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Operation Pedestal

Operation Pedestal
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II

The merchantship SS Waimarama explodes after being bombed.
Date 3–15 August 1942[1]
Location Mediterranean Sea
Result Tactical Axis victory
Strategic Allied victory
 United Kingdom
 United States
Commanders and leaders
Neville Syfret
H.M Burrough
Alberto Da Zara
4 aircraft carriers
2 battleships[2]:p. 80
7 light cruisers[2]:p. 80
32 destroyers[2]:p. 80
14 merchant ships[2]:p. 80
3 heavy cruisers
3 light cruisers
15 motor torpedo boats
11 submarines
285 bombers[2]:p. 81
304 fighters[2]:p. 81
Casualties and losses
1 aircraft carrier sunk
2 light cruisers sunk
1 destroyer sunk
9 merchant ships sunk
1 aircraft carrier damaged
2 light cruisers damaged
3 merchant ships damaged
34 aircraft
550+ killed[3][4]
2 submarines sunk
1 heavy cruiser damaged
1 light cruiser damaged
1 submarine damaged
60 aircraft (41 Italian and 19 German)
ca. 100 killed or missing[5]

Operation Pedestal (referenced in Italian sources as the Battaglia di Mezzo Agosto[6]) was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War. Malta was the base from which surface ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys carrying essential supplies to the Italian and German armies in North Africa. In 1941–42, Malta was effectively under siege, blockaded by Axis air and naval forces. To sustain Malta, the United Kingdom had to get convoys through at all costs. Despite serious losses, just enough supplies were delivered for Malta to survive,[7] although it ceased to be an effective offensive base for much of 1942. The most crucial supply was fuel delivered by the SS Ohio, an American-built tanker with a British crew.[8] The operation officially started on 3 August 1942, though the convoy did not sail through the Strait of Gibraltar until 9 August.[9]

The convoy is also known as the "Battle of Mid-August" in Italy and as the Konvoj ta' Santa Marija in Malta. The arrival of the last ships of the convoy on 15 August 1942, coincided with the Feast of the Assumption (Santa Marija) and the name Santa Marija Convoy or Sta Marija Convoy is still used. That day's public holiday and celebrations, in part, celebrate the arrival of the convoy. The attempt to run fifty ships past bombers, E-boats, minefields, and submarines has gone down in military history as one of the most important[7] British strategic victories of the Second World War. However, it was at a cost of more than 500 lives, with only five of the original 14 merchant ships reaching the Grand Harbour.


  • Background 1
  • Prelude 2
    • Planning 2.1
    • Preliminary moves 2.2
  • Battle 3
    • Past the Straits 3.1
    • 11 August 3.2
    • 12 August 3.3
    • 13 August 3.4
    • 14 August 3.5
    • 15 August 3.6
  • Aftermath 4
    • Awards and recognition 4.1
  • Order of battle 5
    • Allied 5.1
    • Axis 5.2
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10


In 1942, the British Empire was waging a land war against Italian forces in North Africa and their allies, Rommel's Afrika Korps. Malta was a critical component[10] to this campaign, as the island could be used as a base to interdict efforts to resupply Axis forces operating in North Africa.[11] During this stage of the war, Malta was critically short on munitions, food, and fuel for both military operations and civil use.[12] Attempts to run the blockade and resupply Malta proved to be costly and often ended in failure; the two-pronged effort to resupply Malta during June 1942—known as Operations Harpoon (from Gibraltar) and Vigorous (from Alexandria, Egypt)—were unsuccessful, only two merchantmen from Harpoon and none from Vigorous reached Malta, while many others (including the only tanker included in Harpoon) were sunk,[13] and the escorting warships also suffered heavy casualties.[14] Military planners knew Malta would be forced to surrender if fuel, food, and ammunition did not get through before the end of August. The local air commander had warned the planners that there remained only a few weeks' supply of aviation fuel. The Admiralty drew up plans for another convoy to sail at the earliest practical date, mid-August.[9] Churchill, in Moscow at the time, attached such importance to the mission that he asked to be briefed daily about it.



The Admiralty started to plan Operation Pedestal in the early weeks of July 1942, and it was soon recognized that this was to be the main effort to relieve Malta, and would employ the largest escort force yet deployed for a single convoy, including two battleships and three aircraft carriers. At the same time, there would be several minor but important operations carried out under the cover of Pedestal: Operation Berserk would be an aircraft carrier exercise to improve coordination between the various carriers in the convoy, Operation Bellows would be a reinforcement of Malta's air defences by Spitfires flown from an aircraft carrier, and Operation Ascendant would be an effort to return the two surviving merchantmen from the Harpoon convoy from Malta to Gibraltar. The main participants during these discussions were Rear Admiral A. L. St. G. Lyster, CB, CVO, DSO, Rear-Admiral H. M. Burrough, CB, DSO, Vice-Admiral E. N. Syfret, CB and the Naval Staff.

Rear-Admiral H M Burrough, CB, who commanded the close escort, shaking hands with Captain Dudley Mason of SS Ohio

The supplies were to be carried by 14 merchant vessels, the most important being Ohio, the only large, fast tanker available, an American-built ship under the British flag and with a British crew.[15][a] As partial insurance against Ohio‍ '​s loss, the others would carry some fuel supplies in drums. The convoy was to be protected by two large forces of warships, one as distant cover (Force Z), and the other as close support all the way to Malta (Force X). Between the two forces there were two battleships, three aircraft carriers, seven cruisers and 32 destroyers. Once they reached the Sicilian channel, Force Z (the battleships, the aircraft carriers, and three cruisers) was to return to Gibraltar, leaving the convoy to continue to Malta escorted by the remaining four cruisers and destroyer flotilla of Force X.

The Italian Regia Marina was hampered[16] by a lack of fuel oil, which compelled it to keep its largest vessels in port. When the British convoy was detected, Axis commanders decided to attack with German and Italian aircraft based in Sardinia and send ten submarines, E-Boats and MAS motor torpedo boats into the Sicilian Channel. An Italian cruiser division was to deliver the final attack, which required oil to be transferred from inactive battleships to the cruisers.[16]

Preliminary moves

The overall operational commander, Vice-Admiral E. N. Syfret, transferred to HMS Nelson on 27 July when Nelson and Rodney returned to Scapa Flow from Freetown, West Africa. Syfret convened a conference on 29 July, for Flag and Commanding Officers of the naval forces for Pedestal currently assembled at Scapa, to consider the orders for the operation. On 31 July, Nelson, Rodney, Victorious, Argus, Sirius and destroyers sailed from Scapa to rendezvous with Eagle and Charybdis from Gibraltar and HMS Indomitable and Phoebe, from Freetown, for Operation Berserk. Berserk successfully exercised fighter direction and co-operation between the three carriers, in preparation for the impending convoy.[9]

The convoy, named with a bogus "WS"[b] prefix, escorted by HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya and destroyers sailed from the Clyde overnight on 2 August and joined the other escorts during the following morning. Just prior to sailing, but after the "normal"[9] convoy conference, Rear-Admiral Burrough met with the Convoy Commodore, A.G. Venables, and the Masters of the individual merchant ships on board his flagship, HMS Nigeria, and the whole plan was explained in detail.[17] A similar meeting was held with radio operators of the merchantmen to explain fleet communications and procedures. Personal messages signed by the First Lord of the Admiralty wishing the Masters "God Speed" and contained in envelopes marked "Not to be opened until 0800 hours August 10" were handed to the ships' masters.

Shortly before the departure from Scapa, the Admiralty decided that HMS Furious should carry out Operation Bellows to reinforce Malta with Spitfires at the same time as Pedestal. This made alterations to the Operation Orders[9] necessary, which were then distributed to all concerned. Technical difficulties[c] delayed the carrier's departure but, with HMS Manchester, she joined Nelson and the convoy three days before the start of the operation. The passage of the convoy from the UK to the rendezvous with the aircraft carriers west of the Straits was successful, though there were many alarms over U-Boat contacts en route and a Coastal Command Sunderland flying boat was shot down by friendly fire. The convoy was exercised in anti-aircraft gunnery, in emergency turns and in changing from one cruising disposition to another, using both signal flags and short range W/T. The risk to security in breaking W/T silence was accepted and as a result of these exercises the convoy attained an efficiency in manoeuvring "comparable to that of a fleet unit."[9]


Past the Straits

The force's aircraft performed dummy air attacks in the afternoon of 8 August, followed by a fly past. These were done to exercise the radar reporting and fighter direction organisation and to give ships' gun crews an opportunity to recognise the markings of friendly aircraft. The resulting volume of radio traffic must have been very apparent to hostile listening stations,[18] but this risk to security was worth the benefit gained from the rehearsals.[d]

The passage of the Straits and 10 August were uneventful. Fishing boats and one merchant vessel were passed at close quarters, but due to a moonless night and indifferent visibility, it was thought improbable that the force had been sighted from the shore. Reports received later,[9] however, showed that the enemy was fully aware of the convoy's passage of the Straits.

11 August

Seen from the flight deck of HMS Victorious, a Fairey Albacore takes off from HMS Indomitable, while HMS Eagle brings up the rear. Eagle was lost during this operation.

The convoy completed refuelling by dawn on 11 August, from the tankers RFA Dingledale and RFA Brown Ranger. Previous Malta convoys had refuelled at Malta but now the island had no oil to spare. The refuelling of three cruisers and 26 destroyers at sea, under enemy observation and in U-boat infested waters, was an anxious one; failure could have seriously upset the whole operation.[19]

The main coup for the Axis during the day happened early in the morning. The aircraft carrier HMS Eagle was hit by four torpedoes from U-73[e] and sank 70 nautical miles south of Cape Salinas. Most of the crew survived (160 lost out of 927), rescued by her escorts. The sinking of Eagle deprived the force of a quarter of its fighter strength.[9]

While Eagle was being torpedoed, Furious successfully finished Operation Bellows, flying off 37 much needed Spitfires to Malta. The flying distance between Furious and Malta was 555 nautical miles (1,028 km) to 584 nautical miles (1,082 km). Her part of the mission complete, Furious returned to Gibraltar with her escorts. A destroyer escorting Furious, HMS Wolverine, rammed and sank the Italian submarine Dagabur. Wolverine‍ '​s bow was seriously damaged, but she reached Gibraltar for repairs.[9]

The Luftwaffe made the only Axis aerial attack of the day at 20:56, 15 minutes after sunset. 36 Ju-88 and He-111 bombers attacked the convoy, but they scored no hits while the Royal Navy's antiaircraft defences claimed 3 attackers destroyed.[20]

12 August

The score-board for the successes of HMS Indomitable‍ '​s air group painted on the island. Indomitable‍ '​s fighters claimed 38 Axis aircraft destroyed or damaged.

The Italian cruiser division, consisting of three heavy cruisers (Gorizia, Bolzano, and Trieste), three light cruisers (Eugenio di Savoia, Raimondo Montecuccoli and Muzio Attendolo) and 17 destroyers sailed to meet the British convoy.[21]

As the convoy moved eastwards towards the enemy's bases in Sardinia and Sicily, it was expected that the U-Boat and air threat would increase and a U-Boat concentration was expected near the Galite Islands. Anti-submarine measures were stepped up to meet this threat. HMS Indomitable launched Martlets at 0600 to shoot down two shadowing aircraft.[2]:p. 81 The carriers then launched Fairey Fulmars and Hawker Sea Hurricanes as air cover. During daylight, British fighters provided early warning of raids and destroyed enemy aircraft, although frequently outnumbered. The convoy's anti-aircraft guns also proved successful as deterrents. The first air attack by 19 Junkers Ju 88[9] was met by both anti-aircraft fire and the fighters. Eight bombers were shot down for the loss of one defending fighter.[2]:p. 81

The Axis planes did not attack in continuous waves as planned, and the convoy enjoyed brief respites. At noon another air attack was initiated by Aermacchi fighters escorting Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers carrying motobomba pattern-running torpedoes intended to break up the convoy by encouraging evasive maneuvering. Defending fighters broke up this attack before it reached the convoy. A following raid of 40 bombers carrying conventional torpedoes was met by Martlets, Hurricanes, and anti-aircraft guns. A third attacking force of dive bombers hit the freighter Deucalion, which fell behind under escort of HMS Bramham and was later destroyed by torpedo planes near the Cani Rocks about 21:30. A CANT seaplane launched a radio-controlled pilotless flying bomb toward one of the battleships, but the bomb malfunctioned and exploded in North Africa. Two Reggiane fighters were mistaken for friendly Hurricanes by anti-aircraft gunners while conforming to the Victorious landing approach to drop bombs. One bomb struck the flight deck, but failed to explode; and the other missed.[2]:pp. 81&82

Later in the day, the convoy was approached by Italian submarine Cobalto and Emo. Emo was prevented from attacking; and HMS Ithuriel rammed and sank Cobalto.[f] Ramming was discouraged by the Admiralty, due to the damage that often resulted. In Ithuriel‍ '​s case, she badly damaged herself, put her Asdic gear out of action, and was missing from the escort screen during the next air attack. She also lost two of her crew who boarded and attempted to keep the sinking submarine afloat. Only two Italian seamen were lost, the rest becoming prisoners of war.[22]

Submarines, however, remained a potent threat. The Italian submarine Brin was driven off by destroyers. A Sunderland flying boat attacked another submarine, Giada, which was waiting for the convoy off Algiers, damaging it and a subsequent air attack by another flying boat caused more damage. Before heading for shelter to the Spanish port of Valencia, where she remained until the 14th, Giada shot down the Sunderland with her own guns.[23] To prevent any further submarine attack the destroyers dropped depth charges every 10 minutes, between 14:00 and 19:00. Other submarines, including Avorio and Dandolo, were driven off by these depth charges.[17]

Throughout the day, the force was under continual observation by Italian aircraft. From about 18:30–18:50, the convoy was subjected to an air attack by dive-bombers and torpedo planes. Foresight had to be scuttled after a torpedo detonation on the stern sent crewmen flying spread-eagled through the air; and Junkers Ju 87s wrecked the flight deck of Indomitable with three bomb hits,[2]:p. 83 leaving Victorious as the only working carrier. Indomitable‍ '​s aircraft had to be landed on Victorious and several fighters had to be ditched overboard to make space for further landings.[24]

It had been intended that Force Z should return to Gibraltar when the [25] and at 18:55, Force Z was ordered to return to Gibraltar, leaving Force X to continue to Malta. This separation went unnoticed by the Axis and was not discovered by them until about 20:30. In view of the weight of the Axis air attack between 18:30 and 18:50, it seemed improbable that a further significant air attack on Force X could be possible before dark, and having reached the Skerki Bank, it was hoped that the submarine threat would subside.

The main threat to the convoy appeared to be E Boat attacks during the night and by aircraft the following morning. Thus, the successful attack by the Italian submarine Axum at 20:00, when HMS Nigeria, HMS Cairo and Ohio were torpedoed[26] was unexpected and its effect far reaching. The timing was critical, for the convoy was at that moment changing its setup from four to two columns. For this manoeuvre the cruisers were needed as column leaders. The torpedoing of HMS Nigeria and Cairo, the diversion of HMS Ashanti as Burrough's new flagship, and the detachment of four Hunt-class destroyers to stand by the damaged cruisers, temporarily deprived Force X of its Commander, deprived two columns of their leaders, lost the convoy nearly half its escort, and the entire force its two Fighter Direction ships. On hearing that Nigeria and Cairo had been torpedoed, Syfret ordered HMS Charybdis, Eskimo and Somali to reinforce Force X. HMS Nigeria and the other damaged ships turned back to Gibraltar with HMS Wilton and HMS Bicester as escorts.

The shattered bow of Brisbane Star, possibly torpedoed in this encounter. The ship reached Malta under its own power.

From about 20:35–21:00, the convoy was subjected to another severe dusk air attack by dive-bombers and torpedo-bombers. Ashanti and Penn laid a smokescreen to cover the light western horizon, but this did not prevent the attack from being effective. The merchantman Empire Hope was hit by a dive-bomber and sunk. The commanding officer, HMS Kenya described the state of the convoy after these attacks as 'chaotic', and in fact there are different versions of what really happened during these confusing hours. However, though the convoy was in a confused state, all of the ships in the convoy were steaming in their correct direction. Most of the convoy got safely as far as Kelibia[g], though some were damaged, by early morning.[9] At about 21:00 the Italian submarine Alagi reported that it had sunk the merchant ship Empire Hope and damaged the cruiser Kenya. While Kenya turned to avoid a torpedo, another submarine, Bronzo, stated that it had sunk the merchant ship Deucalion. Clan Ferguson was hit by torpedoes about this time, and was later destroyed by an ammunition detonation.[2]:p. 83 It is possible that the second freighter hit by the Italian submarine Alagi or the damage to Kenya was not directed to either ship but to the freighter Brisbane Star, that supposedly had its bows torn off during this encounter.[27]

13 August

Passing through minefields between Africa and Sicily around midnight, the convoy met eight Italian and seven German torpedo-boats which made 15 attacks. The long line of merchant ships and the reduced number of escort ships provided easy opportunities for attacks by the torpedo-boats which were lying in wait off Kelibia.[9] Here three of the merchant ships which failed to reach Malta were torpedoed. Of these, Wairangi was hit in the engine room and was permanently disabled, while the American Almeria Lykes was hit at the joint of No. 1 bulkhead hold and could not continue steaming to Malta. At 01:00 the cruiser HMS Manchester was torpedoed[28] by two Italian E-Boats (MS-16 and MS-22),[29] leaving her dead in the water and listing. She restored power[7] and some of her crew (156 men) were transferred to HMS Pathfinder in the ship's boats and Carley floats, but she was later scuttled off Cape Bon by order of her Commanding Officer. She was the largest ship sunk by motor torpedo boats during World War II.[h] Several hundred of her complement landed in Vichy-controlled Tunisia and were interned. According to most sources, a dozen of her crew died from the torpedo explosions, while at least another one-hundred and fifty went missing at sea during her evacuation. The cargo ship Santa Elisa was hit by torpedo, the entire ship catching fire and being abandoned by the crew.[30] Glenorchy was torpedoed and on fire although most of her crew survived her eventual sinking; another merchantman, Rochester Castle, was torpedoed but kept going. Fighters from Malta were fired upon by the convoy in the confusion because communications between the convoy and the RAF were still out.

The aerial torpedo caught in Port Chalmers‍ '​s paravane.

Twelve [25]

Dorset was disabled by three near-miss bombs, and the engine room was flooded. The high octane fuel caught fire and the merchantman was abandoned. Twelve Italian torpedo bombers attacked, and Port Chalmers caught an aerial torpedo in its paravane.[i] A bomb nearby set Kenya‍ '​s forward engine room on fire, but the fire was quickly put out. Fighters from Malta flew 407 sorties providing air cover to the blitzed convoy. Rochester Castle, Port Chalmers and Melbourne Star steamed on to meet escort from Malta, reaching Grand Harbour in Valletta at 18:00. Another aerial attack on Ohio ensued. Penn tried to tow Ohio, but the tanker was listing to its side and snapped the tow line. During another attack, Ohio eventually broke its keel when a bomb hit the same area as a previous torpedo hit. The crew, led by Captain D.W. Mason, abandoned the ship, while Italian torpedo bombers were about to dive in for yet another attack.

Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commander of the German Air Command based in Sicily, denied air coverage to the Italian cruiser division and preferred to use his aircraft for direct attacks on the British convoy.[7] Without air cover and given the closeness of the air base at Malta, the Supermarina (Regia Marina High Command) withdrew its cruisers to Messina. They passed through the area patrolled by the British submarines HMS Safari and Unbroken and were attacked. Unbroken torpedoed the Bolzano, which was hit in her oil tank and ran aground; Attendolo lost 60 ft (18 m) of her bow. Neither ship returned to action during the war.

Operation Pedestal, Ohio entering Grand Harbour, Malta.

14 August

Brisbane Star arrived in Malta, her bow damaged by a torpedo, but she successfully discharged her supplies in the harbour. Ohio was surrounded by a flotilla of ships, aiming to nurse the stricken tanker to Grand Harbour. Several American volunteers, themselves survivors from the sunken American freighter Santa Eliza, manned[32] anti-aircraft guns on Ohio during the tow. The weight of the tanker kept breaking the tow lines, while constant air attacks were made by 20 bombers. An attack destroyed the rudder, making a hole in her stern. The decks of the ship were now awash. Finally, the tanker was successfully towed while it was supported by the two destroyers Ledbury and Penn on each side, with a minesweeper HMS Rye to act as a stabilizer at the stern. The remainder of the convoy was either sunk or falling back on Gibraltar. Several further air attacks disrupted the towing formation, until it was re-established with Bramham replacing Ledbury on Ohio‍ '​s port side for the remainder of the journey.

15 August

Ohio was towed into Grand Harbour by the two destroyers and a set of tugs[33] at 09:30 to cheering crowds and a band playing Rule Britannia. In his book, First Light, Geoffrey Wellum, who flew a Spitfire from HMS Furious as part of Operation Bellows, reports that the crowd fell silent as the ships entered harbour as a mark of respect for the crew who lost their lives aboard. The tanker discharged its cargo into two tankers and settled on the bottom just as the last of the fuel it transported left her holds.[j]


The arrival of the four merchant ships, and the survival of the tanker Ohio ensured the arrival of enough materials to maintain the island, but it did not mean its siege was at an end. The ultimate result of Operation Pedestal was that it ensured that Malta stayed in the war. For the high price of nine merchantmen sunk, one aircraft carrier (Eagle), two cruisers (Manchester and Cairo), and a destroyer (Foresight) sunk, the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy had saved Malta, as roughly 32,000 short tons (29,000 t) of general cargo had reached the Grand Harbour, together with petrol, oil fuel, kerosene and diesel fuel, enough to give the island about ten weeks more life beyond the existing stocks of only a few weeks. Royal Navy gunners and Fleet Air Arm fighters shot down 42 of the approximately 330 attacking Axis aircraft.[34]

Operation Pedestal was a tactical disaster, of a magnitude comparable to the German attack on Convoy PQ-17.[35] The defeat, however, was turned into a strategic victory in that it served as a great uplift to the besieged island's morale and it delivered thousands of tons of needed food stores and eliminated the possibility of surrender due to famine.[36] However, for several months after this convoy, Malta was still dependent on essential stores and stocks being delivered by fast minelayers, like HMS Manxman, and of mine-laying submarines. From the moment the shield of Spitfires patrolled over the unloading battered ships, it became obvious that ships could now arrive and be protected, meaning that more ships would come in due course, thus sustaining the will to endure.

German reports on 17 August stated that all the tankers in the recent Mediterranean convoy were sunk and not one of the transports reached their assumed destination in Egypt. A revived Malta led to a shift in the North African balance immediately preceding the Second Battle of El Alamein. In August 1942, with Malta still besieged, 35% of Axis convoys to North Africa did not get through. In September, with Malta resupplied, Allied forces sank 100,000 long tons (100,000 t) of Axis shipping, including 24,000 tons of fuel destined for Rommel, leaving him desperately short of supplies during his assault at El Alamein on 23 October 1942. Hence, it was no longer a question of "How many days to Cairo?" for the Axis armies, but of whether Rommel could hold the Allied attack back when it materialised. Submarines and torpedo-carrying Bristol Beauforts escorted by their variants the Bristol Beaufighters, regularly attacked Axis supply ships known to the Allies through Ultra intercepts received from Bletchley Park. This interdiction of sea-lanes from Malta, significantly contributed to the Axis’ worsening state of supply and led to their eventual inability to compete with the British build-up for an offensive towards the end of the year.[k]

For the Axis powers in general, and for the Italians in particular,[30] the inability of the fleet to fully display its power and especially the inability of Axis air forces to provide for cover clearly demonstrated that the tide in this campaign had turned. Ultimately, Malta was still alive while any hope to maintain North Africa was quickly fading away, with the now looming possibility of having the Allies opening up a Third Front on the Italian mainland.[16] Italian naval historian Giorgio Giorgerini has however pointed out how, for the first time, the Italian submarines, adopting a more aggressive and dynamic conduct, met with considerable successes in the Mediterranean theater, sinking a cruiser and two merchantmen and damaging two more cruisers and the Ohio.[37]

Operation Pedestal was the subject of a 1953 black and white British film, Malta Story, which interspersed archive footage of the SS Ohio with scripted studio scenes.

Awards and recognition

In recognition of their fortitude during the siege and air attacks during all of the Mediterranean campaign, KCB) for his "bravery and dauntless resolution in fighting an important Convoy through to Malta in the face of relentless attacks by day and night from enemy submarines, aircraft, and surface forces."[38]

The Master of the tanker Ohio, [38] Several other officers, crew members and commanders of both the Royal and Merchant Navies, including the commander of HMS Ledbury, Roger Hill, received military awards ranging from the Distinguished Service Order and Conspicuous Gallantry Medal down to Mentions in Despatches for the bravery and intrepidity shown in ferrying the merchantmen to Malta.[38][39][40]

The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Frederick August Larsen, Jr., Junior Third Officer and to Francis A. Dales, Cadet-Midshipman, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, for "Heroism beyond the call of duty."[41]

Order of battle


Allied ships that took part in this operation included:

Brisbane Star entering Grand Harbour, Valletta.
  • Merchant ships:
    • Almeria Lykes (sunk)
    • Brisbane Star (damaged, arrived 14 August)
    • MV Clan Ferguson (sunk)
    • MV Deucalion (sunk)
    • MV Dorset (sunk)
    • MV Empire Hope (sunk)
    • MV Glenorchy (sunk)
    • Melbourne Star (arrived 13 August)
    • Ohio (fuel tanker, damaged beyond repair, arrived 15 August)
    • MV Port Chalmers (arrived 13 August)
    • MV Rochester Castle (damaged, arrived 13 August)
    • Santa Elisa (freighter, drums of fuel, sunk)
    • SS Waimarama (freighter, drums of fuel, sunk)
    • MV Wairangi (freighter, ammo and drums of fuel, sunk)


Axis ships that took part in this operation included:

See also


a. ^ At the time, the Ohio was also the largest tanker ship afloat.[8]
b. ^ W.S convoys were normally those from U.K. to Suez via the Cape of Good Hope.[43]
c. ^ This was connected with the aircraft's propellers and the aircraft carrier's flying deck which was not level, but sloped upwards to a point amidships.
d. ^ At 13:00, when HMS Indomitable joined the force, it was believed to be the first time that five British aircraft carriers had operated together at sea.
e. ^ Captained by Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rosenbaum.[44]
f. ^ The rescued crew members (3 officers and 38 crew) confirmed her destruction.
g. ^ Some 20 mi (32 km) south of Cape Bon in Tunisia.
h. ^ There is some disagreement about Manchester's fatalities among the sources: The following websites mention 150 "lost":

  • "Royal Navy Cruisers Part 4". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. 
A more accurate account of the cruiser casualties reports 132 killed or missing and 568 survivors (rescued either by Allied forces or Vichy authorities).[Kemp, Paul:The Admiralty Regrets: British Warship Losses of the 20th century, Sutton Publishing,1999]. Other sources only mention the deaths as result of the torpedo impact (about a dozen) [Woodman, Richard: Malta Convoys, 1940–1943, Jack Murray Ltd., London, 2000].

i. ^ Submerged floats meant to catch mines.[45]
j. ^ Water had been pumped into the tanker as the fuels were extracted to minimize the chance of a structural failure.[46]
k. ^ In December 1942 four convoys sailed into the island without loss, and during this same month some 200,000 tons of stores of all kinds were brought ashore.


  1. ^ Badsey 2000, p. 181.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Latimer, Jon (2002). Alamein. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ including 160 on HMS Eagle, 132 on HMS Manchester, 52 on HMS Nigeria, 50 on HMS Indomitable, 24 on HMS Cairo, 5 on HMS Foresight, 3 on HMS Kenya, 83 on Waimarama, 18 on Clan Ferguson, 7 on Glenorchy, 5 on Melbourne Star, 4 on Santa Elisa, 1 on Deucalion, 1 on Ohio, 1 on Brisbane Star (sources:, and Ian M. Malcolm, "Shipping Company Losses of the Second World War").
  5. ^ 45 on Dagabur, 2 on Cobalto, 1 on Giada, 9 on Bolzano, plus the air crews.
  6. ^ Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). La guerra italiana sul mare : la marina tra vittoria e sconfitta : 1940-1943 (1. ed. Oscar storia. ed.). Milano: Mondadori. pp. 379–86.  
  7. ^ a b c d "Operation Pedestal and SS Ohio Save Malta". Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  8. ^ a b Shankland & Hunter 1961, p. 85.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l   published in The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38377. pp. 4501–4512. 10 August 1948.
  10. ^ "The Second World War in the Mediterranean, North Africa and Italy". The We Were There Exhibition. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  11. ^ "War in the Mediterranean". The Royal Navy. Retrieved 21 June 2007.  "The Mediterranean campaign revolved around the island of Malta, where the British based surface ships, submarines and aircraft to attack the supplies for Italian and German armies in North Africa. Major convoy operations were mounted to sustain Malta and the island narrowly survived."
  12. ^ Badsey 2000, p. 182.
  13. ^ Wade, Chapter IX
  14. ^ Bradford, p. 187
  15. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, pp. 69–76.
  16. ^ a b c "Mid-August". Regia Marina. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  17. ^ a b "Operation Pedestal: Saving Malta". BBC News. 1 October 2002. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  18. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, pp. 94–5.
  19. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, p. 97.
  20. ^ Woodman, P. 396
  21. ^ "La Battaglia Di Mezzo Agosto". Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  22. ^ Greene, Jack & Massignani, Alessandro (1998). The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1940–1943, Chatam Publishing, London, p. 249. ISBN 1-86176-057-4
  23. ^ Woodman, Richard (2000). Malta Convoys, 1940–1943, Jack Murray Ltd., London, p. 395. ISBN 0-7195-5753-4
  24. ^ BBC People's War
  25. ^ a b "Operation Pedestal – August 1942". Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  26. ^ "The Ohio". Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2007. 
  27. ^ As reported by  
  28. ^ "Royal Navy Cruisers Part 4". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  29. ^ "Legion chief recalls horror sinkings". Retrieved 8 May 2011. ,
  30. ^ a b "Operation Pedestal". Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  31. ^ "HMS Ledbury:Operation Pedestal – Letter Of Proceedings.". Retrieved 24 June 2007. 
  32. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, pp. 183–4.
  33. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, p. 200.
  34. ^ Naval Staff History, The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean Convoys, p. 89.
  35. ^ Sadkovich, p. 297.
  36. ^ Woodman, Richard, Malta Convoys 1940–1943, p. 456.
  37. ^ Giorgerini, p. 333-339
  38. ^ a b c The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35695. pp. 3911–3917. 4 September 1942.
  39. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, p. 13.
  40. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35780. pp. 4879–4882. 6 November 1942. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  41. ^ "Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal Awarded to Merchant Marine Cadets". Retrieved 25 July 2009. 
  42. ^ a b c Naval Staff History, The Royal Navy and the Mediterranean Convoys, Appendix K.
  43. ^ " – U-boat Operations – The Convoy System". Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  44. ^ Blair 1996 p. 713
  45. ^ Williamson, p. 8
  46. ^ Shankland & Hunter 1961, p. 202.


  • Badsey, Stephen, ed. (2000). The Hutchinson Atlas of World War Two Battle Plans: Before and After. Chicago and London:  
  • Blair, Clay (1996). Hitler's U-Boat War – The Hunters 1939–1942. Random House.  
  • Bradford, Ernle (2003). Siege: Malta 1940–1943. England: Pen and Sword.  
  • Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). Uomini sul fondo : storia del sommergibilismo italiano dalle origini a oggi. Milano: Mondadori.  
  • Hogan, George (1978). Malta: The Triumphant Years, 1940–1943. England: Hale.  
  • Holland, James (2004). Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege, 1940–1943. England: Cassell Military.  
  • Jellison, Charles A. (1985). Besieged: The World War II Ordeal of Malta, 1940–1942. USA: University of New Hampshire Press.  
  • McAulay, Lex (1989). Against All Odds: RAAF Pilots in the Battle for Malta, 1942. London: Hutchinson.  
  • Moses, Sam (2006). At All Costs: How a Crippled Ship and Two American Merchant Marines Turned the Tide of World War II. New York: Random House.  
  • Pearson, Michael (2004). The Ohio and Malta: The legendary tanker that refused to die. England: Pen and Sword Books.  
  • Sadkovich, James (1994). The Italian Navy in World War II. Greenwood Press, Westport. ISBN 0-313-28797-X
  • Shankland, Peter; Hunter, Anthony (1961). Malta Convoy. New York, NY: Ives Washburn. 
  • Smith, Peter C. (1974). The Battles of the Malta Striking Forces. London: Allan.  
  • Smith, Peter C. (1998). Pedestal: The Convoy That Saved Malta. England: Crecy Publishing Ltd.  
  • Spooner, Tony (1996). Supreme Gallantry : Malta's Role in the Allied Victory, 1939–1945. London: Cassell Military.  
  • Thomas, David A. (2000). Malta Convoys. England: Pen and Sword Books.  
  • Wade, Frank (2006). A Midshipman's War: A Young Man in the Mediterranean Naval War, 1941–1943. England: Trafford Publishing.  
  • Williamson, Gordon (2009). Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Woodman, Richard (2000). Malta Convoys, 1940–1943. John Murray Ltd.  

External links

  • Admiral Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station and the Force Commanders, .Despatches on Mediterranean Convoy operations 1941 Jan.-1942 Aug
  • "Royal Navy and Merchant vessels of Operation Pedestal". Melbourne Star Website. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  • Website about the proceedings of Operation Pedestal
  • Operation Pedestal and SS Ohio save Malta
  • Times of Malta Sta Marija Convoy Surviving Crewmen for Malta Reunion by Fiona Galea Debono, 15 July 2002.
  • Times of Malta Survivor from Sta Marija Convoy tells his experience by Fiona Galea Debono, 13 August 2006
  • Battaglia di Mezzo Agosto – Plancia di Commando. (Italian)
  • ADM 199/1242 and ADM 199/1243 catalogue entries for the official reports on the operation, held by The National Archives
  • The Battle of the ConvoysNewsreel:
  • Malta Convoy – Further PicturesNewsreel:
  • Malta Convoy BattleNewsreel:
  • Operation Pedestal

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