraltar, should be included in his
force. The Admiralty agreed, but ROYAL SOVEREIGN could not be completed in
time for inclusion in the operation. For operation Force H was designated
Force B and all the other vessels sailing east were designated Force F.
Force F was under the command of Vice Admiral
Holland who was of equal rank to Somerville.
21st – The cruiser MANCHESTER (flying the flag of Vice
Admiral Holland CS18) and the troopship
RAF and Army personnel embarked) escorted by DUNCAN and FORESTER arrived at
22nd – The cruiser SOUTHAMPTON arrived at Gibraltar.
23rd – The destroyers JAGUAR and KELVIN and the
corvettes SALVIA, HYACINTH, PEONY and GLOXINIA arrived at Gibraltar.
The cruiser DESPATCH arrived at Gibraltar.
SHEFFIELD arrived at
In Gibraltar harbour the 1400 RAF and Army personnel were
transferred to MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON, 700
embarked on each.
At 2400 hours part of Force F comprising the
DUNCAN and HOTSPUR and the corvettes PEONY, SALVIA, HYACINTH and GLOXINIA sailed
from Gibraltar and steered into the Mediterranean to join the British steamers
CLAN FORBES 7529grt, CLAN FRASER 7529grt and NEW ZEALAND STAR 10, 740grt. And
Operation COLLAR was under way.
25th – At 0300 hours
HOTSPUR, PEONY, SALVIA, HYACINTH and GLOXINIA joined CLAN FORBES, CLAN FRASER,
NEW ZEALAND STAR and their escort of destroyers VELOX, VIDETTE and WRESTLER.
VELOX and WRESTLER then detached for Gibraltar.
At 0700 hours Force B (Force H) comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD,
DESPATCH, FIREDRAKE, FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, WISHART, DUNCAN, ENCOUNTER,
JAGUAR and KELVIN. The remainder of Force F comprising MANCHESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON sailed from Gibraltar and steered into the Mediterranean.
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON joined the rest of Force F escorting the MT ships.
Force B moved out to the north of Force F to provide distant cover.
(The sailing from Gibraltar was communicated
almost immediately to Supermarina in Rome. Supermarina took the decision to
intercept the British operation and ordered 2 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers
and 14 destroyers to sea)
26th – Force B and F continued on an easterly course.
The speed of Force F was 16 knots, which was the maximum speed of the MT ships.
However the best speed that the corvettes could achieve was 14 knots so the
corvettes were left astern to follow at their best speed.
27th – At 0800 hours Force B was in position 37-48N,
07-24E. ARK ROYAL flew off 7 Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft. Force F was in
position 37-37N, 06-54E and the corvettes were 10 miles astern of Force F.
At 0900 hours Force B altered course to the south west to close Force F to
provide additional AA defence in anticipation of the first bombing attack.
At 0906 hours a report was made by one of ARK ROYAL’s Swordfish, timed at 0852
hours, of enemy surface forces, but this report was not received by any ship.
At 0920 hours Force B was in sight of Force F.
At 0956 hours RENOWN received a visual signal from ARK ROYAL, repeating an
aircraft report timed at 0920 hours, of the presence of 5 enemy cruisers and 5
By 1035 hours the plot in RENOWN was showing the presence of enemy battleships,
cruisers and destroyers. Somerville ordered DESPATCH to join the MT ships and
with COVENTRY, DUNCAN, HOTSPUR and WISHART continue towards their destination on
course 120¼ to keep away from any action.
All other units to concentrate on RENOWN.
At 1058 hours a Sunderland from Malta closed RENOWN and reported the position of
Force D, RAMILLIES, BERWICK and NEWCASTLE as being 34 miles, 070¼. Somerville
ordered the Sunderland to shadow and report the composition of the enemy bearing
At 1128 hours Force D was sighted bearing 073¼ approximately 24 miles.
At 1130 hours ARK ROYAL, screened by JAGUAR and KELVIN, flew off a strike force
of 11 Swordfish of 810 Sqd.
At 1140 hours RENOWN altered course to 050¼ and speed increased to 28 knots. At
this time MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON and SHEFFIELD were in line ahead about 5 miles
fine on the port bow of RENOWN with BERWICK and NEWCASTLE joining VA CS18 from
the eastward. RAMILLIES was trying to catch up by cutting the corner. The 9
destroyers were between the cruisers and RENOWN. ARK ROYAL was astern of RENOWN
between her and the MT convoy.
At 1154 hours the RAF Sunderland reported 6 cruisers and 8 destroyers bearing
330¼, 30 miles from RENOWN and that no battleships had been sighted.
At 1207 RENOWN’s engine room reported a hot bearing on
one shaft causing a speed reduction to 27½ knots.
At 1213 hours ARK ROYAL’s signal timed 1147 hours was received in RENOWN
reporting the enemy force as 2 battleships, 6 cruisers and destroyers.
At 1220 the enemy opened fire on the cruisers in the van; the first salvo fell
At 1222 hours BERWICK was hit by an 8in shell on Y turret.
At 1223 hours Somerville informed Cunningham that he was engaging the enemy.
At 1224 hours RENOWN opened fire at the cruiser TRENTO at a mean range of 26,500
yards; six salvos were fired before the target became lost in smoke.
At 1226 hours RAMILLIES fired two salvos at maximum elevation to test the range.
Thereafter proceeding at her best speed of 20.7 knots she dropped astern and
took no further part in the action.
At 1230 hours RENOWN fired two salvos at the cruiser
At about 1230 hours the 11 Swordfish attacked the enemy force with torpedoes but
no hits were achieved and the enemy’s speed had not been reduced.
At 1235 hours RENOWN fired 8 salvos, but at 1245 hours fire was checked when the
target was lost in smoke.
At 1302 hours the cruisers in the van sighted two Vichy passenger liners bearing
320¼, they were left unchallenged but did cause some initial confusion.
At 1308 hours Somerville signalled VA CS18, 'is there any hope of catching
cruisers', the answer was 'no'.
At 1311 hours RENOWN fired two ranging salvos. Both
salvos fell well short as the range was rapidly opening as the enemy speed away
to the north.
At 1312 hours, with the coast of Sardinia only 30 miles away and the enemy force
withdrawing at speed northward, Somerville called off the chase and ordered a
course of 130¼ to close the MT convoy.
(Thus ended what came to be called the Battle of Cape
Spartivento. The only British success, other than forcing the superior force to
turn away, was damage to the Italian destroyer
LANCIERE caused by MANCHESTER. In the exchange of fire the difference between
Italian and British gunnery was clearly demonstrated; Italian telemetry was far
superior, but Italian salvos were dispersed. British salvos were well grouped
but generally short).
At 1410 ARK ROYAL flew off a further strike force of 9
Swordfish but no hits were achieved.
At 1410 hours the RENOWN force was attacked by the Regia Aeronautica with 10
Savoia-Marchetti SM 79’s, their bombs fell close to the destroyers but no hits
At 1500 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 7 Skuas, they claimed two
near misses on a cruiser. On their way back they shot down an Italian IMAM RO 43
reconnaissance float plane.
At 1630 hours further bombing attacks were made on ARK ROYAL by two groups of
high level SM 79’s again without success.
At 1900 hours the convoy was sighted.
After having seen Force F and the MT convoy safely to the north of Cape Bon
Force H reversed course and steered for Gibraltar.
29th – At 1430 hours RENOWN, BERWICK, SHEFFIELD and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESTER and FIREDRAKE arrived at Gibraltar.
At 1530 hours ARK ROYAL, RAMILLIES, NEWCASTLE, DESPATCH and destroyers DUNCAN,
ENCOUNTER, WISHART, KELVIN and JAGUAR arrived at Gibraltar.
Admiral Lord Cork
to run a board of enquiry at Gibraltar. Lord Cork arrived on the rock before
Somerville had even returned from the operation, but any tension as to the
result must have disappeared when Somerville received Lord Cork’s
congratulations on his successful action. The board of enquiry sat from the
3rd to 5th December and their findings fully supported all of Somerville’s
decisions during the fighting, and his career continued uninterrupted)
(Though the operation had been completely
successful, Somerville was criticized by the First Sea Lord Admiral Dudley
Pound in London for not continuing the pursuit of the Italian fleet. The
Admiralty had actually set up a Board of Inquiry at Gibraltar before
Somerville returned to base. The admiralty had dispatched
30th – RENOWN commenced a self refit carried out by
the ships staff. During which all 16 main bearings were removed one by one,
re-metalled, machined and refitted.
Under self refit at Gibraltar.
14th – At 1100 hours Force H comprising RENOWN,
ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE,
FORESTER, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FURY, DUNCAN, ISIS and ENCOUNTER sailed from
Gibraltar to patrol in the area north of the Azores following reports of an
invasion force near the islands.
19th – Force H returned to Gibraltar.
20th – At 1715 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, DUNCAN, ISIS and ENCOUNTER sailed
from Gibraltar on Operation HIDE.
(Operation HIDE was an operation to cover the passage of the battleship MALAYA
and convoy MG 1 from Malta to Gibraltar)
At 1250 hours MALAYA
sailed from Malta screened by destroyers HEREWARD, HYPERION and ILEX and
escorting convoy MG 1 formed of the SS CLAN FORBES and SS CLAN FRASER they were
later joined by destroyers HASTY and HERO.
22nd - At 0156 hours
087 degrees from Cape Bon Light HYPERION was torpedoed
and seriously damaged by the Italian submarine SERPENTE. ILEX was detached to
At 0940 hours off Galita Island Force H RVed with MALAYA, HASTY, HEREWARD and
HERO and the two mercantiles.
24th – At 1000 hours Force H with MALAYA, HASTY,
HEREWARD and HERO and the two mercantiles arrived at Gibraltar.
25th – At 1038 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, DUNCAN, HEREWARD, HERO
and WISHART sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic to go to the aid of convoy
n evening of
24/12/40 the German heavy
cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER located convoy WS 5A [19 vessels with almost 14000
troops embarked including the 25th Australian and 5th New Zealand Brigades]
nominal speed of the convoy was 11 knots course SSE. ADMIRAL HIPPER shadowed
the convoy by radar until 0838 hours; when in position 43-58N, 24-15W, and
754 miles west of Cape Finisterre see opened fire on the convoy. The ADMIRAL
HIPPER was first sighted by the corvette CLEMATIS who turned towards ADMIRAL
HIPPER. CLEMATIS was saved from destruction by the intervention of the
cruisers BERWICK, BONAVENTURE and DUNEDIN. After
damaging BERWICK and two of the convoy's merchant ships, principally the
13,994 ton troop transport EMPIRE TROOPER; ADMIRAL HIPPER broke off the
action at 0920 hours and disappeared into a rain squall. Shortly after
ADMIRAL HIPPER opened fire the convoy scattered)
Force H sailed into heavy seas and RENOWN sustained
damage to starboard bulge which peeled back for a distance of 30 feet forcing
her to reduce speed to 20 knots.
Destroyers DUNCAN and
HERO were detached to assist troopship EMPIRE TROOPER.
SHEFFIELD detached to escort the SS ESSEX to Gibraltar.
The remaining units of Force H spent many hours rounding up the scattered ships
of convoy WS 5A.
Force H comprising
RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, destroyers FAULKNOR, DUNCAN, HASTY, HERO, JAGUAR, FIREDRAKE
arrived at Gibraltar.
SHEFFIELD arrived at Gibraltar escorting the SS ESSEX.
RENOWN went directly into dry dock at Gibraltar to repair the weather damage.
1 9 4 1
At Gibraltar under repair.
The next operation that
involved Force H was Operation EXCESS.
Operation EXCESS had three main objectives:-
1. To cover the passage of a convoy of 4 merchant
ships, SS CLAN CUMMING, MV CLAN MACDONALD and SS EMPIRE SONG for Piraeus and
MV ESSEX for Malta.
2. Cover the passage of Force F, reinforcements
for the Mediterranean Fleet.
3. Cover the passage of Force B, units from the
6th – In the evening Operation EXCESS commenced with
the sailing of Force F from Gibraltar. Force F comprised the 4 merchant ships,
the cruiser BONAVENTURE and destroyers DUNCAN, HASTY, HEREWARD and HERO (the
cruiser and the destroyers had embarked 400 troops from the damaged merchant
ship MV NORTHERN PRINCE) steered west into the Atlantic and after dark they
reversed course and steered through the strait of Gibraltar and continued
7th – At 0800 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, MALAYA,
ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE,
FOXHOUND, FURY and DUNCAN sailed from Gibraltar to cover the EXCESS convoy.
When Force H caught up with the convoy BONAVENTURE detached and joined Force H.
Force H then took up a position to the north east of the convoy.
9th – At 0500 hours north of Cap de Fer RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE
increased speed and moved ahead to allow ARK ROYAL to fly off 5 Swordfish of
821X Squadron to Malta.
At the same time MALAYA, BONAVENTURE and destroyers FOXHOUND and DUNCAN detached
from Force H and joined the convoy.
At 1020 hours off Galite Island Force B comprising cruisers GLOUCESTER and
SOUTHAMPTON and the destroyer ILEX RVed with the convoy and joined the escort
for the passage through the Sicilian Narrows.
RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE
and FIREDRAKE remained in contact with the convoy to the north. The other 3
destroyers from Force H’s screen joined the convoy to beef up the
At 1346 hours the force was attacked by 10 Savoia-Marchetti SM79’s bombers, no
hits were made.
At 1530 hours north of Cape Bon Force H reversed course and set course for
11th – Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
26th – At Gibraltar where Captain Rhoderick Robert
McGrigor RN (nick name Wee Mac) took over command of RENOWN.
28th - RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and destroyers FORESIGHT,
ENCOUNTER, FIREDRAKE and JERSEY, joined later by destroyers FOXHOUND and JUPITER
sailed from Gibraltar to exercise.
In the evening FIREDRAKE attacked a submarine contact.
29th - RENOWN returned to Gibraltar.
31st – At 1215 hours Force H sailed from on Gibraltar
Operations PICKET and RESULT. Force H was split into 4 groups:
Group 1 was RENOWN, MALAYA, ARK ROYAL and
Group 2 was destroyers FEARLESS (D.8), FOXHOUND,
FORESIGHT, FURY, FIREDRAKE and JERSEY.
Group 3 was destroyers DUNCAN (D.13), ISIS,
ENCOUNTER and JUPITER.
Group 4 was the refuelling group with the RFA
oiler ORANGELEAF and anti-submarine trawlers ARCTIC RANGER and HAARLEM.
Vickers Wellingtons operating from Malta bombed the Italian Fleet anchorage
at Naples. The battleship GIULIO CESARE was damaged and the Italian Navy
withdrew its remaining battleships further north to Genoa. The
operation to bombard Genoa was designed to undermine Italian morale, cause
damage to the port and manufacturing capacity and damage the Italian
battleships LITTORIO and GIULIO CESARE that were thought to be undergoing
repairs. Even after it was ascertained that the battleships were not in port
but were actually being refitted in La Spezia, Genoa was kept as the primary
(Operation PICKET an air attack on Lake Omodeo
Dam, Central Sardinia and Operation RESULT the bombardment of Genoa) (The
reason for the operations was that following the attack on Taranto the
Italian Fleet withdrew to Naples. On 10/1/41
2nd - At 0530 hours 60 miles west of Cape Mannu, 8
torpedo armed Swordfish took off from HMS ARK ROYAL to carry out an air strike
against the Santa Chiara d’Ula dam on Lake Omodeo, central Sardinia (Operation
PICKET). Due to the bad weather only 4 aircraft reached the dam where they
encountered an intense barrage. One aircraft was lost for no result.
By 0845 hours all aircraft had been recovered.
(Note: Intended bombardment of Genoa was cancelled due to bad weather)
3rd – At 1830 hours north of Majorca in worsening
weather Somerville took the decision to call off Operation RESULT. En route back
to Gibraltar all ships carried out a practice shoot.
4th - At 1800 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
(After returning to Gibraltar it was found that
news of Operations PICKET and RATION had leaked out prior to Force H
sailing, which is why the Italians were ready and waiting at the Santa
Chiara d’Ula dam? For the reasons the stated above it was considered
important to carry out the bombardment of Genoa, so the operation was
re-scheduled under strict security and the employment of various
subterfuges. One of the subterfuges was to divide Force H into 3 groups
which would sail at different times and directions )
6th – For the re-run of Operation RATION Force H was
Group 1: RENOWN, MALAYA, ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD
Group 2: Destroyers FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE,
FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FURY and JERSEY.
Group 3: Destroyers DUNCAN, ENCOUNTER, ISIS and
At 1400 hours convoy HG53 of 21 mercantiles escorted
by the destroyer VELOX and the sloop DEPTFORD sailed from Gibraltar. Groups 1
and 2 attached themselves to this convoy and sailed out into the Atlantic.
At 1800 hours Group 3 sailed from Gibraltar and carried out an anti-submarine
sweep in the Strait of Gibraltar.
At 2100 hours Groups 1 and 2 reversed course and steered east into the
7th – At 0200 hours al three groups RVed in 36N,
04-30W. Course was then set to pass between Ibiza and the Spanish Mainland.
At 1900 hours FIREDRAKE and JERSEY detached and remained off Majorca simulating
radio traffic for Force H.
(The subterfuges failed and Supermarina was
aware from various sources that Force H had sailed and guessed that Genoa
was the target. On the 8/1/41 the Italian fleet sailed to intercept Force H.
The battleships VITTORIO VENETO, GIULIO CESARE and ANDREA DORIA sailed from
La Spezia at 1900/8/2/41 with an escort of 8 destroyers. Three cruisers
TRENTO, TRIESTE and BOLZANO of the 8th squadron with two destroyers sailed
from Messina. The two forces RVed at 0800/9/2/4, 40 miles west of the Strait
8th – At 0900 hours Force H was between Majorca and
9th - At 0400 hours ARK ROYAL and the destroyers
DUNCAN, ISIS and ENCOUNTER detached to carry out an air strike against the
Azienda oil refinery at Leghorn.
Between 0715 and 0745 hours whilst 10 miles off the Italian coast, sailing east
to west, RENOWN, MALAYA and SHEFFIELD carried out a bombardment of Genoa. The 2
Walrus aircraft from SHEFFIELD with Swordfish from ARK ROYAL carried out fall of
shot observations. The 3 ships fired 273 rounds of 15in, 125 rounds from RENOWN,
782 rounds of 6in and 400 rounds of 4.5in. The result was the Italians suffered
144 casualties, 28 civil vessels sunk or damaged and harbour installations
destroyed and damaged.
At 0754 hours the bombarding force set course to the south.
At 0845 hours the ARK ROYAL Force rejoined and Force H made at best speed, which
at one point was only 17 knots as this was the best MALAYA could make, for
Somerville expected heavy retaliation from the Regia Aeronautica but this was
an excellent position to cut off the withdrawal of
Force H on its course back to Gibraltar. However as Force
H were sailing out of the Ligurian Sea, Admiral Iachino was steaming on a
330¼ course which was going to bring him into contact at around 15:00.
Instead, due to an incredible series of misunderstandings and poor
communications with Supermarina, the Italian forces changed direction toward
Italy on a 30¼ course. Thus the Italians lost a great opportunity and Force
H was completely unaware that at 1515/9/2/41 the Italian Fleet was only 30
(At 0745 hours the Italian Fleet was off Punta
Scorno, Sardinia, 210 miles south of Force H and in
11th - At 1430 hours Force H arrived back at
Marine [OKM] was reluctant to release the ADMIRAL HIPPER, but at
1140/10/2/41 when in approximate position 45N, 30W, ADMIRAL HIPPER was
ordered to attack HG53. The ADMIRAL HIPPER missed HG53 but found the 19
unescorted ships of convoy SLS64. At 0925/12/2/41 in position
37-10N, 21 20W, ADMIRAL HIPPER opened fire on the ships
of SLS64 and quickly sank 7 and damaged 3. [250 seamen from convoy SLS64
were lost. Their deaths have not been acknowledged in convoy loss statistics
as the Admiralty regarded these ships as independents]
(On the morning of 1/2/41the German cruiser
ADMIRAL HIPPER sailed from Brest on her second raiding mission with orders
to join up with the battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST. At 0440/9/2/41
in position 35-53N, 13-13W the 21 ship convoy HG53, with only the sloop
DARTFORD as escort, was attacked by U 37, following the attack U 37 made a
sighting report. On receipt of the report Doenitz sensed an opportunity to
mount a combined U boat, air and surface attack on the convoy. Doenitz
ordered U 37 to shadow the convoy and transmit beacon signals. At
1600/9/2/41 in 35 54N, 14 41W 5 FW 200’s made a low level bombing attack on
HG53 sinking 5 ships. At first the
A RRR raider report that was picked up at 0930
hours by the SS
EGYPTIAN PRINCE in convoy
When the Admiralty received the raider report part
of their response was to signal Somerville at 1240/12/2/41 ordering Force H
to sail to the aid of convoy HG53)
12th – At 1600 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and
destroyers WISHART, JERSEY, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FURY sailed from Gibraltar
to cover convoy HG53.
At 2030 hours Force H was ordered to locate and escort troop convoy WS6.
SHEFFIELD detached to find and escort convoy HG53.
(At 2030/12/2/41 convoy WS6 was in approximate position 53-30N 19-30W and
comprised 17 troop transports with almost 23000 troops embarked and 12 MT ships.
The convoy was weakly escorted by the cruisers BIRMINGHAM and PHOEBE and the AMC
14th – The destroyers WISHART, JERSEY, FOXHOUND,
FIREDRAKE and FURY detached and returned to Gibraltar.
17th – At 0830 hours in approximate position 51N, 30W
RENOWN and ARK ROYAL RVed with convoy WS6 and its escort of RODNEY, BIRMINGHAM,
CATHAY and destroyers ECLIPSE and ELECTRA. (RODNEY, ECLIPSE and ELECTRA had
joined the convoy at 0700/15/2/41 in approximate position 45-30N, 23W).
At 0900 hours RODNEY, ECLIPSE and ELECTRA detached.
19th – MALAYA joined Force H and convoy WS6.
21st - At 1000 hours in approximate position 30N, 31W
RENOWN and ARK ROYAL detached from WS6 and returned to Gibraltar.
25th - RENOWN and ARK ROYAL arrived back at Gibraltar.
RENOWN went straight into dry dock for essential repairs.
2nd – RENOWN un-docked.
6th - RENOWN with destroyers FORTUNE, DUNCAN, and
VELOX sailed from Gibraltar to conduct exercises. They were joined at sea by
destroyers FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, and FOXHOUND.
7th - The ships arrived back at Gibraltar.
(At 1330/8/3/41 130 miles off Cape Blanco the
destroyer FORESTER, who was well to the west of the convoy SL67, briefly
sighted the German Battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU steaming towards
the convoy. The German ships were also sighted at the same time by MALAYA’s
8th – At 2115 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, cruiser ARETHUSA, and destroyers VELOX and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar
to go to the aid of convoy SL67.
9th - ARETHUSA, and destroyers VELOX and WRESTLER
detached and returned to Gibraltar.
10th – At 1200 hours RENOWN and ARK ROYAL joined
(At 1900/16/3/41RODNEY, who was escorting
convoy HX114, briefly sighted a ship in approximately 46-15N, 45W. RODNEY
signalled what ship? and received the reply HMS EMERALD, the ship then made
off at speed to the east. At 2000/16/3/41 RODNEY picked up 27 survivors from
the MV CHILEAN REEFER Which had just been sunk by the GNEISENAU. When the
survivors were questioned they were able to definitely recognise the raider
as the GNEISENAU. This was the first positive evidence for the Admiralty
that the raiders were the battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST)
19th – The cruiser KENYA joined and RENOWN and ARK
ROYAL detached from convoy SL67 to return to Gibraltar.
As they left the convoy Somerville received orders to proceeded northwards and
to search for a German tanker the MV ANTARKTIS 10711grt that had sailed from
Vigo on 18/3/41. Also the Admiralty informed Somerville of the vessels sunk by
the battlecruisers, some of which it was thought may have been captured and
could be en route to France.
In the evening in approximate position 45-22N, 23-35W a patrolling Swordfish
sighted a tanker that was definitely identified as the Norwegian tanker MV
BIANCA 5688grt that was en route to Bordeaux with a German prize crew.
20th – RENOWN and ARK ROYAL continued northward toward
the sighting position.
At 0900 hours the BIANCA was re-located 60 miles away and RENOWN set course to
At 1150 hours a searching Swordfish reported sighting the British tanker MV SAN
CASIMIRO 8046grt. Shortly afterwards another Swordfish sighted the Norwegian
tanker MV POLYKARP 6405grt.
When RENOWN came over the horizon the German prize crew on BIANCA placed
explosives in the engine room and pump room and opened all the valves, the crew
of 34 including the captain’s wife and small son and the 10 prize crew took to
the boats. When RENOWN arrived on the scene the boarding party took some of the
Norwegian crew back on board, the fires were extinguished and they closed all
the deck valves, but the engine room had filled with water and the ship could
not be saved. The BIANCA was then sunk by RENOWN in position 44-16N, 19-21W.
RENOWN then set course for the SAN CASIMIRO and although ARK ROYAL’s aircraft
had attempted to stop the scuttling of the SAN CASIMIRO, when RENOWN arrived at
her position she was on fire and sinking and she sank in position 45-12N,
19-42W. RENOWN picked up 38 crew and 3 prize crew.
At 1730 hours with visibility closing in one of the Fulmars sighted the
SCARNHORST and GNEISENAU sailing north; the battlecruisers were in position
46-50N, 21-25W, approximately 140 miles and 330¼ from RENOWN. However due to a
radio malfunction, the Fulmar had to return to ARK ROYAL to make a visual
At 1815 hours Somerville was made aware of the presence of the battlecruisers
and RENOWN increased speed and set course for the reported position.
At 1830 hours RENOWN had completed the rescue of the survivors from the two
tankers. During these operations the POLYKARP had been lost.
In an attempt to locate the POLYKARP before darkness ARK ROYAL launched two
Another Fulmar was launched but when it arrived in the area of the sighting fog
had descended on the area and the battlecruisers were lost.
RENOWN and ARK ROYAL steamed through the night closing the estimated position at
27 knots. Because when last sighted the Germans had been sailing due north
Somerville had assumed that they were heading for Iceland. However at 1800 hours
the battlecruisers had turned west and were in fact heading for Brest.
(At 0845/22/3/41 the battlecruisers arrived at
Brest. The Admiralty thought they were at Brest, but due to low cloud over
the port their presence was not definitely established until late on 28/3/41
when a PR Spitfire brought back photographs of the battlecruisers)
21st – At 0645 hours ARK ROYAL launched Swordfish
reconnaissance patrols to attempt to relocate the battlecruisers, all they found
was thick fog in the area.
At 2100 hours a RAF Hudson of 220 Sqd sighted the battlecruisers with an escort
of two destroyers in position 47-17N, 07-13W, steering east at 21 knots.
With the chances of catching the battlecruisers now gone and RENOWN’s low fuel
state, the Admiralty ordered Somerville back to Gibraltar.
23rd – RENOWN and ARK ROYAL returning to Gibraltar
were met by destroyers FEARLESS, FORESTER, VELOX, and WRESTLER.
24th – RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and destroyers FEARLESS,
FORESTER, VELOX, and WRESTLER arrived at Gibraltar and immediately commenced to
Late in the day Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and the destroyers
FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FORESTER sailed from Gibraltar to patrol off the Bay of
Biscay to intercept German battlecruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU should they
attempt to leave Brest.
25th - Destroyers FORTUNE and FORESIGHT detached from
26th - Destroyer FORESTER detached from Force H.
31st – Force H were joined by the destroyers NAPIER,
NIZAM and FORTUNE.
1st – Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
2nd – At 0300 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL (with twelve Hurricanes embarked for Malta), SHEFFIELD, and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and FURY sailed from Gibraltar on
(Operation WINCH was a ‘club run’ to supply more Hurricane fighters to Malta.
These were desperately required following the arrival of the Luftwaffe in
Sicily. Even though the Hurricanes could cope with their Italian opponents, and
with the German bombers the Bf 109Es posed a serious problem. The aircraft
carrier ARGUS brought the 12 Hurricanes from Britain and they were transferred
to ARK ROYAL in Gibraltar harbour)
3rd – At 0400 hours in position 37-42N, 6-52E the 12
Hurricanes were flown off lead by 2 FAA Skuas of 808 Sqd. All arrived safely at
Force H then reversed course for Gibraltar.
En route back to Gibraltar ARK ROYAL with destroyers FAULKNOR and FORTUNE were
detached and proceeded ahead to prepare to transfer aircraft to and from
aircraft carrier FURIOUS
4th – At 1045 hours ARK ROYAL, FAULKNOR and FORTUNE
arrived back at Gibraltar. Followed shortly afterwards by the remainder of Force
At 1900 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORTUNE and FORESIGHT, with FURIOUS sailed from Gibraltar
into the Atlantic.
5th – At sea the transfer of Four Swordfish, fitted
with ASV of 825 Squadron and ten Fulmars of 807 Squadron from FURIOUS to ARK
ROYAL and four Swordfish and nine Skuas of 800 Squadron from ARK ROYAL to
FURIOUS was carried out.
At 1045 hours FURIOUS escorted by destroyers FAULKNOR and FORTUNE detached to
join the REPULSE force that had earlier sailed from Gibraltar and return to the
At 1600 hours FAULKNOR and FORTUNE rejoined Force H.
At 2330 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
(At 1535/6/4/41 the Admiralty signalled
'Consider battlecruisers will probably leave Brest tonight'. This was
because the GNEISENAU had moved out of dry dock into the inner harbour;
which was in fact due to a 250lb UXB in the dock. At 0602/7/4/41 GNEISENAU
was hit in the stern, and put out of action for 7 months, by a torpedo
dropped by Bristol Beaufort OA-X of 22 Squadron RAF flown by F.O. Kenneth
Campbell, who was posthumously awarded the VC. However, this was not known
to the Admiralty for some time)
6th – At 0230 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, cruisers FIJI and SHEFFIELD, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS and
FORESIGHT departed Gibraltar to operate in Biscay to blockade the German
battleships at Brest.
