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

HMS ARK ROYAL - Fleet Aircraft Carrier including Convoy Escort Movements 

Editing & Additional Material by Mike Simmonds

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

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

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

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

 

M o t t o

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

 


 

 

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

 

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

 

 

1 9 3 9

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

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

 

[The aircraft carried by ARK ROYAL were:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ground was made to the northward during the night.

 

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

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

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

At 0950 the 12 Swordfish returned having sighted nothing.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

At 1910 ESKIMO detached for Loch Ewe.

During the night TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI steered westerly]

 

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

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

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

 

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

During the forenoon TARTAR, BEDOUIN and PUNJABI rejoined.

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

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

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

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

At 1729 PUNJABI detached to Loch Ewe.

At 2130 hours TARTAR rejoined from Mallaig.

Overnight ARK ROYAL and her escort cruised in the Minches.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

At 1545 the destroyers SOMALI, MATABELE and FORESTER rejoined.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

At 0945 the Home Fleet arrived at Scapa.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

1910 the Home Fleet arrived back at Scapa Flow.

 

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

 

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

FORESIGHT attacked a submarine contact north of the Orkneys.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

At 1530 the GRAF SPEE finally sank the CLEMENT.

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

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

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

 

 

OCTOBER

 

1st -

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

2nd -

 

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

 

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

 

3rd - At 0010 the ARK ROYAL, ASHANTI and FORESIGHT RVed with the battlecruiser RENOWN and the destroyers BEDOUIN and TARTAR. The Force then headed out into the Atlantic before turning south for Freetown

 

4th – ASHANTI, BEDOUIN, FORESIGHT and TARTAR detached and returned to Scapa.

 

9th – When ARK ROYAL and RENOWN were passing east of the Cape Verde Islands a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL sighted the German supply tanker ALTMARK to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. When the ALTMARK was challenged Captain Dau gave her identity as the US tanker the SS DELMAR 5107grt, (the ALTMARK was 10750grt). Vice Admiral Wells decided not to investigate as he had no destroyers with him and he was keen to press on to Freetown. Later it was learned that the DELMAR was in New Orleans.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

24th – Force K arrived back at Freetown.

 

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

 

 

NOVEMBER

 

1st – HERO detached for escort duties.

 

5th - In position 6N, 17 W, 300 miles WSW of Freetown a Swordfish from ARK ROYAL sighted the German freighter SS UHENFELS 7603grt, which had departed Lourenco Marques on 13/10/39 with a cargo of opium, cotton and hides. HEREWARD was detached from the screen to investigate, the UHENFELS attempted to scuttle herself, however, she was captured by a boarding party from HEREWARD

 

6th – Force K less HEREWARD arrived back at Freetown.

 

7th – The destroyer HEREWARD arrived at Freetown with the UHENFELS. She was taken for British service and renamed SS EMPIRE ABILITY.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

17th – The ARK ROYAL arrived back at Freetown.

 

18th – Force K comprising  the ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Wells), RENOWN, NEPTUNE and the destroyers HARDY, HASTY, HERO and HOSTILE sailed from Freetown heading south for the Cape of Good Hope.

Two hours after leaving Freetown HARDY, HASTY, HERO and HOSTILE detached to patrol between Freetown and Pernambuco.

 

21st – At 0842 when Force K were 150 miles north east of Ascension Island when they picked up a signal from the freighter MV WAIMARAMA 12843grt stating that she had sighted the German blockade runner the SS ADOLF WOERMANN 8577grt in position 250 miles north of St Helena Island.

Force K altered course and NEPTUNE was detached and sent ahead at full speed to close the position given by the WAIMARAMA, who was continuing to shadow the ADOLF WOERMANN.

 

22nd – At 0800, 366 miles north of St Helena Island the NEPTUNE intercepted the ADOLF WOERMANN. On sighting the cruiser the German ship was evacuated and the sea cocks opened and despite strenuous efforts to save her, the German ship was scuttled and the NEPTUNE returned to FREETOWN 162 prisoners.

The search for the German ship had taken Force 'K' nearly 200 miles to the eastward and, to save fuel, it proceeded towards the Cape by the route east of St. Helena.

 

[At 1200/25/11/39 Force K and GRAF SPEE were steaming on opposing courses and came within 300 miles of each other. the GRAF SPEE. The Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic subsequently expressed the view that this might have been the reason for Force K  missing the ALTMARK which was awaiting for the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE away from the Cape shipping routes through which Force 'K' would otherwise have passed. The reason the CINC South Atlantic held this opinion was, had Force K followed the intended course, before being diverted by the ADOL WOERMANN they would have passed within 130 miles of the GRAF SPEE]

 

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

 

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

 

29th – The ARK ROYAL and RENOWN sailed from Simonstown to commence their patrol along the 20 degree meridian between longitude 38 and 40 south. The weather conditions were too adverse for ARK ROYAL to operate aircraft.

 

 

DECEMBER

 

1st – Early in the morning Forces K and H, RVed in the patrol area. The weather continued to be unsuitable for flying such that only once in the five day patrol was flying possible. This precluded the patrol being extended far enough to the south to intercept a raider bent on evasion. In any case, the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE had returned to the Atlantic on 21/11/39 a week before the patrol commenced.

 

2nd – At 1030 hours Force K received a sighting report from a Junkers Ju 86Z of 15 Sqd SAAFof a suspicious vessel in the area south of Cape Agulhas, 74 miles, 167¡ from Cape of Good Hope. Approximate position 35-44S, 18-47E.

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

 

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

Force H comprising the SUSSEX and SHROPSHIRE had recently completed fuel at Simonstown and were returning to the patrol area. When Force H received the sighting report they also steered for the poison of the suspicious vessel and being nearer they arrived first. On the approach of SUSSEX, Captain Stamer, the master of the WATUSSI set his vessel on fire and set the scuttling charges and the crew and passengers abandoned ship. The 155crew and 42 passengers were picked up by SUSSEX.

When Force K arrived on the scene the WATUSSI was well on fire but still afloat. RENOWN then sank the hulk with gunfire from her B turret]

 

3rd – Force K arrived back at Cape Town.

 

[At 1300/2/12/39south east of St Helena the SS DORIC STAR 10086grt, on passage to the UK, was attacked by the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE, Captain Langsdorff opened fire with his main armament from long range, which allowed the DORIC STAR to send a distress call before being overwhelmed, giving her position as 650 miles east south east of St Helena. The DORIC STAR eventually stopped and the crew taken off and sunk in position 19-15S, 5-05E. When the CINC South Atlantic received the DORIC STAR's raider signal he at once decided to abandon the patrol south of the Cape. Force K was ordered to sweep direct from the Cape towards Pernambuco]

 

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

 

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

 

13th – At 0700 Force K was off Pernambuco when they received the news of the battle off the River Plate where Force G was in action with the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE. On receipt of the news Force K immediately steered for Rio de Janeiro to refuel.

 

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

 

[At 2054/17/12/39 the ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE blew herself up in the River Plate estuary off Montevideo. Part of the reason for the decision was because Captain Langsdorff thought that RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were off the Plate]

 

18th – At 0500 ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, NEPTUNE, HARDY, HASTY, HEREWARD and HOSTILE sailed from Rio de Janeiro for Freetown.

 

27th – At 0900 Force K arrived at Freetown.

 

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

 

 

 

1 9 4 0

 

 

JANUARY

 

1st to 2nd - ARK ROYAL at Freetown.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

HARDY and HOSTILE then detached and returned to Freetown.

ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, HASTY and HERO then commenced patrolling hoping to sight the ALTMARK.

 

9th – The destroyer DAINTY from Gibraltar RVed with the force to transfer mail to RENOWN before proceeding to Freetown.

 

10th - HASTY and HERO detached for refueling.

 

15th – In mid Atlantic ARK ROYAL and RENOWN, RVed with the cruiser AJAX and escorted her to Freetown.

 

19th - ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and AJAX arrived at Freetown.

 

24th – ARK ROYAL, RENOWN and destroyers DAINTY and DIAMOND sailed from Freetown towards Pernambuco to RV with the heavy cruiser EXETER, who having completed emergency repairs at Port Stanley, was sailing northward escorted by the cruisers DORSETSHIRE and SHROPSHIRE.

 

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

 

 

FEBRUARY

 

3rd - ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, EXETER, DAINTY and DIAMOND arrived at Freetown. Awaiting EXETER was the heavy repair ship RESOURCE and further repairs were carried out to EXETER.

 

6th – At 1800N ARK ROYAL, RENOWN, EXETER, DAINTY and DIAMOND sailed from Freetown and set course for Plymouth.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

At 0945 the destroyers KEITH, VETERAN and WAKEFUL sighted

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

At 1000 speed of advance 14 knots.

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

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

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

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

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

At 1610 aircraft sighted the LE TRIOMPHANT.

At 1640 aircraft sighted the destroyer HASTY.

At 1700 aircraft sighted the destroyer HERO.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

At 1125 aircraft sighted the RENOWN, EXETER and HASTY.

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

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

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

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

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

At 2005 speed was reduced to 12 knots.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

At 0927 ARK ROYAL anchored at Spithead.

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

 

16th to 29th - ARK ROYAL at Portsmouth.

 

 

MARCH

 

1st to 15th - ARK ROYAL at Portsmouth.

 

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

 

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

 

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

At 1630 the ARROW, SHIKARI and ISIS detached.

At 1943 the ARK ROYAL anchored in Portland Harbour.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The ARK ROYAL continued unescorted for Gibraltar.

 

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

At 1915 the destroyer VOYAGER joined from Gibraltar.

At 2010 the ACTIVE detached.

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

29th & 30th - ARK ROYAL at Malta.

 

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

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

During the afternoon flying exercises were carried out.

 

 

APRIL

 

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

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

 

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

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

At 1330 VOYAGER detached to Alexandria for escort duties.

At 1500 ARK ROYAL and BULLDOG arrived at Alexandria.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

At 0700 the WATERHEN was detached to return to Malta.

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

At 2030 the destroyers BULLDOG and WESTCOTT detached for Plymouth.

 

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

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

 

21st - ARK ROYAL was moored off Greenock.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

[REPORT of 800 and 801 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Later the force was joined by the destroyer MAORI.

 

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

 

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

The tasks for the day were:-

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

[REPORT of 820 Sqd ATTACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[REPORT of 810 Sqd ATTACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

[REPORT of 801 and 800 Sqds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All aircraft had returned safely to the carrier by 0730]

 

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

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd.

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

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

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

This section landed at 0850]

 

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

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

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

All aircraft returned to ARK ROYAL at 1015]            

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

[REPORT of 800 and 801 Sqds

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

 

By 2040 all six Skuas had been recovered.

 

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

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

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

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

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

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

The Section returned safely to the carrier at 1155]

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

[REPORT of 800 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

[REPORT of 801 Sqd

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

[REPORT BY 820 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

 

[REPORT BY 810 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

DAMAGE REPORT

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

REPORT of AA Fire

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

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

Three aircraft received minor damage from rifle calibre bullets.

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

[REPORT BY 800 and 801 Sqd

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

[REPORT BY SWORDFISH RECONNAISSANCE

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

[REPORT OF 803 Sqd

1109.  Departed for Molde

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

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

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

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

1922.    Blue Section reformed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1500.    Blue Section Landed]

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

[REPORT OF 800 Sqd

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

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

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

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

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

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

The section returned to ARK ROYAL and landed at 1540.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

MAY

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

At 1400 the destroyer HEREWARD detached for refuelling at Sullom Voe

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

                 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

By 2130 ARK ROYAL had recovered all her aircraft.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

[The Germans south of Hemnes.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

[At 0440 the RESOLUTION reported that Skuas were overhead]

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

At 1340 the CURLEW also rejoined from Harstad.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

By 2200 all aircraft had landed back on.

