Allied Warships

HMS Utmost (N 19)

Submarine of the U class

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeSubmarine
ClassU 
PennantN 19 
ModSecond Group 
Built byVickers Armstrong (Barrow-in-Furness, U.K.) 
Ordered4 Sep 1939 
Laid down2 Nov 1939 
Launched20 Apr 1940 
Commissioned17 Aug 1940 
LostNov 1942 
HistoryHMS Utmost (Lt. John Walter David Coombe, RN) disappeared without a trace after 23 November 1942. 

Commands listed for HMS Utmost (N 19)

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

CommanderFromTo
1Lt. John Henry Eaden, DSC, RN24 Jun 194030 Jan 1941
2Lt.Cdr. Richard Douglas Cayley, RN30 Jan 1941Oct 1941
3Lt. John Dennis Martin, RNOct 1941Nov 1941
4Lt.Cdr. Richard Douglas Cayley, DSO, RNNov 19414 Apr 1942
5Lt. Anthony Walter Langridge, RN4 Apr 194216 Sep 1942
6Lt. John Walter David Coombe, RN16 Sep 1942Nov 1942

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Notable events involving Utmost include:


Prestwich Urban District adopted HMS Utmost during a fund raising "Warship Week" aimed at raising money to pay for a ship from particular towns. The Town of Prestwich was presented with an oak plaque/shield made of materials from the submarine. The plaque was on display in Prestwich Town Hall until Prestwich joined Bury. The plaque is now in Bury Museum. (1)

The history of HMS Utmost 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) are kindly provided by Mr. Platon Alexiades, a naval researcher from Canada. He also provided details regarding the special operations and train wrecking missions carried out by HMS Utmost.

This page was last updated in April 2016.

15 Aug 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) departed her builders yard at Barrow for the Clyde. (2)

16 Aug 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) arrived in the Clyde area for a period of trials and training. (2)

10 Sep 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) was docked at Ardrossan. (2)

11 Sep 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) was undocked. (2)

12 Sep 1940
HMS Otway (Lt. E.D. Norman, RN), HMS Upright (Lt. F.J. Brooks, RN) and HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (3)

14 Sep 1940
HMS Otway (Lt. E.D. Norman, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN). (3)

16 Sep 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) departed the Clyde area for Portsmouth. (2)

20 Sep 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) arrived at Portsmouth. (2)

21 Sep 1940
While bottoming at Portsmouth during an air raid HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) sustained damage to her fore hydroplanes. (4)

25 Sep 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) departed Portsmouth for her 1st war patrol. She was to have sailed on 22 September but was delayed by defects. She was ordered to patrol in the English Channel.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. (5)

5 Oct 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) ended her 1st war patrol at Portsmouth.

There were problems with 'singing' propellers. These were changed and several trials were undertaken afterwards. The dates Utmost as docked are unfortunately not known to us. (5)

28 Oct 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) departed Portsmouth for Gibraltar. She was to join the Mediterranean Fleet. En-route she was to make a short 48-hour patrol in the Bay of Biscay making this her 2nd war patrol.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. (2)

5 Nov 1940
At about 1845 hours, in position 37°58'N, 09°50'W, HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) stopped the Portuguese fishing vessel Machado (316 GRT, 1919) but released her after examination.

6 Nov 1940
At 1225 hours, in position 36°08'N, 08°45'W, HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) was rammed by the British destroyer HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN). Encounter was part of the destroyer screen for the battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt C.E.B. Simeon, RN). Both Utmost and Encounter were damaged. They were escorted to Gibraltar by HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN).

7 Nov 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) arrived at Gibraltar where repairs were undertaken to make her seaworthy again and made her able to dive. Permanent repairs were to be undertaken at Malta. (2)

30 Nov 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) departed Gibraltar for Malta.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. (2)

8 Dec 1940
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.H. Eaden, DSC, RN) arrived at Malta. Before she was to be used operationally she had to undergo repairs to her pressure hull that was damaged when she was rammed by HMS Encounter on 6 November. (2)

4 Feb 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 3rd war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol the Western approaches to Tripoli, Libya.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

9 Feb 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) made a torpedo attack on an enemy convoy about 5 nautical miles North-East of Zuwara, Libya in position 33°00N, 12°11'E. Three torpedoes were fired but no hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -1)
1715 hours - In position 33°00N, 12°11'E sighted a convoy of three merchant vessels bearing 280°. Range was about 5 nautical miles. They were zig-zagging very erratically. Started attack.

1745 hour - The convoy stopped to wait for a fourth merchant vessel that came from the North.

1805 hours - The convoy proceeded. It was now getting dark.

1815 hours - When about to open fire on the leading ship from 500 yards she suddenly altered course towards. Went deep with the intention to return to periscope depth at the other side of the convoy and then to attack the rear ship. Three torpedoes were fired in this attack but due to the bad visibility no hits were obtained. No counter attack followed.

According to Italian sources the attack had been on a convoy consisting of the transport Nirvo (5164 GRT, built 1919) and the tankers Berbera (2093 GRT, built 1931) and Caucaso (2065 GRT, built 1920) screened by the armed merchant cruiser Attilio Deffenu (3510 GRT, built 1929). The torpedoes were seen and an escorting aircraft dropped a marking buoy in the vicinity but no retaliatory action occurred. (5)

12 Feb 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) torpedoed and damaged the Italian merchant Mauly (5942 GRT, built 1925) off Zuwara, Libya in position 33°00'N, 12°00'E.

(All times are zone -1)
0930 hours - Sighted a convoy of three merchant ships escorted by one destroyer bearing 100°, range 3 nautical miles, enemy course 260°. Started attack on the leading and largest ship of about 8000 tons. Fired three torpedoes and obtained one hit. Utmost went to 80 feet after firing the torpedoes.

0954 to 1022 hours - 25 Depth charges were dropped. HE indicated that two escorts were hunting. No damage was sustained. Utmost retired to the North-East.

1130 hours - Returned to periscope depth. Saw the target down by the stern and stopped. Aircraft were patrolling the area. The convoy meanwhile made off to the West.

[The convoy attacked was made up of the above mentioned Mauly as well as the Italian merchant Tembien (5584 GRT, built 1914) and the German merchant Leverkusen (7382 GRT, built 1928). They were escorted by the Italian torpedo boat Centauro. Mauly was hit astern and immobilised, her crew had abandoned ship but later reboarded her. The auxiliary Orlando and the tug Polifemo were sent from Tripoli to take her in tow and the torpedo-boat Rosolino Pilo to relieve Centauro who continued with the remaining ships. It took seven days to bring Mauly back to Tripoli.] (5)

15 Feb 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 3rd war patrol (1st in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

25 Feb 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 4th war patrol (2nd in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to perform a special operation.

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

(5)

28 Feb 1941
At 1930 hours, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) surfaced in position 35°59'N, 10°34'E (Gulf of Hammamet) and carried out the special mission. This was the first of five missions that Utmost would undertake in Tunisia. Although no official report appears to have survived, there is little doubt that Utmost made contact with a sailing vessel and transferred stores for the Mounier network. The previous month, Mounier had sailed from Tunisia in the sailing vessel Pescadou and reached Malta. He offered his services to organize a resistance network in Tunisia. They were later provided with limpets to sabotage Italian vessels engaged in the phosphate traffic. (5)

1 Mar 1941
A few hours later the submarine sent a boat to pick up 2nd Lt. Fairclough near Sebkhet Halk El Menzel (souh of Hergla). This officer has not been definitely identified. Was he an agent or perhaps a flyer shot down over Tunisia? Any help in identifying him is appreciated.

4 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 4th war patrol (2nd in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

6 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 5th war patrol (3rd in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the Gulf of Hammamet.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

9 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Capo Vita (5683 GRT, built 1916) off the Gulf of Hammamet about 30 nautical miles North-East of Sousse, Tunisia in position 36°09'N, 11°07'E.

(All times are zone -2)
1115 hours - Sighted two merchant ships escorted by an armed merchant cruiser bearing 345°, range 5 nautical miles, enemy course 170°. Started attack.

1205 hours - Fired three torpedoes from 1000 yards. Two explosions followed. A counter attack followed in which 6 depth charges were dropped but these did no damage. 12 Minutes later Utmost returned to periscope depth to find the armed merchant cruiser and one of the merchants in sight. The other one must have sunk. She had been heavily laden and was of about 8000 tons and it was also observed that there were troops on board.

[This convoy was made up of the above mentioned Capo Vita as well as the Italian merchant Fenicia (2584 GRT, built 1919), they were escorted by the Italian Armed Merchant Cruiser Attilio Deffenu (3510 GRT, built 1929). Capo Vita blew up, there were no survivors. An escorting Cant Z 501 of 144^ Squadriglia observed the attack but was powerless to intervene. Fenicia was sunk the next day by HMS Unique.] (5)

12 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 5th war patrol (3rd in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

19 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 6th war patrol (4th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off Kerkennah as a convoy believed to be transporting German troops was expected to sail from Naples.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

28 Mar 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) attacked a convoy of 5 German merchants and three Italian destroyers and torpedoed and sank the German merchants Heraklea (1927 GRT, built 1922) and torpedoed and damaged the Ruhr (5954 GRT, built 1926) 22 nautical miles south-east of Kuriat, Tunisia in position 35°40'N, 11°19'E.

(All times are zone -2)
In position 35°40'N, 11°19'E sighted six heavily laden merchant vessels escorted by two destroyers bearing 330°, range 9000 yards, enemy course 150°, speed 12 knots. Started attack.

2158 hours - Fired four torpedoes at three ships showing up as an unbroken line against the horizon. After the last torpedo had left the tubes Utmost dived. Two hits were obtained. The time between the explosions indicated that in either column a ship must have been hit. No counter attack followed which might indicate that there were survivors in the water. Utmost retired to the Eastward and remained dived until 2400 hours.

[The convoy attacked was made up of the above mentioned German merchant ships as well as the German merchants Adana (4176 GRT, built 1922) and Samos (2576 GRT, built 1923) and the Italian merchant Galilea (8040 GRT, built 1916). They were escorted by the Italian destroyers Folgore, Dardo and Strale. Heraklea was carrying 212 German soldiers and 100 vehicles, 78 were lost. Ruhr carried 585 German soldiers and 160 vehicles, she was towed by the destroyer Dardo to Trapani.] (5)

1 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 6th war patrol (4th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

2 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) was docked at Malta. (6)

7 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) was undocked. (6)

17 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 7th war patrol (5th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to perform a special operation.

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

(5)

19 Apr 1941
At 2145 hours, in position 35°57'N, 10°36'E (north of Sousse) HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) surfaced to carry out the special operation. The Breuillac/Mounier resistance network (see 28 February) had received a signal at noon the previous day that a submarine would pick up Breuillac at 22 hours on the 19th. In Malta, he was to meet with Lt. Col. Des Essarts, an envoy of General De Gaulle, who was to fly from Cairo. Breuillac, who was Chief of Staff to General Jurion, had secured a 15-day leave to do some 'tourism' in Tunisia. He lost no time and travelled by train to Sousse with Mounier and another member of their network, Verdier. They took a small sailboat to go 'fishing' and cruised for several hours at the rendezvous point. Utmost delivered stores and Mounier and Verdier returned with them leaving Breuillac to continue on to Malta.

22 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 7th war patrol (5th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

25 Apr 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 8th war patrol (6th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to carry out a special operation.

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

(5)

27 Apr 1941
At 2105 hours, in position 35°58'N, 10°37.5'E HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) surfaced to carry out the special operation. This was to meet a sailboat manned by Mounier and Verdier and transfer Commandant Breuillac. The submarine cruised in a vain without meeting them, the two men later affirming that they had been at the rendezvous. (5)

28 Apr 1941
At 2106 hours, in position 35°58'N, 10°37'E HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) surfaced again to carry out the special operation. This time the sailboat was sighted at 2140 hours and Breuillac and stores (including limpets for underwater sabotage) were transferred ashore. He had three days to spare for his furlough! (5)

9 May 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 8th war patrol (6th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. At 0941 hours, shortly before entering harbour Utmost was attacked by enemy aircraft. She crash dived to safety. Several bombs were dropped causing minor damage. (5)

24 May 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 9th war patrol (7th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the Gulf of Hammamet and to perform a special operation.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

27 May 1941
At 2146 hours, in position 35°58'N, 10°34'E, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) surfaced to carry out a special operation. No information appears to have survived but it probably was to land explosives and other stores for the Breuillac/Mounier network.

