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

HMS ARK ROYAL - Fleet Aircraft Carrier including Convoy Escort Movements 

Editing & Additional Material by Mike Simmonds

HMS Ark Royal (Navy Photos/Ben Titheridge, click to enlarge)

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ARK ROYAL Class Fleet Aircraft Carrier ordered from Cammell Laird of Birkenhead under the 1934 estimates. The ship was launched on 13th April 1937 as the third RN warship to carry the name, which dates from 1587 and has a direct association with naval aviation extending over several generations. She was completed in November 1938 and saw extensive and illustrious service during WW2 before her loss three years later.

 

G e n e r a l    I n f o r m a t i o n

 

In 1931 work commenced on the design of a new Fleet Aircraft Carrier which would be the first of a new generation of this type of warship. The later ships of the ILLUSTRIOUS class which followed were basically of the same design.

 

HMS ARK ROYAL was ordered in the 1934 Build Programme from Cammell Laird of Birkenhead and entered service in November 1938. The build cost was £3.215M. The design provided a full length flush flight deck and hangars on 2 desks. Three lifts were fitted for transfer of aircraft to and from hangar level and two cranes were used for recovery of seaplanes. Special stowage arrangements were designed for boats with a new type of system for launching. The 'sandwich' protection intended for protection against torpedoes was clearly not effective when the ship was sunk in 1941!

 

The ship had a deep displacement of about 27,000 tons as designed and was 800 feet in overall length with a beam of 94 feet and mean draught of 23 feet. Armour protection was provided for hangar area, deck and machinery compartments and was used in the subsequent ILLUSTRIOUS Class. The armoured Flight Deck undoubtedly saved these ships when they were hit by Japanese KAMIKAZE aircraft. The Arrester gear was also of improved design as was another novel feature, a hinged telescopic mast sited in the centre of the Flight Deck for navigation lights.

 

Eight twin 4.5in guns with a dual capability for surface and air defence and 6 multiple pom pom mountings for close range AA use comprised the main armament. The propulsion machinery consisted of three propellers driven by steam turbines giving 102,000 shaft horsepower to provide a designed speed of 30.75 knots which was exceeded on trials. Three Boiler Rooms with separate but adjacent boiler rooms were used.

 

Although the original aircraft requirement asked for 72 aircraft to be carried only 60 were allowed for for in the finished design and this was reduced to 54 when modern heavier types were embarked. The original complement was about 1,600 but was increased after the outbreak of war when radar and more close range anti-aircraft weapons were fitted.

 

HMS ARK ROYAL was probably the best known British aircraft carrier during WW2 and was frequently claimed to have been sunk by the Germans. She was involved in the disastrous naval operations in Norway  before going to the Mediterranean in June 1940. Full details of her service are provided in the Chronology.

 

Her loss after being hit by a torpedo from U81 clearly demonstrated weaknesses in the damage control arrangements compounded by poor training of personnel in the correct way to deal with extensive flooding.  In this case caused by a hole of about 115 feet length. Initially the ship was abandoned because of lack of electric power for fire fighting, but later some key personnel were re-embarked. Despite their herculean efforts, largely incorrectly applied the ship sank on 14th November a day after being hit.

 

Following an inquiry into her loss extensive design changes were introduced into all new ships and arrangements for damage control in existing ships were modified. Design changes included alterations in electrical power distribution and control with diesel generators fitted to ensure electric power was available if the normal supply from steam driven generators was interrupted. Damage control policies to reduce the effects of flooding were introduced as a matter of urgency and the number of battery operated emergency lighting units was substantially increased.

 

 

B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

ARMADA 1588 - CADIZ 1596 - DARDANELLES 1915 - NORWAY 1940 - SPARTIVENTO 1940 - MEDITERRANEAN 1940-41 - BISMARCK Action 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Blue, an Ark Silver, crowned Gold upon 5 wavelets Gold.

 

M o t t o

Desire n'a pas Repos: 'Desire has not rest'

 


 

 

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

 

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

 

 

1 9 3 9

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

3rd to 10th - ARK ROYAL, CO J A Power RN,  (Flag Vice Admiral Lionel V Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers) at Scapa Flow

 

[The aircraft carried by ARK ROYAL were:

The Blackburn Skua, which was a two seat fighter/dive bomber, max speed 225 mph at 6700 ft, 204 mph at sea level, maximum range approximately 760 miles. Armament was four Browning .303" machine guns in the wings with 600 rounds per gun. One Lewis .303" machine gun in rear cockpit (whenever possible the gunner would try to replace this with a Vickers K gun which was more reliable and had a higher rate of fire). Bomb load was 500 lb.

The Blackburn Roc was a two seat fighter/bomber development of the Skua, performance similar to Skua but a shorter range, fitted with a Bolton Paul rotating electrically powered turret mounting four Browning .303" machine-guns. Bomb load 250lb.

The Fairy Swordfish was a three seat torpedo spotter reconnaissance aircraft, max speed 139 mph at 4750 ft, 132 mph at sea level ,maximum range with 1500 lb bomb load 545 miles, without bomb load 770 miles. Armament, one fixed forward firing Vickers .303" machine gun and one in the rear cockpit. Ordnance one 18" dia. x 1610 lb torpedo or 1500 lb bomb load]

 

11th - At 2030N the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Lionel V Wells) with Blackburn Skuas of 800 Sqd, Blackburn Skuas and Rocs of 803 Sqd, Fairy Swordfish of 810, 818, 820 and 821 Sqds embarked, escorted by the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE and FOXHOUND sailed from Scapa Flow as a hunting group to carry out an anti-submarine patrol in the western Atlantic. After leaving the western swept channel, course was shaped towards the position in which the S.S FIRBY was reported sunk by a submarine, 59-49N, 13-50W.

 

[The SS FIRBY 4869grt was sunk by U-48 earlier on 11/9/39. The position of the sinking had been transmitted by U-48 with a request to save the crew]

 

[On 3/9/39 Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. At the outbreak of war the Admiralty immediately instituted the convoy system as proven method of defeating U-Boats, but the convoy system was essentially defensive, which didn't suit Churchill. Therefore one of Churchill's first moves was to promote an offensive strategy against U-Boats through the use of hunting groups based on an aircraft carrier. It was also believed that this strategy would help to protect the many merchant ships that were on passage to the UK when war was declared]

 

At 2100 hours the destroyer ESKIMO joined so that D/F guard could be kept on 488 kc/s and FORTUNE detached.

 

12th - At 0630, the weather was fine and clear with south westerly breeze and overcast sky, ARK ROYAL launched Swordfish to carry out an all round air search to a depth of 60 miles with the object of locating enemy submarines on the surface.

At 0700 a submarine was reported by aircraft, 39 miles, 323 degrees from ARK ROYAL, in a position 59-48 N, 9-22W. The aircraft attacked with six 100lb A/S bombs, the nearest of which missed by 30 yards. The submarine dived.

On receipt of the report the FAULKNOR and FIREDRAKE were detached to hunt the U-Boat while ARK ROYAL continued to the westward to land on aircraft as the barometer was falling rapidly.

By 1100 it was blowing hard from the south west and weather was thick and unsuitable for flying.

At 1300 FAULKNOR and FIREDRAKE rejoined having obtained no contact as the aircraft had been unable to keep touch with the submarine and conditions were also difficult for asdic contact.

At 1310 course was altered to the southward towards position 55-00N, 15-00W, this course alteration resulted from Admiralty message 0658 of 11/9/39.

By 1600 the weather and visibility had much improved and a further air search was carried out to the south and west to a depth of 80 miles.

 

13th - At 0630 ARK ROYAL launched nine Swordfish to carry out an all round search to a depth of 70 miles.

At 0741, a submarine was reported by aircraft, 39 miles, 188 degrees from ARK ROYAL in position 56-19N, 13-30W. The aircraft attacked with 100lb A/S bombs, one of which fell directly on top of the submarine which was diving at the time.

On receipt of the report ESKIMO and FOXHOUND were detached to hunt and a striking force of three Swordfish were launched by ARK ROYAL to attack the submarine, but the destroyers failed to find any trace of the submarine as the aircraft had lost touch.

During the afternoon, ARK ROYAL launched two further searches, each by six Swordfish to depths of up to 65 miles to search for the submarine without success.

ARK ROYAL also maintained a constant bearing patrol by two Skuas to a depth of 40 miles.

These searches covered the area in which the submarine was sighted and also to the northward of it as it was considered that he might be homeward bound; as he was steering north when sighted.

Ground was made to the northward during the night.

 

14th - At 0630 the weather was fine and clear with good visibility, ARK ROYAL launched 12 Swordfish to carry out an all round search to a depth of 100 miles. This search was just short of the position in which SS. FANAD HEAD was torpedoed 3 ½ hours later, and no merchant ships were sighted.

At 0635 the destroyers TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI joined. These destroyers together with ESKIMO, who formed the 12th division of 6th Destroyer Flotilla, were then stationed 20 miles from ARK ROYAL on the bearings 045 degrees, 135 degrees, 225 degrees, and 315 degrees.

At 0945 ARK ROYAL launched two Skuas to search the western seaboard of the Hebrides. Two Skuas were also flown off for constant bearing patrol on each side of the mean line of advance to a depth of 25 miles.

At 0950 the 12 Swordfish returned having sighted nothing.

During the forenoon, ARK ROYAL launched nine Swordfish to carry out an air search over the Rosemary Bank area.

At 1240 Vice Admiral Wells received information that the SS FANAD HEAD had been torpedoed at 1100 in position 56-45N, 15-21W, this was about 200 miles to the southwestward of the ARK ROYAL. All aircraft were immediately recalled and TARTAR and PUNJABI were ordered to proceed at full speed to the position given.

At 1250 TARTAR and PUNJABI detached with all dispatch for the position given by FANAD HEAD.

At 1300 ARK ROYAL turned northerly into the wind to land on her aircraft. After landing on her aircraft she steered toward the position given by the SS FANAD HEAD.

 

[At 1100N the SS FANAD HEAD 5200grt on passage from Montreal to Belfast sighted a surfaced U-Boat, U-30, (U-30 was the submarine that had sunk the liner SS ATHENIA 13500grt on 3/9/39) closing her and sent off a submarine attack signal. At 1225 the U-30 stopped the FANAD HEAD with a shot across her bows. The master, 33 crew members and eight passengers then abandoned ship in two lifeboats. The lifeboats were towed clear of the ship by U-30. The submarine then sent a four man boarding party on to the FANAD HEAD to obtain food, particularly bread since all their tinned bread when opened was found to be milk, and water to extend the patrol and to sink the ship by laying charges and opening the sea cocks, thus saving an expensive torpedo]

 

[As the distance to the position given by the FANAD HEAD was reducing Vice Admiral Wells decided to fly off a strike force of three Skuas, but before this could happen it was necessary for the ARK ROYAL to turn 180 degrees into the wind. ARK ROYAL's screen of FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND who were disposed ahead of the carriers were allowed to proceed on course at 24 knots whilst ARK ROYAL turned into wind]

 

At 1400 hours BEDOUIN and ESKIMO were detached to proceed with dispatch to join TARTAR and PUNJABI.

At 1440 when the approximate distance to the FANAD HEAD's position was 180 miles, ARK ROYAL launched thee Skuas of 803 Sqd, A7A, A7M(L2873) and A7K(L2957) each armed with one 100 lb A/S bomb and four 20 lb Cooper bombs. The Skuas set course for Rockall.

 

[The 100 lb A/S bomb was fitted because the distance was outside their range when fitted with a 500 lb bomb. The distance was also beyond the range of the Swordfish aircraft. The 100 lb A/S bomb was too small to be effective against submarines. This was proven on 3/12/39 when an Anson of Coastal Command dropped a 100 lb A/S bomb on the submarine HMS SNAPPER, scoring a direct hit and no damage was caused to the SNAPPER. The Cooper bomb was a hang over from the First World War, it actually weighed 24 lb, 20 lb casing and 4 lb of explosive, again a completely ineffective weapon against submarines]

 

At 1512 ARK ROYAL was back on a south westerly course and making 26 knots to catch up with her screen who were now about two miles ahead. When Leading Signalman Joseph Ernest Hall, Official Number P/J 42557, who was on watch, observed the commencement of torpedo tracks and his very prompt and accurate report enabled the Officer of the Watch to put the helm over to port causing the torpedoes to miss astern and detonated about half a cable on the port quarter. It was noted that the tracks were very evident, much more so than those of our own torpedoes.

ARK ROYAL signaled FAULKNER informing her of the submarine attack. The FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND then reversed course and proceeded to join the ARK ROYAL.

 

[At 1507 the submarine U-39, sailed from Wilhelmshaven on 18/8/39, fired three G7a, torpedoes at the ARK ROYAL each torpedo was fitted with a magnetic pistol. What had happened was that the faulty magnetic pistols had caused the torpedoes to prematurely explode.

Between the wars the Germans had completely changed their torpedoes and they had moved away from the simple impact detonator to the magnetic detonator which was designed to explode under the target ship causing the target to break its back. Because of the lack of extensive testing before putting the new torpedo into service they had problems with the magnetic pistol because they forgot that the magnetic field is different in different regions on earth. They also had problems with the depth setting because the depth gauge was not fully sealed off from the atmosphere. These errors saved the ARK ROYAL]

 

[The FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND returned to ARK ROYAL's position and were given the course of the torpedoes and ordered to locate and attack the submarine. D8 spread his destroyers and swept accordingly.

At 1534, FOXHOUND obtained contact by asdic and attacked by D/Cs, followed immediately by FAULKNOR.  Shortly afterwards, FIREDRAKE obtained contact and made a third attack.  Within two minutes, the submarine broke surface and all destroyers opened fire.  Fire ceased as men appeared on the deck of the submarine and they all abandoned ship.  The whole crew of 43 was picked up and they reported all three depth charge attacks took effect, the last one bursting the foremost tanks.  Submarine sank, in position 58-28N, 11-50W, bow first in about ten minutes after surfacing.  Number U-39 was obtained from marking on conning tower and on gear picked up]

 

[At 1555 hours Skua A7M piloted by Lt. R P Thurston, Observer Petty Officer J Simpson came upon the FANARD HEAD stopped with U-30 alongside in the process of transferring supplies via rubber dinghy. Lt Thurston immediately attacked dropping his bombs onto the submarine from an extremely low altitude, the only chance of catching the submarine before it could crash-dive. The 20lb Cooper bombs exploded immediately on contact with the water causing fragments of shrapnel to pierce the fuel tank and the set the Skua on fire. Lt Thurston was forced to crash land the Skua onto the sea a considerable distance from the ship. Badly burnt, Lt Thurston and P.O. Simpson set out to swim to the FANAD HEAD.

At 1600, after trying to get as many men below as possible, U-30 dived, but unbeknown to Kapitanleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp, her captain, U-30 still had the dinghy attached.  

The attack by A7M was witnessed by Skua A7A piloted by Lt Cdr Dennis Royle Farquharson Campbell, the CO of 803 Sqd, observer Lt Michael Charles Edward Hanson. A sighting report was sent off by Hanson and A7A went to investigate what was happening around the FANAD HEAD.

At about 1605 A7A arrived over the FANAD HEAD, the derelict was sighted lying stopped and heading south with her lifeboats about 3000 yards on her starboard quarter. On the steamer's port bow was a patch of oil some 50 yards in diameter with a black object in the center of it, the crew took this to be a conning tower of a submarine. Diving to attack, they made two passes, in the first they dropped their Cooper bombs, in the second the 100 LB A/S bomb, which did not appear to explode (probably due to a faulty fuse). The object they had attacked had disappeared. They flew around the FANAD HEAD and spotted two swimmers in the water. They interpreted these as two members of the crew of the U-boat left behind when it crash-dived. In fact it was Lt Thurston and PO Simpson, swimming towards the merchant ship. The object Lt Cdr Campbell and LT Hanson had attacked earlier was almost certainly the remains of Skua A7M floating on the surface.

Lemp ordered U-30 to periscope depth and through the scope; he saw the line running directly over the conning tower.  Lemp ordered full rise and as the tower broke the surface, a crewman threw the hatch cover open, dashed out onto the tower and slashed the line, he dropped back into the U-Boat, and she dived.

When U-30 surfaced, A7A had no bombs left so Lt Cdr Campbell fired on the submarine with the wing machine guns, expending 1150 rounds in one continuous burst. 

A7A was now low on fuel, so it was time to return to ARK ROYAL but before leaving the scene A7A flew over the lifeboats, flashing them the signal "Help Coming" by Aldis lamp before heading back to the carrier at 1645.

In the mean time Lt Thurston had swam to the FANAD HEAD but because he was injured he was unable to climb aboard so one on the German boarding party, Gefr Ohse, dived in and helped him aboard. PO Simpson was not with Lt Thurston and was not seen again.

U-30 now re-surfaced and was closing the FANAD HEAD to take off the boarding party, but during the manoeuvre the freighted rolled on to the bow of U-30 causing damage to her torpedo tubes, then suddenly a third Skua appeared and attacked.

The third Skua A7K, piloted by Lt Guy Griffiths RM with observer Petty Officer George McKay having completed its assigned search was heading back to the ARK ROYAL when P.O. McKay spotted a ship in the distance and A7K closed to investigate. A7K came in low to flying close to the stern so that they could read the name and registration. Then In a re-run of the events that had bought down A7M, Lt Griffiths was startled to see a submarine appear from behind the merchant ship. Again, a split second decision was made to drop the bombs straight away before the submarine could crash-dive. Lt Griffiths dropped both the Cooper bombs and A/S bomb together. The bombs failed to cause damage to U-30 but the explosion of the bombs so close to A7M caused it to crash into the sea, ripping off the engine and nose of the aircraft forward of the cockpit. Lt Griffiths was lucky to get free, but PO George McKay was still inside the aircraft when it sank.

After A7M crashed U-30 closed the FANAD HEAD and took off the boarding party. Then moved away to torpedo the FANAD HEAD.

Lt Griffiths swam to the FANAD HEAD and boarded her and joined the injured Lt Thurston.

Before Lemp could torpedo the FANAD HEAD he was made aware that their were two aviators on the ship, so Lemp closed the freighter and told them he was preparing to fire torpedoes into the ship, so they jumped into the water and swam to U-30 and were taken aboard.

At about 1820 hours Lemp had dived and finally torpedoed and sank the FANAD HEAD with a G7a torpedo from one of the stern tubes. Shortly after firing U-30 was attacked by Swordfish aircraft who failed to cause damage also unbeknown to Lemp, TARTAR and PUNJABI  were fast approaching U-30's position]

 

At 1655, when ARK ROYAL was approximately 120 miles from the position given by the FANAD HEAD, a striking force of six Swordfish, A3A, A3F and A3M from 810 Sqd and A5G, A5K and A5L from 821 Sqd, each armed with six 100 lb A/S bombs was flown off to attack the submarine which one of the Skuas had already reported and was shadowing.

 

[On passage to the FANAD HEAD, Swordfish A5L dropped her bombs on what she believed to be a submerged submarine about two miles from Rockall. This aircraft was consequently able to witness the attacks by the other Swordfish.

At about 1830 the Swordfish strike force arrived on the scene just in time to see the FANAD HEAD torpedoed at 1834. An attack was carried out on the submarine which could be seen underwater.

A5L was observing from a height of 700 feet at a distance of ¼ mile and observed eleven 100 lb A/S bombs land on or very close to the submarine and reported that the submarine was probably destroyed or severely damaged (U-30 was not damaged in this attack). The Swordfish then returned to the ARK ROYAL]

 

By 1816 Skua A7A had returned to ARK ROYAL but there was no sign of the other two nor had they been heard on W/T.

 

By 2000 all the striking force of six Swordfish had returned to ARK ROYAL.

 

[At 1920 TARTAR and PUNJABI arrived on the scene of the sinking. On arrival TARTAR picked up the passengers and crew from the FANAD HEAD. The two destroyers then commenced an asdic search for the submarine.

At 2000 hours ESKIMO and BEDOUIN joined TARTAR and PUNJABI and the four destroyers continued searching for the remainder of the night, without success]

 

Throughout the night ARK ROYAL with the destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND cruised to the west of Rockall Bank.

 

15th - At 0615 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish to carry out a further search of the area in which the FANAD HEAD had been sunk, but nothing was seen.

 

[At daylight the 12th division of TARTAR, BEDOUIN, PUNJABI and ESKIMO extended their search for U-30 to the east (U-30 had actually steered north westerly heading for Reykjavik, where she arrived on 19/9/39).

At 0830 a steamer was sighted to the north eastward.  ESKIMO was detached to investigate.  She proved to be the SS MANCHESTER REGIMENT 5989grt bound for Manchester from Montreal with general cargo.  12th Division were then spread 4 miles apart and followed this ship some 12 to 15 miles astern, course made good 120 degrees.  At 1300 TARTAR closed the  MANCHESTER REGIMENT to ascertain whether a report emanating from the Boatswain of  the FANAD HEAD could be confirmed, namely that 'he had heard that MANCHESTER REGIMENT, laying astern of them at Montreal, had loaded with ammunition and aircraft'.  This was not confirmed and 12th Division continued affording her cover until 1630 when the course was altered to the southward.

At 1910 ESKIMO detached for Loch Ewe.

During the night TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI steered westerly]

 

During the day, ARK ROYAL steered to the eastward to meet the destroyers FEARLESS, FORESTER, FURY and FORTUNE who were coming from Loch Ewe to relieve FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND.

At 1750 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to carry out a search to the south eastward to a depth of 90 miles, but nothing was sighted.

At 1800 the destroyers FEARLESS, FORESTER, FURY and FORTUNE joined from Loch Ewe and FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE detached for Loch Ewe and FOXHOUND detached for Kirkwall.

 

16th - At 0715 ARK ROYAL flew off ten Swordfish to carry out a search over the Rockall Bank and the area in which the FANAD HEAD had been sunk, to a depth of 100 miles, but nothing was seen.

During the forenoon TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI rejoined.

At approximately 1100 ARK ROYAL flew off further Swordfish to carry out a search to the south easterly to within 30 miles of the Northwest Coast of Ireland, but nothing was sighted.

At approximately 1430 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft and course was shaped for Loch Ewe.

At 1628 TARTAR was detached to Mallaig to land the survivors from the FANAD HEAD.

At 1710 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish and three Skuas to carry out a search to the westward of the Hebrides but nothing was sighted.

At 1729 PUNJABI detached to Loch Ewe.

At 2130 hours TARTAR rejoined from Mallaig.

Overnight ARK ROYAL and her escort cruised in the Minches.

 

17th - At 0700 ARK ROYAL with the destroyers TARTAR, BEDOUIN, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FURY and FEARLESS in company entered Loch Ewe to refuel.

 

[In his report on ARK ROYAL's first mission Vice Admiral Wells stated;-

Apart from the results achieved in this operation, the five days' flying has been of the greatest value. At times, there has been considerable motion on the ship but the deck landing has been consistently good.

The large number of successful reconnaissance flights carried out on several occasions in conditions when the weather would have been considered too bad for flying in peace time, have given me increased confidence in the Observers, and in general ARK ROYAL's operational efficiency has definitely been increased.

As a result of this operation, I am of the opinion that to obtain the best results in A/S work at least six destroyers are required.  Of these four, would be used for screening and the remainder as a striking force.

In view of the small striking power of one aircraft (six 100 lb A/S bombs) it is highly desirable to send them in pairs, but this naturally requires a very large number of aircraft in an all round search and is seldom practicable.

The shortage of Observers in ARK ROYAL was felt during this operation and there is no doubt until it can be remedied, the ship will be working much below her operating capacity.

The whole essence of success in this type of operation lied in striking at once an effective blow at any submarine reported.  This is almost impossible with an armament of 100 lb A/S bombs, as only large numbers of these bombs can be expected to give a decisive result.

I consider that, although the theory of 'stick' bombing with a large number of small bombs as opposed to a small number of large bombs is correct so far as likelihood of obtaining one hit is concerned, the damage likely to accrue from one 100 lb bomb hit is insufficient to ensure destruction.

I recommend that immediate investigation be undertaken to discover a suitable means of carrying three depth charges on a T.S.R. aircraft, preferable on the torpedo rack. A charge with a very large explosive content is required and it must be capable of withstanding a drop from 2-300 feet at 200-250 miles per hour.

The procedure I have in mind is that the aircraft should fly so low over the submarine as to make quite certain of dropping the charges very close to it. There would be no necessity for special sights or accurate ballistic properties.

Unless something can be produced at an early date on the lines I have suggested, we shall miss opportunities for the destruction of enemy submarines]

 

At around 1100 whilst at Loch Ewe the ARK ROYAL was visited by the First Sea Lord, Winston Churchill.

 

[At 1113 Vice Admiral Wells received a report from the Admiralty of a submarine in the vicinity of Tory Island. He had then ordered the destroyers SOMALI (D6) and MATABELE to proceed at 30 knots to investigate the report]

 

At 1345 ARK ROYAL screened by the destroyers FEARLESS, FORTUNE, FORESTER and FURY sailed from Loch Ewe and set course south ward through the Minches.

At 1556 when approximately 150 miles from Tory Island, ARK ROYAL flew off a searching striking force of six Swordfish to locate and attack any submarine in the vicinity of Tory Island.

At 1716, a report was received on routines (N.R. AN.729) stating that trawler ROGER (? ROBERT) KIPLING had been sunk by a submarine at 1600 in a position 5 miles west of Rathlin O'Birne Island.

 

[Note:  This information was subsequently amended by the CINC Western Approaches' signal times 182517/9/39, which showed that the trawler had been sunk on 16/9/39 in a position some 90 miles further south and west.

On receipt of the information at 1716 the SOMALI, MATABELE, and aircraft were ordered by W/T to proceed to the position indicated off Rathlin O'Birne Island]

 

At 1800 the destroyer FORESTER was detached to proceed southward to join SOMALI and MATABELE.

At 1855, a suspicious object which might have been a periscope was sighted by one of the search aircraft approximately 20 miles north east of Eagle Island.

At 1915 all aircraft were recalled and all had landed on by 2017.

 

[At 2100 SOMALI reached the vicinity of Tory Island and carried out a sweep to the south westward as far as Rathlin O'Birne Island. During the night, she continued searching this part of the coast and next morning searched to the west of Tory Island without success]

 

18th - At 0605 in approximate position 56N, 9-30W ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to search the Irish Coast between Inishtrahull and Eagle Island and in the sector 118 degrees to 189 degrees. Nothing was sighted.

At 1040 in approximate position 56-06N, 10-06W ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to search between 190 degrees and 290 degrees to a depth of 100 miles nothing was sighted.

At 1441 Vice Admiral Wells received an order to return to Loch Ewe (CINC, Home Fleet's signal timed 1400/18/9/39).

 

[At 2000/17/9/39 the aircraft carrier COURAGEOUS, who like ARK ROYAL formed the nucleus of a submarine hunting group, was torpedoed and sunk by U-39 south west of Ireland. Following the sinking and the 'near miss' on ARK ROYAL, the Admiralty re-assessed the use of aircraft carriers for submarine hunting and decided to immediately cease the practice. Hence the recalling of ARK ROYAL]

 

At 1545 the destroyers SOMALI, MATABELE and FORESTER rejoined.

At 2047 SOMALI and MATABELE were detached to proceed with all despatch to the assistance of trawler LORD MINTO, who was reported to have been attacked to the north westward of St Kilda.

 

[At approximately 1830 the U-35 stopped a group of three Fleetwood trawlers west northwest of the Isle of St.Kilda, in position 57-51N, 9-28W. These were the ARLITA 326grt, the LORD MINTO 295grt and the NANCY HAGUE 299grt. The ARLITA and LORD MINTO were sunk by gunfire and the NANCY HAGUE, which was 28 years old, was allowed to proceed with the survivors of the other two. Before being sunk the LORD MINTO sent off a submarine attack report. (the NANCY HAGUE was later requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as bomb defence vessel at Loch Alsh)]

 

19th - At 0610 in approximate position 58-30N, 6-18E, ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to carry out a search from the vicinity of the Butt of Lewis between bearings 290 degrees and 55 degrees to a depth of 65 miles. Nothing was sighted.

Between 0630 and 0715 ARK ROYAL flew of an anti-submarine patrol to search the east coast of the Isle of Lewis, to investigate the submarine report given in SO (I) Rosyth's signal 2139/18/9/39.

All aircraft were landed back on and ARK ROYAL proceeded to Loch EWE.

At 0930 hours ARK ROYAL with the destroyers FEARLESS, FORTUNE and FURY arrived at Loch Ewe.

 

20th - At 1915 the battleships NELSON (Flag CINC Home Fleet), RODNEY, the battlecruisers HOOD (Flag Rear Admiral William J Whitworth CinC Battle Cruiser Squadron) and REPLUSE, the aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Lionel V Wells) escorted by the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FOXHOUND, FURY, FORESTER, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, TARTAR and PUNJABI sailed from Loch Ewe for Scapa.

En route the FOXHOUND had problems with her depth charge thrower, which had been damaged during the U-27 hunt and she detached to proceed ahead to Scapa to effect repairs.

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

 

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

At 0945 the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa.

 

22nd – At 1100 the Home Fleet comprising NELSON (Flag CINC HF), RODNEY, HOOD, REPULSE, ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers) with Blackburn Skuas of 800 Sqd, Blackburn Skuas and Rocs of 803 Sqd, Fairy Swordfish of 810, 818, 820 and 821 Sqds embarked, and the destroyers FAME, FORESIGHT, FIREDRAKE, FORTUNE, FAULKNOR (D8), FOXHOUND, FEARLESS, MATABELE, MASHONA and SOMALI (D6) sailed from Scapa Flow to provide cover for Operation SK.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

1910 the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow.

 

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

 

25th – At 0830 the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON (Flag CINC HF) and RODNEY, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers) with Blackburn Skuas of 800 Sqd, Blackburn Skuas and Rocs of 803 Sqd, Fairy Swordfish of 810, 818, 820 and 821 Sqds embarked, and destroyers BEDOUIN, PUNJABI, TARTAR, FURY sailed from Scapa Flow and steered westerly to provide cover the Humber Force returning with the damaged submarine SPEARFISH. The destroyers FAME and FORESIGHT who were at sea joined the NELSON force at sea. The destroyers SOMALI, ESKIMO, MASHONA and MATABELE also later joined at sea.

FORESIGHT attacked a submarine contact north of the Orkneys.

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

At 1925, SOMALI and ESKIMO were detached to join SPEARFISH, reaching her in position 57‑04N, 06‑40E at 0100/26/9/39.

 

26th – At 1100 the Fleet were in position 57-36N, 03-18E, steering 285¼, with Swordfish from the ARK ROYAL patrolling above the Fleet. At this time three large aircraft were sighted, later identified as Luftwaffe Dornier 18D flying boats of KŸstenstaffel 1./KŸGr 506, from Harnum See, Isle of Sylt.

Immediately on receiving the sighting report the ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas A7A, A7B and A7K of 803 Sqd to intercept the Dornier 18D's.

 

[The Skuas initially had difficulty in locating the Dorniers but eventually claimed one damaged near position 57.36N 02.36E]

 

At 1130 ARK ROYAL flew off a further three Skuas A7C, A7F and A7M of 803 Sqd to help in the interception of the Dornier Do18D's

 

[One Dornier was shot down by A7C piloted by Lt BS McEwen with observer acting PO BM Seymour. The Dornier landed on the sea and the 4 crewmen of the stricken aircraft were picked up by the destroyer SOMALI.

This shooting down of the Dornier 18 is often cited as the first kill by a British Aircraft in World War II, but iIn fact the first was by Sgt F.A. Letchford, an observer/gunner in a Fairy Battle Bomber of 88 Sqd RAF on the 20/9/39. But Sgt Letchford's claim was not confirmed straight away; so Lt McEwen's was the first confirmed]

 

At 1230 ARK ROYAL flew off a further three Skuas L2879, L2934 and L2935 of 800 Sqd to help in the interception of the Dornier Do18D's

 

[The remaining Dornier was driven off. But one or more of the Dornier's had managed to send off a sighting report and this lead to the Luftwaffe launching a strike force of bomber aircraft]

 

By 1330 the ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft and struck them below.

 

[The CINC Home Fleet would have known that the Dornier 18's had sent off a sighting report and therefore there was a strong possibility of the Luftwaffe mounting an attack on the Fleet. Royal Navy philosophy for dealing with an air attack in 1939 was to leave the defence of the Fleet to the AA weapons of the Fleet. When an aircraft carrier was present the operating procedure was to defuel the aircraft and strike them below into the protected hanger for the duration of the air attack]

 

At approximately 1345 RODNEY's Type 79Y radar reported two or three groups of aircraft, Nine He 111H bombers of 1/KG 26 from LŸbeck Blankensee airfield and four Ju 88A-1 bombers of Stab1/KG 30 from Jever airfield, at 6000 ft and approximately 80 miles range and closing.

RODNEY kept the CINC HF informed of the in coming attack by flag signals. Even so the Fleet was unprepared for the attack; RODNEY felt that her radar reports had not been taken seriously.

At 1420 the Fleet was in position 58-49N, 1-55E when they were subjected to an air attack from the He 111H's and Ju 88A-1's. During the attacks all the heavy ships opened fire on their attackers with both long and close range weapons but their fire was ineffective at shooting down the attackers but was effective in preventing any ships from being hit.

The four Ju 88A-1's made ARK ROYAL their target and one of the last aircraft to attack was a Ju 88A-1 piloted by Lieutenant Adolf Francke and he singled out the ARK ROYAL for a dive bomber attack. Captain Power managed to maneuver the ARK ROYAL so that when Francke released his 500Kg bomb it missed the ship and landed about 1000 ft off the port bow. The explosion of the bomb produced a huge column of water that rose above the level of the flight deck and caused the ship to whip and list.

 

[As Francke piloted his aircraft away from ARK ROYAL his bomber crew was trying to see if their bomb has hit the carrier. It's difficult to tell; but Sgt. Bewermeyer yells, 'Water fountain hard beside the ship!' Francke glanced downward and saw the waterspout and a flash. Is it a hit or is it AA fire? He can't tell. But he doesn't want to linger for a better look so he clears the area and heads for home.

Francke radios his news to Germany, saying, 'Dive-attack with two SC 500 bombs on aircraft carrier; first a near miss by ship's side, second a possible hit on bows. Effect not observed.' When Francke lands at his base, everyone thinks he's hit and sunk ARK ROYAL. Everyone, that is, except his CO colonel. Siburg. He asks Francke, point blank, 'Did you actually see her sink?', 'no, colonel,' Francke replies.

'In that case, you didn't hit her either,' Siburg says, grinning. A former naval officer, Siburg knows that a flash or smoke from a surface target is no proof of a hit by one's own guns. But Berlin wants a report on the sinking of ARK ROYAL. Why hasn't the report been sent?

Because nothing about such a sinking is known here, is the answer. Berlin is unhappy. More reconnaissance planes are sent out to find the ARK ROYAL. They find the British Fleet, but no aircraft carrier. The reconnaissance planes are told to look for oil patches. That the German find.

This thin evidence is enough for Goering, Milch, Udet, and others to believe that the carrier has been sunk. German radio then claims to have sunk the ARK ROYAL with a single bomb, and damaged a battleship for good measure. The British do not deny the claim]

 

27th – In the early hours of the morning the Fleet arrived back at Scapa.

 

28th to 30th - The ARK ROYAL was at Scapa Flow.

 

[At 1200O/30/9/39 the panzerschiff ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE was in position 9-21S, 33-40W.

At 1300 the GRAF SPEE sighted the British freighter the SS CLEMENT 5051grt on passage from New York to Salvador, Brazil, with 20000 cases of kerosene.

At 1315 the CLEMENT sights the GRAF SPEE, shortly after GRAF SPEE's Arado Ar 196 seaplane circles the CLEMENT and signals, 'stop, no wireless transmitting'. Captain Harris of the CLEMENT stops his ship but ignores the warning and at 1400 sends off a RRR signal with the ships position, 9-05S, 34-05W.

Captain Langsdorff the CO of the GRAF SPEE sends over a boarding party, to fool the British crew the boat has the name ADMIRAL SCHEER painted on and its crew have cap badges with the same name. Captain Harris and his Chief Engineer Bryant were taken on board the GRAF SPEE; the remaining crew of the CLEMENT took to the lifeboats.

At 1530 the GRAF SPEE finally sank the CLEMENT.

At 1800 the GRAF SPEE sighted the Greek freighter SS PAPALEMOS 3478grt and orders her to stop. Captain Harris and his Chief Engineer Bryant are then transferred to the PAPALEMOS and got her master to promise not to use her wireless within 600 miles of her present position.

At 2000 Langsdorff sent a signal to the radio station at Pernambuco, using the ADMIRAL SCHEER call-sign, he signalled, please save the crew of the SS CLEMENT, and giving the position of Lifeboats.

The panzerschiff ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE had sailed from Wilhelmshaven on 21/8/39, with orders to take up a position in the South Atlantic and await orders. On 26/9/39 Langsdorff received his orders. He was to commence hostilities immediately, but with several restrictions; he was to attack only British ships. Actions with enemy warships were to be avoided, so as to not risk his ship. The CLEMENT was Langsdorff's first victim]

 

 

OCTOBER

 

1st -

[In the early hours of the 1/10/39 The Admiralty received a signal from the Naval Control Staff Officer at Pernambuco; informing them that the British ship SS CLEMENT had been sunk by a surface raider 75 miles southeast of Pernambuco at 1400 local time yesterday. The Admiralty immediately organise the deployment of forces to hunt down the raider. One of the hunting groups is to be the battlecruiser RENOWN and ARK ROYAL. Orders were sent out to ARK ROYAL to re-organise her squadrons and to land one Skua squadron which will not be required in the South Atlantic]

 

At 1430 the ARK ROYAL (Flag, Vice Admiral Lionel Victor Wells VA Aircraft Carriers) and the destroyers FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE sailed from Scapa Flow and proceeded to the west of the Orkney's to fly off 803 Sqd Skuas and Rocs and 818 Sqd Swordfish to RNAS Hatson and to land on 820 Sqd Swordfish from RNAS Hatson

At 1900 the ARK ROYAL, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE RVed with the Home Fleet comprising battleships NELSON (Flag CINC Home Fleet) and RODNEY, battle cruiser HOOD and REPLUSE and light cruiser NEWCASTLE and the destroyers ASHANTI, MASHONA, MATABELE, SOMALI, FAME and FORESIGHT who had sailed from Scapa Flow at 1700 on passage for Loch Ewe.

 

[The movement of the Fleet  was in accordance with Admiralty instructions and in pursuance of the policy of evading air attack on Scapa Flow]

 

2nd -

 

[The Admiralty ordered ARK ROYAL and RENOWN to sail for Freetown where they were to form the Hunting Group Force K]

 

At 2030 the ARK ROYAL (Flag, Vice Admiral Lionel Victor Wells VA Aircraft Carriers) and the destroyers ASHANTI and FORESIGHT sailed from Loch Ewe and steered for the Butt of Lewis.

 

3rd - At 0010 the ARK ROYAL, ASHANTI and FORESIGHT RVed with the battlecruiser RENOWN and the destroyers BEDOUIN and TARTAR. 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 Captain Dau gave her identity as the US tanker the SS DELMAR 5107grt, (the ALTMARK was 10750grt). 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 Orleans.

 

11th – At 0430 hours in position 11-50N, 21W ARK ROYAL and RENOWN were joined by destroyers HARDY, HASTY and HOSTILE from Freetown.

 

12th – At 0900 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, HARDY, HASTY and HOSTILE arrived at Freetown.

 

14th – At 1800 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN the light cruiser NEPTUNE and the destroyers HARDY, HERO and HEREWARD, now known as Force K, sailed from Freetown to patrol towards St Paul's Rocks.

 

[22/10/39 the British freighter MV TREVANION 5299grt, which was on passage from Port Pirie Australia to Swansea UK with a cargo of zinc ore, sighted a warship flying a large French Ensign. When the warship was two miles away, the TREVANION was told to heave to and not use her radio, at the same time the German Ensign was run up in place of the French. TREVANION's wireless operator immediately transmitted a RRR with her position. The warship was the GAFF SPEE who then opened fire on the TREVANION. The signal that was picked up by the liner the SS LLANSTEPHAN CASTLE 11293grt and she reported to Freetown, that she had intercepted a signal from an unidentified steamer stating that she was being shelled in a position 19S, 4-03E at 1400Z.

After taking off the crew the TREVANION was sunk in position 19-40S, 4-02E. This position was approximately 1750 NM south west of Force K]

 

24th – Force K arrived back at Freetown.

 

28th – At 2000 Force K comprising ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, NEPTUNE, HARDY, HASTY, HERO, HEREWARD and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown to patrol to the south as far as Ascension Island.

 

 

NOVEMBER

 

1st – HERO detached for escort duties.

 

5th - In position 6N, 17 W, 300 miles WSW of Freetown a 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 – The destroyer HEREWARD arrived at Freetown with the UHENFELS. She was taken for British service and renamed SS EMPIRE ABILITY.

 

14th – At Freetown where Vice Admiral Wells transferred his flag the RENOWN.

ARK ROYAL then sailed for the UK to exchange her aircraft, particularly the Swordfish, which were in urgent need of a major overall.

 

[On 15/11/39 the British tanker SS AFRICA SHELL 706grt, in approximate position 24-44S, 35-15E, on passage from Quelimane, Mozambique, to Lourenco Marques, sighted a warship approaching at speed. The master Captain Dove quickly identified the warship as the DEUTSCHLAND, it was in fact the GRAF SPEE, and turned towards the coast in an attempt to reach Mozambique territorial waters. The AFRICA SHELL was soon stopped by the GRAF SPEE, the crew took to the lifeboats and Captain Dove was taken on board the GRAF SPEE. The AFRICA SHELL was then sunk in position 24-40S, 35-12E. Captain Langsdorff wanted his presence in the Indian Ocean to be known, as he intended to immediately return to the Atlantic. So the crew of the AFRICA SHELL were allowed to row to the coast and shortly after landing they were met by a Portuguese patrol.

When the news of the sinking reached the Admiralty, the ARK ROYAL was ordered to immediately return to Freetown]   

 

17th – The ARK ROYAL arrived back at Freetown.

 

18th – Force K comprising  the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Wells), RENOWN, NEPTUNE and the destroyers 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 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 ADOLF WOERMANN.

 

22nd – At 0800, 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 St. Helena.

 

[At 1200/25/11/39 Force K and GRAF SPEE were steaming on opposing courses and came within 300 miles of each other. the GRAF SPEE. The Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic 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 have passed. The reason the CINC South Atlantic held this opinion was, had Force K followed the intended course, before being diverted by the ADOL WOERMANN they would have passed within 130 miles of the GRAF SPEE]

 

28th – The ARK ROYAL and RENOWN arrived at Simonstown.

 

[On 27 November the Admiralty ordered Force K with Force H (the heavy cruisers SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE) to form a patrol line south of the Cape of Good Hope on the meridian of 20 degrees East]

 

29th – The ARK ROYAL and RENOWN 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 aircraft.

 

 

DECEMBER

 

1st – Early in the morning Forces 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 86Z of 15 Sqd SAAFof a suspicious vessel in the area south of Cape Agulhas, 74 miles, 167¡ from Cape of Good Hope. Approximate position 35-44S, 18-47E.

Force K then steered for the position of the suspicious vessel.

 

[The vessel sighted by the Ju 86Z of 15 Sqd piloted by Captain Boshoff, was the German liner the SS WATUSSI 9521grt. The WATUSSI had sailed from Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, on 22/11/39. She had on board 43 passengers and 155crew, and was believed to be attempting to return to Germany.

Force H comprising the SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE had recently completed fuel at Simonstown and were returning to the patrol area. When Force H received the sighting report they also steered for the poison of the suspicious vessel and being nearer they arrived first. On the approach of SUSSEX, Captain Stamer, the master of the WATUSSI set his vessel on fire and set the scuttling charges and the crew and passengers abandoned ship. 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.

 

[At 1300/2/12/39south east of St Helena the SS DORIC STAR 10086grt, on passage to the UK, 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. The DORIC STAR eventually stopped and the crew taken off and sunk in position 19-15S, 5-05E. When the CINC South Atlantic 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 towards Pernambuco]

 

4th – At 0800 Force K sailed from Cape Town to carry out their assigned patrol.

 

12th – At 1000 Force K were off Pernambuco in approximate position 9S, 33W.

 

13th – At 0700 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 steered for Rio de Janeiro to refuel.

 

17th – At 0800 Force K arrived at Rio de Janeiro and immediately commenced refueling.

 

[At 2054/17/12/39 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 ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, NEPTUNE, HARDY, HASTY, HEREWARD and HOSTILE sailed from Rio de Janeiro for Freetown.

 

27th – At 0900 Force K arrived at Freetown.

 

28th to 31st - ARK ROYAL was at Freetown.

 

 

 

1 9 4 0

 

 

JANUARY

 

1st to 2nd - ARK ROYAL at Freetown.

 

3rd - The ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HASTY and HERO sailed from Freetown for Dakar.

 

4th - The ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HASTY and HERO arrived at Dakar for a good will visit.

 

8th - Early in the morning the ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HASTY and HERO sailed from Dakar.

In approximate position 11N, 19W the ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HASTY and HERO RVed with RENOWN and the destroyers HARDY and HOSTILE from Freetown.

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 refueling.

 

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 heavy cruiser EXETER, who having completed emergency repairs at Port Stanley, was sailing northward escorted by the cruisers DORSETSHIRE and SHROPSHIRE.

 

29th – In position 200 miles east of Pernambuco the ARK ROYAL force RVed with the EXETER force. DORSETSHIRE and SHROPSHIRE then detached for Buenos Aires and Montevideo, respectively. The ARK ROYAL force escorting the EXETER set course for Freetown.

 

 

FEBRUARY

 

3rd - 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 1800N ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, EXETER, DAINTY and DIAMOND sailed from Freetown and set course for Plymouth.

 

9th - At 1800N in position 23-30N, 21-20W, RENOWN and EXETER detached to proceed to rendezvous 'B' 48N, 13-30W.  The destroyers DAINTY and DIAMOND were detached to Dakar to refuel.

 

[During the night of the 9-10/2/39 the Admiralty received information that six German merchant ships had sailed from Vigo, Spain to attempt to return to Germany. The operation to intercept these vessels was known as Operation VO and for the duration of the operation the ARK ROYAL was placed under the command of the CINC Western Approaches]

 

11th – At 1830N in position 41N, 16-30W, steering 015¼, speed 19 knots, steering for position 'X', 45N, 15W in accordance with CINC Western Approaches signal timed 1351/11/2/40.

 Clocks were advanced to G.M.T. during the night of 11-12 February

 

12th – At 0800 in position 44-47N, 15-03W, ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish to guarantee and if possible, expedite the RV with the destroyers despatched by CINC Western Approaches. The aircraft were sent to the North East with instructions to act as visual link. 

At 0846 aircraft sighted the destroyers KEITH, VETERAN and WAKEFUL and vectored them towards ARK ROYAL.

At 0849 the destroyers ANTELOPE joined company, having been acting independently on passage.  She reported that she had not sighted the other destroyers.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL flew off twelve Swordfish to carry out an all round relative diverging search to a depth of 120 miles and course was altered to West. The visibility at this time was about 10 miles and deteriorating, with extensive low cloud at a height of 600 to 800 feet.  Two aircraft in the North East sector, where conditions were worst, were forced to return early. 

At 0945 the destroyers KEITH, VETERAN and WAKEFUL sighted

At 0955 the three Swordfish flown off at 0800 were landed back on.

At 1000 speed of advance 14 knots.

At 1045 KEITH, VETERAN and WAKEFUL were on station in the screen.

At 1200 position was 45-12N, 15-24W.

At 1324 the remaining aircraft were landed back on. During their patrol they had sighted the French destroyer LE TRIOMPHANT, the Dutch freighter ship SS LINGE 2114grt, and a small tanker.

At 1355 the VA A/C received a signal from the CINC WA, 1238/12, giving the position of one of the German freighters, the SS WAHEHE 4683grt.

At 1440 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to carry out a diverging search to cover the WAHEHE's possible movements.

At 1610 aircraft sighted the LE TRIOMPHANT.

At 1640 aircraft sighted the destroyer HASTY.

At 1700 aircraft sighted the destroyer HERO.

Between 1800 and 1825 the six Swordfish were landed back on. No sighting of the WAHEHE had been made.

 

[On the 21/2/40 the WAHEHE was intercepted and boarded in position 62-50N, 14-20W by the light cruiser MANCHESTER and the destroyer KIMBERLY]

 

At 2000 position was 44-23N, 15-50W.

 

13th - At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 44-39N, 17-21W. The weather was unsuitable for flying.

At 0815 the VETERAN detached to investigate the Dutch tanker the MV DEN HAAG 8971grt, on passage from New York to Amsterdam.

At 0930 the weather improved and ARK ROYAL flew off 9 Swordfish to carry out a diverging search to the south west.

At 1125 aircraft sighted the RENOWN, EXETER and HASTY.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 45-20N, 16-27W.

Between 1305 and 1340 the 9 Swordfish were landed back on. Weather conditions now deteriorated and flying was suspended.

At 1600 the ARK ROYAL passed the Norwegian freighter SS VECHT 1695grt, on passage to Rotterdam.

At 1648 the sea state was too rough for the destroyers to keep station so speed was reduced to 14 knots.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 46-15N, 14-07W  

At 2005 speed was reduced to 12 knots.

 

14th - At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 47-23N, 11-33W.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 47-56N, 10-16W.

At 1800 the destroyers ANTELOPE and VETERAN were detached to Plymouth.

 

15th – At 0730 ARK ROYAL was 12 miles south of St Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight.

At 0745 ARK ROYAL commenced flying off her air group, the Swordfish went to RNAS Lee-on-Solent and the Skuas went to RNAS Hatson.

At 0927 ARK ROYAL anchored at Spithead.

Later in the day ARK ROYAL went into Portsmouth for a short refit 

 

16th to 29th - ARK ROYAL at Portsmouth.

 

 

MARCH

 

1st to 15th - ARK ROYAL at Portsmouth.

 

16th - At 1700 ARK ROYAL sailed from Portsmouth Dockyard and anchored in Spithead.

 

17th - The ARK ROYAL carried out demagnetisation trials in Spithead, this was to test the degaussing that had been fitted during the refit.