 

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

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

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

 

[The situation in Hemnes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

At 2230 the destroyer BRAZEN joined the screen from Harstad.

 

gggggggggg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

At 1730 an enemy aircraft was sighted by the force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The fog cleared in the evening

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

 

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

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

At 1800 replacement aircraft were flown on from RNAS Hatston.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

30th – At 0515 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) screened by the destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON sailed from the Clyde for Scapa via the Minches.

At 0755 off the Isle of Arran, ARK ROYAL landed on three Swordfish from RNAS Abbotsinch. A further four Swordfish and two Skuas failed to arrive due to low cloud and rain. The four Swordfish that were unable to find ARK ROYAL landed at RNAS Machrihanish, the Skuas returned to Abbotsinch and then flew to RNAS Hatson.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL was in position 55-32N, 06-35W and she landed on the four Swordfish from Machrihanish.

 

31st – At 0600 ARK ROYAL, ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON arrived at Scapa.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) and GLORIOUS escorted by the destroyers HIGHLANDER, DIANA, ACASTA, ARDENT and ACHERON sailed from Scapa for Operation ALPHABET. Course was set to pass west of the Orkneys.

 

[Operation ALPHABET was the code name for the Allied withdrawal from Norway. The role of ARK ROYAL was to provide fighter cover and that of GLORIOUS to evacuate RAF fighters.

On 24/5/40 the British Government decided that events in the Low Countries and northern France necessitated a withdrawal of Allied forces from Norway. The troops were required in the UK and the warships were wanted for possible anti- invasion operations and deployment to the Mediterranean, for possible action against Italy.

The withdrawal order was communicated to the Flag Officer Narvik early on 25/5/40, with the proviso that the operation was to be carried out in a manner that would keep it secret from the Germans for as long as possible. The Allied commanders agreed that the attack on Narvik should continue as this would disguise the retreat and allow the destruction of the harbour and iron ore loading facilities.

(On 29/5/40 Narvik was captured by a combined force of French Foreign Legion, Polish and Norwegian troops supported by naval gunfire. The German troops retreated along the railway line towards Sweden, destroying the railway tunnels as they went)

The evacuation would entail the embarkation of 23000 troops from the Harstad/Narvik area and 4000 from Boda.

On 26/5/40 the Flag Officer Narvik decided to carry out the evacuation in three phases, as follows:-

First Phase, embark valuable stores in five ships then at Harstad and sail them to Scapa.

Second Phase, embark valuable stores in three MT ships and 13000 troops from the Narvik area in liners in fjords to the west and north of Harstad and also embark the Boda force.

Third Phase, embark 10000 troops from the Narvik area in liners as in the second phase.

The date proposed by the Flag Officer Narvik for the second phase was 1/6/40 and for the third phase 4/6/40. These dates were later amended]

 

Between 0925 and 1630 ARK ROYAL's Swordfish carried out A/S patrols.

At 1015 in position 59N, 04-20W, ARK ROYAL flew on Skuas of 803 Sqd from RNAS Hatston together with two replacement Skuas for 800 Sqd, these latter two were the aircraft that failed to find ARK ROYAL on the morning of 30/5/40. On completion, course was set to the Northward, to proceed towards the Narvik Area.

 

[ARK ROYAL now had embarked 24 Skuas, 12 of 800 Sqd and 12 of 803 Sqd, and 21 Swordfish, 12 of 810 Sqd and 9 of 820 Sqd]

 

 

JUNE

 

1st – At 0730 ARKROYAL was in position 64-50N, 02-40W and steering northerly, the weather was foggy and the fog persisted intermittently throughout the day.

At 2201 the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers signalled the Flag Officer Narvik with an RV position for 1700/2/6/40, for a Walrus bringing out orders for Operation ALPHABET.

 

2nd – ARK ROYAL continued steering northerly and maintained ADA patrols during daylight hours.

At 1710 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-58N, 00-33E when she landed on a Walrus from Narvik.

 

[In a signal timed 1959/1/6/40, the Flag Officer, Narvik, indicated his requirements from the Carrier Squadron. Embarkation operations were to begin on the night of 3/6/40; he requested fighter patrols each night over the points of embarkation ashore and the rendezvous of ferrying destroyers with transports, and also reconnaissance and bombing of troop movements in the S¿rfold – Drag area, and bombing of enemy headquarters at Hundalen]

 

At 1748 the destroyers ARDENT and ACASTA were detached to refuel at Harstad.

At 1825 ARK ROYAL flew off the Walrus to return to Narvik.

 

3rd – At 0730 GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER were detached to the northwest, to conserve fuel until required for embarking shore based aircraft.

 

[During ARK ROYAL's last operations off Norway it had become obvious that the weather on shore was often different from the weather at sea. In order to combat this problem the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers took the decision that before fighter patrols were despatched a Swordfish would be flown off to ascertain weather conditions over the patrol area]

 

At 1002 The Flag Officer Narvik signalled; operation ALPHABET is to start tonight, Monday, without further orders.

 

[Destroyers were to evacuate the troops then ferry the troops to troopships that would be assembled in Ersfjorden, position 69-42N, 18-17E or if the weather was suitable at sea. The Flag Officer Narvik had the following destroyers at his disposal HAVELOCK, BEAGLE, CAMPBELL, DELIGHT, ECHO, FIREDRAKE, FAME, ARROW, WALKER, VANOC and VETERAN]

 

At 1600 ARK ROYAL was in position 71N, 12-56E and flew off two Swordfish 4K & 4C of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol. Searching sector, 130¡ to 180¡.     

At 1700 the ACASTA and ARDENT rejoined from refuelling. Following which DIANA and ACHERON were detached to Harstad to refuel.

At 1700 Deck landing practice for new pilots carried out.

At 1835 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol. Searching sector 130¡ to 180¡

At 2050 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4A & 4B of 820 Sqd, 4B for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4A for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The weather report indicated low cloud and conditions generally unsuited for bombing.  It was therefore decided to postpone bombing attacks by Swordfish which were to have been delivered on Hundalen from 0130/4 onwards]

 

At 2230 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop transports. Aircraft 6C returned soon after taking off with undercarriage jammed in the down position.

At 2337 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4G & 4H of 820 Sqd, 4G for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4H for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

4th – At 0001 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-22N, 16-00E; weather O; wind west force 3; sea state 34.

 

[Fighter patrols were continued throughout the night, morning, and forenoon in accordance with the Flag Officer, Narvik's signal timed 1959 of 1st June. Cloud conditions remained unsuitable for bombing]

 

At 0035 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

 

[At 0035although the latest weather reports were still unfavourable, however it was decided that further fighter patrols must leave the ship and attempt to reach the objectives.  The patrol which took off at 0035 found that the embarkation of troops at Position 'C' was about to commence; a thick layer of cloud at 1000 feet lay above the ships and there were frequent rainstorms]

 

[Position C was Ersfjorden which is located north of Harstad and about 84NM by sea from Harstad. The troops were embarked at Narvik and Bod¿ on destroyers and Norwegian fishing boats and transported to Harstad, From Harstad they were taken by destroyer to Ersfjorden where they trans-shipped on to the troopships]

 

At 0245 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd, 2P for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, and 2Q for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The weather report from 2Q indicated low cloud and poor visibility for the whole of the Narvik area, and in particular Rombaksfjord]

 

At 0345 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

At 0550 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8F, 8G & 8H of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen Fjord; this patrol reported that there was no sign of activity in or near the fjord.

At 0550 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4L of 820 Sqd, 4C for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4L for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[In late May the German high command became concerned about the situation in Northern Norway, particularly at Narvik.

On 25/5/40 the Seekriegsleitung, German Naval High Command, SKL, informed German Army Group XXI in Oslo that they were going to undertake an operation against Allied naval operations off Northern Norway. The purpose of the operation was to interrupt Allied re-supply convoys and to relieve the pressure on German troops fighting around Narvik. The operation was to be called Operation JUNO.

On 1/6/40 Army Group XXI signalled their requirements to SKL; these were the destruction of all transports and small vessels in the Narvik, Namsos and Bod¿ areas also any target in Narvik except the hospital.

At 0800/4/6/40 the German battlecruisers GNEISENAU ( flag Admiral Marschall), SCHARNHORST, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER, with destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK and HANS LODY sailed from Kiel on Operation JUNO.

At Bletchley Park Harry Hinsley had been studying German W/T traffic and had reached the conclusion that heavy German units were at sea. Hinsley contacted the OIC at the Admiralty that analysis of wireless intercepts indicated that German heavy units had left the Baltic and might be moving north into the Norwegian Sea. However because Hinsley's work was tentative and could not be confirmed from other intelligence, the OIC decided to take no action. Therefore the Admiralty did not pass this information on to the fleet or RAF Coastal Command]

 

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd and 8M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C. This patrol reported that the embarkation appeared to be proceeding smoothly.

At 0750 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 8K, 8L & 8M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen Fjord; this patrol reported that a ship was loading at pier in Reisen Fjord.

At 0850 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4H & 4G of 820 Sqd, 4H for an ADA patrol, searching sector 130¡ to 230¡, and 4G for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 1005 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 8P & 8Q of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships.

At 1115 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6A & 6B of 800 Sqd for a reconnaissance of the road between S¿rfold and Drag, and of the area near Korsnes

 

[This patrol found that the clouds were low and the S¿rfold-Drag road could not be investigated.  Aircraft 6B, pilot PO H.A. Monk, dropped one 250 lb GP bomb on the jetty at S¿rfold.  A small vessel flying the Norwegian flag was seen in Sorfolla, this is believed to have been a British ship disguised]

 

At 1145 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships at position C.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-08N, 16-31E. At this time the destroyers DIANA and ACHERON rejoined from Harstad.

 

[At 1430 the 1145 patrol reported transports leaving the fjord.

The troop transports, GEORGIC 27759grt, MONARCH OF BERMUDA 22424grt and LANCASTRIA 16243grt, with 4700 troops embarked, escorted by the destroyer ARROW and sloop STORK, sailed from Ersfjorden at 1425/4/6/40 and steered for rendezvous B. At the RV they were to await the other three transports of Group 1 before proceeding to the UK]

 

At 1515 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P & 2Q of 810 Sqd, 2Q for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, and 2P for a weather reconnaissance.

 

[By 1515/4 the weather inshore was now bad and the visibility near ARK ROYAL was poor.  Aircraft 2P was sent inshore to see if there were any signs of improvement; this aircraft reported conditions unsuitable for flying and operations were temporarily suspended. None of ARK ROYAL's aircraft had so far sighted any enemy]

 

At 2200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4F of 820 Sqd to carry out an A/S over a convoy which had left Harstad at 2200/4.

 

[The convoy was Convoy Greek, consisting of the British merchant ships MV HERON 2374grt, SS MARINA 5088grt and  SS BALTEAKO 1328grt and the French merchant ships SS ENSEIGNE MAURICE PRECHAC 4578grt, SS VULCAIN 4362grt and MV PAUL EMILE JAVARY 2471grt, escorted by the anti-submarine trawlers ST ELSTAN and WASTWATER 

The SS BALTEAKO whilst at Harstad had been subjected to frequent bombing attacks that had culminated on 20/5/40 in a number of bombs near missing her. Her whole superstructure amidships was damaged and distorted, and she was holed near the waterline in 36 places. Her master, Captain Francis Butcher, beached her, the destroyer DELIGHT was alongside at the time and assisted in the beaching. Later the chief engineer Robert Towns, plugged the holes. As she was lying at a steep angle she was moved to a more level beach and more lasting repairs were made. Finally, with the assistance of one of H.M.'s trawlers, she was refloated and joined Convoy Greek]

 

At 2330 ARK ROYAL sighted the anti-aircraft cruiser COVENTRY (Flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships).

