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  #1  
Old 23-02-2008, 22:46
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Batstiger Batstiger is offline
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Default Operation Pedestal

The ship is the Algerine minesweeper HMS Stormcloud, the place Grand Harbour Malta.
In the background the famous oiltanker "Ohio" which will be forever remembered for the part she played in Operation Pedestal.
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File Type: jpg Stormcloud 1.jpg (180.9 KB, 200 views)
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  #2  
Old 23-02-2008, 23:04
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Default Re: The heroine of Operation Pedastal.

Bob, I for one, and I'm sure there are others here, would appreciate it if you could provide an overview of Operation Pedastal.
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Old 22-03-2010, 18:43
MelQuick MelQuick is offline
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Default Re: The heroine of Operation Pedastal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Batstiger View Post
The ship is the Algerine minesweeper HMS Stormcloud, the place Grand Harbour Malta.
In the background the famous oiltanker "Ohio" which will be forever remembered for the part she played in Operation Pedestal.
Hi

Many thanks for posting the pic. My father-in-law, who was a civilian storeman in HMS St Angelo at the time, saw her come in.

Mel
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Old 22-03-2010, 19:30
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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Thumbs up Re: The heroine of Operation Pedastal.

Hi Bob. Great picture.There are not too many of Ohio in Grand Harbour.I suppose the most famous would be the one of her being towed in lashed to ? HMS PENN,and an other destroyer.
I always thought it a great shame that after the war.Ohio was towed out of Grand Harbour with no ceremony and simply scuttled at sea.Many Regards Steve.
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Old 05-04-2010, 20:34
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Default Operation Pedestal

Operation "Pedestal" (August 1942)


Background

Malta is situated in a strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea, being midway between Gibraltar (860 miles) and Alexandria (715 miles), and 60 miles from Sicily on a direct route to the North African coast and its ports. With its large natural harbour, Malta had been the strategic centre of British Mediterranean naval operations for 150 years. But in WW2 it was also in a very vulnerable position being so close to the Axis forces in Sicily. Realising that, in the event of war, this main naval base could not be defended, it was transferred in the 1930s from Malta to Alexandria in Egypt, thus controlling the only two blue water entrances to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar being the other.

After trying to deny Malta to the British by siege and bombing for two years, the Axis had inflicted great privations upon the Maltese people who had withstood stoically everything thrown at them, and in recognition of this were collectively awarded the highest British civilian award, the George Cross in April 1942.

By this time Malta had become the most bombed place on earth, and the situation was fast becoming serious with almost constant attacks by Axis aircraft based in Sicily and North Africa, and Malta’s chances of survival were low. Not only were the military needs in a critical state but also those of the entire civilian population who faced starvation. Reserves of food, fuel, ammunition etc. were sufficient for only a couple of months more, and for aviation fuel only a couple of weeks. If Malta could not be resupplied it would have to surrender.

In an attempt to relieve the situation, the Allies ran two simultaneous convoy operations in mid-June 1942: operation "Harpoon" from Gibraltar, and operation "Vigorous" from Alexandria. In Operation HARPOON, four merchant ships out of six were sunk; two ships reached Malta. In Operation VIGOROUS, two out of eleven merchant ships were sunk and none reached Malta; the remainder returned to Alexandria and Tobruk.

In North Africa, the desert war had been going badly for the British army since the arrival, in March 1941, of the German Afrika Korps under General (later Field Marshal) Irwin Rommel. By August 1942, after losing the major port of Tobruk in June, the British had been driven back to within 60 miles of Alexandria to a place called El Alamein, where both armies halted to draw breath.

The Afrika Korps could not be permitted to advance east of El Alemein, otherwise the main naval port of Alexandria, the Suez Canal, and thus access to the Far East and control of the eastern and central Mediterranean would be lost. In preparation for a worst case scenario, the naval headquarters was moved to Haifa, and the fleet dispersed to Haifa, Suez and Beirut.

Because Malta based aircraft and submarines were already sinking a large percentage of Axis supply vessels, the Afrika Korps was forced, in July 1942, to halt its offensive in the inconclusive first battle of El Alamein, but intended to renew the offensive later that year, after mounting a large effort to send additional supplies by sea to North Africa. All the supplies for the Afrika Korps had to come by sea from Italy.

The British were also preparing to go on the offensive late in 1942. Thus, this was a critical time for both belligerents; for the Axis to supply the Afrika Korps, and for the Allies to supply Malta to interdict the Axis supplies.

El Alemein was a battle that simply had to be won at all costs and by any means, and the most effective way the British had of weakening the Afrika Korps was to starve them of essential supplies, especially fuel, while building up their own reserves.

Malta was ideally placed as a base to interdict the Axis supply routes. In a nutshell, Malta was the key to success in North Africa, and both sides were only too aware of it.

Out of this situation "Operation Pedestal" was born.
 

The Pedestal Plan

The Admiralty started to plan Operation Pedestal in the early weeks of July 1942, and was to be the main effort to resupply Malta. In the aftermath of the failed dual convoy operation in June 1942, it was decided that "Pedestal" would be mounted from the west only, and would employ the largest escort force yet deployed for a single convoy.

