A supply convoy bound for Malta sets
sail from Alexandria. It consisted of 3 fast freighters, 2
cruisers, 8 destroyers and an anti-aircraft ship. However,
the Luftwaffe still managed to sink all three merchantmen before
they reached Malta.
Churchill broadcasts to
the nation and says the Mediterranean will close to all allied
Force H, consisting of
HMS Argus and HMS Eagle and supported by a number of destroyers,
sets sail for Malta with a number of Spitfires on board. Fifteen
Spitfires were flown off when Force H came within range of
In what was to become known as the
2nd Battle of Sirte, 4 freighters, escorted by 3 cruisers,
1 anti-aircraft cruiser and 17 destroyers leave Alexandria
bound for Malta. This force would later be strengthened by
the cruiser Penelope and a destroyer from Force K.
In a repeat of Force H's mission on
the 7th March 1942. Sixteen more Spitfires are delivered to
Malta. The Axis, now aware of the large British supply convoy
sailing towards Malta, dispatch Admiral Iachino from Taranto
with the Battleship Littorio and 4 destroyers. Admiral Parona
also sets sail from Messina with 3 cruisers and 4 destroyers.
Late in the afternoon after an unsuccessful
Italian torpedo-aircraft attack, Admiral Iachino's squadron
engages the British convoy. This protected itself with a smokescreen,
but the cruiser HMS Cleopatra was damaged. Admiral Philip Vian,
commanding the British escorts, now sent his destroyers in
a torpedo attack on the Italian battleship Littorio. However,
by now it was getting dark and so Admiral Iachino turned away
from the British convoy and sailed for home.
The British convoy, have escaped serious
damage are approaching Malta. However, it is here that they
come under concentrated air attack which sinks 1 freighter
and damages another, although the other two freighters make
it safely in to the port of Valleta. However, air attacks against
the docks at Valletta made it very difficult to unload.
Two of the freighters from the recent
relief convoy are sunk in port by the Luftwaffe. These two
ships were still almost fully loaded as damage to the docks
at Valletta has prevented their swift unloading. Of the 26,000
tons of supply that had been sent from Egypt on this latest
convoy, only 5,000 tons were eventually unloaded.
Another sixteen Spitfires are delivered
to Malta by Force H.
The badly damaged cruiser
HMS Penelope, limps in to Gibraltar.
The US aircraft-carrier Wasp flew
in 46 Spitfires to Malta.
Cunningham is forced to order the
withdrawal of the 10th Submarine Flotilla from Malta as a result
of the intense bombing and because of the mines laid by aircraft
and German E-boats.
Another 60 Spitfires are
landed in Malta by the aircraft carriers USN Wasp and HMS Eagle.
The Luftwaffe sinks three British
destroyers, Lively, Kipling and Jackal to the South of Crete.
Simultaneous British convoys
set sail for Malta from Gibraltar and Alexandria. The Gibraltar
convoy (codenamed ' Harpoon'), consisted of 5 freighters and
a US tanker. It was initially escorted by a battleship, 2 aircraft
carrier, 3 cruisers and 8 destroyers and was later reinforced
by an anti-aircraft cruiser and 9 destroyers. The Alexandria
convoy (codenamed 'Vigorous'), had eleven freighters and was
escorted by 7 light cruisers and 26 destroyers.
The first axis attacks
are made against the 'Harpoon' and 'Vigorous' convoys. 'Harpoon'
loses a freighter and receives damage to a cruiser from an
axis air attack off the Tunisian coast. 'Harpoons' escorting
aircraft carriers turn back at this point. In the late afternoon,
the 'Vigorous' convoy passes out of air cover range and promptly
losses two freighters to axis air attacks. Another freighter
is forced to return to Alexandria as it is deemed to slow.
An Italian naval squadron intercepts
the 'Harpoon' convoy and disables two British destroyers, as
well as damaging the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, although
the the Italians lost a destroyer in the process. Axis aircraft
then attacked and sank 2 freighters, the tanker Kentucky and
1 destroyer. Another Italian naval squadron had sailed from
Taranto to intercept 'Vigorous', which reversed course in the
face of this threat. While it was doing this, German E-boats
moved in and sank a destroyer and damaged a cruiser with torpedo's.
At this point British torpedo aircraft from Malta attacked
the Italian naval squadron, disabling a cruiser, which was
later sunk by a British submarine. In the meantime 'Vigorous'
turned towards Malta again, but further reports of the Italian
naval squadron steaming south, forced another course reversal.
German Stukas attacked the convoy at this point and damaged
a cruiser and sank a destroyer. The Italian naval squadron
moved now moved north, removing the threat to the 'Vigorous'
convoy, but Admiral Vian commanding the 'Vigorous' convoy decided
that he did not have enough ammunition left to resume his course
to Malta and so continued back to Alexandria, during which
U-205 sank the cruiser HMS Hermione south of Crete and Stukas
sank another destroyer. However, as consolation, British aircraft
did manage to torpedo the Italian Battleship Littorio, which
spent the next two months under repair.
U-372 sinks the British submarine
depot ship Medway. The loss of the torpedo's she was carrying
put a severe brake on British submarine operations in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Fleet evacuates Alexandria for Haifa, Port
Said and Beirut. The port facilities are also prepared for
demolition incase axis forces reach the city.
The British convoy 'Pedestal'
(14 merchants, 2 battleships, 3 aircraft-carriers, 14 destroyers
and 3 anti-aircraft cruisers), which had left Britain on the
2nd August en-route to Malta, reaches the Straits of Gibraltar,
where it is reinforced with 3 heavy cruisers (Manchester, Nigeria,
and Kenya) and 11 more destroyers. For a time, the aircraft-carrier
HMS Furious joins the convoy with a complement of 38 Supermarine
Spitfires which are to be flown off towards the embattled island.
The 'Pedestal' convoy is spotted by
a German U-boat. Over the coming days 21 German and Italian
submarines, nearly 800 aircraft, 23 torpedo boats, and units
of the Italian fleet move in to intercept the convoy.
The last of 6 remaining
merchant of the Pedestal convoy, the tanker Ohio, with 10,000
tons oil on board is towed into Malta by three British warships.
After intensifying their
raids during the early part of the October, German and Italian
daylight bombing raids over Malta are finally suspended. The
drain on aircraft being sent to other fronts has left little
Naval battles off Oran and Casablanca,
result in three French destroyers being sunk.
The French scuttle 79
warships docked at Toulon as German troops enter the City,
but four submarines manage to escape.
In the last week the Royal
Navy has lost the destroyers Pentlan, Porcupine and Blean,
The 1,500 ton destroyer
HMS Partridge is sunk off the coast of Algeria by U-565, commanded
by Wilhelm Franken.