Jump to content


Banging On in the Med

  • Please log in to reply
No replies to this topic

#1 W. Clark

W. Clark

    Lt Colonel

  • Members
  • 617 posts
  • LocationOregon, out in the sticks

Posted 30 March 2024 - 01:54 PM

Banging On in the Central Med.

7-16 July 1940

The Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet in June 1940 was a powerful force of 4 battleships, 1 carrier, 8 cruisers and 20 destroyers on paper. But it operated under several severe restraints. Malaya and the R class battleships had their speed restricted due to need for refit and the C class cruisers were old, weak, and slow (28 knots). Eagle, the carrier was also old, weak, and slow (24 knots). Replacements, let alone reinforcements could only come by stripping other over stretched theaters of ships. Force H, at Gibraltar provided some assistance but was not under the Med. Fleet’s command.

The opponent, the Regia Marina had at the start (10 June 1940) 2 old (but rebuilt) battleships that were faster (27 knots), 7 Heavy cruisers (the Med had none), 14 light cruisers (2 old) and 55 destroyers (6 old).


For the period 7-16 July 1940, Admiral Cunningham sortied the following missions, a Sweep into the CM (Central Med.), A Fast Convoy to Malta (TE), CG in the CM and a Sweep into the Sicilian Narrows to disrupt RM attempts at minelaying. This was an all-out effort to impose the will of the RN on the RM in the CM. Force H would conduct an air raid on Sardina airfields (also a TE).


Force A CM Sweep 1: Admiral Cunningham

1st Battle Sqdn, 1st Division

Warspite FF & Malaya

DesFlot 2

DesDiv 3: Hyperion, Havock, Heroo & Hereward

DesDiv 4: Hostile, Hasty, Ilex & Imperial


Force B (fast) Malta Convoy: Rear Admiral Pridhan-Whipple

1st Battle Sqdn, 2nd Division

Ramillies DF & Royal Sovereign

DesFlot 10

DesDiv 20: Dainty, Decoy, Diamond & Defender

3 AP: El Nil, Knight of Malta & Rodi


Force C CM CG: Rear Admiral Lyster

Eagle FF AG: 6 Swordfish & 1 Sea Gladiator

3rd Cruiser Sqdn, 1st Division: Rear Admiral de Renouf

Capetown DF, Caledon & Calyso

DesFlot 10: HMAS Stuart

DesDiv 19: Waterhen & Vendetta


Force D Sicilian Narrows Sweep: Vice Admiral Tovey

7th Cruiser Sqdn

Orion SF, Neptune & HMAS Sydney

3rd Cruiser Sqdn, 2nd Division

Gloucester DF & Liverpool

DesFlot 14

DesDiv 27: Jervis, Janus & Juno

DesDiv ?: Nubian & Mohawk


The first thing that went wrong was that RAdm Pridham-Whipple had to shift his flag as Ramilles broke down and could not sortie (rolled an 11 on 4.8.1 availability table).


The sweep in the CM got through the EM OK, but ran into the Regia Aeronautica in the CM. It turned out that some 70% of the available RA a/c swarmed Force A for several hours. Force A was wet from bomb splashes but unharmed. But Force A accomplished nothing. It failed to contact two of the three RM sorties in the CM. And the RM force it did contact consisted of a pair of battle ships, some cruisers and destroyers that had no problem staying out of the RN battleships’ range as the 27 knot RM BBs had a 4-knot speed advantage over Malaya.


The Malta Convoy also got through the EM and CM without incident, reaching Malta intact.


The CG on the other hand attracted the RA in the EM and Capetown suffered minor hull damage from a near miss. In the CM the CG made contact with the RM sweep that had avoided Force A and attacked it with 4 flights of Swordfish. The RM AA did not fair any better than the RN AA had. But the Swordfish whiffed completely also. The CG did not contact any other of the RM missions in the CM.


The sweep in the Narrows managed to avoid the RA in both the EM and the CM. Force D made contact with the Sweep that Force A had not been able to engage and that Force C had failed to torpedo while transiting the CM. But while dawn was coming it was still night and without radar Force D ran smack into the RM sweep. Fortunately for Force D it’s acquisition roll allowed it to see 2,000 yards farther than the RM saw and it turned away under smoke and escaped without engaging.

But shortly afterwards at 0800 hours it was contacted by a second RM Sweep and in daylight it could not dodge the engagement completely.


The wind was a Force 2 Westerly at 4 knots. The sky was cloudy. There were no squalls and no sea haze. Visibility was 25,000 yards.


Force D was led by DesDiv 27 in line abreast (from the left) as a screen, CruSqdns 7 and 3 and DesDiv ? followed in a column. The whole shebang was knocking on at 20 knots on a heading of 270 degrees. VAdm Tovey after the near miss with RM bats has put up a FP from Orion at dawn so he would not be blind to any other RM force that just happened to be in his way.

0800 hours

The FP reported enemy in sight, relative bearing was 8 points to starboard (North) and closing on a heading of 225 degrees. Tovey ordered Force D to 30 knots and a turn to a heading of 225 degrees to keep the separation. Tovey’s mission was in the Narrows, not in the CM and his intention was first things first.

0806 hours

The FP reported that he must be spotted as the RM force had also increased speed and was coming on.

0818 hours

The FP reported that the RM had also launched its FPs. The FP further reported the RM Force as 5 cruisers and 12 destroyers. FP also reported that Force D was maintaining its distance at 30 knots.

0824 hours

Tovey ordered Force D back to a heading of 270 degrees and the RM gained a bit by cutting the corner.
0830-1600 hours

Force D had been pursued by the RM all day and had reached the Narrows only to fail to intercept any RM attempt at minelaying. Tovey now needed to RTB but the RM was between him and home. Tovey would turn SE and try to work his way round the RM.

Tovey had redeployed DesFlot 14 to his port side as he could use it to cover him with smoke.

1630 hours

The wind held steady and the weather and visibility were holding also. Tovey had launched the rest of his FPs to spot if it came to gun fight. The RM came into sight and DesFlot 14 began making funnel smoke. Tovey had his cruisers at flank speed (32 knots). The RM took a heading of 135 degrees that mirrored his own heading.

1636-2000 hours

Tovey was nearing the Libyan coast and would have to turn East to about 90 degrees to get home. He knew that the RM could cut the corner on him and it would be a near run thing but he didn’t see any option and turned East at Dusk. He would slip past in the dark as both sides rolled so poorly for acquisition that they would have had to scrap paint to see one another.


Forces A, B & C made it home to Alexandria without incident. The long-suffering Force D found the RA awaiting it in the EM. Force D was straddled thrice (Oh now they can hit the target! Isn’t that special!) Janus took three hull hits and damage to her engines. Mohawk took hull damage from a near miss.

Wrap Up

The only campaign (victory) points for the RN were 2 for the Malta Convoy. The RM had also run 2 sweeps that failed to abort any missions and two convoys to Benghazi and Tripoli that garnered 1 CP between them. Of course, the Malta Convoy was a theater event and not something the RN could run otherwise. The two damaged destroyers would be out for a month and two months respectively. PS Force H didn’t cause enough damage to help at all.


Force H was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet logistically but received its operational orders direct from the Admiralty. So, the Med only gets the benefit of it when a theater event die roll says so.




  • Thomas J Fitzgerald and healey36 like this

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users