 

19th - At 1500 ARK ROYAL and the destroyers ARROW, SHIKARI and ISIS sailed from Spithead and steered west down the Channel.

At 1630 the ARROW, SHIKARI and ISIS detached.

At 1943 the ARK ROYAL anchored in Portland Harbour.

 

20th - The ARK ROYAL sailed from Portland Harbour to operate in Weymouth Bay where she flew on Swordfish Sqds 810 from RNAS Lee-on-Solent and 820 and 821 from RNAS Ford.

After flying on the aircraft the ARK ROYAL returned to Portland Harbour.

 

[The Admiralty regained control of the Fleet Air Arm on 24/5/39 which was only 14 weeks before the out break of war. Now six months into the war, when the FAA was being expanded and the RAF contingent being replaced by RN staff, there was an urgent need for intensive training for aircrew. So it was decided to deploy the ARK ROYAL to the Mediterranean to join the GLORIOUS in carrying out training in a more benign climate]

 

22nd - At 1100 hours the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers) sailed from Portland Harbour escorted by the destroyers IMOGEN and ISIS. Course was set for Lizard Head.

 

23rd - At 1800 in position 46-47N, 13-44W the destroyers IMOGEN and ISIS detached for Plymouth.

The ARK ROYAL continued unescorted for Gibraltar.

 

25th - At 1205 in position 36-02N, 9-36W the destroyers BULLDOG and ACTIVE joined from Gibraltar.

At 1915 the destroyer VOYAGER joined from Gibraltar.

At 2010 the ACTIVE detached.

At 2115 when off Gibraltar the ARK ROYAL passed the homebound convoy HG 24F.

 

[The convoy which consisted of 22 merchant ships escorted by the destroyer WRESTLER, the French destroyer CHACAL and the French trawler CAPITAINE ARMAND was in the process of departing from Gibraltar. Included in the convoy was ex German freighter UHENFELS, captured on 5/11/39 as a result of a sighting by a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL, and now re-named EMPIRE ABILITY]

 

26th - During the morning flying exercises were carried out.

At 1200 in position 36-35N, 00-00.

 

27th - During the morning flying and gunnery exercises were carried out.

At 1200 in position 37-52N, 7-01E

 

28th - At 1000 the ARK ROYAL, BULLDOG and VOYAGER arrived at Valetta harbour.

 

29th & 30th - ARK ROYAL at Malta.

 

31st - At 1030 the aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL and GLORIOUS and the destroyers BULLDOG, VOYAGER and WESTCOTT sailed from Valetta harbour.

At 1200 in position 35-41N, 14-41E.

During the afternoon flying exercises were carried out.

 

 

APRIL

 

1st - Flying exercises were carried out during the day.

At 1200 in position 34-05N, 21-52E.

 

2nd - At 0700 the GLORIOUS and WESTCOTT detached for independent flying practice.

During the morning ARK ROYAL flew off two of her Swordfish Sqds to the Egyptian Air Force base at Dekheila for flying training ashore.

At 1330 VOYAGER detached to Alexandria for escort duties.

At 1500 ARK ROYAL and BULLDOG arrived at Alexandria.

 

3rd to 9th - The ARK ROYAL in company with GLORIOUS carried out flying exercises off Alexandria during the day and returned to harbour at night.

 

[Late on 9/4/40 Vice Admiral Wells received a signal from the Admiralty ordering immediate return of the ARK ROYAL and GLORIOUS to the UK. This was because of the German invasion of Norway]

 

10th - At 0600 the ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS with the destroyers BULLDOG and WESTCOTT sailed from Alexandria.

At 0730 ARK ROYAL and Glorious commenced landing on their Swordfish squadrons from Dekheila.

After all the aircraft were landed on course was set for Gibraltar at 25 knots.

 

11th - At 1200 the force was in position 35-26N, 16-59E.

At 1630 the destroyers HMAS STUART and WATERHEN joined from Malta.

At 1645 the GLORIOUS, WESTCOTT and BULLDOG detached to Malta to refuel.

Overnight to the south of Sicily the ARK ROYAL carried out night flying exercises.

 

12th - At 0630 the GLORIOUS, WESTCOTT and BULLDOG joined from Malta.

At 0700 the WATERHEN was detached to return to Malta.

At 1200 the ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS, WESTCOTT, BULLDOG and STUART were in position 37-44N, 8-21E.

 

13th - At 1200 the ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS, WESTCOTT, BULLDOG and STUART were in position 36-29N, 2-45W.

At 1830 the ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS, WESTCOTT, BULLDOG and STUART arrived at Gibraltar.

 

14th At 2100 the flag of Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers transferred from ARK ROYAL to GLORIOUS.

 

[The admiralty ordered the GLORIOUS to join the Home Fleet with all despatch. At 2130/14/4/40 the GLORIOUS and the destroyers STUART, VELOX and WATCHMAN sailed from Gibraltar for Greenock. ARK ROYAL was ordered to remain at Gibraltar to continue with flying exercises]

 

15th - ARK ROYAL carried out exercises in the vicinity of Alboran Island.

 

16th - At 0800 whilst off Alboran Island the ARK ROYAL was recalled to Gibraltar.

At 1700 the ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers VORTIGERN, WESTCOTT and BULLDOG sailed from Gibraltar for Greenock.

 

17th - At 2200 off Cape Finisterre VORTIGERN detached and returned to Gibraltar.

 

19th - At 2000 the destroyer SALADIN joined from Plymouth.

At 2030 the destroyers BULLDOG and WESTCOTT detached for Plymouth.

 

20th - At 1100 hours in approximate position 55-30N, 9W, ARK ROYAL and SALADIN were joined by the destroyers JUNO and HASTY from the Clyde.

At 2200 arrived off Greenock with JUNO, HASTY and SALADIN.

 

21st - ARK ROYAL was moored off Greenock.

 

22nd - At 0600 the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers) and the destroyers SIKH, JUNO and MASHONA sailed from Greenock for Scapa.

At 0930 the ARK ROYAL landed on six Skuas and five Rocs of 800 and 801 Sqds from Prestwick.

 

[En route to ARK ROYAL a Skua flown by Lt Cdr DTR Martin suffered engine failure and crashed into a field at Troon]

 

23rd - At 0300 the destroyer JUNO detached for Scapa.

At 0600 in the Pentland Firth ARK ROYAL flew off the Swordfish of 821 Sqd to RNAS Evanton. Following which she flew on the remainder of 800 and 801 Sqds from Hatson.

At 0730 the ARK ROYAL with SIKH and MASHONA arrived at Scapa.

At 0900 the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Wells, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), with 18 Skuas & 5 Rocs of 800 & 801 and 21 Swordfish of 810 & 820 embarked, GLORIOUS, with 18 Sea Gladiators of 802 & 804 and 11 Skuas of 803 plus 18 RAF Gladiators of 263 Sqd embarked, the heavy cruiser BERWICK, the anti-aircraft cruiser CURLEW (fitted with a Type 79 radar with a range, in ideal conditions, of 80 miles) screened by the destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, HASTY, FEARLESS, FURY and JUNO sailed from Scapa on Operation DX. This was the first carrier task force in the history of the RN.

 

[By 21/4/40 it had become clear that if the military expeditions operating from Andalsnes and Namsos were to continue to make progress fighter support must be given to them. Operation DX was an operation to fly off RAF Gladiator fighters, from GLORIOUS, and to provide defensive air cover for shipping operating off the Norwegian coast and for the Allied forces in Norway.

The Carriers were to provide cover for British landings at Namsos and Aandalsnes. These two forces were then to take the port of Trondheim in a pincer movement from the north and south.

The Sea Gladiators were to provide protection for the fleet (CAP) while the longer range Skuas would operate as both bombers and fighters and the Swordfish would provide a bomb or torpedo strike capability]

 

24th - The Force was on passage to Norwegian waters.

 

[From 0300 until 2100 two Sea Gladiators from the GLORIOUS maintained a rolling two hour CAP over the force]

 

At 1600 the ARK ROYAL was in position 65-00N, 5-24E.  Weather was overcast with frequent snow squalls.  Wind N.E. Force 3.  Sea and swell 25.

At 1625 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Squadron and three Skuas 7C, 7K & 7L of 801 Squadron to Andalsnes and up the valley to Kvam to attack enemy aircraft that were bombing our troops.

 

[At 1700 the 18 RAF Gladiators of 263 Squadron led by two Skuas of 803 Sqd, were flown off the GLORIOUS to an improvised landing strip built by Norwegian volunteers on the frozen lake Lesjaskogsvatnet in Oppland]

 

[REPORT of 800 and 801 Sqd

The two Skua sections from ARK ROYAL, three from 800 and three from 801, proceeded independently towards the Norwegian coast making a landfall at Bud.  The weather which was indifferent over ARK ROYAL, improved on reaching the coast with extreme visibility.

Each section went over Aandalsnes and proceeded up the narrow valley towards Dombas.  It was observed that the railway had been heavily bombed but it appeared that direct hits had only been registered in two places.  The damage done in these two places had been made good.

Passing over the frozen lake at Lesjaskogsvatnet no Gladiator aircraft were seen, but the swept runway was most conspicuous.

At Otta there was no activity of any sort.  Near Dombas many engines and rolling stock were observed on a siding.  Smoke was seen further up the valley where the enemy had been bombing.  No hostile aircraft were sighted.  Many houses were seen burning and fires had been started in the woods near Kvam and further up.

A bridge over the river at Kvam had been recently repaired and considerable motor transport was seen in this area, the majority of which was moving inland.  However, one pilot reported that he saw guns being transported towards Otta.

Aircraft now descended to 2000 feet and fired several recognition signals remaining the vicinity until time to return.  No opposition was encountered, so sections turned down the valley towards Andalsnes.

Having taken departure from Bud and when approaching the ship, the weather deteriorated and there were heavy storms.

While circling the ship before landing on, aircraft 6M, L3050 and 7K, L2877, both force landed in the sea owing to engine failure due to running out of fuel. The crews of both aircraft were rescued] 

 

By 2045 the other four Skuas, 6K, 6L, 7C & 7L, had been landed on.

Later the force was joined by the destroyer MAORI.

 

25th - At 0300 the ARK ROYAL was in position 65-12N, 8-24E.

 

[The weather conditions were, cloud ten tenths stratus and stratocumulus at 3000 feet over sea, rising to 5000 feet over the land, visibility, good, wind NW force 2.

The tasks for the day were:-

820 Squadron were to attack Vaernes aerodrome, east of Trondheim, bomb hangers, and aircraft.

810 Squadron were to attack Aircraft reported to be on the frozen Jonsvatnet lake, SE of Trondheim where German transport aircraft had been observed the previous day and the D/F hut reported on NE corner. Failing suitable targets on the lake squadron to attack Vaernes aerodrome.

800 and 801 squadrons were to attack shipping in Trondheim harbour]

 

At 0310 six Swordfish 4A, 4B, 4C, 4F, 4G & 4H of 820 Sqd each armed with four 250lb GP bombs and eight 20lb Cooper bombs, took from ARK ROYAL.

At 0315 eight Swordfish 2A, 2B, 2C, 2G, 2K, 2P, 2Q & 2R of 810 Sqd each armed with four 250lb GP bombs and eight 20lb Cooper bombs, took from ARK ROYAL. Swordfish 2K, L2768, crashed on take off the crew were rescued by the guard destroyer.

 

[REPORT of 820 Sqd ATTACK

The squadron took off at 0310, formed up over ship, and steered so as to make landfall ten miles south of Kya Lighthouse. 

Landfall was made as expected at 0415 and the Squadron then set a SE course so as to approach Trondheimsfjord passed over the south end of Beitstadfjorden.  The squadron flew at 5000 feet, at which height the aircraft was just below the cloud layer.

Trondheimsfjord was reached at 0441 and Vaernes aerodrome was approached from the NW, across the East end of Asenfjord.  The squadron then formed into line astern of sub flights.  At 0448, the Squadron Commander, Lieut. Cdr G S Hodgkinson, in 4A put the leading sub flight into echelon left and this sub flight dived to attack at 0450.  The intention was for each aircraft of each sub flight to take one strip across the aerodrome, attacking from west to east.

This plan was followed as far as practicable and the second sub flight attacked in a similar manner some thirty seconds later.

Intense A.A. fire was experienced from short range weapons immediately after starting the dive.  Shooting appeared accurate, tracer ammunition coming very close.  There appeared to be three positions from which the fire was coming, one near hangers, one on East side of Aerodrome, and another on the N.E.  No long range AA fire was observed.

Direct hits on the two westernmost hangers were obtained with 250 lbs bombs by aircraft 4F (Lieutenant Boulding) and 4G (Lieutenant Hunter) and these hangers at once burst into flames.  A huge column of black smoke rose to a height of about 2000 feet and it is thought that a petrol dump may have been destroyed.  Hits with 250 lbs bombs were also scored on the runways, and with Cooper bombs on the huts and on the north side of the aerodrome, by the other aircraft.

After the attack, squadron reformed 15 miles NW of the objective.  All six aircraft returned to the ship by the same route as that taken on the way in.  The Squadron Commander in aircraft 4A, P4124, however, forced landed in the sea minutes after reaching the ship.  The crew were rescued by the destroyer MAORI. All remaining aircraft landed on safely and were undamaged by enemy action.

Photographs of Vaernes, Asenfjord, and Hoppel Elven were obtained by Lieutenant Dayrell.  A number of our own merchant ships were berthed in Hoppel Elven]

 

[REPORT of 810 Sqd ATTACK

The Squadron consisting of eight Swordfish aircraft took off at 0315 and took departure at 0333, having been delayed by the forced landing in the sea of 2K.  The crew of this aircraft were recovered by the screening destroyer.

A course was set for Halten fyr Lighthouse and then for Trondheim.  When about seven miles from the latter at 0436, course was shaped for Gulosen Fjord to avoid long range AA fire which was opened from Trondheim.

The Squadron reached Jonsvatnet Lake at 0455 and searched for objectives for 25 minutes.  No aircraft or buildings identifiable as military objectives were seen.  The lake appeared to be melting at edges and at points which streams entered.

The Squadron Commander, Captain N.R.M. Skene, R.M, in 2A, therefore decided to proceed to Vaernes Aerodrome, the secondary objective.

At 0520, a heavy column of black smoke was sighted ahead which proved to come from the hanger destroyed at 820 Squadron.

At 0525, after forming line astern, the Squadron delivered a bomb bombing attack diving in succession from about 5000 feet and releasing between 2000 and 3000 feet.

Intense close range AA fire was opened from points around the aerodrome as the first aircraft began to dive.  During the form up a few bursts of long range A.A. fire were observed, the source of which was not seen.  No aircraft which returned were hit.

Hits were obtained on the hanger next east of that destroyed by 820 Squadron, causing a violent explosion followed by a fire which was attended by much black smoke; this was the result of a salvo from 2P.  A large transport monoplane was straddled by 20 lb. Bombs and narrowly missed by 250 lb bombs.  Several small buildings near the hangers were destroyed or damaged.

At 0535, the Squadron Commander's sub flight, having failed to make contact with the remainder of the Squadron, proceeded to Halten Light, and thence to ARK ROYAL.  2A joined this formation near Halten Light, 2P returned independently.  2R, K8879 and 2G, L2790, forced landed in sea, the crew of 2R being recovered by MAORI.

A destroyer was sent out on 2G's D/F bearing at 0745, the aircraft was not located.  2G had previously asked for bearings, had received a course to steer to reach ARK ROYAL from the Squadron Commander, and by D/F was approaching on the correct bearing.  A subsequent search by two aircraft failed to find any trace of 2G]

 

[The attack on Vaernes aerodrome as well as destroying infrastructure also destroyed eight Ju 87's, seven from Stukastaffel 1./I./StG 1 and one from Stukastaffel 2./I./StG 1 and one Ju 52 from Transportstaffel KGrzbV 107]

 

At 0420, seven Skuas, 7A, 7B, 7C, 7G, 7L & 7M of 801 Squadron and 2 Skuas, 6K & 6L of 800 Squadron, each armed with a 250lb GP bomb and eight 20lb bombs took off from the ARK ROYAL to attack shipping in Trondheim Harbour.

 

[REPORT of 801 and 800 Sqds

After taking off, Squadrons formed up and proceeded to Halten fyr Light, which was sighted as 0500.  The visibility was generally good, but occasional snow showers were encountered.

The Squadrons climbed to 5000 feet on reaching the coast, just above the thin layer of fractocumulus cloud and went into line ahead formation.

The approach to Trondheim was made direct from Halten fyr Light, thus avoiding the entrance to the Fjord where they were reported gun emplacements.

No warships were seen in the harbour, but two large merchant vessels were lying at anchor in Trondheim Bay.  The leader decided to attack these and all aircraft dived in line ahead, each dropping one 250lb. GP bomb and four 20lb bombs.  One direct hit with a small bomb was seen on the stern of one of the motor vessels, the remaining bombs falling all round the targets.

The squadron then split up and four other merchant ships were attacked separately with the remaining bombs.  No direct hits were seen, but a warehouse adjacent to one MV was set on fire.  In all these attacks bridges and decks were machine gunned.

Two Skuas 7M, Lt. (A) Church and 7L, Sub Lt. (A) Myers) found one Ju 88 and a wrecked He 111 on a nearby frozen lake.  These were machine gunned and two bombs dropped by Lt. Taylour, who by this time had rejoined this section.  The rear gunner of the Ju 88, who had opened fire, was killed and the aircraft badly damaged.

A great deal of A.A. fire was encountered over Trondheim and several Skuas were slightly damaged.  This shows AA fire was quite accurate and of varying calibre, the guns being situation on the waterfront. 

All aircraft had returned safely to the carrier by 0730]

 

At 0455, three Skuas, 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd took off from ARK ROYAL for fighter patrol over Namsos.

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd.

A good landfall was made at the head of Namsos Fjords and communication was established with CALCUTTA and BITTERN.  CALCUTTA indicated an enemy aircraft flying up the valley to the eastward.  This aircraft, a He 115 floatplane was engaged.  It climbed rapidly but each aircraft in the section delivered two attacks and it was seen to be hit.  The enemy took violent avoiding action and succeeded in climbing into the clouds which were at 4000 feet.  Lieut. Finch-Noyes, in 6F, broke off the engagement and reformed his section owing to a defective blind flying panel.

Visibility now became bad on account of snow showers and it was impossible to penetrate further than Grong.  However, at 0630, Foling was reached at the western end, Snasavatnet, and it was seen that both the railway and the road from here to Namsos were intact.  At Foling itself the road bridge had been destroyed.  No troops or transports were sighted at all, but the roads had obviously been well used.  Namsos appeared to be evacuated and had been badly damaged by bombs.

On the return journey to the ship a Ju 89 was sighted and the section gave chase but was easily outdistanced.

This section landed at 0850]

 

At 0610, three Skuas, 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd took off from ARK ROYAL for fighter patrol over Namsos.

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

This section made an easy landfall over Namsos; V/S communication was established with CALCUTTA.  On this occasion the patrol was carried out without incident, no enemy aircraft being sighted.

All aircraft returned to ARK ROYAL at 1015]            

 

By 1015 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft and because of weather conditions all flying was suspended.

At 2100 the destroyer MAORI detached to RV with the freighter the SS BLACKHEATH and escort her back to Scapa.

 

[In the evening of the 25/4/40, the CINC Home Fleet, received from the Admiralty the following statement of air policy in Norway, of which the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, was informed:-

After consultation with the War Office and Air Ministry, the following information as regards air policy for the immediate future is forwarded for your information:-

(1)   Aandalsnes area: RAF Gladiator Squadron now landed and operating from frozen lake.   It is hoped that a land aerodrome three miles south-west of Aandalsnes will be ready in about ten days' time. One Blenheim squadron and two Hurricane squadrons are being prepared for despatch. The Hurricanes will have to be placed on board the GLORIOUS or FURIOUS by lighter and then flown ashore. Until Blenheim and/or Hurricane squadrons can be landed, it will be necessary for carriers to give the maximum support possible, as at present. Occasional patrols by Blenheim squadrons from Hatson and Hudsons from Wick may be expected.

(2)   Namsos area:   R.A.F cannot provide any help for the present. It will therefore be necessary for carriers to give maximum support possible as at present, it appears possible that a base for twelve Rocs on floats might be found in the vicinity. This is being actively investigated by Naval and Air staffs. This commitment could however, only be at the expense of fighter squadrons now embarked in carriers. (1943/25th April)]

 

 

26th - At 0700 the destroyers GRENADE, BEAGLE, FORTUNE, VOLUNTEER, ENCOUNTER and ESCORT joined the force from Narvik.

At 0725 the destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, HASTY, FEARLESS, FURY and JUNO detached and proceeded to Sullom Voe to refuel.

At 1000 the ARK ROYAL was in position 65-08N, 5-28E. At this time the weather cleared and there were clear blue skies and she launched six Skuas, 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F, 7G & 7H of 801 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Aandalnes

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

The squadron took off in perfect visibility and made a good landfall at Bud climbing to 10, 000 feet.  The CURACOA was seen at Andalsnes and the squadron proceeded up the valley towards Gladiator Lake at 1120, two Gladiators were seen to take off.  The swept runway was most conspicuous and numerous bomb craters were seen all over the lake.

Having circled the lake, the patrol was continued back towards Aandalsnes.  Three He 111Ps of Kampfstaffel 5./II./KG 4, from Fornebu, were then seen approaching from the opposite direction and slightly below in line ahead formation.

The whole Squadron in turn attacked the rearmost enemy aircraft which hurriedly dropped its bombs.  The starboard engine was put on fire by Lieutenant Commander H. Bramwell in 7A and the port engine by Lieutenant (A) W. Martin in 7C.  This aircraft lost height and was seen to crash into a snowdrift; at Digervarden Lesja, two crew were seen to get out.

(This aircraft had taken off from Fornebu at 1000/26/4/40 on a mission to attack shipping at Andalsnes. During its attack on shipping in Romsdalsfjord it hit and damaged by AA fire from the MANCHESTER. The damaged Heinkel was then attacked by Skuas 7A & 7C, and made a forced landing)

The second He 111P was then attacked by Sub Lieutenant Wigginton in 7B, and the starboard engine put on fire.  This aircraft was last seen losing height with smoke pouring from it.  Meanwhile, the leading He 111P beat a hasty retreat towards the coast.

The Squadron then reformed and returned to ARK ROYAL, landing on at 1330]

 

By 1330 the six Skuas of 801 Sqd had landed back on.

At 1410 three Skuas, 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd took off from ARK ROYAL for a fighter patrol over Andalsnes.

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

This section made a landfall at Bud at 1500, when one small ship was seen on fire amidships.  A little further away at Vestnes another ship was seen sunk.

Section climbed to 9000 feet and on approaching Andalsnes two enemy aircraft at 9000 and 10,000 were seen surrounded by H.A. burst from the sloop FLAMINGO.

Captain Partridge, R.M. in 6A, fired all his ammunition at the lower aircraft with no observed effect.  No. 3 P.O. Hadley in 6C then attacked this aircraft and was seen to break violently away and lose height.  The section leader followed him down and was informed by signal that the pilot had been wounded in the face.  However, P.O. Hadley decided not to force land and rejoined his leader.

Meanwhile, No. 2 in the section, Sub-Lt Hurle Hobbs, in 6B, had attempted to intercept the other He 111, but without success.

Aircraft then rejoined formation and returned to the ship, landing on at 1615.  It was found on landing that the windscreen of P.O. Hadley's aircraft had been smashed and that he had been cut by the splintering glass]

 

By 1615 the three Skuas of 800 Sqd had landed back on.

At 1700 the ARK ROYAL was in position 68-14N, 6-12E, at this time six Skuas, 6F, 6G, 6H & 6K of 800 Sqd and 7L & 7M of 801 Sqd were flown off  for a fighter patrol over Andalsnes.

 

[REPORT of 800 and 801 Sqds

Nothing was sighted until 1905 when one He 115 floatplane was seen at about 4000 feet flying south along the coast.  This machine was attacked from the stern by all of Red Section.  Petrol was seen pouring out of the port float and the rear gunner ceased firing.  Red 2 and Red 3 lost contact after the first attack but Red Leader, Lt. E.G.D. Finch-Noyes in 6F, continued to fight the enemy down to the water.  After one long burst petrol started to stream away from the starboard float.  By this time, Red Leader had run out of ammunition, But Red 2, and Red 3 rejoined and attacked again until ammunition was expended.  The rear gunners were then given shots.  Although the enemy was very badly damaged, he finally escaped towards Trondheim.  Long bursts fired at the engine did no apparent damaged, although incendiary were seen to be hitting]

 

By 2040 all six Skuas had been recovered.

 

27th - At 0820 ARK ROYAL was in position 64-40N, 4-48E and she flew off three Skuas, 7F, 7G & 7H of 801 Sqd for a patrol over Andalsnes.

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

A landfall was made at 0930 in good weather and the section proceeded up the valley from Aandalsnes, arriving over Gladiator Lake at 1010.  Height 10,000 feet.

Two He 111H of Kampfstaffel 9./III./KG 26, from Aalborg West, Denmark, were seen immediately low down in the valley at the height of 2000 feet approximately.  S/Lt P E Marsh in 7G first sighted these aircraft and was ordered to lead the attack by Lieut. R L Strange in 7F.

The rear Heinkel was attacked head on by S/Lt P E Marsh while the remainder of the section wheeled and attacked from astern.  Smoke was seen to come from the port engine and it is believed the aircraft force landed in a wood.

The leading Heinkel was then attacked, and in spite of violent avoiding action two further attacks were made.  Although hits were registered on this Heinkel it managed to get away.

The Section returned safely to the carrier at 1155]

 

[By the 27/4/40 the Germans were aware that an aircraft carrier was operating off Norway and they sent out reconnaissance aircraft to attempt to locate the carrier.

At about 0915 there was a report of an unidentified flying boat bearing 215¼ from ARK ROYAL. It was in fact one of three Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft, a He 111H of 1.(F)/122 and two Do 215B-1's of 3./Aufkl. St.(F)/ObdL, which had located the force. All the aircraft had flown from Sola airfield Stavanger. The Luftwaffe reported three aircraft carriers, ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS and EAGLE

(The Do 215's were part of the special, Fernaufklarer, named, Aufklarungsgruppe des Oberbefehlshabers der Luftwaffe, headed by Reichsmarschall Hermann Garing and under the operational control of Oberstleutnant Rowehl)

At 0935 GLORIOUS launched four Gladiators to intercept the German aircraft]

 

By 1155 ARK ROYAL had recovered Skuas, 7F, 7G & 7H.

 

At 1230 ARK ROYAL launched three Skuas, 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a patrol over Andalsnes.

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

A landfall was made at Bud at 1327.  One He 111H of 2./KG100 from Aalborg airfield, Denmark, was sighted at 13,000 feet bombing one of HM Ships.  Yellow section climbed to attack and Yellow 3, 6C, pilot Sub Lieutenant Hurle-Hobbs, delivered a full deflection beam attack.  Yellow 1, 6A and Yellow 2, 6B, then attacked before the enemy turned away to the south.  Yellow section gave chase and several more attacks were delivered before heavy smoke was observed coming from the port engine.  The enemy then force landed in the corner of a valley about 20 miles to the south east of Aandalnes.

(The enemy aircraft were on a mission to attack allied forces in the Andalsnes-Dombas area. They made a bombing run on the sloop FLAMINGO in Romsdalsfjord after which they were sighted and attacked by the Skuas. The He 111H made a forced landing beside lake Heilstuguvatnet)

Yellow Leader, 6A, L2940, Captain RT Partridge, R.M. appeared to have been hit in the engine and he successfully force landed on a frozen lake about one mile from the Heinkel.  Both occupants of the machine were uninjured.

Yellow 2 and 3 joined up and returned to the ship at 1540, their ammunition being expended]

 

[REPORT of Forced landing of Skua 6A, by the pilot, Captain Partridge RM.

Whilst following the Heinkel down after the attack, Captain Partridge realised that his engine was failing and that he would be forced to land immediately.  Selecting a frozen lake, lake Breiddalsvannet, which appeared to have a road running beside it, he landed his machine successfully with the undercarriage up.  A bent airscrew was the only damage and the machine came to rest alongside the road in about four feet of snow.

After destroying the R.1110 (homing beacon W/T receiver) and removing such gear as they though necessary, Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock, the observer, set alight to their machine by firing a few shots from the revolver into the petrol tanks and then a Very pistol cartridge into the aircraft.

During their glide to earth, following the engine failure, the two officers had noticed a small hut at the top of a hill not far from where they eventually landed.  Walking through the snow proved extremely hard going; the road was buried and snow came up to their knees most of the time.  However, the building was reached at last and they went inside to investigate.

A few minutes later they heard a whistle outside.  On looking out of the window, they saw three Germans armed with revolvers and knives.  These were the crew of the Heinkel which they had shot down and had crashed on the other side of the hill on which the little building was situated.

The situation was awkward, but Captain Partridge rose to the occasion and ordered the three men to come inside.  To his relief, they obeyed meekly and Captain Partridge continued to take charge.  Differences in language proved an obstacle, but by use of broken English and broken German, the British officers discovered that the enemy consisted of one officer of Lieutenant's rank (the pilot was Horst Schopis) and two NCOs, one of whom was the navigator.  It transpired that the rear gunner of the Heinkel had been killed in the action with the Skuas.

Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock, not wishing the Germans to realise that they were responsible for shooting them down, managed to convey that they were the crew of a British Wellington which had been forced to land nearby.

The Germans appeared convinced that they had been attacked and shot down by Spitfires.

By this time it was getting late, so it was decided to have another look round for more suitable shelter.  The British officers saw a chalet at the foot of the hill.  Captain Partridge therefore told to the Germans that they were to sleep in the hut.  The Germans made no objection, so Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock walked to the chalet.  This turned out to be a small hotel which was shut up, but they entered and discovered food and bedding.

Early next morning, the Germans arrived, still armed.  There seemed no alternative but to offer them a share of the food, so all five breakfasted in company.  Captain Partridge then announced that he intended to explore outside the hotel.  One of the German NCOs went with him.  Lieutenant Bostock remained inside with the other two.

A few minutes later, Lieutenant Bostock heard a shot outside, and thinking that the German had shot Captain Partridge, hurried out to look.  On reaching the veranda, Lieutenant Bostock saw a Norwegian ski patrol four hundred yards away.  The patrol had fired a warning shot; captain Partridge had fallen flat on the ground as a precaution, and the German NCO had placed his hands above his head.

The leading Norwegian covered the German with his Rifle.  The latter called out 'Ingleesh', 'Ingleesh', and apparently satisfied, the Norwegian turned his attention to Captain Partridge.  At this moment, as the Norwegian turned away, the German made a movement with Lieutenant Bostock considered to be an attempt to reach his revolver.  Seeing this, another member of the ski patrol shot the German dead.

The Norwegians then proceeded to search Captain Partridge, Lieutenant Bostock, and the remaining two Germans for weapons.  They did not at first believe that Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock were British, but the production of a half-crown and the showing of a tailor's label inside their uniform coats eventually convinced them.  An amazing coincidence then occurred, as the English speaking leader of the Norwegians chanced to be the brother in law of a close friend of Captain Partridge.  On discovering this, the Norwegians became very friendly and most helpful.

It was decided to hand over the two Germans to the French Headquarters and they were marched away by the patrol.

The Norwegians suggested that Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock should join the British Forces at Aalesund.

Waiting till two o'clock the next morning (29/4/40l) when the snow was reasonable firm, the British officers set out to trudge the twenty one miles to Aalesund.  They arrived at last, extremely weary, and were met by a scene of utter desolation.  The enemy were bombing the town continuously and it was completely wrecked.  Major Lumley, Captain Pitts, and a hundred Royal Marines were in occupation.

Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock were told that a destroyer was arriving that night to evacuate the British force, but it did not appear.  After twenty four hours, during which vain attempts had been made to communicate with Aandalsnes by telephone, it was decided that a message must be taken by hand.

Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock managed to commandeer a car and they set off on the twenty five mile drive to Aandalsnes.  The road was in many places made practically impassable by bomb craters, and on several occasions it became necessary to stop and take cover while German aircraft passed close overhead.  Aandalsnes was reached eventually, after crossing the fjord by car ferry.  On arrival, the AA cruiser CALCUTTA was seen to be in action with fifteen Heinkel bombers but no damage was observed.

Aandalsnes too was a shambled, most of the town being on fire after continual heavy bombing.  Captain Partridge and Lieutenant Bostock reported the situation at Aalesund.  A few hours later they embarked in the light cruiser MANCHESTER and were brought home to the United Kingdom]

 

At 1515 ARK ROYAL launched five Skuas, 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd and 7A & 7C of 801 Sqd for a patrol over Aandalnes.

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

The two Skua sections proceeded independently to Aandalsnes in perfect weather with extreme visibility.  A convoy escorted by destroyers and one 'C' class cruiser was seen moving up the fjord towards the town.

On arrival over the convoy at a height of 9,000 feet, two Ju 88As of KG30 from Westerland airfield, Island of Sylt, were seen about to carry out a dive bombing attack on the ships.  The enemy aircraft were immediately attacked by both sections and followed down on their dive.  Bombs fell close to the convoy, but no direct hits were seen.  Lieutenant Commander H.P. Bramwell in 7A and Sub-Lieutenant (A) Wigginton in 7C continued to attack one Ju 88 and both its engines were set on fire; the attack was broken off on sighting another enemy aircraft, but this is a reasonable assumption to presume that this Junkers force landed.  The other section continued their attack on the other Ju 88, both engines being set on fire.

Numerous He 111 aircraft were then seen, sections climbed independently and the Skuas became dispersed as individual targets were engaged.

No Heinkels managed to attack the convoy and their bombs were dropped indiscriminately.

At 1610, HA fire from the cruiser convoying indicated large and rugged formations of He 111Hs of KG100 from Nordholz, Lower Saxony, approaching from the northward.  In all, fifteen enemy aircraft were sighted.

Our aircraft attacked individually and a general 'dog fight' ensued.  Enemy formations were broken up and only two He 111s dropped their bombs in the vicinity of the convoy.

It is difficult to single out individuals for special mention on occasions of this sort.  Every pilot fought magnificently and the rear seat personnel opened fire with effect as occasion permitted.

This general fight lasted approximately a quarter of an hour during which four Heinkels were shot down, a statement which has been verified by a German prisoner who was a spectator.

Enemy aircraft, Included Ju 88s, He 111s, and Do 17s and apart from the initial dive bombing by the two Ju 88s, the attacks were not driven home with determination.

On conclusion of this general affray, all Skuas were out of ammunition but several pilots continued to make dummy attacks on the retreating Heinkels.

In the middle of these attacks, one Sunderland was seen to land close to the convoy and was immediately fired on by a Ju 88 but without result.  Two Skuas were unsuccessfully attacked by Ju 88s.

All our aircraft had returned safely to the ship by 1820.

In all, some thirty enemy aircraft had been encountered during this patrol]

 

At 1540 Skuas 6B & 6C landed back on ARK ROYAL.

At 1645 ARK ROYAL lunched three Skuas 7L, 7M & 7P of 801 Sqd for a patrol over Aandalsnes.

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

When this section reached the approaches to Aandalsnes at 1735, they saw one solitary He 111H of 2/KG100 from Aalborg airfield, Denmark which was attacked from astern.  The enemy retired at high speed but further attacks were made.  During on of these attacks, the section leader in 7L, L2931, pilot Lieu (A) WCA Church; observer Sub Lieu (A) Willis was hit.  Skua 7L burst into flames; the engine parted from the fuselage, and the aircraft dived vertically into the sea just north of Storholmen fyr Lighthouse

The remaining two Skuas continued to attack and the Heinkel was shot down in the sea. Two crew were seen to escape.

The two Skuas circled the spot were Lieu Church had crashed, but nothing was seen except a partially inflated dinghy, both Lieu Church and Sub Lieu Willis perished. As no further enemy aircraft were sighted, the remainder of the section returned to the ship landing on at 1855]

 

By 1820 Skuas 6F, 6G, 6H, 7A & 7C landed back on ARK ROYAL.

At 1855 Skuas 7M & 7P landed back on ARK ROYAL.

At 1900 GLORIOUS flew off her last four remaining Skuas of 803 Sqd and there landed on the ARK ROYAL. This gave the ARK ROYAL 23 fighters, 18 Skuas, 7 of 800, 7 of 801 and 4 of 803, and 5 Rocs, 2 of 800 and 3 of 801.

At 2030 the destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, HASTY, FEARLESS, FURY and JUNO rejoined from Sullom Voe.

At 2100 the GLORIOUS escorted by destroyers FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT, GRENADE, HASTY and ENCOUNTER detached for Scapa Flow.

 

28th - At 0305 ARK ROYAL was in position 64-58N, 8-07E. Weather conditions, cloud, nil, visibility, very good, wind SW force 1 to 2. At this time ARK ROYAL launched six Swordfish, 4B, 4C, 4F, 4G, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with four 250 lb bombs, six Cooper bombs, and two incendiary bombs.

At 0310 ARK ROYAL launched six Swordfish, 2A, 2F, 2H, 2L, 2M & 2P of 810 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with four 250 lb bombs, six Cooper bombs, and two incendiary bombs.

The target for the 12 Swordfish was Vaernes Aerodrome, which had become a major Luftwaffe base.

 

[REPORT BY 820 Sqd

The operation was carried out by six aircraft as shown in the crew list, each armed with four 250 lb. bombs, six Cooper bombs, and two incendiary bombs.

Aircraft took off at 0305 and steered so as to make a landfall at the Kya Lighthouse.  This position was reached at 0405 when a S.E. course was set for Vaernes Aerodrome, height 6000 feet.

After approaching from the North, the Squadron reached the objective at 0432 and attack was carried out on huts and barrack blocks on the outskirts of the aerodrome.  Direct hits with at least six 250 lb bomb, eight 20 lb. Cooper bombs, and several incendiaries were observed on what appeared to be barracks blocks on the N.E. corner of the aerodrome.  Huts on the N.W. side of the aerodrome were also hit with 250 lb and 20 lb bombs.

During the approach when about three miles from Vaernes at 6000 feet, fire was opened by the enemy with four or possibly six H.A. guns of about 3 inch calibre, situated on the W. side of the Aerodrome.  A barrage of high explosives was put up.  Rate of fire appeared very high and shooting was accurate as regards height, though slightly out for line.  On aircraft (4C) was hit by a flying fragment of a shell in the lower plane, but its efficiency was not impaired and it carried out its attack.

Short range A.A. fire was also experienced during the dive to attack, though this was less than on the occasion of the previous attack on 25/4/40]

 

[REPORT BY 810 Sqd

0310  Took off, 6 Swordfish aircraft armed with four 250 lb G.F. bombs, 2 incendiary bombs and six 20 lb bombs per aircraft.

0317 Took departure and made a landfall 10 miles S.E. Kya Light.  Then Course direct for Vaernes aerodrome and climbed to 9000 feet with no cloud cover.

At about 0400 long range A.A. fire (about 3 inch) was opened (see below).  This was countered by diving 'S' turns, the aircraft being in line astern.

0443 Squadron delivered a high dive bombing attack.  Intense short range A.A. fire was met below 6000 feet.

0445 Squadron reformed over Tautra Island, Midflorden and returned to ship, landing on at 0610.

DAMAGE REPORT

A group of buildings in the N.E. corner of aerodrome were blown up and left burning.  The last remaining hangar was blown up by a salvo of 4 x 250 lb bombs, a direct hit by 2P pilot Lieut. DF Godfrey-Faussett. It is reported that the wing of a large aircraft was projecting from the hanger and two more aircraft were parked close by.  If so these must have been destroyed.

REPORT of AA Fire

This was considerably more intense that on the first raid.  One battery of long range guns (about 3') opened a very accurate fire from a position on the west side of the aerodrome.

Short range fire appeared to come from numerous guns of the Bofors and Bren type, the former appearing to burst at about 6000 feet.

Three aircraft received minor damage from rifle calibre bullets.

On this, as on the previous occasion, the direct hit on the hangar was the result of a determined attack by Lieutenant D.F. Godfrey-Faussett, R.N. the pilot of 2P]

 

[In the attack on Vaernes Aerodrome by 810 and 820 Sqds, eight Ju 87s were destroyed on the ground; seven from Stukastaffel 1./I./StG 1and one from Stukastaffel 2./I./StG 1]

 

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL launched seven Skuas, 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd and 7A, 7C, 7F & 7G of 801 Sqd. Each Skua was armed with one 250lb SAP bomb and eight 20lb bombs, their mission was to attack shipping in Trondheim Harbour, floatplanes and the slipway.

Also launched was a Swordfish that was to carry out a photographic reconnaissance of the forts at entrance to Trondheim Fjord.

 

[REPORT BY 800 and 801 Sqd

The two sections approached from the North making a landfall at Halten Light at 0430 at 13,000 feet.

Three empty merchant ships in the same position as on the previous raid were observed and approximately eighteen large floatplanes.

A tactical dive was made to about 8000 feet and then a final dive so as to line up with the merchant ships and floatplanes.  One 250 lb bomb and two 20 lb bombs were aimed at the merchant ships, one hit observed.  The dive was then extended and six 20 lb bombs were dropped by each pilot amongst the seaplanes which were moored close together.  One direct was observed and all the remainder are thought to have been close enough to cause damage by blast and splinters.

Accurate short range HAA fire was experienced by all except the first two aircraft. None of our aircraft were hit by the heavy HAA and pom pom fire, but Skua 6M, pilot Midshipman L H Gallagher became lost the forced landed at Andalsnes. Six Skuas returned to ARK ROYAL at 0630]

 

[In this attack five He 115 B-2s were destroyed, two from KŸstenstaffel 1./KŸGr 506 and three from KŸstenstaffel 2./KŸGr 506]

 

[REPORT BY SWORDFISH RECONNAISSANCE

This reconnaissance was carried out in preparation for Operation ZEAL, which was to be a bombardment of the approaches to Trondheim Fjord.

Aircraft on photographic reconnaissance experienced no AA fire from the forts but sighted and attacked unsuccessfully, with four 100 lb A/S bombs, a submarine proceeding out of Trondheim Fjord.  The aircraft then returned and landed on]

 

By 0610 all 12 Swordfish of the early morning strike had landed back on ARK ROYAL.

By 0630 ARK ROYAL had recovered six of the Skua strike.

 

[REPORT OF MIDSHIPMAN (A) L.H. GALLAGHER.

 I have the honour to report that on Sunday 28th April 1940, at 0400 my aircraft left ARK ROYAL in company with two others, piloted by Lieutenant Rooper, 6L and Lieutenant Spurway 6K in order to bomb enemy transports in Trondheim Harbour.  The attack was carried out and one hit was observed on a transport by a 250 lb bomb, and numerous 20 lb bombs were dropped among seaplanes at the moorings, but without observing any results.  Finding myself separated from the leader, I set course back to the ship, but failed to locate her.  After carrying out a squared search, still without results, I flew back to Trondheim and from there made my way down the coast to Aandalsnes, which was held by British forces.  After an interchange of signals with a British cruiser in the Fjord, a landing ground was discovered near Aandalsnes, where the remnants of the Gladiators which had been landed by GLORIOUS proved to be hidden.  Here I managed to refuel my aircraft intending to fly to Hatston immediately (0830).  However, the engine failed to start on my only remaining starter cartridge.  By this time the usual bombing by German aircraft started, and continued throughout the day.  I therefore camouflaged my aircraft with branches and walked into Andalsnes to the Army Headquarters with frequent halts to take cover.

From the Headquarters a signal was sent as follows:  'To ARK ROYAL.  From Naval Officer in Charge.  Please drop box Coffman starter cartridges at Aandalsnes on next patrol.'  I then walked back to the camp near the aerodrome and attached myself to Lieutenant Commander Audrey.  We spent most of the day taking cover as He 111's were patrolling continuously overhead, releasing bombs at short intervals.  Most of these bombs were aimed at the jetty and the remainder of the town still standing, causing serious fires.

On 29th April, the enemy air raids started much earlier than usual, 0700, and during the day, six or seven dive bombing attacks were made at the flying ground with 500 lb and smaller bombs.  Some missed the field and fell in the camp and killed six horses, but there were no other casualties, as personnel were extremely well dispersed, in some cases as much as 2000 feet up the mountains.  In the evening the Naval Liaison Officer informed me that my aircraft would have to be destroyed if I could not get it started as Andalsnes was to be abandoned.  With the aircraft's destruction in view, I was stripping it of all movable gear when I discovered five starter cartridges.  I salvaged these with difficulty and informed the Naval Liaison Officer that I should be able to leave.  In the evening, the troops from the camp were marched down from the camp to the jetty to embark.  A force of 100 Marines being left to cover their retreat.  At dusk enemy aircraft dropped incendiary bombs near the jetty, and used this blaze as a guide for their bombing. 

At 0215 on the morning of the 30th the Marines left the camp, destination unknown, leaving myself and the Air Gunner, Naval Airman G.W. Halifax, as the only occupants, as we needed light before we could take off, owing to the damaged condition of the field.  Just on dawn, an early Heinkel spotted us, and attacked with machine guns from 3000 feet.  We therefore started the aircraft and managed to take off without damage at 0310.  I set course for Lerwick, and then Hatston, eventually arriving at 0700]

 

[Early in the day the British War Cabinet ordered the withdrawal of the British troops that were attempting to capture Trondheim. The Admiralty immediately informed the CINC Home Fleet that it had been decided to re-embark the forces landed at Namsos and Andalsnes as soon as possible. It was therefore planned to extricate the troops from Andalsnes on the nights of 29th/30th April, 30th April/1st May, and the troops from Namsos on the night of 1st/2nd May. This news was communicated by the CINC Home Fleet to Vice Admiral Wells. The intention was that the Fleet Air Arm would provide cover over Andalsnes on 1st May and Namsos on the 2nd and 3rd]

 

At 1105 ARK ROYAL launched three Skuas of Blue Section 803 Sqd, H, K & L, to carry out a patrol over Molde.

 

[REPORT OF 803 Sqd

1109.  Departed for Molde

1214.    Crossed coast at Bud; height 11,500 feet.

1218.    Sighted Ju 88, 7000 feet below bombing a British Escort vessel 3 miles south east of Molde, which was leaving harbour.  Manoeuvred to carry out beam attack.  Leader, Blue 1, pilot Lieutenant W.P. Lucy, got in one short burst, but relative speeds were too great and the attack was broken off.

Blue 2, pilot Sub-Lieutenant (A) G. W. Brokensha, was out of position and overshot enemy.

Blue 3, pilot Petty Officer Airman A.G. Johnson, carried out quarter, developing into stern attack, maintained position at about 270 knots and fired short bursts.  Enemy appeared partially to lose control and jettisoned his bombs and dived out of range.  Continued to follow enemy who lost height and crashed onto west side of island north of Hero.

1922.    Blue Section reformed.

1245.    Three He 111s were sighted above.  Blue 3 was able to carry out an immediate attack causing enemy to jettison his bombs.  Blue Leader and Blue 2 climbed into position above enemy (different enemy from the one Blue 3 attacked) who also jettisoned bombs, and carried out successive attacks from astern.  Enemy appeared to be disabled, with starboard engine stopped and undercarriage down.  Enemy continued to lose height and finally crashed in a valley, believed to be between Hjorun Fjord and Sunnelve Fjord.

1310.    Blue Leader and Blue 2 returned to patrol Aandalsnes.  Sighted another Ju 88 about to bomb Molde.  Dived to attack, but enemy escaped owing to superior speed.

1320.  Returned to patrol over Molde.  Sighted eight enemy aircraft He 111s, seven of which were in formation at the same height as patrol, 9000 feet.  Blue Leader and Blue 2 carried out successive attacks on starboard wing aircraft which was slightly astern of station.  After Blue 2's attacks, enemy dived steeply and finally crashed into the sea in flames.

1340.    Followed formation out to sea to north west.  Both aircraft made enemy reports to ship.

1345.  Blue Leader manoeuvred in position 1500 feet above and slightly ahead of enemy and dived in a vertical attack on the leader, breaking away and climbing up again to starboard.  Formation broke up; Blue Leader maintained contact with one remaining enemy proceeding north west.

1350.  Blue 2 observed many bombs being jettisoned as the formation broke up and attacked the nearest enemy who finally disappeared into clouds with starboard engine stopped.  Blue 2's ammunition was then expended.

1352.    Blue Leader, when enemy report had been sent, expended remaining ammunition on enemy aircraft which turned to the south and disappeared into cloud.

1350.    Blue 3 who was patrolling above Molde saw several aircraft returning from seaward.  Rear gun attacks were carried out and one long attack was made.  Port engine burst into flames and enemy dived steeply into cloud and was not seen again.

Blue aircraft had become separated and returned independently, Blue Leader and Blue 2 having navigators and Blue 3 homing himself by beacon.  It is noted that ship was then 90 miles from the coast and Leading Airman Coston, air gunner in Blue 3, was able to service the R.1110 which had become defective in the air, and his feat in returning without breaking W/T silence is considered worthy of special mention.

1500.    Blue Section Landed]

 

At 1130 in position 64-40N, 5E the light cruiser SHEFFIELD joined from Scapa Flow to take on the duty of Radar guard ship.

At 1135 the CURLEW detached to refuel at Sullom Voe. ARK ROYALs escort now comprised BERWICK, SHEFFIELD, HYPERION, HEREWARD, FEARLESS and JUNO

At 1140 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd to attack enemy bombers that were bombing CALCUTTA and Convoy TM 1.

 

[Convoy TM 1 had sailed from Namsos around midnight 27/4/40 and comprised the merchant ships DALLINGTON COURT 6889grt, DELIUS 6065grt (During her offloading at Namsos the DELIUS had had received a direct hit from a bomb), SPANKER 1875 grt and RONAN 1489grt, escorted by the destroyers AMAZON and WITHERINGTON with additional AA cover from the destroyers MOHAWK and SIKH. The AA cruiser CALCUTTA and the sloop AUCKLAND had sailed from the Namsos area at 0210/28/4/40]

 

[REPORT OF 800 Sqd

Red Section proceeded to H.M.S. CALCUTTA but no enemy aircraft were seen and ship reported 'no attacks for last forty minutes.'  Patrolled over Convoy TM 1.

Considerable air activity observed over the convoy so the section remained in the vicinity.

