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BRITISH NAVY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, including Malta Convoys, Part 3 of 4


Allied Greek escort destroyer "Adrias", lost October 1943
(Cyber Heritage, click to enlarge)

on to RN in the Mediterranean, 1944-45


Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information,  go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)





North Africa - By the 4th the Second Battle of El Alamein had been won by Eighth Army.


8th - French North African Landings: Operation 'Torch'

Plans were formally approved in October, by which time the large amounts of shipping needed had been organised and assembled. To provide them, Russian convoys and those to and from Britain and Gibraltar/West Africa had been suspended and the Home Fleet stripped bare. The Allies' greatest concern was the hundred or more U-boats at sea. Outline order of battle was:

Allied Commander-in-Chief - US Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham 

Landing Areas:

Casablanca, Morocco



Forces landing:

35,000 US troops

39,000 US troops

33,000 US & British troops

Departure from: 

United States



Naval Task Forces:

Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Cdre T H Troubridge

Vice-Adm Sir H Burrough

Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, tankers etc




Total Ships

105 USN

105 RN

91 RN

Most of the task force carriers were escort carriers, and the US totals included a heavy cover force. In the Mediterranean, British Force H reinforced by Home Fleet and under the command of Vice-Adm Sir Neville Syfret, covered the Algerian landings. Their main task was to hold off any attack by the Italian fleet. Strength included three capital ships, three fleet carriers, three cruisers and 17 destroyers. Various other forces added to the number of Allied ships in the area. Over 300 ships were therefore directly involved in what at that time was the greatest amphibious operation in history, and the forerunner of even greater ones to come before the war was won. Throughout October and early November convoys sailed for the landings on Vichy French soil in the early hours of the 8th. Negotiations with the French were not completed in time to avoid resistance. There was bloodshed on both sides.

Casablanca, Morocco - US troops landed at three points along a 200-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline. By the 10th they prepared to attack Casablanca itself, but this became unnecessary when the French forces stopped fighting. Before this happened the Western Task Force had fought a series of fierce actions with Vichy French warships. Battleship "Jean Bart" was seriously damaged and a cruiser and several destroyers and submarines sunk or beached.

Oran, Algeria - Within the Mediterranean, the landings to the west and east of Oran were followed by an attempt to smash through the harbour boom and land troops directly from ex-US Coast Guard cutters "WALNEY" (Capt Peters) and "HARTLAND". Both were disabled by ship and shore gunfire and soon sank. (+ Capt Frederick Peters RN of the "Walney" was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry. Five days later he was kiIled in an aircraft accident.) Cruiser "Aurora" (Capt Agnew) and destroyers fought off an attack by French destroyers outside the port. The large destroyer "EPERVIER" was driven ashore and "Tornade" and "Tramontane" disabled. In addition, destroyers "Achates" and "Westcott" accounted for submarines "ACTEON" and "ARGONAUTE". US troops fought their way into Oran, which fell on the 10th.

Algiers, Algeria - A similar opening attack was mounted by old destroyers "Broke" and "Malcolm". The latter was badly damaged but "BROKE" eventually broke through the boom to land her troops. Hard hit by shore batteries, she got away but foundered next day on the 9th. Algiers was soon in Allied hands and Adm Darlan, C-in-C Vichy French forces was captured. It was not Gen Giraud as originally intended, but Adm Darlan who broadcast the ceasefire on the 10th. Resistance was stopped, but confusion reigned for a number of days as the Vichy French authorities were pressurised by both the Allies and Axis. However, before long the forces of France were fighting on the Allied side in French North Africa. Adm Darlan was assassinated in late December and Gen Giraud took his place.

Tunisia - On news of the 'Torch' landings, the first German troops were flown across from Sicily to Tunisia on the 9th and within two days started a large build-up.

Southern France - Hitler ordered German troops into unoccupied Vichy France on the 11th. On the 27th, SS units tried to capture the French fleet at Toulon. They were too late to stop the scuttling of three battleships, seven cruisers, 30 destroyers, 16 submarines and many other smaller vessels.

Spain -Throughout all these events Spain fortunately stayed neutral. There was therefore no threat to Gibraltar directly from Spanish troops, or from Germans passing through the country. And the Americans in Morocco were safe from attack by the Spanish in Spanish Morocco.

9th - In continuing Royal Navy submarine operations in the Central Mediterranean off northwest Sicily, "Saracen" sank Italian submarine "GRANITO".

9th - Off Oran the corvette "GARDENIA" was lost in collision with armed trawler "Fluellen".

