19 November 1940: War Cabinet Inquiry into Hurricane Losses

19 Nov

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First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound


An immediate inquiry has been launched into the loss of nine aircraft flown off HMS Argus for Malta on Sunday.  Reporting to the War Cabinet, the First Sea Lord outlined the initial findings of the emergency investigation into the loss. 

According to the report, the first flight of six Hurricanes, led by a Skua, flew to Galleta Island, where they were met by a Sunderland flying boat to be guided onward to Malta. The second flight of one Skua and six Hurricanes also flew off Argus.  They were due to rendezvous with a Sunderland flying boat which was unable to take off owing to a defect.  A Glenn Martin was sent instead to meet the seven delivery aircraft instead.  However, the weather deteriorated and the Glenn Martin failed to make contact with the second flight. 

The report’s firm conclusion was that in both flights the machines were carrying a very small margin of fuel. The investigation had established that five of the aircraft in the first flight arrived at the rendezvous with very little fuel left in their tanks.  Two force-landed in the sea; one pilot was picked up by the Sunderland flying-boat. 

The second flight asked for a direction-finder bearing from Malta, which was given. At that time they were in a position due west of the Island.  It is not known whether their signal had been picked up.  Despite a thorough search, none of the pilots was located.

The distance from the point at which the aircraft flew off Argus for Malta was 385 miles.  This was 40 miles further west of Malta than the last time a similar operation was carried out.  It is believed that the early take-off was ordered when an Italian naval force was detected approaching the convoy.  This would appear to be critical given the findings regarding low fuel readings in the surviving aircraft.


Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.


AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from UK en route for Middle East to rejoin 229 Squadron, also carrying eight passengers. Seven officers and 97 other ranks arrived from UK for posting to units in Malta were provided with temporary accommodation. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Hand grenade throwing practice. A Coy moved to new HQ near Imtarfa. 

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1 Comment

Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


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One response to “19 November 1940: War Cabinet Inquiry into Hurricane Losses

  1. Paul

    November 20, 2015 at 12:49 am

    “Galleta Island” in the text would be “Galita Island” (now “Zalita”), north of the Galite Channel, north of Tunisia.


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