Allied Warships

HMS Phoenix (N 96)

Submarine of the P class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassP 
PennantN 96 
Built byCammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.) 
Ordered7 Feb 1928 
Laid down23 Jul 1928 
Launched3 Oct 1929 
Commissioned3 Feb 1931 
Lost16 Jul 1940 
Loss position37° 15'N, 15° 15'E

Note. Map of attack temporarily disabled due to huge Google Maps price increase (20 July 2018).

History

HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. Gilbert Hugh Nowell, RN) was most likely sunk on 16 July 1940 off Augusta, Sicily, Italy in position 37º15'N, 15º15'E by the Italian torpedo boat Albatros.

 

Commands listed for HMS Phoenix (N 96)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Lt.Cdr. David Caldicott Ingram, RN29 Jul 193726 Feb 1940
2Lt.Cdr. Charles Alexander Rowe, RN26 Feb 19401 Apr 1940
3Lt.Cdr. Gilbert Hugh Nowell, RN1 Apr 194016 Jul 1940 (+)

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Notable events involving Phoenix include:


The history of HMS Phoenix as compiled on this page is extracted from the patrol reports and logbooks of this submarine. Corrections and details regarding information from the enemy's side (for instance the composition of convoys attacked) is kindly provided by Mr. Platon Alexiades, a naval researcher from Canada.

This page was last updated in December 2013.

3 Sep 1939
When war broke out with Germany HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) was based at Hong Kong.

4 Sep 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 1st war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Pacific to the East of Luzon Strait.

For the daily positions of HMS Phoenix during this patrol see the map below.


HMS Phoenix 1st war patrol click here for bigger map

12 Sep 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Hong Kong.

23 Sep 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 2nd war patrol. She was ordered to patrol in the Yellow Sea.

For the daily positions of HMS Perseus during this patrol see the map below.


HMS Phoenix 2nd war patrol click here for bigger map

14 Oct 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) ended her 2nd war patrol at Hong Kong.

20 Oct 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong together with HMS Thanet (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN).

24 Oct 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) departed Hong Kong for her 3rd war patrol. She is ordered to patrol off the Kii-suido, Japan.

For the daily positions of HMS Perseus during this patrol see the map below.


HMS Phoenix 3rd war patrol click here for bigger map

10 Nov 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol at Hong Kong.

14 Nov 1939
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) commenced a refit at Hong Kong.

22 Feb 1940
With her refit completed HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) conducted trials off Hong Kong.

23 Feb 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) conducted trials off Hong Kong.

24 Feb 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. D.C. Ingram, RN) searched off Hong Kong for torpedoes she lost the previous day after having fired a test salvo.

27 Feb 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted trials off Hong Kong.

4 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

5 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

11 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

12 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN).

13 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

18 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

19 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

20 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong with HMS Pandora (Lt.Cdr. J.W. Linton, RN).

25 Mar 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong.

27 Mar 1940
HMS Rover (Lt.Cdr. H.A.L. Marsham, RN) and HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Rowe, RN) conducted exercises off Hong Kong together with HMS Thracian (Lt.Cdr. H.G.D. de Chair, RN). (1)

2 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Hong Kong for Singapore. This was the first leg of the trip to Alexandria where she was to join the Mediterranean Fleet.

For the daily positions of HMS Perseus during this passage see the map below.


HMS Phoenix passage Hong Kong - Alexandria click here for bigger map

8 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) arrived at Singapore.

10 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Singapore for Colombo.

16 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) arrived at Colombo.

17 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Colombo for Aden.

25 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) arrived at Aden.

26 Apr 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Aden for Port Said.

1 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) arrived at Port Said.

2 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Port Said for Alexandria.

3 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) arrived at Alexandria.

13 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

14 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria. These exercises included A/S exercises with the French destroyers Lynx (Cdr. A.M. De Gouyon Matignon de Pontourade) and HMS Tigre (Capt. M. De La Forest Divonne).

15 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

16 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

23 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) is docked at Alexandria.

25 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) is undocked.

28 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

29 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria with HMS Voyager (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Morrow, RAN).

31 May 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Alexandria with HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN) and HMS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RAN).