10th - In addition to the Atlantic approaches to Gibraltar, a large number of German and Italian submarines were concentrated in the Western Mediterranean to attack the 'Torch' follow-up convoys. Transports and escorting warships were sunk and damaged, but losses were never great, and seven Axis submarines (1-7) were sunk in exchange. On the 10th, destroyer "MARTIN" was sunk by "U-431" off Algiers and Italian submarine "EMO" (1) scuttled after an attack by armed trawler "Lord Nuffield" .

10th - Further Allied landings were made to the east of Algiers along the Algerian coast, where there was little air cover. Attacks by German aircraft on these and other Algerian targets sank or damaged a number of ships. On the 10th, sloop "IBIS" was hit by an aircraft torpedo and went down off Algiers.

Algeria - The first of the further Allied troop landings were made at Bougie and Bone on the 11th and 12th, well on the way to the Tunisian border.

12th - "U-660" (2) was sunk by escorting corvettes "Lotus" and "Starwort" northeast of Oran.

13th - Next day "Lotus", this time with "Poppy" accounted for "U-605" (3) off Algiers. On the 14th and 15th respectively, "U-595" and "U-259" (4-5) were sunk by aircraft.

13th - "U-431" sent Dutch destroyer "lSAAC SWEERS" to the bottom northwest of Algiers.

17th - "U-331" (6) was damaged by RAF Hudsons of No 500 Squadron and tried to surrender. Aircraft of 820 Squadron from carrier "Formidable" torpedoed her in error off Algiers.

20th - Cruiser "Delhi" was damaged by bombs in Algiers Bay.

28th - North of Bone the Italian "DESSIE" (7) was sunk by destroyers "Quentin" and the Australian "Quiberon", now part of cruiser Force Q operating out of Bone.

28th - Destroyer "ITHURIEL" in harbour at Bone was badly damaged in bombing attacks and not repaired.

The Relief of Malta - At the beginning of the month, cruiser-minelayer "Welshman" ran vitally needed stores to Malta. On the 11th, sister-ship "Manxman" made a similar dash from Alexandria. Then on the 17th a convoy of four ships, escorted by three cruisers and 10 destroyers, left Alexandria (Operation 'Stoneage'). Although cruiser "Arethusa" was badly damaged by German torpedo aircraft on the 18th and had to return with over 150 casualties, the convoy got through on the 20th. Its arrival effectively marked the lifting of the long and bloody siege of Malta. Since Operation 'Excess' in January 1941, two aircraft carriers, four cruisers, 16 destroyers and five submarines had been lost in the many attempts to supply and reinforce the island, and in the heavy air attacks launched against the George Cross island.

French North Africa continued - After the Bougie and Bone landings in eastern Algeria, British paratroops were flown into the north of Tunisia and the advance began on Bizerta and Tunis. Fighting took place as the Allies closed in, but by the time the main offensive started on the 25th, the Germans had built up their forces around both Bizerta and Tunis, and also occupied the east coast towns of Sousse, Sfax and Gabes.

24th - Off northwest Sicily, "UTMOST" was lost to Italian destroyer escort "Groppo".

Monthly Loss Summary
13 British or Allied merchant ships of 103,000 tons


French North Africa - German forces counter-attacked in the north of Tunisia, driving back the Allies. By the end of the year Axis forces had established strong defence lines around Bizerta and Tunis, and were holding on to the eastern half of the country. The Allies had lost the race for Tunis. Throughout January 1943 both sides attacked along the line, but without much success. As this happened, more and more German and Italian troops were drawn into Tunisia.

Cruiser Force Q - Based in Bone, Force Q and a new Malta-based cruiser force took turns attacking Axis shipping bound for North Africa. On the 2nd, Force Q with "Aurora", "Argonaut", "Sirius" and two destroyers went into action in the Strait of Sicily. All four transports in a convoy and Italian destroyer "FOLGORE" were sunk by gunfire. As they returned, destroyer "QUENTIN" was lost to Italian torpedo aircraft north of Cape Bon. 14th - Two weeks after Force Q's success in the Strait of Sicily, cruiser "Argonaut" was badly damaged by Italian submarine "Mocenigo" northeast of Bone.

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - Throughout the month, British submarines were on patrol in the Western Mediterranean and lost four of their number. In return they sank several Axis ships including two Italian warships. Early December - "TRAVELLER" left Malta on 28th November for the Gulf of Taranto. Overdue by the 8th December, she was presumed mined in her patrol area. 6th - "Tigris" sank Italian submarine "PORFIDO" north of Bone. 12th - In the Gulf of Naples submarine "P-222" was lost to Italian torpedo boat "Fortunale" while attacking a convoy. 17th - North of Bizerta, "Splendid" sank Italian destroyer "AVIERE" escorting a convoy to North Africa. 25th - As an Axis convoy headed into Tunis, "P-48" attacked and was sunk by Italian destroyer escorts "Ardente" and "Ardito". Late December - At the end of the month, submarine "P-311" sailed for Maddalena, Sardinia with Chariot human torpedoes for an attack on the cruisers based there. Her last signal was on the 31st December and she was presumed lost on mines in the approaches to the port.