29 May 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) attacked a merchant vessel with three torpedoes about 5 nautical miles South-East of Kuriat. No hits were obtained. One of the torpedoes had a gyro failure.

(All times are zone -2)
1350 hours - In position 35°43'N, 11°06'E sighted a merchant ship of about 3000 tons. One aircraft was circling overhead and was believed to be an escort. Range was 10000 yards. Closed at speed to attack. In the attack three torpedoes were fired from 4500 yards. Upon firing Utmost went to 80 feet. One of the torpedoes had a gyro failure and appeared to be cruising around in an erratic and alarming matter. After 10 minutes HE from the torpedo became fainter and finally disappeared.

At the time this was believed to have been the Italian Florida II (3100 GRT, built 1905) but she was at Sfax at the time. The target has not yet been identified. (5)

4 Jun 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 9th war patrol (7th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

17 Jun 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 10th war patrol (8th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the North of the Straits of Messina. She also was to destroy a railway if the opportunity arose.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

24 Jun 1941
At 0001 hours, near position 39°10'N, 16°03'E (north of Amantea), HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) launched a folbot manned by Lt. D.R. Schofield, Royal Fusiliers and Lance Corporal F.C. Morgan to blow up a train in a railway tunnel.

(All times are zone -2)
23 June 1941
2210 hours - Surfaced and proceeded towards the shore. A suitable tunnel in which to wreck a train had been spotted during the day.

24 June 1941
0001 hours - Launched the Folbot with a party of two 400 yards from the shore. They successfully placed the charge and returned safely.

0200 hours - A train went through the tunnel but did not blow up.

0245 hours - Launched the Folbot again. The railway was now blown up without waiting for a train. The party returned safely shortly before dawn at 0500 hours. (5)

26 Jun 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Enrico Costa (4080 BRT, built 1928) 4 nautical miles from Cape Todaro, Sicily, Italy in position 38°07'N, 14°37'E. The vessel was travelling from Catania to Palermo with 3000 tons of coal. There were no casualties.

(All times are zone -2)
1200 hours -Sighted a partly laden merchant ship of about 6000 tons bearing 060°, 5 nautical miles away. Utmost closed to 1100 yards and fired two torpedoes. One of the torpedoes hit amidships. The crew abandoned ship but it did not sink. Utmost later fired a third torpedo that hit and sank the ship.

According to Italian sources the vessel was travelling from Catania to Palermo with 3000 tons of coal. There were no casualties. The torpedo-boats Castore and Albatros were directed to the scene. Utmost sighted Albatros at 1425 hours and correctly identified her but the Italian warships failed to detect the submarine. (5)

28 Jun 1941
At 1410 hours, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN), sighted three cruisers and three destroyers bearing 230 degrees, 5 miles, course 130°, the nearest cruiser was a Condottieri class, the others could not be identified. The submarine could not come within attacking range but attempted to make an enemy report, however Malta failed to acknowledge reception. These were most certainly the light cruiser Monteccucoli and the destroyers Fuciliere and Bersagliere who reached Palermo at 1530 hours. The other warships have not been identified (so far).

Just after midnight, while another landing attempt was underway in approximate position 38°02'N, 14°04'E (near Sant' Ambrogio, north coast of Sicily), Utmost was apparently seen from shore detected by a sentry of a railway tunnel. Shouts were heard and the landing party (Lt. D.R. Schofield of the Royal Fusiliers and Lance Corporal F.C. Morgan) also heard the alarm and wisely returned to the submarine. (7)

3 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) ended her 10th war patrol (8th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

8 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) was docked at Malta. (8)

12 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) was undocked. (8)

17 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 11th war patrol (9th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the North of the Straits of Messina, one of the four submarines deployed for operation SUBSTANCE (the others were HMS Urge and HMS Upholder from Malta and HMS P 32 from Gibraltar). She also was to destroy a railway if the opportunity arose, just like in her previous patrol that was in the same area.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

20 Jul 1941
At 2305 hours, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN), sighted a 6000 tons merchant vessel bearing 50 degrees, at a distance of five miles in position 38°26'N, 12°48'E, The ship was zig-zagging on a mean course of 260°. The submarine closed at high speed and, at 2325 hours, fired two torpedoes from a range of 3000 yards. Both missed. The target has not been identified for certain but may have been the Italian Ettore (4270 GRT, built 1912) who had sailed at 1830 hours from Palermo for Algiers.

21 Jul 1941

Operation Substance, convoys to and from Malta

Passage through the Straits of Gibraltar of the eastbound convoy and sailing from Gibraltar of the remaining ships involved in the operation.

Around 0130/21 convoy WS 9C passed the Straits of Gibraltar. The convoy at that moment consisted of six merchant ships; City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Durham (10893 GRT, built 1934), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933) and Sydney Star (11095 GRT, built 1936).

At the time they passed through the Straits they were escorted by HMS Nelson (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), HMS Edinburgh (Capt. H.W. Faulkner, RN), HMS Manxman (Capt. R.K. Dickson, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. R.G. Stewart, RN), HMAS Nestor (Cdr. A.S. Rosenthal, RAN), HMS Avon Vale (Lt.Cdr. P.A.R. Withers, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, RN) and HMS Farndale (Cdr. S.H. Carlill, RN).

HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN), HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Cossack (Capt. E.L. Berthon, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr. R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Sikh departed Gibraltar around 0200/21 escorting troopship Leinster (4302 GRT, built 1937) which was to join the convoy. However Leinster grounded while leaving Gibraltar and had to left behind. The small fleet tanker RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, master D.B.C. Ralph) left Gibraltar around the same time escorted by the destroyer HMS Beverley (Lt.Cdr. J. Grant, RN).

About one hour later, around 0300/21, HMS Renown (Rear-Admiral R.R. McGrigor, RN), HMS Ark Royal (Capt. L.E.H. Maund, RN), HMS Hermione (Capt. G.N. Oliver, RN), HMS Faulknor (Capt. A.F. de Salis, RN), HMS Fearless (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN), HMS Firedrake (Lt.Cdr. S.H. Norris, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Foresight (Cdr. J.S.C. Salter, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Foxhound (Cdr. G.H. Peters, DSC, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. T.C. Robinson, RN) and HMS Duncan (Lt.Cdr. A.N. Rowell, RN) departed Gibraltar to give convoy for the convoy during the passage to Malta.

At sea the forces were redistributed;
Force H, the cover force
HMS Renown (Flying the flag of Vice-Admiral J.F. Sommerville, KCB, DSO, RN), HMS Nelson, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Hermione, HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Fury, HMS Lightning and HMS Duncan.

Force X, the close escort for the convoy
HMS Edinburgh (Flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E.N. Syfret, RN), HMS Manchester, HMS Arethusa, HMS Manxman, HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh, HMAS Nestor, HMS Fearless, HMS Firedrake, HMS Foxhound, HMS Avon Vale, HMS Eridge and HMS Farndale.

Plan for the operation

Force H was to cover the convoy until it reached the narrows between Sicily and Tunisia. Force X was to escort the convoy all the way to Malta. Ships of Force X also had troops for Malta on board that had been taken to Gibraltar by troopship Pasteur. On 23 July 1941, the day the eastbound convoy would reach ‘the narrows’ five empty transports and two tankers would depart Malta for Gibraltar (Convoy MG 1) The seven empty transports were;
Group 1 (speed 17 knots)
HMS Breconshire (9776 GRT, built 1939),
Talabot (6798 GRT, built 1936),

Group 2 (speed 14 knots)
Thermopylae (6655 GRT, built 1930),
Amerika (10218 GRT, built 1930),

Group 3 (speed 12 knots)
Settler (6202 GRT, built 1939),
Tanker Svenor (7616 GRT, built 1931) and
Tanker Hoegh Hood (9351 GRT, built 1936)
These were escorted by the destroyer HMS Encounter (Lt.Cdr. E.V.St J. Morgan, RN) which had been repairing and refitting at Malta.

Through intelligence it was known that the Italian Navy had five battleships operational (three of them at Taranto) and about ten cruisers divided between Taranto, Palermo and Messina. The Italian Air Force had about 50 torpedo planes and 150 bombers (30 of which were dive bombers) stationed in Sardinia and Sicily, roughly half of each type on both islands.

The Royal Air Force was able to be of more help than during the previous convoy trip from Gibraltar to Malta last January. Aircraft from Gibraltar conducted A/S patrols for the fleet during the first two days of the passage to the east. Also patrols were flown between Sardinia and the coast of Africa, while aircraft from Malta conducted reconnaissance between Sardinia and Sicily, besides watching the Italian ports. Malta would also provide fighter escort for Force X and the convoy after Force H would part with them and HMS Ark Royal could no longer provide fighter cover for them.

During the operation eight submarines (HMS Olympus (Lt.Cdr. H.G. Dymott, RN), HMS Unique (Lt. A.F. Collett, RN), HMS Upholder (Lt.Cdr. M.D. Wanklyn, DSO, RN), HMS Upright (Lt. J.S. Wraith, DSC, RN), HMS Urge (Lt. E.P. Tomkinson, RN), HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN), HMS P 32 (Lt. D.A.B. Abdy, RN) and HrMs O 21 (Lt.Cdr. J.F. van Dulm, RNN)) were on patrol to report and attack Italian warships that might be sailed to intercept the convoy.

The passage East, 22 July 1941

On 22 July the destroyers from Force X oiled from the Brown Ranger two at a time. A task that took about 10 hours. Having completed the oiling of the destroyers the Brown Ranger and her escort returned to Gibraltar. An Italian aircraft had reported Force H in the morning but the convoy and Force X, at that moment about 100 nautical miles to the south-westward, appeared not to have been sighed. At 2317/22 the Italian submarine Diaspro missed HMS Renown with torpedoes. HMAS Nestor sighted the torpedo tracks and was able to warn HMS Renown which was then able to avoid the torpedoes by doing an emergency turn to port.

The passage East and attacks by the Italian Air Force, 23 July 1941

Force H rejoined the convoy around 0800/23 as the British were now approaching the danger area. Shadowing aircraft had already reported the position of the fleet that morning and heavy air attacks soon followed.

The first came at 0945 hours, a well times combination of nine high level bombers and six or seven torpedo planes approaching from the north-east. HMS Ark Royal had eleven fighters up, which met the bombers about 20 miles from the fleet. They managed to down two of the nine bombers but unfortunately three Fulmars were shot down by the enemy. The other seven bombers came on working round the head of the screen of destroyers to attack the convoy from the starboard beam at a height of 10000 feet. Their bombs fell harmlessly amongst the leading ships as they altered course to avoid the attack. The torpedo planes however were more successful. They came from ahead out of the sun, flying low, and as the destroyers opened fire they divided into groups of two or three and to attack the convoy on both sides. Two aircraft attacked HMS Fearless, stationed ahead in the screen, dropping their torpedoes at ranges of 1500 and 800 yards from a height of 70 feet. The destroyer avoided the first torpedo, but was hit by the second, set on fire, and completely disabled. Other aircraft went to press on their attacks on the convoy itself. One of them, dropping its torpedo between two merchant vessels hit HMS Manchester as she was turning to regain her station after avoiding two torpedoes fired earlier. She reversed helm once more but to no avail. During the attacks three enemy torpedo bombers were shot down by AA fire from the ships.

HMS Manchester was badly damaged and could only use one engine out of four. At first she could steam only 8 knots. She was ordered to make for Gibraltar with HMS Avon Vale as escort. That evening, further to the westward, they were attacked again by three enemy torpedo planes but their AA gunfire kept the enemy at a distance. Both ships successfully reached Gibraltar on the 26th.

At 1010/23 five more bombers tried to attack the convoy crossing this time from north to south. Fighters from HMS Ark Royal forced them to drop their bombs from great height and mostly outside the screen.

At 1645/23 five more torpedo planes led by a seaplane came in from the northward. Three Fulmars caught them about 20 miles away. They managed to shoot down two planes and drove the remainder away.

Soon afterwards the fleet arrived off the entrance to the Skerki Channel. There HMS Hermione was transferred to Force X to take the place of HMS Manchester. Six destroyers were assigned to Force H and eight to Force X. At 1713 hours Vice-Admiral Sommerville hauled round to the westward. HMS Ark Royal kept her Fulmars up until RAF Beaufighters had arrived from Malta to take over.

The convoy was attacked again around 1900/23. Four torpedo planes arrived from the eastward, flying low and and working round from ahead to the starboard side of the convoy. They approached in pairs in line abreast. They kept HMS Sikh (on the starboard bow of the screen) between them and their target until nearly the moment for attack, thereby hampering the AA fire from the other ships. They dropped their torpedoes from long range from a height of 50 feet and nearly hit HMS Hermione, sternmost ship in the starboard column. To avoid the attack each column of the convoy turned 90° outwards and all warships opened barrage fire from all guns that would bear. The barrage however fell short but it caused the Italians to drop their torpedoes early. Also one of the enemy was possibly shot down.

This attack scattered the convoy and it took some time to reform. At 1945/23 about seven bombers appeared from ahead at a height of about 14000 feet to attack the convoy from the port side. The convoy altered 40° to port together and the escort opened up a controlled fire with some hesitation as the Italian aircraft looked a lot like Beaufighters. The bombing was extremely accurate. Several bombs fell near HMS Edinburgh which was leading the port column, and a near miss abreast a boiler room disabled HMS Firedrake which had been sweeping ahead of the convoy. She could no longer steam so Rear-Admiral Syfret ordered her back to Gibraltar in tow of HMS Eridge. They had an anxious passage, being shadowed by aircraft continuously during daylight hours, but were not again attacked. On the 25th HMS Firedrake managed to lit one boiler so the tow was slipped. Both destroyers entered Gibraltar harbour on the 27th.

Soon after leaving the Skerki Channel in the evening of the 23th the convoy hauled up to the north-east towards the coast of Sicily. This was to lessen the danger of mines. The Italians did not shadow the convoy after the attack at 1945 hours and missed this alteration of course which they clearly did not expect. Around 2100 hours, as it was getting dark, enemy aircraft were seen searching along its old line of advance. During the evening the convoy sighted flares several times about 20 miles to the south.

Continued passage to the east and enemy attacks, 24 July 1941

Between 0250 and 0315 hours the convoy was however attacked by the Italian MAS boats MAS 532 and MAS 533. The managed to torpedo and damaged the Sydney Star. HMAS Nestor went alongside and took off almost 500 soldiers. Sydney Star was however able to continue her passage as staggler escorted initially by HMAS Nestor. Admiral Syfret however sent back HMS Hermione. At 1000/24 eight German dive bombers and two high level bombers attacked. Their bombs fell close the escorting ships. HMS Hermione shot down one dive bomber. The three ships arrived at Malta early in the afternoon.

The main body of the convoy meanwhile continued on its way unhindered after the attacks of the motor torpedo boats except for an attempt by three torpedo planes around 0700 hours. They dropped their torpedoes at a safe distance when fired on by the destroyers in the screen ahead. According to the orders Rear-Admiral Syfret was to leave the convoy now, if there was no threat from Italian surface forces, and go on to Malta with the cruisers and some of the destroyers. They were to land the passengers and stores, complete with fuel and return to Force H as soon as possible. The remaining destroyers were to accompany the transports to Malta. They too were to join Force H as soon as possible. Rear-Admiral Syfret felt easy about the surface danger as all Italian ships were reported in harbour the day before, but he was anxious about the threat to the convoy from the air. He decided to go ahead with the cruiser but leave all destroyers with the convoy so at 0745/24, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Arethusa and HMS Manxman left the convoy and pressed ahead at high speed to Malta where they arrived at noon the same day. The transports and the destroyers arrived about four hours later. They had been attacked only once by a torpedo plane since the cruisers separated.

Return passage of the warships of force X to make rendez-vous with Force H.

In the evening HMS Edinburgh, HMS Arethusa, HMS Hermione and HMS Manxman sailed together followed by five destroyers; HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh, HMAS Nestor, HMS Foxhound, later the same evening. The destroyers overtook the cruisers in the morning of the 25th. The sixth destroyer, HMS Farndale, had to be left at Malta due to defects (condenser problems). All ships made rendez-vous with Force H to the north-west of Galita Island at 0800/25.

Movements of Force H after it parted from the convoy.

After parting with the convoy in the evening of the 23rd, Vice-Admiral Sommerville had taken force H westward at 18 knots until the afternoon of the 24th going as far west as 03°30’E. He then turned back to meet Admiral Syfret, also sending from HMS Ark Royal six Swordfish aircraft which left her in position 37°42’N, 07°17’E at 1000/25. After their junction Forces H and X made the best of way towards Gibraltar. Fighter patrols of HMS Ark Royal shot down a shadowing aircraft soon after the fleet had shaped course to the westward, losing a Fulmar in doing so. However another aircraft had meanwhile reported the fleet.

High level bombers appeared from the east and torpedo bombers from the north at 1100 hours. HMS Ark Royal at that moment had four fighters in the air and sent up six more. They prevented the bombing attack shooting down three aircraft out of eight at a cost of two Fulmars, while the ships watched the enemy jettison their bombs 15 miles away. The torpedo attack came to nothing too for the enemy gave up the attempt and retired while still several miles from the fleet. Two days later, on the 27th, the fleet reached Gibraltar.

The movements of the seven empty ships coming from Malta.

Six of the transports / tankers left Malta for Gibraltar in the morning of the 23rd, escorted by HMS Encounter. The seventh ship, tanker Svenor grounded while leaving harbour and was held up for some hours. At dusk, when a few miles from Pantelleria, the six ships devided into pairs according to their speed. HMS Encounter initially escorted the middle pair but joined the leading ships in the evening of the 24th when past the Galita Bank.

Italian aircraft, both high level bombers and torpedo planes, attacked all these ships on the 24th to the southward of Sardinia. They made their first attempt on the second pair of transports and HMS Encounter. Four torpedo planes attacked at 1230/24 and four bombers at 1250/24. No ships were hit though the bombs fell close. Next came the turn for the leading pair, which were attacked further westwards by two bombers that came singly at 1330/24 and 1400/24. The second plane nearly hit HMS Breconshire. Finally when the third pair of ships reached about the same position in the evening they were attacked by torpedo planes and the Hoegh Hood was damaged but she managed to arrive at Gibraltar only a few hours after her consort on the 27th. The last ship, the one that had been delayed at Malta, arrived on the 28th. (9)

27 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) landed a sabotage party in position 38°47'N, 16°06'E (near Pizzo, Calabria, Italy) (Lt. D.R. Schoffield, Royal Fusiliers, and Lance Corporal F.C. Morgan).

(All times are zone -2)
27 July 1941
2330 hours - Landed the Folbot with a party of two which successfully laid explosives underneath a railway line.

28 July 1941
0100 hours - A large explosion was seen as a large southbound train passed over the spot where the charge had been placed. Shortly afterwards the Folbot party returned safely. According to Italian sources the rear of the train was derailed.
(5)

28 Jul 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) torpedoed and sank the Italian merchant Frederico (1488 GRT, built 1920) in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea of the west coast of Calabria, Italy in position 39°28'N, 15°52'E.

(All times are zone -2)
1835 hours - Sighted a 4000 tons merchant ship escorted by a 5000 tons Armed Merchant Cruiser bearing 330°, 9 nautical miles, course 160°, speed 8 knots. Started attack in which two torpedoes were fired from 700 yards. One hit was obtained and the ship sank immediately. The Armed Merchant Cruiser counter attacked with 20 depth charges but none were close.

According to Italian sources Frederico had been escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Adriatico (1976 GRT, built 1931) who rescued all the crew except one. (5)

3 Aug 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 11th war patrol (9th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

19 Aug 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Malta for her 12th war patrol (10th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off South coast of Calabria, Italy. Once again she carried a raiding party to destroy a railway if the opportunity arose.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

27 Aug 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) landed a sabotage party (Lt. R. Wilson, R.A. and Marine W.G. Hughes) near the mouth of the river Saracena (39°50'N, 16°31'E).

(All times are zone -2)
27 August 1941
2325 hours - Landed the Folbot with a party of two which successfully laid explosives on the railway bridge across the river Seracina.

28 August 1941
0218 hours - A large explosion occurred. It appeared the charges were well placed.

0230 hours - The Folbot party returned safely.

According to Italian sources the explosion did not destroy the bridge but caused enough damage requiring repairs before traffic could be resumed. (5)

28 Aug 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) attacked an enemy merchant vessel in position 39°16'N, 17°17'E (near Punta Alice, Calabria, Italy). Three torpedoes were fired but no hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -2)
1650 hours - When in position 014°, 3 nautical miles from Alice Point, sighted an Armed Merchant Cruiser bearing 060°, range 5 nautical miles. She was escorting a merchant vessel of about 6000 tons. Their course was about 260°. The Armed Merchant Cruiser soon altered course to the South and came towards. It was expected that the merchant ship would follow but she did not do so immediately. Eventually Utmost had to go deep to avoid the Armed Merchant Cruiser. When she returned to periscope depth it was noticed that the merchant ship had finally changed course towards. Started attack in which three torpedoes were fired but these all missed.

The armed merchant cruiser was almost certainly Piero Foscari (3423 GT, built 1928) on passage from Bari to Naples via Messina. The merchant ship has not yet been identified.

Shortly after firing, another merchant vessel of 4000 tons escorted by a schooner appeared coast from the northward. Utmost reloaded the tubes but the target disappeared in a rain squall before an attack could be carried out. This was most probably the transport Dea Mazzella (3082 GRT, built 1919) escorted by the auxiliary Maria di Meglio on passage from Taranto to Crotone. A week later, Dea Mazzella was damaged by air attack at Crotone. (5)

31 Aug 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 12th war patrol (10th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

12 Sep 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Malta for her 13th war patrol (10th in the Mediterranean). She had just returned to port after exercising in the morning when she was ordered to proceed to position 34°36'N, 12°12'E, near the Kerkennah Shallows, to pick up the crew from a crashed Blenheim bomber.

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

(5)

13 Sep 1941
At 0745 hours, in position 34°35'N, 12°16'E, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) sighted distress signals bearing 220°. 5 Minutes later sighted a rubber dinghy with three occupants. They were the missing aircrew and were quickly picked up. (5)

14 Sep 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 13th war patrol (11th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

18 Sep 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, RN) departed Malta for her 14th war patrol (12th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea. Once again she carried a raiding party to destroy a railway if the opportunity arose.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(7)

22 Sep 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) landed a sabotage party (Lt. R. Wilson, R.A. and Marine W.G. Hughes) near Intavolata (position 39°29'N, 15°58'E). They were not successful in destroying the Torre di Rienzo railway tunnel as they were detected by Italian guards.

(All times are zone -2)
22 September 1941
2200 hours - Stopped in 14 fathoms of water, 1500 yards from the shore. Landed the Folbot with a party of two which were to lay explosives in the entrance to a railway tunnel on the busy Naples-Messina line.

23 September 1941
0152 hours - The operation had to be abandoned as the raiding party was detected by Italian guards.

0210 hours - The Folbot party returned safely despite being under constant gunfire from the shore.

The operation was thwarted by the arrival of the Italian Militia (Carabiniere Alfonso Cappuziello, Corporal Francesco Scarnati and a railway watchman). The commandos fired three rounds with their pistols and Cappuziello fired back two rounds with his rifle. The commandos fled, abandoning their explosives. The Italian High Command was upset that reaction had not been more energetic and the two soldiers and three of their superior officers were sentenced to several days arrest. (7)

23 Sep 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) again landed a sabotage party party (Lt. R. Wilson, R.A. and Marine W.G. Hughes) near position 39°04.5'N, 16°06'E (Campomara di San Giovanni). They were not successful in destroying a railway bridge over the river Oliva as, yet again, they were detected by Italian guards.

(All times are zone -2)
2145 hours - Stopped in 16 fathoms of water, 1400 yards from the shore. Landed the Folbot with a party of two which were to lay explosives on the railway bridge over the river Oliva.

2245 hours - Saw flashes from gunfire on the shore. Looked like the raiding party was again detected.

2300 hours - The raiding party returned safely. Utmost retired to seaward.

Again the operation was thwarted by two sentries Alfonso Sementa and Enrico Murgano. Apparently the commandos fired two pistol shots hitting Murgano in the right arm but both Italian soldiers returned fire forcing the two commandos to flee, they managed to return to the submarine. The alarm had been given and more Italian soldiers arrived, the area was thoroughly searched and the explosives discovered. (7)

26 Sep 1941
Utmost had been ordered to cover the northern approaches of the Strait of Messina during the passage of the HALBERD convoy. At 1435 hours, three cruisers and eight destroyers proceeding northward were sighted at a distance of 6 miles in 38°18'N, 15°41'E. The submarine closed to 2500 yards and was about to fire four torpedoes at the third cruiser when it nearly collided with a destroyer and the attack was broken off.

These were the heavy cruisers Trento and Gorizia and their destroyer screen who had just sailed from Messina. (7)

2 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) attacked an enemy convoy off Marettimo Island. Only one torpedo was fired instead of the intended three as Utmost was detected by the escorts and the attack had to be broken off.

(All times are zone -2)
0119 hours - In position 37°53'N, 12°05'E sighted a convoy bearing 130°, range about 6 nautical miles, enemy course 330°. Escort a provided by two destroyers but most likely a third was astern. Attack conditions were very difficult. An attack was started and one torpedo was fired. More torpedoes were intended but a green Very light was fired in the direction of Utmost by an unseen destroyer. Utmost had to no other choice then to dive. The torpedo that was fired was heard to explode and is thought to have hit the target. Following this attack 14 depth charges were dropped by the escorts but none were close and no damage was sustained.

According to Italian sources this was the “H” convoy consisting of the transports Caterina (4838 GRT, built 1920), Marin Sanudo (5958 GRT, built 1926) and the tanker Minatitland (7651 GRT, built 1941) escorted by destroyers Alpino, Alfredo Oriani and Strale proceeding from Tripoli to Naples. It was Oriani who sighted the surfaced submarine and rushed to the attack, dropping 22 depth charges. (5)

3 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 14th war patrol (12th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

11 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) was docked at Malta. (10)

15 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) was undocked. (10)

21 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN) conducted exercises off Malta. (10)

23 Oct 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN) departed Malta for 15th war patrol (13th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off Kuriat and also to perform a special operation. Lt. J.D. Martin, RN had taken over command for this patrol from Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) in order to give this last officer a rest and to enable complete recovery from sandfly fever.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(7)

26 Oct 1941
At 0245 hours HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN) completed her special operation in the Gulf of Hammamet. This was probably to land stores for the remnants of the Breuillac resistance network. After sabotaging a couple of Italian ships, one of the saboteurs was captured and talked. Mounier had been forced to flee to Malta but was killed on his return trip when his plane (a captured Heinkel 115) crashed. The folbot sank as it was returning but the crew managed to swim to the submarine. (7)

31 Oct 1941
At 0020 hours, HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN), in position 35°47'N, 11°04'E, fired one torpedo at the grounded Italian merchant Marigola (5996 GRT, built 1906) but missed. (7)

1 Nov 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN) destroys the (already grounded and damaged) Italian merchant Marigola (5996 GRT, built 1906) off Kuriat Island, Tunisia.

(All times are zone -1)
2230 hours - Set course and speed to close the stranded vessel.

2303 hours - Opened fire on this vessel. In all 39 HE and 19 SAP shells were fired from 400 yards. About 50 hits were obtained.

2335 hours - Retired to seaward. The stranded vessel was now definitely a total loss. (7)

3 Nov 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.D. Martin, RN) ended her 15th war patrol (13th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (7)

15 Nov 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Malta for her 16th war patrol (14th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the West coast of Greece. This was later changed to the Southern approaches to the Strait of Messina.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(7)

21 Nov 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) torpedoed and damaged the Italian heavy cruiser Trieste South of the Straits of Messina in position 37°48'N, 15°32'E.

(All times are zone -1)
2300 hours - In position 37°48'N, 15°32'E heard HE. Shortly afterwards sighted three Italian cruisers and three destroyers bearing 275°, range about 5 nautical miles, enemy course 110°, speed 20 knots. Started attack in which four torpedoes were fired at the rear cruiser.

2312 hours - One hit was obtained just abaft the fore funnel. A column of flame rose over 200 feet in the air and the sea was illuminated for considerable distance so dived. Two depth charges were dropped shortly afterwards. Utmost meanwhile retired to the South-East.

2355 hours - A rumbling noise was heard. It was hoped that this was the cruiser sinking. A further 84 depth charges were dropped but by now Utmost was well clear.

According to Italian sources Trieste (III Cruiser Division) was in company with the heavy cruisers Trento and Gorizia and covering the right flank of an important convoy of four transport ships (Napoli, Vettor Pisani, Mantovani and Monginevro) for Tripoli, the light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi and Luigi di Savoia Duca Delgi Abruzzi (VIII Division) were on the left flank. The group was screened by the destroyers Granatiere, Aviere, Ugolino Vivaldi, Geniere, Camicia Nera, Corazziere, Carabiniere, Alpino, Turbine, Emanuelle Pessagno, Antonio Da Noli and the torpedo-boat Perseo.

Trieste was hit in boiler no.3 and had 22 killed and three wounded and temporarily immobilised but at 0038 hours managed to proceed. It was estimated that she had embarked 3000 tons of water. Shortly after the light cruiser Abruzzi was hit by an aircraft torpedo and disabled but both cruisers managed to limp back to Messina while the convoy was ordered to Taranto.

The Trieste was out of action until mid-July 1942. (7)

27 Nov 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 16th war patrol (14th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (7)

9 Dec 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Malta for her 17th war patrol (15th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the Gulf of Taranto.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(7)

12 Dec 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) attacked the fast Italian transports Fabio Filzi (6836 GRT, built 1940) and Carlo del Greco (6837 GRT, built 1941) in the Gulf of Taranto in position 39°47'N, 17°22'E. All four torpedoes fired missed their targets.

(All times are zone -1)
0050 hours - Heard HE bearing 135°.

0110 hours - In position 39°47'N, 17°22'E sighted two destroyers and two merchant vessels bearing 130°, range about 6 nautical miles, enemy course 330°, speed 15 knots. Started attack.

0132 hours - Fired four torpedoes, two at each merchant ship. The nearest target was then at 5000 yards range.

0133 hours - Dived and retired to the South.

0139 hours - Heard one torpedo hit.

0150 hours - Depth charging started. About 40 were dropped throughout the night.

[The convoy was escorted by the Italian destroyers Nicoloso da Recco and Antoniotto Usodimare. Shortly after HMS Upright sent both transports to the bottom of the sea]. (7)

16 Dec 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) attacked a force of Italian warships off the Gulf of Taranto in position 39°33'N, 17°41'E. Four torpedoes were fired from long range but no hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -1)
2210 hours - Heard H.E. bearing 335°.

2220 hours - In position 39°33'N, 17°41'E sighted destroyers and large units bearing 315°, range about 6 nautical miles, enemy course 140°, speed 20 knots. Started attack.

2234 hours - Fired four torpedoes at what appeared to be a cruiser at long range. The torpedoes missed and it is thought that the speed, estimated at 18 knots, may have been to little.

[The force attacked was most likely made up of the Italian heavy cruisers Gorizia and Trento escorted by the Italian destroyers Maestrale, Alfredo Oriani and Vincenzo Gioberti. They were scouting ten miles ahead of the Littorio battle group as the First Battle of Sirte was developing.] (7)

19 Dec 1941
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) ended her 17th war patrol (15th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. This was the last patrol of her 1st commission. She was now sent back to the U.K. to refit. (7)

3 Jan 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Malta for Gibraltar. She was escorted out by the British minesweeper HMS Abingdon (Lt. G.A. Simmers, RNR). Due to the shortage of torpedoes in Malta, she carried only two Mark II torpedoes.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. (5)

12 Jan 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) arrived at Gibraltar. (5)

17 Jan 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Gibraltar for Holy Loch.

As no log is available for this period no map can be displayed. (5)

25 Jan 1942
While on passage from Gibraltar for Holy Loch HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) is ordered to take up a patrol position South-West of Brest, France (in position 47°25'N, 06°30'W). The passage now became her 18th war patrol. (5)

31 Jan 1942
At 2310 hours, in position 47°30'N, 06°33'W, a U-boat was sighted bearing 040°, range 3 nautical miles. Utmost dived but could not regain contact.

This was most likely the German U-boat U-753 on passage to St. Nazaire after her 1st war patrol in the North Atlantic.

2 Feb 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) left her patrol area and resumed her passage to Holy Loch. (5)

3 Feb 1942
At 0800 hours, HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) made rendezvous off Wolfs Rock with her escort to Holy Loch, the British armed yacht HMS Breda (Capt.(Retd.) A. E. Johnston, RN). (5)

5 Feb 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) arrived at Holy Loch. (5)

8 Feb 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) departed Holy Loch for Blyth. She was escorted by HMS Sherwood (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN). (11)

11 Feb 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) arrived at Blyth. (2)

13 Feb 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt.Cdr. R.D. Cayley, DSO, RN) commenced her refit at Blyth. (2)

23 Apr 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) ended her refit at Blyth. (12)

30 Apr 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises off Blyth. (12)

1 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises off Blyth. (13)

3 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN). departed Blyth for passage to Holy Loch. She made the passage together with HMS Thunderbolt (Lt.Cdr. C.B. Crouch, DSO and Bar, RN). They were escorted by HMS Scalby Wyke (Skr. C.A. Grimmer, RNR). Off Dundee they were joined by the Dutch submarine HrMs O 14 (Lt.Cdr. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) that was on passage to Scapa Flow.

The next day HrMs O 14 and HMS Scalby Wyke proceeded to Scapa Flow while HrMs Jan van Gelder (Lt. P.L.M. van Geen, RNN) took over the escort of HMS Utmost and HMS Thunderbolt. (13)

6 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) arrived at Holy Loch to begin a period of trials and training. (13)

11 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. These included a practice attack on HrMs Jan van Gelder (Lt.Cdr. P.L.M. van Geen, RNN). (13)

13 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted noise trials at Loch Goil. These were followed by trials near Fairlie. (13)

14 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (13)

15 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted speed trials on the Arran measured mile. (13)

16 May 1942
HMS P 45 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) and HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with HMS La Flore. (14)

19 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (13)

21 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with HrMs Jan van Gelder (Lt.Cdr. P.L.M. van Geen, RNN). (13)

22 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted gunnery exercises in the Clyde area. These were followed by night exercises with special forces. (13)

23 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area with HMS La Flore. (13)

26 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) conducted exercises in the Clyde area. (13)

27 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) shifted from Holy Loch to Campbeltown. (15)

28 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) participated in A/S exercises off Campbeltown. (13)

29 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) participated in A/S exercises off Campbeltown. (13)

31 May 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) participated in A/S exercises off Campbeltown. (13)

1 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) participated in A/S exercises off Campbeltown. (16)

8 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) departed Holy Loch for passage to Gibraltar. She was to proceed to Malta to rejoin the 10th submarine flotilla. She was escorted to Bishops rock by HMS White Bear (Cdr.(Retd.) C.C. Flemming, RN).

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

(5)

20 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) arrived at Gibraltar. (5)

26 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) was docked at Gibraltar. (16)

28 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) was undocked. (16)

29 Jun 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) carried out exercises off Gibraltar. (16)

3 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) departed Gibraltar for her 19th war patrol (16th in the Mediterranean). This was a work-up patrol in the Alboran Sea.

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

(5)

10 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) ended her 19th war patrol (16th in the Mediterranean) at Gibraltar. Before entering Gibraltar harbour she carried out A/S exercises with HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN). (5)

21 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) carried out exercises off Gibraltar. (17)

24 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) carried out exercises off Gibraltar. (17)

27 Jul 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) carried out exercises off Gibraltar. (17)

1 Aug 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) departed Gibraltar for her 20th war patrol (17th in the Mediterranean). This was a passage from Gibraltar to Malta. She also had to take up a patrol position in the Sicilian narrows during 'Operation Pedestal'.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

10 Aug 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) fires three torpedoes against the Italian merchant Siculo (1480 GRT, built 1906) off Marettimo. All torpedoes missed their target despite the claim for one hit.

(All times are zone -2)
1830 hours - Sighted a merchant vessel of about 6000 tons escorted by a CANT flying boat. Enemy course 250°, speed 14 knots. Started attack.

1921 hours - In position 38°03'N, 11°59'E fired three torpedoes from 4500 yards.

1925 hours - Heard a loud explosion from the direction of the target. HE also ceased.

1929 hours - Heard two more explosions thought to be torpedoes hitting Marettimo Island.

1935 hours - Heard HE again from the direction of the target but now only 70 revs instead of 160 revs.

1939 hours - Heard minor explosions from the direction of the target.

1946 hours - Heard two loud explosions.

1950 hours - No HE could be heard anymore.

2030 hours - Sighted the enemy ship steering 090° towards the South end of Marettimo Island.

According to Italian sources Siculo was on a trip from Naples to Tripoli escorted only by an aircraft which sighted the submarine and dropped a bomb. Siculo took avoiding action and sighted two torpedo tracks. (5)

10 Aug 1942

Convoy WS 21S, Operation Pedestal.

Convoy WS 21S and the concentration of the escort forces

Convoy WS 21S departed the Clyde on 2 August 1942. The convoy was made up of the following ships;
American freighters;
Almeria Lykes (7773 GRT, built 1940), Santa Elisa (8379 GRT, built 1941), British freighters;
Brisbane Star (12791 GRT, built 1937), Clan Ferguson (7347 GRT, built 1938), Deucalion (7516 GRT, built 1930), Dorset (10624 GRT, built 1934), Empire Hope (12688 GRT, built 1941), Glenorchy (8982 GRT, built 1939), Melbourne Star (11076 GRT, built 1936), Port Chalmers (8535 GRT, built 1933), Rochester Castle (7795 GRT, built 1937), Waimarama (12843 GRT, built 1938), Wairangi (12436 GRT, built 1935), and the American tanker;
Ohio (9264 GRT, built 1940).

These ships were escorted by light cruisers HMS Nigeria (Capt. S.H. Paton, RN, flying the flag of the Rear-Admiral 10th C.S., Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN), HMS Kenya (Capt. A.S. Russell, RN) and the destroyers HMS Wishart (Cdr. H.G. Scott, RN), HMS Venomous (Cdr. H.W. Falcon-Stewart, RN), HMS Wolverine (Lt.Cdr. P.W. Gretton, OBE, DSC, RN), HMS Malcolm (A/Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Amazon (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy) Lord Teynham, RN), HMS Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and HMS Zetland (Lt. J.V. Wilkinson, RN).

A cover force made up of departed Scapa Flow on the same day. This force was made up of the battleships HMS Nelson (Capt. H.B. Jacomb, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN) and HMS Rodney (Capt. J.W. Rivett-Carnac, DSC, RN). They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. R.G. Onslow, DSO, RN), HMS Eskimo (Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN), HMS Somali (Cdr. E.N.V. Currey, DSC, RN), HMS Tartar (Cdr. St.J.R.J. Tyrwhitt, DSC, RN), HMS Pathfinder (Cdr. E.A. Gibbs, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Penn (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) and HMS Quentin (Lt.Cdr. A.H.P. Noble, DSC, RN). They were to rendez-vous with convoy WS 21S at sea on 3 August. HMS Penn was delayed by a defect and after topping off with fuel at Moville, Northern Ireland overtook the force and joined at sea.

The aircraft carrier HMS Victorious (Capt. H.C. Bovell, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, RN) and the light cruiser HMS Sirius (Capt. P.W.B. Brooking, RN) meanwhile had already left Scapa Flow on 31 July 1941 to rendez-vous with the convoy. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Intrepid (Cdr. C.A.deW. Kitcat, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Fury (Lt.Cdr. C.H. Campbell, DSC and Bar, RN) and HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN). These ships were joined at sea on 1 August 1942 by the aircraft carrier HMS Argus (Capt. G.T. Philip, RN), loaded with spare fighter aircraft for the operation, and her two escorts the destroyers HMS Buxton (Lt.Cdr. I.J. Tyson, RD, RNR) and HMS Sardonyx (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Gray, RNR). HMS Argus and her two escorting destroyers had departed the Clyde on 31 July. HMS Buxton later split off and proceeded towards Canada and HMS Sardonyx proceeded to Londonderry.

The last ships to take part in the operation to depart the U.K. (Clyde around midnight during the night of 4/5 August) were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (Capt. T.O. Bulteel, RN), loaded with Hurricane fighters for Malta, and her escorts, the light cruiser HMS Manchester (Capt. H. Drew, DSC, RN) and the Polish destroyer ORP Blyscawica (Lt.Cdr. L. Lichodziejewski, ORP). They were joined at sea, around dawn, by HMS Sardonyx coming from Londonderry. The destroyers parted company around midnight during the night of 5/6 August. They arrived at Londonderry on 7 August. HMS Furious and HMS Manchester then joined convoy WS 21S around midnight of the next night but HMS Manchester parted company shortly afterwards to proceed ahead of the convoy and fuel at Gibraltar.

On 1 August 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (Capt. T.H. Troubridge, RN), light cruiser HMS Phoebe (Capt. C.P. Frend, RN) and the destroyers HMS Laforey (Capt. R.M.J. Hutton, RN), HMS Lightning (Cdr. H.G. Walters, DSC, RN) and HMS Lookout (Lt.Cdr. A.G. Forman, DSC, RN) departed Freetown to proceed to a rendez-vous position off the Azores.

On 5 August 1942, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. L.D. Mackintosh, DSC, RN), light cruiser HMS Charybdis (Capt. G.A.W. Voelcker, RN) and the the destroyers HMS Wrestler (Lt. R.W.B. Lacon, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott (Cdr. I.H. Bockett-Pugh, DSO, RN) and HMS Vansittart (Lt.Cdr. T. Johnston, RN) departed Gibraltar also to the rendez-vous position off the Azores.

The convoy conducted maneuvering and AA exercises with the escorts between the Azores and Gibraltar during the period of 6 to 9 August. (Operation Berserk). Also dummy air attacks were carried out by aircraft from the carriers.

Passage of the Straits of Gibraltar and organization of escort forces.

The convoy then passed the Straits of Gibraltar during the night of 9/10 August 1942 in dense fog but despite this the convoy was detected by German and Italian spies and reported.

After passing the Straits of Gibraltar the convoy was organized as follows;
The actual convoy was protected a large force of warships until the whole force would split up before entering the Sicilian narrows after which ‘Force X’ under command of Rear-Admiral Sir H.M. Burrough, CB, DSO, RN was to accompany the convoy to the approaches to Malta where they would be met by the Malta Minesweeping Flotilla, which was then to sweep the convoy into the harbour. Force X was made up of the following ships:
Licht cruisers: HMS Nigeria (flagship), HMS Kenya,, HMS Manchester.
AA cruiser: HMS Cairo (A/Capt. C.C. Hardy, DSO, RN).
Destroyers: HMS Ashanti, HMS Fury, HMS Foresight, HMS Icarus, HMS Intrepid, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Penn.
Escort destroyers: HMS Derwent, HMS Bicester (Lt.Cdr. S.W.F. Bennetts, RN), HMS Bramham (Lt. E.F. Baines, RN), HMS Ledbury (Lt.Cdr. R.P. Hill, RN) and HMS Wilton (Lt. A.P. Northey, RN). Also the rescue tug HMS Jaunty was to be part of this force.

After the escort was to be split up cover was provided by ‘Force Z’ under Vice-Admiral E.N. Syfret, CB, RN. This force was made up of the following ships:
Battleships: HMS Nelson (flagship) and HMS Rodney.
Aircraft carriers: HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable and HMS Eagle.
Light cruisers: HMS Phoebe, HMS Sirius and HMS Charybdis.
Destroyers: HMS Laforey, HMS Lightning, HMS Lookout, HMS Eskimo, HMS Somali, HMS Tartar, HMS Quentin, HMS Ithuriel (Lt.Cdr. D.H. Maitland-Makgill-Crichton, DSC, RN) HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Sinclair), HMS Wishart and HMS Vansittart. Escort destroyer: HMS Zetland. Also attached were the aircraft carrier HMS Furious (for Operation Bellows, the launching of Hurricane fighters for Malta. HMS Furious only carried four Albacore aircraft for A/S searches after the Hurricanes had been launched) and the ‘spare’ destroyers HMS Keppel (Cdr. J.E. Broome, RN), HMS Malcolm, HMS Venomous, HMS Vidette (Lt.Cdr. E.N. Walmsley, DSC, RN), HMS Westcott, HMS Wolverine, HMS Wrestler and HMS Amazon. These ‘spare’ destroyers were to take the place of destroyers in the screen ‘Force Z’ if needed, escort HMS Furious during her return passage to Gibraltar after she had completed Operation Bellows and / or strengthen the escort of ‘Force R’.

Then there was also ‘Force R’, the fuelling force. This force was made up of the following ships:
Corvettes: HMS Jonquil (Lt.Cdr. R.E.H. Partington, RD, RNR), HMS Spiraea (Lt.Cdr. R.S. Miller, DSC, RNR), HMS Geranium (T/Lt. A. Foxall, RNR) and HMS Coltsfoot (T/Lt. the Hon. W.K. Rous, RNVR).
Rescue tug: HMS Salvonia.
RFA tankers: RFA Brown Ranger (3417 GRT, built 1941, Master D.B.C. Ralph) and RFA Dingledale (8145 GRT, built 1941, Master R.T. Duthie).

Before we give an account of the passage of the main convoy we will now first describe the operations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean (Operations MG 3 and MG 4), the launching of the Hurricane fighters for Malta by HMS Furious (Operation Bellows) and the return convoy from Malta (Operation Ascendant) as well as on submarine operations / dispositions.

Diversion in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As part of the plan for Operation Pedestal the Mediterranean Fleet had to carry out a diversion in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. Before we go to the operations in the Western Mediterranean we will first give an account of the events in the Eastern Mediterranean.

It was at this time not possible to sent any supplies from Egypt to Malta as all supplies and forces were much needed for the upcoming land battle at El Alamein it was agreed that ‘a dummy convoy’ would be sent towards Malta with the object of preventing the enemy to direct the full weight of their air and naval power towards the Western Mediterranean.

In the evening of 10 August 1942 a ‘convoy’ (MG 3) of three merchant ships departed Port Said escorted by three cruisers and ten destroyers. Next morning one more merchant ship departed Haifa escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers. The two forces joined that day (the 11th) and then turned back dispersing during the night. The Italian fleet however did not go to sea to attack ‘the bait’.

The forces taking part in this operation were:
From Port Said:
Merchant vessels City of Edinburgh (8036 GRT, built 1938), City of Lincoln (8039 GRT, built 1938) and City of Pretoria (8049 GRT, built 1937) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Arethusa (Capt. A.C. Chapman, RN), HMS Euryalus (Capt. E.W. Bush, DSO, DSC, RN), the AA cruiser HMS Coventry (Capt. R.J.R. Dendy, RN) and the destroyers HMS Jervis (Capt. A.L. Poland, DSO and Bar, DSC, RN), HMS Kelvin (Cdr. M.S. Townsend, OBE, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Paladin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Dulverton(Lt.Cdr. W.N. Petch, OBE, RN), HMS Hurworth (Lt.Cdr. J.T.B. Birch, RN), HMS Eridge (Lt.Cdr. W.F.N. Gregory-Smith, DSC, RN), HMS Hursley (Lt. W.J.P. Church, DSC, RN), HMS Beaufort (Lt.Cdr. S.O’G Roche, RN) and HMS Belvoir (Lt. J.F.D. Bush, DSC and Bar, RN).

From Haifa:
Merchant vessel Ajax (7797 GRT, built 1931) escorted by the light cruisers HMS Cleopatra (Capt. G. Grantham, DSO, RN, flagship of Rear-Admiral P.L. Vian, KBE, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Dido (Capt. H.W.U. McCall, RN), the destroyers HMS Sikh (Capt. St.J. A. Micklethwait, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Zulu (Cdr. R.T. White, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Javelin (Cdr. H.C. Simms, DSO, RN) and the escort destroyers HMS Tetcott (Lt. H.R. Rycroft, RN) and HMS Croome (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN).

After dark on 11 August 1942 the force turned back and the City of Pretoria returned to Port Said escorted by HMS Eridge and HMS Hursley. The City of Edinburgh, escorted by HMS Beaufort and HMS Belvoir proceeded to Haifa. The City of Lincoln escorted by HMS Dulverton and HMS Hurworth proceeded to Beirut and finally the Ajax, escorted by HMS Tetcott and HMS Croome returned to Haifa. HMS Dido had to return to Port Said with hull defects. She was escorted by HMS Pakenham, HMS Paladin and HMS Jervis.

HMS Cleopatra, HMS Arethusa, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Javelin and HMS Kelvin then proceeded to carry out another diversion (Operation MG 4). They bombarded Rhodos harbour and the Alliotti Flour Mills during the night of 12/13 August but did little damage. On the way back HMS Javelin attacked a submarine contact in position 34°45’N, 31°04’E between 0654 and 0804 hours. She reported that there was no doubt that the submarine was sunk but no Axis submarines were operating in this area so the attack must have been bogus. This force returned to Haifa at 1900/13.

Operation Bellows.

During operation Bellows, the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, started 37 Spitfire which were to proceed to Malta, when south of the Balearic Islands. The Admiralty had decided to carry out this operation at the same time as Operation Pedestal.

HMS Furious remained with the convoy until 1200/11. She then launched the Spitfires for Malta in 5 batches between 1230 and 1515 hours. During these flying off operations she acted independently with the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Lightning. After having launched the last batch of Spitfires she briefly re-joined to convoy until around 1700 hours when she split off and set course for Gibraltar escorted by the destroyers HMS Malcolm, HMS Wolverine and HMS Wrestler. These were joined shortly afterwards by HMS Keppel and HMS Venomous.

Around 0100/12, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur which was trying to attack HMS Furious. Around 0200 hours, HMS Wolverine reported that she was stopped due to the damage she had sustained in the ramming. HMS Malcolm was detached to assist her.

At 1530/12, the destroyer HMS Vidette joined the screen. The force then entered Gibraltar Bay around 1930/12. The damaged HMS Wolverine arrived at Gibraltar at 1230/13 followed by HMS Malcolm around 1530/13.

Operation Ascendant

On 10 August 1942 the empty transports Troilus (7648 GRT, built 1921) and Orari (10107 GRT, built 1931) departed Malta after dark for Gibraltar. They were escorted by the destroyer HMS Matchless (Lt.Cdr. J. Mowlam, RN) and the escort destroyer HMS Badsworth (Lt. G.T.S. Gray, DSC, RN). They first proceeded to the south of Lampedusa, then hugged the Tunisian coast as far as Galita Island. Near Cape Bon they encountered the Italian destroyer Lanzerotto Malocello that was laying a minefield. They had a brief gunfight but this was soon ended as both sides were thinking the enemy was Vichy-French. The remained of the passage to Gibraltar was uneventful and the convoy arrived at Gibraltar shortly before noon on 14 August 1942.

Submarine operations / dispositions.
Eight submarines took part in the operation; these were HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN), HMS P 31 (Lt. J.B.de B. Kershaw, DSO, RN), HMS P 34 (Lt. P.R.H. Harrison, DSC, RN), HMS P 42 (Lt. A.C.G. Mars, RN), HMS P 44 (Lt. T.E. Barlow, RN), HMS P 46 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN), HMS P 211 (Cdr. B. Bryant, DSC, RN), HMS P 222 (Lt.Cdr. A.J. MacKenzie, RN). Two of these were to carry out normal dived patrol to the north of Sicily, one off Palermo, the other off Milazzo which is futher to the east. The other six submarines were given alternative patrol lines south of Pantelleria, one od which they were to take up at dawn on 13 August 1942, according to the movements of enemy surface ships that might threathen the convoy from the westward. When the convoy had passed the patrol line, which it should have done by that time, the submarines were to proceed on the surface parallel to the convoy as a screen and to dive away clear of the convoy at noon. It was expressly intended that they should be seen on the surface and reported by enemy aircraft in order to deter enemy warships from attacking the convoy.

Enemy warships did go to sea but as soon as it was clear that the enemy ships could not reach the convoy the sunmarines were ordered to dive and retire. These six sumarines had no contact with the enemy. One of the the two submarines off the north coast of Sicily, HMS P 42, managed to torpedo two Italian cruisers near Stromboli on the morning of 13 August 1942.

Now we return to the main convoy to Malta.

Passage eastwards after passing the Straits of Gibraltar.

10 and 11 August 1942.

After passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the early hours of 10 August 1942, in dense fog, the convoy was first sighted by an Italian passenger aircraft, which sighted the convoy in the afternoon of the same day. German reconnaissance aircraft started shadowing the convoy from dawn on the 11th, and thereafter they or Italian aircraft kept the convoy under continuous observation, despite the effort of the fighters from the carriers to shoot them down or drive them off. At 1315 hours, HMS Eagle, was hit an sunk by torpedoes from the German submarine U-73 which had penetrated the destroyer screen. At that moment there were thirteen destroyers in the screen, the remainder was away from the main convoy, escorting HMS Furious during the flying off operations of the Hurricane fighters for Malta or oiling from and screening ‘Force R’ which was several miles away. Between 1430/10 and and 2030/11 no less then three cruisers and twenty-four destroyers fuelled from the two oilers of ‘Force R’.

At the time of the torpedoing of HMS Eagle the convoy was in four columns, zigzagging at 13 knots, with the heavy ships stationed close round it and a destroyer screen ahead. HMS Eagle was on the starboard quarter of the convoy. She was hit on her starboard side by four torpedoes which had dived through the destroyer screen and the convoy columns undetected and then torpedoed and sank the Eagle in position 38°05’N, 03°02’E (Another source gives 03°12’E but this might be a typo). The carrier sank quickly in about 8 minutes, 926 of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the destroyers HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout and the rescue tug HMS Jaunty. At the time of her sinking, HMS Eagle had four aircraft on patrol. These landed on the other carriers. All other aircraft were lost with the ship. The survivors picked up were later transferred to the destroyers HMS Keppel, HMS Malcolm and HMS Venomous that were to escort HMS Furious back to Gibraltar. The tug HMS Jaunty that had been involved in picking up survivors was never able to rejoin the convoy due to her slow speed.

Late in the afternoon air attacks were expected so Vice-Admiral Syfret ordered the destroyer to form an all-round screen. Indeed the air attacks started around sunset, 2045 hours. The last destroyers had just returned from oiling from ‘Force R’. The enemy aircraft that were attacking were 36 German bombers and torpedo aircraft, Ju 88’s and He 111’s, most of which attacked the convoy but a few attacked ‘Force R’ to the southward. The Junkers arrived first, diving down from 8000 feet to 2000 / 3000 feet to drop their bombs. They claimed to have hit an aircraft carrier and one of the merchant ships. Then the Heinkels attacked, they claimed to have torpedoed a cruiser but during the attacks no ship was hit. The British fighter cover was unable to attack / find the enemy in the failing light. Four enemy aircraft were claimed shot down by the ships AA fire but it appears only two JU 88’s were in fact shot down.

12 August 1942

At 0915/12 another wave of German aircraft attacked the convoy. Some twenty or more JU 88’s approached the convoy out of the sun ahead. They were intercepted by fighters about 25 miles from the convoy. About a dozen got through to the convoy, making high-level or shallow dive-bombing attacks individually but without any result. Eight German aircraft were claimed to be shot down by the fighters and two more by AA guns from the ships. The fighters meanwhile were also busy dealng with shadowers, three of which are claimed to have been shot down before the morning attack. Around this time destroyers were also busy with numerous submarine contact which were attacked by depth charges.

Around noon the enemy launched heavy air attacks from the Sardinian airfields. Seventy aircraft approached which were heavily escorted by fighters. They attacked in stages and employed new methods.

First ten Italian torpedo-bombers were each to drop some sort of circling torpedo or mine a few hundred yards ahead of the British force, while eight fighter bombers made dive-bombing and machine-gun attacks. The object at this stage was clearly to dislocate the formation of the force and to draw anti-aircraft fire, making the ships more vulnerable to a torpedo attack which soon followed with over forty aircraft. They attacked in two groups, one on either bow of the convoy. The next stage was a shallow dive-bombing attack by German aircraft, after which two Italian Reggiane 2001 fighters, each with a single heavy armour-piercing bomb were to dive bomb on one of the aircraft carriers, whilst yet another new form of attack was to be employed against the other carrier, but defects in the weapon prevented this attack from taking place.

The enemy attack went according to plan besides that the torpedo attack was only made half an our after the ‘mines’ were dropped instead of five minutes. British fighters met the minelaying aircraft, they shot down one of them as they approached. The remaining nine aircraft dropped their ‘mines’ at 1215 hours in the path of the force, which turned to avoid the danger. The mines were heard to explode several minutes later. Only three of the fighter-bombers of this stage of the attack appear to have reached as far the screen, but HMS Lightning had a narrow escape from their bombs.

The torpedo-aircraft appeared at 1245 hours. Their number were brought down a bit due to British fighters. The remaining aircraft, estimated at 25 to 30 machines, attacked from the port bow, port beam and starboard quarter. They dropped their torpedoes well outside the screen some 8000 yards from the merchant ships which they had been ordered to attack. The force turned 45° to port and then back to starboard to avoid the attack.

In the next stage, around 1318 hours, the German bombing attack, the enemy scored their one success. These aircraft were also intercepted on their way in but about a dozen of about twenty aircraft came through. They crossed the convoy from starboard to port and then dived to 3000 feet. They managed to damage the transport Deucalion which was leading the port wing column. More bombs fell close to several other ships.

Finally, at 1345 hours, the two Reggiane fighters approached HMS Victorious as if to land on. They looked like Hurricanes and HMS Victorious was at that time engaged in landing her own fighters. They managed to drop their bombs and one hit the flight deck amidships. Fortunately the bomb broke up without exploding. By the time HMS Victorious could open fire both fighters were out of range.

The Deucalion could no longer keep up with the convoy and was ordered to follow the inshore route along the Tunisian coast escorted by HMS Bramham. Two bombers found these ships late in the afternoon, but their bombs missed. At 1940 hours, however, near the Cani Rocks, two torpedo aircraft attacked and a torpedo hit the Deucalion. She caught fire and eventually blew up.

The convoy passed some 20 miles north of Galita Island and spent the afternoon avoiding enemy submarines which were known to be concentrated in these waters. There were innumerable reports of sightings and Asdic contacts and at least two submarines proved dangerous. At 1616 hours, HMS Pathfinder and HMS Zetland attacked one on the port bow of the convoy and hunted her until the convoy was out of reach. HMS Ithuriel, stationed on the quarter, then attacked, forced the enemy to surface and finally rammed her. She proved to be the Italian submarine Cobalto. Meanwhile HMS Tartar, on the starboard quarter, saw six torpedoes fired at close range at 1640 hours, and the next destroyer in the screen, HMS Lookout sighted a periscope. Together they attacked the submarine, continuing until it was no longer dangerous. There was no evidence this submarine was sunk.

At 1750 hours, HMS Ithuriel, which was on her way back to the convoy after sinking the Italian submarine Cobalto was attacked by a few dive-bombers, when still a dozen miles astern of the convoy. At this time the convoy came under attack by aircraft stationed on Sicily. This force numbered nearly 100 aircraft. Ju.87 dive-bombers as well as Ju.88’s and SM-79’s all with a strong escort of fighters. The enemy started attacking at 1835 hours, the bombers attacking from both ahead and astern which last was the direction of the sun. The torpedo aircraft came from ahead to attack on the starboard bow and beam of the convoy.

The Italian SM-79’s torpedo bombers dropped their torpedoes from ranges of about 3000 yards outside the destroyer screen, and once again the convoy turned away to avoid them. However the destroyer HMS Foresight was hit by a torpedo and disabled. The bombers chose HMS Indomitable as their main target. She was astern of HMS Rodney at the time on the port quarter of the convoy. Four Ju.88’s and eight Ju.87’s came suddenly out of the sun and dived steeply towards HMS Indomitable from astern. Some of the Ju.87 came down to 1000 feet and the carrier received three hits and her flight deck was put out of action. Her airborne fighters eventually had to land on HMS Victorious. HMS Rodney meanwhile had a narrow escape when a bomber attacked from ahead. One enemy aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by AA fire from the ships while the fighters claimed nine more although there were about twice as much enemy fighters in the air then British.

HMS Tartar took the damaged HMS Foresight in tow and proceeded westward for Gibraltar. Next day, as they were shadowed by enemy aircraft, and enemy submarines were known to be in the area, it was decided to scuttle the cripple before both ships might be lost. HMS Tartar then torpedoed HMS Foresight a few miles from Galita Island.

Passage through the narrows, 12-13 August 1942, and the loss off HMS Manchester.

These last air attacks took place about 20 nautical miles west of the Skerki Channel and at 1900 hours, when the attacks were clearly over, Vice-Admiral Syfret turned away with ‘Force Z’. It was now up to Rear-Admiral Burrough with ‘Force X’ to take the convoy to Malta.

At 2000 hours, when the convoy was changing it’s formation from four to two columns, the convoy was attacked by Italian submarines. The submarine Dessie attacked a freighter with four torpedoes and claimed three hits. The sound of the torpedo hits was however not caused by her attack but by an attack by the Axum which hit three ships, HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and the tanker Ohio.

HMS Nigeria had to turn back to make for Gibraltar escorted by the escort destroyers HMS Derwent, HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester. Rear-Admiral Burrough transferred his flag to the destroyer HMS Ashanti. The stern of HMS Cairo had been blown off and she had to be sunk as she was beyond salvage with both engines also out of action. She was scuttled by HMS Pathfinder. The Ohio meanwhile managed to struggle on.

At this time the convoy was still trying to form up the the submarine attacks messed things up and right at thus time the convoy was once more attacked from the air in the growing dusk at 2030 hours. About 20 German aircraft, Ju-88’s made dive bombing and torpedo attacks, hitting the Empire Hope with a bomb and the Clan Ferguson and Brisbane Star with torpedoes. The first of these ships had to be sunk (by HMS Bramham, the second blew up but the last eventually reached Malta. Soon after this attack, at 2111 hours, HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Alagi. She was able to evade three of the four torpedoes but was hit in the bow by the fouth. She was however able to remain with the convoy.

The situation was then as follows. HMS Kenya and HMS Manchester with two merchant ships, and with the minesweeping destroyers HMS Intrepid, HMS Icarus and HMS Fury sweeping ahead, had passed the Skerki Channel and were steering to pass Zembra Island on the way to Cape Bon. HMS Ashanti, with Rear-Admiral Burrough on board was fast overhauling these ships. The other two destroyers HMS Pathfinder, HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury, were rounding up the remaining nine merchant ships. The escort destroyer HMS Bramham was also catching up after having escorted the single Deucalion until she sank.

On learing about the fate of HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo, Vice-Admiral Syfret detached HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Rear-Admiral Burrough. It would take these ships several hourse to catch up with the convoy.

The main body of the convoy passed Cape Bon around midnight. Fourty minutes later enemy Motor Torpedo Boats appeared and started to attack. Their first victim was HMS Manchester which was torpedoed at 0120/13 by the Italian MS 16 or MS 22. She had to be scuttled by her own crew. Many of her ships company landed in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy-French but about 300 were picked up by destroyers (first by HMS Pathfinder, and later by HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. These last two destoyers then set off towards Gibraltar.)

Four and possibly five of the merchant ships were also hit by the Motor Torpedo Boats. These were the Wairangi, Rochester Castle, Almeria Lykes, Santa Elisa and probably the Glenorchy. They were attacked between 0315 and 0430 hours about 15 nautical miles south-east of Kelibia whilst taking a short cut to overhaul the main body of the convoy. Four were lost, only the Rochester Castle survived and she managed to catch up with the main body of the convoy at 0530 hours. The Glenorchy was sunk by the Italian MS 31, the other four, of which the Rochester Castle survived as mentioned earlier, were hit by the German S 30 and S 36 as well as the Italian MAS 554 and MAS 557.

Shortly before 0530 hours HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali had joined the main body of the convoy making the force now two cruisers and seven destroyers with the transports Rochester Castle, Waimarama and Melbourne Star. The damaged tanker Ohio was slowly catching up. With her was the escort destroyer HMS Ledbury. Astern of the main body was the Port Chalmers escorted by the destroyer HMS Penn and the escort destroyer HMS Bramham. The destroyers recued the crew of the Santa Elisa when the passed by the abandoned ship which was afterwards finished off by a German bomber. The Dorset was proceeding without escort and lastly the damaged Brisbane Star was still keeping close to the Tunisian coast independently, intending to steer towards Malta after nightfall.

At 0730 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, sent back HMS Tartar and HMS Somali to Kelibia to assist HMS Manchester and then go to Gibraltar. When they arrived they found out that the Manchester had been scuttled several hours earlier so they rescued those of her crew that had not reached the shore yet and then made off to Gibraltar as ordered. Besides crew of the Manchester they also picked up survivors from the Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.

The next encounter with the enemy was an air attack on the main body of the convoy at 0800 hours by German bombers. About 12 Ju.88’s made a shallow diving attack coming down from 6000 feet to 2000 feet to drop their bombs. Two dived on the Waimarama hitting her several times and she blew up immediately, one of the bombers was even destroyed in the explosion. HMS Ledbury saved some of her crew out of the blazing sea. At 0925 hours, when the Ohio, Port Chalmers and Dorset where with the main body again, a few Ju.87’s escorted by Italian fighters attacked. They dived down to 1500 to 1000 feet. HMS Kenya leading the port column, and the Ohio last ship but one in the starboard column, had narrow escapes. One of the enemy aircraft crashed on board the Ohio just after having released it’s bomb after being damaged by gunfire from the Ohio and HMS Ashanti. Another aircraft was claimed to have been shot down by fighters from Malta that had been patrolling overhead since daybreak.

Arrivals at Malta 13-15 August 1942.

At 1050 hours, about 20 bombers, mostly Ju.88’s with a few Ju.87’s, came in to attack. Target was the Ohio and she received four or five near misses and her engines were disabled. At the same time the Rochester Castle in the port column was near-missed and set on fire but she continued with the convoy. The Dorset which was astern of her was hit and stopped. The convoy went on leaving the Dorset behind with the Ohio and two destroyers.

At 1125 hours the last air attack on the main body took place. Five Italian SM.79’s attacked with torpedoes and almost hit the Port Chalmers as the torpedo got stuck in the paravane. Further attacks on the main body were held of by fighters from Malta. At 1430 hours, four minesweepers from Malta joined the main body of the convoy, these were HMS Speedy (Lt.Cdr. A.E. Doran, RN, with the group’s commander A/Cdr. H.J.A.S. Jerome, RN on board), HMS Hebe, HMS Rye and HMS Heyte. Also with them were seven Motor Launches; ML 121, ML 126, ML 134, ML 135, ML 168, ML 459 and ML 462. HMS Rye and two of the ML’s were sent towards the damaged Ohio which was ‘vital for Malta’, according to A/Cdr. Jerome.

At 1600 hours, Rear-Admiral Burrough, set course to the west with his two cruisers and with five destroyers. The Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle arrived in Grand Harbour around 1800 hours with the force of A/Cdr. Jerome. The Rochester Castle was by that time very low in the water, she had just made it into port on time.

Out were still the Ohio, Dorset and the Brisbane Star. The valuable Ohio had been helpless with HMS Penn and HMS Bramham. When HMS Rye arrived at 1730 hours, HMS Penn took the Ohio in tow. Meanwhile HMS Bramham was sent to the Dorset but soon afterwards German bombers came again and the ships were attacked repeatedly until dark. Both merchantman were hit around 1900 hours and the Dorset sank.

At daylight on the 14th HMS Ledbury arrived to help bringing the Ohio to Malta. HMS Speedy also soon arrived on the scene with two ML’s. The rest of his force he had sent to search for the Brisbane Star. At 1045 hours, enemy aircraft made their last attempt, causing the parting of the tow. Fighter from Malta shot down two of the attackers. The tow was passed again and the slow procession went on and in the morning of the 15th the vital tanker finally reached Malta.

The Brisbane Star had by then also arrived. She left the Tunisian coast at dusk on the 13th. Aircraft had attacked her unsuccessfully and one of the attackers was shot down by a Beaufighter escort that had been sent from Malta. She arrived at Malta in the afternoon of the 14th.

Italian surface ships to operate against the convoy ?

The convoy had experienced the violence of the enemy in every shape except that of an attack by large surface ships. Yet Italian cruisers and destroyers had been at sea to intercept and attack it. Two light cruiser had left Cagliari in the evening of 11 August 1942 and the heavy cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano from Messina, and a light cruiser from Naples had sailed on the morning of the 12th. That evening reconnaissance aircraft reported one heavy and two light cruisers with eight destroyers about 80 nautical miles to the north of the western tip of Sicily and steering south. It would have been possible for this force to meet the convoy at dawn on the 13th so the shadowing aircraft was therefore ordered in plain language to illuminate and attack. This apparently influenced the Italians as they had limited air cover and they turned back at 0130/13 when near Cape San Vito. At 0140 hours the aircraft reported that it had dropped its bombs but no hits had been obtained. Similar orders were signalled, in plain language, to relief shadowers and to report the position of the enemy force to the benefit of imaginary Liberator bombers in case the Italians would change their minds and turn back. They however held on to the eastward.

The submarine HMS P 42 sighted them around 0800/13 off Stromboli and attacked with four torpedoes claiming two hits. She had in fact hit the heavy cruiser Bolzano which was able to proceed northwards and the light cruiser Muzio Attendolo which managed to reach Messina with her bows blown off. The other cruisers went to Naples. Following the attack P 42 was heavily depth charged by the destroyers but managed to escape.

In fact the following Italian ships had been at sea; heavy cruisers Gorizia, Trieste, Bolzano, light cruisers Eugenio di Savoia Raimondo Montecuccoli, Muzio Attendolo. They were escorted by eleven destroyers; Ascari, Aviere, Camicia Nera, Corsaro, Fuceliere, Geniere, Legionaro, Vincenzo Gioberti, Alfredo Oriani, Grecale and Maestrale.

The return to Gibraltar.

The British ships returning to Gibraltar had better fortune. Having left the convoy off Malta in the afternoon of the 13th, they rounded Cape Bon around 0130/14 and from that point until past Zembra Island they successful ran the gauntled of E-boats laying in wait.

at 0450/14, near the Fratelli Rocks, a submarine fired torpedoes at HMS Ashanti from the surface. She was nearly rammed by HMS Kenya, which was next astern of the ‘flagship’ (Rear-Admiral Burrough was still in HMS Ashanti). The inevitable shadowers arrived soon after daylight to herald their air attacks that began at 0730 hours. They lasted until around 1315 hours. German bombers came in first with three attemps by a few Ju.88’s. This was followed by a more severe attack with about 30 bombers, Ju-88’s and Ju-87’s between 1030 and 1050 hours. An hour later 15 Savoia high-level bombers attacked followed until 1315 hours by torpedo-carrying Savoia’s. Around 20 aircraft attacking single or in pairs. Also aircraft are though to be laying mines ahead. Several ships were near missed, but no further damage was sustained. After these attacks the British were left alone and in the evening they joined ‘Force Z’.

Vice-Admiral Syfret had gone as far west as 01’E where he ordered the damaged carrier HMS Indomitable to proceed to Malta with HMS Rodney and a destroyer screen (which). He then turned back to the east to make rendez-vous with Rear-Admiral Burrough. They arrived at Gibraltar on the 15th.

A few hours before they arrived the damaged HMS Nigeria and her escort had also entered port, as had HMS Tartar, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali. On her way back HMS Nigeria had been attacked by torpedo-bombers and a submarine but she had not been hit.

Conclusion.

Out of the fourteen ships that had sailed only five arrived ‘safe’ at Malta. This was not a very high score also given the very heavy escort that had been provided also taken in mind that an aircraft carrier, a light cruiser, an AA cruiser an a destroyer had been lost and two heavy cruiser had been damaged. But the convoy had to meet very heavy air attacks by over 150 bombers and 80 torpedo aircraft, all in the space of two days. Also these aircraft were protected by fighter in much greater strength that the carriers and Malta could provide. And there were also the enemy submarines and E-boats.

The spirit in which to operation was carried out appears in Vice-Admiral Syfret’s report: ‘ Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s Ships, both the officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all attacks, answering every maneuvering order like a well trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight. Many of these fine men and their ships were lost. But the memory of their conduct will remain an inspiration to all who were privileged to sail with them. ‘ (18)

15 Aug 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) ended her 20th war patrol (17th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

25 Aug 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) departed Malta for her 21th war patrol (18th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off the West coast of Greece.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

2 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) attacked the Italian merchant Nerucci (1180 GRT, built 1892) with three torpedoes West of Levkas Island, Greece. No hits were obtained as the torpedoes were seen from the air and could be evaded.

(All times are zone -2)
1220 hours - When in position 38°36'N, 20°30'E sighted an aircraft circling over the tops of two masts bearing 015°. Range was about 7 nautical miles.

1230 hours - Identified the targets as a 3000 tons ship escorted by one small Armed Merchant Cruiser with an aircraft overhead. They were proceeding southwards along the coast of Levkas Island. Started attack.

1256 hours - In position 38°36'N, 20°31'E fired three torpedoes from 2000 yards. Went deep upon firing. No explosions followed this attack.

1304 to 1320 hours - 20 Depth charges were dropped. None were close.

1401 hours - Returned to periscope depth. Nothing in sight.

According to Italian sources Nerucci was on passage from Preveza to Patras and Tobruk. Initially, she had sailed in convoy with Monstella (5311 GRT, built 1918) and Costante C (869 GRT, built 1901). escorted by the auxiliary Brioni, however Monstella had been torpedoed by HMS Rorqual and the convoy was diverted to Preveza. However Nerucci ran aground near Mytikae and a tug was sent to free her and she reached Preveza during the night of 31 August/1 September. She sailed from Preveza on the morning of 2 September but her escort has not yet been identified (Brioni had returned to Brindisi and Costante C. had gone ahead to Patras). The escorting aircraft dropped two bombs but could no ascertain the result. (5)

7 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) ended her 21th war patrol (18th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

11 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) was docked at Malta. (19)

14 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. A.W. Langridge, RN) was undocked. (19)

17 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) departed Malta for her 22th war patrol (19th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea.

When HMS Talisman did not report to be clear of the minefields in the Sicilian Channel on the 18th Utmost was ordered to patrol off Empedocle, Sicily, Italy to find out if there was any E-boat activity originating from that port. Air reconnaissance had shown that five German E-boats were there on the 14th. They were probably fitted for minelaying and were laying new minefields along the routes used by allied submarines.

On the 22th Utmost was ordered to proceed to the Gulf of Hammamet.

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

(5)

25 Sep 1942
At 2010 hours (zone -2) HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) carried out a bombardment of Linosa Island. In 10 minutes 20 rounds (and 3 starshell) were fired. 17 Rounds had hit the target.

Italian sources indicate that an observation post on Monte Vulcano was the target but suffered no damage. Coombe came under criticism from Captain G.W.G. 'Shrimp' Simpson (Capt. S.10) as shelling a village 'seems to be carrying total war too far'. (5)

26 Sep 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) ended her 22th war patrol (19th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

3 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) departed Malta for her 23th war patrol (20th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol in the Tyrrhenian Sea. She was also to perform a special operation.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

9 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) carried out special operation 'Blackbird'. Two Italian agents were to be landed near Napoli. It appeared the agents were detected by the enemy during the landing.

(All times are zone -1)
0030 hours - Surfaced near the selected landing spot (near Lido di Licola). Closed the shore.

0105 hours - The Folbot with the recovery line attached left the ship.

0145 hours - As no arranged 'signal' had been received, three strong pulls on the recovery line, the Folbot was recovered. When it arrived alongside both agents were still in it!!!. On being questioned why they had not landed they stated that it was too far for them. This seemed a very poor excuse and it looked like the agents preferred to abandon the operation. Lt. Coombe ordered them back towards the shore which they did at 0225 hours.

0321 hours - The recovery line was still running out (after being stopped several times). By now Lt. Coombe had to cut the line in order to retire to seaward to get clear of the land when dawn broke.

0405 hours - While still proceeding to seaward, flares and rockets were fired on the shore. It appeared the landing party was detected.

0416 hours - Utmost now dived and proceeded further to seaward to get in deeper water.

0425 hours - Utmost was now bottomed. The battery was now very low. They had to wait in this position for a day and proceeded to seaward to charge the next night.

The two agents are believed to have been caught and executed. (5)

11 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) attacked but missed a small merchant vessel with two torpedoes about 25 nautical miles South-West of Civitavecchia, Italy.

(All times are zone -1)
2000 hours - In position 41°54'N, 11°21'E sighted a small ship. She was quite fast, 15 knots. Fired two torpedoes from 3000 yards which missed. It was thought this was the mail streamer from Sardinia to Civitavecchia.
(5)

13 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) torpedoed and sank the the Italian tanker Nautilus (2070 GRT, built 1921) [she is sometime referred in error as the German Languste] off Cape Figari, Sardinia, Italy in position 41°03'N, 09°43'E.

(All times are zone -1)
1305 hours - In position 41°03'N, 09°43'E sighted the masts and funnel of a small steamer bearing 310°. She was rounding Cape Ferro and when clear she proceeded on a course of 142°. Started attack.

1318 hours - Sighted masts and funnel of a tanker rounding Cape Ferro. She was following one mile astern of the first ship. Immediately shifted target to this vessel.

1349 hours - Fired four torpedoes from 2000 yards and went deep upon firing the last torpedo. The third torpedo had a gyro failure and passed twice overhead shortly after it had been fired, a lucky escape for Utmost.

1351 hours - Heard a large explosion thought to be the second torpedo hitting the target. HE of the target stopped and was not heard again.

1356 hours - Returned to periscope depth but immediately heard fast HE approaching so went deep again and took avoiding action. A counter attack now followed in which 19 depth charges were dropped. Some were quite close but no damage was done.

1515 hours - Returned to periscope depth. No sign of the tanker. The ship that was sighted first was still in sight and was most likely the escort for the tanker. An aircraft was also patrolling the area. Went deep again.

According to Italian sources she had been on passage from La Maddalena to Olbia escorted by the auxiliary Ipparco Baccich. The minesweeper S. Vincenzo picked up 29 survivors including two wounded, three were missing. (5)

17 Oct 1942
While on the return passage to Malta, HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) was ordered to take up a patrol position between Pantelleria and Lampedusa to intercept an enemy convoy to Tripoli, Libya. (5)

19 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) attacked an enemy convoy between Pantelleria and Lampedusa. Two torpedoes were fired but no hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -1)
0840 hours - In position 36°03'N, 11°56'E sighted two aircraft and the masts of four ships bearing 350°.

0850 hours - Identified the ships as three medium seized merchant ships in two columns escorted by seven destroyers disposed on each bow, beam, quarter and one right astern. Started attack to attack the leading merchant vessel of the Port column.

0932 hours - Sighted a tanker, the rear ship of the Starboard column. Shifted target to this ship.

1003 hours - Fired the last two torpedoes aboard at this tanker. Range was 6000 yards. No hits were obtained. No counter attack followed. Utmost later surfaced to make an enemy report.

[The convoy was made up of the Italian tanker Saturno (5029 GRT, built 1914) and the Italian merchants Beppe (4859 GRT, built 1912), Capo Orso (3149 GRT, built 1916), Titania (5397 GRT, built 1918). They were escorted by the Italian destroyers Antonio da Noli, Giovanni da Verazzano, Antonio Pigafetta, Ascari, Vincenzo Gioberti and Alfredo Oriani as well as the Italian torpedo boat Sagittario. The torpedo boats Nicola Fabrizi and Centauro had already left the convoy when Utmost attacked.] (5)

21 Oct 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) ended her 23th war patrol (20th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

3 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) departed Malta for her 24th war patrol (21th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol off 'the toe of Italy'.

For the daily and attack positions of Utmost during this patrol see the map below.

(5)

7 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) attacked the Italian submarine Otaria with four torpedoes near Capo dell Armi. No hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -1)
1215 hours - In position 37°52'N, 15°47'E sighted a submarine bearing 300°, range 5000 yards, coming round Capo del Armi.

1220 hours - The submarine steadied on a course of 135°. Started attack.

1226 hours - Identified the target as an Italian Liuzzi-class boat.

1241 hours - Fired four torpedoes from 400 yards. No hits were obtained. The torpedoes are thought to have run under due to the short range.

1243 hours - The submarine made of at high speed.

According to Italian sources Otaria (C.C. Giuseppe Caito) was proceeding from Naples to Taranto. One torpedo was observed and avoiding action taken immediately, it passed astern or just under her stern. Four explosion were heard which were probably torpedoes at the end of their run. (5)

10 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) attacked an enemy cruiser force with four torpedoes about 15 nautical miles East of Augusta, Sicily, Italy. No hits were obtained.

(All times are zone -1)

0611 hours - Sighted three cruisers and three destroyers. The rear cruiser was nearest to Utmost so this one was selected as the target.

0637 hours - In position 37°16'N, 15°31'E fired four torpedoes at the rear cruiser from 7000 yards. Went deep upon firing.

0646 hours - Heard a heavy explosion thought to be a torpedo hit. One minute later another explosion was heard.

The enemy force was made up of the light cruisers Giuseppe Garibaldi, Luigi di Savoia Duca Delgi Abruzzi and Duca d'Aosta. They were escorted by the destroyers Alpino, Bersagliere, Camicia Nera and Granatiere. This force was on the way from Navarino, Greece to Augusta, Sicily, Italy. (5)

12 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) ended her 24th war patrol (21th in the Mediterranean) at Malta. (5)

17 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) departed Malta for her 25th war patrol (22th in the Mediterranean). She was ordered to patrol between Tunisia and Sicily. (2)

23 Nov 1942
HMS Utmost (Lt. J.W.D. Coombe, RN) attacked the Italian auxiliary minelayer Barletta (1975 GRT) with torpedoes with torpedoes 3 miles north of Cape Blanc (Bizerta). No hits were obtained.

Barletta was on passage from Palermo to Bizerta escorted by the torpedo boat Groppo (C.C. Beniamine Farina). At 1215 hours, the minelayer observed three torpedo tracks, took evading action and dropped three depth charges. Groppo who was ahead and equipped with sonar did not observe or hear anything. Barletta went on to Bizerta while the torpedo boat turned back to search for the submarine. Groppo observed only dead fishes which marked the position of Barletta’s depth charges but did not obtain a contact.

Utmost had withdrawn from the area and reported in her last signal timed 1231A/23 that she had made a successful attack. Perhaps the depth charges from Barletta had been mistaken for hits. She was in approximately 37°40'N, 11°03'E at 2200A and was expected in Malta on 25 November. Italian radio finding had detected the signal and estimated it to be from a position about 010° - 35 miles from Bizerta or approximately 37°50'N, 10°00'E. She was never heard again and disappeared with all hands.

On 25 November, Groppo sailed again from Palermo for Bizerta, escorting with the torpedo boat Sirio (s.o.) a convoy consisting of the transports XXI Aprile, Etruria and Carlo Zeno and the motorized lighters MZ.705 and MZ.756.

The same day at 1155 hours, an escorting aircraft dropped a bomb on the port side at a distance of 4000 metres and signalled a submarine. As the convoy turned to starboard, Groppo was detached to hunt. At 1210 hours an echo was obtained and four minutes later depth charges were dropped (the number is not given in the report, position 38°31.5'N, 12°01'E). The submarine was believed hit and the torpedo boat returned for a second run and claimed it sunk. After lingering in the scene for about an hour, Groppo left to rejoin the convoy.

At 1353 hours, the escorting Cant Z 506 dropped a bomb and signalled a submarine (38°32'N, 11°43'E). Again Groppo left the convoy to search the submarine. Seven minutes later the aircraft dropped a second bomb. At 1413.5 hours, Groppo sighted what appeared to be a torpedo track and at 1525 hours obtained an echo, she dropped 15 depth charges and lost the contact. However the result appeared inconclusive and Sirio ordered her to rejoin the convoy.

Although it has been sometime suggested that Groppo may have accounted for Utmost, there is considerable doubt that this was the cause of her loss. Coombe had seemed to indicate that he was returning to Malta in his last signal and he was due there on the 25th, the very day that Groppo attacked 'the submarine'. The position of Groppo’s first attack was a little over 100 miles from Barletta's reported attack. It is true that it was not a great distance but it was not on her supposed route back and does not explain why Coombe would have taken his submarine in that direction without informing Malta.

In addition, the Italian analysis and assessment of Groppo's claims were not favourable; Capitano di Corvetta Farina was criticised for being too optimistic and the result of both attacks deemed to be doubtful.

It must be emphasized that echo contact and torpedo tracks were not necessarily indication that a submarine was present. A fair number of reported attacks by axis and allied forces were bogus.

It is most likely that HMS Utmost was lost on a minefield as she was returning to Malta. (20)

Sources

  1. Personal communication
  2. ADM 199/2573
  3. ADM 173/16391
  4. ADM 199/373
  5. ADM 199/1922
  6. ADM 173/17171
  7. ADM 199/1116
  8. ADM 173/17173
  9. ADM 53/114626 + ADM 234/335
  10. ADM 173/17176
  11. ADM 199/424
  12. ADM 173/17731
  13. ADM 173/17732
  14. ADM 173/17406
  15. ADM 173/17332
  16. ADM 173/17733
  17. ADM 173/17734
  18. ADM 199/651 + ADM 234/353
  19. ADM 173/17736
  20. Platon Alexiades

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


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