1 Jun 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Alexandria with HMS Kingston Cyanite (Skr. F.A. Yeomans, RNR) and HMS Bandolero (Lt.Cdr. F.M.W. Harris, RNR).

3 Jun 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) conducted exercises off Alexandria.

4 Jun 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Alexandria for her 4th war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off Suda Bay, Crete.

For the daily positions of HMS Perseus during this patrol see the map below.


HMS Phoenix 4th war patrol click here for bigger map

24 Jun 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) ended her 4th war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean) at Alexandria.

3 Jul 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) departed Alexandria for her 5th war patrol (2nd in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the East coast of Sicily.

8 Jul 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) fired torpedoes at the Italian battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour about 200 nautical miles east of Malta in approximate position 35°36'N, 18°28'E. The torpedoes however miss their target(s). The battleships were escorted by the Italian destroyers Freccia, Saetta, Dardo and Strale.

Phoenix made 3 signals to Capt. (S) One. Stating she had attacked two battleships escorted by four destroyers. She attacked at long range and claimed one possible hit. These signals were also intercepted by the German B-dienst at 0515, 0645 and 0800 hours. The attack must have been made between 0645 and 0800 hours and was not noticed by the Italians.

9 Jul 1940

Operation MA 5 and the resulting battle of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940.

The passage of convoys MF 1 (fast) and MS 1 (slow) from Malta to Alexandria with evacuees and fleet stores.

After the cancellation of Operation MA 3 a new plan to pass the convoys from Malta to Alexandria was made.

The Mediterranean Fleet, less HMS Ramillies and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron (HMS Caledon and HMS Capetown) departed Alexandria on 7 July 1940 to carry out operation MA 5, the object being to cover convoys MF 1 (fast) and MS 1 (slow) from Malta to Alexandria with evacuees and fleet stores.

The composition of these convoys were as follows:

Convoy MF 1, the fast convoy:
This convoy departed Malta on 9 July 1940 and arrived at Alexandria on 11 July 1940 and was made up of the Egyptian merchant El Nil (7775 GRT, built 1916), British merchants Knight of Malta (1553 GRT, built 1929), Rodi (3220 GRT, built 1928, former Italian).

Convoy MS 1, the slow convoy:
This convoy departed Malta on 10 July 1940 and arrived at Alexandria on 14 July 1940 and was made up of the British merchant ships Kirkland (1361 GRT, built 1934), Misirah (6836 GRT, built 1919), Tweed (2697 GRT, built 1926), Zeeland (2726 GRT, built 1930) and the Norwegian merchant Novasli (3194 GRT, built 1920).

Cover for these convoys was provided by ships of the Mediterranean Fleet which was divided into three groups:

Force A:
Light cruisers HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN, flying the flag of Vice Admiral J.C. Tovey, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Neptune (Capt. R.C. O'Conor, RN), HMS Gloucester (Capt. F.R. Garside, CBE, RN), HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN) and HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, RAN) and the destroyer HMS Stuart (Capt. H.M.L. Waller, RAN).

Force B:
Battleship HMS Warspite (Capt. D.B. Fisher, OBE, RN flying the flag of A/Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, KCB, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), destroyers HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, RN), HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN) and HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN).

Force C:
Battleships HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.D. Pridham-Whippell, CB, CVO, RN), HMS Malaya (Capt. Sir A.F.E. Palliser, DSC, RN), aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. A.R.M. Bridge, RN), destroyers HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicholson, RN), HMS Hasty, (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hostile (Cdr. J.P. Wright, DSO, RN), HMS Ilex (Lt.Cdr. P.L. Saumarez, DSC, RN), HMS Imperial (Lt.Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Dainty (Cdr. M.S. Thomas, RN), HMS Defender (Lt.Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN), HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN), HMAS Vampire (Cdr. J.A. Walsh, RAN) and HMS Voyager (Cdr. J.C. Morrow, RAN).

8 July 1940.

All forces were clear of the harbour by midnight during the night of 7/8 July 1940. All forces were to make rendez-vous in position 36°30’N, 17°40’E at 1400/10. HMS Liverpool, who was at Port Said, sailed directly from there to the rendez-vous position. HMS Imperial had to return to Alexandria with defects.

