Hawker Sea Hurricane during Malta Convoy

Hawker Sea Hurricane during Malta Convoy


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Hawker Sea Hurricane during Malta Convoy

Hawker Sea Hurricanes guarding the Malta convoy of August 1942.

Taken from Fleet Air Arm, HMSO, published 1943, p.85


Malta convoys

The Malta convoys were Allied supply convoys of the Second World War. The convoys took place during the Siege of Malta in the Mediterranean Theatre. Malta was a base from which British sea and air forces could attack ships carrying supplies from Europe to Italian Libya. Britain fought the Western Desert Campaign against Axis armies in North Africa to keep the Suez Canal and to control Middle Eastern oil. The strategic value of Malta was so great the British risked many merchant vessels and warships to supply the island and the Axis made determined efforts to neutralise the island as an offensive base.

The civilian population and the garrison required imports of food, medical supplies, fuel and equipment the military forces on the island needed reinforcements, ammunition and spare parts. British convoys were escorted to Malta by ships of the Mediterranean Fleet, Force H and aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force, during the Battle of the Mediterranean (1940–1943). British and Allied ships were attacked by the Italian Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) and Regia Marina (Royal Navy) in 1940 and from 1941, by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and Kriegsmarine (German Navy).

In 1942, the British assembled large flotillas of warships to escort Malta convoys, sent fast warships to make solo runs to the island and organised Magic Carpet supply runs by submarine. Hawker Hurricane and then Supermarine Spitfire fighters were flown to Malta from aircraft carriers on Club Runs from Gibraltar towards Malta. In mid-1942, Axis air attacks on the island and on supply convoys neutralised Malta as an offensive base and an Axis invasion, Unternehmen Herkules (Operation Hercules), was set for mid-July 1942.

The siege of Malta eased after the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October – 11 November 1942). The Axis retreat from Egypt and Cyrenaica brought more of the seas around Malta into range of Allied land-based aircraft. In Operation Stoneage, which began after Operation Torch (8–16 November), round the clock air cover was possible and all the merchant ships reached Malta. Mediterranean convoys were resumed to supply the advancing British forces, from which ships for Malta were detached and escorted to and from the island.


SEA HURRICANE IB – THE HOOKED HURRICANE

Letter from Vice Admiral, Naval Air Stations to Secretary of Admiralty [ADM 1/ 13522] 21 September 1941

Selection of Hurricanes for conversion to
Sea Hurricanes

Be pleased to represent to Their Lordships that the Vice Admiral Naval Air Stations does not consider that the selection of Hurricanes for conversion to Sea Hurricanes has up to the present been altogether satisfactory.

2. Many of those selected have been of the L.P. and N. series, and most of these have had previous service in Royal Air Force Operational Squadrons. One particular case may be quoted N. 2455 has since October 1939 been in two different Royal Air Force Squadrons, took part in the Battle of Britain, and was twice extensively damaged, once by forced landing and once by enemy action, before being converted to Sea Hurricane.

3. All these old aircraft suffer from a multitude of minor defects and the Stations have had to expend many weeks’ work in rendering them fit for allotment to a Squadron, and although after this work had been completed the aircraft can be considered as serviceable, it is thought from consideration of their age and previous history that it is most likely that they will continue to suffer from minor defects during their remaining life.

4. It is further considered that even if they can be maintained serviceable, the effect on morale of allotting aircraft of this type to a new Squadron forming is deplorable. Many of the Pilots joining will be young and enthusiastic officers, joining an Operational Squadron for the first time, and to be given an aircraft which can only be described as a ‘cast off from the Royal Air Force’ causes a considerable damping of their ardour.

5. It is submitted that in future only new Hurricanes or those with a minimum of flying hours should be selected for conversion to Sea Hurricanes.

Minute from Prime Minister to Secretary of Chiefs of Staff Committee [ADM 116/ 5348] 30 September 1941

Fighters for aircraft carriers

When I visited INDOMITABLE last week, I was astonished to learn that the handful of Hurricanes to be allotted to this vital war unit were only of the lower type Hurricane Ones. I trust it may be arranged that only the finest aeroplanes that can do the work go into all aircraft-carriers. All this year it has been apparent that the power to launch the highest class fighters from aircraft-carriers may reopen to the Fleet great strategic doors which have been closed against them. The aircraft-carrier should have supreme priority in the quality and character of suitable types.

The Hurricane did need modification in order to sustain ongoing carrier operations.

So a handful of Hurricane Mk Is, mostly deemed surplus to RAF requirements, were reluctantly handed over for navalisation.

These were re-designated Hurricane Mk IBs to denote the fact they were carrier fighters, not CAM-ship aircraft.

An A-frame arrester hook was fitted to a test aircraft in March 1941 and delivered to the RAE at Farnborough for evaluation. It was to become the prototype for the IB.

The arrester hook was given a retaining spring to absorb some of the shock from grabbing a wire, as well as preventing the hook from bouncing up and damaging the fuselage. A green light in the cockpit would notify the pilot the hook was down and a carrier landing was possible.

Some strengthening of the airframe was also found to be necessary to cope with the deceleration forces experienced when landing aboard a carrier.

The provision of a folding wing was examined in 1940. But the desperate need for aircraft designers for next-generation aircraft, as well as concerns over the Hurricane’s ability to accommodate the extra weight, soon saw this idea abandoned.

This had immediate and significant consequences. Only the older carriers such as HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal could stow the unfolded Sea Hurricane below deck. HMS Indomitable, with its large forward lift, would not be complete until 1941. HMS Illustrious, Formidable and Victorious would be limited to deck parks of only six or so machines.

This left the Sea Hurricanes exposed to the weather, slung out over the open sea on outrigger struts when aboard fleet carriers, or simply lashed to the decks of the early escort carriers.

But the inherent ruggedness of the Hawker design handled these conditions well. Serviceability – given the conditions – remained surprisingly high.

The first FAA squadron to receive the IB was 880 which would later be assigned to HMS Furious. The aircraft were delivered in January 1941, but only embarked for sea operations in July. A short time later, on July 21, the type scored its first victory: An 880 Squadron Sea Hurricane shot down a reconnaissance Do 18 flying boat off Norway.

By the end of 1941, some 100 Sea Hurricanes IBs equipped 801, 806 and 885 squadrons. These were serving on HMS Argus, Eagle, Formidable and Victorious.

Eventually 32 FAA squadrons were to be issued with the Sea Hurricane IB. It saw service in the Atlantic, the Russian Convoys and the Malta Convoys.

But it would be Operation Pedestal that would mark the type’s high point. Soon after the Mk IIC would begin to surplant it.

Many Mk IB’s would again be modified. They would be given four 20mm cannons and redesignated Mk ICs. These returned to operations early in 1942.

About 70 also had their engines upgraded with the XX-series Merlins. These were reclassified Mk IICs.


Chronology

Z3055 was built by Hawker Aircraft Co. in 1941 powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin XX.

This aircraft was one of forty-two Hurricanes delivered to Malta in May/June 1941. They were flown off the carrier HMS Ark Royal as part of Operation Rocket.

It was operational in July 1941.

Z3055, the eight gun Hurricane IIA of No.46 Squadron, exhibited at the Malta Aviation Museum, took off from Safi strip just before daybreak on 4 July 1941. For some unknown reason (thought to be engine fire), the pilot, Sgt. Thomas Hackston, ditchd into the sea and was lost. The Merlin XX powered aircraft, one of forty-two Hurricanes delivered to Malta (Operation Rocket) had flown off the carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal, barely a month earlier. One of the 5th production batch of 1,000 aircraft built at Kingston the aircraft was delivered from the factory to 48 Maintenance Unit at Hewarden on 27 February 1941 and prepared for squadron service. It was transferred to Abbotsinch the following month but only stayed until it was transferred to 5 Maintenance Unit at Kemble. It was delivered back to Abbotsinch on 18 May, for shipment to Malta and taken on charge in Malta (126 Squadron) in July 1941

In 1993, the fighter was located by diver, David Schrembi, at a depth of 40 metres only a short distance from the coast off Wied Iz-Zurrieq.

On Thursday, 19th September 1995 the aircraft was salvaged from the seabed.

Restoration was started at the Museum by David Polidano and during 1999 the airframe was essentially completed. Work started on the cockpit instrumentation, engine cooling systems, oil cooling system and pneumatic systems for the brakes.

In 2000 the rudder and elevators were rigged and working properly.

Also in 2000 work started on the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and with the benefit of expert advice and the donation of a complete wartime Merlin 224 engine there were enough parts to make up a serviceable engine.

By 2001 progress was such that it was time to have the fuselage covered. This job was done by Vintage Fabrics from the UK.

Also in 2001, after completing its rebuild the Merlin engine ran for the first time. This was a significant milestone as it meant that the aircraft could be restored to 'taxiing' condition.

During 2002 the engine was installed, electrical installation completed and the various systems finished. Finally a freshly overhauled de Havilland propeller was fitted.

In the first half of 2003 work continued to complete the fuselage and in July it was painted in its final Warbird scheme.

During 2004 and 2005 work continued by volunteers to complete the wings in time for the inauguration of the Museum's new Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar in September 2005.

The name of the Hurricane will forever be linked with the Battle of Britain, in which, with its partner the Spitfire, it added one of the most glorious chapters in the annals of the Royal Air Force. During that fateful engagement of 1940, Hurricane pilots shot down more enemy aircraft than all other defences, air and ground, combined. Later the Hurricane added its laurels in defence of Malta, in the Western Desert and in Burma indeed no other Allied aircraft ever fought in as many theatres as did the Hurricane.

The project began life as a private venture, intended to meet the requirements of Specification F.36/34, issued in early 1935. The first prototype, K5083, was ordered on 21 February 1935, and made its maiden flight in the hands of Group Captain PWS Bulman on 6 November that year. The Hurricane, as it came to be named, was a winner from the start, and in June the Hawker Board of Directors decided to prepare for production of 1,000 aircraft on their own authority. This action galvanised the Air Ministry into action and in very short time an official contract for 600 Hurricanes was placed.

The first production Hurricane was flown on 12 October 1937. The first Hurricanes in service had two-blade fixed-pitch propellers. This was soon improved by the substitution of a de Havilland two-position three-blade metal propeller and, in 1939, the excellent Rotol constant-speed propeller.

The Hawker-type fuselage, which had featured in all, Hart variants and Furies since the 1920s, was retained in the Hurricane in preference to modern but complicated metal fuselage, in order to speed production of Hurricanes. By August 1940, the height of the Battle of Britain, a total of 2,309 Hurricanes had been delivered and 32 squadrons equipped, as against 19 Spitfire squadrons. At the outbreak of the war, Hurricanes were chosen to accompany the RAF bomber squadrons to France. The first enemy aircraft shot down by RAF fighters on the Western Front was by a Hurricane. The type was also involved in the desperate fighting in Norway.

On 2 August 1940 Hurricanes of No.261 Squadron were flown off the carrier H.M.S. Argus to relieve the hard pressed Sea Gladiators in the defence of Malta against attacks by the Italian Air Force. These were among the first Hurricanes to operate in the Mediterranean theatre, and joined a handful of Hurricanes which had been flown out to Malta from Britain the previous month via France and North Africa.

No Account of the Hurricane would be complete without reference to the work of the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit which, in 1941, helped to protect vital convoys in the Atlantic from attacks by the enemy maritime bombers. These Hurricanes, mostly time expired machines, were equipped to be catapulted from the decks of merchant ships and the pilot later parachuting into the freezing sea to await rescue.

In the late 1944 the 12,711th and final Hurricane built in Britain (there were also over 1,400 built in Canada) was completed.


Operation Pedestal: How the Allies Saved a Mediterranean Island From Nazi Siege

The ordeal of the Pedestal convoy saved the island of Malta at a tremendous price.

Here's What You Need to Know: Located 58 miles south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, the rocky, 122-square-mile island of Malta was the hinge upon which all Allied operations in the Middle East turned during the first half of World War II.

Torpedo bombers and submarines operating from the British crown colony and naval base maintained the only effective striking force against Axis convoys to North Africa. In the summer of 1942, only 40 percent of German supply ships were reaching Tunisia to nourish Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and his Italian allies.

Malta: Linchpin of the Mediterranean

Malta was a strategic linchpin and, therefore, a prime target of the enemy. For the bitter years of 1940-1942, German and Italian bombers bludgeoned the island in a vain effort to pound it into submission, but the defenders—British troops and the staunch Maltese islanders— fought the longest epic defense action of the war. The tiny garrison never exceeded 25,000 fighting men, a few squadrons of Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighters, and two flotillas of Royal Navy submarines.

Almost daily, the enemy bombers and fighters bombed and strafed Malta and its installations, while antiaircraft batteries fired back and the islanders took shelter in limestone tunnels and caves. It was a desperate time. Almost every building on the island was destroyed or damaged, and the soldiers and airmen rarely left their trenches and air raid shelters, ready at any hour for the dreaded arrival of enemy parachute and glider-borne invaders.

An Island Pushed to its Limits

Malta held on defiantly as the free world watched, but the situation became increasingly critical. Failing to overwhelm its defenders, the enemy clamped a tight blockade around Malta. As the island’s resources ran low, the question of relief challenged Allied planners. In the first half of 1942, only one merchant ship in seven was able to breach the blockade. There was a slender lifeline. British minelaying submarines based in Alexandria, Egypt—HMS Cachalot, HMS Porpoise, HMS Rorqual, HMS Osiris, HMS Urge, and others—were able to steal through with modest cargoes of medical stores, kerosene, armor-piercing shells, powdered milk, gasoline, and mailbags. But it was not enough.

Hardship and shortages beset Malta’s defenders. The civilian population was subjected to tight rationing, subsisting on only 16 ounces of food a day. Fighter planes were forbidden to taxi to and from runways in order to conserve fuel. They were towed by trucks. Antiaircraft batteries were limited to 20 shells or four ammunition belts a day, according to caliber.

Malta had to be kept in the war somehow. The Germans and Italians were determined to knock it out. Between March and June 1942, no Allied ships reached the island. Each convoy making a relief effort was massacred by enemy planes and submarines. That July, with the outlook grimmer than ever, General John V. Gort, the governor of Malta, sent a signal to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Estimate food and petrol stocks will be exhausted by August 21 in spite of severe rationing. Hesitate to request further naval sacrifices, but cannot guarantee Malta’s safety after this date without further supplies.” The message from Gort, a much-decorated hero of World War I and the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation, was an understatement of the island’s plight.

Forming the Pedestal Convoy

Hastily, the British Admiralty planned a desperate attempt to beat Lord Gort’s deadline and save Malta—a large relief convoy code-named Operation Pedestal. It would be the most powerful convoy yet attempted, with a heavy fleet escort of battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers shepherding 13 merchant ships and a tanker. On this complex operation—the most dangerous Allied convoy yet undertaken —depended the survival of Malta and, indirectly, the fate of millions.

The heavy escort was to be provided by two venerable sister battleships, HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney, each displacing 34,000 tons and armed with nine 16-inch guns and a dozen six-inchers. Vice Admiral Sir Neville Syfret flew his flag in Nelson, as flag officer commanding what was called Force Z. With him would go a squadron of three aircraft carriers—the new HMS Indomitable, the 1939-built HMS Victorious, and the aging HMS Eagle. Commanded by Rear Admiral A.L. St. George Lyster, carrying his flag in Indomitable, the three flattops mounted 46 Hurricanes, 10 Grumman Martlets (Wildcats), and 16 Fairey Fulmars of the Fleet Air Arm to provide fighter cover.

With this main escort would be three fast antiaircraft cruisers—HMS Charybdis, HMS Phoebe, and HMS Sirius—and 14 destroyers. Providing close escort to the merchantmen were the heavy cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya, and HMS Manchester, and the antiaircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, comprising Force X and led by Rear Admiral Sir Harold Burrough. The mission of this force, supported by 11 destroyers, was to cover the convoy through to Malta after Force Z had turned back to the Skerki Narrows, between Tunisia and southwestern Sicily.

In a separate operation from Pedestal, the carrier HMS Furious, with a destroyer escort, was to fly off 38 Spitfire fighters as reinforcements for Malta. Backing up the fleet were two oilers with a corvette escort, a deep-sea rescue tug, and a salvage vessel. All in all, it was the largest naval operation to be set in motion in the Mediterranean.

The fast merchant ships carrying 42,000 tons of food, flour, ammunition, and other supplies to beleaguered Malta were the Port Chalmers, in which the convoy commodore Royal Navy Commander A.G. Venables flew his pennant Santa Elisa and Almeria Lykes, American-owned and -manned general cargo ships Wairangi, Waimarama, and Empire Hope of the Shaw Savill Line Brisbane Star and Melbourne Star of the Blue Star Line Dorset of Federal Steam Navigation Co. Rochester Castle of the Union Castle Line Deucalion of the Blue Funnel Line Glenorchy of the Glen Line and Clan Ferguson of the Clan Line. The 14th cargo vessel, and arguably the most important because she was carrying desperately needed aviation fuel, was the new, 14,000-ton tanker Ohio. Owned by Texaco Oil Co., she had been loaned to the British for a special convoy. Ohio was manned by volunteer British seamen and commanded by Captain Dudley W. Mason of Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. of London. The tanker’s ordeal in the Mediterranean would be hailed as one of the maritime epics of World War II.

Although no attempt was to be made to pass a second convoy through from the eastern end of the Mediterranean as had been done before, a cover plan was devised whereby Admiral Sir Henry Harwood would mount a dummy operation from Alexandria in company with Admiral Sir Philip Vian from Haifa, Palestine. The idea was to confuse waiting German and Italian naval and air units, whose commanders knew that the British would make another attempt to relieve besieged Malta. A total of five cruisers, 15 destroyers, and five merchantmen would sail as if bound for Malta, and then, on the second night out, disperse and turn back. It was hoped that this would tie down some of the enemy forces.

Meanwhile, Air Vice Marshal Keith Park on Malta was to hold in readiness a torpedo bomber strike force in case the Italian Fleet might be tempted to leave its major base at Taranto. Park, a distinguished fighter group leader in the 1940 Battle of Britain, would keep the rest of his air strength, 130 fighters, for support of the Pedestal convoy. Six Royal Navy submarines from Malta were to patrol west of the island in case Italian warships tried to interfere in the area of Pantelleria, while two would prowl to the north of Sicily.

Even as the Pedestal ships were loaded and crews mustered in Scotland’s River Clyde, the enemy waited in the Mediterranean. German and Italian bombers, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes were lined up on the airfields of Sicily and Sardinia along with fighters and reconnaissance aircraft. About 70 planes were on alert as a reception committee for the British convoy. Eighteen Italian submarines and three German U-boats were on patrol off Malta and between Algiers and the Balearic Islands German E-boats and Italian motor torpedo boats lay in wait off Cape Bon, Tunisia, where a new minefield had been sown, and three heavy and three light cruisers along with 10 destroyers were ready to intercept the Pedestal convoy south of Sicily.

“Secrecy is Essential”

As the convoy ships assembled in the Clyde, Captain Mason, the lithe, 40-year-old skipper of the tanker Ohio, briefed his crew in the petty officers’ mess. “We sail this afternoon,” he said quietly. “Our destination is Malta you all know what that means…. Ohio is the only tanker. We shall have to fight with 13,000 tons of high-octane fuel aboard. Now is the time for anyone who wants to back out to say so. I must warn you that if you choose to go ashore, you will be kept in custody of the naval provost marshal until the operation is over. Secrecy is essential.”


Hawker Sea Hurricane during Malta Convoy - History

By Michael D. Hull

Located 58 miles south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, the rocky, 122-square-mile island of Malta was the hinge upon which all Allied operations in the Middle East turned during the first half of World War II.
[text_ad]

Torpedo bombers and submarines operating from the British crown colony and naval base maintained the only effective striking force against Axis convoys to North Africa. In the summer of 1942, only 40 percent of German supply ships were reaching Tunisia to nourish Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and his Italian allies.

Malta: Linchpin of the Mediterranean

Malta was a strategic linchpin and, therefore, a prime target of the enemy. For the bitter years of 1940-1942, German and Italian bombers bludgeoned the island in a vain effort to pound it into submission, but the defenders—British troops and the staunch Maltese islanders— fought the longest epic defense action of the war. The tiny garrison never exceeded 25,000 fighting men, a few squadrons of Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighters, and two flotillas of Royal Navy submarines.

Almost daily, the enemy bombers and fighters bombed and strafed Malta and its installations, while antiaircraft batteries fired back and the islanders took shelter in limestone tunnels and caves. It was a desperate time. Almost every building on the island was destroyed or damaged, and the soldiers and airmen rarely left their trenches and air raid shelters, ready at any hour for the dreaded arrival of enemy parachute and glider-borne invaders.

An Island Pushed to its Limits

Malta held on defiantly as the free world watched, but the situation became increasingly critical. Failing to overwhelm its defenders, the enemy clamped a tight blockade around Malta. As the island’s resources ran low, the question of relief challenged Allied planners. In the first half of 1942, only one merchant ship in seven was able to breach the blockade. There was a slender lifeline. British minelaying submarines based in Alexandria, Egypt—HMS Cachalot, HMS Porpoise, HMS Rorqual, HMS Osiris, HMS Urge, and others—were able to steal through with modest cargoes of medical stores, kerosene, armor-piercing shells, powdered milk, gasoline, and mailbags. But it was not enough.

Hardship and shortages beset Malta’s defenders. The civilian population was subjected to tight rationing, subsisting on only 16 ounces of food a day. Fighter planes were forbidden to taxi to and from runways in order to conserve fuel. They were towed by trucks. Antiaircraft batteries were limited to 20 shells or four ammunition belts a day, according to caliber.

Malta had to be kept in the war somehow. The Germans and Italians were determined to knock it out. Between March and June 1942, no Allied ships reached the island. Each convoy making a relief effort was massacred by enemy planes and submarines. That July, with the outlook grimmer than ever, General John V. Gort, the governor of Malta, sent a signal to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Estimate food and petrol stocks will be exhausted by August 21 in spite of severe rationing. Hesitate to request further naval sacrifices, but cannot guarantee Malta’s safety after this date without further supplies.” The message from Gort, a much-decorated hero of World War I and the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation, was an understatement of the island’s plight.

Forming the Pedestal Convoy

Hastily, the British Admiralty planned a desperate attempt to beat Lord Gort’s deadline and save Malta—a large relief convoy code-named Operation Pedestal. It would be the most powerful convoy yet attempted, with a heavy fleet escort of battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers shepherding 13 merchant ships and a tanker. On this complex operation—the most dangerous Allied convoy yet undertaken —depended the survival of Malta and, indirectly, the fate of millions.

The heavy escort was to be provided by two venerable sister battleships, HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney, each displacing 34,000 tons and armed with nine 16-inch guns and a dozen six-inchers. Vice Admiral Sir Neville Syfret flew his flag in Nelson, as flag officer commanding what was called Force Z. With him would go a squadron of three aircraft carriers—the new HMS Indomitable, the 1939-built HMS Victorious, and the aging HMS Eagle. Commanded by Rear Admiral A.L. St. George Lyster, carrying his flag in Indomitable, the three flattops mounted 46 Hurricanes, 10 Grumman Martlets (Wildcats), and 16 Fairey Fulmars of the Fleet Air Arm to provide fighter cover.

With this main escort would be three fast antiaircraft cruisers—HMS Charybdis, HMS Phoebe, and HMS Sirius—and 14 destroyers. Providing close escort to the merchantmen were the heavy cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya, and HMS Manchester, and the antiaircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, comprising Force X and led by Rear Admiral Sir Harold Burrough. The mission of this force, supported by 11 destroyers, was to cover the convoy through to Malta after Force Z had turned back to the Skerki Narrows, between Tunisia and southwestern Sicily.

In a separate operation from Pedestal, the carrier HMS Furious, with a destroyer escort, was to fly off 38 Spitfire fighters as reinforcements for Malta. Backing up the fleet were two oilers with a corvette escort, a deep-sea rescue tug, and a salvage vessel. All in all, it was the largest naval operation to be set in motion in the Mediterranean.

The fast merchant ships carrying 42,000 tons of food, flour, ammunition, and other supplies to beleaguered Malta were the Port Chalmers, in which the convoy commodore Royal Navy Commander A.G. Venables flew his pennant Santa Elisa and Almeria Lykes, American-owned and -manned general cargo ships Wairangi, Waimarama, and Empire Hope of the Shaw Savill Line Brisbane Star and Melbourne Star of the Blue Star Line Dorset of Federal Steam Navigation Co. Rochester Castle of the Union Castle Line Deucalion of the Blue Funnel Line Glenorchy of the Glen Line and Clan Ferguson of the Clan Line. The 14th cargo vessel, and arguably the most important because she was carrying desperately needed aviation fuel, was the new, 14,000-ton tanker Ohio. Owned by Texaco Oil Co., she had been loaned to the British for a special convoy. Ohio was manned by volunteer British seamen and commanded by Captain Dudley W. Mason of Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. of London. The tanker’s ordeal in the Mediterranean would be hailed as one of the maritime epics of World War II.

Although no attempt was to be made to pass a second convoy through from the eastern end of the Mediterranean as had been done before, a cover plan was devised whereby Admiral Sir Henry Harwood would mount a dummy operation from Alexandria in company with Admiral Sir Philip Vian from Haifa, Palestine. The idea was to confuse waiting German and Italian naval and air units, whose commanders knew that the British would make another attempt to relieve besieged Malta. A total of five cruisers, 15 destroyers, and five merchantmen would sail as if bound for Malta, and then, on the second night out, disperse and turn back. It was hoped that this would tie down some of the enemy forces.

Meanwhile, Air Vice Marshal Keith Park on Malta was to hold in readiness a torpedo bomber strike force in case the Italian Fleet might be tempted to leave its major base at Taranto. Park, a distinguished fighter group leader in the 1940 Battle of Britain, would keep the rest of his air strength, 130 fighters, for support of the Pedestal convoy. Six Royal Navy submarines from Malta were to patrol west of the island in case Italian warships tried to interfere in the area of Pantelleria, while two would prowl to the north of Sicily.

Even as the Pedestal ships were loaded and crews mustered in Scotland’s River Clyde, the enemy waited in the Mediterranean. German and Italian bombers, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes were lined up on the airfields of Sicily and Sardinia along with fighters and reconnaissance aircraft. About 70 planes were on alert as a reception committee for the British convoy. Eighteen Italian submarines and three German U-boats were on patrol off Malta and between Algiers and the Balearic Islands German E-boats and Italian motor torpedo boats lay in wait off Cape Bon, Tunisia, where a new minefield had been sown, and three heavy and three light cruisers along with 10 destroyers were ready to intercept the Pedestal convoy south of Sicily.

“Secrecy is Essential”

As the convoy ships assembled in the Clyde, Captain Mason, the lithe, 40-year-old skipper of the tanker Ohio, briefed his crew in the petty officers’ mess. “We sail this afternoon,” he said quietly. “Our destination is Malta you all know what that means…. Ohio is the only tanker. We shall have to fight with 13,000 tons of high-octane fuel aboard. Now is the time for anyone who wants to back out to say so. I must warn you that if you choose to go ashore, you will be kept in custody of the naval provost marshal until the operation is over. Secrecy is essential.”

He paused, and there was no movement from his tense crew members. Holding a letter from the Admiralty, Mason continued, “Before you start on this operation, the First Sea Lord and I are anxious that you should know how grateful the Board of Admiralty are to you for undertaking this difficult task. Malta has for some time been in great danger. It is imperative that she be kept supplied. These are her critical months, and we cannot fail her. She has stood up to the most violent attacks from the air that have ever been made. Her courage is worthy of you. We wish you God speed and good luck.”

Mason, shy but firm, and a veteran of several naval actions, left the mess to prepare for getting underway. The convoy formed up outside the Clyde on the afternoon of Sunday, August 2, 1942, and set course southward for the British bastion of Gibraltar at the western end of the Mediterranean. The ships steamed in three parallel columns, and the crews were told their destination on the first morning at sea. Additional Oerlikon and heavier antiaircraft guns had been mounted on the freighters’ decks, and the Royal Navy and Maritime Regiment crews underwent constant exercises.

Ohio was fourth in line in the starboard column. Mason paced the bridge, fearful of what lay ahead. Based on the fates of previous Malta convoys, he knew that as many as a dozen of the 14 ships would probably not reach the island. A camp bed had been set up on the bridge for Mason, but it would be seldom used in the grim days ahead.

The Pedestal ships forged southward into the Bay of Biscay, where U-boats and Focke-Wulf bombers prowled. It was feared that the convoy would have to run a deadly gauntlet, but there were only occasional skirmishes, which were swiftly dealt with by Royal Navy escorts. There was no serious threat to the convoy, yet.

The Convoy Enters the Mediterranean

At dawn on Sunday, August 9, the convoy wheeled from the Atlantic through the Gibraltar Strait and into the warm Mediterranean. Nine destroyers hugged the convoy on either beam and up ahead, while close astern three more destroyers shepherded the carriers Illustrious and Eagle. Well ahead on the horizon steamed four cruisers with attendant destroyers, while, far out on the port beam, five cruisers and six destroyers screened the carriers Indomitable and Victorious. It was an impressive display of naval might.

Tension mounted on the bridges and decks of all vessels as Admiral Harold Burrough flashed an ominous signal from his flagship, the cruiser HMS Nigeria: “All ships to action stations until further notice!”

During the convoy’s first day in the Mediterranean, the enemy kept out of sight. There were false alarms and brief bursts of gunfire from tense antiaircraft crews aboard the ships. The second day passed in the same way, with the gunners testing their weapons, eating hurried meals, and maintaining vigilance.

The First Axis Strike

Dawn on the third day, Tuesday, August 11, came calm, sunny, and deceptively serene. Then, Captain Mason of the Ohio and hundreds of other men throughout the convoy stiffened when they heard the faint rhythm of aircraft engines. As Mason trained his binoculars on tiny silver specks 20,000 feet above, the serenity was shattered rudely and swiftly. Bombs screamed down, and a merchant ship astern of the Ohio vanished behind a curtain of flame, cordite, and water splashes. A stick of bombs fell across the gap between Ohio’s bows and the stern of the ship ahead as the attack intensified.

A camouflaged Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB). The British equivalent of a PT Boat.

The carriers swung into the wind to launch their fighters, and the combined guns of the convoy blasted a reply to the enemy. Two near misses to port drenched the tanker’s bridge, and Mason fought back an urge to take avoiding action. He was under strict orders to maintain course and speed unless his vessel was directly threatened.

Meanwhile, an Italian submarine made an unsuccessful attack on the carriers, and German and Italian reconnaissance planes located the convoy. The ordeal of the Pedestal convoy was underway. The 24 British destroyers and the cruiser HMS Cairo took on fuel from the three-tanker supply force, while, south of the Balearic Islands, the carrier HMS Furious flew off 37 Spitfires for Malta and was then met by the reserve destroyers Keppel, Malcolm, Venomous, Wolverine, and Wrestler for the return journey to Gibraltar.

A German U-boat, U-73, commanded by Lieutenant Helmut Rosenbaum, stalked the convoy and succeeded in diving undetected beneath the destroyer screen. Shortly after 1 pm on August 11, he loosed a salvo of four torpedoes at the carrier Eagle. All four struck, and a huge hole was blown in the port side of the gallant ship, which had dispatched 183 Spitfires to Malta during the past year. Her squadrons of fighters, ready for takeoff, cascaded overboard as Eagle toppled on her side. The aging flattop —launched in 1918 as a Chilean battleship and completed as a carrier in 1923—sank in eight minutes. Two hundred and sixty pilots and flight deck crewmen perished, and the rest of her 1,160-man complement was rescued by destroyers and the fleet tug Jaunty.

Flying at 100 feet above the water, Italian torpedo bombers swept in to attack the convoy. On the Ohio’s bridge, Captain Mason watched in horror as the leading ship in the port column disintegrated under the impact of two hits. Mason’s quartermaster struggled to keep the laden tanker steady as torpedoes straddled her, some no more than 10 feet away. The convoy’s gunners fired back tirelessly at the raiders, and the enemy’s first assault was beaten off, but not without losses. Meanwhile, the British fought back desperately. Ten RAF Bristol Beaufighters and 16 Hurricanes raided Italian air bases in Sardinia.

A Moonlit Battle

The convoy sailed on, waiting for the next attack to develop. It came in the late afternoon when 80 torpedo bombers, more than 200 Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers, and a covering force of 100 fighters came in from all directions. The ships’ gunners opened up again, and the carriers Victorious, Indomitable, and Illustrious flew off every available fighter to meet the new threat. Captain Mason watched the Stukas break formation and scream down in almost vertical dives. Bombs and torpedoes plastered the convoy, and the Ohio was the principal target. The tanker moved sluggishly as bombs fell ahead, astern, and on either side of her. Miraculously, the Ohio emerged unscathed from the inferno.

The enemy planes headed for home, and the Pedestal convoy was left in peace for half an hour. The welcome respite was all too brief, and the third attack of the day came without warning as 100 Stukas plummeted suddenly on the convoy. The ship ahead of the Ohio erupted in roaring flame, while a cloud of dive-bombers descended on an ammunition freighter opposite Ohio in the port column. She exploded with a huge flash that seared Captain Mason’s face 300 yards away. There were no survivors.

The evening of August 11 closed in. Against the glow of the setting sun, the sky was black with bursting shells interlaced with streaming tracers. The scorecard for the furious day was not encouraging. Eight enemy bombers, 12 torpedo bombers, and 26 Stukas had been shot down, but the convoy had lost a carrier, two destroyers, and three freighters. Six Fleet Air Arm fighters had failed to return.

At midnight, the raiders returned—36 German Junkers Ju-88 and Heinkel He-111 bombers. The ships’ antiaircraft crews sprang into action again, and the carriers launched their fighters without pretense at blackouts. A great moonlit air battle raged in the deep blue high above the convoy, and the raiders were driven off shortly before dawn. The scorecard showed some improvement for Pedestal. Another merchantman had been sunk, but four enemy bombers had been shot down and two U-boats claimed as destroyed. Aboard the Ohio, the chief engineer reported to Captain Mason, “Leak in port side of engine room, sir. Near miss blew in some rivets. We are shoring up now.”

The destroyer HMS Wolverine rammed and sank an Italian submarine attempting to attack the returning carrier HMS Furious, and a Short Sunderland flying boat bombed and damaged another Italian submarine.

Continuing Without the Ohio

The convoy battle resumed about an hour after dawn with the arrival of 19 Ju-88s from the north. The merchant ships dodged bombs and torpedoes while destroyers hunted U-boats and the carriers threw up a canopy of gunfire. Through it all, the Ohio butted slowly forward between near misses. Six planes were downed and the rest driven off. At midday, the convoy was again assaulted, this time by 98 Italian and German bombers and torpedo planes. The transport Deucalion was damaged and left behind with the destroyer HMS Bramham. Two Italian bombers hit the carrier HMS Victorious, but their armor-piercing bombs rebounded from her armored deck.

During the afternoon of August 12, enemy submarines were repeatedly repelled by the destroyers Tartar, Zetland, and Pathfinder. Later that afternoon, 29 Stukas scored three severe hits on the carrier HMS Indomitable, which was then unable to operate aircraft. Fourteen Italian torpedo bombers crippled the destroyer HMS Foresight, which later had to be sunk by HMS Tartar. After a pause at dusk, two Italian submarines sneaked in close to the convoy, scoring hits on the cruisers Cairo and Nigeria and the Ohio. Cairo had to be abandoned, and Nigeria turned back with three destroyers.

German supply ship is hit by an allied torpedo.

While her exhausted, sweating gunners were collapsed at their stations, two torpedoes struck the Ohio near the bow on the starboard side. She staggered under the shock as part of the main deck gave in, her steering gear broke down, and communications between the bridge and the engine room were severed. But the engines turned, and Captain Mason sighed with relief. Soon, however, even this was denied. The engine room became silent, and the wrecked generators darkened the tanker. As night fell, the enemy pursued the convoy while the Ohio, drifting helplessly further astern, was left alone. There was no time to waste on crippled ships.

At dawn on August 13, patrolling enemy planes sighted the tanker and attacked her continuously throughout the fifth morning. Shortly after noon, two destroyers raced back from the convoy. HMS Ashanti, Admiral Burrough’s flagship, ranged alongside the Ohio. Over a loudspeaker, he hailed Captain Mason, “What are your chances of rejoining the convoy?” Mason, having no loudspeaker, gave a laconic thumbs-down signal. “Sorry about this,” the admiral shouted. “We wanted you to get through most of all. Now I must get back to the convoy and report your position to the rescue ships. Good luck!” The destroyers departed at full speed, leaving Ohio alone to face whatever lay ahead.

The convoy, meanwhile, received another pasting from the air. Thirty Ju-88s bombed the transports Empire Hope and Glenorchy, and seven He-111s forced the Brisbane Star to halt. An Italian submarine torpedoed and damaged the cruiser HMS Kenya and the freighter Clan Ferguson, and another Italian submarine finished off the Empire Hope. Several hundred miles away in the eastern Mediterranean, the second half of the Pedestal attempt to relieve Malta failed. Admiral Vian’s convoy of eight merchantmen was forced to take violent evasive action to avoid the full might of the Italian Fleet. Five freighters were sunk by planes and a sixth torpedoed. The other two were so damaged that they were beached on the North African coast.

On August 13, in a desperate bid to distract enemy attention from Admiral Burrough’s battered convoy, the cruisers Arethusa and Cleopatra and the destroyers Javelin, Kelvin, Sikh, and Zulu bombarded enemy installations on the island of Rhodes. But the attacks on the convoy continued as Italian motor torpedo boats swept in 15 times in four hours. They severely damaged the cruiser Manchester, which had to be abandoned, and sank the crippled freighter Glenorchy and the Santa Elisa, Almeria Lykes, and Wairangi.

Bringing the Ohio Back to Life

Throughout the afternoon of August 13, the crew of the listing Ohio toiled to restore her power. Around 4 pm, she began to vibrate with a familiar throb, and her propellers turned. Ragged cheers broke out from the weary crewmen. The engines held, Captain Mason ordered full speed ahead, and the tanker pursued the convoy at 17 knots. That night, the cruiser Charybdis and destroyers Eskimo and Somali joined the convoy as reinforcements.

At daylight on August 14, the sixth morning of the operation, the Ohio caught up with the convoy and resumed her station in the starboard column. She was greeted by the sirens and hooters of her fellow merchantmen and escorts, but Captain Mason was stunned at the pitiful depletion of the convoy. An hour later, the enemy air attacks resumed. He-111s, Ju-88s, Ju-87s, and Italian SM-79 torpedo bombers sank the transport Waimarama and scored hits on the transports Dorset, Port Chalmers, and Rochester Castle.

The sole tanker in the tiny fleet was not spared. A crippled Stuka smashed into the Ohio and exploded on her foredeck, starting fires. Crewmen rushed to heave the burning plane over the side as a bomb hit the afterdeck, killing 10 gunners. Two more bombs straddled the tanker, lifting her out of the water. She dropped back on one side, threatening for a moment to capsize. By the time the Ohio and her blackened crew had recovered, the engines had gone silent again. Once more, she was wallowing astern of the convoy.

The tanker’s engineers went to work again, and, through some miracle of mechanical ingenuity, got the engines started after two hours’ effort. The Ohio moved forward at four knots an hour. At noon on August 14, the port boiler blew up and wrecked the main deck aft of the bridge. The Ohio stopped, and then the starboard boiler also exploded, killing a dozen engineers and six deck hands fighting the fires. The tanker was a blackened shambles by now.

Overwhelmed, Captain Mason grabbed a signal lamp and sent a message to the nearest ship for relaying to the destroyer HMS Ashanti: “Unable to proceed further. Can remain afloat for only a few hours. Can you help?”

Admiral Burrough responded by dispatching two destroyers to take the tanker in tow, and for the next six hours the three ships fought off air attacks while trying to pass towlines to each other. Dusk brought synchronized attacks by Italian motor torpedo boats and bombers. When six of the enemy boats raced toward the Ohio to finish her off, the destroyers broke off towing operations to intercept. One of them ran into a torpedo intended for the tanker, blew up, and sank in seconds. The other destroyer drove off the motor torpedo boats with her guns, picked up the survivors of her sister ship, and drew alongside the Ohio again.

Her captain shouted, “I’ll stay with you and radio for more help.” Half an hour later another destroyer arrived to circle the tanker as protection against the torpedo boats.

“They Need You to Survive”

The Ohio was in sorry shape as she limped along, low in the water. Half of the crew was dead and 10 seriously wounded. Other wounded crewmen helped to keep the few remaining batteries firing. Captain Mason, who had gone for several nights without sleep, was exhausted. If his crippled ship could make it into the Grand Harbor at Valletta, it would be a miracle, but he never gave up hope.

August 12, the fourth day of running the deadly gauntlet from Gibraltar to Malta, dawned serene and calm as the remaining eight merchant ships forged on with their escorts.

He was preoccupied when he suddenly heard the high-pitched whine of a falling bomb. He knew instinctively that it would hit the Ohio. A second later, it crashed through the superstructure behind the bridge, exploded in the engine room, and blew a 15-foot hole in the port side. Mercifully, it was above the water line. The attacks continued. Throughout the night of August 14, the tanker and her two attendant destroyers fought off one torpedo boat attack after another. The shattered tanker was lower in the water, but help was on the way.

After the surviving merchantmen—Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, and Rochester Castle—had arrived safely at Malta, met by seven minesweepers, Admiral Burrough dispatched his Fleet Air Arm fighters to shield the lagging Ohio. The two destroyers on each side of the tanker passed wire hawsers to each other under her keel in order to keep her afloat.

The Ohio no longer floated she was resting on a jury-rigged network of wires. The bizarre threesome plodded on toward Malta. When Burrough’s cruiser squadron steamed past on its way back to Gibraltar, the admiral signaled, “Only three ships got through with provisions and ammunition. They need you to survive. RAF are making final sorties with exhausted fuel today and tomorrow. All Malta awaits your arrival. God bless you. I am proud to have sailed with you.”

Arriving in Malta

The Ohio and her two shepherds were approaching Malta at last, but the enemy did not give up. German fighters swarmed overhead and clashed with the Fleet Air Arm umbrella, while bombers dived yet again. A near miss carried away the Ohio’s rudder and blew a hole in her stern. Water poured in, and she settled even lower, dragging down the destroyers under her weight.

The situation improved at 8 pm on August 14, when Malta was sighted. Tugs sailed out to assist the three ships, and Captain Mason gained the respite for which he had prayed. Confident that the Ohio was sinking rapidly, the enemy called off their attacks. That night, the tanker and destroyer crews, aided by the tugs, struggled to keep the Ohio afloat by passing more hawsers beneath her.

When dawn broke on August 15, the Ohio was only a mile outside Valletta harbor. It was the Maltese national holiday, the Feast of Santa Marija. On the island, thousands of civilians mingled with British soldiers, sailors, and airmen on the quaysides. On rooftops and both sides of the craggy harbor entrance, they silently watched the miracle of deliverance—the Ohio’s survival and their own. Fussed over by the tugs and accompanied by the destroyers Penn, Ledbury, and Bramham, the smoking, wallowing tanker took an hour to cover the last mile.

As her battered bows passed between the outer moles of the harbor, the silence ashore was broken by a faint cheer. Then the applause swelled, drowning the thunder of guns fired in salute. Union Jacks and handkerchiefs were waved, turning the quayside crowds into a mass of heaving color. A military band played “Tipperary,” the “Beer Barrel Polka,” and other wartime hymns of hope. Aboard the Ohio, Captain Mason paused from helping to keep the fires under control, gave a faint smile, and wept unashamedly. His grim prediction about the convoy’s fate had proved accurate.

While the stricken tanker was being nudged alongside the harbor’s oil wharves, signals to Mason poured in. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Splendid work well done,” and a message from the Admiralty in London read simply, “Well done, Ohio.” Lord Gort spoke for the islanders themselves: “We are all so happy to see you and your fine ship safely in harbor after such an anxious and hazardous passage. You have saved Malta.”

Recognizing the Heroism of Operation Pedestal

The Ohio, whose decks had been awash for a long time, was berthed alongside the sunken auxiliary tanker Plumleaf at the Parlatorio Wharf. As her cargo of 13,000 tons of aviation gasoline was unloaded that day, the Ohio began to settle on the bottom. It had been a close thing. On the evening of August 15, the commander of the RAF fighters in Malta reported to Lord Gort that he could now mount unlimited combat sorties for two months.

Meanwhile, a fourth crippled merchantman, the Brisbane Star, had reached the island. A total of 32,000 tons of food, ammunition, and other supplies was offloaded, enough to sustain the island bastion for about 10 more weeks. The matériel landed was not enough to release the islanders from their near-starvation rations (1,500 calories a day), but it was sufficient to keep Malta going. The Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy had saved Malta. It did not mean the end of the island’s siege, but the costly Operation Pedestal enabled strategic Malta to stay in the war. Malta’s fall would have nullified Allied plans for the invasion of North Africa in November 1942.

Admiral Syfret reported, “Tribute has been paid to the personnel of His Majesty’s ships but both officers and men will desire to give first place to the conduct, courage, and determination of the masters, officers, and men of the merchant ships. The steadfast manner in which these ships pressed on their way to Malta through all the attacks, answering every maneuvering signal like a well-trained fleet unit, was a most inspiring sight.”

The First Sea Lord reported to Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, commander in chief of the British Mediterranean Fleet, who was then in Washington, “We paid a heavy price, but personally I think we got out of it lightly, considering the risks we had to run, and the tremendous concentration of everything … which we had to face.”

Among the decorations awarded to survivors of Operation Pedestal, Captain Mason was given the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for a noncombatant, in recognition of his heroism and seamanship. Twenty-three of his sailors and gunners were also decorated. On April 15, 1942, King George VI had awarded the George Cross to the “brave people” of Malta for their “heroism and devotion,” the only time in history that an island has been given a medal.

Malta never forgot Operation Pedestal and the Ohio. In 1946, crowds cheered and bands played as the rusty hulk of the tanker was towed out of the Grand Harbor for the last time. While a remembrance service was conducted for those who died in the convoy, she was sunk in the waters she had plied during one of the naval epics of World War II.


Hawker Sea Hurricane during Malta Convoy - History



























Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb
British War II single-engine single-seat fighter-bomber

Archive Photos 1

Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb (G-HURI, Z7381/XR-T) on display (c.1994) at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England

Overview 2

  • Hawker Hurricane
  • Role: Fighter
  • Manufacturer: Hawker Aircraft Gloster Aircraft Company Canadian Car and Foundry Austin Motor Company
  • Designer: Sydney Camm
  • First flight: 6 November 1935
  • Introduction: 1937
  • Primary user: Royal Air Force Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Produced: 1937-1944
  • Number built: 14,533

The Hawker Hurricane Mk.I is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Although largely overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft became renowned during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 60% of the RAF&rsquos air victories in the battle, and served in all the major theaters of the Second World War.

The 1930s design evolved through several versions and adaptations, resulting in a series of aircraft which acted as interceptor-fighters, fighter-bombers (also called "Hurribombers"), and ground support aircraft. Further versions known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications which enabled operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts, known as "Hurricats". More than 14,000 Hurricanes were built by the end of 1944 (including about 1,200 converted to Sea Hurricanes and some 1,400 built in Canada by Canadian Car and Foundry).

Design and Development 2

The Hurricane was developed by Hawker in response to the Air Ministry specification F.36/34 (modified by F.5/34) for a fighter aircraft built around the new Rolls-Royce engine, then only known as the PV-12, later to become famous as the Merlin. At that time, RAF Fighter Command comprised just 13 squadrons, each equipped with either the Hawker Fury, Hawker Hart variant, or Bristol Bulldog - all biplanes with fixed-pitch wooden propellers and non-retractable undercarriages. The design, started in early 1934, was the work of Sydney Camm.

Sydney Camm&rsquos original plans submitted in response to the Air Ministry&rsquos specification were at first rejected (apparently "too orthodox" for the Air Ministry). Camm tore up the proposal and set about designing a fighter as a Hawker private venture. With economy in mind, the Hurricane was designed using as many existing tools and jigs as possible (the aircraft was effectively a monoplane version of the successful Hawker Fury) and it was these factors that were major contributors to the aircraft&rsquos success.

Early design stages of the "Fury Monoplane" incorporated a Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine, but this was replaced shortly after by the Merlin, and featured a retractable undercarriage. The design came to be known as the "Interceptor Monoplane," and by May 1934, the plans had been completed in detail. To test the new design, a one-tenth scale model was made and sent to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. A series of wind tunnel tests confirmed the aerodynamic qualities of the design were in order, and by December that year, a full size wooden mock-up of the aircraft had been created.

Construction of the first prototype (K5083), began in August 1935 incorporating the PV-12 Merlin engine. The completed sections of the aircraft were taken to Brooklands, where Hawkers had an assembly shed, and re-assembled on 23 October 1935. Ground testing and taxi trials took place over the following two weeks, and on 6 November 1935, the prototype took to the air for the first time, at the hands of Hawker&rsquos chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) P. W. S. Bulman. Flight Lieutenant Bulman was assisted by two other pilots in subsequent flight testing Philip Lucas flew some of the experimental test flights, while John Hindmarsh conducted the firm&rsquos production flight trials. Sammy Wroath, later to be the founding Commandant of the Empire Test Pilot School, was the RAF test pilot for the Hurricane and his enthusiastic endorsement helped get it into production.

Though faster and more advanced than the RAF&rsquos current front line biplane fighters, the Hurricane&rsquos design was already outdated when introduced. It employed traditional Hawker construction techniques from previous biplane aircraft, with mechanically fastened, rather than welded joints. It had a Warren girder-type fuselage of high-tensile steel tubes, over which sat frames and longerons that carried the doped linen covering. An advantage conferred by the steel-tube structure was that cannon shells could pass right through the wood and fabric covering without exploding. Even if one of the steel tubes were damaged, the repair work required was relatively simple and could be done by ground-crew at the airfield. An all metal structure, as with the Spitfire, damaged by an exploding cannon shell required more specialised equipment to repair. The old-fashioned structure also permitted the assembly of Hurricanes with relatively basic equipment under field conditions. Crated Hurricanes were assembled in West Africa and flown across the Sahara to the Middle East theater, and to save space, some Royal Navy aircraft carriers carried their reserve Sea Hurricanes dismantled into their major assemblies, which were slung up on the hangar bulkheads and deckhead for reassembly when needed.

Initially, the wing structure consisted of two steel spars, and was also fabric-covered. Several fabric-wing Hurricanes were still in service during the Battle of Britain, although a good number had their wings replaced during servicing or after repair. Changing the wings only required three hours&rsquo work per aircraft. An all-metal, stressed-skin wing of Duraluminium was introduced in April 1939 and was used for all of the later marks. "The metal skinned wings allowed a diving speed that was 80 mph (130 km/h) higher than the fabric-covered ones. They were very different in construction but were interchangeable with the fabric-covered wings, and one trials Hurricane (L1877), was even flown with a fabric-covered port wing and metal-covered starboard wing. The great advantage of the metal-covered wings over the fabric ones was that the metal ones could carry far greater stress loads without needing so much structure beneath."

Then, with tail trimmer set, throttle and mixture lever fully forward . and puffs of grey exhaust smoke soon clearing at maximum rpm came the surprise! There was no sudden surge of acceleration, but with a thunderous roar from the exhausts just ahead on either side of the windscreen, only a steady increase in speed. In retrospect that first Hurricane sortie was a moment of elation, but also of relief. Apart from the new scale of speeds that the pilot had to adapt to, the Hurricane had all the qualities of its stable, secure biplane predecessor the Hart, but enhanced by livelier controls, greater precision and all this performance. (Roland Beamont, a trainee pilot, describing his first flight in a Hurricane.)

One of Camm&rsquos priorities was to provide the pilot with good all round visibility. To this end, the cockpit was mounted reasonably high in the fuselage, creating a distinctive "hump-backed" silhouette. Pilot access to the cockpit was aided by a retractable "stirrup" mounted below the trailing edge of the port wing. This was linked to a spring-loaded hinged flap which covered a handhold on the fuselage, just behind the cockpit. When the flap was shut, the footstep retracted into the fuselage. In addition, both wing roots were coated with strips of non-slip material.

In contrast, the contemporary Spitfire used all-metal monocoque construction and was thus both lighter and stronger, though less tolerant to bullet damage. With its ease of maintenance, widely-set landing gear and benign flying characteristics, the Hurricane remained in use in theaters of operations where reliability, easy handling and a stable gun platform were more important than performance, typically in roles like ground attack. One of the design requirements of the original specification was that the Hurricane, as well as the Spitfire, was also to be used as a night fighter. The Hurricane proved to be a relatively simple aircraft to fly at night and was to be instrumental in shooting down several German aircraft during the nocturnal hours. From early 1941, the Hurricane would also be used as an "intruder" aircraft, patrolling German airfields in France at night in an attempt to catch night bombers during takeoffs or landings.

Production 2

The last Hurricane ever built, s/n PZ865, of 14,533. A Mk.IIc version, originally known as "The Last of the Many" and owned by Hawker, this aircraft is now flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight The Hurricane was ordered into production in June 1936, mainly due to its relatively simple construction and ease of manufacture. As war was looking increasingly likely, and time was of the essence in providing the RAF with an effective fighter aircraft, it was unclear if the more advanced Spitfire would enter production smoothly, while the Hurricane used well-understood manufacturing techniques. This was true for service squadrons as well, who were experienced in working on and repairing aircraft whose construction employed the same principles as the Hurricane, and the simplicity of its design enabled the improvisation of some remarkable repairs in squadron workshops. The Hurricane was also significantly cheaper than the Spitfire, requiring 10,300 man hours to produce rather than 15,200 for the Spitfire.

The maiden flight of the first production aircraft, powered by a Merlin II engine, took place on 12 October 1937. The first four aircraft to enter service with the RAF joined No. 111 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt the following December. By the outbreak of the Second World War, nearly 500 Hurricanes had been produced, and had equipped 18 squadrons.

During 1940, Lord Beaverbrook, who was the Minister of Aircraft Production, established an organization in which a number of manufacturers were seconded to repair and overhaul battle-damaged Hurricanes. The Civilian Repair Organization also overhauled battle-weary aircraft, which were later sent to training units or to other air forces one of the factories involved was the Austin Aero Company&rsquos Cofton Hackett plant. Another was David Rosenfield Ltd, based at Barton aerodrome near Manchester.

In all, some 14,000+ Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes were produced. The majority of Hurricanes were built by Hawker (which produced them until 1944), with Hawker&rsquos sister company, the Gloster Aircraft Company, making 2,750. The Austin Aero Company built 300. Canada Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario, Canada, as responsible for production of 1,400 Hurricanes, known as the Mk.X.

In 1939, production of 100 Hurricanes was initiated in Yugoslavia by Zmaj and Rogozarski. Of these, 20 were built by Zmaj by April 1941. One of these was fitted with a DB 601 and test flown in 1941.

A contract for 80 Hurricanes was placed with Fairey&rsquos Belgian subsidiary Avions Fairey SA for the Belgian Air Force in 1938, with the intention of arming these aircraft with four 13.2 mm machine guns. Three were built and two flown with this armament by the time of the Blitzkrieg in May 1940, with at least 12 more built by Avions Fairey with the conventional eight rifle caliber machine gun armament.

Operational History 2

The first 50 Hurricanes had reached squadrons by the middle of 1938. At that time, production was slightly greater than the RAF&rsquos capacity to introduce the new aircraft and the government gave Hawkers the clearance to sell the excess to nations likely to oppose German expansion. As a result, there were some modest sales to other countries. Production was then increased with a plan to create a reserve of aircraft as well as re-equip existing squadrons and newly formed ones such as those of the Auxiliary Air Force. Expansion scheme E included a target of 500 fighters of all types by the start of 1938. By the time of the Munich Crisis there were only two fully operational squadrons of the planned 12 with Hurricanes. By the time of the German invasion of Poland there were 18 operational Hurricane squadrons and three more converting.

The Phoney War 2

The Hurricane had its baptism of fire on 21 October 1939. That day, A Flight of 46 Squadron took off from North Coates satellite airfield, on the Lincolnshire coast, and was directed to intercept a formation of nine Heinkel He.115B float planes from 1/KüFlGr 906, searching for ships to attack in the North Sea. The Heinkels had been already attacked and damaged by two 72 Squadron Spitfires when six 46 Squadron Hurricanes intercepted the Heinkels, which were flying at sea level in an attempt to avoid fighter attacks. Nevertheless the Hurricanes, in rapid succession, shot down four of the enemy (46 Squadron claiming five and the Spitfire pilots two).

In response to a request from the French government for 10 fighter squadrons to provide air support, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of RAF Fighter Command, insisted that this number would deplete British defenses severely, and so initially only four squadrons of Hurricanes, 1, 73, 85 and 87, were relocated to France, keeping Spitfires back for "Home" defense. The first to arrive was No.73 Squadron on 10 September 1939, followed shortly by the other three. A little later, 607 and 615 Squadrons joined them.

After his first flight in October 1939, Hurricane pilot Roland Beamont subsequently flew operationally with 87 Squadron, claiming three enemy aircraft during the French campaign, and delivered great praise of his aircraft&rsquos performance:

Throughout the bad days of 1940, 87 Sqn had maintained a proficient formation aerobatic team, the precise flying controls and responsive engines permitting precision formation through loops, barrel rolls, 1g semi-stall turns and rolls off half-loops . My Hurricane was never hit in the Battles of France and Britain, and in over 700 hr on type I never experienced an engine failure. - Roland Beamont, summarizing his wartime experience as a pilot.

On 30 October, Hurricanes saw action over France. That day, Pilot Officer P.W.O. Boy Mould of 1st Squadron, flying Hurricane L1842, shot down a Dornier Do.17P from 2(F)/123. The German aircraft, sent to photograph Allied airfields close to the border, fell in flames about 10 miles (16 km) west of Toul. Boy Mould was the first RAF pilot to down an enemy aircraft on the continent in the Second World War.

On 6 November 1939, Pilot Officer P.V. Ayerst from No. 73 Squadron, was the first to clash with a Messerschmitt Bf.109. After the dogfight, he came back with five holes in his fuselage. Flying Officer E. J. "Cobber" Kain, a New Zealander, was responsible for 73 Squadron&rsquos first victory on 8 November 1939, while stationed at Rouvres. He went on to become one of the RAF&rsquos first fighter aces of the war, being credited with 16 kills.

On 22 December, the Hurricanes in France suffered their first losses. Three Hawker fighters, while trying to intercept an unidentified aircraft, between Metz and Thionville, were jumped by four Bf.109E&rsquos from III./JG 53, with the Gruppenkommander, Spanish Civil War ace Captain Werner Mölders in the lead. Mölders and Lt Hans von Hahn shot down the Hurricanes of Sergeant R.M. Perry and J. Winn for no losses.

Battle of France 2

In May 1940, Nos. 3, 79 and 504 Squadrons reinforced the earlier units as Germany&rsquos Blitzkrieg gathered momentum. On 10 May, the first day of the Battle of France, Flight Lieutenant R.E. Lovett and Flying Officer "Fanny" Orton, from 73 Squadron, were the two first RAF pilots to engage combat with the invading German aircraft. They attacked one of the three Dornier Do.17&rsquos from 4./KG2 that were flying over their Rouvres airfield. The Dornier went away unscathed, while Orton was hit by defensive fire and had to force land. On the same day, the Hurricane squadrons claimed 42 German aircraft shot down during 208 sorties, although none of these were fighters, while seven Hurricanes were lost but no pilots were killed.

On 12 May, several Hurricanes units were committed to escort bombers. That morning, five Fairey Battle volunteer crews, from No. 12 Squadron, took off from Amifontaine base to bomb Vroenhoven and Veldvedzelt bridges on the Meuse, at Maastricht. The escort consisted of eight Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron, with Squadron Leader P.J.H. "Bull" Halahan in the lead. When the formation approached Maastricht, it was bounced by 16 Bf.109E&rsquos from 2./JG 27. Two Battles and two Hurricanes (including Halahan&rsquos) were shot down, two more Battles were brought down by flak and the fifth bomber was forced to crash land. The No.1 Squadron pilots claimed four Messerschmitts and two Heinkel He.112&rsquos, while the Luftwaffe actually lost only one Bf.109.

On 13 May 1940, a further 32 Hurricanes arrived. All ten requested Hurricane squadrons were then operating from French soil and felt the full force of the Nazi offensive. The following day, Hurricanes suffered heavy losses: 27 being shot down, 22 by Messerschmitts with 15 pilots killed (another died some days later) including Squadron Leader J.B. Parnall, the first flight commander to die during the war, and the Australian ace Les Clisby. On the same day, No. 3 Squadron claimed 17 German aircraft shot down, Nos. 85 and 87 squadrons claimed four, and No. 607 nine. During the following three days (15-17 May), no fewer than 51 Hurricanes were lost, in combat or in accidents. By 17 May, the end of the first week of fighting, only three of the squadrons were near operational strength, but despite their heavy losses, the Hurricanes had managed to destroy nearly double the number of German aircraft. On 18 May 1940, air combat continued from dawn to dusk where Hurricanes pilots claimed 57 German aircraft and 20 probables (Luftwaffe records show 39 aircraft lost). The following day, Nos. 1 and 73 Squadrons claimed 11 German aircraft (three by "Cobber" Kain and three by Paul Richey). But in these two days, Hurricanes suffered heavier losses, with 68 Hurricanes shot down or forced to crash land due to combat damage. Fifteen pilots were killed, eight were taken prisoner and 11 injured. Two thirds of the Hurricanes had been shot down by Messerschmitt Bf.109&rsquos and Bf.110&rsquos.

In the afternoon of 20 May 1940, the Hurricane units based in Northern France were ordered to abandon their bases on the continent and return to Great Britain. On the same day, "Bull" Malahan requested the repatriation of the pilots serving in No. 1 Squadron. During the previous 10 days, the unit had been the most successful of the campaign it had claimed 63 victories for the loss of five pilots: two killed, one taken prisoner and two hospitalized. No. 1 Squadron was the only one awarded ten DFC&rsquos and three DFM&rsquos during the Blitzkrieg. On the evening of 21 May, the only Hurricanes still operative were those of the AASF that had been moved to the bases around Troyes. During the 11 days of fighting in France and over Dunkirk on 10-21 May 1940, Hurricane pilots claimed 499 kills and 123 probables. Contemporary German records, examined postwar, attribute 299 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed and 65 seriously damaged by RAF fighters. When the last Hurricanes left France, on 21 June, of the 452 Hawker fighters engaged during the Blitzkrieg, only 66 came back to Great Britain with 178 abandoned at the airfields of Merville, Abbeville, Lille/Seclin and other bases.

Operation Dynamo 2

During Operation Dynamo (the evacuation from Dunkirk of British, French and Belgian troops cut off by the German army during the Battle of Dunkirk), the Hawker Hurricanes operated from British bases. Between 26 May and 3 June 1940, the 14 Hurricane units involved were credited with 108 air victories. A total of 27 Hurricane pilots became aces during Operation Dynamo, led by Canadian Pilot Officer W. L. Willie McKnight (10 victories) and Pilot Officer Percival Stanley Turner (seven victories), who served in No. 242 Squadron, mostly formed with Canadian personnel. Losses were 22 pilots killed and three captured.

On 27 May 1940, in one of the final mass encounters of the Blitzkrieg, 13 Hurricanes from 501 Squadron intercepted 24 Heinkel He.111&rsquos escorted by 20 Bf.110&rsquos and during the ensuing battle, 11 Heinkels were claimed as "kills" and others damaged, with little damage to the Hurricanes. The following day, JG 26 three Gruppen shot down 12 British fighters: six Spitfires over Dunkirk and six Hurricanes along Ostend coast. On 29 May, Luftwaffe I.(J)LG 2 destroyed eight Hurricanes, plus a couple of Morane-Saulnier M.S.406&rsquos near St. Quentin over Dunkirk.

On 7 June 1940, Edgar James "Cobber" Kain, the first RAF ace of the war, got word that he was to return to England for "rest leave" at an Operational Training Unit. On leaving his airfield, he put on an impromptu aerobatic display and was killed when his Hurricane crashed after completing a loop and attempting some low altitude "flick" rolls.

Initial engagements with the Luftwaffe had showed the Hurricane to be a tight-turning and steady platform but the Watts two-bladed propeller was clearly unsuitable. At least one pilot complained of how a Heinkel 111 was able to pull away from him in a chase, yet by this time the Heinkel was obsolescent. At the start of the war, the engine ran on standard 87 octane aviation spirit. From early 1940, increasing quantities of 100 octane fuel imported from the U.S. became available. In February 1940, Hurricanes with the Merlin II and Merlin III engines began to receive modifications to allow for an additional 6 psi (41 kPa) of supercharger boost for five minutes (although there are accounts of its use for 30 minutes continuously). The extra supercharger boost, which increased engine output by nearly 250 hp (190 kW), gave the Hurricane an approximate increase in speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) to 35 mph (56 km/h), under 15,000 ft (4,600 m) altitude and greatly increased the aircraft&rsquos climb rate. "Overboost" or "pulling the plug", a form of war emergency power as it was called in later Second World War aircraft, was an important wartime modification that allowed the Hurricane to be more competitive against the Bf.109E and to increase its margin of superiority over the Bf.110C, especially at low altitude. With the +12 lbf/in 2 (83 kPa) "emergency boost", the Merlin III was able to generate 1,310 hp (977 kW) at 9,000 ft (2,700 m).

Flt Lt Ian Gleed of 87 Squadron wrote about the effect of using the extra boost on the Hurricane while chasing a Bf 109 at low altitude on 19 May 1940: Damn! We&rsquore flat out as it is. Here goes with the tit. A jerk - boost&rsquos shot up to 12 pounds speeD&rsquos increased by 30 mph. I&rsquom gaining ground - 700, 600, 500 yards. Give him a burst. No, hold your fire you fool! He hasn&rsquot seen you yet. Gleed ran out of ammunition before he could shoot the BF.109 down although he left it heavily damaged and flying at about 50 ft (15.2 m).

Hurricanes equipped with Rotol constant-speed propellers were delivered to RAF squadrons in May 1940, with deliveries continuing throughout the Battle of Britain the Rotol propeller transformed the Hurricane&rsquos performance from "disappointing" to one of "acceptable mediocrity" and modified aircraft were certainly much sought after among squadrons equipped with aircraft having the older de Havilland two-position propeller.

Battle of Britain 2

At the end of June 1940, following the fall of France, the majority of the RAF&rsquos 36 fighter squadrons were equipped with Hurricanes. The Battle of Britain officially lasted from 10 July until 31 October 1940, but the heaviest fighting took place between 8 August and 21 September. Both the Supermarine Spitfire and the Hurricane are renowned for their part in defending Britain against the Luftwaffe generally, the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters, leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers, but despite the undoubted abilities of the "thoroughbred" Spitfire, it was the "workhorse" Hurricane that scored the higher number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 55 percent of the 2,739 German losses, according to Fighter Command, compared with 42 per cent by Spitfires.

As a fighter, the Hurricane had some drawbacks. It was slower than both the Spitfire I and II and the Messerschmitt Bf.109E, and the thick wings compromised acceleration, but it could out-turn both of them. In spite of its performance deficiencies against the Bf.109, the Hurricane was still capable of destroying the German fighter, especially at lower altitudes. The standard tactic of the Bf.109&rsquos was to attempt to climb higher than the RAF fighters and "bounce" them in a dive the Hurricanes could evade such tactics by turning into the attack or going into a "corkscrew dive", which the Bf.109&rsquos, with their lower rate of roll, found hard to counter. If a Bf.109 was caught in a dogfight, the Hurricane was just as capable of out-turning the Bf.109 as the Spitfire. In a stern chase, the Bf.109 could easily evade the Hurricane. In September 1940, the more powerful Mk.IIa series 1 Hurricanes started entering service, although only in small numbers. This version was capable of a maximum speed of 342 mph (550 km/h).

The Hurricane was a steady gun platform, and had demonstrated its ruggedness, as several were badly damaged, yet returned to base. But, while it was sturdy and stable, the Hurricane&rsquos construction made it dangerous in the event of the aircraft catching fire the wood frames and fabric covering of the rear fuselage meant that fire could spread through the rear fuselage structure quite easily. In addition, the gravity fuel tank in the forward fuselage sat right in front of the instrument panel, without any form of protection for the pilot. Many Hurricane pilots were seriously burned as a consequence of a jet of flame which could burn through the instrument panel. This became of such concern to Hugh Dowding that he had Hawker retrofit the fuselage tanks of the Hurricanes with a fire-resistant material called Linatex. Some Hurricane pilots also felt that the fuel tanks in the wings, although they were protected with a layer of Linatex, were vulnerable from behind, and it was thought that these, not the fuselage tank, were the main fire risk.

From 10 July to 11 August 1940, for example, RAF fighters fired at 114 German bombers and shot down 80, a destruction ratio of 70%. Against the Bf.109, the RAF fighters attacked 70 and shot down 54 of these, a ratio of 77%. Part of the success of the British fighters was possibly due to the use of the de Wilde incendiary round.

As in the Spitfire, the Merlin engine suffered from negative-g cut-out, a problem not cured until the introduction of the Miss Shilling&rsquos orifice in early 1941.

The only Battle of Britain Victoria Cross, and the only one awarded to a member of Fighter Command during the war, was awarded to Flight Lieutenant Eric Nicolson of 249 Squadron as a result of an action on 16 August 1940 when his section of three Hurricanes was "bounced" from above by Bf.110 fighters. All three were hit simultaneously. Nicolson was badly wounded, and his Hurricane was damaged and engulfed in flames. While attempting to leave the cockpit, Nicolson noticed that one of the Bf.110&rsquos had overshot his aircraft. He returned to the cockpit, which by now was a blazing inferno, engaged the enemy, and may have shot the Bf.110 down.

Night Fighters and Intruders 2

Following the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane continued to give service, and through the Blitz of 1941, was the principal single-seat night fighter in Fighter Command. F/Lt. Richard Stevens claimed 14 Luftwaffe bombers flying Hurricanes in 1941.

1942 saw the cannon-armed Mk.IIc perform further afield in the night intruder role over occupied Europe. F/Lt. Karel Kuttelwascher of 1 Squadron proved the top scorer, with 15 Luftwaffe bombers claimed shot down.

1942 also saw the manufacture of twelve Hurricane Mk.II.C(NF) night fighters equipped with pilot-operated Air Interception Mark VI radar. After a brief operational deployment with No. 245 and No. 247 Squadron RAF during which these aircraft proved too slow to serve effectively in Europe, these aircraft were sent to India to serve with No. 176 Squadron RAF in the defense of Calcutta. They were withdrawn from service at the end of December 1943.

North Africa 2

The Hurricane Mk.II was hastily tropicalised following Italy&rsquos entry into the war in June 1940. These aircraft were initially ferried through France by air to 80 Squadron in Egypt to replace Gladiators. The Hurricane claimed its first kill in the Mediterranean on 19 June 1940, when F/O P.G. Wykeham-Barnes reported shooting down two Fiat CR.42&rsquos. Hurricanes served with several British Commonwealth squadrons in the Desert Air Force. They suffered heavy losses over North Africa after the arrival of Bf.109E and Bf.109F variants and were progressively replaced in the air superiority role from June 1941 by Curtiss Tomahawks/Kittyhawks. However, fighter-bomber variants ("Hurribombers") retained an edge in the ground attack role, due to their impressive armament of four 20 mm (.79 in) cannon and a 500 lb (230 kg) bombload. From November 1941, beginning in the Libyan desert, it had to face a new formidable opponent: the new Regia Aeronautica Macchi C.202 Folgore. The Italian aircraft proved superior to the Hawker fighter. The C.202, thanks to its excellent agility and a new, more powerful inline engine, could outperform it in a dogfight.

During and following the five-day El Alamein artillery barrage that commenced on the night of 23 October 1942, six squadrons of Hurricanes, including the 40 mm cannon-armed Hurricane Mk.IID version, claimed to have destroyed 39 tanks, 212 lorries and armored troop-carriers, 26 bowsers, 42 guns, 200 various other vehicles and four small fuel and ammunition dumps, flying 842 sorties with the loss of 11 pilots. While performing in a ground support role, Hurricanes based at RAF Castel Benito, Tripoli, knocked out six tanks, 13 armored vehicles, 10 lorries, five half-tracks, a gun and trailer, and a wireless van on 10 March 1943, with no losses to themselves.

Defense of Malta 2

The Hurricane played a significant role in the defense of Malta. When Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, Malta&rsquos air defense rested on Gloster Gladiators which managed to hold out against vastly superior numbers of the Italian air force during the following 17 days.(According to myth, after the first one was lost, the remaining three were named Faith, Hope and Charity in reality, there were at least six Gladiators.) Four Hurricanes joined them at the end of June, and together they faced attacks throughout July from the 200 enemy aircraft based in Sicily, with the loss of one Gladiator and one Hurricane. Further reinforcements arrived on 2 August in the form of 12 more Hurricanes and two Blackburn Skuas.

For weeks a handful of Hurricane Mk.IIs, aided by Group Captain A.B. Woodhall&rsquos masterly controlling, had been meeting, against all the odds, the rising crescendo of Field Marshal Kesselring&rsquos relentless attacks on Grand Harbour and the airfields. Outnumbered, usually, by 12 or 14 to one and, later - with the arrival of the Bf.109F&rsquos in Sicily - outperformed, the pilots of the few old aircraft which the ground crews struggled valiantly to keep serviceable, went on pressing their attacks, ploughing their way through the German fighter screens, and our flak, to close in with the Ju.87&rsquos and Ju.88&rsquos as they dived for their targets.

The increasing number of British aircraft on the island, at last, prompted the Italians to employ German Junkers Ju.87 Stuka dive bombers to try to destroy the airfields. Finally, in an attempt to overcome the stiff resistance put up by these few aircraft, the Luftwaffe took up base on the Sicilian airfields, only to find that Malta was not an easy target. After numerous attacks on the island over the following months, and the arrival of an extra 23 Hurricanes at the end of April 1941, and a further delivery a month later, the Luftwaffe left Sicily for the Russian Front in June that year.

As Malta was situated on the increasingly important sea supply route for the North African campaign, the Luftwaffe returned with a vengeance for a second assault on the island at the beginning of 1942. It wasn&rsquot until March, when the onslaught was at its height, that 15 Spitfires flew in off the carrier HMS Eagle to join with the Hurricanes already stationed there and bolster the defense, but many of the new aircraft were lost on the ground and it was again the Hurricane that bore the brunt of the early fighting until further reinforcements arrived.

Air Defense in Russia 2

The Hawker Hurricane was the first Allied Lend-Lease aircraft to be delivered to the USSR with a total of 2,952 Hurricanes eventually delivered becoming the most common British aircraft in Soviet service. Soviet pilots were disappointed by the Hawker fighter, regarding it as inferior to both German and Russian aircraft.

Mk.II Hurricanes played an important air defense role in 1941, when the Soviet Union found itself under threat from the German Army approaching on a broad front stretching from Leningrad, Moscow, and to the oil fields in the south. Britain&rsquos decision to aid the Soviets meant sending supplies by sea to the far northern ports, and as the convoys would need to sail within range of enemy air attack from the Luftwaffe based in neighboring Finland, it was decided to deliver a number of Hurricane Mk.IIB&rsquos, flying with Nos. 81 and 134 Squadrons of No. 151 Wing RAF, to provide protection. Twenty-four were transported on the carrier HMS Argus, arriving just off Murmansk on 28 August 1941, and another 15 crated aircraft on board merchant vessels. In addition to their convoy protection duties, the aircraft also acted as escorts to Russian bombers.

Enemy attention to the area declined in October, at which point the RAF pilots trained their Soviet counterparts to operate the Hurricanes themselves. By the end of the year, the RAF&rsquos role had ended, but the aircraft remained behind and became the first of thousands of Allied aircraft that were accepted by the Soviet Union. Although Soviet pilots were not universally enthusiastic about the Hurricane, Hero of the Soviet Union, Lt. Col Safanov . loved the Hurricane . and RAF Hurricane Mk.IIB fighters operating from Soviet soil in defense of Murmansk, destroyed 15 Luftwaffe aircraft for only one loss in combat. In some Soviet war memoirs the Hurricane Mk.I&rsquos described very unflatteringly.

The "Soviet" Hurricane had quite a few drawbacks. First of all, it was 40-50 km/h (25/31 mph) slower that its main opponent, the Bf.109E, at low and medium height, and had a slower rate of climb. The Messerschmitt could outdive the Hurricane because of the low wing loading of the British fighter. But the main source of complaints was the Hurricane&rsquos armament. Often the eight or 12 small-caliber machine guns did not damage the sturdy and heavily armored German aircraft, consequently, Soviet ground crews started to remove the Brownings. Retaining only four or six of the 12 machine guns, two 12.7 mm Berezin UB&rsquos or two or even four 20 mm ShVAK cannons were substituted, but overall performance deteriorated.

Burma, Ceylon, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies 2

Following the outbreak of the war with Japan, 51 Hurricane Mk.IIs were disassembled and sent in crates to Singapore these and the 24 pilots (many of whom were veterans of the Battle of Britain) who had been transferred to the theater formed the nucleus of five squadrons. They arrived on 3 January 1942, by which time the Allied fighter squadrons in Singapore, flying Brewster Buffalos, had been overwhelmed during the Malayan campaign. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force&rsquos fighter force, especially the Nakajima Ki-43, had been underestimated in its capability, numbers and the strategy of its commanders.

Thanks to the efforts of the 151st Maintenance unit the 51 Hurricanes were assembled and ready for testing within 48 hours, and of these twenty-one were ready for operational service within three days. The Hurricanes were fitted with bulky &rsquoVokes&rsquo dust filters under the nose and were armed with 12, rather than eight, machine guns. The additional weight and drag made them slow to climb and unwieldy to maneuver at altitude, although they were more effective bomber killers.

The recently-arrived pilots were formed into 232 Squadron. In addition, 488(NZ) Squadron, a Buffalo squadron, converted to Hurricanes. On 18 January, the two squadrons formed the basis of 226 Group. 232 Squadron became operational on 22 January and suffered the first losses and victories for the Hurricane Mk.I in Southeast Asia. Between 27 and 30 January, another 48 Hurricanes (Mk.IIA) arrived with the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, from which they flew to airfields code-named P1 and P2, near Palembang, Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies.

Because of inadequate early warning systems, Japanese air raids were able to destroy 30 Hurricanes on the ground in Sumatra, most of them in one raid on 7 February. After Japanese landings in Singapore, on 10 February, the remnants of 232 and 488 Squadrons were withdrawn to Palembang. However, Japanese paratroopers began the invasion of Sumatra on 13 February. Hurricanes destroyed six Japanese transport ships on 14 February, but lost seven aircraft in the process. On 18 February, the remaining Allied aircraft and aircrews moved to Java. By this time, only 18 serviceable Hurricanes remained out of the original 99.

After Java was invaded, some of the pilots were evacuated by sea to Australia. One aircraft which had not been assembled, was transferred to the RAAF, becoming the only Hurricane to see service in Australia, with training and other non-combat units.

When a Japanese carrier task force under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo made a sortie into the Indian Ocean in April 1942, RAF Hurricanes based on Ceylon saw action against Nagumo&rsquos forces during attacks on Colombo on 5 April 1942 and on Trincomalee Harbor on 9 April 1942.

On 5 April 1942, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, led a strike against Columbo with 53 Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers and 38 Aichi D3A dive bombers, escorted by 36 Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters. They were opposed by 35 Hurricane Mk.I and IIB&rsquos of 30 and 258 Squadrons, together with six Fairey Fulmars of 803 and 806 Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. The Hurricanes mainly tried to shoot down the attacking bombers, but were engaged heavily by the escorting Zeros. A total of 21 Hurricanes were shot down, (although two of these were repairable), together with four Fulmars and six Swordfish of 788 Naval Air Squadron that had been surprised in flight by the raid. While the RAF claimed 18 Japanese aircraft destroyed, seven probably destroyed and nine damaged, with one aircraft claimed by a Fulmar and five by anti-aircraft fire. This compared with actual Japanese losses of one Zero and six D3A&rsquos, with a further seven D3A&rsquos, five B5N&rsquos and three Zeros damaged.

On 9 April 1942, the Japanese task force sent 91 B5N&rsquos escorted by 41 Zeros against Trincomalee port and the nearby China Bay airfield. A total of 16 Hurricanes opposed the raid, of which eight were lost with a further three damaged. They claimed eight Japanese aircraft destroyed with a further four probably destroyed and at least five damaged, with actual Japanese losses: three A6M&rsquos and two B5N&rsquos, with a further 10 B5N&rsquos damaged.

Epilogue 2

The battles over the Arakan in 1943 represented the last large-scale use of the Hurricane as a pure day fighter. But they were still used in the fighter-bomber role in Burma until the end of the war and they were occasionally caught up in air combat as well. For example, on 15 February 1944, Flg Off Jagadish Chandra Verma of No 6 Sqdn of Indian Air Force shot down a Japanese Ki-43 Oscar: it was the only IAF victory of the war. The Hurricane remained in service as a fighter-bomber over the Balkans and at home as well where it was used mainly for second-line tasks and occasionally flown by ace pilots. For example, in mid-1944, ace Sqdn Leader &rsquoJas&rsquo Storrar flew No 1687 Hurricane to deliver priority mail to Allied armies in France during the Normandy invasion.

Aircraft Carrier Operations 2

The Sea Hurricane became operational in mid-1941 and scored its first kill while operating from HMS Furious on 31 July 1941. During the next three years, Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricanes were to feature prominently while operating from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. The Sea Hurricane scored an impressive kill-to-loss ratio, primarily while defending Malta convoys, and operating from escort carriers in the Atlantic Ocean. As an example, on 26 May 1944, Royal Navy Sea Hurricanes operating from the escort carrier HMS Nairana claimed the destruction of three Ju.290 reconnaissance aircraft during the defense of a convoy.

Hurricane Aces 2

The top scoring Hurricane pilot was Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John "Pat" Pattle, DFC & Bar, with 35 Hawker fighter victories (out of 50 and two shared) serving with No. 80 and 33 Squadrons. All of his Hurricane kills were achieved over Greece in 1941. He was shot down and killed in the Battle of Athens. Wing Commander Frank Reginald Carey claimed 28 air victories while flying Hurricanes during 1939-43, and Squadron Leader William "Cherry" Vale DFC and Bar, AFC totalled 20 kills (of 30) in Greece and Syria with No. 80 Sqdn. Czech pilot F/Lt Karel M. Kuttelwascher achieved all of his 18 air victories with the Hurricane, most as an Intruder night fighter with No. 1 Sqdn. Pilot Officer V.C. Woodward (33 and 213 Squadrons) was another top-scoring ace with 14 (out of 18) plus three shared, while F/Lt Richard P. Stevens claimed all of his 14.5 enemy aircraft flying the Hurricane. Richard Dickie Cork was the leading Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane ace with nine destroyed, two shared, one probable, four damaged and seven destroyed on the ground. Czech pilot Josef Franti&scaronek, flying with 303 Polish Squadron, shot down at least 17 enemy aircraft over southeast England during September-October 1940.

Variants 2

  • Hurricane Mk.I: First production version, with fabric-covered wings, a wooden two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller, powered by the 1,030 hp (768 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.II or III engines and armed with eight .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns. Produced between 1937 and 1939.
  • Hurricane Mk.I (revised): A revised Hurricane Mk.I series built with a de Havilland or Rotol constant speed metal propeller, metal-covered wings, armor and other improvements. In 1939, the RAF had taken on about 500 of this later design to form the backbone of the fighter squadrons.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 1: Hurricane Mk.I powered by the improved Merlin XX engine. This new engine used a mix of 30 per cent glycol and 70 per cent water. Pure glycol is flammable, so not only was the new mix safer, but the engine also ran approximately 70°C cooler, which gave longer engine life and greater reliability. The new engine was longer than the earlier Merlin and so the Hurricane gained a 4.5 in "plug" in front of the cockpit, which made the aircraft slightly more stable due to the slight forward shift in center of gravity. First flew on 11 June 1940 and went into squadron service in September 1940.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIB (Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 2): The Hurricane Mk.II B were fitted with racks allowing them to carry two 250 lb or two 500 lb bombs. This lowered the top speed of the Hurricane to 301 mph (484 km/h), but by this point mixed sweeps of Hurricanes protected by a fighter screen of Hurricanes were not uncommon. The same racks would allow the Hurricane to carry two 45-gallon (205 l) drop tanks instead of the bombs, more than doubling the Hurricane&rsquos fuel load.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 2: Equipped with new and slightly longer propeller spinner and new wing mounting 12 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns. The first aircraft were built in October 1940 and were renamed Mark IIB in April 1941.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIB Trop.: For use in North Africa the Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIB (and other variants) were tropicalised. They were fitted with Vokes and Rolls Royce engine dust filters and the pilots were issued with a desert survival kit, including a bottle of water behind the cockpit.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIC (Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 2): Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 1 equipped with new and slightly longer propeller spinner and new wing mounting four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk.II cannons. Hurricane Mk.IIA Series 2 became the Mk.IIC in June 1941, using a slightly modified wing. The new wings also included a hardpoint for a 500 lb (230 kg) or 250 lb (110 kg) bomb, and later in 1941, fuel tanks. By then performance was inferior to the latest German fighters, and the Hurricane changed to the ground-attack role, sometimes referred to as the Hurribomber. The mark also served as a night fighter and intruder. Hurricane Mk.IID Hurricane Mk.IIB conversion armed with two 40 mm (1.57 in) AT cannons in a pod under each wing and a single Browning machine gun in each wing loaded with tracers for aiming purposes. The first aircraft flew on 18 September 1941 and deliveries started in 1942. Serial built aircraft had additional armor for the pilot, radiator and engine, and were armed with a Rolls-Royce gun with 12 rounds, later changed to the 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S gun with 15 rounds. The outer wing attachments were strengthened so that 4-g could be pulled at a weight of 8,540 lb (3,874 kg). The weight of guns and armor protection marginally impacted the aircraft&rsquos performance. These Hurricanes were nicknamed "Flying Can Openers", perhaps a play on the No. 6 Squadron&rsquos logo which flew the Hurricane starting in 1941.
  • Hurricane Mk.IIE: Another wing modification was introduced in the Mk.IIE, but the changes became extensive enough that it was renamed the Mk.IV after the first 250 had been delivered.
  • Hurricane Mk. T.IIC: Two-seat training version of the Mk. IIC. Only two aircraft were built for the Persian Air Force.
  • Hurricane Mk.III: Version of the Hurricane Mk.II powered by a Packard-built Merlin engine, intending to provide supplies of the British-built engines for other designs. By the time production was to have started, Merlin production had increased to the point where the idea was abandoned.
  • Hurricane Mk.IV: The last major change to the Hurricane was the introduction of the "universal Wing", a single design able to mount two 250 lb or 500 lb (110 or 230 kg) bombs, two 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S guns, drop tanks or eight "60 pounder" RP-3 rockets. Two .303 in Brownings were fitted to aid aiming of the heavier armament. The new design also incorporated the improved Merlin 24 or 27 engines of 1,620 hp (1,208 kW), equipped with dust filters for desert operations. The Merlin 27 had a redesigned oil system that was better suited to operations in the tropics, and which was rated at a slightly lower altitude in keeping with the Hurricane&rsquos new role as a close-support fighter. The radiator was deeper and armored. Additional armor was also fitted around the engine.
  • Hurricane Mk.V: The final variant to be produced. Only three were built and it never reached production. This was powered by a Merlin 32 boosted engine to give 1,700 hp at low level and was intended as a dedicated ground-attack aircraft to use in Burma. All three prototypes had four-bladed propellers. Speed was 326 mph (525 km/h) at 500 ft, which is comparable with the Hurricane Mk.I despite being one and a half times as heavy.
  • Hurricane Mk.X: Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 28. Eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns mounted in the wings. In total, 490 were built.
  • Hurricane Mk.XI: Canadian-built variant. 150 were built.
  • Hurricane Mk.XII: Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 29. Initially armed with 12 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns, but this was later changed to four 20 mm (.79 in) cannon.
  • Hurricane Mk.XIIA: Canadian-built variant. Single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber. Powered by a 1,300 hp (969 kW) Packard Merlin 29, armed with eight 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns.
  • Sea Hurricane Mk.IA: The Sea Hurricane Mk.IA was a Hurricane Mk.I modified by General Aircraft Limited. These conversions numbered approximately 250 aircraft. They were modified to be carried by CAM ships (catapult armed merchantman), whose ships&rsquo crews were Merchant Marine and whose Hurricanes were crewed and serviced by RAF personnel, or Fighter Catapult Ships, which were Naval Auxiliary Vessels crewed by naval personnel and aircraft operated by the Fleet Air Arm. These ships were equipped with a catapult for launching an aircraft, but without facilities to recover them. Consequently, if the aircraft were not in range of a land base, pilots were forced to bail out or to ditch. Both of these options had their problems - there was always a chance of striking part of the fuselage when bailing out and a number of pilots had been killed in this way. Ditching the Hurricane Mk.I in the sea called for skill as the radiator housing acted as a water brake, pitching the nose of the fighter downwards when it hit the water, while also acting as very efficient scoop, helping to flood the Hurricane so that a quick exit was advisable before the aircraft sank. Then the pilot had to be picked up by the ship. More than 80 modifications were needed to convert a Hurricane Mk.I into a Sea Hurricane, including new radios to conform with those used by the Fleet Air Arm and new instrumentation to read in knots rather than miles per hour. They were informally known as "Hurricats". The majority of the aircraft modified had suffered wear-and-tear serving with front line squadrons, so much so that at least one example used during trials broke up under the stress of a catapult launching. CAM Sea Hurricanes were launched operationally on eight occasions and the Hurricanes shot down six enemy aircraft for the loss of one Hurricane pilot killed. The first Sea Hurricane Mk.IA kill was an FW.200C Condor, shot down on 2 August 1941.
  • Sea Hurricane Mk.IB: Hurricane Mk.I version equipped with catapult spools plus an arrester hook.[93] From July 1941 they operated from HMS Furious and from October 1941, they were used on Merchant aircraft carrier (MAC ships), which were large cargo vessels with a flight deck fitted, enabling aircraft to be launched and recovered. A total of 340 aircraft were converted. The first Sea Hurricane Mk.IB kill occurred on 31 July 1941 when Sea Hurricanes of 880 squadron FAA operating from HMS Furious shot down a Do.18 flying-boat.
  • Sea Hurricane Mk.IC: Hurricane Mk.I version equipped with catapult spools, an arrester hook and the four-cannon wing. From February 1942, 400 aircraft were converted. The Sea Hurricane Mk.IC used during Operation Pedestal had their Merlin III engines modified to accept 16 lb boost, and could generate more than 1400 hp at low altitude. Lt. R. J. Cork was credited with five kills while flying a Sea Hurricane Mk.IC during Operation Pedestal.
  • Sea Hurricane Mk.IIC: Hurricane Mk.IIC version equipped with naval radio gear 400 aircraft were converted and used on fleet carriers. The Merlin XX engine on the Sea Hurricane generated 1460 hp at 6,250 ft and 1435 hp at 11,000 ft. Top speed was 322 mph at 13,500 ft and 342 mph at 22,000 ft.
  • Sea Hurricane Mk.XIIA: Canadian-built Hurricane Mk.XIIA converted into Sea Hurricanes. Hillson F.40 (a.k.a. F.H.40) A full-scale version of the Hills & Son Bi-mono slip-wing Biplane/monoplane, using a Hawker Hurricane Mk.I returned from Canada as RCAF ser no 321 (RAF serial L1884). Taxi and flight trials carried out at RAF Sealand during May 1943, and at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down from September 1943. The upper wing was not released in flight before the program was terminated due to poor performance.
  • Hurricane Photo Reconnaissance: In Egypt, the Service Depot at Heliopolis converted several Hurricanes Is for the role. The first three were converted in January 1941. Two carried a pair of F24 cameras with 8 inch focal length lenses. The third carried one vertical and two oblique F24&rsquos with 14 inch focal length lenses mounted in the rear fuselage, close to the trailing edge of the wing, and a fairing was built up over the lenses aft of the radiator housing. A further five Hurricanes were modified in March 1941 while two were converted in a similar manner in Malta during April 1941. During October 1941 a batch of six Hurricane Mk.IIs was converted to PR.Mk.II status and a final batch, thought to be of 12 aircraft, was converted in late 1941. The PR Mark II was said to be capable of slightly over 350 mph (563 km/h) and was able to reach 38,000 ft (11,600 m).
  • Hurricane Tac R: For duties closer to the front lines some Hurricanes were converted to Tactical Reconnaissance (Tac R) aircraft. An additional radio was fitted for liaison with ground forces who were better placed to direct the Hurricane. Some Hurricane Tac R aircraft also had a vertical camera fitted in the rear fuselage, so to compensate for the extra weight either one or two Brownings or two cannons would be omitted. Externally these aircraft were only distinguishable by the missing armament.

Operators 3

The Hawker Hurricane, due to its rugged construction and ease of maintenance, enjoyed a long operational life in all theaters of war, flown by both the Axis and Allies. It served in the air forces of many countries, some "involuntarily" as in the case of Hurricanes which either landed accidentally or force-landed in neutral countries.

  • Argentina: Fuerza Aerea Argentina
  • Australia: Royal Australian Air Force
  • Belgium: Belgian Air Force
  • Canada: Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Czechoslovakia: Czechoslovak Air Force on exile in Great Britain
  • Egypt: Royal Egyptian Air Force
  • Finland: Finnish Air Force
  • Free France: Free French Air Force Free French Naval Air Service
  • Germany: The Luftwaffe operated some captured Hurricanes for training and education purposes.
  • Greece: Royal Hellenic Air Force
  • India: Royal Indian Air Force
  • Iran: Imperial Iranian Air Force
  • Ireland: Irish Air Corps
  • Italy: Regia Aeronautica
  • Japan: Imperial Japanese Army Air Force
  • Netherlands: Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force
  • New Zealand: Royal New Zealand Air Force
  • Norway: Royal Norwegian Air Force
  • Poland: Polish Air Forces in exile in Great Britain
  • Portugal: Arma de Aeronautica
  • Romania: Royal Romanian Air Force
  • South Africa: South African Air Force
  • Soviet Union: Soviet Naval Aviation Soviet Air Force
  • Turkey 5


Wednesday, August 12

The events of this day would make Pedestal the most heavily opposed convoy of the Mediterranean war.

Vice Admiral Syfret would later write:

“Throughout the day the force was under continual observation by aircraft which were protected, progressively more strongly, by fighters. During the day the force was subjected to three very heavy air attacks whilst Force X, after parting company, was attacked at dusk by bombers and torpedo bombers. During daylight hours our fighters, though frequently greatly outnumbered, continued their magnificent work both in reporting approaching raids and in shooting down enemy aircraft. Success also attended our [Anti-Aircraft] guns though more from their deterrent effect than from the accuracy of their fire. ”

The resolve of the Axis was in little doubt.

The Allies had intercepted a message from Reichsmarschal Hermann Goering. In it he stated that X Fliegerkorps and II Fliegerkorps:

“will operate with no other thought in mind than the destruction of the British convoy… The destruction of this convoy is of decisive importance.”

Intelligence intercepts would show the Germans now knew HMS Rodney and Nelson were part of the covering force. However, they had mistaken one of the carriers for a USS Yorktown-class. They listed the standing carrier air-patrol strength as being 10 to 16 aircraft.

Goering would go on to reiterate that the primary targets were to be the carriers and the transports.

The night had been moonless, making air and sea observation of the convoy virtually impossible. By dawn Pedestal was edging within range of fighters based out of Sardinia. The ships closed up at Action Stations at 0520.

German and Italian reconnaissance aircraft swarmed into the air at dawn. A Ju88D made the first contact at 0620 and took up a shadowing position.

The first of the fleet’s fighters – two Sea Hurricanes and two Fulmars - were flown off to intercept as the sun rose at 0630.

Vice-Admiral Syfret would remark:

“There were few moments when neither aircraft, submarines, torpedoes nor asdic contact were being reported.”

At 0710 the first standing patrol of 12 fighters was launched from HMS Indomitable and Victorious. The goal was to keep a dozen interceptors in the air at all times.

Fourteen interceptions were attempted. Only two resulted in engagements. One was successful: Soon after 0700, the Fulmars from 884 Squadron shot a Cant Z1007 down in flames.

Below and on deck, aircraft mechanics worked furiously to repair and prepare their machines for what they knew would be a decisive day.

Sea Hurricanes fly in formation.

0915 Attack 2

The first full attack was detected about 0907 when a high-level formation of about 19 LG1 Ju88s escorted by 16 1/JG77 Bf109s. The Germans appeared on radar at a distance of 65 miles. Fighter Controllers directed the air patrol to intercept the 24 Ju88 bombers of I and II/LG1 some 25 miles out from the convoy.

White and Red Section Sea Hurricanes from Indomitable’s 800 Squadron were to be the first to intercept at 18,000ft while some 25 miles out from the fleet. Black and Blue Sections of 880 Squadron were to provide back-up. Victorious scrambled three Hurricanes and four Fulmars which got into the air just as the attack developed.

Lt Cdr Bill Bruen of Red Section 800 Squadron claimed one of the LG1 Ju88s – his fifth kill. He would be just the first ace of the day.

Lt William “Moose” Martyn in 800 Squadron’s White One came a close second. He would claim one as a kill and a “share” in another which he had set afire. His wingman finished it off.

Martyn’s own Sea Hurricane was hit by defensive fire and was forced to make an emergency landing aboard Indomitable.

The fighters of 1/JG77 escorting the Ju88 strike came as something of a surprise for the Fleet Air Arm pilots as they had been told not to expect fighters out of Sardinia.

Three Sea Hurricanes of 885 Squadron reported being engaged by fighters. One was damaged before evading. Another pilot was missing, presumed shot down.

A pilot of 800 Squadron who had been plucked from the sea by HMS Pathfinder also said he had been shot down by fighters.

Blue Section 880 Squadron did not report any losses and stated they had not seen any fighters.

Several aircraft were, however, damaged by defensive fire from the bombers.

Red Four lost part of its engine cowling to a Ju88's defensive fire. It returned safely to its carrier.

A deck officer observes flight activities with the Pedestal convoy in the background.

Cork, leading a flight of 880 Squadron Hurricanes, later described the engagement:

“The sky at first sight seemed filled with aircraft. The enemy kept in tight formation and our fighters snapped at their heels, forcing them to break in all directions. One Junkers turned away from the main group and I led my section down towards it. I was well ahead and fired when it filled my sights. Smoke poured from its wings and it disappeared below me into the sea. A few minutes later I saw another Ju88 out of the corner of my eye heading along the coast of North Africa, so I set off in pursuit by myself. At 1000ft I came within range and fired. It seemed to stagger in the air, then dropped into the sea with a big splash.”

Eight Ju88s were claimed shot down by fighters and a further two by the destroyer screen.

German records list six as being shot down and a further two lost over Sardinia from ‘friendly fire’. German fighters claimed four Sea Hurricane kills, though the British only record the two losses.

Observers in the air and in the fleet saw many of the Ju88s jettisoning their bombs when under attack. Only four made their way through the fighter screen to bomb the convoy. They scored no hits.

Shortly after this attack, two Fulmars of 884 Squadron – under direction from HMS Victorious’s fighter controllers - surprised a shadowing SM79 and shot it down.

The Germans returned to their bases claiming to have sunk a carrier and two merchant ships. But, as they returned, two were shot down by Italian fighters mistaking them for marauding Beaufighters out of Malta.

Italian submarines had attempted to get into firing position as the bombers had pressed home their attack. The FAA Albacores and Coastal Command Sunderlands along with the Destroyers Laforey , Fury and Foresight forced the boats deep.

Deck crew position a non-folding Sea Hurricane on HMS INDOMITABLE's large forward lift. They had to be skewed sideways onto roller-rails to arrange them within the hangar.

1215-13:45 Attack 3

Late that morning, Axis forces were issued a new order: Under no circumstances were they to attack damaged or straggling ships. Every effort was to be expended on destroying or crippling those that still had a chance of making it to Malta.

Shortly before midday the air-warning radars of HMS Indomitable, Victorious, Sirius, Nigeria and Cairo began to fill with contacts.

The convoy was just 70 miles south of Sardinia.

More than 70 German and Italian bombers were in the air with a heavy escort of fighters - some accounts state up to 40. Axis attempts to coordinate the strike rapidly fell apart. Because of a variety of communication, mechanical and navigational difficulties, the German and Italian aircraft ended up approaching in four waves spread over a period of 90 minutes.

Pedestal’s standing air patrol consisted of four Sea Hurricanes of Green Section 800 Squadron led by Lt Cdr Rupert Brabner at 20,000ft, 806 Squadron’s Orange Section of four Martlets under the command of Lt “Sloppy” Johnstonand two Fulmars from HMS Victorious’ 884 Squadron under the lead of CO “Buster” Hallet at 10,000ft.

An officer's account
Send Them Victorious

The standby squadron was all set on deck, with the aircraft armed, fuelled and wating and the pilots in their cockpits gazing upwards and perhaps munching a biscuit.
Men stood by the lanyards which secured the wingtips of the aircraft - others lay by their chocks and yet more men sat astride their starter motors.
The flight-deck officers fiddled with their flags and Commander Flying nursed his flight deck microphone. There was a tenseness in the air, expectancy and waiting, all waiting for those vital 17 seconds which would follow the Boatswain’s Mate’s call “Fighters stand-to.”
The mad scramble to get the aircraft off and then the eighteenth second should see the ship returning to her station with her fighters safely airborne over the sea.

Lt Cdr Bruen’s Red Section 800 Squadron was scrambled by Indomitable as the attackers were detected by radar. Victorious followed suit, scrambling a further four Fulmars of 809 Squadron and four Sea Hurricanes of 885 Squadron.

HMS Indomitable continued to prepare further fighters - refueling and rearming them on deck - even as the attack unfolded.

At 1211, the outer picket of British destroyers – led by HMS Ashanti - opened fire on the approaching aircraft.

12 August: Air attacks: An Italian photograph of the convoy under attack. An Italian SM.79 torpedo bomber is in the right of the photograph.

The Axis attack plan sounded effective: 10 SM84s would use new circling torpedoes to break up the convoy escort while escorting Italian fighters and figter-bombers would open up a hole in the protective fighter screen. This would allow 43 SM79 and SM84 torpedo bombers to make their approach at low levels while 37 Ju88s would make shallow dives - further confusing the defenders. In the immediate aftermath Re2001 fighter bombers would make a special weapons attack on one of the carriers while a radio-controlled SM79 - packed with explosives - would crash into the other.

The challenge was coordination, and timing.

First Wave: The Italians came first with 10 S84 bombers of 28 Gruppe 32 Stormo and eight Cr42 biplane bombers. Fourteen Mc202s provided escort.

These S84s were carrying a new secret weapon: 350kg, 50cm Motobomba FF electric torpedoes, nicknamed “Mad Bombs”. The 120kg warhead was dropped by parachute and designed to circle in an ever increasing radius at 40kts for between 15 and 20 minutes.

Two CAP Fulmars spotted three large formations approaching the fleet. They engaged head-on as the bombers were seen to drop their “Mad Bombs” by parachute.

The weapon proved unsuccessful.

The British ships, mistaking the new weapon for air-dropped mines, were able to evade them all by making an emergency - but disciplined - 45 degree turn.

The Fulmars would chase these bombers as they turned for home. Three were reported as plunging into the ocean in flames. A fourth was said to have been seen trailing smoke.

The kills were credited to 884s CO “Buster” Hallett–the FAA’s second ace for the day - and Lt Frank Pennington. Pennington was forced to return to Victorious after being damaged by defensive fire.

HMS Rodney claimed to have shot down a bomber at 1217.

Two anti-aircraft cruisers join one of the armoured carriers, probably VICTORIOUS, in laying down a defensive barrage.

Second Wave: Five minutes after the first strike, a larger attack developed. This time some 40 torpedo bombers were to approach simultaneously from two directions. One side was allocated nine S79s and 10 S84s covered by 14 Re2001s. On the other was to be 21 S79s with 12 Re2001s. But this attack also experienced difficulties as both bombers and fighter units were suffering from a shortage of mechanics.

The rushed deployment to Sardinia had taken its toll. The squadrons took off 15 minutes late, leaving behind almost a quarter of their strength.

The fleet fighters tackled elements of the Italian formation well before it reached the convoy, effectively preventing most of the SM84s from carrying out their attacks.

Nevertheless, many torpedo-bombers drove directly for the merchant ships at the heart of the violently manoeuvring convoy and drove headlong into a heavy anti-aircraft barrage – including the 16in guns on HMS Nelson and Rodney. These projectiles were fired at low-trajectories with both proximity and contact fuses. The walls of water these shells threw up was hoped to be a deterrent to torpedo bombers.

Those that got close enough to drop their torpedoes failed to hit anything. Most had shied in the face of the anti-aircraft fire and dropped their weapons outside of effective range.

A few torpedo bombers broke off towards Nelson, but again dropped their loads before the battleship was in sure range.

A photo from aboard HMS VICTORIOUS shows a stick of bombs falling near a merchant ship, left, as the sky is filled with flak bursts.

The CAP's Green Section had engaged a flight of Re2001’s head-on. A Sea Hurricane was shot down in the turning fight that ensued.

One of HMS Eagle’s surviving Sea Hurricane pilots also made Ace. Brabner of 801 Squadron claimed to have downed an SM79 and SM84 in an attack alongside Johnston’s Martlets. Initially listed as probable, they were later upgraded to kills. This confirmed the Member of Parliament’s place in the record books.

Martlet II pilot Sub Lt John Cotching of 806 Squadron claimed to have set an S79 on fire. This was later upgraded to a kill.

Lt Cdr Bruen’s Red Section of 800 Squadron arrived late in the fight, but he managed to claim an SM79 and a share in a SM84.

The final action against this wave was by the Fulmars. One attacked an S79 which it claimed destroyed as it entered the fleet’s AA barrage. Another Fulmar was forced to evade at sea level, with two Italian fighters close on its tail

A Hawker Sea Hurricane of 885 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm flying over the flight deck of HMS VICTORIOUS prior to landing after flying exercises.

Third Wave: The Germans arrived next. It was late.

The German Ju88s of KG54 and KG77 out of Catania and Comiso in Sicily had successfully joined with their Me109 escort. The 37 bombers and 21 fighters rendezvoused over Elmas, Sardinia. But the Germans also had their fair share of problems: Five bombers aborted their mission because of mechanical failures.

Most managed to avoid the Fulmars and Hurricanes hastily re-directed to intercept them. Nevertheless, a handful were forced to jettison their bombs to escape. Flying in small groups at between 10,000ft and 15,000ft, the remaining Ju88s were too high and fast for the FAA fighters striving to regain their patrol heights after engaging the Italians.

Following their orders to go after the merchant ships, the Ju88s managed to damage the Deucaulion at 1318. She was hit by one bomb that failed to explode, and near-missed by two others. The freighter lost electrical power and stopped. She eventually got underway again at 10kts and was ordered to proceed along the North African coast with the destroyer HMS Bramham in support.

HMS Rodney had reported a near-miss about 1230. She was shaken again as Nelson and Cairo were straddled.

Lt R “Sloppy” Johnson, CO of 806 Squadron, was lost during this attack. He reported over wireless that he had attacked a Ju88 and had sent it spinning into the sea.

Johnson reported he been wounded during the engagement. His struggling Martlet made its approach to HMS Indomitable too fast, without flaps. The arrestor hook caught a wire but was torn out of the fuselage. The little fighter tangled on the side of the carrier and Johnson was seen struggling to escape. But the Martlet toppled over and into the sea, taking Johnson with it.

11 August: The loss of HMS EAGLE and the first air attacks: A general view of the convoy under air attack showing the intense anti-aircraft barrage put up by the escorts. The battleship HMS RODNEY is on the left and the cruiser HMS MANCHESTER on the right.

Fourth Wave: The third wave of Italians – the fourth faced by the beleaguered British fleet - was a special operations unit. Two modified Re2001s – painted in similar colours to the FAA Sea Hurricanes – joined the holding pattern of fighters preparing to land on their carriers.

These Re2001s were supposed to carry an experimental 630kg low-altitude armour-piercing bomb. However, the weapons had not been prepared quickly enough. The fighters set out on their mission carrying anti-personnel bombs instead. It was hoped they could wreak havoc among the flight deck operations crews.

The plan initially unfolded well. Two Sea Hurricanes had landed on Victorious at 1325. Three more were seen to be in a holding pattern.

Only one was a Sea Hurricane.

Two of the aircraft suddenly turned and dove towards HMS Victorious at 1345.

The approaching fighters leveled off about two miles out from the stern of Victorious and came roaring up towards the flight-deck.

Such was the extent of the surprise achieved that neither would encounter defensive gunfire. Both Re2001s dropped their bombs after achieving “complete surprise”.

Observers aboard HMS Indomitable reported two small bombs “bouncing like cricket balls” along Victorious’ deck before falling over the side.

In actuality one skipped off the flight deck to explode over the sea – showering the gun crews in shrapnel and spray. The other bomb broke up and only partially detonated on the armoured flight deck’s centreline. This attack claimed six lives and wounded others among the deck personnel.

The Italian fighters escaped without a shot being fired at them.

Returning Fulmars attempted to engage, but broke off after the Re2001s yellow markings indicated them to be Sea Hurricanes – also especially painted for the Pedestal convoy with yellow trim for the purpose of identification!

Two modified bombers also took part in an unconventional attack. One, a SM79, was fitted with electronic equipment to allow it to be remote-controlled from a special-ops Cant Z1007.

The plan was to guide the SM79, with a 1000kg bomb, into a carrier’s flight deck. The radio gear malfunctioned and the SM79 flew on mindlessly until it crashed in Algeria.

Douglas Hamby: FAA Naval Air Fitter aboard HMS VIctorious

On 12 August:
The next wave of bombers then came in, led by an experimental radio controlled aircraft loaded with high explosive which was controlled from a mother plane but this lost control of its charge and the un-piloted plane flew on, crashing in Algeria. Two Italian fighter-bombers detached themselves from this attack and approached Victorious. I was on the flight deck at the time watching one of the other attacks develop, only seeing what happened at the last moment. These planes came in as if making a normal landing approach and deceived the lookouts into thinking they were ours, then released their bombs from a height of about 50 feet over the deck - about 250lb bombs I would think. One hit the deck with an almighty clang about 50 feet away from me, broke into pieces and went over the side without exploding. One piece hit a trolley which carried batteries for starting the Hurricane engines, wrecking it. The other bomb went skidding off the deck into the sea also without exploding. . . The next attack from the air was building up and the two carriers put up 24 fighters to meet it, Victorious with some difficulty as our lifts had started giving trouble. The dive bombers looked as if they intended to concentrate on the two carriers and Victorious and her A.A ship, cruiser Syrius (which had 10 5.25 inch guns for main armament) put up a furious barrage. I was on deck at the time and the result was spectacular, Syrius astern of us was firing all three turrets forward which was great encouragement to us. For us it had been a very long day, man-handling aircraft in the hangar and on the flight deck, carrying out repairs and checks as soon as our fighters had returned.

This picture is believed to show the experimental low-altitude armour-piercing bomb on a Re2001.

The sky is filled with anti-aircraft shells as the convoy steams on to Malta.

Skirmishes (From 14:00)

As the noon attack faded away, Admiral Syfret took stock of the situation. His convoy had come through the attack by more than 100 aircraft relatively unscathed.

One merchant ship was damaged and HMS Rodney was slowed to 15 knots due to steering problems. Fortunately, HMS Victorious suffered no lasting effects from the surprise Re2001 raid.

The Italian bombers were refuelled and re-armed at their Sardinian airfields in preparation for another hasty attack.

At 1400 Blue Section and Black Section were directed to a small group of low-flying He111s. These aircraft from 6/KG26 were carrying torpedoes and were flying so low the Sea Hurricanes could only make stern attacks.

Black One had its starboard wing shot away. This was 880 Squadron’s Lt Cdr “Butch” Judd. Senior pilot “Dickie” Cork assumed command.

As the He111s flew past the destroyer screen, Blue Section was “bounced” by escorting Me110 fighters. Another Sea Hurricane was sent into the sea. Two more were damaged and forced to return to Indomitable.

Only Blue One, Lt Cork’s cannon-armed Sea Hurricane, remained operational.

“Cork saw one of his companions go down into the sea before a Messerschmitt and, turning quickly, managed to get the German in his sights. Trailing smoke, the Messerschmitt climbed to a thousand feet, when the pilot bailed out and the aircraft crashed into the sea beside Cork’s carrier, whose officers and men cheered as though a goal had been scored in a cup tie.”

Three Fulmars of 884 Sqadron were diverted to intercept a “shadower” at 1410. This Z1007bis was shot down for the loss of one of their own number.

It appears Lt Cork may also have attacked this aircraft and claimed it as a kill. His ‘hybrid’ Sea Hurricane had been damaged by both the Me110 and what he mistook to be an S79. With several large holes in his wings, Cork successfully returned to Indomitable.

Eight Cr42 biplanes configured as dive bombers accompanied by nine Re2001s attempted to locate the convoy in the mid afternoon. One of Indomitable’s Martlet’s shot down a Re2001.

A strike by nine S79s with escorting MC202’s failed to find the convoy.

But Pedestal’s defences were further weakened. Along with the destroyer HMS Bramham, which had been detached with the damaged merchant ship Deucaulion, HMS Ithuriel was no longer available. The destroyer had rammed the Italian submarine Cobalto at 1649, badly damaging her bows. She had her sonar destroyed and her speed reduced to 20 knots.

After the destroyer was attacked again by four Ju88s and Cr42 biplanes, Ithuriel was ordered back to Gibraltar.

Pedestal had only just begun to run the gauntlet. But it was given a crucial three-hour reprieve.

12 August: Air Attacks: HMS NELSON during the air battles on 12 August 1942.

1800-1850 Attack 4

As the convoy drew out of range of the Sardinian air bases, few expected the attacks to relent. All knew they were now passing into operational range of the major bases in Sicily.

Radar and reconnaissance aircraft had been reporting Axis aircraft building up in strength since about 1730. As flight after flight joined the formation, it was evident another large attack was about to unfold.

The Italians had managed to maintain contact with the convoy through a shadowing Cant Z1007, but three Fulmars managed to shoot down a reconnaissance S79.

The Regia Aeronautica’s plans involved some 105 aircraft attacking in three waves. A significant part of the anticipated fighter escort – the R2001s which had escorted attacks out of Sardinia – had not finished relocating back to Sicily.

The bomber force also encountered difficulties. Four out of 13 Italian Ju87s of 102 Squadron were “B” models carrying a heavier 2200lb bomb. They were not able to fit the long-range fuel tanks necessary for the required range. Six S84s were unable to mount their new torpedoes.

The Germans again made attempts to coordinate their attack with the Italians. At 1730, 20 German Ju87Ds of II Fliegerkorps escorted by a flight of Me109s took off from their base in Sicily. They were joined by about 20 Ju88s.

The carriers and escorts were as ready as they could be: The formations had been detected and tracked on radar from up to 40 miles away.

In the air against them were three Martlets, 12 Hurricanes and six Fulmars. Both carriers were in the process of launching four more aircraft each. This was all that could be assembled despite the advanced warning. Battle damage, exhaustion and landing accidents had taken a toll on fighter availability.

But the Royal Navy carriers were continuing to prepare fighters: Indomitable had four Sea Hurricanes on deck, while Victorious was readying four Fulmars and two more Hurricanes.

This time the coordination between Italian and German attack forces panned out. The Axis fighter escort also managed to engage most of the fleet defenders before they could tangle with the bombers.

The three waves of Italian torpedo-bombers began making their attack runs at 1200ft from 1800. The Italian MC202 fighters countered the British air patrol directed to intercept.

A Fulmar was seen breaking away from a bomber in flames before crashing into the sea. Its companions took revenge on the offending S79.

Victorious scrambled the four Fulmars of 809 Squadron 1820. These had just enough time to get clear of the fleet before the attack developed.

Indomitable was racing to prepare her four Sea Hurricanes, but these were just starting to launch at 1830 when the attackers appeared on the horizon. The activity on her deck meant Indomitable's 4.5in HA guns were not able to be brought into action.

All FAA fighters were ordered to clear out from above the convoy as the air began to fill with Axis aircraft. The fleet’s barrage was overwhelmed and unable to effectively identify individual targets. Anything that moved over the convoy was now fair game.

The freshly launched Fulmars were bounced by single-engined fighters, losing one of their number before the remainder could attempt an escape at sea level.

12 August: Evening air and submarine attacks: A bomb falling astern of MS GLENORCHY, which was later sunk by air attack.

Sub Lt Hugh Morrison reported:

“Enemy a/c dived out of sun. I did steep turn and straightened up to meet attacks. Fired short burst at each. Air Gunner observed enemy a/c on fire and hit sea. Other a/c climbed away as soon as they saw this happen.”

The burning aircraft, however, was most likely his fellow Fulmar.

The initial Italian attack was something of a failure. No torpedoes hit, and the Italian Stukas succeeded only in near-missing HMS Rodney. The bomb landed in the sea alongside X turret. The shock and evasive maneuvers caused further problems for the battleship: Her boilers experienced troubles and she was forced to slow once again, this time to 18kts.

One Italian Ju87 was claimed shot down by Sub Lt Thomson of 800 Squadron at 1840. He then claimed to shoot down one of its escorts:

“Me109 with yellow nose and leading edge, and yellow or white band round tail. Under side pale. German markings.”

The Italian torpedo bombers were equally unsuccessful. The S79s had experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire and only 12 had broken through the barrage. These dropped their torpedoes at 3000 yards – too far out for a reliable hit.

HMS Victorious’ Captain Bovell would later note:

“Had the Italian torpedo aircraft shown more initiative, it is thought that protection would have failed…”

A signalman gives the 'cut engine' signal to an approaching Sea Hurricane.

Nevertheless, the destroyer HMS Foresight was struck as she attempted to 'comb' the torpedo wakes. The explosion lifted the back of the ship out of the water and blasted off her stern, rudder and propellers. The crippled destroyer was taken in tow for the long trip back to Gibraltar by HMS Tartar, but the battle to save her would eventually be abandoned.

Blue One – Lt Cork – also would have a narrow escape. With is favourite cannon-armed Sea Hurricane undergoing repairs, he was flying a “standard” machine-gun equipped model when he shot down another S79. Having expended all his ammunition, he was bounced by a fighter.

“Attacked by a Reggiane 2001 at 50ft, just as I finished all my ammunition on the 79. Several holes through a/c and radiator, rudder half stripped of fabric, port bottom longeron severed.”

He skimmed the waves in a successful effort to escape and made an emergency landing on the closest carrier – Victorious. His engine seized on final approach as he touched down. The battered Sea Hurricane was dumped over the side.

At 1830 the German bombers were in a suitable position to attack the convoy as the ships were still evading the Italian torpedo bombers.

Between seven and 12 Ju87Ds of I/StG3 slipped through what they described as light cloud and defensive barrage at 1845 to begin a surprise attack-run out of the sun on HMS Indomitable from astern. One account states the attack consisted of eight Ju87’s and four glide-bombing Ju88s.

Indomitable was in the process of launching the last of the four Sea Hurricanes she had been racing to prepare.

The anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Phoebe was astern Indomitable in her "goalkeeper" position. Her after-action report states she did not notice the developing Stuka attack as she was engaging Italian torpedo bombers off her starboard bow.

HMS Nigeria, however, did: She opened up an "umbrella" barrage over Indomitable - the bursts from her two twin 4in HA mounts creating a curtain of fragments through which the dive bombers had to pass.

From a 70 degree dive that carried it over HMS Phoebe, the first Stuka released its bombs from 1500ft. Observers aboard Indomitable reported the trailing Stukas dropping their bombs at progressively lower heights. All broke-off their dives above the carrier at between 500 and 1000ft.

One of the Sea Hurricanes which had just cleared Indomitable’s deck turned to engage. Sub Lt Blythe Ritchie of 800 Squadron fired on one of the Stukas as it pulled out of its dive. He reported seeing the cockpit canopy detaching and the aircraft plunging into the sea. Five minutes later, he engaged a second:

“I saw one Ju87 at 400ft and chased it for approximately a mile. I did a beam attack at 100 yards and saw part of the cowling fly off, then flew around to its stern and closed to 60 yards, where I saw the gunner double-up. It was now smoking and on fire on the starboard side. The starboard wing dropped and it went into the sea from 200ft.”

Ritchie had chased the Stuka through the fleet’s barrage before sending the bomber into the sea in a ball of fire alongside HMS Victorious. He would later that afternoon claim a third Stuka.

Sub Lt Cotching would tackle the Stuka’s fighter escort in his Martlet II, claiming a Re2001 – his second kill for the day.

"At 1975 I saw the last fighter land on Victorious, then in the faint night sky I saw a group of black dots 1500 ft. overhead. They started to peel off, one after the other, in vertical dives, I realised they were J.U. 87’s (Stukas) and they were diving on the carrier Indomitable. Though Charybdis was too far away from the Indomitable for our close range fire to be effective, I opened fire with the single port Pom Pom, hoping the tracer would warn Indomitable and her closer escorts. Heavy A.A. fire started at once but these Stukas were the Luftwaffe’s special anti-ship dive bombers. Indomitable received three direct hits, and several near misses.
Charydbis steamed over to her at high speed, and as we approached she appeared to be on fire from stem to stern. Smoke was billowing out of her hangar lifts and what I thought was the flight deck, dripping molten metal. (This was actually blazing aviation fuel.) The Indomitable was temporarily out of control, and Charybdis circled her ready to go alongside if need be. It appeared that the Fleet had been caught out by the Stukas attack, but what was really happening was that the enemy was throwing everything they had, and could at the Fleet. Some 145 enemy planes, high level bombers, dive bombers and torpedo planes made low level attacks. There were two more casualties immediately. The destroyer Foresight was torpedoed and sank, and the merchant ship S.S. Deucalion was severely damaged by bombs, lay stopped, and the destroyer Bramham was left to stand by her. Both the Rodney and Nelson had near misses, and the Victorious was hit by an anti personnel bomb on her flight deck. All ships were twisting and turning, whilst Charybdis blasted away at every radar contact approaching the Indomitable."

- Arthur Lawson was a leading telegraphist aboard Indomitable.

Aboard Indomitable

Once the thick cloud of spray and smoke concealing HMS Indomitable had thinned, the following message was flashed:

Indomitable to Senior Officer F Force:

SHIP HIT BY TWO OR THREE BOMBS DAMAGED BY NEAR MISSES STOP PETROL FIRES ON FLIGHT DECK MESSAGE ENDS

Billowing smoke and taking on water, HMS Indomitable turned downwind. Aircraft petrol lines had been severed and set alight in the attack: Rivers of fire flowed across the flight-deck and rained down to the ocean below.

One of Indomitable’s officers recalled the event:

“Looking like beer barrels, the 1100lb bombs seemed to float down towards us as though in some dimly remembered dream. The ship shuddered and the dream expanded into a huge sheet of flame which rose up ahead of the island and engulfed it. There was an enormous explosion ahead of me and then several behind me which seemed to lift the ship several feet. A wall of water rose alongside to some hundred feet then cascaded down on top of me, washing me into the catwalk. For a moment there was a strange silence as flames and smoke billowed near the forward lift and behind the after lift. The ship began listing to port and was moving in a slow circle starboard.”

The destroyer HMS Lookout made a close pass to help assess and fight Indomitable’s fires. She reported seeing men running fire hoses on to the burning deck .

Slowing to 12 knots and falling behind the convoy, the burning carrier was unable to land or launch aircraft due to the fires and gaping wounds in its structure.

The anti-aircraft cruisers HMS Charybdis and Phoebe and the destroyers HMS Lookout, Lightning and Somali clustered around the carrier to form a protective screen.

Indomitable’s aircraft were forced to land aboard HMS Victorious. Those that could not be stowed below or in the deck park had to be rolled off the carrier’s stern and into the sea. A patrol of four Fulmars was flown off early to provide deck space. This patrol had been earmarked to help cover the convoy’s passage to Malta later that evening. It would no longer be possible to do so.

Six officers and 44 men had been killed in the attack. The 59 wounded were receiving treatment.

In keeping with orders not to attack damaged ships, the Germans now turned their attention to the battleship HMS Rodney. At 1842 a Ju87D scored a hit on X turret. The bomb glanced off the thick armour to detonate in the sea. The battleship reported shooting down a bomber, observing it crash into the sea off the port bow.

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It was to be the raid’s last attack.

Admiral Syfret was faced with a dilemma. He was shortly due to separate Force Z from the convoy, but the fleet had intended to remain close enough to offer a degree of fighter protection as well as offer its deterrent value against any foray by the Italian fleet.

But the force had lost two thirds of its aircraft and the crippled Indomitable needed cover as she slowly limped towards safety.

At 1855, 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled departure time, Admiral Syfret ordered Force Z to turn towards its designated station just out of air attack range of Sardinia. This would help shield the wounded Indomitable long enough to make good her escape.

He was confident the cruisers and destroyers of Admiral Burroughs’ Force X would be sufficient to see the merchantmen through to the safety of Malta’s Spitfire screen.

Arthur Lawson was a leading telegraphist aboard Indomitable:

“Round about 1930 the attacks were being concentrated on the carriers and Indomitable was under continuous bombing, while fighting back tooth-and-nail. Suddenly the ship shuddered from stern to stern and one had the strangest feeling of great resistance being exerted by the whole vessel to stop herself being pressed underwater. A strange hush prevailed immediately following the hits, followed by the bedlam of the damage control parties going about their grisly work. My most vivid memory of that moment was seeing an officer finishing a drink he was having with half his head blown away!”

In a letter from Gen Cumbat of 102 Gruppo, based at Pantellelria, to Peter C. Smith, the Italian Stuka pilot tells of his flight of nine engaging HMS Indomitable at 1840, August 12. He had selected as his target ‘an aircraft carrier located forward of the central line of ships in the convoy’:

During my short dive we were surrounded by the outlines of shells from the anti-aircraft guns of all the warships. I dropped my load of bombs and pulled out about 200m from sea level. During that critical phase Cavallo warned me, ‘Fighter on your tail’. I had not yet reached my line of manoeuvre before two cannon blows ripped through both my wings and a machine-gun volley reduced my right fuel tank to the appearance of a soup strainer!

We employed on our Ju87s a private camera operated by the gunners to try to get some pictures during our attacks, but as you can well imagine, the results were very poor and not definite. From this attack I lost both my wing men to the flak and myself did not obtain any witness of my results or documentation. That night, at 0200 on the 3rd, Catania Air Headquarters called me at base asking if I could confirm that my unit had scored hits on an aircraft carrier as the Germans were claiming it for their Stukas. I replied that I could not prove it either way, but should they obtain better information than I then they should award credit to one of my two lost companions who were seen to complete their dives. I never subsequently checked further all I know is that I lost two very brave and enthusiastic young pilots that day.

HMS INDOMITABLE comes about to bring the wind over the deck to blow smoke from the fires raging fore and aft away from the ship.

Aftermath

An account from a sailor aboard HMS Eskimo

By about 1800 the sky became thick with aircraft obviously waiting for a co-ordinated attack. There were 42 bombers, mostly JU87 dive-bombers, 40 Savoias and 38 fighters according to one report totalling one hundred and twenty planes. At any rate there were a hell of a lot and these were harried by the carriers’ 22 fighters whose pilots must have been exhausted by this time. Then the enemy attacked and there were planes everywhere and all ships were firing every gun and in the middle of it all it was evident that the aircraft carriers were the main target. Suddenly huge plumes of smoke appeared in the bows and stern of the Indomitable as the Stukas dived down on her and hit her with 2 or 3 bombs. She turned towards us escorted by the anti aircraft cruiser Scylla and as she got close we could see a huge piece of her side plating hanging loose and a plume of black smoke rising near her stern, but she was not put out of action completely.

The German’s assessment of the day’s attacks was surprisingly accurate. They believed they had damaged one “American” aircraft carrier with six bomb hits. They also reported damaging a cruiser and a destroyer, along with one 20,000ton merchant ship.

It is thought that Indomitable’s higher freeboard and lighter paint – used in the Indian Ocean station – had confuse the German pilots into believing she was the USS Wasp.

Now only HMS Victorious’ fighters – with a handful she had recovered from Indomitable – remained to cover Force Z. There were 10 operational Fulmars, eight Sea Hurricanes and three Martlets.

HMS Indomitable had aircraft languishing inside her armoured hangar, waiting as damage control crews frantically worked to clear the tangled mass of steel that was the flight deck.

Two hours after being hit, at 1927, HMS Indomitable signaled she could make 17 knots. An hour later she was making 28.5 knots towards the safety of Gibraltar.

It was HMS Rodney, shocked by at least two near-misses, which slowed Force Z to 18 knots. Her engine room was still having boiler troubles.

Operation Pedestal’s air cover had been dramatically reduced - but it had achieved what had been asked of it. Now Force Z had turned back, the convoy’s merchant vessels were left with only the guns of the close-escort cruisers, destroyers and frigates for protection. Their air defence was in the hands of Malta's Spitfires and Beaufighters.

12 August: Evening Air and Submarine attacks: HMS KENYA under air attack on her return voyage to Gibraltar.

A destroyer comes alongside HMS NIGERIA after the cruiser was torpedoed on August 12.

2030 Attack 5

The final Axis effort for the day was carried out by 12 S79 torpedo bombers and 28 Italian Ju87Rs. This force found Force X and the merchantmen still pushing towards Malta.

Four of HMS Victorious’s Fulmars had been slated to provide cover for Pedestal at this point. However, the chaos on the carrier’s flight deck after landing-on Indomitable’s fighters had forced the section to take off too early.

The Italian attack scored no hits for the loss of two Stukas.

As this air attack unfolded, several Italian submarines were able to penetrate the destroyer screen. The cruisers HMS Nigeria and Cairo, both equipped with modern radar and aircraft direction equipment, were torpedoed. So was the vital tanker Ohio. A short time later, at 2112, the cruiser Kenya was also hit.

Upon returning to Pantellerina at 2045, the Italian aircraft were themselves attacked by Beaufighters. The strike started a blaze in a fuel dump and destroyed five aircraft.

Nigeria limped towards safety but Cairo had to be scuttled. The loss of the convoy’s only two fighter-direction ships would be sorely felt.

Admiral Syfret was once again forced to act: Indomitable had picked up speed, reducing her vulnerability to attack. He detached the cruiser HMS Charybdis and the “Tribal” class destroyers Somali and Eskimo from her screen, ordering them to make best speed towards the weakened convoy. With most of its escorting destroyers scattered, the merchantmen of Operation Pedestal were now at the mercy of Axis air, surface and submarine attacks.

HMS Nelson, Victorious, Phoebe, Sirius and the destroyers HMS Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Quentin and Tartar took up station outside of bomber range from Sardinia.

At 2300, HMS Rodney and Indomitable, along with the damaged Ithuriel and five other destroyers were ordered back to Gibraltar.

HMS Indomitable’s damage control crews were eventually able to restore the flight deck to a condition capable of launching and recovering aircraft: But not until well after the operation was over.


The Amazing True Story of How The Allies Supplied Malta during WWII

Malta was a strategic lynchpin during World War II, one the Allies were unwilling to abandon.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Malta never forgot Operation Pedestal and the Ohio. In 1946, crowds cheered and bands played as the rusty hulk of the tanker was towed out of the Grand Harbor for the last time. While a remembrance service was conducted for those who died in the convoy, she was sunk in the waters she had plied during one of the naval epics of World War II.

Located 58 miles south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, the rocky, 122-square-mile island of Malta was the hinge upon which all Allied operations in the Middle East turned during the first half of World War II.

Torpedo bombers and submarines operating from the British crown colony and naval base maintained the only effective striking force against Axis convoys to North Africa. In the summer of 1942, only 40 percent of German supply ships were reaching Tunisia to nourish Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and his Italian allies.

Malta: Linchpin of the Mediterranean

Malta was a strategic linchpin and, therefore, a prime target of the enemy. For the bitter years of 1940-1942, German and Italian bombers bludgeoned the island in a vain effort to pound it into submission, but the defenders—British troops and the staunch Maltese islanders— fought the longest epic defense action of the war. The tiny garrison never exceeded 25,000 fighting men, a few squadrons of Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighters, and two flotillas of Royal Navy submarines.

Almost daily, the enemy bombers and fighters bombed and strafed Malta and its installations, while antiaircraft batteries fired back and the islanders took shelter in limestone tunnels and caves. It was a desperate time. Almost every building on the island was destroyed or damaged, and the soldiers and airmen rarely left their trenches and air raid shelters, ready at any hour for the dreaded arrival of enemy parachute and glider-borne invaders.

An Island Pushed to its Limits

Malta held on defiantly as the free world watched, but the situation became increasingly critical. Failing to overwhelm its defenders, the enemy clamped a tight blockade around Malta. As the island’s resources ran low, the question of relief challenged Allied planners. In the first half of 1942, only one merchant ship in seven was able to breach the blockade. There was a slender lifeline. British minelaying submarines based in Alexandria, Egypt—HMS Cachalot, HMS Porpoise, HMS Rorqual, HMS Osiris, HMS Urge, and others—were able to steal through with modest cargoes of medical stores, kerosene, armor-piercing shells, powdered milk, gasoline, and mailbags. But it was not enough.

Hardship and shortages beset Malta’s defenders. The civilian population was subjected to tight rationing, subsisting on only 16 ounces of food a day. Fighter planes were forbidden to taxi to and from runways in order to conserve fuel. They were towed by trucks. Antiaircraft batteries were limited to 20 shells or four ammunition belts a day, according to caliber.

Malta had to be kept in the war somehow. The Germans and Italians were determined to knock it out. Between March and June 1942, no Allied ships reached the island. Each convoy making a relief effort was massacred by enemy planes and submarines. That July, with the outlook grimmer than ever, General John V. Gort, the governor of Malta, sent a signal to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Estimate food and petrol stocks will be exhausted by August 21 in spite of severe rationing. Hesitate to request further naval sacrifices, but cannot guarantee Malta’s safety after this date without further supplies.” The message from Gort, a much-decorated hero of World War I and the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation, was an understatement of the island’s plight.

Forming the Pedestal Convoy

Hastily, the British Admiralty planned a desperate attempt to beat Lord Gort’s deadline and save Malta—a large relief convoy code-named Operation Pedestal. It would be the most powerful convoy yet attempted, with a heavy fleet escort of battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers shepherding 13 merchant ships and a tanker. On this complex operation—the most dangerous Allied convoy yet undertaken —depended the survival of Malta and, indirectly, the fate of millions.

The heavy escort was to be provided by two venerable sister battleships, HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney, each displacing 34,000 tons and armed with nine 16-inch guns and a dozen six-inchers. Vice Admiral Sir Neville Syfret flew his flag in Nelson, as flag officer commanding what was called Force Z. With him would go a squadron of three aircraft carriers—the new HMS Indomitable, the 1939-built HMS Victorious, and the aging HMS Eagle. Commanded by Rear Admiral A.L. St. George Lyster, carrying his flag in Indomitable, the three flattops mounted 46 Hurricanes, 10 Grumman Martlets (Wildcats), and 16 Fairey Fulmars of the Fleet Air Arm to provide fighter cover.

With this main escort would be three fast antiaircraft cruisers—HMS Charybdis, HMS Phoebe, and HMS Sirius—and 14 destroyers. Providing close escort to the merchantmen were the heavy cruisers HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya, and HMS Manchester, and the antiaircraft cruiser HMS Cairo, comprising Force X and led by Rear Admiral Sir Harold Burrough. The mission of this force, supported by 11 destroyers, was to cover the convoy through to Malta after Force Z had turned back to the Skerki Narrows, between Tunisia and southwestern Sicily.

In a separate operation from Pedestal, the carrier HMS Furious, with a destroyer escort, was to fly off 38 Spitfire fighters as reinforcements for Malta. Backing up the fleet were two oilers with a corvette escort, a deep-sea rescue tug, and a salvage vessel. All in all, it was the largest naval operation to be set in motion in the Mediterranean.

The fast merchant ships carrying 42,000 tons of food, flour, ammunition, and other supplies to beleaguered Malta were the Port Chalmers, in which the convoy commodore Royal Navy Commander A.G. Venables flew his pennant Santa Elisa and Almeria Lykes, American-owned and -manned general cargo ships Wairangi, Waimarama, and Empire Hope of the Shaw Savill Line Brisbane Star and Melbourne Star of the Blue Star Line Dorset of Federal Steam Navigation Co. Rochester Castle of the Union Castle Line Deucalion of the Blue Funnel Line Glenorchy of the Glen Line and Clan Ferguson of the Clan Line. The 14th cargo vessel, and arguably the most important because she was carrying desperately needed aviation fuel, was the new, 14,000-ton tanker Ohio. Owned by Texaco Oil Co., she had been loaned to the British for a special convoy. Ohio was manned by volunteer British seamen and commanded by Captain Dudley W. Mason of Eagle Oil & Shipping Co. of London. The tanker’s ordeal in the Mediterranean would be hailed as one of the maritime epics of World War II.

Although no attempt was to be made to pass a second convoy through from the eastern end of the Mediterranean as had been done before, a cover plan was devised whereby Admiral Sir Henry Harwood would mount a dummy operation from Alexandria in company with Admiral Sir Philip Vian from Haifa, Palestine. The idea was to confuse waiting German and Italian naval and air units, whose commanders knew that the British would make another attempt to relieve besieged Malta. A total of five cruisers, 15 destroyers, and five merchantmen would sail as if bound for Malta, and then, on the second night out, disperse and turn back. It was hoped that this would tie down some of the enemy forces.

Meanwhile, Air Vice Marshal Keith Park on Malta was to hold in readiness a torpedo bomber strike force in case the Italian Fleet might be tempted to leave its major base at Taranto. Park, a distinguished fighter group leader in the 1940 Battle of Britain, would keep the rest of his air strength, 130 fighters, for support of the Pedestal convoy. Six Royal Navy submarines from Malta were to patrol west of the island in case Italian warships tried to interfere in the area of Pantelleria, while two would prowl to the north of Sicily.

Even as the Pedestal ships were loaded and crews mustered in Scotland’s River Clyde, the enemy waited in the Mediterranean. German and Italian bombers, dive-bombers, and torpedo planes were lined up on the airfields of Sicily and Sardinia along with fighters and reconnaissance aircraft. About 70 planes were on alert as a reception committee for the British convoy. Eighteen Italian submarines and three German U-boats were on patrol off Malta and between Algiers and the Balearic Islands German E-boats and Italian motor torpedo boats lay in wait off Cape Bon, Tunisia, where a new minefield had been sown, and three heavy and three light cruisers along with 10 destroyers were ready to intercept the Pedestal convoy south of Sicily.

“Secrecy is Essential”

As the convoy ships assembled in the Clyde, Captain Mason, the lithe, 40-year-old skipper of the tanker Ohio, briefed his crew in the petty officers’ mess. “We sail this afternoon,” he said quietly. “Our destination is Malta you all know what that means…. Ohio is the only tanker. We shall have to fight with 13,000 tons of high-octane fuel aboard. Now is the time for anyone who wants to back out to say so. I must warn you that if you choose to go ashore, you will be kept in custody of the naval provost marshal until the operation is over. Secrecy is essential.”


Malta and Convoys

Convoys were vital to the survival of Malta during World War Two. Malta needed supplies brought in by convoys on a regular basis if it was to survive and provide the Royal Navy with the base it needed in the mid-Mediterranean. There were two convoy routes to Malta. One was from the British base at the port of Alexandria in Egypt. The second was from Gibraltar. Both were very dangerous routes as U-boats patrolled the Mediterranean Sea as did Axis aircraft. The fall of Crete in 1941 had provided the Germans were another place to set up airfields. The sea route between Crete and Alexandria was nicknamed ‘Bomb Alley’ by those who sailed there. When Axis forces retook Libya, the airfields there could also be brought back into play.

On February 12 th 1942, a convoy of three freighters left Alexandria bound for Malta. Two cruisers, eight destroyers and one anti-aircraft ship, the ‘Carlisle’, guarded the three freighters ‘Clan Campbell’, ‘Rowallan Castle’ and ‘Clan Chattan’. These eleven ships provided a great amount of anti-aircraft fire between them. However, none of the three freighters made it to Malta. The damage to ‘Clan Chattan’ and ‘Rowallan Castle’ was such that both were scuttled while ‘Clan Campbell’ limped into Tobruk harbour. The Axis aerial attacks occurred when the convoys were too far from Malta for the island’s small Hurricane force to give help – and aerial support was just what the convoys needed. On March 20 th another convoy of three freighters left Alexandria bound for Malta. This time Beaufighters escorted the freighters. They got through ‘Bomb Alley’ by the following day. However, the Beaufighters only had a limited range. Once the convoy had got through ‘Bomb Alley’, it had to face an Italian fleet based around the battleship ‘Littorio’, three cruisers and four destroyers. The convoy’s naval escort blanketed the freighters with a smokescreen and were assisted in this by an unexpected gale that made the smokescreen more effective. The Italians were also wary of the torpedoes carried by the British destroyers. However, in the confusion, the Italians did succeed in splitting the convoy. The four freighters were separated but each had a destroyer escort. They were ordered to make to Malta at full speed so that they would arrive at night and under the cover of darkness. However, they arrived at first light on March 23 rd just as an air attack on the island was starting. Two of the freighters were sunk – the newly repaired ‘Clan Campbell’ and ‘Breconshire’ – but two did make it into harbour (the ‘Talabot’ and ‘Pampas’) and the crews were given a delirious welcome by the people of Valetta who were in desperate need of the supplies being carried.

Convoys to Malta from Gibraltar were equally as dangerous as they had to face the might of Field Marshal’s Kesselring’s Fliegerkorps II based in Italy as well as U-boats.

However, by June 1942, Malta was desperately short of food and fuel. A decision was taken to send two convoys to Malta – one from Gibraltar and one from Alexandria – at the same time so that Axis forces would be split when they attacked. Five freighters and a tanker sailed from Gibraltar on June 11 th in ‘Operation Harpoon’. At the same time eleven freighters sailed from Port Said in ‘Operation Vigorous’. The Royal Navy heavily escorted both freighter convoys. However, facing both were Axis aircraft, U-boats, Italian submarines, MTB’s and in the eastern Mediterranean, the Italian fleet based around the battleship ‘Littorio’. An unexpected complication for ‘Harpoon’ was a report – that proved to be correct – that two Italian cruisers and five Italian destroyers were in the western Mediterranean.

‘Operation Harpoon’ never had the air cover that it needed and had to face almost incessant attacks by German and Italian aircraft. The Stuka’s were especially effective. By the time the convoy got to Malta, only two freighters had survived but they brought with them 15,000 tons of desperately needed supplies.

‘Operation Vigorous’ fared much worse. None of the freighters got to Malta and the Royal Navy lost or had damaged a number of ships such as the cruisers ‘Birmingham’ and ‘Newcastle’. The real damage was done in ‘Bomb Alley’ where once again the Stuka proved very effective.

Out of a total of seventeen freighters that set out for Malta, only two arrived. The loss rate was huge both in terms of freighters and manpower. However, the tide of events was turning in the Mediterranean. The arrival of Mark V Spitfires gave the RAF and Fleet Air Arm a much-needed boost. While these fighters had a limited time in the air and could not help in ‘Bomb Alley’, they could give vital air cover to convoys as they approached Malta. The arrival of Beaufighters, which had a greater range, was also a great boost.

One convoy named ‘Operation Pedestal’ (August 1942) ended with the fuel tanker ‘Ohio’ reaching the Grand Harbour. However, losses on this convoy were also high as the aircraft carrier ‘Eagle’ was lost along with two cruisers and one destroyer. Nine merchant ships were also destroyed or sufficiently damaged that they could not continue the journey. 400 men lost their lives. However, the fuel that ‘Ohio’ carried allowed the island to continue for another three months and in that time Rommel’s power in North Africa declined due to lack of supplies and fuel.


Watch the video: Οι χειρότερες φυσικές καταστροφές Η ΑΠΙΣΤΕΥΤΗ ΔΥΝΑΜΗ ΤΗΣ ΦΥΣΗΣ


Comments:

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  2. Coire

    She said clever things)

  3. Mezizragore

    I think I mean both

  4. Kevan

    This business of your hands!



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