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
Badge: On a Field Blue, an Ark Silver, crowned Gold upon 5 wavelets Gold.
M o t t
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,
Naval History Homepage
and type name in Site Search
1 9 3 9
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
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
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]
- 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
D/F guard could be kept on 488 kc/s and FORTUNE detached.
- At 0630,
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.
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
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
it was blowing hard from the south west and weather
was thick and unsuitable for flying.
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.
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.
- At 0630 ARK
ROYAL launched nine Swordfish to carry out an all round search to a depth of 70
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.
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.
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.
ROYAL also maintained a constant bearing patrol by two Skuas to a depth of 40
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.
was made to the northward during the night.
- 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.
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.
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.
the 12 Swordfish returned having sighted nothing.
the forenoon, ARK ROYAL launched nine Swordfish to carry out an air search over
the Rosemary Bank area.
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.
TARTAR and PUNJABI detached with all dispatch for the position given by FANAD
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
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]
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.
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
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]
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
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
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
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
Lt Griffiths swam to the FANAD
HEAD and boarded her and joined the injured Lt Thurston.
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
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
[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]
Skua A7A had returned to ARK ROYAL but there was no
sign of the other two nor had they been heard on W/T.
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]
the night ARK ROYAL with the destroyers FAULKNOR, FIREDRAKE and FOXHOUND cruised to the west of Rockall
- 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
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
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
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
[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
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]
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]
the destroyer FORESTER was detached to proceed southward to join SOMALI and
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
attacked a submarine contact north of the Orkneys.
1724, MATABELE was detached to investigate Danish steamer OVE TOFT (2135grt)
and did not rejoin the Fleet until after dark.
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 Kstenstaffel 1./KGr
506, from Harnum See, Isle of Sylt.
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
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]
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]
approximately 1345 RODNEY's Type 79Y radar reported two or three groups of
aircraft, Nine He 111H bombers of 1/KG 26 from Lbeck
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
28th to 30th - The ARK ROYAL was at Scapa Flow.
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
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]
[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]
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]
ordered ARK ROYAL and RENOWN to sail for Freetown where they were to form the
Hunting Group Force K]
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
ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, FORESIGHT and TARTAR detached and returned to Scapa.
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.
At 0430 hours in position 11-50N, 21W ARK ROYAL and RENOWN
were joined by destroyers HARDY, HASTY and HOSTILE from Freetown.
At 0900 hours ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, HARDY, HASTY and HOSTILE arrived at Freetown.
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]
Force K arrived back at Freetown.
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
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.
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.
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]
The ARK ROYAL arrived back at Freetown.
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
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.
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
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]
The ARK ROYAL and RENOWN arrived at Simonstown.
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.
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,
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]
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
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.
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
27th – At 0900 Force K arrived
28th to 31st - ARK ROYAL was at
1st to 2nd
- ARK ROYAL at Freetown.
- The ARK ROYAL with the
destroyers HASTY and HERO sailed from Freetown for Dakar.
- The ARK ROYAL with the
destroyers HASTY and HERO arrived at Dakar for a good will visit.
- 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 destroyer DAINTY from
Gibraltar RVed with the force to transfer mail to RENOWN before proceeding to
10th - HASTY and HERO detached for
– 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
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
- 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.
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
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
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
At 1045 KEITH, VETERAN and
WAKEFUL were on station in the screen.
At 1200 position was 45-12N,
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
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
At 1610 aircraft sighted the
At 1640 aircraft sighted the
At 1700 aircraft sighted the
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
At 2000 position was 44-23N,
13th - At
0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 44-39N, 17-21W. The weather was unsuitable for
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
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
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.
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
Later in the day ARK ROYAL
went into Portsmouth for a short refit
16th to 29th -
ARK ROYAL at Portsmouth.
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
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
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
The ARK ROYAL continued
unescorted for Gibraltar.
