Allied Warships

HMS Rye (J 76)

Minesweeper of the Bangor class

NavyThe Royal Navy
PennantJ 76 
ModTurbine engined 
Built byAilsa Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. (Troon, Scotland) 
Ordered21 Jul 1939 
Laid down27 Nov 1939 
Launched19 Aug 1940 
Commissioned20 Nov 1941 
End service 

Sold on 24 August 1948.
Scrapped at Purfleet in September 1948.


Commands listed for HMS Rye (J 76)

Please note that we're still working on this section
and that we only list Commanding Officers for the duration of the Second World War.

1Lt. John Andrew Pearson, DSC, RNR24 Sep 19416 Mar 1944
2A/Lt.Cdr. Frank Williams, RN6 Mar 1944late 1945

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Notable events involving Rye include:

17 Sep 1941

Convoy WS 11X,
Troop convoy from Liverpool / Clyde to Gibraltar.

On 16 September 1941 the ships Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) departed from Liverpool to make rendes-vous the following day off Orsay Island with the following ships that had departed the Clyde on the 17th; City of Calcutta (8063 GRT, built 1940), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Clan Macdonald (9653 GRT, built 1939), Dunedin Star (11168 GRT, built 1936), Imperial Star (12427 GRT, built 1934), Rowallan Castle (7801 GRT, built 1939), HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939) (Capt.(ret.) C.A.G. Hutchison, RN), HMS Princess Beatrix (4136 GRT, built 1939) (Cdr.(ret.) T.B. Brunton, RN), HMS Queen Emma (4136 GRT, built 1939) (Capt.(ret.) G.L.D. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Royal Scotsman (3288 GRT, built 1936) (T/Cdr. J.W. Peters, RNR), HMS Ulster Monarch (3791 GRT, built 1929) (T/Cdr. J. Wilson, RNR) and Leinster (4302 GRT, built 1937).

Most of the ships of this convoy were to form the convoy for operation Halberd from Gibraltar to Malta. The following ships made only the passage to Gibraltar with convoy WS 11X; HMS Princess Beatrix, HMS Queen Emma, HMS Royal Scotsman, HMS Ulster Monarch and Leinster.

Escort for this convoy was provided by; battleship HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, DSO, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, RN), HMS Havelock (Cdr. E.H. Thomas, DSC, RN), HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, DSC, RN), HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Witch (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Holmes, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSC, RN), ORP Piorun (Cdr. E.J.S. Plawski), ORP Garland (Lt.Cdr. K.F. Namiesniowski, ORP) and HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNethN).

In the evening of the 19th (2115 hours, B.S.T.) the destroyers HMS Havelock and HMS Harvester were detached from the convoy to escort the liner (troopship) Stratheden (23722 GRT, built 1937) all the way to Halifax. Until that moment the Stratheden had also been part of convoy WS 11X. The position in which these ships were detached was 50°57'N, 24°55'E.

On 21 September the convoy was joined by three destroyers coming from Gibraltar; HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN). These destroyers had sailed from Gibraltar on the 18th.

Also sailed from Gibraltar on the 18th was the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. A.G. Talbot, DSO, RN) escorted the destroyers HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) to provide cover for the convoy. Following this HMS Furious was then to proceed to Bermuda and finally to the US for a refit. The destroyers then made rendes-vous with the British battleship HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN) coming from a refit in the United States. They then provided cover for the convoy joining it around 1200/21. Shortly after Rodney had joined the convoy HMS Prince of Wales left the convoy for Gibraltar escorted by HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning and HMS Oribi. They arrived at Gibraltar to fuel late on the 23th. They departed Gibraltar around 0400/24 and rejoined the convoy west of Gibraltar around 1200/24. Before HMS Prince of Wales rejoined the convoy HMS Rodney had departed the convoy and also headed for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers ORP Piorun, ORP Garland and HrMs Isaac Sweers. HMS Rodney and her escorting destroyers arrived at Gibraltar at 0900/24. In the evening of the 24th, HMS Nelson sailed westwards escorted by the same destroyers that had brought HMS Rodney in giving the German and Italian spies across the Bay in Spanish Algeciras the impression that HMS Rodney had just relieved HMS Nelson as flagship of Force H. This diversion seemed to have had the desired effect. During the night HMS Nelson and her escorting destroyers reversed course and passed the Straits of Gibraltar to the eastward unseen after dark.

On the 20th the cruiser HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN) and the destroyer HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN) also departed Gibraltar to provide cover for the convoy.

On the 21th the cruisers HMS Kenya and HMS Euryalus departed the convoy for Gibraltar where they both arrived at 2300/22. After fuelling they departed before daylight on the 23th to rejoin the convoy to the west of Gibraltar. At Gibraltar Rear-Admiral H.M. Burrough, CB, RN, had hoised his flag on board HMS Kenya.

On the 23th the destroyer HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC, RN) and escort destroyers HMS Heythrop (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) bolstered the escort in the approaches to Gibraltar joining the convoy around 0800/24. Also on the 24th light cruiser HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN) departed Gibraltar at 1230 hours to join the convoy.

Also on the 24th two groups of destroyers arrived at Gibraltar to refuel. The destroyers HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Gurkha and HMS Lance arrived at 1600 hours. The destroyers HMS Legion, HMS Lively and HMS Zulu arrived at 1800 hours.

See 25 September 1941 'Convoy operation Halberd' for the continuation of the events..

25 Sep 1941

Operation Halberd
Supply convoy to Malta.

Continuation of the events of 17 September 1941, convoy WS 11X.

Situation at 1800 hours on 24 September 1941.

At 1800B/24 the situation was as follows;
Convoy WS 11X was to the west of Gibraltar escorted at that moment by the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), the British light cruisers HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. M.M. Denny, CB, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Sheffield (Capt. A.W. Clarke, RN), the British destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, DSO, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMS Oribi (Lt.Cdr. J.E.H. McBeath, DSO, RN), HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN), the British escort destroyers HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN) and HMS Heythrop (Lt.Cdr R.S. Stafford, RN).

At Gibraltar were the British battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Somerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN), the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), the British light cruiser HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), the British destroyers HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN with Capt. D.(13) Capt. H.W. Williams, RN, on board), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Lively (Lt.Cdr. W.F.E. Hussey, DSC, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN), the Polish destroyers ORP Piorun (Kmdr.por. (Cdr.) E.J.S. Plawski), ORP Garland (Kmdr.por. (Cdr.) K.F. Namiesniowski) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNethN). Also at Gibraltar was the RFA oiler Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941) and the British corvette HMS Fleur de Lys (Lt.(Retd.) A. Collins, RNR).

Approaching Gibraltar from the west were the British destroyers HMS Zulu (Cdr. H.R. Graham, DSO, RN), HMS Gurkha (Cdr. C.N. Lentaigne, RN) and HMS Lance (Lt.Cdr. R.W.F. Northcott, RN).

Movement of forces on the night of 24/25 September.

At 1815 hours, HMS Nelson departed Gibraltar and after passing farewell messages to HMS Rodney she proceeded westwards screened by HrMs Isaac Sweers, ORP Piorun and ORP Garland. These ships reversed course at 2130 hours and proceeded eastwards.

Shortly after HMS Nelson and her three escorting destroyers had departed Gibraltar harbour HMS Gurkha, HMS Zulu and HMS Lance, wich had been sent ahead to fuel aft Gibraltar, entered harbour.

At 2030B/24 RFA Brown Ranger and her escort, corvette HMS Fleur de Lys departed Gibraltar to take up a position eastwards to fuel the destroyers that were to protect the Halberd convoy.

At 2300B/24 HMS Rodney, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione escorted by HMS Duncan, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Lively, HMS Zulu, HMS Gurkha, HMS Legion and HMS Lance departed from Gibraltar eastwards to simulate a normal sortie by 'Force H' and to rendezvous with the convoy to the eastward of Gibraltar at 0800B/25.

'Force Z', consisting of, HMS Princess Beatrix (4136 GRT, built 1939) (Cdr.(ret.) T.B. Brunton, RN), HMS Queen Emma (4136 GRT, built 1939) (Capt.(ret.) G.L.D. Gibbs, DSO, RN), HMS Royal Scotsman (3288 GRT, built 1936) (T/Cdr. J.W. Peters, RNR) (whose ultimate destination was Freetown), HMS Ulster Monarch (3791 GRT, built 1929) (T/Cdr. J. Wilson, RNR) and Leinster (4302 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the British corvettes HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (T/Lt. L.C. Head, RNVR) and HMS Azalea (Lt. G.C. Geddes, RNR) had been stationed behind the main convoy at dusk was ordered to proceed into Gibraltar Bay. It was hoped that the presence of these ships in the Bay would lay suspicion in the event of the convoy having been sighted and reported while passing through the Straits.

The remainder of convoy WS 11X, made up of transport ships Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931), City of Calcutta (8063 GRT, built 1940), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Clan Macdonald (9653 GRT, built 1939), Dunedin Star (11168 GRT, built 1936), Imperial Star (12427 GRT, built 1934), Rowallan Castle (7801 GRT, built 1939) and HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939) (Capt.(ret.) C.A.G. Hutchison, RN), with the escort, organised in two groups one mile apart, and led by the Vice Admiral, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet in HMS Prince of Wales, and the Rear Admiral commanding 18th Cruiser Squadron in HMS Edinburgh respectively, passed south of Europa Point at 0130B/25. This disposition was adopted to reduce the frontage of the convoy during its passage through the Straits.

At 0730B/25 HMS Rodney, HMS Ark Royal and their screening destroyers were sighted from HMS Nelson at a range of about 10 nautical miles. Half an hour later the convoy and its escort was sighted.

The escorting force was now reorganised into two groups;
Group 1: HMS Nelson, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione, HMS Cossack, HMS Zulu, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Laforey and HMS Lightning.

Group 2: HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney, HMS Kenya, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Sheffield, HMS Euryalus, HMS Duncan, HMS Gurkha, HMS Legion, HMS Lance, HMS Lively, HMS Oribi, HrMs Iscaac Sweers, ORP Piorun, ORP Garland, HMS Fury, HMS Farndale and HMS Heytrop and the entire convoy.

Events of group 1 and group 2 during 25 September

At 1700B/25 (time zone -2) HMS Duncan obtained an Asdic contact in position 36°36'N, 01°58'W and attacked with a pattern of four depth charges (more were intended but the starboard thrower failed to fire. Another depth charge attack was carried out by HMS Grukha at 1716 hours. She dropped a pattern of fourteen depth charges. HMS Duncan attacked again at 1750 hours with a second depth charge pattern. Both destroyers then proceeded to rejoin the screen at 1758 hours. Both ships sighted bubbles rising to the surface possibly from a damaged submarine.

Meanwhile on the 25th all destroyers of group 2 were fuelled by RFA Brown Ranger but not without delay as Brown Rangers speed was slower then anticipated and she was therefore further to the west then anticipated. This resulted in that not all destroyers were back in position at dusk. HMS Oribi was unable to find group 2 during the night and joined up with group 1 until daylight of the 26th when she rejoined group 1.

Events of group 1 and group 2 during 26 September

At 0932B/26 lookouts on HMS Nelson spotted an Italian aircraft shadowing group 1 at a range of 10 miles. The aircraft was flying very low and had not been picked up by RDF. The fighters from HMS Ark Royal that were in the air failed to intercept this aircraft due to failure of the R/T equipment in the flight leaders aircraft. An enemy report from the aircraft was intercepted at 0935 hours. A re-broadcast of this signal by an Italian shore station was picked up 20 minutes later.

At 1300 hours Group 1 reversed course to close the distance to group 2 and HMS Hermione was stationed astern of HMS Ark Royal for RDF purposes and to give additional AA protection to the carrier.

At 1537 hours two aircraft were sighted low down to the eastward by HMS Zulu, HMS Nelson and HMS Hermione. These aircraft were at first thought to be Hudsons but turned out to be enemy when a signal they made was intercepted. By now it was too late to vector fighters towards them.

Movements of group 1 and group 2 and enemy air attacks during 27 September.

Around 0730B/27 group 1 and 2 joined. HMS Ark Royal was now protected by HMS Euryalus (ahead) and HMS Hermione (astern) as close escort. Four Fulmar fighters were flown off at 0800 hours. This number was increased to ten at 1000 hours and twelve at 1100 hours and finally to sixteen at 1200 hours when it was though most likely air attacks might develop due to the fact the the forcehad been shadowed and reported by enemy aircraft from at least 0810 hours.

At 1255 hours RDF picked up enemy aircraft formations closing in on the convoy, one from the north and one from the east, both 30 miles distant. Position was 37°48'N, 08°50'E. Fighters were vertored towards these formations and one enemy aircraft was shot down at 1300 hours. Six enemy torpedo bombers approached from the port bow and beam of the convoy. Two were shot down at 1302 hours, most likely by AA fire from HMS Rodney and HMS Prince of Wales. An unknown number of torpedoes were dropped by the other aircraft. No hits were obtained but HMS Lance was narrowly missed by two of these torpedoes. HrMs Isaac Sweers was missed with one torpedo by 30 yards and HMS Rodney by one torpedo by 100 yards. One of the attacking aircraft was shot down by the destroyers while another torpedo bomber meanwhile was shot down by the Fulmars from the Ark Royal. Finally at 1310 hours a Fulmar was accidentaly shot down by HMS Prince of Wales. The first attack was was now over.

At 1327B/27 RDF reported a group of aircraft splitting into two formations and approaching from the east. Destroyers on the starboard wing of the screen opened fire at 1329 hours when six or seven torpedo bombers (BR 20's) were seen approaching very low from the starboard bow and beam. Position was 37°49'N, 08°58'E.

Three of these aircraft pressed on through the barrage put up by the destroyers and made a most determined attack on HMS Nelson who was swinging to starboard to comb the tracks. On aircraft dropped its torpedo out 450 yards 20° on Nelson's starboard bow passing over the ship at a height of 200 feet. This aircraft was almost certainly shot down astern of HMS Nelson by HMS Sheffield and HMS Prince of Wales. The track of the torpedo was not seen until about 150 yards ahead of the ship and no avoiding action was possible and the torpedo hit HMS Nelson on the port bow 10 feet below the waterline. The speed of HMS Nelson was reduced to 18 knots.

The second aircraft of this formation missed HMS Nelson with its torpedo by about 100 yards while the third aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by HMS Laforey. It's W/T operator, the only one of the crew alive but wounded, was picked up by HMS Forester.

Three or four aircraft from this group attacked from the starboard quarted but without result.

One torpedo bomber was shot down by the Fulmars at 1336 hours. One of the Fulmars was now shot down by mistake by pompom fire from HMS Rodney but the crew was rescued by HMS Duncan.

At 1345 hours the third attack started. RDF reported a group coming in from the south-west. Ten or eleven S.79's split into two groups and were seen coming in low over the water and were taken under fire from the escorting ships on the starboard side of the convoy. Seven or eight of the attackers then retired to the south-west and disappeared but three others tried to work round the starboard bow of the convoy which then turned ay 60° to port. The three attackers were then driven off by gunfire from the destroyer screen and dropped their torpedoes at long range but one torpedo narrowly missed HMS Lightning. One of these aircraft was shot down by a Fulmar as it retired. Position of this attack was 37°50'N, 09°06'E.

At 1354 hours three of the aircraft that had initialy turned away returned from astern. Two of these retired again on being fired at but the third pressed on to attack HMS Ark Royal but it was shot down by AA fire from that ship and HMS Nelson before it had dropped it's torpedo.

At 1358 hours one aircraft, seen right ahead of HMS Nelson, dropped a torpedo outside the screen. HMS Cossack was able to avoid this torpedo by the HE of this torpedo being picked up by her Asdic set.

Attempt to intercept the Italian battlefleet

While the third air attack was still in progress at 1404 hours an emergency report was received from an aircraft operating from Malta that it had sighted two Italian battleships and eight destroyers in position 38°20'N, 10°40'E steering a course of 190° at 20 knots at 1340 hours. The position of HMS Nelson when this report was received was 37°46'N, 09°04'E so the enemy was only 70-75 miles away. At this time HMS Nelson, with it's gun armament unimpaired was thought to be capable of 18 knots or more. Admiral Somerville decided to proceed towards the enemy at best speed with HMS Nelson, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney and the destroyers HMS Duncan, HMS Gurkha, HMS Lance, HMS Lively, HrMs Isaac Sweers and ORP Garland, leaving HMS Kenya, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Sheffield and ten destroyers with the convoy. HMS Euryalus, HMS Hermione and the destoyers HMS Piorun and HMS Legion remained with the Ark Royal.

It was also decided to fly off two Swordfish aircraft from the Ark Royal to take over shadowing duties from the aircraft operating out of Malta and to arm and fly off air striking force as soon as possible.

Ark Royal launched the two Swordfish at 1448 hours. It was intended to have launched them earlier but the launch was delayed due to the main armamant of HMS Ark Royal being in action and the recovery of two Fulmar fighters which were short on fuel.

In the meantime, at 1425 hours, the aircraft that was in contact with the Italians now also reported four cruisers and eight destroyers 15 nautical miles west-south-west of the enemy battlefleet. They were steering the same course and speed.

Meanwhile, at 1417 hours, the battleships had been ordered to form on HMS Nelson who had increased speed and proceeded ahead of the convoy. However at 1433 hours it became necessary for HMS Nelson to reduce speed to avoid further flooding due to the damage sustained. The Vice Admiral, 2nd in Command, Home Fleet in HMS Prince of Wales was now ordered to proceed with his flagship, HMS Rodney, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Sheffield and six destroyers to close the enemy at best speed. HMS Nelson meanwhile took station astern of the convoy.

While these instructions were carried out a report was received that the enemy had reversed course to 360°. This was followed by a further report that the enemy was steering 060°. Also a report was received that the battleships were of the Littorio class and not Cavour's as was previously believed. It was now clear that the enemy tried to avoid contact. It was still hoped that a striking force from HMS Ark Royal would be able to inflict damage to the enemy and reduced his speed allowing our battleships to overtake him before dark.

At 1530 hours a Fulmar fighter which was short of fuel force landed on the water astern of the Ark Royal. The crew was picked up by ORP Piorun.

At 1540 hours, HMS Ark Royal launched her stiking force of twelve Swordfish and four Fulmars. These aircraft did not find the enemy force and all aircraft returned to HMS Ark Royal around 1900 hours.

Between 1620 and 1645 hours, Fulmars from the CAP drove off an air attack threatening from the port side of the convoy. Later a shadowing enemy aircraft was shot down by Fulmars.

At 1658 hours, the Vice Admiral, second in Command Home Fleet, was ordered to reverse course and rejoin the convoy which was done at 1851 hours. No further reports of the enemy had been received for almost two hours and even if the striking force from HMS Ark Royal was able to inflict damage on the enemy these could not be intercepted before dark.

Detachment of Force X and the convoy.

At 1855 hours, on reaching the Skerki Channel, the escort of the convoy was split up into two forces, Force A, made up of HMS Nelson, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Duncan, HMS Gurkha, HMS Legion, HMS Lively, HMS Lance, HMS Fury, HrMs Isaac Sweers, ORP Piorun and ORP Garland split off from the convoy while Force X, made up of HMS Kenya, HMS Edinburg, HMS Sheffield, HMS Hermione, HMS Euryalus, HMS Cossack, HMS Zulu, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Oribi, HMS Farndale and HMS Heythrop remained with the convoy.

Between 1915 and 1930 hours enemy aircraft twice approached the convoy but turned away after fire had been opened on them. They were probably CR.42 fighters.

Night T/B attack on Force X and the convoy and loss of the Imperial Star.

Between 2000 and 2040 hours four torpedo bomber attacks were made on the convoy and Force X from the port beam, two or three aircraft taking part in each attack. The first two attacks had no result for the Italians.

During the third attack the two rear ships in the port column of the convoy collided with each other, these were the Rowallan Castle and the City of Calcutta. No serious damage was sustained and both were able to proceed on their way.

During the fourth attack, at 2032 hours, in position 37°31'N, 10°46'E the Imperial Star was struck by a torpedo on her port side aft. HMS Oribi was also attacked and narrowly missed by a torpedo four minutes later. She was able to shoot down the aircraft that had dropped this torpedo with her pompom and oerlikons.

When the Imperial Star was torpedoed it is probable that the explosion blew away both propellers and her rudder. In addition no.6 hold and the after engine room were both flooded.

HMS Heythrop, the rear ship of the port screen, proceeded alongside, but did not attempt to take Imperial Star in tow as she did not consider she was a suitable vessel to do so.

About 2045 hours HMS Oribi was ordered by HMS Euryalus to go to the assistance of the Imperial Star. When Oribi closed Heythrop was already standing by, and while Heythtop took off the passengers of the Imperial Star, HMS Oribi proceeded alongside to receive a report of the damage. It was decided to attempt to tow her to Malta.

For two hours the most determined attemps were made by HMS Oribi to tow the Imperial Star to Malta and although a speed of 8 knots was obtained nothing could be done to prevent her steering in circles. At is thought that her damaged stern was now acting as rudder.

Eventually, at 0120B/28, HMS Oribi found herself being dragged stern first by her tow sheering off and she was forced to slip the tow. Oribi went alongside to consult again and it was reluctantly decided that there was no other choice then to scuttle the ship. Three depth charges were placed lashed together abreast a bulkhead and these were fired by a safety fuse.

HMS Oribi cast off 0340B/28 and the depth charges were fired eleven minutes later, starting a large fire aft. As this did not spread quickly, Oribi shelled Imperial Star with 4.7" S.A.P. shells. Oribi finally left her at 0452 hours. Imperial Star was by that time heavily on fire fore and aft and listing badly. Aircraft from Malta could not find the wreck of the Imperial Star so there is no doubt that she sank.

HMS Oribi then made off from the scene along the convoy route at 32 knots and came with them near Malta 1215B/28 having passed unmolested within 7 nautical miles from the Sicilian coast in daylight.

Passage of the convoy and Force X through the narrows.

In the meantime the convoy and Force X had proceeded through the narrows along the south coast of Sicily.

In the meantime. at 2030B/27, HMS Hermione had departed the convoy to carry out a bombardment of Pantellaria harbour. Having completed the bombardment HMS Hermione rejoined Force X at 0615B/28. At daylight HMS Farndale and HMS Heythrop were detached to fuel at Malta.

Although several formations of enemy aircraft were detected between dawn and the arrival of the convoy at Malta, the excellent protection given by shore based fighters from Malta prevented any attack from developing.

At 0800B/28 a report was received that no enemy surface forces were reported near the convoy. The cruisers HMS Kenya, HMS Sheffield, HMS Euryalus and HMS Hermione then proceeded ahead to Malta to fuel where they arrived at 1130 hours. The remainder of Force X and the entire convoy, with the exception of the Imperial Star, arrived later in the afternoon.

Movements of Force A during 28 September.

While Force X and the convoy continued on to Malta, Force A proceeded to the west at 14 knots, which was the best speed of HMS Nelson at that time.

At 0725B/28 HMS Ark Royal flew off one A/S patrol and three fighters. At 0812 hours one enemy shadower was seen but it escaped into a cloud.

At 1025 hours HMS Nelson sighted a Cant. 506 aircraft very low down and fighters were vectored in. After a chase to the south-east this aircraft was shot down near Cape de Fer, Algeria.

Shadowers were again reported at 1640 hours and again one hour later but due to a failure of the R/T transmitter in Ark Royal it was not possible to vector fighters in time to intercept. An enemy report made by Italian aircraft was intercepted at 1720 hours.

At 1942B/28 one of the destroyers of the screen, HMS Duncan, obtained an Asdic contact in position 37°30'N, 03°45'E. She carried out two depth charge attacks but with no apparent result. HMS Legion closed to co-operate but did not gain contact. Both ships left the area at 2012 hours to rejoin the screen.

At 2020 hours speed was reduced to 12 knots to reduce the strain on bulkheads and decks of HMS Nelson. At this time Nelson was about 8 feet down by the bows and it was estimated that 3500 tons of water had entered the ship.

At 2100B/28, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Rodney, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Gurkha, HMS Lance, HMS Legion, HMS Lively, HMS Fury and HrMs Isaac Sweers were detached to proceed to the eastward and rendezvous with Force X. HMS Nelson, escorted by HMS Duncan, ORP Piorun and ORP Garland, continued on to Gibraltar.

At 0555B/29, in position 37°30'N, 06°25'E, HMS Prince of Wales obtained an RDF surface echo ahead, and an emergency turn of 40° to port was carried out with all ships at 0609 hours. Three minutes after this turn HMS Gurkha sighted a torpedo track approaching. It was too late to alter course to avoid. A second torpedo track followed a few seconds later. Both torpedoes appeared to pass underneath the ship. HMS Gurkha then turned to port in the direction from which the torpedoes had approached and HrMs Isaac Sweers also joined to hunt the submarine. No A/S contacts were obtained and no depth charges were dropped. HMS Gurkha and HrMs Isaac Sweers rejoined the screen at 0700B/29. The attacker was the Italian submarine Diaspro which managed to escape unharmed.

At 0810B/29 HMS Gurkha obtained an A/S contact in position 37°26'N, 07°14'E. At 0815 hours a pattern of fourteen depth charges was dropped. Six minutes later a heavy underwater explosion was heard. At 0841 hours HMS Gurkha was ordered to rejoin screen and the hunt was abandoned.

Movements of Force X during 28/29 September on the return trip from Malta.

In the meantime the ships that are part of Force X had all fuelled at Malta and at 1500B/28 the escort destroyers HMS Farndale and HMS Heythrop were sailed followed at 1615 hours by HMS Kenya, HMS Edinburgh and HMS Oribi. The remainder of Force X sailed at 1830 hours. HMS Farndale and HMS Heythrop joined Force A at 0835B/29. The remainder of Force X joined Force A at 1030B/29.

Movements of HMS Nelson and passage to Gibraltar.

In the meantime HMS Nelson and her three escorting destroyers were still proceeding to the west. They were joined by aircraft to provide additional A/S protection from 0730B/29 onwards.

At 1110B/29, ORP Piorun obtained a doubtful A/S contact and dropped one depth charge.

At 1909B/29, HMS Duncan also obtained A/S contact and dropped one depth charge.

At 1945B/29 the A/S screen was reinforced by the destroyer HMS Rockingham (Lt.Cdr. A.H.T. Johns, RN) coming from Gibraltar. Later in the evening four corvettes also joined for additional A/S protection of the damaged battleship, HMS Samphire (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Renny, DSC, RNR) joined at 2120B/29, HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) at 2140B/29, HMS Fleur de Lys at 2150B/29 and finally HMS Arbutus (T/Lt. A.L.W. Warren, DSC, RNR) at 2340B/29. Nelson's screen now consisted of four destroyers and four corvettes.

At 0130B/30 HMS Samphire and HMS Arbutus obtained an A/S contact and dropped depth charges without result, the contact was probably non-sub.

At 1200B/30 HMS Nelson entered Gibraltar Harbour.

Movements of Force A and Force X as of 1030 hours on 29 September.

Meanwhile after all ships of Force X had joined up with force A at 1030B/29 course was shaped to the westward, keeping 40 nautical miles clear of the African coast.

At 1645B/29, in position 37°26'N, 04°37'E, HMS Lively, sighted an object resembling a ship's lifeboat with mast at a range of 1000 yards. This was soon identified as the conning tower and periscope of a submarine momentarily breaking surface. Two torpedo tracks were sighted shortly afterwards. Lively immediately attacked with a pattern of fourteen depth charges at 1650 hours. HMS Legion, which was next to Lively in the destroyer screen, had already dropped a pattern of five depth charges about a minute and a half earlier. HMS Legion then joined up with HMS Lively to hunt this submarine.

At 1700 hours HMS Lively obtained a definate A/S contact and attacked with another pattern of fourteen depth charges five minutes later. After having dropped this pattern contact was regained at 1715 hours. Contact was however soon lost at and not regained. The hunt was abandoned at 1745 hours.

At 1930B/29, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Kenya, HMS Sheffield, HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Oribi, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester and HMS Fury parted company with the rest of the force and proceeded ahead to arrive at Gibraltar p.m. 30 September 1941. They arrived at Gibraltar at 1800B/30.

At 0928B/30, in position 37°10'N, 00°56'E, HMS Gurkha, obtained Asdic contact wich was confirmed as a submarine. She immediately attacked and fired a pattern if fourteen depth charges at 0935 hours. A black circular buoy with electric cable attached to it came to the surface after this attack. At 0945 hours a loud underwater explosion was heard and felt and oil started to come to the surface. Gurkha was unable to gain contact on the submarine from now on. HMS Legion who was by now assisting Gurkha in the hunt obtained contact and attacked with a fourteen depth charge pattern at 0955 hours. A second fourteen depth charge pattern was fired at 1009 hours. During Legion's second attack wreckage and oil came to the surface. Among the wreckage picked up was an Italian dictionary, a mattess, a pillow, numerous pieces of wood, some with bright screws and a piece of human scalp attached to a piece of wood by a splinter of metal. The interiors of the dictionary, the mattress and the pillow were dry. There was now no doubt that an Italian submarine was sunk by HMS Gurkha and HMS Legion.

All ships in this force entered Gibraltar harbour between 0700 and 0900 hours on 1 October.

Convoy MG 2, passage of three merchant vessels from Malta to Gibraltar.

At noon on the 26th the first out of three empty transports, the Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), departed Malta for Gibraltar. At 1030B/27 the other two ships Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937). These last two ships were escorted by the corvette HMS Gloxinia (Lt.Cdr. A.J.C. Pomeroy, RNVR) until 1930B/27. After an uneventful passage the Melbourne Star arrived at Gibraltar at 0700B/29. The Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria were spotted and reported by Italian aircraft at 1200B/27, shortly after leaving Malta. No enemy surface craft were seen until 2320B/27 when it was believed that an E-boat was sighted by the Port Chalmers which was following in the wake of the City of Pretoria. The Port Chalmers opened fire on the E-boats bow wave with it's 4" gun. The enemy then returned fire with a machine gun. After six rounds of 4" the enemy crossed the stern of the Port Chalmers and was not seen again. The City of Pretoria had not seen the enemy at all. The action had taken place about 15 nautical miles south-south-west of Pantelleria.

At 0535B/28 the Commodore of the convoy ordered he Port Chalmers to part company. Port Chalmers then proceeded at full speed, wearing French colours.

At 0915B/28 an Italian Cant. 506 seaplane approached from the direction of the French north African coast and circled the City of Pretoria. This aircraft then made off to the westward and gave the Port Chalmers the same attention. Both ships were wearing French colours and had taken care to keep all service personnel out of sight. Both ships were fully ready for action, but did not open fire as the aircraft took no offensive action.

At 1015B/28 the City of Pretoria was circled several times by a large three-engine seaplane, with distinct French markings, which approached from the direction of Bizerta.

At 1145B/28 the City of Pretoria sighted a twin-engined Italian seaplane stopped on the water, five nautical miles to the north. She lost sight of this aircraft at 1215 hours.

The Port Chalmers was circled by an Italian aircraft at 1555B/28. The aircraft did not attack.

At 1725B/28 the City of Pretoria was attacked by three Italian torpedo bombers. As the aircraft approached with obviously hostile intentions the British colours were hoised and fire was opened as soon as the leader came in range. By skilful handling all three torpedoes were avoided. A submarine periscope was then reported on the starboard quarter by two independent lookouts. Three smoke floats and a depth charge set to 150 feet were dropped and under the cover of the smoke the City of Pretoria turned away.

When the City of Pretoria was approaching Cape de Gata at 0200B/30 an unidentified vessel, possibly a submarine, was seen to be following. Two or three rapid shots, followed by a dull explosion, were heard. City of Pretoria made smoke and dropped smoke floats and then made close in Almeira Bay, into territorial waters, thus shaking off her pursuer.

The Port Chalmers arrived at Gibraltar at 0900B/30. City of Pretoria followed during the afternoon. (1)

3 Dec 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Oracle (T/A/Lt.Cdr. S.A. Martyn, RNR), HMNZS Kiwi (Lt.Cdr. G. Bridson, RNZNVR), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RNR) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN). (2)

4 Dec 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Oracle (T/A/Lt.Cdr. S.A. Martyn, RNR), HMNZS Kiwi (Lt.Cdr. G. Bridson, RNZNVR), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RNR) and HMS Wells (Lt. L.J. Pearson, RN). (2)

10 Dec 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Tobermory together with HMS Cape Mariato (T/Lt. H.T.S. Clouston, RNVR), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RNR), HMS Tynwald (A/Capt. (retired) F.T. Peters, DSO, DSC, RN) and HMS Southern Wave (Skr. J. May, RNR). (3)

12 Jun 1942

Operation Harpoon. Supply convoy to Malta from Gibraltar.

Timespan: 12 to 18 June 1942.

During March and April 1942 Malta had been attacked very heavily by the German and Italian air forces and was in much need of supplies. It was therefore decided that two convoy’s were to be sent, one from the west (Harpoon) and one from the east (Vigorous). This was to increase the chance of success as the enemy would have to split force if they want to attack both convoys. Also a group of minesweepers were to be sent to Malta.

Below we will give the events regarding the Harpoon convoy in chronological order.

12 June 1942.

Western Mediterranean (Harpoon convoy)

During the night convoy WS 19 Z passed the Straits of Gibraltar. This convoy had departed the Clyde on June 6th. It was made up of five merchant vessels; Burwan (British , 6069 GRT, built 1928), Chant (American, 5601 GRT, built 1938), Orari (British, 10350 GRT, built 1931), Tanimbar (Dutch, 8169 GRT, built 1930) and Troilus (British, 7422 GRT, built 1921).

Off Gibraltar the tanker Kentucky (American , 9308 GRT, built 1942) joined the convoy.

Close escort was provided by ‘Force X’ which was made up of the AA-cruiser HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN), destroyers HMS Bedouin (Cdr. B.G. Scurfield, OBE, RN), HMS Marne (Lt.Cdr. H.N.A. Richardson, DSC, RN), HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN), HMS Partridge (Lt.Cdr. W.A.F. Hawkins, DSC, OBE, RN), HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN), escort destroyers HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN), HMS Blankney (Lt.Cdr. P.F. Powlett, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Middleton (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Kinloch, RN), ORP Kujawiak (Kpt.mar. (Lt.Cdr.) L. Lichodziejewski), minesweepers HMS Hebe (Lt.Cdr. G. Mowatt, RD, RN), HMS Speedy (Lt. J.G. Brookes, RN), HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC, RN), HMS Hythe (Lt.Cdr. L.B. Miller, RN) and the motor launches (ML’s) ML 121 (group commander Lt.Cdr. E.J. Strowlger, RNVR), ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462.

Also operating with ‘Force X’ was the fast minelayer HMS Welshman (Capt. W.H.D. Friedberger, RN) which was to carry stores and personnel to Malta.

Distant cover was provided by ‘Force W’ which was made up of the battleship HMS Malaya (Capt. J.W.A. Waller, RN), aircraft carriers HMS Eagle (Capt. E.G.N. Rushbrooke, DSC, RN), HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, DSC, RN), light cruisers HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. W.R. Slayter, DSC, RN), AA-cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), destroyers HMS Onslow (Capt. H.T. Armstrong, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Escapade (Lt.Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair, RN), HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN), HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN) and HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN). This force was to cover the convoy until off the Skerki Channel, the entrance to the Sicily-Tunis Narrows. The cover forces for this convoy were however rather weak. For instance the aircraft carriers were rather old and had hardly enough fighters available to provide a decent air patrol.

Then there was also a tanker force to fuel the escorts ‘Force Y’. It was made up of the RFA oiler Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941), escorted by two corvettes; HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).

Besides these forces four submarines were on patrol in the western Mediterranean. They were stationed between Sardinia and Sicily. These were HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 43 (Lt. A.C. Halliday, RN) and HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN).

By 0800B/12 the force was in full strength and proceeded eastwards at 12 to 13 knots.

The remainder of the day was uneventful except for the sighting of a Spanish merchant vessel in the evening.

13 June 1942.

On this day the convoy was shadowed continuously by German and Italian aircraft. Also it was thought an Italian submarine might have spotted the convoy but was not the case as of yet.

HMS Cairo and almost all the destroyers and escort destroyers oiled from Brown Ranger and HMS Liverpool. This was completed late in the evening.

Italian warships reported to be at sea.

Two Italian cruisers and five destroyers had been reported at daybreak (actually six detroyers were present). These were the light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and the destroyers Alfredo Oriani, Vincenzo Gioberti, Ascari, Ugolino Vivaldi, Nicolò Zeno and Premuda. They had sailed on the 13th from Cagliari, Sardinia. The most western British submarine on patrol HMS P 43 had attacked them at 1931 hours on the 13th. She claimed to have hit a cruiser but this was obviously not the case. Two hours later the next submarine on the patrol line HMS P 211 also sighted this Italian force but was too far off to attack.

14 June 1942.

During the night the force was spotted and reported by an Italian submarine. In fact two Italian submarines made attacks on the convoy during the night. These were the Uarsciek at 0152B/14 which fired two torpedoes at a destroyer in position 38°02'N, 05°06'E. Both torpedoes missed. Then at 0505B/14, the Giada fired four torpedoes at an aircraft carrier (probably HMS Eagle although this carrier did not report hearing torpedo explosions and HMS Argus did) and a cruiser or battleship in position 37°55'N, 06°12'E. She claimed two hits but in fact all torpedoes missed.

At dawn enemy shadowing aircraft appeared once more. The convoy was approaching the danger area for air attacks coming from Sardinia. At 1000B/12 the first radar warning came and at about the same time fighters from Eagle shot down an Italian torpedo aircraft. More of these aircraft were seen gathering about 20 miles from the convoy and form up for attack.

It was a bright and clear morning with hardly a cloud in the sky. There was little wind but such as there was came from the west and this made it difficult for the British fighter crews, especially for those from the 25-year old Argus with her small margin of speed, unless she would turn into the wind and leave the destroyer screen.

The convoy was steering east in two columns in line ahead. HMS Kenya was leading the port column while HMS Liverpool was leading the starboard one. Astern of the convoy was HMS Malaya with HMS Welshman astern of her. The aircraft carriers were operating independently to port of the convoy. Each carrier had an AA cruiser and a destroyer as escort. HMS Eagle was with HMS Cairo and HMS Wishart while HMS Argus was with HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette.

The remaining fifteen destroyers and four minesweepers formed an all-round screen spread from three to three and a half miles from the convoy. This was done on purpose so that all ships could fire outward but also inward with a freedom that would have been impossible with a closer screen.

The air attacks began at 1030B/14. The first was a shallow dive-bombing attack by two groups, each of four or five Italian fighter-bombers (CR. 42). One group approached from astern at 12000 feet and diving to 6000 feet. The other group came from ahead at 6000 feet and dropped their bombs from 3000 to 4000 feet. Their target was HMS Argus and her consorts on the port beam of HMS Malaya. No damage was done, only one bomb fell close to HMS Charybdis. Two of the enemy planes were shot down after their attack by Fulmar’s from Eagle which were controlled by the Argus and afterwards landed aboard her. It was the policy to employ the Hurricanes from Eagle as high fighter force and the Fulmar’s from Argus as low fighter force.

A much more serious attack followed half an hour later when 28 Savoia torpedo aircraft escorted by 20 Macchi fighters conducted a combined attack with 10 Cant. high level bombers. The Savoia approached from the northward in two waves of equal strength. The first wave came in at 1110B/14 and the second soon afterwards. The first wave passed through the destroyer screen at 500 feet above the water, rounded the rear of the convoy, and attacked from the starboard side, splitting into groups before firing. They dropped their torpedoes from a height of 100 feet at a range of 2000 yards. They hit HMS Liverpool, which was leading the starboard column, when she was turning to meet the attack. Also the Dutch merchant Tanimbar was hit in the rear and she sank within a few minutes in position 36°58’N, 07°30’E.

The second wave attacked the port column dropped their torpedoes at longer range. All torpedoes missed. The Cant. bombers also came in two formations, coming from ahead out of the sun at a height of about 10000 feet. Their targets seemed to be Eagle and Argus but none of their bombs hit.

A little before 1200B/14 several torpedo planes made harmless attacks from long range. They were probably stragglers turned back by gunfire during the earlier attacks and anxious to get rid of their torpedoes before turning back to base.

Upon the whole the Italians seem to have attacked gallantly. The British fighters claimed to have shot down three enemy fighters and three torpedo aircraft. Three British fighters were lost ofwhich one was shot down in error by a ship in the screen. The convoy and escort claim to have shot down seven enemy aircraft, all Savoia SM 79’s.

HMS Liverpool was hit in the engine room and badly damaged. She could only make 3 to 4 knots on one shaft. She was ordered to return to Gibraltar being towed by HMS Antelope and screened by HMS Westcott. A long voyage during which the first 24 hours she was attacked from the air. At 1640B/14, five CR. 42 fighter-bombers attacked from astern out of the sun, luckily without hitting, though one or two bombs fell close enough to increase the ships list. At 1800B/14, the tow having parted, there was a harmless attempt by eleven high-level bombers followed by an equally harmless attempt by seven torpedo aircraft which were heavily escorted by fighters. The Liverpool and Westcott each claimed to have destroyed a torpedo plane.

At 2015B/14, now once more in tow, fife high-level bombers attacked but their bombs fell wide.

At 2230B/14, six torpedo bombers made a twilight attack from very long range only to loose one of their number to the barrage HMS Liverpool put up.

The fruitless attacks on the damaged Liverpool in the afternoon and evening of the 14th evidently occupied the remaining aircraft available to the enemy in Sardinia for as the convoy was able to continue without being attacked. It was however still being shadowed and came within range of the Sicilian air bases in the evening.

HMS Welshman had replaced HMS Liverpool at the head of the starboard column of the convoy. She however parted company with the convoy around 2000B/14 to continue the passage to Malta on her own at high speed.

At 1820B/14 German bombers appeared, about ten Ju. 88’s approached the convoy from astern at 10000 feet and then dived to 6000 feet to make the attack. Both carriers had narrow escapes, Argus in particular. A bomb pitched fine on her port bow, dived under the ship and exploded on the starboard bow. No ship was damaged however. No enemy aircraft were shot down. Six British fighters however harassed the enemy and forced several of them to release their bombs prematurely. One Fulmar was lost.

As in the morning the shallow dive-bombing attack preluded a heavy combined torpedo and bombing attack but in the evening the lapse of time was greater and dive-bombers as well as high level-bombers took part in the massed attack. It was a combination of Italians and Germans. 16 Savoia 79 bombers heavily escorted by Macchi fighters with 10 Ju 88’s and 15 Ju 87’s. The first to appear were the Savoia’s which approached from the north-east to port at about 2000B/14. They were flying well above the water. Worked their way around the stern of the convoy outside gun range to glide down and attack on the starboard side. In the meantime, a few minutes after the Savoia’s had been sighted, two groups of Ju 88’s came in from ahead at 12000 feet and dropped their bombs without effect as they flew across the screen and along the columns of the convoy. Next the Ju 87’s arrived on the port bow and attacked the port wing of the screen, diving from 7000 to 1000 feet. They narrowly missed HMS Icarus and HMS Wrestler, though they had probably hoped to reach HMS Eagle. These dive bombers took most of the attention of the screen but then at 2020B/14 the Italian torpedo-bombers came in. Most of them concentrated onHMS Malaya, HMS Argus, HMS Charybdis and HMS Vidette. They managed to drop three torpedoes within 300 yards from the carrier but she still managed to avoid them.

Around the time of these attacks HMS Middleton sighted a periscope and dropped a depth charge. Two other destroyers then hauled out of the screen and dropped depth charges. The periscope was next sighted by HMS Malaya after which HMS Speedy obtained an Asdic contact and attacked with depth charges in position 37°39’N, 09°35’E, claiming to have destroyed the enemy submarine.

This was the last encounter with the enemy before ‘Force W’ would separate from the convoy which was then to continue on to Malta only escorted by ‘Force X’.

As the convoy reached the entrance of the Narrows at 2100B/14, four Beaufighters arrived from Malta to relieve the hard worked naval aviators of the carriers. Around this time the Italian submarine Alagi attacked an aircraft carrier with two stern torpedoes in position 37°36'N, 09°53'E which both missed. The attack was not reported by either of the carriers and was probably not observed. Half an hour later ‘Force W’ turned westwards. The convoy continued eastwards with A/Capt. Hardy of HMS Cairo in command. For the passage of the Tunisian coast the five remaining merchant vessels formed a single line ahead with ‘Force X’ screening them.

At 2205B/14, as it was getting dark, eight Ju 88’s made a shallow dive-bombing attack dropping down from 6000 to 3000 feet to release their bombs. No hits were obtained. They lost two aircraft, one was shot down by a Beaufighter and the ther by gunfire from the ships. This was the end of this day’s fighting.

The Italian ships that had been reported to be at sea the previous day.

On receiving the submarines reports Vice-Admiral Leatham at Malta arranged for a striking force of Wellington aircraft to attack the enemy. Aircraft again sighted the enemy north-west of Cape San Vito, Sicily at 0255/14. At 0525/14 the enemy was sighted off Palermo. At 1800/14 two cruisers were reported to be in the harbour there. At dusk, at 2125B/14, two cruisers and four destroyers were reported to be leaving Palermo harbour but their course was not reported. Vice-Admiral Leatham judged that they were proceeding to the east to join the main Italian battlefleet that had left Taranto that same evening to operate against the ‘Vigorous-convoy’ in the eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly he stationed a naval air patrol over the Strait of Messina, with a naval air striking force at Malta standing by to attack.

‘Force W’

Vice-Admiral Curteis, who was taking ‘Force W’ westwards, also received the report of the enemy leaving Palermo and had to decide whether to strengthen ‘Force X’ with either one or both his cruisers, HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis. He was then, at 2315/24, in position 37°30’N, 09°30’E, over 50 nautical miles from the convoy, which would be a further 100 nautical miles further on to the east by dawn on the 15th. He also judged that the Italian ships would be unlikely to be danger to the convoy and that the escort would be strong enough ‘to deter them from doing any harm’ escpecially as it would be expected that the Italians would be attacked from the air by aircraft from Malta. Apart from this he was anxious for the safety of his aircraft carriers, which would need the cruisers support while within striking distance from the enemy air bases in Sardinia. Furthermore there was barely time to overtake the convoy before by the morning. With the force available a decision either way was a gamble this might have been different had Liverpool not been torpedoed. He therefore decided against sending any reinforcement to the convoy.

15 June 1942.

Action south of Pantellaria

A/Capt. Hardy, the convoy escort commander in HMS Cairo first knew of the presence of the enemy through the report of a Beaufighter which was on it’s way to patrol above the convoy and which at 0620B/15 reported two cruisers and four destroyers to be 15 nautical miles on the port beam of the convoy. The convoy at that time was stearing at 12 knots to the south-east. The merchantmen were formed in two columns again, with HMS Cairo ahead, the five ‘Fleet’ destroyers in the screen to starboard and the four ‘Hunt’s’ to port. The minesweepers and the ML’s were astern of the convoy. A few minutes later the Italian ships were sighted hull down against the brightening sky to the eastward. They were broad on the port bow and drawing ahead of the convoy at high speed. It was now also seen that there were five destroyers present instead of the reported four. Commander Scurfield (in HMS Bedouin led out the ‘Fleet’ destroyers to attack while HMS Cairo and the remainder of the convoy escort started making smoke to cover the merchant ships, which were ordered to turn to starboard and to seek shelter in Tunisian waters. It was A/Capt. Hardy’s intention to gain as much time as possible to enable an air striking force from Malta to attack the enemy.

At 0640B/15, the Italian cruisers opened fire at a range of over 20000 yards. Their second salvo straddled HMS Cairo and others fell near the convoy before the smoke screen could take effect. The British ships could not yet reply as the enemy was still out of range. As the ‘Fleet’ destroyers gathered way, they became strung out in a loose line of bearing, nearly line ahead, in the order HMS Bedouin, HMS Partridge, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless, though the last ship worked up to 32 knots in the endeavour to keep up. The first to destroyers opened fire on the enemy cruisers at 0645B/15 with their guns at maximum elevation but in a quarter of an hour both Bedouin and Partridge were badly hit and stopped and the fight passed them by. Ithuriel held her fire till she got within 15000 yards, then she engaged a cruiser, which she eventually hit at a range of 8000 yards. Marne also engaged a cruiser, opening fire at over 18000 yards. In the meantime the Italian destroyers had fallen astern of the cruisers, three of them, in fact, soon left the line and disappeared to the northward. The last two enemy destroyers opened fire on the Marne from her port beam at around 0700B/15 and she and Matchless, which was astern of her, replied. Both British destroyers soon found the range and hit one of the enemy (Ugolino Vivaldi) and drove them off. They then pressed on to engage the enemy cruisers which kept their distance and were zig-zagging and making smoke to upset the aim of the British ships.

As soon as the convoy was well behind the smoke screen and on it’s way to the westward. HMS Cairo and the four Hunt class escort destroyers were proceeding south and now also engaged the two enemy destroyers which had been engaged by Marne and Matchless. At about 0700B/15 HMS Cairo came under fire from the enemy cruisers again. They were using two turrets each to engage the Cairo and two turrets to engage the ‘Fleet’ destroyers. HMS Cairo was hit by a 6” shell. She herself fired her 4” guns occasionally, though without much hope of doing real damage to the enemy.

At 0715B/15, A/Capt. Hardy decided to concentrate the remaining three ‘Fleet’ destroyers on HMS Cairo and ordered HMS Ithuriel to join him. HMS Marne and HMS Matchless continued to engage the enemy for about half an hour. Though fire from both sides was accurate no hits were obtained on either side. At 0745B/15 the Italians turned to port on which A/Capt. Hardy turned north and ordered all destroyers to join him.

Meanwhile, the convoy, 15 nautical miles away to the north-west, steering westwards, now turned to the south-east again. At 0705B/15, now deprived of the support of HMS Cairo, all destroyers and escort destroyers, and without air support, the convoy was attacked by eight German JU 87 dive bombers. They sank the Chant and disabled the Kentucky. HMS Hebe took the Kentucky in tow. The convoy then went on until 0745B/15 when course was changed to rejoin the escorts. The Italians however meanwhile where following the British escorts and kept them under fire.

At 0834B/15, A/Capt. Hardy, ordered the convoy to reverse course while Cairo and the destroyers laid a smokescreen across it’s track. This seems to have baffled the Italians which first turned to the south-west and then at 0840B/15 hauled round to the north-eastward and stood away. A/Capt. Hardy then sent the ‘Hunt’-class escort destroyers to rejoin the convoy and then led the ‘Fleet’ destroyers after the enemy. At this time HMS Cairo was hit for the second time. For the present however the Italians had given up the game. By 0930B/15 they were out of sight and the British ships then turned to rejoin the convoy.

At 1030B/15 the merchant vessel were back on their proper course to Malta, with the escort at full strength except for HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge. Long-range Spitfires from Malta were patrolling overhead.

At 1040B/15 a few German bombers appeared but these were driven off before they could drop their bombs. The fighters were able to shot one down. Unfortunately this exhausted fuel and ammunition of the Spitfires which were operating at their extreme range so when at 1120B/15 another attack started they were not able to repel it. Their relief had not yet arrived.

It was a combination of high-level and dive bombing by Ju. 88’s and Ju. 87’s. Gunfire destroyed one of the German’s. One or two were shot down afterwards by the relieving Spitfires which had arrived during the attack. By then however the merchant vessel Burdwan was disabled. There was still 150 nautical miles to go, with the likelihood of further attacks from the air and with Italian ships nearby. A/Capt. Hardy therefore decided that he had no other choice then to sacrifice the damaged Kentucky and Burdwan as the best way to save the rest of the convoy whose speed would otherwise be reduced to six knots. He ordered HMS Hebe and HMS Badsworth to sink the cripples which enabled the remaining two merchant ships to continue at their best speed.

At 1315B/15, dive-bombers attacked yet again. And again there was no fighter cover present over the convoy. This time however the German’s were unsuccessful. One bomber out of twelve was shot down by the ships AA fire while the relief flight of Spitfires came in time to shoot down two more as the enemy retired. This was the last time the convoy was attacked from the air before it arrived at Malta under the protection from short-range Spitfires. The next threat of attack came from the Italian warships which closed the convoy once more.

After the engagement in the morning the Italian cruisers had gone back to join up with their destroyers, one of wich had been badly damaged by HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. While preparing to take this destroyer in tow the Italians were disrupted by British aircraft. Malta had been able to sent a small torpedo aircraft force to attack them. Four Albacores followed by two Beauforts attacked them about 12 nautical miles south of Pantelleria at 1030B/15. Unfortunately without success.

The two cruisers with two destroyers then went south again hoping to find stagglers from the convoy. They found HMS Hebe, which was on her way back to rejoin the convoy, having left the tanker Kentucky in a sinking condition astern. HMS Hebe sighted the enemy a long way to the north at 1255B/15. In the next half an hour the enemy was able to close as to open fire on the small minesweeper and eventually she was hit.

On receiving Hebe’s enemy report, A/Capt. Hardy, left the convoy in HMS Cairo taking the three remaining ‘Fleet’ destroyers with him; HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne and HMS Matchless. Besides the Hebe to protect there were other ships coming back from the scuttled merchantmen and also HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge which, A/Capt. Hardy believed to be following the convoy.

At 1355B/15 the Italians gave up the chase, presumably on sighting HMS Cairo and turned to engage a target to the westward. This could only be HMS Bedouin and HMS Partridge but A/Capt. Hardy felt bound to return to the convoy, then nearly 15 nautical miles off, though it meant leaving the damaged destroyers to their fate.

These two ships had been had been striving to preserve themselves for the King’s service ever since they had been crippled in the morning. HMS Partridge was ready to steam again by 0745B/15, three-quarters of an hour after being put out of action. She prepared to take HMS Bedouin in tow as that ship was entirely disabled. These preparations were disrupted by two Italian destroyers which had to be driven away. By 1000B/15 however Bedouin was being towed by Partridge and the two ships were proceeding slowly towards the convoy which they had orders to join. They met it at 1145B/15. There was still hope to get one engine going in HMS Bedouin but later on it became evident that this hope had to be abandoned. It was then thought best to try to make it to Gibraltar.

At 1320B/15, the Italian Squadron came into sight again and two destroyers were apparently closing the two British destroyers while there were also enemy dive-bombers flying around. HMS Partridge therefore had no choice then to slip the tow and to lay smoke around HMS Bedouin. As the enemy cruisers approached, after their chase of HMS Hebe, HMS Partridge stood away to draw their fire and in this she succeeded. She was straddled from long range at 1400B/15. It was the intention the return to HMS Bedouin later but the latter ship was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo bomber at 1425B/15 and she sank within a few minutes but not before shooting down the attacker. The enemy surface ships also sank the derelict Kentucky and Burdwan around the same time. Kentucky was finished off by the Oriani while Burdwan was possibly sunk by the Ascari.

A/Capt. Hardy rejoined the convoy at 1530B/15 after the last encounter with the Italian squadron. At 1730B/15, HMS Welshman rejoined the convoy south of Linosa coming from Malta. She had arrived there in the morning and was sent out again by Vice-Admiral Leatham as soon as she had landed her cargo.

Then at 1910B/15, there was another air attack. Upon that time the enemy had been kept away by the strong fighter escort from Malta directed by the radar in HMS Cairo. Twelve German bombers managed to close and near misses were obtained on HMS Welshman, HMS Matchless and the merchant Troilus.

A last attempt was foiled at 2040B/15 by the fighters from Malta and the ships guns. There was now only one danger to be overcome, enemy mines.

HMS Liverpool

At 1420B/15, three torpedo aircraft made a final unsuccessful attempt to attack HMS Liverpool after which she, HMS Antelope and HMS Westcott were not again molested. That afternoon the tug HMRT Salvonia arrived from Gibraltar and they took over the tow. Antelope then joined Westcott as A/S screen. With Salvonia came also the A/S trawler HMS Lady Hogarth (T/Lt. S.G. Barnes, RNR).

'Force Y'.

At 2345B/15 the Italian submarine Bronzo sighted an enemy escort vessel of the 'Kingfisher-class' which opened fire on the submarine in position 36°50'N, 00°10'E. This was HMS Coltsfoot. The submarine was depth-charged and escaped by going down to 117 metres.

16 June 1942.

It had been intended that the minesweepers would be ahead of the convoy when approaching Malta but owning to mistakes the convoy arrived first. The result was that one of the two remaining merchant vessels, the Orari, the destroyer HMS Matchless, two escort destroyers HMS Badsworth, ORP Kujawiak and the minesweeper HMS Hebe hit mines. Fortunately damage was light except for ORP Kujawiak which unfortunately sank in three minutes.

After having taken on board ammunition at Malta, HMS Cairo, HMS Ithuriel, HMS Marne, HMS Middleton and HMS Blankney departed the island in the evening to return to Gibraltar.

HMS Liverpool

Shortly after 0800B/16, the destroyer HMS Panther (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Jocelyn, RN) joined the A/S screen of the disabled HMS Liverpool. Two more vessels came out from Gibraltar to join the A/S screen, these were the corvette HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR) which joined around 0940B/16. At 1530B/16, the motor launch ML 458 joined.

17 June 1942.

As HMS Cairo and the two destroyers and two escort destroyers were skirting along the African coast they were shadowed from sunrise onward. They were however not attacked until midday, when they were passed the Galita bank. From then until 2030B/17 that evening, German bombers pestered them continuously. The Germans came sometimes in flights of six, though generally in flights of two and three. Main target seems to have been HMS Ithuriel which had a tough time and sustained some minor damage due to leaks from near misses. During the attacks one enemy bomber was shot down by HMS Cairo.

At 2017B/17, they joined with Vice-Admiral Curteis with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis in position 37°30’N, 04°30’E. After leaving the convoy in the evening of the 14th, the Vice-Admiral had taken ‘Force W’ some 400 nautical miles to the west of Sardinia in order to avoid observation and attack while waiting for the return of ‘Force X’. His ships had however been shadowed on the 15th and was then attacked by two small groups of torpedo aircraft. Hurricanes from HMS Eagle forced them to drop their torpedoes from long range. They were also able to shoot down one of the attackers.

From the morning of the 16th to noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, cruised with HMS Kenya and HMS Charybdis near the rendez-vous position. HMS Malaya both aircraft carriers and the remaining destroyers had been sent to Gibraltar around 0800/16. They arrived at Gibraltar around 1030/17.

Around noon on the 17th, Vice-Admiral Curteis, with his two cruisers proceeded eastwards to meet up with A/Capt. Hardy’s force after which they proceeded in company to Gibraltar where they arrived in the early evening of the 18th.

HMS Liverpool

HMS Liverpool and her escorts safely arrived at Gibraltar late in the afternoon of the 17th. (4)

6 Oct 1942
HMS Clyde (Lt. R.S. Brookes, DSC, RN) arrived at Malta. She was swept in by HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR). (5)

3 Nov 1942
HMS Clyde (Lt. R.S. Brookes, DSC, RN) arrived at Malta. She was swept in by HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR). (6)

16 Nov 1942
HMS P 212 (Lt. J.H. Bromage, DSC, RN) departed Malta to resume her 5th war patrol (4th in the Mediterranean). She was now ordered to patrol in the Gulf of Sirte. She was swept out of Malta by the British minesweeper HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR). (7)

21 Nov 1942
Around 1530A/21, HMS Turbulent (Cdr. J.W. Linton, DSO, DSC, RN) arrived at Malta. She, and HMS P 35 (Lt. S.L.C. Maydon, RN), were swept in by HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR). (8)

25 Nov 1942
HMS P 212 (Lt. J.H. Bromage, DSC, RN) ended her 5th war patrol (4th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. She was swept into Malta by the British minesweeper HMS Rye (Lt. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR). (7)

9 Aug 1943

Combined convoy OS 53 / KMS 23.

This combined convoy was assembled off Oversay on 9 August 1943.

It was made up of the following merchant vessels; Alresford (British, 2472 GRT, built 1922), Antilochus (British, 9082 GRT, built 1906), Avon Coast (British, 1036 GRT, built 1923), Baron Fairlie (British, 6706 GRT, built 1925), Baron Forbes (British, 3061 GRT, built 1915), Botlea (British, 5119 GRT, built 1917), British Engineer (British (tanker), 6993 GRT, built 1922), Chloris (British, 1171 GRT, built 1910), Elizabeth Massey (British, 4323 GRT, built 1929), Empire Bardolph (British, 7063 GRT, built 1943), Empire Cabot (British, 6715 GRT, built 1941), Empire Capulet (British, 7044 GRT, built 1943), Empire Chamois (British, 5684 GRT, built 1918), Empire Clarion (British, 7031 GRT, built 1942), Empire Deed (British, 6766 GRT, built 1943), Empire Flame (British, 7069 GRT, built 1941), Empire Porpoise (British, 7592 GRT, built 1918), Empire Prince (British, 7030 GRT, built 1942), Empire Prowess (British, 7058 GRT, built 1943), Empire Rain (British, 7290 GRT, built 1941), Empire Shearwater (British, 4970 GRT, built 1920), English Monarch (British, 4557 GRT, built 1924), Euryades (British, 5801 GRT, built 1913), Facto (Norwegian, 1522 GRT, 1921), Fenad Head (British, 5038 GRT, built 1941), Filleigh (British, 4856 GRT, built 1928), Fort Albany (British, 7131 GRT, built 1943), Fort Ash (British, 7131 GRT, built 1943), Fort Assiniboine (British, 7128 GRT, built 1943), Fort Caribou (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort Carillon (British, 7129 GRT, built 1943), Fort Connolly (British, 7133 GRT, built 1943), Fort Drew (British, 7134 GRT, built 1943), Fort Fraser (British, 7126 GRT, built 1942), Fort Glenlyon (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943), Fort McLeod (British, 7127 GRT, built 1942), Fort St. Paul (British, 7137 GRT, built 1943), Fort Ville Marie (British, 7122 GRT, built 1941), Greathope (British, 2297 GRT, built 1926), Hilversum (Dutch, 3717 GRT, built 1920), Itinda (British, 6619 GRT, built 1938), Lanrick (British, 1276 GRT, built 1920), Leighton (British, 7412 GRT, built 1921), Lowlander (British, 8059 GRT, built 1925), MacGregor Laird (British, 4992 GRT, built 1930), Neleus (British, 6685 GRT, built 1911), New Brooklyn (British, 6546 GRT, built 1920), Norjerv (Norwegian, 5582 GRT, 1919), Northleigh (British, 5450 GRT, built 1937), Ocean Faith (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Ocean Valentine (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Penshurst (British, 1454 GRT, built 1921), Peterston (British, 4680 GRT, built 1925), Portsea (British, 1583 GRT, 1938), Selvik (Norwegian, 1557 GRT, built 1920), Solarium (British, 6239 GRT, built 1936), St. Rosado (British, 4312 GRT, built 1937), Tigre (Norwegian, 5498 GRT, built 1926), Trojan Star (British, 9037 GRT, built 1936), Tynemouth (British, 3168 GRT, built 1940), Warfield (British, 6070 GRT, built 1917) and Wayfarer (British, 5068 GRT, built 1925).

The rescue vessel Rathlin (British, 1600 GRT, built 1936) was also part of the convoy.

Also part of the convoy were the boom defence vessels HMS Barndale (T/Lt. R.L. Jones, RNR) and HMS Barnehurst (T/Lt. T. Robb, RNR).

On assembly the convoy was escorted by the frigates HMS Blackwood (Lt.Cdr. L.T. Sly, RD, RNR, with Cdr. E.H. Chavasse, DSC, RN on board as Senior Officer of the Escort Group), HMS Bazely (Lt.Cdr. J.V. Brock, RCNVR), HMS Drury (Lt.Cdr. N.J. Parker, RN), HMS Fal (Lt.Cdr. M.G. Rose, RANVR), HMS Test (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) F.B. Collinson, RD, RNR), HMS Trent (T/A/Lt.Cdr. J.G. Rankin, DSC, RNR), HrMs Johan Maurits van Nassau (Cdr. A. de Booy, RNethN) and the M/S trawlers (for passage to the Mediterranean) HMS Staffa (T/Lt. R.L. Roat, RNVR) and HMS Unst (T/Lt. F.M. Cornall, RNVR).

Around 1700Z/11, in position 51°38'N, 13°14'W, the sloop HMS Stork (Cdr.(Retd.) G.W.E. Castens, RN) joined coming from Londonderry.

Around 1300Z/12, the sloop HMS Redpole (Lt.Cdr. I.M. Carrs, RN) joined the convoy coming from Milford Haven. She had the tanker Empire Bombardier (British (tanker), 8202 GRT, built 1943) with her.

Around 0715Z/13 the light cruiser HMS Bermuda (Capt. T.H. Back, RN) arrived near the convoy to provide cover against surface attack. About an hour later she positioned herself well to the east of the convoy. She left the vicinity of the convoy the following day after the AA cruiser HMS Scylla (Capt. I.A.P. Macintyre, CBE, DSO, RN) had joined around 0535Z/14 in position 43°42'N, 14°15'W. She was stationed inside the convoy for AA protection. During daylight hours, HMS Stork and HMS Redpole were also stationed inside the convoy to provide AA protection with their 4" gun batteries. During the night there were deployed in the A/S screen.

At 0915Z/15, when the convoy was in position 39°40'N, 13°33'W, it was noticed that en enemy FW 200 aircraft was shadowing the convoy.

At 1015Z/15, two FW 200's commenced high level bombing attacks on the convoy but all bombs fell wide.

Around 1745Z/15, the convoy was attacked by (16 to 18) German FW 200 aircraft from 1./KG.40 in position 38°59'N, 12°58'W. The Warfield was heavily damaged and later sank while the Baron Fairlie and Ocean Faith were both damaged. The Baron Fairlie was making water in the engine room. HMS Bazeley remained behind to assist these ships but she later rejoined the convoy. She sank the wreck of the Warfield which was beyond salvage. HMS Bazeley was near missed and slightly damaged but this was not discovered until the ship was docked for inspection.

Around 1200Z/16, HMS Trent was detached to fuel at Casablanca.

Around 2045Z/16, HMS Scylla parted company with the convoy to proceed to Gibraltar where she arrived around 0830B/17.

Around 0600Z/16, HMS Test was detached to fuel at Casablanca.

Around 0900Z/17, the convoy split into convoy OS 53 and KMS 23.


Convoy OS 53, towards Freetown, was made up of the following merchant vessels; Antilochus, Botlea, British Engineer, Empire Bardolph, Empire Bombardier, Empire Cabot, Empire Porpoise, Empire Prowess, English Monarch, Hilversum, Leighton, MacGregor Laird, Neleus, New Brooklyn, Norjerv, Peterston, Solarium, St. Rosario, Trojan Star and Tynemouth.

They were joined by the merchant vessels; Dalcross (British, 4557 GRT, built 1930), Dumfries (British, 5149 GRT, built 1935), Fort Alexandria (British, 7127 GRT, built 1942), Fort Chesterfield (British, 7100 GRT, built 1943), Fort Kootenay (British, 7133 GRT, built 1942), Glaucus (British, 7596 GRT, built 1921), Glenpark (British, 5136 GRT, built 1939), Pentridge Hill (British, 7579 GRT, built 1941), Richmond Hill (British, 7579 GRT, built 1940), Stad Maassluis (Dutch, 6541 GRT, built 1918), Trevaylor (British, 5257 GRT, built 1940) and the boom defence vessel HMS Barbette (Skr.Lt. F. Parsons, RNR) and the rescue tug HMRT Antic which came from Gibraltar which they had departed on the 15th escorted by the destroyers HMS Isis (Cdr. B. Jones, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Wallace, DSC, RN) and the trawler HMS St. Nectan (T/A/Lt.Cdr. T.F. Broadhead, RNR).

The convoy was escorted by HMS Blackwood, HMS Bazeley, HMS Drury, HMS Fal and HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau. HMS Trent and HMS Test latr rejoined from Casablanca on the 18th and 19th of August respectively.

On 17 August 1943, the convoy was joined by the following merchant vessels coming from Casablanca which they had departed the previous day; El-Biar (French, 4678 GRT, built 1927), Finistere (French, 1158 GRT, built 1909), Fort Nakasley (British, 7132 GRT, built 1943) and Montaigne (French, 2770 GRT, built 1920). They were escorted by the patrol vessels USS PC-471 (Lt. G. Washburn, USNR), USS PC-473 (Lt. D.F. Welch, USNR) and USS PC-474 (Lt. A.D. Weekes, Jr., USNR). These patrol vessels did not join the convoy but returned to Casablanca arriving there on the 18th. They had taken the merchant vessel Empire Prowess with them.

Around 1000Z/22, the sloops HMS Enchantress (Cdr. A.E.T. Christie, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Leith (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) A.W. Preston, RN), HMS Sandwich (T/A/Lt.Cdr. A.J. Clemence, RNR) and the corvette HMS Anchusa (T/Lt. R.A. Baker, RNVR) joined the convoy. HMS Blackwood, HMS Bazeley, HMS Drury and HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau then parted company to proceed to Dakar to fuel where they arrived the following day.

On 23 August 1943, the El-Biar, Finistere and Montaigne arrived at Dakar after having been detached from the convoy. The merchant vessels Fort Vercheres (British, 7128 GRT, 1942) and Thomas Holt (British, 3585 GRT, built 1929) joined the convoy coming from Dakar.

On 24 August 1943, the British Engineer and Empire Bombardier arrived at Bathurst after having been detached from the convoy. The merchant vessel Lida (Polish, 1387 GRT, built 1938) joined the convoy the following day coming from Bathurst.

The convoy arrived at Freetown on 27 August 1943. Not all merchant ships entered Freetown but continued on to their destination independently.


Convoy KMS 23, towards the Mediterranean, was made up of the following merchant vessels; Arlesford, Avon Coast, Baron Fairlie, Baron Forbes, Chloris, Elizabeth Massey, Empire Capulet, Empire Chamois, Empire Clarion, Empire Deed, Empire Flame, Empire Prince, Empire Rain, Empire Shearwater, Euryades, Facto, Fenad Head, Filleigh, Fort Albany, Fort Ash, Fort Assiniboine, Fort Caribou, Fort Carillon, Fort Connolly, Fort Drew, Fort Fraser, Fort Glenyon, Fort McLeod, Fort St. Paul, Fort Ville Marie, Greathope, Itinda, Lanrick, Lowlander, North Leigh, Ocean Faith, Ocean Valentine, Penshurst, Portsea, Selvik, Tigre and Wayfarer.

The rescue vessel Rathlin and the boomb defence vessels HMS Barndale and HMS Barnehurst were also with the convoy.

They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Isis, HMS Anthony, sloops HMS Stork, HMS Redpole, A/S trawler HMS St. Nectan and the M/S trawlers HMS Staffa and HMS Unst. Also joining on the split up of the combined convoy was the Mediterranean escort of the convoy. It had departed Gibraltar on 16 August 1943 and was made up of the sloop HMS Shoreham (Cdr. E. Hewitt, RD, RNR) and the minesweepers HMS Hythe (Lt.Cdr. L.B. Miller, RN), HMS Romney (Lt. W.E. Halbert, RNR), HMS Rye (A/Lt.Cdr. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR), HMS Whitehaven (Lt.Cdr.(Retd.) G.W.A.T. Irvine, DSC, RNR), HMAS Gawler (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) W.J. Seymour, RAN), HMAS Ipswich (T/Lt.Cdr. J.S. McBryde, RANR(S)), HMAS Lismore (T/Lt. L.C.G. Lever, RANR(S)) and HMAS Maryborough (T/Lt. J.C.P. Boyle, RANR(S)).

On 18 August 1943, the Arlesford, Baron Forbes, Ocean Faith, Selvik, Rathlin, HMS Barndale and HMS Barnehurst arrived at Gibraltar after having been detached from the convoy. From the escort, HMS Isis, HMS Anthony, HMS Stork, HMS Redpole, HMS St. Nectan, HMS Staffa and HMS Unst also arrived at Gibraltar.

On 18 August 1943 the following merchant vessels joined the convoy off Gibraltar; A.C. Bedford (British (tanker), 9485 GRT, built 1918), Balteako (British, 1328 GRT, built 1920), Belnor (Norwegian, 2871 GRT, built 1926), Gulf of Venezuela (American, 6910 GRT, 1919) and Toorak (British (tanker), 8627 GRT, built 1927).

Around 1700B/19, the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. H.F. Nalder, RN) joined the convoy coming from Gibraltar which she had departed around 1200B/19. She parted company with the convoy around 0725B/20 to return to Gibraltar where she arrived around 1915B/20.

On 20 August 1943, the Cloris, Elizabeth Massay, Greathope and Gulf of Venezuela arrived at Oran after having been detached from the convoy while the following merchant vessels joined the convoy off Oran; Edward Richardson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Eildon (British, 1447 GRT, built 1936), Grand Quevilly (French, 2844 GRT, built 1914) and Horace Binney (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942).

Also joining from Oran were the LST's USS LST 17 (Lt. H.B. Gallagher, USCGR), USS LST 21 (Lt. C.M. Brookfield, USCGR), USS LST 25 (Lt. J.P. Houlinan, USCGR), USS LST 72 (Lt. H.A Kaye, USNR), USS LST 73 (Lt. W.K. Bradbury, USNR), USS LST 175 (Lt. E.J. Fitzgerald, USNR), USS LST 176 (Lt.(jg) J.A. Salt, USNR), USS LST 208 (Lt. R.W. Emmons, USNR), USS LST 209 (Lt. F.J. Oberg, USNR) and USS LST 261 (Lt. L.I. Reilley, USCG).

On 21 August 1943, the Avon Coast, Baron Fairlie, Empire Chamois, Empire Flame, Empire Prince, Empire Rain, Facto, Filleigh, Fort Fraser, Grand Quevilly, Lanrick and Penshurst arrived at Algiers after having been detached from the convoy while the following merchant vessels joined the convoy off Algiers; Almenara (British, 1851 GRT, built 1922), Benedict (British, 4949 GRT, built 1930), Cape Sable (British, 4398 GRT, built 1936), Empire Cato (British, 7039 GRT, built 1942), Empire Commerce (British, 3722 GRT, built 1943), Empire Salvage (British (tanker) 10746 GRT, built 1940), Jade (British, 930 GRT, built 1938), Kingsborough (British, 3368 GRT, built 1928), Miriam (British, 1903 GRT, built 1912), Ravens Point (British, 1708 GRT, built 1918) and Ville de Djidjelli (French, 1132 GRT, built 1907).

The submarines HMS Templar (Lt. D.J. Beckley, DSO, RN) and HMS Torbay (Lt. R.J. Clutterbuck, RN) also joined the convoy off Algiers for passage to Malta.

On 22 August 1943, the Fort Ash arrived at Bougie after having been detached from the convoy.

On 22 August 1943, the Benedict, Empire Cato, Fort Albany, Northleigh and Ville de Djidjelli arrived at Philippeville after having been detached from the convoy.

On 22 August 1943, the Empire Clarion, Empire Commerce, Empire Deed, Fenad Head, Fort Caribou, Fort Carillon, Fort Ville Marie and Ravens Point arrived at Philippeville after having been detached from the convoy.

Around 1800B/22, the AA cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. D.H. Hall-Thompson, RN) joined coming from Bizerta which she had departed around 1000B/22.

On 23 August 1943, the A.C. Bedford, Armenara, Balteako, Edward Richardson, Eildon, Empire Salvage, Horace Binney, Kingsborough, Toorak and all the LST's arrived at Bizerta after having been detached from the convoy.

On 23 August 1943, the Cape Sable arrived at Tunis after having been detached from the convoy.

On 24 August 1943, the Belnor, Empire Shearwater, Fort Connolly, Fort Drew, Fort St. Paul, Jade, Miriam and Ocean Valentine arrived at Tunis after having been detached from the convoy while the following merchant vessels joined the convoy off Algiers; Beacon (American (tanker), 10388 GRT, built 1921), British Vigour (British (tanker), 5844 GRT, built 1943), Good Gulf (Panamanian (tanker), 7805 GRT, built 1938), Meroe (British, 3832 GRT, built 1928), Ovula (Dutch (tanker), 6256 GRT, built 1938), Rancher (British, 5882 GRT, built 1927) and Shirrabank (British, 7274 GRT, built 1940).

The two submarines were detached to Malta.

Around 2230C/26, HMS Colombo parted company with the convoy to proceed to Benghazi.

On 27 August 1943 the merchant vessels Egret (British, 1391 GRT, built 1937) and Trajanus (Dutch, 1712 GRT, built 1930) joined the convoy coming from Benghazi.

On 29 August 1943, the British Vigour, Egret, Euryades, Fort Assiniboine, Lowlander, Meroe, Ovula , Shirrabank and Trajanus arrived at Alexandria after having been detached from the convoy. They were escorted by HMS Shoreham, HMS Hythe, HMS Romney, HMS Whitehaven and HMAS Gawler.

HMAS Lismore proceeded to Haifa where she arrived on 30 August 1943.

The remainder of the convoy arrived at Port Said on 30 August 1943.

6 Dec 1943

Convoy GUS 24.

This convoy departed Port Said on 6 December 1943.

On departure from Port Said the convoy was made up of the transports; Katy (Norwegian, 6825 GRT, built 1931), Lowlander (British, 8059 GRT, built 1925), Mahlon Pitney (American, 7200 GRT, built 1943), Robert Morris (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Samariz (British, 7219 GRT, built 1943), Samblade (British, 7219 GRT, built 1943), Samdak (British, 7219 GRT, built 1943), Samkansa (British, 7219 GRT, built 1943) and Urbino (British, 5198 GRT, built 1918).

On departure from Port Said the convoy was escorted by the minesweeper HMS Rye (A/Lt.Cdr. J.A. Pearson, DSC and Bar, RNR) and the A/S trawler HMS Wolborough (T/Lt. G.A. Hartnell, RNR).

On 7 December 1943, the following transports joined coming from Alexandria; Afghanistan (British, 6992 GRT, built 1940), Avristan (British, 7266 GRT, built 1942), Blairclova (British, 5083 GRT, built 1938), Corstar (British, 2337 GRT, built 1918), Egret (British, 1391 GRT, built 1937), Empire Addison (British, 7010 GRT, built 1942), Empire Glory (British, 7290 GRT, built 1943), Fort Frederick (British, 7135 GRT, built 1942), George M. Pullman (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Gudrun Maersk (British, 2294 GRT, built 1937), Hindustan (British, 5245 GRT, built 1940), Horace Bushnell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Hughli (British, 6589 GRT, built 1943), Ocean Liberty (British, 7174 GRT, built 1942), Sambrake (British, 7219 GRT, built 1943), Sofala (British, 1031 GRT, built 1937) and Tynebank (British, 4651 GRT, built 1922).

They were escorted by the frigate HMS Dart (Cdr. J.T. Jones, RD, RNR), corvettes HMS Gloxinia (Lt. M.C. English, RNR), HMS Primula (Lt. G.H. Taylor, RNR) and the A/S whaler HMSAS Southern Maid (?).

On 8 December 1943, the Lowlander arrived at Alexandria after having been detached from the convoy with engine trouble.

On 10 December 1943, the Egret arrived at Benghazi after having been detached from the convoy.

On 11 December 1943, the convoy was sighted by enemy reconnaissance aircraft but no attack developed.

Also on 11 December 1943, the following transports / tankers departed Augusta to join the convoy; Antonia (Dutch (tanker), 3357 GRT, built 1938), Athelviking (British (tanker), 8779 GRT, built 1926), Baron Stranraer (British, 3668 GRT, built 1929), Empire Deed (British, 6766 GRT, built 1943), Empire Success (British, 5988 GRT, built 1921), Fort Lac la Ronge (British, 7131 GRT, built 1942), Hermelin (Norwegian, 1683 GRT, built 1940), Lord Byron (British, 4118 GRT, built 1934) and Somerville (Norwegian, 4265 GRT, built 1929).

On 12 December 1943, the following transports arrived at Augusta after having been detached from the convoy; Afghanistan, Blairclova, Corstar, Empire Addison, Empire Glory, Fort Frederick, Gudrun Maersk, Katy, Ocean Liberty, Sambrake and Sofala.

Also on 12 December 1943, the submarines HMS Shakespeare (Lt. M.F.R. Ainslie, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Universal (Lt. C. Gordon, RN) and HMS Unseen (Lt. M.L.C. Crawford, DSC and Bar, RN) joined the convoy coming from Malta. The following day, after having passed through the Sicilian Narrows, HMS Univeral and HMS Unseen parted company with the convoy and proceeded on patrol.

On 14 December 1943, the following transports / tankers joined the convoy off Bizerta; A.P. Hill (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Alexander Graham Bell (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), American Trader (American (tanker), 8862 GRT, built 1923), Anson Jones (American, 7244 GRT, built 1943), Belgian Fisherman (Belgian, 4714 GRT, built 1918), Caleb Strong (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Emma Willard (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Empire Coleridge (British (tanker), 9798 GRT, built 1942), Empire Dickens (British (tanker), 9819 GRT, built 1942), Esek Hopkins (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Fanny Brunner (Italian, 2464 GRT, built 1925), Fort Lajoie (British, 7134 GRT, built 1942), Fort Walsh (British, 7126 GRT, built 1943), Francis L. Lee (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), George B. McClellan (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), George Matthew (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Grace Abbott (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Haym Salomon (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Henry Middleton (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Horace Binney (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Isaac Coles (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Isaac Sharpless (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), James W. Fannin (American, 7244 GRT, built 1942), John A. Rawlins (American, 7181 GRT, built 1942), John Hathorn (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), John Sergeant (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), John Walker (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Joseph Alston (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942), Joshua Seney (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Josiah Parker (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Leland Stanford (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Mayo Brothers (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Nettuno (Italian, 5088 GRT, built 1916), Orient City (British, 5095 GRT, built 1940), Prosper Schiaffino (French, 1634 GRT, built 1931), Richmond Mumford Pearson (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Robert Dale Owen (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Stanford Newel (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Star (Norwegian, 1531 GRT, built 1922), Thomas Nelson Page (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Townsend Harris (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), William D. Pender (American, 7177 GRT, built 1943) and William R. Davie (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942).

The AA cruiser HMS Colombo (Capt. D.H. Hall-Thompson, RN) and the rescue tug HMS Hengist also joined the convoy coming from Bizerta.

On 14 December 1943, the following ships were detached to Bone; Belgian Fisherman, Fort Lac la Ronge, Hermelin and Star while the following transports / tankers joined the convoy coming from Bone; British Vigour (British (tanker), 5844 GRT, built 1943), Eleazar Wheelock (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942), Empire Zephyr (British, 6327 GRT, built 1941), Esso Providence (American (tanker), 9059 GRT, built 1921), Srbin (Yugoslavian, 928 GRT, built 1913) and William Coddington (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943).

On 14 December 1943, the following ships were detached to Philippeville; British Vigour and Fanny Brunner while the following transport joined the convoy coming from Philippeville; Lago (Norwegian, 2552 GRT, built 1929).

On 14 December 1943, the Empire Zephyr arrived at Bougie after having straggled from the convoy.

On 15 December 1943, the following ships were detached to Algiers; Antonia, Empire Deed, Prosper Schiaffino and Srbin while the following transports / tankers joined the convoy coming from Algiers; Andrea Gritti (Italian, 6404 GRT, built 1943), Enrico (Italian, 1817 GRT, built 1909), Gryfevale (British, 4434 GRT, built 1929), Marie-Louise le Borgne (French, 1263 GRT, built 1903), Moses Brown (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Myriel (British (tanker), 3560 GRT, built 1913), Ocean Courier (British, 7178 GRT, built 1942), Orminster (British, 5712 GRT, built 1914), Pencarrow (British, 4841 GRT, built 1921), Ronan (British, 1489 GRT, built 1938) and Thomas Stone (American, 7191 GRT, built 1942).

The rescue tug HMS Hengist also arrived at Algiers.

On 16 December 1943, the following ships were detached to Oran / Mers-el-Kebir; Alexander Graham Bell, Empire Success, Enrico, Fort Walsh, George Matthews, Henry Middleton, John Hathorn, John Walker, Joseph Alston, Marie-Louise le Borgne, Mayo Brothers, Orminster, Pencarrow, Ronan, Stanford Newell, Thomas Nelson Page and William D. Pender while the following transports / tankers joined the convoy coming from Oran / Mers-el-Kebir; Aztec (Hunduran, 5511 GRT, built 1929), Crosby S. Noyes (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Edward N. Hurley (American, 7191 GRT, built 1943), Esso Nashville (American (tanker), 7943 GRT, built 1940), Gulfpoint (American (tanker), 6972 GRT, built 1920), John S. Copley (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Mirabeau B. Lamar (American, 7176 GRT, built 1942), Pan-Delaware (American (tanker), 8128 GRT, built 1918) and Tulsa (American, 5083 GRT, built 1919).

On joining the convoy the John S. Copley was torpedoed and damaged by the German submarine U-73 which in turn was herself sunk following the attack by patrolling destroyers.

On 17 December 1943, the following ships were detached to Gibraltar; American Trader, Baron Stranraer, Esso Providence, Gryfevale, Hindustan, Hughli, Lago, Lord Byron, Myriel, Orient City, Tynebank and Urbino while the following transports joined the convoy coming from Gibraltar; Karamea (British, 10530 GRT, built 1928) and Robert M.T. Hunter (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943). HMS Colombo and HMS Shakespeare also arrived at Gibraltar.

At 1000A/18, a new, American escort joined the convoy and at 1030A/18, the British escort parted company and proceeded to Gibraltar where they all arrived later the same day.

The new American escort (Task Force 64) had departed Casablanca around 1530A/17 and was made up of the destroyers USS Stevenson (T/Cdr. F.E. Wilson, USN, with COMTASKFOR 64 / COMDESRON 19, T/Capt. J. Conner, USN on board), USS Stockton (T/Cdr. R.E. Braddy, Jr., USN), USS Thorn (T/Cdr. E. Brumby, USN), USS Turner (T/Cdr. H.S. Wygant, Jr., USN), destroyer escorts USS Sturtevant (Lt. J.M. Mertz, USNR), USS Blair (Lt. A.J. Laborde, USNR), USS Brough (Lt. J.A. Rector, Jr., USNR), USS Inch (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Frey, USNR), USS Stanton (T/Lt.Cdr. C.S. Barker, Jr., USN) and USS Swasey (Lt. H.M. Godsey, USNR).

Around 1430A/18, the Casablanca section of the convoy joined in position 35°24'N, 08°03'W. It was made up of the transports Felix Grundy (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), Fitzhugh Lee (American, 7176 GRT, built 1943), James Turner (American, 7177 GRT, built 1942) and Richard S. Ewell (American, 7244 GRT, built 1943). The naval tanker USS Housatonic (T/Cdr. A.R. Boileau, USN) was also with them. They were escorted by the destroyer escorts USS Jacob Jones (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Johnson, USNR, with COMCORTDIV 3, T/Cdr. N. Adair, Jr., USN on board), USS Hammann (Lt.Cdr. J.D. Miller, Jr., USNR), USS Robert E. Peary (Lt.Cdr. L.W. Bennett, USNR) and the patrol vessels USS PC-482 (Lt.Cdr. D.W. Hunter, USNR), USS PC-481 (Lt. N.W. Roeder, USNR), USS PC-480 (Lt. F.W. Meyers, Jr., USNR) and USS PC-473 (Lt. D.F. Welch, USNR). The destroyer escorts joined the convoy while the patrol vessels returned to Casablanca taking the following transports / tankers from the convoy with them; Esso Nashville, Fort Lajoie, Gulfpoint and Nettuno. They all arrived at Casablanca on the 19th.

During the morning of 24 December 1943, USS Stevenson, USS Stockton, USS Thorn and USS Turner fuelled from USS Housatonic.

At 1100P/30, USS Housatonic parted company to proceed to Bermuda. To escort her the destroyer escorts USS Darby (Cdr. D.D. Humphreys, USNR) and USS Alger (Lt.Cdr. D.B. Poupeney, USNR) had joined shortly before.

At 1115Q/1, the convoy was split into the ' Delaware section ' and the ' New York section '. The New York section was made up of 31 ships and was escorted by USS Stevenson, USS Stockton, USS Thorn, USS Turner, USS Inch, USS Stanton and USS Swasey. The remaining ships (23) made up the ' Delaware section and were escorted by USS Jacob Jones, USS Hammann, USS USS Robert E. Peary, USS Sturtevant, USS Blair and USS Brough.

The New York section arrived at its destination during the night of 2/3 January 1944. The last of the escort to anchor was USS Turner. She dropped anchor around 0215Q/3. Around 0616Q/3, USS Turner suffered a massive explosion and burned. Survivors could be picked up by pilot boats and small boats from other ships of Task Force 64. 15 officers and 123 men did not survive the internal explosions and subsequent sinking of the ship.

The Delaware section of the convoy also arrived at its destination during the night of 2/3 January 1944.


  1. ADM 199/831
  2. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. File (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  4. ADM 234/353
  5. ADM 173/17818
  6. ADM 173/17819
  7. ADM 199/1839
  8. ADM 199/1848

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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