It was an operation that simply had to succeed whatever the cost. It was therefore decided that only fast (15 knots) merchant ships were to be included to reduce the time exposed to enemy attacks thus improving their chances of survival. Three of the ships were American owned and one of them, the SS Ohio, was leased from Texaco and thus had a British crew.

Because the Ohio was the only fast tanker available, all other ships carried oil fuels and aviation fuel as deck cargo. In fact all types of cargo were distributed between ships to ensure that no single load was entirely lost if the ship was sunk. The total weight of cargo was 85,000 tons.

The convoy, consisting of 14 merchant ships, was to sail from the Clyde under an escort of destroyers and rendezvous with the main escort Force X (the close escort), and Force Z (the distant escort) west of Gibraltar. HMS Furious, with a consignment of Spitfires to reinforce Malta’s defences, was to join them as a separate operation. They would then sail together though the Straits under cover of darkness into the Mediterranean, refueling the next day.

When within range of Malta the Spitfires would be flown off HMS Furious, which would then return under escort to Gibraltar. Force Z, with its three aircraft carriers and two battleships, would provide the main defences until the convoy was past Sardinia, whereupon it would return to Gibraltar. (The reason for this was that they would be approaching the Skerki Channel which, as darkness descended, was too narrow to allow such heavy units, especially aircraft carriers, to manoeuvre thus increasing their vulnerability and merely providing the Axis with more juicy targets.) The convoy and Force X would continue to Malta, whose aircraft, minesweepers and submarines were to provide additional air and sea protection for the final part of the operation.

There were to be several other smaller operations involving separate forces enacted simultaneously with "Pedestal".
 

Allied Plans and Preparations

Thanks to Bletchley Park reading the Axis Enigma coded messages, the British knew pretty well what Axis forces (both naval and air) were ranged against them, where they were deployed, and made plans accordingly. They also learned that the Axis had deduced that a large scale operation to relieve Malta was to be expected shortly. So the Allies knew that the Axis knew.

Among many complex preparations, the main ones were:-

* The Malta defences were to be reinforced by Spitfires from HMS Furious. (operation Bellows)

* Submarines were to be positioned to intercept any excursion by the Italian fleet.

* Malta and Middle East based long range bombers were to attack airfields on Sicily, Sardinia and Pantelleria.

* Air forces from the western desert were to track and attack Axis surface forces.

* A diversionary convoy was to be run from Port Said (operation M.G.3) to divide Italian surface forces and German air forces.

* Sunderland flying boats were to patrol ahead of the convoy and attack Axis submarines found waiting there.

 
Axis Plans and Preparations

The Axis plans to destroy the convoy envisaged that successive attacks by submarine, aircraft, torpedo boats and minefields would weaken and disperse the escorts and convoy. A strong Italian cruiser and destroyer force (the 3rd and 7th cruiser divisions) with German air cover, would rendezvous then sail to a point south of Pantelleria to intercept the convoy and finish it off.

To achieve this they:-

* Laid a temporary mine field off Cap Bon.

* Positioned torpedo boats at Pantelleria and Cap Bon.

* Increased high altitude patrol aircraft to report convoy position and movement continuously.

* Transferred bomber squadrons from Italy and Crete to Sicily.
 

The Ships (cargo, where known)

Force F (The merchant ships and escort)
Merchant Ships: SS Almeria Lykes (ammunition, bombs, general cargo), MV Brisbane Star (refrigerated cargo), MV Clan Ferguson (ammunition, explosives, fuel), MV Deucalion (aviation fuel), MV Dorset, MV Empire Hope (ammunition, aviation fuel, MV Glenorchy (aviation fuel), MV Melbourne Star (ammunition, oil, kerosene, aviation fuel), SS Ohio (petroleum products), MV Port Chalmers, MV Rochester Castle, SS Santa Elisa (aviation fuel), SS Waimarama, MV Wairangi (ammunition, fuel).
Escort Destroyers: Amazon, Keppel, Malcolm, Venomous, Wolverine.

Force X (close escort under Rear Admiral Burrough)
Light Cruisers: Cairo, Kenya, Manchester, Nigeria (flagship).
Destroyers: Ashanti, Bicester, Bramham, Derwent, Foresight, Fury, Icarus, Intrepid, Ledbury, Pathfinder, Penn.

Force Z (distant escort under Vice Admiral Syfret)
Aircraft Carriers: Eagle, Indomitable, Victorious.
Battleships: Nelson (flagship), Rodney.
Light Cruisers: Charybdis, Phoebe, Sirius.
Destroyers: Antelope, Eskimo, Ithuriel, Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Quentin, Somali, Tartar, Vansittart, Westcott, Wilton, Wishart, Wrestler, Zetland.
 

The Pedestal Operation

Pedestal Map2.jpg


Sunday August 2

The Pedestal convoy WS21S of 14 merchantmen left the Clyde with its destroyer escort. The "WS" designation was used to disguise the convoy’s true destination. Normally it was assigned to troop convoys to the Far East.
 

Monday August 3 to Sunday August 9

En route to Gibraltar.
 

Monday August 10

After an uneventful passage, the convoy rendezvoused with the main escort and HMS Furious west of Gibraltar, passing through the Straits during nighttime.

The presence of such a large force was observed by Axis agents. Axis commanders sent 10 submarines to the Sicilian Channel. Italy, being short of fuel, fueled its cruiser divisions from the tanks of its idle battleships.
 

