Tag Archives: Deucalion

12 August 1942: Convoy Attacked by Bombers, Fighters and Submarines

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – DAILY EVENTS ON MALTAGC70                                                                                                                                    

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Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.  A beautiful sunny day, with calm seas.

0530 hrs  Radar reports of enemy snoopers start to come in at first light and all ships go to the first degree of readiness.

0600 hrs  Cruising Disposition No 17 is formed.

0610 hrs  Air defence begins for the convoy. Twelve fighters are flown off in a constant air patrol to be maintained all day, reinforced as necessary.

0741 hrs  HMS Kenya spots torpedo tracks and turns, avoiding three torpedoes.

Convoy barrage deters enemy

0907 hrs  Air raid: 19 JU 88s are reported approaching at high level.  The bombers come in over the fleet from right ahead, drop their bombs and are away in about six minutes. Two JU 88s are shot down and a third retires to the south’ard on fire fore and aft and losing height.  16 convoy fighters also engage, shooting down eight destroyed, three probable and two damaged.  No damage was done to any ship; one convoy fighter is lost.

An Italian SM79 shadowing the convoy is shot down by two Fulmars from 884 Squadron soon afterwards. Other snoopers keep trying to probe the defences but are deterred by volleys from the destroyers main guns.

0920 hrs  Laforey attacks a submarine which dives to escape; Fury detects her 12 minutes later and along with Foresight hunts her down, dropping several depth-charges. The Italian Submarine, Brin, evades the destroyers and escapes.

0940 hrs  Captain (D), 19th Destroyer Flotilla orders all destroyers to rejoin the convoy, as the U-Boat, is no longer a danger to the convoy.

0800 hrs  Sub-depot parties standing by in Malta, ready for the convoy.

0930-1055 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled.  P/O Ogilvie destroys one Heinkel 111 sixty miles east of the Island – the Squadron’s 100th victory.

1135-1150 hrs  Pathfinder confirms an asdic contact and attacks heavily, assisted in the hunt by Zetland.  Both ships lose contact and rejoin the convoy.

Savoia-Marchetti SM 84

1210 hrs  Ashanti reports at least nine enemy raiders approaching from ahead.  Fighters intercept, shooting down one aircraft, the smoke of which can be seen from the fleet.  Cruisers and destroyers in the van open fire: one aircraft probably destroyed.  10 SM 84 bombers drop motorised mines in the path of the convoy while Fiat Falcos mount a diversionary attack to divert destroyers’ fire: a few drop small bombs. The convoy executes an emergency turn of 90 degrees to port to avoid the mines: no damage to any ships.

Another wave of 33 SM 79s and 10 SM 84s approaches in formations of five or six some armed as torpedo-bombers, with a fighter escort of Re 2001s.  A few SM 79s head for Nelson but all torpedoes are dropped well away from the convoy before they withdraw.  One torpedo-bomber is shot down by ships’ fire.

1230-1240 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol; they sight only friendly aircraft.

Nelson’s guns fire back

1300 hrs  A third wave of 37 JU 88 bombers arrives in small groups at 10-15000 feet, too high for Hurricanes to intercept.  Eight Fulmars do engage.  The JU 88s dive-bombe the convoy and also drop canisters with small black parachutes.  Nelson, Rodney, Cairo and several MT ships suffer very near misses. A stick of bombs falls around Deucalion; one pierces the ship but fails to explode; two are near-misses but the explosion of one damages the ship, reducing her speed. No 1 hold is half flooded and No 2 completely flooded.  Bramham is detailed to stand by her and then to escort her via the coastal route to Malta.  Convoy fighters pursue the enemy: one JU 88 is probably destroyed by gunfire and several damaged.  Lt R Johnson of 806 Squadron is lost.

1345 hrs  Two Italian Re2001 fighter-bombers dive on Victorious dropping 100lb bombs, killing six men and wounding two.  One glances off the flight deck without exploding.  The attackers fly low over the convoy and are taken for returning friendly fighters, so get away unscathed.  Tartar reports a submarine and attacks with depth charges.

1417 hrs Zetland reports a submarine on the surface on the horizon and is seen to alter course and steam south at high speed, before being ordered back to her station as the submarine is not a danger to the convoy.  The information is passed to Bramham who is near the location with Deucalion.  After several more reports of submarine sightings and asdic contacts, convoy commander Syfret orders destroyers on the convoy flanks to release depth-charges on each side of the screen every ten minutes between 1400 and 1900.

1616-1641 hrs  Pathfinder reports a confirmed asdic contact which she heavily attacks twice in quick succession.  Zetland joins Pathfinder and remains until the contact is no longer a danger.

1640 hrs  Tartar reports “torpedo in sight starboard” and immediately counter-attacks.  A few minutes later Lookout, astern of Tartar, reports a submarine in sight.  Both ships make two attacks, hunting the U-Boat until she is no longer a threat.

HMS Ithuriel comes in to ram Cobalto c IWM A11411

1649 hrs Ithuriel sights a periscope and part of a conning tower on her starboard bow and immediately attacks.  She obtains contact at 900 yards and counter-attacks with asdics.  The attack brings the U-Boat to the surface and Ithuriel opens fire, turns and finally rams it.  The Italian U-Boat Cobalto sinks: three officers (including the Captain) and 38 ratings are taken prisoner.

1717-1747 hrs; 1754-1832 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron at a time on patrol: nothing sighted.

1726 hrs  Syfret orders Wilton to replace Bramham in Force X.  Reports are coming in of small formations of enemy aircraft are coming in and expected to make an air attack on a considerable scale.

Survivors from Cobalto on board Ithuriel c IWM A11414

1749 hrs  Ithuriel, still at a distance after picking up prisoners from Cobalto, is attacked by four JU 88s and one CR 42 fighter-bomber.  She is undamaged but her speed has been reduced to 20 knots by the ramming and her A/S is out of action.

1757-2225 hrs  Six Beaufighters 248 Squadron take off from Ta Qali to act as fighter escort to the incoming convoy.

1800 hrs  The convoy alters course to pass through the Skerki Channel.

1813 hrs  Syfret informs the convoy that Force Z will turn to the westward at 1915 hrs.

1830 hrs  The first formation of enemy aircraft is sighted; reports suggest 100-120 enemy raiders, many of them fighters.  Against them the convoy had 22 fighters in the air, who continually harass and break up the incoming enemy formations.

1835 hrs  The first attack by 13 torpedo bombers as well as an unknown number of high level bombers, dive bombers and minelaying aircraft.  The convoy makes an emergency turn to avoid the mines and torpedoes.  40 more torpedo bombers are reported ahead.  They are followed in by a formation of twelve Stukas which attack Indomitable, who is quickly obscured by splashes and smoke from two large fires.  One bomb hits the forward AA gun positions, killing more than twenty of the Royal Marines detachment. Another lands near the forward lift, penetrates the upper gallery deck and explodes above the main hangar deck. The wardroom, crowded with off-duty pilots and observers, is wrecked by a bomb, killing all the occupants. In all 50 men are killed and 59 wounded.  Victorious is now the only aircraft carrier with a useable flight deck.

Indomitable hit; Charybdis stands by

Italian SM 79s attack Foresight: a torpedo hits the stern, breaking her back and bringing the ship to a halt.  There are many near misses across the convoy but no other ships are damaged.  Tartar goes to Foresight’s assistance and subsequently took her in tow.  Indomitables fighters destroy nine enemy aircraft, plus two probables and one damaged, for the loss of two fighters; one pilot is saved.  One JU 87 is probably shot down by ships’ gunfire.

1855 hrs  With the damage to Indomitable Syfret orders Force Z to turn about immediately, 20 minutes sooner than planned, leaving Force X to head on for Malta.

1927 hrs  Indomitable reports that fires are under control and she can steam 17 knots.  Her steering gear becomes temporarily disabled but soon after 2030 hrs she is up to 28½ knots.

1910-2220 hrs  Three Beaufighters 248 Squadron take off from Ta Qali on a mission to attack Pantelleria aerodrome.  They fire several bursts at aerodrome on the ground: a fire is seen on the west of the aerodrome but it is too dark to see other results.

1955-2020 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne on patrol: nothing to report.

1956 hrs  Italian submarine Axum inflicts the first serious damage on the convoy, firing four torpedoes.  Cruiser Nigeria is hit on the port side, flooding and listing to port.  Two torpedoes strike the cruiser Cairo, destroying her stern and disabling engines.SS Brisbane Star is also hit but not badly damaged.  The tanker Ohio is hit in the pump room; the ship is torn open and the main steering disabled; kerosene tanks burst into flames.

2010 hrs  The Navy flashes that there are enemy aircraft overhead.  Explosions are seen near the convoy ships and a large vessel is hit and begins to smoke heavily.  VHF contact is lost and the Beaufighters are fired on by convoy ships.

Nigeria stopped and on fire

2015 hrs  Nigeria is under control and is stopped to transfer Rear-Admiral Commanding, 10th Cruiser Squadron and his staff to HMS Ashanti.  The ship is soon able to proceed at 14 knots and heads for Gibraltar, with HM Ships Bicester, Wilton and Derwent as escort.  Cairo has to be sunk as soon as survivors have been taken off.  The loss of Nigeria and Cairo leaves the convoy with no fighter-direction equipment.  The convoy is scattered and in disarray.  Rear-Admiral Commanding, 10th Cruiser Squadron in HMS Ashanti proceeds to direct the convoy.  Ashanti and Penn put up a smoke screen against the western horizon to protect the convoy from an impending air attack.

Three Beaufighters of 252 and three of 248 Squadron Malta are despatched to carry out a dusk machine-gun and cannon attack on Pantelleria.  Only three aircraft find the aerodrome; starting a fire in the west corner.  A Wellington reconnaissance plane reports six separate fires burning on the aerodrome.

2038 hrs  25 minutes after sunset, a severe dive bomber and torpedo bomber air attack is launched on the convoy.  30 JU 88s and seven Heinkel torpedo-bombers escorted by six ME 110s attack from the north west, targeting the merchantmen.  Brisbane Star is hit by a torpedo which blows a hole in both sides; she takes on water.  Her master decides to keep inshore until morning.

2050 hrs  Having suffered 18 near-misses, Empire Hope receives two direct hits on No 4 hold: ammunition and aviation fuel explode and her stern is on fire; her engines stop.  The order is given to abandon ship and her survivors picked up by Penn before she is sunk.  Glenorchy is bombed and explodes, with few survivors.

2102 hrs  Clan Ferguson is hit by an aerial torpedo and blows up with her load of 2000 tons of aviation petrol and 1500 tons of explosives. 96 survivors reach the Tunisian coast where they are interned by the French.

HMS Kenya

2112 hrs  The Italian submarine Alagi fires four torpedoes at Kenya which avoids all except one which strikes her on the forefoot.  She is able to make 25 knots and remain with the convoy.  Eleven merchant ships are still underway but only three or four are in visual touch with HM Ships Manchester, Kenya and Ashanti behind, while three destroyers are ahead. Syfret hears of the attacks on Force X and sends Charybdis, Somali and Eskimo as reinforcements.

2130 hrs  Two torpedo bombers attack SS Deucalion out of the shadows near the Cani Rocks, where she had been proceeding separately with HMS BramhamDeucalion‘s gunners fire back but one explosive hits the ship, which bursts into a mass of flames.  The order is given to abandon ship before she sinks.  Having picked up survivors, Bramham proceeded to overtake Force X.

2125-2130 hrs; 2215-2235 hrs; 2305-2340 hrs; 0105-0140 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Four enemy aircraft approach Malta singly: bombs are dropped on Gozo and in the sea.

Night  Two Malta-based Wellingtons locate and attack an enemy naval force comprising four cruisers and eight destroyers heading to intercept the convoy in the Ustica-Cape San Vito area, course west, speed 20 knots.  Eight 250lb bombs are dropped but are seen to overshoot: no hits claimed.  The cruiser force seems to alter course immediately after the bombing, as when a single Wellington makes a second run over the ships 20 minutes they are heading towards Palermo.  The Wellingtons make four runs in total over the cruisers, dropping flares each time.  Each time the ships split up and break formation.

One Wellington makes two bombing sorties on Comiso Aerodrome and reports three explosions on target.

0034 hrs  40 minutes after the leading ships of Force X pass Cape Bon, two E-Boats are detected by radar on the port beam and engaged by all ships.

0120 hrs Two Italian Motor Torpedo boats torpedo the cruiser Manchester.

Manchester’s rescued crew covered in oil

0140 hrs  HMS Pathfinder goes alongside Manchester and after discussion with the Captain embarks 150 of the ship’s company, proceeding under orders to join Rear-Admiral Commanding, 10th Cruiser Squadron.  The Commanding Officer, HMS Manchester decides to abandon and sink his ship, the last of the ship’s company leaving at 0245 hrs.

0222-0634 hrs  Two Albacores and one Swordfish of NAS, Malta are sent out to attack enemy cruisers between Pantelleria and Sicily.  They are unable to locate the targets.

0330 hrs  In further running fights with E-Boats three merchant ships, Santa Elisa, Almeria Lykes and Wairangi, are also hit.  SS Wairangi is hit in the engine room and SS Almeria Lykes before No 1 hold.  Both ships are abandoned and their crews picked up some hours later by HM Ships Eskimo and Somali.  Neither ship is seen to sink though both are reported as left in a sinking condition.  SS Santa Elisa is sunk later in a bombing attack.  Only Rochester Castle is hit right forward but survives to rejoin the convoy.  At least one and possibly two E-Boats were destroyed in counter-attacks.

0500 hrs  It is decided to scuttle Manchester which is seen to sink.  Most of her survivors reaching the Tunisian coast and internment.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                    Civilian casualties  Nil.

Operation Pedestal casualties  CLICK HERE


ROYAL NAVY  PRU Spitfire reported that the Italian Naval force had left Messina.  Hythe swept P35 into Marsamxett.  At 1730 Rye sailed to lay navigational marks, and P43 proceeded on patrol.

AIR HQ  Reconnaissance photographs showed three aircraft burned out at Decimomannu aerodrome and one at Elmas.  Three Beaufighters of 252 and three of 248 Squadron were despatched to carry out a dusk machine-gun and cannon attack on Pantelleria.  Only three aircraft found the aerodrome; started a fire in the west corner but later a Wellington reconnaissance plane reported six separate fires burning on the aerodrome.  One Liberator and one Wellington also attacked Pantelleria aerodrome; results unobserved.

Arrivals  Two Hudsons, three Spitfires, two Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar; one Liberator from Shallufa; three Baltimores from LG 98.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter force-lands; crew uninjured.  One Maryland’s hydraulic system fails; crew uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5. Dealt with: 2 High Explosives (1 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg)

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Posted by on August 12, 2022 in 1942, August 1942


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10 August 1942: Admiralty Signals Convoy “God Speed”

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL/SANTA MARIJA – DAILY EVENTS ON MALTAGC70                                                                                                                                    

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”the absolute last issue from Island reserves occurs in five days, on 15 August.  After that we are down to the slaughter of horses and goats, once considered adequate for six months…the present census of animals on the Island is estimated to last from five to ten days.”  Mr Trench, manager of food distribution in Malta (1)


Army working parties on the airfields were ordered to down tools today in order to complete rehearsals for a ‘forthcoming convoy’ operation.  Thousands of men took part in the exercises, leaving only 500 at Luqa and 145 at Ta Qali to continue essential repairs and refuelling.  Transport was dispatched to sub-depots, ready for the collection and transfer of supplies from Grand Harbour into a network of storage facilities.  Tonight Malta command declared preparations complete: the Island’s forces are poised in anticipation that relief may be coming soon.


This morning the Masters of fourteen merchant ships were each reading the contents of an envelope marked “Not to be opened until 0800/10th August”.  The message inside was from the First Lord of the Admiralty.  It read:  “God Speed”.

Overnight the merchant transports navigated through dense fog to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar.  With their warship escort, they form the largest convoy yet assembled in an all-out attempt to supply Malta, code-named ‘Operation Pedestal’.  Ahead of them lie the most heavily-patrolled waters of the Mediterranean and an enemy determined to stop them.

The supply ships Almeria Lykes, Brisbane Star, Clan Ferguson, Deucalion, Dorset, Empire Hope, Glenorchy, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle, Santa Elisa, Waimarama and Wairangi, plus oil tanker Ohio left the Clyde on 2nd August escorted by a protective fleet including cruisers Kenya and Nigeria and up to 16 destroyers.  En route, Masters and crews of the merchant ships have been extensively trained in communication and manoeuvring skills they will need in the face of the expected enemy attacks.

Vice Admiral Syfret

Commander of the convoy is Vice-Admiral E N Syfret, CB, whose flagship Nelson also sailed from Scapa Flow last Sunday.  By 1600 hrs today the convoy and escort forces were complete:

FORCE Z battleships Nelson and Rodney, cruisers Charybdis, Phoebeand Sirius, destroyers Antelope, Eskimo, Ithuriel, Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Quentin, Somali, Tartar, Vansittart, Westcott, Wilton, Wishart, Wrestler (later replaced by Amazon) and Zetland and three aircraft carriers: Eagle, Indomitable and Victorious, plus a fourth, Furious carrying a delivery of Spitfires for Malta.

FORCE X cruisers Cairo, Kenya, Manchester and Nigeria and destroyers Ashanti, Bicester, Bramham, Derwent, Foresight, Fury, Icarus, Intrepid, Ledbury, Pathfinder, Penn and Wilton.

FORCE R refuelling vessels, including fleet oil tankers RAF Brown Ranger and Dingledale, HM Tugs  Jaunty and Salvonia, plus escorting corvettes Jonquil, Geranium, Spirea and Coltsfoot.

Two decoy convoys escorted by cruisers and destroyers are due to set sail from the eastern Mediterranean as a tactic to divert the attention of the enemy from the main convoy in the west.  One sailed from Port Said at dusk, the other from Haifa at 0400 hrs. They are due to rendezvous at 0800 hrs tomorrow morning and then to turn back when darkness falls.


Weather   Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1120-1218 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of enemy aircraft.

1130-1240 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept.  Two return early.

1145 hrs  Air raid alert.  Sgt Mahar 185 Squadron is shot up and crash lands at Luqa: he is unhurt.  229 Squadron red section leader F/Lt Swannick breaks away at 7000 feet with his undercarriage down and does not pick up again.  A parachutist is seen going down in the sea and later picked up.  Sgt Sidney returned to base with his engine cutting out.  P/O Foster and another Spitfire see enemy fighters at 24-26000 feet.  They turn to attack but are jumped by two other fighters.  Spitfire pilots see bombs explode on Ta Qali but lose sight of the enemy aircraft.  They then receive a report of enemy aircraft heading north, change course to give chase but see nothing.

1155 hrs  Two JU 88s drop anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, killing Nursing Orderly LAC Holt and wounding Nursing Orderly Sgt Harris, who is likely to be in hospital for seven weeks).  Five Beaufighters and two Spitfires are damaged; one ambulance is destroyed.

1224 hrs  All clear.

1635-1810 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for the missing Spitfire pilot: no sighting.

1915-1923 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to search for unidentified aircraft which prove to be friendly.

1940-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol off the coast of Sicily for E-Boats: none sighted.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron also search for enemy shipping, flying at an average height of 5-10000 feet.  The sight no vessels but see an unidentified aircraft, thought to be a Spitfire.

2003-2230 hrs  One Albacore of the Navy Air Service searches for enemy submarines but finds nothing.  Pilot S/L White and Observer Lt Lashmore crash-land on return to base, damaging the aircraft; they are unhurt.

2144-0022 hrs  Air raid alert.  Five enemy Italian Cz 1007s with an escort of seven fighters drop thirty 100kg bombs on Luqa aerodrome and the Sliema area.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Jerrold Smith, Royal Canadian Air Force; Leading Aircraftsman George Holt, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Messerschmitt pilot Schmidt shot down into the sea: picked up by RAF rescue launch and taken prisoner.


ROYAL NAVY  Otus sailed and proceeded to Gibraltar.  Day One for Operation PEDESTAL of which a separate report has been made.  Force Y, consisting of M/Vs Troilus and Orari escorted by Matchless and Badsworth sailed at 2030. Two Motor Launches escorted this force to a point one hour’s steaming from the end of the swept channel and then returned to Marsaxlokk where they anchored for the night.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two DC3 from Bilbeis; four Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one Baltimore from Burg Arab.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in combat, crash-landed; pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea; pilot baled out – missing.  One Spitfire in taxiing accident; pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11.  Dealt with: 2 high explosives, including 1 delayed-action (1 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg).

(1)  Source:  The Supply of Malta 1940-42

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Posted by on August 10, 2022 in 1942, August 1942


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