25th - At
1205 in position 36-02N, 9-36W the destroyers BULLDOG and ACTIVE joined from
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]
During the morning flying exercises were carried out.
At 1200 in
position 36-35N, 00-00.
During the morning flying and gunnery exercises were carried out.
At 1200 in position 37-52N,
28th - At
1000 the ARK ROYAL, BULLDOG and VOYAGER arrived at Valetta harbour.
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.
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
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
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
[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
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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.
over the frozen lake at Lesjaskogsvatnet no Gladiator
aircraft were seen, but the swept runway was most conspicuous.
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.
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.
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.
taken departure from Bud and when approaching the ship, the weather
deteriorated and there were heavy storms.
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.
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
tasks for the day were:-
Squadron were to attack Vaernes aerodrome, east of Trondheim, bomb hangers, and
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.
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
squadron took off at 0310, formed up over ship, and steered so as to make
landfall ten miles south of Kya Lighthouse.
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.
plan was followed as far as practicable and the second sub flight attacked in a
similar manner some thirty seconds later.
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.
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.
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
Photographs of Vaernes, Asenfjord,
and Hoppel Elven were
obtained by Lieutenant Dayrell. A
number of our own merchant ships were berthed in Hoppel
of 810 Sqd ATTACK
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.
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
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.
Squadron Commander, Captain N.R.M. Skene, R.M, in 2A,
therefore decided to proceed to Vaernes Aerodrome, the secondary objective.
0520, a heavy column of black smoke was sighted ahead which proved to come from
the hanger destroyed at 820 Squadron.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
of 801 and 800 Sqds
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
Squadrons climbed to 5000 feet on reaching the coast, just above the thin layer
of fractocumulus cloud and went into line ahead
approach to Trondheim was made direct from Halten fyr
Light, thus avoiding the entrance to the Fjord where they were reported gun
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.
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.
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
aircraft had returned safely to the carrier by 0730]
0455, three Skuas, 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd took off from ARK ROYAL for
fighter patrol over Namsos.
of 800 Sqd.
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
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.
the return journey to the ship a Ju 89 was sighted and the section gave chase
but was easily outdistanced.
section landed at 0850]
At 0610, three Skuas, 6A, 6B
& 6C of 800 Sqd took off from ARK ROYAL for fighter patrol over Namsos.
of 800 Sqd
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.
aircraft returned to ARK ROYAL at 1015]
By 1015 ARK ROYAL had
recovered all her aircraft and because of weather conditions all flying was
At 2100 the destroyer MAORI
detached to RV with the freighter the SS BLACKHEATH and escort her back to
[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
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
(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
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
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
of 801 Sqd
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
of 800 Sqd
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.
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
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.
No. 2 in the section, Sub-Lt Hurle Hobbs, in 6B, had
attempted to intercept the other He 111, but without success.
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.
of 800 and 801 Sqds
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
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.
of 801 Sqd
landfall was made at 0930 in good weather and the section proceeded up the
valley from Aandalsnes, arriving over Gladiator Lake
at 1010. Height
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.
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.
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.
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.
of 800 Sqd
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)
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.
2 and 3 joined up and returned to the ship at 1540, their ammunition being
[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
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',
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
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
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.
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.
He 111 aircraft were then seen, sections climbed independently and the Skuas
became dispersed as individual targets were engaged.
Heinkels managed to attack the convoy and their bombs were dropped
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
conclusion of this general affray, all Skuas were out of ammunition but several
pilots continued to make dummy attacks on the retreating Heinkels.
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.
our aircraft had returned safely to the ship by 1820.
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.
of 801 Sqd
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
remaining two Skuas continued to attack and the Heinkel was shot down in the
sea. Two crew were seen to escape.
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
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
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.
BY 820 Sqd
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.
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.
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.
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
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]
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.
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.
about 0400 long range A.A. fire (about 3 inch) was opened (see below). This was countered by diving
the aircraft being in line astern.