At 2350 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. (Ris¿y Sound is off Andfjorden located between the Island of Gryt¿ya and the Lyng¿yan Islands)

 

[The troopships were the SS MONARCH OF BERMUDA 22575grt and the Polish ships MV BATORY 14287grt and MV SOBIESKI 11030grt. There vessels didn't arrive at the anchorage until 0551/5]

 

At 2350 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 2B, 2C & 2F of 810 Sqd, 2B for an ADA patrol, searching sector, 130¡ to 230¡, 2F for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik and 2C for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

 

5th – At 0320 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4B of 820 Sqd for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

At 0325 ARK ROYAL recovered Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C. Rain and low cloud on the coast now made the weather too bad for flying to be continued; operations were therefore temporarily suspended.

 

[At 0400 the COVENTRY who was in Andfjorden reported weather as wind southwest force 3, rain, slight swell, cloud 10/10ths at 1000 feet]

 

At 0540 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4G of 820 Sqd for an A/S patrol over Convoy Greek.

At 0715 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-26N, 15-57E. At this time she landed on a Walrus who was carrying despatches from Harstad. At the same time ARK ROYAL ran into fog.

At 0727 Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships in COVENTRY made the following signal to Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers, 'no fighters over Ris¿y Sound yet'.

At 0835 ARK ROYAL flew off the Walrus to return to Harstad.

At 0910 Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers replied to Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships 0727/5 with the following signal. 'Your 0727 last patrol left Ris¿y at 0300. Conditions since then unsuitable. Report cloud conditions at Ris¿y every hour'. 

 

[At 1254/5 the troop transports MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI having competed loading and with 4900 troops embarked sailed from Ris¿y Sound escorted by the COVENTRY and steered for the ocean RV with the troop transports GEORGIC and LANCASTIA.

At 2000/5 the COVERNTRY, MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI were in position 69-31N, 14-05E.

At 2015/5 the MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY and SOBIESKI detached to wait at the ocean RV.

At 2118/ COVENTRY closed the repair ship VINDICTIVE, (VINDICTIVE had sailed from Scapa at 2116/1) GEORGIC and FRANCONIA. The four vessels then steered for Andfjorden and Ris¿y Sound]

 

At 1420 ARK ROYAL with the destroyers ACASTA, ARDENT, DIANA and ACHERON in company, was in position 70-38N, 15-50E, in which position she RVed with GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER

At 1430 HIGHLANDER detached to refuel at Harstad.

At 1930 there was a slight improvement in the weather.

At 1935 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-15N, 16-20E and she flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2P of 810 Sqd,  2P for an ADA patrol and 2B for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik. 2B reported low visibility inshore.

At 2047 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish of 810 Sqd to relieve 2P on the ADA patrol.

 

[At 2231/5 the Flag Officer Anti-Aircraft Ships Informed ships and authorities concerned that Ris¿y Sound was to be the rendezvous for tomorrow, Thursday, 6th June 1940, embarkation of troops]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2C & 2H of 810 Sqd, 2H for an ADA patrol and 2C for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The weather was still bad inshore and the fighters reported that the transports had not yet arrived in position for embarkation.

 

[GLORIOUS who was in company was waiting for the weather to clear in order to land on the Gladiators of 263 Sqd RAF and the Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF from Bardufoss and return them to the UK]

 

6th – At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The patrol reported on their return that the transports had not arrived by the time they left the area.

 

[Late on 5/6/40 the Allied ground forces that were pursuing the retreating German forces along the railway line towards Sweden requested an aerial bombing attack on German headquarters at Hundalen. Swordfish of 823 Sqd, embarked on GLORIOUS were tasked with this attack and a Swordfish of 810 Sqd was tasked to lead them to their target]

 

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2A of 810 Sqd to lead the four Swordfish of 823 Sqd, each armed with with four 250 lb GP bombs, four Cooper bombs, and four incendiary bombs. Their orders were to attack Hundalen.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4L of 820 Sqd, 4C for an ADA patrol and 4L for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 0230 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd, Their orders were to attack suitable targets and protect the Hundalen strike force.

 

[The Hundalen strike force encountered a thick layer of low cloud and generally poor visibility this made it impossible to these aircraft to reach an objective, and the bombs were jettisoned in the sea.  Low cloud also prevented the fighter covering force carrying out their mission. Bombers and fighters jettisoned their bombs in the sea, before returning at 0530/6]

 

At 0315 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 2K, 2L & 2M of 810 Sqd for a reconnaissance in sector 220¡ to 270¡ to a depth of 125 miles. This search was because it was considered possible from intercepted messages that an enemy surface force might be in the vicinity. Clearing searches such as these were to be made at intervals until the probability of surprise by enemy surface vessels no longer existed.

At 0430 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0450/6, (two hours late) the VINDICTIVE, GEORGIC and FRANCONIA arrived in Ris¿y Sound. They immediately commenced embarking troops. The COVENTRY remained in Andfjorden]

 

At 0530 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4F & 4H of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7F, 7G & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 0645 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Sagfjorden.  The patrol reported that one destroyer had loaded and left the fjord.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-03N, 16E when she flew off three Swordfish 2F, 2Q & 2R of 810 Sqd for a reconnaissance in sector 220¡ to 270¡ to a depth of 150 miles. The objective was to search for enemy ships in the direction from which they would be most likely to approach.  Nothing was sighted except for an Allied Convoy.

At 1015 the destroyer HIGHLANDER rejoined from Harstad. Following which GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER detached to the Northwest to conserve fuel until required for embarking aircraft during pm 7th June. 

At 1030 the destroyers ARDENT and ACASTA were detached to Harstad to refuel.

 

[At 1100/6 the troopships GEORGIC and FRANCONIA with VINDICTIVE (VINDICTIVE had embarked the RAF ground crews of 46 and 263 Sqds) having completed with troops sailed for the ocean RV, escorted by the destroyers  HAVELOCK, ECHO and WALKER, to join the other troopships of Group 1]

 

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-15N, 16-56E. Weather BC, wind W by S force 4; sea state 33.

 

[The weather was reported as bad at Rombaksfjord, but suitable for bombing at Drag. The decision was made to make a reconnaissance of the Drag and Sorfold areas and to bomb any suitable targets]

 

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7A & 7B of 803 Sqd, each armed with a 250lb GP bomb to make a reconnaissance of the Drag and S¿rfold areas, and to bomb any suitable targets.

 

[Aircraft 7A, pilot, Lt. Cdr. J Casson, bombed the runway of the landing ground behind Boda. Aircraft 7B, pilot, Sub Lt GW Brokensha, found German troops at Finneid, near Fauske, in Sorfolla; two platoons of troops appeared to be using the hotel as their Headquarters and several army vehicles were seen on the road leading north from Finneid.  The aircraft dropped a bomb on the hotel and missed by ten yards. When ARK ROYAL received 7B's report of German troops; the decision was taken to carry out a strike mission as soon as possible]

 

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6B, 6C & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 1210 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2H of 810 Sqd, 2H for an ADA patrol and 2B for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

At 1535 the last fighter patrol returned and patrols ceased until later in the day.

At 1710 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4C of 820 Sqd for a weather reconnaissance over Narvik.

 

[The purpose of this mission was to ascertain whether a dive bombing attack could be carried out on the railway stations at Sildvik and Hundalen where the German headquarters were reported to be. The French Military Headquarters had asked for these objectives to be attacked and ARK ROYAL was particularly desirous to meet their demands.  Aircraft 4C reported that the clouds had lifted in Rombaksfjord and that attacks could now be expected to have a good chance of success]

 

At 1715 ARK ROYAL flew off a strike force of six Skuas 7K, 7L, 7M, 7P (L2984), 7Q (L2955) & 7R (L2956) of 803 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with one 250 lb GP bomb, four 20 lb Cooper bombs and four incendiary bombs. Yellow section comprising 7K, 7L & 7M and red section comprised 7P, 7Q & 7R. Their mission was to bomb the German troops at Finneid, near Fauske. Because ARK ROYAL was so far from the objective at this time the Swordfish could not have covered the distance and retuned with safety.

 

[Report on the attack by yellow section. We proceeded to our objective via Andenes Point, Korsnes, Drag, Musken, S¿rfjordmo, Sorfold, and Djupvik. An extensive reconnaissance of all roads was made at 1000 ft. for troop movements.  The weather deteriorated towards the south and at Fauske.  The cloud ceiling was between 1500 and 2000 ft.

Fire was opened by the enemy as we approached and no troops were visible at any point in the town.  From this it can be assumed that warning of our approach had been given to the enemy sometime before our arrival.

Yellow section was the first to attack.  The first objective was a hotel, believed to be the enemy HQ, near a large warehouse at the S.E. of the town.  The attack was made at 1845 with 250 lb bombs diving from 1800 to 1000 ft.  However, owing to the low ceiling, accurate dive bombing was impossible and no hits were observed on the hotel.

The bombs were observed to fall as follows:

Yellow 1, 7K, 30 yards from hotel, between it and the warehouse.

Yellow 2, 7L, on the road south of the warehouse about 100 yards from the hotel.

Yellow 3, 7M, 20 yards south of the warehouse.

An attack was then made on the warehouse with incendiary bombs dropped in sticks of four.  One fire was observed, but lasted only a short time.

Aircraft then attacked independent objectives as follows, with 20 lb bombs:

Yellow 1, attacked a row of houses to the right of the main pier from which intensive flak and machine gun fire was coming.  A stick of four 20 lb bombs was dropped and direct hits were observed.  It is estimated that three or four machine gun and Flak posts were destroyed.

Yellow 2, attacked the main pier.  A stick of four 20 lb bombs was dropped just north of the pier damaging houses were troops had been previously reported.

Yellow 3, chose the same objective as Yellow 2 and scored one direct hit on the pier.  The remaining three fell in the sea.

On completion of this attack, Red Section began theirs.  In the meantime yellow section made an extensive reconnaissance of the area to the north of the town.  No troops were seen]

 

[Report on the attack by Red Section. Followed Yellow Section to the objective. On arrival at Fauske, we separated from Yellow Section and proceeded to the west to await completion of Yellow's attack.

At 1840, 7P led the Red Section on an attack on the warehouse and hotel at Fauske. Owing to extremely bad visibility and clouds at 1200 feet accurate bombing was difficult.

Attack by Red 1, 7P, one 250 lb bomb miss in water alongside warehouse, 4 x 20 lb bombs in grounds of wireless station, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused a fire alongside the wireless station.

Attack by Red 2, 7Q, one 250 lb bomb in grounds of the warehouse, 4 x 20 lb bombs in grounds of the warehouse, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused fire near wireless station.

Attack by Red 3, 7R, one 250 lb bomb close to hotel, 4 x 20 lb bombs on road near hotel, 4 x Incendiary bombs caused a fire among cars outside hotel.

Red 1 and Red 2 were hit in several places by small calibre AA fire (.303 probably).  This appeared to come from the shrubbery of the wireless station, the unit was made to stop firing, and probably put out of action by the 20 lb bombs and extensive low altitude front gun attack. On completion of the attacks, at 1900, Red Section left the target and proceeded up the road leading north from Fauske.  Military Lorries on this road were attacked closely with the remainder of our front gun ammunition.  They were obviously hit. The Lorries had drawn up under the trees and the personnel had taken shelter in a wood. 

We arrived back on ARK ROYAL at 2015]

 

[At 1813 in position 70-06N, 11-56E, the COVENTRY (Flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) RVed with the troopships of Group II, comprising ORAMA 19840grt, ORONSAY 20,043grt, ORMONDE 14,982grt, ARANDORA STAR 15,501grt, DUCHESS OF YORK 20,021grt, ROYAL ULSTERMAN 3244grt, ULSTER PRINCE 3791grt and ULSTER MONARCH 3791grt and the Armed boarding vessel VANDYCK.

The ORAMA, ARANDORA STAR, DUCHESS OF YORK and VANDYCK were ordered to remain at sea.

The ORAMA reported that she was short of fuel oil and water, so after consultation with FO Narvik, FO AA Ships ordered ORAMA to return to the UK.

The remaining troopships then proceeded under escort to Ris¿y Sound]

 

At 2105 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish, 2K, 2L, 2M, 2F, 2G & 2Q of 810 Sqd. Each aircraft was armed with four x 250 lb GP bombs, four 20 lb Cooper bombs and four incendiary bombs. The first sub-flight comprising 2K, 2L & 2M were tasked to strike at Hundalen and the second sub-flight comprising 2F, 2G & 2Q were tasked to strike at Sildvik.

 

[Report on the attack on Hundalen. The sub flight proceeded to Hundalen in very good weather conditions.  The Objective was sighted at 2210 and approached from a height of 4500 ft.  A group of four Bofors guns immediately opened fire.  These guns were well concealed in some scrub, about 400 yards north of the village of Hundalen and could only be located by the gun flashes.  Flak fire was observed coming from positions on the hill side.  The target was buildings at Hundalen.  The approach was in line astern on a southerly course at a height of 4500 ft.  Continuous fire was experienced from a group of four Bofors guns, and a number of MG.s.

2K dropped a number of bombs on a group of small buildings and a large fire was started, which appeared to be spreading satisfactorily when the sub flight returned.

2M scored a direct hit on a large white building several stories high, with a number of windows and was possibly a residential building of some nature.  Further bombs were dropped amongst smaller buildings. Two of the 250 lb bombs on 2L hung in the racks, but near misses were obtained with the remaining bombs on the tunnel mouth and on some corrugate iron roofing over the railway line.

2M was hard hit by flak causing considerable damage to the tail unit, and severing one control wire, but the aircraft remained airworthy. The sub flight returned to the ship at 2400]

 

[Report on the attack on Sildvik. Sildvik was approached from North West in line astern at 6500 feet.

2F made an approach dive to 4000 feet in the same direction then to 2500 feet and released, made away to the East, and climbed to 4000 feet. The second attack by 2F was made from eastward along the railway line. A hit was made on the junction of railway lines. No AA fire was experienced during the attack.

2Q followed 2F after one minute making one attack from the North West on Sildvik and thereafter machine gunning huts in the vicinity.  2G dived in the same direction scoring one hit about 5 yards from the track and fired a building]

 

[At 2200 the ORANSAY, ORMONDE, ULSTER PRINCE, and ULSTER MONARCH arrived in Ris¿y Sound. The DUCHESS OF YORK remained in Andfjorden and the ROYAL ULSTERMAN went to Harstad]

 

At 2330 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-14N, 16-14E. Weather bc, wind SE force 3, sea state 22

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F, 7G & 7K of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Reisen and Ris¿y Sound to protect the embarkation of troops.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 4F, 4H & 4L of 820 Sqd for search between the bearings 220¡ and 270¡ to a depth of 140 miles, with the object of clearing the bearing upon which enemy surface craft were most likely to approach.  Only a Norwegian gunboat and a small loaded tanker were seen.

At 2330 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4K of 820 Sqd for reconnaissance over Drag and the road leading there from the south.  No enemy forces were sighted and two 250 lb GP bombs were dropped near the bridge on the road ten miles to the southwest of Drag.

 

7th – At 0035 ARDENT and ACASTA rejoined from refueling at Harstad. Following which DIANA and ACHERON detached to Harstad to refuel.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 6K & 6L of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

At 0200 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2C of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0435 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. This patrol reported no enemy aircraft in sight and loading of transports proceeding satisfactorily.

At 0445 ARK ROYAL flew off three Swordfish 4A, 4B & 4C of 820 Sqd each armed with 4 x 250 lb GP bombs, 4 x 20 lb Cooper bombs and 4 x 25 lb incendiary bombs. Their mission was to attack enemy positions and the Flak and Bofors positions reported and located at Hundalen by aircraft of the previous day's night raid.

 

[This is the report of the attack on Hundalen by a sub-flight of 820 Sqd. On approaching the land, the section climbed to 7000 feet above a scattered layer of thin Stratocumulus cloud and conditions appeared ideal for bombing.  However, the cloud layer became denser and more extensive as the objective was approached, and when within 20 miles the section was forced to come below the clouds.  Rombaksfjord was entered in the base of the clouds at 1500 feet with clouds down on the hills on either side.  Breaks in the cloud were observed at the head of the fiord and it was decided to press on in the hopes of getting through to Hundalen.  AA fire was encountered from a Bofors gun when passing Sildvik.  On reaching the head of the Rombaksfjord, it was found that Hundalen could not be reached and it was decided to attack enemy positions in Sildvik.

Attacks were made on Sildvik, dives being started from inside the cloud at a height of 3500 feet and bombs released about 1000 feet. 12 x 250lb GP, 12 x 20 lb, and 12 incendiary bombs were dropped.

Attacks were continued for about 10 minutes.

Direct hits with 250 lb GP bombs were obtained on two buildings and a fire started.  Four x 250 lb GP bombs fell on the railway lines.  A machine gun was silenced by Cooper bombs.

Fire was encountered from what was probably a Bofors gun which appeared to be located in the mouth of the tunnel and was possibly mounted on a railway truck, also from an Oerlikon, or similar guns, and machine guns.

No hits were obtained by the enemy on our aircraft]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

At 0445 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2A of 810 Sqd to report on the weather at Drag and Vestfjord as it was the intention to send further bombing forces to Fauske if bombing conditions were good.

At 0540 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2B & 2N of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-09N, 16-55E. Weather bc, wind, light airs, sea state 02.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound. The patrol reported five destroyers hunting a submarine in Andfjorden; three destroyers loading transports at Ris¿y; weather conditions unsuitable for enemy bombers.

At 0800 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2P of 810 Sqd to report on the weather on the Drag area.

At 0900 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2L & 2R of 810 Sqd. 2L was to carry out an ADA patrol and 2R was to fly to Bardufoss airfield to communicate with the R.A.F.

At 0930 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopships that were loading troops and stores in Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0650/7 the ROYAL ULSTERMAN joined the transports in Ris¿y Sound.

At 1052/7 the embarkation of troops and the ORANSAY, ORMONDE, DUCHESS OF YORK and ROYAL ULSTERMAN escorted by the COVENTRY and the destroyers HAVELOCK, ARROW and WALKER sailed for the Ocean RV. The ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER MONARCH sailed for Harstad escorted by the destroyers DELIGHT, BEAGLE, and CAMPBELL. During the 7th about 5200 troops were embarked.

The 0930 fighter patrol reported the movements of the ULSTER PRINCE and ULSTER MONARCH]

 

At 1205 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 4K of 820 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

 

[At 1314/7 the COVENTRY reported that the convoy was being shadowed by a FW 200 Condor, which at 1315/7 she opened fire on, without apparent success]

 

At 1330 in position 71-11N, 15-25E, GLORIOUS and HIGHLANDER rejoined the Flag from the Northwest.

At 1355 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd to attack enemy aircraft which had been reported in position 310 degrees 20 miles from Andenes point. This was probably the FW 220 Condor sighted by COVENTRY. No enemy aircraft were sighted by this patrol.

 

[At 1430 GLORIOUS flew off four Swordfish to Bardufoss for navigating fighter aircraft back to carrier]

 

At 1550 DIANA and ACHERON rejoined from Harstad.

At 1615 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish 2K of 810 Sqd to Bardufoss aerodrome with the orders for embarkation of Hurricane, Walrus, and Gladiator aircraft in the Carrier Squadron on Saturday, 8th June.

 

[At 1925 the GNEISENAU [flag Admiral Wilhelm Marschall], SCHARNHORST, heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER, with destroyers HERMAN SCHOEMANN, KARL GALSTER, ERICH STEINBRINCK and HANS LODY on Operation JUNO RVed with the fleet supply ship DITHMARSCHEN in approximate position 67-52N, 2W and refuelling of the HIPPER and the destroyers commenced.

Whilst refueling Admiral Marschall received a reconnaissance report of a seven ship convoy on a south westerly course, whose course and speed would put it about 110 NM south east of his current position.

(This was the Group 1 troopship convoy comprising the MONARCH OF BERMUDA, BATORY, SOBIESKI, FRANCONIA, LANCASTRIA and GEORGIC escorted by the VINDICTIVE)

Admiral Marschall, who was unaware that the Allies had commenced the evacuation of Norway, was undecided what to do about the convoy believing it to be of empty ships. So at 2030 Marschall called a captains' conference on board the GNEISENAU. Just as the conference was ending Marschall received a signal informing him that only one warship remained at Harstad. From this he deduced that the evacuation had begun so he could profitably attack south bound shipping.

At 2215 the captains' conference ended and at 2300 the Force got under way. The ships set off due south in line abreast 10 miles apart]

 

[At 1930 GLORIOUS landed on three Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF as a trial to test the feasibility of landing Hurricanes without arrester hooks on a carrier.  The aircraft landed on very successfully, and it was decided to embark the remainder in GLORIOUS a.m., tomorrow, Saturday]

 

At 2000 hours ARK ROYAL landed on five Walrus of 701 Squadron from Harstad.

 

[At 2000 the Heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE (Flag Vice Admiral Cunningham, FO 1st Cruiser Squadron) departed Tromso for the Clyde with the King of Norway, his government and allied legations embarked]

 

[At 2035 GLORIOUS flew off a Swordfish of 823 Sqd to Bardufoss with instructions for landing on remaining RAF fighters]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Skuas 6A, 6B, 6C, 6F, 6G, 6H, 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for fighter patrols over Narvik, SkŒnland, and Bardufoss, each patrol being charged with the protection of evacuating allied troops from air attack.

 

[The patrols reported that Norwegian fishing boats were ferrying men and stores, to three destroyers off Narvik, and that the R.A.F. were striking camp at Bardufoss.  The patrol which went to SkŒnland was fired on by Allied demolition parties. A large convoy of 15 ships was seen to be assembling off Andenes Point]

 

At 2305 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2F & 2M of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 2310 ARK ROYAL sighted the COVENTRY.

 

[At around midnight the cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Flag Flag Officer Narvik) embarked the last Allied troops from Narvik. These were the rear guard, troops of 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade. SOUTHAMPTON then sailed for Harstad]

 

8th – At 0100 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-05N, 15-53E Weather ocp, wind WNW, sea state 32. In company were the GLORIOUS and destroyers ARDENT, ACASTA, DIANA, ACHERON and HIGHLANDER.

At 0100 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7A & 7P of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Narvik. The patrol reported that destroyers were bombarding the piers.

 

[By 0115 GLORIOUS had landed on ten Gladiators of 263 Sqd RAF, (the first Gladiator had taken off just after 2300/7) followed by seven Hurricanes of 46 Sqd RAF, all from Bardufoss, and one Walrus of 701 Sqd FAA, ferrying Group Captain Wood, RAF from Harstad. All landings were completely successful.  GLORIOUS then landed on the Swordfish of 823 Sqd that had acted as navigating aircraft]

 

At 0130 ARK ROYAL flew off four Skuas 7F, 7G, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd, 7F & 7G for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden (RAF ground crew were being evacuated through S¿rreisa and taken in fishing boats to Harstad) and  Bardufoss aerodrome and 7Q & 7R for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound.

At 0130 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2G & 2Q of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

At 0207 ARK ROYAL landed on Walrus 5A of 701 Sqd, pilot Lt M B Francklin from GLORIOUS. (This was to be the last aircraft to take off from GLORIOUS)

At 0300 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd and 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd, 7K, 7L & 7M for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden and Bardufoss aerodrome and 6P, 6Q & 6R for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound.

 

[At 0300 in position 70-17N, 14-10E, GLORIOUS, ARDENT and ACASTA detached for Scapa. They were routed through the following positions, speed of advance 16 knots, 69-30N, 06-40E, 66-00N, 02-00W & 63-00N, 04-30W.

The Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers agreed to the CO of GLORIOUS, Captain, D'Oyly-Hughes RN, request for GLORIOUS to proceed independently to Scapa to expedite a Court Martial]

 

At 0515 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6F, 6G. 6H, 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd, 6F, 6G & 6H for a fighter patrol over Reisafjorden and Bardufoss aerodrome and 6K, 6L & 6M for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound. This patrol reported that embarkation at Reisafjorden was completed.

 

[At about 0530 in position 67-26N, 4-23E, the German Force were steaming south in line abreast when the HIPPER sighted two ships, these were the tanker MV OILPIONEER 5666grt escorted by the trawler JUNIPER of the 19th Anti-Submarine Striking Force, they had departed Tromso on the 7/6 for the UK. On sighting the Enemy force JUNIPER hoisted her battle ensign and turned towards the enemy. HIPPER took on JUNIPER and amazingly JUNIPER managed to survive for 90 minutes before being overwhelmed by HIPPER. GNEISENAU attacked the OILPIONEER with her secondary armament setting her ablaze and the destroyer SCHOEMANN despatched the tanker with a torpedo. Neither of the British ships got off an enemy sighting signal]

 

At 0805 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q &7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over Ris¿y Sound. The fighters sighted a He 111K (this was probably a He 111H of KG 26) when on patrol and immediately chased after him, but the Heinkel was able to take cover in a convenient layer of thick cloud and escaped after an indecisive action.

At 0815 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2H & 2P of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol.

[At 0900/8/6/40in position 68-02N, 03-36E the HIPPER and HANS LODY came upon two ships, the empty troopship SS ORAMA 19840 grt and the hospital ship ATLANTIS. The HIPPER sank the ORAMA but allowed the ATLANTIS to proceed on her way. In accordance with the Geneva Convention ATLANTIS maintained radio silence]

At 1030 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for an ADA patrol and to look for a shadower which had been sighted from the bridge.  The shadower disappeared as the Skuas took off and was not seen again.

At 1050 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the transports leaving Andfjorden. The patrol also had orders to search for a shadower reported by COVENTRY, but no enemy aircraft were seen.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers HIGHLANDER, DIANA, and ACHERON steered to the westward to keep to northward of convoys.

At 1330 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the Store ship convoy which had been bombed by a four engine flying boat. The patrol reported very low cloud near the convoy and no enemy aircraft in sight.

 

[The convoy was of slow (7knot) auxiliaries that had departed Harstad late on the 7th. The convoy consisted of the RFA SS OLIGARCH 6897grt, the tanker MV CONCH 8376grt and the freighters SS BLACKHEATH 4637grt, SS HARMATTAN 4558grt, SS CROMARTY FIRTH 538grt, SS THESEUS 6527grt, SS ACRITY 403grt and SS COXWOLD 1124grt. At 0300/8 the convoy was off Andenes Point and was escorted by the anti-submarine trawlers ST CATHAN and LOCH MONTEITH of the 18th Anti-submarine Striking Force. At 1300/8 the convoy was in approximate position 69-30N, 13E]

 

At 1515 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

 

[At 1005/8 the troopship convoy which was part of Group II had completed with troops and had sailed from Ris¿y Sound. (This completed the withdrawal of Allied troops from Norway) The convoy comprised ARANDORA STAR, DUCHESS OF YORY, ULSTER MONARCH and ULSTER PRINCE escorted by COVENTRY (flag Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships), the light cruiser SOUTHAMPTON (Flag of Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Cork and Orrery, who had delegated command of the convoy to Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) and the destroyers HAVELOCK (D 9), CAMPBELL, FAME, DELIGHT, BEAGLE, ECHO, FIREDRAKE, VANOC and VETERAN.

At 1200/8 this convoy was in position 69-32N, 16-08E and steering for an RV with the other troopships of Group II]

 

[At 1546 the GNEISENAU and SCHARNHORST (At 1300 HIPPER and the destroyers had been detached to refuel at Trondheim) were in position 69N, 3-10E steering 345¡ speed 19 knots with the flag ship leading, when a lookout on the SCHARNHORST sighted smoke bearing 60¡. The Germans initially identified the vessel sighted as ARK ROYAL but it was actually the GLORIOUS escorted by ARDENT and ACASTA they were steering 205¡ speed 17 knots. The German battlecruisers turned on to a south easterly course and closed to attack.

At 1600 the battle cruisers were sighted by GLORIOUS and ARDENT was ordered to close and identify them.

At 1627 ARDENT was fired on by GNEISENAU and at 1630 by SCHARNHORST at a range of about 14600M. ARDENT withdrew, firing torpedoes, one of which was seen to pass close ahead of the SCHARNHORST. Both destroyers made smoke to screen the GLORIOUS. The smoke was effective enough to cause the Germans to cease fire from about 1658 to 1720. ARDENT achieved one hit on SCHARNHORST with her 4.7-inch guns, but was extensively damaged by return fire from the 150mm secondary armament of the battlecruisers, and sank at about 1725.

At 1630 at a range of 26150M on a bearing 120¡ the battlecruisers opened fire on GLORIOUS, ARDENT and ACASTA made smoke and turned towards the enemy.

At 1652, GNEISENAU picked up GLORIOUS transmitting the following message on 8.29 MHz addressed to Scapa W/T; "Two battlecruisers bearing 308¡ 15 miles course 030¡, my position 54-69N, 4¡E'. This signal was not picked up by any British station or ship.

At about 1730, ACASTER passed ahead of SCHARNHORST and turned to run down her starboard side, ACASTER then fired two four-tube salvos of torpedoes. One torpedo hit SCHARNHORST below Caesar turret, causing heavy damage and casualties, and causing a sharp reduction in speed. ACASTER also made a hit on SCHARNHORST's B turret with her 4.7 "guns, but came under heavy and accurate fire after she had turned away, which left her burning and in a sinking condition. The Germans ceased fire on ACASTER at about 1808 and she sank at about 1820.

AT 1638 GLORIOUS received her first 280mm hit from SCHARNHORST's third salvo.

At 1720 the heavy cruiser DEVONSHIRE who was then about 70 miles west of GLORIOUS picked up a weak signal on 3.7 MHz, addressed to VAA front GLORIOUS. DEVONSHIRE took no action upon receipt of the broken and distorted signal.

At about 1740 the German ships ceased fire and GLORIOUS sank at about 1820.

At 1815, the German ships set course for Trondheim and left the scene at SCHARNHORST's best speed of about 20 knots.

At 1851 the SCHARNHORST signalled GNEISENAU 'hit by torpedo on the starboard side in compartments III and IV. Turret C unserviceable".

At 1200/9 they entered the Frohavet.

At 1530/9/6/40 they arrived off Munkholman Island outside of Trondheim harbour]

 

At 1715 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

At 1915 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troopship convoy.

At 2208 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 4C & 4K of 820 Sqd for ADA patrols. ARK ROYAL was now so close to the troop convoy that A.D.A. patrols to cover both forces could be provided. Swordfish 4C carried out the ADA patrol around ARK ROYAL and 4K around the troop convoy.

At 2358 ARK ROYAL sighted the troop convoy.

 

9th – At 0108 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2A & 2L of 810 Sqd for an ADA patrol around the convoy and ARK ROYAL.

 

[At 0230 the troopships ORONSAY, ORMONDE and ROYAL ULSTERMAN joined the troop convoy. The armed boarding vessel VANDYCK should have joined at this time but had failed to RV with the other troopships]

 

[At 0310 the destroyers DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE were detached from the escort of the troop convoy with orders to search for the VANDYCK]

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL was in position 70-11N, 7-20E. (This was position A, the assembly point for the troop transports of Group II) Weather, wind northwest force 4, slight swell, cloud 8/10ths at 6,000 feet.

At 0405 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish 4A, 4B, 4G & 4H of 820 Sqd to carry out a reconnaissance of the sector 130¡ and 225¡ with the object of searching for enemy surface vessels upon their most probable line of approach to the convoy.  A Store ship convoy was reported at 0440/9 and many small 'stragglers' were seen to the leaving Norway after the main convoys.

At 0406 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop convoy.

 

[At 0431 the FO Anti-Aircraft Ships Sent following signal to FO Aircraft Carriers (R) DELIGHT; 'Request air search for SS VANDYCK two masts one funnel painted hull black, upper works grey, which should have made rendezvous 'A' at 0300 on approximate course 250 degrees. If located request that DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE be informed.']

 

AT 0718 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish 2P and 2B of 810 Sqd they were sent back to the position in which the ships of the convoy gathered, the object being to find SS VANDYCK, which had failed to join the convoy.  VANDYCK was not sighted, but FAME and DELIGHT were seen looking for her.

At 0720 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the troop convoy.

 

[At 0750 the destroyer FIREDRAKE rejoined the convoy having failed to locate VANDYCK]

 

[At 0810 the Following signal was received from VANDYCK (R) DELIGHT and FIREDRAKE; 'am at rendezvous X']

 

[At 0847 the destroyer DELIGHT was ordered to to bring VANDYCK on and inform CINC Rosyth and authorities concerned of expected time of arrival in position 63-00N, 04-00E. The DELIGHT failed to RV with VANDYCK because VANDYCK was bombed and sunk]

 

At 1000 ARK ROYAL was in position 69N, 3-24E, and course approximately 210 ¡.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL flew off four Swordfish 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between headings 130¡ and 210¡, to a depth of 80 miles. The search sighted nothing.

At 1000 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd for a fighter patrol over the convoy.

 

[At 1014 the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers received a signal from the battleship VALIANT timed 0901/ 9 reporting enemy battleships and destroyers in position 67-44N, 3-52E at 0900/8.  This was the first intimation received that enemy surface forces were at sea]

 

[At 1020 the CINC Home Fleet signalled VALIANT, make all possible speed to join Group II]

 

At 1110 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-50N, 3-05E when she flew off three Swordfish 2B, 2H & 2Q of 810 Sqd to carry out a search between 225¡ and 275¡ to a depth of 90 miles to search for the enemy force. Nothing was sighted.

At 1200 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-46N, 3-03E, weather oc, wind northerly force 4, sea state 30.

 

[At 1155 the SOUTHAMPTON sighted a body in the water. She altered course to investigate a sighted a further three bodies. (These were almost certainly from the previous days engagement between GLORIOUS, ACASTER and ARDENT and SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU). At 1205 SOUTHAMPTON proceeded at 20 knots to re-join the convoy]

 

At 1300 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-30N, 2-59E when she flew off Walrus 5A of 701 Sqd and seven Swordfish 2B, 2C & 2P of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd these 8 aircraft were to carry out a search between 110¡ and 285¡ to a depth of 100 miles to search for the enemy force. Also flown off were three Skuas 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search between 310¡ and 085¡ to a depth of 20 miles astern of the convoy.

 

[The weather was difficult for air navigation, as the visibility was low and the wind extremely changeable; a few of the less experienced observers had to be brought back to the ship by D/F at the completion of this and subsequent searches. The general standard of air navigation was high considering the weather was so unsuitable and the ship often unable to maintain the mean line of advance given to the aircraft when they took off]

 

At 1545 ARK ROYAL was in position 68-10N, 2-00W, when she flew off two Walrus 5C & 5F of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2B, 2E, 2F, 2K, 2L & 2Q of 810 Sqd and 4L of 820 Sqd these 8 aircraft were to carry out a search between 110¡ and 285¡ to a depth of 100 miles to search for the enemy force. Also flown off were three Skuas 7A, 6B & 6C of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search astern of the convoy.

At this time ARK ROYAL was operating close to the main troop convoy in order to offer maximum protection.

 

[At 1707, as VALIANT had reported being shadowed, the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers suggested to the Flag Officer, Narvik, that course of convoy should be altered to 270¡ in order to open the distance from the enemy air base at Trondheim (Vaernes Aerodrome)]

 

At 1800 ARK ROYAL and the convoy altered course to 270¡, speed of advance 13 knots.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Walrus 5G, 5H & 5K of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2A, 2C & 2P of 810 Sqd and 4C, 4H & 4K of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between the bearings of 175¡ and 340¡ to a depth of 120 miles. This reconnaissance sighted the VALIANT and passed the position, course, and speed of the convoy to her. Also flown off were three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd these 3 aircraft were to carry out a search astern of the convoy.

At 1830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd with orders to pass a message to VALIANT and attack an enemy aircraft showing her. When the Skuas arrived over the VALIANT they found that she was being shadowed by a He 115 which they attacked and drove off, but were unable to close due the float plane disappearing into low cloud.

At 2030 ARK ROYAL received Admiralty signal timed 1936/9ordering convoy to steer 270¡ to longitude of Faroe Islands, then turn south.

 

[At 2115 the battleship VALIANT and the destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI were sighted. The Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers ordered VALIANT to take station five miles ahead of the convoy.

At 2145in position 67-58 N, 1W, VALIANT, MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI took station ahead of the convoy]

 

At 2145 ARK ROYAL flew off two Walrus 5L & 5M of 701 Sqd and six Swordfish 2B & 2C of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd for a reconnaissance between the bearings of 155¡ and 355¡ to a depth of 120 miles. Three Skuas covered the arc astern of the convoy.

At 2300 in position 67-55N, 2-10W six He 111H's (probably of II./KG26 from Vaernes) approached ARK ROYAL from astern and flew up the starboard side.  ARK ROYAL opened fire on the enemy aircraft, without success. When nearly ahead of the ship, they broke formation, four Heinkels disappeared into the clouds above the ship while the remaining two shadowed from either bow. The sub slight of fighters already in the air, shot down one He 111H and damaged another.  

At 2315 ARK ROYAL flew off a second section of fighters immediately the He 111H's were seen, these were 6F, 6G & 6H of 800Sqd. This patrol attacked one He 111H and probably damaged it. 

At 2355 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas 6A, 6B & 6C of 800 Sqd and 7K, 7L & 7M of 803 Sqd to attack the Heinkels and defend the convoy and escort. The Heinkels had all been driven away by 0300/10 and some of them had jettisoned their bombs while being attacked by the Skuas.  The convoy and escort suffered no damage from these enemy aircraft.

 

10th – At 0001 Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Cork, hauled down his Flag on the SOUTHAMPTON.

At 0107 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers suggested to the Flag Officer, 20th Cruiser Squadron (Rear Admiral Anti-Aircraft Ships) that he should inform, REPULSE, NEWCASTLE, and SUSSEX of the position of the convoy and escort.  This was done at 0144.

At 0400 the convoy was in position 67-48N, 5-02W. Weather: east southeast wind, force 2, cloud 9/10ths at 6000 feet.

At 0245 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-23N, 3-30W when she flew off Ten Swordfish 2B, 2C, 2F, 2K, 2P & 2R of 810 Sqd and 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd for an all round search to a depth of 120 miles.  No enemy forces were sighted. 

 

[At 0725 whilst being brought back to the ship by D/F, Sub/Lt R C Eborn in aircraft 2C lost his way and forced landed in sea. The crew of three were picked by the Norwegian fishery protection trawler SYRIAN and landed in Iceland]

 

At 0400 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas 7F & 7G of 803 Sqd for a patrol over the convoy.

At 0445 ARK ROYAL sighted the NEWCASTLE (Flag CS18) and SUSSEX. The convoy altered course to 195¡.

At 0518 the NEWCASTLE joined and was stationed one mile on starboard quarter of convoy to provide AA defence on that flank.

At 0532 the SUSSEX joined and was ordered to provide AA defence for the ARK ROYAL.

At 0709 the NEWCASTLE was ordered to provide AA defence for the ARK ROYAL.

At 0730 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-47N, 4-55W. Weather OC, wind south east by south force 3, sea state 44.

At 0730 ARK ROYAL flew off three walrus 5C, 5H & 5K of 701 Sqd to carry out a search for Swordfish 2C.

At 0800 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, ordered SUSSEX and NEWCASTLE to part company and support the store ship convoy in approximately position 67-35N, 4-18W.

 

[At 0846 hours a RAF Blenheim IVF of 254 Sqd from Sumburgh on reconnaissance over Trondheim reported sighting 4 enemy cruisers; this was subsequently amended to a battlecruiser and a large transport and 7 destroyers patrolling off the fiord entrance]

 

At 0857 the battlecruiser REPULSE joined. Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers ordered her to take VALIANT under her orders. These ships and their screening destroyers MASHONA, TARTAR, BEDOUIN and ASHANTI

were designated Force 'A'.

 

[By the morning of 9/6 it was clear to Admiral Marschall that the Allies were evacuating northern Norway; so he decided that he must immediately attack Allied shipping. At 0902 the GNEISENAU, HIPPER and the destroyers LODY, GLASTER, SCHOEMANN and STEINBRINCK sailed from Trondheim.

In the afternoon the submarine CLYDE on patrol off the Frohavet sighted this force.

At 1400 the CLYDE reported 'a pocket battleship and 8" cruiser in 64-35N, 9-45E, steering 300¡', by this time the destroyers had returned to Trondheim.. The German force had sighted the CLYDE so Marschall knew his mission was compromised. But it was not until intelligence was received that the heavy units were covering the Allied convoys that Marschall was ordered to abort the mission.

At 2010 the GNEISENAU and HIPPER turned east and headed back to Trondheim.

At 1130/11 the GNEISENAU and HIPPER arrived back off Trondheim]

 

At 1000 the CINC Home Fleet ordered ARK ROYAL to join him.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL's escorting destroyers DIANA and ACHERON were exchanged for the destroyers MASHONA and ASHANTI from REPULSE's screen, as the latter had more fuel remaining. (DIANA and ACHERON joined VALIANT returning to Scapa)

At 1130 in position 66N, 6W the ARK ROYAL with the destroyers HIGHLANDER, MASHONA and ASHANTI detached from the convoy and steered easterly to join the CINC Home Fleet in RODNEY.

At 1445 ARK ROYAL sighted RODNEY (flag CINC Home Fleet), RENOWN and the destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), ZULU, KELVIN, ELECTRA and ESCORT.

At 1525 in position 66-40N, 2-30W, ARK ROYAL joined the CINC Home Fleet. The destroyers HIGHLANDER, MASHONA and ASHANTI detached to refuel. The Home Fleet then steered in a generally eastward direction.

At 1540 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6K, 6L & 6M of 800 Sqd to attack a shadower which had been sighted from the bridge. The patrol chased off the He 115 but could not close the range sufficiently to open effective fire as the Heinkel made full use of the low clouds for avoiding action.

At 1600 the CINC Home Fleet ordered the Fleet to steer north eastward at maximum speed. This was in response to CLYDE's 1400/9 signal. The CINC's intention was to locate the enemy force and carry out an air strike from ARK ROYAL.

At 1650 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 7A, 7B & 7C of 803 Sqd to attack a shadower.  An attack was made on a He 115 and it is possible that the enemy aircraft was damaged.

At 1813 the Fleet altered course to 115¡.

At 1910 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6Q & 6R of 800 Sqd to attack another shadower, but no enemy aircraft was seen and the patrol returned to guard the Fleet. 

At 2000 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-29N, 00-33W. Weather OC, wind east south east force 4, sea state 21.

At 2000 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish 2B, 2K & 2K of 810 Sqd and 4A, 4B, 4C, 4F, 4K & 4L of 820 Sqd to carry out a search between bearing 020¡ and 210¡ to a depth of 150 miles, the object of the search being to locate the enemy battleships or battleship, reported by CLYDE and believed to be in the vicinity.  At 2100 a submerged submarine was reported 20 miles ahead of the Fleet.

At 2330 the Swordfish returned having sighted nothing.

At 2355 the Fleet altered course to 320¡ to provide close cover for the slow convoys and numerous single merchant ships that were proceeding from Narvik and Tromso to the UK.

 

[Between 2345/10 and 0555/1, in position 68-15N, 2-20E the Norwegian ship SS BORGUND 341grt, sighted rafts with 38 survivors from GLORIOUS and one from ACASTA. The 39 survivors were taken on board and landed at T—rshavn, Faroe Islands]

 

11th –

[At 0645 the submarine CLYDE on patrol off the Frohavet sighted what was believed to be a pocket battleship off Lines¿ya Island at the entrance to the Frohavet. This was certainly the GNEISENAU and HIPPER returning to Trondheim]

 

At 0800 ARK ROYAL was in position 67-13N, 2-20W. Weather BC, Wind south east force 3, sea state 22.

At 0812 ARK ROYAL flew off nine Swordfish 2A, 2F, 2G, 2K. 2Q & 2R of 810 Sqd and 4F, 4G & 4M of 820 Sqd to carry out a search between bearing 181¡ and 359¡, to a depth of 120 miles.  No enemy forces were sighted and thick weather was reported ahead.

At 0830 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6F, 6G & 6H of 800 Sqd to attack a shadower. No enemy was sighted and it seems possible that one of our own flying boats had been reported as the shadower. (This may have been a Sunderland 1 of 204 Sqd from Sullom Voe that was searching for the ships reported the CLYDE)

 

[At 1130 twelve Hudson 1's of 269 Sqd RAF, each armed with four x 250lb SAP bombs, (this size and type of bomb was useless against the targets they were to attack) took off from Sumburgh. Their mission was to bomb the enemy heavy ships at Trondheim reported by the Blenheim IVF of 254 Sqd at 0846/10.

At about 1415 they arrived over the target where they were attacked by Bf 109's of II,/JG77 and Me 110's of 3./ZG76. Although three hits were claimed no bombs hit any of the German ships. Two aircraft were shot down, UA-G, N7361 pilot Sgt E B Lascelles, this aircraft was shot down by A Bf 110 and UA-P, P5131, pilot Sgt G W Robson, this aircraft was shot down by a Me109]

 

At 1300 the weather closed in and no further flying was possible for the rest of the day.

 

[At 1706 the Admiralty signalled the CINC Home Fleet with the intelligence report of the RAF attack. The Admiralty went on to state that if weather conditions were suitable a further attack would be made, and suggested that Skuas should be used to finish off the enemy ships]

 

[The CINC Home Fleet ordered the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers to commence planning for the operation on the basis that the Fleet would remain undetected and reach a position 65N, 4-40E by 0001/13/6.

Because at this time of the year there is almost 24 hours of daylight and the last 40 miles would be over land and the enemy ships were lying 17 miles from the largest airfield in Norway at which were located many Bf 109 and Me 110 fighters the mission would be very difficult and dangerous.   

In conjunction with the RAF a three pronged attack was planned. First Beauforts of 22 Sqd RAF would carry out a low level attack on Vaernes aerodrome to keep the German fighters grounded before the attack by the FAA developed. Second Skuas of 800 and 803 Sqds would carry out a dive bombing attack. Third as the Skuas were attacking, Swordfish of 810 and 820 Sqds would carry out a torpedo attack. To provide a degree of protection to the Skuas and Swordfish during the attack, Blenheim IV fighters of 254 Sqd RAF would RV with the attack force as they took off from ARK ROYAL.

In the event the weather proved unsuitable for the Swordfish, they would be flying into a strong south easterly wind that would reduce their speed and make them easy prey for fighters and AA fire. So the Swordfish were dropped and the attack would be carried out by the Skuas alone. Each Skua was to be armed with a 500lb SAP bomb which, even with the added impetus of the diving aircrafts speed would not generate sufficient velocity to penetrate the armoured decks of the German battlecruisers. This fact was known to those who authorised, planned and executed to raid.

Therefore it is difficult to understand why the Admiralty suggested that Skuas should be used to finish off the enemy ships.

Cabinet Office minutes from 11/6/40 state 'the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, expressed grave doubts as to the wisdom of the operation, t would be a gallant operation, but one which, in his opinion, might prove far too costly']

 

The Fleet steered for position 65N, 4-40E.

 

12th - The Fleet steered for position 65N, 4-40E. Weather low clouds and frequent rain storms.

At 0630 the destroyers AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ESCAPADE and FEARLESS joined the CINC. The Fleet now comprised NELSON, RODNEY, RENOWN and the destroyers INGLEFIELD (D.3), AMAZON, ANTELOPE, ESCAPADE, FEARLESS, ZULU, KELVIN, ELECTRA and ESCORT.

At 0935 the Fleet altered course to 080¡ and increased speed to 18 knots, the maximum that RODNEY was capable, to reach the flying off position for the attack on Trondheim.

At 1200 the Fleet was in position 64-23N, 3-19W. Weather OV, wind south south east force 5, sea state 32.

 

[At 1616 the CINC Rosyth signalled the CINC Home Fleet that at 0200/13 precisely four RAF aircraft would attack Vaernes aerodrome and six Blenheim fighters would be in the vicinity of Trondheim at that time as a protective escort for the Skuas and to prevent them from being pursued out to sea]

 

At 1650 the weather was becoming generally more suitable for flying; the cloud lifting and the visibility improving.  ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas 6P, 6P & 6R for defensive patrol over the fleet.

 

[At 1802 the CINC Rosyth signalled the CINC Home Fleet informing him that RAF aircraft would be bombing targets at Bergen during the night from 0001 to 0300/13]

 

At 2230 ARK ROYAL flew off two Skuas for fighter patrol over Fleet.

 

13th – The Fleet arrived at the flying off position, 64-58N, 4-38E.

At 0002 ARK ROYAL flew off 15 Skuas 6A, 6C, 6F, 6G, 6H & 6K of 800 Sqd and 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F, 7G, 7L, 7P, 7Q & 7R of 803 Sqd, each Skua was armed with a 500lb SAP bomb, to attack enemy warships in Trondheim harbour

 

[The formation climbed to 11,000 feet, formed up, then headed for the coastline to the north west of Trondheim.  The attack by the Skuas was timed to synchronise at 0200 with an attack on Vaernes aerodrome by four Beaufort aircraft of 22 Sqd RAF; also the arrival of six Blenheim IV long range fighters of 254 Sqd RAF who were to provide fighter protection.

At 0123 the 15 Skuas were north of Halten Lighthouse, no doubt from where they were reported, and they crossed the coast near to Lys¿ysundet in brilliant sunshine, 35 miles from the target, except that the one thing all the pilots wanted was a cloudy day. In the van was 803 Squadron, led by Lt Cdr J Casson in 7A, in three flights of three. Following was 800 Squadron, led by Capt RJ Partridge RM, in 6A, in two flights of three.

The Blenheims of 254 Sqd failed to arrive at the RV on time due to an error in calculating the range. Therefore because of time pressures the Skuas left the RV and headed for Trondheim without the Blenheims.

Seven Bauforts of 22 Sqd took off from Wick, three got lost in bad weather, the remaining four attacked Vaernes aerodrome at 0150. The Beauforts landmark for crossing the coast was the Grip Lighthouse, but as they flew over the lighthouse they were sighted from the light cruiser NURNBERG who was on passage to Trondheim. The NURNBERG made a sighting report that was received by the SCHARNHORST at 0134. The raid on Vaernes caused little damage and was over by the time the Skuas arrived. However it had the opposite effect to that intended as the Bf109's of II./JG77and Me110's of I./ZG76 that were scrambled to defend the aerodrome were perfectly placed to attack the Skuas even before they reached their target.

The enemy fighters attacked the rear section of 803 Sqd which comprised 6F, 6G & 6H. Skua 6G, L3028, pilot Mid LH Gallagher was the first to be shot down by a Me109, second was 6H, L3047, pilot Mid DTR Martin and third 6F, L3000, pilot Lt GED Finch-Noyes.

Lt Cdr Casson in 6A led 800 Sqd into the dive from 5,000ft from the direction of SCHARNHORST's bow, into a storm of AA fire. Lt Gibson in 7P, at the rear of the formation took his flight in the opposite direction, attacking from stern to bow. Despite the flak and fighters, the pilots were determined to get their bombs on target.

Capt Partridge in 7A led the remaining three aircraft of 800 Sqd round to the stern of the ship and dived from 7,000ft, to give them the best chance of an accurate bomb run. Lt Spurway in 6K, following Partridge down, saw one bomb near miss off the starboard quarter and then a bright flash just aft of the funnel.

A further five Skuas were lost these were, 6A, L2995, pilot Capt RJ Partridge RM, shot down by a Me109, 7A, L2896, pilot Lt Cdr J Casson shot down by a Bf109, 7F, L2963, pilot Lt CH Filmer shot down by a Me110. 7L, L2992, pilot Sub Lt JA Harris shot down by a Me110 and 7Q, L2955, pilot Sub Lt RE Bartlett shot down by a Me110.

The Blenheim fighters

As the seven remaining aircraft made their way back to ARK ROYAL, some pilots asked for a D/F bearing from the carrier. This was unusual as a broadcast from the ship could give away its position to the enemy, but the aircrews had been told that they could radio their call-sign once for a D/F bearing. However, as the Skuas returned, ARK ROYAL did not break radio silence and the crews were forced to navigate back by taking a fix using the ship's revolving beacon, which was quite a feat of navigation for a TAG not trained in formal navigation.

In the analysis of the attack the VA Aircraft Carriers considered that two hits had been achieved, but in fact only one hit had been achieved and that failed to explode]

 

Following the launch of the strike mission the Fleet steered north, north easterly to a pre-arranged flying on position.

At 0207 ARK ROYAL flew off three Skuas for fighter patrol over Fleet.

By 0345 all the remaining seven Skuas, two from 800 Sqd and five from 803 Sqd, had landed back on. ARK ROYAL remained in the pre-arranged flying on position until 0600, this being the latest time any of the stragglers could be expected to return.

 

[The high loss rate effected the morale of the entire ships company. But particularly affected were those that had planned the mission. The total losses amounted to almost an entire squadron, and effectively reduced the FAA's two premiere fighter squadrons to a small nucleus of experienced flyers]

 

At 0425 the Fleet entered a fog bank.

At 0553 the Fleet cleared the fog bank and the three Skuas on fighter patrol were landed back on.

At 0600 ARK ROYAL escorted by the destroyers KELVIN and ESCORT detached for Scapa Flow at a speed of 22 knots.

At 1115 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1340 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1610 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to carry out patrols ahead of the ships.

At 1930 ARK ROYAL was in position 66-46N, 1-30W.

At 1935 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish and two Walrus to carry out a reconnaissance to a depth of 110 miles between bearings 110¡ and 250¡ to give warning of approach of enemy surface vessels.  Four destroyers, CAMPBELL, FORESTER, MASHONA and VETERAN were sighted approaching a RV, arranged by the CINC Home Fleet. The CAMPBELL was ordered to join the flag of Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, as part of ARK ROYAL's screen in accordance with instructions received from the CINC Home Fleet.

2150 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish for a warning patrol ahead of the ships.

 

14th – At 0015 ARK ROYAL flew off two Swordfish and a Walrus to relieve warning patrol.

At 0124 ARK ROYAL passed the destroyers TARTAR, ASHANTI, MAORI and BEDOUIN who were on passage to a RV with the CINC Home Fleet.

At 0245 ARK ROYAL flew off Swordfish to relieve warning patrol.

At 0517 ARK ROYAL commenced Swordfish A/S patrols and continued them until arrival at Scapa.

At 1300 ARK ROYAL was in position 59-27N, 4-07W.

At 1300 a Hawker Henley (a 270mph target tug!) towing a flare target, of 771 Sqd from RNAS Hatson (HMS SPARROWHAWK) RVed with ARK ROYAL and a trial shoot by the 4.5" HA AA and pom poms was carried out.

 

[Early in 1937 A meeting at the admiralty of the board of Admiralty, the agenda was: - Future aircraft for the FAA.

The meeting was appraised of the aircraft being developed at that time for the FAA:-

Swordfish, role TBR biplane with radial engine, slow but rugged. No alternative available at this time.

Skua, role, DB, monoplane with radial engine, good DB but slow and under armed for other roles,

Roc, role, FF2s, Monoplane with radial engine and turret, slow, (slower than most bombers) single roll only.

Sea Gladiator FF1s Biplane with radial engine. Slow and under armed when compared to newest land based aircraft.

The First Sea Lord looked up and said 'so thanks to the AM and RAF we are liable to start the next war with second rate aircraft and that is despite expansion scheme F starting last February! What are we going to do about it? Any ideas?'

The Head of the aircraft technical section pause and replies, 'Actually Sir we do;

Our proposed plan is technically practicable, the problem will be getting political support and overcoming the inevitable opposition from the RAF and AM and the Treasury'

'Leave that to me' responded the FSL, 'Let's hear your proposal.

'Right Sir' is the response,' We propose to accept the Swordfish as there is no viable alternative for that role, currently flying or even in the design stage, However a specification should be prepared and issued immediately for a radial engine monoplane TBR capable of a minimum 250 knots top speed using the next generation of 1500hp+ radial engines or their equivalents.

The Hawker Henley built to specification P4/34 is about to be ordered by the AM as a target tug! , Not only is it nearly 70 knots  faster than the Blackburn Skua but by using standard Hurricane outer wings it can be armed with up to 8 x 303' machine guns (Hawker tell us that the Hurricane outer wing is currently being configured for 4 x 20mm Oerlikon cannon as in specification F37/35 as an alternative). Currently the aircraft does not have folding wings, or dive breaks but is stressed for dive bombing. Informal discussions with the Hawker design team show no problems with fitting arrester gear. Folding wings would take a little longer so initial production (to use the capacity allocated by Gloster Aircraft) would start with fixed wings to get aircraft flying for crew training. Though the wingspan at 47'10' would seem to preclude use at sea, due to the 46' maximum lift width, land trials will be carried out to see if the aircraft can be skewed on the lifts if required.

The design effort being expended by the AM required to turn the Henley into a target tug would better used optimising it for Naval service]

 

At 1450 ARK ROYAL flew of the Walrus aircraft of 701 Sqd to Hatston aerodrome for onward routing to RNAS Donibristle (HMS MERLIN)

At 1515 ARK ROYAL with the destroyers KELVIN, ESCORT and CAMPBELL arrived at Scapa Flow.

 

15th and 16th – ARK ROYAL at Scapa Flow.

 

17th – At 1515 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers) screened by the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS and ESCAPADE sailed from Scapa Flow with orders to proceed to the Clyde.

At 1630 the destroyer FOXHOUND joined the screen.

At 1815 ARK ROYAL was in position 59N, 3-45W and commenced to fly on replacement aircraft from RNAS Hatson.

At 1900 flying on completed, ARK ROYAL set course for the Clyde.

 

18th – At 0345 when ARK ROYAL was in the Minches, in approximate position 57-33N, 6-52W, signal 2314/17 was received from the CINC Home Fleet, ordering the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers in ARK ROYAL, to RV with the battlecruiser HOOD in position 55-44N, 13-10W at 2200/18, and then to proceed to Gibraltar.

 

[At 1630/10/40 the British and French Ambassadors in Rome were informed by Count Ciano that from 11/6/40 Italy considered herself at war with the Allies. At 1900/10The Admiralty ordered the Navy to commence hostilities against Italy. This was the same day that the advancing Germany Army forced the French Government to leave Paris for Tours. The overall situation in France looked bad and a French collapse would cause a problem in the Western Mediterranean. At 1000/ 14/6/40 German forces marched into Paris and on 15/5/40 the French cabinet voted to ask Germany for the terms of an armistice. On the 16/6/40 Marshal Henri PŽtain takes over the government of France.

Also on 14/6/40 Spain had exchanged her neutrality for non-belligerency and occupied the international zone of Tangier on the pretext of guaranteeing its neutrality. It seemed possible that, following the example of Italy, she was preparing to declare war and join the Axis.

Therefore the Admiralty took the decision as a precaution against total French collapse to build up naval forces in the Western Mediterranean, based on Gibraltar. ARK ROYAL and HOOD were the first capital ships to be allocated for the new force]

 

At 0415 FOXHOUND, being short of fuel, was detached to Milford Haven to refuel and RV later with the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers southwest of Ireland.

At 0730 when Barra Head had been passed, course was set 253¡, speed 17 knots to position 50-00N, 15-30W, and thence by the following positions (a) 50-00N, 15-30W, (b) 39-00N, 15-30W and (c) 36-00N, 10-00W to Gibraltar, speed of advance 16 knots.

At 1020 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to Aldergrove RAF Coastal Command aerodrome to collect personnel of 818 Sqd and fly them back to the carrier.

At 1415 in position 56-12N, 10-02W the ARK ROYAL force RVed with the battlecruiser HOOD escorted by the destroyers ATHERSTONE and HMCS FRAZER, RESTIGOUCHE, SKEENA and ST LAURENT

At 1540 ARK ROYAL sighted Swordfish of 818 Sqd flying in from Aldergrove led by six Swordfish of 810 Sqd.

Between 1555 and 1625 the Swordfish were landed on.

ARK ROYAL's air component was now 800 Sqd with 12 Skuas, 803 Sqd with 12 Skuas, 810 Sqd with 12 Swordfish, 818 Sqd with 9 Swordfish and 820 Sqd with 9 Swordfish.

At 1625 the destroyers FRAZER, RESTIGOUCHE, SKEENA and ST LAURENT were detached to execute previous orders from the CINC Western Approaches.

 

19th - Intermittent fog was encountered in the afternoon.

At 1440 when in position 51-47N, 14-43W, a signal was received from the CINC Western Approaches to amend route to pass through the following positions; (1) 45-00N, 20-00W, (2) 40-00N, 20-00W and (3) 36-00N, 10-00W. Course was altered according.

During the day aircraft from ARK ROYAL made dive-bombing attacks on HOOD and the destroyers.

 

20th – Intermittent fog was encountered in the morning.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL was in position 46-28N, 18-45W.

At 1100 ARK ROYAL flew off five Swordfish the search for the destroyer FOXHOUND who was expected to join from Milford Haven. The FOXHOUND was not located.

At 1320 ARK ROYAL flew off a further three Swordfish to search for FOXHOUND these also failed to locate FOXHOUND.

Between 1600 and 2150 the destroyers FEARLESS, FAULKNOR and ESCAPADE were refuelled by HOOD, each receiving 100 tons.

At 2230 Speed was increased to 20 knots to make up for time lost during fuelling of destroyers.

 

21st – At 1820 in position 40-32N, 20-12W the FOXHOUND was sighted.

At 1900 FOXHOUND joined and ATHERSONE detached.

At 1938 reduced speed to 19 knots.

 

22nd – ARK ROYAL maintained A/S patrols during afternoon and evening.

 

[At 1600/22/6/40 General Keitel for Germany and General Charles Huntziger for France signed surrender terms in the same railway car that the Germans had signed their armistice in November 1918.

Under the terms of the Armistice the French Fleet was obliged to keep its ships under Axis control and be disarmed under German or Italian control. However, little attempt to impose this clause of the Armistice was made, with the Axis being content to leave the French ships in French hands so long as they were withdrawn from the British war effort]

 

23rd – At 0035 sighted Cape Spartel light, bearing 098¡, 30 miles.

At 0730 the Vice Admiral, Aircraft Carriers in ARK ROYAL with HOOD and the destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and ESCAPADE arrived Gibraltar and secured alongside.

 

24th and 25th – ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

 

[24/6 the destroyer DOUGLAS of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla, with Admiral Sir Dudley North CINC North Atlantic aboard, departed Gibraltar for Mers el Kebir to learn the terms of the French Armistice. The DOUGLAS with the CINC NA arrived back at Gibraltar later that same day]

 

26th - ARK ROYAL at Gibraltar.

At 1030 ARK ROYAL (Flag Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers), HOOD and the destroyers FAULKNOR (D8), FEARLESS, FOXHOUND, ESCAPADE, DOUGLAS and WRESTLER sailed from Gibraltar. Their objective was to intercept the French battleship RICHELIEU reported to have sailed from Dakar at 1415 (Z + 1) on 25/6.

 

[On 18/6/40 the uncompleted (95% complete) battleship RICHELIEU escorted by the French destroyers FOUGEAUX and FRONDEUR sailed from Brest for Dakar. Shortly after leaving she was bombed by the Luftwaffe, one hit was scored but it caused little damage. En route the destroyers detached to Casablanca.

23/6/40 the RICHELIEU arrived at Dakar.

On arrival at Dakar the CO of RICHELIEU Captain Marzin found that the local French Governor and naval Flag Officer were considering continuing the fight against Germany, with the British Navy, a unit of which, the aircraft carrier HERMES was moored in the inner harbour. (The German-French Armistice terms didn't come into effect until 25/6/40).

The HERMES reported the arrival of the RICHELIEU and the Admiralty ordered the heavy cruiser DORSETSHIRE from Freetown to Dakar to assist the HERMES in watching the RICHELIEU.

The CINC of the French Fleet, Admiral Darlan had, following the signing of the Armistice, had sent instructions to the COs of all French warships that their ships must remain under the French Flag and any attempt to take them over must be countered by scuttling or sailed them to the USA.

On 25/6/40 RICHELIEU escorted by the destroyer FLEURET sailed from Dakar for Casablanca. Captain Marzin decided on this course of action because of the uncertain political situation at Dakar. The sailing was immediately reported to the Admiralty. The DORSETSHIRE shadowed the RICHELIEU as she steered north. The Admiralty believing that the RICHELIEU may be returning to France immediately ordered the sailing of ARK ROYAL and HOOD]              

 

At 1250 in position 35-56N, 05-42W, the destroyers DOUGLAS and WRESTLER were detached to return to Gibraltar.

At 1600 ARK ROYAL flew off six Swordfish to search to a depth of 160 miles between the bearings 195 degrees to 295 degrees and along the African Coast.  Nothing of importance was sighted.

 

[At 1915 a signal timed 1125/26/6/40 was intercepted from the DORSETSHIRE reporting that her seaplane had sighted the RICHELIEU at 0730/26/6/40 in position 19-28N, 18-52W, steering north at 18 ½ knots, and that RICHELIEU had altered course to 195¡ at 0741/6/40]

 

[At 1940/6/40 the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received DORSETSHIRE's signal timed 1630/26/6/40 reporting that the RICHELIEU had informed her that she was returning to Dakar. (This reversal of course was due to Admiral Darlan ordering the battleship back to Dakar)]

 

[Following  receipt of DORSETSHIRE's signal 1630/26 the Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers decided to remain in present vicinity during the night, and to send a Swordfish to Casablanca a.m. on 27/6/40 to order the ten Swordfish of 767 Sqd, presently at Rabat, to embark in ARK ROYAL]

 

At 2315 Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received Admiralty signal, timed 2107/26/6/40 ordering him to return to Gibraltar and to embark 767 Sqd during passage.

 

27th – At 0030 course was altered to the south east.

At 0230 ARK ROYAL sighted French auxiliary Vessel FADO steering 170¡ at 8 Knots.

At 0300 Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers received Admiral Commanding North Atlantic's signal timed 0148/276/40, giving a RV for 767 Sqd with ARK ROYAL at 1100 today.

At 0735 ARK ROYAL flew off a Swordfish to Rabat to rendezvous with 767 Sqd and lead them out to ARK ROYAL.  Altered course 020¡ towards the arranged RV position 35-20N, 07-25W.

At 1020 ARK ROYAL flew off six Skuas for dive bombing practice.

At 1135 in position 35-30N, 07-43W nine Swordfish of 767 Sqd arrived from Rabat and landed on.

 

[767 Sqd had been a training squadron at Hyres in southern France. On 18/6/40 when the German Army reached Tours the squadron was evacuated to Bone, North Africa. From where part of the squadron flew to Malta where on 1/7/40 they formed 820 Sqd. The remaining 10 aircraft were to return to the UK via Morocco. At Bone one aircraft was cannibalised for spares the remaining nine were the aircraft that landed on ARK ROYAL, some of the Swordfish that landed on were not fitted with an arrestor hook]

 

At 1240 ARK ROYAL altered course 080¡ to return to Gibraltar.

At 1700 ARK ROYAL increased speed to 22 knots for entering Gibraltar Straits.

At 1945 the HOOD, followed by ARK ROYAL and destroyers FAULKNOR, FEARLESS, FOXHOUND and ESCAPADE entered Gibraltar Harbour and secured alongside.

 

[By the 27/6/40 the UK Government was aware of the terms of the Franco German Armistice, particularly with regard to the French Navy and they were concerned that the ships would fall into the hands of the Germans or Italians. On this day the British cabinet approved Operation CATAPULT an operation which ordered the Royal Navy to seize, disable or destroy the French fleet. The Prime Minster Winston Churchill states, "No act was ever more necessary for the life of Britain". The men charged with carrying it out were Vice Admirals, Sir James Somerville and Andrew Cunningham]

 

[At 1530/27/6/40 Vice Admiral James Fownes Somerville, at a meeting held at The Admiralty, was informed that it had been decided to assemble a force at Gibraltar to be known as Force H. Force H was to be a detached squadron under the direct control of the Admiralty with Somerville as its Flag Officer.

The initial task of Force H would be to secure the transfer, surrender or destruction of the French warships at Oran and Mers el Kebir, to ensure that those vessels didn't fall into German or Italian hands.

At 1430/28/6/40 the light cruiser ARETHUSA flying the flag of Vice Admiral Somerville sailed from Spithead for Gibraltar]