At sea Force H was joined by the destroyers HIGHLANDER and FURY, which had been
detached from the escort of battlecruiser REPULSE.
7th – The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN.
8th – In the evening Somerville assumed command of all
the blockading vessels including Home Fleet units that were operating in the Bay
9th - The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN.
Exercises were carried out using SHEFFIELD as a target and FIJI using her Type
284 radar to pass range and bearing to RENOWN.
10th - The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN.
12th - The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN.
14th - The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN.
During the day RENOWN and ARK ROYAL carried out 4.5in practise at a splash
target towed by one of the destroyers.
At 1630 hours Somerville handed over command of the blockading force to Admiral
Force H then covered the minelayer ABDIEL while she laid 300 mines in the
approaches to Brest.
Following which Force H set course for Gibraltar.
16th – At 1245 hours Force H arrived back at
24th - Aircraft carrier ARGUS escorted by SHEFFIELD
and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORTUNE and WRESTLER arrived at Gibraltar. (ARGUS had
embarked 23 Hurricanes for Malta that in Gibraltar were transferred to ARK
25th – At 2300 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FURY and FORTUNE
sailed from Gibraltar and set course east on Operations DUNLOP and SALIENT.
An hour earlier Force S comprising cruiser DIDO, minelayer ABDIEL, and
destroyers KELLY, KASHMIR, KELVIN, KIPLING, JERSEY and JACKAL had sailed from
(Operation DUNLOP was the transport and flying off of 24 Hurricanes to Malta.
Operation SALIENT was to provide cover for Force S, reinforcements for the
Mediterranean Fleet, through the Western Mediterranean)
27th – Between 0515 and 0613hours the 23 Hurricanes
were flown off ARK ROYAL lead by 3 FAA Fulmars.
By 1047 hours all had arrived safely at Malta.
Force H waited to the south of Sardinia to provide Force S with air cover if
required as it passed through the Sicilian Narrows.
At 1000 hours Force H set course for Gibraltar.
28th – At 2000 hours Force H arrived back at
1st - In position 38-10N, 10W, 45 miles off Cape
Espichel the A/S trawler LOCH OSKAIG captured the Vichy French general cargo
steamer SS CAP CANTIN 3317grt, which had departed Bayonne on the 25th for
Casablanca. The Vichy ship was taken into Gibraltar for inspection. However
there was concern that the Vichy French forces at Casablanca may try to take
back the CAP CANTIN.
2nd - At 0430 hours RENOWN and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FORESIGHT, FURY, FORESTER and FORTUNE sailed from Gibraltar to provide cover for
the CAP CANTIN.
FORESIGHT was detached to escort the CAP CANTIN.
In the evening RENOWN, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESTER and
FORTUNE arrived back at Gibraltar.
(On the 20/4/41the ships of convoy WS8A were
embarking troops in the UK for the Middle East. Included in the convoy were
five 15 knot MT ships loaded with 295 tanks and 53 crated Hurricanes. On the
same day General Wavell sent a message to the CIGS in London, telling them
of his inferiority in armoured vehicles, and that the situation was to get
worse. When Churchill saw the message, he decided to make a bold stroke and
send the ships carrying the tanks through the Mediterranean to Egypt. The
Admiralty was opposed; Admiral Cunningham thought the risks were acceptable,
despite the increased air threat from the Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps X. At
Churchill’s insistence the operation, code named TIGER went ahead. Included
in Operation TIGER were reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet)
4th – The cruisers FIJI from convoy SL72 and NAIAD
from convoy WS8A arrived at Gibraltar and embarked ammunition for the passage to
the Eastern Mediterranean as part of Operation TIGER.
At 1600 hours the battleship QUEEN ELIZABETH and destroyers FEARLESS, FORESIGHT,
FORTUNE and VELOX sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic to RV with the Tiger
5th – At 0000 hours 200 miles west of Gibraltar QUEEN
ELIZABETH and destroyers FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FORTUNE and VELOX RVed with the 5
MT ships, SS CLAN LAMONT 7268grt, SS CLAN CHATTAN 7262grt, SS CLAN CAMPBELL
7255grt, MV NEW ZEALAND STAR 10,941grt, and SS EMPIRE SONG 9228grt, of the TIGER
At 0615 hours the battlecruiser REPULSE destroyers HAVELOCK, HESPERUS, and
HARVESTER detached from the convoy and proceeded ahead to Gibraltar.
At 1000 hours Force B comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, cruisers FIJI and SHEFFIELD
and destroyers WRESTLER, KASHMIR and KIPLING sailed from Gibraltar into the
Atlantic to RV with the TIGER convoy.
At 1320 hours the cruiser NAIAD flying the flag of RA 15th CS, Rear Admiral
Edward Leigh Stuart King, sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic to RV with the
At 1700 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, cruisers FIJI and SHEFFIELD and destroyers
WRESTLER, KASHMIR and KIPLING joined the TIGER convoy.
At 1730 hours REPULSE destroyers HAVELOCK, HESPERUS, and HARVESTER arrived at
At 2200 hours NAIAD joined the TIGER convoy and RA 15thCS took command of the
convoy and the reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet.
6th – At 0200 hours the TIGER convoy passed through
the Strait of Gibraltar.
At 0330 hours destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, HARVESTER, HAVELOCK and
HESPERUS sailed from Gibraltar to join the escort of convoy TIGER.
At 0345 hours the cruiser GLOUCESTER sailed from Gibraltar to join convoy TIGER.
At 0500 hours GLOUCESTER, FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, HARVESTER, HAVELOCK and
HESPERUS joined convoy TIGER.
At 0630 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, FIJI, SHEFFIELD and destroyers WRESTLER,
KASHMIR and KIPLING increased speed and moved to the north east of the convoy to
provide cover should the Italian navy decided to attack.
At 24000 hours RENOWN was approximately 70 miles south of Majorca and 150 miles
east north east of the convoy.
7th – In the morning QUEEN ELIZABETH and GLOUCESTER
joined RENOWN and the covering force.
At 0500 hours ARK ROYAL flew off her new ASV-equipped Swordfish; these searched
out to 140 miles, south and west of Sardinia and found no sign of the Italian
At 0830 hours Somerville determined that with no sign of the Italian Fleet the
main threat to the convoy would be from the air so the covering force closed the
At 1115 hours an enemy signal was intercepted stating that the convoy had been
At 1300 hours the covering force regained contact with the convoy.
VELOX detached from the TIGER convoy and returned to Gibraltar.
8th – At 0700 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish for
At 1345 hours the first incoming raid of 8 SM 79 torpedo bombers with an escort
of CR42 fighters was reported approaching from the south east at low level about
32 miles from the convoy. In this attack RENOWN was targeted, RENOWN turned to
comb the tracts and she avoided all save one which appeared certain to hit her
but it reached the end of its run just yards away. So RENOWN was saved. Three SM
79’s were shot down.
Through the day there were further air raids by the Regia Aeronautica and the
Luftwaffe all of which were blunted by the actions of ARK ROYAL’s Fulmars, the
AA fire of the ships and the poor weather.
At 2015 hours the ships of Operation TIGER had reached a position north of Cap
Bone where in accordance with the plan Force B was to reverse course.
As RENOWN was turning she was attacked by 3 SM 79 torpedo bombers, through the
brilliant ship handling of Captain McGrigor all 3 torpedoes missed the RENOWN.
During the attack with all the close range weapons hammering away at the
attackers P3 twin 4.5in mounting fired into the back of the twin P2 mounting,
killing six ratings and wounding Sub Lt D. M. Brightman RNVR, and twenty five
ratings and destroying the gun.
RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers HARVESTER, HAVELOCK, HESPERUS and
WRESTLER now proceed west.
(The TIGER convoy continued eastwards into the
Sicilian Narrows. The 5 MT ships were in line astern and the F class
destroyers of the 8th DF acted as minesweepers. The 5 MT ships also streamed
paravanes but in spite of these precautions first the NEW ZEALAND STAR
exploded a mine that caused only minor damage but at 0002/9/5/41 the EMPIRE
SONG struck two mines. The crew of the FORESTER were going to attempt
salvage when the EMPIRE SONG blew up, 18 of her crew were lost as were 57
tanks and 10 Hurricanes. The remaining 4 MT ships arrived safely in Egypt
where they disembarked 135 Mk.II Matilda Infantry Tanks, 82 Mk.I Crusader
Cruiser Tanks and 21 Mk.VIC light tanks and 43 crated Hurricanes)
9th – Force H sailed slowly along the Algerian coast
waiting for the destroyers of the 8th DF to re-join from Malta.
10th – At 1400 hours Force H was off Algiers when
having received a signal that the 5 destroyers of the 8th DF were under air
attack. So Somerville reversed the course of Force H to go the aid of the 8th
At 1800 hours Force H RVed with FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FEARLESS and FORTUNE.
FORESIGHT had returned to Malta with engine problems.
11th – The tug ST DAY and four motor launches from
Gibraltar RVed with the destroyer FORTUNE. SHEFFIELD, HARVESTER and HESPERUS
detached from Force H to provide an escort for the damaged FORTUNE.
12th – At 1815 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FEARLESS, HAVELOCK, and WRESTLER arrived at Gibraltar.
At 2040 hours SHEFFIELD, HARVESTER and HESPERUS escorting the damaged FORESTER
arrived at Gibraltar.
16th – At 1800 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, flying the flag of VA Somerville, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers WRESTLER,
FEARLESS, FORESTER, and FURY sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic for
17th – In the morning RENOWN carried out a ‘throw off’
shoot with her main armament; fall of shot spotting was carried out by a
Swordfish from ARK ROYAL.
At 1900 hours Force H returned to Gibraltar.
18th – At 2000 hours the aircraft carrier FURIOUS,
(with 64 Hurricanes embarked for Malta) heavy cruiser LONDON, dummy battleship
ANSON (old battleship CENTURION with wooden guns), and destroyer BRILLIANT,
HAVELOCK, HESPERUS, and HARVESTER arrived at Gibraltar.
FURIOUS moored stern to stern with ARK ROYAL and transferred 22 of the
Hurricanes to ARK ROYAL across a timber bridge that was erected between the two
19th – At 0330 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers HESPERUS, HAVELOCK, and HARVESTER departed
Gibraltar to feint westwards into the Atlantic prior to commencing Operation
(Operation SPLICE was a ‘club run’ delivering 48 of the Hurricanes, bought out
by FURIOUS, to Malta. The balance of the Hurricanes, 16, were landed at
Gibraltar to await the next ‘club run’)
At 1500 hours FURIOUS, LONDON and destroyers FAULKNOR, FOXHOUND, FURY and
FORESTER sailed from Gibraltar westwards to RV with Force H.
At 1900 hours the two forces RVed, following which LONDON and destroyers
HAVELOCK and HARVESTER were detached to sail westward to cover the movement of
dummy battleship ANSON and troopship ARUNDEL CASTLE.
Force H then formed up and turned eastwards into the Mediterranean.
20th – At 0700 hours the destroyer BRILLIANT joined
Force H from Gibraltar.
21st – Between 0600 and 0729 hours in position 37-47N,
6-08E the 48 Hurricanes were flown off lead by 5 FAA Fulmars. 47 Hurricanes and
4 Fulmars arrived safely at Malta.
After the flying off her Hurricanes FURIOUS and destroyers BRILLIANT and
HESPERUS were detached to return to Gibraltar for a quick docking for the
aircraft carrier to repair damage and repack her stern glands from the bomb
damage she received on the 5/5/41 whilst at Belfast.
The remainder of Force H then reversed course steering at low speed for
Gibraltar, waiting for FORESIGHT to join from Malta.
At 1600 hours failing to have RVed with FORESIGHT, who sailed on to Gibraltar,
Force H increased speed and headed for Gibraltar.
22nd – At 2300 hours Force H arrived back at
(On 18/5/41 German battleship BISMARCK, flying
the flag of Admiral Gunther Lutjens, and heavy cruiser PRINZ EUGEN departed
Gdynia on Operation RHEINUBUNG. On 21/5/41 the BISMARCK and PRINZ EUGEN
departed Korsfjord, near Bergen, for a shipping sweep in the North Atlantic.
The sailing was not confirmed until 22/5/41 when a Martin Maryland of 771
Squadron from Hatson advised the German ships had sailed. At 1922/23/5/41 AB
Alfred Newell the starboard lookout of the cruiser SUFFOLK sighted BISMARCK
at a distance of 7 miles NNE, SUFFOLK’s position was 66-59N, 24-51W. At 1923
hours a sighting report was made, but this was only picked up by NORFOLK. At
2032 hours NORFOLK made the radio report that she had BISMARCK in sight at a
range of 6 miles. Following the sighting report the Admiralty started to
order various deployments of fleet units. One of the forces deployed was
24th – At 0200 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FURY
and HESPERUS sailed from Gibraltar to join and escort convoy WS 8B. At the time
Force H sailed convoy WS 8B was approximately 200 miles west of Orsay sailing at
Force H set course for a RV with WS 8B in position 47-20N, 26-05W
At 1245 hours destroyers FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND and FURY were detached to return to
(Throughout the 24/5/41 SUFFOLK and NORFOLK
shadowed the BISMARCK. During the period she was being shadowed BISMARCK
made 22 radio transmissions [the decryption of these signals was
carried out by GC and CS at Bletchley Park, but too late to be of any
tactical value] but all the transmissions were monitored by the Y
service, that by DF were able to give an accurate longitude and approximate
latitude. At 0300/25/5/41 BISMARCK turned to starboard making a 360¼ turn
this during a zig zag by SUFFOLK caused SUFFOLK to loose contact. BISMARCK
then set course 130¼ and was not immediately aware that contact had been
broken and she made further signals that the Y service DFed all of which
indicated to the OIC that BISMARCK was making for France. Also GC and CS
advised that whereas the normal control station for BISMARCK W/T frequency
was Wilhelmshaven, control had been transferred to Paris)
25th – At 0330 hours Force H was in position 39-35N,
14-10W, steering 310¼ at 24 knots.
At 0400 hours Force H was taken under direct control by the Admiralty and
Somerville was ordered to ‘Cancel my signal ordering Force H to join convoy WS
8B. Steer to intercept the BISMARCK’.
At 0900 hours destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER and HESPERUS were detached to return
At 1100 hours Force H was in position 41-30N, 17-10W when the Admiralty
instructed Somerville to act on the assumption that BISMARCK was proceeding to
Brest. Force H then turned on to course 360¼.
At 1805 hours the Admiralty finally signalled to Admiral Tovey CinC Home Fleet
that he should assume that BISMARCK was making for Brest.
At 1215 hours Force H altered course to 345¼, into the teeth of a north westerly
At 2340 hours Force H had to reduce speed to 21 knots.
26th – At 0112 hours as Force H ploughed on into
mountainous seas, the waves were washing right over RENOWN and SHEFFIELD, speed
had to be reduced, ultimately to 17 knots.
At 0300 hours Force H altered course to 360¼. Somerville reasoned that in
consequence of Force H’s reduction in speed which BISMARCK with a following sea
would not have suffered this was the best course to keep Force H to the east of
At 0835 hours in position 48-26N, 19-13W, ARK ROYAL flew off 10 Swordfish to
carry out a search for the BISMARCK in a 180¼ arc from south west to north east.
The weather conditions at this time were wind force 7 from 330¼, overcast, and
visibility 10-12 miles. ARK ROYAL’s rounddown was rising and falling up to 56
At 0930 hours Force H was proceeding at 15 knots on course 015¼.
At 1030 hours, report received in RENOWN at 1050 hours, Catalina Z/209 sighted
BISMARCK in position 49-33N, 21-47W (the position was 35 miles out) course 150¼,
speed 20 knots. At this time Force H was 112 miles at 285 ¼ from BISMARCK
crossing the track that the German ship would take for Brest.
RENOWN was the nearest capital ship to the BISMARCK. Battleships KING GEORGE V
and RODNEY were 135 miles and 125 miles behind sailing at 21 knots to BISMARCK’s
20 knots so unless she could be slowed down they would never catch up. Now it
was all down to ARK ROYAL’s Swordfish.
Admiral Tovey, with the destruction of the HOOD in mind, ordered Somerville not
to engage BISMARCK with RENOWN.
At 1114 hours Swordfish A2H of 810 Sqd from ARK ROYAL made contact with the
BISMARCK, but reported her as cruiser, and gave a position making the enemy 77
miles to the west of Force H. A strike force of 15 Swordfish was made ready by
At 1145 hours the Admiralty concerned that Somerville would attempt to engage
with RENOWN, signalled ‘that RENOWN was not to become engaged with BISMARCK
unless the latter was heavily engaged with either KING GEORGE V or RODNEY’.
At 1200 hours Force H turned on to course 115¼
parallel and to the north of BISMARCK.
At 1315 hours SHEFFIELD was ordered by visual signal to make contact with the
BISMARCK, then about 40 miles to the south west, shadow from the stern and
At 1345 hours Somerville informed the Admiralty that SHEFFIELD had been detached
to make contact with BISMARCK. The Admiralty then repeated Somerville’s signal
to all ships but the signal was not immediately de-coded in ARK ROYAL.
At 1450 hours ARK ROYAL commenced flying off the 15 strong Swordfish strike
force all were armed with torpedoes fitted with magnetic heads. When the
aircraft took off the crews were unaware that SHEFFIELD had been detached.
At 1600 hours the 14 strong strike force (one had turned back), attacked
SHEFFIELD, dropping 11 torpedoes all of which missed, 3 of the aircraft realised
their error and didn’t attack. This attack showed up the unreliability of the
duplex pistols in magnetic heads.
At 1720 hours the strike force returned to ARK ROYAL.
During all the flying operations RENOWN had been to the east of ARK ROYAL in
order to keep between BISMARCK and France. If it became necessary for RENOWN to
take on BISMARCK Somerville determined to attack from astern and upwind. This
would force BISMARCK to turn to meet the threat thus slowing her down.
At 1747 hours SHEFFIELD gained contact with BISMARCK at a range of 10 miles and
made her first sighting report.
At 1915 hours in position 48-35N, 16-54W, ARK ROYAL
launched a second strike force of 15 Swordfish armed with contact pistol
At 1950 hours the U-556 found herself in an ideal position to torpedo both
RENOWN and ARK ROYAL as they sailed towards her, but she was returning to base
and was out of torpedoes.
At 2039 hours U-556 surfaced and her CO, Kapitanleutnant Wohlfarth, signalled
‘enemy in view, a battleship, an aircraft carrier, course 115¼, enemy is
proceeding at high speed. Position 48-20N, 16-20W’.
At 2050 hours the second strike force commenced their attack on the BISMARCK.
By 2100 hours the attack was over. Two possibly three
hits were achieved the significant one being the hit on the stern that jammed
her rudder and she carried on turning to port.
SHEFFIELD reported BISMARCK’s change of course. When Tovey received the signal,
he uttered the deadly insult, ‘SHEFFIELD has joined the reciprocal club’ –
meaning of ships that have steered a course 180 degrees off true. But she
At 2115 hours Lutjens signalled OKM that the ship was no longer steerable.
At 2140 hours SHEFFIELD ventured too close to BISMARCK and BISMARCK opened fire.
Her first salvo missed. SHEFFIELD made smoke and retreated, but her second salvo
of HE shells straddled SHEFFIELD causing 14 casualties, three later died, minor
splinter damage and smashing SHEFFIELD’s radar aerials, so ending SHEFFIELD’s
ability to shadow.
At 2142 hours SHEFFIELD lost touch with BISMARCK.
At 2152 hours the destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, SIKH, ZULU and PIORUN of the 4th DF
joined SHEFFIELD and were given the position of BISMARCK.
At 2205 hours Group West informed Lutjens that the 8 U-boats in the area had
been ordered to close her.
At 2220 hours ARK ROYAL reported that one torpedo had definitely hit BISMARCK
At 2235 hours ARK ROYAL reported that a second hit had most probably been
At 2235 hours Lutjens signalled ‘am surrounded by RENOWN and light forces’.
Although at this time RENOWN was not in sight of the BISMARCK.
At 2345 hours RENOWN was in position 48-42N, 15-17W.
27th – At 0036 hours ARK ROYAL reported that since the
air strike the BISMARCK had turned two complete circles at reduced speed and had
come to rest on a northerly heading.
At 0112 hours Somerville signalled Tovey that RENOWN, at 2345 hours, was 165¼,
41 miles from BISMARCK.
At 0509 hours ARK ROYAL launched a Swordfish to spot fall of shot for KING
GEORGE V, but the aircraft failed to find her and had to return to ARK ROYAL.
At 0800 hours the 3 ships Force H was approximately 20 miles to the south of
At 0847 hours KING GEORGE V and RODNEY opened fire on BISMARCK. The sound of
gunfire was clearly heard in the ships of Force H.
At 0940 hours SHEFFIELD rejoined RENOWN and ARK ROYAL.
At 0947 hours Somerville signalled Tovey that ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD had been
detached and RENOWN was closing him from the southward.
At 0955 RENOWN sighted and shortly afterwards engaged enemy aircraft.
At 1025 hours Somerville asked Tovey if he had disposed of the enemy. Tovey
replied that he could not sink her by gunfire, adding that he was forced to
discontinue the action on account of fuel.
At 1036 hours the BISMARCK sank.
At 1039 hours Tovey signalled that BISMARCK had been sunk.
At 1045 hours as ARK ROYAL was recovering her aircraft Force H came under attack
form the Luftwaffe He 111’s. AA fire from RENOWN and SHEFFIELD kept the bombers
away and the closest bombs fell 600 yards astern of ARK ROYAL.
At 1152 hours ARK ROYAL had completed recovery of her aircraft and Force H
shaped course for Gibraltar at 24 knots.
Force H then set course for Gibraltar.
After the action Somerville made the following signal to SHEFFIELD: "Much regret
to hear of your casualties while shadowing BISMARCK. I wish to express my
sympathy in the loss of your shipmates. I trust the wounded are progressing
favourably. I consider your tenacity and your shadowing was in a large degree
responsible for the striking force and destroyers making contact, which fixed
the BISMARCK and led to her eventual destruction."
29th – At 0830 hours in position 36-20N, 9-35W Force H
were joined by destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY and WISHART from Gibraltar.
En route to Gibraltar FORESTER and FURY were detached to search for a reported
At 1334 hours both of SHEFFIELD’s Walrus aircraft were catapulted off. One to
carry out an A/S patrol around Force H and the other to deliver a message to the
RENOWN and then to fly on to Gibraltar to collect mail.
At 1340 hours, having dropped his message on RENOWN’s forecastle, the Walrus
flew low over the stern of RENOWN and as it flew through the hot gases from the
funnel it went out of control and crashed hitting RENOWN’s stern before crashing
into the sea and killing the three crew. A passenger RPO Marjoram, who was on
board to collect the mail, was picked up by destroyer WISHART, but died of
At 1900 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR and WISHART arrived back at
30th – At 2400 hours aircraft carrier ARGUS with 29
cased Hurricanes embarked, escorted by destroyers FEARLESS, FORESIGHT and
FOXHOUND arrived at Gibraltar.
ARGUS berthed astern of FURIOUS, who whilst Force H had been in the Atlantic had
had her stern glands re-packed and had embarked the 16 Hurricanes left over from
31st - The cased Hurricanes from ARGUS were off-loaded
on to FURIOUS and assembly commenced in preparation for flying to Malta.
(The next ‘club run’ for Force H was Operation ROCKET
the flying off to Malta of 44 Hurricanes from ARK ROYAL and FURIOUS. In order to
address some of Somerville’s concerns the plan for Operation ROCKET was to be
different from the previous ones. All the Hurricanes were fitted with auxiliary
fuel tanks to increase their range so they could be launched 600 miles from
Malta. They would be launched from one carrier at a time so the un-engaged
carrier could provide fighter cover. The escorts would be RAF Blenheims to
preserve Force H’s precious Fulmars)
4th - FURIOUS was moored stern to stern with ARK ROYAL
and transferred 24 of the Hurricanes to ARK ROYAL across a timber bridge that
was erected between the two carriers.
Nine RAF Blenheims arrived at Gibraltar from Britain; these were the aircraft
that were to act as escorts for the Hurricanes.
5th – At 1200 hours Force H sailed from Gibraltar on
Operation ROCKET. For the operation the force was divided into two groups.
Group 1 was RENOWN, FURIOUS, and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FOXHOUND.
Group 2 was ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, and destroyers
FEARLESS and FURY.
6th – At 0900 hours Force H formed into its two groups
and Group 1 moved to the north of the mean line of advance and group 2 moved to
At 1000 hours in approximate position 39N, 3E the fly off of the 44 Hurricanes
commenced. One Hurricane returned to FURIOUS the remaining 43 all arrived safely
Force H then set course for Gibraltar.
At 1100 hours a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL carried out a reconnaissance of
Operation EXPORTER, the
invasion of the Vichy French in Syria was due to commence on the night of
(The reason for the reconnaissance was to see
if the DUNKERQUE was in harbour as there had been intelligence that she may
have sailed to Toulon. The Admiralty wanted to know her location as
7th – Before entering Gibraltar ARK ROYAL flew off ten
Fulmars to provide an air defence should Vichy aircraft attack following the
British invasion of Syria.
At 0845 hours Force H returned to Gibraltar.
At 2230 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, FURIOUS, SHEFFIELD and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FORESTER and FURY sailed from Gibraltar
into the Atlantic so as to be clear of the harbour should Vichy aircraft attack.
Then to proceed to RV with aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS.
9th – At 0700 hours west of the Straits of Gibraltar
Force H RVed with aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS, with 48 Hurricanes for Malta
embarked, and light cruiser NEPTUNE, escorted by destroyers VANSITTART, WIVERN,
WILD SWAN and WRESTLER who were sailing north, VICTORIOUS and NEPTUNE having
detached from convoy WS 8X.
FURIOUS and SHEFFIELD detached from Force H to return to the UK.
An exchange of aircraft and personnel took place between ARK ROYAL and
Destroyers VANSITTART, WIVERN, WILD SWAN and WRESTLER were detached and preceded
NEPTUNE was detached to Gibraltar to land German prisoners and captured
documents from the German supply ship GONZENEHEIM.
11th – Force H with VICTORIOUS arrived at Gibraltar.
(The next ‘club run’ for Force H was Operation TRACER the flying off to Malta of
47 Hurricanes from ARK ROYAL and VICTORIOUS. TRACER was to be a repeat of ROCKET
except the escorts would be RAF Hudson’s)
13th – Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL,
VICTORIOUS, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FOXHOUND,
HESPERUS and WISHART departed Gibraltar to fly off 47 Hurricanes to Malta,
14th - In position 38-56N, 3E the fly off of the 47
Hurricanes was carried out, of which 43 arrived safely at Malta.
15th – At 1030 hours Force H arrived back at
At 1800 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, VICTORIOUS, and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FORESIGHT, FORESTER and HESPERUS sailed from
Gibraltar to escort VICTORIOUS part way to the UK. In order to attempt to
confuse watchers in Spain they sailed east into the Mediterranean.
At 2050 hours Force H reversed course and passed through the straits and set
course for position 49N, 29-30W.
16th – At 0200 hours Somerville received a report,
timed at 2100/15/6/41, of two unidentified vessels departing from Brest. They
could have been the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU, so Force H was ordered to take up
a blocking position and cover convoy WS9A. Aerial reconnaissance later confirmed
that the two battle cruisers were still in Brest and the two unidentified
vessels were merchant ships.
17th – RENOWN refuelled HESPERUS.
VICTORIOUS and HESPERUS were detached to proceed to the UK.
18th - Destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESIGHT,
FORESTER and FOXHOUND were detached from Force H to return to Gibraltar.
21st – At 0800 hours RENOWN and ARK ROYAL returning to
Gibraltar RVed with destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESTER and FOXHOUND in
position 36N, 13W.
22nd – At 0230 hours RENOWN arrived back at Gibraltar.
ARK ROYAL with FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESTER and FOXHOUND carried on into the
Mediterranean to carry out exercises.
At 1000 hours ARK ROYAL, FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FORESTER and FOXHOUND arrived back
25th – At 1830 hours aircraft carrier FURIOUS, with 64
Hurricanes embarked for Malta and 9 Swordfish of 816 Squadron, cruiser HERMIONE,
and destroyers LEGION and LANCE, from the Home Fleet, and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FEARLESS, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and FURY, who had joined west of Gibraltar on the
24th, arrived at Gibraltar.
On arrival FURIOUS transferred 22 Hurricanes and the 9 Swordfish of 816 Squadron
to ARK ROYAL.
(The next ‘club run’ for Force H was Operation RAILWAY 1 the flying off to Malta
of 22 Hurricanes from ARK ROYAL)
26th – At 0400 hours RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE, and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, LANCE and LEGION sailed from Gibraltar on
Operation RAILWAY 1.
27th – At 0500 hours in approximate position 39N, 3E,
ARK ROYAL commenced flying off the 22 Hurricanes, the RAF provided an escort of
Blenheims. One Hurricane crashed on landing the remaining 21 Hurricanes arrived
safely at Malta.
28th – At 0930 hours Force H arrived back at
FURIOUS transferred 26 Hurricanes to ARK ROYAL.
(The next ‘club run’ for Force H was Operation RAILWAY 11 the flying off to
Malta of 26 Hurricanes from ARK ROYAL and 16 Hurricanes from FURIOUS).
At 1800 hours Operation RAILWAY 11 commenced with Force A comprising FURIOUS,
HERMIONE, and destroyers FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, LANCE and LEGION sailing from
Gibraltar and feinting to the west. After dark Force B reversed course.
29th – At 0130 hours Force B comprising RENOWN, ARK
ROYAL, and destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESTER, WISHART and AVONVALE.
At 0700 hours Force A and Force B joined forces. WISHART and AVONVALE detached
and returned to Gibraltar.
30th – At 0430 hours FURIOUS, FEARLESS, LANCE and
LEGION detached and moved to the south in preparation for flying off the
At 0515 hours in approximate position 39N, 3E, ARK ROYAL commenced flying off
her 26 Hurricanes; the RAF provided an escort of Blenheims.
At 0630 hours FURIOUS commenced flying off her 16 Hurricanes; the RAF provided
an escort of Blenheims. The first 9 Hurricanes were flown off without problems;
the tenth aircraft crashed into the bridge structure during take off and a long
range fuel tank fell off starting a fire on the flight deck. The accident caused
the death of 12 and injured 10. The accident prevented the last six aircraft
from being flown off.
(On 30/6/41 Somerville received a signal from the Admiralty advising him that
the RENOWN would be relieved by the REPULSE so that RENOWN could return to the
UK for a long-awaited refit)
(On 1/7/41 Somerville was advised by the Admiralty
that the REPULSE would
available to relieve
the RENOWN around the end of the month. Somerville informed the Admiralty that
he was convinced that the REPULSE was totally unsuited for any operation which
involved facing modern heavy ships or aircraft. The Admiralty, after
consideration of Somerville’s opinion, changed their orders so that, on 16/7/41,
when the RENOWN was ordered home to refit she was to be relieved instead by the
1st – At 1000 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
(The next operation for Force H was Operation
SUBSTANCE. This involved the passing of a convoy, GM 1, consisting of 6 MT ships
and a personnel ship; together with troops embarked in the escorting warships to
Malta. Also to cover the passage of convoy MG 1, 7 empty MT ships, from Malta to
Gibraltar. For the operation Force H was reinforced by a battleship, three
cruisers and 5 destroyers from the Home Fleet. Force X was the designated escort
to take GM 1 through to Malta and Force H was the designated covering force)
20th – At 0145 hours cruiser EDINBURGH, Flag of RA E N
Syfret, 18thCS, cruiser minelayer MANXMAN, and destroyers NESTOR, LIGHTNING,
FARNDALE, AVON VALE and ERIDGE sailed from Gibraltar to take over the escort of
convoy WC.9C. The convoy comprised the MT ships, MV DEUCALION 7740grt, MV DURHAM
10893grt, SS CITY OF PRETORIA 8046grt, MV MELBOURNE STAR 12086grt, MV PORT
CHALMERS 8535grt and MV SYDNEY STAR 11219grt.
At 1200 hours in position 36N, 9-10W, EDINBURGH, MANXMAN, and destroyers NESTOR,
LIGHTNING, FARNDALE, AVON VALE and ERIDGE joined convoy WC.9C.
Following which destroyers FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT and
FORESTER detached for Gibraltar.
20th – At 2345 hours Convoy WS.9C entered the Strait
of Gibraltar. There was thick fog in the Strait which caused problems with
timings in the early part of Operation SUBSTANCE.
21st - At 0145 hours having passed through the Strait
of Gibraltar the convoy number changed to GM1.
At 0200 hours The RFA oiler MV BROWN RANGER 3400grt escorted by destroyer
BEVERLEY sailed from Gibraltar.
At 0320 hours cruisers MANCHESTER and ARETHUSA sailed from Gibraltar to join
convoy GM1. (the troop carrier MV LEINSTER 4302grt, with 914 military personnel
embarked including RAF maintenance personnel for Malta, sailed at the same time
but in the fog she ran aground off Carnero Point, south of Algeciras, Spain).
At 0430 hours Force H comprising RENOWN, NELSON, ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and
destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESIGHT and FORESTER
sailed from Gibraltar. Owing to the fog all the units of Force H were ordered to
proceed independently to the eastward until daylight.
At 0530 hours destroyers COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH sailed from Gibraltar, these
should have been escorting the LEINSTER.
At 0600 hours all the ships of Force H had formed on
At 0630 hours three Swordfish from Gibraltar airfield arrived over ARK ROYAL.
They were ordered to search ahead for 40 miles to locate and report the position
of all ships. These aircraft reported sighting LEINSTER, although at the time
she was aground on the Spanish coast.
At 0630 hours Somerville signalled that the ships formed on RENOWN would be
known as Group 4, and those formed on the MT ships as Group 5. (This was because
Force H and X were mixed up and would not revert to H and X until the Skerki
Channel was reached)
At 0815 hours COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH joined Group 4.
At 0915 hours Somerville was informed by VA North Atlantic that LEINSTER was
(Because the RAF personnel were urgently required at Malta, Somerville did
consider sending HERMIONE back to embark them, but rejected the move on several
At 1000 hours clocks were advanced by two hours.
At 1230 hours Group 4 now comprising RENOWN, NELSON,
ARK ROYAL, HERMIONE and destroyers FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, COSSACK, MAORI and SIKH,
was abeam and to the north of Group 5.
At 1255 hours RENOWN in position 36-28N, 03-16W, a merchant ship, probably
Vichy, was sighted westbound, 15 miles north of RENOWN.
At 1500 hours Group 4 altered course to 060¼ to open out from Group 5.
At 1600 hours the two groups were 30 miles apart.
At 1900 hours RENOWN in position 37-02N, 00-41W, a merchant ship, probably
Vichy, was sighted northbound, 10 miles ESE of RENOWN.
22nd – At 0400 hours with RENOWN in position 38-16N,
01-59E Group 4 altered course to 070¼.
At 0700 hours with RENOWN in position 38-41N, 03-03E Group 4 altered course to
At 0715 hours ARK ROYAL flew off fighter and A/S patrols.
At 0850 hours an unidentified floatplane was sighted about 10 miles north of
Group 4. A few minutes later an Italian signal was intercepted timed at 0850,
which appeared to refer to Group 4.
At 1200 hours in position 37-41N, 04-32E Group 4 reversed course to the westward
to close the distance from Group 5.
At 1400 hours Group 4 turned east. At the same time aircraft were detected
passing 25 miles north of RENOWN.
At 1453 hours a visual signal was passed to the escorting RAF Sunderland to
locate Group 5 and inform RA 18thCS that group 4 would remain 20 miles to the
eastward of Group 5 during the night and close during the day.
At 1732 hours the Sunderland returned to Group 4 and signalled Group 5 bearing
240¼, 25 miles from RENOWN.
At 1800 hours in position 37-49N, 05-04E Group 4 streamed paravanes.
At 2030 hours Group 4 turned west.
At 2315 hours in position 38-03N, 05-45E, proceeding at 15 knots on course 085¼,
NESTOR, who was on the starboard wing of the destroyer screen reported a torpedo
approaching from starboard. RENOWN carried out a drastic turn to port shortly
afterwards 4 explosions were felt, the closest about a cable ahead of RENOWN.
(Whilst on the surface on patrol off Bougie,
Algeria, the Italian submarine DIASPRO fired four torpedoes against, what
she reported was an aircraft carrier, but failed to hit it anything. NESTOR
who had heard the torpedoes running, then launched an attack on the DIASPRO
who then fired two torpedoes against the NESTOR, narrowly missing NESTOR)
23rd – At 0648 hours ARK ROYAL flew off the first
fighter patrol of the day, and Group 4 closed Group 5.
Savoia-Marchetti SM.79’s and a torpedo
attack from ahead by 7 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79’s.
At 0657 hours RENOWN reported a shadowing aircraft in sight ahead of Group 4.
At 0729 hours a second shadowing aircraft was reported 10 miles to the north.
At 0745 hours Group 4 took up position on the port side of Group 5 in a flexible
column with the objective of providing AA protection. RENOWN and HERMIONE
remained in loose contact with ARK ROYAL to provide her with radar early warning
and protective AA fire.
At 0910 hours a group of 8 enemy aircraft was detected at 60 miles bearing 055¼.
At 0942 hours in 37-40N, 8-20E the air attack commenced and developed into a
synchronised high level bombing attack by the 8
By 0947 hours the attack was over.
In the attack the destroyer FEARLESS was torpedoed on the port side aft, 26 crew
were killed, all electrical power was lost causing FEARLESS to be entirely
disabled. Somerville ordered FORESTER to take off the crew and sink FEARLESS.
This action was completed by 1055 hours.
Also torpedoed in the attack was the cruiser MANCHESTER who was hit on the port
side aft. MANCHESTER had 26 crew killed and 1 wounded, also 13 military
personnel were killed and 4 wounded (MANCHESTER had embarked 750 military
personnel, mostly the 8th Battalion King's Own Royal Regiment). She was severely
damaged and only her starboard outer shaft was operational. Somerville ordered
MANCHESTER back to Gibraltar escorted by AVON VALE.
At 1011 hours in position 37-47N, 08-22E, 5 high level bombers, probably
Fiat BR.20’s, attacked from 17,000 feet bombs fell close to FOXHOUND
and SIKH who were on the port bow of the screen.
At 1643 hours a group of aircraft was detected at 43
miles, flying at 5000 feet, bearing 338¼, closing the convoy.At 1945 hours, north of Cape Bon, a the high level
bombing attack took place on the convoy, in which FIREDRAKE was seriously
damaged when she was narrowly missed by a 500kg bomb which exploded on her
starboard side, close alongside No.1 boiler room, causing severe structural
damage; the side plating which was blown inwards from upper deck to bilge keel
over most of the length of No.1 boiler room, and over the fore end of No.2
boiler room; both boiler rooms were flooded and Nos.1 and 2 boilers actually
shifted position as a result of the blast. Syfret ordered ERIDGE to stand by
At 1658 hours 5 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo bombers led by a Cant Z.506B
floatplane were sighted low down on the port quarter being chased by FAA
Fulmars. The Fulmars broke up the attack and no attack developed on the convoy.
At 1713 hours the entrance to the Skerki Channel was reached. HERMIONE was
detached from Group 4 to take MANCHESTER’s place in Force X.
Force H comprising RENOWN, NELSON, ARK ROYAL, DUNCAN, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESIGHT,
FORESTER and LIGHTENING remained to the west of the Skerki Channel.
By 2038 hours ERIDGE had FIREDRAKE under tow heading west for Gibraltar.
24th – At 0100 hours in position 37-42N, 07-17E, ARK
ROYAL flew off 6 Swordfish fitted with long range tanks for Malta, All arrived
safely.a Cant Z.506B floatplane shadower was sighted 10
miles east of RENOWN and was shot down by a Fulmar.
At 0615 hours Force H was in position 37-35N, 05-15E. ARK ROYAL flew off two
Swordfish to locate the MANCHESTER.
At 0710 hours the Swordfish reported MANCHESTER in position 37-19N, 03-44E.
At 0816 hours
At 1000 hours Force H was in position 37-18N, 04-30E, steering 290¼ at 18 knots.
Convoy MG 1, which had sailed from Malta commencing 0500/23/7/41, was in three
groups ranging from 20 miles to 40 miles east of Galita Island, with one ship
just having left Malta.
ERIDGE and FIREDRAKE were
south of Galita Island making 8 knots and AVON VALE and MANCHESTER were about 60
miles west of RENOWN making 11 knots.
At 1345 hours in approximate position 37-48N, 03-24E, Force H reversed course
and steered eastward.
At 1445 hours in position 37-45N, 03-47E ARK ROYAL flew off 5 Swordfish to
search to a depth of 90 miles between bearings 000¼ and 100¼. Nothing was
25th – At 0130 hours in approximate position 37-40N,
08-15E, Force H reversed course and steered westward.
At 0330 hours Force H reversed course and steered eastwards to RV with Force X.
At 0512 hours a flashing light was sighted to the north east, of RENOWN, this
turned out to be the Italian hospital ship SORRENTO.
At 0556 hours in position 37-37N, 07-32E, ARK ROYAL flew off 3 Swordfish to
carry out a search for enemy forces between Force H and Force X. Nothing was
At 0615 hours ARK ROYAL flew off a fighter patrol.
At 0815 hours in position 37-49N, 08-56E, Force H RVed with Force X, which was
minus FARNDALE who had remained at Malta with condenser trouble. Course was then
set for Gibraltar at NELSON’s best speed.
At 1035 hours a large group of aircraft was detected bearing 080¼, 69 miles and
closing. The attack was broken up by the Fulmars and the attackers jettisoned
their bombs away on RENOWN’s port quarter.
At 1720 hours FORESTER was detached to proceed at her best speed for Gibraltar
to land the wounded and survivors from FEARLESS.
26th – During the day the units of Force H and X
passed the ERIDGE and FIREDRAKE now escorted by AVON VALE. Somerville signalled
all the ships of the Force to cheer the FIREDRAKE as they passed her, and every
ship with all their crews on deck cheered FIREDRAKE they sailed by.
The supply ship BRECONSHIRE and the MV TALABOT, both part of convoy MG 1,
escorted by destroyer ENCOUNTER arrived at Gibraltar.
The destroyer FORESTER with the MV AMERIKA and the MV THERMOPYLAE, both part of
convoy MG 1, arrived later in the day at Gibraltar.
27th – At 0300 hours ARETHUSA, HERMIONE and MANXMAN
were detached to proceed to Gibraltar.
At 0600 hours ARK ROYAL, EDINBURGH and 4 destroyers were detached to proceed to
On arrival off Gibraltar, Somerville carried out an exercise to test the
efficiency of the Fortress Artillery. The result of which Somerville stated that
the exercise demonstrated the lamentable inefficiency of the Fortress Artillery.
At 0900 hours RENOWN and the remainder of the force entered Gibraltar.
Later in the day the SS SETTLER and the MV HOEGH HOOD, both part of convoy MG 1,
arrived at Gibraltar.
28th – The tanker MV SVENOR, part of convoy MG 1, who
was damaged by bombing on 24/7/41, arrived at Gibraltar.
(So ended Operation SUBSTANCE. All the ships of convoy GM 1 had arrived at Malta
and delivered 65,000 tons of food, equipment, fuel and ammunition. The 7 MT
ships of MG 1 had reached Gibraltar safety. Somerville was surprised to learn
that a number of women and children had been embarked in the ships of MG 1. Had
he have known before the vessels sailed he said he would have provided more
29th – At Gibraltar where Somerville hauled down his
flag in RENOWN and hoisted it in NELSON.
(The next operation for Force H was Operation STYLE. This operation was
necessary to convey the military personnel and equipment that had been embarked
in the LEINSTER and MANCHESTER to Malta. The forces involved were split into
Force H and Force X. Force X carried the military personnel and equipment to
Malta while Force H would create a diversion and provide cover)
30th – At 0030 hours in thick fog Force H comprising
ARK ROYAL and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, NESTOR, FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESIGHT,
FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ENCOUNTER, and ERIDGE sailed from Gibraltar on Operation
At 0600 hours NELSON and RENOWN sailed from Gibraltar on Operation STYLE, they
should have sailed with the rest of Force H but were unable to leave due to the
The combined Force H then steered eastwards.
Force S the RFA oiler BROWN RANGER escorted by AVON VALE sailed from Gibraltar.
31st – Force X comprising cruisers HERMIONE and
ARETHUSA and cruiser minelayer MANXMAN with destroyers SIKH and LIGHTNING sailed
from Gibraltar with 1746 military personnel embarked for Malta.
At 1900 hours in position 40-23N, 04-05E, COSSACK and MAORI were detached from
Force H and proceeded to Alghero, Sardinia.
1st – At 0200 hours COSSACK and MAORI entered Alghero
harbour, using their searchlights and firing star shell they attempted to find
targets of opportunity but the harbour was empty of shipping so they demolished
the Custom House. Following which they withdrew to re-join Force H.
At 0310 hours in position 40-47N, 6-20E ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 9
Swordfish to carry out a bombing attack on Alghero airfield.
(These two events were meant to make the Italian’s believe that a landing was
about to be made on the north Sardinian coast).
At 0600 hours in position 40-00N, 06-30 E, ARK ROYAL commenced recovery of the
Swordfish. The third aircraft to land on had a 40lb GP bomb which ‘had hung up’,
as the aircraft touched down the bomb fell off and exploded, killing the crew
and two of the deck party. After carrying out temporary repairs the remaining
Force H then steered south to provide cover for Force X.
During the day the Force H destroyers re-fuelled from BROWN RANGER.
2nd – At 0900 hours Force X arrived at Malta. They
quickly unloaded the reinforcements and stores.
At 1600 hours Force X departed Malta with destroyer FARNDALE with her condenser
problems repaired. However, FARNDALE with further problems that reduced her
speed to 18 knots had to return to Malta for additional repair.
3rd – At 0600 hours in position 37-26N, 7-48E, Force H
RVed with Force X. Course was then set for Gibraltar at RENOWN’s best speed,
which was much reduced due to damage to her port bulge.
4th – At 1900 hours Force H and Force X arrived back
RENOWN immediately entered dry dock to have her bulge repaired.
(This successful operation was the last time RENOWN would operate with Force H
as she had been nominated for a UK refit. Since joining Force H RENOWN had
steamed 74,164 miles and had spent 232 days at sea)
8th – At 0145 hours RENOWN, the troopship PASTEUR,
carrying 15 officers and 157 ratings of damaged light cruiser MANCHESTER,
escorted by destroyers COSSACK, MAORI, ZULU, and LIGHTNING sailed from Gibraltar
for the UK.
12th - At 1700 hours in position 55-45N, 13W,
INGLEFIELD, IMPULSIVE, and ECLIPSE joined and COSSACK, MAORI, ZULU, LIGHTNING
and PASTEUR detached.
14th – At 1100 hours RENOWN arrived at Rosyth for her
(Statistical Note: RENOWN had steamed 185,000 miles since 3/9/39 and had spent
381 days at sea)
16th – Refit commenced.
26th – At Rosyth where Captain Sir Charles Saumarez
Daniel, CBE, DSO, RN took over command of RENOWN.
Under refit at Rosyth.
During the refit she received a major overhaul of the boilers, engines and
Deck penetrations, mainly valves, through the armoured deck were modified by
fitting heavy duty valves. This modification was carried out following the loss
of the HOOD.
Close range AA armament was enhanced by fitting 6 single 20mm Oerlikons.
She was fitted with the latest radar equipment: Type 273/M/P: Surface warning
(this replaced the Type 271 fitted earlier in the year); Type 281 Long range air
warning; Type 282 Pom-pom directors; Type 284/M/P Main armament directors; Type
285/M/P x 3. Also HA directors FH 2 and HF/DF.
Under refit at Rosyth.
24th – Undocked.
At Rosyth carrying out harbour trials.
21st – At 1600 hours RENOWN departed Rosyth escorted
by destroyers ARROW, VIMIERA, and WALLACE, for Scapa Flow.
22nd – At 0900 hours RENOWN arrived at Scapa Flow to
commence working up. On arrival Vice Admiral Sir Alban Thomas Buckley
Curteis CB RN, Vice-Admiral Commanding 2nd Battle
Squadron & Second-in-Command, Home Fleet hoisted his flag in RENOWN.
20th – At Scapa Flow the Flag of Vice Admiral, Second
in Command Home Fleet was transferred from RENOWN to base ship DUNLUCE CASTLE.
At 1500 hours RENOWN with destroyers MONTROSE, WORCESTER, and FORESTER departed
Scapa Flow to RV with battleship RODNEY with destroyers WALKER, VERITY, and
WITHERINGTON in position 61-00N, 14-30W.
21st – At 1400 hours RENOWN and RODNEY RVed and
22nd – At 1245 hours RENOWN, with destroyers WALKER,
VERITY, and WITHERINGTON arrived at Hvalfjord.
(This deployment followed from ENIGMA decrypts
indicating that TIRPITZ was ready to leave the Baltic and that the
SCHARNHORST, GNEISENAU and PRINZ EUGEN were preparing to break out from
Brest. RENOWN was positioned to intercept the German vessels should they
attempt a breakout into the Atlantic)
1 9 4 2
11th – At Hvalfjord where heavy cruiser KENT flying
the flag of Vice Admiral Curteis. On arrival the flag of Vice Admiral Curteis
was transferred to RENOWN.
3rd – RENOWN, RODNEY and aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS
sailed from Hvalfjord to carry out exercises.
12th – RENOWN, escorted by destroyers ICARUS,
INGLEFIELD and MARNE sailed from Hvalfjord to carry out exercises.
19th - RENOWN with INGLEFIELD, FURY and ECHO remained
Battleship KING GEORGE V, aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS, heavy cruiser BERWICK and
destroyers ONSLOW, BEDOUIN, TARTAR, ESKIMO, ASHANTI, PUNJABI and ICARUS sailed
from Hvalfjord to launch an air strike on Tromso.
(The next operation RENOWN was involved in was
covering the passage of convoys PQ 12 and QP 8. On the 23/2/42 the TIRPITZ was
joined in Trondheim Fjord by the ADMIRAL SCHEER and the damaged PRINZ EUGEN.
Therefore there was a strong possibility that the next arctic convoys might be
heavy surface units. To counter this possibility the Home Fleet mounted an
operation with all its heavy units to provide a heavy covering force. Admiral
Tovey the CinC Home Fleet believed that the most dangerous area would be between
Jan Mayer and Bear Islands. Therefore on 26/2/42 Tovey asked that the next
outward and homeward Arctic convoys be sailed simultaneously so that they would
pass through the danger area at the same time. For the first eight days of the
operation the weather conditions were extreme with storms up to force 10, snow
showers, icing and poor visibility)
1st – Convoy PQ 12 sailed from Reykjavik with local
escort of trawlers ANGLE, CHILTERN, STELLA CAPELLA and whalers SHERA and STEFA.
(STELLA CAPELLA and SHERA lost believed overwhelmed by the weather conditions)
2nd – At 1330 hours the battleship DUKE OF YORK, light
cruiser KENYA and destroyers FAULKNOR, ESKIMO, PUNJABI and ECLIPSE arrived at
Hvalfjord from Scapa.
3rd – At 0600 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron of the
Home Fleet comprising RENOWN Flag VA 2ndBS, DUKE OF YORK, KENYA and destroyers
FAULKNOR, FURY, ECHO ESKIMO, PUNJABI and ECLIPSE sailed from Hvalfjord
northwards around Iceland to provide distant cover for convoy PQ 12.
4th – At 0600 hours the Home Fleet comprising
battleship KING GEORGE V, Flag Admiral Sir John Cronyn Tovey DSO RN, CinC Home
Fleet, aircraft carrier VICTORIOUS, cruiser BERWICK and destroyers ASHANTI,
BEDOUIN, ICARUS, INTREPID, LOOKOUT and ONSLOW sailed from Scapa.
At 0700 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron was off the NW of Iceland, where FAULKNOR
and ESKIMO were detached to refuel in Seidisfjord.
At 1600 hours BERWICK detached to return to Scapa with engine trouble and was
escorted by BEDOUIN.
At 2300 hours KENYA detached from the Home Fleet and proceeded ahead to join the
escort of PQ 12.
At 2300 hours BEDOUIN detached from BERWICK with orders to proceed to the aid of
the damaged SHEFFIELD, mined off Seidisfjord.
5th – At 0600 hours A Fw 200 reconnaissance aircraft
of Gruppe 1, KG40 from Trondheim-Vaernes airfield, sighted and reported PQ 12 in
position 69-22N, 08-27W, 100 miles south of Jan Mayen Island.
(The signal was picked up by the Y service and
passed to Bletchley Path who, because they had broken the GAF Enigma,
decoded it almost immediately. The information was then passed to Tovey)
At 1200 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron was in position
66-45N, 06-30W about 100 miles south of PQ 12 and steering northerly.
At 1200 hours the Home Fleet was about 100 miles bearing 154¼ from the 2nd
Battle Squadron and steering northerly.
At 1900 hours KENYA joined the escort of PQ 12.
At 2000 hours the 2nd Battle Squadron altered course easterly to affect a RV
with the Home Fleet.
6th – At 1030 hours In position 71-00N, 4-30E the 2nd
battle squadron RVed with the Home Fleet, the two forces joined together,
continuing to steer northerly.
The home Fleet now comprised KING GEORGE V, RENOWN, DUKE OF YORK, VICTORIOUS and
destroyers ASHANTI, ICARUS, INTREPID, LOOKOUT, ONSLOW, FURY ECHO, PUNJABI and
At 1100 hours the TIRPITZ sailed from the upper Trondheim Fjord on Operation
SPORTPLAST, escorted by destroyers FRIEDRICH IHN, HERMANN SCHOEMANN and Z25 and
steered north to intercept the convoy reported by the Fw 200 reconnaissance
At 1400 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south.
At 1801 hours the submarine SEAWOLF sighted TIRPITZ off Trondheim, but was
forced to dive and therefore unable to report until she surfaced.
At 1945 hours SEAWOLF surfaced and signalled the Admiralty reporting 'a large
warship, either a battleship or a heavy cruiser'.
7th – At 0010 hours Tovey received the news of
SEAWOLF’s sighting. Tovey now knew that TIRPITZ was out but was unsure if
TIRPITZ is intending to attack the convoy or break out into the Atlantic.
(Early in the morning Tovey planned that
VICTORIOUS would launch reconnaissance aircraft to search out to 120 miles
in the sector 065¼ to 115¼. However due to the severe icing conditions no
flying was possible. TIRPITZ who at the time was approximately 90 miles away
had planed to launch two Ar 196 aircraft to fly a reconnaissance, but had to
abandon the reconnaissance for the same reason)
At 1122 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the
At 1200 hours convoys PQ 12 and QP 8 passed each other 200 miles SW of Bear
At 1630 hours in approximate position 72-35N, 10-30E, the German destroyer
FRIEDRICH IHN, which was detached from TIRPITZ, sank a straggler from QP
8, the Russian MV IJORA 2815grt.
At 1750 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the east. At the same time the
destroyers ICARUS and INTREPID detached to Iceland to refuel.
At 2000 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the north. At the same time the
destroyers ONSLOW (D17), ASHANTI, ECHO, ECLIPSE, FURY and PUNJABI were detached
to sweep north between the Home Fleet and the Lofoten Islands along what Tovey
considered to be the enemy’s most likely return route, before returning to
Iceland to refuel.
(This deployment was based on intercepted
signals from TIRPITZ that were read almost simultaneously by BP and passed
At 2400 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the
south so that Tovey could be in position off the Lofoten Islands to launch a
strike force at dawn.
8th – At 0400 hours Tovey, who’s Fleet now comprised
KING GEORGE V, VICTORIOUS, DUKE OF YORK, RENOWN and the destroyer LOOKOUT,
decided that he had missed TIRPITZ and since he was without destroyers in
dangerous waters, he turned SW towards Iceland to collect some destroyers.
At 0800 hours the destroyers ONSLOW (D17), ASHANTI, ECHO, ECLIPSE, FURY and
PUNJABI having sighted nothing set course for Seidisfjord to refuel.
At 1820 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the north east.
At 1830 hours Tovey broke radio silence with a signal to the Admiralty
requesting destroyers and refuelling facilities for his destroyers.
(On receipt of this signal the Admiralty
ordered 4 cruisers to positions between Jan Mayer and Bear Islands to refuel
destroyers and assembled all available destroyers which were then sailed to
the aid of the Home Fleet)
At 2000 hours the TIRPITZ when SE of Bear Island and
steering W away from PQ 12, decided to abandoned her search for the convoy. She
had passed only 80 miles astern of the convoy at 1200/8/3/42. TIRPITZ then set
course to return to Trondheim.
9th – At 0240 hours the Admiralty signalled Tovey that
TIRPITZ was heading south.
At 0243 hours the Home Fleet altered course to the south east to close the
At 0640 hours Tovey ordered VICTORIOUS to fly off a reconnaissance force of 6
Albacores on a diverging search between 105 degrees and 155 degrees to a depth
of 150 miles to search for the TIRPITZ.
At 0730 hours a strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying Albacores, 5 from 817 Sqd
and 7 from 832 Sqd, was flown off VICTORIOUS. At the time of launch TIRPITZ was
115 miles to their east.
At 0802 hours Albacore F of 832 Sqd sighted the TIRPITZ and the destroyer
FRIEDRICH IHN sailing south, and made a report. Shortly after being sighted
TIRPITZ and FRIEDRICH IHN turned east for Vestfjord and Narvik
At 0917 hours TIRPITZ was attacked by the strike force of 12 torpedo-carrying
Albacores. The attack failed although one torpedo only missed TIRPITZ’s stern by
30 feet, 2 Albacores were shot down.
At 0940 hours the Home Fleet turned west then SW
At 1545 hours the Home Fleet was attacked by 3 Ju 88 bombers, one bomb landed
close astern of VICTORIOUS but no damaged was caused.
At 1620 hours TIRPITZ and FRIEDRICH IHN arrived at Narvik.
At 1840 hours FAULKNOR, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO and TARTAR joined the Home Fleet.
At various times during the Home Fleets return to Scapa the Fleet was joined by
the destroyers that the Admiralty had assembled at Tovey’s request. These were
the destroyers JAVELIN, INCONSTANT, VERDUN, LANCASTER, LEDBURY, GROVE, WOOLSTON
and WELLS joined the fleet.
10th – At 2300 hours KING GEORGE V, VICTORIOUS, DUKE
OF YORK, RENOWN, LOOKOUT, FAULKNOR, BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, TARTAR, JAVELIN,
INCONSTANT, VERDUN, LANCASTER, LEDBURY, GROVE, WOOLSTON and WELLS arrived at
were poorly served by the Luftwaffe who only sighted PQ 12 once and
completely missed QP 8and B-Dienst were completely unaware of the Home
Fleets presence until Tovey broke radio silence. Even so TIRPITZ failed by a
very narrow margin in finding the convoys. In contrast Tovey was well served
by good intelligence from the Admiralty which was based on appreciations by
OIC and decoded intercepts from BP. This intelligence led to air strike
against TIRPITZ which almost succeeded and was the only time that the FAA
were to attack TIRPITZ in the open sea)
(So ended what for both sides had been a
frustrating operation. The appalling weather affected both sides operations.
20th – Sailed from Scapa to carry out exercises with
the destroyer FAULKNOR.
21st - Sailed from Scapa to carry out exercises with
the destroyer FAULKNOR.