Tuesday August 11

The convoy refueled south of Majorca from the tankers Dingledale and Brown Ranger of force R, which then returned to Gibralter with corvette escort (Coltsfoot, Geranium, Jonquil, Salvonia and Spirea).

When about 570 miles from Malta, HMS Furious few off its 37 Spitfires and turned back to Gibraltar with escorts Keppel, Malcolm, Venomous, Wolverine and Wrestler as planned. On the way back, HMS Wolverine rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur (Lieutenant Pecori), severely damaging its bows and returned to Gibraltar screened by HMS Malcolm.

13.15 HMS Eagle was attacked and sunk by four torpedoes from U-73 (Lieutenant Rosenbaum) with the loss of 160 men and all, except four, of its aircraft. The survivors were picked up by HMS Laforey and HMS Lookout.

Up until 19.00 there were four heavy air attacks on the convoy with no casualties.

 
Wednesday August 12

09.30 The Italian cruiser divisions, consisting of three heavy cruisers (Gorizia, Bolzano, and Trieste), three light cruisers (Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli, and Muzio Attendolo) and 17 destroyers sailed from Cagliari, Naples and Messina to intercept the convoy in the Sicilian narrows.

Throughout the day there were numerous aerial attacks on the convoy, from Sardinia in the morning and from Sicily in the afternoon and evening. The Italians attacked with torpedo bombers, the Germans with both high level (Ju-88s) and dive bombers (Ju-87s – Stukas). The Axis used every form of attack including dropping mines ahead of the convoy, circling torpedoes and experimental radio guided bombs.

18.30 HMS Indomitable was struck on the flight deck by three bombs putting it out of action, but could still make 28 knots. Indomitable's airborne aircraft had to be landed on Victorious and several aircraft had to be ditched overboard to make space for further landings. This left HMS Victorious as the only fully operational aircraft carrier.

18.30 HMS Foresight was hit by an aerial torpedo and finished off by HMS Tartar with another torpedo.

18.55 Vice Admiral Syfet, considering that the worse of the air attacks was over for the day, ordered Force Z to return to Gibraltar as planned, leaving Force X to continue with the convoy to Malta.

At this time Force X was approaching the Skerki Channel, a narrow channel between the Skerki Bank and the Cap Bon Peninsular, which necessitated the convoy changing from its four columns to two columns formation. During this manoeuver the convoy was heavily attacked by German dive bombers, Italian torpedo bombers and submarines.

Attacks by Italian submarines:-

20.00 HMS Nigeria was torpedoed by the Axum (Lieutenant Ferrini), and returned to Gibraltar with escorts HMS Bicester and HMS Wilton.

20.00 HMS Cairo was torpedoed by the Axum, abandoned and sunk.

20.00 SS Ohio was torpedoed by the Axum, blowing a hole, 24ft feet by 27ft in the port side, but managed to continue after repairs.

(Lieutenant Ferrini in the Axum had scored 3 hits from 4 torpedoes.)

HMS Kenya was torpedoed by the Alagi (Lieutenant Puccini), but continued to Malta.

On hearing that HMS Nigeria and HMS Cairo had been lost, Vice Admiral Syfret in the retreating Force Z, ordered HMS Charybdis, HMS Eskimo and HMS Somali to reinforce Force X.

HMS Ithuriel attacked the Italian submarine Cobalto (Lieutenant Amicarelli) with depth charges, forcing it to surface where it was rammed and sunk by the Ithurial.

Attacks by aircraft:-

20.15 MV Clan Ferguson was hit by bombs, then torpedoed by the Bronzo (Lieutenant Buldrini) and sank.

20.15 MV Empire Hope was hit by bombs and sank.

22.00 MV Deucalion was hit by an aerial torpedo and sank.
MV Brisbane Star was damaged by a torpedo but managed to limp to Malta.

The German Air Command in Sicily withdrew air coverage for the Italian cruiser divisions already at sea, preferring to use the aircraft for direct attacks on the convoy. Consequently at 23.45, the Supermarina ordered the cruisers to return to Messina and Naples. They passed through the area (north west of Messina) patrolled by the British submarines HMS Safari and HMS Unbroken and were attacked. HMS Unbroken (Lieutenant Mars) torpedoed the Bolzano and the Attendolo damaging both, putting them out of action for the rest of the war.
 
HmsIthurialRammingCobalto.jpg OhioHit ByTorpedo.jpg MVPortChalmersParavane.jpg


Thurday August 13

Passing through minefields off the Cap Bon peninsular of nominally neutral Tunisia at around midnight, the convoy was attacked off Kelibia by mainly Italian and a few German torpedo-boats. The extended lines of ships and the reduced number of escorts provided many opportunities for them. They were aided by the Kelibia lighthouse, by whose light the convoy’s ships were either illuminated or silhouetted.

Hit by torpedo boats during the night:-

01.05 HMS Manchester, abandoned and scuttled. (Survivors rescued by HMS Pathfinder, HMS Somali and HMS Eskimo, others by Vichy French boats and were interned.)