Squadron delivered a high dive bombing attack. Intense short range A.A. fire was met
below 6000 feet.
Squadron reformed over Tautra Island, Midflorden and returned to ship, landing on at 0610.
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.
of AA Fire
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
fire appeared to come from numerous guns of the Bofors and Bren type, the
former appearing to burst at about 6000 feet.
aircraft received minor damage from rifle calibre bullets.
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
[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
Also launched was a Swordfish
that was to carry out a photographic reconnaissance of the forts at entrance to
BY 800 and 801 Sqd
two sections approached from the North making a landfall at Halten Light at
0430 at 13,000 feet.
empty merchant ships in the same position as on the previous raid were observed
and approximately eighteen large floatplanes.
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 Kstenstaffel
1./KGr 506 and three from Kstenstaffel
BY SWORDFISH RECONNAISSANCE
reconnaissance was carried out in preparation for Operation ZEAL, which was to
be a bombardment of the approaches to Trondheim Fjord.
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
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.
OF 803 Sqd
1109. Departed for Molde
1214. Crossed coast at Bud; height
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.
2, pilot Sub-Lieutenant (A) G. W. Brokensha, was out of position and overshot
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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]
OF 800 Sqd
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.
air activity observed over the convoy so the section remained in the vicinity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
section returned to ARK ROYAL and landed at 1540.
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]
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.
1330 ARK ROYAL recovered the three Rocs of 803 Sqd.
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.
1625 ARK ROYAL recovered the three Rocs of 803 Sqd.
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
[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]
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]
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./KFlGr leading 12 Ju 87Rs of II./LG1 from Vaernes
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
[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
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
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]
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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]
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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]
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.
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
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.
night of the 16/4/40 Norwegian Fokker CV fighters again strafed the stranded
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.
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
[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
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
[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 Sknland, 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Continuous reconnaissance by one Swordfish over landing from 0100.
Six Swordfish to bomb objectives specified in the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal
After meeting these requirements and A/S patrols for defence of carrier,
further objectives could not be bombed until two hours after receipt of
[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 Lgion Ětrangre) 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 mile 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
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.
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]
ARK ROYAL was in position 69-23N, 12-42E.
Weather C, wind north northeast force 2, sea
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.
1725 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2P of 810 Sqd to carry out an ADA patrol.
1830 ARK ROYAL received a weather report from RESOLUTION stating, clouds 500 to
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.
- At 0215 ARK ROYAL was in
position 69-47N, 15-38E. Weather cp, wind north, northeast
force 3, sea state 20.
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.
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]
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]
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.
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]
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.
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.
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
By 0745 Swordfish, 4F, 4K,
4B & 4M of 820 Sqd had all been recovered.
1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-31N, 17-09E. Weather bc,
wind east, northeast force, sea state 11.
was now much local fog; flying ceased and ARK ROYAL proceeded northward until the
- At 0500 ARK ROYAL reversed
course and steered south to close Narvik area, weather clear.
1100 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-11N, 16-24E. Weather b, wind south, southeast force 2, sea state 11.
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)
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
before carrying out their
[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.
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)]
1340 the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE (Flag Vice Admiral
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.
1340 the CURLEW also rejoined from Harstad.
DEVONSHIRE proceeded to join the flag of the CINC Narvik.
ROYAL now had in company CURLEW and the destroyers TARTAR, VOLUNTEER, WESTCOTT
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
before carrying out their
[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]
1700 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol no enemy
aircraft were sighted.
1900 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol no enemy
aircraft were sighted.
1900 the CURLEW was detached for Scapa in accordance with the CINC Home Fleet's
signal timed, 1117/14.
2240 all aircraft had been recovered and ARK ROYAL retired to northward for the
- 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,
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.
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.
midnight as CHROBRY was approaching Landegode Island
in Vestfjord, a He 111 of Fhrungskette X.