Attacks off Algeria - Attacks on Allied shipping off Algeria led to more losses in return for the sinking of one Italian submarine. 9th - As destroyer "PORCUPINE" escorted submarine depot ship "Maidstone" from Gibraltar to Algiers, she was torpedoed and badly damaged off Oran by "U-602", and never repaired. On the same day corvette "MARIGOLD" was sunk by torpedo aircraft to the west of Algiers while escorting North Africa/UK convoy MKS3. 11th - Escort destroyer "BLEAN" sailing with fast North Africa/UK convoy MKF4 was lost to "U-443" west of Oran. 13th - Sloop "Enchantress" sank Italian submarine "CORALLO" off Bougie. 18th - Porcupine's sister-ship "PARTRIDGE" was torpedoed by "U-565" while carrying out an A/S sweep with Force H, and went down off Oran. 15th - Destroyers "Petard" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank Italian submarine "UARSCIEK" south of Malta.

North Africa - On the 11th, Gen Montgomery resumed Eighth Army's advance. 19th - Escorting a convoy to Benghazi, corvette "SNAPDRAGON" was bombed and sunk off the port by German aircraft.

Monthly Loss Summary
3 British or Allied merchant ships of 6,000 tons.




Attacks off Algeria - Axis attacks continued against Allied ships in Algerian ports and convoys off the coast. There were losses on both sides. 1st - Cruiser "Ajax" was severely damaged in Bone harbour by Ju87s. 13th - Canadian corvettes on convoy escort accounted for two submarines. On the 13th, "Ville de Quebec" sank "U-224" west of Algiers. 19th - Canadian corvette "Port Arthur" sank Italian submarine "TRITONE" off Bougie by gunfire. 30th - As corvette "SAMPHIRE" escorted Gibraltar/North African ports convoy TE14 she was torpedoed by Italian submarine "Platino" near Bougie.

Axis Supplies to Tunisia - Attempts by the Italian Navy to supply the Axis armies in Tunisia led to heavy losses, especially on mines laid between Sicily and Tunis by fast minelayers "Abdiel" and "Welshman", and submarine "Rorqual". 9th - Destroyer "CORSARO" hitd one of "Abdiel's" mines northeast of Bizerta. 17th - Returning from Tunisia, destroyer "BOMBARDIERE" was sunk off western Sicily by submarine "United". 31st - Torpedo boat "PRESTINARI" and corvette "PROCELLARIA" went down on mines laid by "Welshman" in the Strait of Sicily.

Axis Supplies to Libya - Final supply trips to Tripoli by Italian submarines led to more losses north of the Libyan capital. 14th - "NARVALO" was attacked by a RAF Beaufort and finished off by destroyers "Pakenham" and "Hursley", escorts with Malta/Alexandria convoy ME15. 20th - "SANTAROSA" was torpedoed off Tripoli by MTB-260, one of the growing number of coastal forces operating along the North African coast.

Libya - Gen Montgomery resumed the advance on the 15th, and Bueret, outflanked by British Armour and New Zealand troops was soon taken. The defences in front of Tripoli were similarly outflanked and on the 23rd the victorious Eighth Army entered the capital.

 21st - Submarine "Sahib" on patrol off western Corsica sank "U-301.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British or Allied merchant ships of 48,000 tons


1st - As cruiser-minelayer "WELSHMAN" sailed from Malta to Alexandria after minelaying operations in the Strait of Sicily, she was sunk by "U-617" north of Bardia.

3rd - Italian destroyer "SAETTA" and destroyer escort "URAGANO", supplying Axis forces in Tunisia, sank on cruiser-minelayer "Abdiel's" mines northeast of Bizerta.

North Africa - As Rommel prepared his Mareth line defences in southern Tunisia, Eighth Army units crossed the border from Libya on the 4th. All of Libya was now in Allied hands and the Italian North African Empire ceased to exist.

Northern Tunisia Campaign - German and Italian operations against Allied shipping off Algeria led to further losses: 6th - Canadian corvette "LOUISBERG" escorting UK/North Africa convoy KMS8 was torpedoed by German aircraft off Oran. 8th - The Royal Canadian Navy took its revenge when corvette "Regina" sank the Italian submarine "AVORIO" off Philippeville. 17th - A patrol of escort destroyers "Bicester", Easton", Lamerton" and Wheatland" shared in the sinking of two Axis submarines. The Italian "ASTERIA" went down off Bougie on the 17th. 23rd - Six days later the same escort destroyer patrol sank "U-443" to the northwest of Algiers.

Southern Tunisia Campaign - As the Mediterranean Fleet Inshore Squadron continued to support the advancing Eighth Army, ships were lost on both sides: 9th - Corvette "ERICA" on escort duty sank on a British mine off Benghazi. 17th - "U-205" attacked Tripoli/Alexandria convoy TX1 northwest of Derna, and was then sunk by South African aircraft of No 15 Squadron and destroyer "Paladin". 19th - Combined air and sea attacks also accounted for "U-562" northeast of Benghazi. This time the convoy was Alexandria/Tripoli XT3, the warships destroyers "lsis" and "Hursley" with aircraft from No 38 Squadron RAF.

Mediterranean Fleet - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham returned to his old post as C-in-C, Mediterranean Fleet on the 20th.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British or Allied merchant ships of 53,000 tons

MARCH 1943

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - The Royal Navy lost three 'T' class submarines: February/March - "TIGRIS" set out from Malta on 18th February for a patrol off Naples. She failed to return to Algiers on the 10th March, possibly mined off the Gulf of Tunis as she returned. 12th - "TURBULENT" (Cdr Linton) attacked an escorted ship off Maddalena, Sardinia and was presumed sunk in the counter-attack by Italian MTB escorts. + Cdr John Linton RN was awarded the Victoria Cross for his record as commanding officer of "Turbulent". The award was not gazetted until May 1943. 14th - "THUNDERBOLT" was lost off the north entrance to the Strait of Messina to Italian corvette "Cicogna".

Tunisia - In the south, before his final recall from Africa, Field Marshal Rommel attacked Eighth Army positions in front of the Mareth Line, but was easily held. By the 29th the Mareth Line was broken, and the Germans and Italians had retreated to a strong position north of Gabes at Wadi Akarit. The Inshore Squadron was still in attendance on Eighth Army in the south and the battles of the supply routes in the north and south continued: 8th - Cruiser-minelayer "Abdiel" laid more mines in the Axis supply routes to Tunisia. The field north of Cape Bon sank three destroyers in March, starting with destroyer escort "CICIONE" on the 8th. 12th - In a sortie against Axis shipping bound for Tunisia, Force Q destroyer "LIGHTNING" was torpedoed and sunk off Bizerta by German E-boat "S-55". 19th - Attacks by German aircraft on Tripoli harbour sank two supply ships and damaged escort destroyer "DERWENT" so badly she was not fully repaired. This was the first German success using circling torpedoes. 24th - "Abdiel's" Cape Bon minefield sank two more Italian destroyers on the 24th - "ASCARI" and "MALOCELLO".

Monthly Loss Summary
16 British or Allied merchant ships of 86,000 tons

APRIL 1943

Tunisia - The Battle of Gabes in southern Tunisia started on the 5th when Eighth Army attacked the Wadi Akarit defences. Within two days the Axis was retreating. For the rest of April heavy fighting took place as the Allies slowly closed in.

16th - Destroyers "Pakenham" and "Paladin" out of Malta encountered an Italian convoy north of Pantelleria island. In a running gun battle with the four escorting torpedo boats, Italian "CIGNO" was sunk and another damaged, and "PAKENHAM" disabled. She had to be scuttled.

21st - Numerous Axis supply ships on the Tunisian route and elsewhere, and an Italian warship, fell victim to Royal Navy submarines. In return three were lost starting with "SPLENDID" to German destroyer "Hermes" (ex-Greek) south of Capri.

24th - After sinking a transport off northeast Sicily, "SAHIB" was counter-attacked by the escorts including a German Ju88 and finally sunk by Italian corvette "Gabbiano".

28th - "Unshaken" torpedoed and sank Italian torpedo boat "CLIMENE" off Sicily as she escorted a convoy.

Mid/Late April - "REGENT" on patrol in the Strait of Otranto may have attacked a small convoy near Bari, Italy on the 18th, but there was no response from the convoy escorts. She failed to return to Beirut at the end of the month and was presumed lost on mines in her patrol area.

'The Man Who Never Was'- Submarine "Seraph" released the body of a supposed Royal Marine officer into the sea off Spain. His false papers help to persuade the Germans that the next Allied blows would fall on Sardinia and Greece as well as Sicily.

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British or Allied merchant ships of 14,000 tons

MAY 1943

North Africa and Tunis: The End for the Axis - The Allied Armies continued to push on, and on the 7th, Tunis was taken by the British and Bizerta by the Americans. The Axis surrender came on the 12th and nearly 250,000 Germans and Italians were taken prisoner. All North Africa - French and Italian - was under Allied control after nearly three years struggle.

4th - As the Tunisian campaign ended, destroyers "Nubian", Paladin" and "Petard" sank Italian torpedo boat "PERSEO" and a supply ship near Cape Bon.

21st - Six Axis submarines were lost in May - two German to the RAF, two Italian to US forces, and two to the Royal Navy. The first RN success came on the 21st when submarine "Sickle" on patrol south of Toulon, France torpedoed "U-303".  

25th - Four days later escorting corvette "Vetch" sank "U-414" northeast of Oran.

Merchant Shipping War - In the first five months of 1942 Allied forces had sunk over 500 Axis merchantmen of 560,000 tons throughout the Mediterranean. In contrast, the end of the Tunisian campaign marked a major upturn in the fortunes of Allied shipping. By mid-month minesweepers had cleared a channel through the Strait of Sicily, and the first regular Mediterranean convoys since 1940 were able to sail from Gibraltar to Alexandria (GTX). Return XTG's started in June 1943. The long haul around the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle East was no longer necessary, and the WS troop convoys were discontinued. The opening of the Mediterranean was equivalent to commissioning a large amount of new Allied merchant ship tonnage.

Monthly Loss Summary
6 British or Allied merchant ships of 32,000 tons

JUNE 1943

2nd - Destroyers "Jervis" and Greek "Queen Olga" sank two merchantmen and Italian torpedo boat "CASTORE" off Cape Spartivento, southwest Italy.  

Pantelleria & Lampedusa - After heavy sea and air bombardments these two Italian islands to the north-west and west of Malta surrendered to the Allies on the 11th and 12th June respectively.

Monthly Loss Summary
7 British or Allied merchant ships of 25,000 tons

JULY 1943

10th - Invasion of Sicily: Operation 'Husky'

The Americans still wanted to concentrate on the cross-Channel invasion of France, but at the Casablanca Conference somewhat reluctantly agreed to go ahead with the Sicily landings. Amongst the benefits would be the opening of the Mediterranean to Allied shipping. The final plan was approved in mid-May and not much more than a month later, the first US troop convoys were heading across the Atlantic for an operation even greater than the French North African landings the previous November.

Allied Commander-in-Chief - US Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower

Allied Naval Commander Expeditionary Force - Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham


Landing Areas:

Gulf of Gela, S coast

South of Syracuse, SE coast

Forces landing:

US 7th Army - Gen Patton
66,000 troops

Eighth Army - Gen Montgomery
115,000 British & Canadian troops

Departure from:

United States, Algeria, Tunisia

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Malta; Canadian division from Britain

Naval Task Forces:

Rear-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Adm Sir B Ramsey

Naval Forces
Other warship
Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc
Landing Ships and Craft (major)



British & Allied



435 USN

930 RN

Plus Landing Craft (minor)

510 USN

715 RN

The grand total of 2,590 US and British warships - major and minor were mostly allocated to their own landing sectors, but the Royal Navy total included the covering force against any interference by the Italian fleet. The main group under Vice-Adm Sir A. U. Willis of Force H included battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", "Warspite" and "Valiant" and fleet carriers "Formidable" and Indomitable". Seven Royal Navy submarines acted as navigation markers off the invasion beaches.

Many of the troops coming from North Africa and Malta made the voyage in landing ships and craft. As they approached Sicily with the other transports late on the 9th in stormy weather, Allied airborne landings took place. Sadly, many of the British gliders crashed into the sea, partly because of the weather.

However, early next day, on the 10th, the troops went ashore under an umbrella of aircraft. The new amphibious DUKWS (or "Ducks") developed by the Americans played an important part in getting the men and supplies across the beaches.

German and Italian aircraft sank and damaged a number of warships and transports in the invasion area including a US destroyer on the 10th. On the 16th carrier "Indomitable" was damaged by Italian torpedo aircraft.

Axis submarines had fewer successes than the attacking aircraft in and around Sicily. Two British cruisers were damaged, but in return 12 of their number were lost over the next four weeks into early August: 11th - "FLUTTO" off the southern end of the Strait of Messina in a running battle with MTBs 640, 651 and 670. 12th - "U-561" torpedoed in the Strait of Messina by MTB-81; Italian "BRONZO" captured off Syracuse by minesweepers "Boston", "Cromarty", "Poole" and "Seaham"; "U-409" sunk off Algeria by escorting destroyer "Inconstant" as she attacked a returning empty convoy. 13th - Italian "NEREIDE" was lost off Augusta to destroyers "Echo" and "llex"; and north of the Strait of Messina "ACCIAIO" torpedoed by patrolling submarine "Unruly". 15th - Transport submarine "REMO" on passage through the Gulf of Taranto during the invasion was lost to submarine "United". 16th - Cruiser "Cleopatra" was torpedoed and badly damaged off Sicily by submarine "Dandolo". 18th - "Remo's" sister-boat "ROMOLO" was sunk off Augusta by the RAF. 23rd - Cruiser "Newfoundland" was damaged off Syracuse by a torpedo from "U-407", and as Italian "ASCIANGHI" attacked a cruiser force off the south coast of Sicily she was sunk by destroyers "Eclipse" and "Laforey". 29th - "PIETRO MICCA" was torpedoed by submarine "Trooper" at the entrance to the Adriatic in the Strait of Otranto. 30th - "U-375" was lost off southern Sicily to an American sub-chaser.

Monthly Loss Summary
14 British or Allied merchant ships of 80,000 tons


Sicily - As the Germans and Italians prepared to evacuate Sicily across the Strait of Messina, the Allies started the final push - US Seventh Army along the north coast aided by three small amphibious hops and Eighth Army up the east side from Catania with one small landing. Gen Patton's men entered Messina just before Gen Montgomery's on the 17th. Sicily was now in Allied hands.

4th - Destroyer "ARROW" assisted with unsuccessful fire-fighting alongside the burning merchantman "Fort La Montee" off Algiers harbour. She was badly damaged in the resulting explosion and never fully re-commissioned.

Royal Navy Submarine Operations - Patrols in the Mediterranean led to the sinking of numerous Axis ships including two Italian warships, but two boats were lost in August, the first for over three months: 9th - "Simoom" sank destroyer GIOBERTI" off Spezia, northwest Italy. 11th - "PARTHIAN" was overdue on this date. She left Malta on 22nd July for the southern Adriatic and failed to return to Beirut. 14th - "SARACEN" on patrol off Bastia, Corsica was lost to Italian corvettes "Minerva" and "Euterpe". 28th - "Ultor" torpedoed torpedo boat "LINCE" in the Gulf of Taranto. 22nd - Escort destroyers "Easton" and Greek "Pindos" sank "U-458" southeast of Pantelleria.

Monthly Loss Summary
11 British or Allied merchant ships of 43,000 tons


6th - On passage to Oran, escort destroyer "PUCKERIDGE" was sunk just east of Gibraltar by "U-617", herself lost six days later.

7th - Submarine "Shakespeare" on patrol off the Gulf of Salerno sank Italian submarine "VELELLA".

Italy - Surrender and Invasion

The Italian surrender was signed in Sicily on the 3rd, but not announced until the 8th to coincide with the main Allied landing at Salerno. Before long the Germans control north and central Italy, had occupied Rome and disarmed - often bloodily - Italian forces in the Dodecanese islands and Greece. Meanwhile the invasion and occupation of southern Italy got underway. A start was made on the 3rd when British and Canadian troops of Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army crossed over the Strait of Messina from Sicily in 300 ships and landing craft (Operation 'Baytown') and pushed north through Calabria, eventually joining up with forces landed at Salerno. Early on the 9th, in conjunction with these landings, the Eighth Army's 1st Airborne Division was carried into Taranto by mainly British warships (Operation 'Slapstick'). Shortly afterwards the Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Bari were in Allied hands. 9th - Around midnight in Taranto harbour, cruiser-minelayer "ABDIEL", loaded with 1st Airborne troops, detonated one of the magnetic mines dropped by E-boats "S-54" and "S-61" as they escaped, and sank with heavy loss of life.

Off the west coast of Italy, the Germans decided to evacuate the more southerly island of Sardinia by way of Corsica starting on the 10th. French troops landed in Corsica in mid-month, but by early October the Germans had gone. Both islands were now in Allied hands. Following the announcement of the Italian surrender, the bulk of the Italian fleet sailed for Malta - three battleships, cruisers and destroyers from Spezia and Genoa, and three more battleships and other vessels from Taranto and the Adriatic. As the first group came south, battleship "ROMA" was sunk by a FX1400 radio-controlled bomb (unpropelled unlike the Hs293 rocket-boosted, glider-bomb), but next day the remaining ships were escorted into Malta by battleships "Warspite" and "Valiant". Over 30 submarines headed for Allied ports. On the 11th, Adm A B Cunningham fittingly had the honour of signalling to the Admiralty the arrival of the Italian battlefleet in Malta.

9th September - Salerno Landings, Operation 'Avalanche'

Landing Areas:

Gulf of Salerno, S of Naples

Forces landing:

US 5th Army - Gen Mark Clark
55,000 British & US troops
with 115,000 follow-up

British 10th Corps

US Sixth Corps

Departure from:

Tunis, Libya


Naval Attack Forces
and Commanders:

Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN

Cdre G N Oliver

Rear-Adm J L Hall USN

Naval Assault & Follow-up Forces

British & Allied








Other warships



Troopships, supply ships, LSIs etc






Landing Ships and Craft (major only)


In addition to the grand total of 586 Allied naval units directly engaged in the landings, most of which were in their respective British or American sectors, Adm Cunningham as C-in-C provided a strong Royal Navy cover force and carrier support group. The cover force was again Force H under Adm Willis with battleships "Nelson", "Rodney", Warspite", "Valiant" and carriers "Formidable" and "Illustrious". Rear-Adm Vian commanded the support carriers with light carrier "Unicorn", escort carriers "Attacker", Battler", "Hunter" and "Stalker", three cruisers and destroyers.

Most of the troops were carried to Salerno via Sicily in the landing ships and craft, and, early on the 9th, without any preliminary air or naval bombardment, landed in the face of strong German resistance. By the end of the day, with the support of the covering warships and carrier aircraft, both the British and Americans had established bridgeheads but with a gap in between. Over the next few days the Germans counter-attacked and on the 13th and 14th came dangerously close to breaking through the Allied lines and reaching the beaches. They were held, and much of the credit went to the supporting warships, especially "Warspite" and "Valiant" which arrived on the 15th. On the 16th, the threat of dislodgement was over. 13th - All this time German Do127 aircraft using both types of guided bombs were attacking Allied shipping laying off the beaches. On the 13th, cruiser "Uganda" was damaged as she provided supporting gunfire. 16th - On the 16th, after "Warspite" had done her most valuable work, she was hit and near-missed by three or four guided bombs. Damaged, she had to be towed to Malta.

12th - Six days after sinking "Puckeridge", "U-617" was damaged by a RAF Wellington of No 179 Squadron and beached on the coast of Spanish Morocco. She was destroyed by gunfire from trawler "Haarlem", supported by corvette "Hyacinth" and Australian minesweeper "Wollongong".

British Aegean Campaign (map left) - With the surrender of Italy, Winston Churchill wanted to seize the Italian Dodecanese islands in the southern Aegean before the Germans could establish themselves. From here the Allies could threaten Greece and support Turkey, but the Americans and some British commanders were lukewarm on what they saw as a sideshow compared with the battle for Italy. Insufficient forces and especially aircraft were made available, and the Germans soon took Rhodes from where, together with other bases, they maintained air superiority throughout the coming campaign. On the 15th and 16th, British troops occupied Kos, Leros, Samos and other smaller islands. The Royal Navy had the task of supplying and reinforcing them, as well as attacking German supply routes. The potential parallels with Norway, Greece and Crete all those many months back were obvious, if only in hindsight. 26th - After carrying troops to Leros, destroyers "Intrepid" and Greek "Queen Olga" were attacked by Ju88s while at anchor in the harbour. "QUEEN OLGA" soon went down and "INTREPID" capsized next day.

Monthly Loss Summary
11 British or Allied merchant ships of 52,000 tons


Mediterranean Fleet - Adm Sir John H. D. Cunningham succeeded Adm Sir Andrew Cunningham as C-in-C in the middle of the month - they were not related.

Early October - Two RN submarines failed to return from patrol in the month. The first was "USURPER" which left Algiers on 24th September for the Gulf of Genoa, and failed to answer a signal on the 11th. She may have been mined or fallen victim to German A/S forces.

Italy - British units of the US Fifth Army entered Naples on the 1st as the Germans fell back, ready to make the Allies fight long and hard for every gain over the next eight months. They prepared their main defences - the Gustav Line. On the west, Gen Mark Clark's Fifth Army managed to fight its way across the Volturno by mid-month and then come up against the formidable defences in front of the main Gustav Line. On the east, Gen Montgomery's Eighth Army had to cross a number of well-defended rivers before reaching the Line.

British Aegean Campaign - On the 3rd, German troops landed on British-held Kos, which fell next day. More German forces headed for the Kos and on the 7th a convoy of seven small ships and one escort was annihilated by cruisers "Penelope" and "Sirius" and two destroyers. As they withdrew through the Scarpanto Strait, "Penelope" was damaged in attacks by Ju87s and Ju88s. More sweeps and more supply trips led to further losses, particularly amongst the 'Hunts', through to November: 9th - Returning from a sweep west of Kos, cruiser "Carlisle" and destroyers were dive-bombed in the Scarpanto Strait area by Ju87 Stukas. "CARLISLE" was seriously damaged and never fully repaired; destroyer PANTHER was sunk. 17th - Cruiser "Sirius" was damaged by bombs south of Scarpanto Strait. 22nd - Greek 'Hunt' "ADRIAS" was badly damaged off Kos on mines laid by the German "Drache", and as sister ship "HURWORTH" went to her aid, was also mined. She sank with heavy casualties. 24th - Destroyer "ECLIPSE" fell victim to the same minefield. 30th - Cruiser "Aurora" was damaged in bombing attacks.

Mid-October - The second Royal Navy submarine failing to return was "TROOPER". She set out from Beirut in the Lebanon on 26th September for Dodecanese patrol and did not get back on the 17th. German records claimed she was sunk by a Q-ship off Kos on the 14th

30th - Submarine "Ultimatum" on patrol off Toulon, south of France sank "U-431".

31st - Five German U-boats set out for the Mediterranean, but one was sunk by the RAF while still in the Atlantic and two were disposed of by Gibraltar air and sea patrols. On the 31st destroyer "Douglas" and trawlers "Imperialist" and "Loch Oskaig" sank "U-732" off Tangiers. The second sinking was on the first day of November.

Monthly Loss Summary
9 British or Allied merchant ships of 46,000 tons


1st - The second U-boat lost to the Strait of Gibraltar defences following the sinking the day before was "U-340" to destroyers "Active" and "Witherington", sloop "Fleetwood" and RAF aircraft of No 179 Squadron.

Italy - In the west, Fifth Army struggled to make progress towards the main Gustav Line but was still short of Cassino. To the east, Eighth Army was over the Trigno and preparing to attack new German positions behind the Sangro River.

British Aegean Campaign - Conclusion - German forces landed on Leros on the 12th and captured the Island after four day's heavy fighting against the British and Italian defenders. The campaign came to an end when Samos was evacuated on the 20th, but not before two more 'Hunts' fell victim, this time to Hs293 glider bombs: 11th - "ROCKWOOD" was severely damaged off Kos following an attack with other destroyers on Kalymnos (Calino). She was not repaired and went into reserve. 13th - "DULVERTON" was sunk off Kos as she withdrew from searching for German shipping making for Leros. The cost of this abortive campaign to the Royal Navy could now be added up - four cruisers damaged with one never repaired, six destroyers lost or permanently out of action and others damaged. In addition the small Greek Navy had lost two destroyers.

Mid-November - Submarine "SIMOOM" sailed from Port Said on the 2nd for the Aegean and failed to answer a signal on the 19th. She was presumed mined although German records claim she was torpedoed by "U-565" off Kos on the 15th.

28th - On passage through the Mediterranean to join the Eastern Fleet, cruiser "Birmingham" was badly damaged northwest of Derna by "U-407".

Monthly Loss Summary
10 British or Allied merchant ships of 68,000 tons


Italy - Fifth Army continued its bloody struggle in the west of the country towards the Gustav Line. Meanwhile Eighth Army had breached the Line in the east and the Canadians taken Ortona, where the Allies remained until June 1944.

War at Sea - With the surrender of the Italian fleet, the big ships of the Royal Navy were released for the Eastern Fleet and to prepare for the landings in Normandy. The remaining smaller vessels continued to escort the convoys needed to supply the Allied forces in Italy, and to support both Fifth and Eighth armies on their seaward flanks. The RN also went over to the offensive against Germany supply traffic down the west coast of Italy and also from the northeast through the Adriatic to Yugoslavia. From bases such as Corsica and Bari, light and coastal forces struck regularly at shipping, and also at land targets along the coast of Yugoslavia in support of Tito's partisan armies. A major disaster marred these successes on the 2nd when an air raid on Bari blew up an ammunition ship with 16 more merchantmen lost in the resulting fires.

11th-16th - U-boats attacks on UK/North Africa Convoy KMS34 - U-boat attacks were made on the Convoy off the Algerian coast using acoustic torpedoes: 11th - "U-223" damaged frigate "Cuckmere". 12th - Northeast of Bougie, "U-593" sank 'Hunt' escort destroyer "TYNEDALE". A long hunt ensued by escort destroyers "Calpe" and "Holcombe" and US destroyers "Benson", "Niblack" and "Wainwright", in the course of which the U-boat managed to sink "HOLCOMBE". 13th - After more than 30 hours the escorts finally sent "U-593" to the bottom. Other US destroyers including "Niblack" sank "U-73" on the 16th. This was the 23rd U-boat lost in the Mediterranean in 1943.

Monthly Loss Summary
18 British or Allied merchant ships of 83,000 tons


on to RN in the Mediterranean, 1944-45
back to Campaigns of World War 2

revised 9/7/11