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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS PENELOPE - Arethusa-class Light Cruiser including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Penelope (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

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ARETHUSA-Class cruiser ordered under the 1933 Programme from Harland and Wolff at Belfast on 8th March 1934. The ship was laid down on 30th May that year and launched on 15th October 1935. She was the eighth RN warship to bear the name and completed on 12th November 1936.  In December 1941 after a successful WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign this ship was adopted by the civil community of Blackpool, Lancashire. It can be reasonably claimed that this Light Cruiser achieved great renown for her service in WW2 which was served largely in the Mediterranean. Details of her exploits are described in HMS PEPPERPOT by E. Gordon.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s


EGYPT   1901 - MARTINIQUE 1809 - BALTIC  1851 - ALEXANDRIA 1882 - SOUTH AFRICA 1899 -1901 - NORWAY 1940 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941 -42 - MEDITERRANEAN 1943-43 - SIRTE 1942 - SICILY 1943 - AEGEAN 1943 - SALERNO 1943 - ANZIO 1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field Blue, a female head White


M o t t o

Constante et Fide :  'With constancy and faith’



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


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



1 9 3 9


September             Part of 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet.

                3rd          Deployed with in Mediterranean Fleet on contraband control and patrol duty.

                                (For details of Fleet deployments in Mediterranean before Italy entered the war, see

                                WAR AT SEA Vol 1 by S H Roskill and ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                                by C. Barnett).


November              Mediterranean deployment in continuation




1 9 4 0


January                  Transferred to Home Fleet.

                5th          Passage to UK with call at Gibraltar.

                11th        Arrived at Portsmouth


February                Joined 2nd Cruiser Squadron and deployed in NW Approaches and North Sea.

                                In addition to covering transit of convoys against attack by commerce raiders, this deployment

                                included interception of blockade runners. See THE BLOCKADERS by C. Hampshire).


March                    Home Fleet duties in continuation.

                                Boiler cleaning at Rosyth.



                5th          Returned to Scapa Flow to rejoin Squadron.

                7th          Took part in search with HM Battleships RODNEY and VALIANT, HM Battlecruiser

                                REPULSE and HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD for German warships reported on passage to Atlantic.



                8th          Detached with HMS REPULSE, HM Destroyers BEDOUIN, ESKIMO, PUNJABI and

                                KIMBERLEY to assist HM Destroyer GLOWWORM after attack by HIPPER.

                                Joined HM Battlecruisers RENOWN and REPULSE in Vestfjord after fruitless search.

                9th          Deployed with Fleet off Norway in support of allied landings (Operation WILFRED/R4).

                                (For details of the disastrous operations off Norway In 1940 see NARVIK by Donald

                                Macintyre, CARRIER GLORIOUS by J Winton, ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

                                and the Naval Staff History (HMSO-2001)).

                10th        Remained off Vestfjord during 1st Battle of Narvik and supported withdrawal of the destroyers

                                of 2nd Flotilla.

                                Sustained slight damage by near miss during air attacks.

                11th        Detached with HM Destroyers ESKIMO and KIMBERLEY for attack on transports reported

                                at Bodo.

                                Grounded whilst attempting to enter fjord at Fleinvaer.

                                Holed forward and boiler room flooded.

                                Towed to Skelsfjord by HM Destroyer ESKIMO.

                14th        Remained in Norwegian waters to supplement available defence against continuing air

                                attacks, later moved to Harstad.


May                        Deployment at Harstad in continuation.

                11th        Passage to UK under tow with HM Cruisers COVENTRY and CALCUTTA, HM Destroyers

                                ISIS, ZULU, CAMPBELL and WITCH.

                18th        Taken in hand for repair at Greenock.


June                        Under temporary repair.

to                            Permanent repair arranged in Tyne shipyard.




                15th        Passage to Tyne



September             Under repair.

to                            (Note: Major structural repair carried out including renewal of bottom plating. Close Range

December              20mm guns fitted for anti-aircraft defence. Tripod masts fitted to support warning radar


                                Aircraft Warning Radar Type 281 installed.

                                Fire Control radar equipment for main armament (Type 284) and secondary armament

                                (Type 285) fitted.

                                For details of development and use of radar in RN see RADAR AT SEA by D Howse).


1 9 4 1


January                  Under repair.

to                            Re-commissioned for service.



July                         Post refit harbour and sea trials.


August                  Worked-up for operational service.

                17th        Rejoined Squadron at Scapa Flow.


September             Deployed with Home Fleet for interception and defence of convoys, based in Clyde.

                9th          Detached with HM Destroyers ICARUS and LIGHTNING for escort of HM Battleship DUKE

                                OF YORK to Rosyth from Clyde.

                                (Note: Build had been completed by John Brown and armament work prior to acceptance

                                was to be carried out by HM Dockyard, Rosyth.)

                                After arrival at Rosyth took passage to rejoined Home Fleet ships in Iceland.



                5th          Deployed with HMS KING GEORGE V and six Home Fleet destroyers as screen to cover HM

                                Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS during air strikes on coastal shipping off Bodo, Norway.

                                (Operation EJ).

                9th          Cover of HMS VICTORIOUS continued during further air operations which 13,000 tons of

                                shipping was sunk

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY).

                12th        Transferred to 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet with HM Cruiser AURORA.

                                (Note: Ships were both to be deployed in Malta for interception of enemy supply convoys to

                                North Africa.)

                                Passage to Gibraltar with HMS AURORA.

                19th        After embarking ammunition at Gibraltar met HM Destroyers LANCE and LIVELY with HMS

                                AURORA to form Force K.

                                Took passage to Malta as escort for two supply ships.

                                (Part of Operation CALLBOY - For details of operations in Mediterranean see ENGAGE THE

                                ENEMY MORE CLOSELY, THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D.Macintyre

                                and Naval Staff History (HMSO, 2002).).

                21st         Deployed with Force K to intercept convoy on passage to Brindisi but returned when no ships




                8th          In action with HMS AURORA against supply convoy and escort during which 7 ships were

                                sunk as well as Italian destroyer FULMINE.

                                Another escort, Italian destroyer GRECALE was badly damaged.

                18th        Carried out diversionary sweep from Malta during Army operations in western desert.

                21st         Escorted ‘dummy’ convoy towards North African coast as further diversionary move.

                24th        Intercepted two ships carrying supplies to Benghazi.

                                Two escorting destroyers were damaged and both mercantiles were sunk.

                28th        Deployed with Force K to meet HM Cruisers AJAX and NEPTUNE, HM Destroyers

                                KINGSTON and KIMBERLEY on passage to reinforce Force K in Malta.

                30th        Deployed with Force K ships and reinforcements as Force B for convoy attacks.



                1st           Intercepted and sank Italian naval auxiliary ADRIATICO and later the tanker IRIDIO

                                MANTOVANI with her escorting destroyer ALVISO DA MOSTA.

                9th          Carried out an unsuccessful search for convoy with HM Cruisers AURORA and NEPTUNE

                                screened by HM Destroyers JAGUAR and KANDAHAR.

                15th        Deployed with Force K to escort HM Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE for last stage of passage

                                into Malta from Alexandria.

                17th        Took part in 1st Battle of Sirte. Superior Italian force which was covering passage

                                of a convoy to Libya withdrew in the face of possible night action and an incorrect

                                assumption that British force included a battleship.

                                HMS BRECONSHIRE completed her passage safely.

                18th        During operation with HMS NEPTUNE, HMS AURORA and HM Destroyers LANCE,

                                LIVELY, KANDAHAR and HAVOCK to intercept ships reported waiting off Tripoli

                                ran into enemy minefield 20 miles north of port.

                                Detonated mine in port paravane abreast bridge damaging fire control director.

                                (Note: Both HMS NEPTUNE and HMS AURORA also hit mines, the former ship being

                                sunk with only one of her ships’ company of 763 surviving. He was rescued

                                and taken prisoner.)

                                Stood-by with HMS LIVELY whilst HMS LANCE and HMS HAVOCK escorted damaged

                                HMS AURORA to Malta.

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff History.).

                20th        Under repair in Malta


1 9 4 2


January                  On completion of repair resumed operational service.

                19th        Escorted Malta relief convoy from Alexandria with HM Destroyers SIKH, ZULU, LANCE,

                                LIVELY and JAGUAR.

                                Under sustained air attacks.

                25th        Deployed with HM Destroyers MAORI, ZULU, LANCE, LEGION and LIVELY as escort for

                                HM Supply Ship GLENGYLE and mv ROWALLAN CASTLE returning from Malta to


                26th        Relieved Mediterranean Fleet ships from Alexandria as escort for HM Supply Ship

                                BRECONSHIRE for remainder of passage to Malta.



                15th        Escorted HMS BRECONSHIRE, ss AJAX, ss CITY OF CALCUTTA and ss CLAN

                                FERGUSON as Convoy ME10 for first part of return passage to Alexandria with HM Destroyers

                                SIKH, ZULU, LEGION, LIVELY FORTUNE and DECOY (Operation MF5)

                14th        Met HM Cruiser CARLISLE and escorts joining from Alexandria.

                                Again under heavy and sustained air attacks during which ss ROWALLAN CASTLE was

                                damaged and although taken in tow by HMS ZULU later had to be sunk by HMS LIVELY.

                15th        Returned to Malta after this disastrous attempt to pass convoy into Malta had failed.


March                    Malta deployment in continuation.

                22nd       Sailed from Malta with HMS LEGION to take over escort for supply convoy (MW10) being

                                escorted ships of 15th Cruiser Squadron and destroyers from Alexandria.

                                (Operation MG1).

                                Deployed as 2nd Division for defence of convoy during attack by Italian force with HM cruiser

                                DIDO and HMS LEGION (2nd Battle of Sirte).

                                (For details see MEDITERRANEAN MAELSTROM by G. Cornell, ENGAGE THE ENEMY

                                MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff History.)

                                Escorted surviving ships to Malta with HM Destroyers LEGION, KINGSTON, HAVOCK and

                                HM Cruiser CARLISLE.

                                (Note: Ships in Convoy had been detached during the engagement.)

                23rd        Passage delayed by weather and continued air attacks after arrival off Malta.

                                Attempt to tow disabled HMS BRECONSHIRE when hit by bomb proved impossible and ship

                                had to be beached at Marsaxlokk in Malta.

                26th        Sustained damage by near miss during air raid on Malta whilst alongside.

                27th        Docked for repair in HM Dockyard, Malta and sustained further damage.

                                Provided additional AA defence whilst work In progress and almost wore out new gun barrels

                                (See HMS PEPPERPOT by E Gordon.)



                8th          Sustained further significant damaged by near miss during air raid whilst still in dock.

                                but sailed from Malta after further temporary repair (See above reference).

                9th          Under air attacks during westward passage.

                11th        Taken hand for temporary repair in dry dock by HM Dockyard, Gibraltar

                                Permanent repair arranged in USA.


May                        Under temporary repair and prepared for passage to USA.

                10th        Took passage to New York with call at Bermuda.

                19th        Taken in hand for repair at Brooklyn Navy Yard on arrival.


June                        Under repair




August                  On completion carried cut post refit harbour and sea trials.



                1st           Took passage to Norfolk, Va.

                17th        Passage to Portsmouth with call at Bermuda.


October                  Nominated for service with 12th Cruiser Squadron in Mediterranean.

                1st           Arrived at Portsmouth for completion of work not done in USA.


November              Modification work and preparation for operational service..


December              Passage to Scapa Flow

                2nd         Arrived at Scapa Flow and deployed with Home Fleet..


1 9 4 3


January                  Passage from Scapa Flow to relieve HM Cruiser AJAX in Force Q at Bone.

                22nd       Called at Gibraltar on passage.

                                On arrival at Bone deployed with Force Q to search for enemy shipping with HM Cruisers

                                DIDO, AURORA and SIRIUS.


February                Force Q deployment in continuation for shipping strikes and support of military

to                            operations in Algeria and Tunisia with Force

May                        (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY).



                1st           Carried out bombardment of Pantelleria with HM Destroyers PALADIN and PETARD prior

                                to landings by 1st British Division.

                                Hit by shore fire (Operation CORKSCREW).

                8th          Took part in Dress Rehearsal for Pantelleria assault off that island.

                10th        Provided cover for landings on Pantelleria with HM Cruisers AURORA, NEWFOUNDLAND,

                                EURYALUS and ORION screened by Fleet destroyers.

                12th        Bombarded Lampedusa with HMS ORION and HMS NEWFOUNDLAND.

                                Island capitulated.



                5th          Passage to Alexandria with HMS AURORA and 6 destroyers for cover of military convoys

                                during passage to Sicily

                                (Note: HM Battleships WARSPITE, VALIANT and HM Aircraft Carrier FORMIDABLE

                                were deployed to prevent any interference by Italian warships to landings

                                (Operation HUSKY).)

                7th          Escorted Convoy KMS18 through Tunisian Channel before joining Force H ships in the

                                Gulf of Sirte prior to assault phase of landings.

                9th          Bombarded Catania and Taormina with HMS AURORA and two destroyers.

                                (Operation ARSENAL)

                10th        Cruised in Ionian Sea to cover landings operations in Sicily with combined Force H and

                                Mediterranean Fleet capital ships.

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff History).

                11th        Carried out bombardment of northern flank of British advance in Sicily.


August                  Passage to Bizerta with call at Malta when released from HUSKY.

                                Deployed with HM Cruisers AURORA, DIDO and SIRIUS.



                8th          Embarked 1st Airborne Division for passage to Taranto from Bizerta with HM Cruisers

                                AURORA, DIDO and SIRIUS and sailed to join HMS KING GEORGE V off Taranto

                                (Operation SLAPSTICK).

                9th          Landed troops covered by HM Battleships KING GEORGE V and HOWE.

                                Detached to join 12th Cruiser Squadron in support of landings at Salerno.

                11th        Joined US cruiser USS BOISE to replace HM cruiser UGANDA, US cruisers USS

                                SAVANNAH and USS PHILADELPHIA which had been damaged off beach head

                                (Operation AVALANCHE).

                14th        Provided naval gunfire support to military during defence of beach heads.

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff History.)

                26th        Returned to Malta from beach head.



                4th          Transferred with Squadron to Levant Command to intercept craft taking German troops

                                to Aegean Islands after Italian surrender.

                7th          Intercepted convoy of transports taking German garrison to Cos with HMS SIRIUS,

                                HM Destroyers FAULKNOR and FURY south of Levita.

                                Four small transports and F Lighters with escorting trawlers were attacked and either sunk

                                or set on fire.

                                Under heavy air attacks in Scarpanto Strait and sustained serious damaged by direct hit

                                abreast Y turret and near misses.

                                List corrected by damage control and continued passage.

                                12 of ships’ company were killed at 29 injured during this attack.

                                Returned to Alexandria with HMS SIRIUS escorted by HM Destroyers FAULKNOR and


                9th          Under repair in Alexandria.


November              On completion rejoined Levant Command for support of military operations.

                                Based at Haifa.

                                (Note: During this period Operation ACCOLADE was being considered to re-occupy the

                                Aegean Islands but the failure to hold Cos and Leros resulted in this being cancelled.

                                In any case operation of major warships had been shown as hazardous and

                                cruiser deployment was only likely if adequate cover by allied aircraft were possible.)


December              On release from Levant Command transferred to Gibraltar.

                22nd       Deployed for Atlantic convoy defence and interception of blockade runners.

                                Searched for German blockade runner ALSTERUFER with HM Cruiser GAMBIA and HM

                                Minelaying cruiser ARIADNE.

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY).

                29th        Returned to Gibraltar after ALSTRUFER had been sunk.


1 9 4 4



                19th        Deployed with 15th Cruiser Squadron at Naples for duty in support of landings

                                at Anzio (Operation SHINGLE).

                                (See ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY and Naval Staff History).

                21st         Deployed as part of Southern Attack Force (X-Ray) with USS BROOKLYN,

                                HM Fighter Direction Ship PALOMARES and USN and RN destroyers

                22nd       Provided naval gunfire support at X Beach.

                25th        Deployed as a pair with HMS DIDO, to provide naval gunfire support to shore military

                                operations as required.

                                (Note: These two cruisers were deployed in rotation with HM Cruiser DELHI and USS

                                BROOKLYN, HMS PHOEBE and HMS ORION, HM Cruiser MAURITIUS and

                                USS PHILADELPHIA

                27th        Bombarded Formia

                                (Note: During the period up to 17th February, ships in the assault area came under

                                several U-Boat attacks.).


February                Military support role in continuation with ships of Force X.

                8th          Carried out five bombardments in support of military operations at Anzio beachhead.

                17th        During passage to Naples to replenish ammunition hit by acoustic torpedo (T5) fired

                                from U410 35 miles west of Naples off Cape Circe.

                                Sank 10 minutes after further torpedo attack by U410 which caused major explosion.

                                415 of the ships’ company were lost with 250 survivors rescued by landing craft

                                (Casualty List - note on casualties)







by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








ON 015/1





HN 023B





HN 024





KMS 018B








(Note on Convoys)



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