The first attack was on one He 111 K and all the section attacked simultaneously, RED 1, 6F, pilot Lieut. EG Finch-Noyes from astern and Red 2, 6G, Lieut. EW Taylour and Red 3, 6H, pilot Petty Officer Monk, from either beam.  Red 3 subsequently attacked again.  This aircraft appeared to be badly damaged and it is considered that it crashed into the sea.

After this, many other aircraft appeared and the section broke up.  Red 2 chased a Ju 88 right down in his dive bombing attack and so harassed the enemy that his bombs fell about 200 yards from the target.  Red 2 considered the Ju 88 to be badly damaged.

Red 3 attacked a further four aircraft and one of them was observed to have an engine on fire.  On running out of ammunition, Petty Officer Monk made dummy attacks on five separate occasions to prevent the enemy from carrying out bombing runs.

Red Leader patrolled at cloud base and attacked three aircraft.  The Observer's Mate, Petty Officer Cunningham, got in a good shot at a He 111 K that suddenly disappeared into the clouds above.  A Ju 88 K was attacked head on and a good burst was observed hitting.  This enemy pulled very steeply up into the clouds and was not seen again.

The section returned to ARK ROYAL and landed at 1540.

On this mission Skua L 3000, 6F, flown by Lt Finch-Noyes, shot down a He111H of Kampfstaffel 4./II./KG 26 flying from Sola, over Convoy TM1. The kill was shared with Skuas L 2934, 6H and 6G]

 

At 1210 the Force was located and came under attack by two He 111s.

At 1215 ARK ROYAL flew off three Rocs of 803 Sqd to attack the enemy aircraft. One of the attackers was shot down by HA fire. The Rocs attacked and drove off the other Heinkel which was thought to be shadowing.

At 1330 ARK ROYAL recovered the three Rocs of 803 Sqd.

At 1430 ARK ROYAL flew off three Rocs of 803 Sqd to attack an enemy aircraft that was shadowing the force.

At 1500 ARK ROYAL recovered the three Skuas, H, K & L of Blue Section 803 Sqd.

At 1625 ARK ROYAL recovered the three Rocs of 803 Sqd.

At 2100 the SHEFFIELD detached to join in the evacuation of allied troops from Andalsnes.

 

[At this time Vice Admiral Wells made representations to the CINC Home Fleet that the fighter aircraft personnel in ARK ROYAL must be given a rest. The CINC approved his proposal that ARL ROYAL should withdraw to the north west for 48 hours. The additional fighter aircraft which ARK ROYAL was to have embarked from Hatson were embarked by the GLORIOUS instead]

 

The ARK ROYAL and her escort of the BERWICK and destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, FEARLESS and JUNO then steered north westerly into the Norwegian Sea, out of range of most of the Luftwaffe attack aircraft, to provide a respite for ARK ROYAL's air crews.

 

29th - At 0800 the ARK ROYAL and her escort were in approximate position 68-30N, 3E. ARK ROYAL remained cruising in this position for three hours.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL and her escort steered south westerly towards the Faroe Islands.

 

30th - At 1100 in approximate position 62N, 4E, the ARK ROYAL, BERWICK and destroyers HYPERION, HEREWARD, FEARLESS and JUNO, RVed with the battleship VALIANT and the destroyers FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT and ENCOUNTER. The VALIANT was to provide Radar cover and additional AA protection.

 

[The VALIANT was also to carry out Operation ZEAL, the bombardment of the approaches to Trondheim]

 

At approximately 1700 hours the JUNO, who had defects and was unable to maintain station, detached for Sullom Voe.

 

[At 2034 the destroyer KIMBERLEY was in approximate position 63N, 2W, escorting the Danish freighter SS GUNVOR MAERSK 3295grt, en route from Namsos; when she was ordered to Sullom Voe to embark ammunition from the destroyer JUNO. KIMBERLEY was low on ammunition having been under sustained air attack during the passage from Namsos. KIMBERLEY arrived at Sullom Voe at approximately 0400/1/5/40]

 

 

MAY

 

1st - At 1005 the ARK ROYAL/VALIANT force RVed with the aircraft carrier GLORIOUS and the destroyers ACHERON, ANTELOPE and BEAGLE.

Due to poor visibility throughout the day there was no flying from ARK ROYAL

At 1200 the destroyers HYPERION and BEAGLE were detached for refuelling at Sullom Voe. The Force now comprised ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS, VALIANT, BERWICK and the destroyers HEREWARD, FEARLESS, FURY, FORTUNE, ESCORT, ENCOUNTER, ACHERON and ANTELOPE.

 

[From 1215, Sea Gladiators of 804 and 803 Sqds from GLORIOUS provided a CAP over the Force]

 

[At 1427/1/5/40 the CINC Home Fleet informed the authorities that the VALIANT's bombardment of Trondheim would not be carried out. The operation had of course effectively been cancelled on 19/4/40]

 

At 1400 the destroyer HEREWARD detached for refuelling at Sullom Voe

At 1600 an aircraft that was unseen from the ground dropped a heavy bomb that fell between ARK ROYAL and VALIANT, no damage was caused.

 

[At 1802 VALIANT's Radar picked up aircraft approaching from seaward at a range of 30Nm. These aircraft were two He 115s of 2./KŸFlGr leading 12 Ju 87Rs of II./LG1 from Vaernes airfield]

 

At 1823 the Force was attacked by 12 Ju 87Rs of II./LG1 the first six aircraft to attack singled out the ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS and VAIANT as their targets. The ARK ROYAL was near missed by 500 Kg bombs several times; one pilot named Bahme claimed a hit on the forward end of ARK ROYALs flight deck, but the bomb did in fact explode ten yards off her starboard side.

 

[A Gladiator of 802 Sqd piloted by Lieu JF Marmont sot down one of the Ju 87Rs. The crew of Oberfeldwebel Erich Stahl and Unteroffizier Friedrich Gott survived and were picked up by the destroyer ENCOUNTER]

 

[Vice Admiral Wells believed that he was keeping the carrier force out of the range of the Ju 87. So the attack by the Ju 87s, who approached from the west, came as an unpleasant surprise. What was not known at the time was the attack was carried out by the R series of Ju 87; these were a long-range anti-shipping variant that had only recently come into operation. It was Ju 87Rs that disabled the heavy cruiser SUFFOLK and sank the destroyer AFRIDI, the sloop BITTERN, the French destroyer BISON, and the Polish destroyer GROM.

Following this attack Vice Admiral Wells signalled the CINC Home Fleet to the effect that he could no longer provide air cover for the withdrawal from Andalsnes and Namsos and protect the carrier force from air attack]

 

At 2052 the ARK ROYAL was in approximate position 66-50N, 3E, when the CINC Home Fleet signalled the Vice Admiral aircraft carriers to return to Scapa.

 

2nd - At 0000 hours the carrier force set course for Scapa Flow.

At approximately 0800 the destroyer KIMBERLEY joined the carrier force from Sullom Voe.

 

3rd – At approximately 0830 on passage to Scapa, ARK ROYAL flew off her five Rocs to Hatson.

At 1030 ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS, VALIANT, BERWICK and the destroyers FURY, ENCOUNTER, ESCORT, FEARLESS, ACHERON, ANTELOPE, FORTUNE and KIMBERLEY arrived back at Scapa.

 

[The report on FAA aircraft casualties on Operation DX sustained by ARK ROYAL as stated by the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Vice Admiral Wells:-

Aircraft embarked on sailing 21 Swordfish and 18 Skuas. Four Swordfish and four Skuas lost]

 

At Scapa refuelling and replenishing, where her new CO Captain Cedric Swinton Holland RN took command.

 

4th - At 1620 the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), anti-aircraft cruiser CURLEW and the destroyers INGLEFIELD (D3), SIKH, MASHONA, TARTAR, JAGUAR and ENCOUNTER sailed from Scapa Flow for operations off Narvik.

 

[On 9/4/40 about 2000 German troops had landed at Narvik from ten destroyers. The troops were Austrian Gebirgsjagers (mountain troops) from the 139 Gebirgsjager regiment of the 3rd Mountain Division commanded by General Eduard Dietl. The ten destroyers were sunk in the first and second battles of Narvik on 10th and 13th April. Survivors from the ten destroyers, about 2500, were organised into infantry and joined the German troops at Narvik. Because of British control of the sea approaches the Narvik garrison was now isolated and awaited relief overland from the south. However British troop landings north and south of Trondheim on 17/4/40 completely cut off the German forces at Narvik. The beleaguered force came under attack from Norwegian troops of the Norwegian 6th Division and was ordered by Hitler to hold out as long as possible.

The first British troops, two companies of the Scots Guards of the 24th Guards Brigade, without most of its equipment which had been sent to Namsos, arrived in the SOUTHAMPTON on 14/4/40; disembarking at Salsngsverket and Sjǿvegan, which are 33 miles north of Narvik  These were the first troops of what was to be called, Rupertforce. The commander of the British troops was Major-General Pierse Joseph Mackesy and the naval commander was Admiral of the Fleet William Henry Dudley Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery. The naval option was to immediately land troops at Narvik. However when Mackesy knew of this he had already landed the advanced force of the 24th Guards Brigade at the above locations, so was not disposed to the naval option.

 On 3/5/40 Admiral of the Fleet William Henry Dudley Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery issued orders for an attack on Narvik on the 8/5/40, to be launched from the sea or across Rombaksfjord 'as judged best'.

By the 4/5/40 when the ARK ROYAL sailed for the Narvik area the situation at Narvik was; the German garrison now numbered about 4800 and they were starting to receive reinforcement by air. The 24th Guards Brigade had been shipped to Mo, south of Narvik and the main frontal attack on Narvik was being carried out by the Norwegians and French with the assistance of the navy.

The object of the operation was, that ARK ROYAL's aircraft should give fighter protection, to Allied troops during their attack on Narvik, until Royal Air Forces fighters could be established ashore]


Between 1900 and 1920 ARK ROYAL landed on six Swordfish and seven Skuas, replacement aircraft and nine Skuas of 803 Sqd, all from Hatston. ARK ROYAL's air component now comprised 27 Skuas, nine in 800, 801 and 803 Sqds and 19 Swordfish, 11 in 810 Sqd and 8 in 820 Sqd.

At 1935 course was set at 18 knots (to conserve destroyers' fuel) to position 63N, 4W, so as to keep west of the convoy route.

 

 

5th - At approximately 1000 the ARK ROYAL force passed through position 63N, 4W. Course was then set for position 69N, 11-50E.

At 1630 in approximate position 64N, 1W the ARK ROYAL force sighted convoy HK One.

 

[Convoy HK 1 was on passage from Scapa Flow to Harstad and comprised the RFA BROOMDALE 8334grt, the tanker SS BRITISH GOVERNOR 6840grt, the cable ship HMS LASSO, the freighters SS NARVA 1575grt, SS CROMARTY FIRTH 538grt and SS EMILE JAVARY 2471grt. The escort was the destroyers WESTCOTT and FS FOUDROYANT, the sloop FLEETWOOD and the trawlers ULLSWATER and WILLOW]

 

6th - At 1651 the ARK ROYAL arrived at position 69N, 11-50E and the Walrus aircraft was flown off with Staff Officer (Operations) to Harstad to confer with Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cork and Orrery, the Flag Officer, Narvik.  The Walrus remained at Harstad over night.

At 1655 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Tjelsundet, Bogen and Harstad.  One aircraft sighted and reported submarine southwest of Andenes Lighthouse.

 

[The troops of the 24th Guards Brigade stated that the Skua fighters flying high over Harstad base were the first British aircraft they had seen since our arriving in Norway and a welcome sight]

 

At 2145 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish to attack submarine reported by Skua.  Armament six 100 lb bombs.  Area thoroughly searched for more than an hour.  No submarine sighted.

 

7th - At 0600 the ARK ROYAL force was in position 70-17N, 16-08E. Wind south west force 2 and Sea state 21.

 

[The intention for the day was to provide fighter patrols over the Narvik area to the maximum extent possible.  Distance of the Carrier from the objective and the endurance of flying personnel were factors that had to be considered.

Paramount was the security of ARK ROYAL. Therefore to combine the function of giving warning of the approach of enemy air or surface forces with that of A/S air patrol, two Swordfish were to patrol continuously during daylight hours, one 15 miles ahead and the other 15 miles astern of the Squadron]

 

At 0600 a fighter patrol to Narvik area was flown off, no enemy aircraft were sighted.

At 0610 the Walrus from Harstad was landed back on ARK ROYAL.

At 0830 a fighter patrol to Narvik area was flown off, no enemy aircraft were sighted.

At 0830 two Swordfish were flown off for photographic reconnaissance for area east of Bogen.  No enemy aircraft were sighted.

 

[At 1020 the CURLEW reported an accident had occurred on her multiple pom pom, five men were killed and two wounded. The accident was caused by a corroded firing circuit in the pom pom director]

 

At 1330 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 801 Squadron for a fighter patrol over Bogen, Narvik, Tjelsundet, and Harstad.

At 1450 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 803 Squadron for a fighter patrol over Ofotfjord, Tjelsundet, and Harstad.

 

[Enemy troop carriers were reported to be flying North from Ankenes at 0900 and 1200, the fighter patrols were instructed to keep a good look out for such aircraft, but none was sighted.

At 1600 the five aircraft of 801 and 803 Sqds had combined over Ofotfjord, where they engaged two pairs of He 111H. Two Heinkels seen to drop bombs over the Fjord, the other two are thought to have bombed the light cruiser AURORA before being attacked (At 1641 in position 68-30N, 14-15E, the AURORA was damaged by a bomb which landed forward of her B turret).  One Heinkel was chased over the Swedish border, jettisoning boxes. 

One Heinkel was seen going into a vertical dive south of Ofotfjord; this was a He 111H of 8./III./KG 26 from Vaernes and was shot down by a Skua from 801 Sqd.

Lieutenant GF Russell, RN of 803 Sqd was wounded in the finger by a bullet]

 

At 1700 the ARK ROYAL was in position 70-16N, 15-34E. Weather clear, wind south east force 3, sea state 2 -1.

At 1700 and 1900 ARK ROYAL flew off fighter patrols, but they failed to sight enemy aircraft.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL flew off the Walrus to Harstad for transfer to EFFINGHAM (Flag, Flag Officer, Narvik, Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery).

At 2215 the CURLEW detached to Narvik to refuel and to act as ordered by the Flag Officer, Narvik.

 

8th - At 0540 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-30N, 17E. Weather bright, wind south east force 2, sea state 12.

At 0540, 0905 and 1040 ARK ROYAL flew off fighter patrols, but they failed to sight enemy aircraft.

 

[Signal timed 0825/8, from CO light cruiser AURORA, 'Fighters kept Narvik area remarkably quiet yesterday, 7th May.  I was caught in entrance Sjomen Fjord, unable to alter course, by two bombers whilst fighters were engaging previous two.  Formation keeping and fire power of Heinkel was much above that experienced in Trondheim area']

 

At 1305 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-31N, 16-51E. Weather bright, wind south east force 2, sea state 12.

At 1305 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8F, 8G & 8C of 803 Sqd for fighter patrol over Narvik and Harstad.

At 1305 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4F of 820 Sqd, for a photographic reconnaissance of ground east of Bogen and Herjangsfjord.  Was attacked by three Ju 88s, but escaped by flying at ten feet along the edge of the fjord.

At 1548 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish of 810 Sqd for an A/S patrol around the force.

                 

 

At 1600 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8K, 8L & 8M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Narvik.

 

[At 1630, Skua 8C, pilot Midshipman (A) AS Griffith attacked a Ju 88 and a He 111H obtaining hits on both.  The other two aircraft of the section did not make contact in variegated cloud layers]

 

[At 1710, Skuas 8K, 8L & 8K sighted and attacked a large enemy flying boat, believed to be a Do 26, (It was a Do 26 from 9./III./KG zbV108, based at Bergen) near Bogen. (The Do 26 was en route to Narvik with 12 soldiers of 3rd Company I/GJR 138). After the attack, this flying boat was seen to be diving, disabled, to south of Ofotfjord. (The Do 26 came down at Tepkilen, in Efjord). 803 Squadron Commander reports; enemy appeared to be considerably slower at the end of the attacks and disappeared in a dive through 10/10 cloud towards high mountains.  This flying boat was later reported to be down in Efjord.

During this engagement, Skua 8M, L2916, pilot Sub Lieutenant (A) PN Charlton, was hit in the engine and forced to land in the sea near Tovik with loss of engine pressure. 

The Flag Officer, Narvik, subsequently reported that this aircraft had been burnt out, but that the crew were unhurt. The crew later rejoined ARK ROYAL]

 

 

 

At 1800 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-42N, 16-27E.  Weather bc, wind south force 3, sea state 11.

At 1810 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Narvik.  No enemy aircraft was sighted. 

At 1900 when ARK ROYAL was recovering the Swordfish from the A/S patrol, Swordfish 2R, L2733, pilot Sub-Lieu H E H Pain, stalled and fell into the sea astern of ARK ROYAL. The crew of three was picked up by a destroyer.

Weather deteriorated, clouds being down to 900 feet with snow and rain. 

 

[At 1930, a signal was received from the Flag Officer Narvik (T.O.O. 1545/8) requesting air bombardment of certain enemy positions in the area east of Bogen]

 

By 2130 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft.

 

9th - At 0700 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-42N, 17-02E. Wind south force 5, sea state 41.

At 0800 the CURLEW rejoined from Harstad where she had been subjected to frequent bombing attacks p.m. yesterday, 8th May, whilst refuelling.

At 0805 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish, 2A, 2P, 2C, 2F, 2H, 2Q, 2L, 2B & 2M of 810 Squadron, each armed with four 250lb GP and eight 20lb bombs, to carry out an attack on the railway line at Nordalsbroen, Hundalen, and Sildvik. 

 

[The Swordfish strike force set off in three sub flights heading for Gryt¿ya Island. The third sub flight comprising 2B, 2L & 2M had to turn back when 2B & 2L developed engine trouble. 2L & 2M landed back on but 2B, L2723, pilot Lieutenant A Stewart, landed in the sea and the crew were picked up by a destroyer.

The first sub flight headed for the 180 meter long railway viaduct bridge at Norddalsbrua, (Called Nordalsbroen by the British) here they were met with AA fire. (This was probably from 20mm and possibly 37mm calibre weapons that had been salvaged from the German destroyers). The line that crosses the viaduct target emerges from a tunnel and immediately crosses the viaduct. Swordfish 2A, pilot Captain N Skene RM, scored a direct hit on the south end of the tunnel and 2C, pilot sub-lieutenant R Eborn, had direct hits on the south end of the viaduct. One aircraft was badly hit by Flak and small arms fire, and another aircraft by small arms fire.  All Aircraft of the sub flight returned and landed on at 1145

The second sub flight, led by Swordfish 2F, pilot Captain W Martin RM, carried out an attack on the railway tunnel at Hundalen, again AA fire was met. Hits were scored on the tunnel mouth and a train that was standing in Hundalen station was hit with a 250lb bomb which blew it on its side and set it on fire.

On his return to ARK ROYAL Captain Martin RM gave a talk to the ships company about the attack]

 

At 0845 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the Swordfish strike force.

At 0905 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd for a defensive patrol, these sighted nothing.  Weather deteriorating.  Rain squalls and heavy swell getting up.

At 0910 Swordfish 2L, 2M landed back on but 2B, L2723, landed in the sea.

 

[The Skuas of 800 Sqd investigated a report of flying boat in Efjord.  There were no signs of the flying boat and the attacks of the striking force were watched.  No air opposition was encountered.  The Skuas then proceeded to Hartvikvannet lake and shot up ten German Ju 52 aircraft which were forced landed there and showed signs of salvage]

 

[On 12/4/40, 13 Ju 52 of KGr.zbV 102 took off from Tempelhof airport Berlin to transport troops and equipment of the 2./A.R.112 Gebirgsbatterie to Narvik. Embarked on the aircraft were 66 troops and their equipment and four 7.5cm GebG 36 pack Howitzers and ammunition.

They landed at Fornebu, Oslo at 1240, refueled and took off at 1345, included at Oslo was a JU 52 with communications equipment. Because of bad weather, two aircraft got lost and made forced landings. The remaining 11 landed on the ice on Hartvikvatnet lake, which is 10½ miles north east of Narvik, but was the closest they could land. They were unaware that there was a 70 cm thick layer of snow on the ice, so the landing was a disaster, five aircraft tipped on their noses, two were badly damaged, three landed elsewhere and one landed intact.

At 0730/13/4/40 the stranded planes were bombed by three Norwegian He 115s of 3. Flyavdeling. The Ju 52's were strafed later by Norwegian Fokker CV fighters

On the night of the 16/4/40 Norwegian Fokker CV fighters again strafed the stranded aircraft.

One of the Ju 52s eventually managed to take off but the remaining ten sank in the lake when the ice melted]

 Skua 6H, L3055, Piloted by Midshipman C Treen parted company with engine failure over Rombaksfjord and forced landed at Ionkop. The Crew walked across county (through German lines) and reached the shore of Rhombaksfjord where they were picked up by the destroyer BEDOUIN.  The remaining two Skuas landed on at 1145]

 

At 1145 ARK ROYAL commenced recovering the Swordfish of 810 Sqd and the Skuas of 800 Sqd.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-11N, 16-33E.  Weather deteriorating.  Wind south southwest force 5 later gale force.  Sea state 43.  Conditions becoming unsuitable for flying.  Ship withdrew to northwards.

 

10th - During the morning a deep swell after yesterday's gale persisted during the forenoon and the motion on the ship made flying impossible.  Conditions improved a little in the afternoon.

 

[At 0400/10/5/40 CET German forces commenced Operation Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), beginning with operation Sichelschnitt (Sickle Stroke), a surprise air assault against Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France.

At 0501/10/5/40 CET 76 German divisions operating on a 175 mile front crossed into Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium]

 

At around 1000 the destroyers SIKH and TARTAR detached to refuel at Harstad.

At 1320 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-50N, 16-50E.  Weather improving.  Wind 160 degrees 20 knots.  Sea state 43.

At 1320 CURLEW's Radar indicated that a group of aircraft was approaching ARK ROYAL from the bearing 160 degrees.  Three Skuas were flow off to intercept them, but failed to find them due to rain squalls. Originally reported at 50 miles, this group closed to about 16 miles and then appeared to turn away to the south east.

At 1400 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 801 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the Narvik area. One He 115 floatplane was sighted and chased over Harstad but it climbed into cloud and escaped.

At 1505 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8F, 8G & 8H of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the Narvik area. Skua 8H, pilot Petty Officer H Glover, chased and engaged a He 111 over Harstad. The enemy aircraft escaped into cloud.  The section flew over Navangen area but saw no French troops.

 

[The reference to French troops related to the movements of the 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade. This was a force of 2250 men who had arrived at Harstad on the 5/5/40 on board the troopship MONARCH OF BERMUDA that was part of convoy FP3. They were the troops along with Polish troops who were to take Narvik]

 

At 1645 and 1715 ARK ROYAL flew off further fighter patrols; no enemy aircraft were sighted.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-26N, 15-57E.

By 2100 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft. The last fighter patrol had returned and reported that clouds were down to 2000 feet in Narvik area.  No further flying was carried out and ARK ROYAL withdrew to the northward.

 

11th - At 0540 a signal was received from the FO Narvik, (TOO 2332/10) requesting fighter protection for the PENELOPE convoy.

 

[The PENELOPE convoy had departed Skjelfjord at 2237/10/4/40 and composed the light cruiser PENELOPE (On 11/4/40 the PENELOPE had run aground on rocks off Bod¿. The grounding caused serious damage to her hull and boiler room. She was towed to Skjelfjord where she was moored alongside the German prize SS ALSTER, so as to use her derricks to carry out temporary repairs. Whilst under repair the anchorage came under attack by the Luftwaffe and in one attack PENELOPE was near missed exacerbating the damage already sustained. So the decision was taken to tow her to the UK) towed by the tug BANDIT.

(On 8/5/40 the destroyer ISIS struck wreckage in Ballangen Fjord. Her propellers were wrecked and her tiller flat damaged. She was towed to Skjelfjord by the destroyer ILEX. The decision was taken to tow her to the UK) towed by the tug BUCCANEER, the tanker MV BRITISH VALOUR 6952grt, MV LOCHEE 964grt, Admiralty trawler ST LAMOND and Admiralty drifter LUNAR BOW, escorted by the AA cruiser CALCUTTA and the destroyers CAMPBELL and WITCH.

At 0600 the PENELOPE convoy was in approximate position 68N, 11-30E. This was about 220NM from ARK ROYAL]

 

Signals requesting fighter protection were also received about the same time, 0540, from AURORA (TOO. 2000/10) who was in Ofotfjord, and ENTERPRISE (TOO. 0357/11).  AURORA reported considerable bomber activity beyond the mountains north east of Bjerkvik, where Ju 88s were reported to be harassing the Norwegian and French troops in that area.

 

[The light cruiser ENTERPRISE in company with the sloop FLEETWOOD, the destroyer HESPERUS and the freighter SS MARGOT 4545grt which carried four25pounder field guns and a light AA battery, and escorted by AA cruiser CAIRO were convoying elements of the first battalion the Scots Guards and other troops from SkŒnland, Tjeldsund, to Mo I Rana, at the head of Ranfjord, and requested fighter protection during the passage. This operation was to set up a blocking force south of Narvik to stop German troops relieving Narvik from the south]

 

[As it was not possible to keep fighters operating in all three areas at once, Admiral Wells decided to provide fighters for the PENELOPE and ENTERPRISE forces]

 

At 0545 course was set 220 degrees at 20 knots to reach a convenient position for providing assistance for doing so.

At 0600 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-02N, 15-25E. Ships in company were CURLEW, INGLEFIELD, MASHONA, JAGUAR and ENCOUNTER.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 803 Sqd to carry out a patrol over the PELELOPE force. The convoy endeavoured to direct the fighter patrol on to a shadowing aircraft, but no enemy aircraft was seen by the Skuas. The fighter patrol remained over the convoy from 1140 to 1310.

At 1035 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 803 Sqd to carry out a patrol over the ENTERPRISE force. The convoy was found at 1130, 20 miles east of Skjelfjord and the patrol remained in the vicinity for an hour and a half without sighting any enemy aircraft.

At 1230 ARK ROYAL was in position 69-47N, 11-49E. It had been intended to continue these patrols at two hour intervals, but by 1230, the wind had risen considerably in force and heavy rain had set in, making further flying impossible until 1630.

At around 1300 CURLEW detached for Harstad and the destroyers SIKH and TARTAR rejoined from Harstad.

At 1345 the destroyers JAGUAR and MASHONA were detached and sent back to Scapa at best possible speed, in accordance with the CINC Home Fleet's signal, timed 0929/11. The destroyer screen now consisted of INGLEFIELD, ENCOUNTER, SIKH, and TARTAR.

At 1630 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 800 Sqd to carry out a patrol over the ENTERPRISE force and two Skuas of 803 Sqd to carry out a patrol over the PENELOPE force. No enemy aircraft were sighted by either patrol. 

At 2000 the ARK ROYAL was in position 68-07N, 9-02E.

By 2025 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft and stood off the coast to the westward for the night.

 

12th - At 0400 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-11N, 9-58E. Weather c, wind southwest force 3, sea state 33.

At 0405 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for fighter patrol over ENTERPRISE and convoy landing at Mo and to attack flying boats and Germans south of Hemnes, Ranfjord.  No flying boats or Germans were seen.  One He 111 was seen and chased and one Do 17 was attacked but escaped.  6M returned with engine trouble at 0755.  Remainder landed 0835.

 

[The Germans south of Hemnes.

This was a German unit of approximately 300 men, from the 1st Company, 138th Regiment, 3rd Gebirgsjager Division, who had been transported from Trondheim (Operation WILDENTE) in the commandeered Norwegian coaster the SS NORG NORGE 991grt, the NORG NORGE was manned by German sailors from destroyers at Trondheim. The Germans had landed at Hemnesberget at about 1930/10/5/40; the troops disembarked and quickly overwhelmed No 3 Platoon of No 1 Independent Company (raised from the Royal Scots) which had been holding the town before the German landing. The Germans had effectively cut off the retreat of the force at Mosjaen and were a threat to the troops that were to be landed at Mo I Rana. The destroyer ZULU, alerted to the German attack had sailed from Skjelfjord and arrived at Hemnesberget at 2050/10/5/40 and sank the NORG NORGE before she could land her supplies. Shelling of Hemnesberget by ZULU and CALCUTTA, who arrived on the scene soon after ZULU, had failed to dislodge the German force]

 

At 0405 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over PENELOPE and convoy.  No enemy aircraft sighted.

At 0455 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas of 801 Sqd to relieve the fighter patrols over ENTERPRISE at Mo and PENELOPE.

At 0535 the fighter patrols over ENTERPRISE at Mo and PENELOPE were each relieved by three Skuas of 801 Sqd.  The unloading of troops at Mo was observed to be proceeding, and troops were seen to be advancing to the Westward from Mo.  No enemy aircraft were sighted by either patrol.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL altered to the northward to reach a position for operating fighter patrols in the Narvik area during Operation OB.  The Flag Officer, Narvik, signalled his aircraft requirements for this operation in his signals timed 1616/9, 1617/9 and 2009/11.  Having supplied fighter protection for PENELOPE and ENTERPRISE a.m. today, Sunday, ARK ROYAL was unable to start patrols over Operation OB, until 1800.

 

[The support that ARK ROYAL's aircraft could give during Operation OB. was as follows (the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers' signal timed 1050/12):

(a).  Continuous fighter protection of three Skuas from 1800 to 0600.

(b). Continuous reconnaissance by one Swordfish over landing from 0100.

(c). Six Swordfish to bomb objectives specified in the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal timed 1617/9.

(d). After meeting these requirements and A/S patrols for defence of carrier, further objectives could not be bombed until two hours after receipt of request]

 

[Operation OB took place at Bjerkvik, at the head of Herjangsfjord, 8½ miles north east of Narvik and was the first opposed amphibious assault of the war. It was carried out by troops of the 13e DBLE (Demi-Brigade LŽgion Ětrangre) of the French Foreign Legion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Magrin-Vernerey.

At 1800/12/5/40 the invasion force assembled off Ballangen, on the south shore of Ofotfjord 13½ miles west of Narvik. The force consisted of the battleship RESOLUTION with 4 French Hotchkiss H 39 light tanks and 2 mechanised landing craft (MLC's) embarked, the cruisers EFFINGHAM (Flag CINC Narvik and with French General Antoine Marie ƒmile Bethouart embarked) and AURORA with 1500 French Foreign Legionnaires embarked; and the destroyers ORP BASILISK, FAME, HAVELOCK (with a French mortar battery mounted on her forecastle), SOMALI and WREN, 4 assault landing craft (ALC) each with 30 Legionnaires embarked and a MLC carrying a Hotchkiss H 39 tank.

At 0001/13/5/40 the naval bombardment of the landing beach commenced.

At 0100 hours the landing began with the discharge of the tank from the MLC and the 120 Legionnaires from the 4 ALC's. The plan called for the tanks from RESOLUTION to be landed first but her crew had difficulty in hoisting out the tanks into the MLC's, They eventually struggled ashore where they did good work in silencing the enemy machine guns.

The Legionnaires from EFFINGHAM and AURORA were landed from ships boats.

By 0600 hours all of the assault force was ashore and moved off to join forces with Norwegian and French forces pushing south from ¯se and Polish forces pushing east from Bogen]

 

At 1725 ARK ROYAL was in position 69-23N, 12-42E.  Weather C, wind north northeast force 2, sea state 10.

At 1725 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8A, 8B & 8C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol for protection of the ships assembling at Ballangen.  The Skuas each carried one 100 lb bomb to drop on the railway bridge at Norddalsbrua, but clouds were too low to reach this objective, and Sildvik was attacked.  The bomb carried by 8A was seen to fall next to the railway line.  No enemy aircraft were seen.

At 1725 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2P of 810 Sqd to carry out an ADA patrol.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL received a weather report from RESOLUTION stating, clouds 500 to 1000 feet.

At 1920 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd to relieve the fighter patrol from 803 Sqd. This patrol remained over Ofotfjord until 2145 and sighted no enemy aircraft. This second fighter patrol had difficulty in reaching and returning from the Narvik area owing to bad weather.  Further flying operations were now impossible and the Vice Admiral, Air Craft Carriers signalled the Flag Officer, Narvik, (T.O.O. 2258/12) that flying operations were postponed, at the same time requesting weather reports hourly from RESOLUTION.

 

13th - At 0215 ARK ROYAL was in position 69-47N, 15-38E. Weather cp, wind north, northeast force 3, sea state 20.

At 0215 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Herjangsfjord if weather conditions permitted.  The patrol reported weather clearing from the north, but sighted no enemy aircraft.

At 0215 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd armed with two 250lb GP bombs with a 12 second delay, and eight 20lb Cooper bombs, with orders to carry out reconnaissance for the Army and bomb enemy ports resisting advance.  This aircraft encountered low cloud and fog and was unable to carry out its duty effectively.

 

[At 0250, following the improvement in the weather, the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers signalled the Flag Officer, Narvik, that fighter patrols and reconnaissance were being resumed, and that Hundalen and Sildvik would be bombed at 0930.  It was by this time too late to bomb the objectives specified in the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal, timed 1617/9]

 

[At 0440 the RESOLUTION reported that Skuas were overhead]

 

At 0425 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd aircraft left for fighter patrol over the Fleet in Herjangsfjord. These aircraft remained on patrol as the weather was relatively clear at Bjerkvik. However they were unable to return to the ship as thick fog lay over the coast line.

 

[Skua 6K, L3001, pilot Lieutenant Rooper forced landed at Sandoy, and Skua 6M, L2938, pilot Petty Officer (A) Burston, forced landed alongside the destroyer BRAZEN]

 

At 0425 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd for reconnaissance over the landing party but on encountering fog off the coast it returned at 0530 as the weather was too bad for the aircraft to reach the objective.

At 0430 ARK ROYAL flew off a bombing force of six Swordfish, 4A, 4F, 4G, 4K, 4B & 4M of 820 Sqd each armed with four 250lb GP bombs. The objective of the strike force was the railway line west of Narvik.

 

[The Swordfish encountered thick fog soon after taking off.  The squadron therefore climbed to 7000 feet before crossing the coast line on the way to the objective. One sub flight attacked the western end of the railway tunnel, west of Sildvik; a completed salvo of bombs was observed to hit the railway line.  The second sub flight found thick clouds at 5000 feet above their objective, which was the railway line at Hundalen.  The pre arranged attack had to be abandoned and individual attacks made on any suitable target.  Two aircraft hit the western end of the railway tunnel, west, northwest of Hundalen with their bombs and the third attacked the railway line.  It is though that the line was cut in three points.  Fire from Flak guns was encountered.

Aircraft 4A, pilot Captain A.C. Newson, RM, sighted a submarine on the surface off Dyr¿y and reported the fact. (This was a false sighting as all U-Boats had been withdrawn from Norway due to faulty torpedoes)

Several of the above Swordfish had difficulty in returning after the attacks, as ARK ROYAL was then in a dense fog.  D/F bearings were given, but two aircraft, 4A & 4G were unable to find the ship without danger of colliding with her.  4A, P4077, made a forced landed in a field at Tofta, 1½ miles west of Harstad; and 4G, L2809, pilot Lieutenant H. de G. Hunter, made a forced landing at Medkila, 1½ miles south of Harstad. The crews of both aircraft were picked up by Walrus and returned to ARK ROYAL two days later. Also both aircraft were later recovered]

 

At 0700 the fog near ARK ROYAL had cleared considerably, and it was decided to resume flying operations in view of the urgent necessity of maintaining a fighter patrol over the Fleet and Bjerkvik.

At 0710 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas of 801 Sqd for a fighter over the Fleet and Bjerkvik.  The patrol sighted no enemy aircraft and was homed by D/F in a dense fog landing back on at 1110.

At 0710 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish, 2K & 2L of 820 Sqd. One Swordfish left in response to a call from AURORA for reconnaissance over the high ground to the east of Bjerkvik. The other aircraft left to attack the submarine which 4A had reported. 

 

[It is not known what these two aircraft achieved as both were prevented from leaving the coast on their homeward journey by fog.  Swordfish 2K, pilot  Lieutenant Corbet-Milward forced landed at Skaanland and 2L, pilot Captain Ford RM, on a lake near Reisen, twenty miles west of Bardufoss]

 

By 0745 Swordfish, 4F, 4K, 4B & 4M of 820 Sqd had all been recovered.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-31N, 17-09E. Weather bc, wind east, northeast force, sea state 11.

There was now much local fog; flying ceased and ARK ROYAL proceeded northward until the weather cleared.

 

14th - At 0500 ARK ROYAL reversed course and steered south to close Narvik area, weather clear.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-11N, 16-24E. Weather b, wind south, southeast force 2, sea state 11.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 801 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Bjerkvik. The patrol sighted no enemy aircraft so on departing they attacked the derelict Ju 52 transport aircraft on Hartvikvatnet lake with their front guns. (Four Browning 0.303" guns mounted in the wings)

At 1330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8F, 8G & 8Hof 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Bjerkvik. Each aircraft carried one 100 lb. bomb which they dropped on Hartvikvatnet lake before carrying out their patrol.

 

[After receiving an enemy aircraft report from RESOLUTION, the patrol found and chased several enemy aircraft that were attacking the Fleet anchorage at 17,000 feet.  After two unsuccessful chases in which the enemy outdistanced the Skuas, five He 111 Hs, from KG 26 based at Vaernes airport, were observed approaching from the eastward at 18,000 feet.  After a determined dog fight during which the Skuas attacked both from astern and head on, the port engine of one Heinkel was set on fire and the aircraft was put out of action. (This aircraft was a He 111 H-3, of Kampfstaffel 5./II./KG 26, the aircraft crashed landed at Sitasjaure, Muohkirisluokta, Sweden). The leader of the patrol in 8F, pilot Lieutenant W.P. Lucy, then pursued two other Heinkels down to sea level.  During this engagement, the Skua appeared to explode and crashed into the sea.  Another of the patrol 8G, L2918, pilot Lieutenant T.E. Gray located a destroyer, the WHIRLWIND, at Ransundet which he directed to the position of the crash.  The body of the pilot was recovered, but there was no sign of the observer.

Lieutenant Gray's aircraft ran out of petrol and he forced landed on the shore at Breivika near Andenes.  The destroyer ENCOUNTER, who was near the scene, returning to ARK ROYAL's screen after refuelling at Harstad, embarked the crew.  The aircraft, which could not have taken off again, was set on fire.

(In this engagement the fighter patrol, as well as shooting down one Heinkel they damaged a further three; one of which, a He 111 H-4 of 4./II./KG 26 crashed into the Stj¿rdals river near Vaernes airport. The other two from Kampfstaffel 5./II./KG 26 and Gruppenstab II./KG 26 received 30% damage)]

 

At 1340 the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE (Flag Vice Admiral John Henry Dacres Cunningham FO 1st CS), the destroyers WESTCOTT and VOLUNTEER from Tromso, were met.  The WESTCOTT and VOLUNTEER joined ARK ROYAL's screen in accordance with the CINC, Home Fleet's signal timed 2249/13, and the destroyers INGLEFIELD and SIKH were detached to Scapa at best possible speed. 

At 1340 the CURLEW also rejoined from Harstad.

The DEVONSHIRE proceeded to join the flag of the CINC Narvik.

ARK ROYAL now had in company CURLEW and the destroyers TARTAR, VOLUNTEER, WESTCOTT and ENCOUNTER.

At 1535 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 8K & 8L of 803 Squadron for patrol at Rombaken Fjord. Each aircraft carried one 100 lb. bomb which they dropped on Hartvikvatnet lake before carrying out their patrol.

 

[This patrol encountered a Ju 88 A and a He 111 H, probably both from Vaernes airport, both of which were attacked.  After the first burst of fire at the former, the Ju 88's undercarriage fell down.  Six more attacks were carried out before the Ju 88 disappeared into a thick cloud.  It is presumed to have been put out of action.  The He 111 also escaped into a cloud]

 

At 1700 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol no enemy aircraft were sighted.

At 1900 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol no enemy aircraft were sighted.

At 1900 the CURLEW was detached for Scapa in accordance with the CINC Home Fleet's signal timed, 1117/14.

By 2240 all aircraft had been recovered and ARK ROYAL retired to northward for the night.

 

15th - At 0030 a signal from the sloop STORK to the Flag Officer, Narvik, was intercepted stating that the SS (actually she was a motor ship) CHROBRY  11442grt (carrying a battalion of Irish Guards from Tjelsundet to Bod¿) had been bombed and set on fire, and was abandoning ship in position 67-38N, 13-50E (Vestfjord).

 

[The landing of German troops at Hemnesberget on the 10/5/40 threatened the allied position at Mo I Rana and thus the chances of blocking the German advance from the south. So the Allied War Council agreed to move the 24th Guards Brigade from Harstad south to Mo I Rana. The first troops of the 24th Brigade, the Scots Guards, were embarked on the light cruiser ENTERPRISE, the destroyer HEPERUS and the sloop FLEETWOOD and the freighter SS MARGOT 4545grt and sailed on 11/5/40.

At 1830/14/5/40 the MV CHROBRY escorted by the destroyer WOLVERINE and the sloop STORK, sailed from Hol, on the east shore of Tjeldsundet. CHROBRY's destination had been Mo I Rana but due to German air activity her destination had been changed to Bod¿. Embarked on CHROBRY were members of the 24th Brigade HQ, 850 men of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, troops of the 3rd King's Own Hussars, some sappers, a field ambulance, anti aircraft guns and other supplies and a crew of 176, making a total of 1192 on board.

At around midnight as CHROBRY was approaching Landegode Island in Vestfjord, a He 111 of FŸhrungskette X. Fliegerkorps (Staff Flight X. Air Corps) piloted by Hauptmann Robert Kowalewski, came out of the darkness and passed low over her stern spraying her decks with MG fire. The He 111 then turned and again came in from the stern and in this pass dropped several bombs, two of which hit CHROBRY amidships immediately slowing the ship and causing fires to break out. The order was given to abandon ship and WOLVERINE went alongside up wind to take on board survivors, whilst STORK warded off further attack and signalled the CINC Narvik. WOLVERINE took off 694 men in sixteen minutes, and then left for Harstad. The STORK later picked up a further 300 survivors before returning to Harstad, Where they arrived at 0930/15.  The CHROBRY was left a burning wreck]

 

At 0300 a signal was received from the Flag Officer, Narvik, requesting air attack on troops in the Hartvig area be stopped. (Assume that this signal refers to the bombing attacks carried out against the Ju 52 on Hartvikvatnet lake)

At 0403 ARK ROYAK flew off two Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Hartvig.  No enemy aircraft were seen but our troops were observed on the move to the east of Hartvikvatnet lake.

At 0405 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-10N, 16-00E.  Weather bc, wind east force 2, sea state 10.

Aircraft now remaining on ARK ROYAL were 18 Skuas and 12 Swordfish.

At 0445 a signal was received from the Flag Officer, Narvik, requesting fighter escort for ships returning to Harstad with survivors from CHROBRY.

At 0512 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 801 Sqd to cover WOLVERINE and STORK.  They remained on patrol for an hour and a half but sighted no enemy aircraft.

At 0655 a signal from Captain (D), 6th Destroyer Flotilla (T.O.O. 0040/15) was received requesting fighter protection.  SOMALI was at this time, 200 miles south of ARK ROYAL and therefore too far for the operation of fighter patrols.

 

[At 0030/15/5/40 the destroyer SOMALI (D6) with Brigadier Fraser, CO 24th Guards Brigade, embarked and escorted by the French destroyer FOUDROYANT was in Sjonafjorden returning from Mo I Rana when she received STORK's signal to Flag Officer Narvik re the attack on the CHROBRY. SOMALI immediately set course for CHROBRY.

At 0243/15 in position 66-28N, 12-34E, SOMALI was attacked by four dive bombers, (Possibly Ju 87R's of 1./St G1 from Vaernes, Trondheim) she zigzagged at high speed and avoided every bomb except the last. The last bomb was a near miss off her starboard bow the damage was such that she could only make 10 knots]

 

At 0710 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-21N, 16-10E. Weather bc, wind south southeast force 2, sea state 10.

At 0710 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish, 2A, 2C, 2P, 2Q, 2F & 2M of 810 Sqd, each armed with 250lb SAP bombs and eight 20lb Cooper bombs. The strike force was divided into two sub flights of three. The target for the first sub flight comprising 2A, 2C & 2P, was the railway station at Bj¿rnfjell. The target for the second sub flight comprising 2Q, 2F & 2M was the mouth of the railway tunnel between Hundalen and Norddalsbrua.

At approximately 0730 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas, 8K & 8L of 803 Sqd to provide a fighter escort for the strike force.

 

[Bj¿rnfjell, which is about one mile from the Swedish border, was the HQ of the German CINC Narvik, General Eduard Dietl. It was also the location where German parachute reinforcements were dropped and where they were receiving supplies that were shipped through Sweden. The first sub flight approached its objective from the east, having come down the Swedish border to Riksgransen, which is just over the Swedish border. (There were reports on the BBC of bombs falling in Sweden, but this was incorrect). No railway trucks were seen on the line between Bj¿rnfjell and Ricksgransen. The railway station at Bj¿rnfjell was bombed as were several railway trucks that were near the station. While the first sub flight was near Ricksgransen some AA fire appeared to come from the Swedish side of the border.

The second sub flight attacked the mouth of a railway tunnel between Hundalen and Norddalsbrua, near misses with obtained with 250lb bombs and a Flak machine gun post was destroyed by a salvo of 8 x 20lb Cooper bombs]

 

[The fighter escort attacked two He 111's over Narvik, but they escaped owing to their superior speed and climb.  A Ju 88 was chased from Harstad, but also escaped.  The pilot of 8L, Petty Officer Airman A.G. Johnson received a flesh wound in his shoulder from a bullet which penetrated the windscreen of his machine; the bullet then entered the cockpit (rear) and smashed some instruments with the result that air gunner, Leading Airman Coston, FX 76330, received slight cuts about the face from glass splinters. This was the second casualty of this type; Fleet Air Arm fighters are so far not equipped with bullet proof glass as supplied to the Royal Air Force. Petty Officer Johnson returned and landed on ARK ROYAL safely]

 

At 0710 and 0835, the fighter patrol over WOLVERINE and STORK was relieved, but no enemy aircraft were sighted.

 

[At 0915 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers signalled to the FO Narvik, that he proposed to bomb Hemnes and operate fighter patrols in Bodo and Mo areas at 0400/16/40. To reach a suitable position for these operations, fighter patrols over Narvik would have to cease by 1500/15/40. The FO Narvik, confirmed that the bombing was required and signalled later that the operation to Bodo had been postponed and that fighter patrols were required over the usual areas]

 

At 1010 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over ships in Herjangsfjord.

 

[This patrol encountered four He 111's over Hartvigvann and one over Herjangsfjord. The four Heinkels were in open formation when first sighted.  They moved into close formation and all four rear guns fired at the attacking Skuas.  The enemy had been about to bomb the Fleet, but the Skua attack forced them to jettison their bombs, which fell in the middle of Ofotenfjord.  The four Heinkels in formation and later the single Heinkel all made the best use of the clouds and managed to escape]

 

At 1400 the last fighter patrol over the Fleet anchorage returned to ARK ROYAL, following which course was altered to the southwest to reach the latitude of Hemnes, 66-14N, for Thursday morning.

At 1900 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish of 820 Sqd armed with Mark XII torpedoes fitted with Duplex pistols to sink  the MV CHROBRY which was still afloat and on fire in position 67-37N, 13-50E.  A fighter patrol of three Skuas accompanied the Swordfish.

 

[The torpedoes were set to 30 feet depth and 2000 yards range.  Of the three torpedoes dropped, one exploded just under the stern, one missed 30 yards ahead, and one exploded 120 yards short.  It appears that the magnetic pistols worked satisfactorily though the explosion short appears to be due to torpedo not running its set range. The CHROBRY remained afloat]

 

By 2200 all aircraft had landed back on.

 

16th - At 0300 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-59N, 09-18E, weather bc, wind East, Southeast force 3, sea state 01.

At 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of nine Swordfish, 2A, 2P & 2C of 810 Sqd and 4K, 4L, 4M, 4F, 4B & 4C of 820 Sqd, each was armed with two 250 lb GP bombs and eight 20lb Cooper bombs, to attack enemy troops and stores reported to be on the peninsular of Hemnes, near Mo I Rana.

At 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 7F, 7G & 7H of 801 Sqd, each armed with a 250lb SAP bomb. The Skuas mission was to bomb the CHROBRY if she was still afloat, then to escort the strike force to their objective.

 

[The situation in Hemnes:

On 5/5/40 the 2nd Gebirgsjager (Mountain) Division Commanded by Generalleutant Valentin Feurstein had set off from Grong, 300 miles south of Narvik, to relieve Narvik.

On the 10/5/40 the Germans landed 300 men, from the 1st Company, 138th Regiment, 3rd Gebirgsjager Division at Hemnesberget, later on 10/5/40 the Germans landed further troops and equipment from He 59 seaplanes at Sund. These moves outflanked the Norwegian and British defenders south of Mosj¿en, forcing the defenders to withdraw. The British No 4 & 5 Independent companies (These units under the overall command of Colonel Colin Gubbins, were about 290 strong, and were the forerunners of the Commandos), were withdrawn from Mosj¿en by Norwegian steamers to Sandnessj¿en. Norwegian units withdrew north to Finneidfjord, 13 miles south of Mo i Rana and 184 miles south of Narvik.

At 2230/11/5 the destroyers JACKAL and JAVELIN, who had been on passage to Scapa when they ordered to RV with Colonel Colin Gubbins, arrived at Mo i Rana. There they were informed by the Norwegians that Gubbins was at Sandnessj¿en. On passage back down Ranfjord JACKAL and JAVELIN encountered the light cruiser ENTERPRISE, the destroyer HEPERUS and the sloop FLEETWOOD and the freighter SS MARGOT who were on passage to Mo i Rana with the Scots Guards embarked. JACKAL and JAVELIN continued to Sandnessj¿en, arriving at 0300/12/5, where they made contact with Gubbins and No 4 & 5 Independent Companies.