(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]
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
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
ARK ROYAL was in position 71-10N, 16-00E.
Weather bc, wind east force 2, sea state 10.
now remaining on ARK ROYAL were 18 Skuas and 12 Swordfish.
0445 a signal was received from the Flag Officer, Narvik, requesting fighter escort
for ships returning to Harstad with survivors from CHROBRY.
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.
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.
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]
0710 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-21N, 16-10E. Weather bc, wind south southeast force 2, sea state 10.
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.
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
2200 all aircraft had landed back on.
- At 0300 ARK ROYAL was in
position 67-59N, 09-18E, weather bc, wind East, Southeast
force 3, sea state 01.
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
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.
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.
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.
the 1st Battalion Scots Guards had disembarked at Mo i
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
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
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.
fighter patrol found the CHROBRY still afloat so the three Skuas bombed the
ship. One bomb hit CHROBRY. No
enemy aircraft were seen]
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.
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]
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)]
1330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas, 8A, 8B & 8C of 803 Sqd for a patrol
[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)]
1500 ARK ROYAL flew off a Skua fighter patrol to patrol over Narvik and the Fleet
anchorage. No enemy aircraft were seen.
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
1650 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd to take photographs of the
landing grounds at Bardufoss, Skaanland, and Skjomen Elvegard.
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.
2230 the destroyer BRAZEN joined the screen from Harstad.
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 ¡.
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
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
Early on 15/5/40 destroyer AMAZON joined from Scapa Flow and the
During the afternoon of 17/5/40 the force arrived in the vicinity of the
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
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.
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
At 1700 ARK ROYAL was in position 71-16N, 16-19E.
signal was received reporting a considerable improvement in the weather over
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
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]
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 Sknland 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
[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.
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.
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]
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
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
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
– 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
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
[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.
after ARK ROYAL picked up her mooring the process of replenishment commenced
and damaged aircraft were disembarked on to lighters. Crew were given local
27th to 29th
– ARK ROYAL off Greenock
carrying out replenishment.
– 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.
– 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:-
embark valuable stores in five ships then at Harstad and sail them to Scapa.
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
Phase, embark 10000 troops from the Narvik area in liners as in the second
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]
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]
– 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
ROYAL continued steering northerly and maintained ADA patrols during daylight
At 1710 ARK
ROYAL was in position 68-58N, 00-33E when she landed on a Walrus from Narvik.
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.
0730 GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER were detached to the northwest, to conserve fuel
until required for embarking shore based aircraft.
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.
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.
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
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.
0001 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-22N, 16-00E; weather O; wind west force 3;
sea state 34.
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.
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
[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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
[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]
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.
the 1145 patrol
leaving the fjord.
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]
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.
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
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
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
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.
0320 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4B of 820 Sqd for an A/S patrol over Convoy
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
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.
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.
Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers replied to Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships 0727/5
with the following signal.
last patrol left Ris¿y at 0300. Conditions since then unsuitable.
cloud conditions at Ris¿y every hour'.
[At 1254/5 the troop transports
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,
the MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI detached to wait at the ocean RV.
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
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 detached to refuel at Harstad.
At 1930 there
was a slight improvement in the weather.
At 1935 ARK
ROYAL was in position
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.
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]
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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]
the attack on Sildvik. Sildvik was approached from North West in line astern at
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.
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
ULSTERMAN went to Harstad]
At 2330 ARK
ROYAL was in position 70-14N, 16-14E. Weather
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
were continued for about 10 minutes.
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.
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.
were obtained by the enemy on our aircraft]
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
0540 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2N of 810 Sqd for an
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
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
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
[At 0650/7 the ROYAL ULSTERMAN joined the
transports in Ris¿y Sound.
At 1052/7 the embarkation of troops and the
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.