22nd – At Scapa where the flag of the VA 2nd BS was
hauled down and moved the KING GEORGE V.
heavy surface units was a possibility. So Tovey again had to provide heavy
distant cover for the two convoys. What was not known by the Admiralty was that
heavy unit were limited by lack of destroyers and low fuel stocks. This
operation again took place in exceptionally bad weather )
(The next operation RENOWN was involved in was covering the passage of convoys
PQ 13 and QP 9. The TIRPITZ was in Trondheim Fjord with the ADMIRAL SCHEER and
the ADMIRAL HIPPER. The Admiralty considered that another sortie by the
22nd – The Home Fleet comprising KING GEORGE V, DUKE
of YORK, RENOWN, VICTORIOUS cruisers KENT and EDINBURGH and destroyers ASHANTI,
ECHO, ESCAPADE, ESKIMO, FORESIGHT, ICARUS, INGLEFIELD, MARNE, ONSLOW, PUNJABI and
TARTAR sailed from Scapa to provide distant cover for convoys PQ 13 and QP 8.
28th – The Home Fleet returned to Scapa.
12th – At 0830 hours RENOWN with the anti-aircraft
cruiser CHARYBDIS, and destroyers INGLEFIELD (D3) and ECHO sailed from Scapa for
The Broad Pendant of Captain C.S. Daniel, CBE, DSO, Royal Navy, was hoisted in
13th – At 0740 hours RENOWN, CHARYBDIS, and destroyers
INGLEFIELD (D3) and ECHO arrived in the Clyde off Greenock.
(RENOWN was to take part in Operation CALENDAR. The operation to fly off RAF
Spitfires from the US carrier USS WASP. The WASP arrived in the Clyde on 10/4/42
and entered the King George V dock, where on the 12 and 13 of April she took on
board 47 Spitfire Vcs and Spitfire pilots of 601 and 603 RAF Squadrons. The WASP
had landed most of her air component but retained 12 F4F Wildcat fighters for
14th – At 0700 hours Force W comprising RENOWN
(Senior Officer), USS WASP and destroyers INGLEFIELD (D 3), ECHO, PARTRIDGE,
ITHURIEL, USS MADISON and USS LANG sailed from the Clyde for Gibraltar on
(The Spitfires as loaded were painted in
standard camouflage schemes. En route the Spitfires were over painted with
US Navy Blue to afford them some camouflage whilst over the sea for the
flight to Malta. Also whilst on board it was found that the long range fuel
tanks, guns and radios were defective. The crew of the WASP and the small
number of RAF maintenance personnel embarked did their best to remedy the
17th – The destroyers ANTELOPE, VIDETTE, WESTCOTT,
WISHART and WRESTLER from Gibraltar joined the escort and INGLEFIELD, ECHO,
PARTRIDGE, ITHURIEL, MADISON and LANG detached to refuel at Gibraltar.
19th – In the early hours of the morning Force W
passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.
Off Gibraltar the anti-aircraft cruisers CHARYBDIS and CAIRO joined the escort.
20th – At 0500 hours in position 37-30N, 03-20E,
WASP commenced flying off her 12 F4F Wildcat fighters to provide a combat air
patrol whilst the Spitfires were launched.
At 0545 hours the flying off of the 47 Spitfires commenced, all being
At 0650 hours Force W reversed course and steered for Gibraltar.
but many were destroyed in German
bombing raids, launched to coincide with their arrival. After 48 hours only
7 were operational. Within three days all had been lost. On the 26/4/42
Winston Churchill asked President Roosevelt to let the carrier WASP make a
second run to Malta to deliver further Spitfires. Churchill said 'without
this aid I fear Malta will be pounded to bits'. Malta's defence, he added,
is aiding Russia's defence, where the worst winter in 140 years is ending.
Roosevelt agreed to WASP making a further ferry run to Malta. The second
operation was named Operation BOWERY)
(All 47 Spitfires arrived safely at Ta’Qali
21st – At 0600 hours off Gibraltar RENOWN,
CHARYBDIS and CAIRO detached from the WASP force and entered Gibraltar harbour.
(WASP returned to the Clyde where she loaded
50 Spitfires for Malta. After loading the Spitfires WASP sailed from the
Clyde on 3/5/42 on Operation BOWERY)
3th - USS WASP escorted by INTREPID, ECHO, STERETT,
and LANG left the Clyde for Gibraltar for Operation BOWERY
7th – Off the Strait of Gibraltar the USS WASP and
destroyers INTREPID, ECHO, USS STERETT and USS LANG were joined by destroyers
ANTELOPE, WESTCOTT, WISHART and WRESTLER.
Following which INTREPID, ECHO, USS STERETT and USS LANG detached for Gibraltar.
8th – In early hours Force W comprising RENOWN
(Senior Officer), CHARYBDIS, aircraft carrier EAGLE with 14 embarked Spitfires
for Malta and destroyers ITHURIEL, PARTRIDGE, VIDETTE, GEORGETOWN and SALISBURY
sailed from Gibraltar and joined the USS WASP and destroyers ANTELOPE, WESTCOTT,
WISHART and WRESTLER on Operation BOWERY.
9th – At 0500 hours in position 37-30N, 03-20E,
WASP commenced flying off her 12 F4F Wildcat fighters to provide a combat air
patrol whilst the Spitfires were launched.
By 0630 hours all 64 Spitfires had been launched from both WASP and EAGLE. One
crashed on take off from WASP and another one from WASP, flown by Pilot Officer
Jerrold Alpine 'Jerry' Smith, had to ditch its long range tank so circled WASP
until the last Spitfire had been flown off. Despite orders stating that pilots
in trouble were to bale out, Smith decided to land back on. His first attempt he
was too high and the Deck Landing Officer waved him off. Smith went round for
another attempt and although approaching a little too fast, was given the signal
to cut his engine. The Spitfire bumped down on the deck and Smith immediately
applied full brakes and, although he took almost the full length of the deck,
managed to stop about fifteen feet from the end. This was the first landing of a
Spitfire on a carrier deck, which was quite a feat without an arrester hook.
The US Navy pilots of VF-71, the Wildcat Squadron on board the WASP, were so
impressed that they presented Smith with a cake and a pair of Navy Wings in
appreciation of his feat.
The remaining 62 aircraft arrived safely at Malta.
At 0743 hours Force W reversed course and steered for Gibraltar.
As they came in to land the new arrivals were guided by
ground crews to blast pens, where they were re-armed, refuelled and were
immediately taken over by experienced Malta pilots who were ready for action
within 30 minutes of the aircraft landing. On 11/5/42
Churchill sent a message to the WASP stating
'Many Thanks To You For All The Timely Help. Who Said a Wasp Can't Sting Twice?')
(This time the Spitfires were distributed
between the airfields of Ta’Qali, Hal Far and Luqa airfields.
10th – As Force W approached the Strait of
Gibraltar the destroyers
INTREPID, ECHO, USS STERETT
and USS LANG joined.
Following which CHARYBDIS, EAGLE, ANTELOPE, WESTCOTT, WISHART, WRESTLER,
PARTRIDGE, VIDETTE, GEORGETOWN and SALISBURY detached for Gibraltar.
Having passed into the Atlantic, Force W steered for Scapa.
11th - ITHURIEL detached from Force W to RV with
14th - The Broad Pendant of Commodore C.S. Daniel,
CBE, DSO as Senior Officer, Force W, was struck in the RENOWN.
15th - At 0830 hours RENOWN, USS WASP, INTREPID,
ECHO, USS LANG, and STERETT arrived at Scapa
23rd – The RENOWN, cruiser CUMBERLAND and
destroyers SOMALI (D6), MATCHLESS and ECHO sailed from Scapa for Hvalfjord.
25th - The RENOWN, CUMBERLAND and destroyers SOMALI
(D6), MATCHLESS and ECHO arrived at Hvalfjord.
14th - RENOWN, VICTORIOUS and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FURY, ECLIPSE, ECHO, and WHEATLAND sailed from Hvalfjord to Scapa.
16th - RENOWN, VICTORIOUS and destroyers FAULKNOR,
FURY, ECLIPSE, ECHO, and WHEATLAND arrived at Scapa.
24th – RENOWN and destroyers SOMALI (D 6), WILTON,
and LEDBURY sailed from Scapa for Hvalfjord.
26th - RENOWN and destroyers SOMALI (D 6), WILTON,
and LEDBURY arrived at Hvalfjord.
25th – RENOWN and destroyers OFFA, INGLEFIELD, and
INTREPID sailed from Hvalfjord for Scapa.
27th - RENOWN and destroyers OFFA, INGLEFIELD, and
INTREPID arrived at Scapa.
26th – RENOWN and destroyers FARNDALE, PARTRIDGE, and
PUCKERIDGE sailed from Scapa for the Clyde to give crew leave and undertake
27th – RENOWN and destroyers FARNDALE, PARTRIDGE,
and PUCKERIDGE arrived off Greenock.
24th - RENOWN escorted by destroyers ROTHERHAM,
OBDURATE and PORCUPINE sailed from Greenock for Scapa.
25th - RENOWN escorted by destroyers ROTHERHAM,
OBDURATE and PORCUPINE arrived at Scapa.
15th - RENOWN and battleship DUKE OF YORK, escorted
by destroyers FAULKNOR, MIDDLETON, ESCAPADE, and MARNE left Scapa for Rosyth for
16th - RENOWN and battleship DUKE OF YORK, escorted
by destroyers FAULKNOR, MIDDLETON, ESCAPADE, and MARNE arrived at Rosyth for
19th - RENOWN escorted by destroyers ONSLOW,
TARTAR, and FORESTER sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.
20th - RENOWN escorted by destroyers ONSLOW,
TARTAR, and FORESTER arrived Scapa from Rosyth.
(The next operation that RENOWN took part in was Operation TORCH the Allied
invasion of North West Africa. RENOWN was to be part of Force H, which was
reinforced by units from the Home Fleet and would be under the command of
Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Neville Syfret CB RN. The task of Force H was to hold
off any attack by the Italian fleet and to provide cover for the Centre and
Eastern Task Forces that would land at Oran and Algiers)
30th – Force X comprising the battleships DUKE OF
YORK (Flag Officer Commanding, Force H) and NELSON, RENOWN, cruiser ARGONAUT and
destroyers MILNE, MARTIN, METEOR, ASHANTI, TARTAR, ESKIMO, and HMAS QUIBERON
sailed from Scapa to RV with carrier force from the Clyde.
31st – In position 55-30N, 10W Force X RVed with
the carrier force comprising aircraft carriers VICTORIOUS (Rear Admiral Aircraft
Carriers, Home Fleet) and FORMIDABLE and destroyers PATHFINDER, PARTRIDGE,
PORCUPINE, QUENTIN, and QUALITY. The combined force became Force H which then
set course for Gibraltar.
6th – In the early hours Force H passed through the
Strait of Gibraltar. During the day the ships of Force H refuelled at Gibraltar.
7th – In the early hours Force H sailed from Gibraltar
and steered into the Mediterranean to take up their covering position for
8th – At 0100 hours the assault by the Eastern and
Centre Task forces commences. Force H takes up a covering position south of the
Balearic Islands to longitude 4-30E.
At 1715 hours a group of German He 111 and Ju 88 torpedo bombers evaded the
fighter patrols and in the gathering dusk they attacked Force H. No damage was
caused; much of the credit for repelling the attack was down to the alertness of
RENOWN’s anti-aircraft batteries.
10th – At 0354 hours in position 37.53N, 03.57E,
U-431 fired four torpedoes at Force H and reported three hits on a Leander-class
cruiser, which blew up and a destroyer damaged. However, the only ship hit was
the destroyer MARTIN who blew up and sank with the loss of 161of her crew.
15th – Force H returned to Gibraltar.
24th – Force H comprising NELSON, RENOWN,
FORMIDABLE, FURIOUS and destroyers ESKIMO, LOOKOUT, METEOR, MILNE, PARTRIDGE,
PATHFINDER, PENN, PORCUPINE, PUCKERIDGE and TARTAR sailed from Gibraltar for
25th – Force H arrived at Mers-el-Kebir.
26th – Force H sailed from Mers-el-Kebir and
patrolled south of Mallorca to prevent any possible intervention by Vichy ships
destroyed 3 battleships, 7
cruisers, 15 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 6 sloops, 12 submarines, 9 patrol
boats and 19 auxiliary ships)
(This deployment resulted from Allied decrypts of German signals stating that
the French Fleet was to be seized by German forces. The allies were unsure of
what the Vichy reaction would be so Force H was deployed as a precaution should
the Vichy Fleet side with the Germans. In the event when the Germans moved
against the Vichy Fleet in the early hours of 27/11/42 the fleet scuttled. The
30th – Force H returned to
4th – Force H comprising NELSON, RENOWN, FORMIDABLE,
FURIOUS, cruiser CHARYBDIS and destroyers ANTELOPE, METEOR, MILNE, PARTRIDGE,
PATHFINDER, PENN PORCUPINE, PUCKERIDGE, QUALITY and QUIBERON sailed from Mers-el-
Kebir for Gibraltar.
6th – Force H arrived at Gibraltar.
1 9 4 3
1st – At Gibraltar RENOWN was visited by the First Sea
Lord Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound RN.
2nd – At Gibraltar where Captain William Edward Parry
CB, RN took over as captain of RENOWN.
2nd – RENOWN and aircraft carrier FURIOUS with
destroyers BOREAS, BRILLIANT, VANOC, WISHART and WIVERN sailed from Gibraltar
for the UK.
In the Atlantic off the Strait of Gibraltar they RVed with aircraft carrier
ILLUSTRIOUS and destroyers PANTHER, PATHFINDER and PENN.
5th – In the morning RENOWN, FURIOUS and ILLUSTRIOUS
arrived in the Clyde.
In the afternoon, RENOWN and destroyers BOADICEA and LAUDERDALE sailed from the
Clyde for Rosyth.
7th – RENOWN and destroyers BOADICEA and LAUDERDALE
arrived at Rosyth to commence a refit.
22nd – Docked for commencement of refit.
March to April
Refitting at Rosyth.
Refitting at Rosyth.
During the refit her aircraft and aircraft facilities were removed. One hanger
was turned into a cinema and the other into a seaman's mess.
Radar Type 283/M fitted to provide Anti-aircraft Barrage Control for Main and
Nine 20mm single Oerlikons fitted.
Refitting at Rosyth.
19th – Un-docked on completion of refit.
20th – At 2100 hours RENOWN and destroyers OBEDIENT,
ONSLAUGHT and SCORPION sailed from Rosyth for Scapa.
21st – At 0800 hours RENOWN, OBEDIENT, ONSLAUGHT and
SCORPION arrived at Scapa.
22nd – At Scapa commenced working up exercises.
28th – At Scapa where the flag of Vice Admiral Sir
H.R. Moore, KCB, CVO, DSO, as Vice Admiral Second in Command, Home Fleet was
29th - Flag of Vice Admiral Second in Command, Home
Fleet, transferred to ANSON
At Scapa carrying out working up exercises.
At Scapa carrying out working up exercises.
about the development of the atomic bomb. In it they pledged not to use
nuclear weapons against one another and not to employ nuclear weapons
against another country or share information about the weapons with another
country, without mutual consent.
(On 5/8/43 Winston Churchill sailed from the
Clyde in the liner Queen Mary and arrived in Quebec on 10/8/43to attend the
QUADRANT conference which lasted until 24/8/43. The conference discussions
led to plans for Operation Overlord being given priority over operations in
the Mediterranean. A new theatre command in Southeast Asia (SACSEA), with
Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as the Supreme Commander. Offensives were
authorized to further aid the Chinese war effort. Churchill and Roosevelt
signed the secret 'Quebec
After the conference Churchill remained in North
America, Canada and the USA, to remain in close consultation with President
Roosevelt during the negotiations with the Italian Government of Marshal
Badoglio over the Italian surrender terms. When Churchill was ready to
return to the UK, RENOWN was made available to collect him and his party)
24th – At 0015 hours RENOWN and destroyers MATCHLESS
and ORWELL sailed from Scapa for Halifax on Operation QUADRANT.