By 0400/11/5, Mosj¿en, 200 miles south of Narvik, was in German hands. The 2nd Gebirgsjager Division continued north towards Finneidfjord, and at the same time moved east over the mountains to outflank Finneidfjord. At this point opposing the Germans were elements of the Norwegian 6th Division and the British No 1 Independent Company.

By 0700/12/5 the 1st Battalion Scots Guards had disembarked at Mo i Rana

Because the Allies had concluded that the northern thrust of the German forces must be contained at Helgeland, the commander of the 24th Guards Brigade, Brigadier Fraser was ordered to Mo i Rana to assess the situation. During the afternoon of 13/5/40 the destroyer SOMALI (D6) with Brigadier Fraser, CO 24th Guards Brigade, embarked and escorted by the French destroyer FOUDROYANT, had arrived at Mo i Rana. While Brigadier Fraser was ashore at Mo i Rana the SOMALI and FOUDROYANT returned  down Ranfjord and SOMALI bombarded German troops advancing on Finneidfjord and FOUDROYANT bombarded Hemnesberget and Sund, where in Sundsbukta she sank a Blohm and Voss BV 138A-1 seaplane of  Transportstaffel 9./III./KG zbV 108. The destroyers then returned to Mo i Rana to re-embark Brigadier Fraser.

On 16/5/40 the situation was the Germans were north of Finneidfjord and pressing elements of the Norwegian 6th Division and British No 1 Independent Company and the Scots Guards were setting up a blocking position at Dalselv, six miles south of Mo i Rana]

 

[The Strike formation made landfall at Nyken Light, then circled over Hemnes at 4000 feet to select targets.  No troops, stores, or other military objective could be seen at either Hemnesberget or Sund, (This was because as stated above the action had moved away from Hemnesberget and closer to Mo I Rana) so the attack was made on jetties and on large buildings which might be storehouses.  The bombs just missed the jetties, but hits were obtained on what appeared to be a sawmill and on several large buildings.  No opposition was encountered at any time during the flight. 

The fighter patrol found the CHROBRY still afloat so the three Skuas bombed the ship. One bomb hit CHROBRY.  No enemy aircraft were seen]

 

At 0716 the destroyer WESTCOTT fractured a nozzle drain pipe in her port engine.  Her ASDIC dome was also unserviceable so she was detached to Harstad with a request to the Flag Officer, Narvik, that relief destroyer be sent.  The Flag Officer, Narvik, signalled later that he was sending BRAZEN as a relief.

At 1040 ARK ROYAL flew off a fighter patrol of three Skuas 7A, 7F & 7G of 801 Sqd each armed with one 500 lb bomb, with orders to bomb the CHROBRY if she were still afloat and then patrol over the Skraaven and Tranoy area.

 

[When the patrol arrived at CHROBRY's position she had already sunk, so the bombs were jettisoned.  Three He 111 Ks (these aircraft were probably Ju 88s of 6./11./KG30 from Vaernes, because unbeknown to the crews of the Skuas they seriously damaged Ju 88 A-1  that later crash landed near a farm at Mardal, S¿mna) were encountered over the Fleet Anchorage; several attacks were made on the bombers but the Skuas had not the speed necessary to enable them to press the attacks home.  The aircraft returned with all ammunition expended]

 

At 1150 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas, 8K & 8H of 803 Sqd for afighter patrol over Narvik and the Fleet anchorage.

 

[Two Do17s were seen by 8K & 8H, and on being engaged, two more dived to assist them.  (The enemy aircraft were in fact Ju 88 As of KG 30 from Vaernes) The Skuas were quite outclassed in speed and maneuverability by the Ju 88s and a dog fight ensued during which the Section Leader's aircraft (8K, L2910, pilot Lieutenant LA Harris, R.M., observer Lieutenant JHRM Vereker, R.N) was forced down in Rombaks Fjord.  The crew were rescued by the destroyer MATABELE.  The remaining Skua was also forced down to 3000 feet and attempted to draw the enemy into the range of some warships in the Fjord.  A long burst of pom pom fire was observed to hit one enemy aircraft at close range, and later only three of the four Ju 88s were observed to fly off.  It was presumed that the fourth had been brought down. (A Ju 88 A-1 flown by Oberleutnant H Bansch was lost around this time)]

 

At 1330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 8A, 8B & 8C of 803 Sqd for a patrol over Narvik.

 

[At 1416 this section encountered six Ju 88s (these were Ju 88 As of 6./II./KG 30 from Vaernes) over Ofotfjord and a tremendous dog fight ensued in which the enemy endevoured to evade the Skuas by diving, making steep climbing turns, and in one case, spinning to 1000 feet.  In spite of the superior performance of the Junkers, two of these were brought down, one crashing in Narvik Fjord, and the other, shot down by 8C, pilot, Midshipman (A) A.S. Griffith, on a mountainside on the south side of Ofotfjord. (In this encounter it is probable that ony one enemy aircraft was shot down, the victor was 8B, L3010, pilot, Sub/Leiut RA Easton and the victim was Ju 88 A-1, 4D+KP of 6./11./KG30 from Vaernes. The Ju 88 crashed into Ofotfjord, south west of Narvik)]

 

At 1500 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol to patrol over Narvik and the Fleet anchorage. No enemy aircraft were seen.

At 1650 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for afighter patrol over Narvik and the Fleet anchorage.

 

[A He 111 K Mark V was sighted when about eight miles west of the Fleet anchorage at 15,000 feet; the enemy was pursued but not engaged, as his superior speed enabled him to escape.  6G and 6H became separated from their leader during the pursuit and returned to the Fleet Anchorage, where they found a Ju 88 attacking the Fleet.  Both aircraft attacked the Junkers, whose port engine was disabled by a burst of fire from 6H, pilot, Midshipman (A) R.W. Kearsley.  (The Ju 88 A-1, 4D+AP, of 6./11./KG30 from Vaernes crash landed in Bogen Fjord off Forra and its crew of five swam ashore)

6F attacked a He 111E Mark V near the Fleet anchorage.  It is thought that at least one bust of fire hit the target, although the enemy, being of the latest type, was easily able to escape.

6G and 6 H then attacked another He 111K Mark V, and forced him down from 15,000 to 300 feet, but he also managed to escape, though damaged. (This attack proably caused the loss of He 111 H-3, 1H+DN of 5./11./KG26 from Vaernes)]

 

At 1650 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd to take photographs of the landing grounds at Bardufoss, Skaanland, and Skjomen Elvegard.

At 2115, On completion of flying, ARK ROYAL withdrew to the westward and later altered course to the southward to take up a position for covering the passage, tomorrow, of the cruisers COVENTRY, EFFINGHAM, and CAIRO, escorted by destroyers ECHO and MATABELE who were conveying troop reinforcements from Harstad to Boda.

At 2230 the destroyer BRAZEN joined the screen from Harstad.

 

gggggggggg

 

 

 

 

 

 

17th – At 0001 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers TARTAR, VOLUNTEER, BRAZEN and ENCOUNTER was steaming in a generally south westward course, to achieve a flying off position from which to cover the EFFINGHAM convoy.

 

[At 0400/17 the heavy cruiser EFFINGHAM with 1,020 troops embarked, comprising the 2nd Battalion the South Wales Borderers, 24th (Guards) Brigade HQ and support troops, 10 Bren Gun Carriers, and 130 tons of supplies, escorted by the anti-aircraft cruisers COVENTRY (Flag Rear Admiral G. VIVIAN, Rear Admiral, Anti-Aircraft Ships), CAIRO and the destroyers MATABELE and ECHO, sailed from Harstad for Boda. The route that the force took was outside the leads so as to reduce the risk of air attack. Speed of advance 20 knots.

At 0503 EFFINGHAM informed the Flag that she would like to arrive off Svartoksen Light at 2000. Increased speed to 23 knots.

At 1034 EFFINGHAM suggested to the flag that, in view of the possible submarine danger in the main approach to Boda, the force should proceeded between Briksvaer and Terra Islands, stating that a large scale Norwegian Chart, No. 65, was held onboard.  Rear Admiral, Anti-Aircraft Ships informed EFFINGHAM accordingly, stating he would be ordered to lead the force in, preceded by MATABELE and ECHO as A/S screen, and that he should make the necessary course signals.

At 1615 two Skuas arrived over the force and Skuas remained over the force until the operation was abandoned.

At 1730 an enemy aircraft was sighted by the force

At 1912 the force was in position 67-13N, 13-28E and EFFINGHAM was ordered to exchange stations with COVENTRY and take the lead.

At 1923 EFFINGHAM altered course to 080¡, speed 23 knots.

At 1925 EFFINGHAM was in position 67- 15N, 13-37E, course O4O ¡. The gyros had previously been checked by transits.

At 1945 EFFINGHAM was ordered to take MATABELE and ECHO under orders and proceed independently to Boda. COVENTRY and CAIRO were to follow.

At 1947 in the Briksvaer Channel, about 8½ miles west of Boda, EFFINGHAM ran aground at a speed of 23 knots, in what was apparently very deep water. MATABELE was ordered to tow her off and ECHO was ordered provide an A/S screen, but MATABELE informed the Flag that she had also been aground and reported damage to her starboard A bracket and propeller. CAIRO was ordered to proceed to Boda with all dispatch and send out all puffers and trawlers that were available.

It soon became clear that EFFINGHAM was lost so ECHO was ordered to commence taking off the 1750 souls on board.

By 2240 ECHO had taken off all on board and transferred them to COVENTRY]

 

At 1500 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-08N, 07-00E

At 1500 a Walrus of 701 Sqd from GLORIOUS landed on ARK ROYAL.

 

[At 2130/14/5/40 the aircraft carriers GLORIOUS (with 18 Hurricane 1s of 46 Sqd RAF embarked) and FURIOUS (with 18 Gladiator IIs of 263 Sqd RAF embarked) escorted by the destroyers DIANA, VETERAN, VISCOUNT and WITHERINGTON sailed from the Clyde for operations off Norway.

Early on 15/5/40 destroyer AMAZON joined from Scapa Flow and the WITHERINGTON detached.

During the afternoon of 17/5/40 the force arrived in the vicinity of the ARK ROYAL]

 

Between 1510 and 2200 ARK ROYAL flew off four fighter patrols to cover the EFFINGHAM convoy.

At 1700 ARK ROYAL flew off the 701 Sqd Walrus to Harstad, taking with it for the information of the Flag Officer, Narvik, proposals for the disembarkation of the RAF Squadrons from GLORIOUS and FURIOUS.

At 2030 ARK ROYAL received news of the grounding of EFFINGHAM, west of Boda, while shortly before midnight a signal was received from the Admiral Commanding Anti-Aircraft ships, that the operation had been abandoned, and requesting that air protection be continued while ECHO remained to arrange for the sinking of EFFINGHAM. 

At 2145 the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers received the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal timed 1731/17, requesting reconnaissance of the Rombaksfjord and area south of it, and bombing of Sildvik and Hundalen.  It was decided that ARK ROYAL would proceed northwards on completion of present operations to comply with this request.

 

18th – At 0030 and 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off Skua fighter patrols to cover Boda and operations around the EFFINGHAM.

At 0630 the last fighter patrol was landed back on. Following which course was altered at this time to the Northwest, preparatory to carrying out fighter operations off Narvik in the evening.

At 1700 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-06N, 15-15E.

At 1710 and 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off fighter patrols of three Skuas for Narvik. Neither patrol sighted any enemy aircraft and both patrols reported unfavourably on the weather, Clouds were reported to be 9/10th at 1000 feet, therefore no further patrols were sent.

At 1810 ARK ROYAL was joined by GLORIOUS and FURIOUS. This was the first time in the war that three aircraft carriers had operated together.

The combined force now consisted of the aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL, GLORIOUS and FURIOUS escorted by the destroyers TARTAR, VOLUNTEER, BRAZEN, ENCOUNTER, DIANA, VETERAN, VISCOUNT and WITHERINGTON.

At 1900 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish to take photographs of Bardufoss Aerodrome for the RAF pilots embarked on GLORIOUS and FURIOUS.

 

19th – At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-27N, 15-47E. The carrier force remained in this approximate position with ARK ROYAL prepared to launch a bombing attack by Swordfish aircraft on Sildvik and Hundalen.  The weather, however, was consistently bad inshore and patches of thick weather were frequently met at sea.  It was therefore necessary to wait until conditions improved, and ship retired to the north west in the evening.

At 1115 a signal was received from the Flag Officer, Narvik (T.O.O. 2331/18) giving arrangements for disembarking the RAF Gladiators from FURIOUS to Bardufoss on Tuesday, 21/5/40.  The signal also stated that Hurricanes from GLORIOUS could not be received until Sunday, 26/5/40.  The Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, signalled the Flag Officer, Narvik (T.O.O. 1308/19) suggesting that GLORIOUS should leave for the United Kingdom forthwith and that ARK ROYAL and FURIOUS should return in company on Tuesday, 21/5/40, after the Gladiators had been disembarked.  No reply was received.

At 1700 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-16N, 16-19E.

 

20th – A signal was received reporting a considerable improvement in the weather over night.

At 0330 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-24N, 16-10E. Weather O, wind south southeast force 1, sea calm.

At 0330 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of nine Swordfish of 810 and 820 Sqds, armed with 20 lb Cooper bombs and 25 lb Incendiary bombs, plus either 2x500 lb or 4x250 lb GP bombs, their objective was Hundalen and Sildvik The 250 lb GP bombs included the last twelve of these bombs on the ship.

At 0330 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol for Narvik.

 

[As the strike force approached the coast the weather deteriorated.  One sub flight of three proceed up to Narvik below the cloud, but at Narvik the cloud ceiling was at 500 feet and coming lower, and the sub flight returned having jettisoned its bombs.  The other flight of six tried above the cloud layer at 5000 feet, but was unable to find gaps large enough to enable an attack to be made.  This flight also jettisoned its bombs on its return trip to the ship, which by then was in rain with visibility down to two miles, a front having arrived rapidly from the south west. All aircraft returned to ARK ROYAL]

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol for Narvik to support the Swordfish strike force. On arrival at the coast, this section found the weather so bad that they returned to the ship at 0630.

At 0600 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol for Narvik.

 

[This Fighter patrol was carried out at 50 to 400 feet over Ofotfjord and narrowly escaped hitting a previously unknown HT cable between Skogoy Island, in Bogen Bay and the mainland when returning to ARK ROYAL]

 

At 0950 the Skua patrol returned to ARK ROYAL, by which time the visibility had deteriorated to under one mile.  Further operations were abandoned and ARK ROYAL held off to the North.

At 1600 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-33N, 16-21E. At this time the Weather was getting steadily worse.  Wind southwest force 6 and freshening, sea 41, and visibility 1 to 2 miles.  Continuous rain, though by this time the weather in the Narvik area had apparently cleared.

 

[At 2101 the Flag Officer, Narvik, signalled that weather conditions were suitable at Bardufoss and ordered FURIOUS to fly off the RAF GLADIATORS of 263 Sqd immediately.  FURIOUS replied that Gladiators would arrive between 0300 and 0400 tomorrow morning. The advanced echelon of 263 Sqd had arrived in the Bardufoss area since 11/5/40 and had been joined by the second echelon on 20/5/40]

 

21st – At 0300 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-25N, 15-50E. Weather OC; wind west by south, sea state 21.

At 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas, the first section of three 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd and the second section of three 8A, 8B & 8C of 803 Sqd, Their mission was to patrol over Bardufoss airfield, 100NM distant, to cover the landing of 265 Squadron Gladiators from FURIOUS.

 

[All encountered banks of fog, rain, and low cloud on the coast.  8A and 8C returned at 0430 having lost 8B in cloud.  8B, pilot Sub Lt I Easton, finally arrived over Harstad and forced landed at Sands¿y, north of Harstad at the end of patrol, as visibility to seaward was less than half a mile. 6F, 6G, and 6H came back and landed at 0530 having experienced similar conditions, and flying ceased until weather improved]

 

[At approximately 0300, in poor flying weather, FURIOUS commenced flying off the 18 Gladiators of 263 Sqd for Bardufoss. Each section was led by a Swordfish who provided navigation. The first section was led by Swordfish P4216 of 818 Sqd, near Senja Island they ran into thick mist and due to a navigational error the Swordfish and two Gladiators, N5697 pilot P/O Walter Philip Richards and N5693 pilot P/O Randolph Stuart Mills, flew into H¿ystakktind mountain, 2060 feet high, which is between Sifjord and Osterfjord on Senja Island. Pilot Officer Richards was killed all the other aircrew survived. By 0930 sixteen Gladiators had safely landed at Bardufoss]

 

At 0730 Swordfish 2K, pilot Lieut. NR Corbett, of 820 Sqd landed back on ARK ROYAL from SkŒnland where they had made a successful forced landed on 13/5/40. The crew had waited until the field to dry out enough for a successful takeoff with ARK ROYAL within range.

At 1120 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol to Bardufoss. This patrol reported clouds very low inshore.  Further patrols were impracticable.

At 1230 a signal was received from FURIOUS stating that 18 Gladiators had been disembarked, but that one Swordfish and two Gladiators were overdue and missing.

 

[ARK ROYAL was now in need of replenishment of her aircraft ordnance stores. So when Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers received the signal from FURIOUS and with the knowledge that 46 Sqd Hurricanes could now be landed before 26/5/40 he ordered ARK ROYAL and escort proceeded to Scapa. GLORIOUS and FURIOUS and escort were ordered to proceed independently to Scapa.

During her latest operations off Norway, the ARK ROYAL air group had flown 250 sorties, 60% of them by the Skua Sqds. Aircraft losses had been 8 Skuas and 5 Swordfish. Two aircrew had been lost Lt. WP Lucy and Lt. MCE Hanson both of 803 Sqd]

 

At approximately 1300 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers ANTELOPE, BRAZEN, VOLUNTEER and ENCOUNTER set course for Scapa.

 

22nd – At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-11N, 02-04E. Course 230¡, speed 14 knots. Weather, thick fog.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-37N, 00-52E.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-21N, 03-10W. Thick fog continued throughout most of the day.

 

23rd – At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 63-38N, 04-12W. Course 190¡, speed 14 knots. Fog continued except for a break during the afternoon.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 62-44N, 04-54W.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 61N, 04-42W.

 

[At 2130/23/5/40 GLORIOUS, FURIOUS and the destroyers VETERAN, DIANA, AMAZON and VISCOUNT arrived at Scapa Flow]

 

24th – At 0500 North West of the Orkneys, ANTELOPE was detached to proceed to Scapa independently as she was getting short of fuel. She arrived at Scapa at 0720/24/5/40.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 59-17N, 04-17W. Thick fog prevented ARK ROYAL entering the Pentland Firth and she stood off to the northwest until fog cleared. 

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 59-17N, 0409W.

The fog cleared in the evening

At 1915 ARK ROYAL, escorted by BRAZEN, VOLUNTEER and ENCOUNTER entered Hoxa Gate, Scapa Flow         

 

25th – At 1600 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) and FURIOUS, screened by the destroyers ANTELOPE, AMAZON, ENCOUNTER, CAMPBELL and VISCOUNT sailed from Scapa for the Clyde via the Minches.

At 1700 in the Pentland Firth the destroyer VOLUNTEER, who had sailed from Scapa at 1615/25, joined and ENCOUNTER detached for Rosyth.

At 1800 replacement aircraft were flown on from RNAS Hatston.

 

[In the Minches the ARK ROYAL force passed the destroyers BEDOUIN and FOXHOUND who were en route to Scapa from the Clyde. They had departed the Clyde at 1550/25 for Scapa. En route, they conducted an anti-submarine sweep from North Channel to Lower Minch, then from North Minch to Pentland Firth, arriving at Scapa Flow at 1745/26th]

 

26th – At 1100 the force was in position 55-19N, 06-05W.

 

[At 1100 FURIOUS flew off five Swordfish to RNAS Campbeltown and ten Skuas to RNAS Abbotsinch]

 

At 1730 ARK ROYAL, FURIOUS, ANTELOPE, AMAZON, VOLUNTEER, CAMPBELL and VISCOUNT arrived off Greenock.

 

[Immediately after ARK ROYAL picked up her mooring the process of replenishment commenced and damaged aircraft were disembarked on to lighters. Crew were given local leave]

 

27th to 29th – ARK ROYAL off Greenock carrying out replenishment.

 

30th – At 0515 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) screened by the destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON sailed from the Clyde for Scapa via the Minches.

At 0755 off the Isle of Arran, ARK ROYAL landed on three Swordfish from RNAS Abbotsinch. A further four Swordfish and two Skuas failed to arrive due to low cloud and rain. The four Swordfish that were unable to find ARK ROYAL landed at RNAS Machrihanish, the Skuas returned to Abbotsinch and then flew to RNAS Hatson.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL was in position 55-32N, 06-35W and she landed on the four Swordfish from Machrihanish.

 

31st – At 0600 ARK ROYAL, ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON arrived at Scapa.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) and GLORIOUS escorted by the destroyers HIGHLANDER, DIANA, ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON sailed from Scapa for Operation ALPHABET. Course was set to pass west of the Orkneys.

 

[Operation ALPHABET was the code name for the Allied withdrawal from Norway. The role of ARK ROYAL was to provide fighter cover and that of GLORIOUS to evacuate RAF fighters.

On 24/5/40 the British Government decided that events in the Low Countries and northern France necessitated a withdrawal of Allied forces from Norway. The troops were required in the UK and the warships were wanted for possible anti- invasion operations and deployment to the Mediterranean, for possible action against Italy.

The withdrawal order was communicated to the Flag Officer Narvik early on 25/5/40, with the proviso that the operation was to be carried out in a manner that would keep it secret from the Germans for as long as possible. The Allied commanders agreed that the attack on Narvik should continue as this would disguise the retreat and allow the destruction of the harbour and iron ore loading facilities.

(On 29/5/40 Narvik was captured by a combined force of French Foreign Legion, Polish and Norwegian troops supported by naval gunfire. The German troops retreated along the railway line towards Sweden, destroying the railway tunnels as they went)

The evacuation would entail the embarkation of 23000 troops from the Harstad/Narvik area and 4000 from Boda.

On 26/5/40 the Flag Officer Narvik decided to carry out the evacuation in three phases, as follows:-

First Phase, embark valuable stores in five ships then at Harstad and sail them to Scapa.

Second Phase, embark valuable stores in three MT ships and 13000 troops from the Narvik area in liners in fjords to the west and north of Harstad and also embark the Boda force.

Third Phase, embark 10000 troops from the Narvik area in liners as in the second phase.

The date proposed by the Flag Officer Narvik for the second phase was 1/6/40 and for the third phase 4/6/40. These dates were later amended]

 

Between 0925 and 1630 ARK ROYAL's Swordfish carried out A/S patrols.

At 1015 in position 59N, 04-20W, ARK ROYAL flew on Skuas of 803 Sqd from RNAS Hatston together with two replacement Skuas for 800 Sqd, these latter two were the aircraft that failed to find ARK ROYAL on the morning of 30/5/40. On completion, course was set to the Northward, to proceed towards the Narvik Area.

 

[ARK ROYAL now had embarked 24 Skuas, 12 of 800 Sqd and 12 of 803 Sqd, and 21 Swordfish, 12 of 810 Sqd and 9 of 820 Sqd]

 

 

JUNE

 

1st – At 0730 ARKROYAL was in position 64-50N, 02-40W and steering northerly, the weather was foggy and the fog persisted intermittently throughout the day.

At 2201 the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers signalled the Flag Officer Narvik with an RV position for 1700/2/6/40, for a Walrus bringing out orders for Operation ALPHABET.

 

2nd – ARK ROYAL continued steering northerly and maintained ADA patrols during daylight hours.

At 1710 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-58N, 00-33E when she landed on a Walrus from Narvik.

 

[In a signal timed 1959/1/6/40, the Flag Officer, Narvik, indicated his requirements from the Carrier Squadron. Embarkation operations were to begin on the night of 3/6/40; he requested fighter patrols each night over the points of embarkation ashore and the rendezvous of ferrying destroyers with transports, and also reconnaissance and bombing of troop movements in the S¿rfold – Drag area, and bombing of enemy headquarters at Hundalen]

 

At 1748 the destroyers ARDENT and ACASTA were detached to refuel at Harstad.

At 1825 ARK ROYAL flew off the Walrus to return to Narvik.

 

3rd – At 0730 GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER were detached to the northwest, to conserve fuel until required for embarking shore based aircraft.

 

[During ARK ROYAL's last operations off Norway it had become obvious that the weather on shore was often different from the weather at sea. In order to combat this problem the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers took the decision that before fighter patrols were despatched a Swordfish would be flown off to ascertain weather conditions over the patrol area]

 

At 1002 The Flag Officer Narvik signalled; operation ALPHABET is to start tonight, Monday, without further orders.

 

[Destroyers were to evacuate the troops then ferry the troops to troopships that would be assembled in Ersfjorden, position 69-42N, 18-17E or if the weather was suitable at sea. The Flag Officer Narvik had the following destroyers at his disposal HAVELOCK, BEAGLE, CAMPBELL, DELIGHT, ECHO, FIREDRAKE, FAME, ARROW, WALKER, VANOC and VETERAN]

 

At 1600 ARK ROYAL was in position 71N, 12-56E and flew off two Swordfish 4K & 4C of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol. Searching sector, 130¡ to 180¡.     

At 1700 the ACASTA and ARDENT rejoined from refuelling. Following which DIANA and ACHERON were detached to Harstad to refuel.

At 1700 Deck landing practice for new pilots carried out.

At 1835 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol. Searching sector 130¡ to 180¡

At 2050 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4A & 4B of 820 Sqd, 4B for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4A for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The weather report indicated low cloud and conditions generally unsuited for bombing.  It was therefore decided to postpone bombing attacks by Swordfish which were to have been delivered on Hundalen from 0130/4 onwards]

 

At 2230 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop transports. Aircraft 6C returned soon after taking off with undercarriage jammed in the down position.

At 2337 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4G & 4H of 820 Sqd, 4G for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4H for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

4th – At 0001 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-22N, 16-00E; weather O; wind west force 3; sea state 34.

 

[Fighter patrols were continued throughout the night, morning, and forenoon in accordance with the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal timed 1959 of 1st June. Cloud conditions remained unsuitable for bombing]

 

At 0035 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

 

[At 0035although the latest weather reports were still unfavourable, however it was decided that further fighter patrols must leave the ship and attempt to reach the objectives.  The patrol which took off at 0035 found that the embarkation of troops at Position 'C' was about to commence; a thick layer of cloud at 1000 feet lay above the ships and there were frequent rainstorms]

 

[Position C was Ersfjorden which is located north of Harstad and about 84NM by sea from Harstad. The troops were embarked at Narvik and Bod¿ on destroyers and Norwegian fishing boats and transported to Harstad, From Harstad they were taken by destroyer to Ersfjorden where they trans-shipped on to the troopships]

 

At 0245 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd, 2P for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, and 2Q for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The weather report from 2Q indicated low cloud and poor visibility for the whole of the Narvik area, and in particular Rombaksfjord]

 

At 0345 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

At 0550 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8F, 8G & 8H of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen Fjord; this patrol reported that there was no sign of activity in or near the fjord.

At 0550 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4L of 820 Sqd, 4C for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4L for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[In late May the German high command became concerned about the situation in Northern Norway, particularly at Narvik.

On 25/5/40 the Seekriegsleitung, German Naval High Command, SKL, informed German Army Group XXI in Oslo that they were going to undertake an operation against Allied naval operations off Northern Norway. The purpose of the operation was to interrupt Allied re-supply convoys and to relieve the pressure on German troops fighting around Narvik. The operation was to be called Operation JUNO.

On 1/6/40 Army Group XXI signalled their requirements to SKL; these were the destruction of all transports and small vessels in the Narvik, Namsos and Bod¿ areas also any target in Narvik except the hospital.

At 0800/4/6/40 the German battlecruisers GNEISENAU ( flag Admiral Marschall), SCHARNHORST, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER, with destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK and HANS LODY sailed from Kiel on Operation JUNO.

At Bletchley Park Harry Hinsley had been studying German W/T traffic and had reached the conclusion that heavy German units were at sea. Hinsley contacted the OIC at the Admiralty that analysis of wireless intercepts indicated that German heavy units had left the Baltic and might be moving north into the Norwegian Sea. However because Hinsley's work was tentative and could not be confirmed from other intelligence, the OIC decided to take no action. Therefore the Admiralty did not pass this information on to the fleet or RAF Coastal Command]

 

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd and 8M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C. This patrol reported that the embarkation appeared to be proceeding smoothly.

At 0750 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8K, 8L & 8M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen Fjord; this patrol reported that a ship was loading at pier in Reisen Fjord.

At 0850 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4H & 4G of 820 Sqd, 4H for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4G for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 1005 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 8P & 8Q of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships.

At 1115 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6A & 6B of 800 Sqd for a reconnaissance of the road between S¿rfold and Drag, and of the area near Korsnes

 

[This patrol found that the clouds were low and the S¿rfold-Drag road could not be investigated.  Aircraft 6B, pilot PO H.A. Monk, dropped one 250 lb GP bomb on the jetty at S¿rfold.  A small vessel flying the Norwegian flag was seen in Sorfolla, this is believed to have been a British ship disguised]

 

At 1145 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-08N, 16-31E. At this time the destroyers DIANA and ACHERON rejoined from Harstad.

 

[At 1430 the 1145 patrol reported transports leaving the fjord.

The troop transports, GEORGIC 27759grt, MONARCH OF BERMUDA 22424grt and LANCASTRIA 16243grt, with 4700 troops embarked, escorted by the destroyer ARROW and sloop STORK, sailed from Ersfjorden at 1425/4/6/40 and steered for rendezvous B. At the RV they were to await the other three transports of Group 1 before proceeding to the UK]

 

At 1515 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd, 2Q for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, and 2P for a weather reconnaissance.

 

[By 1515/4 the weather inshore was now bad and the visibility near ARK ROYAL was poor.  Aircraft 2P was sent inshore to see if there were any signs of improvement; this aircraft reported conditions unsuitable for flying and operations were temporarily suspended. None of ARK ROYAL's aircraft had so far sighted any enemy]

 

At 2200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4F of 820 Sqd to carry out an A/S over a convoy which had left Harstad at 2200/4.

 

[The convoy was Convoy Greek, consisting of the British merchant ships MV HERON 2374grt, SS MARINA 5088grt and  SS BALTEAKO 1328grt and the French merchant ships SS ENSEIGNE MAURICE PRECHAC 4578grt, SS VULCAIN 4362grt and MV PAUL EMILE JAVARY 2471grt, escorted by the anti-submarine trawlers ST ELSTAN and WASTWATER 

The SS BALTEAKO whilst at Harstad had been subjected to frequent bombing attacks that had culminated on 20/5/40 in a number of bombs near missing her. Her whole superstructure amidships was damaged and distorted, and she was holed near the waterline in 36 places. Her master, Captain Francis Butcher, beached her, the destroyer DELIGHT was alongside at the time and assisted in the beaching. Later the chief engineer Robert Towns, plugged the holes. As she was lying at a steep angle she was moved to a more level beach and more lasting repairs were made. Finally, with the assistance of one of H.M.'s trawlers, she was refloated and joined Convoy Greek]

 

At 2330 ARK ROYAL sighted the anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY (Flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships).

At 2350 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. (Ris¿y Sound is off Andfjorden located between the Island of Gryt¿ya and the Lyng¿yan Islands)

 

[The troopships were the SS MONARCH OF BERMUDA 22575grt and the Polish ships MV BATORY 14287grt and MV SOBIESKI 11030grt. There vessels didn't arrive at the anchorage until 0551/5]

 

At 2350 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 2B, 2C & 2F of 810 Sqd, 2B for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, 2F for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik and 2C for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

 

5th – At 0320 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4B of 820 Sqd for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

At 0325 ARK ROYAL recovered Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C. Rain and low cloud on the coast now made the weather too bad for flying to be continued; operations were therefore temporarily suspended.

 

[At 0400 the COVENTRY who was in Andfjorden reported weather as wind southwest force 3, rain, slight swell, cloud 10/10ths at 1000 feet]

 

At 0540 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4G of 820 Sqd for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

At 0715 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-26N, 15-57E. At this time she landed on a Walrus who was carrying despatches from Harstad. At the same time ARK ROYAL ran into fog.

At 0727 Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships in COVENTRY made the following signal to Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers, 'no fighters over Ris¿y Sound yet'.

At 0835 ARK ROYAL flew off the Walrus to return to Harstad.

At 0910 Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers replied to Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships 0727/5 with the following signal. 'Your 0727 last patrol left Ris¿y at 0300. Conditions since then unsuitable. Report cloud conditions at Ris¿y every hour'. 

 

[At 1254/5 the troop transports MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI having competed loading and with 4900 troops embarked sailed from Ris¿y Sound escorted by the COVENTRY and steered for the ocean RV with the troop transports GEORGIC and LANCASTIA.

At 2000/5 the COVERNTRY, MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI were in position 69-31N, 14-05E.

At 2015/5 the MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI detached to wait at the ocean RV.

At 2118/ COVENTRY closed the repair ship VINDICTIVE, (VINDICTIVE had sailed from Scapa at 2116/1) GEORGIC and FRANCONIA. The four vessels then steered for Andfjorden and Ris¿y Sound]

 

At 1420 ARK ROYAL with the destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT, DIANA and ACHERON in company, was in position 70-38N, 15-50E, in which position she RVed with GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER

At 1430 HIGHLANDER detached to refuel at Harstad.

At 1930 there was a slight improvement in the weather.

At 1935 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-15N, 16-20E and she flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2P of 810 Sqd,  2P for an ADA patrol and 2B for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik. 2B reported low visibility inshore.

At 2047 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd to relieve 2P on the ADA patrol.

 

[At 2231/5 the Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships Informed ships and authorities concerned that Ris¿y Sound was to be the rendezvous for tomorrow, Thursday, 6th June 1940, embarkation of troops]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2C & 2H of 810 Sqd, 2H for an ADA patrol and 2C for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The weather was still bad inshore and the fighters reported that the transports had not yet arrived in position for embarkation.

 

[GLORIOUS who was in company was waiting for the weather to clear in order to land on the Gladiators of 263 Sqd RAF and the Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF from Bardufoss and return them to the UK]

 

6th – At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The patrol reported on their return that the transports had not arrived by the time they left the area.

 

[Late on 5/6/40 the Allied ground forces that were pursuing the retreating German forces along the railway line towards Sweden requested an aerial bombing attack on German headquarters at Hundalen. Swordfish of 823 Sqd, embarked on GLORIOUS were tasked with this attack and a Swordfish of 810 Sqd was tasked to lead them to their target]

 

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2A of 810 Sqd to lead the four Swordfish of 823 Sqd, each armed with with four 250 lb GP bombs, four Cooper bombs, and four incendiary bombs. Their orders were to attack Hundalen.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4L of 820 Sqd, 4C for an ADA patrol and 4L for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 0230 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd, Their orders were to attack suitable targets and protect the Hundalen strike force.

 

[The Hundalen strike force encountered a thick layer of low cloud and generally poor visibility this made it impossible to these aircraft to reach an objective, and the bombs were jettisoned in the sea.  Low cloud also prevented the fighter covering force carrying out their mission. Bombers and fighters jettisoned their bombs in the sea, before returning at 0530/6]

 

At 0315 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 2K, 2L & 2M of 810 Sqd for a reconnaissance in sector 220¡ to 270¡ to a depth of 125 miles. This search was because it was considered possible from intercepted messages that an enemy surface force might be in the vicinity. Clearing searches such as these were to be made at intervals until the probability of surprise by enemy surface vessels no longer existed.

At 0430 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0450/6, (two hours late) the VINDICTIVE, GEORGIC and FRANCONIA arrived in Ris¿y Sound. They immediately commenced embarking troops. The COVENTRY remained in Andfjorden]

 

At 0530 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4F & 4H of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7F, 7G & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Sagfjorden.  The patrol reported that one destroyer had loaded and left the fjord.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-03N, 16E when she flew off three Swordfish 2F, 2Q & 2R of 810 Sqd for a reconnaissance in sector 220¡ to 270¡ to a depth of 150 miles. The objective was to search for enemy ships in the direction from which they would be most likely to approach.  Nothing was sighted except for an Allied Convoy.

At 1015 the destroyer HIGHLANDER rejoined from Harstad. Following which GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER detached to the Northwest to conserve fuel until required for embarking aircraft during pm 7th June. 

At 1030 the destroyers ARDENT and ACASTA were detached to Harstad to refuel.

 

[At 1100/6 the troopships GEORGIC and FRANCONIA with VINDICTIVE (VINDICTIVE had embarked the RAF ground crews of 46 and 263 Sqds) having completed with troops sailed for the ocean RV, escorted by the destroyers  HAVELOCK, ECHO and WALKER, to join the other troopships of Group 1]

 

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-15N, 16-56E. Weather BC, wind W by S force 4; sea state 33.

 

[The weather was reported as bad at Rombaksfjord, but suitable for bombing at Drag. The decision was made to make a reconnaissance of the Drag and Sorfold areas and to bomb any suitable targets]

 

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7A & 7B of 803 Sqd, each armed with a 250lb GP bomb to make a reconnaissance of the Drag and S¿rfold areas, and to bomb any suitable targets.

 

[Aircraft 7A, pilot, Lt. Cdr. J Casson, bombed the runway of the landing ground behind Boda. Aircraft 7B, pilot, Sub Lt GW Brokensha, found German troops at Finneid, near Fauske, in Sorfolla; two platoons of troops appeared to be using the hotel as their Headquarters and several army vehicles were seen on the road leading north from Finneid.  The aircraft dropped a bomb on the hotel and missed by ten yards. When ARK ROYAL received 7B's report of German troops; the decision was taken to carry out a strike mission as soon as possible]

 

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6B, 6C & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2H of 810 Sqd, 2H for an ADA patrol and 2B for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 1535 the last fighter patrol returned and patrols ceased until later in the day.

At 1710 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4C of 820 Sqd for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The purpose of this mission was to ascertain whether a dive bombing attack could be carried out on the railway stations at Sildvik and Hundalen where the German headquarters were reported to be. The French Military Headquarters had asked for these objectives to be attacked and ARK ROYAL was particularly desirous to meet their demands.  Aircraft 4C reported that the clouds had lifted in Rombaksfjord and that attacks could now be expected to have a good chance of success]

 

At 1715 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of six Skuas 7K, 7L, 7M, 7P (L2984), 7Q (L2955) & 7R (L2956) of 803 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with one 250 lb GP bomb, four 20 lb Cooper bombs and four incendiary bombs. Yellow section comprising 7K, 7L & 7M and red section comprised 7P, 7Q & 7R. Their mission was to bomb the German troops at Finneid, near Fauske. Because ARK ROYAL was so far from the objective at this time the Swordfish could not have covered the distance and retuned with safety.

 

[Report on the attack by yellow section. We proceeded to our objective via Andenes Point, Korsnes, Drag, Musken, S¿rfjordmo, Sorfold, and Djupvik. An extensive reconnaissance of all roads was made at 1000 ft. for troop movements.  The weather deteriorated towards the south and at Fauske.  The cloud ceiling was between 1500 and 2000 ft.

Fire was opened by the enemy as we approached and no troops were visible at any point in the town.  From this it can be assumed that warning of our approach had been given to the enemy sometime before our arrival.

Yellow section was the first to attack.  The first objective was a hotel, believed to be the enemy HQ, near a large warehouse at the S.E. of the town.  The attack was made at 1845 with 250 lb bombs diving from 1800 to 1000 ft.  However, owing to the low ceiling, accurate dive bombing was impossible and no hits were observed on the hotel.

The bombs were observed to fall as follows:

Yellow 1, 7K, 30 yards from hotel, between it and the warehouse.

Yellow 2, 7L, on the road south of the warehouse about 100 yards from the hotel.

Yellow 3, 7M, 20 yards south of the warehouse.

An attack was then made on the warehouse with incendiary bombs dropped in sticks of four.  One fire was observed, but lasted only a short time.

Aircraft then attacked independent objectives as follows, with 20 lb bombs:

Yellow 1, attacked a row of houses to the right of the main pier from which intensive flak and machine gun fire was coming.  A stick of four 20 lb bombs was dropped and direct hits were observed.  It is estimated that three or four machine gun and Flak posts were destroyed.

Yellow 2, attacked the main pier.  A stick of four 20 lb bombs was dropped just north of the pier damaging houses were troops had been previously reported.

Yellow 3, chose the same objective as Yellow 2 and scored one direct hit on the pier.  The remaining three fell in the sea.

On completion of this attack, Red Section began theirs.  In the meantime yellow section made an extensive reconnaissance of the area to the north of the town.  No troops were seen]

 

[Report on the attack by Red Section. Followed Yellow Section to the objective. On arrival at Fauske, we separated from Yellow Section and proceeded to the west to await completion of Yellow's attack.

At 1840, 7P led the Red Section on an attack on the warehouse and hotel at Fauske. Owing to extremely bad visibility and clouds at 1200 feet accurate bombing was difficult.

Attack by Red 1, 7P, one 250 lb bomb miss in water alongside warehouse, 4 x 20 lb bombs in grounds of wireless station, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused a fire alongside the wireless station.

Attack by Red 2, 7Q, one 250 lb bomb in grounds of the warehouse, 4 x 20 lb bombs in grounds of the warehouse, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused fire near wireless station.

Attack by Red 3, 7R, one 250 lb bomb close to hotel, 4 x 20 lb bombs on road near hotel, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused a fire among cars outside hotel.

Red 1 and Red 2 were hit in several places by small calibre AA fire (.303 probably).  This appeared to come from the shrubbery of the wireless station, the unit was made to stop firing, and probably put out of action by the 20 lb bombs and extensive low altitude front gun attack. On completion of the attacks, at 1900, Red Section left the target and proceeded up the road leading north from Fauske.  Military Lorries on this road were attacked closely with the remainder of our front gun ammunition.  They were obviously hit. The Lorries had drawn up under the trees and the personnel had taken shelter in a wood. 

We arrived back on ARK ROYAL at 2015]

 

[At 1813 in position 70-06N, 11-56E, the COVENTRY (Flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) RVed with the troopships of Group II, comprising ORAMA 19840grt, ORONSAY 20,043grt, ORMONDE 14,982grt, ARANDORA STAR 15,501grt, DUCHESS OF YORK 20,021grt, ROYAL ULSTERMAN 3244grt, ULSTER PRINCE 3791grt and ULSTER MONARCH 3791grt and the Armed boarding vessel VANDYCK.

The ORAMA, ARANDORA STAR, DUCHESS OF YORK and VANDYCK were ordered to remain at sea.

The ORAMA reported that she was short of fuel oil and water, so after consultation with FO Narvik, FO AA Ships ordered ORAMA to return to the UK.

The remaining troopships then proceeded under escort to Ris¿y Sound]

 

At 2105 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish, 2K, 2L, 2M, 2F, 2G & 2Q of 810 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with four x 250 lb GP bombs, four 20 lb Cooper bombs and four incendiary bombs. The first sub-flight comprising 2K, 2L & 2M were tasked to strike at Hundalen and the second sub-flight comprising 2F, 2G & 2Q were tasked to strike at Sildvik.

 

[Report on the attack on Hundalen. The sub flight proceeded to Hundalen in very good weather conditions.  The Objective was sighted at 2210 and approached from a height of 4500 ft.  A group of four Bofors guns immediately opened fire.  These guns were well concealed in some scrub, about 400 yards north of the village of Hundalen and could only be located by the gun flashes.  Flak fire was observed coming from positions on the hill side.  The target was buildings at Hundalen.  The approach was in line astern on a southerly course at a height of 4500 ft.  Continuous fire was experienced from a group of four Bofors guns, and a number of MG.s.

2K dropped a number of bombs on a group of small buildings and a large fire was started, which appeared to be spreading satisfactorily when the sub flight returned.

2M scored a direct hit on a large white building several stories high, with a number of windows and was possibly a residential building of some nature.  Further bombs were dropped amongst smaller buildings. Two of the 250 lb bombs on 2L hung in the racks, but near misses were obtained with the remaining bombs on the tunnel mouth and on some corrugate iron roofing over the railway line.

2M was hard hit by flak causing considerable damage to the tail unit, and severing one control wire, but the aircraft remained airworthy. The sub flight returned to the ship at 2400]

 

[Report on the attack on Sildvik. Sildvik was approached from North West in line astern at 6500 feet.

2F made an approach dive to 4000 feet in the same direction then to 2500 feet and released, made away to the East, and climbed to 4000 feet. The second attack by 2F was made from eastward along the railway line. A hit was made on the junction of railway lines. No AA fire was experienced during the attack.

2Q followed 2F after one minute making one attack from the North West on Sildvik and thereafter machine gunning huts in the vicinity.  2G dived in the same direction scoring one hit about 5 yards from the track and fired a building]

 

[At 2200 the ORANSAY, ORMONDE, ULSTER PRINCE, and ULSTER MONARCH arrived in Ris¿y Sound. The DUCHESS OF YORK remained in Andfjorden and the ROYAL ULSTERMAN went to Harstad]

 

At 2330 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-14N, 16-14E. Weather bc, wind SE force 3, sea state 22

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F, 7G & 7K of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen and Ris¿y Sound to protect the embarkation of troops.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 4F, 4H & 4L of 820 Sqd for search between the bearings 220¡ and 270¡ to a depth of 140 miles, with the object of clearing the bearing upon which enemy surface craft were most likely to approach.  Only a Norwegian gunboat and a small loaded tanker were seen.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4K of 820 Sqd for reconnaissance over Drag and the road leading there from the south.  No enemy forces were sighted and two 250 lb GP bombs were dropped near the bridge on the road ten miles to the southwest of Drag.

 

7th – At 0035 ARDENT and ACASTA rejoined from refueling at Harstad. Following which DIANA and ACHERON detached to Harstad to refuel.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2C of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0435 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. This patrol reported no enemy aircraft in sight and loading of transports proceeding satisfactorily.

At 0445 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 4A, 4B & 4C of 820 Sqd each armed with 4 x 250 lb GP bombs, 4 x 20 lb Cooper bombs and 4 x 25 lb incendiary bombs. Their mission was to attack enemy positions and the Flak and Bofors positions reported and located at Hundalen by aircraft of the previous day's night raid.

 

[This is the report of the attack on Hundalen by a sub-flight of 820 Sqd. On approaching the land, the section climbed to 7000 feet above a scattered layer of thin Stratocumulus cloud and conditions appeared ideal for bombing.  However, the cloud layer became denser and more extensive as the objective was approached, and when within 20 miles the section was forced to come below the clouds.  Rombaksfjord was entered in the base of the clouds at 1500 feet with clouds down on the hills on either side.  Breaks in the cloud were observed at the head of the fiord and it was decided to press on in the hopes of getting through to Hundalen.  AA fire was encountered from a Bofors gun when passing Sildvik.  On reaching the head of the Rombaksfjord, it was found that Hundalen could not be reached and it was decided to attack enemy positions in Sildvik.

Attacks were made on Sildvik, dives being started from inside the cloud at a height of 3500 feet and bombs released about 1000 feet. 12 x 250lb GP, 12 x 20 lb, and 12 incendiary bombs were dropped.

Attacks were continued for about 10 minutes.

Direct hits with 250 lb GP bombs were obtained on two buildings and a fire started.  Four x 250 lb GP bombs fell on the railway lines.  A machine gun was silenced by Cooper bombs.

Fire was encountered from what was probably a Bofors gun which appeared to be located in the mouth of the tunnel and was possibly mounted on a railway truck, also from an Oerlikon, or similar guns, and machine guns.

No hits were obtained by the enemy on our aircraft]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

At 0445 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2A of 810 Sqd to report on the weather at Drag and Vestfjord as it was the intention to send further bombing forces to Fauske if bombing conditions were good.

At 0540 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2N of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-09N, 16-55E. Weather bc, wind, light airs, sea state 02.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The patrol reported five destroyers hunting a submarine in Andfjorden; three destroyers loading transports at Ris¿y; weather conditions unsuitable for enemy bombers.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2P of 810 Sqd to report on the weather on the Drag area.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2L & 2R of 810 Sqd. 2L was to carry out an ADA patrol and 2R was to fly to Bardufoss airfield to communicate with the R.A.F.

At 0930 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0650/7 the ROYAL ULSTERMAN joined the transports in Ris¿y Sound.

At 1052/7 the embarkation of troops and the ORANSAY, ORMONDE, DUCHESS OF YORK and ROYAL ULSTERMAN escorted by the COVENTRY and the destroyers HAVELOCK, ARROW and WALKER sailed for the Ocean RV. The ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER MONARCH sailed for Harstad escorted by the destroyers DELIGHT, BEAGLE, and CAMPBELL. During the 7th about 5200 troops were embarked.

The 0930 fighter patrol reported the movements of the ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER MONARCH]

 

At 1205 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4K of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

 

[At 1314/7 the COVENTRY reported that the convoy was being shadowed by a FW 200 Condor, which at 1315/7 she opened fire on, without apparent success]

 

At 1330 in position 71-11N, 15-25E, GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER rejoined the Flag from the Northwest.

At 1355 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd to attack enemy aircraft which had been reported in position 310 degrees 20 miles from Andenes point. This was probably the FW 220 Condor sighted by COVENTRY. No enemy aircraft were sighted by this patrol.

 

[At 1430 GLORIOUS flew off four Swordfish to Bardufoss for navigating fighter aircraft back to carrier]

 

At 1550 DIANA and ACHERON rejoined from Harstad.

At 1615 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2K of 810 Sqd to Bardufoss aerodrome with the orders for embarkation of Hurricane, Walrus, and Gladiator aircraft in the Carrier Squadron on Saturday, 8th June.

 

[At 1925 the GNEISENAU [flag Admiral Wilhelm Marschall], SCHARNHORST, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER, with destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK and HANS LODY on Operation JUNO RVed with the fleet supply ship DITHMARSCHEN in approximate position 67-52N, 2W and refuelling of the HIPPER and the destroyers commenced.

Whilst refueling Admiral Marschall received a reconnaissance report of a seven ship convoy on a south westerly course, whose course and speed would put it about 110 NM south east of his current position.

(This was the Group 1 troopship convoy comprising the MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY, SOBIESKI, FRANCONIA, LANCASTRIA and GEORGIC escorted by the VINDICTIVE)

Admiral Marschall, who was unaware that the Allies had commenced the evacuation of Norway, was undecided what to do about the convoy believing it to be of empty ships. So at 2030 Marschall called a captains' conference on board the GNEISENAU. Just as the conference was ending Marschall received a signal informing him that only one warship remained at Harstad. From this he deduced that the evacuation had begun so he could profitably attack south bound shipping.

At 2215 the captains' conference ended and at 2300 the Force got under way. The ships set off due south in line abreast 10 miles apart]

 

[At 1930 GLORIOUS landed on three Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF as a trial to test the feasibility of landing Hurricanes without arrester hooks on a carrier.  The aircraft landed on very successfully, and it was decided to embark the remainder in GLORIOUS a.m., tomorrow, Saturday]

 

At 2000 hours ARK ROYAL landed on five Walrus of 701 Squadron from Harstad.

 

[At 2000 the Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE (Flag Vice Admiral Cunningham, FO 1st Cruiser Squadron) departed Tromso for the Clyde with the King of Norway, his government and allied legations embarked]

 

[At 2035 GLORIOUS flew off a Swordfish of 823 Sqd to Bardufoss with instructions for landing on remaining RAF fighters]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Skuas 6A, 6B, 6C, 6F, 6G, 6H, 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for fighter patrols over Narvik, SkŒnland, and Bardufoss, each patrol being charged with the protection of evacuating allied troops from air attack.

 

[The patrols reported that Norwegian fishing boats were ferrying men and stores, to three destroyers off Narvik, and that the R.A.F. were striking camp at Bardufoss.  The patrol which went to SkŒnland was fired on by Allied demolition parties. A large convoy of 15 ships was seen to be assembling off Andenes Point]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2F & 2M of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 2310 ARK ROYAL sighted the COVENTRY.

 

[At around midnight the cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Flag Flag Officer Narvik) embarked the last Allied troops from Narvik. These were the rear guard, troops of 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade. SOUTHAMPTON then sailed for Harstad]

 

8th – At 0100 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-05N, 15-53E Weather ocp, wind WNW, sea state 32. In company were the GLORIOUS and destroyers ARDENT, ACASTA, DIANA, ACHERON and HIGHLANDER.

At 0100 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7A & 7P of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Narvik. The patrol reported that destroyers were bombarding the piers.

 

[By 0115 GLORIOUS had landed on ten Gladiators of 263 Sqd RAF, (the first Gladiator had taken off just after 2300/7) followed by seven Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF, all from Bardufoss, and one Walrus of 701 Sqd FAA, ferrying Group Captain Wood, RAF from Harstad. All landings were completely successful.  GLORIOUS then landed on the Swordfish of 823 Sqd that had acted as navigating aircraft]

 

At 0130 ARK ROYAL flew off four Skuas 7F, 7G, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd, 7F & 7G for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden (RAF ground crew were being evacuated through S¿rreisa and taken in fishing boats to Harstad) and  Bardufoss aerodrome and 7Q & 7R for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound.

At 0130 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2G & 2Q of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0207 ARK ROYAL landed on Walrus 5A of 701 Sqd, pilot Lt M B Francklin from GLORIOUS. (This was to be the last aircraft to take off from GLORIOUS)

At 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd and 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd, 7K, 7L & 7M for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden and Bardufoss aerodrome and 6P, 6Q & 6R for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0300 in position 70-17N, 14-10E, GLORIOUS, ARDENT and ACASTA detached for Scapa. They were routed through the following positions, speed of advance 16 knots, 69-30N, 06-40E, 66-00N, 02-00W & 63-00N, 04-30W.

The Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers agreed to the CO of GLORIOUS, Captain, D'Oyly-Hughes RN, request for GLORIOUS to proceed independently to Scapa to expedite a Court Martial]

 

At 0515 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6F, 6G. 6H, 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd, 6F, 6G & 6H for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden and Bardufoss aerodrome and 6K, 6L & 6M for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound. This patrol reported that embarkation at Reisafjorden was completed.

 

[At about 0530 in position 67-26N, 4-23E, the German Force were steaming south in line abreast when the HIPPER sighted two ships, these were the tanker MV OILPIONEER 5666grt escorted by the trawler JUNIPER of the 19th Anti-Submarine Striking Force, they had departed Tromso on the 7/6 for the UK. On sighting the Enemy force JUNIPER hoisted her battle ensign and turned towards the enemy. HIPPER took on JUNIPER and amazingly JUNIPER managed to survive for 90 minutes before being overwhelmed by HIPPER. GNEISENAU attacked the OILPIONEER with her secondary armament setting her ablaze and the destroyer SCHOEMANN despatched the tanker with a torpedo. Neither of the British ships got off an enemy sighting signal]

 

At 0805 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q &7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound. The fighters sighted a He 111K (this was probably a He 111H of KG 26) when on patrol and immediately chased after him, but the Heinkel was able to take cover in a convenient layer of thick cloud and escaped after an indecisive action.

At 0815 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2H & 2P of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

[At 0900/8/6/40in position 68-02N, 03-36E the HIPPER and HANS LODY came upon two ships, the empty troopship SS ORAMA 19840 grt and the hospital ship ATLANTIS. The HIPPER sank the ORAMA but allowed the ATLANTIS to proceed on her way. In accordance with the Geneva Convention ATLANTIS maintained radio silence]

At 1030 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for an ADA patrol and to look for a shadower which had been sighted from the bridge.  The shadower disappeared as the Skuas took off and was not seen again.

At 1050 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the transports leaving Andfjorden. The patrol also had orders to search for a shadower reported by COVENTRY, but no enemy aircraft were seen.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers HIGHLANDER, DIANA, and ACHERON steered to the westward to keep to northward of convoys.

At 1330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the Store ship convoy which had been bombed by a four engine flying boat. The patrol reported very low cloud near the convoy and no enemy aircraft in sight.

 

[The convoy was of slow (7knot) auxiliaries that had departed Harstad late on the 7th. The convoy consisted of the RFA SS OLIGARCH 6897grt, the tanker MV CONCH 8376grt and the freighters SS BLACKHEATH 4637grt, SS HARMATTAN 4558grt, SS CROMARTY FIRTH 538grt, SS THESEUS 6527grt, SS ACRITY 403grt and SS COXWOLD 1124grt. At 0300/8 the convoy was off Andenes Point and was escorted by the anti-submarine trawlers ST CATHAN and LOCH MONTEITH of the 18th Anti-submarine Striking Force. At 1300/8 the convoy was in approximate position 69-30N, 13E]

 

At 1515 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

 

[At 1005/8 the troopship convoy which was part of Group II had completed with troops and had sailed from Ris¿y Sound. (This completed the withdrawal of Allied troops from Norway) The convoy comprised ARANDORA STAR, DUCHESS OF YORY, ULSTER MONARCH and ULSTER PRINCE escorted by COVENTRY (flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships), the light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Cork and Orrery, who had delegated command of the convoy to Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) and the destroyers HAVELOCK (D 9), CAMPBELL, FAME, DELIGHT, BEAGLE, ECHO, FIREDRAKE, VANOC and VETERAN.

At 1200/8 this convoy was in position 69-32N, 16-08E and steering for an RV with the other troopships of Group II]

 

[At 1546 the GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST (At 1300 HIPPER and the destroyers had been detached to refuel at Trondheim) were in position 69N, 3-10E steering 345¡ speed 19 knots with the flag ship leading, when a lookout on the SCHARNHORST sighted smoke bearing 60¡. The Germans initially identified the vessel sighted as ARK ROYAL but it was actually the GLORIOUS escorted by ARDENT and ACASTA they were steering 205¡ speed 17 knots. The German battlecruisers turned on to a south easterly course and closed to attack.

At 1600 the battle cruisers were sighted by GLORIOUS and ARDENT was ordered to close and identify them.

At 1627 ARDENT was fired on by GNEISENAU and at 1630 by SCHARNHORST at a range of about 14600M. ARDENT withdrew, firing torpedoes, one of which was seen to pass close ahead of the SCHARNHORST. Both destroyers made smoke to screen the GLORIOUS. The smoke was effective enough to cause the Germans to cease fire from about 1658 to 1720. ARDENT achieved one hit on SCHARNHORST with her 4.7-inch guns, but was extensively damaged by return fire from the 150mm secondary armament of the battlecruisers, and sank at about 1725.

At 1630 at a range of 26150M on a bearing 120¡ the battlecruisers opened fire on GLORIOUS, ARDENT and ACASTA made smoke and turned towards the enemy.

At 1652, GNEISENAU picked up GLORIOUS transmitting the following message on 8.29 MHz addressed to Scapa W/T; "Two battlecruisers bearing 308¡ 15 miles course 030¡, my position 54-69N, 4¡E'. This signal was not picked up by any British station or ship.

At about 1730, ACASTER passed ahead of SCHARNHORST and turned to run down her starboard side, ACASTER then fired two four-tube salvos of torpedoes. One torpedo hit SCHARNHORST below Caesar turret, causing heavy damage and casualties, and causing a sharp reduction in speed. ACASTER also made a hit on SCHARNHORST's B turret with her 4.7 "guns, but came under heavy and accurate fire after she had turned away, which left her burning and in a sinking condition. The Germans ceased fire on ACASTER at about 1808 and she sank at about 1820.

AT 1638 GLORIOUS received her first 280mm hit from SCHARNHORST's third salvo.

At 1720 the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE who was then about 70 miles west of GLORIOUS picked up a weak signal on 3.7 MHz, addressed to VAA front GLORIOUS. DEVONSHIRE took no action upon receipt of the broken and distorted signal.

At about 1740 the German ships ceased fire and GLORIOUS sank at about 1820.

At 1815, the German ships set course for Trondheim and left the scene at SCHARNHORST's best speed of about 20 knots.

At 1851 the SCHARNHORST signalled GNEISENAU 'hit by torpedo on the starboard side in compartments III and IV. Turret C unserviceable".

At 1200/9 they entered the Frohavet.

At 1530/9/6/40 they arrived off Munkholman Island outside of Trondheim harbour]

 

At 1715 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

At 1915 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

At 2208 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4K of 820 Sqd for ADA patrols. ARK ROYAL was now so close to the troop convoy that A.D.A. patrols to cover both forces could be provided. Swordfish 4C carried out the ADA patrol around ARK ROYAL and 4K around the troop convoy.

At 2358 ARK ROYAL sighted the troop convoy.

 

9th – At 0108 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2A & 2L of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol around the convoy and ARK ROYAL.

 

[At 0230 the troopships ORONSAY, ORMONDE and ROYAL ULSTERMAN joined the troop convoy. The armed boarding vessel VANDYCK should have joined at this time but had failed to RV with the other troopships]

 

[At 0310 the destroyers DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE were detached from the escort of the troop convoy with orders to search for the VANDYCK]

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-11N, 7-20E. (This was position A, the assembly point for the troop transports of Group II) Weather, wind northwest force 4, slight swell, cloud 8/10ths at 6,000 feet.

At 0405 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish 4A, 4B, 4G & 4H of 820 Sqd to carry out a reconnaissance of the sector 130¡ and 225¡ with the object of searching for enemy surface vessels upon their most probable line of approach to the convoy.  A Store ship convoy was reported at 0440/9 and many small 'stragglers' were seen to the leaving Norway after the main convoys.

At 0406 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop convoy.

 

[At 0431 the FO Anti-Aircraft Ships Sent following signal to FO Aircraft Carriers (R) DELIGHT; 'Request air search for SS VANDYCK two masts one funnel painted hull black, upper works grey, which should have made rendezvous 'A' at 0300 on approximate course 250 degrees. If located request that DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE be informed.']

 

AT 0718 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P and 2B of 810 Sqd they were sent back to the position in which the ships of the convoy gathered, the object being to find SS VANDYCK, which had failed to join the convoy.  VANDYCK was not sighted, but FAME and DELIGHT were seen looking for her.

At 0720 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop convoy.

 

[At 0750 the destroyer FIREDRAKE rejoined the convoy having failed to locate VANDYCK]

 

[At 0810 the Following signal was received from VANDYCK (R) DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE; 'am at rendezvous X']

 

[At 0847 the destroyer DELIGHT was ordered to to bring VANDYCK on and inform CINC Rosyth and authorities concerned of expected time of arrival in position 63-00N, 04-00E. The DELIGHT failed to RV with VANDYCK because VANDYCK was bombed and sunk]

 

At 1000 ARK ROYAL was in position 69N, 3-24E, and course approximately 210 ¡.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between headings 130¡ and 210¡, to a depth of 80 miles. The search sighted nothing.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the convoy.

 

[At 1014 the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers received a signal from the battleship VALIANT timed 0901/ 9 reporting enemy battleships and destroyers in position 67-44N, 3-52E at 0900/8.  This was the first intimation received that enemy surface forces were at sea]

 

[At 1020 the CINC Home Fleet signalled VALIANT, make all possible speed to join Group II]

 

At 1110 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-50N, 3-05E when she flew off three Swordfish 2B, 2H & 2Q of 810 Sqd to carry out a search between 225¡ and 275¡ to a depth of 90 miles to search for the enemy force. Nothing was sighted.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-46N, 3-03E, weather oc, wind northerly force 4, sea state 30.

 

[At 1155 the SOUTHAMPTON sighted a body in the water. She altered course to investigate a sighted a further three bodies. (These were almost certainly from the previous days engagement between GLORIOUS, ACASTER and ARDENT and SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU). At 1205 SOUTHAMPTON proceeded at 20 knots to re-join the convoy]

 

At 1300 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-30N, 2-59E when she flew off Walrus 5A of 701 Sqd and seven Swordfish 2B, 2C & 2P of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd these 8 aircraft were to carry out a search between 110¡ and 285¡ to a depth of 100 miles to search for the enemy force. Also flown off were three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search between 310¡ and 085¡ to a depth of 20 miles astern of the convoy.

 

[The weather was difficult for air navigation, as the visibility was low and the wind extremely changeable; a few of the less experienced observers had to be brought back to the ship by D/F at the completion of this and subsequent searches. The general standard of air navigation was high considering the weather was so unsuitable and the ship often unable to maintain the mean line of advance given to the aircraft when they took off]

 

At 1545 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-10N, 2-00W, when she flew off two Walrus 5C & 5F of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2B, 2E, 2F, 2K, 2L & 2Q of 810 Sqd and 4L of 820 Sqd these 8 aircraft were to carry out a search between 110¡ and 285¡ to a depth of 100 miles to search for the enemy force. Also flown off were three Skuas 7A, 6B & 6C of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search astern of the convoy.

At this time ARK ROYAL was operating close to the main troop convoy in order to offer maximum protection.

 

[At 1707, as VALIANT had reported being shadowed, the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers suggested to the Flag Officer, Narvik, that course of convoy should be altered to 270¡ in order to open the distance from the enemy air base at Trondheim (Vaernes Aerodrome)]

 

At 1800 ARK ROYAL and the convoy altered course to 270¡, speed of advance 13 knots.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Walrus 5G, 5H & 5K of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2A, 2C & 2P of 810 Sqd and 4C, 4H & 4K of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between the bearings of 175¡ and 340¡ to a depth of 120 miles. This reconnaissance sighted the VALIANT and passed the position, course, and speed of the convoy to her. Also flown off were three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search astern of the convoy.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd with orders to pass a message to VALIANT and attack an enemy aircraft showing her. When the Skuas arrived over the VALIANT they found that she was being shadowed by a He 115 which they attacked and drove off, but were unable to close due the float plane disappearing into low cloud.

At 2030 ARK ROYAL received Admiralty signal timed 1936/9ordering convoy to steer 270¡ to longitude of Faroe Islands, then turn south.

 

[At 2115 the battleship VALIANT and the destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI were sighted. The Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers ordered VALIANT to take station five miles ahead of the convoy.

At 2145in position 67-58 N, 1W, VALIANT, MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI took station ahead of the convoy]

 

At 2145 ARK ROYAL flew off two Walrus 5L & 5M of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2B & 2C of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between the bearings of 155¡ and 355¡ to a depth of 120 miles. Three Skuas covered the arc astern of the convoy.

At 2300 in position 67-55N, 2-10W six He 111H's (probably of II./KG26 from Vaernes) approached ARK ROYAL from astern and flew up the starboard side.  ARK ROYAL opened fire on the enemy aircraft, without success. When nearly ahead of the ship, they broke formation, four Heinkels disappeared into the clouds above the ship while the remaining two shadowed from either bow. The sub slight of fighters already in the air, shot down one He 111H and damaged another.  

At 2315 ARK ROYAL flew off a second section of fighters immediately the He 111H's were seen, these were 6F, 6G & 6H of 800Sqd. This patrol attacked one He 111H and probably damaged it. 

At 2355 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd and 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd to attack the Heinkels and defend the convoy and escort. The Heinkels had all been driven away by 0300/10 and some of them had jettisoned their bombs while being attacked by the Skuas.  The convoy and escort suffered no damage from these enemy aircraft.

 

10th – At 0001 Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Cork, hauled down his Flag on the SOUTHAMPTON.

At 0107 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers suggested to the Flag Officer, 20th Cruiser Squadron (Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) that he should inform, REPULSE, NEWCASTLE, and SUSSEX of the position of the convoy and escort.  This was done at 0144.

At 0400 the convoy was in position 67-48N, 5-02W. Weather: east southeast wind, force 2, cloud 9/10ths at 6000 feet.

At 0245 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-23N, 3-30W when she flew off Ten Swordfish 2B, 2C, 2F, 2K, 2P & 2R of 810 Sqd and 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd for an all round search to a depth of 120 miles.  No enemy forces were sighted. 

 

[At 0725 whilst being brought back to the ship by D/F, Sub/Lt R C Eborn in aircraft 2C lost his way and forced landed in sea. The crew of three were picked by the Norwegian fishery protection trawler SYRIAN and landed in Iceland]

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for a patrol over the convoy.

At 0445 ARK ROYAL sighted the NEWCASTLE (Flag CS18) and SUSSEX. The convoy altered course to 195¡.

At 0518 the NEWCASTLE joined and was stationed one mile on starboard quarter of convoy to provide AA defence on that flank.

At 0532 the SUSSEX joined and was ordered to provide AA defence for the ARK ROYAL.

At 0709 the NEWCASTLE was ordered to provide AA defence for the ARK ROYAL.

At 0730 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-47N, 4-55W. Weather OC, wind south east by south force 3, sea state 44.

At 0730 ARK ROYAL flew off three walrus 5C, 5H & 5K of 701 Sqd to carry out a search for Swordfish 2C.

At 0800 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, ordered SUSSEX and NEWCASTLE to part company and support the store ship convoy in approximately position 67-35N, 4-18W.

 

[At 0846 hours a RAF Blenheim IVF 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 0857 the battlecruiser REPULSE joined. Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers ordered her to take VALIANT under her orders. These ships and their screening destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI

were designated Force 'A'.

 

[By the morning of 9/6 it was clear to Admiral Marschall that the Allies were evacuating northern Norway; so he decided that he must immediately attack Allied shipping. At 0902 the GNEISENAU, HIPPER and the destroyers LODY, GLASTER, SCHOEMANN and STEINBRINCK sailed from Trondheim.

In the afternoon the submarine CLYDE on patrol off the Frohavet sighted this force.

At 1400 the CLYDE reported 'a pocket battleship and 8" cruiser in 64-35N, 9-45E, steering 300¡', by this time the destroyers had returned to Trondheim.. The German force had sighted the CLYDE so Marschall knew his mission was compromised. But it was not until intelligence was received that the heavy units were covering the Allied convoys that Marschall was ordered to abort the mission.

At 2010 the GNEISENAU and HIPPER turned east and headed back to Trondheim.

At 1130/11 the GNEISENAU and HIPPER arrived back off Trondheim]

 

At 1000 the CINC Home Fleet ordered ARK ROYAL to join him.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL's escorting destroyers DIANA and ACHERON were exchanged for the destroyers MASHONA and ASHANTI from REPULSE's screen, as the latter had more fuel remaining. (DIANA and ACHERON joined VALIANT returning to Scapa)

At 1130 in position 66N, 6W the ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HIGHLANDER, MASHONA and ASHANTI detached from the convoy and steered easterly to join the CINC Home Fleet in RODNEY.

At 1445 ARK ROYAL sighted RODNEY (flag CINC Home Fleet), RENOWN and the destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), ZULU, KELVIN, ELECTRA and ESCORT.

At 1525 in position 66-40N, 2-30W, ARK ROYAL joined the CINC Home Fleet. The destroyers HIGHLANDER, MASHONA and ASHANTI detached to refuel. The Home Fleet then steered in a generally eastward direction.

At 1540 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd to attack a shadower which had been sighted from the bridge. The patrol chased off the He 115 but could not close the range sufficiently to open effective fire as the Heinkel made full use of the low clouds for avoiding action.

At 1600 the CINC Home Fleet ordered the Fleet to steer north eastward at maximum speed. This was in response to CLYDE's 1400/9 signal. The CINC's intention was to locate the enemy force and carry out an air strike from ARK ROYAL.

At 1650 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd to attack a shadower.  An attack was made on a He 115 and it is possible that the enemy aircraft was damaged.

At 1813 the Fleet altered course to 115¡.

At 1910 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd to attack another shadower, but no enemy aircraft was seen and the patrol returned to guard the Fleet. 

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-29N, 00-33W. Weather OC, wind east south east force 4, sea state 21.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish 2B, 2K & 2K of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd to carry out a search between bearing 020¡ and 210¡ to a depth of 150 miles, the object of the search being to locate the enemy battleships or battleship, reported by CLYDE and believed to be in the vicinity.  At 2100 a submerged submarine was reported 20 miles ahead of the Fleet.

At 2330 the Swordfish returned having sighted nothing.

At 2355 the Fleet altered course to 320¡ to provide close cover for the slow convoys and numerous single merchant ships that were proceeding from Narvik and Tromso to the UK.

 

[Between 2345/10 and 0555/1, in position 68-15N, 2-20E the Norwegian ship SS BORGUND 341grt, sighted rafts with 38 survivors from GLORIOUS and one from ACASTA. The 39 survivors were taken on board and landed at T—rshavn, Faroe Islands]

 

11th

[At 0645 the submarine CLYDE on patrol off the Frohavet sighted what was believed to be a pocket battleship off Lines¿ya Island at the entrance to the Frohavet. This was certainly the GNEISENAU and HIPPER returning to Trondheim]

 

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-13N, 2-20W. Weather BC, Wind south east force 3, sea state 22.

At 0812 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish 2A, 2F, 2G, 2K. 2Q & 2R of 810 Sqd and 4F, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd to carry out a search between bearing 181¡ and 359¡, to a depth of 120 miles.  No enemy forces were sighted and thick weather was reported ahead.

At 0830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd to attack a shadower. No enemy was sighted and it seems possible that one of our own flying boats had been reported as the shadower. (This may have been a Sunderland 1 of 204 Sqd from Sullom Voe that was searching for the ships reported the CLYDE)

 

[At 1130 twelve Hudson 1's of 269 Sqd RAF, each armed with four x 250lb SAP bombs, (this size and type of bomb was useless against the targets they were to attack) took off from Sumburgh. Their mission was to bomb the enemy heavy ships at Trondheim reported by the Blenheim IVF of 254 Sqd at 0846/10.

At about 1415 they arrived over the target where they were attacked by Bf 109's of II,/JG77 and Me 110's of 3./ZG76. Although three hits were claimed no bombs hit any of the German ships. Two aircraft were shot down, UA-G, N7361 pilot Sgt E B Lascelles, this aircraft was shot down by A Bf 110 and UA-P, P5131, pilot Sgt G W Robson, this aircraft was shot down by a Me109]

 

At 1300 the weather closed in and no further flying was possible for the rest of the day.

 

[At 1706 the Admiralty signalled the CINC Home Fleet with the intelligence report of the RAF attack. The Admiralty went on to state that if weather conditions were suitable a further attack would be made, and suggested that Skuas should be used to finish off the enemy ships]

 

[The CINC Home Fleet ordered the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers to commence planning for the operation on the basis that the Fleet would remain undetected and reach a position 65N, 4-40E by 0001/13/6.

Because at this time of the year there is almost 24 hours of daylight and the last 40 miles would be over land and the enemy ships were lying 17 miles from the largest airfield in Norway at which were located many Bf 109 and Me 110 fighters the mission would be very difficult and dangerous.   

In conjunction with the RAF a three pronged attack was planned. First Beauforts of 22 Sqd RAF would carry out a low level attack on Vaernes aerodrome to keep the German fighters grounded before the attack by the FAA developed. Second Skuas of 800 and 803 Sqds would carry out a dive bombing attack. Third as the Skuas were attacking, Swordfish of 810 and 820 Sqds would carry out a torpedo attack. To provide a degree of protection to the Skuas and Swordfish during the attack, Blenheim IV fighters of 254 Sqd RAF would RV with the attack force as they took off from ARK ROYAL.

In the event the weather proved unsuitable for the Swordfish, they would be flying into a strong south easterly wind that would reduce their speed and make them easy prey for fighters and AA fire. So the Swordfish were dropped and the attack would be carried out by the Skuas alone. Each Skua was to be armed with a 500lb SAP bomb which, even with the added impetus of the diving aircrafts speed would not generate sufficient velocity to penetrate the armoured decks of the German battlecruisers. This fact was known to those who authorised, planned and executed to raid.

Therefore it is difficult to understand why the Admiralty suggested that Skuas should be used to finish off the enemy ships.

Cabinet Office minutes from 11/6/40 state 'the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, expressed grave doubts as to the wisdom of the operation, t would be a gallant operation, but one which, in his opinion, might prove far too costly']

 

The Fleet steered for position 65N, 4-40E.

 

12th - The Fleet steered for position 65N, 4-40E. Weather low clouds and frequent rain storms.

At 0630 the destroyers AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ESCAPADE and FEARLESS joined the CINC. The Fleet now comprised NELSON, RODNEY, RENOWN and the destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ESCAPADE, FEARLESS, ZULU, KELVIN, ELECTRA and ESCORT.

At 0935 the Fleet altered course to 080¡ and increased speed to 18 knots, the maximum that RODNEY was capable, to reach the flying off position for the attack on Trondheim.

At 1200 the Fleet was in position 64-23N, 3-19W. Weather OV, wind south south east force 5, sea state 32.

 

[At 1616 the CINC Rosyth signalled the CINC Home Fleet that at 0200/13 precisely four RAF aircraft would attack Vaernes aerodrome and six Blenheim fighters would be in the vicinity of Trondheim at that time as a protective escort for the Skuas and to prevent them from being pursued out to sea]

 

At 1650 the weather was becoming generally more suitable for flying; the cloud lifting and the visibility improving.  ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6P & 6R for defensive patrol over the fleet.

 

[At 1802 the CINC Rosyth signalled the CINC Home Fleet informing him that RAF aircraft would be bombing targets at Bergen during the night from 0001 to 0300/13]

 

At 2230 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas for fighter patrol over Fleet.

 

13th – The Fleet arrived at the flying off position, 64-58N, 4-38E.

At 0002 ARK ROYAL flew off 15 Skuas 6A, 6C, 6F, 6G, 6H & 6K of 800 Sqd and 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F, 7G, 7L, 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd, each Skua was armed with a 500lb SAP bomb, to attack enemy warships in Trondheim harbour

 

[The formation climbed to 11,000 feet, formed up, then headed for the coastline to the north west of Trondheim.  The attack by the Skuas was timed to synchronise at 0200 with an attack on Vaernes aerodrome by four Beaufort aircraft of 22 Sqd RAF; also the arrival of six Blenheim IV long range fighters of 254 Sqd RAF who were to provide fighter protection.

At 0123 the 15 Skuas were north of Halten Lighthouse, no doubt from where they were reported, and they crossed the coast near to Lys¿ysundet in brilliant sunshine, 35 miles from the target, except that the one thing all the pilots wanted was a cloudy day. In the van was 803 Squadron, led by Lt Cdr J Casson in 7A, in three flights of three. Following was 800 Squadron, led by Capt RJ Partridge RM, in 6A, in two flights of three.

The Blenheims of 254 Sqd failed to arrive at the RV on time due to an error in calculating the range. Therefore because of time pressures the Skuas left the RV and headed for Trondheim without the Blenheims.

Seven Bauforts of 22 Sqd took off from Wick, three got lost in bad weather, the remaining four attacked Vaernes aerodrome at 0150. The Beauforts landmark for crossing the coast was the Grip Lighthouse, but as they flew over the lighthouse they were sighted from the light cruiser NURNBERG who was on passage to Trondheim. The NURNBERG made a sighting report that was received by the SCHARNHORST at 0134. The raid on Vaernes caused little damage and was over by the time the Skuas arrived. However it had the opposite effect to that intended as the Bf109's of II./JG77and Me110's of I./ZG76 that were scrambled to defend the aerodrome were perfectly placed to attack the Skuas even before they reached their target.

The enemy fighters attacked the rear section of 803 Sqd which comprised 6F, 6G & 6H. Skua 6G, L3028, pilot Mid LH Gallagher was the first to be shot down by a Me109, second was 6H, L3047, pilot Mid DTR Martin and third 6F, L3000, pilot Lt GED Finch-Noyes.

Lt Cdr Casson in 6A led 800 Sqd into the dive from 5,000ft from the direction of SCHARNHORST's bow, into a storm of AA fire. Lt Gibson in 7P, at the rear of the formation took his flight in the opposite direction, attacking from stern to bow. Despite the flak and fighters, the pilots were determined to get their bombs on target.

Capt Partridge in 7A led the remaining three aircraft of 800 Sqd round to the stern of the ship and dived from 7,000ft, to give them the best chance of an accurate bomb run. Lt Spurway in 6K, following Partridge down, saw one bomb near miss off the starboard quarter and then a bright flash just aft of the funnel.

A further five Skuas were lost these were, 6A, L2995, pilot Capt RJ Partridge RM, shot down by a Me109, 7A, L2896, pilot Lt Cdr J Casson shot down by a Bf109, 7F, L2963, pilot Lt CH Filmer shot down by a Me110. 7L, L2992, pilot Sub Lt JA Harris shot down by a Me110 and 7Q, L2955, pilot Sub Lt RE Bartlett shot down by a Me110.

The Blenheim fighters

As the seven remaining aircraft made their way back to ARK ROYAL, some pilots asked for a D/F bearing from the carrier. This was unusual as a broadcast from the ship could give away its position to the enemy, but the aircrews had been told that they could radio their call-sign once for a D/F bearing. However, as the Skuas returned, ARK ROYAL did not break radio silence and the crews were forced to navigate back by taking a fix using the ship's revolving beacon, which was quite a feat of navigation for a TAG not trained in formal navigation.

In the analysis of the attack the VA Aircraft Carriers considered that two hits had been achieved, but in fact only one hit had been achieved and that failed to explode]

 

Following the launch of the strike mission the Fleet steered north, north easterly to a pre-arranged flying on position.

At 0207 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas for fighter patrol over Fleet.

By 0345 all the remaining seven Skuas, two from 800 Sqd and five from 803 Sqd, had landed back on. ARK ROYAL remained in the pre-arranged flying on position until 0600, this being the latest time any of the stragglers could be expected to return.

 

[The high loss rate effected the morale of the entire ships company. But particularly affected were those that had planned the mission. The total losses amounted to almost an entire squadron, and effectively reduced the FAA's two premiere fighter squadrons to a small nucleus of experienced flyers]

 

At 0425 the Fleet entered a fog bank.

At 0553 the Fleet cleared the fog bank and the three Skuas on fighter patrol were landed back on.

At 0600 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers KELVIN and ESCORT detached for Scapa Flow at a speed of 22 knots.

At 1115 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1340 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1610 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1930 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-46N, 1-30W.

At 1935 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish and two Walrus to carry out a reconnaissance to a depth of 110 miles between bearings 110¡ and 250¡ to give warning of approach of enemy surface vessels.  Four destroyers, CAMPBELL, FORESTER, MASHONA and VETERAN were sighted approaching a RV, arranged by the CINC Home Fleet. The CAMPBELL was ordered to join the flag of Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, as part of ARK ROYAL's screen in accordance with instructions received from the CINC Home Fleet.

2150 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish for a warning patrol ahead of the ships.

 

14th – At 0015 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish and a Walrus to relieve warning patrol.

At 0124 ARK ROYAL passed the destroyers TARTAR, ASHANTI, MAORI and BEDOUIN who were on passage to a RV with the CINC Home Fleet.

At 0245 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to relieve warning patrol.

At 0517 ARK ROYAL commenced Swordfish A/S patrols and continued them until arrival at Scapa.

At 1300 ARK ROYAL was in position 59-27N, 4-07W.

At 1300 a Hawker Henley (a 270mph target tug!) towing a flare target, of 771 Sqd from RNAS Hatson (HMS SPARROWHAWK) RVed with ARK ROYAL and a trial shoot by the 4.5" HA AA and pom poms was carried out.

 

[Early in 1937 A meeting at the admiralty of the board of Admiralty, the agenda was: - Future aircraft for the FAA.

The meeting was appraised of the aircraft being developed at that time for the FAA:-

Swordfish, role TBR biplane with radial engine, slow but rugged. No alternative available at this time.

Skua, role, DB, monoplane with radial engine, good DB but slow and under armed for other roles,

Roc, role, FF2s, Monoplane with radial engine and turret, slow, (slower than most bombers) single roll only.

Sea Gladiator FF1s Biplane with radial engine. Slow and under armed when compared to newest land based aircraft.

The First Sea Lord looked up and said 'so thanks to the AM and RAF we are liable to start the next war with second rate aircraft and that is despite expansion scheme F starting last February! What are we going to do about it? Any ideas?'

The Head of the aircraft technical section pause and replies, 'Actually Sir we do;

Our proposed plan is technically practicable, the problem will be getting political support and overcoming the inevitable opposition from the RAF and AM and the Treasury'

'Leave that to me' responded the FSL, 'Let's hear your proposal.

'Right Sir' is the response,' We propose to accept the Swordfish as there is no viable alternative for that role, currently flying or even in the design stage, However a specification should be prepared and issued immediately for a radial engine monoplane TBR capable of a minimum 250 knots top speed using the next generation of 1500hp+ radial engines or their equivalents.

The Hawker Henley built to specification P4/34 is about to be ordered by the AM as a target tug! , Not only is it nearly 70 knots  faster than the Blackburn Skua but by using standard Hurricane outer wings it can be armed with up to 8 x 303' machine guns (Hawker tell us that the Hurricane outer wing is currently being configured for 4 x 20mm Oerlikon cannon as in specification F37/35 as an alternative). Currently the aircraft does not have folding wings, or dive breaks but is stressed for dive bombing. Informal discussions with the Hawker design team show no problems with fitting arrester gear. Folding wings would take a little longer so initial production (to use the capacity allocated by Gloster Aircraft) would start with fixed wings to get aircraft flying for crew training. Though the wingspan at 47'10' would seem to preclude use at sea, due to the 46' maximum lift width, land trials will be carried out to see if the aircraft can be skewed on the lifts if required.

The design effort being expended by the AM required to turn the Henley into a target tug would better used optimising it for Naval service]

 

At 1450 ARK ROYAL flew of the Walrus aircraft of 701 Sqd to Hatston aerodrome for onward routing to RNAS Donibristle (HMS MERLIN)

At 1515 ARK ROYAL with the destroyers KELVIN, ESCORT and CAMPBELL arrived at Scapa Flow.

 

15th and 16th – ARK ROYAL at Scapa Flow.

 

17th – At 1515 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) screened by the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS and ESCAPADE sailed from Scapa Flow with orders to proceed to the Clyde.

At 1630 the destroyer FOXHOUND joined the screen.

At 1815 ARK ROYAL was in position 59N, 3-45W and commenced to fly on replacement aircraft from RNAS Hatson.

At 1900 flying on completed, ARK ROYAL set course for the Clyde.

 

18th – At 0345 when ARK ROYAL was in the Minches, in approximate position 57-33N, 6-52W, signal 2314/17 was received from the CINC Home Fleet, ordering the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers in ARK ROYAL, to RV with the battlecruiser HOOD in position 55-44N, 13-10W at 2200/18, and then to proceed to Gibraltar.

 

[At 1630/10/40 the British and French Ambassadors in Rome were informed by Count Ciano that from 11/6/40 Italy considered herself at war with the Allies. At 1900/10The Admiralty ordered the Navy to commence hostilities against Italy. This was the same day that the advancing Germany Army forced the French Government to leave Paris for Tours. The overall situation in France looked bad and a French collapse would cause a problem in the Western Mediterranean. At 1000/ 14/6/40 German forces marched into Paris and on 15/5/40 the French cabinet voted to ask Germany for the terms of an armistice. On the 16/6/40 Marshal Henri PŽtain takes over the government of France.

Also on 14/6/40 Spain had exchanged her neutrality for non-belligerency and occupied the international zone of Tangier on the pretext of guaranteeing its neutrality. It seemed possible that, following the example of Italy, she was preparing to declare war and join the Axis.

Therefore the Admiralty took the decision as a precaution against total French collapse to build up naval forces in the Western Mediterranean, based on Gibraltar. ARK ROYAL and HOOD were the first capital ships to be allocated for the new force]

 

At 0415 FOXHOUND, being short of fuel, was detached to Milford Haven to refuel and RV later with the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers southwest of Ireland.

At 0730 when Barra Head had been passed, course was set 253¡, speed 17 knots to position 50-00N, 15-30W, and thence by the following positions (a) 50-00N, 15-30W, (b) 39-00N, 15-30W and (c) 36-00N, 10-00W to Gibraltar, speed of advance 16 knots.

At 1020 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to Aldergrove RAF Coastal Command aerodrome to collect personnel of 818 Sqd and fly them back to the carrier.

At 1415 in position 56-12N, 10-02W the ARK ROYAL force RVed with the battlecruiser HOOD escorted by the destroyers ATHERSTONE and HMCS FRAZER, RESTIGOUCHE, SKEENA and ST LAURENT

At 1540 ARK ROYAL sighted Swordfish of 818 Sqd flying in from Aldergrove led by six Swordfish of 810 Sqd.

Between 1555 and 1625 the Swordfish were landed on.

ARK ROYAL's air component was now 800 Sqd with 12 Skuas, 803 Sqd with 12 Skuas, 810 Sqd with 12 Swordfish, 818 Sqd with 9 Swordfish and 820 Sqd with 9 Swordfish.

At 1625 the destroyers FRAZER, RESTIGOUCHE, SKEENA and ST LAURENT were detached to execute previous orders from the CINC Western Approaches.

 

19th - Intermittent fog was encountered in the afternoon.

At 1440 when in position 51-47N, 14-43W, a signal was received from the CINC Western Approaches to amend route to pass through the following positions; (1) 45-00N, 20-00W, (2) 40-00N, 20-00W and (3) 36-00N, 10-00W. Course was altered according.

During the day aircraft from ARK ROYAL made dive-bombing attacks on HOOD and the destroyers.

 

20th – Intermittent fog was encountered in the morning.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL was in position 46-28N, 18-45W.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL flew off five Swordfish the search for the destroyer FOXHOUND who was expected to join from Milford Haven. The FOXHOUND was not located.

At 1320 ARK ROYAL flew off a further three Swordfish to search for FOXHOUND these also failed to locate FOXHOUND.

Between 1600 and 2150 the destroyers FEARLESS, FAULKNOR and ESCAPADE were refuelled by HOOD, each receiving 100 tons.

At 2230 Speed was increased to 20 knots to make up for time lost during fuelling of destroyers.

 

21st – At 1820 in position 40-32N, 20-12W the FOXHOUND was sighted.

At 1900 FOXHOUND joined and ATHERSONE detached.

At 1938 reduced speed to 19 knots.

 

22nd – ARK ROYAL maintained A/S patrols during afternoon and evening.

 

[At 1600/22/6/40 General Keitel for Germany and General Charles Huntziger for France signed surrender terms in the same railway car that the Germans had signed their armistice in November 1918.

Under the terms of the Armistice the French Fleet was obliged to keep its ships under Axis control and be disarmed under German or Italian control. However, little attempt to impose this clause of the Armistice was made, with the Axis being content to leave the French ships in French hands so long as they were withdrawn from the British war effort]

 

23rd – At 0035 sighted Cape Spartel light, bearing 098¡, 30 miles.

At 0730 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers in ARK ROYAL with HOOD and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and ESCAPADE arrived Gibraltar and secured alongside.

 

24th and 25th – ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

[24/6 the destroyer DOUGLAS of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla, with Admiral Sir Dudley North CINC North Atlantic aboard, departed Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir to learn the terms of the French Armistice. The DOUGLAS with the CINC NA arrived back at Gibraltar later that same day]

 

26th - ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

At 1030 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), HOOD and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, ESCAPADE, DOUGLAS and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar. Their objective was to intercept the French battleship RICHELIEU reported to have sailed from Dakar at 1415 (Z + 1) on 25/6.

 

[On 18/6/40 the uncompleted (95% complete) battleship RICHELIEU escorted by the French destroyers FOUGEAUX and FRONDEUR sailed from Brest for Dakar. Shortly after leaving she was bombed by the Luftwaffe, one hit was scored but it caused little damage. En route the destroyers detached to Casablanca.

23/6/40 the RICHELIEU arrived at Dakar.

On arrival at Dakar the CO of RICHELIEU Captain Marzin found that the local French Governor and naval Flag Officer were considering continuing the fight against Germany, with the British Navy, a unit of which, the aircraft carrier HERMES was moored in the inner harbour. (The German-French Armistice terms didn't come into effect until 25/6/40).

The HERMES reported the arrival of the RICHELIEU and the Admiralty ordered the heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE from Freetown to Dakar to assist the HERMES in watching the RICHELIEU.

The CINC of the French Fleet, Admiral Darlan had, following the signing of the Armistice, had sent instructions to the COs of all French warships that their ships must remain under the French Flag and any attempt to take them over must be countered by scuttling or sailed them to the USA.

On 25/6/40 RICHELIEU escorted by the destroyer FLEURET sailed from Dakar for Casablanca. Captain Marzin decided on this course of action because of the uncertain political situation at Dakar. The sailing was immediately reported to the Admiralty. The DORSETSHIRE shadowed the RICHELIEU as she steered north. The Admiralty believing that the RICHELIEU may be returning to France immediately ordered the sailing of ARK ROYAL and HOOD]              

 

At 1250 in position 35-56N, 05-42W, the destroyers DOUGLAS and WRESTLER were detached to return to Gibraltar.

At 1600 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to search to a depth of 160 miles between the bearings 195 degrees to 295 degrees and along the African Coast.  Nothing of importance was sighted.

 

[At 1915 a signal timed 1125/26/6/40 was intercepted from the DORSETSHIRE reporting that her seaplane had sighted the RICHELIEU at 0730/26/6/40 in position 19-28N, 18-52W, steering north at 18 ½ knots, and that RICHELIEU had altered course to 195¡ at 0741/6/40]

 

[At 1940/6/40 the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received DORSETSHIRE's signal timed 1630/26/6/40 reporting that the RICHELIEU had informed her that she was returning to Dakar. (This reversal of course was due to Admiral Darlan ordering the battleship back to Dakar)]

 

[Following  receipt of DORSETSHIRE's signal 1630/26 the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers decided to remain in present vicinity during the night, and to send a Swordfish to Casablanca a.m. on 27/6/40 to order the ten Swordfish of 767 Sqd, presently at Rabat, to embark in ARK ROYAL]

 

At 2315 Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received Admiralty signal, timed 2107/26/6/40 ordering him to return to Gibraltar and to embark 767 Sqd during passage.

 

27th – At 0030 course was altered to the south east.

At 0230 ARK ROYAL sighted French auxiliary Vessel FADO steering 170¡ at 8 Knots.

At 0300 Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received Admiral Commanding North Atlantic's signal timed 0148/276/40, giving a RV for 767 Sqd with ARK ROYAL at 1100 today.

At 0735 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish to Rabat to rendezvous with 767 Sqd and lead them out to ARK ROYAL.  Altered course 020¡ towards the arranged RV position 35-20N, 07-25W.

At 1020 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas for dive bombing practice.

At 1135 in position 35-30N, 07-43W nine Swordfish of 767 Sqd arrived from Rabat and landed on.

 

[767 Sqd had been a training squadron at Hyres in southern France. On 18/6/40 when the German Army reached Tours the squadron was evacuated to Bone, North Africa. From where part of the squadron flew to Malta where on 1/7/40 they formed 820 Sqd. The remaining 10 aircraft were to return to the UK via Morocco. At Bone one aircraft was cannibalised for spares the remaining nine were the aircraft that landed on ARK ROYAL, some of the Swordfish that landed on were not fitted with an arrestor hook]

 

At 1240 ARK ROYAL altered course 080¡ to return to Gibraltar.

At 1700 ARK ROYAL increased speed to 22 knots for entering Gibraltar Straits.

At 1945 the HOOD, followed by ARK ROYAL and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and ESCAPADE entered Gibraltar Harbour and secured alongside.

 

[By the 27/6/40 the UK Government was aware of the terms of the Franco German Armistice, particularly with regard to the French Navy and they were concerned that the ships would fall into the hands of the Germans or Italians. On this day the British cabinet approved Operation CATAPULT an operation which ordered the Royal Navy to seize, disable or destroy the French fleet. The Prime Minster Winston Churchill states, "No act was ever more necessary for the life of Britain". The men charged with carrying it out were Vice Admirals, Sir James Somerville and Andrew Cunningham]

 

[At 1530/27/6/40 Vice Admiral James Fownes Somerville, at a meeting held at The Admiralty, was informed that it had been decided to assemble a force at Gibraltar to be known as Force H. Force H was to be a detached squadron under the direct control of the Admiralty with Somerville as its Flag Officer.

The initial task of Force H would be to secure the transfer, surrender or destruction of the French warships at Oran and Mers el Kebir, to ensure that those vessels didn't fall into German or Italian hands.

At 1430/28/6/40 the light cruiser ARETHUSA flying the flag of Vice Admiral Somerville sailed from Spithead for Gibraltar]

 

28th – At 0545 the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers), HOOD and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and ESCAPADE sailed from Gibraltar and set course for the Canary Islands at 20 Knots in accordance with Admiralty signal timed 0021/28/6/40.

 

[The Admiralty signal 0021/28 stated that the RICHELIEU had sailed from Dakar. However the report proved to be false and when confirmation was received the RICHELIEU was still at Dakar the force was recalled to Gibraltar]

 

At 0640 the destroyer ESCAPADE detached and returned to Gibraltar (with a defective dynamo)

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 35-53N, 05-52W.

At 0830 the destroyer VIDETTE, who was on A/S patrol in the Straits of Gibraltar, joined as replacement for ESCAPADE.

At 0845 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers received Admiralty Signal 0755/28/6/40 ordering his force to return to Gibraltar.  Force altered course to comply.

At 1130 the VIDETTE was detached to resume patrol in Gibraltar Straits.

At 1230 the force entered Gibraltar and secured alongside breakwaters.

 

29th – ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

30th – ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

[At 0220 the Vice Admiral Commanding Aircraft Carriers received Admiralty message 0015/30/6/40, ordering him to establish a destroyer patrol thirty miles west of Oran and that should DUNKERQUE and STRASBOURG proceed to the westward, they were to be captured and taken to the UK]

 

[At 1745/30 the light cruiser ARETHUSA with Admiral Somerville embarked arrived at Gibraltar and secured alongside HMS CORMORANT the Gibraltar Naval Base]

 

[The battleship VALIANT and the destroyers FORESTER, FORESIGHT and ESCORT arrived at Gibraltar to join Force H]

 

[In the evening Vice Admiral Sir James Fownes Somerville hoisted his flag in the HOOD and the detached squadron Force H came into being. The VA Force H then called a meeting in HOOD of Flag Officers and senior Commanding Officers to discuss the Oran operation. The Vice Admiral Commanding Aircraft Carriers considered that torpedo attack by aircraft would be difficult and unproductive unless anti-aircraft gunfire was first silenced. Net defences and the restricted area of the harbour appeared to rule out torpedo attack by destroyers.

In the case of Oran, it was agreed that gunfire would cause a large number of civilian casualties and it was hoped that the action taken at Mers el Kebir would induce the French to scuttle their ships at Oran.

The view held by those present at the meeting, was that it was highly improbable that the French would use force to resist our demands.

Admiral North, Vice Admiral Wells and Captain CS Holland (CO of ARK ROYAL) all expressed themselves as being strongly opposed to the use of force. They considered that there was little fear of the French allowing their ships to fall into German hands.

It was around this time that the suggestion was made that a personal approach should be made to Admiral Marcel Gensoul, the CINC at Mers el Kebir. The person suggested for the mission was Captain Holland who had been the Naval AttachŽ at the British Embassy in Paris from 17/1/38 to 9/4/40, was a known Anglophile, spoke fluent French and considered Admiral Gensoul a personal friend.

Captain Holland agreed to carry out the mission]

 

[The French Naval Force at Mers el Kebir was believed to be the battleships DUNKERQUE (Flag Admiral Marcel Gensoul) STRASBOURG, BRETAGNE and PROVENCE, seaplane tender COMMANDANT TESTE  and the destroyers MOGADOR, VOLTA, LE TERRIBLE, KERSAINT, LYNX and TIGER. At Oran were thought to be 7 destroyers and 4 submarines. (Actually at Oran were the destroyers TRAMONTANE, TROMBE, TYPHON, TORNADE, BOULONNAIS, BRESTOIS, BORDELAIS, CASQUE and LE CORSAIRE, torpedo boat LE POURSIVANTE, and submarines EURYDICE, ARIANE, DANAE, DIANE, PYSCHE and OREADE). The aerial photographs of the harbours were obtained by an RAF 202 Sqd Saro London flying boat from Gibraltar.

The shore defences were believed to be, 3 x 5' guns at Ponte Canastel, (Actually Batterie Canastel 3 x 240mm), 2 x 4' guns 2,700 yards East of Oran Light, 4 x 4.7' guns at Fort Saint GrŽgoire, just to the West of Oran harbour, 4 x 4.7' guns half way up the hill South of Mers el Kebir Harbour and 6 x 6' guns on top of the hill to the West of Mers el Kebir Harbour (Actually Fort Santon 3 x 194mm)

There was a mine net that stretched from Cap Falcon to point one mile north of Pointe du Canastel.