02.15 SS Wairangi, damaged and scuttled.

04.30 MV Glenorchy, caught fire and sank.

05.10 SS Almeria Lykes, sunk immediately.

07.15 SS Santa Elisa, caught fire and abandoned. (Survivors rescued by HMS Penn.)

MV Rochester Castle was damaged but kept going after repairs.

After the torpedo boats had retreated in the darkness, it was the turn of the torpedo and dive bombers, who continued their attacks throughout the day.

Fighters from Malta provided some air cover to the beleaguered convoy but were fired upon by the convoy in the confusion because communications between them were not working.

Successful attacks by aircraft:-

HMS Kenya suffered a fire in the forward engine room caused by a near miss from a bomb, but the fire was quickly put out.

08.16 SS Waimarama. Hit by bombs from Ju-88s. The aviation fuel on deck ignited and the ship exploded and sank, killing 80 of the 107 crew. Blazing debris landed on MV Melbourne Star, 36 of whose crew, thinking the ship was on fire and about to explode, jumped overboard. Survivors from both ships were rescued by HMS Ledbury.

09.38 MV Dorset was disabled by three near-miss bombs. The aviation fuel caught fire and the ship abandoned.

10.50 SS Ohio was straddled by two bombs from a Ju-88, lifting her out of the water. One Ju-88 was shot down and crashed onto the deck by the bridge. Another bomb hit the starboard side, blowing out the boilers which were restarted and she got under way.

13.30 A further bomb hit on the Ohio stopped the engines permanently. The crew abandoned ship and were picked up by HMS Penn who attempted to tow the Ohio but they were blown back westwards by the easterly wind and the tow rope breaks.

18.30 Another bomb hit the Ohio where the previous torpedo hit, effectively breaking her back, and the ship is abandoned for the night.

17.30 MV Rochester Castle arrives at Grand Habour, Malta.

18.00 MV Melbourne Star arrives.

18.30 MV Port Chalmers arrives.
 

Friday August 14

00.30 SS Ohio was taken in tow by the minesweeper HMS Rye (from Malta) assisted by HMS Penn, they made slow progress until the tow rope broke.

By this time the SS Ohio had become the focus of Axis attention. In another attack, a bomb hit on the foredeck and a near miss by the stern damaged the rudder and the tow rope broke again. A Ju-87 was shot down, bounced off the water, and crashed into her side. The ship is abandoned once more with her back broken and is now sinking slowly.

They were then joined by HMS Bramham and HMS Ledbury. HMS Penn attached itself to the starboard side to support the tanker, with HMS Rye towing and HMS Ledbury acting as the stern tug. They tried towing again with HMS Bramham assisting HMS Rye, but with the damaged rudder jammed the Ohio is impossible to steer.

After trying various towing combinations, finally, with HMS Penn lashed to starboard, HMS Bramham secured to port, HMS Rye towing and HMS Ledbury steering behind, acting as the rudder, they start to make a steady 5 knots.

Further aerial attacks are broken up by the Spitfires from Malta and she suffers no further damage. But, some 45 miles from Malta, the Ohio is sinking relentlessly at the steady rate of about 6 inches an hour.

16.15 Brisbane Star arrives in Malta.
 
MVBrisbaneStar.jpg


Saturday August 15

06.00 Tugs arrived from Malta to assist with towing the Ohio.

09.30 SS Ohio finally arrived in Malta, with its decks awash, to cheering crowds. The Ohio discharged its cargo into two other tankers and settled on the bottom, in two halves, just as the last of the fuel was pumped from her holds.
 
SSOhio.jpg Ohio+Destroyers.jpg OhioGrandHarbour.jpg HMSLedburySurvivorsMalta.jpg


Aftermath

A revived Malta changed the balance of fortunes in North Africa preceding the Second Battle of El Alamein. Malta based aircraft regularly attacked Axis supply convoys known through Ultra intercepts. In August 1942, with Malta still besieged, 35% of Axis convoys to North Africa did not get through. In September, with Malta resupplied, Allied forces sank 100,000 tons of Axis shipping, including 24,000 tons of fuel destined for the Afrika Korps.

With the fuel transported by road from the North African ports to the front line, it was again targeted by the Desert Air Force by day and the S.A.S. by night, reducing the amount arriving at the front to a trickle. The effect of this was that the Afrika Korps at El Alamein was changed from being an attacking force into a defending force. Rommel did not have enough to attack and hoped he had enough to defend for long enough when the inevitable British assault came.

The assault (called the second battle of El Elamein) came on October 23 1942, and resulted in the Afrika Korps being pushed back, and finally retreating, ultimately to Tunisia where, in May 1943, they surrendered in the Cap Bon peninsular area, where operation Pedestal had suffered its greatest losses nine months earlier. Irony or poetic justice? The seeds sown by the Pedestal operation had given birth to victory in the desert.

North Africa was thus cleared of Axis forces which in turn cleared the way for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 which was launched from North Africa and Malta by the Allies.
 

Conclusions

Although it was a tactical defeat, Operation Pedestal has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of the Second World War.

The arrival of the four merchant ships, and the survival of the tanker Ohio with their cargoes of roughly 32,000 tons of general cargo and oil products, supplemented by additional supplies being delivered by fast minelayers and mine-laying submarines, was enough to give the island about ten weeks more life beyond the existing stocks of only a few weeks.

This did not mean its siege was at an end, but it did ensure that Malta stayed in the war.
 

Naval Casualties and losses

The cost of operation Pedestal was high, both in men and material. Some 400 naval and merchant seamen were killed.

Ships sunk
Aircraft carriers: HMS Eagle
Cruisers: HMS Manchester, HMS Cairo
Destroyers: HMS Foresight
Merchantmen: SS Almeria Lykes, MV Clan Ferguson, MV Deucalion, MV Dorset, MV Empire Hope, MV Glenorchy, SS Santa Elisa, SS Waimarama, MV Wairangi

Ships damaged
Aircraft carriers: HMS Indomitable
Cruisers: HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya
Destroyers: HMS Wolverine, HMS Ithuriel
Merchantmen: SS Ohio (beyond repair), MV Brisbane Star, MV Rochester Castle

 
Awards and recognition

Vice-Admiral Syfret was knighted (KCB) for his "bravery and dauntless resolution in fighting an important Convoy through to Malta in the face of relentless attacks by day and night from enemy submarines, aircraft, and surface forces."

The Master of the tanker Ohio, Dudley William Mason was awarded the George Cross for showing "skill and courage of the highest order and it was due to his determination that, in spite of the most persistent enemy opposition, the vessel, with her valuable cargo, eventually reached Malta and was safely berthed". Fifteen other crew members of the Ohio also received awards, ranging from D.S.O.(1), D.S.C.(6) and D.S.M.(8).

The captains of each of the other four ships to arrive in Malta received the D.S.O. Many other officers, crew members and commanders of both the Royal and Merchant Navies, received military awards ranging from the Distinguished Service Order and Conspicuous Gallantry Medal down to Mentions in Despatches for "the bravery and intrepidity shown in ferrying the merchantmen to Malta".

The American Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Frederick Larsen Jr. and to Francis Dales for "Heroism beyond the call of duty." They were American survivors from the merchantman SS Santa Elisa who volunteered to re-board the abandoned Ohio to repair and man one of the anti-aircraft guns.
 

Postscript

There were insufficient shipyard facilities to repair the Ohio, so the two halves were used for storage. On 19 September 1946, the fore part was towed ten miles off the coast, and sunk with gunfire from HMS Virago. Two weeks later the aft section was towed out and sunk with explosive charges.

The arrival of SS Ohio on August 15th coincided with the Maltese Feast of the Assumption and the name "Santa Maria Convoy" is still used to this day, which is now a bank holiday. Each August 15th all the ships in Grand Harbour sound their horns for a full minute to commemorate the safe arrival of the 5 merchant ships that saved the island.
 
 
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Last edited by emason : 05-04-2010 at 21:07.
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Old 05-04-2010, 21:14
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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Hi Bill.Once again may I congratulate you on a well researched and detailed report of this convoy.It is still regarded as the convoy that saved Malta.Although Naval and Merchant losses were high,the guts and determination of all to get through is beyond the call of duty and smacks of Admiral Cunninghams statement at the battle of Crete."It takes three years to build a ship but three hundred to build a tradition".Ohio was probably the most important ship to get through,enabling the Malta aircraft to extend their defence and offense capabilities.Well done. BZ three times over.
As a small aside to "Pedestal" The withdrawal of Naval headquarters in Haifa resulted in the loss of HMS MEDWAY.The submarine depot ship.
Regards Steve.

Last edited by steve roberts : 05-04-2010 at 21:20. Reason: wrong word used
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Old 05-04-2010, 21:15
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Excellent presentation, Bill

Well done and thank you

Dave
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Old 06-04-2010, 17:40
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Steve and Dave, many thanks for your generous compliments. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

I hope I did justice to the many brave seamen that took part, especially those who lost their lives. There was much I had to leave out to assist the clarity and flow. For example, details of other simultaneous operations and a story about one of the patroling Sunderlands that was shot down by the Italian submarine it was attacking, etc.

Thanks once again.
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Old 06-04-2010, 18:09
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There was much I had to leave out to assist the clarity and flow. For example, details of other simultaneous operations and a story about one of the patroling Sunderlands that was shot down by the Italian submarine it was attacking, etc.

Thanks once again.
Well what are you waiting for?????????

Get typing and fill us in with the omissions!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave
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Old 06-04-2010, 18:47
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Excellent Bill yet again. This story needs to be kept high profile. The most powerful convoy escort ever assembled and dreadful British losses.

Of course, in addition to Forces F, X and Z, there were other forces involved in the overall operation across the various legs of the operation: These included:

Escorts for Force Y
Matchless, Badsworth

Force R
Fleet Oilers:Brown Ranger, Dingledale
Corvettes: Jonquil,Geranium, Spirea, Coltsfoot, Salvonia,
Tug: Jaunty
Aircraft Carrier: Argus (attached for Berserk)

Force W
Fleet Oiler: Abbeydale
Corvettes: Burdock, Armeiria
Escorts: (attached from Western Approaches) Keppel, Malcolm, Amazon, Venemous, Wolverine, Vidette
Malta Escort Force: (17th Minesweeping Flotilla) Speedy, Rye, Hebe, Hythe
3rd Motor Launch Flotilla: ML.121, ML.126, ML.134, ML.135, ML.168, ML.459, ML.462
Submarines: (10th Submarine Flotilla) Safari, Unbroken, Uproar, Ultimatum, Unruffled, Utmost, United, Una, P.222

In addition to the ships lost, the Fleet Air Arm lost 13 aircraft in combat as well as the 16 Sea Hurricanes that were lost when the Eagle was sunk. The RAF lost 4 spitfires and 1 Beaufighter. From the time the convoy had come within range of Malta based aircraft, until the last ships reached harbour - 32 hours of daylight, the RAF flew 414 fighter sorties, 292 by short range spitfires, 97 by long range spitfires, and 25 by beaufighters
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Old 06-04-2010, 18:54
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Originally Posted by qprdave View Post
Well what are you waiting for?????????