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
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
[At 1925 the
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.
refueling Admiral Marschall received a reconnaissance report of a seven ship convoy on a south
whose course and speed would put it about 110 NM south east of his current
(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]
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.,
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]
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, Sknland, and Bardufoss, each patrol being
charged with the protection of evacuating allied troops from air attack.
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 Sknland 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]
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
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
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
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
Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) and the destroyers HAVELOCK (D 9), CAMPBELL,
FAME, DELIGHT, BEAGLE, ECHO, FIREDRAKE, VANOC and VETERAN.
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.
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
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.
– 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
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
[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
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
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
[At 0750 the destroyer
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
69N, 3-24E, and course approximately 210 ¡.
At 1000 ARK
ROYAL flew off four Swordfish 4C, 4F,
4K & 4L of 820 Sqd for a
between headings 130¡ and 210¡, to a depth of 80 miles. The search sighted
At 1000 ARK
ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over
[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
[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.
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.
time ARK ROYAL was operating close to the main troop convoy in order to offer
[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
MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI were sighted. The
Admiral, Aircraft Carriers ordered VALIANT to take station five miles ahead of
At 2145in position 67-58 N, 1W, VALIANT,
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.
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
At 0518 the
NEWCASTLE joined and was
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
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
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
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
[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 Trshavn, Faroe Islands]
[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
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 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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
it is difficult to understand why the Admiralty suggested that Skuas should be
used to finish off the enemy ships.
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']
steered for position 65N, 4-40E.
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
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.
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.
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
[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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
ROYAL flew off two Swordfish for a warning patrol ahead of the ships.
– At 0015 ARK ROYAL
flew off two Swordfish and a Walrus
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
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
[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:-
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,
FF2s, Monoplane with radial engine and turret, slow, (slower than most bombers)
single roll only.
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
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.
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.
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.
and 16th – ARK ROYAL at Scapa Flow.
– 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.
– 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.
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 Ptain
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.
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
- 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.
– Intermittent fog was encountered in the
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.
– 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.
– 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]
– 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
ROYAL at Gibraltar.
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
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.
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.
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)]
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.
– 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
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 Hyres 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
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
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]
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.
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.
the light cruiser ARETHUSA flying the flag of Vice Admiral Somerville sailed
from Spithead for Gibraltar]
– 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
At 1230 the force entered Gibraltar and secured
– ARK ROYAL at
– ARK ROYAL at
[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]
the light cruiser ARETHUSA with Admiral Somerville embarked arrived at
Gibraltar and secured alongside HMS CORMORANT the Gibraltar Naval Base]
battleship VALIANT and the destroyers FORESTER, FORESIGHT and ESCORT arrived at
Gibraltar to join Force H]
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.
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 Attach 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.
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.
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 Grgoire,
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 Snia
aerodrome where there were two squadrons of French
Arme de l'Air equiped with
Curtiss Hawk H-75A fighter aircraft]
– ARK ROYAL at
[At 0410 Somerville received Admiralty
message 0225/1/7/40, giving four alternatives to put before the French, these
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
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]
cruiser ENTERPRISE arrived at Gibraltar to join Force H]
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
- ARK ROYAL at
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.
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]
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
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
To: Monsieur Admiral Gensoul from Admiral
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
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
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
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
At 1109 the Flag Lieutenant returned with the Chief
of Staff, Captain Lucien Henri Danb, 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
(b) He had decided to defend himself by every means
(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
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:
Fleet cannot do otherwise that apply the clauses of the Armistice on account of
the consequences which would be borne by Metropolitan France.
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.
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
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
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
At 0800 ARK ROYAL streamed
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
[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.
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
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
[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
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.
aircraft reached the breakwater at 1545, flying at 400 feet.
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.
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.
that it would be impossible for any ship of over 1000 tons to avoid passing
over one, or other, of these two mines.
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.
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.
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
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
The PROVENCE received at least three 15" hits putting
her out of action. PROVENCE was run aground in the harbour to prevent her from
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]
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
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
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
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
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
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,
unscreened, whilst the HOOD, cruisers and destroyers pressed on at their best
[It was around this time that a
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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)]
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
– At 0100 ARK
ROYAL ran into fog, her escorting destroyers were ordered astern.
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.
Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
CAPAPULT had cost ARK ROYAL:-
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.
were rescued, except for the crew of Skua
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]
– 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]
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
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
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.
– 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
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 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
[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
(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
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
Estrel (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]
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.]
– 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
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]
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
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
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.
SM 79's were from the
including 8¡ Stormo from Villacidro airfield and 32¡ Stormo from Decimomannu airfield on
[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
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.
– Force H en route to Gibraltar
– At 0215 Force H was in approximate position 36-11N, 3-37E when
the destroyer ESCORT was torpedoed
in the forward boiler room
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
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
– The force were on a northerly course steering for the flying
– At 0100 the Admiralty called off the attack and the force
reversed course to return to Gibraltar.
– 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
[With the entry of
Italy into the war on 10th June 1940 the air defence situation at Malta had
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
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
On 28/7/40 in
approximate position 40-30N, 19W the ARGUS and the destroyers
ENCOUNTER, GALLANT, GREYHOUND and HOTSPUR detached
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
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]
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.
– 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¡ Squadrglie 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
– 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
At 0700 following the
recovery of ARK ROYAL's aircraft, returning from Operation CRUSH, Force H
reversed direction and set course for Gibraltar.
– Force H sailing easterly en route to
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.
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
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
with the battlecruiser
RENOWN (Flag VA Force H)
Force H then set course for Gibraltar.
En route ENTERPRISE detached to investigate a
At 0215 Force H received a signal from the independently sailing freighter ROWALLAN CASTLE 7798grt, stating that
she was under attack from a raider.
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
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
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
At 0730 ARK ROYAL, ENTERPRISE and destroyers GALLANT, HOTSPUR and GRIFFIN
sailed from Gibraltar to carry out flying exercises in the Atlantic.
RENOWN (Flag VA Force H), escorted by destroyers VELOX, ENCOUNTER, GREYHOUND
and VIDETTE sailed from Gibraltar to join the ARK ROYAL force at sea.
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
– 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
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.
– 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.
– 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
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
SQUAWK, the destroyers
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.
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
At 2200 Forces F and H
turned to the south east and headed for southern Sardinia.
– 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
[At 0600 hours the Swordfish attacked the airfield and seaplanes in the
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
At 2300 Force H turned
west and headed for the south of Sardinia.
- 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,
– 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
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 EPE. The VICTOR SHOELCHER had
arrived at Dakar on 28/6/40).
The initial plan was to land a
Free French force at
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 Gore 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.
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.
– 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
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
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,
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
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
ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY set course southerly for Freetown. The
CUMBERLAND was left on patrol off Dakar.
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]
– At 0700
ARK ROYAL, DEVONSHIRE, AUSTRALIA and the destroyers
INGLEFIELD, ECHO, FORTUNE, ESCAPADE and FURY arrived at Freetown.
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]
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]
ARK ROYAL was at Freetown where her engine room staff were
carrying out urgent repairs.
- The ARK
ROYAL was at Freetown where her engine room staff were
carrying out urgent repairs.
[Sometime during the day the first elements
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 Bourragu), MONTCALM and GLOIRE they had sailed from Dakar and
were en route to Libreville. They had orders to
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
The AUSTRALIA sent off regular shadowing
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
By 1809 the French cruisers were making 30
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
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
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]
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]
[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]
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
[At 1430 the
heavy cruiser CUMBERLAND departed Freetown on Operation MENACE]
– 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,
visibility was even less.
At around 0515 ARK ROYAL flew off
13 Swordfish and the two Caudron C 272 Luciole aircraft with Free French
[The orders of Vice Admiral Cunningham were
to negotiate with Pierre Franois 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.
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.
Swordfish carried leaflets that they dropped over Dakar. At around 0545 when
over Dakar the battleship RICHELIEU and the Forts on the Ile de Gore opened
fire on the Swordfish, without achieving any hits.
Swordfish to carry out photo reconnaissance.
Two Swordfish to carry out A/S patrols.
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.
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.
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 Gore 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
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
Franois 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 PERSE 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)]
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]
– 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.
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.
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]
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.
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]
the day ARK ROYAL maintained A/S and fighter patrols. However the A/S patrols
failed to sight the Vichy French submarine BVEZIERS returning to harbour in
the evening after having been on patrol 10 miles south of Ile de Gore.
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.
was Skua 7K, L2954 of 803 Sqd the crew were picked up by the destroyer ECHO]
- 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]
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.
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
[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'
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 BVEZIERS.
On the 24/9/40 the BVEZIERS 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 BVEZIERS 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 Gore and Mamelles batteries. At 0400/25 the
BVEZIERS 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 BVEZIERS 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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
– 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.
- 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.
– At 0615 ARK ROYAL,
heavy cruiser AUSTRALIA and the destroyers FORTUNE, GREYHOUND and FORESTER
departed Freetown for the Clyde.
to 4th – ARK
ROYAL and escort were en route to the UK.
– When on the latitude
of the Azores the AUSTRALIA was detached to investigate a rumour of an invasion force heading for the Azores.
- ARK ROYAL and escort were
en route to the UK.
– Late afternoon when
off Northern Ireland ARK ROYAL flew off the Swordfish of 818 Sqd to RNAS Campbeltown
– 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
At around 1300 the ARK ROYAL arrived at Liverpool.
She entered Gladstone dock and was
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.
to 28th ARK ROYAL at Liverpool under refit.
– 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.
– ARK ROYAL off Greenock embarking stores.
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]
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
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]
1st to 5th
– The ARK ROYAL force
was en route to Gibraltar.
– 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.
– 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.
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
– 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
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]
- 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 Squadrglie at 6500
ft that was shadowing Force H.
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
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
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
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.
- ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD,
DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS en route to Gibraltar.
– At 0930 ARK ROYAL, SHEFFIELD,
DUNCAN, FIREDRAKE, FORESTER, FOXHOUND and ISIS arrived at Gibraltar.
12th – The ARK ROYAL was
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
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 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
[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]
– 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
[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
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
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 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
– 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
20th to 24th
– The ARK ROYAL was at
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
[The next operation that involved Force H was
Operation COLLAR. Operation COLLAR had three main objectives:-
merchant ships (two from Alexandria and four from Gibraltar) were to take supplies to Malta and one from
Gibraltar to Alexandria.
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.
cruisers MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON
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
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
Holland who was of equal rank to Somerville]
The light cruiser MANCHESTER (Flag of Vice Admiral
Holland CS18) and the troopship HMT
FRANCONIA 20158grt (with 1420, mainly RAF
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
The light cruiser DESPATCH arrived at Gibraltar]
[24th – The light cruiser
SHEFFIELD arrived at Gibraltar.
In Gibraltar harbour the 1400 RAF and
Army personnel were transferred to
MANCHESTER and SOUTHAMPTON, 700 embarked on
part of Force F comprising the
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]
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
– 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
[At around 1200 in response to orders from Supermarina the battleships VITTORIO VENETO
Admiral Inigo Campioni fleet commander)
destroyers GRANATIERE, FUCLIERE, BERSAGLIERE and ALPINO of the 13th Destroyer
Division and FRECCIA, SAETTA and DARDO of the 7th Destroyer Division departed
Also sailing from Naples were the heavy cruisers
POLA (Flag Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino squadron
(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
(Vice Admiral Luigi Sansonetti division
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.
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]
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
BERWICK signaled that she was unable to exceed
26knots due to condenser failure]
[At 1145 an
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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 Squadrglie, 3o
[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]
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]
– 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.
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
[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.
1st to 7th
– ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.
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]
- 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.
At 1100 Force H
comprising RENOWN (Flag CINC Force H),
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.
– Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
- 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
HIDE was an operation to cover the passage of the battleship MALAYA and convoy
MG 1 from Malta to Gibraltar]
– 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
- Force H steering easterly.
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.
- At 1000, Force H with MALAYA, HASTY, HEREWARD and
HERO and convoy MG 1 arrived at Gibraltar.
- 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.
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
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
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.
SHEFFIELD detached to escort the MV
ESSEX to Gibraltar.
The Destroyers DUNCAN and HERO were detached to assist troopship HMT
Later in the day Force H left the area and steered for
29th – Force H en route for Gibraltar.
- At 0830
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]
ARK ROYAL was at Gibraltar.
1 9 4 1
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
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
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
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
[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
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 -
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
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]
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.
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]
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
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.
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
[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
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
– At 0800 Force H was in
approximate position 40-30N, 3E and sailing on a North Easterly course.
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
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
At 1900 Force H resumed its north easterly course
steering for the Ligurian Sea.
- 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
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
DUILIO was in fact in dry dock and she
was not hit in the bombardment)]
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
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
[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.
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.
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
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
[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]
– ARK ROYAL was at
[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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
HG53 spent all day hove too in a NNW gale and mountainous seas]
14th – The weather continued difficult for
The destroyers WISHART, JERSEY, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE
and FURY detached and returned to Gibraltar.
At 1200 Force H was in approximate position 46N,
– 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
- 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
At 0900 hours RODNEY, ECLIPSE and ELECTRA detached
from WS 6A.
– 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.
- Convoy WS 6A steering southerly escorted by
RENOWN, ARK ROYAL, MALAYA and BIRMINGHAM.
21st – At 0930 the light cruiser PHOEBE re-joined
At 1000 hours in approximate position 30N, 31W,
RENOWN and ARK ROYAL detached from WS6A and returned to Gibraltar.
– The RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were en route to
– Late in the day RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were
joined by the destroyers FORESIGHT, FOXHOUND, FIREDRAKE and FORTUNE from
– 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.
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 Gnther Ltjens) 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.
0920/7/3/41, north east of the Cape Verde Islands, in approximate position
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.
SCHARNHORST called up the GNEISENAU and
Ltjens, who was under orders not to engage enemy
capital ships, decided to shadow the convoy and call up the U-Boats in the
area. Ltjens' plan was for the U-boats to attack the
convoy and sink or disable the MALAYA, following which he would then sink the
0340/8/3/41 in position 20-35N, 20-40W the U-105 torpedoed and sank the SS
HARMODIUS 5229grt from convoy SL67.
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.
of the U-Boats sighted the MALAYA.
0630/8/3/41 Ltjens was aware of the U-Boat attack; however the U-Boats had lost contact
with the convoy.
1030 Ltjens 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
For the next eight hours both sides played 'cat and mouse' with each
other; until Ltjens 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.
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
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.
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
13th - Convoy SL67 and
escort continued on their northerly course at 7½ knots.
In the morning the destroyers
FAULKNOR and FORESTER detached for Gibraltar.
14th to 18th
- Convoy SL67
escorted by RENOWN and ARK ROYAL continued on their northerly course at
1900/16/3/41RODNEY, who was escorting convoy HX114, briefly sighted a ship in
approximately 46-15N, 45W. RODNEY signalled what ship? and
received the reply HMS EMERALD, the ship then made off at speed to the east. At
2000/16/3/41 RODNEY picked up 27 survivors from the MV CHILEAN REEFER which had
just been sunk by the GNEISENAU. When the survivors were questioned they were
able to definitely recognise the raider as the GNEISENAU. This was the first
positive evidence for the Admiralty that the raiders were the battlecruisers
GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST]