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Operation Pedestal - Convoy WS. 5. 21. S

Ohio enters Grand Harbour

To say the Pedestal Convoy was important would be a gross understatement. Malta was virtually out of ammunition, fuel & supplies.
Had this convoy been destroyed it would have meant the surrender of Malta to Axis forces. Fuel was down to a critical level & aircraft would have been grounded giving no fighter air protection.
Everything was put into this convoy as a maximum effort to re-supply Malta.
Axis forces similarly put everything into sinking it before it reached Malta. The Italians even tried new weapons such as radio controlled flying bombs & circling aerial torpedoes.
This later weapon would be dropped by aircraft. On hitting the water they would not go in a straight course but circle until they hit a target or ran out of fuel.
The Luftwaffe brought aircraft from as far away as France to attack the convoy.

I would strongly recommend Peter C. Smith's work - Pedestal - The Malta Convoy of August 1942.
A website such as this has constraints & hopefully those interested will go out & buy a few books to get a fuller picture.

Merchant Ships taking part in Pedestal
Convoy Commodore A.G.Venables R.N. (retired)

Almeria Lykes
7,773 tons

Captain W.Henderson

Almeria Lykes
taken 16th May 1942.

Cargo - Ammunition & military equipment surrounded by 9,700 tons of general cargo. Another hold held bombs.
She was torpedoed by (possibly) the German E boats S 30 & S 36 in the E boat zone between Pantelleria Island & Kelibia. She was abandoned but remained afloat for awhile. Some of the crew reboarded to set scuttling charges but these failed to sink her. The destroyer Somali tried to sink the ship by gunfire but failed.

Brisbane Star
12,791 tons

Captain F.N.Riley

Photo courtesy of Tony Jones -
Hit in the bow by torpedo from an Italian aircraft (SM79) & stopped but managed to get under way again. The Captain followed the coast of Tunisia to hide the ships silhouette.

Clan Ferguson
7,347 tons

Captain A.N.Cossar

Armaments: 1 x 4" gun, 2 x 40mm, 8 x 20mm.

Hit by aerial torpedo from an Italian aircraft (SM79) on the 13th. The burning ship was finally sunk by the Italian submarine Bronzo which fired a single torpedo, blowing her bows off.

7,516 tons

Captain R.Brown

Armaments: 1 x 4·7" gun, 2 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm & 4 depth charges.

Cargo - aviation spirit.
Hit 12th August following a massed attack by Italian aircraft. The destroyer HMS Bramham was detailed to guard the vessel & they slowly set off for the African coast hoping to sneak eastwards without being observed.
At sunset on the 12th she was found by two Heinkels & torpedoed. She sank & all crew were transferred to HMS Bramham.

Empire Hope
12,688 tons

Captain G.Williams

Armaments: 1 x 4·7" gun, 1 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm & 4 depth charges.

Hit by enemy aircraft at 20.50 (2 bombs) 13th August & set ablaze. One bomb penetrated No.4 hold which contained explosives. Fire spread to high octane aircraft fuel. She had a 15' hole in her side. The fire was reported as being a 'beacon until nearly midnight' when an Italian submarine finished her off.
HMS Penn tried to rescue the crew from the burning sea.

10,624 tons

Captain J.C.Tuckett

Armaments: 1 x 4" gun, 1 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm & 2 depth charges.

Hit by dive bombers in No.4 hold. A large fire ensued in the cargo of high octane. The ship was abandoned & the crew picked up by Bramham.It was intended to scuttle the ship but the charges were in the flooded area of the ship.
She was reboarded with a view to attaching a tow but the fire had taken control of the ship & the idea was abandoned.
She was hit by 2 bombs in seperate attacks & started to go down by the stern.

8,982 tons

Captain G.Leslie

Armaments: 1 x 4" gun, 2 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm, & 3 depth charges

Cargo - Aviation fuel.
Hit by 2 torpedoes off Keriba light, Tunisia by Italian motor torpedo boat Ms 31.
The ship was sunk.

Melbourne Star
12,806 tons

Captain D.R.Macfarlane

Photo courtesy of Tony Jones -
Cargo - 1,350 tons high octane spirit, 700 tons kerosene, 1,450 tons high explosive shell & heavy oil.
She was following the Waimarama when this ship was bombed & sank. Parts of this striken ship showered down on her including steel plates 5 feet long & a shell which penetrated the captaions cabin. One of her kerosene tanks ignited as she sailed through the burning sea.

9,514 tons

Captain D.Mason

Armaments: 1 x 5" gun, 1 x 3" gun, 1 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm.

Ohio discharging oil at Malta after Operation Pedestal.

Ohio started the convoy with 13,000 tons of petroleum products.
Hit by torpedo from the Italian submarine Axum on the 12th.
Nearing Malta she was again bombed with one Ju 87 crashing nearby & bouncing onto the deck remained there. A Ju 88 hit by gunfire crashed into the sea & slid into the side of the Ohio. The explosion blew out the boilers & she was adrift.
With engines stopped Penn tried to tow the 30,000 ton ship but it broke the tow line.
Rye took up the tow with Penn acting as steer at the stern. This didn't work so Rye continued to tow from the front & Penn & Ledbury lashed themselves either side of Ohio. Rye lost the towing wire so Penn & Ledbury had to maneuver the crippled ship into Grand Harbour.

Port Chalmers
8,535 tons

Captain H.G.Pinkey

Armaments: 1 x 4" gun, 2 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm.

Survived the convoy & made it to Malta.

Rochester Castle
7,795 tons

Captain R.Wren

Hit by torpedo probably from Italian motor torpedo boat Ms 26 above the bilge keel in No.3 hold off the Tunisian coast near Keribia light. Damage caused a hole 25 x 18' in her side.

Santa Elisa
8,379 tons

Captain T.Thompson

Santa Elisa taken 17th January 1942.

Cargo - Aviation fuel.
Hit by torpedo from Italian motor torpedo boat Mas. 564 in the E boat zone between Panteleria Island & Keribia.
This resulted in the ship burning & sinking.
Later bombed by a single Ju 88 where the ship caught fire with many explosions.

12,843 tons

Captain R.S.Pearce

Waimarama on fire & sinking during Pedestal.

Bombed by Ju 88's where one aircraft scored 4 hits out of five bombs dropped. The deck cargo was petrol stowed in tins & the ship quickly set alight & shortly after sank.
One of the aircraft was caught in the blast & disintegrated in mid air.
Thirty three of the ships crew were rescued from the firey water by Ledbury.
In all 87 of the crews company were lost.

12,400 tons

Captain H.R.Gordon

Armaments: 1 x 6" gun, 1 x 40mm, 6 x 20mm & 3 depth charges.

Torpedoed by Italian motor torpedo boats Mas. 552 & 554 (probably both) in the E boat zone between Pantelleria Island & Kiribia. The engines stopped. Despite valliant efforts to get them going again it was not possible & it was decided to scuttle her with charges but this had little effect & some of the crew reboarded & broke the water cooling pipe in the engine room & opened water tight doors. She eventually sank.

Royal Navy Ships taking part in Pedestal
Vice Admiral Sir E.Neville Syfret CB.

Pedestal was a complex operation involving many groups of ships which were called 'Forces'. These were broken up into:-

Force F
The entire convoy force.
Force P
The group from loading in the UK to the rendezvous point.
Force M
Part of Force P but included the carriers Victorious & Argus + escort ships.
Force J
The carrier Eagle + escort ships from Gibraltar to rendezvous point.
Force K
The carrier Indomitable + escort ships from Freetown to rendezvous.
Force G
Carriers + escort ships after rendezvous for Operation Berserk which was basically a training exercise for a group of carriers & escorts.
Force R
Re-fueling tankers commonly called oilers + escort ships.
Force W
Part of the Berserk operation comprising the oiler Abbeydale & escorts.
Force X
Close escort up to Malta.
Force Y
Harpoon convoy & escort on return from Malta to Gibraltar. Return trip named Operation Ascendant.
Force Z
The entire convoy (Force F) minus Force X.

Operation Bellows - A subsidiary operation which included Aircraft carrier HMS Furious & destroyers HMS Lightning & HMS Lookout. The purpose of this operation was to fly off 41 Spitfires from an area south of Ibiza to Malta long range. One was faulty which made 41 flown off between 12.29 & 1.09 hrs.
Another flight left between 1.47 & 3.12hrs. 38 Spitfires were flown off but one had problems with the propeller & landed on Indomitable.
She returned to Gibraltar dry dock & on the 17th was at sea again despatching another 23 Spitfires for Malta.
Force Z
Detached from the convoy 18.55 on the 12th & turned to cruise off the North African coast in readiness should the Italian fleet sail down to join the battle. The next day Indomitable, Rodney, Ithuriel, Amazon, Antelope, Westcott, Wishart & Zetland made for Gibraltar.
Vice Admiral Sir E.Neville Syfret, CB.
Captain H.B.Jacomb
Captain J.W.Rivett-Carnac, DSC
Aircraft Carriers
Flag R/Admiral A/C's, Home Fleet, Rear Admiral Sir A.L.St. A.Lyster, CB
Captain H.C.Bovell
Heavily damaged on the 12th by Stuka's flown by Italian pilots
Rear Admiral D.W.Boyde, OBE, DSC.
Captain T.H.Troubridge
Hit on the port side by 4 torpedoes from U 73 & sank within 6 minutes. Survivors included 67 officers & 862 ratings. The ship sailed with a complement of 1,160.
Captain L.D.Mackintosh, DSC
See above - Operation Bellows.
Captain T.O.Bulteel
Light Cruisers
Captain C.P.Frend
Captain P.W.B.Brooking
Captain G.A.W.Voelcker
Lieutenant Commander E.N.Sinclair
Commander E.G.Le.Geyt, DSC
Lieutenant Commander D.H.Maitland-Makfill-Crichton, DSC
Picked up survivors from HMS Eagle.
Captain (D), 19th DF; Captain R.M.J.Hutton
Commander H.G.Walters, DSC
Picked up survivors from HMS Eagle.
Lieutenant Commander C.P.F.Brown
Lieutenant Commander A.H.P.Noble, DSC
Commander E.N.V.Currey, DSC
Sank Foresight by torpedoes after trying to tow her to Gibraltar. See Foresight.
Commander St.J.R.J.Tyrwhitt, DSC
Lieutenant Commander T.Johnston, DSC
Commander H.G.Scott
Commander I.H.Bockett-Pugh, DSO
Lieutenant R.W.B.Lacon, DSC
Detached from Force Z on the 12th to join Force X on the return to Gibraltar.
Lieutenant A.P.Northey, DSC
Lieutenant J.V.Wilkenson
Force X
Light Cruisers
Nigeria - Flagship
Torpedoed on the 12th by the Italian submarine Axum. She was heavily damaged & returned to Gibraltar with escorts Wilton & Bicester. The flag was transferred to Aschanti.
Rear Admiral, 10th C.S.: Rear Admiral H.M.Burrough, CB, DSO
Hit by 1 torpedo from the Italian submarine Alagi on the 13th.
Captain A.S.Russell
Hit by torpedoes from Italian motor torpedo boats Ms 16 & Ms 22 near Kelibia light, Tunisia on the 13th. Eventually the ship was scuttled & sank. Most of the surviving crew were interned by the French.
Captain H.Drew, DSC
Crippled she was left to be sunk by Pathfinder who fired 4 torpedoes. Only one hit due to faults in the torpedoes. This failed & she was depth charged without success. Pathfinder returned to the convoy & left Derwent to finish off the job by gunfire. She sank on the evening of 13th August
Acting Captain C.C.Hardy, DSO
The flag was transferred to Aschanti following the return to Gibraltar of Nigeria.
Captain (D) 6th DF; Commander R.G.Onslow, DSO
Lieutenant Commander S.W.F.Bennets
Lieutenant E.F.Baines
Finished off the crippled Cairo with gunfire. Then joined the convoy back to Gibraltar.
Commander R.H.Wright, DSC
Hit by torpedo near the steering compartment which broke her back. Tartar was detached to escort her. After many attacks the foresight was unmanoeverable & low in the water. I was decided that Tartar should finish her off with torpedoes which she did.
Lieutenant Commander R.A.Fell
Lieutenant Commander C.H.Campbell, DSC
Lieutenant Commander C.D.Maud, DSC
Lieutenant Commander R.P.Hill
Detailed to sink the crippled Cairo but failed.
Commander E.A.Gibbs, DSO
Lieutenant Commander J.H.Swain
Force Y
This was formerly the Harpoon convoy which was returning from Malta through the Sicilian Channel to Gibraltar.
Arrived Gibraltar 14th August after a skirmish with Italian destroyer Malocello.
Lieutenant G.T.S.Gray, DSC
Lieutenant Commander J.Mowlam
Merchant Ships
Force R
Temp-Lieutenant The Hon. W.K.Rous RNVR
Temp-Lieutenant Commander A.Foxall, RNR
Lieutenant Commander R.E.H.Partington RNR
Temp-Lieutenant G.M.M.Robinson
Lieutenant Commander R.S.Miller, DSC, RD, RNR
Fleet Tankers (Oilers)
Brown Ranger
Master D.B.C.Ralph
Master R.T.Duthie
Later sent back to join the fueling force do to only being able to do 12 knots.
Picked up survivors from
HMS Eagle.
Lieutenant Commander H.Osburn, OBE, RNR
Aircraft Carrier
Attached for Operation Berserk
Captain G.T.Philip, DSC
Force sent from Gibraltar to escort HMS Furious back after Operation Bellows
Lieutenant Commander Lord Teynham
Commander J.E.Broome
Took survivors from HMS Eagle back to Gibraltar.
Commander A.B.Russell
Commander H.W.Falcon-Steward
Rammed the Italian Submarine Dagabur on the night of 11/12th & was damaged in the bow. Returned to Gibraltar escorted by corvettes Burdock & Armeria sent from Gibraltar.
Lieutenant Commander Gretton
Lieutenant Commander E.N.Walmsley, DSC
Malta Escort Force
17th Minesweeping Flotilla
Lieutenant Commander G.Mowatt, RD, RNVR
Lieutenant Commander L.B.Miller
Lieutenant J.A.Pearson, DSC, RNR
Lietenant Commander A.E.Doran (S.E Acting Commander)
3rd Motor Launch Flotilla
ML 121
Sent out from Malta to aid the Ohio, taking off injured crewmen.
Lieutenant Commander E.J.Strowlger, RNVR, (S.O)
ML 126
ML 134
ML 135
ML 168
Sent out from Malta to aid the Ohio. Damaged by air attack & returned to Malta.
ML 459
ML 462
10th Submarine Flotilla (Malta)
S.O.Captain G.W.G.Simpson
At the time of Pedestal this submarine was going back to Gibraltar after delivering vital spares & petrol to Malta.
Lieutenant-Commander J.W.Collett
Commander B.Bryant, DSC
Torpedoed the Italian cruiser Bolzano which ran ashore on the Island of Panarea, later to be refloated & taken to Naples.
Lieutenant A.C.G.Mars
Lieutenant J.B.Kershaw, DSO
Lieutenant P.R.Harrison, DSC
Lieutenant J.S.Stevens, DSO, DSC
Lieutenant A.W.Langridge
Lieutenant T.E.Barlow
Carried a raiding party which was put ashore to attack Catania on the night of 11/12th. All the landing party were captured but managed to cut communications between Syracuse & Catania.
Lieutenant D.S.R.Martin
P 222
Sunk in another operation by the Italian torpedo boat Fortunale 12th December 1942 while attacking a convoy.
Lieutenant Commander A.J.Mackenzie

Axis Ships taking part in Operation Pedestal.

Heavy Cruisers
Torpedoed by British submarine Unbroken. Ran ashore on the Island of Panarea but later refloated & taken to Naples. The ship was never completely repaired before the end of the war & was destroyed in the dock.
Capitano di Vascello Mario Mezzadra
Light Cruisers
Muzio Attendolo
Torpedoed by Unbroken in the same attack as the Bolzano. It blew 60 feet off the bows but the ship managed to reach Messina under her own steam. The ship was never completely repaired before the end of the war & was destroyed in the dock.
Capitano di Vascello Mario Schiavuta
Camicia Nera


Based between Algiers & Majorca
Departed Cagliari. Attacked 30 miles north-west of Algiers but survived.
Tenente di Vascello Luigi Andreotti
700 ton built in 1937 & based at Cagliari.
Rammed by HMS Wolverine 37°18'N, 01°551'E. No survivors were picked up.
Tenente di Vascello Renato Pecori
Depth charged by a Sunderland - TK7R from Gibraltar. Later on surfacing it was attacked by another Sunderland - TK7C but shot the aircraft down, managing to reach Valencia.
Tenente di Vascello Gaspare Cavallina
U 73
750 ton, type VIIB U boat based at Spezia.
Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rosenbaum
U 205
Depth charged by Pathfinder & Zetland 11.35hrs on the 12th but escaped to undergo repairs.
Kapitänleutnant Franz-Georg Rerchke
Stationed between the Fratelli Rocks to the far north approach to the Skerki Narrows.
Fired 4 torpedoes at Kenya, 1 hit the target in the stern.
Tenenta di Vascello Sergio Puccini
Sunk 23rd March 1943 by British destroyers Laforey & Eclipse after surfacing.
Depth charged but escaped to lie up for 5 hours. On surfacing the convoy had disapearred.
Tenente di Vascello Mario Priggione
Based at Cagliari
Made a successful attack on the 12th & fired 4 torpedoes which all hit targets - Nigeria, Cairo (2 torpedoes), & Ohio. All came to a halt.
Tenente di Vascello Renato Ferrini
Finished off the burning Clan Ferguson on the 13th with 1 torpedo.
Tenente di Cascello Cesare Buldrini

750 tons. Based at Cagliari.

Photos of this sinking can be found in the book 'Pedestal' by Peter Smith.

Depth charged by Ithuriel on the 12th the submarine broke surface & was rammed by Ithuriel.
Survivors picked up were 3 officers including the captain & 38 ratings.

HMS Ithuriel
ramming Italian submarine Cobalto.

Tenente di Vascello Raffaele Amicarelli
Tenente di Vascello Giovanni Febbraro
Based at Trapani
Tenente di Vascello Renato Scandola
Scuttled following an at attack by the armed trawler Lord Nuffield during follow up landings of Operation Torch 1942 - The allied landing in Algeria. Surfaced due to engine failure & fought with deck guns.
Tenente di Vascello Giuseppe Franco
Fired 4 torpedoes at Aschanti on the return to Gibraltar as part of Force X near Fratelli Rocks but all missed. Turning to escape it fired 2 more torpedoes from the stern tubes which failed to hit anything.
Granito was sunk by Saracen off north-west Sicily 9th November 1942.
Tenente di Vascello Sposito
Reports suggest this submarine was off the coast of Algeria in August 1942 but returned to Cagliari & then onto Taranto for a refit. Following the Italian surrender it eventually returned to Taranto where it was used as a target ship eventually being scrapped.
Stationed to the west of Malta
Italian 18th Squadron
Motor Torpedo Boats
Ms 16
Torpedoed Manchester near Kelibia Light
Capitano di Corvetta Giogio Manuti
Ms 22
Torpedoed Manchester near Kelibia Light
Sottotenente di Vascello Franco Mezzadra
Ms 23
Sottotenente di Vascello Patrone
Ms 25
Tenente di Vascello Le Pera
Ms 26
Thought to have hit Rochester Castle with 1 torpedo off Keribia light.
Sottotenente di Vascello Bencini
Ms 31
Torpedoed Glenorchy off Keriba light with 2 torpedoes
Tenente di Vascello Antonio Calvani
Italian 20th Squadron
Mas. 552
Torpedoed Wairangi in the E boat zone between Pantelleria Island & Keribia. Mas 553 may have also been in on this attack.
Sottotenente di Vascello Perasso
Mas. 553
Reported torpedoing a tanker. Santa Elisa was the probable target still burning from a previous attack.
Tenente di Vascello Paolizza
Mas. 554
Sottotenente di Vascello Calcagno
Mas. 556
Claimed a torpedo hit near Kelibia light off the Tunisian coast but no hit was recorded by allied ships.
Tenente di Vascello Luii Sala
Mas. 557
Fired torpedo at Santa Elisa in the E boat zone between Pantelleria Island & Keribia but missed.
Guarda-Marina Cafiero Battista
Mas. 564
Torpedoed & sank Santa Elisa in the E boat zone between Pantelleria Island & Keribia.
Tenenti di Vascelle Iafrate
German E Boats
S 30
Torpedoed Almeria Lykes between Pantelleria & Kebilia.
Oberleutnant zur See Weber
S 36
Torpedoed Almeria Lykes between Pantelleria & Kebilia.
Oberleutnant zur See Brauns
S 59
Reported hitting a tanker with 2 torpedoes in the Kelibia area but no tanker reported being hit in this area.
Oberleutnant zur See Albert Muller

Kelibia Light - This was a lighthouse on the Tunisian coast. As Tunisia was neutral the lighthouse was kept running, casting a powerful light out to
sea & illuminating the darkened allied ships giving axis boats a clear target. This was known as an E boat area & stretched from Kelibia on the Tunisian coast to the
Italian held island of Pantelleria

Convoy MG 3

This was a diversionary convoy sent out from Haifa & Port Said in the eastern Mediterranean. The purpose was to sail to Alexandria & try to lure the Italian
fleet away from Pedestal. Also the Luftwaffe on Crete would be diverted in this direction to take some pressure off Pedestal. In fact the aircraft had already
been deployed in other areas & the Italian fleet stayed in harbour.

This operation joined up on the 11th & steamed westwards until dusk when they turned round & headed back eastwards.
Commanding Officer - Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vain

Sailing from Port Said - Dusk 10th August

Merchant Ships
3 ships

Sailing from Haifa - 03.00hrs 11th August

Merchant Ships
One ship

The arrival of Pedestal.

Operation Ceres - This was the mobilisation of dockyard workers to unload all merchant ships on arrival as fast as possible.

Photo courtesy of Paul Lazell.

Rochester Castle - Was the first of the merchant ships to arrive in Malta on the 13th August.



Melbourne Star - followed on the 13th.

MV. Melbourne Star enters Grand Harbour, Valletta, August 1942.
Photo courtesy of Llyn Ruddock.

Signatures around the edges are from those serving on the vessel.

Photo courtesy of Paul Lazell.


Port Chalmers - On entering harbour she was flying the flag of the convoy commodore.

Although this photo & the one to the right were labelled 'Melbourne Star' It's possible this ship is Port Chalmers.
Photo courtesy of Paul Lazell.

See caption on left
Photo courtesy of Paul Lazell.


Brisbane Star - followed at about 15.15 on the 14th

Brisbane Star enters Grand Harbour during Pedestal.

Brisbane Star taken after Pedestal. Note the bows which have been repaired with a shortened bow section. She is high in the water & this may have been taken after repair work was completed.


Ohio - was the last merchant ship to arrive on the 15th. She had been badly damaged & near to sinking. Under tow from HMS Rye & lashed each side by
HMS Penn & HMS Bramham.
After the cargo was unloaded she was moored in Rinella Bay where she broke in two & sank in shallow water. Each section was made watertight. One half was used for
storage & the other as a base for small units of the navy.
On the 19th September 1946 the fore part was towed to a point ten miles off Grand Harbour & sunk by gunfire from HMS Virago. Two weeks later the stern half was
sunk by explosive charges.

First attempt to tow Ohio from HMS Penn on the 13th August.
Photo shown in the Malta Aviation Museum taken onboard Penn by Lesley David Winston Rees

References - Literature:

Pedestal. The Malta Convoy of August 1942. Second revision 1987. Peter C. Smith

Links - Websites: