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MEDITERRANEAN WAR DIARY – April 1942
Wednesday 1st April 1942
Commander in Chief
Vice Admiral Sir H.D. Pridham Wippell hoisted his flag in H.M.S. VALIANT with the acting rank of Admiral and assumed command of the Mediterranean Fleet in succession to Admiral Sir. A. B. Cunningham. Three signals made by the Commander in Chief on relinquishing his command are attached.
2. In further raids during the day, PANDORA, P 36, and the drifter SUNSET were sunk in harbour. One officer and 23 ratings were reported missing in P 36. UNBEATEN and ABINGDON, HAVOCK, SOKOL, SWONA, and GIRL MARGARET were all damaged by near misses. GIRL MARGARET was set on fire. Six enemy aircraft were shot down by fighters. Hamilton and Burmola Wharfs were blocked by PANDORA and SUNSET, respectively.
3. A total of 4200 tons had been unloaded from PAMPAS and TALABOT. The work of unloading was not being slowed since most of the remaining cargo was under water and oil fuel. It had not yet been possible to get any oil out of BRECONSHIRE.
4. Captain J.A.V. Morse, D.S.O, R.N. assumed the duties and title of Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area in command of all British and Free French Naval forces placed under his orders; and all British and Syrian ports within the area which was enclosed by a line from the Egypt – Palestine border to 35-32N and thence to the Turkish coast. The Palestinian ports were however to remain under the command of the Naval Officer in Charge, Palestine ports, who continued to control all H.M. ships and local craft placed under his orders. Control and escort of all merchant shipping in the Levant Area was to be the responsibility of Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area.
5. KELVIN sailed from Famagusta escorting Group B. SIKH arrived at Famagusta with Group A.
6. H.M.S. VALIANT was undocked. Partial repairs had been completed; there remained a section of the bulge only to be completed. Her undocking had been delayed for several days due to labour difficulties in finishing the repairs.
7. Mediterranean Combined Air Orders were brought into force.
Copy of Signal sent by Commander Chief to Vice Admiral Malta
On my departure, I particularly wish to send a special message to the officers and men of your command. That the defence of Malta has been an epic is well known, and has been stressed from many sources, but I would draw attention to the other aspect, namely, that of the enormous damage done to the enemy for which the submarine, air, and surface forces in your command have so largely been responsible. The record had been magnificent and I heartily thank every officer and man who has taken part, not forgetting those who have had the less spectacular, but none the less exacting, task of maintaining and brining back into action our ships and aircraft to the discomfiture of the enemy.
The very extent of the success of the forces based on Malta has led to a ceaseless battering of the fortress, but one has only to think of the air effort the enemy is diverting to this purpose to realise that this is but another of the services that Malta is rendering to the Empire.
Copy of Signal sent to the Commander in Chief to Mediterranean Station Shore Authorities.
N.C.S.O.'s pass following message to Merchant Ships in port from Admiral Cunningham.
There is probably no theatre of war in which more tenacity and courage has been required of the Merchant Navies than in the Mediterranean. During my tenure of command I have seen innumerable instances of the unobtrusive yet sterling work of the Masters, officers, and crews under conditions often of great difficulty and danger. It has been possible to keep an Army and Malta supplies only because the Merchant Navies have surmounted these difficulties.
I fully thank you for your good which we in the Royal Navy fully appreciated and which we greatly admire.
Copy of Signal sent by Commander in Chief to Mediterranean Station
You will understand, one and all, the deep regret with which I lay down command of the Mediterranean Station. It has been my greatest pride throughout the war the Mediterranean Station has consistently shown itself master of the enemy in every branch of naval warfare, whether in the air, in submarine warfare, and or surface fighting. It is this factor which has enabled us during the last two years to impose our will on the enemy to a very high degree, despite his superiority in every class of ships and his almost overwhelming strength in the air. This achievement of the officers and me of the Mediterranean Fleet in some two years of the most strenuous naval fighting on record, is one which I greatly treasure, as greatly as I do the privilege of having led the Fleet during that period.
The enemy know we are his master on the sea, and we must strain every nerve to keep our standard of fighting so high that that lesson never fails to be borne on him.
Our world wide commitments at present mean that we have not, at times, as large forces as we would like to carry the carry to the enemy's front door. This will not always be so, and I look forward to the day when the Mediterranean Fleet will sweep the sea clear and reestablish our age of control of this waterway so vital to the British Empire. I am confident that that day is not far distant and meanwhile I wish you all good fortune and Godspeed.
Thursday, 2nd April 1942
Commander in Chief
The flag of the Commander in Chief was transferred from VALIANT to QUEEN ELIZABETH.
2. There was evidence that the French battleship RICHELIEU might attempt to leave Dakar and enter the Mediterranean. F.O. "W" was instructed by the Admiralty to dispose all available forces to prevent this.
3. Convoy A.T. 36 arrived at Tobruk. It was heavily bombed during the day but without damage, possibly being mistaken by the enemy for a Malta convoy as it was routed well out to sea. There were five killed and a number wounded in FAREHAM by a near miss.
4. Bad weather, breakdowns, and lack of targets had rendered the operations of M.T.B.s from Tobruk practically valueless. The Commander in Chief recalled all four and VULCAN to Alexandria for further training in torpedo attacks.
Levant – Operation SCALFORD
5. KELVIN and Group B arrived at Alexandria and sailed again for Famagusta. HASTY sailed from Alexandria with Group A.
6. The Yugoslav M.T.B.s DURMITOR and KAYMAKALAN now sailed from Alexandria to Port Said for slipping and fitting out as M.A./S.B.s.
7. H.M.S. GLENGYLE was sailed from Suez to Aden.
8. In view of the present scale of attack on Malta, the Commander in Chief requested F.O.C.N.A.S. to retain P 42 and P 43 for the present and operate them for Gibraltar.
9. The Commander in Chief asked the Admiralty for the appointment of a Lieutenant A/S at Malta to counter the enemy's improved A/S methods.
Friday, 3rd April 1942
Heavy air attacks continued.
2. Convoy T.A. 31 sailed from Tobruk at 0630/3 escorted by DELPHINIUM, PRIMULA, and SNAPDRAGON with ERIDGE and BEAUFORT as a striking force. ST MONACE towing tug JEDDAH was sailed from Mersa Matruh to Alexandria escorted by WOLBOROUGH.
3. H.M.S. VALIANT sailed from Alexandria at 1600/3 for Port Said escorted by JERVIS, KIPLING, HASTY, DULVERTON, and HURWORTH. IN spite of strong fighter patrols which had been maintained for the past two days, an enemy reconnaissance aircraft probably sighted the movement. Captain C.B. Barry, D.S.O., R.N. assumed command of H.M.S. VALIANT in succession to Rear Admiral Morgan. Commander Gotto assumed command of QUEEN ELIZABETH with the rank of acting Captain.
4. KELVIN and Group B arrived at Famagusta. KELVIN had engine defects and proceeded to Beirut for repairs. Group B sailed again for Alexandria escorted by SIKH. Group A sailed from Alexandria escorted by HASTY.
5. Vice Admiral Miakulin of the U.S.S.R. Navy visited the Commander in Chief at Alexandria and lunched with the Commander in Chief in the QUEEN ELIZABETH.
11th Royal Marine Battalion
6. The 11th R.M. Battalion was ordered to move to Haifa. It was intended to continue combined operational training while at the same time providing protection against parachutist for the Haifa oil field and refinery.
Commander in Chief
7. Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham left Alexandria by air for the United Kingdom.
Saturday, 4th April 1942
Heavy and accurate air attacks continued. The Grand Harbour and aerodromes were still the main targets. The enemy seemed to concentrate particularly on PENELOPE and LANCE in dock. Vice Admiral, Malta, hoped to be able to sail PENELOPE in about a week and LANCE as soon as the dock caisson could be opened. HAVOCK would be ready p.m. 5th.
2. PENELOPE had splinter damage; the Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that her spirit and gunnery were an inspiration. The Greek submarine GLAUCOS was sunk and ABINGDON was beached. There was also much damage in the dockyard. Commander P. Somerville, Captain of the H.M.S. KINGSTON, was wounded and later died.
3. By the use of Army and Naval ratings who had done splendid work, a further 500 tons had been unloaded from the sunken merchant ships.
4. An enemy convoy was being passed close east of Malta to Tripoli. At 0030/4, six enemy merchant ships in three small convoys escorted by destroyers were sighted 120 miles north east of Tripoli. Beauforts from the Western Desert left at dawn, but did not make contact.
5. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT and convoy T.A. 31 arrived at Alexandria as did the tug JEDDAH in tow of ST MONACE.
6. HASTY and Group A arrived at Famagusta and sailed again for Alexandria. Group B arrived at Alexandria and SIKH proceeded independently to Beirut.
7. The Agreement with the French Squadron was renewed temporarily until the arrival of the Commander in Chief designate. In view of the possibility of action elsewhere and its repercussions, a scheme was prepared for the seizure of the French ships at Alexandria.
8. JERVIS and KIPLING returned to Alexandria from the escort of VALIANT. H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH was docked for examination and repairs.
9. H.M.S. VALIANT was passed through the Canal as far as Bitter Lakes. M.T.B. 59 was sailed from Port Said to Alexandria on completion of working up at Suez.
10. S.S. TURBO (oil tanker) broke in half in heavy weather in position 25-16, 35-25E while in tow of GLADYS MOLLER. Both parts remained afloat. She had been damaged by torpedo many months previously but could not be repaired afloat. It had been intended for the tugs ex Persian Gulf to tow her to India for repairs.
11. PROTEUS returned to Alexandria from successful patrol in the Cephalonia and Taranto areas. At 2200/28 PROTEUS attacked a convoy of seven ships off Paxos Island and reported two torpedo hits. One ship certainly sank. At 2034/30, PROTEUS intercepted a northbound escorted merchant ship which had been reported by aircraft and sank it with two torpedo hits in position 36-25N, 21-16E.
Sunday, 5th April 1942
In four air raids by 150 bombers, the following damage was done:
The dockyard and harbour craft also received more damage.
Seven enemy aircraft were shot down and many others damaged.
2. The Commander in Chief ordered HAVOCK to be sailed westward to Gibraltar as soon as seaworthy. She sailed from Malta at 1000/5.
3. To meet the situation caused by the intensive bombing of Malta, the Admiralty had under consideration a proposal to move the Tenth Submarine Flotilla to Alexandria and transfer LUCIA from the East Indies to maintain it. The Vice Admiral, Malta, Captain (S) Tenth Submarine Flotilla and the Commander in Chief were strongly opposed to this and pointed out that the offensive power of the submarines would be almost entirely lost since their speed and endurance would only allow them to operate in the Aegean. Captain (S) Tenth Submarine Flotilla proposed to use the crews of the submarines sunk in harbour to provide spare crews who would man the submarines on return from patrol. Submarines would be kept dived by day in harbour. By exchanging crews and submarines, it would be possible to maintain the same output on a basis of ten days on patrol and five days in harbour.
Levant – Operation SCALFORD
4. HASTY and Group A arrived at Alexandria, having been attacked by T/B aircraft on passage. Group B sailed from Alexandria escorted by KIPLING.
5. An aircraft reported a cruiser and other warships in Castelorizzo harbour late p.m. 5th (n.b. apparently 4th vice 5th. See next sentence) The 15th Cruiser Squadron were brought to short notice, but did not sail as reconnaissance at daylight 5th failed to confirm the report.
6. VALIANT was passed through the Canal and sailed for Aden.
7. At Port Said an explosion in an ammunition lighter at 1030/5 caused some military and about 100 Egyptian casualties.
8. The Greek destroyer PANTHER was sailed from Alexandria to transit the Suez Canal and proceed to Bombay for refit and fitting of Asdics. Owing to propeller and machinery damage, she was unfit for service until her refit could be carried out.
Monday, 6th April 1942
Malta – Loss of H.M.S. HAVOCK
At 0415/5 HAVOCK reported having run aground in position 200 degrees Kelibia Light 2 ½ miles. She had been routed close inshore at 28 knots. HAVOCK reported that the ship could not be refloated and was being destroyed; the crew were safely ashore except for one killed. It was not possible to send any rescue craft in the circumstances, and the crew were interned. About 100 passengers had been embarked in addition. Later air reconnaissance established the ship's position as 020 degrees Kelibia Light 2 ½ miles.
2. There was only one heavy raid on Malta during the day by 100 bombers. Further damage to the dockyard was caused and the floating crane was sunk. Admiral Superintendent, Malta's signal timed 1250 of 6th April contained details of the dockyard damage.
3. The Commander in Chief ordered PENELOPE to be sailed as soon as she could be made fit.
4. Air reconnaissance showed no important movements of French ships and the Admiralty ordered normal dispositions to be resumed.
5. The Commander in Chief requested that any further M.L.s at Gibraltar awaiting passage to the Eastern Mediterranean should be sailed via the Cape.
6. The Italian ships VULCANIA and SATURNIA with safe conduct from Italy to Eritrea for repatriation of civilians arrived at Gibraltar and sailed again westward.
7. Convoy A.T. 37 sailed from Alexandria escorted by PEONY, ERICA, GLOXINIA, PRIMULA, and FALK with QUEEN OLGA as a striking force.
Levant – Operation SCALFORD
8. Group B arrived at Famagusta and sailed again for Haifa escorted by KELVIN. KIPLING remained at Famagusta. Group A sailed from Alexandria escorted by HASTY.
9. The Greek destroyer SPETSAI arrived at Aden after fitting Asdics at Calcutta and was sailed to Port Sudan to complete the refit from HIPHAISTOS.
10. Minesweepers REDWOOD and ST MINVER arrived at Massawa to sweep the South Channel.
Submarines – Enemy Cruiser Sunk
11. URGE returned to Malta from a successful patrol north of Sicily. At 0055/30 in position 40-07N, 15-13E a landing party from URGE blew up a goods train part of which fell 120 feet down an embankment. One minute later, URGE attacked a northbound merchant ship; all torpedoes missed and URGE surfaced and attacked with the gun. Three hits were obtained before gunfire from the enemy forced URGE to dive. At 0854/1 in position 38-38N, 15-22E, URGE attacked an enemy cruiser escorted by two destroyers northbound at high speed. Two torpedoes hit and the cruiser sank eight minutes later. The cruiser was considered by URGE to be 8" but was later established to have been the 6" cruiser BANDE NERE.
12. The Greek submarine TRITON returned to Alexandria from patrol in the Aegean – her first patrol since December 1941. The patrol was uneventful and no attacks were made though, the submarine was apparently in contact with a U boat by H.E., while returning to Alexandria.
Tuesday, 7th April 1942
Heavy air raids were continued. Three hundred bombers were employed with fighter escorts. The attacks were mainly on the Grand Harbour and Valletta. There was much damage done in Valletta and in the Dockyard, including the Castille and Admiralty House. The tug EMILY was sunk and oiler BOXOL damaged.
2. The Hospital Ship SOMERSETSHIRE was torpedoed presumably by a U boat at 1437/7 in position 32-13N, 26-34E while on passage to Tobruk. QUEEN OLGA was ordered to her assistance and took most of her personnel on board. Tugs ST ISSEY and BRIGAND from Alexandria and HENRIETTA MOLLER from Mersa Matruh were sent for her assistance. SOMERSETSHIRE proceeded towards Alexandria at slow speed under her own steam. On arrival of the tugs, QUEEN OLGA landed her passengers at Mersa Matruh and then rejoined convoy A.T. 37.
Levant – Operation SCALFORD
3. Group A arrived at Famagusta and sailed again for Alexandria escorted by HURWORTH who joined there from Haifa. HASTY proceeded to Beirut. Group B arrived at Haifa and sailed again for Famagusta escorted by DULVERTON. KELVIN remained at Haifa. SIKH proceeded from Beirut to Haifa.
4. Rear Admiral R.J.R. Scott assumed duty as Senior Naval Officer, Canal Area in succession to Vice Admiral J.M. Pipon.
5. GLENGYLE sailed from Aden for passage to the United Kingdom. VALIANT was to provide cover for her during her passage to the Cape.
6. The fore part of TURBO was sunk by gunfire by S.S. JEYPORE and the after part foundered.
7. The submarine P 611 sailed from Gibraltar for Alexandria for transfer to Turkey.
8. About twenty enemy aircraft attacked Alexandria from 0350/7 to 0530. The enemy appeared to concentrate on QUEEN ELIZABETH in the floating dock. No naval damage was caused; about fifty civilians were killed and wounded.
Wednesday 8th April 1942
PENELOPE sailed at 2155/8 for Gibraltar. She was near missed before sailing; her Captain was wounded, but was able to sail in her. The Vice Admiral Malta, reported the following:
"PENELOPE had a desperate but stirring final day at Malta, trying to keep to a timetable disorganized by raids and in action incessantly; by 1900 all H.A. ammunition was expended and re ammunitioning had to be carried out before sailing. A reduction of about 150 was made in the crew. A bomb fell in the middle of number 4 dock shortly after PENELOPE had left it to oil. The spirit and determination of her Captain, officers, and men after having been principal target of the heaviest continuous air raid yet seen, have been beyond praise."
2. Air raids during the day were almost incessant. KINGSTON was again hit by a bomb which did not explode. The minesweeper SWONA and trawler JADE were further damaged by near misses. The first 500 tons of oil fuel were pumped into shore tanks from BRECONSHIRE.
3. R.A.F. aircraft from Malta bombed a convoy of two merchant ships and four destroyers south of Messina during the night 7/8th. The result was uncertain.
4. Convoy A.T. 37 arrived at Tobruk. SOMERSETSHIRE continued under her own power to Alexandria. Tug HENRIETTA MOLLER was detached to Mersa Matruh.
Levant – Operation SCALFORD
5. Group A arrived at Alexandria escorted by HURWORTH. This was the last serial by PRINCESS MARGUERITE and ANTWERP. Group B sailed from Famagusta for Alexandria escorted by DULVERTON and KIPLING. SIKH and KELVIN sailed from Haifa and HASTY from Beirut for Alexandria.
Alexandria – Air Raid: THORGRIM and SVANA sunk
6. There was an air raid on Alexandria from 0410 to 0530/8 by about 20 aircraft. The floating dock was again the main target but was undamaged. Beaufighters shot down two aircraft and A.A. gunfire shot down one. The torpedo depot on 41 quay was severely damaged and had to be evacuated. A/S trawler THORGRIM and minesweeper SVANA were sunk by a near miss alongside 41 quay. There were no casualties.
7. VALIANT arrived at Aden during the night of 7/8th and sailed again after fuelling for Durban to complete final repairs.
Thursday, 9th April 1942
There were only two big air raids during the day each by about 80 aircraft divided between the Grand Harbour and aerodromes. LANCE was further damaged by a near miss. Tug WEST COCKER was sunk.
2. PENELOPE was heavily attacked by aircraft throughout the day but continued westward undamaged. WISHART and BOREAS were sailed from Gibraltar to meet her.
3. Information was received through American Consul General that about 250 interned officers and men were arriving at Algiers from HAVOCK.
4. QUEEN OLGA, PEONY, GLOXINIA, and PRIMULA and FALK sailed from Tobruk with convoy T.A. 32 which included TONELINE and VULCAN. SOMERSETSHIRE arrived safely at Alexandria.
5. Captain Kirkpatrick assumed duty as Naval Officer in Charge Port Said in succession to Captain Hines.
7. Operation SCALFORD was completed. All forces concerned (SIKH, KELVIN, KIPLING, DULVERTON, HURWORTH, HASTY, MALINES, and PRINCESS KATHLEEN) returned to Alexandria. A total of about 6000 troops had been moved into Cyprus and 7500 from Cyprus into Egypt and Palestine. Nineteen Greek Naval Officers and about 400 other personnel escaped from Greece were embarked in the last serial.
8. M.T.B.s 266 and 268 sailed from Alexandria to visit Levant ports and ensure that berthing and fuelling arrangements were satisfactory in the event of M.T.B.s operating in the area.
9. Searchlights were observed in the vicinity of Famagusta during the night 8th/9th. Enemy activity near the Island had been suspected on two previous nights.
10. The Dutch submarine O 23 arrived at Alexandria from Gibraltar on passage to the Far East.
Friday, 10th April 1942
Admiralty House, Victoriosa was demolished and St ANGELO further damaged during two heavy raids by 140 bombers. JADE and PLOUGHBOY was also damaged again. Five enemy bombers were shot down for certain and probably three more as well as others damaged.
2. PENELOPE arrived safely at Gibraltar. She had been attacked and shadowed throughout the previous day by a total of 14 T/B aircraft and about 25 JU 88s but was undamaged. Only 70 rounds of H.E. ammunition remained on arrival at Gibraltar. Some anxiety was felt for her safety since WISHART and BOREAS did not make contact with her and no signals were received after 1530/9.
3. An exchange of incurably wounded prisoners of war was completed by LLANDOVERY CASTLE proceeding between Alexandria and Smyrna.
About 150 bombers again attacked the Grand Harbour and aerodromes. KINGSTON was sunk in dock. PAMPAS was hit again. Rinella W/T Station was damaged.
2. The minesweeper situation was serious. The only serviceable sweepers were:
The approach channel could no longer be swept to the 10 fathom line; Vice Admiral Malta asked that one or two Oropesa minesweepers should be sent through with the next convoy.
3. QUEEN OLGA and Convoy T.A. 32 arrived at Alexandria. TONELINE also arrived at Alexandria, but had to be taken in tow but FALK.
4. The Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and all available destroyers carried out large scale exercises during the day and night 11th/12th.
5. The Commander in Chief proposed and the Admiralty approved to reduce materially the complement of officers and ratings in QUEEN ELIZABETH during her period of her temporary repair.
6. The Egyptian merchant ship KAWSAR was bombed in position 31-34N, 32-14E at 1400/11 and hit by four bombs. The crew abandoned ship allowing the fire to spread. ROMEO and two trawlers from Port Said took her in tow to Port Said.
7. H.M.S. OSIRIS was sailed from Alexandria to Port Said in tow of BRIGAND for removal of her battery and other gear required to refit H.M.S. ROVER (now at Bombay).
8. The U.S.A. merchant ship SUSAN LUCKENBACK was in collision with S.S. NEA HELLAS in the Gulf of Suez and was beached. Salvage tug CONFEDERATE was sent to her assistance. Damage to NE HELLAS was not very serious.
9. It was intended to employ the Persian Gulf tugs in towing ARABIA as well as TURBO to India, but the former could not be refloated and the tugs were sailed independently.
Sunday, 12th April 1942
There were again two heavy raids by about 150 bombers. Six bombers and one fighter were shot down for certain. There were now no primary targets left in the Grand Harbour and damage was more widely spread. Rinella W/T was again damaged; ESSEX and TALABOT were each hit and set on fire; the naval canteen was demolished. Admiral Superintendent, Malta's signal timed 2345 of 10th April reported the further damage to the dockyard. There were now practically no workshops in action other than those underground. All docks were damaged in varying degrees. Electric power and light, and telephone was largely out of action.
2. S.S. KAWSAR was beached just outside Port Said harbour. Her hull was intact but the ship was still on fire.
3. The Commander in Chief instructed the Flag Officer, Red Sea to carry out extensive smoke trials at Suez with a view to obtaining satisfactory smoke protection for important harbour and vulnerable targets on shore.
4. The Admiralty requested the Commander in Chief to give consideration to the possibility of the withdrawal of the First Submarine Flotilla from the Mediterranean to operate in the East.
Officers' Training Establishment
5. In view of the change in the general situation and of the unsuitable conditions prevailing in Egypt, the Commander in Chief considered that the scheme for training Lower Deck candidates for the rank of officer was impracticable in Egypt. It was recommended that the personnel now on passage should be disembarked in South Africa and should start the establishment there.
6. The serious shortage of petrol tanker tonnage in the Middle East was again represented to the Director of Sea Transport.
Monday, 13th April 1942
There was a comparative lull in the enemy air attacks. Only one small and abortive raid took place at dusk. About 140 tons of oil were recovered from PAMPAS; it had not been possible to obtain a further haul from BRECONSHIRE.
2. In view of the French situation, the Commander in Chief gave instructions that Free French ships were not to visit Alexandria unless absolutely necessary.
3. S.S. SKAGERAK was slightly damaged by a mine when entering Suez Bay at midnight 12/13th outside the searched channel.
4. The Commander in Chief proposed and the Admiralty later approved to turn over two corvettes to be manned by Greek personnel, who would be available in about a month's time. Key ratings would be trained up in the meantime. In three months, crews would be ready for two more corvettes and in four months for two HUNT class destroyers. The Greek Commander in Chief also hoped to produce 6 M.T.B. crews, the key ratings for which would be trained up now. Crews for all except the first two corvettes were to be sent to the United Kingdom.
5. The Greek submarines NEREUS and TRITON were rapidly becoming unfit for operational service unless extensive repairs were undertaken. These were not considerable justifiable under the circumstances. When patrols could not longer be carried out, it was intended to use them for training.
6. P 34 was damaged by a mine and returned to Malta.
Tuesday, 14th April 1942
There were renewed air raids on Malta by total of 150 escorted bombers. Four bombers and three fighters were shot down for certain and four more damaged. There was further damage to the dockyard and considerable damage to Rinella W/T Station.
2. Two southbound enemy convoys of two and four merchant ships each escorted by five destroyers passed about 85 miles south of Malta during the day. A cruiser was in company with the smaller convoy. The convoys were sighted during the night 13/14th by an A.S.V. Wellington and were shadowed excellently by a Maryland aircraft throughout the forenoon. URGE, UPHOLDER, and THRASHER were concentrated in the Gulf of Sirte to intercept. A striking force of eight Beauforts from Egypt escorted by four Beaufighters attacked the larger convoy at 1600. Two hits were seen on one merchant ship, one hit on another and one hit on a destroyer. The striking force landed at Malta but two Beauforts were shot down by enemy fighters over the convoy over the convoy and four more while approaching Malta. Two ME 110 were shot down by Beaufighters.
3. Convoy A.T. 38 of one fast petrol ship sailed from Alexandria escorted by DELPHINIUM and SNAPDRAGON with ERIDGE and BEAUFORT as striking force. The convoy had been delayed by the Chinese crew of ADDINDA refusing to sail, and was finally sailed without her.
4. M.T.B.s 259 and 264 were sailed from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh and Bardia for Operation LEADER.
5. APHIS was sailed from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh for working up practices.
6. The question of withdrawing the First Submarine Flotilla from the Mediterranean was under consideration by the Admiralty. The Commander in Chief's signal times 0930/14 summarised the position in the Mediterranean.
7. UNA reported having sunk one of two westbound 8000 ton transports in convoy in position 37-45N, 15-41E at 1154/5. A very heavy counter attack followed.
8. The ex Italian minesweeping trawler BIGLIERE was raised at Massawa and taken over from Messrs. Mitchell Cotts (Salvage) co. It was intended to recondition her for service at Beirut.
Wednesday, 15th April 1942
In spite of the scale of enemy air attack, a striking force of one Swordfish and two Albacores took off during the night 14/15th to attack the convoy, but failed to locate it.
2. Reconnaissance indicated that a total of four ships only reached Tripoli on the 15th and it was considered that two and one destroyer were probably sunk in this very gallant Beaufort attack. The cruiser apparently returned to Messina. As a result of this attack, however, 39 Squadron was crippled for some time to come. Air attacks on Malta were continued.
Western Mediterranean – Fairmile M.L.s
3. The Admiralty ordered the remainder of the Third and Twenty Seventh M.L. Flotilla to remain at Gibraltar for the present time since their engines were not sufficiently reliable for the passage round the Cape.
4. Convoy A.T. 38 arrived at Tobruk. The escort sailed again with convoy T.A. 34.
5. KELVIN and KIPLING embarked two platoons of 11th R.M. Battalion and sailed from Alexandria to raid Kuphonisi Island.
6. At 1941/15 a torpedo was fired at Beirut harbour presumably by a U boat. The torpedo exploded on the east mole causing a breach, but no damage to shipping or casualties.
7. P 612, the second of the two submarines for Turkey, left Gibraltar for Alexandria.
8. The Chief of the Turkish Air Staff, General Sefik Cakmak visited the fleet at Alexandria.
9. The fitting of Hurricane long range petrol tanks to Albacore aircraft of 821 Squadron had proved successful and had provided a T/B striking force with a range of 700 miles. It was not decided to convert 826 Squadron similarly. The fitting of A.S.V. to these aircraft was pursued as a mot urgent matter.
10. A Torpedo Training School was formed at Shallufa under the R.A.F. with F.A.A. pilots and a torpedo officer as instructor......(n.b. bottom of page chopped)... was to train Wellington pilots in torpedo dropping. H.M.S. SAGITTA was attached as a torpedo target and recovery ship.
Thursday, 16th April 1942
There were no raids on Malta, probably owing to low visibility. CLYDE arrived safely with stores from Gibraltar.
Western Desert – Operation LEADER
2. M.T.B.s 259 and 264 landed four passengers on the southeast coast of Crete during the night 15th/16th and embarked eight others. The two boats returned direct to Mersa Matruh arriving at 1230/16th in spite of several stops on passage for engine repair.
3. Convoy A.T. 39 of three ships sailed from Alexandria escorted by PEONY, ERICA, GLOXINIA, and COCKER with DULVERTON and HURWORTH as striking force.
4. KELVIN and KIPLING successfully landed two platoons of the 11th R.M. Battalion on Kuphonisi Island (Crete) during the night 15th/16th and reembarked them without loss. The wireless station with was the main object of the raid was destroyed. The enemy retreated inland and no prisoners could be taken. Documents and certain gear, which had been captured, were lost overboard during the re embarkation. KELVIN and KIPLING returned to Alexandria at 1830/16th.
5. There were further indications of U Boats operating off the Levant Coast.
6. The following ships had been granted safe conduct and were on passage as follows:
HALLAREN and SICILLA from Sweden to Piraeus with Red Cross relief supplies for Greece.
STUREBORG about to sail from Haifa to Piraeus with relief supplies.
GUILO CESARE, DUILO, VULCANIA, and SATURNIA from Italy to round the Cape to embark Italian citizens from Eritrea.
There was also an intention to employ the Greek depot ships CORINTHIAN and IONIA now at Alexandria on Greek refugee work.
Friday, 17th April 1942
There were again no air raids on Malta; visibility was bad.
2. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT and convoy T.A. 34 arrived at Alexandria. PETRELLA was transporting water from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh.
3. Free French patrol vessel VIKING which was escorting the Dutch (n.b. pen insertion: British) tanker CASPIA from Haifa to Beirut was torpedoed and sank in three minutes 23 miles 240 degrees from Beirut during the night 16/17th. At 2310 when fifteen miles 240 degrees from Beirut, CASPIA was also torpedoed and sunk. Six survivors from CASPIA reached Beirut. Both sinkings were presumed by U boat.
4. Survivors were also landed from six schooners which were sunk by U boat gunfire during the night 16/17th off the Lebanon coast.
5. There was also a report of a U boat and surface craft operating off Famagusta. The Commander in Chief ordered all ships on the Levant route to be escorted and sailed the Tenth Corvette Group to reinforce the Levant Escort Force.
6. Captains (S) One and Ten resumed normal operational control of submarines.
Saturday, 18th April 1942
There were renewed raids by 209 bombers. The torpedo depot was damaged.
2. In view of the general naval situation elsewhere, the Chiefs of Staff decided to abandon the project to run a convoy from Gibraltar to Malta during May.
3. Convoy A.T. 39 arrived at Tobruk. The escorts sailed with Convoy T.A. 35 of empty store ships.
4. The Commander in Chief gave orders for the low numbered A lighters to remain with the Inshore Squadron, but to cease transport operations for the present. Their greater reliability compared with the subsequent type of A lighter made them particularly valuable.
5. The W/T station at Tel Aviv was bombarded by a U boat at 2000/17th, but no damage was done. LA MOQUEUSE was diverted to hunt the U boat but did not make contact. Two more schooners were reported sunk by gunfire.
6. Four M.T.B.s were ordered to sail from Alexandria for the Levant to be used as a striking force against surface craft and U boats. They were not to be used for patrols.
7. A magnetic mine was swept to Haifa.
8. M.L. 355, the first of the Fairmile Flotilla building in Cairo, was commissioned at Port Said.
Sunday, 19th April 1942
Malta was raided by about 170 bombers in three heavy raids. Seven bombers and one fighter were destroyed with three more probably and six damaged. The main targets were the Grand Harbour and Kalafrana. The tugs ANDROMEDA was sunk and ANCIENT further damaged – PAMPAS was hit again and set on fire.
2. Force W, including the U.S. aircraft carrier WASP, sailed from Gibraltar during the night 18th/19th to reinforce Malta with Spitfires.
3. Convoy A.T. 40 (ADINDA) sailed from Alexandria escorted by PRIMULA and SNAPDRAGON with ERIDGE and BEAUFORT as a striking force. DULVERTON and HURWORTH and convoy T.A. 35 arrived Alexandria.
4. There were further reports of U Boats and the Commander in Chief ordered convoys to be instituted between Port Said and Beirut. Another A/S whaler was sailed to reinforce the escort force which would then consist of three corvettes, two Free French sloops, nine M/S trawlers, plus two trawlers, forming part of the Port Said harbour defences.
5. LA MOQUEUSE attacked a submarine contact during the night 18/19th and hunted it for three hours while escorting EOCENE from Haifa to Alexandria. JANUS and QUEEN OLGA were sailed from Alexandria to take over the escort of EOCENE.
6. S.S. IRIS grounded in position 31-18N, 33-09E. BRIGAND and ST MONANCE were sent from Alexandria to tow her off.
7. Famagusta was reported as mined and the port closed.
8. An aircraft attacked a U boat and probably damaged it at 1115/19 near Port Said.
9. Two Egyptian schooners were reported to have been sunk by gunfire from a U boat during the night 18/19 in the vicinity of 31-30N, 33-15E.
10. JANUS arrived at Alexandria on completion of extended repairs including the installation of a new boiler at Simonstown.
11. CLYDE sailed from Malta to Gibraltar after unloading her cargo of white oils and stores. Her berth was heavily bombed both while she was bottomed in the harbour and just after she had sailed.
Seventeenth M.T.B. Flotilla
12. M.T.B. 57 was commissioned at Suez.
Monday, 20th April 1942
There were three very heavy raids by over 300 bombers escorted by fighters of which seven bombers and four fighters were certainly short down, three bombers and one fighter probably, and ten others damaged. The raids were mainly concentrated in aerodromes, but further damage was sustained in the dockyard and the torpedo depot.
2. Forty seven Spitfires arrived safely at Malta having been flown off from U.S. Aircraft carrier WASP. Some of these were in action three hours after landing.
3. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, convoy A.T. 40, and the escort arrived at Tobruk and entered harbour.
4. All shipping was held in port pending the institution of convoys. M.T.B.s 265 and 266 arrived at Haifa. M.T.B.s 257 and 268 returned to Alexandria with defects. Another schooner was reported sunk by submarine gunfire at 1500/20 in position 33-53N, 35-00E.
5. Four mines were swept at Famagusta by LL sweepers.
Submarines – Loss of H.M.S. UPHOLDER
6. H.M.S. UPHOLDER (Lt. Cdr. Wanklyn, V.C., R.N.) was reported 48 hours overdue at Malta and considered lost. Later investigation indicated that UPHOLDER had been sunk by enemy A/S craft on 14th April while attacking the enemy convoy off Tripoli. Her career had been outstanding and her loss was a severe blow.
7. H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester arrived at Alexandria and visited ships and establishments, Guards and Bands were paraded. H.R.H. stayed with the Commander in Chief at the Residency during his visit to the Fleet and until 24th during his subsequent visit to the Army and Royal Air Force.
Tuesday, 21st April 1942
About 150 bombers attacked Malta with heavy fighter escort. The Spitfire reinforcements did good work, and together with A.A. fire, shot down six bombers and three fighters and damaged 21 more. JADE was sunk. The after part of PAMPAS was blown out.
2. An enemy cruiser was reported by a Wellington aircraft at 2245/20 steering eastward at 30 knots in a position 25 miles south of Malta. Minelaying was suspected.
3. Two Beaufighters from Egypt attacked a small convoy in the Gulf of Sirte and reported hits with cannon fire on one merchant ship and one destroyer. A Wellington aircraft from Malta also bombed a convoy southwest of Malta and reported probable damage.
4. At Tobruk there were two minor air raids, after a considerable period of quiet.
5. Three mines were swept off Beirut and the port was closed. The sailing of the first southbound convoy was postponed. Mines had also been swept off Haifa, but the port remained open.
6. Convoy L.E. 26 of six ships was sailed from Port Said at 1330/21 for Haifa, Beirut, and Tripoli (Syria), escorted by PEONY, GLOXINIA, HYACINTH, COMMANDANT DOMINE and PROTEA.
7. The question of arming schooners was raised. The Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area, considered that it was undesirable since the schooners would not be fought with any resolution and their arming would only lead to ruthless sinkings without consideration for the crews. At present, the crews were generally been well treated. It was preferable for compensation to be paid to crews of sunken schooners. The Commander in Chief approved this policy.
8. Captain (S), First Submarine Flotilla, proceeded by air to Malta, Commander (S) assuming operational control in his absence.
H.M. Schooner HILMI
9. HILMI was paid off.
10. H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester could....(n.b. bottom of page chopped)
Wednesday, 22nd April 1942
177 bombers attacked in three raids. Five bombers and two fighters were shot down and nine more probably destroyed or damaged. Raids were mainly on the civilian population.
2. Convoy A.T. 41 sailed from Alexandria escorted by ERICA, MALINES, and COCKER with HERO and HASTY as striking force. ERIDGE and BEAUFORT (striking force) sailed from Tobruk at 0800/22 with convoy T.A. 36 (three empty ships) escorted by PRIMULA, SNAPDRAGON, and FALK.
3. There were several reports of U boat sightings from aircraft and coast watchers.
4. Convoy L.W. 26 (five ships) sailed from Tripoli (Syria) and Beirut escorted by LA MOQUEUSE, ROMEO, CUMBRAE, SOUTHERN MAID, and M.L. 1038. Mines were swept off Port Said which was closed. Famagusta and Beirut were reopened.
5. A schooner was torpedoed and sunk by 0800/22 in position 33-15N, 34-56E and another sunk by gunfire at 1200/22 between Famagusta and Beirut.
6. S.S. IRIS was refloated and towed to Port Said.
7. U boats were reported by coast watchers off Latakia and Beirut, by PEONY near Beirut, by LA MOQUEUSE between Haifa and Port Said, and by D/F bearings off Morphoo Bay, Cyprus. It appeared that at least four U boats were operating along the coast.
8. M.T.B. 267 and 268 were sailed from Alexandria to join V 10 at Haifa.
9. The Swedish Red Cross ship SICILIA arrived and left Piraeus after having landed food supplies for Greece, having been granted a safe conduct.
10. THRASHER returned to Alexandria from a most enterprising patrol in the Gulf of Sirte. With great determination and brilliant appreciation of the enemy movements, THRASHER chased two convoys right across the Gulf of Sirte for 36 hours and 24 hours respectively, largely on the surface in daylight, and sank at 1500 ton ship at 0635/7 in position 32-49N, 19-42E and a 3500 ton at 1012/13 in position 31-42N, 19-07E. Both ships heavily laden and bound from Tripoli to Benghazi. At 1408/19 THRASHER engaged an eastbound armed motor lighters in position 32-53N, 22-23E but was forced by shore batteries to dive after seeing at least one hit on the lighter.
Thursday, 23rd April 1942
Raids on Malta were slightly less intense.
2. S.S. KIRKLAND in convoy T.A. 36 was torpedoed by a U boat and sunk at 0406/23 in position 31-51N, 26-37E. The U boat was not sighted or detected and the subsequent hunt by ERIDGE and BEAUFORT was unsuccessful. FALK took the survivors to Mersa Matruh. There were several other U boat reports during the day indicating that three or four operating on the coastal route.
3. There were further reports of U boats operating throughout the area. Port Said was reopened. Convoy L.W. 27 sailed from Tripoli (Syria) for Beirut, Haifa, and Port Said, escorted by SOUTHERN ISLE, SOUTHERN SEA, CUMBRAE, PROTEA, and HYACINTH.
4. PRINCESS MARGUERITE was sailed from Alexandria to Haifa escorted by JERVIS and KELVIN to operate between Haifa and Famagusta for a further relief of troops in Cyprus.
5. S.S. JERSEY sank as a result of an explosion when about to anchor in Suez Bay. The explosion was considered to have been caused by a magnetic mine laid at least five months previously.
6. COVENTRY arrived at Aden on completion of repairs at Bombay. She was sailed to Jedda on passage to Suez with a consignment of gold.
7. TURBULENT returned to Alexandria from patrol in the Adriatic. At 1415/7 a 1200 ton heavily laden steamer was sunk by gunfire in position 42-12N, 18-58E. At 2023/14 off Devenick, a schooner was hit by gunfire, but TURBULENT was forced by shore batteries to dive before it could be sunk. At 1451/16 a heavily laden 6000 ton southern bound merchant ship was torpedoed off Monopoli and sank in two minutes. Three other attacks on merchant ships and one BALLILA U boat were unsuccessful.
Friday, 24th April 1942
Air raids were continued by about 160 bombers. Two were destroyed and eleven more probably destroyed or damaged. The torpedo depot was again hit and Bighi hospital received considerable damage.
2. A Wellington aircraft from Malta reported very near misses on a convoy southwest of Malta during the night 23/24.
3. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, and the remainder of convoy T.A. 36 arrived at Alexandria. Convoy A.T. 41 arrived at Tobruk and the escorts sailed with convoy T.A. 37.
4. Rear Admiral, Alexandria, was ordered to resume responsibility for escorting ships between Alexandria and Port Said with escorts detached from the Western Desert escort force and one ship from the Levant.
5. CARLISLE was sailed from Alexandria to Port Said for transit of the Canal and was escorted by SIKH and KIPLING.
6. H.H.M.S. PAUL KOUNDOURIOTIS arrived at Aden on completion of fitting asdics at Bombay. She was sailed to Port Sudan and Alexandria.
7. H.M.S. PARKTOWN (newly converted South African LL minesweeper) arrived at Aden and was sailed to join the 167th M/S Group at Alexandria.
8. TORBAY returned to Alexandria from a typically offensive patrol in the Taranto Corfu area. A magnetic minesweeper off Anti Paxosal at 1200/9 and a large southbound laden schooner off Fano Island at 1750/11 were sunk by gunfire. After a close patrol off Taranto, TORBAY torpedoed and sank a 5000 ton ship fully laden, probably with ammunition at 0830/18 in position 38-46N, 18-17E. At 1236/19 off Cape Drapano, TORBAY surfaced and engaged with gun and torpedoes a 1400 ton armed auxiliary petrol carried flying the German naval ensign. After a fierce engagement, the ship was blazing from stem to stern and was left abandoned. TORBAY being forced to withdraw by heavy gunfire from the shore, by aircraft, and by two German M.A.S. Boats.
9. P 611 arrived at Alexandria on passage to Turkey.
Saturday, 25th April 1942
The following signal was made by the Commander in Chief to the Governor of Malta on the occasion of the award of the George Cross to Malta.
"The Mediterranean Fleet have learned with the greatest satisfaction of the award of the George Cross by His Majesty to the people of Malta as a result of their superb fortitude and steadfastness during nearly two years of war. In their present ordeal, the people of Malta are constantly in the minds of all in the Fleet, we know they will continue the conflict in that magnificent stout hearted way which has caused them to become world known and world famous."
2. There was a daylight raid on Tobruk by twelve JU 87s who concentrated on EOCENE which was unloading petrol. EOCENE was damaged by several near misses but was reported seaworthy. Four enemy aircraft were shot down, four more probably, and four damaged.
3. Convoy L.E. 27 of fourteen ships and two minesweepers escorted by PEONY, LA MOQUEUSE, COMMANDANT DOMINE, SOUTHERN MAID, and MOONSTONE sailed northward from Port Said. On account of its size and the presence of valuable ship BELRAY, SIKH and KIPLING were added as a striking force – COMMANDANT DOMINE returned to Port Said with defects.
4. JERVIS, KELVIN, and PRINCESS MARGUERITE sailed from Haifa and arrived at Famagusta.
Red Sea – H.M.S. AIREDALE
5. AIREDALE arrived at Aden from the United Kingdom and sailed to Alexandria to join the Fleet.
6. The Dutch O 23 was sailed from Alexandria to join the Allied Fleet in the Far East.
Sunday, 26th April 1942
There were two medium scale air raids by a total of 125 bombers. Four were destroyed and two damaged. The raids were spread over many areas. The Civil power station was hit.
2. HERO, HASTY, convoy T.A. 37 and escort arrived at Alexandria.
3. JERVIS, KELVIN, and PRINCESS MARGUERITE sailed from Famagusta to Haifa in continuation of Operation ADAMSTOWN.
4. Convoy L.W. 27 arrived at Port Said.
R.F.A. RELIANT and CHANGTE
5. The store ship RELIANT was sailed from Alexandria to Port Said escorted by ERIDGE and BEAUFORT. RELIANT was to be passed through the canal and sailed to the East Indies station on relief by CHANGTE after transferring certain personnel and stores to CHANGTE at Aden.
Human Torpedo Attacks
6. The Commander in Chief instructed all Naval Officers in Charge to maintain extreme vigilance against human torpedo attacks during the coming moon period.
7. The Commander in Chief agreed to the temporary withdrawal of the Tenth Submarine Flotilla from Malta, and proposed that it should proceed to Alexandria. Although unable to operate from Alexandria against the Tripoli route, the P and U submarines would have considerable offensive value against Aegean traffic and against a possible seaborne attack on Cyprus or Syria. From Gibraltar, they would only be of use for defence of should a threat develop against French North Africa. The Admiralty approved their withdrawal to Alexandria.
Monday, 27th April 1942
There were again two medium scale air raids. Three aircraft were destroyed and two damaged. Tug C 308 was sunk.
2. The only serviceable T/B aircraft, an Albacore attacked a southbound convoy and torpedoed a medium sized merchant ship at 0445/27 in position 36-03N, 12-12E.
3. Convoy A.T. 42 the fast petrol ship EMPIRE PATROL escorted by PRIMULA and SNAPDRAGON with DULVERTON and HURWORTH as a striking force sailed from Alexandria for Tobruk.
4. U boat activity was clearly reduced; the Commander in Chief ordered convoys to be stopped and escorted sailings to be resumed on completion of convoys L.E. 28 and L.W. 28.
5. Convoy L.E. 27 arrived at Beirut and Tripoli (Syria). Ships were dispersed to Turkish and Cypriot ports. SIKH and KIPLING proceeded to Haifa after leaving BELRAY at Tripoli (Syria). JERVIS, KELVIN, and PRINCESS MARGUERITE sailed from Haifa to Famagusta.
6. RELIANT was unable to enter Port Said until p.m. owing to minesweeping and was unsuccessfully attacked by T/B bombers at 1300/27th in position 31-27N, 32-01E. ERIDGE remained at Port Said for docking. BEAUFORT returned to Alexandria.
7. The Smyrna indication loop system and control station was reported to be installed and working satisfactorily. Communication arrangements and certain other items necessary for effective operation were not yet efficient.
8. The minesweeper LANGLAATE, the last ship of the South African 167th Group, arrived at Aden and was sailed to Alexandria.
9. P 35 returned to Malta and reported having attacked at 5000 ton modern merchant ship northbound escorted by 2 destroyers in position 35-05N, 11-49E at 0655/18. A heavy explosion followed and one torpedo was considered to have hit the ship and seen later with a reduced speed......(n.b. last four lines too faint to transcribe.)
Tuesday, 28th April 1942
Two more enemy bombers were destroyed and two damaged in three medium raids. The tug WEST DEAN and waterboat MONKEY were sunk. There was more damage to the Dockyard officers. The only serviceable Albacore again attacked an enemy southbound convoy and torpedoed a tanker at 0045/28th in position 37-20N, 11-42E.
2. Two Beaufighters attacked a small southbound convoy in position 30-45N, 1_-25E at 1300/28th, and damaged a 2000 ton tanker by cannon fire. They also shot down 2 Dornier aircraft.
3. Convoy A.T. 42 arrived at Tobruk. The escorts were sailed again with EOCENE who had completed discharge in spite of further air attacks on her. DULVERTON and HURWORTH hunted a U boat throughout the afternoon and evening between Bardia and Tobruk and joined the convoy a.m. 29th. U boat was also attacked by aircraft in position 32-00N, 24-40E at 2155/28th.
Two M.T.B.s were sailed from Alexandria to Tobruk, fuelling at Mersa Matruh.
Convoy T.A. 38 left Tobruk.
4. JERVIS, KIPLING, and PRINCESS MARGUERITE arrived at Famagusta and sailed again to Alexandria. Convoy L.E. 28 (5 ships) sailed from Port Said for Beirut and Tripoli (Syria) escorted by HYACINTH, ROMEO, SOUTHERN ISLE, SOUTHERN SEA, and PROTEA. VULCAN was moved from Alexandria to Haifa sailing with L.E. 28 to maintain the M.T.B.s in the Levant. Convoy L.W. 28 sailed from Beirut for Port Said escorted by COMMANDANT DOMINE, LA MOQUEUSE, SOUTHERN MAID, and MOONSTONE.
5. A U boat was sighted off Damietta at 1311. LIVELY and HASTY were sailed from Alexandria to escort 3 ships sailing independently from Alexandria to Port Said. SIKH and KIPLING were sailed from Haifa to hunt a U boat reported at 1500/22nd in position (n.b. too faint to transcribe).
Wednesday, 29th April 1942
A total of only 15 German and Italian aircraft bombed Malta. One was destroyed and probably two more: four were damaged. No naval damage was done.
2. It was decided to evacuate Bighi Hospital except for certain stores and equipment and a skeleton staff.
3. A large southbound convoy of about 20 ships escorted by destroyers was reported by an aircraft on passage from Gibraltar to Malta making towards Algiers p.m. 29th.
4. SIKH and KIPLING joined convoy L.W. 28 at daylight. JERVIS, KELVIN, and PRINCESS MARGUERITE returned to Alexandria on completion of Operation ADAMSTOWN. LIVELY and HASTY returned to Alexandria on completion of their escort duty.
5. CARLISLE sailed southward from Suez for the United Kingdom. COVENTRY was passed through the Canal to Alexandria.
15th M.T.B. Flotilla
6. M.T.B. 311 and 312 were commissioned at Suez.
Saturday, 30th April 1942
There were again only 3 small raids by a total of 32 German and Italian bombers. The dockyard was not attacked. One enemy aircraft was destroyed and 5 damaged.
2. Convoy T.A. 38 arrived at Alexandria. DULVERTON and HURWORTH were sailed again to escort EMPIRE PATROL back from Tobruk. The damage to EOCENE was found not be serious.
3. Convoys L.E. and L.W. 28 arrived at Beirut and Port Said, respectively. Normal escorted sailings were resumed. An acute congestion of shipping had arisen at port Said due partly to ships under repair and partly to ships awaiting escort and transit of the Canal.
4. The Senior Naval Officer Levant area was ordered to resume responsibility for escorting ships between Alexandria and Port Said in order to achieve greater economy in escorts and to assist the flow of shipping.
5. The tug ALLIANCE and a schooner in tow were sunk by a mine off Famagusta harbour at 2045/29th.
6. HERO was sailed from Alexandria to Haifa to undergo a 14 day refit.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS FOR April 1942
Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham relinquished his command of the Mediterranean Fleet on 1st April and was succeeded temporarily by Vice Admiral Sir H.D. Pridham Wipple who was granted the acting rank of Admiral.
2. The main feature of the month was a determined attempt by the enemy to reduce Malta by air attack that his Italian-Libyan convoys could proceed uninterrupted. There was always the possibility that invasion of the island would be attempted once a sufficient air superiority had been attained, but it was felt that the enemy's first objective was neutralization. This was never fully achieved since our air striking forces were still operating on the enemy convoy routes at the end of the month, though on a much reduced scale. The weight of the attack, however, was such that the operation of surface ships became impossible and ultimately, the Tenth Submarine Flotilla had to be withdrawn. The dockyard was heavily damaged and many ships were sunk, but by the end of the month there was a definite falling off in the scale of attack. A serious factor, however, was the loss of all but a small proportion of the cargoes of the ships which had reached Malta at the end of March.
3. No major fleet operations took place. The scale of attack on Malta made the running of an April convoy out of the question and due to the general naval situation elsewhere, the Chiefs of Staff abandoned the idea of running a May convoy from the west. A successful and most valuable operation was carried out from Gibraltar in which 47 Spitfires were flown into Malta by the U.S. Aircraft Carrier WASP.
4. A small scale raid on Kuphonisi Island was completed successfully by KELVIN and JAGUAR (n.b. JAGUAR had been sunk in March. Correct destroyer was KIPLING) during the night 15th/16th April and on 16th April, two M.T.B.s carried out a successful landing operation on the South Coast of Crete.
5. Negotiations were completed for the transfer of two corvettes and four HUNT class destroyers to the Greek Navy. It was felt that the poor state of repair of the majority of the Greek ships was placing an undue handicap upon their personnel.
6. The agreement with Admiral Godfroy concerning the French Squadron at Alexandria was renewed temporarily pending the arrival of Admiral Pridham Wipple's successor.
7. The position in the Western Desert remained static with both armies endeavouring to accumulate sufficient supplies for an advance. An important enemy convoy which was passed close east of Malta on 14th April under cover of heavy bombing was attacked by Beauforts from Egypt. The attack was pressed home most gallantly resulting in the probable loss of two of the six ships; but six of eight Beauforts were shot down before reaching Malta....(n.b. bottom of page chopped)...strike again at the enemy convoys.
8. Our convoys continued to run steadily from Alexandria to Tobruk and will comparatively slight losses in spite of considerable U boat and air activity. The Hospital Ship SOMERSETSHIRE was torpedoed by U boat while on passage to Tobruk, but managed to reach Alexandria.
9. Two operations were carried out without incident for the relief of a large number of troops in Cyprus.
10. U boat activity increased in the Levant shipping routes and convoys were instituted between Port Said and Tripoli (Syria). U boats concentrated mainly on schooners of which a large number were sunk by gunfire. The crews, however, were on the whole well treated by U boat commanders and it was considered on balance that there was nothing to be gained by arming the schooners.
11. Other U boat activities were the sinking of the Free French escort vessel VIKINGS and the tanker CASPIA which she was escorting; an unsuccessful attack on Beirut Harbour; a bombardment without effect of Tel Aviv W/T Station; and the mining of a number of ports. The last caused a temporary dislocation of traffic but was effectively countered by local minesweeping organisations. The Egyptian KAWSAR was bombed and severely damaged by fire off Port Said.
12. An exchange of incurably wounded prisoners of war was completed by the hospital ship LLANDOVERY CASTLE proceeding between Alexandria and Smyrna.
Red Sea and Canal Area
13. There was no enemy activity in the Red Sea or Canal Area but a number of merchant ships became casualties. S.S. JERSEY was mined and sank in Suez Bay; the damaged S.S. TURBO in tow to India for repair broke in half and foundered; the U.S.A. ship SUSAN LUCKENBACH was in collision with NEA HELLAS and was extensively damaged.
14. Partial repairs to H.M.S. VALIANT were completed successfully and she was sailed for Durban for final completion. QUEEN ELIZABETH was docked in her place, and the enemy then brought a fairly heavy scale of attack to bear on the harbour with QUEEN ELIZABETH as the main target. No important damage was done, though a number of bombs fell near to the floating dock. Two dockyard sheds on Mahmoudieh Quay were demolished and the trawlers THORGRIM and SVANA were sunk alongside.
15. H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester visited ships and establishments at Alexandria and stayed with the Commander in Chief.
16. Between 100 and 300 dive and high level bombers with heavy fighter escort attacked the island almost every day throughout the month. Attacks were at first concentrated on the dockyard and aerodromes causing the loss of BRECONSHIRE and both the merchant ships who were unloading - KINGSTON, LANCE, three submarines, and nearly all the small and auxiliary craft in the harbour were also sunk; but PENELOPE overcame all attacks. She was docked for essential repairs and became the main enemy target. Her gunnery however, was so accurate and her ship's company so determined that she was made seaworthy despite many near misses, and reach Gibraltar safely. The dockyard was heavily damaged and all docks put out of action. A/A gunfire and fighters however took heavy toll of the enemy and by the end of the month raids were on a lighter scale and were being disperses throughout the Island. The people of Malta stood up to their ordeal with great fortitude and were granted the unique aware of the George Cross. The enemy continued to lay mines off the harbour and a serious situation was created by the loss of all but two LL sweepers and one Oropesa sweeper. HAVOCK was sailed from Gibraltar on 5th April but ran aground off Kelibia and had to be destroyed. Her crew and passengers totaling about 300 were interned.
17. Both flotillas continued to operate on the enemy supply lines in the Ionian Sea, the Gulf of Sirte, and west of Malta. The previous high degree of successful was well maintained. Especially noteworthy patrols were carried out by URGE who sank 6" cruiser BANDE NERE north of Sicily; by THRASHER who sank two good ships in difficult conditions in the Gulf of Sirte; by TURBULENT in the Adriatic; by TORBAY in the Taranto-Corfu area, and by P 35 on the Tunis coastal route.
18. These successes were not achieved without loss, for in addition to PANDORA, P 36, and GLAUCOS sunk, and UNBEATEN and SOKOL damaged in Malta harbour, UPHOLDER was lost on patrol. UPHOLDER was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Wanklyn, V.C., R.N. under whose leadership she had won a record of achievement and efficiency without parallel.
19. In order to compete with the situation in Malta, submarines were kept dived in the harbour by day and special steps were taken to rest personnel. Ultimately, however, the Tenth Submarine Flotilla had to be withdrawn to Alexandria, the deciding factor being our inability to compete with the continued enemy minelaying. Consideration was also given to the withdrawal of the First Flotilla to reinforce the East Fleet, but this requirement did not materialize. Captain Ruck Keene assumed command of the First Submarine Flotilla in succession to Captain S.M. Law.
20. Naval aircraft continue to operate from Malta and in support of the army in the Western Desert. A torpedo training school was formed at Shallufa (Suez) to train Wellington...(n.b. page chopped)
Enemy Shipping Losses
21. In addition to one 6" cruiser sunk, a total of ten ships of 29,000 tons were sunk and four ships of 16,300 tons probably sunk or damaged by submarines and aircraft.
22. The following ships joined the station
23. The follow ships left the station
MEDITERRANEAN WAR DIARY – May 1942
Friday, 1st May 1942
1. DULVERTON and HURWORTH arrived at Tobruk and sailed again with convoy T.A. 39 (fast) for Alexandria. An aircraft attacked a U boat at 2113/1st in position 32-35N, 24-40E and reported two hits with depth charges.
2. There was an air raid at Port Said by about 15 aircraft from 0400 to 0530/1st May. S.S. THISTLEFORD was hit forward and the Turkish ferry SILIVRI and S.S. MARIKA PROTOPAPA were slightly damaged by near misses. The Canal and harbour were closed temporarily due to suspected mines. One aircraft was shot down and probably another.
3. COVENTRY arrived at Alexandria escorted by SIKH and KIPLING. AIREDALE also arrived at Alexandria and joined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. H.H.M.S. PAUL CONDOURIOTIS arrived on completion of her refit.
4. The Commander in Chief ordered white uniform to be worn by the Fleet and at Alexandria.
5. A meeting was held at Alexandria to decide the future organisation of the port of Massawa. General Maxwell, head of the U.S.N.A.M. was present. It was decided that U.S.N.A.M. should be responsible for the A.F.D. and all repair work. The defence and control of the port and the running of the commercial port would remain a British responsibility.
6. ALDENHAM arrived at Aden from the United Kingdom and was sailed for Alexandria.
Royal Hellenic Navy
7. The state of the Greek Navy was as follows:
The crews for 4 HUNT class destroyers were in the U.K. already. It was intended shortly to (n.b. page chopped)
Saturday, 2nd May 1942
Western Desert – S.S. CALDERON sunk
Convoy A.T. 43 sailed from Alexandria escorted by DELPHINIUM, PRIMULA, ERICA, and FALK with HASTY and QUEEN OLGA as a striking force. At 2100/2 when 35 miles west of Alexandria the convoy was attacked by aircraft. CALDERON was hit by a bomb, caught fire, and later sank. There were twenty casualties, the crew being taken off by COCKER and FALK before the fire took hold. CALDERON was a newly converted from a H.M. Store Carrier to carry cased petrol.
2. DULVERTON, HURWORTH, and Convoy T.A. 39 arrived at Alexandria.
3. Port Said and the Suez Canal were reopened to shipping.
4. Panamanian tanker OILSHIPPER was reported to be ready to sail from Istanbul. The Commander in Chief ordered her to be held for the present.
Western Mediterranean – Fairmile M.L.s
5. The Admiralty decided that the 27th M.L. Flotilla must be re allocated to west Africa since the possibility of passing them through the Mediterranean was too remote. The remaining four M.L.s of the Third M.L. Flotilla would wait at Gibraltar for an opportunity to arise.
6. Air Attacks were continued but on a reduced scale.
7. The Commander in Chief approved the building of the Massawa ammunition depot at Ghinda instead of Embatcalla
Sunday, 3rd May 1942
Naval aircraft attacked a northbound convoy in the Lampedusa area during the night of 2/3rd and reported one possible torpedo hit on a 6000 ton ship.
2. A U boat was probably sunk in an extensive hunt by aircraft and surface forces in the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar.
3. QUEEN OLGA was damaged in a collision with a submerged object at 0213/3 in position 31-10N, 28-50E and returned to Alexandria on one shaft. BEAUFORT was sailed from Alexandria and relieved her with convoy A.T. 43.
4. Small incendiary bombs were found on board S.S. SANDOWN CASTLE at Suez. The ship had previously caught fire while at Haifa and sabotage was suspected at that port.
5. P 42 reported a torpedo hit on an unescorted 4000 ton merchant ship in Gulf of Genoa on 24th April 1942.
Monday, 4th May 1942
M.T.B.s 259 and 260 sailed from Tobruk to raid the enemy lighter traffic to Derna during the night 3/4th. They failed to reach Derna due to engine trouble and returned to Tobruk. M.T.B. 259 was also damaged by grounding while returning to harbour in thick weather.
2. Convoy A.T. 43 arrived at Tobruk; HASTY and BEAUFORT were sailed for an A/S sweep west of Tobruk during the night 4/5th.
3. There was an air raid in Alexandria from 0350 to 0520 4th May, by about 16 aircraft. One was shot down by fighters. The A.A. barrage appeared to be effective since bombs were mostly on a two mile radius from the A.F.D. Three bombs fell near the A.F.D. and one caused minor damage in the dockyard.
A conference was held at 201 Naval Cooperation Group to discuss methods of tactical cooperation between ships and aircraft.
4. P 611 (ORUC REIS) sailed from Alexandria for transfer to Turkey.
5. The flag of the Commander in Chief was transferred from H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH to H.M.S. MEDWAY.
6. M.L. 354 (Fairmile) was commissioned at Cairo.
The Greek Fleet
7. The Greek Commander in Chief expected to have crews available for two more HUNT class destroyers and two more corvettes by July and August respectively, and suggested taking over British ships in the Mediterranean thus releasing British crews. The Commander in Chief represented to the Admiralty his concern at any proposal to increase the proportion of Greek manned ships in the Fleet above 25% in any category.
Tuesday, 5th May 1942
HASTY and BEAUFORT did not make contact with the enemy during the night 4/5th and sailed from Tobruk as striking force for TONELINE, BURGONET, and MOY with DELPHINIUM, PRIMULA, ERICA, and FALK was escort.
2. ALDENHAM arrived at Suez and was passed through the Canal to Alexandria.
3. The Commander in Chief gave permission for OILSHIPPER to sail from the Dardanelles.
4. The Italian repatriation ships VULCANIA and SATURNIA arrived at Berbera. Arrangements were made to water them there and fuel at Mombasa in their return passage.
5. In view of the British intentions to attack, Madagascar, special precautionary arrangements were made for dealing with the French Alexandria Squadron in an emergency.
6. Rear Admiral E. Cawadis took over the duties of Under Secretary of the Royal Hellenic Navy. Rear Admiral A. Sakellariou assumed the duties of Rear Admiral Commanding the Royal Hellenic Navy in succession to Admiral Cawadis.
H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH
7. A full examination of the machinery of the H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH was still not possible. Both A and B boiler rooms would require almost complete rebuilding. It was hoped to complete temporary repairs for seaworthiness by mid July when both X and Y boiler rooms should be available for steaming.
H.M.S. Tug TIENSTIN
8. H.M. Tug TIENTSIN was commissioned for service at Alexandria.
Wednesday, 6th May 1942
DULVERTON and AIREDALE sailed from Alexandria to provide escort for empty ships from Tobruk.
2. Port Said was reopened without restriction.
3. Authorities in the Levant were again warned of the possibility of human torpedo attack during the dark period.
4. In his signal timed 1426/2, the Commander in Chief had protested most strongly at the absence of any form of pool for merchant seaman in the Middle East in spite of constant representations over the past year. The manning of ships in the Mediterranean had now become a very serious difficulty. The Director of Sea Transport agreed to the establishment of a pool and took action to send out nucleus personnel immediately.
Thursday, 7th May 1942
DULVERTON sighted a U boat on the surface at a range of seven miles at 0840 in position 32-15N, 24-35E and hunted it with AIREDALE. The U boat dived and contact was not made. At 1300 a fighter aircraft again sighted a U boat in the vicinity of and by excellent cooperation led the destroyers on to it. After a two hour hunt in which the U boat was attacked many times and appeared to go deeper, two unexplained explosions were hear and a body came to the surface, but sank again. Much oil and bubbles were also seen. The U boat was considered probably sunk.
2. DULVERTON and AIREDALE then picked up their convoy off Tobruk and sailed for Alexandria. BEAUFORT, HASTY, and convoy arrived at Alexandria.
3. M.L. 130 failed to return from patrol off Malta during the night 6/7th and was presumed lost with all hands. A spirited engagement was seen at 0155/7 off the Grand Harbour in which both the enemy (probably a minelaying E boat) and M.L. 130 were seen to be hit. The enemy retired soon after and at 0300/7 an explosion, presumed to be M.L. 130 was seen. Some of the crew of M.L. 130 were later reported to have been taken prisoner.
4. A meeting was held in the Commander in Chief's officer at Alexandria to decide the reorganisation of the Suez Canal Area and Red Sea Commands and the establishment of a Rear Admiral (Training).
5. An enemy convoy with cruiser and destroyer escort and apparently bound for Benghazi and for Tripoli, was sighted by aircraft in the Ionian Sea. It was shadowed throughout the day. A striking force of Wellingtons and Beaufort T/Bs aircraft was dispatched from Egypt to attack during the night of 7/8th. A.S.V. Wellingtons from Egypt were to relocate and shadow. Submarines were disposed to intercept.
6. PROTEUS returned to Alexandria from patrol off Navarin and in the Cephallonia area. On 2nd May in position 38-38N, 20-22E, PROTEUS attacked a southbound convoy and hit the leading ship with two torpedoes. The ship was of about 4000 tons and was later seen beached on Sesola Rock. At 1545/5th in position 37-38N, 21-20E, PROTEUS engaged a heavily laden 60 ton schooner and sank it by gunfire after allowing the Greek crew to abandon ship. The Greeks cheered loudly throughout the firing.
Friday, 8th May 1942
Malta – Loss of OLYMPUS
H.M. Submarine OLYMPUS was mined shortly after leaving for Gibraltar. There were only nine survivors. A large number of passengers had been embarked, mainly the crews from P 39 and P 36.
2. Force W sailed from Gibraltar during the night 7/8th consisting of the U.S. Carrier WASP, EAGLE, RENOWN (F.O. (W)), CHARYBDIS with British and U.S.A. destroyer for Operation BOWERY to fly Spitfire reinforcements to Malta. WELSHMAN also sailed from Gibraltar with stores for Malta.
3. Seven Wellingtons and Five Beauforts attempted to attack the enemy convoy during the night 7/8, but latter at dawn. Due to mechanical failure and failure of the A.S.V. aircraft, only on Beaufort got in an attack, apparently without result.
4. Convoy A.T. 44 sailed from Alexandria escorted by PRIMULA, ERICA, SNAPDRAGON, and COCKER with BEAUFORT and HURWORTH as a striking force.
5. The tanker OILSHIPPER entered the Aegean at 0415/8
6. H.M.S. GROVE arrived at Suez from the United Kingdom and was taken in hand in the Canal area for extensive turbine repairs.
7. GENERAL BIRDWOOD, the last ship of the 93rd M/S Group from the United Kingdom arrived at Aden and was sailed to join the group at Massawa.
8. VALIANT was transferred to the Eastern Fleet.
Saturday, 9th May 1942
Operation BOWERY was carried out successfully. Sixty (n.b. pen correction 58) Spitfires arrived at Malta during an air raid and were in action almost at once. A heavy air battle ensued in which thirty enemy aircraft were destroyed and damaged for the loss of three Spitfires.
2. General Dobbie was relieved as Governor of Malta by General Lord Gort. The Commander in Chief made the following signal to General Dobbie:
"At the conclusion of your strenuous term of office as Governor and Commander in Chief of Malta, I and all the Mediterranean Fleet wish you sincerely to offer our very best wishes and to express our admiration at the magnificent efforts put forth by Malta under your distinguished leadership. Good Luck"
3. Force (W) turned back to Gibraltar after flying off aircraft. There were indications of the possibility of a move into the Mediterranean by the French forces at Casablanca.
4. DULVERTON and AIREDALE returned to Alexandria with their convoy.
5. The building of a new bulk petrol storage at Tobruk to take 5600 tons was completed. The Army considered it important to fill this during the coming dark period. This placed a severe strain both on the Tobruk shipping space available and on the convoy escorts, particularly in view of increased army requirements.
6. The minesweeping of the Massawa south channel was reported complete. The 93rd M/S Group would proceed shortly to Assab.
Submarines – Loss of H.M.S. URGE (Lieutenant Commander E.P. Tomkinson, R.N.)
7. H.M.S. URGE was reported overdue to Alexandria since 6th May and was considered lost. URGE was sailed from Malta on 27th April for direct passage to Alexandria; there was no information concerning her loss. The loss of this outstanding submarine and her Commanding Officer, following on that of UPHOLDER was a severe blow to the Mediterranean Fleet.
P 612 (n.b. pen correction P 611) was turned over to the Turkish Flag as ORUC REIS at Iskanderun.
Sunday, 10th May 1942
WELSHMAN arrived at Malta at 0525/10 and sailed again after dark for Gibraltar after unloading in seven hours. E boats attempted to intercept her on arrival off the Grand Harbour but were driven off and repeatedly hit by BERYL and TRUSTY STAR. WELSHMAN had been examined by enemy aircraft on the 9th, but assumed a French disguise and was not attacked.
2. The enemy attacked with about sixty bombers and many fighters were met for the first time with a superior fighter force, an effective smoke screen over the Grand Harbour and a highly concentrated barrage. Forty five enemy bombers and twenty one fighters were destroyed and damaged for the loss of three Spitfires. Some bombs fell near WELSHMAN but damage was negligible.
3. Force W returned to Gibraltar and was dispersed. A report of the sailing of JEAN BART from Casablanca was not confirmed by reconnaissance.
Central Mediterranean – Operation M.G. TWO
4. An enemy convoy with destroyer escort only was reported sailing from Taranto for Libya. JERVIS, JACKAL, KIPLING, and LIVELY were sailed from Alexandria at 2000/10 to intercept it about dawn on 12th off Benghazi if they could avoid being sighted on 11th. THRASHER and aircraft were also to cooperate in attacking during the night 11/12th.
5. The Hospital Ship RAMB IV was bombed and set on fire at 0900/10 in position 31-17N, 29-33E while returning to Alexandria fully loaded with patients from Tobruk. The attack was by a single aircraft flying at a great height. The visibility was excellent. One bomb exploded in the after hold and caused an intense fire. The after wards could not be approached and about 150 men, mostly patients were lost. KIPLING, HASTY, and rescue craft were sent from Alexandria. The ship was got in tow, but the fire could not be controlled, and at 1900, the Commander in Chief ordered her to be sunk.
6. Convoy A.T. 44 arrived at Tobruk. The escorts returned directly to Alexandria.
7. Repairs to the 8" Cruiser BOLZANO were reported to be complete.
Monday, 11th May 1942
Operation M.G. TWO – loss of JACKAL, KIPLING, and LIVELY.
D 14's force was sighted by enemy aircraft and turned back at 1445 in accordance with orders. Enemy air attacks developed at 1600 and continued to 2000 in three waves of 8 – 12 JU 88s, with HE 111 shadowing. At 1645, LIVELY was hit forward and sank at once in position 33-24N, 25-38E. At 2007 both KIPLING and JACKAL were hit in position 32-38N, 26-20E. KIPLING sank and JACKAL was taken in tow by JERVIS. JACKAL was heavily on fire and at 0455/12 she had to be sunk in position 32-33N, 26-25E. JERVIS returned to Alexandria with 630 officers and men from the three sunk ships. The Captain of LIVELY and 75 others were lost.
2. The bombing attacks were exceptionally accurate and determined. 1 HE 111 was destroyed and two HE 111 and at least 5 JU 88 damaged by the Beaufighter escort. Beaufighters were with the force during both the first and last attacks.
3. D 22 in SIKH with DULVERTON, AIREDALE, HASTY, and HURWORTH were sailed from Alexandria during the night 10/11th and joined D 14 at daylight.
4. Tug C 308 was sunk by a mine at 0300/11 while returning to harbour from minesweeping operations. There were no survivors (n.b. pen correct 7 survivors). The Vice Admiral, Malta pointed out that 12 mines had been cut and two had sunk ships in the last few days in the North East approach channel to the Grand Harbour. It was essential that at least two fleet minesweepers should accompany the next convoy and sweep it in.
5. Several U boats were sighted by aircraft on 11th and during the night 11/12th operating along the coastal route.
6. APHIS was sailed from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh for bombardment practices.
7. The details of the harbour defences completed at Aden to guard against attack by human torpedoes and midget submarines were reported in the Naval Officer in Charge, Aden's signal times 2034/11.
8. The Schooner LARS RUSDAHL was commissioned an H.M. ship and fitted out for salvage work. It was intended to employ her at Tobruk.
Tuesday, 12th May 1942
WELSHMAN arrived safely at Gibraltar.
Western Desert – U Boat damaged
2. At 1336/12 a Blenheim aircraft attacked a U boat with four bombs in position 31-16N, 28-46E. Two hits were claimed and oil and bubbles sighted. Fresh oil was sighted in the same position at 1105/13. Another U boat was sighted and unsuccessfully attacked by aircraft at 1305/12 in position 32-20N, 26-20E.
3. M.T.B. 260 completed a sweep to the west of Derna during the night 11/12th without sighting the enemy and returned to Tobruk.
4. Low numbered A lighters were ordered to recommence a shuttle service transporting bitumen from Mersa Matruh to Sollum.
5. There was an air raid on Port Said during the night 11/12th; minelaying was suspected and the port closed temporarily.
6. EXMOOR and CROOME arrived at Aden from Force H and were sailed from Alexandria to join the fleet.
Wednesday, 13th May 1942
Convoy A.T. 45 sailed from Alexandria escorted by BEAUFORT, SNAPDRAGON, ERICA, FALK, and KLO with DULVERTON and HURWORTH as a striking force.
Levant – Move NORMAL
2. PRINCESS MARGUERITE and MALINES escorted by Captain (D) 22 in SIKH and HASTY sailed from Alexandria to transport troops into and out of Cyprus. 1250 troops were to be embarked in each serial.
3. Field Marshall Smuts visited the fleet at Alexandria. He inspected South African ships in port and lunched with the Commander in Chief.
Thursday, 14th May 1942
BEAUFORT obtained a good A/S contact and attacked it in position 31-08N, 29-14E at 2350/13.
2. There was a minor air raid from 0250 to 0430/14th. It's object was possibly diversionary. No important damage was done. KINGSTON CRYSTAL attacked an A/S contact outside the loops. This was subsequently established as the U boat which delivered a human torpedo attack the following night.
3. S.S. MOUNT OLYMPUS, S.S. HAV, and S.S. FRED were mined between 1745 and 1830 in Port Said inner channel while being swept into harbour. MOUNT OLYMPUS sank and became a total loss. HAV and FRED were beached; salvage of both seemed possible.
4. AMBER and later other A/S vessels attacked a firm submarine contact at 1145/14 in position 31-24N, 32-29E.
5. PRINCESS MARGUERITE, MALINES, SIKH, and HASTY arrived in Haifa, embarked troops and landed them p.m. in Famagusta.
6. THORN returned to Alexandria from a 24 day patrol in the Gulf of Sirte. THORN was moved several times by order Captain (S), First Submarine Flotilla, and in cooperation with aircraft to intercept enemy convoys, but only one interception resulted. A good attack on a southbound convoy was made at 1850/7 in position 34-34N, 17-59E, but all torpedoes missed.
Friday, 15th May 1942
A human torpedo attack on Alexandria harbour was attempted during the night 14/15th. The enemy failed to penetrate the harbour defences. A crossing on the eastern loop was detached at 2340/14. H.D.A. contacts near the harbour entrance was obtained at 0130 and 0140 and were immediately depth charges. At 0600 two Italians were captured at Mex having scuttled their torpedo which blew up at 1030. Two more Italians were captured at 1000 on the wreck of CITY OF PITTSBURG. The clothing of the third pair was found near Fort Abba, the torpedo having been scuttled in Anfouchy Bay. There was no further evidence of the parent submarine though patrols were maintained inside the loops throughout the day.
2. Convoy A.T. 45 arrived at Tobruk. The escorts and striking force sailed again with T.A. 41, three empty store ships.
3. Mine sweeping was continued at Port Said without result. The port was closed. A serious congestion was again arising in the harbour.
4. PRINCESS MARGUERITE, MALINES, SIKH, and HASTY transported troops from Famagusta to Haifa.
5. OILPIONEER was reported aground at Ayas Mata Bay but was refloated and proceeded.
6. The Greek Commander in Chief requested that the repair ship HIPHAISTOS should remain at Port Sudan for another month in order to assist with the mobilization of Army recruits. IERAX was diverted to Port Sudan to complete boiler cleaning, having returned from fitting asdics at Calcutta.
7. Consequent upon the congestion at Port Said there were 44 ships at Suez of which 35 were in the Bay; more were due to arrive the following day.
8. His Majesty the King of Greece paid a visit to the fleet at Alexandria and inspected Greek ships.
Saturday, 16th May 1942
AIREDALE and ALDENHAM and ANTWERP were sailed from Alexandria to Tobruk for escort duty.
2. Port Said was reopened for limited periods and a small number of ships swept out of harbour.
3. PRINCESS MARGUERITE, MALINES, and escort transported troops from Haifa to Famagusta.
4. OILSHIPPER arrived at Smyrna and was interned there.
5. VULCANIA sailed from Berbera having completed embarkation and proceeded on the return to Italy via the Cape. DUILO and GUILIO CESARE arrived at Berbera.
6. The Commander in Chief agreed to broadcast the times of sailing, route, and speed of all hospital ships sailing in the Mediterranean; in order to avoid any possibility as in the case of RAMB IV of attacks being unintentional; hospital ships would report their position every six hours.
Sunday, 17th May 1942
E boats were detected by R.D.F. off Malta at 0100/17. Their movements were followed until well within range when at 0205 four boats were illuminated and engaged by four batteries. The enemy withdrew behind smoke. At 0235, an explosion was seen in their direction. At dawn one boat was sighted stopped off Marsa Sirocco, was engaged by coast defence batteries and fighter and sunk. Only two boats were detected returning after the action and at least two were considered sunk.
2. HURWORTH sighted a U boat on the surface at 2300/16 in position 31-22N, 27-41E and attacked and hunted it with DULVERTON and BEAUFORT. DULVERTON and BEAUFORT rejoined convoy T.A. 41 at 0200. HURWORTH remaining till dawn. Nothing further was seen.
3. AIREDALE, ANTWERP, ALDENHAM, and KLO sailed from Tobruk for Alexandria escorting ADINDA.
4. EXMOOR and CROOME arrived at Port Said and were sailed to Alexandria escorting R.F.A. CHANGTE, store ship exchanged with RELIANT. The port of Port Said was reopened and normal sailing resumed; there was still an acute congestion however due to lack of escorts.
5. PRINCESS MARGUERITE and MALINES escorted by SIKH and HASTY arrived at Haifa on completion of Move NORMAL. HASTY was taken in hand for fourteen days refit at Haifa. HERO who had completed a similar refit sailed with MALINES and PRINCESS MARGUERITE to Alexandria, SIKH remaining at Haifa.
6. SATURNIA sailed from Berbera on completion of embarkation and sailed to join VULCANIA.
Monday, 18th May 1942
Flag Officer, Red Sea and Canal Area and Commodore, Aden
The Red Sea and Suez Canal Area were combined into one command under Vice Admiral R.H.C. Hallifax, C.B., to be known as Flag Officer, Red Sea and Canal Area. Admiral Hallifax continued to fly his flag at Suez with a Naval Officer in Charge and reduced staff at Ismailia. Captain C.A.A. Larcom, D.S.O. was appointed Commodore in Charge, Aden, with the rank of Commodore 2nd Class. Captain E.S. Graham was appointed Naval Officer in Charge, Suez, on relief by Captain Larcom.
Central Mediterranean – Operation L.B.
2. Seventeen Spitfires were flown from EAGLE to Malta. EAGLE sailed from Gibraltar p.m. 17th May with CHARYBDIS, ARGUS, and destroyers. CHARYBDIS was missed by torpedoes from a U boat at 0830/18. Aircraft (n.b. pen note 17 Spitfires and 6 Albacores) were flown off at 1930 but (n.b. pen note the 6 Albacores) returned to EAGLE due to defects. The force was shadowed by aircraft throughout the afternoon and was unsuccessfully attacked by T/B aircraft at 2200. A Catalina reconnaissance aircraft was shot down by French fighters near Algiers. Fulmars from ARGUS, and ITHURIEL, were sent to rescue the Catalina which was taken in tow, but was subsequently sunk after a Fulmar had also been shot down by more fighters.
3. Convoy A.T. 46 consisting of the petrol and water carrier EOCENE and four other ships, sailed from Alexandria escorted by DELPHINIUM, ERIDGE, HERO, SNAPDRAGON, FALK and COCK with DULVERTON and HURWORTH was a striking force. APHIS arrived at Tobruk having completed bombardment practices.
4. SIKH sailed from Haifa and escorted three ships from Port Said to Alexandria.
5. The Canal Area was extended to include the port of Suez.
Rear Admiral, Training Establishments
6. Rear Admiral R.J.R. Scott, transferred his flag to CANOPUS and assumed duties of Rear Admiral, Training Establishments (R.A.T.E.). He would also carry out the duties normally performed by a Commodore of Royal Naval Barracks.
(n.b. pen insertion. Scott had relieved Vice Admiral Sir James M. Pipon as S.B.N.O.S.C.A. on 7 April 1942).
Tuesday, 19th May 1942
The Commander in Chief gave orders for the ports of Bardia and Sollum to be opened with a skeleton naval base party for the operation of small craft. Commander R.L. Blackburn, D.S.O., was appointed Naval Officer in Charge, Bardia and Sollum.
2. ALDENHAM, AIREDALE, ANTWERP and ADINDA arrived at Alexandria.
3. The supply line and new petrol storage installations at Tobruk were completed and successfully tested.
4. Shortage of escorts was causing delay to Levant shipping. The Levant Escort Force consisted of COMMANDANT DOMINE, LA MOQUESE, 10th Corvette Group, 2nd Trawler Group, and 22nd A/S Group. Merchant ships were being escorted as follows:
5. Special arrangements were brought into force for creating a smoke screen over the harbour and particularly over the floating dock during air raids.
Wednesday, 20th May 1942
Commander in Chief
Acting Admiral Sir H.H. Harwood, K.C.B., O.B.E. hoisted his flag in QUEEN ELIZABETH and assumed command of the Mediterranean Station in succession to Admiral Pridham Wipple whose flag was struck in MEDWAY at sunset.
2. An enemy northbound convoy of one merchant ship and three destroyers was attacked by Wellington and Fleet Air Arm T/B aircraft near Tripoli during the night 19/20. Probable torpedo hits were reported on the merchant ship and one destroyer and bomb hits on a destroyer.
3. Operation L.B. EAGLE, ARGUS, CHARYBDIS, and destroyers returned to Gibraltar during the night 19/20th.
Cable Ship BULLFINCH
4. BULLFINCH arrived at Alexandria and commenced work on the repair of defective three H.D.A. cables. Work on Red Sea Cables was temporarily suspended to meet this urgent requirement.
5. P 612 was sailed from Alexandria to Iskaderun. The sailing of PORPOISE with stores from Alexandria to Malta was held up on account of the mine situation at Malta.
Thursday, 21st May 1942
EOCENE was torpedoed by a U boat at 2128/20 in position 31-56N, 25-15E and sank at 0045/21. All the crew were saved. The remainder of the convoy A.T. 44 (n.b. pen correction A.T. 46) arrived at Tobruk.
The escorts HERO, ERIDGE, DULVERTON, two corvettes, and two A/S trawlers sailed again with convoy T.A. 43.
2. The Greek S/M TRITON returned to Alexandria from a successful cargo trip to Malta.
3. The Flag of the Commander in Chief was transferred from QUEEN ELIZABETH to MEDWAY.
Friday, 22nd May 1942
EXMOOR, ALDENHAM, and CROOME sailed from Alexandria for Tobruk. There were reports of enemy shipping and a possible landing by the enemy in the area west of Tobruk.
2. The Swedish Relief Ship STUREBORG was sailed from Haifa to Piraeus.
3. M.L. 348 was commissioned, having been built at Cairo.
4. The large Italian floating dock was refloated at Massawa and repairs estimated to take four months, were put in hand by the U.S.N.A.M.
Saturday, 23rd May 1942
EXMOOR, ALDENHAM, and CROOME arrived at Tobruk and sailed again for Alexandria with convoy T.A. 44. ERIDGE, DULVERTON, and HERO and convoy T.A. 43 arrived at Alexandria.
2. M.T.B. 309 and 312 carried out a successful landing operation in Crete, working from Tobruk.
3. The Minister of State, Rt. Honourable Mr. R.G. Casey, visited ships and establishments at Alexandria and lunched with the Commander in Chief.
4. The Commander in Chief gave permission for hospital ships to resume sailings provided they broadcast their position course and speed at six hourly intervals.
5. The Commander in Chief ordered PORPOISE to be sailed from Alexandria to Malta with stores.
Directorate of Combined Operations and Commanding Officer, Naval Air Service, Egypt
6. Captain L.E.H. Maund, C.B.E., assumed duty as from 16th May as Naval Member of the Directorate of Combined Operations with the acting rank of Rear Admiral in succession to Rear Admiral Baillie Grohman. He also assumed operation control of H.M.S. SAUNDERS and all landing craft. The Commanding Officer of H.M.S. GREBE (Acting Captain C.L. Howe) took over Captain Maund's duties as Commanding Officer, Naval Air Service, Egypt.
Sunday, 24th May 1942
A further landing operation by M.T.B.s was completed successfully.
2. EXMOOR and CROOME attacked a possible U boat in position 32-10N, 26-11E at 1006/24.
3. During the night 24/25th an enemy force was reported to have landed at Banias (near Tripoli) from a transport. M.T.B.s from Famagusta and Haifa and other available craft were dispatched to the vicinity, but as no confirmation was received of the report. It remained possible that a small landing had taken placed from a U boat. Steam was also raised in the 15th C.S. and available destroyers at Alexandria, but ships did not sail.
4. The Admiralty proposed to withdraw COMMANDANT DOMINE and LA MOQUEUSE from the Mediterranean. Commander in Chief pointed out that this would reduce still further the already inadequate Levant escort force. Their presence in Syrian ports was also very desirable.
5. Italian repatriation ships GUILO CESARE and DUILIO sailed from Berbera p.m. 24th for Italy via the Cape.
6. Captain C. Coppinger, D.S.C., R.N. assumed duty as Captain Superintendent, Alexandria, in succession to Captain Beverley.
7. H.M.S. TRAVELLER arrived at Gibraltar to join the First Submarine Flotilla. She was retained to operate from there for the present.
Monday, 25th May 1942
Convoy A.T. 47 was sailed from Alexandria escorted by DELPHINIUM, ERICA, and KLO with ERIDGE, HURWORTH, and HERO as a striking force. EXMOOR, CROOME, and ALDENHAM and convoy T.A. 44 arrived at Alexandria.
2. A convoy of five D lighters proceeded under their own power was sailed from Tobruk for Mersa Matruh and Alexandria.
3. Aircraft from Malta and Egypt attacked a small southbound convoy 135 miles north west of Benghazi during the night 24/25th and reported possible bomb and torpedo hits. TURBULENT sighted the convoy and reported it to the aircraft, but was unable to get in an attack.
4. The Yugoslav M.T.B.s DURMITOR and KAJMAKALAN returned to Alexandria from Port Said on completion of their conversion to M.A.S.B.
5. H.M.S. SEAHAM and BOSTON (Bangor class A/S minesweeper) arrived at Aden and were sailed to Alexandria. They were the first ships of the 14th M/S Flotilla on passage from United Kingdom to join the Mediterranean Fleet.
6. P 612 was turned over to the Turkish Government at Iskanderun as MURAT REIS.
Tuesday, 26th May 1942
There was increased enemy air activity in the Tobruk area, but no naval damage. There was also indications of a general land offensive by the enemy.
2. H.M. Drifter EDDY was mined and sunk off Valletta harbour at 1630/26. There were eight casualties.
3. H.M.S. CENTURION arrived at Aden on passage from Bombay to the Mediterranean.
4. P 211 and P 43 arrived at Gibraltar to join the Mediterranean Fleet. They were retained at Gibraltar for the present.
Wednesday, 27th May 1942
At 0300/27, M.T.B. 309 and 312 attacked F Boats escorted by E Boats off Bomba. One F boat was damaged and possibly sunk. There was no damage or casualty in the M.T.B.s
2. At 2200/26 100 aircraft were reported west of Tobruk and Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron brought into force Operation MANUAL which was intended to deal with possible raids or flanking movements along the coast. The report was not confirmed and the operation was cancelled.
3. Aircraft reported four hits on a U boat at 2307/26th in position 32-29N, 24-49E. There were several more aircraft reports of U boats in the vicinity during the day.
4. The Commander in Chief brought Operation MANUAL into force before dark on further reports of enemy activity. The escort of Convoy A.T. 47 was placed under the orders of Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron, for patrols in accordance with the operation order.
U Boat Sunk
5. At 1115/27 ERIDGE detached HERO and HURWORTH from convoy A.T. 47 to hunt a U boat reported by aircraft in position 32-24N, 24-55E. Contact was made at 1321 and the U boat was repeatedly attacked during the day. ERIDGE joined the hunt at 1750. By 2000 only one pattern of depth charges in ERIDGE remained between three ships. Contact was held throughout the night and at 2353 the U boat surfaced but dived again when engaged by gunfire. At 0330 the U boat again surfaced in position 32-42N, 24-53E and at 0400 after final depth charging by ERIDGE was scuttled and sunk in position 32-42N, 24-53E. Forty two Germans were picked up.
6. H.M.S. BARFORD, Boom Defence Vessel, arrived at Aden and was ordered to proceed to Beirut.
Thursday, 28th May 1942
The enemy land offensive materialized definitely in the form of an assault against our positions round Tobruk.
2. Convoy T.A. 45 sailed from Tobruk at daylight escorted by DELPHINIUM, PRIMULA, and KLO. ERIDGE, HERO, and HURWORTH overtook the convoy after refuelling at Tobruk. A convoy of four A lighters was sailed from Alexandria to Mersa Matruh and Tobruk.
3. There were several minor T/B attacks on shipping in the Levant during 27th and 28th May.
4. The Greek destroyers AETOS and KONDOURIOTIS were sailed from Alexandria to join the Levant Escort Force in order to release the Tenth Corvette Group to return to Alexandria and reinforce the Western Desert Escort Force.
5. H.M.S. TETCOTT arrived at Aden from the United Kingdom to join the Fleet and was sailed to Alexandria.
6. The Free French Armed Trawler REINE des FLOTS also arrived at Aden and was ordered to proceed to Beirut.
7. THRASHER returned to Alexandria from patrol in the Adriatic. At 0853/19 in position 41-01N, 17-16E a 3500 ton heavily laden merchant ship southbound, probably German, was intercepted and sunk by torpedo. Several other targets were sighted during the patrol but passed out of range or could not be attacked for other reasons.
Friday, 29th May 1942
The following patrols were established during the night 28th/29th in accordance with Operation MANUAL:
EXMOOR and CROOME, between 28E and 29E and south of 31-20N.
1 M.L., 1 M.L.C., and 3 S.L.C. in the Tobruk area
2 M.T.B.s standing by at Tobruk.
ERIDGE and HURWORTH off Sollum rejoining convoy T.A. 45 at Daylight 29th
M.L. 1046 off Mersa Matruh
Close A/S air patrols round T.A. 45
An A.S.V. air patrol between Tobruk and 25-30E.
2. AIREDALE and ALDENHAM were sailed from Alexandria at daylight to act under the orders of Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron, for Operation MANUAL. ERIDGE, HURWORTH, and HERO arrived at Alexandria p.m. Five D lighters arrived at Alexandria under their own power from Tobruk.
3. Aircraft reported a hit on a U boat at 1845/29 in position 32-08N, 24-43E.
4. During the night 28/29th enemy tanks were ported to be attempting to reach the coast in longitude 23-40E. M.L. 1069 was reinforced by two M.T.B.s and drove off two E boats in this area. It was possible that this defeated an enemy attempt to fuel tanks.
5. The Commander in Chief asked for an early air reconnaissance of Messina, Taranto, Navarin, and Suda Bay to establish the whereabouts of the Italian Fleet and whether any combined operation might be intended.
6. Commodore C.A.A. Larcom assumed duty as Commodore in Charge, Aden.
7. CENTURION sailed from Aden to Suez on arrival from India. She had grounded while leaving harbour but was successfully refloated.
8. M.L. 353 was commissioned on completion of building at Cairo. M.T.B. 60 and M.T.B. 73 were commissioned at Port Said.
Saturday, 30th May 1942
Western Desert – Operation MANUAL
Patrols were carried out nightly. The A lighter force in the Western Desert was strengthened. All available D lighters were withdrawn westward for loading into ships of convoy M.W. 11.
Convoy T.A. 45 arrived At Alexandria
2. Minesweeping tug ST ANGELO was mined and sunk off the Grand Harbour at 1416/30.
3. In order to run a convoy to Malta reinforcements from the Eastern Fleet were detached to the Mediterranean. The first group arrived at Aden consisting of:
And was sailed at once to Suez.
Red Sea – Fourteenth M/S Flotilla
4. POOLE arrived at Aden and was taken in hand for repairs. WHITEHAVEN arrived on 29th and was sailed to Alexandria.
Sunday, 31st May 1942
There were no important developments in the situation.
2. Aircraft reported a hit on a U boat at 1800/31 in position 32-23N, 24-22E.
3. Owing to pressure of Admiralty work, the maintenance of the Canal Company dredging plant had been neglected. The Canal Company had placed a limit of 30 ft. on ships passing the wreck of AGHIOS GEORGIOS and 32 feet for entered Port Said roads. Both these depths could be exceeded on special circumstances but only up to 34 feet. Steps were taken to bring Canal Company craft into action and give the Port Said dredging craft into action and give the Port Said dredging plant priority over all other work in order to have a 41 ft. channel as soon was possible. This was estimated to take a year.
4. Temporary repairs to H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH were proceeding satisfactorily but would not complete before the end of July.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS FOR May, 1942
No major naval operations took place in the Western Mediterranean during the month, which was mainly devoted to the normal convoy duties, attacks on enemy supply routes, and preparations for running the next convoy to Malta.
Alexandria and Suez Canal Area
2. Early in the month there was an air raid on Port Said in which one ship was damaged and two ships slightly damaged. Mines were dropped in the inner channel causing damage to three ships.
3. At Alexandria there was one air raid by about sixteen aircraft in which no damage was done to the dockyard, most of the bombs falling wide of the target area. In the middle of the month, there was an unsuccessful attack on the harbour by human torpedoes. Three abandoned craft were found, the crews of which were eventually rounded up.
4. Normal convoys to Tobruk continued during which a good deal of U boat activity was encountered and a certain amount of air activity. The ports of Bardia and Sollum were opened up for the operation of small craft and raids on Derna shipping were carried out by M.T.B.s.
5. Towards the end of the month, there were indications of a general land offensive by the enemy which materialized on the 28th in the form of an assault against our positions round Tobruk. Special patrols were instituted to deal with possible raids or flanking movements along the coast.
6. Normal convoys were continued which entailed extra escorts being provided as there was a good deal of U Boat activity throughout the month. An operation in connection with the change of garrison in Cyprus was successfully carried out.
7. Salvage work at Massawa progressed favourably and the large Italian floating dock was refloated. Two Italian repatriation ships sailed from Berbera for Italy via the Cape and reinforcements from the Eastern Fleet for running a convoy to Malta arrived.
8. Sixty Spitfires were flown into the Island from U.S. carrier WASP and a further seventeen from EAGLE. Whilst transporting stores WELSHMAN was attacked unsuccessfully by E boats off the Grand Harbour. Air attacks were on a reduced scale except for one attack by about sixty bombers escorted by many fighters, but due to our superior fighter force, effective smoke screen, and highly concentrated barrage, 45 bombers and 21 fighters were destroyed for the loss of three Spitfires and damage to (n.b. page chopped)
9. One night E boats were detected by R.D.F., four were illuminated and engaged by shore batteries, at least two are considered sunk.
10. Some mining took placed in the approach channel which caused several casualties.
11. Every effort was made by submarines and aircraft to attack the enemy supply routes to Libya and against one convoy four destroyers were despatched to intercept. Our naval force was sighted by aircraft on the first day out and turned back in accordance with their orders. They were subjected to exceptionally heavy, accurate, and determined air attacks which resulted in three destroyers being sunk. The fourth, (D 22), returned to Alexandria with 630 survivors.
12. Submarines continued their successful offensive against the enemy supply routes. Two were unfortunately lost, OLYMPUS being mined off Malta, and URGE failed to arrive when on passage from Malta to Alexandria.
13. P 611 and P 612 were turned over to the Turks as ORUC REIS and MURAT REIS, respectively. (n.b. entry enlarged to show Turkish names on transfer).
Changes on the Station
MEDITERRANEAN WAR DIARY – June 1942
Monday, 1st June 1942
APHIS was made available for night bombardment if especially required by the Army during offensive operations but was not called upon.
2. PEONY, ERICA, GLOXINIA, and COCKER were sailed from Alexandria to being back empty store ships from Tobruk.
3. BOSTON and SEAHAM of the Fourteenth M/S Flotilla arrived at Alexandria.
4. The torpedo school at Alexandria was commissioned as an independent command with the name of H.M.S. PHAROS.
5. The second group of Eastern Fleet reinforcements arrived at Aden and was sailed to Suez. It consisted of:
Approval was given in principle to the establishment of a large Boom Defence reserve storage at Aden.
Tuesday, 2nd June 1942
Aircraft twice attacked a U boat and reported one depth charge hit in each attack: the first at 0345/2 in position 31-56N, 25-27E (penned note: Swordfish of 815 Squadron) and the second at 0700/2 in position 32-07N, 25-33E (penned note: Blenheim of RAF 203 Squadron). At 1050/2 reconnaissance aircraft reported two U boats together in position 32-32N, 25-10E. One did not submerge and was apparently damaged and transferring stores to the other. It was probably that it had been damaged in the aircraft attack and was scuttled. (penned note: U 652 badly damaged by British bombs and scuttled by torpedoes from U 81.)
2. Convoy T.A. 47, the five knot ship KATIE MOLLER, escorted by GLOXINIA and COCKER sailed from Tobruk.
Naval T/B aircraft from Malta attacked a 7000 ton merchant ship off Marsala and reported two hits.
Red Sea – Operation VIGOROUS
4. The final group of reinforcements, ARETHUSA, HERMIONE, and JAVELIN arrived at Aden and were sailed to Suez. ARETHUSA and JAVELIN were to join the Fleet. HERMIONE would return to United Kingdom for refit in completion of the operation.
Repairs to GROVE could not be completed without the despatch of a new L.P. Turbine from the United Kingdom. The Commander in Chief decided that she should operate on one shaft on restricted escort duty pending the arrival of the turbine.
6. M.L. 349 was commissioned at Cairo.
7. The damaged S.S. FRED, mined off Port Said on 13th May, was raised and brought into harbour.
Wednesday, 3rd June 1942
An operation was carried out in which 27 Spitfires were flown from EAGLE into Malta. Four others were shot down on passage.
2. Convoy A.T. 48 of six ships escorted by DULVERTON, HURWORTH, DELPHINIUM, PRIMULA, and SNAPDRAGON and FALK sailed from Alexandria p.m. 3rd.
3. Convoy T.A. 46, three empty ships, escorted by AIREDALE, ALDENHAM, PEONY, and ERICA sailed from Tobruk for Alexandria.
4. Enemy "F" boats were sighted approaching Derna from the west.
Canal Area – Operation VIGOROUS
5. Diesel Launch 3972 was renamed H.M.S. ST ANGELO consequent on the loss of tug ST ANGELO.
Thursday, 4th June 1942
Eastern Desert – Loss of H.M.S. COCKER
COCKER was torpedoed by a U boat and sank at 0101/4 in position 032-06N, 24-12E (n.b. pen and ink correction to 23-12E). The Commanding Officer and fifteen were picked up by rescue craft sent from Tobruk. GLOXINIA returned to Tobruk with KATIE MOLLER. COCKER had a splendid record and had done great service both in the Inshore Squadron and as KOS 19, during the campaigns of Greece and Crete.
2. Naval Albacores attacked shipping in Derna harbour during the night 3rd/4th. Results were uncertain.
3. Convoy T.A. 46 was attacked by a U boat at 1530 but the striking force did not make contact effectively.
4. H.M.S. JANUS was damaged by a mine which exploded in her wake at 1724/4 in position 31-15.5N, 29-44E. It was hoped to repair her in about three weeks.
5. A 6000 ton merchant ship escorted by three destroyers and making for Benghazi was detached during the night 3rd/4th and attacked in position 34-40N, 21-08E by T/B Wellingtons. It was again attacked at dawn in position 34-10N, 21-00E by T/B Beaufort. Hits were reported in both attacks. The ship was not again sighted and was considered to have sunk.
6. TURBULENT returned to Alexandria from a most successful patrol in the Gulf of Sirte: a U boat, a destroyer, three merchant ships all bound for Benghazi and a schooner were sunk.
(a). On 14th May a 500 ton schooner carrying fuel or ammunition was attacked with gunfire and destroyed off Ras el Hilal.
(b). At 0210/18 three northbound merchant ships in convoy were attacked in position 32-47N, 18-51E. Two hits were seen on the rear 4000 ton ship which sank.
(c). From 2310/28 to 0409/29 a southbound convoy of two heavily laden good sized ships was attacked. A salvo of four torpedoes were fired and three hit. Both merchant ships were hit and sank. One torpedo circled over the top of TURBULENT and then hit and sank a destroyer.
(d). At 1300/2 while returning to Alexandria TURBULENT sighted and attacked a German U boat in position 32-48N, 25-12E. A salvo of five torpedoes missed. Two more were fired, both of which hit. The U boat was not seen or heard again and was considered sunk.
Friday, 5th June 1942
AIREDALE sighted a U boat at 2359/4 in position 31-26N, 28-26E and attacked it without apparent success. A U boat was also reported off Alexandria during the night and attacked by patrol craft. PEONY and Convoy TA 46 was unsuccessfully attacked by U boats during the night and again at dawn and arrived safely at Alexandria. The striking force again failed to make contact with the U boat.
2. Convoy AT 48 arrived at Tobruk. DULVERTON and HURWORTH were sailed direct to Alexandria.
3. The newly fitted Salvage Schooner LARS RUSDAHL was sailed from Alexandria to Tobruk.
4. "A" lighters continued to transport stores between Mersa Matruh and Tobruk.
Canal Area, Operation VIGOROUS
5. The remained of the reinforcements arrived at Suez during the day and night 5th/6th:
6. PAKENHAM and NORMAN were passed through the Canal and sailed to Alexandria for repairs. GROVE sailed in company from Port Said.
7. M.T.B. s 315 and 316 were commissioned at Suez. M.L. 352 was commissioned on 4th June at Cairo.
8. ZULU returned to Alexandria on completion of two months repairs at the Canal Area.
Saturday, 6th June 1942
Three torpedoes were fired into Tobruk Harbour by a U boat at 0130/6. All three exploded in the boom. Damage to the boom was repairable; no other damage was done.
Canal Area – Operation VIGOROUS
2. BIRMINGHAM, ARETHUSA, NIZAM, FORTUNE, and GRIFFIN were passed through the canal and sailed in company to Alexandria. JERVIS and KELVIN were sailed from Alexandria to provide additional escort.
WHITEHAVEN arrived at Alexandria to join the Fourteenth M/S Flotilla. She was not at present fit for active operations due to machinery defects.
The ex-Belgian Boom working vessels GRAAF VAN VLANDEREN and PRINCE DE LIEGE arrived at Aden to join the Station, and were sailed to the Canal Area and Alexandria, respectively.
The Tenth Submarine Flotilla (four ships) was sailed from Alexandria to take up positions for Operation VIGOROUS. The Greek submarines TRITON and PAPANICOLIS also sailed from Alexandria for patrol in the Aegean and a special operation in Crete connected with VIGOROUS.
Sunday, 7th June 1942
There was a comparative lull in the fighting on land while forces reorganized.
2. GLOXINIA attacked a U boat off Tobruk during the night 6th/7th but without apparent success.
3. An enemy force of two 6" cruisers and three destroyers was reported by air reconnaissance to have moved to Cagliari.
Reinforcements – Operation VIGOROUS
4. ERIDGE and BEAUFORT were sailed from Alexandria to provide escort for HERMIONE who was passed through the Canal and sailed p.m. for Alexandria.
Monday, 8th June 1942
Convoy TA 47, three empty ships sailed from Tobruk at daylight escorted by DELPHINIUM, GLOXINIA, PRIMULA, SNAPDRAGON, and FALK.
2. There was evidence of five U boats working on the Western Desert route.
3. Tobruk harbour was unsuccessfully bombed during the night 7th/8th. One JU.88 was shot down.
4. M.T.B. 309 and 312 patrolled in the vicinity of 32-26N, 23-09E during the night 7th/8th to investigate an air report of F boats unloading. A small ship, possibly an F boat was seen close inshore and attacked with torpedo, but results were uncertain.
5. The small Egyptian steamer SAID was sunk by gunfire from a U boat at 0630/8th fifteen miles south west of Jaffa. The majority of the crew were saved.
6. WOLBOROUGH was holed by a U boat torpedo which did not explode at 1355/8th while escorting ATHENE from Port Said to Alexandria. TETCOTT was sent to her assistance, and escorted her to Alexandria.
Reinforcements: Operation VIGOROUS
6. NEWCASTLE, NAPIER, JAVELIN, and NESTOR were passed through the canal and sailed to Alexandria. (The Diary listed two paragraphs as 6.)
7. The fast tanker BULKOIL arrived at Suez. She was required for the Malta convoy, but was fully loaded with aviation spirit and fuel oil.
Tuesday, 9th June 1942
Convoy AT 49 of five store ships including R.F.A. BRAMBLELEAF and the petrol carrier ATHENE was sailed from Alexandria escorted by GROVE, TETCOTT, PEONY, HYACINTH, and KLO. GROVE was operating on one shaft only and both destroyers were new to the station. No other escort was available however, on account of the forthcoming operation.
2. Convoy TA 47 and escort arrived at Alexandria p.m.
3. A U boat was sunk by aircraft depth charges in the Gibraltar area.
4. Palestinian schooner ESTHER was sunk by a U boat 0030/0 off Saida. The Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area ordered all schooner traffic to be suspended until further orders. The Commander in Chief ordered CITY OF PRETORIA to be held at Beirut until destroyer escort was available. HOTSPUR, having been passed through the Canal and CONDOURIOTIS were ordered to proceed from Port Said and Alexandria respectively for this duty.
5. It was not possible to reinforce the Levant escort force at present; the Commander in Chief ordered fast ships to be routed evasively between ports making night passages while slow ships were to continue to coast crawl.
6. The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron held a conference of all Flag and Commanding Officers concerned in Operation VIGOROUS. On its completion, NESTOR, NORMAN, NIZAM, and AIREDALE were sailed from Alexandria escorting PRINCESS MARGUERITE and S.S. BHUTAN to Port Said.
32 Spitfires from EAGLE (Operation SALIENT) arrived.
Wednesday, 10th June 1942
Convoy AT 49 was attacked by one or possibly two U boats during the night of 9th/10th. The cased petrol ship HAVRE was torpedoed and sank at 0330/10th in position 31-10N, 28-36E. BRAMBLELEAF and ATHENE were both torpedoed at 0600/10th in position 31-12N, 28-10E. ATHENE caught fire, had to be abandoned and finally sank two days later. BRAMBLELEAF was got in tow of tugs from Alexandria and Mersa Matruh and finally arrived at Alexandria a.m. 11th, escorted by PEONY and two M.L.s. She was drawing 45 feet and unable to enter harbour until salvage had been carried out.
2. Aircraft from Malta reported one northbound and one southbound convoy off Cape Bon during the night 9th/10th and estimated one bomb hit on a minesweeper of the northbound convoy.
3. The minesweeping tug TRUSTY STAR was mined and sank off the Grand Harbour. M.L. 126 was slightly damaged when attacked by fighters but down shot one ME 109.
4. The Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area suspended all unescorted sailings north of Haifa on account of U boat activity.
5. The main convoys were assembling at Port Said and Haifa. Naval Liaison Officers and personnel to take passage arrived in PRINCESS MARGUERITE to join their ships at Port Said. PRINCESS MARGUERITE was sailed on to Haifa p.m. with the remainder escorted by NESTOR, NORMAN, NIZAM, and INCONSTANT, the last having passed through the Canal during the day. COVENTRY, DULVERTON, and HURWORTH sailed from Alexandria to Port Said to enable commanding officers to attend the convoy conference. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, ALDENHAM, and CROOME sailed from Alexandria at dark to join COVENTRY at Port Said a.m. 11th
6. The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lieutenant Roberts and Petty Officer Gould for gallantry in disposing of bombs from the casing of H.M.S. THRASHER on patrol in March 1942.
Thursday, 11th June 1942
It was intended to run a convoy of CENTURION and ten merchant ships from the Eastern Mediterranean and another convoy (HARPOON) of four ships from Gibraltar into Malta simultaneously. Submarines were disposed in the Ionian Sea and south east of Sardinia to intercept striking forces. Extensive air reconnaissance and T/B striking forces were arranged.
2. The Senior Officer, Force "T" sailed from Gibraltar in KENYA, with MALAYA, EAGLE, ARGUS, LIVERPOOL, CHARYBDIS, CAIRO, and destroyers escorting HARPOON convoy.
3. A diversionary convoy MW 11 C consisting of CITY OF CALCUTTA, BHUTAN, REMBRANDT, and AAGTEKIRK sailed from Port Said escorted by COVENTRY, DULVERTON, HURWORTH, ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, AIREDALE, ALDENHAM, and CROOME.
4. NAPIER (D 7) sailed from Alexandria to join the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla at Haifa. KELVIN and ZULU sailed from Alexandria to Port Said to provide escort for CENTURION.
5. Aircraft carried out several attacks on U boats but results were uncertain.
6. Following intense enemy attacks on Bir Hacheim during the past week, the Free French Brigade was withdrawn. A further full scale enemy offensive to the East and North then commenced.
Friday, 12th June 1942
Western Desert – Loss of H.M.S. GROVE
The two remaining ships of convoy AT 49 arrived at Tobruk during the night of 11th/12th. TETCOTT and GROVE turned back direct to Alexandria. At 0205/12th, GROVE grounded off Ras Azzaz. She was refloated at once but was reduced to 8 knots. At 0655/12th in position 032-05N, 025-30E, GROVE was torpedoed by a U boat and sank at 0710. The U boat was not detected. The Commanding Officer and eighty of the crew were picked up by TETCOTT who proceeded to Alexandria and arrived there p.m.
2. Convoy M.W. 11C was joined by EXMOOR off Alexandria and continued to the westward.
3. Convoy M.W. 11 A consisting of CITY OF LINCOLN, CITY OF EDINBURGH, AJAX, ELIZABETH BAKKE, and CITY OF PRETORIA with PRINCESS MARGUERITE in company, sailed from Haifa escorted by NAPIER, NORMAN, NESTOR, NIZAM, INCONSTANT, and HOTSPUR.
4. Convoy M.W. 11 B consisting of BULKOIL and POTARO sailed from Port Said p.m. escorted by PAKENHAM, FORTUNE, and PALADIN to join M.W. 11A at daylight 13th. PAKENHAM and FORTUNE sailed from Alexandria at daylight to join the convoy.
5. CENTURION having been fitted with 13 Oerlikon guns and loaded with 1000 tons of stores was passed through the Canal and sailed from Port Said to Alexandria escorted by KELVIN and ZULU.
Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, G.C.B., D.S.O., Bt
6. Admiral Sir A.B. Cunningham, G.C.B., D.S.O. was created a Baronet. In reply to congratulations from the Commander in Chief, Admiral Cunningham sent the following message to the Fleet:
"Thank you so much for your message. I regard this honour as having been given me as a tribute to the work of the Officers and men of the Mediterranean Fleet and as such it was accepted. Please convoy to them all my thanks and good wishes."
Saturday, 13th June 1942
M.W. 11C turned back eastward after dark 12th and joined M.W. 11 A and B in the vicinity of Alexandria on 13th. The Hunts escorting the convoy were sent into Alexandria to fuel. CITY OF CALCUTTA was damaged by a near miss at 2100/12 while still proceeding westward and was escorted into Tobruk by EXMOOR and CROOME. M.T.B.s were in tow of the four rear merchant ships, but had to be slipped and sent in to Tobruk on account of the weather. M.T.B. 259 was damaged and sunk.
2. ELIZABETH BAKKE was unable to maintain the necessary speed and was detached from M.W. 11 A into Alexandria. CENTURION joined H.W. 11 a from Alexandria, having fuelled.
3. Captain (D), Fourteenth Destroyer Flotilla in JERVIS, with KELVIN and JAVELIN (14th Destroyer Flotilla), SIKH, ZULU, HERO, and HASTY (22nd Destroyer Flotilla), ANTWERP and MALINES sailed from Alexandria a.m. to relived the Eastern Fleet destroyers as escort for M.W. 11. The Eastern Fleet destroyers then proceeded to Alexandria to fuel. DELPHINIUM, ERICA, PRIMULA, and SNAPDRAGON also joined the escort from Alexandria.
4. At 1730 Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron sailed from Alexandria in CLEOPATRA with DIDO, HERMIONE, EURYALUS, NEWCASTLE (Rear Admiral Commanding, Fourth Cruiser Squadron), BIRMINGHAM, and ARETHUSA, and the following destroyers: NAPIER (Captain (D), Seventh Destroyer Flotilla, Senior Officer (Destroyers), NIZAM, NORMAN, NESTOR, PAKENHAM (Captain (D), Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla), PALADIN, INCONSTANT, FORTUNE, GRIFFIN, HOTSPUR, DULVERTON (Senior Officer, Fifth Destroyer Flotilla), HURWORTH, ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, AIREDALE, ALDENHAM, and TETCOTT.
Sabotage of Cretan Aerodromes
5. In support of Operation VIGOROUS a series of sabotage operations were carried out by small parties landed from the Greek Submarines TRITON and PAPANICOLIS and from M.T.B.'s during the preceding week. Heraklion, Maleme, Tymbaki, and Kastelli Pediada were attacked. The attack on Maleme by Captain Lord Jellicoe and four Free Frenchmen landed from TRITON was a notable success. Although delayed until the night 13th/14th, some twenty aircraft being destroyed. A total of not less than 28 aircraft, six lorries, 12,500 gallons of petrol and 400 bombs were destroyed in these sources. (n.b. pen addition: not confirmed from enemy sources).
H.M. Schooner FAROUK was sunk by U boat gunfire at 1150/13th, in position 034-19N, 035-33E. FAROUK was specially fitted for A/S activity, but was shelled at a considerable distance and blew up when hit by the fourth salvo.
Sunday 14th June 1942
Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron's forces and EXMOOR and CROOME from Tobruk joined COVENTRY and the convoy M.W. 11 at daylight. S.S. AAGTEKERK was unable to make the speed and was detached to Tobruk with TETCOTT and PRIMULA. She was later attacked by aircraft, set on fire, grounded near Tobruk, becoming a total loss. BOSTON and SEAHAM of the 14th M/S Group (A/S-M/S) joined the convoy from Tobruk having been sent ahead there to fuel. ERICA was detached to Mersa Matruh during night 13th/14th with defects.
2. The convoy and escort were heavily bombed in the afternoon and evening. S.S. BHUTAN was hit and sank. S.S. POTARO was damaged but was able to continue. Her crew and passengers rescued by ANTWERP and MALINES who were detached to Tobruk.
3. Two enemy forces including two Battleships and four cruisers were reported leaving Taranto at 1845.
4. HARPOON convoy and escort (Force X) were detached at dark, MALAYA and Force T returning to Gibraltar. WELSHMAN proceeded ahead at high speed to Malta. LIVERPOOL was torpedoed by aircraft in a dusk attack and was taken in tow by WESTCOTT. Two enemy cruisers and destroyers were seen leaving Palermo at dusk. SPEEDY sank a U boat p.m. 14th in position 037-39N, 009-35E.
5. The army withdrew further eastward but it was hoped to continue operating aircraft from Gambut aerodrome which was essential to the success of Operation VIGOROUS. The personnel ships PRINCESS MARGUERITE and PRINCESS KATHLEEN were brought to short notice for evacuation, but were not required by the Army.
Monday, 15th June 1942
The Commander in Chief ordered the convoy to turn back at 0145 in order to enable a T/B attack to be launched on the enemy Battlefleet before contact could be made. During the night 14th/15th the convoy was constantly illuminated by aircraft flares and was attacked by E Boats and U Boats. NEWCASTLE was hit forward by an E boat torpedo at 0300, her speed reduced to 24 knots and her forward turret put out of action. HASTY was torpedoed by a U Boat at 0525 and later sunk by our own forces. HOTSPUR rescued her crew of which only 12 were lost.
2. At 0630 the convoy turned west again, but was turned back at 0930 when the enemy was only 100 miles to the West and T/B attacks had not developed. At 1115 BEAUFORT T/B striking force reported hits on the 2 Littorio battleships, and the Commander in Chief ordered the convoy to turn westward, but the enemy continued South-eastward, apparently not reduced in speed. The Rear Admiral Commanding Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron, therefore, maintained his course to the Eastward.
3. Heavy bombing at Ju.88 and 87 throughout the day, and the T/B attacks were made at dusk. CENTURION and BIRMINGHAM were damaged, but were able to continue. AIREDALE was hit and later sunk by our forces; casualties were slight. NESTOR was also hit and immobilized and taken in tow by JAVELIN with ERIDGE and BEAUFORT escorting.
4. By 1630 the enemy had turned Northward and the Commander in Chief again ordered a turn to the Westward if in any way possible. Shortage of fuel and ammunition, however, did not permit this, and the Rear Admiral Commanding 15th Cruiser Squadron was instructed to return to Alexandria with his whole force.
5. Submarines intercepted the enemy Battlefleet, but a simultaneous air attack caused the enemy to alter course and attacks could not be pressed home. The 8" cruiser TRENTO was damaged by air attack, and later sunk by P.35 while making Northward. P.35 also reported one torpedo hit on a Littorio Battleship.
6. Meanwhile convoy HARPOON was heavily engaged from daylight in the Pantellaria by 2 6" Cruisers and three 3 destroyers, and by aircraft. CAIRO and destroyers held off this force successfully but 2 merchantmen were damaged by bombs and had to be sunk. BEDOUIN and PARTRIDGE were damaged. BEDOUIN was later torpedoed by aircraft and sunk after being taken in tow by PARTRIDGE. PARTRIDGE was reduced to 12 knots and was ordered to make for Gibraltar. The remaining 2 merchant ships reached Malta after dark but HEBE, MATCHLESS, BADSWORTH, Polish destroyer KUJAWAIK and S.S. ORARI were mined while the convoy was being swept into harbour. Polish destroyer KUJAWAIK was sunk, but the other ships reached harbour. CAIRO and the rest of the escort entered harbour, being too late to make the passage westward. WELSHMAN arrived safely at dawn. (n.b. page chopped – bottom line missing) unloaded in the day, and put to sea again to assist the convoy. The enemy cruisers were attacked during the day by T/B aircraft from Malta and hits were reported, but their speed was apparently unaffected.
7. The Army situation in the Tobruk Area continued to be uncertain. Shelling of Tobruk town was re-commenced. The discharge of cargo was stopped.
Tuesday, 16th June 1942
HERMIONE was torpedoed by a U boat and sank in about 7 minutes at 0126. EXMOOR, BEAUFORT, and ALDENHAM rescued some 400 of her crew. Efforts to tow NESTOR had to be abandoned at 0530 and she was sunk by JAVELIN who rejoined C.S. 15 with her escort.
2. Several attacks on U boat contacts and sightings were carried out by the convoy escort at 1330, but there was no evidence of damage.
3. At 1900 the Rear Admiral Commanding 15th Cruiser Squadron returned to Alexandria with the 15th Cruiser Squadron, the 4th Cruiser Squadron, H.M.S. COVENTRY, the 14th, 22nd, and 7th Destroyer Flotillas, H.M.S. HOTSPUR, H.M.S. PALADIN and 5th Destroyer Flotilla, BOSTON, SEAHAM, DELPHINIUM, and SNAPDRAGON. The Captain (D) 12th Destroyer Flotilla in PAKENHAM, with GRIFFIN, FORTUNE, and INCONSTANT were detached to escort BULKOIL and AJAX to Port Said. CENTURION and the 5 remaining merchant ships entered Alexandria. CENTURION was too deep to enter harbour, owing to damage, and was anchored outside the Great Pass.
4. CAIRO, WELSHMAN, MARNE, ITHURIEL, BLANKNEY, and MIDDLETON were sailed from Malta westward at dark. The minesweeping Drifter JUSTIFIED was mined and sunk off the Grand Harbour.
5. Submarines were recalled, the 1st and 10th Flotillas to Alexandria and the 8th Flotilla to Gibraltar.
6. During the operation, 20 enemy aircraft were shot down by gunfire, by the Fleet, and a large number in the Malta-Pantellaria area.
7. Preparations were made for demolition of Tobruk and for withdrawing unnecessary ships, in view of the deterioration of the military situation. TETCOTT and PRIMULA escorted CITY OF CALCUTTA back to Alexandria from Tobruk.
8. The Greek repair ship HIPHAISTOS and the destroyers IERAX and SPETSAI refitting from her were moved from Port Sudan to Suez.
The following German units were believed to be operating in the Mediterranean:
Wednesday, 17th June 1942
MALAYA, EAGLE, ARGUS, LIVERPOOL and other ships concerned in HARPOON including PARTRIDGE arrived at Gibraltar.
2. The damage to ships of the fleet was as follows:
HERMIONE, 24 officers and 416 ratings saved.
DAMAGE TO ENEMY
3. The following signal was made by the Admiralty to the Senior Officer Force T, the Flag Officer Commanding, North Atlantic, the Vice Admiral Malta, and the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean:
"Request you will convey their Lordships' congratulations to the officers and men of all British and Allied warships and merchant ships whose joint effort have once more made so valuable a contribution to the maintenance of the island fortress of Malta. The courage and tenacity displayed by all under most trying conditions is worthy of highest traditions of the sea."
4. Convoy T.A. 49, including all the cargo ships at Tobruk and TONELINE, was sailed during the night 16th/17th, escorted by ANTWERP, MALINES, PEONY, ERICA, and GLOXINIA. TETCOTT joined the escort from Alexandria. Some 1500 Army labour corps and docks group and all unnecessary naval personnel were embarked in the merchant ships.
Another convoy of A Lighters backloaded with surplus Army stores, ST MONANCE and APHIS was sailed to Mersa Matruh.
5. The Belgian boom vessels GRAF VAN VLANDEREN and PRINCE DE LIEGE arrived at Suez for work in the former in Canal ports and the latter at Alexandria.
Thursday, 18th June 1942
CAIRO and Force Z arrived at Gibraltar.
2. The Italian liners SATURNIA and VULCANIA arrived at Gibraltar with personnel from (n.b. in text as for; corrected by pen) Eritrea and were sailed to Italian ports.
3. S.S. AAGTEKIRK was reported to be still on fire near Tobruk and to be a total loss. Shelling of Tobruk had ceased. Light craft continued to provide patrols working from Tobruk. "A" lighters were being unloaded at Sollum with especially urgent army stores. Bardia harbour was cleared of all our forces to enable the harbour to be mined.
4. GRIFFIN, FORTUNE, HOTSPUR, and INCONSTANT were sailed from Port Said to Alexandria.
5. Stocks of Oerlikon ammunition were practically exhausted; the Commander in Chief ordered expenditure to be reduced to minimum.
Malta. Damaged Ships
6. The Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that MATCHLESS would require 10 days in dock to be made seaworthy. HEBE and BADSWORTH would each require 3 weeks in dock for temporary repairs. It is hoped that S.S. ORARI would be fit for passed by the end of June.
Friday, 19th June 1942
The situation at Tobruk remained quiet. 201 Naval Cooperation Group completed the mining of Bardia harbour with cucumbers during the night 18th/19th. It was decided not to carry out demolition owing to shortage of material. TETCOTT and MALINES (with convoy T.A. 49) attacked a U boat during the night 18th/19th without apparent success. The Naval Officer in Charge, Sollum, reported that 6 A lighters and one small ship could be unloaded if required. An A lighter shuttle service was commenced between Tobruk and Mersa Matruh.
2. The Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that by 1200/19th 6,500 tons of cargo had been unloaded from ORARI and 4,800 tons from TROILUS. It was hoped to complete both ships p.m. 20th.
3. NEWCASTLE was considered fit for ocean passage, and was sailed escorted by FORTUNE and GRIFFIN to transit the canal and proceed to Kilindini. The other Eastern Fleet units remained at Alexandria for the present.
4. ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, ALDENHAM, and CROOME were sailed in company with NEWCASTLE and proceeded to Haifa. GLOXINIA and HYACINTH were sailed to Haifa independently. The 4 Hunts and 2 Corvettes were placed under the orders of the Senior Naval Officer, Levant Area, as a striking force to operate in the Levant Area.
Saturday, 20th June 1942
Western Desert – The Fall of Tobruk
During the forenoon a strong force of German tanks, closely supported by infantry, broke through the perimeter defences in the southeast. By 1830 enemy tanks were in a position to shell the harbour. Heavy air attacks on gun positions and shipping in the port had taken place throughout the day. Complete lack of knowledge of the land situation by the local Army Commanders and the Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron, had unfortunate results. As a consequence, Naval demolitions were incompletely carried out and some small craft were unable to be got away in time. The initiative and resource of M.T.B. 260, who, by laying a smoke screen, enable the withdrawal of many small craft under continuous shellfire to be carried out. A number of small craft were lost and some only slightly damaged could not be got away. "A" lighters 119 and 150 and M.L.'s 1039 and 1069 with about twenty four other craft were left in Tobruk Harbour. Naval casualties were not high; the Senior Naval Officer, Inshore Squadron (Captain P.N. Walter, D.S.O., R.N.) and the Naval Officer in Charge, Tobruk (Captain F.M. Smith, C.B.E., D.S.O., R.D., R.N.R.) were both in Navy House when it was surrounded by German tanks. Their fate is unknown. (n.b. Walter and Smith were taken P.O.W., but D.O.W. that night). H.M.S. ABERDALE was one of the last ships to leave and evacuated over a hundred military personnel.
2. All accounts from individual officers and small craft show that a high standard of seamanship and resourcefulness was attained by all concerned.
3. TAKU returned to Alexandria and reported that on 31st May in position 33-34N, 18-30E, she torpedoed one 7000 ton southbound merchant ship. Heavy explosions followed and the ship almost certainly sank.
4. The Greek submarines PAPANICOLIS and TRITON also returned, the former sank six and the latter three caiques.
5. A new agreement between Admiral Harwood and Vice Admiral Godfroy was signed today. The main difference from the former agreement was (a) should the port of Alexandria be menaced by hostile action a movement of the French Fleet by special agreement may take place; (b) provision for relief of personnel provided Admiral Godfroy remained at Alexandria.
Sunday, 21st June 1942
Small craft on passage from Tobruk to the eastward were attacked by E boats in the early hours of the morning. South African minesweeper PARKTOWN was sunk and the Tug C.307 in tow of her was badly damaged. Several A.L.C.s and S.L.C.s were destroyed by E boats. Magnetic minelaying was carried out off Tobruk harbour during the night.
2. The Naval Officer in Charge, Sollum, reported arrangements for demolitions completed. The Army Tug VIVIAN managed to escape from Tobruk with three soldiers and arrived safely at Mersa Matruh.
Central Mediterranean – Operations
3. Two enemy merchant ships were hit and left on fire 60 miles due north of Cape Bon by Beauforts operating from Malta.
Monday, 22nd June 1942
The Naval Officer in Charge, Bardia after withdrawal took over the port of Sollum. Increased enemy activity was reported between Bardia and Capuzzo. Preparations for demolition at Sollum was reported complete and the army had prepared to withdraw.
PROTEUS arrived Alexandria from patrol in the Central Mediterranean. On 30th May in position 31-51N, 19-26E she torpedoed a heavily laden southbound merchant ship of 2500 tons. On the following day she torpedoed and sank a southbound merchant ship of 6000 tons.
Tuesday, 23rd June 1942
Demolitions in Sollum harbour are reported completed and harbour evacuated.
2. "A" Lighters began evacuation of surplus stores from Mersa Matruh. Tugs were also sent up to Mersa Matruh to tow out the Army waterboats and pontoons.
Losses After Fall of Tobruk
Schooners KHEIR EL DINE and ESKIMO NELL
There were in addition numerous S.L.C's, A.L.C.'s, and some Jaffa Lighters in all about twenty four, which were lost in Tobruk Harbour and on passage to Mersa Matruh.
Central Mediterranean – Operations
4. During the night 22nd/23rd June, Wellington torpedo bombers claimed one hit on a large Merchant Vessel 33 miles due east of Palermo.
5. Beauforts attacked a convoy of four destroyers and two Merchant Vessels off Cape Spartivento. One destroyer and two merchant ships were hit and all three left stationary.
6. COVENTRY escorted by SIKH and ZULU was sailed from Alexandria for Suez to implement the A.A. defences to shipping in Suez Bay.
Wednesday, 24th June 1942
The enemy launched his attack on our frontier positions. Our forces commenced withdrawal from the Sollum and Capuzzo areas towards Sidi Barrani.
2. Offensive patrols by M.L.'s and M.T.B.'s were maintained to westward of the harbour and acted as escorts to A lighters and tugs on passage from Alexandria.
Royal Hellinic Navy
H.M.S. PEONY was transferred to the Greek Navy and renamed SAKTOURIS.
Thursday, 25th June 1942
The enemy had now reached a point some thirty miles to the west of Mersa Matruh. The majority of craft not required were being sailed from the port. Coast defence guns were removed by sea.
2. APHIS returned from Mersa Matruh since Eighth Army had no immediate bombardment requirements for her.
Operations – Move SCENIC
3. PRINCESS MARGUERITE escorted by EXMOOR and TETCOTT embarked about 900 R.A.F. personnel for Cyprus and returned with reliefs to Alexandria.
PORPOISE returned to Alexandria after a store carrying trip to Malta and Operation VIGOROUS.
Friday, 26th June 1942
Operation MATCH was brought into force to prevent a possible landing by the enemy in the vicinity of Mersa Matruh. It consisted of two destroyers at short notice anchored outside Alexandria harbour ready to act on air reports. The Eighth Army asked that Mersa Matruh should be closed down as a port by midnight. All craft except those loading were sailed and there were no loner any A.A. or coast defences. Naval Officer in Charge, Mersa Matruh with a demolitions party and essential W/T personnel still remained. By the end of the day the enemy were closing on the Mersa Matruh position and the harbour received some shelling.
2. THORN returned from an uneventful patrol in the Gulf of Sirte, and Operation VIGOROUS.
3. Owing to the situation of the A.A. guns from Tripoli and a proportion from Beirut were withdrawn for the defence of Egypt.
Saturday, 27th June 1942
Little change at Mersa Matruh. Time permitted the Naval Officer in Charge to sail his remaining craft, one R boat was retained. M.T.B.'s operating from Alexandria maintained patrols to the west of Mersa Matruh. By the end of the day the enemy had brought up large forces south of Mersa Matruh.
Operation DISCRETION (N)
2. A meeting was held at Navy House to discuss this operation, the orderly retirement of the Fleet to Port Said and Haifa, at which all Flag Officers and certain other authorities in the port attended.
3. QUEEN ELIZABETH was successfully undocked at noon and sailed at 1800 from Alexandria for Port Sudan. She had been temporarily repaired after less than three months in the floating dock. The final stage of repairs to allow the ship to be undocked was completed in a greatly reduced time, all efforts being concentrated upon her.
4. P.35 arrived Alexandria from a patrol in the Ionian Sea and Operation VIGOROUS. At 0646 15th June she estimated one hit on a LITTORIO class battleship. Several hours later she torpedoed and sank a TRENTO class cruiser which was stopped and on fire after attack by our air forces.
5. The four repatriation liners had now reached Italian ports from Berbera via the Cape. There were no incidents during either passage.
Sunday, 28th June 1942
Demolitions at Mersa Matruh were blown during the day, and W/T closed down 2003. The Naval Officer in Charge Mersa Matruh finally left at 2145 in an R boat. Naval demolitions were successfully carried out and all harbour facilities were destroyed; no floating craft or pontoons were left in the harbour. All water installations were destroyed or contaminated.
2. As result of the possible use by the enemy of Mersa Matruh landing grounds and resultant heavy air attack on Alexandria, the Commander in Chief decided to sail non-essential merchant shipping and warships south of the Canal.
3. WOOLWICH and RESOURCE sailed for Port Sudan escorted by JERVIS, JAVELIN, ERIDGE, BEAUFORT, EXMOOR, and ALDENHAM as far as Port Said.
4. Renewed submarine activity off the Palestine coast occurred. At 1505 28th June, two cased petrol carriers ZEALAND and MEMAS (Greek) were torpedoed and sunk. They were bound from Port Said to Famagusta.
5. P 34 returned to Alexandria from patrol and Operation VIGOROUS in which she probably sank a German U boat on 24th June in position 34-22N, 24-08E.
Monday, 29th June 1942
The enemy was now well east of Mersa Matruh and our troops were withdrawing under heavy pressure. The Naval Officer in Charge, Mersa Matruh, arrived at Alexandria with his demolition staff in an R boat.
2. During the early hours mines were dropped between the harbour entrance and the vicinity of the Passes. There were none in the swept channel. The Egyptian tug PHAROS was mined and sank at 2045 whilst towing the Hospital Ship SOMERSETSHIRE clear of the harbour. She was just outside the swept channel. This tug had a long and arduous career for many years in Alexandria harbour. MEDWAY and CORINTHIA, escorted by DIDO, SIKH, ZULU, and HERO sailed for Haifa; they were later joined by EXMOOR, ALDENHAM, CROOME, and TETCOTT from Port Said.
Operation DISCRETION (N)
3. The Flag of the Commander in Chief was transferred to FLAMINGO. At Gabbari preparations were begun for the transfer of the Administrative Staff to Port Said and the Operational Staff to a combined headquarters at Villa Laurens near 201 Naval Cooperation Group.
4. A 117 was sent to Gabbari steps to embark office furniture and records for Port Said.
5. "Y" interception ceased during the move of Chief of Intelligence Staff and staff to Ismailia.
6. The demolition of Alexandria Harbour, Stage Two was brought into force. Depth Charges and explosives were dumped but not placed in positions in order that our intentions should be disclosed to the Egyptians.
7. GLENROY, R.F.A. BRAMBLELEAF, and two merchant ships were earmarked as blockships; these ships were chosen as they were all immobilized due to damage.
8. The removal of unnecessary merchant shipping began; owing to insufficient escorts some were sailed unescorted.
Tuesday, 30th June 1942
The Eighth Army had withdrawn on to the El Alamein defensive lines. The Naval Liaison Officer, Eighth Army, returned from Headquarters, and reported the situation to the Commander in Chief. He reported that sea bombardments were now of little use due to dispersion and distance from coast. Twelve hours notice of any requirements would be given. Bombardment forces of two cruisers and destroyers were formed and sailed to Port Said and Haifa. C.S. 15 in CLEOPATRA and EURYALUS and destroyers formed Force B at Haifa; Rear Admiral (D) Mediterranean in DIDO with the ARETHUSA formed Force A at Port Said.
2. Minor air activity in the Alexandria area. One land mine was dropped on Dekheila aerodrome and two aircraft being slightly damaged.
Operation DISCRETION (N)
3. The Commander in Chief and Operational Staff were established in Villa Laurens, until recently occupied by the Torpedo Training School, H.M.S. PHAROS. The Operations Room and a few officers were accommodated in 201 Naval Cooperation Group Headquarters. This move to establish a combined Headquarters at 201 Naval Cooperation Group had long been contemplated.
4. The Commander in Chief's Administrative Staff left by rail for Port Said to set up officers in the Marina Savoy Hotel.
5. Early in the day the military situation had somewhat deteriorated and all staff at PHAROS were at short notice to move again. All secret documents and papers not considered essential were destroyed to reduce baggage to a minimum.
6. All ships at Alexandria raised steam and the evacuation of shipping was ordered. This was relaxed to a certain extent by the end of the day as the military situation showed some improvement.
7. W.R.N.S. and official women were evacuated by train to Ismailia where they were embarked in S.S. PRINCESS KATHLEEN who was sailed for Suez.
8. As much shipping as possible was ordered south of the Canal.
9. Naval and Royal Marine personnel were used to assist the military to man the Alexandria defences.
10. Operation HORNBLOWER, State Three was ordered. All hands proceeded to their stations for demolitions.
Events in Alexandria Dockyard
11. The loading of merchant ships with naval, victualling, gunmounting, and armament stores took place throughout the day. Eight merchant ships were retained for the purpose.
12. Owing to the speed with which Operation DISCRETION (N) was brought into force, and Heads of Departments, due to security requirements, not having made the preparations beforehand, there was some dislocation in the Dockyard. Deliberate alarmist reports put out by fifth columnists contributed to the loss of many valuable stores by theft and looting. The rapid departure of many ratings and the staffs of some Departments, left buildings unguarded for a short period. In addition, many stores were taken on board minesweepers and small craft for eventual passage to Port Said; the majority of these were later recovered.
Loss of H.M.S. MEDWAY
13. At 0925 MEDWAY was struck in the engine room by three torpedoes and sank in thirteen minutes. 1105 survivors were picked up by ZULU and HERO and taken into Haifa and Port Said respectively. DIDO continued to Haifa with SIKH, EXMOOR, ALDENHAM, CROOME, and WESTCOTT. MEDWAY had onboard between 80 and 90 torpedoes. 47 of these were later recovered by ALDENHAM and small craft. About thirty ratings were lost; there were no officer casualties.
14. The British S.S. AIRCREST in convoy from Port Said to Haifa was struck by torpedo aircraft. She sank off the coast in position 31-50N, 34-39E with masts and funnel above water.
At the end of the month our submarines were disposed as follows:
SUMMARY AND APPRECIATION OF EVENTS FOR June 1942
The first half of June was concerned with the preparations for and the passage of a convoy to Malta. This was followed by a rapid deterioration of the military situation leading to the evacuation of Tobruk, Bardia, Sollum, and Mersa Matruh. By the end of the month the Fleet and the majority of non essential shipping had left Alexandria. With the enemy in occupation of Daba airfields it was apparent he could deliver heavy bombing attacks on the harbour with strong fighter escort.
2. Eastern Fleet units, consisting of CENTURION, four cruisers and nine destroyers were lent for the Malta convoy. All available submarines from the east and west were sailed to cover the passage of the convoy. The convoy from the west, of four ships, and that from the east of ten ships, and CENTURION was sailed simultaneously. Air attack on the Eastern convoy was heavy throughout, that losses were not higher is tribute to the high standard of gunnery in the Fleet and the fighter protection whenever possible.
3. Italian Fleet units consisting of two Littorios, two 8" cruisers, two 6" cruisers, and a heavy destroyer screen was sighted leaving Taranto to intercept the convoy. The Rear Admiral Commanding Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and his force were turned back to await the result of air attack by torpedo bombers and Liberators. Initial reports showed this to be successful and the convoy resumed its course for Malta. Subsequent reconnaissance showed the Italian Fleet apparently undamaged and closing the convoy at high speed. The convoy was again ordered to turn to the eastward, and when the Italian Fleet did finally retire towards Taranto, the Rear Admiral Commanding Fifteen Cruiser Squadron and his force had insufficient fuel and ammunition to continue towards Malta. Air attack had been particularly heavy up to now; two destroyers were seriously damaged and had to be sunk by our own forces, BIRMINGHAM and CENTURION were both damaged, but their speeds were unimpaired. During night attacks by U boats and E boats HERMIONE and HASTY were sunk and NEWCASTLE was torpedoed but was able to proceed at 24 knots. On the credit side; the 8" cruiser TRENTO was sunk by air and submarine attack and one of the LITTORIO's was damaged.
4. The western convoy, after an engagement between CAIRO and destroyers with two 6" cruisers in the Pantelleria Straits, succeeded in getting two ships into Malta. Two destroyers were sunk and LIVERPOOL was torpedoed and managed to return to Gibraltar.
5. On completion of this operation the majority of the Eastern Fleet units returned to their Station.
6. Air attacks were not on a heavy scale during the month, and the cargo from the convoy was successfully unloaded (n.b. bottom of page chopped) of six Fleet minesweepers and six motor launches with the convoy considerably eased the difficult task of clearing the minefields. One operation for Spitfire reinforcements was carried out during the month. The Dockyard was able to undertake temporary repairs to destroyers and small craft. One dock was in use.
Alexandria, Canal Area, and Suez
7. With the enemy's rapid advance in the Western Desert, it became imperative that repairs to H.M.S. QUEEN ELIZABETH in the floating dock should be accelerated. By the end of the month, she was south of the Canal. RESOURCE, WOOLWICH, MEDWAY, and also H.H.M.S MAINE were all sailed from Alexandria. The enemy made several small scale mining raids on the harbour. Casualties were JANUS, who put up an acoustic mine in her wake, an Egyptian tug who strayed from the swept channel and was sunk. There were no air raids in the Canal Area or Suez. H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester visited the Canal Area at the beginning of the month.
8. A large quantity of shipping arrived and left for Suez during the month without a single casualty. With the Axis advance, COVENTRY was stationed at Suez for A.A. defence, and two of the Eastern Fleet destroyers were retained for this purpose.
9. The quick docking of merchant ships at Massawa progressed satisfactorily. The German merchant ship LIEBENFELS which had been sunk was raised. The lack of sufficient trained personnel was a limiting factor in salvage operations at Massawa.
10. Enemy U boat activity between Tobruk and Alexandria remained high. Our losses included a Hunt class destroyer, one whaler, and two cased petrol carriers. Several promising attacks on U boats were carried out but no actual "killings" can be recorded.
11. That our naval losses were not higher at Tobruk was mainly attributable to fine seamanship displayed by the M.T.B.'s. Throughout a difficult period when our Libyan and Egyptian ports were in turn all evacuated all our small craft were continuously on escort duties. "A" lighters supplied the Army with bitumen and vital stores till the last possible moment. Though the naval demolitions at Tobruk were incomplete, the mining and destruction of port facilities at the remainder were all well carried out.
12. Submarine activity was noticeable at the beginning and end of the month. Three schooners, one freighter, and two cased petrol carriers were sunk, in addition to MEDWAY. Insufficient escorts were available to maintain convoys and evasive routing for fast ships was carried out; slower ships continued to keep close to the coast. An operation for relief of R.A.F. personnel in Cyprus took place without incident.
Submarines and Aircraft
13. With nearly all submarines having to cover the passage of the Malta convoy, time left for offensive patrols was small. However, three ships totaling 13,800 tons were definitely sunk. Aircraft accounted for another two of 14,300 tons.
14. One submarine patrol is very worthy of special mention. This was by TURBULENT who returned early in the month. An Italian schooner with fuel or ammunition was destroyed by gunfire off Ras el Hilal. One merchant ship in a northbound convoy and two in a southbound convoy were torpedoed and sunk. TURBULENT also sank on destroyer and a German U Boat during this outstanding patrol.
15. The Greek submarines landed sabotage parties in Crete in support of the Malta convoy and carried out offensive patrols in the Aegean.
16. The following ship were sunk during the month: