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BRITISH LIGHT CRUISER SUNK EN ROUTE TO JOIN MALTA FORCE K
A German U-boat carried out a torpedo attack on a British light cruiser today, sinking the vessel close to the Egyptian coast. The attack is further evidence of the build-up of German U-boats in the Mediterranean as the Axis try to counter the threat from Malta on convoys heading for North Africa. Since September 1941 twenty-three U-boats have been sent to the Mediterranean, fifteen of them within the past month. Of the twenty still afloat, at least thirteen are believed operating east of Gibraltar.
The British vessel was part of a light cruiser force which set out from Alexandria to join with Force K from Malta, in the hunt for Axis convoys bound for Benghazi.
Eight Italian supply ships had embarked in three convoys yesterday with protective cover provided by virtually the entire Italian battle fleet. British submarines reported the convoy departures and a two-pronged operation was immediately organized in their pursuit.
The planned interception was given away when British submarine Urge torpedoed and damaged the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto in the Strait of Messina. The ship survived but, alerted to the presence of enemy vessels, the convoys returned to port.
Some hours later, as Admiral Vian’s ships were heading back into Alexandria, the German U-boat U-557 fired torpedoes at the light cruiser Galatea. The British vessel sank with the loss of its Commander, Capt E W B Sim, RN, and 22 officers, plus 447 ratings. 144 survivors were picked up by other ships of the British convoy.
By a strange twist of fate, U-557 was later rammed by an Italian Torpedo Boat Orione and sank with the loss of all hands.
AIR RAIDS 14 DECEMBER 1941
0331-0358 hrs Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft skirted Island and receded north over Mellieha. Bombs in sea. Heavy Ack Ack fired three barrages – also by GL height control.
0511-0645 hrs Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft patrolled off south coast for 1½ hours.
0738-0808 hrs Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft approached from north, skirted east coast and receded.
1905-0440 hrs Five alerts for seven enemy aircraft, four of which crossed the coast. Bombs dropped on land and in the sea. Hurricanes airborne; no interceptions.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER
AIR HQ Four Blenheims arrived from Gibraltar.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland special search Merrina, Taranto; one Maryland shadowing Italian fleet; two Marylands special search. 69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance One PR Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tunis and Bizrata. 18 Squadron One Blenheim SF 2B patrol. 107 Squadron One Blenheim SF 2B patrol. 104 Squadron Ten Wellingtons attacked Benghazi.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 5.
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