Get typing and fill us in with the omissions!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave

O.K. when I have got my breath back and been down the pub for our regular Tuesday night domino session.
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  #12  
Old 07-04-2010, 06:05
tim lewin tim lewin is offline
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

For those of you who missed numerous earlier post on Pedestal I reccomend you to visit the Malta Siege Memorial on Tower Hill in London which commemorates all who served in the Siege and for which the GCIA holds a service in the adjacent church every year on 15th August, Santa Maria Day, the date the OHIO entered Grand Harbour.
Pics show Adm Burrough on the bridge of Ashanti having just five mins. before transferred his flag from the damaged Nigeria; and the moment he gave the resease signal after handing over the survivors to the local forces allowing Ashanti and the other to crack on as many revs as poss and return to Gib (and thence back to the Kola Run)

Channel 4 made an excellent documentary on Pedestal about 20 years ago called "Convoy" which i have "lent" copies of to several members, happy to do so again if anyone is sufficiently interested to PM me their postal address.
All best
tim
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Ashanti Med.jpg (50.1 KB, 54 views)
File Type: jpg Ashanti on Pedestal.jpg (418.4 KB, 92 views)
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  #13  
Old 07-04-2010, 07:48
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Thanks for that very kind offer Tim.

For members who may not be aware, and I would imagine the number is small, Tim is the son of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin; KG, GCB, LVO, DSC, who was Chief of Defence Staff during the Falklands War. Details of the outstanding career of Lord Lewin can be found on the Forum here:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4597&highlight=pedestal


During the Pedestal Operation, Lord Lewin was a Junior Lieutenant, Gunnery Control Officer on HMS Ashanti under the command of Admiral Sir Richard Onslow. The brilliant book, Operation Pedestal by Peter Smith has a foreword written by Lord Lewin where he describes his recollections of his involvement in the Operation.

An excellent thread, regarding the National Siege Memorial can be found here:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2385&highlight=pedestal


There are other very good threads regarding aspects of Operation Pedestal, referred to by Tim, that can be found using the search facility.
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  #14  
Old 07-04-2010, 08:08
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Quote:
Originally Posted by emason View Post
O.K. when I have got my breath back and been down the pub for our regular Tuesday night domino session.
Bill
Will be waiting with baited breath, thankyou for a damn good read
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  #15  
Old 07-04-2010, 12:45
tim lewin tim lewin is offline
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Thanks Clive; Indeed the Peter Smith book, the latest version with my father's contribution, is by far the best; it is an update of his previous editions and has a lot more details than the earlier ones.

When the memorial bell was done for Grand Harbour as usual there was a cash crisis; my father, Prince Phillip and Anthony Kimmons did a three-part lecture to an invited audience at the IWM as a fund raiser (after they found the invitations included "bring your chequebook). I have a tape of my father's part and HRH's but not AK's for some reason, lost over time, but have asked the IWM to copy it to MP3 for me, when they do I will try to post it for those interested.
tim
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  #16  
Old 09-04-2010, 01:59
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

I have added a thread, started by Batstiger 2 years ago to keep the topic in one place

Dave
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  #17  
Old 09-04-2010, 02:27
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Bill, just outstanding writing, making an exciting read out of very compressed information (the sign of a really good writer -- ) The contributions by others just make it even better. It's this kind of material that induced me to join this forum. History grows more intimate and we all learn a great deal from these posts.

I have to get "the book." It's on my list, really!

Tim: I knew Ashanti was there, but until I joined the forum was of course unaware of certain distinguished gentlemen who would go on to such great deeds in future.

Don
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  #18  
Old 09-04-2010, 04:53
tim lewin tim lewin is offline
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thanks for that Don; in fact when it came time for the Falklands conflict he leaned heavily on the lessons of Pedestal to illustrate to PM Thatcher and her cabinet potential price of victory. (All in the book!)

Actually there is a lot, and i mean a lot, of photographic record of Pedestal from all sides, british, german and italiasn. Its mission was one of the worst kept secrets of the war and everyone anticipated a major conflict, naturally the axis anticipated a crushing victory, and thus all protagonists had newsreel teams on site to record the "victory". Anthony Kimmins (Kimmins or Kimmons? someone will correct me) the famous news comentator was there with a newsreel team but i forget in which ship. most of the archive footage still exists. Of course with the decimation of the convoy en route immediately after the Italians DID claim a resounding victory, the germans were a bit more circumspect, but its one of the reasons put forward as to why they made almost no effort to interdict the escorts on their way back. Fortunately for us, their "victory" was not sufficient for them to win the war!
tim
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  #19  
Old 09-04-2010, 08:58
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Tim,

You are right it is Kimmins. Commander Anthony Kimmins RN, who, joined the Navy during the First World War, and later served in the Fleet Air Arm. He then entered the film business as an actor, writer and director; during WW2 he worked first as a naval broadcaster on the staff of the Director of Naval Intelligence.

As far as I can gather he was HM submarine Upholder at some point during Pedestal. He published his autobiography, Half Time, in 1948, which I am sure will give more details.

His eyewitness broadcasts covered the period from about noon, 11 August 1942 (first attack) to the arrival of the merchant tanker Ohio on the morning of 15 August. The Australian War Memorial Archives apparently hold copies of his broadcast and I think you can buy a copy.

Kimmins died in 1964.
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  #20  
Old 09-04-2010, 12:52
tim lewin tim lewin is offline
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Thanks Clive: Then possibly they used his recordings to illuminate the lectures, i thought he had actually been there, this might explain why I have only the tapes of dad and HRH. The IWM promised to recopy to updated media for me antway so if thereis a poss to upload voice files to the forum i will do it.
tim
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  #21  
Old 10-04-2010, 20:42
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

Operations Executed Simultaneously with Operation Pedestal

Notes on dates: For convenience the "D" method of describing dates is used below. Thus, the day for passing the convoy though the Straits of Gibraltar, August 10, was designated as "D1"; the day before D-1, and the day after "D2", and so on.

 
Operation Berserk

Prior to entering the Mediterranean, it was necessary to exercise the different escort forces of operation Pedestal in cooperation and operating as a unit. This was to be a three-day exercise, taking place between the Azores and Gibraltar, prior to the passage of the convoy through the Straits. The main purpose of the exercise was to rehearse fighter direction and cooperation among the three carriers.

The forces deployed to take part in the exercise were as follows:
Force J from Gibraltar (the carrier Eagle, the cruiser Charybdis, and three destroyers);
Force K from Freetown (the carrier Indomitable, the cruiser Phoebe, and three destroyers);
Force M from the United Kingdom (the carrier Victorious, the cruiser Sirius, and three destroyers);
Force W from Freetown (one fleet oiler and two corvettes).

Operation Berserk started on D-5 (6 August) when the convoy was exercised in anti-aircraft gunnery, in emergency turns and in changing from one cruising disposition to another, using both signal flags and short range radio.

The force's aircraft performed dummy air attacks during the afternoon of D-3 (August 8), followed by a fly past. These were done to exercise the radar reporting and fighter direction organisation and to give ships' gun crews an opportunity to recognise the markings of friendly aircraft.

The resulting volume of radio traffic must have been very apparent to Axis listening stations, but the risk to security in breaking radio silence was accepted as it was worth the benefit gained from the exercise.

Following the exercise they rendezvoused with the convoy and HMS Furious, sailing on to the Straits of Gibraltar.
 

Operation Bellows

Background
On July 14 HMS Eagle had delivered 32 Spitfires to Malta in operation Pinpoint, and a further 32 in operation Insect on the 20th. By the end of July, only about eighty fighters were still in service on Malta, but that number would decline rapidly because about seventeen aircraft per week were being lost. So it was decided to reinforce Malta's air defenses by bringing in some forty Spitfires by aircraft carrier prior to the arrival of the Pedestal convoy.

The Plan
It was decided that operation Bellows would take place under the cover of the main operation, so that the additional fighters, arriving in Malta three days before the main convoy would be operational in time to reinforce the fighter protection that could be offered to the convoy prior to its arrival, thus enhancing its chances of success.

The carrier HMS Furious was selected for the operation, and would sail with the main convoy until reaching a point south of Sardinia, approximately 550 miles from Malta, from where it would fly off its Spitfires. The fly-off would take place on D.2 or D.3 at Vice Admiral Syfret's discretion at any time during daylight. This would allow the Spitfires to land at dusk.

Immediately after flying off, five destroyers would escort Furious back to Gibraltar. The main convoy would provide fighter protection until Furious was well west of it.

The Execution
Owing to technical problems with the Spitfire’s propellers and HMS Furious’s humped flight deck, she was unable to sail with the main body. Instead, sailed later at high speed with HMS Manchester and joined the main convoy on D-3, passing, without stopping, through the Straits of Gibraltar.

At 12.18 on D.2, when some 580 miles from Malta, HMS Furious, with screening destroyers HMS Lightning and HMS Lookout moved to the port quarter of the convoy. The first Spitfire flew off at 12.29 followed by two flights of eight before emergency turns were made following the torpedoing of HMS Eagle. Thereafter, three more flights were flown off between 13.50 and 14.50. In total 38 Spitfires were flown off but one had to land on HMS Indomitable due to a defect. 37 arrived safely in Malta.

HMS Furious, with destroyer escorts Keppel, Malcolm, Venomous, Wolverine and Wrestler then turned and headed back westwards towards Gibraltar. HMS Wolverine rammed and sank the Italian Submarine Dagabur, damaging her bows in the process and had to return to Gibraltar at reduced speed, screened by HMS Malcolm.

HMS Furious with her escort arrived at Gibraltar at 19.00 on D.3 (August 12).

Following Pedestal on August 16, HMS Furious, in operation Baritone, made a further delivery of 32 Spitfires, 29 of which arrived.
 

Operation M.G.3.

The Plan
This was envisaged as a feint in the eastern Mediterranean aimed at preventing the Axis commanders from committing all of their available forces against the Pedestal convoy in the western Mediterranean.

A convoy (MW.12) would sail from Port Said, joined by another from Haifa, to a position about 100 miles west-southwest of Crete as soon as possible after receiving information that the Pedestal convoy had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar.

From Port Said
3 merchant vessels,
2 Cruisers: Arethusa and Euryalus,
10 Destroyers: Jervis, Kelvin, Pakenham, Paladin, Aldenham, Beaufort, Dulverton, Eridge, Hursley, and Hurworth.

From Haifa
1 merchant vessel,
2 Cruisers: Cleopatra and Dido,
3 Destroyers: Javelin, Sikh and Zulu.

The intent was to ensure the Italian 8th Naval Division at Navarino, and the Luftwaffe's aircraft based on Crete, stayed in the eastern Mediterranean, and if possible draw forces away from the western Mediterranean. One submarine would be deployed off Navarino, while two others would be positioned further westward to intercept any Italian ship sailing from the naval base at Tarent.

The Execution
The convoy MW.12 with its escort sailed out of Port Said after dusk on D1, while the other force left Haifa at 03.00 on D2. These two forces rendezvoused in the early morning of D2 and sailed westward to north of Alexandria.

German aircraft observed these movements and the Luftwaffe informed X Air Corps of the position of the force, who were then ordered to arrange reconnaissance of the entire eastern Mediterranean area on the morning of D3.

In the night of D3-D4, the cruisers and destroyers shelled the port of Rhodes, while RAF aircraft attacked the airfield at Maritsa, on the northern tip of Rhodes, returning to Port Said on D4.

The Italians were apparently unperturbed by the action, their 8th Division remaining in port. The Germans detached one of their destroyers from escort duty and sent it to reinforce the Italian forces.

Conclusion
Operation M.G.3 was in reality a failure. Although the Axis did not move any more forces from the eastern Mediterranean westwards to attack the Pedestal convoy, neither did it draw any Axis forces eastwards to weaken the forces available to attack the main Pedestal convoy, which was its main objective.

The problems were both of timing and strength. For a feint to succeed it should be executed before the main operation to draw the Axis eyes and forces towards it, thus diverting attention from where the main operation is to take place.

The Axis, knowing about Pedestal, had already moved some of their air forces westwards towards it, and were therefore unlikely to reverse this movement because of a foray, at a later date, by a much weaker force. The forces committed to M.G.3 were not strong enough to convince the Axis to take it seriously, and so they mainly ignored it, just keeping it under observation.

The conclusion is that operation M.G.3 was ill conceived.
 

Operation Ascendant

The Plan
This element of the Pedestal plan was to take the two merchant ships, (MV Troilus and MV Orari) that had survived operation Harpoon in June, with Force Y, a screen of two destroyers (Matchless and Badsworth) out of Malta and bring them to Gibraltar.

The intent was to mount this effort after dark on D.1. Force Y would be suitably painted and have Italian deck markings. The plan was to sortie from Malta to a position some thirty nautical miles south of Lampedusa, pass Kelibia, hug the Tunisian coast to Galita Channel, and then proceed to Gibraltar.

The Execution
Force Y left Malta about 20.30 on D1, reaching the area of Cape Bon the next day. On D2 Italian aircraft flew over them but their deck markings seem to confuse them, and at night were fired upon by a Vichy minesweeper. On D3 they were again shadowed by Axis aircraft which did not attack, and arrived at Gibraltar on D5 at about 10.00.
 
 
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  #22  
Old 10-04-2010, 21:13
culverin culverin is offline
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Default Re: Operation Pedestal

emason # 5
again heartiest congrats on a superb account
you have certainly done this account & the forum a great service
classic piece of research v well presented
always known the old girl as oh ten
& oh its ten outa ten for this
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  #23  
Old 10-04-2010, 21:19
steve roberts steve roberts is offline
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Hi Bill.Another riviting read and full of well researched information and facts.You have done it again.Long may you do so.As a matter of interest do you have anything else in the pipe line? in the meantime,BZ Mate.
regards Steve.
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  #24  
Old 10-04-2010, 21:43
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We want more, We want more, We want more, We want more, We want more

Dave
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  #25  
Old 14-04-2010, 17:00
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Sorry for not replying to your very generous comments earlier. No excuse really except to say I have been busy on the final article in this thread, for which it is proving difficult to get accurate information. But here's a little problem to keep you going.

I have seen it mentioned several times that an Italian submarine (the Giarda) was attacked by a Sunderland aircraft on about August 12th or 13th. The same submarine was later attacked again by another Sunderland but returned fire and shot it down.

My problem with this is that I can find out no more about this incident. To add to the mystery, there is no record (that I can find) of a Sunderland being shot down in the Mediterranean in August 1942. Nor is there any mention of the Giarda on the Regia Marina website, or any where else.

If one of you sleuths out there can shed any light on this incident I would be very grateful. Otherwise I would have to treat this as one of those urban myths.
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