Shortly before midnight, at 2359 hours, HMS Hasty reported that she sighted a surfaced submarine at a range of 1000 yards. A full pattern depth charge attack was made an the submarine was thought to have been sunk. One hour later when about to rejoin Force C she carried out another attack on a confirmed contact. It was consided that this attack caused damage to another Italian submarine.

At 0807/8 a report was received from the submarine HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) that she had sighted two enemy battleships escorted by four destroyers in position 35°23’N, 17°45’E, steering 180° at 0515/8. It was suspected that this force was covering an important enemy convoy. The Vice-Admiral, Malta, was ordered to arrange air reconnaissance to the eastward and to the Rear-Admiral, Alexandria to arrange for a flying boat to shadow this force. Two enemy submarines were sighted by A/S patrols from HMS Eagle.

The Italians were aware of the Mediterranean Fleet being at sea as the Fleet had been reported by the Italian submarine Beilul. This resulted in air attacks on the Fleet during the 8th.

Damage was done to HMS Gloucester which was hit on the compass platform causing seven officers to be killed and three wounded. Amongst the officers killed was the ships Captain. Besides the officers eleven ratings were killed and six were wounded.

At 1510/8 a flying boat reported a force of three battleships, six cruisers and seven destroyers in position 33°18’N, 19°45’E, steering 340°. At 1610 hours it was reported that this force had changed course to 070°. The flying boat that reported this force had to return to base at 1715 hours but no relief was available to continue shadowing. The Commander-in-Chief therefore, in the absence of further information, decided to continue the course of the Fleet to the north-westward in order to get between the enemy and his base. A mean line of advance of 310° at 20 knots was therefore maintained during the night.

9 July 1940.

There were no incidents during the night and at 0600 hours the Fleet was concentrated in position 36°55’N, 20°30’E. An air search by aircraft from HMS Eagle was commenced at dawn between 180° and 300°. Meanwhile a mean line of advance of 300° at 16 knots was maintained by the Fleet.

The first enemy report was received from a flying boat from Malta who reported two battleships, four cruisers and ten destroyers at 0732 hours in position 37°00’N, 17°00’E, steering 330° and subsequent reports showed that there was a further large force of cruisers and destroyers in the vicinity.

A second search by aircraft from HMS Eagle covered these positions and by 1130 hours it was considered that the enemy’s position was sufficiently well established to launch the air striking force. At this time the enemy fleet was approximately 90 miles to the westward of our forces. Unfortunately, touch with the enemy fleet was lost by the shadowing aircraft at this time and shortly afterwards it appears that the enemy turned to the southward. The striking force therefore failed to locate the enemy battlefleet, but carried out an attack on some cruisers at about 1330 hours without result.

Touch was regained with the enemy battleships at 1340 hours by a relief shadower from HMS Eagle and by a flying boat. The air striking force was flown of again at 1539 hours shortly after action was joined and they are believed to have scored one hit on a cruiser. All aircraft from HMS Eagle returned. In the meanwhile reports from shadowing aircraft show that the enemy force consisted of two battleships of the Cavour-class, twelve cruisers and twenty destroyers, and that they appeared to be keeping close to the coast of Calabria.

At 1400 hours the British Fleet as in position 38°02’N, 18°40’E. The 7th Cruiser Squadron was 8 nautical miles ahead of HMS Warspite, with HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Eagle and HMS Malaya 10 nautical miles astern. Destroyers were screening these ships. The mean line of advance the Fleet was 270° the speed being limited by that of HMS Royal Sovereign. The Commander-in-Chief was obliged to use HMS Warspite as a battle cruiser to keep ahead of the battle Squadron, in order to support the cruisers, who being so few and lacking 8” ships, were very weak compared to the enemy’s cruiser force.

At 1510 hours the enemy, consisting of six 8” cruisers and a number of destroyers, was sighted steering about 020°. HMS Eagle and the 19th division (HMAS Stuart, HMAS Vampire and HMAS Voyager) were now detached from the 1st Battle Squadron and the damaged HMS Gloucester was ordered to join them. At 1514 hours HMS Neptune sighted the enemy battlefleet bearing 260° from HMS Warspite The ensuing action can best be described in five phases.

Phase 1.

A short action with enemy 8” and 6” cruisers in which our own cruisers were out ranged and came under a very heavy fire. HMS Warspite intervened and engaged successively two 8” and two 6” cruisers at long range, which after a few salvos turned away. One hit might have been obtained on a 8” cruiser.

Phase 2.

After a short lull, during which HMS Warspite fell back on HMS Malaya who was now proceeding ahead of HMS Royal Sovereign. HMS Warspite and HMS Malaya then engaged two battleships of the Cavour-class at 1553 hours. HMS Warspite was straddled at 26000 yards and she herself scored a hit on one of the enemy battleships (the Guilio Cesare). The enemy then turned away making smoke. HMS Malaya was outranged and by now HMS Royal Sovereign was now well astern and never got into action. The 7th Cruiser Squadron continued their action with the enemy cruisers, who appeared to be working round to the north with the intention of engaging HMS Eagle. They were driven off with the assistance of a few salvoes from HMS Warspite.

Phase 3.

Enemy destroyers moved out to attack, but half heartedly, and made a large volumes of smoke which soon obscured the larger targets. Destroyers were now ordered to counter attack the enemy destroyers, in which they were assisted by the 7th Cruiser Squadron, but before the range could be closed sufficiently to do damage to them the enemy retired behind their extensive smoke screen.

Phase 4.

The British fleet chased up the smoke but, appreciating that to pass through it would be playing the enemy’s game, and suspecting that enemy submarines might be in the vicinity, the Commander-in-Chief worked round to the northward and windward of the screen. When clear, all enemy forces were out of sight and air attacks had started. The British fleet was now (1652 hours) only 45 miles from the coast of Calabria and continued on a westerly course until within 25 miles of the Punta Stilo lighthouse.

Phase 5.

A succession of heavy bombing attacks were carried out between 1640 and 1912 hours. At least nine distinct bombing attacks were made and it is estimated that probably some 100 aircraft took part. Many attacks were made on HMS Eagle, but the fleet suffered no damage. Between 1640 and 1740 hours the fleet made good a course of 270° and from 1740 hours of 220°, this latter course being selected in the hope that the enemy would renew the fight. At 1830 hours it became clear that the enemy could not be intercepted before reaching Messina and course was altered to the south-eastward to open the land, turning back at 2115 hours to 220° for a position south of Malta.

During the action one of the aircraft from HMS Warspite was damaged by gun blast of her own gunfire and had to be jettisoned. The other aircraft was catapulted for action observation. After this mission was completed the aircraft landed at Malta. During the night there were no incidents.

10 July 1940.

At 0800 hours, the fleet was in position 35°24’N, 15°27’E, steering west, and remained cruising to the southward of Malta throughout the day while destroyers were sent there to refuel. The following fuelling programme was carried out. At 0530 hours the following destroyers arrived at Malta; HMAS Stuart, HMS Dainty, HMS Defender, HMS Hyperion, HMS Hostile, HMS Hasty, HMS Ilex and HMS Juno. After they had fuelled they sailed again at 1115 hours and rejoined the fleet at 1525 hours.

HMS Hero, HMS Hereward, HMS Decoy, HMAS Vampire and HMAS Voyager were then sent in, the last three to sail with convoy MS 1 after fuelling.

At 2030 hours, HMS Royal Sovereign with HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk and HMS Janus were detached to refuel and to rejoin the fleet before noon the next day.

HMS Gloucester and HMAS Stuart were detached to join convoy MF 1, which had been sailed from Malta at 2300/9 escorted by HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN), HMS Diamond (Lt.Cdr. P.A. Cartwright, RN) and HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades RAN).

In the morning an air raid took place at Malta at 0855 hours. Three or four of the attackers were shot down. Destroyers that were fuelling at Malta were not hit.

Flying boat reconnaissance of Augusta had located three cruisers and eight destroyers in harbour and at 1850 hours a strike force was flown off from HMS Eagle to carry out a dust attack. Unfortunately the enemy forces left harbour before the attack force arrived. One flight however located a Navigatori class destroyer in a small bay to the northward, which was sunk, this was the Leone Pancaldo which was later raised and repaired. The other flight did not drop their torpedoes. All aircraft landed safely at Malta.

