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MEDITERRANEAN FLEET - October to December 1942


Transcribed by Don Kindell

HMS Belvoir, Hunt-class escort destroyer (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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Mediterranean Fleet, September 1939 to March 1942





Areas of Operations (click to enlarge). Only some locations in text are shown


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Thursday, 1st October 1942


Operation M.A.Z. ONE


Operation M.A.Z. One was again postponed due to the weather.




2. Three fighter bombers attacked the south side of the harbour from about 18,000 feet at 1825. Two bombs were dropped and there was no damage.




3. H.M.S. TAKU arrived at Beirut from patrol and Operation AGREEMENT. At 0300/18 in position 32-29N, 23-34E, she reported sinking one medium sized merchant vessel out of a southbound convoy of two merchant vessels. Owing to heavy seas, TAKU was unable to land the beach marking party for Operation AGREEMENT.


4. H.M.S. P 35 arrived at Malta from patrol and reported that at 1640/27 in position 37-04N, 20-36E she torpedoed and hit a large merchant ship out of an escorted convoy of two merchant ships and six destroyers. This ship was again hit at 2240 and sunk.




5. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and all available destroyers carried out exercises during the night. On completion, ARETHUSA, ALDENHAM, BELVOIR, and PALADIN returned to Haifa; ORION, EURYALUS, EXMOOR, KELVIN, PAKENHAM, PETARD, and JERVIS returned to Port Said. EXMOOR proceeded through the Canal for refit at Suez.


Safe Conduct


6. The Swedish relief ships CAMELIA, FORMOSA, and EROS arrived at Gibraltar from the Piraeus.



Friday, 2nd October 1942


Operation M.A.Z. ONE


Three M.T.B.s were sailed from Paphos to attack shipping in the vicinity of Rhodes. Nothing was found and the alternative plan was carried out. Torpedoes were fired into the harbour and five explosions were heard. There were two ships in the harbour but the results of the operation were not known.




2. As the threat of parachute attack was now much reduced, the Water Works Guard, a temporary naval commitment, was brought to the minimum figure. The Docks Gate Guard duties, however, were still carried out by the Royal Navy.




3. H.M.S. RORQUAL arrived with petrol, aircraft torpedoes, and a small quantity of vital stores.


Port Said


4. H.M.S. CLEOPATRA was passed through the Canal from Suez. The flag of the Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron was transferred from EURYALUS to CLEOPATRA.




5. The remainder of the Chief of Intelligence Staff's staff and the "Y" party returned to the Commander in Chief's Headquarters from Ismailia.



Saturday, 3rd October 1942




H.M.S. PARTHIAN arrived with a small quantity of stores.


Red Sea


2. Defence schemes were proposed for Massawa, Assab, and Perim and reported to the Admiralty in Commander in Chief's signal timed 1315 of 3rd October.




3. The Turkish ferry steamer DARICA was retained till the end of the year to move M.T. and heavy lifts from Massawa to Arabian anchorages.



Sunday, 4th October 1942




Zone minus one time was kept from 0001 G.M.T.


2. Wellington aircraft damaged a merchant vessel which was escorted by three destroyers, 35 miles south east of Cape Maria Di Leuca during the night. The merchant vessel was hit by a torpedo and photographic reconnaissance the following day showed that the convoy had turned back into Corfu.




3. H.M.S. P 42 returned from patrol in the Misurata area and UNA from the Kuriat area.




4. H.M.S. DIDO escorted by PAKENHAM and PALADIN was sailed from Port Said to Haifa.


Red Sea


5. At 0419, the British steamship AYAMONTE was sunk in a collision with the British S.S. NIRPURA in position 22-11.5N, 37-24E. Survivors were picked up by NIRPURA but two seaman were missing.



Monday, 5th October 1942




H.M.S. JERVIS arrived for a short refit.


Red Sea


2. Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla


H.M. Ships CROMER, CROMARTY, and ROMNEY of the Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla arrived at Aden to join the Mediterranean Station.


Change of Appointment


3. Captain B.C.B. Brooke, Royal Navy, assumed duties as Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area and Senior Naval Officer, First Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation in succession to Captain J.A.V. Mores, D.S.O., Royal Navy.


4. Captain R.J.R. Dendy assumed duty as Chief Staff Officer to the Rear Admiral Alexandria in succession to Captain Brooke, Royal Navy.



Tuesday, 6th October 1942




H.M.S. CLYDE arrived from Gibraltar with petrol and stores.




2. H.M.S. P 44 returned to Malta from a patrol and reported at 0855/1 in position 38-15N, 16-17N (off Punto Stilo) fired one torpedo at a grounded merchant vessel hitting her in the forward hold. A salvage steamer, a schooner, and an M.A.S. patrol craft were in attendance. The schooner was possibly sunk.




3. The small Egyptian merchant vessel EL FATH on passage from Haifa to Port Said unescorted, reported being bombed by an unidentified aircraft at about midnight. She was not damaged.


Red Sea


4. The Italian S.S. GERA was raised and refloated and seized in prize at Massawa.



Wednesday, 7th October 1942




The movement of 201 Naval Cooperation Group Rear Headquarters from Ismailia to Area Combined Headquarters was completed today.


Port Said


2. H.M. Ships CLEOPATRA, ORION, EURYALUS in company with PAKENHAM, PALADIN, PETARD, KELVIN, and JAVELIN carried out exercises off Port Said. On completion, CLEOPATRA escorted by KELVIN and JAVELIN sailed fro Alexandria.



Thursday, 8th October 1942




H.M.S. CLEOPATRA was docked at Gabbari for inspection and minor repairs caused by the Admiralty Floating Dock at Massawa. Only very slight damage was found and the ship was undocked after dark and was immediately sailed fro Port Said escorted by KELVIN and JAVELIN. Special Fighter Protection and smoke screening was at immediate notice throughout the day, but no enemy reconnaissance or attack developed.



Friday, 9th October 1942




At 1357 two enemy fighters dived on the harbour. One bomb was dropped one cable astern of HURSLEY who was oiling at the time. The other aircraft jettisoned his bombs at sea.




2. H.M.S. P 212 arrived to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla



Saturday, 10th October 1942




Enemy aircraft showed a noticeable increase in their attacks on the island.


Levant – Move NEEDLE


2. S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN with 1000 military personnel was sailed from Port Said for Famagusta escorted by DULVERTON, HURWORTH, and ALDENHAM.




3. H.M.S. ANTWERP completed alterations which enable her to carry six light L.C.A.s



Sunday, 11th, October 1942


Levant – Move NEEDLE


S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN left Famagusta and was sailed to Beirut where she embarked a further 1000 military personnel for Cyprus. DULVERTON, HURWORTH, and ALDENHAM continued as escorts.



Monday, 12th October 1942




The enemy made persistent efforts to bomb the aerodromes. During the day, he sent out no less than 279 sorties against which the Spitfires made 147 sorties. His losses were 25 certainly destroyed, 14 probables, and 28 damaged. Out losses were 8 Spitfires, but three of the pilots were safe.




2. H.M.S. RORQUAL returned to Beirut on completion of her fifth storing trip to Malta. It is possible that an enemy U boat was encountered at 2312/6 in position 34-58N, 19-21E.


Port Said


3. H.H.M.S. QUEEN OLGA rejoined the Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla after completion of lengthy repairs.



Tuesday, 13th October 1942




H.M.S. PARTHIAN returned to Beirut having completed a storing trip to Malta. One rating was killed by the explosion of an air bottle on board during the passage.


Levant – Move NEEDLE


2. S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN with three Hunts completed the movement on arrival at Port Said. Two thousand personnel had been embarked for Cyprus and 1300 had returned from the Island. There were no incidents throughout.


3. H.M.S. ARETHUSA was sailed from Haifa escorted by PAKENHAM and PETARD to the vicinity of Port Said.


Red Sea


4. H.M.S. CROMARTY was sailed from Aden for Suez.


Canal Area


5. Trials of mines dropped by American aircraft were begun in the Great Bitter Lake.


Commander in Chief


6. The Administrative Staff of the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean Station, returned to Combined Headquarters, Alexandria from Port Said.



Wednesday, 14th October 1942




H.M.S. ARETHUSA escorted by DULVERTON, HURWORTH, CROOME, and ALDENHAM arrived for docking at Gabbari. Special precautions were taken against enemy reconnaissance as in the case of CLEOPATRA.




2. Fleet Air Arm Albacores attacked a 7000 ton merchant vessel which was approaching Tripoli from the east, scoring one hit. This vessel was subsequently seen to be beached at Homs.


3. The enemy lost 24 aircraft in combat over Malta. Our losses were six Spitfires and two pilots.




4. H.M.S. TURBULENT returned to Beirut from a patrol off the Libyan Coast. At 0735/8, she reported having sunk a small eastbound merchant vessel north of Ras el Hilal.


5. H.M.S. P 43 returned to Malta and reported that at 1424 on the 10th October in position 37-11N, 21-26E she torpedoed and sank at 8000 to southbound merchant ship escorted by one destroyer. The ship was seen to sink in two minutes and the escort did not counter attack.


6. H.M.S. P 211 arrived at Malta from a successful working up patrol. At 1107 2nd October in position 42-57N, 17-17E, she attacked a 900 tons steamer by gunfire which beached itself; she then torpedoed the ship which was observed still on fire eleven hours later.


7. At 0744/4th, she attacked the Italian VALENTINO CODA southbound off Gargano Head with torpedoes but missed, she subsequently scored one hit by gunfire at a range of 5500 yards.


8. At 1125 5 October, a 600 ton steamer was gunned seven miles south of Sibenik. Twenty hits out of twenty rounds were scored and the ship was beached on Tara.


9. At 1729 8th October, P 211 torpedoed and hit a full laden southbound merchant ship of 1200 tons in position 43-30N, 15-58E. She sustained slight damage in a counter attack by the escort and shore batteries.


10. At 1100, 10th October in position 42-32N, 18-13E attacked a convoy of three ships in ballast scoring two hits on the largest ship estimated at 4000 tons.


Red Sea


11. The American S.S. ANNE HUTCHINSON on passage south reported having been chased by a large submarine in position 11-49N, 45-50E which was last seen at 0544. Two other merchant ships reported a submarine on the surface with a "Large sail" in the area. Aircraft reconnaissance located two very large dhows in the vicinity and LOCH MELFORT was sailed to investigate.


12. The German S.S. FRAUENFELS was seized as prize having been raised at Massawa. She had been scuttled and sunk during the Abyssinian campaign and had a cargo of 1400 tons of ore onboard.



Thursday, 15th October 1942




The S.S. EMPIRE PATROL, an ex Italian ship called the RODI, was commissioned as an H.M. Ship, tender to NILE. She was required for a special operation and had been converted into a cased petrol carrier. To ensure secrecy she continued to wear the Red Ensign.


2. ARETHUSA was undocked and sailed at dusk for Port Said, escorted by DULVERTON, CROOME, and ALDENHAM.




3. In air raids over the Island, 15 enemy aircraft were destroyed.



Friday, 16th October 1942




H.M.S. GLOXINIA shot down a Me 109 which attacked her off the end of the swept channel at 1620.


2. Two merchant ships broke adrift during heavy weather whilst alongside Kamaria Breakwater and suffered slight damage.




3. H.M.S. P 45 returned to Malta from a very successful patrol. At 1010 on 9th October, in position 39-04N, 16-06E fired nine rounds at a southbound passenger train. The fourth round hit the third coach and shortly afterwards, the train stopped. AT 1032 on 11 October in position 40-29N, 14-15E she torpedoed and sank a fully laden 2500 ton merchant ship which caught fire immediately and sank in less than an hour. At 1833 13th October, in position 38-14N, 13-14E, she torpedoed and sank a 1500 eastbound merchant vessel in ballast.


4. H.M.S. CLYDE returned to Malta (n.b. pen correction – Beirut) after a storing trip to Malta. At 1052 10th in position 34-52N, 19-15E, she sighted an Italian U boat steering to the northbound. At extreme range, CLYDE fired her only two torpedoes and estimated two hits.




5. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron, less DIDO, carried out exercises in the vicinity of Port Said during the night. M.T.B. s also took part. ON completion all forces returned to Port Said except DULVERTON and ALDENHAM who were detached to Haifa. CROOME was sailed south for refit at Suez.



Saturday, 17th October 1942




The enemy changed his air tactics and fighter bombers appeared over the island.




2. H.M.S. EURYALUS arrived at Abu Zenima to act as A.A. guardship. Opportunity was taken to carry out exercises in the vicinity.


Red Sea


3. In view of the presence of enemy U boats in the Gulf of Aden the military authorities took steps to organize a temporary system of coast defence guns until the completion of the fixed defences at Massawa.




4. Twelve L.C.A. s were shipped to India for operational requirements.



Sunday, 18th October 1942




Small numbers of bombers very heavily escorted by fighters began to attempt attacks on the Island. Nearly all formations were broken up and only a few bombs fell on the aerodromes, which damage was slight.


2. A Fleet Air Arm Albacore torpedoed a 2-4000 ton merchant vessel in the vicinity of Pantellaria, which was last seen down by the stern.



Monday, 19th October 1942


Central Mediterranean


A 8000 ton tanker was torpedoed by a Swordfish from Malta during the night, when 50 miles east of Cape di Stilo. The tanker was seen to be stationary two hours later.




2. H.M.S. P 35 returned from patrol in the northern Ionian Sea. A NAVIGATORE class destroyer was attacked at 0802 10th October in position 37-53N, 18-54E, but torpedoes missed. Air reconnaissance was carried out, of Brindisi on the 14th and 15th, neither traffic nor patrols being encountered.


3. H.M.S. P 247 arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla. She carried a small amount of stores whilst on passage from Gibraltar.


Port Said


4. JAVELIN, JANUS, and SPETSAI carried out a hunt for a U boat reported in position 31-44N, 32-28E with aircraft cooperation throughout the night but without result.



Tuesday, 20th October 1942


Central Mediterranean


Attack on Enemy Convoy


A southbound convoy consisting of one large tanker and three merchant vessels escorted by seven destroyers was sighted by aircraft in the vicinity of Pantellaria p.m. 18th October. P 211, P 44, P 42, UTMOST, and P 37 were moved so as to intercept this convoy. Submarines attacked at various times on the 19th October and Swordfish and Albacore attacked with bombs and torpedoed on the night of 19th/20th October. The results of these attacks were considered as follows:


One merchant vessel torpedoed and sunk by P 211 previously stopped and damaged by aircraft torpedo (pen insert: on 18th).


One merchant vessel and one destroyer sunk by P 37.


One merchant vessel possibly damaged by torpedo by P 42 but apparently able to maintain her position in the convoy.




2. The enemy's air effort against the Island began to decrease.




3. The Greek submarine PAPANICOLIS on passage from Port Said to Haifa reported at 0600 that she was unable to dive owing to a damaged hydroplane. PRIMULA was sailed from Beirut to escort her into harbour.


4. PORPOISE returned to Beirut on completion of a storing trip to Malta.


5. P 42 returned to Malta damaged as a result of a heavy and accurate counterattack following the attack on a southbound convoy in the vicinity of Lampedusa on the 19th.




6. An American Liberator sighted a submarine on the surface in position 31-55N, 34-23E at 1527 on 19th. DULVERTON and ALDENHAM were sailed from Haifa and carried out a hunt throughout the night but without result. On completion, both ships were ordered to proceed to Haifa.


7. An Egyptian schooner was sunk by gunfire from a U boat off Chekka at 2330. All the crew were saved being landed at Tripoli (Syria.)


Red Sea


8. The Greek merchant vessel THIRASSIA NOMICOS caught fire in Suez Bay. The fire was promptly put out with the assistance of parties from WOOLWICH and KELVIN. The cause of the fire was not known.


9. H.M.S. POSTBOY arrived at Aden to join the 169th Minesweeping Trawler Group on the Mediterranean Station. H.M.S. MANXMAN also arrived, being lent to the Mediterranean Station in order to run supplies to Malta.


10. Enemy aircraft renewed their attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea. At 2315/19th, the British oil tanker SCALARIA was set on fire by torpedo aircraft at Ras Gharib. H.M.S. EURYALUS was sent to investigate and reported that she was a total loss and aground fouling the outer oiling berth.


11. At 2345/19th October, the Greek steamer CHIOS was attacked in Harbour. Two torpedoes were dropped and run under the ship, but did not explode. There were no casualties or damage.



Wednesday, 21st October 1942




The gun defences in Dekheilia were dismounted for eventual use in Western Desert ports.




2. P 211 returned to Malta from patrol and reported that she had torpedoed and sunk a fully laden southbound merchant vessels in a position 158 degrees Lampion 70 miles. This merchant vessel had been stopped after being hit previously by torpedo aircraft.


3. H.M.S. UTMOST also returned and reported having torpedoed a tanker on 13th October in position 41-03N, 09-43E which has sunk or been beached. In addition to the patrol, Operation BLACKBIRD was carried out in the early hours of the 9th October in the Naples area, where two men were landed. It is feared though, that they were captured or executed.


4. H.M.S. P 37 returned to Malta having completed a very successful first Mediterranean Patrol.


5. At 1620 on the 8th October in position 33-41N, 11-44E she engaged the small Italian coaster LUPA by gunfire. The enemy promptly abandoned ship. The coaster was boarded, some papers were captured and she was sunk by a demolition charge. She was carrying a cargo of wine and foodstuffs.


6. At 2000 on the 9th October, in position 34-08N, 11-00E, she repeated this operation, this time on a schooner who was sunk by using a can of shale oil and a box of matches.


7. At 2325 on the 9th October, in position 34-02N, 11-03E, she torpedoed and hit a 3000 ton merchant vessel carrying petrol, which caught fire and was seen to be still burning some hours later.


8. At 1248 on the 19th October, in position 35-45N, 12-04E, attacked a southbound convoy now consisting of four destroyers escorting one tanker and two merchant vessels. One merchant vessel and one destroyer were sunk.




9. His Royal Highness Prince Peter of Greece arrived at Famagusta in the Greek destroyer AETOS for a short visit to the Island.


Red Sea




10. The Greek destroyer PINDOS (formerly H.M.S. BOLEBROOK) arrived at Aden to join the Mediterranean Station from the United Kingdom. She was allocated to the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.



Thursday, 22nd October 1942




The enemy changed his tactics by using large formations of high flying German and Italian fighters with bombs to attack under cloud cover. Luqa was made temporarily unserviceable.




2. H.M.S. P 44 returned to Malta from a patrol in the Misurata area. She was one of five submarines which took part in an attack on an important convoy in the vicinity of Lampedusa, bound for Tripoli. It is probable that she scored two hits on a destroyer.


3. P 211 also returned from a short patrol off Pantelleria in which she sank a large merchant vessel stopped as a result of air attack in position 158 degrees Lampedusa 70 miles at 0833 on 20th October.




4. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron at Port Said carried out exercises on night of 21st/22nd October. On completion ORION was sailed to Haifa escorted by KELVIN and JAVELIN, the remaining units returning to Port Said.


5. His Royal Highness Prince Peter of Greece left Cyprus in the Greek destroyer AETOS and arrived at Beirut without incident.


Red Sea


6. The military ocean going dredger RONALDSHAY was sunk by aerial torpedo at Safaga off Deep Water Quay at 0320. The Captain, Chief Officer, and 48 ratings were missing. The vessel was a total loss.


7. The Greek destroyer PINDOS was sailed from Aden to Port Said to join the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.


8. H.M.S. CROMARTY on passage from Massawa to Suez was attacked by a single enemy aircraft at 0205 when five miles south of Suez. Two torpedoes were fired which was followed up by machine gun fire. There were no casualties for damage.



Friday, 23rd October 1942


Western Desert. Offensive, Autumn, 1942




At 2200 the Eighth Army began the main attack on the El Alamein line after twenty minutes intensive bombardment of the enemy's position by about eight hundred guns.


2. As almost the entire Middle East fighter effort was concentrated on the Eighth Army, naval assistance in the operation was therefore limited. Bombardment by cruisers and destroyers was considered an unwarranted risk, and would have had little material effect on events.


3. M.T.B.s and HUNT class destroyers were held in readiness at Alexandria for attacks on enemy shipping along the coast.


Operation TRUNDLE


4. Naval personnel for Western desert ports as far as Benghazi were called up and were ready from now onwards. Arrangements were put in hand to call forward tugs, schooners, salvage vessels, mobile lighters, and small craft. The docking and preparation of suitable ships for the Western Desert run were now complete.




5. H.M.S. UNA arrived at Malta on completion of a short patrol. On the night of 14th/15th, Operation WASHLEATHER, the landing of three men near Catania, Sicily, was successfully carried out. An attempt to attack a convoy of one large tanker and three destroyers on the 18th October met with some very accurate depth-charging.


Red Sea


6. H.M.S. POSTBOY, LL Minesweeper, was sailed from Aden for Suez via Kamaran.


Safe Conduct


7. The Italian Repatriation Liners VULCANIA and SATURNIA, on passage to Italian Somaliland, arrived at Gibraltar from Genoa.



Saturday, 24th October 1942


Western Desert


Operation SLENDER


In order to assist military operations, a feint seaborne landing was made west of Ras el Kenayia during the night of 23rd/24th October.


2. A force of twelve L.C.T.s escorted by two Fairmiles, eight M.T.B.s, EXMOOR, HURWORTH, and BELVOIR was sailed from Alexandria in daylight on 23rd October, to the westward. A normal convoy of four merchant ships from Port Said continued westward after passing Alexandria astern of this force. None of our forces were sighted during daylight house. After dark all ships except the M.T.B.s returned to Alexandria. The M.T.B.s close the beaches to within 400 yards, opened fire with machine guns, and fired numerous Very's lights. The enemy fired no alarm signals and no opposition was met.


3. The M.T.B.s were shadowed by aircraft after being detached and were subsequently attacked by JU 88s and Macchi's from midnight till 0300. One M.T.B. sustained slight superficial damage by cannon fire. There were no casualties and all boats returned safely.


5. (n.b. .no paragraph 4 in Diary). H.M.S. ARETHUSA escorted by QUEEN OLGA was sailed from Port Said in daylight as an added diversion to the operation and returned to harbour after dark.


6. The Army Commander signalled as follows:

"Information suggests that this operation had an influence on our main objective."

Red Sea


7. The Greek steamship N.G. CULUCUNDIS on passage to Suez was attacked by a single aircraft in position 010 degrees Shadwan Lighthouse 3.5 miles at 0315. She was undamaged and one torpedo was seen to explode on the Shadwan Island.


8. Two attacks were made on Sofaga harbour at 0315, but no damage resulted.


9. The British steamship JALADURGA was attacked by enemy aircraft at 0330 in position 27-14N, 34-21E. There was no damage or casualties.


10. The gunnery training yacht FOINAVEN for D.E.M.S. ratings arrived at Aden from the United Kingdom.


Italian Repatriation Liners


11. DUILIO and GIULO CESARE, the last of four liners bound for Italian Somaliland, arrived at Gibraltar from Genoa.



Sunday, 25th October 1942


Western Desert


Heavy fighting continued throughout the day, chiefly in the northern sector, where slight progress was made.




2. H.M.S. P 35 returned to Malta after a four day patrol in which a heavily leaden merchant ship which had beached itself near Homs as a result of an air attack was further damaged by two torpedo hits.


Red Sea


3. H.M.S. NUBIAN arrived at Aden to rejoin the Mediterranean Station on completion of extensive damage repairs at Bombay. The ex German ship LIEBENFELS which had very recently been raised at Massawa, was reported to have raised steam and to be carrying out trials.


Canal Area


4. The Hospital Ship MAINE was put in quarantine at Ismailia for a case of plague which had developed from a Greek sailor admitted from QUEEN OLGA.




5. PINDOS relieved EURYALUS as guard ship at Abu Zenima anchorage.



Sunday, 26th October 1942


Attack on Enemy Convoy Bound for Tobruk


Late on 25th October a convoy of four destroyers, one tanker, one large and one small merchant vessels were sighted approaching the African coast from Italy. Aircraft attacked during the night, but only one near miss with a 1000 bomb was claimed. On the afternoon of the 26th, the convoy was attacked by torpedo Beauforts and Bisleys escorted by Beaufighters. The tanker was hit by torpedoes and left ablaze, the larger merchant vessel and a destroyer were damaged and the small merchant vessel was probably destroyed. At dusk, the torpedo Wellingtons attacked the larger merchant vessel outside the harbour off Tobruk. They obtained a number of hits and the ship blew up. The tanker was stopped and still on fire and our aircraft on approaching her found the heat so intense as to make attack impracticable.




2. H.M.S. TRAVELLER arrived at Port Said from patrol and reported at 1520 /9th October in position 35-45N, 23-13E she attacked a northbound merchant vessel in ballast escorted by two or three destroyers and estimated two hits on the merchant vessel and a possible hit on a destroyer of the GREGALE class.


3. H.M.S. P 212 returned to Malta after an uneventful patrol in the Cape Dukato area.




4. Four schooners were sunk between Rouad Island and Tripoli. KELVIN and JAVELIN were sailed from Haifa and carried out a hunt which had to be discontinued at 0200/27th, to allow ORION to e escorted from Haifa to the south. COMMANDANT DOMINE carried out an A/S sweep north of Tripoli.


5. As a result of U boat activity, schooner traffic north of Tripoli was suspended.




6. Acting captain C. Wauchope was appointed as Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron.


7. Captain J.F. Stevens assumed command of CLEOPATRA in succession to Captain Grantham and Captain J. Terry of DIDO in succession to Captain McCall.



Tuesday, 27th October 1942




Two enemy aircraft were over the harbour area at 0355, one of which dived to 700 feet. An unexploded bomb fell near the boom hut magazine, a few outside the harbour. None of these caused any damaged. These were probably stray aircraft from an attack on Amyrya aerodrome.




2. H.M.S. ORION escorted by KELVIN and JAVELIN were sailed from Haifa for Port Said.


Red Sea


3. GEORGIOS AVEROFF escorted by the Greek destroyer PANTHER arrived at Aden. Both these ships had completed extensive refits at Bombay.



Wednesday, 28th October 1942


Operation TRAIN. Spitfire reinforcements for Malta


H.M.S. AURORA (Senior Officer Force H) in company with FURIOUS and CHARYBDIS escorted by WESTCOTT, WISHART, COWDRAY, BRAHAM, ACHATES, VANOC, VERITY, and O.R.P. BLYSKAWICA sailed from Gibraltar.


Western Desert – El Alamein Line


2. The enemy made several counter attacks on our positions all of which were held.




3. H.M.S. THRASHER returned to Beirut from a patrol in the Aegean. At 1400/12th in position 39-55N, 24-17E, she sank a 200 ton schooner by demolition and gunfire. At 1700/12th, in position 40-01N, 24-10E she sank a 200 ton schooner in a similar manner. At 0025/20th, in position 36-45N, 26-40E she sank a steam tug by gunfire and finally at 1515/20th in position 36-25N, 27-50E torpedoed and sank a 2000 ton Brindisi class passenger ship escorted by two destroyers.


4. Operation JUPITER, the landing of three Greek agents with stores on the east coast of Euboea, by THRASHER, was attempted on the night 11th/12th, but failed due to swell.




5. A small Turkish Naval Mission headed by Rear Admiral Cevat Ulman completed a visit to Haifa where they had been studying the working of a defended port.


Red Sea


6. TETCOTT carried out a quick docking at Massawa.


7. H.M.S. EURYALUS returned to Port Said after a period south of the Canal. ORION was sent south for a similar period of exercises.



Thursday, 29th October 1942


Operation TRAIN


Twenty nine Spitfires were flown off from FURIOUS, all of which landed safely at Malta. Enemy aircraft made attempts to intercept the incoming aircraft, but strong Spitfire cover prevented this.


Operation M.G. NINE


2. A feint landing was simulated in the Kanais area by a force of eight M.T.B.s, nine L.C.T.s, EXMOOR, BELVOIR, and HURWORTH. This force was sailed from Alexandria during daylight and after dark all units except the M.T.B.s turned back to Alexandria. The M.T.B.s closed the beaches at 0045, opening fire with machine guns. On withdrawal they were engaged by shore guns and attacked by aircraft. Enemy aircraft continued to attack a smoke cloud cover which had been made for one hour after withdrawal. There were no casualties or damage to any of our units.




3. The Vice Admiral Malta reported that the Third Motor Launch Flotilla in addition to their many other valuable services had swept up their hundredth mine in the approaches to Malta.




4. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and all available destroyers carried out exercises north of Port Said on night of 28th/29th October.




M.L. 359 commissioned for service on the Mediterranean Station.



Friday, 30th October 1942


Operation TRAIN


All units of Force "H" arrived at Gibraltar without incident.




2. Axis air attacks on Mala on a heavy scale were discontinued. Since 11 October when his efforts began he lost 115 aircraft definitely destroyed. Our losses were 38 aircraft destroyed, mainly Spitfires. H.M.S. RORQUAL arrived with stores from Beirut.




3. Destruction of German U boat 559.


 At 0550, Sunderland aircraft of 230 Wing reported an A.S.V. contact in position 31-47, 33-24E. H.M.S. HERO, who was on passage south from Haifa proceeded to carry out a search. Captain (D) Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla in PAKENHAM, with PETARD, DULVERTON, and HURWORTH were sailed from Port Said and on joining, HERO was detached to Port Said. Several aircraft and destroyers attacks were made throughout the day.


4. At 2232, the U boat surfaced and in a few minutes, PETARD had put a boarding party on board. She was quickly taken in tow but shortly afterwards sank; it appeared that she had been holed forward. The First Lieutenant and one rating went down with U Boat. An Enigma Machine and papers were recovered. The U boat sank at 2312 in position 32-01N, 32-52E. Her Commanding Officer, four officers, and thirty five ratings were taken prisoner.


5. On completion, DULVERTON and PETARD proceeded to Haifa and PAKENHAM and HURWORTH returned to Port Said.



Saturday, 31st October 1942




H.M.S. ANTWERP with 400 military personnel was sailed from Beirut for Famagusta escorted by Green destroyers AETOS and IERAX. This was the first serial of troop movements between Syria and Cyprus.


Western Desert


On our right flank, a strong thrust towards the coast had succeeded in isolating a port of the enemy northwest of El Alamein.


3. Submarines

PARTHIAN On passage, Beirut to Malta




TAKU On patrol in Aegean




TURBULENT On passage to Malta (for Operation TORCH)


P 42 (damaged) At Malta




P 247 Resting at Malta for Patrols for Operation TORCH


P 212 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 211 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 44 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 46 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 43 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 35 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


P 37 Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


UNA Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH


UTMOST Resting at Malta for patrols for Operation TORCH

Greek Submarines

KATSONIS At Ismailia


NEREUS On Patrol Aegean




TRITON At Port Said



4. Axis losses October, 1942




23 ships totaling 72,990 tons




6 ships totaling 24,000 tons




5. The sailing of schooners north of Tripoli were now resumed.




6. Summer time in Egypt, Palestine, Transjordan, Cyprus, and Syria ended at 2100 G.M.T. today.


7. M.T.B. 264 commissioned at Alexandria today.







The first three weeks of October were mainly concerned with preparations for opening up the Western Desert ports. Merchant ships were docked, repaired, and held at short notice in the Canal Area. Naval base parties were earmarked and brought forward to Alexandria.


2. The Fleet remained based at Port Said and Haifa. The Rear Admiral Commanding the Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron took every opportunity to carry out exercises, and particularly with A.S.V. aircraft.


3. M.T.B.s and a force of four HUNTS remained based on Alexandria. An operation to destroy enemy shipping in the vicinity of Rhodes was carried out by a force of four M.T.B.s from Paphos. As nothing was found the alternation plan, that of attacking shipping in the harbour, was carried out. Several torpedoes hit the boom and whether any serious damage occurred to the enemy is not clear.


4. M.T.B.s took part in a feint landing to assist LIGHTFOOT in its initial stages. There is little doubt that this diversion contained considerable enemy forces., for the most part German, on the coastal sector.


5. The complete annihilation of a convoy bound for Tobruk by the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm three days after the commencement of LIGHTFOOT deprived Rommel of vital oil and petrol supplies at a critical moment.




6. The quick docking of CLEOPATRA and ARETHUSA was accomplished without Axis interference. High-flying reconnaissance aircraft were over Alexandria on many occasions during the month, but no serious attacks developed.


Central Mediterranean


7. At the end of the month, an operation by H.M.S. FURIOUS in the Western Basin to reinforce Malta with Spitfires was carried out without loss. Adequate fighter cover was given to the incoming aircraft and all enemy attempts at interception were beaten off. A certain number of long range Spitfires were flown to Malta from Gibraltar.


8. Axis tactics against Malta were suddenly changed in the middle of the month. With strong fighter escort and a small number of bombers, the enemy tried to neutralize our aerodromes to cover the passage of important convoys to Tripolitania and Libya. A policy of interception north of the island was adopted and proved eminently successful. The enemy thereupon reverted to high flying tactics using cloud cover; some damage was done to the aerodrome, but it was never at any time serious. By the end of the month, finding these tactics too costly, had left Malta well alone. During this period 45 enemy aircraft were definitely destroyer; we lost 36 aircraft mostly Spitfires.


9. Four submarines continued store carrying trips to Malta with petrol and vital supplies from Gibraltar and Beirut.


10. The First and Tenth Submarine Flotillas carried out many brilliant attacks on Axis convoys and shipping running to Libya. An attack on a heavily escorted southbound convoy of one tanker and three merchant ships for Tripoli by five submarines off Pantellaria was particularly noteworthy. Albacore and Swordfish aircraft made many attacks before the convoy ran into the submarine concentration. H.M.S. 211 sank one merchant vessel, stopped after air attack, P 37 sank a destroyer and one merchant vessel in the convoy, and it possible that P 42 also damaged a merchant vessel. The latter was very accurately counterattacked and damaged, and force to return to Malta.




11. Apart from the loss of four schooners, convoy continued to run unmolested. There were many reports of U boats and several inconclusive hunts by destroyers and aircraft.


12. H.M.S. Ships PAKENHAM, PETARD, DULVERTON, and HURWORTH destroyed the German U boat 559 on the 30th October southwest of Jaffa. She was taken in tow but was seriously damaged and quickly sank. Much valuable material was however captured.


13. A troop movement between Port Said and Beirut into Cyprus was completed by PRINCESS KATHLEEN and three HUNT class destroyers without incident.


14. A Turkish Naval Mission completed a visit to Haifa to study the working of a defended port. They showed great interest in all they saw and appreciated all that was done for them.


Red Sea


15. The enemy made several attacks with long range aircraft on shipping in the Gulf of Suez. A tanker was destroyed at Ras Gharib and an ocean going military dredger was destroyed at Sofaga. On several occasions circling torpedoes were used; all those that hit, however, failed to explode. One small British merchant ship was sunk after a collision with another British merchant ship in the southern half of the Red Sea.


16. Salvage work continued at Massawa under the direction of Captain Ellsberg, United States Navy, and the GERA was successfully refloated and seized in Prize. Merchant shipping dockings had to be temporarily suspended in order to dock and carry out essential repairs to this ship.


17. The old Greek cruiser AVEROFF and the destroyer PANTHER returned to the Mediterranean Station after lengthy repairs at Bombay.


18. There were several reports of U boats in the Gulf of Aden. This was an added anxiety as destroyers could ill be spared as A/S escorts in that area.




19. October saw Commander in Chief's staff, both operational and administration, once again together in the Combined Headquarters at Sidi Bishr, Alexandria.


Changes on Station


20. The following ships joined the Station during October.

P 211, P 212, P 247 Tenth Submarine Flotilla at Malta


PINDOS Fifth Destroyer Flotilla from the United Kingdom


NUBIAN Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla after completion of damage repairs at Bombay


POSTBOY 168th Minesweeping Group from United Kingdom


ML 359 commissioned for service.


G. AVEROFF from Bombay


PANTHER from Bombay



21. There were none during the month.









Sunday, 1st November 1942


Operation M.G. EIGHT


In view of the urgency of the petrol situation, an attempt was made to sail at 15 knot ship through to Malta, relying on disguise and evasive routing. EMPIRE PATROL, escorted by the Greek destroyers SPETSAI and P. CONDOURIOTIS was sailed from Alexandria. EMPIRE PATROL was routed west of Cyprus, via Turkish territorial waters and the Aegean north of Crete, and thence to Malta. She was to proceed unescorted when to the west of Cyprus. EMPIRE PATROL had a cargo of 1200 tons of aviation spirit and 300 tons of benzine


Operation M.H. ONE


2. H.M.S. MANXMAN completed the loading of 350 tons of foodstuffs for Malta at Port Said.


Operation TORCH – the Capture of North Africa


3. The Flag of the Naval Commander Expeditionary Force, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, G.C.B., D.S.O., was hoisted at Gibraltar today on assuming control of all naval forces in the TORCH area.




4. H.M. Submarines P 43 and P 46 were sailed from Malta to their patrol areas for Operation TORCH.



Monday, 2nd November 1942


Operation M.G. EIGHT


At 1330, EMPIRE PATROL was sighted by a Dornier 215 when to the northwest of Cyprus, who may have photographed her. She developed engine defects and turned back proceeding to Famagusta. At 1634 she reported being shadowed by a submarine in position 35-35N, 32-25E.


Operation M.A.Z. FIVE


2. Four M.T.B.s simulated landings in bays off Ras Gibeisa and Ras el Daba on the night of 1st/2nd November. Rafts, calcium flares, and balloons were dropped, which successfully drew the enemy's fire. No damage or casualties were sustained by the M.T.B.s who returned to Alexandria at 0700.


Western Desert – Operation SUPERCHARGE


3. In the northern sector, our forces began an attack westward during the night of 1st/2nd November. By dawn, the final objectives had been reached. Diversionary attacks were made in the central and southern sectors with some success.




4. A lifeboat was washed up on the beach at 29-33E from the Italian S.S. DANDOLA.




5. H.M.S. PARTHIAN arrived with a small amount of vital stores for the garrison. E boats, probably engaged in minelaying, were active off the Island during the night. There were illuminated by searchlights and engaged by the coastal batteries.




6. H.M. Submarines P 35, P 37, and P 44 were sailed from Malta to their patrol areas for Operation TORCH.




7. H.M.S. P 712 (ex Italian PERLA) arrived at Port Said for extensive refitting.


8. H.M. Ships ORION, ARETHUSA, and EURYALUS with six destroyers carried out exercises north of Port Said during the day.


Red Sea


9. H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR, when leaving Port Berenice, grounded at 0809 in the outer harbour.


10. The Greek destroyer PANTHER, which had recently arrived on the Station from Bombay, was retained at Aden for local escort duties.



Tuesday, 3rd November 1942


Operation M.G. EIGHT


H.M.S. EMPIRE PATROL arrived at Famagusta at 0700. The Greek destroyers SPETSAI and CONDOURIOTIS carried out a hunt for the U boat sighted by EMPIRE PATROL the previous afternoon.




2. H.M.S. Submarines P 211, P 212, P 247, UNA, and UTMOST were sailed from Malta to their patrol areas for Operation TORCH. H.M.S. CLYDE arrived from Beirut with a cargo of petrol and torpedoes.


Levant – Move TENTERDEN


3. H.H.M.S. AETOS who had to return to Beirut with defects was replaced by COMMANDANT DOMINE.


Red Sea


4. H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR refloated at 1824 and reported that she was undamaged. She continued surveying operations off Port Berenice.


5. H.M.S. WORCESTERSHIRE arrived at Aden and was sailed for Suez with naval personnel from Durban.



Wednesday, 4th November 1942


Operation M.G. EIGHT


H.M.S. EMPIRE PATROL having completed engine repairs was sailed from Famagusta to Beirut escorted by the Greek destroyer CONDOURIOTIS, as part of Move TENTERDEN.




2. H.M. Submarines PARTHIAN and TURBULENT, the last two of the twelve submarines sailing to take up patrols to cover the Allied Landings in North Africa (Operation TORCH), left Malta.


Levant. Move TENTERDEN


3. F.F.S. COMMANDANT DOMINE developed defects and had to be replaced by WHITEHAVEN for the remaining serials.


4. Owing to the increased use of the port of Alexandria by Fleet units, the A.A. Range, gun mountings, and equipment at Haifa were ordered to be transferred back to Alexandria.



Thursday, 5th November 1942


Western Desert


During the night of 4th/5th November, the Eighth Army broke through the enemy's positions on the El Alamein line. The pursuit of Rommel's forces continued throughout the day; large numbers of prisoners were taken as well as a vast quantity of M.T. and stores. German rearguards fought a delaying action southwest of the Fuka escarpment.


Operation M.A.Z. SIX


2. During the night 4th/5th November, 6 M.T.B.s and 2 M.L.s carried out a sweep was of Alexandria as far as Mersa Matruh to destroyer any attempted evacuation of enemy troops by sea. Nothing, however, was seen. H.M. Ships EXMOOR, CROOME, HURWORTH, and ALDENHAM remained at El Kot anchorage as a striking force if required.




3. The S.S. STAR OF MEX's engines were disabled off the Great Pass. She was towed into harbour by BRIGAND and HARROW.


Port Said


4. H.M. Ships HERO, KELVIN, PAKENHAM, PETARD, and JAVELIN carried out a hunt for a U boat in position 31-43N, 32-30E throughout the day, but without result.


Red Sea


5. H.M.S. STORMCENTRE (LL minesweeper) arrived at Aden to join the 169th Minesweeping Group on the Mediterranean Station.


Commander in Chief


6. The Minister of State, Middle East, the Right Honourable R.G. Casey, P.C., D.S.O., M.P., and Lord Moyne arrived in Alexandria and had a meeting with Admiral Harwood.



Friday, 6th November 1942


Operation M.G. EIGHT


As there was little doubt that the enemy was suspicious of the EMPIRE PATROL's movement, it was considered that the operation was compromised. Chances of success were therefore doubtful, and the operation was reluctantly abandoned.


Western Desert


2. The Panzer Army was unable to hold the Fuka escarpment and by the end of the day our forces were on the general line of the escarpment south of Mersa Matruh.


Operation M.A.Z. SIX


3. Four M.T.B.s searched the coast as far as the front line during the night of 5th/6th November to prevent any evacuation of enemy troops or tanks. Nothing was found, however, and M.T.B.s returned to harbour without incident. Two HUNTS remained at El Kot as a striking force if required.


Operation SNEEZE. Precautions against Force "X" (French ships) in Alexandria Harbour in event of hostile action by that Force consequent on impending Allied landings in North Africa.


4. All shipping was cleared from Alexandria Harbour except the small amount out of range of the French units.




5. The Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area, was ordered to sail one Escort Group direct to Alexandria for the Western Desert convoys.


6. H.M.S. EMPIRE PATROL, escorted by WHITEHAVEN, SPETSAI, and IERAX was sailed from Beirut to Port Said.




7. H.M.S. ANTWERP escorted by WHITEHAVEN and IERAX arrived at Beirut completed the final serial. Two thousand, four hundred troops had been taken out of Cyprus and 1,200 had been put in. There were no incidents.



Saturday, 7th November 1942


Operation CRUPPER


Two Merchant Ships, the ARDEOLA and TADORNA entered the Mediterranean for independent passage to Malta under cover of the Assault for Operation TORCH. They were disguised as French ships.


Western Desert


2. Heavy fighting continued throughout the day with the enemy's rearguard. A small enemy force was left in Mersa Matruh to delay our advance. The Royal Air Force occupied the Daba airfields. Enemy aircraft were still using Sidi Barrani aerodrome. Seven minesweepers were sailed from Alexandria to clear the approaches to Mersa Matruh. Later in the day, they were ordered to reverse their course till the situation at Mersa Matruh had clarified itself, as the enemy was believed still in occupation.


Operation M.A.Z. EIGHT


3. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Alexandria to the westward to rescue Royal Air Force crews in position 32-55N, 26-15E, but found nothing.


Operation SNEEZE


4. The French battleship LORRAINE was docked in the Admiralty Floating Dock. This was done at Admiral Godfroy's request, made many months ago. This suited us admirably, considerably reducing the strength of Force "X" in the event of hostile action.


5. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and all available destroyers carried out exercises off Port Said and on completion steering towards Alexandria for Operation SNEEZE.




6. The A.T. defences for the oiling berth at Tripoli (Syria) were completed.


7. H.M.S. ANTWERP was sailed from Haifa to Port Said.


Red Sea


8. The Italian merchant ship TRIPOLITANIA was raised at Massawa and seized in prize.


9. H.M.S. WORCESTERSHIRE arrived at Suez, disembarked personnel, and was sailed for Aden.



Sunday, 8th November 1942




With the commencement of Operation TORCH, the westernmost boundary of the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean's area became a line joining Cape Bon to Marittimo, thence to the northwest Sicilian coast and along the western coast of Italy. Events to the west of this line have ceased to be included in the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean' War Diary unless Eastern Mediterranean units were taking part, or events directly concern the Eastern Mediterranean Area.


Operation TORCH


Anglo American Forces landed at Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers shortly before dawn.


Operation SNEEZE. To force Force "X" to accept our terms in the event of war with Vichy France.


2. Commander in Chief, Mediterranean interviewed Admiral Godfroy on receipt of Admiralty Instructions and informed him of the Allied Landings in North Africa. Admiral Godfroy's reactions were confused and in spite of all arguments he could not decide on any course of action.


3. Adequate precautions in Alexandria were taken to meet all eventualities. All ships of Force "X" were covered by heavy and light Army guns disposed around the harbour. M.T.B.s were positioned so as to be able to torpedo ships if offensive action had to be taken. Boarding parties were in readiness to take over the ships after all resistance had ceased.


4. Shipping in Alexandria harbour had been cleared by this date down to a bare minimum. What little that was left was berthed so as to be hidden from Force "X"'s armament.


5. Commander in Chief had a further interview with Admiral Godfroy in company with General Andrews, General Commanding First Army, out of which nothing further was achieved. It appeared fairly certain that Admiral Godfroy would take no action against us unless Vichy declared war.


6. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and all destroyers were ordered to return to Port Said and keep steam at short notice.


7. Late this evening, Force "X" appeared to be raising steam which later did not materialize into action.


Western Desert


8. Our forces occupied Mersa Matruh. The remnants of the German Afrika Corps continued to retreat. The Thirteenth Corps was allotted the task of clearing the Alamein battlefield and the collection of the many thousands of Italians abandoned by their Allies on the southern flank.


9. Two L.C.T.s with petrol unloaded from Smuggler's Cove, east of Mersa Matruh harbour.


Operation M.A.Z. EIGHT


10. Two M.T.B.s were sailed to the westward of Alexandria to rescue some Royal Air Force crews, but found nothing.


Mersa Matruh


11. The enemy on leaving contaminated all the supplies of fresh water, but did not carry out demolitions or block the harbour. In spite of the previous British demolitions, it was found anchor berths were available for two ships of maximum draught of 17 feet. Four enemy 120/150m.m. coastal defence guns were left intact but with little ammunition.




12. A torpedo was accidentally fired by M.T.B. 307 at 0815 which hit Ras el Tin pier, causing the deaths of ten ratings and one rating wounded. Two picket boats and two motorboats were destroyed and two others damaged. One salvage pump and one anti tank gun and the pier were destroyed.




13. H.M.S. RORQUAL arrived at Port Said from Malta for docking.



Monday, 9th November 1942


Western Desert


Sidi Barrani was occupied at 1430. Light rain tended to impede our advance.


2. The First Western Desert Convoy of two merchant ships and four L.C.T.s was sailed from Alexandria for Mersa Matruh.


Operation M.A.G. ONE. Mine clearance of Mersa Matruh approaches.


3. The Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of CROMER, CROMARTY, and BOSTON, in company with danlayers and A/S craft, reported having swept up 46 mines during the day in the vicinity of Mersa Matruh.


Loss of H.M.S. CROMER


4. H.M.S. CROMER (Senior Officer, Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla) struck at mine at 1715 and blew up in position 31-26.8N, 27-16E. CROMARTY and BOSTON picked up four officers and thirty two ratings (nine of which were seriously wounded). The Commanding Officer was amongst those missing. It would appear that CROMER struck a mine which was slowing sinking just below the surface.


Operation SNEEZE


5. The situation as regards Force "X" appeared to be easing. All precautions in the harbour remained in force. The undocking of LORRAINE was delayed twenty four hours.


6. The late hospital ship SOMERSETSHIRE was moved across the boom as a further obstacle to prevent the ships of Force "X" leaving harbour.




7. The Second Escort Group, less one corvette arrived from the Levant.




8. H.M.S. CLYDE was sailed for Gibraltar and the United Kingdom for refit.


Fleet Air Arm


9. Swordfish and Albacore aircraft attacked a force of three Italian 6" inches and five destroyers in position 144 degrees Cape Spartivento, 75 miles when proceeding from Navarin to Messina. Two explosions were seen, one very large, but subsequent reconnaissance showed all cruisers in harbour apparently undamaged, but two destroyers were sunk.



Tuesday, 10th November 1942


Operation M.H. ONE


H.M.S. MANXMAN escorted by DULVERTON, CROOME, BEAUFORT and ALDENHAM was sailed from Port Said at 0700 arriving at Alexandria after dark. Two hundred military personnel were embarked for passage to Malta.


Operation CRUPPER


2. The two merchant ships did not arrive at their rendezvous south of Filfola Island at daylight and subsequent reconnaissance did not locate them; from subsequent information it appears that these ships entered Bizerta harbour after being fired on by coastal batteries and were interned undamaged. Their crews were subsequently repatriated to the United Kingdom.


Western Desert


3. Axis forces crossed into Cyrenaica from Egypt. Our forward elements were operating in the Gambut area. The speed of our advance was to a great extent limited by the supply problem. A total of 24,153 German and Italian prisoners of was had now passed through the cages.


Operation M.B.Z. One


4. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Alexandria to rescue an R.A.F. crew in approximately 32-55N, 26-15E. This was successful and both M.T.B.s proceeded to Mersa Matruh on completion.


Force "X"


5. The French battleship LORRAINE was undocked from the Admiralty Floating Dock. As a result of an interview with a representative of the Allied Commander in Chief, North Africa, Darlan ordered all sea, land, and air forces in North Africa, including Tunisia, to cease hostilities.




6. H.M.S. PORPOISE was retained at Malta for a possible landing of military personnel in the Sousse area to captain certain coast defence guns.




7. H.M.S. ERICA was missed by torpedoes at 1847 in position 33-20N, 34-38E; a subsequent hunt was unsuccessful.



Wednesday, 11th November 1942


Operation M.H. ONE


H.M.S. MANXMAN escorted by DULVERTON, BEAUFORT, ALDENHAM, HURWORTH, and BELVOIR was sailed from Alexandria at 0500 for Malta. On passing through the boom, MANXMAN grounded after outside the quarantine breakwater. With the assistance of a tug she was refloated at 0620 reporting no apparent damage and proceeded. After dark, the HUNTs turned back for Alexandria and MANXMAN continued to Malta at high speed.


Operation SNEEZE


2. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron at Port Said was ordered to revert to normal notice. The remaining ships of the Fleet and those units in Alexandria Harbour reverted to one hours notice for steam.


Western Desert


3. Capuzzo was occupied by our forces. The Eighth Army's advance was proceeding at a faster rate than anticipated. Sollum was occupied by the end of the day. A swept channel into Mersa Matruh was established.


Port Said


4. H.M.S. WOOLWICH arrived from Suez.


Canal Area


5. The four Greek merchant ships earmarked as blockships in the Canal Area were ordered to be unloaded and released for trade.


6. The first batch of dockyard workmen for the Naval Base at Massawa left Suez today.




7. H.M.S. P 46 returned to Malta from patrol off Cape San Vito for Operation TORCH. At 1123 on 8th November in position 38-14N, 12-43E she torpedoed and hit a REGOLO class cruiser heavily escorted by destroyers. This hit was confirmed by a subsequent reconnaissance of Palermo.


8. The Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, transferred the operational control of the Tenth Submarine Flotilla to the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, which had been under his direction for the initial stages of Operation TORCH.


9. The following signal was made by the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, to Captain (S), Tenth Submarine Flotilla:

"Redispose submarines as you consider most effective to cut Axis communication with Bizerta, Tunis, and East Tunisian ports. Possible movements of the Italian Fleet to westward need not be catered for."


Thursday, 12th November 1942


Operation M.H. ONE


H.M.S. DULVERTON with ALDENHAM, CROOME, HURWORTH, BELVOIR, and BEAUFORT arrived at Alexandria at 0630.


2. H.M.S. MANXMAN arrived at Malta at 1700 without incident.


Western Desert


3. The supply of petrol and water from L.C.T.s was proceeding most satisfactorily. Bardia was occupied and water supplies were found intact. The jetty was completely demolished; there were no alongside berths for any type of craft, up to five landing craft could however, discharge onto an unsheltered beach.


4. Reconnaissance reports showed that the enemy was evacuating Tobruk. All landing grounds east of Tobruk were in our hands. The following signal was sent by the Arm Commander to the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean Station:

"My very sincere thanks for your kind message which is much appreciated by the Eighth Army. We send to the Navy our thanks in the part they have played, first in safeguarding the passage of troops and supplies without which the offensive would not have been possible, and secondly, in the direct assistance during the present operations."

Operation M.A.Z. TWO


5. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Mersa Matruh to patrol off Ras el Mreisa during the night to intercept shipping and small craft proceeding from Bardia and Tobruk.




6. H.M.S. TAKU (Lieutenant A.J. Pitt), returned to Port Said from a very successful working up patrol in the Aegean. She reported having sunk a caique in the vicinity of Kupho, and the Italian tanker ARCA at 0804 on the 26th in position 38-04N, 25-27E. At 1056 on 31st October, in position 37-30N, 24-03E, she probably sank a medium sized merchant ship out of a convoy of three ships, escorted by three trawlers.


7. H.M.S. UTMOST returning from patrolling between Cape de Armi and Cape Spartivento, Calabria which was of Operation TORCH. UTMOST sighted three Italian cruisers escorted by six destroyers off Cape Santo Croce, who were westbound from Navarin to Port Augusta. At 0737, on the 10th November, UTMOST attacked the rear cruiser but missed, and she sank one of the escorting destroyers.


Italian Fleet


8. Photographic reconnaissance of Taranto showed that three LITTORIO battleships escorted by nine destroyers had left Taranto.


Red Sea


9. One large and one small ex Italian Government Floating Dock was seized in prize at Massawa after having been salvaged.


10. The Turkish ferry DARICA, ran aground in position 12-55N, 48-15E on the night 11th/12th November. She was refloated by tugs from Aden and Assab and sustained no damage.



Friday, 13th November 1942


Western Desert


Tobruk was cleared of the enemy today and occupied by our forces. The enemy had left hurriedly and little demolition had taken place. Many of the jetties were seriously damaged as a result of our own bombing and several wrecks were found in addition to the many already there. The inner boom was intact, but the outer boom was useless. Water supplies were uncontaminated. The wreck of an Italian submarine of the BALILLA class was found beached in position 32-04.6N, 23-59.2E. This U boat had been hit by two bombs in a raid by U.S. Army Air Force bombers on the 7th November. She was subsequently completely wrecked internally by demolition and salvage was impossible.


Operation SNEEZE


2. The operation and loading of Western Desert ships and craft in Alexandria took precedence over the restrictions previously imposed due to Operation SNEEZE.


Motor Torpedo Boats


3. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Mersa Matruh and operated in the vicinity of Tobruk during the night to intercept enemy shipping proceeding westward, but found nothing.


4. The Mobile M.T.B. Base was transferred to Sollum in order that the M.T.B.s could operate against enemy shipping evacuating Tobruk.




5. H.H.M.S. NEREUS arrived in Beirut from a long patrol in the Aegean, in spite of several engine defects. On the night of 3rd/4th November, Operation HOLLYM was successfully carried out. This consisted of landing one and a half tons of stores and three Greek agents on the Euboean coast.


6. H.M.S. P 44 returned to Malta from patrol off the northwest of Sicily to cover Operation TORCH. H.M.S. P 44 witnesses an attack on a REGOLO class cruiser by H.M.S. P 46 at 1125 on 8th November, 16 miles northwest of Cape San Vito, which blew a considerable portion of her bow away. H.M.S. P 44 attempted to finish her off, but missed, though an escorting destroyer may have been hit.


7. H.M.S. UNA also returned to Malta from patrol off the southern approaches of Messina and Port Augusta for the initial stages of Operation TORCH. At 0710 on 10th November, H.M.S. UNA sighted an enemy force of three 6 inch cruisers, escorted by six destroyers in position 37-11N, 15-30E. The cruisers were missed by UNA, but a fleet destroyer on the far side of the screen was hit and sunk.


Italian Fleet


8. Visual reconnaissance of Naples showed three LITTORIO battleships, four cruisers, and eight destroyers in harbour.



Saturday, 14th November 1942




Operation STONEAGE. Convoy of Four Store Ships to Malta


2. Convoy M.W. 13 consisting of DENBIGHSHIRE, BANTAM (Dutch), ROBIN LOCKSLEY and MORMACMOON (both American) arrived at Abu Sultan, just south of Ismailia. The Rear Admiral Commanding, The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron arrived from Port Said and conducted the convoy conference during the afternoon.


Operation SNEEZE


3. The orders for Operation SNEEZE were cancelled, but certain naval precautions were kept at reasonable notice.


Western Desert


4. The enemy's opposition in the Gazala area was slight, but his main forces continued retreating towards Tocra. Tmimi was occupied at the close of the day.


5. The cased petrol carrier EMPIRE PATROL was sailed from Alexandria for Bardia and Tobruk with 1200 tons of aviation spirit and 300 tons of benzine for the advanced landing grounds at Gazala in order that aircraft could operate from there for Operation STONEAGE. Many L.C.T.s, L.C.M.s, L.C.P.s, Z craft, pontoon, and water carriers were on passage to Mersa Matruh, Bardia, and Tobruk.


6. H.M.S. WHITEHAVEN reported being attacked by two Italian torpedo bombers when in the vicinity of Mersa Matruh. All the torpedoes missed and the aircraft made off undamaged.


Motor Torpedo Boats


7. Two M.T.B.s again operated in the Tobruk area, but found no enemy shipping.




8. The restrictions imposed on the 30th June 1942 on the number of ships allowed in the harbour were now removed; the shipping authorities were informed that the port could be worked to its maximum capacity.




9. Schooner traffic south of Tripoli (Syria) was suspended on account of U boat activity.




Sunday, 15th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


The sailing of the convoy for Malta was delayed twenty four hours pending our occupation of the Gambut oilfields. (n.b. pen correction..Gambut airfields).


Operation SNEEZE


2. The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron in CLEOPATRA in company with ORION, ARETHUSA, and DIDO, escorted by DULVERTON, PINDOS, BEAUFORT, CROOME, TETCOTT, and ALDENHAM were sailed from Port Said arriving at Alexandria at 1530.


3. About twelve M.T.B.s remained available for any offensive action against Force "X" if required. In addition to this, all H.A. and coast defence guns remained in position.


Western Desert


4. Bardia and Tobruk were reported to be cleared of mines. Derna and Martuba landing grounds were clear of the enemy. A dusk raid at Tobruk by three JU 88s resulted in no damage. The first railway train reached Mersa Matruh today.




5. H.M.S. P 212 on patrol in the Gulf of Sirte, reported that British prisoners of war were being evacuated from Benghazi to Tripoli in small coastal shipping. (see under War Diary for 25th November).




6. The schooners EL HANNAM and SAMIKA commissioned at Port Said today for service in the Western Desert.


7. A.A. Gunnery training facilities at Port Said were ordered to be transferred to Alexandria.



Monday, 16th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


Convoy N.W. 13 transitted the Canal and passed through Port Said at dusk. H.M.S. EURYALUS and eight Fleet destroyers joined the convoy off the end of the Port Said searched channel.


Western Desert


2. Heavy weather along the Libyan coast made the passage for small craft precarious; Bardia was unworkable due to heavy swell.


3. H.M.S. EMPIRE PATROL offloaded 400 tons of aviation spirit at Bardia and then sailed for Tobruk to await until the Vice Admiral Malta had reported that 2000 tons of aviation spirit had been discharged from the merchant ships of STONEAGE. If STONEAGE had failed, it was intended to sail her for Malta.


4. The merchant ship HERMALIN grounded whilst entering Mersa Matruh, but sustained no damage. Tobruk reported minesweeping operations completed; a special Wellington exploded one mine.


5. Derna and the landing ground were reported clear of the enemy, but the roads east and west of the town were blocked.


6. At Derna, the small pier and jetty were found intact.


Motor Torpedo Boats


7. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Ras el Hilal to intercept shipping leaving Benghazi on the night 15th/16th November, but were forced to turn back early due to weather.




8. Schooner traffic in the area south of Tripoli (Syria) was resumed.




9. H.M.S. RORQUAL arrived at Beirut from Port Said.



Tuesday, 17th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


The convoy and close escort arrived off the Alexandria searched Channel at 0700 when the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla relieved the Fleet Destroyers who proceeded into Alexandria to fuel. The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron in CLEOPATRA, with DIDO, ARETHUSA, ORION, and the Twelfth and Fourteen Destroyer Flotillas were sailed at 1330 to overtake the convoy at daylight the next day.


Western Desert


2. In the south our advanced units were operating in the Msus area and astride the road south of Benghazi. The Martuba airfields were unserviceable due to rain.


Motor Torpedo Boats


3. Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Tobruk to attack enemy shipping leaving Benghazi during the night 16th/17th November and met nothing.




4. An enemy convoy of one 10,000 ton tanker, escorted by two destroyers was attacked by Fleet Air Arm aircraft at 2155 in position 050 degrees Homs 35 miles. Two torpedo hits were scored on the tanker which became heavily on fire and sank.


5. The tug ANCIENT which had been damaged and sunk during the heavy air attacks in April 1942 was salved and taken in hand for refit.




6. In view of the improved situation in the Mediterranean, submarines of the 1st Flotilla discontinued carrying petrol and stores to Malta.




7. The Egyptian motor schooner EL FATTAL was sunk by a single enemy aircraft in position 33-50N, 32-10E. All the crew were saved.



Wednesday, 18th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


At daylight, CLEOPATRA, ORION, ARETHUSA, and DIDO with seven Fleet destroyers joined convoy M.W. 13 and the close escort. At 1110, the convoy was attacked by six JU 88s, no damage resulting. One aircraft was seen to crash. At 1620, in position 33-29N, 21-10E, 26 JU 52s passed ahead of the convoy on a northeasterly course escorted by two fighters. Four of our aircraft attacked and each claimed to have damaged one aircraft. At 1700, the Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and Fleet Destroyers parted company in order to cover the convoy to the northward.


2. At 1805 in position 33-36N, 20-44E, ARETHUSA was hit by an aircraft torpedo during a dusk attack on the force by about three torpedo bombers. PETARD was detached to escort her eastward.


3. Two torpedo bombers attacked the convoy at 1825 and 1905 and the latter aircraft was probably destroyed by U.S. ROBIN LOCKSLEY. Fighter protection throughout the day was provided by single engined fighters from Martuba and Beaufighters from Gambut.


Western Desert


4. M.T.B.s made several attempts to attack shipping in the Benghazi area, but bad weather limited their activities. Minesweepers began sweeping a swept channel into Tobruk.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived with stores, aircraft torpedoes and a few service personnel from Algiers.




6. H.M.S. P 48 arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla. She had taken part in the early stages of Operation TORCH as a navigational mark off Algiers, afterwards carrying out a patrol in the Gulf of Tunis. Two unsuccessful attacks were made in this area, and with all torpedoes expended she was ordered to return to Malta.


7. H.M.S. P 45 also arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla, She had carried out a beach reconnaissance of one of the Algiers' beaches and subsequently acted as a navigational beacon for Operation TORCH. On completion she carried out a troll in the Gulf of Tunis. Three attacks were made but all were unsuccessful.


Red Sea


8. H.M.S. HERO arrived at Aden from Port Said.



Thursday, 19th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


The covering force of cruisers and Fleet destroyers rejoined the convoy at daylight. Very rough weather was experienced all day. During the course of the forenoon, three Spitfires crashed ahead of the convoy from unknown causes; all three pilots were killed. At 1400 in position 34-50N, 15-35E, CLEOPATRA, DIDO, ORION, and the six Fleet destroyers parted company with the convoy and returned to Alexandria.


Return of H.M.S. ARETHUSA to Alexandria


2. At daylight all fires forward had been got under control and ARETHUSA was proceeding to the eastward in company with PETARD making good a speed of 10 knots. A few hostile aircraft attacked during the day, but were all driven off. JANUS and GLOXINIA joined ARETHUSA at the end of the day.


Western Desert


3. The first convoy entered Tobruk; the discharge of cargo and petrol made a satisfactory start. The anti aircraft defences of the port were now completed.


4. Gale weather all along the coast delayed the unloading of ships in Bardia and Mersa Matruh.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was retained at Malta, as it was intended to use her for an operation for landing troops in the Sousse area.




6. H.M.S. P 43 returned to Malta from taking part in Operation TORCH in which the approaches to Messina and the North west corner of Sicily were covered. At 2350 on the 16th November, in position 37-57N, 11-56E, she scored a hit with torpedoes on a medium sized tanker; P 43 then surfaced and attempted to finish her off by gunfire, but the tanker retaliated and she was forced to dive. The ship was last seen heavily listed and attempting to beach herself.


Red Sea


7. Twenty survivors from the British S.S. LAPLACE were landed from a merchant ship at Aden. They reported that their ship had been torpedoed and sunk by two torpedoes from a submarine in position 37-55N, 21-00E on the 29th October.


Safe Conduct


8. The Italian repatriation lines VULCANIA and SATURNIA arrived at Berbera from Italy via the Cape.




9. Admiral Sir Howard Kelly, G.B.E., K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., arrived from Turkey and visited Admiral Harwood. He also had an interview with Admiral Godfroy.



Friday, 20th November 1942


Operation STONEAGE


At 0130 all ships of the convoy had arrived safely in the Grand Harbour, Malta. EURYALUS and ten HUNT class destroyers berthed during the night of 19th/20th November.


Return of H.M.S. ARETHUSA to Alexandria


2. At 1345, PETARD reported that she had ARETHUSA in tow stern first, and was making good a speed of three knots. A full gale was blowing. She was then in approximate position 31-21N, 28-37E. The tugs arrived at 1630 from Alexandria and towing operations continued through the night. Rear Admiral, Alexandria conducted towing operations from a tug as Commanding Officer ARETHUSA was no longer able to take charge, being severely burnt.


Western Desert


3. The forward elements of the Eighth Army entered Benghazi, noon today. L.C.T. 120 foundered in heavy weather, at 0747 in position 35 miles east northeast of Bardia. The South African minesweeper BOKSBURG picked up survivors. One rating was drowned.


4. L.C.M. 139 was stranded and became a total loss at Ras Kanayis in longitude 27-48E. One rating lost his life.


5. The Boom working vessel BARFORD towing "Z" lighters and L.C.M.s ran into gale weather when some twenty miles to the west of Alexandria. Four "Z" lighters were wrecked but were considered salvable.




6. H.M.S. P 37 arrived at Malta from a patrol for Operation TORCH and followed by a patrol off Palermo. Several attacks were carried out but all missed; as all torpedoes were expended she was forced to return to harbour.


7. H.M.S. PARTHIAN also arrived at Malta from a patrol line for Operation TORCH off Cagliari. At 17.. (n.b. page torn, minutes missing) on the 13th November off Marittimo, PARTHIAN torpedoed and probably sank an escorted 4000 ton merchant ship. At 1130 on 16th November, once again off Marittimo, PARTHIAN fired four torpedoes at a large merchant ship, possibly an armed merchant cruiser and may have scored one hit.


Safe Conduct


8. The Swedish relief ships CAMELIA and FORMOSA sailed from Gibraltar bound for Kalamata and the Piraeus via the Straits of Messina. They carried supplies of wheat from Canada for the Greeks. The Swedish relief ship EROS also left Gibraltar with wheat for Kalamata.



Saturday, 21st November 1942


Return of H.M.S. ARETHUSA to Alexandria


H.M.S. CROMARTY arrived at dawn and every available tug continued their efforts to get ARETHUSA in. At 1845, ARETHUSA passed the boom after a long and gallant struggle. Casualties in ARETHUSA were one officer and 155 ratings killed, one officer (the Commanding Officer) and 42 ratings wounded.


Western Desert


2. H.M.S. EMPIRE PATROL was ordered to unload her cargo of aviation spirit at Tobruk owing to the safe arrival of convoy M.W. 13 at Malta.


3. A single enemy aircraft dropped bombs in Tobruk harbour. One bomb fell close to H.M. Tug ST ISSEY but no serious damage resulted.




4. H.M.S. EURYALUS and the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (less CROOME and TETCOTT) were sailed for Alexandria. EURYALUS embarked 28 German and Italian prisoners of war.


Red Sea


5. H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR completed a survey of the entrance to Mersa Halaib. The British S.S. URBINO ran aground on Ergriyah Reef (28-12.8N, 33-35.8E). She was on passage from Mombasa to Haifa.


6. The Salvage Tug CONFEDERATE was sailed from Suez to her assistance.


Station Appointment


7. Rear Admiral A. Poland (Retd), D.S.O. relieved Rear Admiral G.E. Creswell, (Retd) D.S.O., D.S.C. as Rear Admiral Alexandria.




8. H.M.S. P 35 returned to Malta from Operation TORCH and a patrol off the western coast of Calabria. P 35 sighted the three LITTORIO battleships escorted by twelve destroyers on the 12th November off Cape Vaticano. A salvo of torpedoes was fired but unfortunately did no damage. On the 15th November, a rail sabotage party was landed in the Gulf of Eufemia; owing to considerable barded wire entanglements being met, the party was forced to withdraw. At 1416 in position 38-21.5N, 15-27.5E she probably sank a 7000 ton Italian passenger ship.



Sunday, 22nd November 1942


Return passage of H.M.S. EURYALUS and Fifth Destroyer Flotilla


H.M. Ships DULVERTON and EXMOOR were detached at 1500 and were ordered to proceed into Tobruk to fuel. Enemy aircraft shadowed throughout the day, but no attack developed until 2100, when two torpedo bombers made an unsuccessful attack.


Western Desert


2. Tobruk. Three single enemy aircraft dropped bombs in the harbour during the night; there was no damaged. Over 1000 tons of cargo was discharged from ships in harbour, but there was still an insufficient amount of labour.


3. Benghazi. The Naval base party was established today. There were two major demolitions in the outer and central Moles. The enemy made no attempt to block the inner or outer harbours. Six berths were reported as available on completion of sweeping. The enemy left a considerable amount of minesweeping and boom defence gear as well as 25 load and serviceable lighters.


4. No Italian civilians were left in the town and there were about 6500 Arabs in the neighbourhood. Navy House (the ex Banca D'Italia) was almost undamaged. The Power Station and Fiat works were completely demolished.


Red Sea


5. The Commodore in Charge, Aden, in HERO arrived at Berbera for a short visit.




6. H.M.S. SKUDD IV was commissioned at Alexandria. This minesweeper had been undergoing extensive repairs for many months.



Monday, 23rd November 1942


Western Desert


Agedabia was occupied by our forces. Our advance was hindered by mines.


2. H.M.S. ANTWERP sailed from Alexandria escorted by PALADIN and PETARD with stores for Tobruk.


3. One British aircraft was shot down by S.S. SOFALA in a convoy of four ships bound from Alexandria for Tobruk. This aircraft failed to identify herself and dived steeply from astern onto the ships. SNAPDRAGON, ERICA, SOUTHERN MAID, BURRA, and an M.L. were escorting this convoy.


4. At Mersa Matruh the coastal defence guns and most of the A.A. defences were removed for use at Benghazi.


5. At Benghazi a single enemy aircraft dropped bombs on the harbour during the night but no damage resulted. Some A.A. Defences were already in place.




6. H.M.S. EURYALUS and Fifth Destroyer Flotilla (less CROOME and TETCOTT) entered harbour at 0900.


Malta. Operation BREASTPLATE


The capture of Sousse to assist TORCH forces


7. The WELSHMAN, who had been loaded with army guns, stores, and extra boats, was ordered to disembark this equipment, the operation being abandoned. The unloading of the recent convoy and lack of suitable assault craft caused the Admiralty to cancel the operation.


Red Sea


8. H.M.S. TEVIOTBANK arrived at Massawa and was taken in hand for repairs. Commodore in Charge, Aden, in HERO arrived at Perim and inspected the local installations.


9. The British S.S. URBINO which was stranded on the north end of Ergriya Reef was refloated by H.M. Salvage Vessel CONFEDERATE.




10. The Admiralty approved the Title of Principal Sea Transport Officer, Egypt, being altered to Principal Sea Transport Officer, Middle East, in view of the fact that his sphere of responsibility now extended to Malta and the Persian Gulf.



Tuesday, 24th November 1942


 Western Desert


The enemy had fallen back on to the El Agheila line and had begun to dig himself in.


2. An advanced M.T.B. base was established at Ras el Hilal.


3. One cased petrol carrier and one store ship escorted by ANTWERP, PALADIN, and PETARD arrived at Tobruk. The Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron, reported that the Port organisation at Tobruk was proceeding satisfactorily.




4. H.M. Ships PAKENHAM and NUBIAN were sailed from Alexandria to Haifa in order to escort an important ship from Haifa to Port Said.




5. H.M.S. PORPOISE returned to Malta from a short patrol in the Khoms – Misurata area. At 0646 on 19th November, in position 33-05N, 14-15E, she torpedoed and sank a tanker which had been stopped by aerial torpedo attack the previous day. Her cargo was either benzine or aviation spirit. The enemy made no effort to salve this ship whilst stopped.


6. At 1016 on 23rd November, in position off the Kerkennah Bank, PORPOISE engaged by gunfire the Italian naval auxiliary GIACOMO of 730 tons, carrying benzine. She quickly caught fire and was abandoned. Two prisoners only were taken as enemy aircraft interrupted the operation.


7. H.M.S. P 211 returned to Malta from a very successful patrol off the East Tunisian coast in the Gulf of Sirte. At 1431 on 13th November, when five miles off Sousse, she gunned and sank the Italian auxiliary brigantine BICE. Only the Captain of the BICE was taken prisoner, the remaining survivors, ten of them, being left in their boat. They gave P 211 an enthusiastic send off on her departure. Secret papers, including the weeks Italian aircraft and minor war vessels recognition signals were found on the Captain of the Brigantine.


8. At 2300 on the 16th November, P 211 torpedoed a 2500 ton merchant vessel at Ras el Ali anchorage which blew up in a sheet of flame; the ship was seen to be still burning twenty four hours later when the anchorage was again closed. At dawn on the 17th November, P 211 fired one torpedo at a concentration of L.C.T.s and lighters in the vicinity of the pier. The torpedo exploded at the landing place, where it is probably an ammunition lighter blew up.


9. At 2125 on 17th November, she torpedoed and sank a schooner in the south western corner of Marsa el Brega (30-25N, 19-35E). The following day at 0747, a small light vessel with no crew was sunk by gunfire in position 020 degrees Ras Ali 10 miles. At 1010 on the same day, P 211 gunned an enemy L.C.T. which silenced one of its guns and caused ammunition to explode.


10. At 1156 on 22nd November, P 211 gunned an L.C.T. two miles south of Ras el Sultan, scoring two hits. After ten minutes, the action was broken off, all ammunition having been expended.


11. During the patrol, P 211 (Commander B. Bryant, D.S.C.) steamed 2800 miles.


12. H.M.S. P 247 returned to Malta from taking part in Operation TORCH and a subsequent patrol in the Tunis and Bizerta approaches. At 1644 on the 5th November, in position 38-34N, 12-09E, she torpedoed and sank an Italian U boat of the COBALTO class at a range of 800 yards. She subsequently passed through much oil and wreckage; no survivors were seen.


Port Said


13. Quarantine restrictions were imposed, due to a case of plague. Movements of naval personnel in the port were strictly limited. The loading and unloading of merchant ships was, however, continued.


Red Sea


14. Commodore in Charge, Aden, in HERO visited Assab.



Wednesday, 25th November 1942




The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron in CLEOPATRA in company with DIDO, EURYALUS, JERVIS, JAVELIN, NUBIAN, and KELVIN were sailed for Malta. These units were henceforth to be known as Force K. PINDOS, BELVOIR, and HURSLEY were sailed as additional escort to the westward, parting company after dark the following day.


Western Desert


2. The Second and Third Escort Groups were now employed for escorting all coastal traffic west of Port Said and including the Western Desert.


3. The Naval Officer in Charge, Derna, reported that the port was ready to receive one small ship and three L.C.T.s. Jaffa lighters which had been transported overland were successfully launched.




4. H.M.S. MANXMAN was sailed for Algiers to operate under the orders of the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force.


5. H.M.S. THRASHER was sailed for Gibraltar and refit in the United Kingdom.


6. The Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that the unloading of the four merchant sips of STONEAGE had been completed.




7. H.M.S. UTMOST (Lieutenant J.W.D. Coombe) did not return from patrol and was considered lost. She left patrol after successfully attacking a merchant ship north of Bizerta and was in approximate position 47-40N, 11-03E at 2300 on 23rd November. The Italian Press claimed a British submarine at noon on the 24th November. It is possible that UTMOST was located and sunk by patrol craft when proceeding down moon towards her diving position for dawn on the 24th southwest of Marittimo.


8. H.M.S. 212 returned to Malta from Operation TORCH and patrol in the Kerkennah and Gulf of Sirte areas. At 2050 on 14th November, in position 35-14N, 11-18E, P 212 gunned and sank Italian S.S. SCILLIN independently bound from Tripoli (Libya) for Trapani. She was carrying 810 British Prisoners of War and over 200 Italian troops. Of these 26 British and 35 Italians were picked up in 35 minutes. P 212 was forced to dive on A/S impulses heard astern. About ten men had to be left in the water. Only one torpedo was fired which hit the engine room; it is known that the bottom of the hold in which the British prisoners had been herded was blown out and that they died instantly. The SCULLIN sank in under a minute. All the British prisoners were in an extremely poor condition from lack of food and medical treatment. It is interesting that amongst the survivors was one Able Seaman from H.M.S. SIKH, lost of Tobruk during Operation AGREEMENT last September. (The Vice Admiral Malta's submission Malta No. 616/590/2 of 18th November 1942 refers). P 212 returned to Malta to land survivors on the 15th November and sailed the following day to continue her patrol.




9. H.M.S. PAKENHAM and NUBIAN were sailed from Haifa to Port Said escorting refrigerating ship NEW ZEALAND STAR.


Red Sea


10. The Commodore in Charge, Aden, in HERO, visited Kamaran Island.



Thursday, 26th November 1942


Western Desert


The Senior Officer, Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla reported that a swept channel into Benghazi had been satisfactorily cleared. Two merchant ships arrived at Benghazi. This was the date originally planned with the Army authorities.


2. Army labour both at Tobruk and Benghazi was reported to be insufficient. Tugs and cement to repair the breakwater at Benghazi was an urgent requirement.


3. A single enemy bomber dropped bombs on Benghazi harbour without causing any damage. There were several reconnaissance aircraft over the port both by day and by night.


4. The Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron established his Headquarters at Benghazi.


Red Sea


5. The American Merchant ships ALCOA PROSPECTOR and AGWIMONTE completed loading for Malta and were sailed from Port Sudan to Mohammad Gul (about 80 milts north of Port Sudan), to await being called forward. This was decided upon for reasons of security.


Safe Conduct


6. The last two ships of the four Italian repatriation liners, the GUILIO CESARE and DUILO arrived at Massawa from Italy via the Cape. They were escorted in by the armed yacht SAGITTA.



Friday, 27th November 1942




Operation TORCH


The Headquarters of the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, was moved from Gibraltar to Algiers.


Western Desert


2. Enemy aircraft dropped bombs on Benghazi but caused no damage.




3. H.M.S. WOOLWICH was sailed in company with a convoy of three merchant ships escorted by PAKENHAM, PETARD, EXMOOR, QUEEN OLGA, GLOXINIA, and PROTEA from Port Said for Alexandria.


4. The cased petrol carried SZECHUEN in this convoy was sunk by an internal explosion at 1620 in a position 025 degrees Port Said High Light 13 miles. The cause was considered to be leaking containers causing a petrol gas explosion. Sabotage was not suspected. Casualties were slight, consisting of two ratings missing and ten injured.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was sailed for Alexandria and Haifa to embark submarine torpedoes which were urgently required. Force K (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron in CLEOPATRA with EURYALUS, DIDO, JERVIS, JAVELIN, KELVIN, and NUBIAN) arrived having experienced no air attacks whilst on passage.


Red Sea


6. The British ships GLENARTNEY and SUFFOLK were sailed from Port Sudan for Suez and Malta. The two American ships at Mohammed Gul also proceeded to Suez for Malta.


7. H.M.S. HERO returned to Aden from visiting Red Sea ports with the Commodore in Charge, Aden.


Force X


8. Admiral Harwood had an interview with Admiral Godfroy. No decision could be reached by Admiral Godfroy as to the intentions of himself and ships of Force X.


Safe Conduct


9. The Swedish relief ships CAMELIA and FORMOSA arrived at Piraeus, and the Swedish ship EROS at Kalamata, all carrying wheat for the Greek population.



Saturday, 28th November 1942


Western Desert


There were signs of enemy U boats once again active on the Western Desert convoy route.


2. H.M.S. ANTWERP having completed discharging stores was sailed from Tobruk for Alexandria escorting a cased petrol carrier.


3. An explosion took place in the cased petrol carrier KIUNGCHOW at Tobruk causing the ship to become heavily on fire. The engine room was flooded in an endeavour to save the fore part. The majority of the crew of the KIUNGCHOW deserted their ship, most of the fire fighting being done by Naval Personnel. The cause was probably as a result of military personnel unloading with hobnail boots, causing sparks and leaking containers.




4. The Greek submarine TRITON (Lieutenant Commander Kontoyannis, R.H.N.) did not return from a patrol in the Aegean. Axis broadcasts claimed her by name and her crew as prisoners. Evidence shows she was forced to the surface by depth charges in the Doro Channel after attacking an escorted convoy. She was then rammed and sunk. A large number of her crew were taken prisoner and taken to the Piraeus. Two ratings managed to escape and after some months finally reached Egypt via Turkey and Syria.


5. H.M.S. THUNDERBOLT arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla for Special Operations. She had sailed from the United Kingdom direct to Malta, making the passage in eighteen days.




6. The Flag of the Greek Commander in Chief, Rear Admiral A. Sakellariou was hoisted in H.H.M.S. GEORGIOS AVEROFF.



Sunday, 29th November 1942


Western Desert


Bardia was closed down as a naval port. A Resident Naval Officer under the Naval Officer in Charge, Tobruk remained to operate the port as:


(a). An occasional shelter for ships


(b). Air Sea Rescue


(c). Maintenance of certain navigational lights.


2. A small number of enemy aircraft dropped bombs on Benghazi at dawn. There was no naval damage.




3. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived from Malta and after disembarking some passengers were sailed for Haifa.


4. A convoy of seven merchant ships and two tankers escorted by DELPHINIUM, GLOXINIA, SOUTHERN SEA, SPETSAI and an M.L. were sailed fro Benghazi, ships being detached as necessary for Mersa Matruh and Tobruk.


Red Sea


5. Lieutenant Commander Huie, U.S.N. relieved Captain E. Ellsburg, U.S.N.R. as Officer in Charge of the United States Naval Repair Base, Massawa.


6. Lieutenant General Andrews, Commander of the U.S. Forces in the Middle East, made an inspection of the Massawa Base.




7. H.M.S. P 46 returned to Malta from a patrol in the Gulf of Sirte. At 0310 in position 31-19N, 16-38E, she engaged a small tug with her 3" gun. Forty five rounds were fired causing superficial damage to the tug. The action was discontinued as the breech jammed.


Greek Navy


8. The Greek Commander in Chief agreed to take over the ex Italian submarine PERLA (P 712) and to undertake the work of reconditioning her.



Monday, 30th November 1942


Operation PORTCULLIS The Running of Four Fast Merchant ships to Malta


The four merchant ships arrived at Lake Timsah at noon. The Senior Officer of the Escort, ORION was flown from Alexandria to conduct the convoy conference. PAKENHAM, PETARD, QUEEN OLGA, HURSLEY, and BELVOIR were sailed from Alexandria to Port Said to Awai the arrival of the convoy.


Western Desert


2. Tobruk. The cased petrol carrier KIUNGCHOW was still burning but the fire was well under control.


3. Benghazi. About seven enemy aircraft dropped bombs, the majority of which fell outside the port area. There was no damage or casualties. Good progress was reported in repairs of the quayside.




4. The move of 821 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm (twelve Albacores) from the Western Desert was completed today. No aircraft were lost during passage. P 311 arrived today to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla. She had sailed from the United Kingdom direct and reported passage uneventful.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived at Haifa.


Port Said


6. Quarantine and all plague restrictions were removed. There had been no service casualties.




7. Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, ordered the First Submarine Flotilla to operate again Aegean traffic with the following priority:


(i). Piraeus – Suda – Candia route


(ii). Dardanelles – Piraeus route


8. H.M.S. UNA arrived at Malta from a lively patrol in the Gulf of Tunis. She reported that at 0147 on 27th November, she torpedoed and sank one of two merchant vessels escorted by a destroyer in position 37-34N, 10-33E. The merchant vessel was estimated to be of 4000 tons and blew up causing superficial damage to the UNA at 1200 yards. UNA was narrowly missed by torpedoes from an E boat when the vicinity of Port Empedocle.


9. H.M.S. P 44 returned from a patrol off Burat-el-Hsun, Tripoli (Libya), and Kerkennah areas. At 1845 on the 21st November, P 44 entered Burat harbour and engaged a schooner with her 3" gun, scoring twelve hits, which was considered sunk. The remainder of the patrol was without incident.


Red Sea


10. H.M. Ships GLENROY and JANUS were sailed in company from Aden for extensive repairs in the United Kingdom.


11. H.M.S. HERO was sailed from Aden to carry out a patrol south of the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb in order to intercept any dhows going to Djibouti or any members of the Italian Armistice Commission trying to escape from that town to the Yemen.


Safe Conduct


12. The Swedish ships AKKA and YARRAWONGA sailed from Gibraltar bound for the Piraeus via the Straits of Messina with further supplies of wheat for the Greeks from Canada.




15. Axis losses during the month were as follows:


19 merchant ships sunk totaling 41,450 tons


14 merchant ships damaged totaling 29,540 tons


Submarine Dispositions


First Flotilla

TAKU At Beirut


TURBULENT On passage from patrol for Beirut


TRAVELLER Patrol – Gulf of Taranto




RORQUAL On passage, Beirut to Malta


OSIRIS Refitting at Port Said

Tenth Flotilla



P 311, P 46, P 212, P 247 At Malta


P 42 On patrol south of Marittimo


TROOPER On passage, Gibraltar to Malta


P 37, P 48, P 45 On passage west of line Cape Bon – Marittimo

Greek Submarines

PAPANICOLIS On patrol Aegean




KATSONIS Port Said, refitting


P 712 Refitting at Port Said.






This month opened up a new era in the Mediterranean theatre of war. In the East the great victory of the Eighth Army at El Alamein enabled sea communications to be reestablished between the East and Central Basins. In the west, the landing in North Africa gave rise to the hope that before long the through Mediterranean route could be opened to sea traffic.


2. The defeat of the Axis forces at El Alamein was followed by a rapid advance throughout the month until the enemy had dug himself in on the El Agheila line. Mersa Matruh fell on the 8th November, Sollum on the 10th, Tobruk on the 13th, Derna on the 16th and Benghazi on the 20th November. This advance which was scarcely opposed, entailed a very difficult supply problem and most of the efforts of the Navy were devoted to safeguarding the sea born supplies to the various ports.


3. The landings in North Africa produced a complicated situation vis a vis the French Fleet at Alexandria. There was always the possibility that Vichy might declare war and if this were to happen there was no certainty that Admiral Godfroy would not initiate hostile action and possibly attempt to leave the harbour. In the event, the attitude of the French Admiral and his force remained unchanged and in the subsequent weeks the problem was to persuade him to bring his ships over to the Allied cause.


4. Immediately the air situation in Cyrenaica permitted, the first convoy to be sent to Malta since the middle of August reached the island on the 20th November.


5. The war at sea was predominantly defensive in support of the Army supply lines and of the supply route to Malta from the East. Our submarines continued their offensive role, but except for two feints to land troops behind enemy lines, carried out by M.T.B.s, no offensive action was practicable. Bombardments by cruisers and destroyers were always at the call of the Army but were not desired principally because the fighter protection involved could not be afforded.


Western Desert


6. The opening up of the Western Desert ports was in all cases carried out up to time. The minesweepers swept the approaches remarkably quickly. Unfortunately, CROMER, Senior Officer, Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla, was mined and sunk at Mersa Matruh.


7. The enemy caused little hindrance during these operations, but "Z" craft, lighters, and other small craft had some difficult passages on account of the weather. L.C.T.s carrying full cargos were sent forward and after unloading, they were used for the discharge of merchant ships. One L.C.T. was lost as a result of the heavy weather. The demolitions at the various ports had not been so serious as was expected and the rate of cargo discharge was not seriously hindered thereby.


8. Two cased petrol carriers were lost during the month as a result of internal explosion. These vessels have always been a cause of anxiety. The petrol cases almost invariably leak; the holds are therefore running with petrol and the resultant fumes are a constant source of danger.


9. Enemy air attacks on Tobruk and Benghazi were on a small scale. No damage or casualties being caused.




Alexandria is naturally the principal port at which Army supplies for the Western desert are loaded and all convoys assemble here before proceeding westward. The loading and assembly of these convoys was hampered by the necessity to reduce shipping in the harbour to the minimum as a precaution against possible action by ships of the French Squadron. Therefore, as a precaution against such action, a number of shore batteries were mounted round the harbour in the best positions to cover the French Fleet. Certain merchant ships berths had to be kept clear of the lines of fire of these batteries. It was also necessary to retain a force of M.T.B.s and aircraft at short notice in case an attack on the French Fleet was found necessary. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and Fleet destroyers were kept to Port Said at short notice in readiness for sea until the tension eased. They arrived at Alexandria on the 15th November, by which time it was clear that Admiral Godfroy had no hostile intentions.




11. At the beginning of the month, Malta's supplies were at a very low ebb. The immediate requirement was sufficient aviation spirit to enable aircraft from the Island to play their part to the full during Operation TORCH. There was not sufficient petrol in the island to ensure this.


12. It was clear that no convoy could expect to pass through "Bomb Alley" until fighter protection from the Cyrenaica airfields could be afforded. This could not be expected before the end of the month and therefore the problem remained to send sufficient petrol to tide over the intervening period. WELSHMAN from Gibraltar (n.b. pen insertion. WELSHMAN carried no air spirits), and the submarines CLYDE, PARTHIAN, TRAVELLER, and THRASHER from Beirut all carried cargoes of aviation spirits in the early part of the month and this small contribution proved sufficient. Arrangements were also made to send a fifteen knot ship with aviation spirit via Turkish territorial waters, north of Crete, relying on disguise and evasive routeing. The risks were obviously very great. While to the westward of Cyprus, the ship was sighted by both aircraft and a U boat; later an engine room defect forced her to return to Famagusta and the operation was cancelled.


13. Next to aviation spirit, the most urgent requirement was food. The island was on siege rations which it was expected would be exhausted by the middle of December. MANXMAN with 300 tons of special concentrated foodstuffs helped to relieve the situation before the convoy could arrive. She left Alexandria early on the 11th November and made an uneventful passage to Malta in thirty six hours.


14. The turning point in Malta's fortunes was reached when four store ships arrived intact on the 20th November. Enemy opposition was confined to one high level and one torpedo bombing attack. During the torpedo attack, ARETHUSA was hit forward of the bridge and after a long and grueling struggle in gale weather she managed to reach Alexandria.


15. The fact that Malta in addition to being supplied with aviation spirit just in time was also reinforced by Spitfires and Albacores enabled the island to resume its striking power from the air.


16. By the end of the month, Force K consisting of CLEOPATRA, DIDO, EURYALUS, and Fleet destroyers was sailed from Alexandria to Malta. It was also decided to send M.T.B.s forward to Malta as soon as the weather allowed and they were moved forward to Benghazi as opportunity offered, so as to be in instant readiness to cross the Central Basin. For a short time, two M.T.B.s were based on Ras el Hillal to act as a striking force against any enemy shipping which might attempt to reach Tripoli by the Eastern Route. No such opportunity was presented and these M.T.B.s eventually also found their way to Malta.




17. All the available submarines of the First and Tenth Submarine Flotillas took part in the initial phase of Operation TORCH. They were disposed on a line between Cape St Vito and Cagliari, and off the Straits of Messina to intercept Italian surface units who may have attempted to hinder our North African operations. This they never did, though P 46 torpedoed a REGOLO class cruiser when north of Palermo which was probably undergoing trials. As the enemy's surface units did not come out, submarines were redisposed on the 11th November in order to cut the Axis supply lines to Tunisia and Tripoli. UTMOST was lost during patrol in the Tunis-Bizerta approaches. The enemy rapidly developed this A/S and air patrols to make these operations hazardous in the extreme. His use of A.S.V. soon became evident.


18. Results in the Sicilian Channel were disappointing but the enemy's shipping losses between Naples and Marittimo were heavy.


19. H.M.S. P 35 attack the three LITTORIO battleships north of the Straits of Messina when on passage to Naples from Taranto on the 12th November. A last minute alteration of course by the battleships deprived her of a favourable attacking position.


20. The enemy's schooner traffic hugging the Eastern coast of Tunisia suffered severely and little shipping reached Tripoli.


21. H.M.S. P 212 when on patrol in the Kerkenah area sank an Italian merchant ship. Unfortunately she was overcrowded with British Prisoners of War from Tripoli (Libya). It is feared near 800 of these lost their lives. A few were picked up by P 212.


22. H.M.S. TAKU and the Greek submarines NEREUS and TRITON all carried out patrols in the Aegean. TRITON, however, did not return. She was sunk by depth charges after an attack on an enemy convoy in the Doro Channel. TAKU sank an Italian tanker, a medium sized merchant ship and a caique on her patrol, her Commanding Officer's first in these waters. The enemy's shipping losses in this Aegean have done much to create alarums and excursions, and succeeded in diverting a portion of his A/S and air patrols from other theatres.




23. Particularly quiet month; only one schooner was sunk, and that by a single enemy aircraft; there were however, indications of the presence of enemy U boats but no attacks developed. One movement of troops took placed between the Levant and Cyprus.


24. At Port Said, an outbreak of plague amongst the native population occurred. Fortunately, it did not spread and casualties were few; a serious outbreak would have entailed delays in the turn round of merchant shipping and might have had far reaching results on the supply of the Eighth Army. WOOLWICH was sailed for Alexandria at the end of the month.


Red Sea


25. There was no enemy air activity of any kind. ENDEAVOUR carried out some useful survey work at Port Berenice and Marsa Halaib. At Massawa, one merchant ship, a large and a small floating dry dock were raised and seized in prise. Captain Ellsburg, U.S.N., Head of the U.S. North African Repair Mission, left Massawa on the 29th November.


26. H.M.S. HERO was unfit for Fleet work and was sent down to Aden for local escort duties under the Commodore in Charge, Aden.


Changes on the Station


27. The following ships joined the station:

STORMCENTER (LL minesweeper)




TEVIOTBANK lent from the Eastern Fleet for minelaying operations in the Straits of Bab- el-Mandeb

The following ships left the Station

THRASHER, GLENROY, and JANUS all left for refits in the United Kingdom.

28. Casualties

ARETHUSA torpedoed by aircraft


CROMER sunk by a mine


UTMOST and Greek TRITON overdue from patrols.


L.C.T. 120 foundered in heavy weather.








Tuesday, 1st December 1942


Operation PONTCULLIS The passage of four merchant ships and a tanker to Malta


The convoy, consisting of the British ships GLENARTNEY and SUFFOLK and the American ships AGWIMONTE and ALCOA PROSPECTOR, escorted by PAKENHAM, PETARD, QUEEN OLGA, HURSLEY, and BELVOIR was sailed from Port Said at 1430 having been delayed by fog at Ismailia.


Western Desert


2. The fire in the cased petrol carrier KIUNGCHOW at Tobruk was extinguished and after five hours pumping the was refloated. There was an air raid on Tobruk, bombs being dropped in the harbour area. An R.A.F. high speed launch was rendered unserviceable from near misses.




3. Fleet Air Arm Albacores damaged a tanker in a convoy of four merchant vessels and five destroyers when fifteen miles south of Marittimo at 2255. Naval aircraft hit and set on fire a 2/5000 ton merchant vessel in the Kerkennah area.




4. H.M.S. WELSHMAN, having completed torpedoes and stores for Malta was sailed from Haifa for Alexandria.


Safe Conduct


5. The Italian repatriation liners, SATURNIA and VULCANIA sailed from Berbera for Italy via the Cape.




Wednesday, 2nd December 1942




H.M.S. ORION escorted by PALADIN, DULVERTON, EXMOOR, HURWORTH, ALDENHAM, and PINDOS was sailed from Alexandria to rendezvous with the convoy. HURWORTH was detached at 1800 and returned to Alexandria with defects. PETARD picked up six occupants of an R.A.F. dinghy at 2230.


2. As the Vice Admiral Malta reported that furnace fuel was urgently required, it was decided that a tanker which was shortly due to Benghazi should be included in the convoy. It had originally been intended to send this tanker to Malta in a separate convoy from Benghazi.


3. H.M. Ships CROOME and TETCOTT were sailed from Malta for Benghazi as escort for the tanker.


Western Desert


4. A few enemy aircraft raided Tobruk. The South African minesweeper BOKSBURG was damaged by near misses. Twelve aircraft attacked Benghazi harbour shortly before dawn. There was no naval damage. Two enemy aircraft were probably destroyed by gunfire.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived at daylight from Haifa, she embarked service personnel and was sailed at 1830 to overtake the PORTCULLIS convoy.


6. Two low flying JU 88s were operating in the vicinity of the harbour; they were not detected by the R.D.F. Stations.




7. Captain (D), Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla in JERVIS, in company with JAVELIN, NUBIAN, and KELVIN sailed at 1400 to intercept an enemy convoy of one tanker and two merchant ships escorted by two torpedo boats and a destroyer steering for Ras Turgeuness. The Fleet Air Arm and P 35 attacked this convoy south of Kerkennah at 2100. Two merchant ships were sunk, and possibly a third. Force K destroyers arrived on the scene shortly after midnight and sank a torpedo boat destroyer of the CENTAURO class which was engaged in picking up survivors from a merchant ship which had just been sunk. The destroyer sank at 0047 on the 3rd December in position 34-34N, 11-39.5E. JAVELIN observed about 200 to 300 men in the water. No damage or casualties were sustained by any of our forces.




8. H.M.S. TURBULENT arrived at Beirut, having completed a very long patrol of 35 days, broken only by a few hours in Malta to collect orders to Operation TORCH. The first part of the patrol was spent in an area south east of Sardinia. At 1627 on the 11th November, in position 39-10N, 9-39E, she sank a 4000 ton merchant ship, quite possibly a German submarine depot ship. She was then ordered to the Naples area; she only just failed to intercept the three LITTORIOs going north from Messina to (n.b. see entry for 12 November, LITTORIOs en route from Taranto to Naples) on the 12th November. On her way back to Beirut, TURBULENT visited Sirte, carrying out a short bombardment of M.T. in the vicinity.


9. H.M.S. TROOPER arrived an Malta after an uneventful passage direct from the United Kingdom.




10. H.M.S. HERO on patrol off Djibouti reported having intercepted a dhow in ballast. Information was obtained that the Italian commission in Djibouti had been interned and that only sufficient French officials remained to preserve order. The food situation was reported as serious; the population were looking forward to a British entry.



Thursday, 3rd December 1942




The tanker YORBALINDA, escorted by CROOME and TETCOTT joined up the convoy at 1700 northeast of Benghazi. Force K, CLEOPATRA, DIDO, EURYALUS, JERVIS, KELVIN, and NUBIAN were sailed at Malta at 1900 with the intention of covering the convoy from surface attack during the night of 3rd/4th December.


2. WELSHMAN joined the convoy at daylight; she was detached after dark and proceeded on ahead to Malta at high speed.


Western Desert


3. A convoy of two empty merchant ships escorted by DELPHINIUM, GLOXINIA, and SOUTHERN SEAS sailed from Benghazi for Alexandria, being joined by merchant ships from Tobruk and Derna. The second supply convoy for Benghazi of four ships, arrived intact. The port was getting well into its stride, and the daily cargo discharge figures were most satisfactory.



Friday, 4th December 1942




Force K joined up with the convoy at daylight and remained as close escort throughout the day.


Western Desert


2. Benghazi was raided by about twelve enemy aircraft. There was no naval damage. Two aircraft were shot down.




3. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived reported no incidents on passage. Four M.T.B.s arrived from Bone.


4. H.M.S. PORPOISE was sailed for Gibraltar and the United Kingdom to undergo a refit.


5. Naval aircraft attacked shipping in the Zuara area. Two merchant ships were hit, one of which sank in three minutes. The other was left burning.




6. The Egyptian sailing vessel MANNSOURA BELLAH was bombed by an unidentified aircraft sixty five miles west of Haifa. There was no damage or casualties.



Saturday, 5th December 1942




All four merchant ships and the tanker arrived safely in the Grand Harbour, Malta. CLEOPATRA, ORION, EURYALUS, and DIDO, eight Fleet Destroyers and nine HUNTS also arrived. In spite of being shadowed at various times on passage, the convoy sustained no enemy air attacks whatsoever throughout the entire passage.


Western Desert


2. It was decided that Benghazi should be worked to its maximum capacity and a target of 2000 tons per day was aimed at, to be supplied by sea.




3. The Fourteenth Minesweeping Flotilla of three ships was sailed for Port Said.


Force X


4. Rear Admiral Barthe and Commandant Gandin arrived at Alexandria from Algiers to see Admiral Godfroy in order to persuade him to bring his force over to the Allies. They had many interviews with the Commander in Chief.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN in company with PALADIN was sailed for Alexandria at 1600.




6. The Greek submarine PAPANICOLIS returned from a short patrol in the Aegean, having developed defects to her telemotor system. At 1635 on the 30th November, in position 36-15N, 27-44E, she sank a merchant vessel estimated to be of 6000 tons.


7. Special Operation OXFORD. On the night of 26th to 27th November, PAPANICOLIS landed a sabotage party of three men at Suia Bay (southern Crete).


8. H.M.S. P 42 returned to Malta on completion of a long and arduous patrol in the Marittimo/Palermo area in which few opportunities of attack presented themselves.


9. H.M.S. P 712 (ex Italian PERLA) was formally handed over to the Greek Navy and renamed MATROZOS.


Red Sea


10. H.M.S. HERO arrived at Zeila from Aden to land the Staff Officer Intelligence to Commodore in Chief, Aden, who remained to keep in touch with the U.S. consul from Aden concerning negotiations between the Governor of Djibouti, Free French, British, and United States authorities.


11, The Greek destroyer KANARIS (originally H.M.S. HATHERLEIGH – HUNT class) arrived at Aden to join the Mediterranean Station.



Sunday, 6th December 1942


Operation QUADRANGLE "A" passage of Two ships to Malta (Convoy MW 15)


It was decided to sail merchant ships to Malta in pairs; these ships were to be sailed with ordinary Western Desert Convoys to the vicinity of Benghazi where surface forces from Malta were to reinforce the escort for the passage across the Central Basin.


2. H.M. Ships WHITEHAVEN, CROMARTY, and BOSTON sailed from Port Said at 1400 escorting on U.S. Ship (AMERICAN PACKER) and one British ship (OZARDA) for Malta.


Western Desert


3. H.M.S. SNAPDRAGON in company with SAKTOURIS, ROMEO, GENERAL BIRDWOOD, MAPLE, SOUTHERN MAID, and one M.L. were escorting a convoy of four merchant ships from Alexandria to Tobruk and Benghazi. SNAPDRAGON reported having sunk four floating mines whilst on passage.


4. L.C.M. 98 was sunk by cannon fire from two JU 88s in position 32-10N, 19-35E. There were no casualties.




5. S.S. CLAN MACINDOE, destined for Malta, was sailed in a convoy from Haifa to Port Said for onward routing, being escorted by AETOS, PRIMULA, and WOLBOROUGH.


Red Sea


6. Commander in Chief, approved the retention of KANARIS in the Aden area pending clarification of the situation at Djibouti.



Monday, 7th December 1942


Operation M.H. Two - Convoy of eight merchant ships and one tanker from Malta to Port Said


The convoy consisted of MELBOURNE STAR, BRISBANE STAR, ROCHESTER CASTLE, PORT CHALMERS (arrivals at Malta in August from the PEDESTAL convoy run from Gibraltar), BANTAM (Dutch), MORMACMOON (U.S.), ROBIN LOCKSLEY (U.S.), DENBIGHSHIRE and the Panamanian tanker YORBALINDA (arrivals from the STONEAGE convoy on 20th November from Port Said). The convoy was sailed at 1000 escorted by ORION (Senior Officer), PAKENHAM, DULVERTON, TETCOTT, BELVOIR, EXMOOR, HURSLEY, ALDENHAM, CROOME, PETARD, QUEEN OLGA, and PINDOS. From 1755 to 1825, the force was unsuccessfully attacked by torpedo bombers. DULVERTON had one officer killed and four ratings wounded by gunfire from the convoy. A Spitfire and PETARD each claimed to have shot down one aircraft.


Western Desert


2. A mobile beach party reported the completion of a reconnaissance of El Zouetina (position 30-56N, 20-06E), as a supply port for Eighth Army supplies. It was found to be of use in fair weather only.


3. Benghazi was raided by about eighteen aircraft. There was no Naval damage.


4. H.M.S. BOREALIS exploded a magnetic mine close to the entrance of Tobruk Harbour.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN and PALADIN arrived from Malta. The former was taken in hand for reconversion to minelaying after a long period as a store carrier.




6. H.M.S. DIDO was sailed for Bone, to reinforce Force Q in the Western Mediterranean. Three M.T.B.s were also sailed for Bone.




7. H.M.S. P 45 returned to Malta from a patrol in the Gulf of Tunis in support of Operation TORCH. Several attacks were carried out but without result.


Italian Fleet


8. Photographic reconnaissance of Taranto confirmed that three LITTORIO battleships (VITTORIO VENETO, LITTORIO, and ROMA) had left Harbour.


Safe Conduct


9. The last of the Italian repatriation liners, GUILO CESARE and DUILO sailed from Massawa for Italy via the Cape. SAGITTA escorted these ships till well clear of the harbour.



Tuesday, 8th December 1942


Operation M.H. Two


The convoy was shadowed from 0940 to 1020 and two aircraft were destroyed by the fighters. At 1330, five JU 88s dive bombed the convoy without causing any damage. One aircraft was shot down by gunfire and seen to crash nearby. At 1800 fighters destroyed a shadowing aircraft. ORION with EXMOOR, HURSLEY, ALDENHAM, and CROOME parted company at 1900 and proceeded to the north west of Benghazi to await a convoy proceeding to Malta from the east.




2. H.M.S. P 48 returned to Malta on completion of a very hazardous patrol in the approaches to Tunis and later in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Two attacks were carried out but on both occasions all her torpedoes missed.


Red Sea


3. H.M.S. HERO returned to Aden from Zeila in order to refuel.



Wednesday, 9th December 1942


Operation QUADRANGLE "B" – passage of Two merchant ships (Convoy MW 16) to Malta


S.S. CLAN MACINDOE and the tanker ERINNA were sailed from Alexandria in company with one merchant ship for Benghazi escorted by PALADIN and HURWORTH.


Operation M.H. Two


2. Apart from very slight air attack at dusk, the passage of the east to the eastward was without incident.


Western Desert


3. The following ships were escorting convoys between Alexandria and Benghazi.




The Advanced M.T. B. base was moved to Benghazi.




4. H.M. Ships JERVIS, JAVELIN, and NUBIAN carried out a sweep on the night of the 8th/9th December between Ras Turgeuness and Kerkennah, but sighted nothing.


5. The unloading of all the merchant ships of Operation PORTCULLIS was completed. There were no enemy air attacks on the harbour; continuous Spitfire patrols were flown over the ships by day during the unloading operation.




6. H.M.S. P 43 returned to Malta from patrol in the Marittimo area and the northern approaches to the Gulf of Tunis. P 43 had no successes and was accurately detected and hunted by A/S craft no less than five times.


Red Sea


7. Commodore Aden reported that 15 survivors from the Norwegian tanker BELITA, torpedoed south of Socotra on the 3rd December, had landed at Bandar Alula from a lifeboat. A second lifeboat was last seen heading for the Brothers. HERO returned to Aden from Zeila and a patrol in the vicinity.



Thursday, 10th December 1942


Operation QUADRANGLE "A"


H.M.S. BELVOIR was sailed from Tobruk at 1100 to rendezvous with convoy M.W. 15 proceeding to Malta.


2. Photographic reconnaissance left some doubt as to whether the three 6 inch cruisers at Messina had left or not. Force K was sailed from Malta at 1100 to meet convoy M.W. 15. At 1315 the Vice Admiral Malta recalled Force K when it was established by reconnaissance that no threat had developed. CLEOPATRA, EURYALUS, JERVIS, KELVIN, and NUBIAN returned to Malta at 1815.


3. H.M.S. ORION in company with HURSLEY, CROOME, ALDENHAM, and EXMOOR joined M.W. 15 at 0700, arriving at Malta with the convoy at 2230.


Operation M.H. TWO


4. The Panamanian tanker YORBALINDA was detached from the convoy due to fuel shortage, and entered Alexandria with DULVERTON and PINDOS. BELVOIR was sent into Tobruk to fuel and to escort a westbound coastal convoy.


Western Desert


5. Over 2000 tons of cargo was discharged into Benghazi today.


Red Sea


6. Negotiations continued, to induce the Governor of Djibouti to come over to the Fighting French.



Friday, 11th December 1942


Operation QUADRANGLE "B" – Convoy M.W. 16


It was decided that PALADIN and BELVOIR were to continue the escort of the convoy of two ships to Malta after detaching a third merchant ship off Benghazi, which was escorted by HURWORTH. ORION and four HUNTS were ordered to remain in Malta, without meeting M.W. 16


Operation M.H. TWO


2. The convoy of eight ships escorted by PAKENHAM, PETARD, QUEEN OLGA arrived at Port Said at 0700. PAKENHAM was sailed on arrival to Alexandria.


Western Desert


3. Convoy A.W. 13 consisting of three ships was sailed from Alexandria for Benghazi, escorted by DELPHINIUM, CUMBRAE, SEAHAM, and SOUTHERN SEA.


4. Two L.C.T.s commenced unloading petrol and ammunition at El Zuetina (30-57N, 20-07E).




5. Five Albacores of 826 Squadron (Fleet Air Arm) arrived from Cyrenaica. One aircraft forced landed in the sea on passage, and its crew was recovered four days later.


Red Sea


6. H.M.S.A. Salvage Vessel GAMTOOS arrived at Aden to join the Eastern Mediterranean Station. TEVIOTBANK in company with the Mine Store Issuing Ship GURNA was sailed from Massawa for Aden. She had completed repairs and had embarked a full outfit of mines.



Saturday, 12th December 1942




H.M. Ships EXMOOR, ALDENHAM, CROOME, and HURSLEY were sailed from Malta at 2300 to meet convoy MW 16 at daylight 13th December.


2. H.M.S. HURWORTH rejoined MW 16 at dusk and after dark PALADIN was detached, proceeding on ahead at high speed to arrive at Malta in daylight.


Operation QUADRANGLE C – Supplies to Malta


3. Convoy M.W. 17 (OCEAN VOYAGER and FORT TADOUSSAC) escorted by DULVERTON, PINDOS, and TETCOTT were sailed from Port Said to Alexandria.


Western Desert


4. Benghazi was raided by twenty enemy aircraft at 1920. There was no naval damage or casualties. The shortage of labour and tugs was reported as limited the discharge of cargo.


5. About twelve enemy aircraft raided Tobruk but no bombs were dropped in the harbour.


Operation SNEEZE


6. Commander in Chief informed the military authorities that preparations for action against the ships of Force X were no longer needed.




7. Fleet Air Arm Albacores blew up a large southbound merchant ship heavily escorted in position 37-42N, 11-55E at 2310. Naval aircraft also laid mines off Sousse harbour.




8. H.M.S. P 37 returned to Malta from a patrol in the Bizerta area.




9. H.M.S. TRAVELLER (Lieutenant Commander D. St. Clair-Ford) having failed to answer signals since the 8th December, was considered lost. She was sailed from Malta on 28th November to carry out a reconnaissance of Taranto in connection with Operation PRINCIPAL (projected attacks by human torpedoes on Italian ports). The Italian Press claimed that a British submarine was sunk by a torpedo boat about this time.


Port Said


10, H.M.S. PETARD and QUEEN OLGA were sailed for Malta direct at 0700, but were later diverted into Tobruk, arriving at 2300. There were indications that the enemy was running an important convoy to Tripoli (Libya).




11. M.L. 360 was commissioned at Port Said.



Sunday, 13th December 1942




Convoy MW 17 escorted by DULVERTON, PINDOS, and TETCOTT entered Alexandria at 0900. It was decided to postpone the sailing of this convoy (a) to allow rest for the Malta destroyers and (b) because of the uncertainly regarding the whereabouts of Italian Fleet units.


Western Desert


2. H.M.S. PETARD and QUEEN OLGA were sailed from Tobruk to Benghazi.


3. Tobruk was raided by a few enemy aircraft. There was no naval damage; two enemy aircraft were destroyed. Benghazi was raided by twenty enemy aircraft. One heavy bomb fell between the merchant ships HANNAH MOLLER and ROBERT MAERSK, causing structural damage, which affected cargo discharge. One enemy aircraft was destroyed by our fighters and one probable. Repairs by the Royal Engineers to the Moles were making favourable progress.


Force X


4. Vice Admiral Fenard and Rear Admiral Battet arrived at Alexandria from Algiers in order to see Admiral Godfroy in a further attempt to persuade him to bring his force over to the Allies.




5. M.T.B.s 266, 307, and 315 were sailed from Malta to Bone.


6. H.M.S. PALADIN arrived at daylight having proceeded on ahead from convoy MW 16.


7. Force K, sailed at 1840 to intercept Axis supply ships on passage to Tripoli (Libya). The force was divided into two sections consisting of CLEOPATRA (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron, ORION, PALADIN, and KELVIN and JERVIS (Captain (D) Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla), NUBIAN, and EURYALUS.


8. Fleet Air Arm Albacores sank a merchant ship bound for Tunis south of Marittimo.




H.M.S. P 51 arrived at Malta from Gibraltar to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla.




10. H.M.S. WOLBOROUGH arrived at Beirut having towed the small Egyptian coaster CYPRUS from Famagusta.



Monday, 14th December 1942




Convoy MW 16 of two merchant ships (CLAN MACINDOE and the tanker ERINNA) escorted by EXMOOR, CROOME, HURWORTH, HURSLEY, ALDENHAM, and BELVOIR arrived at Malta at 0445.




2. Force K returned to harbour having met nothing. The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron reported that his force was continuously shadowed throughout the night. At 0540, it became clear from the aircraft reports that the enemy had turned back to the northward. The convoy was believed to have been on merchant ships, possibly two merchant ships, and one destroyer sighted about eighty miles east of Malta steering for Tripoli (Libya). Another enemy convoy was believed to have been making for Tripoli (Libya) coastwise from Ras Turgueness.


3. M.T.B.s 266, 307, and 316 on passage to Bone unsuccessfully attacked an unescorted merchant ship of 3000 tons at 1631 on the 14th December, in position 37-06N, 11-52E. M.T.B.s were driven off by accurate fire from this merchant ship.


4. Fleet Air Arm aircraft of 821 Squadron attacked a 3000 ton merchant ship beached one and a half miles north of Sousse, scoring one hit amidships.




5. An exercise to test the defences of Beirut against attack by small craft was carried out during the night with M.L.s. Royal Marines and military personnel practicing landings from small craft.



Tuesday, 15th December 1942


Western Desert


Benghazi was raided by about ten enemy aircraft. The HANNAH MOLLER was hit by a bomb on the port side of the engine room and sank by the stern. There were no casualties.


Destruction of the Italian U boat UARSCIEK


2. At 0405, PETARD in company with QUEEN OLGA, whilst on passage from Benghazi to Malta, in position 35-08N, 14-28E sighted on the port bow what was at first thought to be a ship. It was seen to be a submarine and the Commanding Officer of PETARD considering it might have been P 35 returning to Malta from patrol in the Gulf of Hammamet, made the challenge. At 0410, PETARD reported being over the submarine. Three attacks were made, the last by QUEEN OLGA which caused the U boat to surface. After the first attack, the U boat fired two torpedoes. PETARD boarded the submarine; whilst doing so he collided with the U boat not realising that she was going ahead under wheel after abandoning. PETARD's bows were set back four feet and she sustained under water damage forward and after necessitating repairs in dock. She was however reasonably seaworthy and could steam at least twenty knots. PALADIN and KELVIN were sailed from Malta at 1130 to assist. PETARD had the U boat in tow until 1223 when she sank. Thirty two prisoners were taken which included four officers. The Commanding Officer of the UARSCIEK was killed. Her signal publications and cyphers were captured. PETARD and QUEEN OLGA arrived at Malta at 1615.




3. H.M. Ships DULVERTON and BEAUFORT escorting the tanker DARONIA were sailed for Port Said.




4. H.M.S. P 35 returned to Malta on completion of a successful patrol off the Eastern Coast of Tunisia.


5. At 1930 on the 2nd December, in position 35-28N, 11-20E she gunned and sank the 1100 ton Italian collier SACRO CUORE, over forty years old, on passage from Tripoli (Libya) to Italy. There were some Luftwaffe personnel on board and a few soldiers. P 35 took nine German Air Force personnel and one soldier prisoner, the remainder were able to pull ashore. P 35 returned to Malta to land her prisoners on the 4th December, sailing to resume her patrol twenty four hours later.


6. At 0551 on the 9th December, P 35 grounded in position 36-23.4N, 10-37.4E in low visibility and with a defective echo sounding machine. By skillful manoeuvring P 35 was refloated at 0654 the same morning.


7. At 1200 on 9th December, in position 36-14.5N, 10-32.5E, she torpedoed and sank a 2000 ton southbound merchant ship which blew up.


8. At 0925 on the 11th December, P 35 rescued two German airmen from a JU 52 in position 35-29N, 12-03E which had been shot down on the 9th December by a Beaufighter off Lampedusa. They had been in their dinghy for 50 hours.


9. At 1622 on the 13th December in position 45-54N, 10-39E she torpedoed a 1500 ton southbound merchant ship which ran aground stern first, well down by the bows and listing to port; the ship was carrying a deck cargo of M.T.


Force X


10. As a result of the many recent interviews, Admiral Godfroy's attitude was still indecisive. His personal wishes were to join the United Nations, but the insecurity of the newly formed North African Government was still deterring him from coming to any decision.


Red Sea


11. H.M.S. TEVIOTBANK carried out the first lay of a defensive minefield in the Straits of Bab el Mandeb. ROMNEY and POOLE carried out a skimming sweep on completion.


Commander in Chief


12. The Commander in Chief, Eastern Fleet, Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O. and his Chief of Staff Commodore R.A.B. Edwards visited Admiral Harwood at Alexandria. He and his Chief of Staff were returning to Mombasa after a short visit to the United Kingdom.




13. The Western Desert schooners EL HANNAN and SAMIKA were paid off as H.M. Ships and manned by T.124X personnel.



Wednesday, 16th December 1942


Western Desert


A Naval beach reconnaissance party surveyed Marsa el Brega and found it to be unsuitable for the unloading of L.C.T.s


2. There were two air attacks on Benghazi during the day by about twenty aircraft. No naval damage of casualties resulted. Fighters shot down one enemy aircraft and gunfire destroyed another, and one probable. Experimental smoke defences with captured Italian material proved to be a most conspicuous success and an adequate deterrent.


3. During the last three days, M.T.B.s made three sorties from Benghazi to rescue aircraft crews; one of these was successful, three survivors being picked up.




4. A supplies from the east were arriving satisfactorily, it was decided that convoys already loaded and awaiting a favourable opportunity for passage through from the West should be discharged at ports in the Western Mediterranean as required by the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force. Malta was therefore to rely solely on supplies from the Eastern Mediterranean.




5. H.M. Ships DULVERTON and BEAUFORT were sailed from Port Said for Alexandria escorting PRINCESS KATHLEEN and the Panamanian tanker YORBALINDA.



Thursday, 17th December 1942


Operation QUADRANGLE C - passage of two merchant ships to Malta


Convoy M.W. 17 consisting of PORT TADOUSSAC and OCEAN VOYAGER (both for Malta) and ANTWERP and PRINCESS KATHLEEN with military labour corps personnel for Benghazi were sailed from Alexandria at 1700; PAKENHAM, DULVERTON, BEAUFORT, TETCOTT, and PINDOS provided escort.


2. Rear Admiral Cawadia, Under Secretary of Marine of the Royal Hellenic Navy proceeded to Malta unofficially in PINDOS.


Operation M.E. Twelve - Four empty ships from Malta to Port Said


3. The convoy consisting of the four empty ships from Operation PORTCULLIS (U.S. Ships ALCOA PROSPECTOR, AGWIMONTE, British ships SUFFOLK and GLENARTNEY), was sailed from Malta at 2030 escorted by ORION, CROOME, HURSLEY, ALDENHAM, BELVOIR, HURWORTH, QUEEN OLGA, EXMOOR, and PETARD.


Western Desert


4. Gulf of Sirte


Ras el Ali was surveyed by a naval beach reconnaissance party and found to be suitable for the discharge of stores from L.C.T.s and small coastal craft.


5. In a dusk attack on Benghazi harbour, two enemy aircraft were short down and another was claimed as a probable.


6. The Breach in the Outer Mole was reported repaired and it was considered safe against all weathers.


7. The ex Italian CORNELIUS II was raised at Tobruk and seized in prize.




8. The unloading of the two ships (AMERICAN PACKER and OZARDA) of QUADRANGLE A (M.W. 15) was completed today. Ten thousand, four hundred, and fifty tons of cargo had been discharged. There was no enemy air interference during the operation.


9. Four M.T.B.s arrived, having completed a sweep during the night of 16th to 17th December from Bone in which nothing was sighted.




10. H.M.S. P 46 returned to Malta from a successful patrol in the Tunis-Bizerta approaches. At 1503 on 14th December in position 37-29N, 10-46E, she attacked a convoy of two merchant ships southbound escorted by two torpedo boats. P 46 observed one merchant ship to have been hit by P 212 and herself scored a hit on the other, a 6000 ton merchant ship which was stopped. She later sank her with torpedoes in spite of considerable depth charging. P 212's merchant ship was observed to blow up some hours later.



Friday, 18th December 1942


Operation M.E. Twelve


H.M.S. ORION reported that single JU 88 dropped bombs close to BELVOIR without causing damage.


Western Desert


2. Tobruk was raided by about twelve aircraft. The small oiler ZAHRA was damaged in the engine room by near misses. The minesweeper TREERN exploded a mine near the boom.


3. Two out of three reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed by fighters in the vicinity of Benghazi.




4. The unloading of the tanker ERINNA and merchant ship CLAN MACINDOE of QUADRANGLE B (M.W. 16) was completed today. This included 5158 tons of cargo and 8400 tons of furnace fuel.




5. The two 8 inch cruisers which had left Messina on the night of 9th to 10th December were located in Maddalena Harbour.



Saturday, 19th December 1942


Operation M.E. TWELVE


H.M.S. ORION parted company in position 32-49N, 22-43E at 0900 to join up with Convoy M.W. 17 (QUADRANGLE C) proceeding to Malta.


Western Desert


2. Tobruk was raided at dawn but no damage or casualties were reported; the railhead appeared to be the main objective.


3. Benghazi was also raided; the Dutch tanker TRAJANUS was damaged by a near miss and subsequently sank in 25 feet of water.


4. Enemy air activity against coastal convoys was reported during the day.




5. H.M.S. SNAPDRAGON (Commander H.C. Simms, D.S.O.) sailed from Benghazi at 1900 in company with ERICA, SOUTHERN MAID, SEAHAM, and CUMBRAE escorting a convoy of three ships. Enemy aircraft which approached Benghazi located this convoy and heavily attacked it. At 2029 SNAPDRAGON was hit by one bomb amidships and sank in four to five minutes in position 32-18N, 19-54E. ERICA picked up the survivors and landed them at Benghazi. SEAHAM suffered minor damage from near misses. Casualties in SNAPDRAGON were 23 ratings killed and the Commanding Officer, who died of wounds at Benghazi.




6. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was sailed at 1700 for Haifa for a short period of mining exercises.




7. During the night of 18th/19th December, Fleet Air Arm Albacores bombed the docks at Sousse and attacked E boats operating off Pantelleria.


8. Forty JU 88s attacked the aerodromes at Takali, Halfar, and Luqa during the night of 18th to 19th December. At Luqa seven Wellingtons were destroyed, three Wellingtons and one Baltimore were damaged. In no case were the aerodrome rendered unserviceable.


9. M.T.B. 265 arrived from Benghazi.


Western Mediterranean


10. All available M.T.B.s in the Eastern Mediterranean were allocated to the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, to be operated by the Vice Admiral Malta, as required.


Red Sea


11. Commodore, Aden, reported that negotiations had failed to persuade the Djibouti authorities to come over to the Fighting French.


Commander in Chief


12. The British Naval Attache at Ankara, Rear Admiral W.L. Jackson, D.S.O., visited Admiral Harwood at Alexandria.



Sunday, 20th December 1942


Operation M.E. TWELVE


H.M.S. PETARD and QUEEN OLGA parted company off the end of the Alexandria searched Channel and proceeded into harbour. The convoy arrived at Port Said at 2000 escorted by CROOME, ALDENHAM, HURWORTH, and BELVOIR. There were no incidents on passage and negligible enemy air attacks in spite of being sighted by reconnaissance aircraft.




2. S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN escorted by EXMOOR and HURSLEY parted company with M.W. 17 at 0200 and proceeded into Benghazi.


Western Desert


3. S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN having disembarked military personnel was sailed from Benghazi at 1530 escorted by EXMOOR, HURSLEY, and ANTWERP.


4. The Hospital Ship LLANDOVERY CASTLE reported a German twin engine bomber approached his ship with obvious engine trouble and heavy smoke pouring from one engine in position 33-13N, 22-00E at 1152. The aircraft made off in the direction of Crete.


5. (n.b. in text, this paragraph was also numbered 4. The following paragraph numbers have been amended.) A hydrographic survey of Benghazi, Tobruk, and Derna had been completed. There were now 101 wrecks in Tobruk and 86 in Benghazi harbours ranging from lighters to merchant ships and warships.


6. Benghazi was raided by about ten aircraft. The minesweeping whalers SEKSERN and HAILSTORM sustained minor damage from near misses.


Commander in Chief


Admiral Harwood called on the Regent of Iraq, the Emir Abdul-Illak and his Prime Minister General Nuri Pasha at Alexandria



Monday, 21st December 1942




Convoy M.W. 17 arrived at 1600 escorted by ORION, DULVERTON, PAKENHAM, BEAUFORT, TETCOTT, and PINDOS. There were no incidents on passage and no air attacks.


Western Desert


2. The bulk oil installations at Tobruk were reported to be in working order with a capacity of approximately 8000 tons.


3. Over 200 tons of petrol and ammunition was unloaded from L.C.T.s at Ras el Ali.


4. Convoy A.W. 15 consisting of four slow ships was sailed from Alexandria for Benghazi, escorted by HYACINTH, SOUTHERN SEAS, CUMBRAE, and BELVOIR.


5. H.M.S. REDWOOD shot down a Heinkel 111 during a low level bombing attack on Benghazi Harbour after dark.




6. Captain (D) Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla in JERVIS in company with NUBIAN destroyed by gunfire a 2000 ton unescorted merchant ship at 0211 in position 33-39N, 11-05E. This merchant ship was steering for Tripoli (Libya) and her destruction was the result of excellent cooperation between the shadowing aircraft and the destroyers.




7. A single enemy aircraft dropped bombs south of Tripoli (Syria) at 2000. One civilian was killed and a small house and an oil press were demolished.




8. H.M.S. MALINES was refloated. She had been beached in the Avant Port, Port Said, as a result of a torpedo bomber attack at the end of July 1942.


9. M.L. 384 was commissioned at Port Said.



Tuesday, 22nd December 1942


Western Desert


S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN escorted by ANTWERP, EXMOOR, and HURSLEY arrived at Alexandria from Benghazi.


2. The port of Derna was closed down as a supply port, a Resident Naval Officer being left in charge. Derna remained as a shelter for small craft and for sea rescue purposes.


3. Benghazi was raided by twelve aircraft but no damage was caused in the harbour. At Ras el Ali, bad weather was slowing up the discharge of cargo.


4. The Advanced M.T.B. base was transferred from Benghazi to Ras el Hillal, there being insufficient room at the former.




5. Fleet Air Arm Albacores sank one escort vessel and scored a hit on a 2000 ton merchant ship which may have sunk in position 38-12N, 11-40E at about 0300.


Red Sea


6. Commodore Aden reported that aircraft from Diredawa dropped five thousand pamphlets over Djibouti from a low altitude. These pamphlets appealed to the populace to rally to the Allied cause within forty eight hours and explained the situation.




7. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was sailed from Haifa for Alexandria.


Commander in Chief


8. Admiral Harwood left Alexandria by air for a visit to the Western Desert ports. He arrived at Tobruk at midday and spent the night at Headquarters, Tenth Corps in the Tmimi area.



Wednesday, 23rd December 1942


Western Desert


The Dutch tanker TRAJANUS was raised and refloated in Benghazi harbour.


2. A single enemy aircraft dropped bombs on Ras el Ali. There was no damage or casualties to the Naval Beach party.




3. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived from Haifa. PRINCESS KATHLEEN and ANTWERP with military personnel for Benghazi were sailed at 1700 escorted by CROOME and BELVOIR.




4. H.M.S. RORQUAL arrived at Malta from minelaying operations and a patrol off Naples. ON the night of 8th to 9th December, mines were laid off Cani Rocks. On the 17th December, RORQUAL laid his remaining mines to the northward of the Ischia Channel. At 2041 on the 18th December, in position 320 degrees Imperatore Point six miles, she almost certainly torpedoed and sank a 2500 to 300 ton merchant vessel escorted by two E Boats.


5. H.M.S. TURBULENT arrived at Malta after an uneventful passage from Beirut to operate temporarily with the Tenth Submarine Flotilla.


Red Sea


6. H.M.S. TEVIOTBANK carried out a second lay of a defensive minefield in the Straits of Bab el Mandeb. ROMNEY and POOLE carried out a skimming sweep on completion. HERO acted as watching vessel.


Commander in Chief


7. Admiral Harwood visited Derna, Apollonia, and Cirene, spending the night at Rear Eighth Army headquarters.



Thursday, 24th December 1942


Western Desert


L.C.T. 108 ran aground at Ras el Ali, but salvage was considered possible. The development of the landing place was completed.


2. A single JU 88 made a tip and run raid on Tobruk without causing any damage.


3. Three enemy aircraft dropped bombs on the harbour entrance of Benghazi shortly before dawn without causing damage.




4. H.M.S. UNA returned to Malta from a ten day patrol in the Kerkennah-Kuriat area in which little was sighted. At 1013 on 20th December, a 2000 ton southbound merchant ship was attacked in position 35-38N, 11-13E, but all torpedoes missed probably due to the heavy swell then running.


5. H.M.S. P 44 (Lieutenant J.C.Y. Roxburgh, D.S.C.) returned from a patrol on the Palermo-Bizerta shipping route. On one occasion, she came to periscope depth in the centre of a convoy of three merchant ships and seven destroyers, but she was unable to fire torpedoes. This patrol did not result in any sinkings, but for continued activity and strain on personnel, it can have few equals in submarine patrols. This was the Commanding Officers first patrol.


Commander in Chief


6. Admiral Harwood visited Benghazi returning to Rear Eighth Army Headquarters for the night.



Friday, 25th December 1942


Western Desert


S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN and ANTWERP arrived at Benghazi. On completion of disembarkation of personnel they were sailed for Alexandria escorted by CROOME and BELVOIR.


2. Convoy A.W. 15 consisting of four slow merchant ships arrived at Benghazi, having been joined by two merchant ships from Tobruk.


Operation PENTAGON – The Coordinated demonstration of land, sea, and air power to Force Djibouti to come to terms.


3. Pamphlets were dropped on Djibouti advising the population of events.


Commander in Chief


4. Heavy rain overnight rendered all forward aerodromes in the Western Desert unserviceable. Admiral Harwood's intended visit to Malta had therefore to be postponed.



Saturday, 26th December 1942


Western Desert


The Eighth Army occupied Sirte without encountering opposition.


2. Convoy TANGO consisting of ten merchant ships was sailed from Alexandria for Tobruk and Benghazi escorted by SAKTOURIS (Senior Officer, Lieutenant Commander N. Bourekas, R.H.N. , ERICA, SOUTHERN ISLES, SOUTHERN MAID, BURRA, KAI, and M.L. 349. This was one of the largest Western Desert convoys yet sailed and its conduct on passage reflected credit on SAKTOURIS.


3. A small Greek cased petrol carrier arrived at Ras el Ali. Reconnaissance aircraft were active but no attack developed. L.C.T. 108 was refloated. The discharge of petrol continued satisfactorily.




4. H.M. Ships PALADIN and JAVELIN made a sweep in the Ras Turgueness area on the night of 25th to 26th December in conjunction with Wellington aircraft, but found nothing.


Red Sea


5. Operation PENTAGON. Free French forces under Colonel Reynal crossed the frontier into French Somaliland at dawn and occupied the important railway bridgehead at Shebele and Holhol without opposition.


Commander in Chief


6. Admiral Harwood began his return journey by car and air to Alexandria.



Sunday, 27th December 1942


Western Desert


Over three thousand tons of cargo was discharged today in Benghazi harbour. This was a record achievement for any Western Desert campaign. The sunken Italian boom was raised and in operation across the inner harbour entrance.


 2. The small Greek cased petrol carrier ANTIKLEA was unloading at Ras el Ali with the use of L.C.T.s. In spite of bad weather, the L.C.T.s maintained a high rate of discharge.




3. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was sailed for Malta at 1730 with service personnel, M.T.B.'s spare gear for Bone and a small quantity of stores for Malta. The Captain Coastal Forces also took passage to Malta on transference of all available M.T.B.s to the Western Mediterranean under Naval Commander Expeditionary ports.




4. The unloading of the ships of convoy M.W. 17 was completed today (11,484 tons). There had been no enemy air interference.


Commander in Chief


5. Commander in Chief arrived at Tobruk on his return journey to Alexandria.



Monday, 28th December 1942


Operation M.E. FOURTEEN – Passage of Convoy of Four Empty Merchant Ships from Malta to Port Said and Alexandria.


CONVOY M.E. 14 consisting of CLAN MACINDOE (British), OZARDA (British), AMERICAN PACKER (U.S.) and the Dutch tanker ERINNA was sailed from Malta at 2250 escorted by EURYALUS, DULVERTON, PINDOS, TETCOTT, and BEAUFORT.


Operation QUADRANGLE D – Passage of convoy of One merchant ship and one tanker to Malta.


2. Convoy M.W. 18 consisting of Panamanian tanker YORBALINDA and the DANIEL H. LOWNSDALE (U.S.) was sailed from Alexandria at 1500 escorted by EXMOOR, HURSLEY, HURWORTH, and ALDENHAM.




3. A simultaneous attack by British human torpedoes known as Chariots, on the Italian ports of Palermo, Cagliari, and Maddalena.


Object: The destruction of Italian naval units and merchant shipping. Three T class submarines were to be employed specially fitted to carry human torpedoes. Three U class submarines were to be employed as rescue submarines for Chariot personnel.


4. H.M. Submarines P 311 and P 46 were sailed from Malta.


Western Desert


Loss of H.M. Tug ST ISSEY


5. H.M. Tug ST ISSEY, towing lighters from Derna to Benghazi, escorted by KINGSTON CRYSTAL and M.L. 348, was torpedoed and sank with all hands at 0750 in position 32-37N, 20-22E. She had done noble work with the Inshore Squadron throughout every Western Campaign and her loss was much regretted.


6. The arrival of a tubular bridge at Ras el Ali assisted the discharging of supplies from L.C.T.s.




7. H.M. Ships PAKENHAM and PALADIN carried out a sweep between Linosa and Pantelleria during the night of 27th to 28th December but found nothing.


Red Sea


Operation PENTAGON


8. The naval force for this operation sailed from Aden at 0600. This consisted of Commodore Aden in HERO with CERES, ROMNEY, POOLE, and the Greek destroyer PANTHER. The force was to be in the vicinity of Djibouti out of sight of land by p.m. today.


9. At 1915, General Dupont, the Governor of Djibouti, signed an agreement with the British and Fighting French authorities whereby French Somaliland joined the United Nations as part of Fighting France.


Commander in Chief


10. Admiral Harwood returned to Alexandria from visiting the Western Desert ports.



Tuesday, 29th December 1942




H.M.S. TROOPER, THUNDERBOLT, and P 43 were sailed from Malta.


Western Desert


2. S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN and ANTWERP with military personnel for Benghazi was sailed from Alexandria escorted by CROOME, COMMANDANT DOMINE, and LA MOQUEUSE.


3. Bad weather along the coast was slowing up cargo discharge and the onward passage of lighters.


4. A naval beach reconnaissance party entered Sirte; three naval ratings were wounded by a land mine.




5. H.M. Minesweeper GIRL MARGARET was commissioned for service as a tender to ST ANGELO. She had been severely damaged during the heavy air attacks on Malta during April 1942.


6. H.M.S. WELSHMAN arrived from Alexandria after an uneventful passage.


7. At 0357, Fleet Air Arm Albacores blew up an enemy merchant ship, apparently carrying ammunition, escorted by one destroyer, in position 37-18N, 11-40E.


Red Sea


Operation PENTAGON


9. The naval force entered Djibouti at 1000 at the request of the General Officer Commanding Twelfth African Division. There were no incidents.



Wednesday, 29th December 1942


Operation M.E. FOURTEEN


H.M.S. EURYALUS reported that convoy M.E. 14 was attacked by a U boat in position 33-01N, 21-22E at 1650. Three torpedoes were seen passing through the convoy; no ships were damaged. BEAUFORT was detached in order to hunt the U boat.


2. At 1800, EURYALUS was detached and proceeded at high speed to Malta.




3. At 2359, Convoy M.W. 18 was ordered to proceed into Benghazi. One CAVOUR battleship was reported by reconnaissance to have left Taranto.


Western Desert


4. Convoy TANGO of ten merchant ships, less two ships detached into Tobruk arrived at Benghazi intact. A convoy of five empty merchant ships (two for Tobruk) was sailed from Benghazi escorted by SAKTOURIS, ERICA, GENERAL BIRDWOOD, MAPLE, M.L. 348, M.L. 349, and M.T.B. 309.


5. Enemy aircraft was active over Ras el Ali but no bombs were dropped. A survey of Sirte was completed and it was found suitable for L.C.T.s




6. Fleet Air Arm Albacores attacked a convoy of two westbound merchantmen and a destroyer southeast of Marittimo. One hit was scored on a merchant ship which was last seen down by the bows.




7. H.M.S. P 211 returned to Malta from a successful patrol off Hammamet, Gabes, and the northwest coast of Tripolitania. At 1548 on the 18th December, in position three miles 200 degrees from Hammamet, she gunned and destroyed a southbound schooner carrying petrol. Two man escaped in a boat, but it is though that the rest of the crew perished.


8. At 1219 on the 20th December, a small tanker was gunned, which ran ashore in position 36-04N, 10-30E; on subsequent investigation by P 211, it was considered that the tanker was a structural loss.


9. At 1914 on the 22nd December, when five miles south of Hammamet, she gunned the Italian naval magnetic minesweeper ROSINA A, finally sinking her by torpedo. Twelve prisoners were picked up, including her Commanding Officer. P 211 returned to Malta and landed prisoners and reembarked ammunition on the 23rd December, sailing to continue her patrol immediately afterwards.


10. At 0752 on the 27th December, when five miles east of Zuara she gunned and sank the schooner ELEANORA ROSA, on passage from Zuara to Tripoli (L) with 100 tons of petrol. Two survivors were picked up by P 211.


11. At 0951 on the 29th December, when in position 34-20N, 10-54E, she scored one torpedo hit on a 1500 ton northbound merchant ship last seen down by the bows.


Red Sea


Operation PENTAGON


12. All ships of the naval force were sailed from Djibouti for Aden with the exception of HERO.


Safe Conduct


13. The Swedish relief ships AKKA and YARRAWONGA sailed from Gibraltar for Piraeus via the Straits of Messina with wheat from Canada for the Greek population.



Thursday, 31st December 1942


Operation M.E. FOURTEEN


H.M.S. BEAUFORT rejoined the convoy at daylight after an unsuccessful search for the U boat which attacked the convoy on the 30th December.




2. Convoy M.W. 18 arrived at Benghazi at daylight; as enemy units did not appear to be in a position to menace the convoy, M.W. 18 was sailed for Malta at 1900. PAKENHAM and JAVELIN who had been sailed overnight to screen EURYALUS, arrived at 1230 in company with EURYALUS.


Western Desert


3. H.M.S. SEAHAM and SOUTHERN MAID were sailed from Benghazi at 0500 to carry out an A/W sweep for the U boat which had fired torpedoes at EURYALUS and the convoy on the 30th December off Tolmeita; they were later joined by COMMANDANT DOMINE and LA MOQUEUSE.


4. H.M. Ships CROOME and ANTWERP escorting PRINCESS KATHLEEN arrived at Benghazi sailed for Alexandria on completion of discharge.




5. H.M.S. WELSHMAN was sailed for Bone at 1700 to unload M.T.B. spares.


6. H.M.S. EURYALUS escorted by PAKENHAM and JAVELIN arrived at 1300. Force K was brought to short notice for steam in view of possible movements of Italian naval units.


7. M.T.B. s 264, 267, 311, and 313 arrived from Benghazi.




8. H.M.S. P 43 was sailed from Malta to act as rescue submarine for chariot personnel.


Red Sea


9. H.M.S. DERWENT arrived at Aden to join the Mediterranean Station. She had been held in the Eastern Fleet for some months on account of the U boat situation. She was allocated to the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla.




10. Axis Losses during December (Note: the whole of the Mediterranean is included)


18 ships sunk totaling 33,630 tons


 3 ships damaged totaling 1700 tons


11. Submarines were disposed as follows:

TAKU returning from patrol in the Aegean to Beirut






TIGRIS On patrol.... (n.b. page chopped)

Tenth Submarine Flotilla

UNA, P 35, P 211, P 51, P 45, P 43 At Malta


P 311 nearing Maddalena for Operation PRINCIPAL


THUNDERBOLT, TROOPER on passage from Malta to Palermo and Cagliari for Operation PRINCIPAL


P 37, P 46 On patrol in vicinity of Kelibia


P 48 On patrol in Gulf of Hammamet

Greek submarines

KATSONIS, MATROZOS refitting Port Said


NEREUS, PAPANICOLIS refitting at Beirut

Yugoslav submarine

NEBOJSCA refitting at Port Said








A quiet month mainly concerned in building up supplies for the Eighth Army as rapidly as possible and the running of convoys to Malta. As a result, offensive operations were limited. There is no doubt that the knowledge that force of cruisers and destroyers were based at Malta was sufficient deterrent in itself to keep the Italian Fleet from rash ventures. The enemy made only one attempt to send a convoy to Tripoli (Libya) east of Malta, but on being sighted by our aircraft they turned back and the Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and his Force who left Malta to intercept, were unable to make contact before daylight.


Western Desert


2. In spite of some bad patches of weather, tugs and lighters were sent forward to the Western Desert ports without any serious damage. The rate of discharge of cargo into Tobruk and Benghazi was better than anticipated. At one time over 3000 tons were discharged at Benghazi in one day; a considerably better figure that ever achieved by the enemy in former campaigns. With the advance of the Eighth Army towards Tripoli (Libya), Benghazi became the main supply port. The capacity of the roadways in the Western Desert was not sufficient to meet the Army's requirements for supplies and the Navy was committed to the conveyance of tanks, personnel, petrol, and stores on an ever increasing scale. With the dearth of escort vessels, this presented a difficult problem.


3. A naval mobile beach party did some excellent work in unloading petrol and ammunition from L.C.T.s and schooners in the Gulf of Sirte. The anchorage at El Zouetina was used for a short time and later Ras el Ali where conditions were more suitable and as much as 240 tons was discharged in one day; one ton of petrol landed in the Gulf of Sirte near to the front was worth several at Benghazi.


4. The enemy's air effort in the Western Desert ports was on a very small scale. Two merchant ships were hit and sunk during the attacks on Benghazi; one of these was subsequently refloated. H.M.S. SNAPDRAGON was bombed and sunk when in the vicinity of Benghazi with a convoy. Smoke defence of this port was installed, and proved most successful. This is the first time this defence has been used in the Eastern Mediterranean.


5. H.M. Tug ST ISSEY on passage to Benghazi towing lighters was torpedoed and sunk by a German U boat and sunk with all hands. She had done noble work with the Inshore Squadron throughout every Western Desert campaign. Her loss was much regretted.


6. The commander in Chief made a short tour of the Western Desert ports at Christmas. He had intended to fly to Malta, but rain made all the forward aerodromes unserviceable and his visit was reluctantly postponed.




7. Precautions against the ships of Force X were completely relaxed about the middle of December. Several senior French Naval Officers visited Admiral Godfroy from Algiers in an endeavour to persuade him to come over to the Allied cause. A little progress was made, but Admiral Godfroy would not make up his mind. His personal wishes were to join the United Nations, but until a government in North Africa suitable and acceptable to him was established, he was unable to reach a decision.




8. After the safe arrival of a second convoy of four store ships and a tanker from Port Said, the policy of running supplies to Malta was altered. In order to avoid offering too tempting a bait to the Italian Fleet, it was decided to run supply ships to Malta in pairs. They were sailed in company with normal coastal convoys as far as the Benghazi area, where a cruiser escort from Malta met them for the passage across the Central Basin.


9. During the month, 58,500 tons of general cargo and 18,220 tons of oil fuel were discharged from nine merchant ships and two tankers. The supply situation, from being most precarious, became in this one month established on a firm basis.


10. The enemy made no serious attempts to stop these convoys reaching Malta or to interfere with their unloading; the only occasion on which bombs were dropped on the Island was on the night of 18th December, when Luqa aerodrome was attacked by about 30 bombers. Nine Wellingtons and some fighters were destroyed.


11. Force K and destroyers remained base at Malta. One cruiser was used as fighter direction ship with the convoys between Cyrenaica and Malta. H.M.S. DIDO left Malta to join up with Force Q at Bone.


12. Captain (D) Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla in JERVIS, with JAVELIN, NUBIAN, and KELVIN sank three merchant ships during coastal sweepers to the Tunisian coast cooperating in pairs; Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm cooperation was appreciably improved, especially A.S.V. homing procedures.


13. The destruction of the Italian U boat UARSCIEK, by PETARD and QUEEN OLGA on the 15th December south east of Malta was particularly encouraging. She was the first to appear in the Eastern Mediterranean for some time. Unluckily, the U boat sank before she could be towed to Malta. It was PETARD's second attempt in ten weeks.


14. The Fleet Air Arm from Malta continued to hit hard at the enemy supply lines. Out of twelve ships torpedoed, six were seen to sink; in addition ships and docks in Tunisia and Tripoli (Libya) were bombed and E boats were attacked with bombs and machine guns. Mines were also laid in enemy waters.


15. All available M.T.B.s in the Eastern Mediterranean were allocated to the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, to be operated by the Vice Admiral Malta, as required. The captain Coastal Forces set up his headquarters at Malta and M.T.B.s were sailed from Benghazi was the weather allowed. Work was begun on building an M.T.B. base at Ta-Xbiex.




16. Our submarines continued to be disposed in the Gulf of Tunis, in the Tripoli (Libya ) area and off the east Tunisian coast; when possible one submarine operated in the Aegean.


17. By the end of the month, it became evident that the increasing intensity of the enemy's A.S.V. aircraft and surface A/S patrols had made the narrow waters between Sicily and Tunisia an extremely difficult area in which to operate. There were sings of strain amongst the Commanding Officers and it was decided that submarines should only operate in this area on alternate patrols. H.M.S. P 43, P 44, and P 48 all carried out particularly hazardous patrols in the Tunis-Bizerta area without any success.


18. H.M. Submarines P 35 and P 211 both carried out most successful patrols off the East Tunisian and Tripolitania coasts. H.M.S. P 35 destroyed an Italian collier and two fully laden southbound merchant ships. H.M.S. P 211 destroyed two schooners loaded with petrol, a small tanker, a magnetic minesweeper, and left sinking a medium sized merchant ship.


19. H.M.S. RORQUAL carried out one mine laying operation during the month to the north of the Isschia Channel near Naples and off Cani Rocks.


20. H.M.S. TRAVELLER, commanded by Lieutenant Commander D. St Clair Ford, Royal Navy, was lost whilst carrying out a reconnaissance of Taranto in order to gauge the practicability of attacking the Italian battleships with Chariots (human torpedoes). That such an experienced officer should be lost indicated that the patrols off Taranto were of dangerous efficiency.


21. The ex Italian submarine PERLA captured by HYACINTH in July 1942, was handed over to the Royal Hellenic Navy and renamed MATROZOS. Considerable refitting was, however, necessary before she could be fully operational.




22. A very quiet month. The usual convoy movements were continued, though escorts had to be reduced. There was no U Boat activity.


Red Sea


23. Negotiations and operations were successfully completed for the adherence, without bloodshed, of Djibouti to the Allied Nations.


24. A small naval force under the Command of Commodore C.A.A. Larcom, D.S.O. with his broad pendant in H.M.S. HERO, with CERES (from the Eastern Fleet), PANTHER (Greek destroyer), ROMNEY and POOLE took part in the operation. This force arrived off Djibouti at daylight on the 29th December, prepared to engage the defences if necessary. Fortunately, there was no resistance and ships did not open fire.


25. The movement of a considerable volume of shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden continued without enemy interference.


Changes on the Station


26. The following ships joined the Station during the month.

Greek destroyer KANARIS


HUNT class destroyer DERWENT


H.M. Submarines P 51, TIGRIS, and TROOPER.

27. The following ships left the station during the month.

DIDO to join Force Q


H.M. Submarines P 212 and P 247 to join the Eighth Submarine Flotilla


H.M. Submarine PORPOISE for refitting in the United Kingdom.


5 M.T.B.s to operate under the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force.

28. Casualties

H.M. Submarine TRAVELLER overdue on patrol


H.M. Corvette SNAPDRAGON sunk by bombs


H.M. Tug ST ISSEY torpedo by a German U boat and lost with all hands.


L.C.M. 98 sunk by enemy aircraft.


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