There were Anti-Torpedo and Anti- Submarine booms protecting the harbour.

Also five miles south of Oran was the La SŽnia aerodrome where there were two squadrons of French ArmŽe de l'Air equiped with Curtiss Hawk H-75A fighter aircraft]

 

JULY

 

1st – ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

[At 0410 Somerville received Admiralty message 0225/1/7/40, giving four alternatives to put before the French, these were:

To bring their ships to British harbours and fight with us,

To steam their ships to a British port.

To Demilitarise their ships to our satisfaction,

To sink their ships]

 

[At 0812 Somerville informed the Admiralty that the earliest date on which Operation CATAPULT could be put into effect was early on 3rd July. Somerville also suggested that Captain C.S. Holland, who he had arranged should act as an emissary in view of his long and recent association with the French, should arrive at Oran on afternoon of 2nd July, so that whichever alternative was adopted, the operation could be carried out by dusk on 3rd July]

 

[The light cruiser ENTERPRISE arrived at Gibraltar to join Force H]

 

[At 1000/1/7/40, at the suggestion of Admiral North, Somerville called a meeting to hear the views of Captain Holland, Lieutenant Commander A.Y. Spearman and Lieutenant Commander G.P.S. Davies, the latter had recently been Naval Liaison officers with the French naval authorities. They were unanimous in considering that the use of force should be avoided if possible, as this was bound to alienate the French completely and transform them from a defeated ally into an active enemy]

 

2nd - ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

[During the forenoon Somerville held a meeting of Flag and Commanding Officers, at which the orders for Operation CATAPULT were explained and discussed. The orders had to be framed in general terms since the exact situation which would arise could not be foreseen.

In the light of the after events, it is clear that these orders did not make sufficient provision for dealing with any French ships that might attempt to leave harbour after the entrance had been mined and the ships subjected to bombardment.

Somerville was informed by Vice Admiral Commanding Aircraft Carriers that aircraft could be armed with magnetic mines at short notice and the plan for laying at Mers el Kebir was discussed. However It was not Somerville's intention, to lay mines, except as a last resort, since this would have prevented the French for accepting the first or second alternatives and it would also have prevented the entrance of our destroyers with demolition parties]

 

[At 1426 Somerville informed the Admiralty that he intended to sail Force H at 1500/2/7 to carry out Operation CATAPULT and that Captain Holland in FOXHOUND would arrive at Oran at 0700/3. Force 'H' would arrive at 0900/3/7. By a regrettable error, ARK ROYAL was not included in the list of ships sailing, and this omission led to some subsequent signals until the situation was cleared up]

 

At 1500, Force H destroyers, ACTIVE, ESCORT, FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND (with Captain Holland embarked), FORESTER, KEPPEL (D13), VORTIGERN, WATCHMAN and WISHART sailed from Gibraltar to carry out an anti-submarine sweep in advance of the main force leaving harbour.

At 1700 Force H comprising battlecruiser HOOD (Flag VA Force H), battleships RESOLUTION and VALIANT, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL (in the absence of Captain Holland she was under the command of Cdr R M T Taylor RN) (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers) and the light cruisers ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE sailed from Gibraltar to carry out Operation CATAPULT. After clearing Europa Point the Force formed up and headed east at 17 knots.

 

[At 2010 the VA Force H informed Captain Holland who was aboard the FOXHOUND that the Admiralty had informed him that the French had a scheme for demilitarisation at two hours' notice. Should necessity arise, he was to question them on this and satisfy himself the proposed measures would be effective, that is, that the ships could not be ready for service again within twelve months, even with dockyard assistance]

 

3rd - At 0300 the FOXHOUND was detached to proceed ahead with Captain Holland who was to communicate the UK Government's message to Admiral Gensoul (CINC Atlantic Fleet Raiding Force) on his Flag Ship the battleship DUNKERQUE.

 

[At 0545 FOXHOUND closed Cap Falcon (six miles from the entrance to Mers el Kebir) signal station at 0545. Communication was established with the Port War signal station and at 0558 permission was requested to enter port. At 0620 a similar request was passed to the port Admiral's signal station, together with a message for Admiral Marcel Gensoul.

At 0742 permission was granted for FOXHOUND to enter Mers el Kebir. The pilot came aboard bringing instructions for FOXHOUND to proceed inside Mers el Kebir and to berth near the battleship DUNKERQUE. Berthing in that position would have prevented FOXHOUND from leaving in a hurry. So Holland used the excuse that messages may have to be conveyed between CINC's, so refused the berth.

At 0800 FOXHOUND anchored 1.4 NM, 115¡ from Mers el Kebir light and outside the anti torpedo net.

At 0810 Admiral Gensoul's Flag Lieutenant, Bernard Dufay, arrived alongside in the Admiral's barge and informed Captain Holland that the Admiral was unable to see him and if he had any message for Gensoul he would take them to the Admiral. Captain Holland handed the Flag Lieutenant a copy of proposals as contained in Admiralty message 0103/2/7 and informed him that he would wait for a reply. The proposals probably reached Admiral Gensoul at about 0935.

At 0847 FOXHOUND received a signal from Admiral Gensoul ordering her to sail immediately. In the belief that Gensoul would listen to reason if only he could be approached in person, Holland made a daring move. He boarded the FOXHOUND's whaleboat and made a dash across the harbour to the DUNQUERQUE. Captain Holland accompanied by Lt Cdr AY Spearman and Lt Cdr GPS Davies (both of whom had recently been the British Naval Liaison Officers to French units at Bizerte) embarked in FOXHOUND's motor-boat and FOXHOUND weighed, with hands fallen in on deck and sailed. FOXHOUND proceeded out of the entrance of Mers-el-Kebir harbour but remained in visual touch with HOOD and DUNKERQUE.

When the French saw that FOXHOUND's boat was making for the DUNKERQUE, the Admiral's barge turned and intercept Holland. The Flag Lieutenant said he regretted that the Admiral would not see him. Captain Holland then asked him to take our proposals and deliver them personally to the Admiral. I said I would wait for a reply. These, copies of Admiralty message 0108/2, had been placed in a sealed envelope addressed to the Admiral Gensoul. The Flag Lieutenant then proceeded to the DUNKERQUE, arriving at 0920. Holland estimated that they were delivered to Admiral Gensoul not later than 0935. The message was:-

To: Monsieur Admiral Gensoul from Admiral Somerville.

His Majesty's Government have commanded me to inform you were as follows: -

They agreed to the French government approaching the German Government only on conditions that if an armistice was concluded, the French Fleet should be sent to British ports. The Council of Ministers declared on 18/6/40 that before capitulating on land, the French Fleet would join up with the British force or sink itself.

Whilst the present French Government may consider the terms of their armistice with Germany and Italy are reconcilable with these undertakings, HM Government finds it impossible from their previous experience to believe that Germany and Italy will not at any moment which suits them seize French warships and use them against Britain and allies. Italian Armistice prescribes that French ships should return to Metropolitan ports, and under armistice France is required to yield up units for a coast defence and minesweeping.

It is impossible for us, your comrades up till now, to allow your fine ships to fall into the power of the German or Italian enemy. We are determined to carry on till the end, and if we win, as we think we shall, we shall never forget that France was our ally, that our interests are the same as hers, and that our common enemy is Germany. Should we conquer, we solemnly declare we shall restore the greatness and territory of France. For this purpose we must be sure that the best ships of the French Navy will also not be used against us by the common foe.

In these circumstances, HM Government have instructed me to demand the French Fleet now at Mers el Kebir and Oran shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives:-

a     Sail with us and continue to fight for victory against the Germans and Italians.

b     Sail with reduced crews under our control to British ports. The reduced crew will be repatriated at the earliest moment. If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war, or pay for compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.

c     Alternatively, if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against Germans or Italians, since this would break the Armistice, then sail them with their us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies - Martinique, for instance - where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States of America, and remain safely until the end of the war, the crew being repatriated.

If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret require you to sink your ships within six hours. Finally, failing the above I have orders from HM Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German or Italian hands.

At 1000 the Flag Lieutenant returned with a reply. The gist of which was that the assurances given by Admiral Gensoul to Admiral North some days ago still stood and that owing to the form of this 'veritable ultimatum', the French ships would defend themselves by force. Captain Holland then had a discussion with the Flag Lieutenant and reminded him of his association with the French Navy and with Admiral Jean-Francois Darlan personally. This impressed the Flag Lieutenant and at 1050 he returned to the DUNKERQUE.

At 1109 the Flag Lieutenant returned with the Chief of Staff, Captain Lucien Henri DanbŽ, whom Holland had met before. Holland was handed a written reply from Admiral Gensoul the gist of which was:-

(a) Admiral Gensoul can only confirm the reply already sent

(b) He had decided to defend himself by every means possible.

(c) He would draw Admiral Somerville's attention to the fact that the first round fired will put the whole of the French Navy against the British, which is the opposite to which H.M. Government wishes.

As Admiral Gensoul seemed determined not to see Holland and there appeared no point in going over the same ground with the Chief of Staff, and it was imperative that CINC Force H should have the reply as soon as possible. Before parting from the Chief of Staff, Holland agreed with him that should he have anything further to communicate, he would signal the DUNKERQUE, and send in the motor boat to meet him or his representative. Holland then returned to the FOXHOUND, arriving on board at about 1125.

Captain Holland had meant to keep FOXHOUND close in to the inner harbour boom, but FOXHOUND's CO, Lt Cdr GH Peters, pointed out that in this case we should have to run the gauntlet of the shore batteries should hostilities commence.

At about 1200, FOXHOUND proceeded outside the outer boom in order to avoid having to run the gauntlet of the shore batteries should hostilities commence, whilst still remaining within easy touch by visual signalling with DUNKERQUE.

At 1222 Holland signalled the VA Force H, giving the latest confirmation received from the Chief of Staff with regard to the sinking of the ships.

At 1236 Holland received Somerville's signal asking him if he thought there was any alternative now to Anvil.

At 1242 Holland replied. Your 1236 am afraid not, I am waiting in V/S touch in case acceptance before expiration of time.

At 1419 Holland received VA Force H's 1338 signal asking Admiral Gensoul to hoist a large square flag at the mast head if he accepted the terms, otherwise fire would be opened at 1500. This was translated into French and passed to the DUNKERQUE at 1442.

At 1450 I received VA FORCE H's signal informing Gensoul that unless terms were accepted or ships abandoned, they would be destroyed at 1530. This signal was not passed to the DUNKERQUE as at the same time, Holland received Admiral Gensoul's message 1330 GMT stating that he was now ready to receive delegates for honourable discussion. Holland immediately passed this signal to CINC Force H and made preparations to proceed inshore, receiving orders to do so at 1500 and to get an immediate answer. From that moment until Holland finally went over the DUNKERQUE's side, Holland thought that there was a chance of winning through and that the French Admiral would accept one or other of the proposals.

At 1510 Holland and Davies set out for the DUNKERQUE in FOXHOUND's motor boat. From where FOXHOUND was anchored it was about 7 ½ miles to the DUNKERQUE. On passing the boom gate vessel they were met by the Admirals Barge with the Flag Lieutenant onboard. Holland and Davies transferred to the barge and as the barge proceeded Holland noted that all ships were in an advanced state of readiness for sea. All directors and control positions visible were manned, and all director rangefinders in tops of battleships with the exception of the STRASBOURG were trained in the direction of Force H. Tugs were ready by the sterns of each battleship. Guns were trained fore and aft.

At about 1615 they arrived on board the DUNKERQUE. They were shown into the Admiral's cabin by the Chief of Staff where they were greeted very formally by Admiral Gensoul. The Chief of Staff remained during the discussion. The Admiral was clearly extremely indignant and angry at the course of events. He commenced by stating that he had only consented to see Holland at this stage because should we open fire the first shot fired would not only alienate the whole French Navy but would be tantamount to a declaration of war between France and Great Britain. That if our aim was to ensure that the French Fleet was not used against Great Britain, the use of force would not achieve this aim. We might sink his ships at Oran but we should find the whole of the rest of the French Navy actively against us. He was angry at the sudden presentation of terms which he considered as an ultimatum, and also at the laying of mines at the entrances to the harbour which he pointed out prevented him in any case from being able to accent or carry out terms (a), (b) and (c), and he rejected out of hand the sinking of his ships forthwith, saying it was impossible to abandon his ships at a moment's notice and he reiterated his former statement given to Admiral North that he should sink his ships to prevent them from falling into German or Italian hands.

Holland explained most carefully to him that the British Government were unable to accept this latter statement as a guarantee that the ships would not fall into enemy hands and so be used against us. Although we trusted his word and the similar promises given by Admiral Ollive de Laborde and Esteva that they would do everything possible to prevent their ships falling into enemy hands, we could not trust the Germans or the Italians who would by treachery do all they could to achieve this end. Admiral Gensoul, however, would not listen to this argument and said he was convinced that steps taken were adequate to sink his ships whatever happened. Holland pointed out that by sinking his ships, he would anyway be breaking the terms of the Armistice, and by his own action. Should he accept any one of the terms we had offered to him that morning, he would be acting under 'Force majeure' and the blame for any action taken would rest on us. To this, he replied that, so long as Germany and Italy abided by the Armistice terms, and allowed the French Fleet to remain with reduced crews, flying the French flag in a French Metropolitan or Colonial port, he should do the same, and not until Germany or Italy had broken their promises would he break the terms laid down, and that these were his orders signed by Admiral Darlan.

Holland then explained that the orders given by the British Government to Admiral Somerville were those contained in the terms that he, Admiral Gensoul, had received that morning, and unless these were accepted or immediate preparations made to sink the ships, Admiral Somerville would act under these orders and use force. Already Holland said, Admiral Somerville had on his own responsibility disobeyed these orders by not taking the action within the time laid down, thus showing his desire to avoid the use of force if this were possible.

It was at this point that Admiral Gensoul began to think that force might really be used and he produced a secret and personal copy of the orders received from and signed by Admiral Darlan at 1255/24/6/40, It was in French:-

De l'Amiraute Francaise

Clauses Armistice vous sont notifies en clair par ailleurs. Je profite des dernieres communications que je peux transmettre en chiffre pour vous faire connaitre me ponsee sur ce sujet.

1. Les navires de guerre demobilises doivent rester Francias avec pavillon Francais, equipage reduit Francais sejournant dans port Francaise Metropole ou Colonies.

2. Precautions secretes d'auto-sabotage doivent etre prises pour qu' ennemi ou etranger s'emparant d'un batiment par la force ne puisse pas s'en servir.

3.Si Commission Armistice chargee d'interpreter texte decidait autrement que dans. I, au moment d'executer cetter decision nouvelle, navires de guerre seraient sane ordre nouveau, soit conduite ETATS-UNIS, soit sabordes, s'il ne peut pas etre fait autrement, pour les soustraire a l'ennemi. En aucun cas ils ne devront etre laisses intacts a l'ennemi.

4. Navires ainsi refugies a l'etranger ne devront pas etre utilises a operations guerre contre ALLEMAGNE ou ITALIE sane orders du C.E.C. F.M.F.

It was noted that the opening sentence read that this would be the last cipher message from him (Admiral Darlan) that they would receive. This would seem to be a further indication of the argument I put to Admiral Gensoul through the Flag Lieutenant that morning, that Admiral Darlan was now no longer in control.

Admiral Gensoul asked for and received Holland's assurances that the contents of the signal would not be allowed to be disseminated, as if the Italians or Germans knew of the existence of these orders they would take action immediately. The order appeared to be so close to the British term (c) that there seemed to be a chance to persuade the Admiral to accept this latter one.

By 1700 Admiral Gensoul still remained intransigent and would not give way further, except to state that steps had been taken to commence the reduction of crews that morning by demobilising a certain number of reservists. Holland again pointed out that Admiral Somerville must obey his orders and use force unless the terms were accepted to our satisfaction immediately, to which Admiral Gensoul reiterated that the first shot fired would alienate our two navies and do untold harm to us, and that he would reply to force by force.

At 1715 a message was received from Admiral Somerville informing Admiral Gensoul that unless the terms were accepted by 1730, he would sink his ships. (This message resulted from Churchill becoming impatient. Suspecting that Admiral Darlan had ordered eastern Mediterranean units of the French fleet to come to Gensoul's assistance, he finally ordered Force H to resolve the impasse at once)

Holland then drafted a brief signal in plain language; from Captain Holland via FOXHOUND, Admiral Gensoul says crews being reduced and if threatened by enemy would go to Martinique or U.S.A. but this is not quite our proposition. Can get no nearer. Admiral Gensoul then wrote a short statement in pencil, stating:

1.        The French Fleet cannot do otherwise that apply the clauses of the Armistice on account of the consequences which would be borne by Metropolitan France.

2.        Formal orders have been received, and these orders have been sent to all Commanding Officers, so that if, after the Armistice, there is risk of the ships falling into enemy hands they would be taken to the U.S.A. or scuttled.

3.        These orders will be carried out.

Since yesterday, 2/7/40, the ships now at Oran and Mers el Kebir have begun their demobilisation (reduction of crews). Men belonging to North Africa have been disembarked.

Holland felt that he could get no nearer than this in reaching a settlement, so Holland and Davies then their leave. The leave taking was friendly, and from the Admiral more friendly than the reception. Even at that stage Holland still didn't believe that that fire would be opened.

At 1726 Holland left the DUNKERQUE in the Admirals barge and at the same time 'Action Stations' was sounded off.

At 1735 Holland and Davies transferred to FOXHOUND's motor boat.

At 1754 Holland was clear of the net defences and about one mile to seaward when Force H opened fire.

At 1920 Holland sighted Force H.

At 1935 Holland, Davis and the crew of the motor boat were picked up by the destroyer FORRESTER, the motor boat was abandoned]

 

At 0458 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish to patrol to the westward of the Fleet during dawn period. At daylight these aircraft became A/S air patrols.

At 0530 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to search between bearings 315¡ and 080¡ to a depth of 150 miles, or the Spanish coast. Object of reconnaissance to report Italian and French warships which might be at sea.

At 0530 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas to act as fighter cover for Force H. Their orders were to engage any aircraft which threatened the Fleet.

At 0631 ARK ROYAL flew off one Swordfish to reconnoitre Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours and to maintain a watch on these harbours and to assist the FOXHOUND if required.

 

[At 0710 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled that the warships in harbour were as in the latest photograph. Three tankers east of Oran were raising steam]

 

At 0800 ARK ROYAL streamed paravanes.

At 0820 ARK ROYAL screened by the destroyers FEARLESS, FORESIGHT and ESCORT parted company with Force H. While Force H steamed past Oran, ARK ROYAL conformed keeping about five miles to seaward of them.

 

[The operating position for ARK ROYAL was governed by the direction of the wind, which for the whole period of operations was from the North-East, force two. The area therefore lay between a position 4 miles 000 degrees from Cap Falcon and position 13 miles 000 degrees from Cap L'aiguille. ARK ROYAL with her destroyer screen of FEARLESS, FORESIGHT and ESCORT manoeuvred independently as necessary for flying off aircraft]

 

[In the planning it was decided that if the French offered organised and spirited resistance it would be necessary to develop a full offensive with all the means at the disposal of Force H, against the French ships and shore batteries. In this case the code word ANVIL will be signalled to all ships in company. Senior Officers are then to take all necessary action to crush the resistance, ceasing fire as soon as it is apparent that the French have ceased to resist. Screening destroyers are not to leave the screen unless so directed.

Under the ANVIL plan ARK ROYAL's aircraft to bomb the heavy ships in Mers el Kebir and the submarines and light craft berthed in Oran harbour. And aircraft torpedo attack on the heavy ships had also been prepared. To launch these attacks when required and to provide for essential reconnaissance, aircraft spotting, observation, A/S and fighter patrols was a difficult problem of organisation. It could have been done if ANVIL had commenced at 1500. Also under ANVIL, ARK ROYAL was to provide fall of shot spotting aircraft as required by the HOOD, RESOLUTION and VALIANT.

Also with a special part in ANVIL were the destroyers KEPPEL and WRESTLER who had embarked special demolition parties who were to place scuttling charges in any French ships not sunk by gunfire, bombing or torpedo attack.

Under ANVIL the cruisers ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE were to engage the shore batteries]

 

[At 0835 the Swordfish that was flown off at 0631 reported that the French battleships and cruisers (cruisers was later amended to destroyers) appeared to be raising steam.

At 0915 a further report was made that the battleships were furling awnings.

At the request of the VA Force H this aircraft was ordered to also watch the submarines in Oran.

At 0940 the Swordfish reported that there was, as yet, no sign of activity from the submarines]

 

At 0930 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish for relief reconnaissance between bearings 020¡ and 070¡ to a depth of 170 miles.

 

[At 0910 Force H less the ARK ROYAL and her destroyers and the destroyer FOXHOUND arrived off Oran. A message in French ('Pour Amiral Gensoul de Amiral Somerville.

Nous esperons tres sincerement que les propositons seront acceptables et que nous vous trouverons a nos cotes.'), was sent from HOOD, VALIANT, RESOLUTION, ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE by signal projectors trained on the French capital ships]

 

At 1015 ARK ROYAL was in position 36-01N, 00-30W. Course was altered to close the HOOD to regain V/S contact.

 

[At 1105 the VA Force H ordered ARK ROYAL to drop six aircraft magnetic mines across the entrance to Mers el Kebir Harbour. The mines to be dropped were, A Mark I airborne ground mines. These mines were a similar size to an 18" torpedo and were designed to fit the same dropping gear as the 18" Mark XI torpedo. Weight was about 1,500 lbs, with a 750 lbs explosive charge. The mines were known colloquial as cucumbers]

 

At 1115 ARK ROYAL was two miles to the north east of the HOOD.

 

[At 1122 the VA Force H ordered ARK ROYAL to be prepared to drop two further mines across the entrance to Oran Harbour]

 

At 1130 ARK ROYAL's escort was reinforced by the addition of the light cruiser ARETHUSA. This was in response to a request from the Vice-Admiral, Aircraft Carriers for increased AA protection.

 

[At 1125 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled that he estimated that the ships at Mers el Kebir will be ready to leave harbour by 1230.

At 1215 this aircraft reported that the battleships were sending their floatplanes ashore.

At 1230 reported that three tugs were en route from Mers el Kebir to Oran]

 

At 1230 ARK ROYAL was two miles north of the HOOD.

 

[At 1252 the VA Force H signalled the ARK ROYAL and ordered the mining of the entrance to Mers el Kebir Harbour. This was in response to Holland's signal 1242/3 which replied to the VA Force H signal of 1236/3, am afraid not, I am waiting in V/S touch in case acceptance before expiration of time]

 

At 1307 ARK ROYAL flew off five Swordfish armed with mines and six Skuas as escort to carry out the mining of the entrance to Mers el Kebir Harbour. Their orders were one mine to be dropped in gate of boom and four mines to be dropped across A/T boom. Approach course 255 ¡, echelon port. Mines to be laid on line of bearing 000 ¡, from 300 feet at 95 knots.

[At 1342 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled four submarines leaving Oran.

At 1358 following receipt of this signal the VA Force H ordered his destroyers to Oran to stop and if necessary sink the submarines.

At 1352 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled four submarines shifting berth.

At 1405 the aircraft signalled, no submarines have yet left Oran

At 1415 the VA Force H signalled the Swordfish asking, are submarines in the process of leaving]

 

At 1345 ARK ROYAL flew off four 4 Swordfish to relieve the reconnaissance aircraft, one Swordfish to relieve the observations aircraft, two Swordfish to relieve the A/S patrols and three Skuas to relieve the fighter patrol.

At 1355 ARK ROYAL commenced flying on relieved aircraft.

At 1401 one Skua of 803 Sqd, pilot Petty Officer H A Glover, forced-landed in sea while waiting to land on. The crew of two were picked up by the FORESIGHT.

 

[At 1425 the VA Force H signalled the ARK ROYAL and ordered the mining of the entrance to Oran Harbour]

 

[At 1417 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled that the submarines at Oran were going alongside jetty near entrance.

At 1426 the aircraft signalled, considerable boat activity in Mers el Kebir.

At 1429 the aircraft signalled, DUNKERQUE and STRABOURG have all turrets trained on our battleships, western Bretagne class (PROVENCE) fore and aft, eastern Bretagne class (BRETAGNE) turrets training.

At 1432 the aircraft signalled, some activity on aerodrome.

At 1448 the aircraft signalled, both Strabourgs now have tugs pushing on their port quarters]

 

At 1440 ARK ROYAL completed the landing on of relieved aircraft, and commenced fitting mines in accordance with VA Force H signal 1425/3.

 

[At 1512 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled, one destroyer under way at Mers el Kebir.

At 1532 the aircraft signalled all turrets of all battleships now fore and aft]

 

At 1525 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish, 4K & 4M of 820 Sqd each armed with a mine to mine the entrance to ORAN Harbour.

 

[Both aircraft reached the breakwater at 1545, flying at 400 feet.

4K dived over the breakwater, turned towards the entrance, and dropped her mine from a height of 150 feet, at a distance of 200 yards, inside the narrow entrance, and in the centre of the channel.

4M, following in line astern dropped her mine from a height of 150 feet, 200 yards outside the same entrance in the centre of the channel.

It appeared that it would be impossible for any ship of over 1000 tons to avoid passing over one, or other, of these two mines.

Having dropped the mine, 4K flew along the breakwater, towards the inner docks at a height of 200 feet. Seventeen destroyers were counted, lying close together in the trots, and there were a large number of transports, (the largest was the SS MARIETTA PACHA 12239grt) auxiliaries, and small craft of every description in the harbour; also a large hospital ship (this was the SPHINX 11375grt) lying abeam on to the breakwater.

No opposition of any kind was offered by the enemy during the mission]

 

At 1620 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish to relieve spotting aircraft. Also commenced landing on 13 Swordfish, 9 Skuas and three Swordfish floatplanes.

 

[At 1646 the VA Force H received signal 1614/3 from the Admiralty instructing the VA Force H, 'settle matters quickly or you will have reinforcements to deal with'. This signal had been dictated by Churchill and was in response to a signal from Admiral Darlan directing all ships in the western Mediterranean,  especially the Third Squadron and Algiers Squadron, to steam immediately for Oran to meet force with force. This signal had been picked up by British Intelligence and brought the response in Admiralty signal 1614/3.

The VA Force H immediately sent a V/S and radio signal to Admiral Gensoul, (received by Admiral Gensoul at 1715/3) informing him that if the terms were not accepted fire would be opened at 1730.

The French immediately replied, in English, from the DUNKERQUE, it said, 'Do not create the irreparable'.

At 1730 the VA Force H signalled all Force H ships 'prepare for ANVIL]

 

[At 1754 at a range of 17500 yards Force H opened fire on the French warships. Fire was opened from the north west of the harbour, G.I.C. (Gunnery Individual Control) concentration, with aircraft spotting, firing over Mers el Kebir fort. Fall of shot spotting was carried out by Swordfish from ARK ROYAL. Force H maintained fire whilst steering easterly.

The effect of the opening salvoes was observed and from the FOXHOUND's motor boat. The first salvo fell short; the second hit the breakwater, sending large fragments of concrete flying into the air.

At about 1755 the DUNKERQUE and SRASBOURG opened fire, followed almost immediately by the shore batteries. The DUNKERQUE fired 40 shells at the HOOD from about 17500 yards all missed but splinters caused two wounded and some splinters holes. (The 330mm guns in the quadruple turrets suffered from unsolved dispersion problems, this may have contributed to the failure to hit the HOOD) The shore batteries were immediately engaged by the ARETHUSA, the older guns of the ENTERPRISE were out ranged.

At 1800 the third salvo fell among the ships, and the battleship BRETAGNE was hit, with at least one shell penetrating her central turret magazine and at about 1804 she blew up, killing in the region of 1000 of her crew.

At around this time a 15" shell struck the DUNKERQUE aft passing through the aircraft hanger, several crew compartments and out through the light side plating on the port side of the ship. This shell did very little damage to the ships fighting capacity was unaffected. However about two minutes later, another salvo struck the DUNKERQUE scoring three hits and causing serious damage. DUNKERQUE was run aground in the harbour to prevent her from sinking.

The PROVENCE received at least three 15" hits putting her out of action. PROVENCE was run aground in the harbour to prevent her from sinking.

The French destroyer MOGADOR whilst still moored fired at a destroyer 16500 yards away; this was WRESTLER, who was watching the entrance to Oran. MOGADOR's first salvo was a straddle, in all MOGADOR 16 x 138mm rounds in a few seconds. Meanwhile MOGADOR slipped her moorings and went behind the tug boat JO LASRY II, who was opening the boom.

At 1804 the MOGADOR was straddled by a salvo of 15" shells one of which hit her on the stern, causing her depth charges to explode, blowing her stern off. MOGADOR sank in the channel

A total of 1297 French seamen lost their lives and 351 wounded in the action.

At 1804 after 36 salvoes of 15inch Force H checked fire. Force H then steered to the westward to take up a position from which, if necessary, the bombardment could be renewed without causing casualties to men in boats or exposing Force H to fire from the shore batteries]

 

[At 1804 the Swordfish that was watching Mers el Kebir and Oran harbours signalled, STRASBOURG has slipped.

At 1813 both Dunkerques (the DUNKERQUE was manoeuvring to beach and STRASBOURG was making for the harbour entrance) under way inside boom.

At 1818 one Dunkerque has left harbour and is steering east. (This was the STRASBOURG. At 1808 the destroyers VOLTA and LE TERRIBLE had left the harbour ahead of the STRASBOURG and had fired on the destroyers FOXHOUND and FORESTER without scoring any hits. Also they made a long range torpedo attack on the HOOD without success. They were recalled to escort the STRASBOURG)

At 1827 at present one Dunkerque and eight destroyers at sea on eastern side of Oran Bay. (This was the STRASBOURG with the destroyers VOLTA. TIGRE, KERSAINT and LE TERRIBLE who had all sailed from Mers el Kebir and were joined by the destroyers BORDELAIS and LA POURSIUVANTE from Oran]

 

At 1825 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish of 818 Sqd each armed with four 250lb SAP bombs and eight 20lb cooper bombs and three Skuas, L2927, L2997 & L2915 of green section 803 Sqd. These aircraft were delayed taking off due to the large number of aircraft that had to be recovered who were running low on fuel. Their mission was to carry out a bombing attack on the ships in Mers el Kebir Harbour. However when the VA Force H learned that the STRASBOURG was at sea he ordered the mission changed to an attack on the STRASBOURG.

 

[The Swordfish were equipped for attacking the small vessels expected to have escaped the 15" shells of Force H, their bomb load was completely inadequate for attacking a ship with desk armour of 115 to 125mm; so any hits were likely bounce off.

At 1840 the attacking force made for the STRASBOURG and her escorting destroyers. On sighting the STRASBOURG, who was steering approximately 070¡ at 26 knots, they climbed to 4000 ft and then dive bombed her in a 50¡ dive. As soon as the first bomb was dropped the French force opened fire.

One or two probable hits were claimed and two Swordfish were shot down. The crews of both Swordfish were picked up by WRESTLER.

The WRESTLER also picked up the three man crew of an 810 Sqd Swordfish that had been spotting for the HOOD then shadowed the STRASBOURG until running out of fuel and landing in the sea]

 

[At 1830 the Skuas observed 5 French fighters, Curtiss Hawk H-75As (these had a top speed that was about 100mph faster than the Skuas) attacking spotting aircraft on the starboard quarter of ARK ROYAL. The section broke up to attack these, and after a short engagement, the French fighters returned to Oran. During the engagement they succeeded in shooting down Skua L 2915, pilot Petty Officer Airman, TF Riddler, observer Naval Airman HT Chatterley; both of whom were killed. The remaining two Skuas returned to escort the Swordfish.

At 1910 while at 12,000 feet, 9 French fighters, Curtiss 75As and Morane 406s, (both had a top speed that was about 100mph faster than the Skuas) were observed above and astern of the Swordfish. A section which appeared to be about to attack them was engaged and a dog fight ensued, with all the fighters, during which L2997, pilot Sub Lt GW Brokensha obtained some hits on a Curtiss 75 which broke off the engagement. L2927, pilot Lt J M Bruen, was able to get a long burst on a Morane, which was on L2997s tail.

Several other aircraft were engaged by both Skuas. 3 guns on each Skua jammed during this fight.

At about 1930 three H-75As appeared, and a dog fight ensued with no apparent results on either side.

Shortly after this the Swordfish started their attack, and the STRASBOURG put up a barrage in front of us. The two Skuas set course to return to ARK ROYAL; on the way back they encountered a Breguet Br.521 Bizerte flying boat and carried out attacks on it. During L2927s second attack, she dropped some bombs on a destroyer. (This was the WRESTLER). Skua L2997 put one engine (it was a three engine machine) out of action and observed streams of petrol come out of the tank. The Skuas returned to the carrier and landed on just after sunset]

 

[It was not until the VA Force H received the 1827/3 signal from the shadowing Swordfish that he was prepared to accept that a French heavy unit (STRASBOURG) had broken out from Mers el Kebir and was heading for Algiers or Toulon. He immediately realized that he had positioned Force H on the wrong side of Oran Bay to prevent a break out towards Southern France.

At 1838 the HOOD commenced a turn of 180¡ to face easterly to commence a stern chase.

At 1843 the VA Force H commenced a stern chase after the French force and he ordered the cruisers and destroyers into the van leaving the VALIANT, RESOLUTION to follow unscreened, whilst the HOOD, cruisers and destroyers pressed on at their best speed]

 

[It was around this time that a 'one off' incident occurred on ARK ROYAL. Earlier in the day the VALIANT had flown off one of her float equipped Swordfish to carry out fall of shot spotting. When the VALIANT joined the HOOD in a stern chase she could not stop to recover her aircraft. Rather than ditch the aircraft her pilot Petty Officer JE Breese asked permission to land on ARK ROYAL, permission was granted. As he made the descent his crew, Sub-Lieu Peter Starmer and Naval Airman Roy Tolley, loosened their straps in preparation for leaping overboard when the Swordfish skidded over the side. But Breese made a near-perfect landing, going straight down the middle of the flight deck to stop dead after a few yards.

A Fairey Aviation mechanic on board then knocked out the dent in one of the floats and declared the aircraft fit to fly.
When ARK ROYAL arrived back at Gibraltar the Swordfish was lowered to the water and it taxied over to the VALIANT. it was then recovered by crane]

[In his official report the VA Force H stated; between 1933 and 1945 a French destroyer, steering east close inshore, was engaged at ranges of 12,000 and 18,000 yards by the ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE. Later the HOOD and VALIANT fired a few 15" salvoes at her. At least three hits were observed before the Destroyer turned back to Oran. The 'destroyer' was actually the sloop RIGAULT DE GENOUILLY that had sailed from Oran and was heading east when sighted. The RIGAULT DE GENOUILLY received several hits from the ENTERPRISE and she had 12 crew killed before reversing course and returning to Oran]

 

At 1835 ARK ROYAL was in approximate position 36N, 00-38E, 19 miles north of Oran and following the report of a Dunkerque class battleship steering north east from Mers el Kebir, it was realised that if the visibility improved then ARK ROYAL would be within gun range of the battleship. Course was accordingly altered to 315¡ and full speed was ordered for 25 minutes. Speed was then reduced and course 315¡ maintained to increase the distance from the enemy.

 

[At 1939 ARK ROYAL received an accurate report of position of enemy battleship from the shadowing aircraft. A strike force of six torpedo armed Swordfish was then prepared to attack the STRASBOURG]

 

At 1950 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish A4A, A4C, A4H, A4K, A4M & A2M of 818 Sqd each armed with a torpedo, fitted with Duplex pistols and with a depth setting of twenty feet, to attack the DUNKERQUE. Use was to be made of failing light to press home the attack.

 

[The initial approach consisted of a search along the coast about 15 miles off shore. On sighting the STRASBOURG she was steaming eastward at high speed about three miles off shore escorted by six destroyers. Weather conditions, were thick haze up to 1000 feet above which visibility was extreme. Visibility at time of attack was about two miles when looking towards the afterglow, sunset was at 2035, no cloud, sea calm.

The attacking force worked round in a wide sweep ahead and on the starboard bow of the enemy and between him and the land from which position the target would be silhouetted against the afterglow and the aircraft would have a land background.

When closing to identify the target, aircraft came under long range AA fire. Fire was continued for about two minutes and considering the long range and low angle of sight, was surprisingly accurate.

At 2055 the attack commenced the aircraft were flying at the height of twenty feet and at 300 yard intervals. The attack was delivered unseen and except for the last two aircraft who encountered some machine gun fire from the destroyer of the screen, unopposed. One or two hits were possibly obtained. Darkness and funnel smoke made definite observation impossible. (Actually no damage was caused to the STRASBOURG)]

 

[At 2020 the hot pursuit of STRASBOURG was abandoned by Force H. At that time the enemy force was about 25 miles ahead of HOOD, and RESOLUTION and VALIANT were falling behind. (One of the reasons for calling off the pursuit was a report received from the submarine PANDORA, who was on patrol off Algiers, TOO 1645/3, stating six French cruisers and four destroyers steering westwards. These were six light cruisers of the 3rd and 4th Cruiser Divisions and the destroyers L'INDOMPTABLE, LE MALI, LE FANTASQUE and L'AUDACIEUX)]

 

[Between 1930 and 2100 French reconnaissance and bomber aircraft were fired upon. These dropped a few bombs, which all fell wide except for four about 50 yards from the WRESTLER. The attacks were not pressed home. The aircraft that dropped the bombs was a Breguet Br.521 Bizerte flying boat that was attacked by Skuas L2927 and L2997. (See above)]

 

[At 2250/3/ the VA Force H received a signal from Admiral Gensoul stating that 'His ships were hors de combat and that their personnel had been ordered to evacuate them']

 

By 2310 ARK ROYAL had recovered all of the strike force.

At 2310 ARK ROYAL altered course to pass astern of Force H and to reach position 36- 2N,  1- 48W, by 0430/3 in readiness to launch air strike to attack the French battlecruiser at MERS EL KEBIR at dawn

 

4th – At 0100 ARK ROYAL ran into fog, her escorting destroyers were ordered astern.

At 0200 visibility improved.

At 0300 ARK ROYAL sighted the HOOD and altered course to 060¡.

At 0330 ARK ROYAL's escorting destroyers resumed their positions in screen.

At 0430 ARK ROYAL prepared twelve Swordfish, each armed with six 250lb SAP bombs, were ready to take off to attack French battleship reported by aircraft the previous evening to have been beached under Fort Mers el Kebir. (This was the DUNKERQUE with similar armour to the STRASBOURG so the 250lb SAP bombs would have been useless). It was intended that this striking force should be immediately followed by a second, composed of nine Skuas each armed with a 500lb SAP bomb, to carry out a dive-bombing attack on the same ship.

At 0420 ARK ROYAL ran into thick fog, which persisted until after 0600.

At 0620 ARK ROYAL sighted Force H bearing 180¡.

 

[At 0630 the Vice-Admiral, Aircraft Carriers signalled the VA Force H stating that he had abandoned the attack. He took the decision because a successful attack on the battleship in its well defended position depended on surprise attack before full daylight]

 

At 0645 ARK ROYAL adjusted course and speed to take station in the line and set course to return to Gibraltar.

At 1900 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

[Operation CAPAPULT had cost ARK ROYAL:-

Two Swordfish from the bombing force;
One Swordfish shadowing battleship after spotting for HOOD;
One Skua shot down in combat;
On Skua forced landing near ARK ROYAL.

All crews were rescued, except for the crew of Skua L 2915, pilot Petty Officer Airman, TF Riddler and observer Naval Airman HT Chatterley; both of whom were killed. These were the only British losses in the action]

 

[On the arrival of Force H at Gibraltar the ships were immediately completed with fuel and ammunition in readiness, if required, to proceed to carry out operations against the French battleship RICHELIEU at Dakar]

 

5th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

[At 0100 Vichy French aircraft, possibly, Glenn Martin 167 A-3's, from Port Lyautey attacked Gibraltar. Their main target was the HOOD. All the bombs fell into the sea and no damage was caused by the raid]

 

[Overnight the VA Force H was in touch with the Admiralty regarding the condition of the DUNKERQUE. There was uncertainty over the operational state of the DUNKERQUE; RAF photo-reconnaissance had established that she was aground on an even keel off the town of Mers el Kebir heading 295¡, but had failed to accurately assess her damage. However when news was received that the French Admiral Jean-Pierre Estava at Bizerte had made a broadcast stating that the DUNKERQUE was not seriously damaged and would soon be repaired; the Admiralty cancelled Force H's attack on the RICHELIEU and ordered the VA Force H to prepare to carry out a further attack on the DUNKERQUE. The dead line for the attack was 6/7/40.

The staff of the VA Force H immediately drew up plans for Operation LEVER which was to be a further attack on the DUNKERQUE. At around 1230 the Admiralty was informed that the attack would take place at 0900/6. The ships taking part would be as for CATAPULT less the RESOLUTION and a destroyer]

 

[At 1800 the VA Force H signalled the Admiralty that when drawing up plans for LEVER it had been realised that owing to the position of the DUNKERQUE a bombardment could only be effected at considerable loss of French lives and damage to property ashore]

 

At 2000 Force H, comprising the battlecruiser HOOD (Flag VA Force H), battleship VALIANT, aircraft carrier ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers), light cruisers ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE, and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, FORESTER, ESCORT, WISHART, VORTIGERN, VIDETTE, ACTIVE and VELOX sailed from Gibraltar to carry out Operation LEVER. The Force steered west into the Atlantic then under cover of darkness reversed course for Oran.

 

6th – Force H en route to Mers el Kebir.

 

[At 0250/6 the VA Force H, received an Admiralty signal cancelling the bombardment, and ordering instead a continuous attack by aircraft to be carried out until the DUNKERQUE was thoroughly damaged. The orders for LEVER were then altered and recast as an air strike]

 

At around 0400 ARK ROYAL signalled that she would be ready to launch the strike 0515.

At 0520 ARK ROYAL was in position 36-19N, 2-23W, (about 100 miles from Mers el Kebir) from where she flew off six Swordfish of 820 Sqd, each was armed with 18" torpedoes Mk XII with Duplex pistols, set for a depth of 12th feet, speed 27 knots.

At 0545 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish of 810 Sqd, each armed as above, and six Skuas of 800 Sqd.

At 0620 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish of 810 Sqd, each armed as above, and six Skuas of 803 Sqd.

 

[The first wave of six Swordfish made landfall over Hababis Island (about 24½ miles west of Mers el Kebir) then flew east, at 7000ft keeping 15 miles from the coast to gain an up-sun position from the target as soon as the sun rose. (Sunrise was at 0553)

At 0628 as the first rays of the sun, rising above thick haze, struck the DUNKERQUE the first wave, led by 820s squadron commander Lt Cdr GB Hodgkinson commenced a shallow dive in line ahead down the path of the sun. Coming in low over the breakwater the aircraft attacked in succession. The first torpedo hit the DUNKERQUE amidships glanced off and, continuing its run exploded against the jetty. It had probably been released inside pistol safety range.

The second hit and exploded under the bridge on the starboard side.

The third missed the target and exploded ashore.

The remaining three torpedoes all hit the DUNKERQUE exploding near B turret, on her starboard side. The attack proved a complete surprise, only one aircraft was fired on at during the getaway]

 

[At 0647 the second wave of three Swordfish, led by Captain AC Newson RM, manoeuvred into a position up sun at 2,000ft then in line astern formation dived to attack, being met by heavy AA fire that was coming from over the breakwater.

When Newson pressed the torpedo release button the master switch did not complete the firing circuit and he was unable to release his torpedo.

The second and third torpedoes were successfully launched and were observed to have hit the starboard side of the DUNKERQUE.

During the getaway a large explosion was observed, smoke and spray rising in a great column over 600ft high. This was thought to have been a magazine exploding. (Unbeknown at the time, a torpedo had hit the auxiliary patrol boat TERRE NEUVE P18 (780grt), which was alongside the DUNKERQUE. The exploding torpedo set off her depth charges causing a massive explosion, blowing the TERRE NEUVE apart and ripping a huge gash in DUNKERQUE's side)

No enemy aircraft were encountered, but the 6"and 4" batteries to the east of Oran kept up continuous accurate fire throughout the attack]

 

[At 0650 the third wave of three Swordfish led by Lt. DF Godfrey-Faussett, made a landfall at a height of 4,000ft over Cap Falcon. This wave made its approach over the town of Mers el Kebir and In line astern they commenced a shallow dive taking avoiding action as the grounded PROVENCE and shore batteries opened fire.

The first torpedo hit DUNKERQUE on her port side amidships but did not explode.

The second torpedo was believed to have hit, as an explosion was seen. (This torpedo hit the tug EstŽrel (333grt), that was about 70 yards off DUNKERQUE's port side, the torpedo blew the tug apart)

The third torpedo was dropped too close, and was not armed and therefore didn't explode]

 

[The Skua escort of the third wave had several dog fights with French Curtiss H75 fighters of GC II/5, which, although they easily outmanoeuvred the Skuas did not press home their attacks. One Skua of 803 Sqd crew, pilot Petty Officer GW Peacock and Leading Airman BP Dearnley, was damaged in combat and was forced to ditch. The crew were picked up by the VIDETTE. There were no casualties, although several aircraft were damaged by gunfire]

 

[The attacking aircraft made their approaches based on aerial photographs which were interpreted to show the DUNKERQUE lying at a heading of 295¡. This put her starboard quarter to attackers coming in over the harbour breakwater from seaward. However, when the post strike photographs were analyzed in 1943 it was realised that DUNKERQUE was in fact lying at a heading of 250¡. This meant that attackers coming over the breakwater were presented with an attack angle from 0¡ to 15¡ of the stern axis, or from virtually astern. This had a an effect on the final outcome of the attack]

 

[When the VA Force H evaluated the results of the attack he was satisfied that the DUNKERQUE had been put out of action for at least a year. The order was then given to return to Gibraltar. So ended the tragic action against the French Fleet at Mers el Kebir, the action had cost the French 1297 killed and 351 wounded, the British lost two aircrew killed]

 

At 1830 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

[On arrival back at Gibraltar the engine room staff began to address defects that had built up over preceding months. the main one being a leakage from one of three propeller shaft glands. The leakage was so bad that the pumps could only just keep the water level below the shaft bearings.]

 

7th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

[After Force H returned to Gibraltar the VA Force H was directed by the Admiralty to operate against the west coast of Italy, Sicily, or possibly Sardinia at his discretion, in an operation to coincide with an operation to be carried out by the Mediterranean Fleet (This was Operation MA5 a sweep by the Mediterranean Fleet to cover the passage of two convoys, MF1 and MS1, from Malta to Alexandria. This operation led to the action with the Italian Fleet off Calabria).

Although the VA Force H was reluctant to take Force H on an operation until they had been trained and exercised as a fleet he was under orders to carry out a supporting action. The VA Force H decided to make an air attack on Cagliari, Sardinia supported by the whole of Force H]

 

8th - At 0700 H comprising HOOD (Flag VA Force H), RESOLUTION, VALIANT, ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers), light cruisers ARETHUSA, DELHI, and ENTERPRISE and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FOXHOUND, ESCORT, FEARLESS, ACTIVE, DOUGLAS, VELOX, VORTIGERN and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar to create a diversion for the convoys sailing from Malta to Alexandria. Part of the plan was for ARK ROYAL was to launch an air strike against Cagliari. Since Force H decoys no subterfuge was necessary. (As hoped Force H was seen leaving Gibraltar and reported by Italian agents in Spain). Course was set for a flying off position south east of Mallorca.

 

9th – Force H continued steering easterly towards a flying off position south east of Mallorca.

At around 1400 in approximate position 38N, 2-30E Force H was detected by Italian reconnaissance aircraft. (Probably a Cant CZ 506 from Cagliari-Elmas)

At 1545 Force H was in approximate position 38-30N, 3-30E when the Force was attacked by about six high level Savoia SM 79 aircraft. Their main target was the ARK ROYAL but they also attacked the HOOD both ships were near missed.

At 1750 a further wave of 12 high level Savoia SM 79 aircraft bombed Force H and again ARK ROYAL was near missed.

From 1820 to 1840 two further waves of 22 high level Savoia SM 79 aircraft bombed Force H and again ARK ROYAL was near missed. (The SM 79's were from the 10a Brigata, including 8¡ Stormo from Villacidro airfield and 32¡ Stormo from Decimomannu airfield on Sardinia)

 

[ARK ROYAL's Skuas managed to shoot down one of the SM 79's, even though the SM 79's were at about 18,000 ft and faster than the Skuas. (Savoia-Marchetti SM 79, Sparviero, top speed 270mph at 13,940 ft, cruising speed 232mph)]

 

[Following the attack the VA Force H signalled Vice Admiral Wells in the ARK ROYAL; 'In view of the heavy scale bombing and the nature of our objective, do you think continuance of operations justified'. Vice Admiral immediately replied; 'Definitely not'. So because of the loss of surprise and the possibility of serious damage to the ARK ROYAL on an operation that was only a diversion and with Wells concurring, Somerville ordered the abandoning of the operation and a return to Gibraltar]

 

[Various sections of the Italian media reported that 40 bombers had intercepted a British naval force near the island of Majorca and for more than one and half hours, attacked in successive waves. In the attack the HOOD had been heavily damaged and ARK ROYAL had its flying deck hit by two bombs causing the loss of seven aircraft. Some escorting destroyers were also heavily hit. One SM.79 was shot down, 5 others were damaged; the 8¡ Stormo was awarded a silver medal]

 

At 2215 Force H reversed course and set course for Gibraltar.

 

10th – Force H en route to Gibraltar

 

11th – At 0215 Force H was in approximate position 36-11N, 3-37E when the destroyer ESCORT was torpedoed in the forward boiler room by the Italian submarine GUGLIELMO MARCONI.

 

[The FORESTER had witnessed the attack a made an unsuccessful attempt to ram the submarine. Attempts were made to salvage ESCORT by FORESTER towing her stern first and FAULKNOR providing an escort. But she was too badly damaged and her list increased.

At 1115 hours the ESCORT sank. FAULKNOR and FORESTER, having taken off all ESCORT's crew, then set course for Gibraltar.

Two ratings were lost in the attack on ESCORT and Commissioned Gunner F. E. V. Mathews and twelve ratings were wounded]

 

At 0800 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

12th to 22rd - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

23rd- At 0400 the ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers), light cruiser ENTERPRISE and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), ESCAPADE, FORESIGHT and FORESTER sailed from Gibraltar and steered west into the Atlantic. Their mission was to carry out an air strike against shipping in Bordeaux harbour.

 

[The attack on Bordeaux was occasioned by intelligence that the Germans were assembling shipping at Bordeaux for a possible attack on the Azores and/or the Canary Islands]

 

24th – The force were on a northerly course steering for the flying off position.

 

25th – At 0100 the Admiralty called off the attack and the force reversed course to return to Gibraltar.

 

26th – At 1100 the ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), ESCAPADE, FORESIGHT and FORESTER arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

27th to 30th - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

[With the entry of Italy into the war on 10th June 1940 the air defence situation at Malta had become critical.

In the middle of July Churchill urged the Admiralty to urgently consider the possibility of flying in Hurricanes to bolster the air defence of Malta.

On 24/7/40 the aircraft carrier ARGUS with 12 Hurricane Mk 1's of RAF 418 flight (Including ground crew and aircraft spares) and two Skuas embarked sailed from the Clyde escorted by the destroyers GALLANT and GREYHOUND, also in company was the AMC MALOJA. Off Northern Ireland the joined convoy RS 5, Liverpool to Freetown, escorted by the destroyers ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR.

On 28/7/40 in approximate position 40-30N, 19W the ARGUS and the destroyers ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GREYHOUND and HOTSPUR detached for Gibraltar.

At 0330/30/7/40 the ARGUS and the destroyers ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GREYHOUND and HOTSPUR arrived in Gibraltar.

At Gibraltar the ground crews disembarked and 11 tons of spares, 0.303" ammunition and mail were off loaded]

 

[The VA Force H was ordered to provide an escort for the ARGUS to a flying off position about 420 miles from Malta. This was known as Operation HURRY.

In conjunction with HURRY Force H were to carry out an air strike against Cagliari to provide a diversion for HURRY, this was Operation CRUSH.

The ground crew, kit, tools, spares and stores were to be transported from Gibraltar to Malta the submarines PANDORA and PROTEUS, this was Operation TUBE.

The light cruiser ENTERPRISE was to position herself southeast of Minorca and using radio signals, simulate activity in the northern part of the Western Basin, this was Operation SPARK]

 

31st - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

At 0700 Force H comprising battlecruiser HOOD (Flag VA Force H), battleships VALIANT and RESOLUTION, aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL and ARGUS, light cruisers ARETHUSA and ENTERPRISE and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FEARLESS, ESCAPADE, ACTIVE, WRESTLER, ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GREYHOUND and HOTSPUR sailed from Gibraltar on Operations HURRY and CRUSH.

At 1200 the destroyers ACTIVE and WRESTLER detached and returned to Gibraltar.

 

 

AUGUST

 

1st – Force H sailing eastwards.

From 0530 ARK ROYAL had Swordfish A/S patrols airborne

 

[At 1530 Force H was attacked by Savoia SM 79 aircraft from 10a Brigata, led by Generale Cagna, aircraft from  8¡ Stormo, 18¡, 52¡ and 10¡ Squadr“glie took part in the attack, flying from Villacidro, Sardinia. Each aircraft was armed with 4 x 250kg bombs. The first wave of 25 bombers came in at 14,000ft and the second wave of 15 also bombed from 14,000 ft. There were several near misses but no ship was hit. The Italians lost three planes one shot down by AA fire and two shot down by Skuas. One of the SM 79's shot down had Generale Cagna on board]

 

At 2045, when in approximate position 38-20N, 4-30E, the Force split into two groups. Group one, the HOOD, ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE, FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FEARLESS and ESCAPADE detached and proceeded north easterly towards a flying off position about 60 miles from Cagliari for Operation CRUSH.

 

[Group two the ARGUS, VALIANT, ARETHUSA, ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GREYHOUND and HOTSPUR proceeded to the flying off position for Operation HURRY]

 

At 2130 the ENTERPRISE detached and proceeded north westerly to close Minorca to carry out Operation SPARK.

 

2nd – At 0230 ARK ROYAL had reached the flying off position and commenced flying off the Swordfish strike force for Operation CRUSH. Fourteen aircraft of 810, 818 and 820 Sqds formed the strike, but Swordfish A2K, P4273, of 810 Sqd crashed when taking off and the crew, Lt JR Robins, Lt J MM Tarver and Petty Officer J Clarke were killed.

By 0315 the last of the strike force had taken off.

 

[Ten Swordfish attacked Elmas airfield, destroying a number of Italian aircraft, and three laid mines in the outer harbour. One of the Swordfish attacking the airfield, A4F, P4127, of 820 Sqd, was shot down and landed on the airfield. The crew of Lt GR Humphries, Lt D Williams and Leading Airman C Pendleton were made prisoners of war.

(Swordfish P4127 was captured almost intact; it was repaired at the Elmas Caproni plant and fitted with an Alfa Romeo 125 radial engine. Later it went to the Italian mainland and underwent flight testing at Guidonia's Flight Test Centre)]

 

[At 0515 the ARGUS was in position 37-45N, 7-20E, from which position she commenced to fly off the Hurricanes. They were flown off in two groups of six each group led by a Skua. By 0600 all aircraft had been flown off and ARGUS reversed course for Gibraltar.

The aircraft started to arrive at Malta from 0800. All aircraft arrived but one Hurricane crashed on landing. It had been intended that the Skuas would return to ARGUS, but this would have required ARGUS to remain in the flying off position for a further six hours so they were retained in Malta. The crashed Hurricane was restored to operational efficiency by the Malta ground crews using spares on hand. Subsequently, on 4/8/40 the Hurricanes of flight 418, together with the Gloster Sea Gladiators and the one Hurricane already at Malta formed 261 Squadron RAF.

The submarines PANDORA and PROTEUS arrived at Malta on August 6th and 8th respectively]

 

At 0530 Group 1 rejoined Group 2.

At 0700 following the recovery of ARK ROYAL's aircraft, returning from Operation CRUSH, Force H reversed direction and set course for Gibraltar.

 

3rd – Force H sailing easterly en route to Gibraltar.

 

4th – At 0600 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

[This was the end of the first of 28 of what came to be called 'club runs']

 

[The Admiralty took the decision to reorganise Force H, with HOOD being replaced by RENOWN, the change was to take place in the UK]

 

At 1915 hours Force H, comprising HOOD (Flag VA Force H), VALIANT, ARGUS, light cruiser ARETHUSA escorted by destroyers ESCAPADE, FAULKNOR (D8), FORESIGHT, FORESTER and FOXHOUND  sailed from Gibraltar for the UK.

The ARK ROYAL, light cruiser ENTERPRISE and destroyers GREYHOUND, GALLANT, ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR also sailed with Force H.

 

[En route Force H was instructed to search for neutral merchantiles thought to be breaking the blockade. To increase the effectiveness of the search Force H was initially accompanied by ARK ROYAL and her escort]

 

5th – The destroyer FEARLESS joined Force H.

 

6th - At 1050 ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE, GREYHOUND, GALLANT, ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR detached and returned to Gibraltar.

 

8th - ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE, GREYHOUND, GALLANT, ENCOUNTER and HOTSPUR arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

9th to 14th - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

15th – The ARK ROYAL (Flag VA Aircraft Carriers), light cruiser ENTERPRISE and the destroyers HOTSPUR, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar for exercises in the Atlantic.

 

18th – 750 miles west of Ushant the ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE, HOTSPUR, GALLANT, GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER and WRESTLER, RVed with the battlecruiser RENOWN (Flag VA Force H)

Force H then set course for Gibraltar.

En route ENTERPRISE detached to investigate a suspicious vessel.

 

19th – At 0215 Force H received a signal from the independently 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 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.

At 1100 they RVed with the destroyers HOTSPUR, GREYHOUND, ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GRIFFIN and VELOX.

At 1900 Force H arrived at Gibraltar and the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers struck his flag.

 

21st to 24th ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

25th - At 0730 ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE and destroyers GALLANT, HOTSPUR and GRIFFIN sailed from Gibraltar to carry out flying exercises in the Atlantic.

At 2025 RENOWN (Flag VA Force H), 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 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 (D8), FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FURY and FORTUNE and the LSI ROYAL SCOTSMAN.

ENTERPRISE, VELOX and VIDETTE detached and escorted ROYAL SCOTSMAN into Gibraltar.

The combined force then carried out battle practice under the command of CINC Force H.

 

29th – At 0600 Force H comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), 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 Force H comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR (D8), 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 Operations HATS, SQUAWK, SMASH and GRAB.

 

[The objectives of the Operations were:-

HATS, was to cover the passage of Force F (reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet) to the Sicilian Channel. En route Force F was to call into Malta to offload military supplies. Force A had been detached from the Mediterranean Fleet to provide additional escorts for Force F.

SQUAWK, the destroyers VELOX and WISHART were to carry out radio deception measures.

SMASH, ARK ROYAL's Swordfish to carry out air strike on Elmas airfield, Cagliari, Sardinia

GRAB, ARK ROYAL's Swordfish to carry out air strike on Cagliari power station, Sardinia]

 

31st – The fleet steered towards the south of the Balearic Islands. During the day Skuas from the ARK ROYAL shot down two shadowing Italian seaplanes a Cant Z 506B and a Cant Z 501.

At 2150 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.

 

[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]

 

At 2200 Forces F and H turned to the south east and headed for southern Sardinia.

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

1st – At 0330 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 Sicilian Channel.

 

[At 0600 hours the Swordfish attacked the airfield and seaplanes in the adjacent harbour]

 

By 0800 all the Swordfish had been recovered.

At 2200 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 Force H turned west and headed for the south of Sardinia.

 

2nd - At 0330 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 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

4th & 5th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

6th – The ARK ROYAL, battleships BARHAM and RESOLUTION, screened by the destroyers FAULKNOR(D8), FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FURY, GREYHOUND, ECLIPSE, ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD (D3) sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic to participate in Operation MENACE. The destroyer ECHO joined the force later after completing repairs at Gibraltar.

 

[Operation MENACE was the joint British and Free French attack on Dakar.

When General de Gaulle arrived in Britain after the fall of France he had very few followers and no troops, although after the withdrawal from Norway and Dunkirk a small number, about 7000, of French troops were persuaded to join the Free French cause.

General de Gaulle didn't consider that France had lost the war; instead he believed that France had only lost a campaign. So he set about trying to bring the French overseas colonies on to the side of the Free French. He also believed that it was necessary for the seat of the Free French Government to be on French soil, if he could achieve this it would give him legitimacy, prestige and French colonial troops. Ideally General de Gaulle would have liked to have bought the French North African colonies on side, but these were too close to the influence of Vichy and after Mers el Kebir these were defiantly ruled out. He had success in French Equatorial Africa but he wanted a base nearer to the wars centre of gravity. So he set his sights on Senegal and particularly its capital of Dakar which had the best harbour on the North West African coast. So General de Gaulle set about planning to bring Senegal into the Free French fold or failing that to seize Dakar by force.

In late July General de Gaulle put his scheme, for an all French assault on Dakar, to Churchill; at first Churchill was non committal. Churchill, realizing the strategic importance of Northwest Africa, quickly became enthusiast and endorsed de Gaulle's idea of establishing a Free French government on the shores of West Africa, in Dakar. On 5/8/40 the War Cabinet gave the plan their approval.

(Churchill's enthusiasm may in part have stemmed from his knowledge that in or near Dakar was 275 tons of gold. On 17/6/40 the French AMC VICTOR SHOELCHER 4504grt, carrying 200 tons of Belgian gold and 75 tons of Polish gold had sailed from Lorient escorted by destroyer EPƒE. The VICTOR SHOELCHER had arrived at Dakar on 28/6/40).

The initial plan was to land a Free French force at Conakry, the force would then proceed overland, gathering strength as they went, and taking Dakar from the rear. To prevent the Vichy French naval forces at Dakar from sailing south and annihilating the expedition, General de Gaulle requested cover from a British naval force. From the British perspective this request had the disadvantage of immobilizing a substantial British naval force for a long time off the western coast of Africa at a time when Britain badly needed all her forces for the defence of Britain. This led to the British becoming more involved in the planning. From 7/8/40 the British became more and more committed to the operation and Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff agreed that the expedition should have enough British backing to ensure its success.

On 26/8/40, the first military equipment and stores sailed from Liverpool in the French freighters ANADYR 5278grt, CASAMANCE 5817grt, FORT LAMY 5234grt and NEVADA 5693grt British tanker OCEAN COAST 1173grt, escorted by the French sloop SAVORGNAN DE BRAZZA and patrol vessel PRESIDENT HONDUCE attached to convoy OB 204.

On 27/8/40 the War Cabinet gave their approval to the plan drawn up by Vice Admiral Cunningham, Major General N.M.S. Irwin and Major General E.L. Spears. The plan provided for separate landings at dawn on six beaches on the North, West and South shores of the Cape Verde Peninsula and on GorŽe Island with a view to surprising and confusing the defence. The landing parties were to be mainly British, with Free French elements to proclaim their friendly intentions.

The various elements of the assault force were to assemble at Freetown which had been designated the forward base]

 

7th to 11th – The ARK ROYAL force steering towards the west of the Canary Islands. En route ARK ROYAL's aircraft carried out mock attacks on the attached ships and maintained A/S patrols. On 8/9/40 the ARK ROYAL refuelled the destroyers FORTUNE and GREYHOUND.

 

12th – At 1145 a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL made contact with convoy MP. The ARK ROYAL force then steered to RV with Convoy MP.

 

[Convoy MP comprised Naval, troop ships and MT ships that formed Force M, the assault force for Operation MENACE]

 

[At 0512/11/9/40 the destroyer HOTSPUR, which was on anti-submarine patrol in company with destroyers GRIFFIN, and ENCOUNTER, sighted the Vichy French Force Y.

(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 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)

At 1600/11/9/40 the RENOWN with destroyers GRIFFIN and VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar with orders to intercept French Force Y. The destroyer VELOX joined at sea.

At 0800/12/9/40 the RENOWN, GRIFFIN, VELOX and VIDETTE were joined by the destroyers HOTSPUR, ENCOUNTER, and WISHART.

At 1620/12/9/40 the 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]

 

 At approximately 1700 the ARK ROYAL and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESIGHT, FORESTER, FORTUNE, FURY, ECHO GREYHOUND, ECLIPSE, ESCAPADE and INGLEFIELD sighted Force M.

ARK ROYAL with the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, GREYHOUND, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and ECLIPSE operated independently from Force M whilst steering toward Freetown.

 

 13th – ARK ROYAL with Force M en route to Freetown.

 

 14th - ARK ROYAL and Force M en route to Freetown.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL was in approximate position 9N, 17W when she received a signal from the FO Force M in DEVONSHIRE. The signal ordered ARK ROYAL to join the heavy cruisers DEVONSHIRE (Flag Officer Force M), AUSTRALIA and CUMBERLAND to attempt to intercept a force of French cruisers reported to heading for Dakar.

ARK ROYAL set course northerly and the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, GREYHOUND, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and ECLIPSE detached to refuel at Freetown.

 

[At 0220 in approximate position 9N, 15-30W, the DEVONSHIRE was joined by AUSTRALIA and they set course northerly for Dakar.

At 1940 off Dakar the DEVONSHIRE and AUSTRALIA were joined by CUMBERLAND

At 2320 the three cruisers arrived at a position 75 miles NW of Dakar, approximately 15-50N, 18W and commenced a line ahead patrol in a northerly direction four miles apart]

 

[On this day the main body of ships of Force M arrived at Freetown]

 

15th - At 0200 in approximate position 16-30N, 18W, ARK ROYAL joined the DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and CUMBERLAND.

The ARK ROYAL was ordered to carry out a dawn (about 0600) reconnaissance of Dakar harbour and an air search extending 100 miles 020¡ from DEVONSHIRE.

The dawn patrol by two Skuas from ARK ROYAL reported that the cruisers were not at Dakar. They also reported that the battleship RICHELIEU was alongside the north jetty with her awnings spread.

A further air reconnaissance in the morning reported that the cruisers were in the Harbour

ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and CUMBERLAND patrolled off Dakar

At 1345 the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY joined from Freetown

At 1500 A further air reconnaissance of Dakar was carried out and reported the cruisers were still in the Harbour.

At 1530 ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY set course southerly for Freetown. The CUMBERLAND was left on patrol off Dakar.

 

16th - ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY en route to Freetown.

 

[At 1400 the British Government came to the conclusion, following the arrival of the cruisers at Dakar, that the execution of MENANCE was impracticable they considered the best plan would be for de Gaulle's force to land at Duala to consolidate the Cameroons and then march into Chad]

 

17th – At 0700 ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and the destroyers INGLEFIELD, ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY arrived at Freetown.

 

[In response to British Government's 1400/16 a meeting was held between Vice Admiral Cunningham, Major General Irwin and General de Gaulle they expressed the opinion that the presence of the cruisers at Dakar had not sufficiently increased the risks to justify the abandonment of MENACE. This was communicated to the War Cabinet]

 

[After refuelling the AUSTRALIA commenced off loading the two disassembled Caudron C 272 Luciole aircraft that she had embarked in the Clyde. The aircraft together with the Free French airmen and mechanics were transferred to the ARK ROYAL]  

 

18th – The ARK ROYAL was at Freetown where her engine room staff were carrying out urgent repairs.

 

19th - The ARK ROYAL was at Freetown where her engine room staff were carrying out urgent repairs.

 

[Sometime during the day the first elements of Operation MENACE, the transports OCEAN COAST, NEVADE, CASANANCE, FORT LAMY, and ANADYR escorted by the sloop BRIDGEWATER, boom defence vessel QUANNET, and French patrol ship PRESIDENT HOUDACE departed Freetown for Dakar]

 

[At 2019/18/9/40 the heavy cruiser AUSTRALIA had sailed from Freetown to relieve the CUMBERLAND on patrol south of Dakar.

At 0820/19 in position 10-12N, 16-50W the AUSTRALIA sighted the CUMBERLAND en route to Freetown. Close to their position was the MV EMPIRE STAR 11093grt, on a northerly course, with Rear Admiral Sir Henry Harwood embarked.

At 0910 the AUSTRALIA sighted a number of masts sailing towards her.

At 0917 the masts were recognised as three cruisers about 14 miles distant and sailing on a reciprocal course. (These proved to be the Vichy 4th Division light cruisers GEORGES LEYGUES (Flag Rear Almirante Celestin Jean BourraguŽ), MONTCALM and GLOIRE they had sailed from Dakar and were en route to Libreville. They had orders to re-establish Vichy's authority in Gabon, following Governor Georges Masson declaration for de Gaulle)

At 0921 the AUSTRALIA signalled the CUMBERLAND to join her. At the same time she noticed that the EMPIRE STAR had altered course to southerly. The AUSTRALIA signalled the EMPIRE STAR and told her that it was quite safe for her proceed northerly, she then promptly altered course back to northerly.

At 0950 the AUSTRALIA was abreast the Vichy cruisers, who were on course 142¡, speed 15½ knots. AUSTRALIA reversed course to keep the Vichy cruisers abeam.

At 1032 the CUMBERLAND was sighted ahead and on joining the AUSTRALIA swung into line astern and AUSTRALIA's CO, Commodore RR Stewart took command. Captain Stewart ordered both cruisers to keep steam for full speed. The Vichy cruisers remained in line ahead with turrets trained fore and aft. The British cruisers commenced zigzagging remaining from 13 to 19 miles abeam of the Vichy cruisers, keeping them in sight in changing visibility and rain squalls.

The AUSTRALIA sent off regular shadowing reports.

At 1730 the CUMBERLAND moved into her agreed night shadowing position which was astern of the French force.

At 1735 the French force changed course in turn and settled on a northerly course.

At 1745 the CUMBERLAND reported that the French had increased speed.

At 1754 the Admiralty signalled the CINC South Atlantic ordering that the Vichy cruisers must not be allowed to return to Dakar.

By 1809 the French cruisers were making 30 knots.

From 1830 to 1900 the AUSTRALIA exchanged signals, in French, with the Vichy force.

At 1940 AUSTRALIA changed course to 329¡ and worked up to a speed of 31 knots, with the objective of reaching Dakar before the French cruisers.

At 2010 AUSTRALIA sighted a ship on her starboard bow which turned out to be one of the cruisers, the ship flashed the message 'I am steering for Honskri; Port Francais', this ship turned out to be the GLOIRE, who it transpired had engine trouble. AUSTRAILA remained with the GLOIRE but was aware that CUMBERLAND was now unsupported.

At 2139 the DEVONSHIRE with the destroyer INGLEFIELD in company, who was en route from Freetown to join AUSTRALIA; signalled AUSTRALIA to show her position by shining her searchlight into the air at 45¡.

At 2145 AUSTRALIA switched on her searchlight which was seen by DEVONSHIRE.

At 2200 CUMBERLAND reported that the other two cruisers were still proceeding north.

At 2223 AUSTRALIA had slowed down was circling the GLOIRE.

At 2252 the destroyer INGLEFIELD closed the GLOIRE and commenced parleying with her. It was found that GLOIRE had engine trouble and could only make 4 knots.

At 0100/20 AUSTRALIA closed the DEVONSHIRE for orders, and was ordered to escort the GLOIRE back to Casablanca.

At approximately 0530/20 the CUMBERLAND having failed to stop them, the Vichy French cruisers GEORGES LEYGUES and MONTCALM arrived back at Dakar.

At 1500/20 the AUSTRALIA and CUMBERLAND passed on reciprocal courses.

At 0700/21 the AUSTRALIA, satisfied that the GLOIRE would continue to Casablanca, signaled GLOIRE ''Bon voyage. Je vous remerci pour votre courtoisie dans une situation difficile' and set course southerly]

 

20th – The ARK ROYAL was at Freetown.

 

[Vice Admiral Cunningham FO Force H, shifted his flag to the battleship BARHAM and during the day he held a pre-operation conference on board the BARHAM]

 

21st

[At 0645the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE, the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FURY, the sloops MILFORD, COMMANDANT DOMINE, COMMANDANT DUBOC, and SAVORGNAN DE BRAZZA with transports ETTRICK, KENYA, SOBIESKI, KARANJA, WESTERNLAND and PENNLAND and the food ship BELGRAVIAN departed Freetown on Operation MENACE]

At 0930 the ARK ROYAL, battleships BARHAM (Flag VA Force M) and RESOLUTION and destroyers INGLEFIELD (D3), FORTUNE, FORESIGHT, GREYHOUND, ECHO, and ESCAPADE sailed from Freetown for Dakar and Operation MENACE.

 

[At 1430 the heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND departed Freetown on Operation MENACE]

 

22nd – The ARK ROYAL together with the other ships involved in Operation MENACE en route to Dakar.

 

[Early in the morning the MENACE convoys were joined at sea by the heavy cruisers CUMBERLAND and AUSTRALIA and the cruiser DRAGON (DRAGON was a replacement for destroyer ECLIPSE which developed engine problems)]

 

23rd – At around 0400 ARK ROYAL arrived about 20 miles south of Dakar, the visibility in the area was poor due to fog. Closer inshore, south of Cap Manuel, where the main force was, the visibility was even less.

At around 0515 ARK ROYAL flew off 13 Swordfish and the two Caudron C 272 Luciole aircraft with Free French markings.

 

[The orders of Vice Admiral Cunningham were to negotiate with Pierre Franois Boisson, the governor-general of French West Africa and high commissioner for French Africa, for a peaceful occupation, but if this was unsuccessful, he was to take the city by force. Part of the plan was to present the Vichy French with an impressive array of force in the guise of Force M. However this part of the plan was immediately negated by the fog]

 

[One of the Swordfish led the two French aircraft to Ouakam airfield. Following which the Swordfish was to observe the landing and report back.

The two Caudron C 272's carried Free French air force officers who were representatives of de Gaulle and were to land on the military airfield and attempt to bring their fellow air force officers over to the Free French side and to pave the way for the landing of further French air force officers and the later landing in the harbour by emissaries of General de Gaulle.

Four Swordfish carried further Free French officers who were to be landed at Ouakam airfield if the mission of the crews of the two Caudron C 272's was a success.

Four Swordfish carried leaflets that they dropped over Dakar. At around 0545 when over Dakar the battleship RICHELIEU and the Forts on the Ile de GorŽe opened fire on the Swordfish, without achieving any hits.

Two Swordfish to carry out photo reconnaissance.

Two Swordfish to carry out A/S patrols.

On landing the Free French officers saw troops on their morning parade they seized the officer in charge and bound him while the troops stood by. This led the Free French to believe that their mission would be successful so they spread out markers announcing their success. Other Vichy officers soon arrived and arrested the Free French.

The patrolling Swordfish signalled success, but then observed Vichy French Curtis Hawk 75A-3 fighters taking off and at the same time the Swordfish came under AA fire from the ground.

When ARK ROYAL received the signal about the fighters all the Swordfish, except the two on A/S patrol, were recalled]

 

[At 0600 the Free French sloop SAVORGANAN DE BRAZZA was about four miles south of the Ile de GorŽe when she dropped off two launches with emissaries from de Gaulle, led by Capitaine de Corvette Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu. The launches proceeded under a white flag and berthed in the harbour at around 0700. On landing d'Argenlieu was met by an officer with a drawn revolver, but later friendlier officers arrived and d'Argenlieu informed them that he had letters to deliver to the Governor General and insisted that he hand them over personally. The naval CINC Admiral Landriau was contacted; Admiral Landriau dismissed the envoys story as bluff, partly because he couldn't see the invasion force, and ordered that the emissaries be arrested. When d'Argenlieu was told he was to be arrested the Free French party jumped back into their launches and made off. A few shots were fired at the launches, one of which seriously wounded d'Argenlieu.

At 0755 the RICHELIEU opened fire on the SAVORGNAN DE BRAZZA followed shortly afterwards by the battery on the Ile de GorŽe.

The party were eventually picked up by the SAVORGANAN DE BRAZZA. So ended the attempt at negotiation]

 

[The news of the landing of the Free French aircraft at Ouakam quickly reached Pierre Franois Boisson, the Governor General, followed by news of the emissaries landing in the harbour. At 0750 he called a meeting of the service chiefs following which he immediately declared a state of siege and Dakar was put under the control of General Jean Barrau. By 0830 Admiral Landriau had entered his command bunker in the harbour, from where he had sight of the RICHELIEU, the police were rounding up Gaullist sympathizers and all civilians had been confined to their homes]

 

At 0850 the Swordfish on A/S patrol reported that two submarines were leaving the harbour.

 

[The submarines were the PERSƒE and AJAX, they had been ordered by Admiral Landriau to sail and establish patrol lines off Dakar. (The AJAX was attacked later in the day by a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL, without success)]

 

Aircraft from the ARK ROYAL maintained A/S patrols and fighter patrols over the invasion force throughout the day.

 

[Throughout the day the area of operations remained shrouded in fog, at no time was the visibility in excess of two miles]

 

24th – ARK ROYAL was operating south of Dakar.

At about 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas of 800 Sqd each armed with a 500 lb SAP bomb and six Swordfish of 820 Sqd. The mission of the Skuas was to attack the battleship RICHELIEU which was moored alongside the outer mole of Dakar harbour with its main armament facing almost due south. The mission of the Swordfish was to attack Fort Manoel which was armed with two 240mm guns and was the fort nearest to the attacking force.

 

[At 0700 the six Skuas in line astern dived through the fog to bomb the RICHELIEU, one near miss was achieved, that caused minimal damage.

At 0720 the six Swordfish attacked Fort Manoel, hits were claimed, but despite its canvas roof, no hits were achieved and the output of the battery was not affected]

 

At about 0845 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish of 810 Sqd each armed with a torpedo, their target was the RICHELIEU.

 

[At 0910 the six Swordfish attacked the RICHELIEU without scoring any hits. Three were shot down two by AA fire and one by a fighter. One the shot down aircraft crashed landed in the bay near the light cruiser GEORGES LEYGUES. Before the plane sank the French managed to retrieve its signal code book]

 

[At 1230 the Vichy French destroyer LE HARDI picked up an injured British airman]

 

At about 1445 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish each armed with a torpedo escorted by three Skuas. The target of the Swordfish was the light cruisers GEORGES LEYGUES and MONTCALM who were manoeuvring in Rufisque Bay and constituted a threat to the transports.

 

[At 1534 the eight (one was forced to ditch en route to the target) Swordfish commenced their attack through a barrage of AA fire, two were shot down almost immediately one by the destroyer LE MALIN and the other by MONTCALM. At the time of the attack the MONTCALM was almost stopped but quickly worked up to 20 knots and managed to avoid the three torpedoes fired at her; GEORGES LEYGUES also managed to avoid the one torpedo fired at her. Three explosions, hits, were reported by the attackers but these turned out to be prematures]

 

Throughout the day ARK ROYAL maintained A/S and fighter patrols. However the A/S patrols failed to sight the Vichy French submarine BƒVEZIERS returning to harbour in the evening after having been on patrol 10 miles south of Ile de GorŽe.

 

[During the day ARK ROYAL lost six Swordfish most of the crews became POW's of the Vichy French. The crew of Swordfish L2844 of 810 Sqd were picked up by the destroyers ESCAPADE and ECHO.

Also lost was Skua 7K, L2954 of 803 Sqd the crew were picked up by the destroyer ECHO]

25th - ARK ROYAL was operating south of Dakar.

 

[The weather on this day was light airs, flat calm sea, clear skies and maximum visibility. After much confusion and the exchange of signals between the CINC Force M, the Admiralty and Churchill the operation was to be continued into a third day]

 

ARK ROYAL's aircraft were not required for strikes today, even though ARK ROYAL had put forward a proposal for a dawn strike on Ouakam airfield. So ARK ROYAL was to provide only A/S and fighter patrols.

 

[At around 0630 a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL on patrol over the harbour reported the light cruisers GEORGES LEYGUES and MONTCALM manoeuvring in Rufisque Bay and destroyers in position ready to lay smoke screens. The report also observed that the RICHELIEU was now moored to the outer mole by her bow and a tug was secured to her stern so she could be swung to bring her guns on to the most effective bearing]

 

[At 0530 six Vichy French Curtis Hawk 75A-3 fighters were airborne, at 0652 one of them sighted Force M steaming up from the south to carry out what the CINC Force M hoped would be the 'knock out' blow.

At 0740 the lookout at Fort Manoel sighted the BARHAM and RESOLUTION steaming up from the south]

 

[As the British battleships steamed towards their bombardment positions, their movements were observed by Capitaine de Corvette Pierre Lancelot the CO of the Vichy French submarine BƒVEZIERS.

On the 24/9/40 the BƒVEZIERS had tried three times to achieve a firing position from where she could launch torpedoes at the British battleships, but each time he had been frustrated by air attack from ARK ROYAL's Swordfish. At 1700/24 the BƒVEZIERS returned to Dakar harbour to recharge her batteries.

Admiral Landriau, who together with the CO of the RICHELIEU Capitaine de Vaisseau Marzin had studied the courses taken by the British battleships in the first two days of the operation which they noted, was a course that kept them out of range of the 240mm guns of the GorŽe and Mamelles batteries. At 0400/25 the BƒVEZIERS had been ordered to sea by Admiral Landriau and given a position that she take up in expectation that the next arrival of the bombarding force would be in accordance with their previous positions.

At 0904/25 the BƒVEZIERS achieved a firing solution on the RESOLUTION and fired a salvo of 4 torpedoes from 2500 yards at RESOLUTION, 3 missed but at 0910 the fourth hit her on the port side amidships. This immediately caused flooding in her port boiler-rooms and she instantly took on a 12¼ list to port and was down by the bow. Her main armament was rendered in operative as the turrets jammed up.  

At 0913 AUSTRALIA was damaged by two 155mm shell hits, but the damage did not require her withdrawal from the operation and there were no injuries to the crew.

At 0915 BARHAM was hit in the bows by a 380mm shell from RICHELIEU.

At 0917 the DEVONSHIRE and AUSTRALIA were ordered to withdraw. At the same time AUSTRALIA's Walrus was shot down astern of the BARHAM.

At 0930 the CINC Force M Vice Admiral Cunningham called off the bombardment and the Force turned south.

Following a discussion between the force commanders the CINC Force M signalled the Admiralty reporting the events of the morning with his recommendation to call off Operation MENACE.

At the War Cabinet meeting that commenced at 1130, the signal was discussed and at 1327 Churchill signalled the CINC Force M, 'Unless something has happened which we do not know, which makes you wish to attempt landing in force, you should forthwith break off'. The CINC Force M signalled back; 'Concur in breaking off'. So ended the debacle of Operation MENACE]

 

At 1200 hours the various units of Force M including the ARK ROYAL set course south to return to Freetown. ARK ROYAL's aircraft provided fighter cover for the RESOLUTION who was severely damaged and making slow progress.

At around 1700 the Vichy French submarine SIDI FERRUCH, from Conakry, French Guinea, attempted an attack on ARK ROYAL. The SIDI FERRUCH was sighted by ARK ROYAL's A/S patrol and forced to dive and stay submerged.

At 1800 the destroyers FAULKNOR and FORESTER joined ARK ROYAL's screen.

 

26th – ARK ROYAL steering south at slow speed to provide aircraft cover for the damaged RESOLUTION who was now under tow by BARHAM.

 

27th - ARK ROYAL steering south at slow speed to provide aircraft cover for the damaged RESOLUTION who was now under tow by BARHAM.

 

28th - ARK ROYAL steering south at slow speed to provide aircraft cover for the damaged RESOLUTION who was now under tow by BARHAM.

At 1400 ARK ROYAL arrived at Freetown.

 

29th ARK ROYAL was at Freetown.

 

30th – At 0615 ARK ROYAL, heavy cruiser AUSTRALIA and the destroyers FORTUNE, GREYHOUND and FORESTER departed Freetown for the Clyde.

 

 

OCTOBER

 

1st to 4th – ARK ROYAL and escort were en route to the UK.

 

5th – When on the latitude of the Azores the AUSTRALIA was detached to investigate a rumour of an invasion force heading for the Azores.

 

6th - ARK ROYAL and escort were en route to the UK.

 

7th – Late afternoon when off Northern Ireland ARK ROYAL flew off the Swordfish of 818 Sqd to RNAS Campbeltown

 

8th – At around 0800 the ARK ROYAL was off the Firth of Clyde when she commenced flying off the rest of her air component, 800 Sqd to RNAS Crail, 803 and 820 Sqds to RNAS Dinibristle and 810 Sqd to RNAS Arbroath.

At around 1300 the ARK ROYAL arrived at Liverpool. She entered Gladstone dock and was placed in the hands of Cammell, Laird & Co. Ltd for a short refit which included repairs to her machinery and the installation of a new flight deck barrier. The new barrier speeded up flying on operations and this reduced the time that ARK ROYAL had to remain on a set course for recovery operations.

 

9th to 28th ARK ROYAL at Liverpool under refit.

 

29th – Early in the morning ARK ROYAL sailed from Liverpool for the Clyde en route she flew on Swordfish of 810 Sqd from RNAS Arbroath and Swordfish of 818 Sqd from Campbeltown.

In the evening ARK ROYAL arrived off Greenock.

 

30th – ARK ROYAL off Greenock embarking stores.

 

31st – In the morning the ARK ROYAL sailed into the Firth of Clyde to land on the remainder of her air component; 12 Skuas of 800 Sqd from RNAS Prestwick, 12 Fulmars of 808 Sqd (this was the first Fulmar Sqd formed and the second one to embark on a carrier. They were 40mph faster than the Skuas) from RNAS Donibristle and 12 Swordfish of 820 Sqd from RNAS Campbeltown.  

 

[808 Sqd was formed at Worthy Down on 1/7/40 with 12 Fulmar Is. After working up it moved to Castletown, Isle of Man on 5/9/40 and carried out land based patrols over the Western Approaches and Irish Sea. On 2/10/40 it moved to Donibristle in preparation for joining ARK ROYAL]

 

At 1800 the ARK ROYAL was joined by the heavy cruiser BERWICK, light cruiser GLASGOW and the destroyers ISIS, FOXHOUND and DUNCAN in company was the Free French liner HMT PASTEUR 30477grt. The force was bound for Gibraltar.

 

[The PASTEUR had embarked army units, 4th Battalion the Buffs, two 25pdr field batteries, 67troops of the 1st Independent Troop, Royal Tank Regiment, gunners of one light AA and two heavy AA batteries, together with Navy and Air Force personal, in all a total of 2150; for Gibraltar and onward passage to Malta. The heavy equipment was to be transported in Operation COLLAR]

 

 

NOVEMBER

 

1st to 5th – The ARK ROYAL force was en route to Gibraltar.

 

6th – At around 0400 the destroyers VIDETTE and WRESTLER joined the force from Gibraltar.

At around 0430 the ARK ROYAL and the destroyers VIDETTE and WRESTLER detached for Gibraltar.

At 1315 ARK ROYAL and the destroyers VIDETTE and WRESTLER arrived at Gibraltar.

 

[At 1430 the BERWICK and GLASGOW arrived at Gibraltar and at 1630 the PASTEUR and destroyers ISIS, FOXHOUND and DUNCAN arrived at Gibraltar]

 

At 1500 the Flag Officer Force H, Vice Admiral Somerville hoisted his flag in ARK ROYAL.

 

7th – At 1800 Force H comprising, the ARK ROYAL (Flag CINC Force H), light cruiser SHEFFIELD (fitted with air warning radar Type 79Y, range 60NM) and the destroyers DUNCAN, FAULKNOR (D8), FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE, FOXHOUND and ISIS. In company was Force F, comprising the battleship BARHAM, heavy cruiser BERWICK, light cruiser GLASGOW and the destroyers GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN departed Gibraltar on Operations COAT and CRACK.

 

[Operation COAT was an operation to transport the troops carried to Gibraltar on board PASTEUR onward to Malta. BARHAM (700 embarked), BERWICK (750 embarked, these included troops of the 12th Field Regiment RA. She also carried 12 x 40mm Bofors guns for Crete), GLASGOW (400 embarked) and GREYHOUND, GALLANT and GRIFFIN (50 embarked on each); also the Force H destroyers FAULKNOR, FORTUNE and FURY (had a further 150 troops embarked between them). After disembarking the troops at Malta Force F were to continue eastwards to join the Mediterranean Fleet. The guns, tanks and equipment for the troops were to be conveyed to Malta by merchant ship.

Operation CRACK was an air raid by aircraft from ARK ROYAL on the Italian seaplane base and airfield at Elmas near Cagliari. The operation was designed to draw attention away from Force F; it was also intended to distract attention from the planned attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto (Operation JUDGEMENT)]

 

8th – In the morning an Italian reconnaissance aircraft sighted the force and was shot down by one of ARK ROYAL's fighters.

At 1530 in approximate position 37-43N, 2-04E the ARK ROYAL, escorted by SHEFFIELD, GLASGOW, DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS detached from Force F, increased speed and steered for a position south west of Cagliari.

At around 1800 SHEFFIELD's Radar picked up an unidentified aircraft approaching from the north east. The aircraft was a Savoia-Marchetti SM79, probably from Sardinia

 

[The lone SM 79 was at 3,000ft some 50 miles south of Sardinia when it was shot down by a Fulmar of 808 Sqd piloted by Lt Rupert Tillard, observer Lt Mark Somerville. Tillard's attack appeared to kill the rear gunner, and he then shot the aircraft down into the sea. This was 808 Sqds first victory]

 

9th - At 0430 ARK ROYAL flew off 9 Swordfish each armed with six x 250lb bombs to carry out Operation CRACK the attack on the Italian seaplane base and airfield at Elmas near Cagliari. After launching the aircraft Force H turned south easterly to RV with Force F.

 

[At 0950 red section Fulmars of 808 Sqd intercepted an Italian Cant Z-506B of the 196a Squadr“glie at 6500 ft that was shadowing Force H. The shadower was shot down by Lt Tillard the CO of 808 Sqd].

At around 1015 ARK ROYAL flew off a section of three Fulmars to Malta; these were for onward passage to join 806 Sqd on the aircraft carrier ILLUSTRIOUS

By 1035 ARK ROYAL had recovered all the strike force.

 

[At 1100 SHEFFIELD's radar picked up 20 plus unidentified aircraft approaching from the north; these turned out to Savoia-Marchetti SM79's from Decimomannu airfield Sardinia]

 

[When SHEFFIELD's radar picked up the approaching aircraft ARK ROYAL had three Fulmars of 808 Sqd and six Skuas, 6F L3015, 6G L2952, 6H L3017, 6K L2908, 6L L3049 and 6M L3007 of 800 Sqd airborne. These aircraft were immediately vectored towards the attacking Italians.

At 1115 Fulmars of red section 808 Sqd attacked a formation of  25 SM 79s about ten miles from the carrier. Lt Tillard attacked the leader of one formation. This bomber was reported to have crashed into the sea by another pilot, and by watchers on the GLASGOW.

At 1130 the Skuas joined the fight and claimed hits to several bombers, but none shot down.

Actually none of the SM 79s were lost, but of the 25 taking part, 18 were hit, many members of the crews being killed or wounded]

 

The SM 79's that got through the fighters carried out a high level bombing attack on Force H, there were several near misses but no hits.

At around 1200 Force H RVed with Force F; following which ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS turned westerly to return to Gibraltar.

 

10th - ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS en route to Gibraltar.

 

11th – At 0930 ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS arrived at Gibraltar.

 

12th – The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

At 1400 the battle cruiser RENOWN arrived at Gibraltar.

 

13th - The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar. Vice Admiral Somerville struck his flag and transferred his flag 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 Force H comprising, the RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), aircraft carriers ARK ROYAL and ARGUS, light cruisers SHEFFIELD and DESPATCH, destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FURY, WISHART, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE and DUNCAN sailed from Gibraltar on Operation WHITE.

 

[Operation WHITE was an operation to deliver 12 Hurricanes to Malta. The Hurricanes were to be flown off the ARGUS. Somerville was also planning to carry out a strike against the airfield at Alghero, north west Sardinia]

 

After sailing the force was divided into Force A that comprised the ARGUS, DESPATCH and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND and FORTUNE.

Force B that comprised the RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and the destroyers FURY, WISHART and DUNCAN.

 

[The sailing of Force H was observed by Italian agents in Spain and details were immediately communicated to Supermarina (Italian Naval HQ). On receipt of the sighting report Supermarina concluded that the British force was probably going to carry out a further attack on airfields on Sardinia.

16/11 based on this intelligence Supermarina ordered a force of two battleships VITTORIO VENETO and CIULIO CESARE, (these two battleships had only recently arrived at Naples having sailed from Taranto after Operation JUDGEMENT) two heavy cruisers and destroyers to sail from Naples to an interception point south west of Sardinia.

Early on 17/11 the Italian force was sighted by a reconnaissance plane from Malta and its composition and position was signaled to the CINC Force H.

By the morning of the 17/11 the Italian Force was about 30NM south west of Sardinia]

 

16th – Force A and B were sailing easterly, in worsening weather, restricted in speed of advance by the ARGUS who was barely capable of 16 knots.

At 1200 the weather deteriorated further and flying operations were cancelled. Also because of the weather Somerville abandoned his plan to carry out a strike against Alghero airfield.

 

17th

[Early in the morning Somerville received the signal informing him that an Italian naval force was heading towards southern Sardinia. From this intelligence Somerville considered that this force could well be intent on engaging his much weaker force, so he decided to launch the Hurricanes as soon as possible. Under ideal conditions the Hurricane Mk 1 had a maximum range of 520NM at 10000ft, the wind at 0500 was westerly, about 20 knots at 2000ft, this was the height that the Hurricanes were ordered to fly at, and the forecast from Malta was of a westerly wind. Therefore Somerville took the decision to launch 400NM from Malta]

  

At 0500 Force A detached and went ahead to the flying off position.

 

[At 0615 in position 37 29N, 6-43E the first flight of six Hurricanes lead by a FAA Skua took off from ARGUS. Only four of the first flight reached RAF Luqa.

The Hurricanes took time forming up, consuming valuable fuel, before setting off westerly following the Skua. En route near Galite Island they RVed with a Sunderland of 228 Sqd from Malta. Two Hurricanes crashed about 30NM short of Malta; one pilot was rescued by the Sunderland, the other was never found. The four remaining Hurricanes and the Skua landed at Luqa at 0920.

At 0715 in position 37-24N, 6-52E the second flight of six Hurricanes lead by a FAA Skua took off from ARGUS.  Soon after launching the wind veered from south west to south east, this not only slowed their westerly advance but also blew them towards Sicily. The Sunderland that should have RVed with this flight failed to take off due to engine problems. All six of the second flight were lost en route to Malta there were no survivors from the Hurricanes. The Skua 6G, L2987 of 800 Sqd crashed landed on south west coast of Sicily, the beach at Punta Palo near Syracuse. The pilot Petty Officer (A) W. E. J. Stockwell, observer P/T/A/Sub Lt (A) R. C. Neil were taken prisoner.

A RAF Martin Maryland of flight 431 was sent out from Malta to search for the missing aircraft but failed to sight any survivors]  

 

At 0830 Force A rejoined Force B and course was set for Gibraltar at ARGUS' best speed and in deteriorating weather.

By 1400 the Force was steaming into a full gale and speed was reduced to 15 knots, and later to 9knots

At 1545 the SHEFFIELD detached and pressed on ahead to Gibraltar.

 

[At 1500 the CINC Force H, received a signal from the Admiralty reporting that the panzerschiffe ADMIRAL SHEER was thought to be in the vicinity of the Azores (the report was incorrect, at the time the SHEER was about 1350NM south west of the Azores replenishing from the NORDMARK). The CINC Force H was ordered to proceed with dispatch to Gibraltar with RENOWN and ARK ROYAL. the CINC Force H compromised and sent the SHEFFIELD on ahead.

At 1805 the SHEFFIELD took a huge wave over her forecastle which caused structural damage. SHEFFIELD arrived at Gibraltar at 1800/18/11/40]

 

18th – Force H was steaming westward towards Gibraltar.

 

19th – At 0300 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

[Just before arriving at Gibraltar the Admiralty order to the CINC Force H to search for the ADMIRAL SHEER was cancelled]

 

20th to 24th – The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

Whilst at Gibraltar Captain Holland expressed his concern to the CINC Force H regarding the urgent need for training of the Swordfish aircrews, many of whom were inexperienced in strike operations, especially torpedo attacks. However, due to the lack of suitable shipping targets in Gibraltar at the time the CINC Force H was unable to help.

 

[The next operation that involved Force H was Operation COLLAR. Operation COLLAR had three main objectives:-

First six merchant ships (two from Alexandria and four from Gibraltar) were to take supplies to Malta and one from Gibraltar to Alexandria.

Second the 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.

Thirdly the cruisers MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON (each carrying 660 and 760 respectively, RAF and Army personnel for Egypt) with four 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 light cruiser MANCHESTER (Flag of Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland CS18) and the troopship HMT FRANCONIA 20158grt (with 1420, mainly RAF ground crews for air reinforcements being flown to Egypt from Takoradi and some Army personnel embarked) escorted by the destroyers DUNCAN and FORESTER arrived at Gibraltar]

 

[When CS18 was made aware that MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON were to be attached to Force F, maximum speed 16 knots, he objected to the CINC Force H; stating that with so many passengers on board the cruisers would not be in a condition, should it become necessary, to fight. Further CS18 considered the safe and timely arrival of the RAF and army personnel should take precedence over his cruisers being attached to the slow Force F. Since CS18 and CINC Force H were of equal rank the matter was referred to the Admiralty. The Admiralty signalled 'personnel', but later amended the reply to 'CS18's cruisers 'must be the same as if personnel were not on board']  

 

[22nd – The light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON arrived at Gibraltar]

 

[23rd – The destroyers JAGUAR and KELVIN and the corvettes SALVIA, HYACINTH, PEONY and GLOXINIA arrived at Gibraltar.

The light cruiser DESPATCH arrived at Gibraltar]

 

[24thThe light cruiser SHEFFIELD arrived at Gibraltar.

In Gibraltar harbour the 1400 RAF and Army personnel were transferred to MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON, 700 embarked on each]

 

[At 2400/24/11 part of Force F comprising the destroyers DUNCAN (D13) and HOTSPUR and the corvettes PEONY, SALVIA, HYACINTH and GLOXINIA sailed from Gibraltar and steered into the Mediterranean to join the British MT ships SS CLAN FORBES 7529grt, SS CLAN FRASER 7529grt (At 0315/6/4/41 the CLAN FRASER was in Piraeus harbour loaded with armaments and 250 tons of TNT when she was bombed by the Luftwaffe and her cargo exploded. The shock wave of the blast was felt fifteen miles away in Athens. White hot debris detonated the ΤΝΤ in other ships moored nearby, setting them and buildings ashore, on fire. By morning Piraeus port had been severely damaged) (The Malta bound ships were carrying of 4 Infantry MKII's, Matilda, tanks 2 MKIV B's. The Matildas were later named Faulknor, Gallant, Greyhound and Griffin after the destroyers which escorted the convoy) and MV NEW ZEALAND STAR 10,740grt. Operation COLLAR was under way]

 

25th

 

[At 0300 DUNCAN, 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. The convoy then became Force F and steered easterly into the Mediterranean]

 

At 0700 Force B (Force H) comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD, DESPATCH and the destroyers FIREDRAKE, FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FURY, WISHART, DUNCAN, ENCOUNTER, JAGUAR and KELVIN.

At same time the remainder of Force F, comprising the MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON sailed from Gibraltar and steered into the Mediterranean to join 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, in the aftermath of the Taranto attack, to abandon its 'Fleet in Being' philosophy and attack the British force. To carry out the interception Supermarina ordered Vice Admiral Inigo Campioni to take 2 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers and 14 destroyers to sea]

 

26th – Force B and F continued on an easterly course.

ARK ROYAL operated Swordfish A/S and reconnaissance patrols throughout the day.

 

[During the days flying operations a Fulmar of 808 Squadron crashed astern of ARK ROYAL. Lt (E) J. P. Coates was killed.]

 

[The speed of Force F was 16 knots, which was the maximum speed of the NEW ZEALAND STAR and notionally the corvettes. However the best speed that the corvettes could achieve was 14 knots so the corvettes were left astern to follow at their best speed]

 

[At around 1200 in response to orders from Supermarina the battleships VITTORIO VENETO (Flag Vice Admiral Inigo Campioni fleet commander) and GUILE CESARE with destroyers GRANATIERE, FUCLIERE, BERSAGLIERE and ALPINO of the 13th Destroyer Division and FRECCIA, SAETTA and DARDO of the 7th Destroyer Division departed Naples.

Also sailing from Naples were the heavy cruisers POLA (Flag Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino squadron commander), FIUME (Flag Admiral Matteucci division commander) and GORIZIA of 1st Cruiser Division and destroyers ALFIERI, CARDUCCI, GIOBERTI and ORIANI of the 9th Destroyer Division

They were joined at sea by the heavy cruisers TRENTO, TRIESTE (Vice Admiral Luigi Sansonetti division commander) and BOLZANO of the 3rd Cruiser Division with destroyers LANCIERI, ASCARI and CARABINIERI of the 12th Destroyer Division who had sailed from Messina.

The combined force steered for the south of Sardinia to intercept what Supermarina thought was Force H carrying out another aircraft delivery to Malta.

The VITTORIO VENETO had been commissioned on 28/4/40 and was large, 41177 tons standard displacement, fast 29 knots, and armed with nine 15" guns that had a range of 26½ miles. She was a formidable opponent for both RENOWN and RAMILLIES]

 

27th – At 0800 Force B was in position 37-48N, 07-24E. Force F was in position 37-37N, 06-54E and the corvettes were 10 miles astern of Force F.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL flew off three fighters for a CAP, one Swordfish for an A/S patrol, one Swordfish for a meteorological flight and 7 Swordfish to carry out reconnaissance between north and east.

At 0900 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 a report was made by one of ARK ROYAL's Swordfish, timed at 0852 of enemy surface forces, but this report was not received by any ship.

At 0920 Force B was in sight of Force F who was in approximate position 37-37N, 7-20E.

 

[At 0945an Imam Romeo Ro43 reconnaissance floatplane that had been launched by the Italian heavy cruiser BOLZANO sighted the British Force. The sighting report stated one battleship, two light cruisers, and four destroyers, about 135 miles to the south-west of Cape Spartivento, steering east. The report undoubtedly referred to the RENOWN and the ships of Force B. However the position given was well to the west of the actual position and no report was made of ARK ROYAL]

 

At 0956 ARK ROYAL sent a visual signal to RENOWN, repeating an aircraft sighting report timed at 0920, reporting the presence of 5 enemy cruisers and 5 destroyers to the north steering south west. So at around the same time both commanders knew of the presence of the other force.

At 1016 ARK ROYAL signalled the RENOWN reporting the presence of battleships and heavy cruisers to the NW.

 

[By1035 the plot in RENOWN was showing the presence of enemy battleships, cruisers and destroyers. Somerville ordered DUNCAN and HOTSPUR to remain with the MT ships and DESPATCH and WISHART to join them; he also ordered that COVENTRY when she joined with Force D was also to join the MT ships. The MT ships and escort were then to continue towards their destination on course 120¼ (this would take the convoy towards the Tunisian coast) to keep away from any action. All other units, except ARK ROYAL and her escort of JAGUAR and KELVIN who were to operate independently between Force B and Force F, to concentrate on RENOWN]

 

[At 1058 when Force F was in approximate position 37-37N, 8E, a RAF Sunderland of 228 Sqd, from Malta closed RENOWN and reported the position of Force D, as being 34 miles, 070¼. This would put Force D in approximate position 37-55N, 8-34E. Somerville then ordered the Sunderland to shadow and report the composition of the enemy bearing 025¼]

 

[Force D comprised battleship RAMILLIES, heavy cruiser BERWICK , light cruiser NEWCASTLE, anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY and the destroyers GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, DIAMOND, DEFENDER and HEREWARD had departed Malta at 1200/26/11 to join Force B]

 

[At 1128 Force D was sighted by RENOWN bearing 073¼ approximately 24 miles]

 

[At 1128 Admiral Campioni led his Fleet round to the south east. He expected to encounter a battleship or battle cruiser, with possibly two cruisers and a few destroyers, and he wished to bring this about in waters nearer to Sicily than to Sardinia. At this time Campioni was unaware of Force D]

 

The 16 point turn was witnessed by an observer in one of ARK ROYAL's Swordfish and he later reported that the manoeuvre had thrown the Italian Fleet into utter confusion such that several collisions were only narrowly avoided.

At 1130 ARK ROYAL, screened by JAGUAR and KELVIN, flew off a strike force of 11 Swordfish of 810 Sqd armed with torpedoes, their mission was to attack the Italian battleships.

 

[At 1135 the MANCHESTER and SHEFFIELD launched their Walrus aircraft]

 

[At 1140 RENOWN altered course to 050¼ and speed increased to 28 knots. At this time MANCHESTER, SOUTHAMPTON and SHEFFIELD were in line ahead, speed 22 knots working up to 29 knots, course 350¡,  about 5 miles fine on the port bow of RENOWN with BERWICK and NEWCASTLE joining CS18 from the eastward. RAMILLIES was trying to catch up by cutting the corner. The destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FURY, GREYHOUND, GRIFFIN, DIAMOND, DEFENDER and HEREWARD were between the cruisers and RENOWN.

ARK ROYAL was astern of RENOWN between her and the MT convoy.

BERWICK signaled that she was unable to exceed 26knots due to condenser failure]

 

[At 1145 an Imam Romeo Ro43 reconnaissance floatplane that had been launched by the Italian heavy cruiser GORIZIA sighted and reported the presence of Force F]

 

At 1147 ARK ROYAL signaled CINC Force H (received 1213) an aircraft sighting report of an enemy force of 2 battleships, 6 cruisers and destroyers.

 

[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 1207 the aircraft from the GORIZIA reported the presence of Force D who had now joined the CINC Force H and ARK ROYAL, with the nearest enemy forces 20 miles away. Admiral Campioni wrote in his official report, 'was thus created which at best was unfavourable to us both in numbers and quality'. In reality there were two capital ships on each side; seven Italian 8-inch cruisers against one 8-inch and four 6-inch British; sixteen Italian destroyers against ten British. But Campioni attached particular significance to the presence of the ARK ROYAL, whose aircraft could cause much damage if their action was synchronized with that of the surface ships. He had been warned by the Minister of Marine that it was particularly important to avoid damage now that half the Italian battle fleet had been put out of action at Taranto. In view of these instructions Admiral Campioni considered that it was his duty not to become involved in battle in the existing circumstances.

At 1215 he hoisted the signal to alter course to due east, and ordered: 'Do not join action'. But he was too late; his lead cruiser formation had already angled toward the British and was committed to combat]

 

[At 1220 the heavy cruiser FIUME opened fire on the cruisers in the van; the first 8" salvo fell near MANCHESTER. At the same time the Italian force were turning to the north east to conform with the order not to join action.

At 1221 the heavy cruisers POLA and GORIZIA opened fire; their fire was concentrated on the BERWICK.

At 1222 BERWICK was hit by an 8" shell on Y turret, killing seven and wounding 9 and caused a fire that took an hour to extinguish.

At 1223 Somerville informed Cunningham that he was engaging the enemy.

The cruisers BERWICK, MANCHESTER, SHEFFIELD and NEWCASTLE concentrated their fire on the TRENTO, TRIESTE and BOLZANO. The SOUTHAMPTON fired on the FIUME, POLA and GORIZIA.

At 1224 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 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 RENOWN fired two salvos at the cruiser BOLZANO.

At 1235 RENOWN fired 8 salvos, but at 1245 hours fire was checked when the target was lost in smoke.

At 1235 BERWICK received a second hit from an 8" shell that destroyed her after electrical switchboard causing a loss of power to the entire after section including X turret]

 

At 1244 the eleven Swordfish led by Lt Cdr Mervyn Johnson from the ARK ROYAL located the two Italian battleships 25 to 30 miles to the eastward, screened by eight destroyers.

 

[On arrival over the Italian Fleet the VITTORIO VENETO was selected as the target. Johnson overshot the VITTORIO VENETO and made his target the GUILE CESARE, all the torpedoes were dropped within the destroyer screen at distances from 700 to 800 yards. One hit was claimed just abaft the after funnel of the VITTORIO VENETO but in fact all torpedoes missed. Admiral Campioni reported that although the attack was carried out with resolution it was effectively countered by manoeuvring and gunfire. In his turn he claimed that two British aircraft were brought down, whereas in fact they all returned safely to ARK ROYAL]

 

[At 1300 the two Italian battleships were sighted from the British cruisers, and almost immediately large projectiles began to fall round the cruisers so CS18 altered course to the south east and ordered smoke, in order to draw the enemy towards the RENOWN; but the enemy did not conform so CS18 altered back and continued the chase.

At 1302 the cruisers in the van sighted two Vichy passenger liners bearing 320¼, these vessels were carrying French civilians and troops. They were left unchallenged but did cause some initial confusion.

At 1308 Somerville signaled CS18, 'is there any hope of catching cruisers', the answer was 'no'.

At 1311 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 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]

 

[During the action, the heavy cruiser FIUME suffered an engine breakdown during the battle. The destroyer LANCIERI was badly damaged by British gunfire and was left dead in the water. She was towed from the scene by one of the heavy cruisers of the 3rd Division]

 

[Thus ended what the British called the Battle of Cape Spartivento and the Italians the Battle of Cape Teulada. The only British success, other than forcing the superior force to turn away, was damage to the Italian destroyer LANCIERE hit by a 6" salvo from MANCHESTER. In the exchange of fire the initial Italian cruiser salvos were very accurate and highlighted the difference between Italian, stereoscopic range finding and British coincidence range finding gunnery; Italian telemetry was far superior, but Italian salvos were dispersed. British salvos were well grouped but generally short. Both CS18 and the CINC Force H raised this matter with the Admiralty]

 

 [When Somerville called off the pursuit of the enemy he considered ordering a further air strike against the Italian battleships. However he decided against because the attack could not take place before 1530 by which time the enemy fleet might well be covered by shore defences of Cagliari. Instead, he ordered ARK ROYAL to make an air strike on an enemy cruiser which had been reported stopped and damaged some 30 miles north of RENOWN, this was the destroyer LANCIERI]

 

At around 1330 ARK ROYAL received orders from CINC Force H to launch an air strike on a damaged cruiser reported dead in the water some 30 miles north of RENOWN. However Captain Holland, correctly appreciating that Admiral Somerville had not received the report of the first air striking force, in which a certain hit had been claimed on the VITTORIO VENETO, decided to send a nine Swordfish strike against the enemy's main force and seven Skuas to bomb the damaged cruiser.  

At 1410 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 9 Swordfish of 820 Sqd armed with torpedoes. The target for the strike force was the damaged battleship, but they were given permission to attack targets of opportunity. 

 

[When Lt Cdr Stewart-Moore the leader of 9 Swordfish sighted the Italian Fleet he decided that the battleships were so well screened by 10 destroyers that the planned attack from the north hoping to be unobserved would be impossible. So he took the strike force around the stern of the enemy battleships intending to attack out of the sun. However as this meant the strike force flew right over the three heavy cruisers of the 1st Cruiser Division so Stewart-Moore chose these as the target instead. All their torpedoes missed]

 

[At 1410 the RENOWN force was attacked by 10 Savoia-Marchetti SM 79 high level bombers of the 32o Stormo, escorted by five Fiat CR.42s of the 153a Squadr“glie, 3o Gruppo Autonomo]

 

[At 1430 the attackers were set upon by seven Fulmars of 808 Sqd. Lt Tillard leading green section claimed one SM 79 shot down just before the Fulmars were bounced by the CR 42s.

The Fulmars forced the SM 79s to release their bombs prematurely, their bombs fell close to the destroyers but no hits were obtained.

In the melee no SM 79s were shot down but eight out of the ten were damaged by the Fulmars and the AA fire.

One Fulmar, N1941, was shot down into the sea and its crew pilot Sub Lt Martin and TAG L/A Noble were killed. It was thought that Lt Martin had mistaken the CR 42s for Sea Gladiators and held his fire until it was too late.

The Bomber claimed shot down by Lt Tillard may well have been a French SNCAC (Farman) NC.223.4 mail plane, named La Verrier, that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea while on a mail flight from Marseille, France, to Beirut and Damascus. On board was the newly-appointed Vichy High Commissioner to Lebanon and Syria, M. Jean Chiappe. The crew reportedly radioed that they were hit by machine-gun fire.

When the Italian force returned to base the fighters reported a combat against seven British fighters probably, Hurricanes, over the sea 200 km south-west of Cagliari. They claimed five victories with the use of 1080 rounds]

 

At 1500 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of 7 Skuas of 800 Sqd armed with bombs led by Lt R M Smeeton. Their mission was to attack the cruiser reported dead in the water.

 

[The Skuas failed to find the damaged cruiser, which was in fact the destroyer LANCIERI then under tow to Cagliari. However off Cape Teulada steering northerly up the west coast of Sardinia they sighted the three heavy cruisers of the 3rd Cruiser Division and they carried out a dive bombing attack on these ships. Near misses were scored on the BOLZANO which failed to cause any damage no other hits or near misses were achieved.

On their way back to ARK ROYAL, Skua 6F L3015, pilot Lt J A Pooper, claimed to have shot down an Italian IMAM RO 43 reconnaissance float plane. However the Italians denied this loss]

 

At 1630 further bombing attacks were made on ARK ROYAL by two groups of 8 high level SM 79 bombers. Reporting the attack Somerville stated that ARK ROYAL was completely obscured by bomb splashes two at least of which fell within ten yards of the carrier, without causing any damage. Bomb splinters caused damage to the destroyers FIREDRAKE and DEFENDER.


At 1900 the detached forces sighted the MT convoy.

After having seen Force F and the MT convoy safely to the north of Cape Bon Force H reversed course and steered for Gibraltar.

 

[Although the results of the attack on the Italian Fleet were disappointing and reinforced Captain Holland's fears about the lack of training of the Swordfish crews, Somerville had achieved his objectives. The MT ships had been passed through to the Mediterranean Fleet as had the corvettes and Force D had arrived at Gibraltar and all without loss to his forces] 

 

[When Winston Churchill received the report of the battle he demanded Somerville's scalp, having questioned the admiral's offensive spirit ever since his objections to attacking the French at Mers-el-Kebir. Churchill was determined to get Somerville this time. He immediately ordered the First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Dudley Pound to set up a Board of Inquiry at Gibraltar. The FSL then despatched Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Cork to Gibraltar]

 

28th – Force H were steering westerly heading for Gibraltar.

During the day ARK ROYAL had A/S patrols and fighters airborne.

 

29th – At 1430 RENOWN, BERWICK, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FURY, FORESTER and FIREDRAKE arrived at Gibraltar.

At 1530 ARK ROYAL, RAMILLIES, NEWCASTLE, DESPATCH and destroyers DUNCAN, ENCOUNTER, WISHART, KELVIN and JAGUAR arrived at Gibraltar.

 

[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 Admiral the 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 was met on the quayside by Lord Cork who congratulated him 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]

 

[After the hearing Somerville wrote to the First Sea Lord to say that action taken against him was quite unsatisfactory and hoping that, the FSL would accept his frank opinion]

 

30th & 31st – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

 

DECEMBER

 

1st to 7th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

8th - ARK ROYAL and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FIREDRAKE and FURY departed Gibraltar for patrol in the Atlantic and flying exercises.

 

[The reason for the exercises was to give the Swordfish crews experience with attacking moving ships with torpedoes. Their two attacks on the Italian Fleet in the action of 27/11/40 had shown up their inexperience in this form of attack]

 

9th & 10th – Operating in the North Atlantic carrying out flying exercises. During the flying operations a Swordfish and Fulmar were lost in accidents and their crews were saved. The 2 crew members of the 808 Sqd Fulmar that ditched on 10/12/40, were picked by the FIREDRAKE.

 

[On 10/12/40 Hitler sanctioned Operation MITTELMEER, the transfer of the anti-shipping X Fliegerkorps from Norway to Sicily. This was to assist Mussolini whom Hitler believed was in danger of being overthrown due to his failures in North Africa, Greece and also because of the humiliation of the Regia Marina at Taranto]

 

11th - Operating in the North Atlantic carrying out flying exercises, in which a Swordfish of 818 Sqd ditched and the crew of Lt Sidney G J Appleby, Act/Sub Lt Joseph W A Grant and Leading A/M Leslie O Clark were lost.

ARK ROYAL, FAULKNOR (D8), FIREDRAKE and FURY arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

12th & 13th - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

14th - At 1100 Force H comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND, FORTUNE, FURY, DUNCAN (D 13), ISIS and ENCOUNTER sailed from Gibraltar to patrol in the area north of the Azores following reports of an invasion force near the islands.

 

15th to 18th – Force H on patrol in the vicinity of the Azores. During this patrol ARK ROYAL developed a defect in one of her six boilers; it required time to rectify and in the meantime her speed was reduced to a maximum of 26 knots.

Whilst on patrol no enemy forces were sighted.

 

19th – Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

20th - At 1715 Force H comprising the RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL (restricted to 26 knots) and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FURY, DUNCAN (D13), ISIS and ENCOUNTER sailed from Gibraltar and steered into the Mediterranean on Operation HIDE.

 

[Operation HIDE was an operation to cover the passage of the battleship MALAYA and convoy MG 1 from Malta to Gibraltar]

 

21st – Force H steering easterly.

 

[At 1250 the MALAYA sailed from Malta screened by destroyers HEREWARD, HYPERION and ILEX and escorting convoy MG 1 formed of the empty freighters SS CLAN FORBES and SS CLAN FRASER and the personal ship HMS ULSTER PRINCE, they were later joined by destroyers HASTY and HERO]

 

22nd - Force H steering easterly.

 

[At 0156, 24 miles 087¡ from Cape Bon Light HYPERION was torpedoed and seriously damaged by the Italian submarine SERPENTE. ILEX was detached to assist HYPERION]

 

At 0940 hours off Galita Island Force H RVed with MALAYA, HASTY, HEREWARD and HERO and convoy MG 1.

Force H and the joining vessels then steered westerly towards Gibraltar.

 

24th - At 1000, Force H with MALAYA, HASTY, HEREWARD and HERO and convoy MG 1 arrived at Gibraltar.

 

25th - At 1038 hours Force H comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL (restricted to 26 knots)  , SHEFFIELD, FAULKNOR (D8), FOXHOUND,FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, DUNCAN (D13), HEREWARD, HERO and WISHART sailed from Gibraltar into the Atlantic and steered north westerly to go to the aid of convoy WS 5A.

 

[On 30/11/40 the German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER sailed from Kiel to carry out raider operations in the Atlantic.

On the night of 6-7/12/40, the HIPPER transited the Denmark Strait and 'broke' into the North Atlantic.

On the night of 24/12/40 the HIPPER, using her radar, discovered a convoy (this was a convoy of 26 vessels comprising WS 5A which consisted of 19 vessels with almost 14000 troops embarked including the 25th Australian and 5th New Zealand Brigades and 7 faster vessels that had joined WS5A on 23/12/40 five of which for Operation EXCESS) and shadowed it through the night intending to attack at first light. The nominal speed of the convoy was 11 knots, course SSE.

At 0838/25/12/40, when in position 43-58N, 24-15W, in rough seas and poor visibility, the HIPPER attacked the convoy from the west. At the same time as HIPPER opened fire she was sighted by the corvette CLEMATIS who turned to attack. HIPPER's first targets were the HMT EMPIRE TROOPER 13994grt (ex German CAP NORTE captured 10/39) who was hit by an 8" shell forward on her starboard side, killing 16; and the SS ARABISTAN 5874grt who was also hit by an 8" shell which passed through her bows without exploding just missing a munitions store.

At 0840 the heavy cruiser BERWICK opened fire on the HIPPER and thus saved the CLEMATIS from destruction. The BERWICK turned towards the HIPPER and was later joined by the light cruisers BONAVENTURE and DUNEDIN. Orders were given for the convoy to scatter.

On sighting BERWICK the HIPPER turned away and the two ships were then on parallel courses. There then commenced an exchange of fire between the two heavy cruisers.

Until 0905 no hits were registered, then an 8" shell struck and disabled BERWICK's X turret, four marines were killed and one seriously wounded.

At 0908 BERWICK was hit by two 8"shells, only one exploded abreast of B turret below the waterline, this disabled B turret and caused flooding, the other put a 4" gun out of action.

At 0914 the HIPPER having fired 174 x 8" shells, broke off the action, she was low on fuel and her engines were giving trouble, and headed west.

At around 1530 HIPPER was in position 44-15N, 27-45W when she encountered the independent SS JUMNA 6078grt, from the dispersed convoy OB 260. The JUMNA was sunk with the loss of all on board.

Late on 27/12/40 the HIPPER arrived at Brest]

 

Force H sailed into a full gale and heavy seas, RENOWN sustained damage to starboard bulge which peeled back for a distance of 30 feet forcing her to reduce speed to 20 knots.

 

26th - During the day the weather moderated slightly so ARK ROYAL was able to fly off reconnaissance aircraft.

 

27th – The weather was too rough for flying.

In the morning Force H arrived in the general position that it was expected that the convoy was but there was no sign of any vessels. Force H then spent many hours rounding up the scattered ships of convoy WS 5A.  

 

[The SHEFFIELD detached to escort the MV ESSEX to Gibraltar.

The Destroyers DUNCAN and HERO were detached to assist troopship HMT EMPIRE TROOPER]

 

Later in the day Force H left the area and steered for Gibraltar.

 

28th & 29th – Force H en route for Gibraltar.

 

30th - At 0830 Force H comprising RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, destroyers FAULKNOR, DUNCAN, HASTY, HERO, JAGUAR and FIREDRAKE arrived at Gibraltar.

 

[The aircraft carrier ARGUS and light cruiser DUNEDIN with destroyers FORTUNE and FOXHOUND with the merchant ships steamers NORTHERN PRINCE, CLAN MACDONALD, EMPIRE SONG from the WS 5A convoy arrived at Gibraltar. The ARGUS had embarked 5 Swordfish of 821X flight; these 5 aircraft were flown off to North Front airfield prior to being flown on to ARK ROYAL]

 

31st – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

 

1 9 4 1

 

 

JANUARY

 

1st to 6th - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar. ARK ROYAL's engineering staff were working on her defective boiler.

 

[On 2/1/41 the Chief of the Italian Air Staff, General Francesco Pricolo, broadcast a message of welcome to the German air units arriving in Italy to partake in the air and naval struggle in the Mediterranean. By this time British intelligence was aware that Luftwaffe transport aircraft were already moving personnel to Sicily. On 5/1/41 a reconnaissance aircraft from Malta flew over the Sicilian airfields, but found nothing unusual. However by this date only seven Luftwaffe bombers had arrived]

 

[At the turn of the year Gibraltar was hit by extreme weather and this considered with the harbour being full of shipping. On 1/1/41 the MV NORTHERN PRINCE 10927grt dragged her anchor and ran aground and the MV CLAN MACDONALD, 9653grt, cable parted]

 

[The next operation that involved Force H was Operation EXCESS. Operation EXCESS had three main objectives:-

One was to cover the passage of a convoy of 4 merchant ships, SS CLAN CUMMING 7264grt, MV CLAN MACDONALD 9653grt and SS EMPIRE SONG 9228grt for Piraeus and MV ESSEX 11063GRT (with 4000 tons of ammunition, 3000 tons of seed potatoes and a deck cargo of 12 crated Hurricanes) for Malta. The NORTHERN PRINCE was unable to sail so her 400 embarked troops were transferred to the BONAVENTURE.

Two cover the passage of Force F, comprising the light cruiser BONAVENTURE and the destroyers DUNCAN (D13), HASTY, HEREWARD and HERO, reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet.

Three cover the passage of Force B, units from the Mediterranean Fleet]

 

[6/1/41in 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 steering east]

 

7th – At 0800 Force H comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), MALAYA, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FORESTER, FORTUNE, FIREDRAKE, FOXHOUND, FURY and DUNCAN (D13) sailed from Gibraltar to cover the EXCESS convoy.

Off Gibraltar ARK ROYAL flew on 5 Swordfish of 821X flight from North Front airfield Gibraltar.

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.

 

8th – Force H and the EXCESS convoy steered easterly towards Malta.

In the evening ARK ROYAL escorted by RENOWN, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE increased speed to reach a position from which to fly off the Swordfish of 821X flight to Malta.

At the same time MALAYA, BONAVENTURE and destroyers FOXHOUND and DUNCAN detached from Force H and joined the convoy.

 

 

[During the night of 8-9/1/40 RAF Wellington bombers, possibly of 148 Sqd from Luqa, Malta, bombed Naples harbour. The battleship GUILE CESARE was badly damaged by 3 near misses and the VITTORIO VENETO was hit but no serious damage was caused. Following this attack both ships moved to La Spezia]

 

9th – At 0230 when in approximate position 38N, 7E, ARK ROYAL flew off 5 Swordfish of 821X flight for Hal Far airfield, Malta. (The aircraft arrived safely at Malta at 0530/9)

At 0530 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out a reconnaissance to the east of the Skerki Channel and north to Capo Carbonara.

At around 0645 the aircraft carrying out the reconnaissance to the east sighted two cruisers approaching from the west and made an enemy sighting report. The cruisers turned out to be the light cruisers GLOUCESTER (flag CS3 Rear Admiral E. de F. Renouf) and SOUTHAMPTON and destroyer ILEX who had been sent ahead by the CINC Mediterranean Fleet to provide additional support for the convoy through the Sicilian Narrows.

 

[One of the Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft of 818 Sqd was forced to ditch130 miles from ARK ROYAL. The ditched crew were sighted by a Swordfish of 820 Sqd who vectored the destroyer FOXHOUND to their position and she picked up Lt A H Appleton and Sub Lt R I W Goddard]

 

At 1020 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.

The RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers FAULKNOR, FORESTER, FURY, FORTUNE and FIREDRAKE remained in contact with the convoy to the north.

At 1226 the CINC Force H received a negative reconnaissance report re the Italian battle fleet, from a 228 Sqd Sunderland from Malta.

At 1320 SHEFFIELD's radar detected aircraft approaching from the north at 11000 ft about 40 miles distant.

At 1346 hours the force was attacked by 10 Savoia-Marchetti SM79's bombers. The attackers were intercepted by Fulmars of 808 Sqd and two were shot down by a Fulmar piloted by Lt Cd Tillard. The bombers selected the GLOUCESTER and MALAYA, at the head of the convoy, as their targets and near misses were achieved but no hits.

 

[Of the two SM 79's shot down, one crewman from one bomber was picked up by destroyer FOXHOUND; two crew of the other bomber were picked up by destroyer FORESTER]

 

At 1530 hours north of Cape Bon Force H reversed course and set course for Gibraltar.

 

10th - Force H were steaming west for Gibraltar.

 

[At 1238 the EXCESS convoy and its escort were attacked by 40 Ju 87R-1 dive bombers from Trapani, Sicily. The Ju 87's singled out the ILLUSTRIOUS for attack and severely damaged her]

 

11th - At 1920 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar. Prior to entering harbour ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish of 820 Sqd and three Fulmars of 808 Sqd to North Front.

 

[On 26/1/41 one of ARK ROYAL's Swordfish, 4H of 820 Sqd, operating from North Front ditched in Algeciras Bay the crew of three were picked up by FURIOUS' crash tender]

 

12th to 27th - ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar. ARK ROYAL's engineering staff were working on her defective boiler. After 15 days of continuous effort and with the help of dockyard staff the boiler was finally operational. 

 

[By 12/1/41, Luftwaffe X. Fliegerkorps had transferred the following aircraft from Norway;-
At Catania, East Sicily, 80 x Ju 88A-4 of LG1 and 12 x Ju 88D-5 of 1.(F)/121.

At Comiso, South East Sicily, 27 x He 111H-6 of KG26.

At Palermo, North East Sicily, 34 x Bf 110C-4 of ZG26.

At Trapani, West Sicily, 80 x Ju 87R-1 of St.G1 and St.G2]

 

28th – The ARK ROYAL escorted by the RENOWN and destroyers FORESIGHT, ENCOUNTER, FIREDRAKE and JERSEY, joined later by destroyers FOXHOUND and JUPITER departed Gibraltar to carry out flying exercises in the Mediterranean. ARK ROYAL's Swordfish carried out dummy torpedo attacks on the RENOWN.

On leaving harbour ARK ROYAL recovered her 8 aircraft from North Front.

 

29th - RENOWN retuned to Gibraltar, followed later in the afternoon by the ARK ROYAL.

 

31st – At 1215 Force H sailed from on Gibraltar Operations PICKET and RESULT. Force H was split into 4 groups:-

Group 1 was RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), MALAYA, ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD.

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.

 

[Operation PICKET was an air attack on Lake Omodeo Dam and its hydroelectric generating capacity which produced 30% of Sardinias electricity. Lake Omodeo is a large artificial lake that was created between 1919 and 1924. The lake was formed by a dam on the Tirso River in the Santa Chiara d'Ula gorge. The dam was situated in central Sardinia about 23 miles inland. 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 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 target. It was later discovered that the battleship CAIO DUILIO was indeed under repair at Genoa]

 

 

FEBRUARY

 

1st – Force H en route to the flying off position.

 

2nd - At 0530, in position 40-07N, 6-54E approximately 80 miles west of Cape Mannu and 103 miles from the target ARK ROYAL flew off 8 torpedo armed Swordfish of 810 Sqd to carry out an air strike against the Santa Chiara d'Ula dam on Lake Omodeo, central Sardinia (Operation PICKET). One of the Swordfish returned early due to engine trouble.

The target was 1200 ft above sea level and the weather was overcast with the cloud base at 1500 ft and icing conditions above the cloud base. Due to the bad weather only 4 aircraft reached the dam and they attacked from the east and four torpedoes were dropped but none hit the dam. On the run in they encountered an intense barrage from the sides of the gorge and on the dam. One aircraft, L7680 was shot down when they attacked an AA site, and the crew taken prisoner.

By 0845 hours all 6 aircraft had been recovered. The returning aircraft thought that three torpedoes had hit the target, but in fact none had hit the dam.

At 0900 Force H proceeded northerly so as to be off Genoa at dawn for Operation RESULT. During the day the weather deteriorated until a full gale was blowing from the North West.

At 1830 due to 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.

 

[The attack on the dam had been planned to take place early on a Sunday morning in the expectation that the defences would be caught napping. But the reverse was the case the attacking aircraft were met with heavy AA fire all along their run in. Because the enemy was so alert it was thought that there must have been a security leak possibly due to loose talk in 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]

 

5th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

6th – For the re-run of Operation RESULT (also known as Operation GROG) Force H was divided into:-

Group 1: RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), MALAYA, ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD

Group 2: Destroyers FEARLESS, FIREDRAKE, FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FURY and JERSEY.

Group 3: Destroyers DUNCAN, ENCOUNTER, ISIS and JUPITER.

At 1400 convoy HG 53 of 21 merchantiles 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 Group 3 sailed from Gibraltar and carried out an anti-submarine sweep in the Strait of Gibraltar.

At 2100 Groups 1 and 2 reversed course and steered east into the Mediterranean.

 

[HG 53 was a very slow convoy maximum speed of advance 6½ knots. Therefore by 2100 it was in approximate position 36N, 6W. Groups 1 and 2 had proceeded ahead and to the north of the convoy before reversing course and re-entering the Mediterranean in the dark]

 

[The subterfuges failed and Supermarina was aware from various sources that Force H had sailed and believed that it was another attack on Sardinia or a Malta convoy.

On the 8/1/41 various units of the Italian fleet sailed to intercept Force H.

At 1900/8 the battleships VITTORIO VENETO (Flag Ammiraglio di Armata Angelo Jachino), GIULIO CESARE and ANDREA DORIA with the destroyers MAESTRALE, LIBECCIO, GRECALE and SCIROCCO of the 10th Destroyer Division and GRANATIERE, FUCLIERE, BERSAGLIERE, and ALPINO of the 13th Destroyer Divisions sailed from La Spezia

At 0700/8 the heavy cruisers TRENTO, TRIESTE and BOLZANO of the 8th squadron with the destroyers CORAZZIERE and CARABINIERE of the 12th Destroyer Division sailed from Messina.

At 1145/8 the destroyer CAMICIA NERA of the 11th Destroyer Division joined the cruiser force from Naples.

At 0800/9 the two forces RVed, 40 miles west of the Strait of Bonifacio]

 

7th – At 0200 all three groups RVed in 36N, 04-30W. Course was then set to pass between Ibiza and the Spanish Mainland.

 

8th – At 0800 Force H was in approximate position 40-30N, 3E and sailing on a North Easterly course.

 

[In the belief that Force H were carrying out an attack on Sardinia or covering a convoy to Malta; early on the 8/2/41 Italian aircraft from Sardinia carried out reconnaissance flights covering the area to the west and south west of Sardinia. However since Force H had sailed north of the Balearic Islands the air patrols failed to sight Force H]  

 

[During the late afternoon and early evening Force H was sighted by a Spanish civil aircraft and two Vichy French civil aircraft. So Admiral Somerville had no doubt that the presence of Force H would have been reported and that those reports would get back to Supermarina. He therefore decided to detach two of his destroyers to feint towards Sardinia and make radio signals as though they were Force H]

 

At 1800 in approximate position 31-30N, 4E, Force H turned easterly in an attempt to convince the enemy that the target was Sardinia. At the same time the destroyers FIREDRAKE and JERSEY were detached and remained north of Majorca simulating radio traffic as though they were Force H.

At 1900 Force H resumed its north easterly course steering for the Ligurian Sea.

 

9th  - At 0400 when in approximate position 43-11N, 8-27E ARK ROYAL and the destroyers DUNCAN, ISIS and ENCOUNTER detached to carry out air strikes.

The sea was rough and due to mist the visibility was poor.

At 0505 ARK ROYAL flew off 16 Swordfish, 12 armed with 4 x 250lb bombs and incendiaries and four with magnetic mines. Their targets were the Azienda oil refinery at Livorno (Leghorn) and the mining of La Spezia Harbour.

At 0615 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish with a fighter escort to carry out fall of shot observations for the heavy units of Force H who were to bombard Genoa.

 

[The attack on Livorno was carried out by 10 Swordfish. Two of the attacking force missed the landfall and attacked the railway station and airfield at Pisa. The four Swordfish armed with mines dropped them at the ends of the breakwater. The attacks took place at around 0545 and both forces achieved complete surprise but shortly after arriving an intense AA barrage opened up which was inaccurate and no aircraft was lost to AA fire. However, Swordfish 4G, L9773 of 820 Sqd, pilot A/Sub Lt (A) N G Attenborough, crew A/T/Sub Lt (A) S Foote RNVR, Leading Airman GW Halifax, was lost along with the crew when they hit barrage balloon cables]

 

By 0700 ARK ROYAL had recovered all 13 Swordfish of the strike force.

 

[At 0711 one of the spotting aircraft reported, that no battleship was in the harbour (but it was incorrect because the battleship  CAIO DUILIO was in fact in dry dock and she was not hit in the bombardment)]

 

[Between 0715 and 0745 whilst 10 miles off the Italian coast 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 15", 125 rounds from RENOWN, 782 rounds of 6" and 400 rounds of 4.5". The result was the Italians suffered 144 casualties, 28 civil vessels sunk or damaged and harbour installations destroyed and damaged.

At 0754 the bombarding force set course to the south]

 

At around 0800 ARK ROYAL also recovered the two Walrus aircraft from the SHEFFIELD who had been used to spot fall of shot; but who could not be recovered by SHEFFIELD because of the need to leave the area with despatch.

 

[At 0800 the Italian naval forces from La Spezia and Messina had RVed 40 miles west of the Strait of Bonifacio. At this time the Italian were 210 miles south of Force H and in an excellent position to cut off the withdrawal of Force H. However at this time the Italian Fleet turned on to a South Westerly course and 0855 and 0935 the heavy cruisers TRENTO and BOLZANO launched their IMAM Ro.43float planes to carry out a reconnaissance off the west coast of Sardinia. The aircraft of course failed to sight Force H who at the time were about 170 miles to the north]

 

At 0845 the ARK ROYAL Force rejoined the bombarding Force. Force H then set course South Westerly to pass between Majorca and the Spanish mainland, heading back to Gibraltar. The return journey was made at the best speed that MALAYA could make, which at one point was only 17 knots. At this time Somerville expected heavy retaliation from the Regia Aeronautica but this was not forthcoming.

ARK ROYAL maintained a fighter CAP of six aircraft throughout the day. Because the wind was from astern, ARK ROYAL had to reverse course for take offs and landings, therefore it was necessary for these operations to be carried out in the shortest possible time. During one of the landing operations a Skua went into the crash barrier.

 

[Between 0740 and 0832 Supermarina became aware of the attack on Genoa. Supermarina then signalled Ammiraglio di Armata Jachino with the news of the bombardment.

At 0950 the Italian Fleet turned on to a northerly course to intercept Force H]

 

At 1140 when Force H was approximate position 43-24N, 8-48E a CANT Z.506 floatplane reconnaissance aircraft of the 287 Squadriglia sighted Force H, but was shot down by Skua L3015 of 800Sqd pilot Lt JA Pooper, before they could make a sighting report. This was the last Skua combat success of the war.

At 1200 Force H sighted a Vichy French convoy that was en route from Marseille to Bizerte, whose course was route was to the north of Corsica then south along the east coast of Corsica. Force H ignored the convoy and pressed on south westerly.

At 1300 Force H was attacked by 10 Cant Z.1007s from Sardinia. The attack was broken up by ARK ROYAL's fighters and two were shot down by an 808 Sqd Fulmar piloted by Lt Cdr R C Tillard. The attackers failed to achieve any hits and further more failed to inform Supermarina of the position of Force H.

 

[At 1300 the Italian Fleet was in approximate position 42N, 7-38E and Force H were in approximate position 43N, 8-12E; making the two opposing forces about 65NM apart and closing. At this time the Italian Fleet turned west of north for the cruisers to launch their IMAM Ro.43float planes, the planes flew off North Westerly and at 1316 the Fleet turned on to a course east of north. The Italian reconnaissance aircraft crossed ahead of Force H's course and then turned parallel on a reciprocal course, so they failed to sight Force H]

 

[At 1524, about fifty miles west of Cape Corso, The TRIESTE sighted the masts of a ship and transmitted 'enemy in sight' to the other Italian units. An action with Force H appeared imminent, and the VITTORIO VENETO who was about 32000 meters from the enemy gave the order to load the main armament.
At 1548, the enemy were identified as a Vichy French convoy. At this time the Italian Fleet turned on to a course of 270¡ steering for the coast of France.

At 1600 Force H were about 60NM from the Italian Fleet and increasing the distance.

At 1800 the two Forces were about 50NM apart when Ammiraglio di Armata Jachino gave the order to turn north.

At 1900 the two Forces were about 75NM apart, at this time Jachino concluded that he had missed Force H and Italian Fleet turned east to return to its bases. It was around this time that Jachino learned from the rescued crew of the CANT Z.506 floatplane shot down at 1140 that he finally realized he had missed Force H]

 

10th - At 0800 Force H were in approximate position 40N, 2E, passing between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland, heading for Gibraltar.

 

[At around 0800 the Italian Fleet was in the Ligurian Sea when Supermarina signalled Ammiraglio di Armata Jachinoand ordered the battleships to Naples and the heavy cruisers to return to Messina]

 

11th - At 1430 Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

[The bombardment of Genoa, the bombing of Livorno (Leghorn) and the mining of La Spezia harbour was one of the most audacious operations carried out by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. Force H had sailed over a 1000 miles through seas dominated by the Regia Aeronautica and into the 'back yard' of the Regia Marina. The operation had been successfully carried out, although the main target, the battleship had escaped damage, and Force H had returned without loss.

Force H had been extremely lucky because at 0800/9 the Regia Marina had been in the ideal position to cut off the retreat of Force H, but they had been saved by the poor visibility and the faulty liaison between the Naval and Air High Commands.

The official Italian naval historian, Captain Bragadin, stated that the bombardment caused extensive damage in Genoa and in the harbour, although the CAIO DUILIO was not hit. The moral effect was serious, all the more because the action of the Italian aircraft, though obviously ineffective, was praised, while there was no mention of the naval sortie; as a result, the Italian people thought the Navy had let them down.

On 23/2/41 Mussolini addressing the Italian people stated:-

The morale of the Axis people is infinitely superior to the morale of the British people. The Axis fights in certainty of victory, while the British fight because, as Lord Halifax said, they have no other choice. It is highly ridiculous to count on the eventual moral breakdown of the Italian people. This will never happen. To speak of a separate peace is idiotic.

Churchill has not the least idea of the spiritual forces of the Italian people or of what Fascism can do. We can understand Churchill's ordering the shelling of industrial plants at Genoa to disrupt work, but to shell the city in order to break down its morale is a childish illusion. It means that the British do not at all know the race temperament of the Ligurian people in general and the Genoese in particular. It means that they are ignorant of the civilian virtues and proud patriotism of the people who gave the fatherland Columbus, Garibaldi and Mazzini]

 

12th – ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

[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.

On 4/2/41 ADMIRAL HIPPER re-fuelled from the tanker SPICHERN. Due to the inexperience of tanker crew some of HIPPER's crew were sent to assist and because HIPPER had not been released by SKL for operations HIPPER re-fuelled again on the following three days.

At 0440/9/2/41 BST 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 Danitz sensed an opportunity to mount a combined U boat, air and surface attack on the convoy. Danitz ordered U 37 to shadow the convoy and transmit beacon signals.

At 1600/9/2/41 in 35-54N, 14-41W five FW 200's made a low level bombing attack on HG53 sinking 5 ships. At first the Oberkommando der Marine [OKM] was reluctant to release the ADMIRAL HIPPER, but at 1140/10/2/41 when in approximate position 45N, 30W, ADMIRAL HIPPER was ordered to attack HG53.

On the afternoon of 11/2/41, in position 37-03N, 19-50W, HIPPER sighted, stopped and sank the SS ICELAND 1236grt, (the Master of the ICELAND was taken prisoner) a straggler from convoy HG53. In deteriorating weather the HIPPER failed to locate HG53.

 At 2355 the HIPPER's radar located two vessels at 15Km and shortly afterwards several others, she circled the vessels and soon determined that it was a slow moving convoy on a northerly course.

At dawn, around 0800 HIPPER discovered 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 three. 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

By 1000 HIPPER had fired all her tube-loaded torpedoes and about 65% of her 203mm head fused HE shells.

At 1040 as the convoy had by then become well scattered and the weather and visibility deteriorated with rain squalls, HIPPER broke off the action]

 

[At 0930 BST a RRR raider report that was picked up by the SS EGYPTIAN PRINCE in convoy HG53. At this time EGYPTIAN PRINCE was in approximate position 37-36N, 20-21W, however, having had no sights for 36 hours this position was doubtful. If the position was correct then HIPPER was only 53NM to the South West of HG53.

 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]

At 1600 RENOWN (Flag CINC FORCE H), ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD and destroyers WISHART, JERSEY, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FURY sailed from Gibraltar to cover convoy HG53.

At 2030, when Force H was in approximate position 36N, 7W, Somerville was ordered to locate and escort troop convoy WS6A. SHEFFIELD detached to find and escort convoy HG53.

 

[At 2030/12/2/41 convoy WS6A and was in approximate position 53-30N 19-30W and steering approximately SSW, speed of advance was approximately 7½ knots. The convoy comprised 17 troop transports with almost 23000 troops embarked and 12 MT ships. The convoy was weakly escorted by the light cruisers BIRMINGHAM and PHOEBE and the AMC CATHAY]

 

At 2100 Force H turned on to a North Westerly course.

 

13th – The weather quickly deteriorated and flying became very difficult.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL flew off five Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft of 820 Sqd. Due in part to the weather conditions these aircraft sighted nothing. When the time came for these aircraft to land back on two of them were unable to locate the carrier, even thought as it transpired they were only five miles away and searchlights were used to try and alert them to ARK ROYAL's position. In the end ARK ROYAL had to transmit a D/F signal.

 

[Convoy HG53 spent all day hove too in a NNW gale and mountainous seas]

 

14th – The weather continued difficult for flying.

The destroyers WISHART, JERSEY, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FURY detached and returned to Gibraltar.

At 1200 Force H was in approximate position 46N, 23W.

 

15th – At 1200 RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were in approximate position 47-10N, 30-40W. At this time they turned south.

 

[At 0700 in approximate position 45-30N, 23W, the battleship RODNEY joined convoy WS6A]

 

16th - RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were steering southerly to join convoy WS6A.

 

17th – At 0830 in approximate position 38-30N, 23W, convoy WS6A and its escort of RODNEY, BIRMINGHAM and CATHAY was joined by the RENOWN and ARK ROYAL

At 0900 hours RODNEY, ECLIPSE and ELECTRA detached from WS 6A.

 

18th – Convoy WS 6A steering southerly escorted by RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and BIRMINGHAM.

 

19th – Convoy WS 6A steering southerly escorted by RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and BIRMINGHAM was joined by the battleship MALAYA.

 

20th - Convoy WS 6A steering southerly escorted by RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, MALAYA and BIRMINGHAM.

 

21st – At 0930 the light cruiser PHOEBE re-joined from Gibraltar.

At 1000 hours in approximate position 30N, 31W, RENOWN and ARK ROYAL detached from WS6A and returned to Gibraltar.

 

22nd – The RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were en route to Gibraltar.

 

23rd – Late in the day RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were joined by the destroyers FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE from Gibraltar.

 

24th – The RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and the destroyers FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE were en route Gibraltar

 

25th – The RENOWN, ARK ROYAL and the destroyers FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE arrived back at Gibraltar. RENOWN went straight into dry dock for essential repairs.

26th to 28th – The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

MARCH

1st & 2nd – The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

3rd – The ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers FORTUNE and DUNCAN departed Gibraltar for flying exercises. One of the reasons for the exercises was to assess the flying characteristics of the Swordfish that had been fitted with auxiliary 60 gallon fuel tanks, these had been fitted in the observers position and extended the range from four to six hours; this additional tank also reduced the maximum speed of the Swordfish from about 100 knots to 90 knots. When the auxiliary tank was fitted a TAG was not carried.

 [On 3/3/41 the German battlecruisers GNEISENAU (Flag Admiral GŸnther LŸtjens) and SCHARNHORST arrived off the Canary Islands. Their mission for this part of Operation BERLIN was to attack convoys sailing between Freetown and the UK. Also operating in the area were the U-Boats U105, U106 and U124]

 

4th - The ARK ROYAL and the destroyers FORTUNE and DUNCAN arrived back at Gibraltar.

 

5th to 7th – The ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.

 

[At 0920/7/3/41, north east of the Cape Verde Islands, in approximate position 18-24N, 12-42W, a lookout on the SCHARNHORST observed a mast on the horizon. A closer examination showed that it was the mainmast of a battleship which was soon was identified as the MALAYA who was escorting convoy SL67. This was a convoy of 54 merchant ships that had sailed from Freetown on the morning of 1/3/41. The destroyers FAULKNOR (D8) and FORESTER and the corvette ASPHODEL were also part of the escort.

The SCHARNHORST called up the GNEISENAU and LŸtjens, who was under orders not to engage enemy capital ships, decided to shadow the convoy and call up the U-Boats in the area. LŸtjens' plan was for the U-boats to attack the convoy and sink or disable the MALAYA, following which he would then sink the merchant ships]

 

[At 0340/8/3/41 in position 20-35N, 20-40W the U-105 torpedoed and sank the SS HARMODIUS 5229grt from convoy SL67.

At 0600/8/3/41 in position 20-51N, 20-32W the U-124 torpedoed and sank the SS HINDPOOL 4897grt, the SS NARDANA 7974grt, the SS TIELBANK 5084grt and the SS LAHORE 5304grt from convoy SL67.

Neither of the U-Boats sighted the MALAYA.

By 0630/8/3/41 LŸtjens was aware of the U-Boat attack; however the U-Boats had lost contact with the convoy.

At 1030 LŸtjens decided to close the convoy to search for stragglers or damaged vessels.

At 1330/8/3/41, in position 21-50N, 19-40W the destroyer FORESTER, who was 10 miles west of convoy SL67, briefly sighted the German battlecruisers GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST steaming towards the convoy. The German ships were also sighted at the same time by MALAYA's patrolling Swordfish.

At 1415 the MALAYA made the signal 'One large ship bearing 251¡, 40 miles, course unknown, own position 21-50N, 19-22W'. This signal was picked up and decoded by the German B Dienst unit on the GNEISENAU.

For the next eight hours both sides played 'cat and mouse' with each other; until LŸtjens decided to abandon his attempt on the convoy and set off North Westerly to RV with his oilers]

 

8th – At 2115 Force H, comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H), ARK ROYAL, light cruiser ARETHUSA, and the destroyers VELOX and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar and set course for the Canary Islands to go to the aid of convoy SL67.

 

9th – The ARETHUSA and destroyers VELOX and WRESTLER detached and returned to Gibraltar.

 

[In the morning the GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST in approximate position 30N, 30W came across the independent Greek freighter the SS MARATHON 6352grt, en route from Swansea to Alexandria with a cargo of coal. The MARATHON was sunk by gunfire and all the crew rescued. No RRR was received from the MARATHON]

 

10th – At 1500 in position 26-15N, 19-35W, RENOWN and ARK ROYAL joined MALAYA, FAULKNOR, FORESTER and ASPHODEL escorting convoy SL67.

Shortly afterwards the MALAYA detached to return to Freetown.

The RENOWN and ARK ROYAL took up station in the centre of the convoy and proceeded at the convoy speed of 7½ knots.

When ARK ROYAL was operating aircraft the morning and afternoon Swordfish reconnaissance and A/S flights it was necessary for her move out of the convoy and operate independently.

 

11th – Convoy SL67 and escort continued on their northerly course at 7½ knots.   

 

[The ASPHODEL with the tankers SS BEACONSTREET 7467grt and MV BRITISH HOPE 6951grt detached from convoy SL67 for Gibraltar]

 

12th - Convoy SL67 and escort continued on their northerly course at 7½ knots.

During the day Somerville became so frustrated at the slow progress of the convoy that he ordered an increase in speed to 8 knots. This immediately caused the Greek SS TAXIARCHIS 4221grt, built in 1913, to drop astern, so the convoy resumed its 7½ knot speed of advance.

 

13th - Convoy SL67 and escort continued on their northerly course at 7½ knots.