At 2100 hours the position of the fleet was 35°28’N, 14°30’E, steering 180°. There were no incidents during the night.

In view of the heavy bombing attacks experienced during the last three days, the Commander-in-Chief has requested the Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, to do anything possible to occupy the Italian air forces during the passage of the fleet and the convoys to Alexandria.

11 July 1940.

At 0130 hours, the fleet altered course to 000° to be in position 35°10’N, 15°00’E at 0800 hours. HMS Royal Sovereign with HMS Hero, HMS Hereward, HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk and HMS Janus rejoined from Malta at this time, and HMS Eagle landed on her striking force from Malta.

At 0900 hours the Commander-in-Chief in HMS Warspite, screened by HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk, HMS Juno and HMAS Vampire, proceeded ahead to return to Alexandria at 19 knots. The Rear-Admiral, First Battle Squadron, in HMS Royal Sovereign , with HMS Malaya and HMS Eagle and the remaining destroyers, proceeded on a mean line of advance of 80° at 12 knots to cover the passage of the convoys. The 7th Cruiser Squadron had already been detached at 2000/10 to search to the eastward in the wake of convoy MF 1.

The fleet was again subjected to heavy bombing attacks. Between 1248 and 1815 hours, five attacks were made on HMS Warspite and her escorting destroyers. A total of 66 bombs were counted. Between 1112 and 1834 hours, twelve attacks were carried out on forces in company with Rear-Admiral First Battle Squadron, a total of about 120 bombs were dropped. No damage was sustained. It was noted that the fleet was shadowed by aircraft who homed in attacking aircraft.

At 1200 hours, HMAS Vampire was sighted. She reported that her Gunner had been badly wounded in an air attack made on convoy MS 1 at 1015 hours. The officer was transferred to HMS Mohawk for treatment but died aboard that ship later the same day.

At 2100 hours, HMS Warspite was in position 34°22’N, 19°17’E steering 210°.

12 July 1940.

There had been no incidents during the night. Course was altered to 070° at 0200 hours and to 100° at 0630 hours. Course was altered from time to time during the day to throw off shadowers and attacking aircraft.

At 0700 hours, Vice-Admiral (D) with the 7th Cruiser Squadron rejoined the Commander-in-Chief. Vice-Admiral (D) in HMS Orion, together with HMS Neptune was detached to join convoy MF 1.

The following bombing attacks took place during the day; Between 0850 and 1550 hours, seventeen attacks were made on HMS Warspite. About 160 bombs were dropped but none hit although there were several near misses. On the First Battle Squadron and HMS Eagle between 1110 and 1804 hours, three attacks were made, 25 bombs were dropped but none hit.

13 July 1940.

HMS Warspite, HMS Orion, HMS Neptune, HMS Liverpool, HMAS Sydney, HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk, HMS Juno and HMAS Vampire arrived at Alexandria around 0600 hours. Convoy MF 1 and it’s escort (HMS Jervis, HMS Diamond and HMAS Vendetta) arrived during the forenoon. This convoy had been unmolested during it’s passage from Malta to Alexandria.

HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN) then departed Alexandria to join the escort of convoy MS 1 escorted by HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk, HMS Juno and HMAS Vampire. The two cruisers from the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clarke, RN) and HMS Capetown (Capt. T.H. Back, RN), had already left Alexandria on the 12th to join the escort of convoy MS 1.

14 July 1940.

The 1st Battle Squadron, HMS Eagle and their escorting destroyers arrived at Alexandria in the forenoon. They reported very heavy bombing attacks of the Libyan coast. Three enemy aircraft were reported shot down by fighters from HMS Eagle while a fourth was thought to be heavily damaged.

15 July 1940.

Convoy MS 1, HMS Ramillies, HMS Caledon, HMS Capetown, HMS Decoy, HMAS Vampire and HMAS Voyager arrived at Alexandria before noon.