27th – In storm conditions the destroyers MATCHLESS
and ORWELL detached for St Johns.
29th – At 1100 hours RENOWN arrived at Halifax.
14th – At 1500 hours RENOWN with the Prime Minister,
two of his daughters, First Sea Lord, and their respective Staffs and a large
number of WRNS Cypher Officers embarked and escorted by cruiser KENT and
destroyers OBDURATE and OPPORTUNE sailed from Halifax for the Clyde.
16th – At 1400 hours the cruiser NORFOLK from
Hvalfjord and at 1600 hours the destroyers MATCHLESS and ORWELL from St Johns
joined at sea. Following which OBDURATE and OPPORTUNE detached for Argentia.
18th – At 0300 hours SCORPION and SCOURGE joined from
At 1030 hours KENT and NORFOLK detached for Scapa and MATCHLESS and ORWELL
detached for Londonderry.
19th – At 0900 hours RENOWN, SCORPION and SCOURGE
arrived off Greenock where the Prime Minster and his party disembarked.
21st – At 1400 hours RENOWN escorted by SCORPION and
SCOURGE sailed from Greenock for Scapa.
22nd – At 1100 hours RENOWN escorted by SCORPION and
SCOURGE arrived at Scapa.
All month at Scapa.
8th – At 1300 hours RENOWN and battleship QUEEN
ELIZABETH and destroyers ORIBI and URCHIN sailed from Scapa for Plymouth.
Off Cape Wrath URCHIN detached and returned to Scapa.
9th – In position 52-46N, 5W the destroyer ROCKET
joined the escort
10th – In position 50N, 4-15W QUEEN ELIZABETH and
destroyer ROCKET detached for Portland.
At 2000 hours RENOWN and destroyer ORIBI arrived at Plymouth.
(RENOWN had deployed to Plymouth to collect the
Prime Minster and the First Sea Lord and their staffs together with the
American Ambassador and convey them to Gibraltar from where they would fly
to Cairo for the SEXTANT conference. In the event when they arrived at
Gibraltar the aircraft was not available; so Churchill suggested that they
continue their journey in RENOWN, which is what happened. The SEXTANT
conference was held between November 23 and 26 and the attendees were
Churchill, President Roosevelt and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek)
12th – At 1830 hours RENOWN with Churchill et al
embarked, escorted by cruiser LONDON (Flag of Rear Admiral Commanding First
Cruiser Squadron) also with some of the conference party embarked escorted by
destroyers ROCKET, TEAZER and ULSTER sailed from Plymouth for Gibraltar on
15th – At 1900 hours RENOWN, LONDON, ROCKET, TEAZER
and ULSTER arrived at Gibraltar.
At 1930 hours RENOWN and LONDON sailed from Gibraltar for Algiers. (RENOWN
sailed without her escorts as they were refuelling, so the order was given
‘destroyers clear the harbour’. In the event destroyers ANTELOPE, ANTHONY,
DOUGLAS and GRENVILLE cleared the harbour and managed to catch up with RENOWN,
who had worked up to 26 knots.
16th – At 1300 hours RENOWN, LONDON and destroyers
ANTELOPE, ANTHONY, DOUGLAS and GRENVILLE arrived at Algiers.
At 1900 hours, after refuelling, RENOWN and LONDON sailed from Algiers for
Malta. The destroyer escort was GRENVILLE as she was the only destroyer who at
1300 hours had not gone to 4 hours notice for steam.
17th – At 1930 hours RENOWN, LONDON and destroyers
GRENVILLE, INGLEFIELD and ROCKET arrived at Malta.
Whilst at Malta the Prime Minster became ill. Most of his party transferred to
LONDON on which they then proceeded to Cairo.
18th – At 2350 hours RENOWN escorted by destroyers
ECHO, GRENVILLE, ROCKET and ULSTER sailed from Malta for Alexandria.
21st – At 1210 hours RENOWN and destroyers ECHO,
GRENVILLE, ROCKET and ULSTER arrived at Alexandria where the Prime Minster
23rd – At 1645 hours RENOWN sailed from Alexandria for
26th – At 1300 hours RENOWN arrived at Algiers.
27th – At 0030 hours RENOWN escorted by destroyers
ISIS, GRENVILLE and ULSTER sailed from Algiers for Gibraltar.
28th - At 1800 hours RENOWN and destroyers ISIS,
GRENVILLE and ULSTER arrived at Gibraltar.
At 2240 hours RENOWN escorted by destroyers ROCKET, TUMULT and ULSTER sailed
29th – At 0730 hours in position 44-30N, 13-15W RENOWN
and destroyers ROCKET, TUMULT and ULSTER RVed with destroyers JANUS and HMCS
Following which ROCKET, TUMULT and ULSTER detached.
1st – At 2300 hours in the Pentland Firth RENOWN and
destroyers JANUS and HMCS ATHABASKAN RVed with destroyers
OPPORTUNE and METEOR.
Following which destroyers JANUS and HMCS ATHABASKAN
detached for Scapa.
2nd – At 1200 hours
and destroyers OPPORTUNE and METEOR arrived at Rosyth.
3rd – Commenced a short refit and tropicalisation to
prepare her for service with the Eastern Fleet.
During the refit she was fitted with the following additional close range AA
weapons - 19 x 20mm Oerlikons, 7 twin and 5 single and one quadruple pom-pom .
4th – At Rosyth where Captain
Basil Charles Barrington Brooke, RN took over as captain.
15th – At Rosyth where the
Flag of Vice Admiral A.S. Power, CB, CVO, Vice Admiral,
Second in Command, Eastern Fleet and Commanding 1st Battle Squadron was hoisted.
27th – At 1215 hours RENOWN sailed from Rosyth.VERULAM who then escorted RENOWN to Scapa.
At 1700 hours off the mouth of the Firth of Forth she RVed with the destroyer
28th – At 0400 hours RENOWN and VERULAM arrived at
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 Clyde.
Also joining were the frigates DUCKWORTH, COOKE,
ESSINGTON and PARRETT from Londonderry. All the frigates of EG 3, Western
Approaches Command were now part of the escort.
The combined force then shaped course to the westward
to make good a speed of 16 knots along a route which had been ordered by the
Admiralty and which was expected to enable the force to pass the Straits of
Gibraltar on the night of 5th – 6th January.
At 1200 hours the Force were in position 56-15N,
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,
2nd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 46-57N,
3rd - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 41-03N,
4th - At 1200 hours the Force was in position 36-41N,
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
At 2130 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
and TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT arrived at Gibraltar and commenced
fuelling from tankers. Precautions were taken to minimize the risk of the ships
being sighted from neutral Spain.
6th - At 0415 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and
VALIANT the destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the frigates
DUCKWORTH and ESSINGTON sailed from Gibraltar and steered for a prearranged RV
with the carriers 50 miles to the eastward of Europa Point.
At 0800 hours the RENOWN, QUEEN ELIZABETH and VALIANT
the destroyers TERMAGANT, TENACIOUS and KEMPENFELT and the frigates DUCKWORTH
and ESSINGTON RV with the ILLUSTRIOUS and UNICORN and the destroyers ANTHONY,
ACTIVE, BRILLIANT, INGLEFIELD, ISIS and URCHIN. The Force then continued to the
eastward at a speed of advance of 14 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
At 1200 hours the
Force was in position 37-16N, 03-06E
At 2300 hours the
destroyers KEMPENFELT, TENACIOUS and TERMAGANT detached for Bizerte to refuel.
At 1200 hours the Force was in position 37-17N,
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
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]
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 31-30N, 28-06E.
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.
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
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
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 East.
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 pass)
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
(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
ILLUSTRIOUS were in position 12-24N, 44-50E.
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 RAPID.
At 1315 hours in
approximate position the UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER
and ROCKET detached for Aden.
At 1530 hours the
RENOWN, ILLUSTRIOUS and the destroyer ROTHERHAM arrived at Aden and commenced
At 1545 hours the
UNICORN and the destroyers PETARD, PALADIN, PATHFINDER and ROCKET arrived at
Aden and commenced to refuel.
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 Aden.
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.
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 from Aden.
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
At 1200 hours the
Force was in position 12-44N, 48-48E.
(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
At 1200 hours the
Force was in position 12-02N, 61-46E.
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.
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 southward.
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
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 exercises.
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 Trincomalee.
(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 passage.
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 Operation INITIAL
arrived at Colombo to complete with stores.
9th to 12th - QUEEN
ELIZABETH was at Colombo.
13th - At 1600
hours the QUEEN ELIZABETH escorted by the destroyers HMAS NORMAN, NEPAL and
HNMS TJERK HIDDES sailed from Colombo.
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 Trincomalee.
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 DIPLOMAT.
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
For the various units to operate together as
a fleet and to see how well they had adapted to the climatic conditions.
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 Force 58.5.
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.
(The 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
equipped with 44 F6F-3 Grumman Hellcat fighters
equipped with 19 SBD-5 Douglas Dauntless scout bombers
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.
circular screen favored by the USN was first tried out at the Battle of Midway
following which the action report recommended; Òscreening vessels
must close the carrier to not less that 1500 yards and all available CAs and
DDs should be on the same circleÓ.
Also the action report stated that, Òthe 5" battery and close range
weapons of surface ships are only partially effective in repelling a determined
torpedo attack because of the low rate of fire of the 5" battery and fuse
failures; short effective range of the 20mm guns; and the failure of short
range weapon gunners to lead the target sufficiently)
31st - At 0845 hours ILLUSTRIOUS
and SARATOGA flew off their aircraft to RNAS China Bay, Trincomalee.
hours the combined force arrived at Trincomalee.
(The 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)
10th - QUEEN ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee carrying out boiler cleaning and
(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)
(On 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
The arrival of the RICHELIEU was also
resultant of the Casablanca Conference where Roosevelt and Churchill had united
the Free French General Henri-HonorŽ Giraud and Brigadier
General Charles de Gaulle, the two rivals for the leadership of French forces
opposed to the Vichy regime. The Generals agreed that Free French forces would
oppose Axis forces in all theatres)
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 enemy E-Boats.
(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 QUEEN ELIZABETH.
At 1100 hours the
Eastern Fleet which was divided into two forces, Force 69 and 70, sailed from
Trincomalee on Operation COCKPIT.
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.
comprised the battle cruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC Eastern Fleet), the aircraft
carriers ILLUSTRIOUS (Flag Rear Admiral Aircraft Carriers Eastern Fleet), USS
SARATOGA, the heavy cruiser LONDON, screened by the destroyers HMAS QUILLIAM
(D4), QUEENBOROUGH and QUADRANT and the USS CUMMINGS, DUNLAP and FANNING.
Course was set
south easterly in an arc to reach the approximate position 4-30N, 94-30E by
sunrise on 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
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.
the return Fleet exercises were carried out.
21st - At 0400 hours the Eastern Fleet
commenced to enter Trincomalee harbour.
In the afternoon the CinC Eastern
Fleet held a meeting on board the QUEEN ELIZABETH of all the
and Commanding Officers that took part in Operation COCKPIT.
22nd to 29th - QUEEN
ELIZABETH was at Trincomalee.
(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)
next operation undertaken by the Eastern Fleet was Operation TRANSOM. On
27/4/44 SARATOGA had been recalled to the USA for a refit and Admiral King CinC US Fleet, suggested that en route
back to Australia SARATOGA, supported by the Eastern Fleet might launch an air
strike against the port of Surabaya on Java; as a diversion to the campaign in
New Guinea, Operation STRAIGHTLINE. Admiral
Mountbatten CinC SE Asia Command agreed and Somerville commenced planning the
6th – At 1500 hours the Eastern Fleet sailed from
Trincomalee on Operation TRANSOM.
TF 65 comprised the battleships
(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.
The Fleet steered
south easterly towards Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.
During the morning TF 65 and TF 66 arrived at Exmouth Gulf and commenced
refueling from TF 67.
(At 1100/30/4/44 Task Force 67, consisting of
the oilers RFA EAGLESDALE, ECHODALE, ARNDALE, APPLELEAF, PEARLEAF and the
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.
The cruiser 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
At 0830 hours the
strike force arrived
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
At 0930 hours recovery of the strike force commenced. Following
which the Fleet set course for Exmouth Gulf.
the evening Surabaya was attacked by seven B 24's of the US 380th Bombardment
Group who flew from Corunna Downs airfield in Western Australia a round trip of
1860 nautical miles)
18th – At 1800 hours in approximate position 18S, 113E the
Eastern Fleet changed into line ahead and they manned ship following which
DUNLAP, CUMMINGS and FANNING sailed
down the line and then with QUIBERON they detached for Freemantle.
The eastern Fleet
then proceeded to Exmouth Gulf.
19th – At 0600 hours the Eastern Fleet arrived at Exmouth
Gulf and commenced refuelling.
At 1600 hours the Eastern Fleet sailed from Exmouth Gulf and set
course for Trincomalee.
27th – At
1500 hours the Eastern Fleet arrived back at Trincomalee. Fuel remaining on
return was less than 20%.
next operation that QUEEN ELIZABETH took part in was Operation CRIMSON. This
was an air strike and bombardment of the harbour and oil installations of
Sabang. Admiral Somerville wanted to make use of his three capital ships, also
it was to be the last time he was to lead a Fleet to sea for he was to shortly
hand over command to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser; and he was to take up the post
of Head of the Admiralty delegation in Washington)
22nd – At 1600 hours TF 62 comprising the battleships
ELIZABETH (Flag CinC Eastern Fleet), VALIANT and FS RICHELIEU, battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag 2iC Eastern Fleet),
aircraft carriers ILLUSTRIOUS and VICTORIOUS, heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND, light
cruisers CEYLON, KEYNA, NIGERIA, PHOEBE, HMNZS GAMBIA and HMNLS TROMP and
destroyers QUALITY, RACEHORSE, RAIDER, RAPID, RELENTLESS (Wearing the broad pennant of Commodore D
Eastern Fleet), ROTHERHAM, ROCKET, ROEBUCK and HMAS
QUICKMATCH, sailed from
Trincomalee on Operation CRIMSON.
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
VALIANT, RENOWN, RICHELIEU, CUMBERLAND, CEYLON, KEYNA, NIGERIA, GAMBIA, TROMP and destroyers
QUICKMATCH, RACEHORSE, RAPID, RELENTLESS, ROTHERHAM and ROCKET.
The air group comprising
ILLUSTRIOUS, VICTORIOUS, PHOEBE and
destroyers RAIDER and ROEBUCK.
The bombardment group steered for position 6N, 95-30E.
The air group steered for position 5-25N, 94-42E.
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
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
At 1000 hours the
two groups RVed and course was set for Trincomalee.
During the return
the fleet was twice attacked by Japanese aircraft, none of the attackers got
passed the CAP and of the 12 attackers 5 were shot down.