Italian forces involved in the battle of Punta Stilo. On 6 July 1940 an important Italian troop convoy departed Naples for Benghazi, Libya. This convoy was made up of the troopship Esperia (11398 GRT, built 1920) and the transports Calitea (4013 GRT, built 1933), Marco Foscarini (6338 GRT, built 1940), Vettor Pisani (6339 GRT, built 1939). Escort was provided by the torpedo boats Orsa, Pegaso, Procione and Orione. The next day this convoy was joined by the transport Francesco Barbaro (6343 GRT, built 1940) that came from Catania and was escorted by the torpedo boats Giuseppe Cesare Abba and Rosolino Pilo. Cover for this convoy was provided by the light cruisers Giovanni Delle Bande Nere and Bartolomeo Colleoni and the destroyers Maestrale, Libeccio, Grecale and Scirocco.

This cover force was joined on 7 July by the heavy cruiser Pola and the destroyers Lanciere, Carabinieri, Corazziere and Ascari which came from Augusta.

From Messina came the heavy cruisers Zara, Fiume, Gorizia and the destroyers Vittorio Alfieri, Giosuè Carducci, Vincenzo Gioberti and Alfredo Oriani.

From Messina (these ships departed shortly after the other ships) came also the heavy cruisers Bolzano and Trento and the destroyers Artigliere, Camicia Nera, Aviere and Geniere.

From Palermo came the light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia, Emanuelle Filiberto Duca D’Aosta, Muzio Attendolo and Raimondo Montecuccoli with the destroyers Granatiere, Fuceliere, Bersagliere and Alpino.

From Taranto came the battleships Gulio Cesare (flagship) and Conte di Cavour with the dstroyers Freccia, Saetta, Dardo and Strale.

Also from Taranto came the light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi and Luigi di Savoia Duca delgi Abruzzi with the destroyers Folgore, Fulmine, Baleno and Lampo.

And finally, also from Taranto, came the light cruisers Armando Diaz, Luigi Cadorna, Alberto di Giussano, Alberico di Barbiano and the destroyers Antonio Pigafetta, Nicolò Zeno, Nicoloso Da Recco, Emanuelle Pessagno and Antoniotto Usodimare. Later the destroyers Ugolino Vivaldi, Antonio Da Noli and Leone Pancaldo were sent out as reinforements.

The destroyers Stale, Dardo and Antonio da Noli developed mechanical problems and had to return to port for repairs.

During the battle with the Mediterranean Fleet the following ships sustained damage;
Battleship Gulio Cesare was hit by a heavy shell from HMS Warspite, heavy cruiser Bolzano sustained three medium shell hits. As stated earlier the destroyer Leone Pancaldo was sunk off Augusta by aircraft from HMS Eagle but was later raised and repaired.

The Italian convoy meanwhile had arrived at Benghazi without losses on 8 July. (2)

14 Jul 1940
HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) made her last signal at 2350 hours. She acknowledged the receipt of Capt. (S) One's signal ordering her to proceed to Malta to replenish her torpedoes.

16 Jul 1940
At 1252 hours (Rome time) HMS Phoenix (Lt.Cdr. G.H. Nowell, RN) possibly attacked the Italian tanker Dora C. (5843 GRT, built 1922) with torpedoes off Augusta, Sicily, Italy.

The escorting Italian torpedo boat Albatros sighted 2 torpedoes. Albatros then possibly sank Phoenix during the counter attack in which a pattern of 10 depth charges was dropped followed by another pattern of 8. Albatros observed bubbles of air (no oil was seen) and believed that the submarine may have been damaged (it did not claim a sinking at the time). At the time of the attack Albatros was the only Italian vessel equipped with an experimental sonar but it broke down and was not used in the attack.

So it is quite possible that she was sunk by Albatros on this day but is also possible that the torpedo tracks seen by Albatros were porpoises (a frequent mistake !). Phoenix was ordered to return to Malta on the 14th and she had acknowledged that she had received this signal. It is therefore a bit strange the she would still be in her patrol area around noon on the 16th. There was also an Italian minefield about 4 miles South-East of Augusta (minefield 4 AS) and although Phoenix had orders not to enter the 200 fathom line (an exception could be made if a target was worth it) so it is not impossible that she ran into it.

Sources

  1. ADM 173/16496
  2. ADM 199/386

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


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